Why did Jesus dictate A Course in Miracles? What was his purpose? The Course can be seen as primarily a compendium of fascinating metaphysical ideas, or perhaps a helpful tool for shifting our own perception so we'll feel happier about our lives. But for a long time, we at the Circle have believed that Jesus' central purpose for the Course is right there in its title. He gave us "a course in miracles," a course that would train us to become miracle workers: people who extend miracles of true perception to others in thought, word, and deed.
As I've reread the first two chapters of the Text during our 2006 Text reading program, this purpose has left a deeper impression on me than ever before. It is especially evident in the Urtext, Bill's original typescript of the Course. I'm now seeing the Course as essentially a vocational training manual. I'm being trained for the job of miracle worker, a co-worker in Jesus' "Great Crusade" to heal lack of love with love. This job is full-time; I am expected to be on the clock twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The job sounds daunting, but in truth it offers such immense benefits that it is far more rewarding than anything else I could do. I will not find peace until I commit fully to this job and help all of my brothers find salvation.
In this article, I'd like to share some highlights from this early material on the job of miracle worker. (All quotations without references below are from the Urtext.) This material has had a major impact on how I see the Course and my own life's purpose. I feel simultaneously uneasy about its challenge to my current life and excited about its promise of a more fulfilling life. I hope you will find this material as thought-provoking as I have.
Jesus is training us for the job of miracle worker in his "Great Crusade" to heal lack of love with love
As I mentioned, Jesus' purpose for the Course is right there in the book's title. The purpose of any course in something is to train you to do that thing. It is no different here. Our job is the same one Jesus gave to his disciples two thousand years ago:
The Disciples were officially and specifically told to heal others, as Physicians of the Lord. They were also told to heal themselves, and were promised that I would never leave them or forsake them. Atonement is the natural profession of the Children of God, because they have professed Me.
We too are to be "Physicians of the Lord" practicing "the natural profession of the Children of God." Whatever the outer form of our work in the world, our true inner vocation is to be miracle workers under Jesus' direction, who heal others and in so doing heal ourselves. Jesus promises that he will be with us every step of the way, and if we dedicate ourselves to this job, "You will see miracles thru your hands thru me." There is really no other function that will make us happy; in his words, our "souls cannot rest until everyone has found salvation."
Given the importance of this job, Jesus dearly wants us to start work as soon as we can. Later in the Course, he speaks of "how urgent it is to fulfill" (T-5.VII.4:4) our part in the plan for salvation. He calls us to "unite with me under the holy banner of [the Holy Spirit's] teaching" (T-13.VIII.8:2), to join the "Great Crusade" to undo lack of love:
Having been restored to your original state, you naturally become part of the Atonement yourself. You now share my inability to tolerate the lack of love in yourself and in everyone else, and must join the Great Crusade to correct it. The slogan for this Crusade is "Listen, Learn, and Do."
This means Listen to My Voice, Learn to undo the error, and do something to correct it.
The first two are not enough. The real members of my party are active workers. (Urtext version of T-1.III.1:5-6)
This is strong language: it reminds me of Martin Luther King, Jr. passionately calling upon the people to join his crusade to overcome hatred with love. Once we are trained, we are to listen as Jesus gives us our part in the overall campaign, learn what we need to learn to carry out that part, and then actively carry it out. Of course, this "Great Crusade" language doesn't mean we should become pushy zealots. The Course always counsels gentleness, not force. I think the point is simply that we are taking part in a disciplined, active movement to "bless the world with miracles" (W-pII.353.Heading). We are to become card-carrying members of the Jesus Party.
Our job description
This early material says a great deal about the nature of our miracle-working job. Here are some aspects that stand out for me.
This job is not a burden but a joy, because it releases the miracle drive—it is more satisfying than sex
Let's start with the benefits. That whole "Great Crusade" thing might sound like a real drag, especially for those who have never had any inclination to join a movement. But Jesus is clear that the job of miracle working is not some sacrifice we make for the sake of others, but something that benefits us just as much: "The miracle will always bless you" (T-1.III.8:2). As anyone who has studied the Course knows, giving is receiving. The blessings we give others through our miracles come right back to us.
The Urtext material describes another benefit that sounds incredibly appealing to me. Accepting the job of working miracles will release the miracle-drive:
Tension is the result of a building-up of unexpressed miracle-impulses. This can be truly abated only by releasing the miracle-drive, which has been blocked. Converting it to sexual libido merely produces further blocking.
Wow! Did you know you have a miracle drive? That's sure news to me. While many of us have a genuine desire to help others, it usually doesn't feel like a "drive." Our desire to help usually feels pretty weak compared to our drives for things like food and sex and even nonphysical things like career goals, drives that never seem to leave us alone. It seems that the thwarting of these drives is what causes our tension. That's why miracle working seems so daunting: it seems that expressing our noble but weak desire to help others means constantly fighting against our baser drives. No wonder it can feel like a sacrifice.
