When Did Jesus Wake Up?

Question: When did Jesus wake up?

Answer: This question, which can seem like a nit-picky historical issue, actually gives us insight into the overall outlook of the Course. To answer it, I want to look at four key hints in the Course and in personal guidance to Helen Schucman.

The first hint is only found in the Urtext. There, in the middle of what is now "The Message of the Crucifixion" (T-6.I), Jesus says this:

There are two glaring examples of upside down thinking in the New Testament, whose whole Gospel is only the message of love. These [glaring examples of upside down thinking] are not at all like the several slips into impatience which I made, because I had learned the Atonement prayer, which I also came to teach, too well to engage in upside down thinking myself.

Here Jesus openly admits that during his life, he had made "several slips into impatience." But then he says that these minor slips were quite different from the kind of glaringly upside-down thinking that can be found in the New Testament. He says that he had come too far to engage in that sort of thinking.

The second hint is in "The Message of the Crucifixion," in Chapter 6 of the Text. Jesus says:

While I emphasized only the resurrection before [three chapters earlier], the purpose of the crucifixion and how it actually led to the resurrection was not clarified then. (T-6.I.2:7; emphasis from Urtext)

After this enigmatic comment that the crucifixion "actually led to the resurrection," Jesus then proceeds to talk about what the crucifixion was really about. He says it was a demonstration of his realization that his reality was unassailable. Knowing that, no matter what was done to his body, he could not be hurt, he could afford to "teach only love." And that was what he did. He forgave and blessed, even while his body was being murdered.

The important thing about the crucifixion, in other words, was not the ordeal that his body underwent, but the lesson that his mind realized and taught. If we set this next to the comment that the crucifixion "actually led to the resurrection," the implication is clear: The resurrection was the fruit of his realization of the lesson taught in the crucifixion. The next implication is equally clear: The resurrection would have happened earlier if he had fully realized that lesson earlier.

The third hint says almost exactly the same thing. It comes from personal guidance that Helen Schucman received in response to the question "Was there a physical resurrection?" That guidance begins this way:

My body disappeared because I had no illusion about it. The last one had gone….What is understood as nothing must disappear. (Absence from Felicity, pp. 398, 399)

According to this guidance, the resurrection was the disappearance, not the reappearance, of his body. And why did it disappear? Because he had let go every last shred of illusion about it. He finally understood now that it was nothing. The clear implication is that he had reached this understanding during the crucifixion; "the last one had gone" during the crucifixion. Here we see the same basic message as before: The resurrection was the fruit of a realization he had during the crucifixion. And thus the resurrection would have happened earlier if he had had the realization earlier.

The fourth hint comes in the Clarification of Terms in the back of the Manual for Teachers. It says:

Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, Whom he called down upon the earth after he ascended into Heaven, or became completely identified with the Christ, the Son of God as He created Him. (C-6.1:1)

This sentence combines the biblical story of Jesus' life with the Course's story of the process of awakening. It first refers to Jesus' ascension as told by the book Acts. The story is that, for forty days after the resurrection, Jesus was appearing to his disciples, "speaking of the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). Then, at the end of those forty days, Jesus finally and permanently ascended to Heaven, shortly after which he sent the Holy Spirit down upon his disciples on Pentecost. Then this sentence equates the ascension with what the Course calls the final step, in which we vanish completely from space and time and awaken in Heaven, "completely identified with the Christ," our true Identity.

If we combine these four hints, the resulting picture, I believe, is quite clear. During his life, Jesus had advanced to towering levels of spiritual realization. He was no longer capable of the upside-down thinking that, according his words in the Course, we live in all the time. He was, however, still capable of little slips into impatience, and he still retained shreds of belief in the reality of his body. All of that vanished in the crucifixion. There, he let go of his last shreds of illusion. He no longer identified himself with his body even a little. He realized that the most brutal things could be done to his body without affecting him in the slightest degree. That realization brought on the resurrection of his mind, a resurrection which manifested on the outside as the actual disappearance of his body.

This wasn't the end of the road, however. As the Course describes it, the resurrection is really just the full entry into the real world, or complete right-mindedness. It is not the entry into One-mindedness. That is reserved for what the Course calls the final step, the resurrection being merely "the invitation to God to take His final step" (M-28.1:8). Thus, Jesus' resurrection was not his awakening. Rather, it placed him in a state that was extremely close to awakening, a state of perfect readiness for God to take the final step. That final step is what is traditionally called the ascension, which was not Jesus' body being lifted to Heaven (as the Bible has it), but his mind being lifted out of space, time, and form, and into the true waking state of Heaven.

What does this tell us about the Course's overall outlook? It tells us that what we are ultimately shooting for is unimaginably high, much higher than we generally assume. It says that "enlightened" masters, who are walking around in bodies and doing a lot more than having "slips into impatience," are not yet awake, not by a long, long way. It says that since the world really is a dream, when we truly wake up, we will literally vanish from this place, never to be embodied again. Jesus understands how ridiculously far this is from our current state, and so, in speaking about those who did what he did—unite with God so fully that they stopped dreaming their bodies (M-26.3:8)—he has these sage words for us:

Let us not, then, be too concerned with goals for which you are not ready. God takes you where you are and welcomes you. What more could you desire, when this is all you need? (M-26.4:9-11).

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