"The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself." Just about every student of the Course is familiar with this line. It occurs early in the Text and is referred to many times in the rest of the Course. By my count it is referred to about twenty-five times throughout the Course.
Yet, it appears to me that this statement is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the Course. From my point of view it is right up there with "I need do nothing." I think there is a good reason why it is misunderstood: Taken by itself it is a misleading statement. You need to read the context in which the statement occurs, and the contexts in which it occurs again later in the Course, to grasp the true fullness and subtlety of the point being made.
Taken by itself, the statement that my only responsibility is to accept the Atonement for myself clearly suggests that my only concern is me. All I need to worry about is the salvation of my individual mind. I keep getting caught up in concern for others, but that is an ego trap. They are on their path and, regardless of their current difficulties, they will be carried through it just fine. Meanwhile, I need to pay attention to my path and my difficulties. After all, this is my dream. They have their own dream, or, who knows, perhaps they are just figures in my dream. Maybe those other people are nothing more than projections of my own mind.
Now, I believe that this interpretation is just about opposite to what the statement really means. You may not agree with me, but just follow my reasoning here and see what you think. To begin with, accepting the Atonement for oneself is the responsibility of the miracle worker. And the miracle worker, as the Course makes very clear, is one who works miracles on others. "The teacher of God is a miracle worker because he gives the gifts he has received" ((M-7.3:3; italics mine). The term does not mean one who works miracles on himself. Therefore, to suggest that the miracle worker should only be concerned with his own salvation is a contradiction in terms, since by definition his function is to save others. That would be saying that the sole responsibility of one who works miracles on others is to work miracles only on himself, which makes no sense.
If we examine the Course's references to our sole responsibility, we can see that it is really making a point about how exactly we do heal others. It is an answer to the question, "How do I become a force for healing in the world?" Let us examine those references, beginning with the passage in which this idea is first introduced.
I have already said that miracles are expressions of miracle-mindedness, and miracle-mindedness means right-mindedness….the miracle need not await the right-mindedness of the receiver. In fact, its purpose is to restore him to his right mind. It is essential, however, 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.3:1,3-5)
What is being said here is that the purpose of the miracle is to restore another to his right mind. By implication, the one being restored will be out of his right mind. But to restore him, the miracle worker must be in his right mind. It then goes on:
The healer who relies on his own readiness is endangering his understanding. You are perfectly safe as long as you are completely unconcerned about your readiness, but maintain a consistent trust in mine. If your miracle working inclinations are not functioning properly, it is always because fear has intruded on your right‑mindedness and has turned it upside down. All forms of not‑right‑mindedness are the result of refusal to accept the Atonement for yourself. (T-2.V.4:1-4)
Here we are told something very important. If you are worried about whether or not you are ready to heal another, then you are really doubting your ability to heal. But the ability to heal is in you, not of you. It is the power of the Holy Spirit in you that heals another. Conjuring up that power is not your responsibility. Your only responsibility is to be in your right mind so that the Holy Spirit can come through you. And to be in your right mind means to accept right thinking, to accept the Atonement.
The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself. This means you recognize that mind is the only creative level, and that its errors are healed by the Atonement. Once you accept this, your mind can only heal. By denying your mind any destructive potential and reinstating its purely constructive powers, you place yourself in a position to undo the level confusion of others. (T-2.V.5:1-4)
In other words, all you need do is accept the healing power of the Atonement into your own mind. Once you do, "your mind can only heal"; "you place yourself in a position" to heal "others." That is why accepting the Atonement is your one responsibility; not because your own salvation is your only responsibility, but because the only way to carry out your function of saving others is to accept the saving Force into your own mind.
This theme is carried out very consistently in the Course's other references to our sole responsibility. Here is one from much later in the Text:
The unforgiven have no mercy to bestow upon another. That is why your sole responsibility must be to take forgiveness for yourself.
The miracle that you receive [into your own mind], you give [to others]. (T-25.IX.9:5-10:1)
In this passage we are told again that the reason our sole responsibility is to accept the Atonement for ourselves is that only by doing so can we give it, and giving it is our function. Perhaps the clearest statement of this, and of the whole principle we are discussing, is in the Manual, in the section entitled "Should Healing Be Repeated?" (M-7). The situation there described is this: You have "tried to be a channel for healing" (2:1) to another and you think you failed. You are tempted, then, to try to repeat your effort. But you should not repeat it. You must trust that the problem was given into the Holy Spirit's hands, and that whatever opening you provided Him was used to the absolute fullest. If you did your small part, He did the rest, however much it may seem like He didn't. Rather than doubting Him and then trying to go back and do His part for Him, you must simply trust that He did it. If you tried to be a channel, He did come through.