But notice how Jesus turns the tables here with regard to one of the strongest drives we seem to have: the sex drive. In the Urtext material, Jesus says the sex drive is a distorted version of the miracle drive; the ego converts the miracle drive into the sex drive to keep itself in business. But while indulging the sex drive seems to relieve tension, in fact it actually increases tension by blocking the miracle drive behind it. At best, sex can produce a temporary sense of relaxation, but the true effect of indulging inappropriate sexual impulses is depletion. The cure for this depletion and the way to true peace is to let that miracle drive loose in its pure form:
The miracle, on the other hand, is an energizer. It always strengthens, and never depletes. It does induce peace, and by establishing tranquillity (not relaxation) it enables both giver and receiver to enter into a state of Grace.
The bottom line: miracle working is more satisfying than sex. Perhaps it's not such a drag after all.
We are to devote every moment to this job—we are never off the clock
Jesus tells us, "Each day should be devoted to miracles" (T-1.I.15:1). He encourages us to "begin each day with the prayer 'Help me to perform whatever miracles you want of me today.'" He counsels us to be prepared for miracles to come through us at any moment, to "'hold yourself ready'….so you will always be ready, willing, and able" to do them. Most startling of all, he implies that we need to hold on to our miracle-readiness even while we sleep, when he says that the mind "never sleeps. Every instant it is creating, and always as you will" (Urtext version of T-2.VI.9:6-7). (How do we hold on to miracle-readiness while sleeping? The Course instructs us to give our sleep to the Holy Spirit—see T-8.IX.4.) Clearly, in this job we are meant to be on the clock 24/7. Taking time off to visit our favorite ego vacation spots is just not part of the benefits package. That's just as well, since the ego's vacation spots are really hell. Visiting hell can hardly be called a benefit.
The first step in this job is to use mental vigilance to keep ourselves in a state of miracle-mindedness
In order to hold ourselves ready for Jesus to work through us, we need to train our minds to think miraculously:
Human beings are not used to miraculous thinking, but they can be trained to think that way.
All miracle-workers have to be trained that way. I have to be able to count on them. This means that I cannot allow them to leave their mind unguarded, or they will not be able to help me. Miracle-working entails a full realization of the power of thought, and real avoidance of miscreation. (Urtext version of T-2.VII.1:9-2:2)
In other words, we need to be mentally vigilant, both against thoughts that hamper our miracle working and for thoughts that enable it.
What kinds of thoughts are we supposed to be vigilant against? In general, any thoughts of the ego, thoughts rooted in wrong-mindedness. But more specifically, Jesus stresses that in order to work miracles, we need to make sure our minds are free of fear. "Miracles need freedom from fear" (Urtext version of T-1.I.26:1). Fear keeps miracles from coming through us. Moreover, if we attempt to do miracles while we are afraid, whatever miracles do come through us will likely be distorted by the ego into evidence of how special we are (see T-2.V.2). For this reason, "As long as your sense of vulnerability persists, you should not attempt to perform miracles" (T-2.V.2:6).
Another miracle-blocker we need to watch out for is doubt. In the following passage, Jesus compares our doubt to the doubt Peter had when he was walking on the water with Jesus. If we doubt our ability to work miracles, then like Peter, we're sunk:
[Miracles] cannot be performed in the spirit of doubt. Remember my own question [to Peter], before you ask yours. "Oh ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (minor spelling and punctuation corrections by me)
What kinds of thoughts are we supposed to be vigilant for? Thoughts of the spirit, thoughts rooted in right-mindedness. We are to keep ourselves in a state in which we look upon all we encounter with true perception, with the eyes of forgiveness:
I have already said that miracles are expressions of miracle-mindedness, and miracle-mindedness means right-mindedness….It is essential…that the miracle worker be in his right mind, however briefly, or he will be unable to re-establish right-mindedness in someone else. (T-2.V.3:1, 5)
Miracles are natural expressions of total forgiveness. (Urtext version of T-1.I.21:1)
This mental vigilance against wrong-mindedness and for right-mindedness places us in a state of miracle-mindedness or miracle-readiness. In this state, we radiate unconditional, impersonal love, "impersonal" in the sense that it is not limited to any specific person. Love simply flows from us indiscriminately, as light shines forth from the sun; "this mind goes out to everyone, even without the awareness of the miracle worker himself" (T-1.III.7:2). We are now ready for the next step.
The second step in this job is to let Jesus send specific miracles through us to specific miracle receivers
Impersonal miracle-mindedness sets the table for personal miracle-doing. Jesus takes our miraculous state of mind that radiates love to everyone everywhere, and channels it into specific miracles for specific people. The plan for salvation is a spiritual version of the classic activist bumper sticker "Think globally, act locally."
We should not decide by ourselves what specific miracles to perform because we can't see the bigger picture. Indiscriminate miracle working on our part can do more harm than good, both to us and to the miracle receiver. Instead, Jesus says, "Ask me which miracles you should perform" (T-1.III.4:3). Later he says:
The action aspect of the miracle should be controlled by me because of my complete awareness of the whole plan. The impersonal nature of miracle-mindedness ensures your grace, but only I am in a position to know where [specific miracles] can be bestowed. (T-1.III.8:4-5)
Placing Jesus in charge of our miracle working "spares [us] from exhaustion" and keeps us from burning ourselves out with indiscriminate miracle working (the fate of Edgar Cayce, according to the Urtext). It also keeps us from giving a "straight and undiluted miracle" to someone who is too afraid to accept such a radical challenge to his thought system. Jesus can see the bigger picture, so we should let him call the shots.
