The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ's Atonement (1921 Edition)
by Charles Fillmore
restructured text, with added subheadings, bible references and text highlights
Dear Christian friends who are looking for a better way -
This article is an invitation for you to reflect on the Easter story from a new perspective—that of practical Christianity. The content is from Charles Fillmore’s 1921 article entitled Jesus Christ’s Atonement. To make the article easier to read and understand, I have slightly rearranged the content and I have added subheadings, bible references and highlighted important text. But the words of the text are 100% as Charles Fillmore wrote them.
Why might you want to read this? Many people have the impression that the Fillmores rejected much or most of Christianity. That is not so. In fact, when pressed, they rejected not Christianity but what is now known as New Thought because New Thought did not rise to what the Fillmores called “the Jesus Christ Standard.” In addition, they encouraged their followers to retain their church memberships and to bring practical Christian ideas into their existing denominational teachings.
So what is presented here is not a rejection Christian teaching, but rather an extension of Christian teachings. If you are a Christian and are looking for a better way, then this piece by Charles Fillmore offers something new and refreshing. I hope that by reading it you will perceive the Easter story in a whole new way.
The best way to absorb the ideas in this article is to open your Bible to the Gospel of John and to refer to the references to chapter 14, which begins what is known as Jesus’ Final Discourse to the Disciples. Nearly all of the biblical references in this article are drawn from John’s gospel and most of them are in that chapter. Charles Fillmore believed that the atoning work of Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ—is tightly associated with our abiding in the place he prepared for us and with our willingness to “keep his word” when we are there. We find both in John, chapter 14.
If you read the text of this article out loud and also read out loud the references found in the Gospel of John, and you repeat the process several times, then you will find that your mind and God-mind become aligned and begin to function as one. Your faith center will become quickened and you will become prepared for the ministry to which God calls you now.
There is another reason you might want to take some time with this article. It may be that we are entering into a new, third era of Christian history—one that builds upon the rich but tired traditions of Catholic Christianity and of Evangelical Christianity—an era we refer to as Metaphysical Christianity. Now more than ever we are aware of our existence beyond the physical and that our power of mind is our true treasure. If so, this short essay will surely be recognized as a foundational “systematic theology” for the rapidly emerging Metaphysical Christian tradition.
The systematic metaphysical Christian theology presented here covers not only the atonement of Jesus Christ (breaking through crystallized thought strata), but also “the fall of humanity” (we have lost our identity), the nature of Jesus (a man, but fully God incarnate), the nature of humanity (mind of God individualized), the nature of the true church (the inner sanctuary of every soul), our relationship with God (one with the Father), the process of sanctification (claiming spiritual selfhood, cleansing, keeping the word) and ethics (letting God live in you).
Finally, there is a subtle but profound message in this theology that the atonement is universal, not individual. For those of you who can get your hands on Resurrecting Easter by John Dominic Crossan and his wife, Sarah Sexton Crossan, I very much recommend reading as much as you can. I will elaborate on that this coming Easter Sunday.
To make it easier for study and for sharing, I’ve formatted some PDF files that you can print:
- This article, Jesus Christ’s Atonement, was repeatedly printed by Unity, beginning in 1910 and continuing at least until it was printed as a tract in 1979.
- The content of this page can be printed by clicking here.
- Finally, if you want this article in booklet format that can be included with your Sunday bulletin or to place in a newcomer's packet then click here and print out the PDF on your printer, double sided and flipped on the short edge.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
We have been taught by the church that Jesus died for us,—that he was an atonement for our sins before the Father. It is a true doctrine, but it has been materialized by human sense into a flesh and blood process, in which the death of the body on the cross played the important part. Herein has the sense-consciousness led the church astray. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned, seems to have escaped the notice of the church in forming its scheme of atonement. Jesus of Nazareth did play an important part in opening the way for every one of us into the Father’s kingdom, but it was on a more interior plane of causation than that ascribed to it by the church.
