A COURSE IN MIRACLES

T-2.III The Altar of God

1. The Atonement can only be accepted within you by releasing the inner light. ²Since the separation, defences have been used almost entirely to defend against the Atonement, and thus maintain the separation. ³This is generally seen as a need to protect the body. ⁴The many body fantasies in which minds engage arise from the distorted belief that the body can be used as a means for attaining ‘atonement’. ⁵Perceiving the body as a temple is only the first step in correcting this distortion, because it alters only part of it. ⁶It does recognise that Atonement in physical terms is impossible. ⁷The next step, however, is to realise that a temple is not a structure at all. ⁸Its true holiness lies at the inner altar around which the structure is built. ⁹The emphasis on beautiful structures is a sign of the fear of Atonement, and an unwillingness to reach the altar itself. ¹⁰The real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. ¹¹Spiritual sight, on the other hand, cannot see the structure at all because it is perfect vision. ¹²It can, however, see the altar with perfect clarity.

Expanded

1. The Atonement can only be accepted within you by releasing the inner light. ²Since the separation, defences have been used almost entirely to defend against the Atonement, and thus maintain the separation. ³This [using defences against the Atonement] is generally seen as a need to protect the body. ⁴The many body fantasies in which minds engage arise from the distorted belief that the body can be used as a means for attaining ‘atonement’. ⁵Perceiving the body as a temple is only the first step in correcting this distortion [that the body can be used to attain atonement], because it [perceiving the body as a temple] alters only part of it [the distortion that the body can be used as a temple]. ⁶It [perceiving the body as a a temple] does recognise that Atonement in physical terms is impossible. ⁷The next step, however, is to realise that a temple is not a structure at all. ⁸Its [a temple’s] true holiness lies at the inner altar around which the structure is built. ⁹The emphasis on beautiful structures is a sign of the fear of Atonement, and an unwillingness to reach the altar itself. ¹⁰The real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. ¹¹Spiritual sight, on the other hand, cannot see the structure at all because it [spiritual sight] is perfect vision. ¹²It [spiritual sight] can, however, see the altar with perfect clarity.

Substituted

1. The Atonement can only be accepted within you by releasing the inner light. ²Since the separation, defences have been used almost entirely to defend against the Atonement, and thus maintain the separation. ³Using defences against the Atonement is generally seen as a need to protect the body. ⁴The many body fantasies in which minds engage arise from the distorted belief that the body can be used as a means for attaining ‘atonement’. ⁵Perceiving the body as a temple is only the first step in correcting the distortion that the body can be used to attain atonement, because perceiving the body as a temple alters only part of the distortion that the body can be used as a temple. ⁶Perceiving the body as a a temple does recognise that Atonement in physical terms is impossible. ⁷The next step, however, is to realise that a temple is not a structure at all. ⁸A temple’s true holiness lies at the inner altar around which the structure is built. ⁹The emphasis on beautiful structures is a sign of the fear of Atonement, and an unwillingness to reach the altar itself. ¹⁰The real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. ¹¹Spiritual sight, on the other hand, cannot see the structure at all because spiritual sight is perfect vision. ¹²Spiritual sight can, however, see the altar with perfect clarity.

Simplified

You believe you need the body to attain Atonement. In separation, you defend the body against Atonement. You protect the body by making it into a temple. You must realise a temple is holy because of the altar inside. Spiritual sight will show you the true altar.

Commentary

(5–10, 2:1) …referring to this famous teaching … St. Paul’s reference to the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) … cited by Christians to substantiate this deification of the ego’s world (… worshipping a form of truth at the expense of content) (Wapnick, A.A.C., p. 251.).

2. For perfect effectiveness the Atonement belongs at the centre of the inner altar, where it undoes the separation and restores the wholeness of the mind. ²Before the separation the mind was invulnerable to fear, because fear did not exist. ³Both the separation and the fear are miscreations that must be undone for the restoration of the temple, and for the opening of the altar to receive the Atonement. ⁴This heals the separation by placing within you the one effective defence against all separation thoughts and making you perfectly invulnerable.

Expanded

2. For perfect effectiveness the Atonement belongs at the centre of the inner altar, where it [the Atonement] undoes the separation and restores the wholeness of the mind. ²Before the separation the mind was invulnerable to fear, because fear did not exist. ³Both the separation and the fear are miscreations that must be undone for the restoration of the temple, and for the opening of the altar to receive the Atonement. ⁴This [restoring the temple and opening the altar] heals the separation by placing within you the one effective defence against all separation thoughts and making you perfectly invulnerable.

Substituted

2. For perfect effectiveness the Atonement belongs at the centre of the inner altar, where the Atonement undoes the separation and restores the wholeness of the mind. ²Before the separation the mind was invulnerable to fear, because fear did not exist. ³Both the separation and the fear are miscreations that must be undone for the restoration of the temple, and for the opening of the altar to receive the Atonement. ⁴Restoring the temple and opening the altar heals the separation by placing within you the one effective defence against all separation thoughts and making you perfectly invulnerable.

Simplified

Fear did not exist before the separation. Separation and fear must be undone. The Atonement is the defence against separation thoughts.