Notice the reference to the "action aspect of the miracle." Throughout this early material, it is crystal clear that the extension of miracles is, in Jesus' words, an "interpersonal action," the behavioral extension of true perception from miracle workers to miracle receivers. Many Course students believe that you just heal your own mind, and then everyone else is healed automatically without you doing anything. This does indeed happen when we are in the state of miracle-mindedness. But this material shows that simply letting healing emanate from your mind automatically is not enough; a clear distinction is made "between 'miracle-mindedness' as a state, and 'miracle-doing' as its expression." Miracle-mindedness as a state is meant to be expressed as miracle-doing directed by Jesus. As he says in a passage I quoted earlier, "The real members of my party are active workers."
Doing this job sets in motion a chain of miracles, a very strong chain of Atonement
Once we extend a miracle to someone under Jesus' direction, our job in that instance is done. But the miracle's job has only just begun; like the Energizer bunny, it keeps going and going and going. "A miracle is never lost. It touches many people you may not even know" (Urtext version of T-1.I.45:1-2). As Jesus says later:
Christ-controlled miracles are selective only in that they are directed toward those who can use them for themselves. Since this makes it inevitable that they will extend them to others, a very strong chain of Atonement is welded. (Urtext version of T-1.III.9:1-2)
This is another reason Jesus should be in charge of our miracle working. He is in charge of the whole plan, so he knows who is ready for a miracle. He knows which people are ready to "pay it forward" (to quote a recent movie) by passing the miracle on to others. He knows all the links in the chain. Or, to use another metaphor, he knows which domino to push in order to start the chain reaction that will cause all of them to fall. Working that one miracle for Joe or Sue thus has far greater effects than we will ever know. Our action locally has huge effects globally.
The power of this job is potentially limitless; we can literally heal the sick, raise the dead, and move mountains
Right now, we may feel like junior trainees starting in the miracle working mailroom, without much power to have any significant effect on things. But Jesus assures us that our potential power as miracle workers is literally limitless. Again and again, he reminds us of just how powerful our minds really are and just what an unfettered miracle drive can really do:
The mind is a very powerful creator, and it never loses its creative force. (Urtext version of T-2.VI.9:5)
It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. (T-2.VI.9:8)
Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself, and can therefore abolish both. (T-1.I.24:1)
You can do anything I ask. I have asked you to perform miracles, and have made it very clear that these are natural, corrective, healing, and universal. There is nothing good they cannot do. (Urtext version of T-2.II.1:1-3)
Elsewhere, Jesus speaks of conditions that must be met "before it is safe to let miracle workers loose in this world." I get this image of Spider-Man's Uncle Ben gravely telling him, "With great power comes great responsibility." Someday we will unleash so much miracle-working power that we'll need to consult with Jesus constantly to make sure this mighty force is channeled properly. Of course, most of don't feel quite that powerful right now. I find myself saying to Jesus with a laugh, "Don't worry. I think it's safe to let me loose." Even so, I am filled with awe when I contemplate how much power Jesus says we all truly have at our disposal.
Please clock in
As I mentioned at the beginning, contemplating this job brings me a mix of uneasiness and excitement. On the one hand, the idea of being a miracle worker on the clock 24/7 sounds like quite a heavy load—my ego tells me Jesus is running a sweatshop that should be shut down immediately. But on the other hand, the idea of dedicating myself heart and soul to the holy purpose of saving the world sounds like such a beautiful vocation. There is a real yearning in me to do this. I sense deep down that nothing else will really make me happy; to paraphrase an earlier quote, my soul cannot rest until everyone has found salvation.
In light of this, I'm trying to do what I can to get this miracle worker job going. I'm trying to see my entire day as an opportunity to roll up my sleeves and work some miracles. (Ironically, just as I was writing this, I got a phone call from a friend who needed help.) I'm beginning each day with the prayer "Help me to perform whatever miracles you want of me today." I'm reminding myself as I go through my daily rounds that my real goal is not to check everything off my personal "to do" list, but to hold myself ready in miracle-mindedness so Jesus can send miracles through me to others. I'm trying to model my life on his, since he is the ultimate miracle worker and my teacher. As I read the Course, I'm trying to read everything in light of this question: How can what I'm reading help me become a more effective miracle worker? I'm even trying to give my mind to the Holy Spirit as I go to sleep, so miracle-mindedness can flow from me while my body rests. The results so far have been promising. While I'm still very much a beginner at this, I can honestly say that I'm experiencing more peace, a deeper sense of purpose, and greater effectiveness in being truly helpful to others.
Jesus has asked us to perform miracles. He has assured us that we can do anything he asks, once we have the proper training. He has promised us limitless benefits. Why not do what he asks? Why not take this course for miracle workers and get vocational training for a job we'll love like no other? Please clock in!