To comprehend the atonement requires a deeper insight into creative processes than the average man and woman has attained, because they have submerged their thinking power into a grosser thought stratum. So it is only those who study Being from the standpoint of pure Mind who can ever understand the atonement and the part that Jesus played in opening the way for humanity into the glory which was ours before the world was formed.
We who have studied these creative processes of thought action, know how states of consciousness are formed, and how tenacious a certain mental plane is after it has once become established in subconsciousness. The man ego seems to lose its identity in its own formations; it forgets for the time all its past experiences and powers. We see this in certain social states among the people. No matter how miserable and degraded their state, people get so accustomed to their habitual environment that they do not aspire to anything higher. Reformers of the criminal classes in our large cities tell us that their most difficult problem is how to awaken in these people a desire for better things. They are attached to their habits of thought and living, and want to be left alone. The same is true in the history of civilizing the savage races. Just when they are about to reach the place where they will see the desirability of a better way of living, they fall back into the old life, and are satisfied. It is the tendency of thought emanation to crystallize about the form which it has made, and, in spite of the struggles of the man ego, hold to it.
We can readily see how a whole race might be caught in the meshes of its own thought emanations, and through the drowsy ignorance of the man ego, remain there throughout eternity, unless a break were somewhere made in the structure and the light of a higher way let in. This is exactly what took place with our race. In our journey back to the Father’s house we got lost in our own thought emanations, and Jesus Christ broke through the crystallized thought strata and opened the way for all those who will follow him. By so doing, he made a connection between our state of consciousness and the more interior one of the Father. He united them, made them a unit—a one; hence the at-one-ment, or atonement, through him. And he stands in the breach today, ready to mentally pass over all who will accept his way. He died for us, in that he destroyed in his own consciousness all the mortal beliefs that hold us in bondage, such as sin, evil, sickness, fleshly lusts, and death. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The “overcoming” accomplished by Jesus made a great rent in the sense consciousness and opened a way by which whoever desires may demonstrate easily and quickly.
The Place Jesus Prepared for Us
But in order to receive the benefit of Jesus’ work in thought dissolution, it is necessary for every one to go to the place where he made the rent in the race beliefs. If you were held in the meshes of a great spider web and some one made a hole through which you could pass, you would go to the hole, and make your escape. To avail ourselves of the aperture which Jesus made in the limitations of sense, we have to go where he is mentally and spiritually, before we can pass out. The church is not far wrong in its call to “follow Jesus.” The one error lies in the mistaken belief that he was the only begotten Son of God; that he overcame for each; that by simply believing on him the individual is saved without any specific overcoming on his own part.
In believing him to be the only begotten Son of God, the church has confounded the higher, or Christ Consciousness, which is the only begotten Son of God, with his lower, or Jesus consciousness. Jesus recognized his identity in God as the Christ, the Son of God; he also recognized his consciousness of self, the son of man. So each of us is the Son of God, and we each will come into conscious recognition of the Christ Mind, making the conjunction between our mind and God’s mind, just as soon as we let go the limitations of mortal sense. God has but one Son, the Christ, the one ideal Man. This divine conjunction was accomplished by Jesus; consequently the Christ shone out through his mortal self and illuminated it until it lost its personality and disappeared into Divine Individuality.
Through believing that Jesus was more divine than other men, the church has assumed that he had certain privileges that are not extended by the Father to all; that in a superhuman way he made good all our shortcomings, and saved us from suffering for our acts, by our simply believing on him and in a perfunctory way accepting him as our savior. Paul is responsible for a good share of this throwing of the whole burden upon the blood of Jesus. His teaching in this respect was doubtless the result of an old mental tendency carried over from his Hebrew idea of the blood sacrifices of the priesthood. In order to show the parallel in the life of Jesus Christ, Paul preached to the Jews that Jesus was the great once-for-all bloody sacrifice, and that none other would ever be necessary.
But Jesus went farther than this; he said unto his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). “Keep my word” (John 14:23). Do as I do. I have overcome; now by following in my footsteps, you shall overcome.
