What is forgiveness?
The following are random notes that I made for a recent Course Immersion class on forgiveness. My goal is not to present a beautifully written document, but to help the reader to better understand forgiveness through comments, quotes from the Course and suggested sections on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is probably the most important word in A Course in Miracles. It is also the most misunderstood because we come to it with our own ideas about it. The process of forgiveness in the Course is unique among all the world’s spiritualities and must be learned from a teacher who stands outside of time and space. That teacher is Jesus, a symbol of love that is not of this world.
Forgiveness is the pathway to inner peace – the condition of our minds in which God is remembered. It combines a lofty view of reality with practical application as to how, despite the world’s illusory nature, we can live here — kindly, attentively and aware of our need to practice forgiveness while we reside where we are not at home.
To indicate from the outset the uniqueness of the Course’s forgiveness here are a couple of quotes from What is forgiveness? Workbook, part 2. page 401. I recommend reading the entire section.
“Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred.”
“Forgiveness, on the other hand, is still, and quietly does nothing………….It merely looks, and waits, and judges not.”
We are ready to learn forgiveness when we are motivated by our own despair to seek another way to relate to the world and the relationships we find ourselves in. We have tried to fix them and evidence seems to indicate that they can’t be fixed so a statement like the following suddenly attracts us:
“Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way.” T. 2. III.3:5,6.
Seek not to change the world
“Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” Ch. 21. Intro. 1:7.
A good thing to keep in mind when turning within is that the correction to all our mis-thoughts are already with us in our right minds symbolized by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We just need the little willingness to be helped by inviting their Loving Presence to show us how to see the situation without the ego’s interpretation, from above the battleground (in the mind) and outside the dream. By looking we learn are the dreamer of the dream and not the figure in the dream. (For clarification on that subject read Reversing Cause and Effect in its entirety, in Chapter 28.)
Forgiveness: a new morality
The ego, representing the thought of separation, wants us to remain identified with the body as a dream figure so we remain mindless, unable to decide against it. The ego is nothing but a phantom, an impossible idea of separation held in place only by belief in it and all of its shenanigans. Jesus’ mission is to show us how to look at it with him, meaning without judgment. Forgiveness then, is looking at the ego and not judging it. Judgment makes it real and something we fight against. Forgiveness, on the other hand, undoes our identification and belief in it. Remember, first and foremost, ” forgiveness is still and quietly does nothing. It merely looks, and waits, and judges not.”
Further on in What is forgiveness? we read:
“Do nothing then and let forgiveness show you what to do, through Him Who is your Guide, your Savior and Protector, strong in hope, and certain of your ultimate success.” In many ways this is a new morality in which our behavior is informed by love instead of judgment.
You are the Decision Maker
No matter where we find ourself, and in whatever condition, we are the Decision Maker, and not the dream figure. We have only one decision to make: Who will direct the figure in the dream? Will it be the ego or the Holy Spirit? Given any situation in which we are fearful or angry, the Holy Spirit will, if given the opportunity, reinterpret it for us, and give us peace and joy in return. Isn’t this a fair trade for the ego which directs the figure in the dream to suffer physical and psychological pain and eventually die in order to prevent returning to the mind and choosing against it?
Bringing our projections back to the mind
“The miracle (forgiveness) establishes you dream a dream, and that its content is not true. This is a crucial step in dealing with illusions. No one is afraid of them (illusions) when he perceives he made them up. The fear was held in place because he did not see that he was author of the dream, and not a figure in the dream.” T. 28. II. Reversing Cause and Effect (taking back our projections)
We are the dreamer of the dream and not the physical/psychological person in the dream. The decision maker (in the mind) chooses either the Holy Spirit or the ego as the teacher. If the ego is decided for, it directs the body’s senses to seek and find guilt outside the mind. If the Holy Spirit is chosen, the dream is one of healing and forgiveness.
The content of all dreams is fear. Based upon our belief in the ego’s teachings of sin and guilt we believe we deserve to be punished and in fact demand it. The ego tells us we can get rid of the guilt in our mind by projecting it on to our body or someone else’s. Forgiveness is the process of bringing our projections – whether on our body, or someone else’s – back to the mind where they can be looked at with the help of a Loving Presence that shows us our guilt is entirely made up.
Forgiveness requires humility
“Resign now as your own teacher.”
