III. The Altar of God, P 1
1 The Atonement can only be accepted within you by releasing the inner light. Since the separation, defenses have been used almost entirely to defend against the Atonement, and thus maintain the separation. This is generally seen as a need to protect the body. The many body fantasies in which minds engage arise from the distorted belief that the body can be used as a means for attaining “atonement.” Perceiving the body as a temple is only the first step in correcting this distortion, because it alters only part of it. It does recognize that Atonement in physical terms is impossible. The next step, however, is to realize that a temple is not a structure at all. Its true holiness lies at the inner altar around which the structure is built. The emphasis on beautiful structures is a sign of the fear of Atonement, and an unwillingness to reach the altar itself. The real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. Spiritual sight, on the other hand, cannot see the structure at all because it is perfect vision. It can, however, see the altar with perfect clarity.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I heard the call of truth in my mind. It was a quickening, which I probably didn’t recognize at the time. I do, however, remember some dreams I had around that time. One of them was me kneeling before an altar. It seemed I reached the altar by going deep within a place rather than outside it or high on a mountain, for instance. When I awoke, I didn’t remember much about it or recognize what it meant, but it felt sacred and I knew it was important.
There were a few other things happening at that time. I had another dream in which I was a beautiful angle flying around a mountain and up to the top. Some realizations occurred as well. I discovered that my attitudes and thoughts were the cause of some illnesses, like colds and flues. Understanding this changed things. I had always gotten colds easily and got the flu at least twice a year like clockwork. After my discovery, that stopped happening. I think I have had a cold only once or twice in all those years since and the flu about the same.
It was also during this time period that I asked for words to write an article for Unity Magazine. I had gained so much insight from that magazine that I had a strong desire to give back. I prayed for words and the ability to write so that I could do this. It came to me almost word for word perfect. This had never happened to me before and I did not even know where the prompt to ask for it came from.These kinds of things were happening once in awhile, and I did not see the connection at the time.
Something else that obscured my vision of this spiritual awakening is that life seemed to be falling apart and certainly if I would judge by what was happening in my life, I would not have thought of this as a period of awakening. Now I know to not judge my spiritual progress by what occurs in my life. Over a period of time I have seen my life change as my thinking changes, but because awakening can be a messy business, and our vision is so narrow and short-sighted, life in the moment is not a good indication of growth. I also learned that I don’t know what anything means and so it’s not a good idea to judge anyway.
By the time I had found A Course in Miracles and begun to study it, I had forgotten all about that dream until I read this section of the Course. When I read about the altar being within, I felt chills course through my body and I knew that the dream was very significant, indeed. I had evidently begun something that night, a commitment perhaps, or a recognition that it was time to start another part of the journey. Maybe it is simply that the true mind must steal some time from the ego story, just to be in the truth and to worship at the altar.
Jesus seems to be saying that we become confused and worship at the temple rather than the altar within. We can see this as worshiping the body we made rather than the light we are. We become obsessed with keeping the body alive, healthy, beautiful. We become obsessed with the fantasies played out through the body, giving it roles to play, pleasures and pains to feel, and games of give and take, attack and defend. In doing so we neglect the altar, and the light within is buried so deeply that we forget it exists. Except, perhaps, in the occasional dream.
Of course the altar is not something we see with the body’s eyes. Christ Vision sees clearly, though, and in fact, it sees only the altar, completely overlooking the structure. When seen with Vision I don’t even have a body, nor any of the body fantasies that seem so terribly important to me now. Vision sees only the brilliant glow of the perfect Light that I am.
It sees none of my perceived mistakes or my carefully constructed defenses. It doesn’t see how much weight I have gained, nor how much I have lost. It doesn’t see how badly I treat someone or how carefully I love them. It doesn’t see any of the body games, the ones I call good or the ones I call bad, the ones I think of as success or the ones I fear are failures. Vision sees only the unchanging perfection I am.
When I ask for Christ Vision, this is what I am asking for. I am asking to see only the altar. The body’s eyes show me nothing; they only report to me what I want to see. I pray for the healing of my mind so that all I want to see is Love. I pray not to be distracted or tempted by the illusions the body’s eyes show me, so that I offer them to Spirit for purification. I pray for true Vision. I want to never worship at the temple again when I can worship at the altar instead.