We all recognize the advantage of thought cooperation and how much easier it is to hold ourselves in the true consciousness when we are associated with those who think as we do. It was the work of Jesus to establish in our race consciousness a spiritual center with which every one might mentally become associated, regardless of geographical location. He said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, . . . that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). That place is a state of consciousness right here in our midst, and we can at any time connect ourselves with it by centering our minds upon Jesus and silently asking his help in our demonstrations. It is not the prayer of a “worm of the dust” to a god; it is the appeal of an intelligent seeker for guidance and assistance from one who has passed over the same road, one who knows all the hard places and how to get through them.
The Incarnation of the Christ Mind
This is in one sense the relation of Jesus Christ to each of us, and so far as our present demonstration is concerned, the most important one. The road we are traveling from the mortal plane of consciousness to the spiritual plane, is beset with many obstructions, and we need the assistance of one stronger than any of those who dwell in flesh bodies. He who is yet in the perception of the earthly is not always a safe guide, because he sees in a limited way. We want one who sees wholly in Spirit, and such a one we find in Jesus Christ.
He has not left us, nor gone to some far-away heaven. He is here, now, and may be reached by the humblest of us in a moment’s time, if we really aspire in Spirit for his companionship and help.
This is a simple statement of the relation that Jesus of Nazareth bears to us. Yet he was more than the personal Jesus of Nazareth. He was more than man, as we understand the appellation in its everyday use, because there came into his manhood a factor to which most men are strangers. This factor was the Christ Consciousness. The unfoldment of this consciousness by Jesus made him God incarnate. Christ is the mind of God individualized, and whoever so loses his personality as to be swallowed up of God becomes Christ Jesus, or God-Man.
So we cannot separate Jesus Christ from God, nor tell where man leaves off and God begins in him. To say that Jesus Christ was a man as we are men, is not true, because he had dropped that personal consciousness by which we separate ourselves into men and women. He was consciously one with the absolute principle of Being. He had no consciousness separate from that Being, hence he was that Being, to all intents and purposes. Yet he attained no more than what is expected of every one of us. “That they may be one, even as we are” (John 17:22), was his prayer. This unity with the Father is attained through the externalization of the Christ Consciousness, which is omnipresent and ever ready to manifest itself through us, as it did through Jesus. The Christ Consciousness has been perceived by the spiritually wise in every age, but they have not known how to externalize it and make it an abiding state of mind. Jesus accomplished this, and his method is worthy of our adoption, because it is the only known method that has proved successful. It is set forth in the New Testament, and whoever adopts the life of purity and love and power there exemplified in the experiences of Jesus of Nazareth, will surely in due course attain the place he attained.
His way of attainment must be made our way. He acknowledged himself to be the Son of God (Matt. 14:33). This calls for nothing less on our part than a definite recognition of ourselves as sons of God, right here and now, regardless of appearances to the contrary. We know that we are sons of God; then why not acknowledge and proceed to take possession of our God right? That is what he did in the face of most adverse conditions. There are no environments today so stolidly material as the conditions in Jesus’ time. People now know more about themselves and their true relation to God. They are familiar with thought processes and how the idea held in mind will make itself manifest in the body and affairs. Hence, they take up this problem of spiritual realization under most favorable conditions. It must work out just as surely as a mathematical problem, because it is under immutable law. The factors are all in our possession, and the rule that has demonstrated in one striking instance is before us. By following that rule and doing day by day the work that comes to us, we shall surely put on Christ as fully and completely as did Jesus of Nazareth.
The Words of Jesus
The process of Jesus of Nazareth in evolving from sense to soul, was first a recognition of the spiritual selfhood,—a constant affirmation of its supremacy and power. Jesus loved to make the highest statements: I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). He made these statements before the resurrection, so we know that he was not then fully conscious of their reality. But through the power of his word he brought about the realization.
