ACIM Text Reading for April 7
THE HOLY INSTANT
I. The Two Uses of Time
Can you imagine what it means to have no cares, no worries, no anxieties, but merely to be perfectly calm and quiet all the time? Yet that is what time is for; to learn just that and nothing more. God’s Teacher cannot be satisfied with His teaching until it constitutes all your learning. He has not fulfilled His teaching function until you have become such a consistent learner that you learn only of Him. When this has happened, you will no longer need a teacher or time in which to learn.
One source of perceived discouragement from which you may suffer is your belief that this takes time, and that the results of the Holy Spirit’s teaching are far in the future. This is not so. For the Holy Spirit uses time in His Own way, and is not bound by it. Time is His friend in teaching. It does not waste Him, as it does you. And all the waste that time seems to bring with it is due but to your identification with the ego, which uses time to support its belief in destruction. The ego, like the Holy Spirit, uses time to convince you of the inevitability of the goal and end of teaching. To the ego the goal is death, which is its end. But to the Holy Spirit the goal is life, which has no end.
The ego is an ally of time, but not a friend. For it is as mistrustful of death as it is of life, and what it wants for you it cannot tolerate. The ego wants you dead, but not itself. The outcome of its strange religion must therefore be the conviction that it can pursue you beyond the grave. And out of its unwillingness for you to find peace even in death, it offers you immortality in hell. It speaks to you of Heaven, but assures you that Heaven is not for you. How can the guilty hope for Heaven?
The belief in hell is inescapable to those who identify with the ego. Their nightmares and their fears are all associated with it. The ego teaches that hell is in the future, for this is what all its teaching is directed to. Hell is its goal. For although the ego aims at death and dissolution as an end, it does not believe it. The goal of death, which it craves for you, leaves it unsatisfied. No one who follows the ego’s teaching is without the fear of death. Yet if death were thought of merely as an end to pain, would it be feared? We have seen this strange paradox in the ego’s thought system before, but never so clearly as here. For the ego must seem to keep fear from you to hold your allegiance. Yet it must engender fear in order to maintain itself. Again the ego tries, and all too frequently succeeds, in doing both, by using dissociation for holding its contradictory aims together so that they seem to be reconciled. The ego teaches thus: Death is the end as far as hope of Heaven goes. Yet because you and the ego cannot be separated, and because it cannot conceive of its own death, it will pursue you still, because guilt is eternal. Such is the ego’s version of immortality. And it is this the ego’s version of time supports.
The ego teaches that Heaven is here and now because the future is hell. Even when it attacks so savagely that it tries to take the life of someone who thinks its is the only voice, it speaks of hell even to him. For it tells him hell is here as well, and bids him leap from hell into oblivion. The only time the ego allows anyone to look upon with equanimity is the past. And even there, its only value is that it is no more.
How bleak and despairing is the ego’s use of time! And how terrifying! For underneath its fanatical insistence that the past and future be the same is hidden a far more insidious threat to peace. The ego does not advertise its final threat, for it would have its worshippers still believe that it can offer them escape. But the belief in guilt must lead to the belief in hell, and always does. The only way in which the ego allows the fear of hell to be experienced is to bring hell here, but always as a foretaste of the future. For no one who considers himself as deserving of hell can believe that punishment will end in peace.
The Holy Spirit teaches thus: There is no hell. Hell is only what the ego has made of the present. The belief in hell is what prevents you from understanding the present, because you are afraid of it. The Holy Spirit leads as steadily to Heaven as the ego drives to hell. For the Holy Spirit, who knows only the present, uses it to undo the fear by which the ego would make the present useless. There is no escape from fear in the ego’s use of time. For time, according to its teaching, is nothing but a teaching device for compounding guilt until it becomes all-encompassing, demanding vengeance forever.
The Holy Spirit would undo all of this now. Fear is not of the present, but only of the past and future, which do not exist. There is no fear in the present when each instant stands clear and separated from the past, without its shadow reaching out into the future. Each instant is a clean, untarnished birth, in which the Son of God emerges from the past into the present. And the present extends forever. It is so beautiful and so clean and free of guilt that nothing but happiness is there. No darkness is remembered, and immortality and joy are now.
