II. The Atonement as Defense, P 4
4 The Atonement is the only defense that cannot be used destructively because it is not a device you made. The Atonement principle was in effect long before the Atonement began. The principle was love and the Atonement was an act of love. Acts were not necessary before the separation because belief in space and time did not exist. It was only after the separation that the Atonement and the conditions necessary for its fulfillment were planned. Then a defense so splendid was needed that it could not be misused, although it could be refused. Refusal could not, however, turn it into a weapon of attack, which is the inherent characteristic of other defenses. The Atonement thus becomes the only defense that is not a two-edged sword. It can only heal.
I had a really hard time understanding Atonement as used in the Course. For years I have kept the Glossary-Index (by Kenneth Wapnick) nearby so I could look it up again and remind myself of its meaning. The meaning would not stick, and now I know that this is because for a long time I was so conflicted about what I wanted that there were some things in the Course I refused to understand.
Jesus explains to us here that Atonement in principle is love, and he says that it was in effect long before the Atonement began. The way he explains it is that the Atonement is an act of love and that before the separation there was no need for acts since space and time did not exist. Perhaps one of the reasons I had trouble with this explanation, even though it is simple, is that I had so little understanding of love. I still believed in the love concept as it exists in the illusion and love from the ego point of view is, at it’s best, selfish, unreliable, and conditional, and at it’s worst, destructive.
Later Jesus speaks of the Atonement as undoing separation and this was the explanation that stuck with me. Now when I read the word Atonement, I automatically substitute the word undoing. But isn’t that love? Isn’t undoing the ego an act of love? It is Love being itself, transforming what we have done simply through the power of being its self. Because I still have so little understanding of love, I still find the word undoing more useful to me, but I must be growing in my understanding because while I can’t seem to find words for it, I do understand more than before.
The next thing he says about Atonement is that it cannot be misused. I cannot use the Atonement to hurt myself or others. I certainly cannot say that about any other defense that I am familiar with. If I defend myself against pain that I perceive as coming from another, my defense will be hurtful in many ways. I will separate myself from that person which is the thing that causes all suffering to begin with. Even if I keep our bodies in contact, in my mind I have separated us into victim and victimizer, so the harm is done.
The most significant experience I have had with love undoing the ego was with my ex-husband. We had a very contentious relationship, especially at the end, and I was very glad to finally walk away from it. I didn’t feel there was anything else I could do at that time to heal the marriage and I was tired of suffering through it. But I was very surprised to realize that I could not leave the relationship. I understand now that all relationships must be healed and the proximity of the two bodies involved is not important.
While I was still in the process of forgiving myself and him and the relationship, it seemed very hard. But doing this work helped me to see that it was only hard when I tried to do it from the ego mind. The ego was only interested in defense through attack. When I finally surrendered the whole thing to Spirit, Love did its thing, and all the animosity fell away like it was nothing. Which is what it was.
When I was still trying to undo with the ego it felt very complicated. Guilt confused everything. I would think of something he did or said and I just wanted to protect myself from ever experiencing that again. Then I would think of something I did or said, and I wanted to be far from him because his presence triggered the memory of my guilty act.
There was so much projection in an attempt to protect myself from my feelings of guilt that I could not begin to unravel it all. I spent a lot of time rejecting the Atonement but my rejection didn’t cause me any harm. Not accepting it prolonged my suffering, but did not hurt either of us. This could not be said of my ego defenses, which clearly caused pain for us both.
It all changed, though, when I realized that all I wanted was peace. I wanted to forgive and I didn’t want anything else. I didn’t want to protect myself or hide anymore and so I didn’t need him to be my scapegoat. In that moment of surrender Love cleansed me and purified my mind. I did nothing but say yes. I don’t know if I will ever, while in this illusory state of mind, understand Love, but I have learned to trust it.