Next in the process was that constant cleansing of the consciousness through denial, or “fasting.” He prayed by himself much; he fasted much. He was tempted on every side, within and without, yet he never yielded. He sifted himself daily, dismissing from his mind all the ideas that bind men to this world. He recognized that the kingdom of the spiritual man is not of this world—that it is a world which transcends and controls this world; therefore he was not attached in any way to the things of sense. Personal self, the adversary, told him to turn stones into bread, but he did not yield to this temptation to use his God-given power for material gain. Personal sense again took him upon Ambition’s high place and showed him what he might have in the fame of the world, if he would worship this false god, but he refused to lower his standard. He was using spiritual power and he was true to its character; he did not mix it with matter or material ways.
When Jesus said, “My words are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63), he touched that inner Christ word that created all things, and we know that his words were vivified from that center with a life essence and moving power that always demonstrate the truth through one who has Christ understanding.
The words of Jesus have rung through the souls of men and set them afire with God’s spirit for two thousand years. This is because they are spiritual words. They have within them the seeds of a divine life, and they grow in the minds of all who give them place, just as a beautiful flower or a great tree grows from the seed germ planted in the ground.
Keeping the Words of Jesus
Jesus recognized that the consciousness of man is submerged in the things of sense; that it cannot perceive Truth in the abstract when presented to it, and that it must, under these conditions, be stirred into activity through some stimulating force dropped into it from without. Hence he sent forth his powerful words of truth to the thirsty souls, and said unto them, “Keep my word” (John 14:23).
To keep a word, is to revolve it in the mind—to go over it in all its aspects; to believe in it as a truth; to treasure it as a saving balm in time of need; and above all, to obey the law it sets forth.
In all ages people have known about the saving power of words, and have used them to the best of their understanding. The Hebrews bound upon their foreheads and wrists parchments with words of Scripture written upon them. The Hindus, Japanese, Chinese,— nearly all known nations, have their various ways of applying sacred words to the modification of their ills and for the invocation of the invisible powers to aid them in both their material and spiritual needs.
Although these methods are faulty in that they drop into the use of the letter of the word, instead of observing its spirit, they are useful to us as indicators of the universal belief in the power of the Sacred Word.
We know that words express ideas, and to get at their substantial part we must move into the realm of ideas. Ideas are in the mind, and it is there we must go if we want to get the force or our words. The Hebrew’s phylacteries and the Lamaist’s prayer wheels are suggestive of the wordy petitions of the Christian. Word praying is not keeping the sayings of Jesus Christ, nor reaping the inner substance of the mystical Word. These can be done only by those who believe in the omnipresent Spirit of God,—those who keep in mind the words which express his goodness, wisdom, and power.
Jesus Christ more fully voiced this nearness of God to man than any of the prophets, and his words are correspondingly vivified with that inner fire and life. He said that those who keep his sayings should escape even death, so potent is the life energy attached to them.
This is a startling promise. When we understand that it was not the personal man, Jesus, who made it, but the Father who spoke through him, then we know that it is not an idle one. “The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works” (John 14:10). This is the reason why these words of Jesus endure, and why they are more and more attracting the attention of men as the years go on.
Whoever takes these words into his mind should first consecrate himself to the Truth which they represent. That Truth is not the formulated doctrine of any church, nor the creed of any sect. That Truth is written in the inner sanctuary of every soul, and all souls know it without external formulas. It is the intuitive perception of what is right in the sight of God and men. It is that Truth and justice which every man recognizes as the foundation of true living. Whoever consecrates himself to follow this inner monitor and live up to its promptings, regardless of social or commercial customs, has consecrated himself to do God’s will, and he is fitted to take the words of Jesus Christ and make them his own.
It is no idle experiment, this keeping in the mind the words of Jesus. It is a very momentous undertaking, and may be the most important period in the life of an individual. There must be sincerity, and earnestness, and right motive, and withal a determination to understand the spiritual import.
These require attention, time, and patience, in the application of the mind to a solution of the deeper meanings of the sayings which we are urged to “keep.”
