Why Won’t God Just Zap Me into Enlightenment?

by Allen Watson

How often have you wondered about that question? "Why doesn't God just wake me up?"

Sometimes, it seems that God is just tantalizing us with the real world and talk of right-mindedness, promising us perfect happiness and unshakable peace, and yet leaving us here to wallow in our confusion and misery for some unfathomable reason of His own. If that is indeed what God is doing, God is sadistic.

If God were a good God, surely He would not torture us like that! And if God is not good, we may as well forget all this spirituality business and just do our best to enjoy what we can until it is all taken away from us. But let's forget that line of thought; if we are going to base our belief on anything, let's base it on the assumption that God is love, as both the Bible and the Course assure us He is.

So, if God really loves us, there must some good reason—some loving reason—why He doesn't just zap us with enlightenment? The Course gives its response in at least a half-dozen places, with a variety of explanations. This question is one that occurs often to spiritual seekers, and Jesus responds to it from several different directions, so as to make us very clear that there are many good reasons.

Zapping Us Would Violate God's Own Law of Cause and Effect

In the section in Chapter 2 entitled, "Cause and Effect," Jesus points out that asking him to take away our fear won't do any good, because that is something we need to do for ourselves (see T-2.VII.1:1-3). There is a close connection between freedom from fear and enlightenment; in fact, since the ego's thought system derives completely from fear, one could say they are synonymous, since freedom from fear would presuppose freedom from the ego. Asking Jesus or God to take away our fear is the same as asking them to take away our ego, or asking them to somehow make us into enlightened beings.

The reason Jesus gives is not, "Sorry, that isn't possible." Rather, he says that if he intervened in that way he would be "tampering with a basic law of cause and effect" (T-2.VII.1:4). It's helpful, I think, to get a firm handle on what particular cause and effect he has in mind here. The effect he is talking about, fairly obviously, is our fear. We don't like fear, we want him to remove it, and he says doing so would be intervening "between your thoughts and their results" (T-2.VII.1:4). So then, the cause is our thoughts, and the effect is our fears.

In other words, we are the ones making ourselves fearful. Our minds are the source of fear, not anything outside of our minds, and only our minds can control it. Our fears are the result of our thoughts. If, somehow, Jesus or God were to cancel out our fears in spite of our thoughts, it would violate the law of cause and effect.

Zapping Us Would Teach Us Our Mind is Powerless

On top of that, by overriding the effects of our minds, he would be depreciating the power of our thinking (T-2.VII.1:5), both by devaluing it and by belittling it.

The Course would never make light of our mind's power; indeed, it strives to teach us just how powerful our minds are (T-2.VII.1:6). The power of our mind is what, eventually, will save us and save the world. The power of the mind is a thread of meaning running all through Chapter 2. T-2.III.4:6 tells us that by looking past error to the Atonement, spiritual vision re-establishes the power of the mind. In T-2.IV.3:13, we are advised against denying the mind's effects (the existence of the body) because that also denies the mind's power. In T-2.VI.9, Jesus tells us we need to fully realize just how powerful the mind really is. In fact, that paragraph also told us that we have chosen to see the mind as weak because we are afraid of our thoughts and their power! If Jesus were to take away our fear and depreciate the mind's power, he would actually be reinforcing the ego's deception and strengthening the cause of our fear. He would be stripping away the only thing that ultimately can save us.

Instead, he reminds us that we don't guard our thoughts carefully enough (T-2.VII.1:7), which is the same thing he said back in T-2.VI.4:6 about "mind wandering." Our thoughts are the cause, and our fear is the effect. If God isn't going to intervene between cause and effect, then there can only be one solution: We have to guard our thoughts and clean up our minds. We have to deal with the thoughts that are causing our fears.

At this point, we encounter one of those uncanny instances in the Text where Jesus seems to know exactly what we are thinking in reaction to what he just said. In this case, nearly every one of us, when we read that we need to guard our thoughts and keep our minds from wandering, think, "Yeah, sure! Fat chance, with my mind! How can I ever keep my mind from wandering? How can I ever keep the ego out?"

Buddhists refer to the way our minds run out of control when we try to meditate as "monkey mind," comparing our minds to a monkey that jumps wildly about. And not to just any monkey, but to a monkey who is drunk and has been stung by a scorpion! That's what our minds are like. That's exactly why we asked Him to zap us in the first place: We feel incapable of taming our minds.

If we cannot control our minds when we hunker down to meditate, even when we try to focus our full attention on stilling those wild, insane thoughts, what hope do we have of guarding our thoughts in the thick of life? Why, it would take a miracle, right? And, as Jesus humorously points out, that "is perfectly true" (1:8). It will take a miracle, but this is a course in miracles! We aren't used to thinking in terms of miracles, but we can "be trained to think that way" (1:9). That is exactly the kind of training we need as miracle workers (1:10), and it is exactly the training this course offers.

We think we can't do it; we think we need God to do it for us in an instant, without any effort on our part. We feel incapable of the effort it will require, we don't believe we are worth it, and we don't want to expend the effort we believe it will require of us. That's the kind of miracle we want: something that makes us enlightened without any effort on our part. But the miracle being offered by the Course is a miracle that enables us to become masters of our minds (T-2.VII.2:2), which is a much greater miracle.

Think about it a moment: Jesus is saying that at least one aspect of the miracle being offered by this Course is instruction in how to guard our thoughts and rid our minds of the constant ego chatter that feeds our fear. Now, that is training worth having!

