“Each lily of forgiveness offers all the world the silent miracle of love.”
ACIM, Workbook p. 473

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is the Path of Forgiveness; if the Course is properly studied and its teachings applied in daily life it enables the student to be a much more forgiving and loving person than he was before he started the Course. So many of the lessons of the Workbook deal with forgiveness, which is seen as being the gateway to Heaven. But it is important to understand firstly the reason why the world of the ego is a world of chaos and conflict, and why forgiveness seems quite difficult to practice.

The process of projection is where it all starts. The ego projects all its fears, guilt and inadequacies onto others to make it feel better about itself. The Course tells us that the ego is carrying around a huge amount of guilt and fear, which can be traced back to the initial moment of separation from Heaven aeons ago; this was when the mind split in two, the ego came into being and tried to take the place of God. It therefore created the physical body and the world of form as a place of refuge. But this engendered guilt in the ego, as well as fear of the revenge of God. Fear and guilt are then projected onto others so that the ego actually believes that others are to blame. Furthermore all the fear and mistrust that we observe in the world actually stem from the initial moment of separation.

Speaking about projection, the Course states, “Yet projection will always hurt you. It reinforces your belief in your own split mind, and its only purpose is to keep the separation going. It is solely a device of the ego to make you feel different from your brothers and separated from them. The ego justifies this on the grounds that it makes you seem ‘better’ than they are, thus obscuring your equality with them still further. Projection and attack are inevitably related, because projection is always a means of justifying attack. Anger without projection is impossible. The ego uses projection only to destroy your perception of both yourself and your brothers. The process begins by excluding something that exists in you but which you do not want, and leads directly to excluding you from your brothers.” Text, p.96.

Something important to bear in mind is that non-duality is at the very heart of the teachings of ACIM. We were created as part of God, one with Him and one with each other, and although in the ego’s illusory world we appear to be many, we are, in fact, just one, and our minds are joined. So in forgiving others, we are actually doing ourselves a favour and releasing fear and guilt from our own minds. Similarly, when we refrain from judging others, we are refraining from judging ourselves. Forgiving others helps us overcome the ego and eventually to achieve the goal of liberation. Forgiveness involves living in the present and not remembering the negative things about others. It really implies wiping the slate clean every time we meet somebody. If we do remember anything about them from the past, it should only be their positive words and deeds. “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 (i.e., all others) for what he did not do.” Text, p. 354. This last sentence refers both to the process of projection and to the fact that the world of the ego is an illusion. Firstly, a perceived enemy is only an enemy because we have projected our own fear and guilt onto him. Secondly, this life we are living is as real as a dream. The ego made it up and so whatever seems to happen here is not really happening at all.

This may seem hard to believe because everything seems so real and so tangible. But in dreams things seem equally real, until you wake up. “Salvation is a paradox indeed! What could it be except a happy dream? It asks you but that you forgive all things that no one ever did; to overlook what is not there, and not to look upon the unreal as reality.” Text, p. 635. And on page 401 of the Workbook we read, “Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in that view are all your sins forgiven.” This is where forgiveness, as taught by ACIM, differs quite significantly from the traditional view of forgiveness, whereby we forgive someone for performing a terrible deed, for instance.

“Dream of your brother’s kindnesses instead of dwelling in your dreams on his mistakes. Select his thoughtfulness to dream about instead of counting up the hurts he gave. Forgive him his illusions, and give thanks to him for all the helpfulness he gave. And do not brush aside his many gifts because he is not perfect in your dreams. He represents his Father, Whom you see as offering both life and death to you. Brother, He gives but life… Text, p. 585.

Forgiving oneself is just as important as forgiving others. By projecting guilt onto others or by holding onto it ourselves, we harm ourselves and others, and one of the results is ill health. The Course also teaches us that defensiveness is to be avoided. We should never feel the need to be defensive. “Forget not, when you feel the need arise to be defensive about anything, you have identified yourself with an illusion. And therefore feel that you are weak because you are alone. This is the cost of all illusions.” Forgiveness is clearly equated with peace as it helps us awaken from our collective dream and ends the illusion of separation and duality. When we realise that the billions of people on this planet are one with each other and one with God we are more likely to treat others with kindness and forgiveness. “How willing are you to forgive your brother? How much do you desire peace instead of endless strife and misery and pain? These questions are the same, in different form. Forgiveness is your peace, for herein lies the end of separation and the dream of danger and destruction, sin and death; of madness and of murder, grief and loss. This is the ‘sacrifice’ salvation asks, and gladly offers peace instead of this.” Text, p. 615.

