ACIM Text Reading for June 20
Chapter 17 ~ Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship
III. Shadows of the Past
To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten. Forgiveness is a selective remembering, based not on your selection. For the shadow figures you would make immortal are ‘enemies’ of reality. Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do. The shadow figures are the witnesses you bring with you to demonstrate he did what he did not. Because you bring them, you will hear them. And you who keep them by your own selection do not understand how they came into your mind, and what their purpose is. They represent the evil that you think was done to you. You bring them with you only that you may return evil for evil, hoping that their witness will enable you to think guiltily of another and not harm yourself. They speak so clearly for the separation that no one not obsessed with keeping separation could hear them. They offer you the ‘reasons’ why you should enter into unholy alliances to support the ego’s goals, and make your relationships the witness to its power.
It is these shadow figures that would make the ego holy in your sight, and teach you what you do to keep it safe is really love. The shadow figures always speak for vengeance, and all relationships into which they enter are totally insane. Without exception, these relationships have as their purpose the exclusion of the truth about the other, and of yourself. This is why you see in both what is not there, and make of both the slaves of vengeance. And why whatever reminds you of your past grievances attracts you, and seems to go by the name of love, no matter how distorted the associations by which you arrive at the connection may be. And finally, why all such relationships become attempts at union through the body, for only bodies can be seen as means for vengeance. That bodies are central to all unholy relationships is evident. Your own experience has taught you this. But what you may not realise are all the reasons that go to make the relationship unholy. For unholiness seeks to reinforce itself, as holiness does, by gathering to itself what it perceives as like itself.
In the unholy relationship, it is not the body of the other with which union is attempted, but the bodies of those who are not there. For even the body of the other, already a severely limited perception of him, is not the central focus as it is, or in entirety. What can be used for fantasies of vengeance, and what can be most readily associated with those on whom vengeance is really sought, is centred on and separated off as being the only parts of value. Every step taken in the making, the maintaining and the breaking off of the unholy relationship is a move toward further fragmentation and unreality. The shadow figures enter more and more, and the one in whom they seem to be decreases in importance.
Time is indeed unkind to the unholy relationship. For time is cruel in the ego’s hands, as it is kind when used for gentleness. The attraction of the unholy relationship begins to fade and to be questioned almost at once. Once it is formed, doubt must enter in, because its purpose is impossible. The ‘ideal’ of the unholy relationship thus becomes one in which the reality of the other does not enter at all to ‘spoil’ the dream. And the less the other really brings to the relationship, the ‘better’ it becomes. Thus, the attempt at union becomes a way of excluding even the one with whom the union was sought. For it was formed to get him out of it, and join with fantasies in uninterrupted ‘bliss’.
How can the Holy Spirit bring His interpretation of the body as a means of communication into relationships whose only purpose is separation from reality? What forgiveness is enables Him to do so. If all but loving thoughts has been forgotten, what remains is eternal. And the transformed past is made like the present. No longer does the past conflict with now. This continuity extends the present by increasing its reality and its value in your perception of it. In these loving thoughts is the spark of beauty hidden in the ugliness of the unholy relationship where hatred is remembered; yet there to come alive as the relationship is given to Him Who gives it life and beauty. That is why Atonement centres on the past, which is the source of separation, and where it must be undone. For separation must be corrected where it was made.
The ego seeks to ‘resolve’ its problems, not at their source, but where they were not made. And thus it seeks to guarantee there will be no solution. The Holy Spirit wants only to make His resolutions complete and perfect, and so He seeks and finds the source of problems where it is, and there undoes it. And with each step in His undoing is the separation more and more undone, and union brought closer. He is not at all confused by any ‘reasons’ for separation. All He perceives in separation is that it must be undone. Let Him uncover the hidden spark of beauty in your relationships, and show it to you. Its loveliness will so attract you that you will be unwilling ever to lose the sight of it again. And you will let this spark transform the relationship so you can see it more and more. For you will want it more and more, and become increasingly unwilling to let it be hidden from you. And you will learn to seek for and establish the conditions in which this beauty can be seen.
All this you will do gladly, if you but let Him hold the spark before you, to light your way and make it clear to you. God’s Son is one. Whom God has joined as one, the ego cannot put asunder. The spark of holiness must be safe, however hidden it may be, in every relationship. For the Creator of the one relationship has left no part of it without Himself. This is the only part of the relationship the Holy Spirit sees, because He knows that only this is true. You have made the relationship unreal, and therefore unholy, by seeing it where it is not and as it is not. Give the past to Him Who can change your mind about it for you. But first, be sure you fully realise what you have made the past to represent, and why.
