Chapter 6, Section I:

“The Message of the Crucifixion”

Paragraphs 8-19

Commentary by Robert

8. 1I am sorry when my brothers do not share my decision to hear [Ur: (and be)] only one Voice, because it weakens them as teachers and as learners. 2Yet I know they cannot really betray themselves or me, and that it is still on them that I must build my church. 3There is no choice in this, because only you can be the foundation of Gods church. 4A church is where an altar is, and the presence of the altar is what makes the church holy [Ur: makes it a church]. 5A church that does not inspire love has a hidden altar that is not serving the purpose for which God intended it. 6I must found His church on you, because those who [Ur: you, who] accept me as a model are literally my disciples. 7Disciples are followers, and [Ur: but] if the model they follow has chosen to save them pain in all respects, they are [Ur: probably] unwise not [Ur: not] to follow him.

We need to see the opening remarks as following directly on his comments about the disciples abandoning him in the garden of Gethsemane and Peter denying him during the trial. His response is beautiful: “I’m sorry when they do that—not for my sake, but for their sake, because it weakens them (8:1). Yet the fact remains that they cannot really betray me. And the fact remains that I still depend on them to be the foundation of my church.” Can you sense the profound forgiveness in these words?

The comments about building his church are fascinating. He is saying that the real foundation of his church must be followers who have a true inner devotion (altars symbolize our inner devotion) to following him as their model. Then he switches from the disciples being this foundation to Helen and Bill being this foundation (or presumably part of this foundation). 

Yet the Christian church is not founded on devotion to following him as our model, but on belief in him as our savior. And Helen and Bill were not part of the Christian church and were certainly not about to become foundation stones in it. What he is calling “my church” must therefore not be the Christian church. His church must be an invisible community, a community without walls, composed of those who are really attempting to follow his teachings. Many of these, I’m sure, are within the walls of the Christian church, and many, no doubt, are on the outside. Are we part of this church? He is calling us not only to join it, but to be pillars of it.

9. 1I elected, [Ur: both] for your sake and [Ur: and] mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does [Ur: did] not matter. 2As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. 3It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many.

Here is a beautiful encapsulation of the message of the crucifixion: “to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault…does not matter” (9:1). Later, Jesus will say to us: “Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something ‘outrageous,’ do it because it does not matter” (T-12.III.4:1). Has it occurred to us that the crucifixion was the ultimate example of this teaching?

Notice the comment about projection. Those who crucified him were engaging in the very process he mentioned earlier (see In.1 and I.3). Their own angry projection led them to interpret Jesus as attacking them, as a threat to them, as someone to be feared, even though nothing of the kind was true.

10. 1We are still equal as learners, although we do not need to have equal experiences. 2The Holy Spirit is glad when you can learn from mine, and [Ur: when you can learn enough from mine to] be reawakened by them. 3That is [Ur; was] their only purpose, and that is the only way in which I can be perceived as the way, the truth and the life. 4When you hear only one Voice you are never called on to sacrifice. 5On the contrary, by being able [Ur: by enabling yourselves] to hear the Holy Spirit in others you can learn from their experiences, and can gain from them without experiencing them directly yourself. 6That is because the Holy Spirit is one, and anyone who listens is inevitably led to demonstrate His way for all.

Even though we are equal to him as learners, we don’t need to undergo all the experiences that he himself learned from. Thank God! That last one was a doozy. 

I often get the impression in New Age circles that our own personal experience is paramount, yet here Jesus takes a very different angle. If others are following the Holy Spirit and demonstrating His way, and if we are willing to hear the Holy Spirit in them, then we can learn from their experiences without having to have those experiences ourselves. Notice how greatly this expands our learning opportunities!

This, says Jesus, is the only value of his experiences. They weren’t rituals that magically tipped the cosmic scales. They were simply public demonstrations that we could all observe and learn from. He is the way, the truth and the life not because his blood tore the curtain in two and opened up access to God, but merely because he was such an effective demonstrator.

11. 1You are not persecuted, nor was I. 2You are not asked to repeat my experiences [Ur: experience] because the Holy Spirit, Whom we share, makes this unnecessary. 3To use my experiences constructively, however, you must still follow my example in how to perceive them. 4My brothers and yours are constantly engaged in justifying the unjustifiable. 5My one lesson, which I must teach as I learned it, is that no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified. 6I undertook to show this was true in an [Ur: a very] extreme case, merely because it would serve as a good teaching aid to those whose temptation to give in to anger and assault would not be so extreme. 7I will with God [Ur: I will, with God Himself,] that none of His Sons should suffer.

We can learn from what Jesus’ experiences, but to do this, we have to see them like he did (11:3). We need to see the crucifixion not as a call to martyrdom, but as a demonstration that even under the most extreme persecution (11:6), anger and retaliation are not justified (11:5) because the persecution is not real (11:1). 