There is another important aspect to forgiveness—letting go of illusions. We don’t just forgive those who have harmed us, we also need to forgive all the events and situations we come across or see on television because they are only happening in our dream world. We can think of this world as one huge movie screen and everything that is going on, is taking place on the screen, having been projected there from our minds. There isn’t much point getting upset by things that are taking place on a screen because they are unreal. That’s why we forgive them, which means we release them.

So there are two aspects to forgiveness that we have to devote our lives to if we want to awaken: forgiving people who have hurt us and letting go of all events that seem to take place in the world.

So how do we actually go about forgiveness? We are advised to seek the help of the Holy Spirit; He is referred to as “God’s answer to the ego” because it is only through His help that we can turn away from the thought-system of the ego. This is the process of Atonement. ACIM teaches us that there are only two emotions: love and fear. Any fearful thought comes from the wrong-mind-the ego; love comes from God or from the Holy Spirit who is in our right-mind. So we have a Guide whom we can call upon. “The Holy Spirit is your Guide in choosing. He is in the part of your mind that always speaks for the right choice, because He speaks for God. He is your remaining communication with God, which you can interrupt but cannot destroy.” Text, p. 76. So whenever we are in a difficult situation, angry, upset, worried or fearful, we can call upon the Holy Spirit for guidance. He speaks in many different ways; to some He can be heard as a voice; to others He may give advice in a dream or through a particular passage in a book; He may be heard through the spoken words of a friend or stranger or through a strong gut feeling. The important thing is to follow His instructions on forgiveness. Section 4 of Chapter 9 in the Text is entitled The Holy Spirit’s Plan of Forgiveness. We are advised to, “Follow the Holy Spirit’s teaching in forgiveness, then, because forgiveness is His function and He knows how to fulfil it perfectly. That is what I meant when I said that miracles are natural, and when they do not occur something has gone wrong.”

The “holy instant” has an important role to play in the forgiveness process. Each time we react in a loving and forgiving manner towards a person or situation that may have annoyed or harmed us in any way, we are experiencing a holy instant. The holy instant can only occur if we are living in the present, as the present is the only moment in which we can escape from the clutches of the ego. We are told that the holy instant works instantaneously provided one releases the past and does not plan to apply the concept in the future. It means being forgiving right now, in the present moment.

In order to experience the holy instant we have to recognise that our minds are joined and we must be open to communication with others and remember that the separation didn’t really happen. In Chapter 15 of the Text we read, “The holy instant is a time in which you receive and give perfect communication. This means, however, that it is a time in which your mind is open, both to receive and give. It is the recognition that all minds are in communication….The holy instant is the Holy Spirit’s most useful learning device for teaching you love’s meaning. For its purpose is to suspend judgement entirely. Judgement always rests on the past, for past experience is the basis on which you judge…In the holy instant guilt holds no attraction, since communication has been restored. And guilt, whose only purpose is to disrupt communication, has no function here….

Each time we forgive someone we are experiencing a holy instant, and a miracle has occurred. If we could always be forgiving it would lead to our salvation and liberation from the world of illusion. “The holy instant is the opposite of the ego’s fixed belief in salvation through vengeance for the past. In the holy instant it is understood that the past is gone, and with its passing the drive for vengeance has been uprooted and has disappeared. The stillness and the peace of now enfold you in perfect gentleness. Everything is gone except the truth.” Text, p. 349

Lesson 99 of the Workbook explains very lucidly the connection between forgiveness and salvation. “Salvation and forgiveness are the same. They both imply that something has gone wrong; something to be saved from, forgiven for; something amiss that needs corrective change; something apart or different from the Will of God. Thus do both terms imply a thing impossible but yet which has occurred, resulting in a state of conflict seen between what is and what could never be.” Then it is explained that God has a plan to help us bring truth to our illusions-a plan which joins our separated minds with His Mind. We need but turn to the Holy Spirit because, “The Holy Spirit holds this plan of God exactly as it was received of  Him within the Mind of God and in your own. It is apart from time in that its Source is timeless. Yet it operates in time, because of your belief that time is real. Unshaken does the Holy Spirit look on what you see; on sin and pain and death, on grief and separation and on loss. Yet does He know one thing must still be true; God is still Love, and this is not His Will. This is the Thought that brings illusions to the truth…. ” Workbook, p. 177. Bringing illusions to the truth will awaken us from the dream, conquer the ego and liberate us.

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