The past becomes the justification for entering into a continuing, unholy alliance with the ego against the present. For the present isforgiveness. Therefore, the relationships the unholy alliance dictates are not perceived nor felt as now. Yet the frame of reference to which the present is referred for meaning is an illusion of the past, in which those elements that fit the purpose of the unholy alliance are retained, and all the rest let go. And what is thus let go is all the truth the past could ever offer to the present as witnesses for its reality. What is kept but witnesses to the reality of dreams.
It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more. The spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness, the real world or the world of guilt and fear, truth or illusion, freedom or slavery â€”it is all the same. For you can never choose except between God and the ego. Thought systems are but true or false, and all their attributes come simply from what they are. Only the Thoughts of God are true. And all that follows from them comes from what they are, and is as true as is the holy Source from Which they came.
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. They were not created to enable you to hurt yourself through them. They were created to create with you. This is the truth that I would interpose between you and your goal of madness. 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.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for June 20
In my defenselessness my safety lies.
You who feel threatened by this changing world, its twists of fortune and its bitter jests, its brief relationships and all the “gifts” it merely lends to take away again; attend this lesson well. The world provides no safety. It is rooted in attack, and all its “gifts” of seeming safety are illusory deceptions. It attacks, and then attacks again. No peace of mind is possible where danger threatens thus.
The world gives rise but to defensiveness. For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense. Yet is defensiveness a double threat. For it attests to weakness, and sets up a system of defense that cannot work. Now are the weak still further undermined, for there is treachery without and still a greater treachery within. The mind is now confused, and knows not where to turn to find escape from its imaginings.
It is as if a circle held it fast, wherein another circle bound it and another one in that, until escape no longer can be hoped for nor obtained. Attack, defense; defense, attack, become the circles of the hours and the days that bind the mind in heavy bands of steel with iron overlaid, returning but to start again. There seems to be no break nor ending in the ever-tightening grip of the imprisonment upon the mind.
Defenses are the costliest of all the prices which the ego would exact. In them lies madness in a form so grim that hope of sanity seems but to be an idle dream, beyond the possible. The sense of threat the world encourages is so much deeper, and so far beyond the frenzy and intensity of which you can conceive, that you have no idea of all the devastation it has wrought.
You are its slave. You know not what you do, in fear of it. You do not understand how much you have been made to sacrifice, who feel its iron grip upon your heart. You do not realize what you have done to sabotage the holy peace of God by your defensiveness. For you behold the Son of God as but a victim to attack by fantasies, by dreams, and by illusions he has made; yet helpless in their presence, needful only of defense by still more fantasies, and dreams by which illusions of his safety comfort him.
Defenselessness is strength. It testifies to recognition of the Christ in you. Perhaps you will recall the text maintains that choice is always made between Christ’s strength and your own weakness, seen apart from Him. Defenselessness can never be attacked, because it recognizes strength so great attack is folly, or a silly game a tired child might play, when he becomes too sleepy to remember what he wants.
Defensiveness is weakness. It proclaims you have denied the Christ and come to fear His Father’s anger. What can save you now from your delusion of an angry god, whose fearful image you believe you see at work in all the evils of the world? What but illusions could defend you now, when it is but illusions that you fight?
We will not play such childish games today. For our true purpose is to save the world, and we would not exchange for foolishness the endless joy our function offers us. We would not let our happiness slip by because a fragment of a senseless dream happened to cross our minds, and we mistook the figures in it for the Son of God; its tiny instant for eternity.
We look past dreams today, and recognize that we need no defense because we are created unassailable, without all thought or wish or dream in which attack has any meaning. Now we cannot fear, for we have left all fearful thoughts behind. And in defenselessness we stand secure, serenely certain of our safety now, sure of salvation; sure we will fulfill our chosen purpose, as our ministry extends its holy blessing through the world.
Be still a moment, and in silence think how holy is your purpose, how secure you rest, untouchable within its light. God’s ministers have chosen that the truth be with them. Who is holier than they? Who could be surer that his happiness is fully guaranteed? And who could be more mightily protected? What defense could possibly be needed by the ones who are among the chosen ones of God, by His election and their own as well?
