Is Jesus Actually with Us, or Is This a Useful Fiction?

In A Course in Miracles, the author not only claims to be Jesus, but he also frequently invites us into a relationship with him, promising that he can hasten our progress along the road to God. But is Jesus really there? We don’t see him with our eyes or hear him with our ears. Unlike the biblical Thomas, we can’t thrust our hand into the wound in his side. Given this, it is really quite rational to question whether he’s there at all. Maybe there is no Jesus. Or maybe there is, but he has better things to do than hang out with us. Or maybe, as an article I saw in the 80s claimed, there was a Jesus, but he woke up and so disappeared as a distinct individual.

These are not easy issues to resolve. However, for those of us who believe that Jesus is the voice who wrote the Course, we can turn to what he says there. In this article, I want to look at a series of passages in which he openly addresses our difficulties in believing that he’s with us and that we have a relationship with him.

Your ego is trying to convince you that it is real and I am not, because if I am real, I am no more real than you are. (T-4.IV.10:8; emphasis from original dictation)

We have probably all heard a little voice in our head that says, “You can’t see, touch, or hear this Jesus. Who are you kidding in thinking he’s real?” Yet according to the above passage, this seemingly reasonable thought is the voice of the ego pedaling its insidious worldview. By telling you that Jesus isn’t real, your ego is actually trying convince you that it sits on the throne of reality, and that your reality, now seen as shaky and ephemeral, is under its thumb. It knows that if you accept Jesus as real, your sense of your own reality will naturally rise to be on a par with his. And with the two of you standing together, the ego will quickly fade, like a dream fades on awakening. In short, simply accepting Jesus as real is really a much larger decision about reality itself.

I have heard your call and I have answered it, but you will not look upon me nor hear the answer that you sought. That is because you do not yet want only that. Yet as I become more real to you, you will learn that you do want only that. And you will see me as you look within, and we will look upon the real world together. (T-12.VII.11:3-6)

This passage implies a process in which Jesus becomes increasingly real to us. And as he does, we learn that his answer, to which he have turned a deaf ear, is all we really want. Then we will hear him (in our minds), and we will look within and actually see him (which I assume means distinctly sense/feel his presence). In other words, believing in his reality will lead to actually perceiving his reality. Presumably, then, the only reason we don’t hear and see him now is that we don’t really believe he is there and don’t truly want to be in contact with him.

When I said, “Behold, I am with you always,” I meant it literally. I am not absent to anyone, nor in any situation. Because I am always with you, you are the way, and the truth, and the life. (T-7.III.1:7-9; wording and emphasis from original dictation)

Jesus is referencing here the end of Matthew’s gospel, where he is reported to have said, “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Of course, that can be very difficult to believe. Really? He is actually with me? All the time? In the above passage, he takes an unequivocal stance in answer to those doubts. Notice how emphatic he is: “I meant it literally. I am not absent to anyone, nor in any situation.” Can we accept this? And if not, are we willing to embrace the alternative—that he is lying, or that these words aren’t Jesus speaking and are thus another sort of lie? Notice also that Jesus being with us has larger implications. By virtue of being with us, he can pass on to us all that he is. Thus, through proximity to him, we become the way, the truth, and the life.

I said that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. That is why I am the light of the world. If I am with you in the loneliness of the world, the loneliness is gone. You cannot maintain the illusion of loneliness if you are not alone. (T-8.IV.2:4-7)

When Jesus says in the gospel of John “I am the light of the world,” we probably think of him bringing a kind of spiritual or supernatural light to the world. Here, however, he gives a different slant. The darkness of the world, he says, is really the darkness of loneliness. He dispels that darkness by simply being with us, by chasing away our loneliness. That is what proves our isolation is nothing more than an illusion. Imagine picking up the Bible and reading, “I am the light of the world, because with me here, you won’t be lonely anymore.”

If you will accept the fact that I am with you, you are denying the world and accepting God. (T-8.IV.3:8; emphasis from original dictation)

Here again Jesus is openly urging us to accept that he really is with us, and framing that acceptance as actually being a much larger decision, an acceptance of God and a denial of the world.

When you unite with me you are uniting without the ego, because I have renounced the ego in myself and therefore cannot unite with yours. Our union is therefore the way to renounce the ego in you. (T-8.V.4:1-2)

The pattern by now is familiar. First, Jesus openly encourages us to have a relationship with him; in this case, to unite with him. Second, he invests this with a larger significance: uniting with him means leaving the ego behind. Since Jesus has no ego, our ego has nothing to connect with in him. Our union with him is therefore an egoless union, which means it is an innocent union. There is nothing whatsoever to feel guilty about in joining with him.