He keeps mentioning the extremity of it, calling it “an extreme example” (2:1), “the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego” (9:1), and “a very extreme case” (11:6), and mentioning the “apparent intensity of the assault” (3:4). Why all this focus on the extremity of it? Quite simply, it is because we think these principles stop applying at a certain level of extremity. His goal was to show us that they still apply even at the level of the most extreme attack imaginable. And if they apply at that level, then surely they must apply at the far milder levels that we face. Getting across this very message was the whole point of the crucifixion.

12. 1The crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection, but the resurrection is the symbol of sharing because the reawakening of every Son of God is necessary to enable the Sonship to know its wholeness. 2Only this is knowledge.

I have puzzled over this brief paragraph for years. In trying to solve its puzzle I have collected a number of related passages (T-7.VIII.3:2; T-11.VI.2:1, 4:9; T-19.IV(D).17:5; T-20.I.2:9). Here is what I have come up with thus far:

“Do not join me in the crucifixion, because the whole point of the crucifixion was that it was a solitary experience, in which others stood on one side and I stood on the other, with them projecting blame onto me, punishing me, and inducing me to undergo the private experience of death. How can you join me in a situation in which, by its very nature, I was separate and alone? 

“But do join me in the resurrection, because resurrection is an experience that ultimately all must enter into. Everyone must resurrect—must awaken—in order for the Sonship to know its wholeness. And the Sonship must know its wholeness, for only that is  knowledge.”

13. 1The message of the crucifixion is [Ur: very simple and] perfectly clear: 

               2Teach only [Ur: only] love, for that is what you are [Ur: are].

We know this line already, perhaps because Teach Only Love was the title of one of Jerry Jampolsky’s books. But did we realize that this is the Course’s interpretation of the crucifixion? And what an original interpretation! Only Jesus could come up with something this original. We look at the crucifixion and our eyes are rooted on the blood and guts. Yet he looks at the same thing and sees only his response in the face of the blood and guts. 

He has prepared us for this interpretation, by saying that anger is insane even when the body is destroyed, by saying that the truth in us is unassailable, by saying that our responses teach the thought system behind them, and by saying that nothing out of accord with the Holy Spirit is justified no matter how extreme the temptation. Now he puts all of this in a new, condensed form: No matter how extreme the attack appears to be, teach only love, for that is the truth in you.

In one breath, he has moved the crucifixion from being a distant mythological act for the sake of abstruse theological consequences, to being a radical challenge to our whole response to an attacking world. In the face of every attack, we should remember these immortal words: “I will teach only love, for that is what I am.”

14. 1If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended. 2The Apostles often misunderstood it, and [Ur: always] for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it [Ur: that makes anyone misunderstand anything]. 3Their own imperfect love made them vulnerable to projection, and out of their own fear they spoke of the wrath of God as His retaliatory weapon. 4Nor could they speak of the crucifixion entirely without anger, because their [Ur: own] sense of guilt had made them angry.

The traditional interpretation of the crucifixion ends up taking what was intended as a call for peace and using it as a weapon of assault. And isn’t that what it has become—an assault on the Jews who were deemed responsible, an assault on the martyrs who felt called to emulate Jesus, and an assault on sinful humanity whose sins required Jesus to undergo this horrible death?

His own disciples misinterpreted, he says, yet did so for the same reason the crucifiers saw Jesus as a threat (9:3), for the same reason we interpret Bible passages fearfully (5.VI.4-9), for the same reason that any of us misinterprets anything. We take our own act of throwing God away and project this onto the world. Now we see the world taking God from us (this is presumably why the disciples were angry; the world had taken away the light of their lives). And we see the world as delivering our just deserts; we see its attacks as vehicles of divine justice.

15. 1These are some of the [Ur: There are two glaring examples] examples of upside-down thinking in the New Testament, although its gospel is really [Ur: whose whole Gospel is] only the message of love. [Ur: These 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.] 2If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, I come not to bring peace but a sword. 3This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. 4Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. 5I could not [Ur: They could not have believed that I could] have said, Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? unless I believed in betrayal. 6The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. 7The punishment I was said to have called forth upon Judas was a similar mistake [Ur: reversal]. 8Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. 9Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible?

To appreciate this paragraph, it helps to divide it up into two major points. The first point is that Jesus did not say “I come not bring peace but a sword.” He did not see Judas as betraying him. He did not condemn Judas or call down punishment on him. Instead, he saw Judas as his beloved brother, as much a Son of God as Jesus himself (what a statement!). 

The second point is that the Apostles mistakenly attributed these threatening, punitive things to Jesus because of the process of projection we have already discussed. As we saw in discussing those biblical passages, when we feel guilty, we unconsciously interpret things in the world as vehicles of divine retribution. If, then, the disciples saw Jesus as divine, how else would their guilt interpret his actions?

I really appreciate Jesus’ comments about his own “slips into impatience.” He says that he had several such slips, presumably over people not getting it more quickly. But he also characterizes these as mere slips, saying that he had come too far to engage in genuine upside down thinking. He handles his own ego with the same objectivity he handles that of others, which of course is the very mark of egolessness.