This lesson takes no time. For what is time without a past and future? It has taken time to misguide you so completely, but it takes no time at all to be what you are. Begin to practise the Holy Spirit’s use of time as a teaching aid to happiness and peace. Take this very instant, now, and think of it as all there is of time. Nothing can reach you here out of the past, and it is here that you are completely absolved, completely free and wholly without condemnation. From this holy instant wherein holiness was born again you will go forth in time without fear, and with no sense of change with time.
Time is inconceivable without change, yet holiness does not change. Learn from this instant more than merely that hell does not exist. In this redeeming instant lies Heaven. And Heaven will not change, for the birth into the holy present is salvation from change. Change is an illusion, taught by those who cannot see themselves as guiltless. There is no change in Heaven because there is no change in God. In the holy instant, in which you see yourself as bright with freedom, you will remember God. For remembering Him is to remember freedom.
If you are tempted to be dispirited by thinking how long it would take to change your mind so completely, ask yourself, ‘How long is an instant?’ Could you not give so short a time to the Holy Spirit for your salvation? He asks no more, for He has no need of more. It takes far longer to teach you to be willing to give Him this than for Him to use this tiny instant to offer you the whole of Heaven. In exchange for this instant He stands ready to give you the remembrance of eternity.
You will never give this holy instant to the Holy Spirit on behalf of your release while you are unwilling to give it to your brothers on behalf of theirs. For the instant of holiness is shared, and cannot be yours alone. Remember, then, when you are tempted to attack a brother, that his instant of release is yours. Miracles are the instants of release you offer, and will receive. They attest to your willingness to be released, and to offer time to the Holy Spirit for His use of it.
How long is an instant? It is as short for your brother as it is for you. Practise giving this blessed instant of freedom to all who are enslaved by time, and thus make time their friend for them. The Holy Spirit gives their blessed instant to you through your giving it. As you give it, He offers it to you. Be not unwilling to give what you would receive of Him, for you join with Him in giving. In the crystal cleanness of the release you give is your instantaneous escape from guilt. You must be holy if you offer holiness.
How long is an instant? As long as it takes to re-establish perfect sanity, perfect peace and perfect love for everyone, for God and for yourself. As long as it takes to remember immortality, and your immortal creations who share it with you. As long as it takes to exchange hell for Heaven. Long enough to transcend all of the ego’s making, and ascend unto your Father.
Time is your friend, if you leave it to the Holy Spirit to use. He needs but very little to restore God’s whole power to you. He Who transcends time for you understands what time is for. Holiness lies not in time, but in eternity. There never was an instant in which God’s Son could lose his purity. His changeless state is beyond time, for his purity remains forever beyond attack and without variability. Time stands still in his holiness, and changes not. And so it is no longer time at all. For caught in the single instant of the eternal sanctity of God’s creation, it is transformed into forever. Give the eternal instant, that eternity may be remembered for you, in that shining instant of perfect release. Offer the miracle of the holy instant through the Holy Spirit, and leave His giving it to you to Him.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for April 7
All that I give is given to myself.
Today’s idea, completely alien to the ego and the thinking of the world, is crucial to the thought reversal that this course will bring about. If you believed this statement, there would be no problem in complete forgiveness, certainty of goal, and sure direction. You would understand the means by which salvation comes to you, and would not hesitate to use it now.
Let us consider what you do believe, in place of this idea. It seems to you that other people are apart from you, and able to behave in ways which have no bearing on your thoughts, nor yours on theirs. Therefore, your attitudes have no effect on them, and their appeals for help are not in any way related to your own. You further think that they can sin without affecting your perception of yourself, while you can judge their sin, and yet remain apart from condemnation and at peace.
When you “forgive” a sin, there is no gain to you directly. You give charity to one unworthy, merely to point out that you are better, on a higher plane than he whom you forgive. He has not earned your charitable tolerance, which you bestow on one unworthy of the gift, because his sins have lowered him beneath a true equality with you. He has no claim on your forgiveness. It holds out a gift to him, but hardly to yourself.
