How would the Course look at the miracles of the historical Jesus?

Question: How would A Course in Miracles look at the "miracles" that Jesus performed as reported in the New Testament: healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, etc.? My impression is that his ability to "perform miracles" was what drew many people to him.

Answer: My short answer is that the Course regards the healing miracles of the historical Jesus as literal healings, physical expressions of his extension of healed perception to his brothers. Modern minds steeped in a materialist worldview have a difficult time accepting the idea that a person could actually heal the sick and even raise the dead by spiritual means, but as the Course tells us in the very first miracle principle, "There is no order of difficulty in miracles" (T-1.I.1:1). If this is true, then there's no reason to believe that Jesus couldn't have done the things ascribed to him.

Even contemporary historical Jesus scholars, who are highly skeptical of anything that smacks of the "supernatural," generally acknowledge that Jesus must have been an effective healer, that this was an essential part of his mission to usher in the Kingdom of God, and that this was what drew many people to him. Well-known Jesus scholar Marcus Borg says, "Despite the difficulty which miracles pose for the modern mind, on historical grounds it is virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and exorcist" (Jesus: A New Vision, p. 61). Even the Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal scholars who are perhaps the most skeptical of all, concluded that "Jesus cured some sick people," "Jesus drove out what were thought to be demons," and "Jesus cured a lame man" (The Acts of Jesus, pp. 566-567). True, these scholars tend to regard the kinds of ailments Jesus cured as psychosomatic and/or believe that his healings had some sort of natural explanation; surely, in their view, he could not cure all kinds of sickness. But the conclusion that he was a healer seems inescapable.

While Jesus doesn't talk about himself a great deal in the Course, he does indicate that he was a healer, and one whose healings went far beyond just curing "some" sick people. Not only did he heal the sick, but he says that even the most extreme healing miracle attributed to him—raising the dead—was something he actually did: "I raised the dead by knowing that life is an eternal attribute of everything that the living God created" (T-4.IV.11:7). And lest we think this is just a metaphor for revitalizing someone in some sense, we are given a fascinating aside later in the Course that was unfortunately removed by the editors:

There has been a marked tendency on the part of many of the Bible's followers, and also its translators, to be entirely literal about fear and its effects, but not about love and its results. Thus, "hellfire" means "burning," but raising the dead becomes allegorical. Actually, it is particularly the references to the outcomes of love which should be taken literally because the Bible is about love, being about God. (Urtext)

What a striking passage! There's so much meaty stuff here, but for our purposes what stands out is that raising the dead, along with the other miracles that are outcomes of love, should not be regarded as allegorical. The outcomes of love—miracles—should be taken literally.

But while the more conservative branches of traditional Christianity would be pleased with the Course's depiction of Jesus' healing miracles as literal, the two paths part ways when it comes to interpreting their meaning. In the traditional view, his miracles were "signs and wonders" that proved he really was the only begotten Son of God. (This view is especially evident in the Gospel of John.) In the Course, however, Jesus' miracles were not signs of his special divine status, but rather the expression of the awakening of his mind. We can see this in the quote from chapter 4 of the Text above: He raised the dead not because he was the God-man, but because he had come to recognize that "life is an eternal attribute of everything the living God created." The only difference between him and the rest of us is that he saw this truth and we, so far, have not.

This new interpretation of the meaning of Jesus' miracles carries a powerful implication: Because we are just like him, we have the potential to perform the same kinds of miracles he did. Indeed, we are told that our "thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains" (T-2.VI.9.5:8). And in the miracle principles of the very first chapter of the Course, we read something very startling: "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). Let that sink in: We have the potential to heal the sick and raise the dead, because we made sickness and death. Later on, the Course tells us that if we really did let this sink in fully, there would be no healing miracle we could not do:

There have been many healers who did not heal themselves. They have not moved mountains by their faith because their faith was not whole. Some of them have healed the sick at times, but they have not raised the dead. (T-5.VII.2:1-3)

The implication is clear: If healers were truly healed themselves, they would be able to move mountains, heal the sick all the time, and raise the dead. They would be able to perform miracles as Jesus did.

And not only do we have the potential to perform miracles as Jesus did, but this is exactly what he wants us to do. Just as he reportedly sent out his original disciples to be healers, so he wants to send us out now. We need training before we are ready to fulfill this role, so he has given us a course in miracles, a course in extending miracles of healed perception to our brothers. This course's aim is to train us to become miracle workers who extend miracles to miracle receivers. It wants us to eventually take this up as our vocation, to the point where each day as we arise we pray: "Help me to perform whatever miracles you want of me today" (Urtext).

While the content of these miracles is a change of mind, there is no doubt that in Jesus' eyes they will often include a physical component. In the miracle principles we read, "Miracles are expressions of love, but they may not always have observable effects" (T-1.I.35:1)—implying that they often do have observable effects. This includes the healing of sickness, as we can see especially in the Manual's description of the role of the spiritual healer. Course students don't generally see the role of a healer of physical sickness described in the Manual, but as Robert writes elsewhere, this conclusion is inescapable if we put all of the Manual's references to the healer's role together:

A teacher of God comes to a "patient" (the word is used 16 times in the Manual, and only in those sections which talk about the role of healer). This patient has a "presented problem" (M-21.5:3), which is some form of physical sickness. The teacher then attempts "to be a channel of healing" (M-7.2:1) to the patient. The Manual expects that he will often succeed—the patient will be healed. This is indicated by the fact that two entire sections address what to do when a healing appears to fail, when there is the appearance of "continuing symptoms" (M-7.4:1). If the Manual expected the sickness to simply continue as before, why devote so much attention to what to do when it actually does continue?

Is the Manual really talking about the healing of sick people? About that kind of miracle? Yes, it most definitely is. It is talking about a sickness which appears to have come to us unbidden (M-5.III.1:7), caused by our bodies (M-5.III.1:0), caused by various biological forces (or "non-mental motivators" [ M-5.II.1:8]). In this sickness it appears that the "body has become lord of the mind" (M-22.3:7), though in reality this sickness is brought about by the mind, "for a purpose for which it would use the body" (M-5.II.2:1). It is the kind of sickness which can be seen by our physical eyes, as we look on someone and see his changed appearance and see that he looks "'sicker' than others" (M-8.6:3). It is the kind of sickness for which we would seek out a "physician" (M-5.II.2:5), who would use "special agents" (M-5.II.2:8) to attempt to heal it. The healing of this kind of sickness would take "tangible form" (M-5.II.2:9), and failure to heal it would result (as I quoted above) in "continuing symptoms." What else but physical illness would fit all of these descriptions?

In conclusion, I believe that Jesus truly did perform the kinds of healing miracles described in the New Testament, that we have the potential to do the same, and that Jesus wants us to continue the mission he began two thousand years ago by fulfilling that potential and becoming miracle workers ourselves. True, most of us are a long way from actually performing the kinds of miracles Jesus did. But the way to get started on the road to reaching our potential is very simple: take this course.

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