People have a way of dealing with sacred words that is too superficial to bring results. They juggle with words. They toss them into the air with the heavenly tone or the oratorical ring, and count it a compliance with divine requirements. These are but other forms of the prayer wheel and phylactery. It is that outer service which Jesus condemned, because its object is to be “seen of men.” To keep the sayings of Jesus means much more than this. It has a significance peculiar to the inner life, and it is only after the inner life is awakened that the true sense of the spiritual word is understood. But the sincere keeper of Jesus’ sayings will, through his devotions, awaken the inner spirit, and the Lord will come to him and minister to his call as carefully and as lovingly as a father to a beloved son (John 14:23).
Jesus tells us that his words are Spirit (John 6:63), and bids us to keep them. How can one keep a thing which he knows nothing about? How can you keep the words and sayings of Jesus unless you get into his consciousness and grasp them with your mind, your spirit?
Surely there is no other way to keep his sayings. Those who are trying by any other method, are missing the mark. They may be honest, and they may be good, sincere people, living what the world calls pure, Christian lives, but they are not going to get the fruits of Jesus’ words unless they comply with his requirements.
Unless you perceive that there is something more in the doctrine of Jesus than keeping up a worldly moral standard as preparation for salvation after death, you will fall very short of being a real Christian.
Jesus did not depreciate moral living, but neither did he promise that it fulfilled the law of God. Very negative people are frequently moral. But morality does not make them Christians after the Jesus Christ plan. His Christianity had a living God in it—a God that lived in him and spoke through him. It was a religion of fire and of water; of life, as well as of purity. Men are to be alive—not merely exist in a half-dead way for a few years and then go out with a splutter, like a tallow dip. Jesus Christ’s men are to be electric lights that glow and gleam with a perpetual current from the one omnipresent Energy. The connection with that current is to be made through the mind, by setting up sympathetic vibrations.
The mind moves upon ideas, and ideas are made visible through words. Hence the holding of right words in the mind will set it going at a rate proportioned to the dynamic power of the idea back of the words. A word with a lazy idea back of it will not stimulate the mind. The word must represent swift, strong, spiritual ideas, in order to infuse the white energy of God into the mind. This is the kind of word that Jesus employed. He delighted in making great and mighty claims for his God, himself, his words, and for all men. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); “The Father is greater than I”(John 14:28); “Is it not written, . . . Ye are gods?” (John 10:34) He that believes “The works that I do shall he do also; and greater” (John 14:12), were some of the statements with which he stimulated his mind and the minds of his followers; and he produced the results—his words were fulfilled.
The Fall of Humanity
People who have for years been students of the science of Christ, and who have a clear intellectual perception of its truths, are yet outside of the kingdom of Spirit. They anxiously ask, “Why is it that I do not realize the presence of Spirit?”
There may be found in the traditions of nearly all peoples, reference to a time when man was in a state of consciousness very much superior to that which he now manifests on this planet. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is symbolically described as the Edenic state, and the departure from that place in the divine economy is called the “fall of man.” Some modern metaphysicians teach that there never was a “fall of man;” that man never fell; that his creation was spiritual, and that he is just as spiritual today as he ever was or ever will be. Of man as an idea in Divine Mind, this is true. That there is not now a harmonious manifestation of that idea, dearly indicates that there has somewhere been a lapse by man. The idea prevalent among all people of a “Golden Age” past, and to be restored, has a real foundation.
When, through study of himself in spiritual consciousness, man gets away from the sense consciousness, he rises into a mental atmosphere where he sees the relation of ideas, and how they should stand to each other in Divine Order. This perception can be attained by any one who will detach his thinking ego from the world of phenomena and let it float out into the universe of causes. The spiritual consciousness has been attained by thousands in every age, and their testimony is worthy of careful consideration.
When man touches in mind this plane of causes, he sees that the discords of the race, in body and in affairs, are the direct result of disorder in humanity’s relation to creation. He sees that there has been through man’s power of free thought a most vital and far-reaching departure from the Divine Idea.