It is the function of God’s ministers to help their brothers choose as they have done. God has elected all, but few have come to realize His Will is but their own. And while you fail to teach what you have learned, salvation waits and darkness holds the world in grim imprisonment. Nor will you learn that light has come to you, and your escape has been accomplished. For you will not see the light, until you offer it to all your brothers. As they take it from your hands, so will you recognize it as your own.
Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play. It was designed by One Who loves His children, and Who would replace their fearful toys with joyous games, which teach them that the game of fear is gone. His game instructs in happiness because there is no loser. Everyone who plays must win, and in his winning is the gain to everyone ensured. The game of fear is gladly laid aside, when children come to see the benefits salvation brings.
You who have played that you are lost to hope, abandoned by your Father, left alone in terror in a fearful world made mad by sin and guilt; be happy now. That game is over. Now a quiet time has come, in which we put away the toys of guilt, and lock our quaint and childish thoughts of sin forever from the pure and holy minds of Heaven’s children and the Son of God.
We pause but for a moment more, to play our final, happy game upon this earth. And then we go to take our rightful place where truth abides and games are meaningless. So is the story ended. Let this day bring the last chapter closer to the world, that everyone may learn the tale he reads of terrifying destiny, defeat of all his hopes, his pitiful defense against a vengeance he can not escape, is but his own deluded fantasy. God’s ministers have come to waken him from the dark dreams this story has evoked in his confused, bewildered memory of this distorted tale. God’s Son can smile at last, on learning that it is not true.
Today we practice in a form we will maintain for quite a while. We will begin each day by giving our attention to the daily thought as long as possible. Five minutes now becomes the least we give to preparation for a day in which salvation is the only goal we have. Ten would be better; fifteen better still. And as distraction ceases to arise to turn us from our purpose, we will find that half an hour is too short a time to spend with God. Nor will we willingly give less at night, in gratitude and joy.
Each hour adds to our increasing peace, as we remember to be faithful to the Will we share with God. At times, perhaps, a minute, even less, will be the most that we can offer as the hour strikes. Sometimes we will forget. At other times the business of the world will close on us, and we will be unable to withdraw a little while, and turn our thoughts to God.
Yet when we can, we will observe our trust as ministers of God, in hourly remembrance of our mission and His Love. And we will quietly sit by and wait on Him and listen to His Voice, and learn what He would have us do the hour that is yet to come; while thanking Him for all the gifts He gave us in the one gone by.
In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of Him, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways, where you will walk in true defenselessness. For you will know that Heaven goes with you. Nor would you keep your mind away from Him a moment, even though your time is spent in offering salvation to the world. Think you He will not make this possible, for you who chose to carry out His plan for the salvation of the world and yours?
Today our theme is our defenselessness. We clothe ourselves in it, as we prepare to meet the day. We rise up strong in Christ, and let our weakness disappear, as we remember that His strength abides in us. We will remind ourselves that He remains beside us through the day, and never leaves our weakness unsupported by His strength. We call upon His strength each time we feel the threat of our defenses undermine our certainty of purpose. We will pause a moment, as He tells us, “I am here.”
Your practicing will now begin to take the earnestness of love, to help you keep your mind from wandering from its intent. Be not afraid nor timid. There can be no doubt that you will reach your final goal. The ministers of God can never fail, because the love and strength and peace that shine from them to all their brothers come from Him. These are His gifts to you. Defenselessness is all you need to give Him in return. You lay aside but what was never real, to look on Christ and see His sinlessness.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #361: One of my favorite passages from A Course in Miracles is “To forgive is merely to remember all the loving thoughts you gave in the past and those that were given you….ALL THE REST MUST BE FORGOTTEN”…Sorry but I can’t tell you where it is found in the text. I would like your comment on this passage. I have never heard anyone else mention it…maybe I’m missing something…and I wouldn’t want to do that!! Maybe the “merely” doesn’t really mean “merely”…maybe my approach should be more complex…anyway…it’s a beautiful passage…!
A: This passage is from “Shadows of the Past” (T.17.III.1:1,2). This is the heart of the forgiveness process. There is a parallel passage occurring earlier in the text: “Do not, then, be deceived in your brother, and see only his loving thoughts as his reality, for by denying that his mind is split you will heal yours” (T.11.VIII.9:1). The practice of this is not easy because of the investment we all have in seeing other people as the cause of our problems. As a result, our resistance to complete forgiveness will be quite strong, or in our zeal to be holy and spiritual, we will simply cover over all the pain and hurt inside so that we will see only what is loving in ourselves and others. The pain and hurt remain, though, and forgiveness then is not sincere. This is a process requiring complete honesty and patience with ourselves, and asking for help to look at how tempting it is to hold on to grievances and to blame others for our distress. That is why Jesus says “Do not, then, be deceived in your brother…” He knows that we have been deceived because we see ourselves as the innocent victims of others’ wickedness or viciousness. So we must first look at this tendency within ourselves, recognize where it is coming from, and then ask for help to be guided by the Teacher of forgiveness.