Thus is forgiveness basically unsound; a charitable whim, benevolent yet undeserved, a gift bestowed at times, at other times withheld. Unmerited, withholding it is just, nor is it fair that you should suffer when it is withheld. The sin that you forgive is not your own. Someone apart from you committed it. And if you then are gracious unto him by giving him what he does not deserve, the gift is no more yours than was his sin.
If this be true, forgiveness has no grounds on which to rest dependably and sure. It is an eccentricity, in which you sometimes choose to give indulgently an undeserved reprieve. Yet it remains your right to let the sinner not escape the justified repayment for his sin. Think you the Lord of Heaven would allow the world’s salvation to depend on this? Would not His care for you be small indeed, if your salvation rested on a whim?
You do not understand forgiveness. As you see it, it is but a check upon overt attack, without requiring correction in your mind. It cannot give you peace as you perceive it. It is not a means for your release from what you see in someone other than yourself. It has no power to restore your unity with him to your awareness. It is not what God intended it to be for you.
Not having given Him the gift He asks of you, you cannot recognize His gifts, and think He has not given them to you. Yet would He ask you for a gift unless it was for you? Could He be satisfied with empty gestures, and evaluate such petty gifts as worthy of His Son? Salvation is a better gift than this. And true forgiveness, as the means by which it is attained, must heal the mind that gives, for giving is receiving. What remains as unreceived has not been given, but what has been given must have been received.
Today we try to understand the truth that giver and receiver are the same. You will need help to make this meaningful, because it is so alien to the thoughts to which you are accustomed. But the Help you need is there. Give Him your faith today, and ask Him that He share your practicing in truth today. And if you only catch a tiny glimpse of the release that lies in the idea we practice for today, this is a day of glory for the world.
Give fifteen minutes twice today to the attempt to understand today’s idea. It is the thought by which forgiveness takes its proper place in your priorities. It is the thought that will release your mind from every bar to what forgiveness means, and let you realize its worth to you.
In silence, close your eyes upon the world that does not understand forgiveness, and seek sanctuary in the quiet place where thoughts are changed and false beliefs laid by. Repeat today’s idea, and ask for help in understanding what it really means. Be willing to be taught. Be glad to hear the Voice of truth and healing speak to you, and you will understand the words He speaks, and recognize He speaks your words to you.
As often as you can, remind yourself you have a goal today; an aim which makes this day of special value to yourself and all your brothers. Do not let your mind forget this goal for long, but tell yourself:
All that I give is given to myself. The Help I need to learn
that this is true is with me now. And I will trust in Him.
Then spend a quiet moment, opening your mind to His correction and His Love. And what you hear of Him you will believe, for what He gives will be received by you.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #630: I remember hearing Ken Wapnick, on a workshop tape, say that as the wrong mind splits the right mind also splits. Would you review these right-minded splits?
A: The right-minded splits are not splits per se but are simply the Holy Spirit’s corrections for the deceptions of the ego’s wrong-minded splits. Since we find ourselves self-identified as bodies in the world, at the end of the series of splits the ego has led us along to take us as far away as it possibly can from the truth of Who we are as spirit, the right-minded answer is simply the undoing of those splits, in reverse order.
Briefly, the ego’s first split is what seems to cast us out of the oneness of Heaven, beginning the dream of separation which seems to establish us as a separate mind that has consciousness and independence from its Source. At this point, our illusory independent existence is very vulnerable, very fragile, since it takes very little to remember our reality as God’s only Son, perfectly joined with Him and perfectly at peace, which is what the Holy Spirit in our mind represents. And so to protect our individuality, the second split involves our choice to identify completely with the ego and split the Holy Spirit off from our awareness, thereby forgetting that the ego is a choice we have made and not our reality.
The third ego split encompasses the ego’s ingenious myth of sin, guilt and fear, in which we view the separation not only as real, but as a sinful attack on God, destroying Him as a consequence of having disrupted the perfect unity of Heaven in which God has His Being. The guilt over this sin is overwhelming and our only defense against it, if it is real, is to split the sin and guilt off, projecting them outside ourselves onto a made-up God, Who becomes the wrathful avenger, intent on vengeance against us for our sin against Him.