When you are willing to accept our relationship as real, guilt will hold no attraction for you. For in our union you will accept all of our brothers. The gift of union is the only gift that I was born to give. Give it to me, that you may have it. (T-15.X.3:2-5)

Jesus clearly knows we have difficulty accepting that our relationship with him is real. He’s not an idiot. Yet he doesn’t want us to say, “Oh, it’s so hard to believe that he’s really with me” and leave it at that. He wants us to swim against the difficulty. He wants our minds to actively make up for the fact that our senses don’t register him. For the gifts that come with relationship with him are just too precious. Uniting with him basically means ending our fight with reality. We stop rejecting our brothers in order to stack up guilt. Now we accept them all in a guiltless union. In fact, Jesus says, union with him is “the only gift that I was born to give.” What an unusual job description. Imagine someone saying, “The only reason I was born is to invite each person to enter into a total relationship with me.”

My holy brother, I would enter into all your relationships, and step between you and your fantasies. Let my relationship to you be real to you, and let me bring reality to your perception of your brothers….Be not separate from me, and let not the holy purpose of Atonement be lost to you in dreams of vengeance. Relationships in which such dreams are cherished have excluded me. Let me enter in the Name of God and bring you peace, that you may offer peace to me. (T-17.III.10:1-2, 6-8)

The picture here is that we are projecting our fantasies onto the people in our lives, especially our lovers. These fantasies are essentially “dreams of vengeance,” in which, through the present partner doing our bidding, we seek vengeance on past people who didn’t love us enough. Instead, Jesus wants us to accept our relationship with him as real and then let him enter into all our relationships, so that he can “bring reality to your perception of your brothers.” In other words, having a real relationship with him can allow us to have a real relationship with others, rather than relating to them as fantasy figures. So the plea here is twofold: “Let my relationship to you be real to you” and “[Let me] enter into all your relationships.”

By the way, the image he gives us here, of seeing him step between us and the fantasies we’ve laid onto our partners, is a very practical one. Next time you are aware of seeing your fantasies in someone, imagine Jesus stepping “between you and your fantasies,” and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy. (W-pI.70.9:3-4)

This is part of a meditation instruction in Lesson 70, in which we see ourselves traveling through the cloud of our insane thoughts toward the clear light of our true mind. Jesus encourages us to imagine that he is holding our hand and leading us to the light. In the back of our minds, we probably assume that this is a useful fiction. But he is careful to clarity that it’s more than that. It’s no mere fantasy; he will really be leading us to the light.

The picture in these passages is remarkably consistent. Jesus recognizes that we have a hard time thinking he’s actually there. But he urges us to make up for the lack of sensory detection of him by telling ourselves that he really is there and that we really are in relationship with him. Notice how many times he tells us that he is real and is really with us:

If you will accept the fact that I am with you… (T-8.IV.3:8)

As I become more real to you… (T-12.VII.11:5)

When you are willing to accept our relationship as real… (T-15.X.3:2)

Let my relationship to you be real to you. (T-17.III.10:2)

And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy. (W-pI.70.9:4)

We also saw how in each passage, he frames the acceptance that he is with us as a much larger decision, one that therefore brings priceless gifts. The list of these gifts is really quite stunning:

  • Accepting that he is real means accepting ourselves as real and our ego as not real. (T-4.IV.10:8)
  • As he becomes more real to us, we will want to hear his answer, and then we will both hear and see him. (T-12.VII.11:3-6)
  • Because he is with us, he can pass on to us all that he is. We, then, become the way, the truth, and the life. (T-7.III.1:7-9)
  • The fact that he is with us means our loneliness is gone. This proves to us that our isolation is an illusion. (T-8.IV.2:4-7)
  • Accepting the fact that he is with us means denying the world and accepting God. (T-8.IV.3:8)
  • When we unite with him, our ego cannot come along; he has no ego for ours to join with. Therefore, uniting with him is the way to renounce the ego in us. (T-8.V.4:1-2)
  • When we accept our relationship with him as real, we will accept all our brothers and lose our attraction to guilt. (T-15.X.3:2-5)
  • If we let his relationship with us be real to us, we can then invite him into all our relationships, so that they can become real, too. We will now relate to people as they really are, not to our fantasies of them. (T-17.III.10:1-2, 6-8)
  • If in our meditations, we think of him holding our hand and leading us to the light, he will really do just that. (W-pI.70.9:3-4)

So now we have a choice: Will we allow our ego to tell us that, since our senses don’t see him, he must not be there? If you think about it, we don’t see germs, we don’t see radio waves, and we don’t see people’s minds, but we accept nonetheless that all these things are there. So will we swim against the lack of sensory testimony and accept that Jesus is here with us, right now and always? And will we answer his invitation to enter into a relationship with him that is total, that is innocent, and that is a gateway to all that we seek on the path to God?


[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]