3. The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. ²This may appear to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision, but this is not so. ³You can temporise and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate. ⁴An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable. ⁵Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. ⁶Eventually everyone begins to recognise, however dimly, that there must be a better way. ⁷As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. ⁸This ultimately reäwakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. ⁹The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute. ¹⁰But the outcome is as certain as God.

Expanded

3. The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. ²This [that everyone will accept the Atonement] may appear to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision, but this [contradicting free will] is not so. ³You can temporise and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who [your Creator] set the limits on your ability to miscreate. ⁴An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable. ⁵Tolerance for pain may be high, but it [tolerance for pain] is not without limit. ⁶Eventually everyone begins to recognise, however dimly, that there must be a better way. ⁷As this recognition [that there must be a better way] becomes more firmly established, it [recognition that there must be a better way] becomes a turning point. ⁸This [recognising there must be a better way] ultimately reäwakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. ⁹The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which [experience of conflict] can become very acute. ¹⁰But the outcome is as certain as God.

Substituted

3. The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. ²Everyone will accept the Atonement, may appear to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision, but contradicting free will is not so. ³You can temporise and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator; your Creator set the limits on your ability to miscreate. ⁴An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable. ⁵Tolerance for pain may be high, but tolerance for pain is not without limit. ⁶Eventually everyone begins to recognise, however dimly, that there must be a better way. ⁷As the recognition that there must be a better way becomes more firmly established, the recognition that there must be a better way becomes a turning point. ⁸Recognising there must be a better way ultimately reäwakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. ⁹The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict; experience of conflict can become very acute. ¹⁰But the outcome is as certain as God.

Simplified

Everyone has a pain limit. Everyone eventually recognises there must be a better way. Then spiritual vision can be reäwakened.

Commentary>

(3) We cannot choose not to choose again; but we can delay this choice. …This limit, the Holy Spirit’s presence in our minds, ensures that at some point within the hologram of time, we shall choose to awaken from the dream. (Wapnick, A.V.I., p.13.)

(3) Jesus speaks of the Atonement (or the Holy Spirit) as being the limit God set on the Son’s ability to miscreate. (Wapnick, A.V.I., p.130–131.)

(4–8) And what allows the Presence of God in our minds — the Holy Spirit or Jesus — to undo the ego’s seemingly invincible plot is the pain that we feel from our original and ongoing decision to remain separate from the Love of God, a decision that enables us to exist as an individual. It is this discomfort over our unhappy situation (referred to as having “an imporsioned will”) that impels us finally to ask for “a better way”. … Realising that our way has not worked… we call upon the “better way”, which means calling upon the better Teacher. (Wapnick, A.A.C., p. 176.)

4. Spiritual vision literally cannot see error, and merely looks for Atonement. ²All solutions the physical eye seeks dissolve. ³Spiritual vision looks within and recognises immediately that the altar has been defiled and needs to be repaired and protected. ⁴Perfectly aware of the right defence it passes over all others, looking past error to truth. ⁵Because of the strength of its vision, it brings the mind into its service. ⁶This reëstablishes the power of the mind and makes it increasingly unable to tolerate delay, realising that it only adds unnecessary pain. ⁷As a result, the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what it would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort.

Expanded

4. Spiritual vision literally cannot see error, and merely looks for Atonement. ²All solutions the physical eye seeks dissolve. ³Spiritual vision looks within and recognises immediately that the altar has been defiled and needs to be repaired and protected. ⁴Perfectly aware of the right defence it [spiritual vision] passes over all others [defences], looking past error to truth. ⁵Because of the strength of its [spiritual vision’s] vision, it [spiritual vision] brings the mind into its [spiritual vision’s] service. ⁶This [bringing the mind into the service of spiritual vision] reëstablishes the power of the mind and makes it [the mind] increasingly unable to tolerate delay, realising that it [delay] only adds unnecessary pain. ⁷As a result, the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what it [the mind] would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort.

Substituted

4. Spiritual vision literally cannot see error, and merely looks for Atonement. ²All solutions the physical eye seeks dissolve. ³Spiritual vision looks within and recognises immediately that the altar has been defiled and needs to be repaired and protected. ⁴Perfectly aware of the right defence spiritual vision passes over all other defences, looking past error to truth. ⁵Because of the strength of spiritual vision’s vision, spiritual vision brings the mind into spiritual vision’s service. ⁶Bringing the mind into the service of spiritual vision reëstablishes the power of the mind and makes the mind increasingly unable to tolerate delay, realising that delay only adds unnecessary pain. ⁷As a result, the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what the mind would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort.

Simplified

Spiritual vision looks past error and sees truth. Spiritual vision awakens the mind. The mind becomes more sensitive to error and pain.

Commentary

(1–4) The Atonement undoes guilt simply by moving past it to the guiltlessness underneath. …our forgiveness of each other is the means through which God reminds us that we are guiltless as His Children. This is the Holy Spirit’s plan of the Atonement: I acknowledge the guiltlessness of the Son of God in you, and this awareness, shared with you in my mind, teaches me that that guiltlessness is what I am as well. (Wapnick, A.V.I., p. 146.)