God doesn't zap me because that would teach me that my mind is powerless, and that is the opposite of what the Course is trying to teach. My mind's power is the instrument of my awakening and the condition I will awaken to. Currently, my mind is out of control. I find its power hard to harness and govern; yet miracles can help me bring my mind under control, and learning to accept miracles is the teaching goal of the Course. My mind can awaken itself, and it must awaken itself to realize its own power. So I don't need God to zap me; indeed, zapping me would not produce the desired result! The Course is designed to train me to accept the miracles that will bring my mind under my control.

Zapping Us Would Be Contrary to God's Love

Chapter 13, Section III, speaks of the necessity for becoming completely aware of the ego's thoughts in our mind. It confronts our bellyaching about having to do it ourselves: "Why can't the Holy Spirit do that for us?" we moan (1:2). We insist that enlightenment ought to be effortless. We want the Holy Spirit to wave a wand and say, "Abracadabra! You're enlightened." We do not want to be told that we are responsible for any part of it. But in fact, we're responsible for all of it. We have to see that we are the ones "doing" the ego, so we can stop doing it.

Why can't the Holy Spirit simply zap us into enlightenment? Jesus's answer in this section is: "Love cannot enter where it is not welcome" (5:4). Love can't zap. Love is considerate. It can't violate your will and still be Love. Love does not barge in against your will; you have to open to Love; you have to invite It in.

Perhaps you think you want Love to enter, but do you? If you really wanted Love to come in, It would. It always comes when called. Therefore, there must be unwillingness buried in your mind that is keeping Love out.

To truly invite Love to enter, you have to look at the ego and see very clearly its hatred of Love, its implacable resistance to Love. You have to find that thought of resistance in your own mind and realize that you are the one thinking it. Only then can you decide to stop thinking that thought. You must choose to cease interfering with Love. You absolutely have to do that yourself, or Love can't get in.

What you want is the key. Ultimately, your mind's power is the determining factor. You need to examine thoughts in your mind that are telling you that you do not want God, that you do not want love, that you want your silly self-made ego instead of your true Self. You need to expose those thoughts, bring them to the light, and deny their truth. Then God flows in as naturally as water running downhill.

We must recognize the effort to be egos and stop it. God cannot do that for us. Love cannot be coerced, and if God imposed enlightenment on us against our wills, He would no longer be Love and we would no longer be extensions of Love. He would be a tyrant, and we would be robots.

Zapping Us Would Make the Perfect Imperfect

In T-6.IV.10, the Course suggests that God will not zap us awake because that would be forcing recognition of our perfection on us, and that would paradoxically demonstrate that we were not perfect in the first place! The whole message of the Course is that God created us perfect and we are still as perfect as the day He created us. If we are not up to the task of remembering our reality, then something is deeply wrong with us. We must be truly, fundamentally, inadequate.

To me, this implies that our pathetic pleading for God to wake us up is actually just another way we are denying our own perfection. When we truly understand the message of the Course, we won't be able to ask this question.

Zapping Us Would Violate Our Will

"God's Will cannot be forced upon you, being an experience of total willingness" (T-8.III.2:3).

Here again, Jesus implies that we think we want something besides God's Will. He says as much quite directly in other places (see, for instance, T-8.II.4; W-pII.227.1). As long as that is true, since God respects our will as much as He does His own, He cannot force us to awaken. Therefore, we will remain asleep as long as we choose to do so.

In the Course. Jesus is trying to teach us that our will is the same as God's Will, and not (as we suppose) different. We want what He wants. Yet, suppose the Holy Spirit were able somehow to just rip some ego-based thought out of our minds before we are really willing to let it go. What would happen? Would that have the desired result of showing us that our will is identical to God's? It would not. We would be left with the uncorrected suspicion that something we really wanted had been taken from us. We would be left believing our will was different from God's (T-25.VIII.1:1-6).

We have to at least prefer that He take it from us. When we make that decision, when the balance really shifts onto the side of our wanting to be rid of the ego, He will take it from us. Teaching us to truly make that choice is what takes so much time. In discussing the three stages through which the Holy Spirit takes us (T-6.V.A through T-6.V.C), Jesus makes it clear that escaping from the ego's thought system depends upon our clear preference for the thought system of the Holy Spirit (T-6.V.B.5). His role is primarily to motivate us to make that choice (T-6.V.B.2:1-3). He will not act against our will, because God's Will is that we be willing!

In T-8.IV.5-6, there are a number of other reasons cited to show why Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) cannot act against our will to awaken us. The gist of them is that God created our will to be powerful and free, and He will not violate His own Will expressed in that creation. Jesus and the Holy Spirit will not act against our will because to do so would be against God's Will.

The most telling reason why He cannot violate our will, to me, is this: "Freedom cannot be learned by tyranny of any kind, and the perfect equality of all God's Sons cannot be recognized through the dominion of one mind over another" (T-8.IV.6:7). One central fact we have forgotten and must remember: We are all equally free. If Jesus or the Holy Spirit zapped us, it would be one mind dominating another, and would teach the very opposite of freedom.


If we consider all of the reasons given, I think we can see a common thread about why God cannot zap us into enlightenment:

  • Zapping us would violate God's own law of cause and effect
  • Zapping us would teach us our mind is powerless
  • Zapping us would be contrary to God's love
  • Zapping us would make the perfect imperfect
  • Zapping us would violate our will

The central message of the Course is that we are already perfect, and need do nothing to make ourselves perfect. We remain as God created us; that fact is our salvation. The bottom line is that we do not need to be zapped! Thinking that we do need it is our whole problem; it is a belief in our own lack and imperfection. We chose to believe that, and we must choose its opposite. God cannot "do it" for us because what we need to learn is that there is nothing to be done. Thaddeus Golas, author of The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment, once wrote something that pretty well sums up what I have been trying to say (quoted from memory): "The only thing from which you need to be enlightened is the thought that you need to be enlightened."

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