36 The Atonement is the
only defense which cannot be used destructively. That is because, while everyone must eventually join it, it is
not a device which was generated by man. The Atonement
principle was in effect long before the Atonement itself began. The principle was love, and the Atonement itself was an
act of love. Acts were not necessary before the separation because the time-space belief did not exist. It was only after the separation that the defense of Atonement and the necessary conditions for its fulfillment were planned.
37 It became increasingly apparent that all of the defenses which man can choose to use constructively
or destructively were not enough to save him. It was therefore decided that he needed a defense which was so splendid that he could not misuse it, although he
could refuse it. His choice could not, however, turn it into a weapon of attack, which is the inherent characteristic of all other defenses. The Atonement thus becomes the
only defense which is
not a two-edged sword.
38 The Atonement actually began long before the crucifixion. Many Souls offered their efforts on behalf of the separated ones, but they could not withstand the strength of the attack and had to be brought back. Angels came, too, but their protection did not suffice because the separated ones were not interested in peace. They had already split their minds and were bent on further dividing rather than reintegrating. The levels they introduced into their minds turned against each other, and they established differences, divisions, cleavages, dispersions, and all the other concepts related to the increasing splits which they produced.
39 Not being in their right minds, they turned their defenses from protection to assault and acted literally insanely. It was essential to introduce a split-proof device which could be used
only to heal, if it were used at all. The Atonement was built into the space-time belief in order to set a limit on the need for the belief and ultimately to make learning complete. The Atonement
is the final lesson. Learning itself, like the classrooms in which it occurs, is temporary. The ability to learn has no value when change of understanding is no longer necessary. The eternally creative have nothing to learn. Only after the separation was it necessary to direct the creative forces to learning because changed behavior had become mandatory.
40 Men can learn to improve their behavior and can also learn to become better and better learners. This serves to bring them into closer and closer accord with the Sonship, but the Sonship itself is a perfect creation, and perfection is
not a matter of degree. Only while there are different degrees is learning meaningful. The "evolution" of man is merely a process by which he proceeds from one degree to the next. He corrects his previous missteps by stepping forward. This represents a process which is actually incomprehensible in temporal terms because he
returns as he goes forward.
41 The Atonement is the device by which he can free himself from the past as he goes ahead. It
undoes his past errors, thus making it unnecessary for him to keep retracing his steps without advancing to his return. In this sense the Atonement saves time but, like the miracle which serves it, does
not abolish it. As long as there is need for Atonement, there is need for time. But the Atonement as a completed plan does have a unique relationship
to time. Until the Atonement is finished, its various phases will proceed
in time, but the whole Atonement stands at time's end. At this point, the bridge of the return has been built.
42 The Atonement is a
total commitment. You still think this is associated with loss. This is the same mistake
all the separated ones make in one way or another. They cannot believe that a defense which cannot attack
is the best defense. This is what is meant by "the meek shall inherit the earth." They will literally take it over because of their strength. A two-way defense is inherently weak precisely
because it has two edges and can turn against the self very unexpectedly. This tendency cannot be controlled
except by miracles.
43 The miracle turns the defense of Atonement to the protection of the inner self, which, as it becomes more and more secure, assumes its natural talent of protecting others. The inner self knows itself as both a brother
and a Son. You know that when defenses are disrupted, there is a period of real disorientation accompanied by fear, guilt, and usually vacillations between anxiety and depression. This course is different in that defenses are
not being disrupted but
reinterpreted, even though you may experience it as the same thing. In the reinterpretation of defenses, only their use for
attack is lost. Since this means they can be used only
one way, they become much stronger and much more dependable. They no longer oppose the Atonement but greatly facilitate it.
44 The Atonement can only be accepted
within you. You have perceived it largely as
external thus far, and that is why your experience of it has been minimal. The reinterpretation of defenses is essential in releasing the
inner light. Since the separation, man's defenses have been used almost entirely to defend himself
against the Atonement and thus maintain the separation. They themselves generally see this as a need to protect the
body. The many body fantasies with which men's minds are engaged arise from the distorted belief that the body can be used as a means for attaining "atonement."
45 Perceiving the body as a temple is only the first step in correcting this kind of distortion. It alters part of the misperception but not all of it. It
does recognize, however, that the concept of Atonement in physical terms is not appropriate. However, the next step is to realize that a temple is not a building at all. Its
real holiness lies in the
inner altar around which the building is built. The inappropriate emphasis men have put on beautiful church buildings is a sign of their
fear of Atonement and their unwillingness to reach the altar itself. The
real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. The Spiritual eye, on the other hand, cannot see the building at all because it has perfect sight. It
can, however, see the altar with perfect clarity.
46 For perfect effectiveness, the Atonement belongs at the center of the inner altar, where it undoes the separation and restores the wholeness of the mind. Before the separation, the mind was invulnerable to fear because fear did not exist. Both the separation
and the fear are miscreations of the mind which must be undone. This is what is meant by "the restoration of the temple." It does not mean the restoration of the building but the opening of the altar to receive the Atonement. This heals the separation and places
within man the one defense against
all separation mind-errors which can make him perfectly invulnerable.
47 The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. In fact, both time
and matter were created for this purpose. This appears to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision. If you review the idea carefully, however, you will realize that this is not true. Everything is limited in some way by the manner of its creation. Free will can temporize and is capable of enormous procrastination. But it cannot depart entirely from its Creator, Who set the limits on its ability to miscreate by virtue of its own
48 The misuse of will engenders a situation which in the extreme becomes altogether intolerable. Pain thresholds can be high, but they are not limitless. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there
must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a perceptual turning-point. This ultimately reawakens the Spiritual eye, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. The alternating investment in the two types or levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict for a long time and can become very acute, but the outcome is as certain as God.
49 The Spiritual eye literally
cannot see error and merely looks for Atonement. All the solutions which the physical eyes seek dissolve in its sight. The Spiritual eye, which looks within, recognizes immediately that the altar has been defiled and needs to be repaired and protected. Perfectly aware of the
right defense, It passes over all others, looking past error to truth. Because of the real strength of
Its vision, It pulls the will into Its service and impels the mind to concur. This reestablishes the true power of the will and makes it increasingly unable to tolerate delay. The mind then realizes with increasing certainty that delay is only a way of increasing unnecessary pain, which it need not tolerate at all. The pain threshold drops accordingly, and the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what it would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort.
50 The Children of God are
entitled to perfect comfort, which comes from a sense of perfect trust. Until they achieve this, they waste themselves and their true creative powers on useless attempts to make themselves more comfortable by inappropriate means. But the real means is
already provided and does not involve any effort at all on their part. Their egocentricity usually misperceives this as personally insulting, an interpretation which obviously arises from their misperception of themselves. Egocentricity and communion
cannot coexist. Even the terms are contradictory.
51 The Atonement is the only gift that is worthy of being offered to the altar of God. This is because of the inestimable value of the altar itself. It was created perfect and is entirely worthy of receiving perfection. God
is lonely without His Souls, and
they are lonely without Him. Men must learn to perceive the world as a means of
healing the separation. The Atonement is the
guarantee that they will ultimately succeed.