But, as with each of the ego’s splits, this leads to its own set of problems, requiring yet another defensive split. For if I exist in the mind with this maniacal God, bent on my destruction, I need to escape. And so the fourth and final split involves projecting my own identity out into a world of form and bodies, escaping my mind and hiding in the world. But what the ego has failed to tell me is that this solution involves the projection of all the contents of my wrong-mind into the world of form, so that I now live in a world of fear. For the sin and guilt are all still around me, but now external to me in the world and in all my relationships. And so the original vulnerability and fragility of the thought of separation in my mind is now the basis of my identity as a body in the world. Of course, the advantage of this final arrangement is that I am still an individual, but it seems that forces beyond my control have brought about my existence. And if I am the innocent victim of the sinful, guilty world, how can I be held accountable for that original attack on God. How could I possibly be that powerful? Just look at this pathetically weak self I am, despite my best efforts to strengthen and protect myself physically, psychologically and emotionally against a hostile world!
And so it is here we find ourselves, as far removed from our true Identity as spirit as the ego could possibly entice us to go. And it is with this fourth split that the right-minded correction must begin. We are not asked to deny our experience of ourselves as bodies in the world — the result of the fourth split — but to be open to a different interpretation of that experience. Rather than focusing on differences as the ego has encouraged us to do — seeing my innocence as dependent on proving your guilt — A Course in Miracles is inviting us first to begin to recognize that we are all the same, struggling with our feelings of guilt by trying to project them on to everyone else. In other words, we all share the same guilt and the same need to be released from it. As we begin to accept this idea of shared interests, we will become more aware that we are a mind that is making choices to see the world and others in certain ways, rather than simply a victimized body, although we will almost certainly continue to experience ourselves as victims much of the time. And so we gradually begin to undo the final split.
As we begin to see the world and our relationships differently, we will be more willing to look at the sin and guilt buried in our own mind, recognizing its real source in our identification with the ego, thereby beginning to reduce our investment in the third split. And the right-minded correction for this willingness to look honestly will be the recognition that there is an alternative in our mind to the sin, guilt and fear that up until now we have felt the need to split off and project outside of ourselves. And that alternative is the Holy Spirit, the Reminder of the true innocence we share with everyone else, as we let go of the need to make differences real. And so the wall between the right mind and the wrong mind that we have attempted to make impenetrable with the second split begins to become more porous, allowing more of the light of the right mind to shine on the darkness of the wrong mind, revealing increasingly its illusory nature.
The undoing of these three splits is the focus of the Course’s teachings and it involves a process that will require great willingness on our part over time, for the self we are identified with in the world — the result of the fourth split — will lose its meaning and appeal to us over time as we practice the forgiveness that healing the splits requires. But along the way, that shift engenders tremendous fear so long as we still have an investment in the separation and in our separate, unique, individual self being real.
At the end of the process, once we have allowed the barrier we have imposed between the right mind and the wrong mind to dissolve completely in the light of total forgiveness, we will be in the real world, still aware of the dream of separation but completely unaffected by it. And it is from this place of complete healing that we are ready for the undoing of the first split, accomplished by what the Course metaphorically refers to as God’s last step (e.g., T.7.I), in which He lifts us up out of the illusion of duality and returns us to the absolute oneness of Heaven, which in reality we have never left.
Although the process of undoing the splits is described here as if it were linear, in reality it is not, as the miracle, or the holy instant, which is involved in undoing the second, third and fourth splits, occurs outside of time and space. And so our experience will be that we will be moving back and forth between the various levels of the splits over and over again, over time. For example, the Holy Spirit may seem to be a part of our healing process almost from the beginning of our work with the Course, yet we will not really understand the nature of His reality until we have come to understand the nature of the split mind more fully. And despite our increasing recognition that our only real choice is made in the mind, we will continue to get caught in our victim scripts in the world and will need to remind ourselves that we are really the same as all our brothers and sisters.
Those interested in a more in-depth exploration of the four splits may find the tape set, Separation and Forgiveness: The Four Splits and Their Undoing, and volume I, “All Are Called,” from the two-volume book set, The Message of A Course in Miracles (both publications by Kenneth Wapnick) helpful.