16. [Ur: I am very grateful to the Apostles for their teaching, and fully aware of the extent of their devotion to me. But] 1As you read the teachings of the Apostles, remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later, because they were not wholly ready to follow me at the time. 2[Ur: I emphasize this only because] I do not want you to allow any fear to enter into the thought system toward which I am guiding you. 3I do not call for martyrs but for teachers. [Ur: Bill is an outstanding example of this confusion, and has literally believed for years that teaching is martyrdom. This is because he thought, and still thinks at times, that teaching leads to crucifixion rather than to re-awakening. The upside down nature of this association is so obvious that he could only have made it because he felt guilty.] 4No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners. 5Any concept of punishment involves the projection of blame, and reinforces the idea that blame is justified. 6The result [Ur: The behavior that results] is a lesson in blame, for [Ur: just as] all behavior teaches the beliefs that motivate it. 7The crucifixion was the result of [Ur: was a complex of behaviors arising out of] clearly opposed thought systems; [Ur: As such, it is] the perfect symbol of the conflict between the ego and the Son of God. 8This conflict seems just as real now, and its lessons must be learned now as well as then. [Ur: It was as much intrapersonal as interpersonal then, just as it is now, and it is still just as real. But because it is just as real now, its lesson, too, has equal reality when it is learned.]

Jesus is clearly warning us here that the Apostles didn’t fully understand him, and that we therefore need to exercise discernment in reading their teachings (which I assume refers to the New Testament). Otherwise, we may mix their fear into the new thought system he is teaching us (we can extend this to our reading of any spiritual teaching, I believe). He is not asking us to be martyrs, but teachers. 

Bill had confused these two. He thought that teaching was martyrdom, because his guilt made him think that God would use his students to enact the crucifixion he deserved. The martyr has the same basic assumption, he just responds to it differently. Whereas Bill sought to escape his punishment, the martyr seeks it out, in the belief that he can only be pure again by voluntarily facing the music. Again and again Jesus focuses on this same mindset. He points it out in Bill, in the disciples, in the martyr, in those who crucified him. This mindset says, “I project onto you my decision to throw God away. Consequently, I see you as to blame for my God-deprived condition and/or I see you as the instrument by which God punishes me.” 

The crucifixion represented the meeting of this mindset with Jesus’ completely opposite mindset. His mindset said, “Since my reality is unassailable, I cannot be hurt by you. Since my reality is love, my only natural response is to extend love to you.” These two thought systems met in the crucifixion, but they meet every day inside of us. Which will we choose?

17. 1I do not need gratitude [Ur: any more than I needed protection.], but you need to develop your weakened ability to be grateful, or you cannot appreciate God. 2He does not need your appreciation, but you do. 3You cannot love what you do not appreciate, for [Ur: and] fear makes appreciation impossible. 4When you are afraid of what you are you do not appreciate it, and will therefore reject it. 5As a result, you will teach rejection.

I have a hard time following the logic here. Let me try to recreate it to the best of my ability. 

Jesus does not need your gratitude for the crucifixion, but you need to develop the capacity to be grateful, so you can appreciate God. He does not need your appreciation; you need it, and as you give it to Him, you simultaneously give it to yourself, your real Self. And as you appreciate yourself, you will then love yourself. Right now, you are afraid of yourself, which leads to not appreciating yourself, which leads to rejecting yourself. And when you reject yourself, you will reject others. You will teach rejection.

18. 1The power of the Sons of God is present [Ur: operating] all the time, because they were created as creators. 2Their influence on each other is without limit, and must be used for their joint salvation. 3Each one must learn to teach that all forms of rejection are [Ur: utterly] meaningless. 4The separation is the notion of rejection. 5As long as you teach this you will [Ur: you still] believe it. 6This is not as God thinks, and you must think as He thinks if you are to know Him again.

This paragraph says what the whole section has implied: Don’t just pay attention to what you believe. Pay attention as well to what you teach. For as a Son of God, you are incredibly powerful, and your influence on the other Sons of God “is without limit” (18:2). If you teach rejection, you will reinforce the separation, both for them and for yourself. 

These are strong words, and they cut against the grain of the usual assumption of the Course student that it’s only about what we believe, not about how we influence others.

19. 1Remember that the Holy Spirit is the communication link between God the Father and His separated Sons. 2If you will listen to His Voice you will know that you cannot either hurt or be hurt, and [Ur: but] that many need your blessing to help them hear this for themselves. 3When you perceive only this need in them, and do not respond to any other, you will have learned of me and will be as eager to share your learning as I am.

Our job is to hear the Holy Spirit telling us His beautiful message of liberation, that we can neither hurt nor be hurt. Others, however, will not be able to hear this directly from Him. Instead, our blessing will be the messenger that delivers to them this message from the Holy Spirit. With everyone we meet, even when they seem to be attacking us, we need to realize that hearing this message is their only need. Then we need to somehow give this message, give them the feeling that they can neither hurt nor be hurt. When we have reached this place, we will finally have learned from what Jesus modeled in the crucifixion. We will finally be following in his footsteps.

“The Message of the Crucifixion” (T-6.I.8-19)