A: This is a way of saying that we will awaken from the dream when we no longer are afraid of letting go of the false self we made, and are ready to accept back our true Identity as the one Son of God. Our fear is so great that we progress towards awakening through instants of forgiveness; but these are quickly followed by fear of what total forgiveness means for us. So the gentleness of forgiveness is expressed through patiently accepting where we are, and not being hard on ourselves when we find ourselves right back in the thick of the ego’s insanity.
Q #1142: The Course’s metaphysics says we are reviewing experiences. What and who did the initial experiencing? If the answer is still us (or the observer), how do we know we are not doing that initial experiencing right now as that would line up with “traditional” ego perceptions of space and time. Is the answer that the initial creation was made outside space and time by the separated Christ, that in a flash, due to the incredible creative power of Christ, the ego emerged, got so immersed in the thought of separation, splintered itself into almost infinite (recursive) thoughts, that it eventually believed it truly was separate, developed guilt, and then began reviewing everything it had created in human experience terms; i.e., in terms of space and time as separate bodies? In other words the initial experience was not as humans, but just thought, but that the incredible creative ability, and unfortunately ensuing guilt of this creativity, transformed that experience into us as separate bodies.
A: A Course in Miracles states that “we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W.pI.158.4:5) . Importantly, this statement comes after Jesus explains that time is not what we think it is; he corrects our ego-based understanding that time goes in one direction and contains a future unknown to us (W.pI.158.3:5,7) . He tells us that time is part of the ego’s plot to divert us from the truth; and as such, it is “a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion . . .” (W.pI.158.4:1) .This reflects the statement in the text that says, “Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love. . . . Such is each life; a seeming interval from birth to death and on to life again, a repetition of an instant gone by long ago that cannot be relived. And all of time is but the mad belief that what is over is still here and now” (T.26.V.13:1,3,4).
Jesus is addressing us as decision-making minds outside time and space that are tangled up in the dynamics of denial, projection, and defenses. Ultimately, there is only one mind (lowercase), the Son of God who believes he has successfully split off from his reality in the perfect Oneness of God (a separation the Course defines as impossible, and therefore totally illusory). The Son of God in this context is not Christ, Who remains at one with God as His creation in Heaven. Creation , in the Course’s view, is completely different from the biblical notion, which has to do with God creating outside Himself. God creates only like Himself (T.8.II.7:6) ; and creation is the eternal, non-spatial extension of love that takes place only in Heaven — God creating Christ, and Christ continuing the extension of love in His creations.
The separated Son retains the memory of His true Identity as Christ, though it is concealed from his awareness by his own choice. The ego is simply that part of the Son’s mind that he now thinks he is, having split off his true Self (Christ); and as such, it represents the thought system of separation.
In the instant the separation from Totality and Wholeness was thought to have occurred, every conceivable form of separation spun out instantaneously. The dynamics of separation involve getting as far away from oneness as possible so that the original state of oneness is longer remembered, and even considered alien and unnatural: “Complete abstraction [formlessness] is the natural condition of the mind. But part of it is now unnatural. It does not look on everything as one. It sees instead but fragments of the whole . . .”(W.pI.161.2:1,2,3,4). “. . . he does not realize he has forgotten where he came from, where he goes, and even who he really is” (W.pI.166.4:4) .
Guilt is bound up with the belief in separation, but only because the choice to separate from God was branded as sinful by the ego. A massive system of defenses evolved to deal with the pain of that guilt in the mind, which characterizes a major aspect of our experience as humans, except that we are not aware of this underground dynamic. That is one of the purposes of the Course — to help us regain our awareness of ourselves as minds, so that we can deal with the source of all our problems and pain, and learn that sin and guilt are made-up concepts. Ultimately, we will realize that the only problem is that instead of smiling at the silliness of the idea of separating from Totality, we, as the one Son of God, took it seriously (T.27.VIII.6:2,3) , and then began the process of miscreation , as A Course in Miracles refers to the works of the ego. Our only responsibility, our only purpose, is to accept the Atonement for ourselves, which means remembering that we never truly separated from our Source.