Having offered love, only love can be received.
It is in this that the teacher of God must trust. This is what is really meant by the statement that the one responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself. The teacher of God is a miracle worker because he gives the gifts he has received. Yet he must first accept them. He need do no more, nor is there more that he could do. By accepting healing he can give it. If he doubts this, let him remember Who gave the gift and Who received it. Thus is his doubt corrected. (M-7.2:8-3:8)
Here we have a very clear statement that the reason your sole responsibility is to accept God's gifts is because doing so puts you in a position to give to others. And this giving, strictly speaking, is done through you, not by you. Interestingly, later in this section there is what I consider to be a direct refutation of the attitude that says that I should only be concerned with my own individual salvation: "The mistake is always some form of concern with the self to the exclusion of the patient" (M-7.6:1).
The basic idea I am describing is stated very clearly again later in the Manual. Here we are told that in order to heal a pupil, a teacher of God must learn how to react to his pupil's wrong thinking without anger. If he gets angry, he has rejected the Atonement and so has placed himself in a position where is unable to give it to another. Therefore, instead of trying to give it, he must turn his attention momentarily away from the pupil and back onto his own unhealed thoughts. Healing them will release him to once again accomplish his function, that of healing others.
In order to heal [another], it thus becomes essential for the teacher of God to let all his own mistakes be corrected. If he senses even the faintest hint of irritation in himself as he responds to anyone, let him instantly realize that he has made an interpretation that is not true. Then let him turn within to his Eternal Guide, and let Him judge what the response should be. So is he healed, and in his healing is his pupil healed with him. The sole responsibility of God's teacher is to accept the Atonement for himself. Atonement means correction, or the undoing of errors. When this has been accomplished [when his own errors have been undone], the teacher of God becomes a miracle worker by definition. His sins have been forgiven him, and he no longer condemns himself. How can he then condemn anyone? And who is there whom his forgiveness can fail to heal? (M-18.4)
What, then, is the real point of this line: "The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself"? The Course clearly regards it as a central idea. Why is it so important?
I think it is significant because it establishes a new notion of what it means to be a healer. Normally, we think of the act of healing others as something that is up to us. We must possess that special something within us that can heal others. We must decide who to direct this special force toward; who to heal. We must also decide how to heal this person; what is wrong with him, what his healed condition would look like and how to get him there. And then we must carry out this remedy.
Normal assumptions about healing also suggest that my healing of you is something apart from my own acceptance of healing. I can heal you without really accepting healing myself. For you are separate from me, and so my own resistance to healing is not all that relevant here. What we are concerned with is you.
What the Course is saying, on the other hand, is that to be a healer the only thing I need to do is make the one decision to accept healing into my own mind. Perhaps that healing will be in how I see myself. Perhaps it will be in how I see you. Either way, I must make the choice to think rightly. Once I do this, the rest is done for me. The Course makes this point in many ways. It tells us that all we need do is make the choice to be healed, and the Holy Spirit will remove our unhealed thoughts and give us healed ones; He will undo all the effects of our wrong thinking (T-5.V.7:8-12); and he will even control our body and its behavior (T-2.VI.2:8-9).
And it makes this same point in relation to being a healer. Once we make the choice to allow healing into our own mind, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest for us. He will be the Force in us that takes care of all facets of the healing: He will decide whom we are to heal; He will inspire our thoughts, select our words and guide our behavior; and He will extend from our mind to theirs and actually effect the healing.
Often this will happen "without the awareness of the miracle worker himself" (T-1.III.7:2). But much of the time the Course implies that it will require our active involvement and cooperation. It will require that we have "tried to be a channel for healing" (M-7.2:1). But it will not require our initiative. There is a big difference between being the one with the special ability, with the responsibility, the one that selects the patients, diagnoses the illness, prescribes the cure and effects the healing, and simply being a channel. And there is a big difference between trying to give to another what you have rejected for yourself, and simply accepting it for yourself, knowing that when you do, Someone else will give it through you.
This is what the Course is saying, I believe. As healers, as miracle workers, our task is very simple. All we need do is take the initiative to accept healing into this one mind, this one small part of the Sonship, and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. He will pick this part up and use it—intelligently, lovingly and powerfully—as a channel through which His golden healing can spread out and bring relief to all minds.