Man cannot thwart the divine plan, but by virtue of his own creative or formative power in that plan, he may turn his part of the work out of its true course and impede its consummation. This has been done, and we exist today in a state of lapse, so far as our relation to God and the orderly movement of his idea in creation is concerned. So we have to admit that the “fall of man” is true in experience, and this knowledge makes us perceive why certain incongruous conditions prevail in a world where a good and perfect God is supposed to rule.
Material science says that evolution is the order of nature, and that all the silent records of earth, as left by departed races, testify to a steady rise from a lower to a higher species.
A large number of metaphysical writers and teachers have fallen into this line of thought, and have assumed that the records of man’s evolution, as found through archaeological and geological research, bear testimony to his mental evolution, and that the experiences which he has passed through in this respect are in divine order of creation. We must either accept this testimony as a true record of man’s evolution or explain what part evolution plays in man’s unfoldment.
We accept the testimony, but we say that evolution shows the progress of man out of the lapse from divine order in creation; but it is no more a part of the original divine plan than would be a falling into a muddy swamp and a dreary toiling back to the highways, be an essential part of a traveler’s journey toward a beautiful city.
The Jesus Christ Way
Have you kept the sayings of Jesus? Have you said to yourself in silence and aloud until the very ethers vibrated with its truth, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30)? Have you opened the pores of your mind by mentally repeating the one solvent of crystallized conditions, “I in them, and thou in me” (John 17:23)?
This means mental discipline day after day and night after night, until the inertia of the mentality is overcome and the way opened for descent of the Spirit. The personal consciousness is like a house with all the doors and windows barred. The doors and windows of the mentality are concreted ideas, and they swing loose when the right word is spoken to them. Jesus Christ voiced a whole army of right words, and if you will take up his sayings and make them yours, they will open all the doors of your mentality and the light will come in, and you will, in due time, be able to see all of life clearly.
No one can do this for you. You do not really want another to do it, although you sometimes think how nice it would be if some master of spiritual ideas would suddenly help you right into his understanding. But this is a childish dream of the moment. You want to be yourself, and you can be yourself only by living out your own life and finding its issues at the fountainhead. If it were possible for one to realize Truth for another, we should find heaven cornered by cunning manipulators of mind, and its glories stored up in warehouses, awaiting a higher market.
Let us be thankful that God is no respecter of person (Acts 10:34); that Truth cannot be revealed by one mortal to another. God is a special, personal Father to every one of his children, and from no other source can they get Truth.
Jesus, who has clearly revealed the Father in his consciousness, may tell all men how it came about. He may point that way out. He may say, I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), but there is always a condition attached to its realization by the seeker. He must “believe,” or he must “keep my words,” or “follow me.” Summed up, we see that by adopting his methods we shall find the same place in the Father that he found.
Man is the Son of a God, and God’s methods are harmonious in bringing forth his ideas. Man is God’s idea—a self-conscious entity, having in embryo all the faculties and powers of that from which it came forth. In following the orderly path of its unfoldment, this man idea is in conscious mental communication with its source, and may know what to do and what not to do in bringing forth creation.
This self-conscious man idea is like its source-free to act as it wills. In exercising its privileges, it may lose sight of its place in divine order. When it does this, it goes down into Egypt, or darkness, and then God opens a way out of its bondage, and that way, in this case, has been so-called material evolution.
So we see that the “fall of man” antedates the geological formation of this planet. Jesus recognized this when he said, “And now. Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
By birth we are a spiritual race, and would never have known matter or material conditions if we had followed the leadings of our higher consciousness.
It is the recognition of this higher consciousness and our place in Being that we are now seeking. We are emerging from the darkness of our Egyptian bondage. We see the Promised Land, and we want to know the shortest way to reach it. That way is the Jesus Christ way. It is called the Jesus Christ way because Jesus Christ of Nazareth came forth into the light which man had with the Father before he went down into darkness; thus He demonstrated that it was the one way to light or Truth. His demonstration relates Him to us all in a peculiarly metaphysical sense, because it is only through a study of mind and states of consciousness formed by thought, that it can be understood.
“If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).