(7) This sensitivity [to our deepest self], however, can become a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows us to turn over to Jesus our ego temptations, but on the other, it causes us to react even to the slightest ego stirrings. What really happens is that things we would have never noticed before now stick out like sore thumbs, a situation where “the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what the mind would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort”. (Wapnick, F.A.J., p.260.)

5. The children of God are entitled to the perfect comfort that comes from perfect trust. ²Until they achieve this, they waste themselves and their true creative powers on useless attempts to make themselves more comfortable by inappropriate means. ³But the real means are already provided, and do not involve any effort at all on their part. ⁴The Atonement is the only gift that is worthy of being offered at the altar of God, because of the value of the altar itself. ⁵It was created perfect and is entirely worthy of receiving perfection. ⁶God and His creations are completely dependent on Each Other. ⁷He depends on them because He created them perfect. ⁸He gave them His peace so they could not be shaken and could not be deceived. ⁹Whenever you are afraid you are deceived, and your mind cannot serve the Holy Spirit. ¹⁰This starves you by denying you your daily bread. ¹¹God is lonely without His Sons, and they are lonely without Him. ¹²They must learn to look upon the world as a means of healing the separation. ¹³The Atonement is the guarantee that they will ultimately succeed.

Expanded

5. The children of God are entitled to the perfect comfort that comes from perfect trust. ²Until they [the children of God] achieve this [perfect comfort], they [the children of God] waste themselves [the children-of-God’s selves] and their [the children-of-God’s] true creative powers on useless attempts to make themselves [the children-of-God’s selves] more comfortable by inappropriate means. ³But the real means are already provided, and do not involve any effort at all on their [the children-of-God’s] part. ⁴The Atonement is the only gift that is worthy of being offered at the altar of God, because of the value of the altar itself. ⁵It [the altar of God] was created perfect and is entirely worthy of receiving perfection. ⁶God and His [God’s] creations are completely dependent on Each Other. ⁷He [God] depends on them [God’s creations] because He [God] created them [God’s creations] perfect. ⁸He [God] gave them [God’s creations] His [God’s] peace so they [God’s creations] could not be shaken and could not be deceived. ⁹Whenever you are afraid you are deceived, and your mind cannot serve the Holy Spirit. ¹⁰This [being afraid] starves you by denying you your daily bread. ¹¹God is lonely without His [God’s] Sons, and they [God’s Sons] are lonely without Him [God]. ¹²They [God’s Sons] must learn to look upon the world as a means of healing the separation. ¹³The Atonement is the guarantee that they [God’s Sons] will ultimately succeed.

Substituted

5. The children of God are entitled to the perfect comfort that comes from perfect trust. ²Until the children of God achieve perfect comfort, the children of God waste the children-of-God’s selves and the children-of-God’s true creative powers on useless attempts to make the children-of-God’s selves more comfortable by inappropriate means. ³But the real means are already provided, and do not involve any effort at all on the children-of-God’s part. ⁴The Atonement is the only gift that is worthy of being offered at the altar of God, because of the value of the altar itself. ⁵The altar of God was created perfect and is entirely worthy of receiving perfection. ⁶God and God’s creations are completely dependent on Each Other. ⁷God depends on God’s creations because God created God’s creations perfect. ⁸God gave God’s creations God’s peace so God’s creations could not be shaken and could not be deceived. ⁹Whenever you are afraid you are deceived, and your mind cannot serve the Holy Spirit. ¹⁰Being afraid starves you by denying you your daily bread. ¹¹God is lonely without God’s Sons, and God’s Sons are lonely without God. ¹²God’s Sons must learn to look upon the world as a means of healing the separation. ¹³The Atonement is the guarantee that God’s Sons will ultimately succeed.

Simplified

The children of God are entitled to perfect comfort [i.e. in peace and free of pain —Ed.]. God gives what is needed for our comfort. Being afraid is being lonely. The separation will be healed. The world is a means of healing the separation.

Commentary

(11) God, of course, cannot weep or be lonely, but these references reflect both His love for us and the Holy Spirit’s desire that we return to our Father and be free from the pain of believing we are still separate from Him. (Wapnick, F.A.J., p.215.) (see T-5.VII.4:5)

(11) Clearly, since God is abstract and does not have a body, He does not get lonely, nor weep; as He is the All, He cannot be incomplete. Further, the very idea that He could be any of these things clearly implies that the separation of His Son from Himself has actually happened, and this of course is directly antithetical to the Course’s teachings. The point that is being made, therefore, has to be understood on the level of the content of God’s love for His children (itself of course an anthropocentric metaphor), expressd through the form of an earthly father’s love for his child. Since we are still very much children in the spiritual life — “You are very new in the ways of salvation” (T-17.V.9:1), A Course in Miracles tells us — the Course’s use of language at this level is more than appropriate. (Wapnick, L.D.N.C., p. 608.) (see also T-5.VII.4:5, T-7.VII.10:7, T-9.VII.8:2, T-19.II.2:7)


T-2.II The Atonement as DefenceT-2.IV Healing as Release from Fear