If we want a better way that way is forgiveness. It must be learned from a teacher that represents love that is not of this world. We turned against it when we chose to believe the “tiny mad idea” of separation. If we define our problems ourselves we also are setting limits on their solutions. What the Course directs us to do is to make a deliberate choice to look at our problems differently, meaning with help, instead of defining them and then trying to solve them. We choose to expose their darkness to the light of truth. In the process we learn there is but one problem and one solution.
“When you have been caught in the world of perception you are caught in a dream. You cannot escape without help, because everything your senses show merely witnesses to the reality of the dream. God has provided the Answer, the only Way out, the true Helper.”
from What It Says
Developing trust in the Holy Spirit
As we develop trust the the Holy Spirit as the Great Corrector of our misperceptions our faith begins to grow. In fact the measure of our advancement in the curriculum is our willingness to turn all problems over to Him. We need to develop trust in a Loving Presence within our minds that helps us look at the guilt we have heretofore denied and projected. Our part is to grow in trust in this Teacher show us the truth instead of the illusions the ego has raised as a mighty fortress against it (truth). Our part is to be still, watch, wait, and do nothing.
(Suggested reading: Chapter 18. I Need Do Nothing)
Here is an excellent account of the three steps of forgiveness
“This is the shift that true perception brings: What was projected out is seen within, and there forgiveness lets it disappear. For there (within the mind) the altar (the point where we choose the Holy Spirit or the ego) to the Son is set, and there his Father is remembered. Here are all illusions brought to truth and laid upon the altar. What is seen outside (the mind) must lie beyond forgiveness, for it seems forever sinful. Where is hope while sin is seen as outside (the mind)? What remedy can guilt expect? But seen within your mind, guilt and forgiveness for an instant lie together, side by side, upon one altar. There at last are sickness (separation) and its single remedy joined in one healing brightness. God has come to claim His Own. Forgiveness is complete.” Manual for Teachers, From the Clarification of Terms
True Perception – Knowledge, page 86 (My notations are in parentheses)
The Three Steps of Forgiveness
The first two steps require your co-operation; the third does not. Our relationships reflect back to us the guilt that is in our own minds and give us the opportunity to reverse the projection by bringing it back to the altar where, brought to the light of truth it is shined away.
Step 1. Reversing our projection. and bringing guilt back within the mind.
The cause of my upset is not external. It’s an interpretation that I am making about me. I
In other words, I become the victim of my own interpretation.
“ The secret of salvation is but this: That you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this is still true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream.” Ch. 27. VIII.10: 1-8.
We are never upset at a fact. We are upset at our interpretations of a fact. This amounts to “taking it personally.” Our conclusion is always about us being an innocent victim and someone else the victimizer and therefore the guilty one. This enables us to wear a “face of innocence”, gained at someone else’s expense. Through our projection of guilt onto others we imagine we have are innocent and they are now “the home of evil, darkness and sin” not us.
Step 2. Recognizing that the guilt is in me and looking at it with help. Now “I am the home of evil, darkness and sin.” This is referred to as the dark night of the soul.
The ego’s survival depends upon us never looking within our minds. It shrieks, “Do not look within.” It made the body to look out and seek for guilt in someone else. Keeping the problem in someone else prevents us ever looking at the ego and learning that it has no power other than the power we give it. At that point its days are numbered.
As we bring the darkness to the light we must have help to look at the ego without judgment. It must be a Teacher that is in our minds, but one whose voice is NOT OUR EGO’s. Jesus/Holy Spirit are symbols of this loving Teacher. The ego can masquerade as the Holy Spirit. If the result of your listening to the Holy Spirit makes you special and therefore separates you from others then it is likely the ego’s Holy Spirit that is advising you.
IMPORTANT: Jesus/Holy Spirit do not take guilt from us. They simply stand with us and help us look at it without fear. They are really part of our right minds and we will eventually become them.
The dark night of the soul myth goes something like this: “I ruined my entire life and everyone else’s around me. I withheld love from myself, my brothers, and God. I am indeed ugly, vicious, and mean.”
Look at the guilt involved in that and not judge it.
Step 3. Do nothing. The blocs to love’s presence have been removed. What was always there in your mind will reveal itself if you relax and don’t interfere.
Good reading on this subject is:
Lesson 189: I feel the love of God within me now, Paragraphs 7, 8, and 9.
My anger at you was a cover for my anger at me. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I can learn I made them both up.
#1 – I say “no” to my judgment of others: You are the home of evil, darkness, sin… ”NOT!”
#2 – I say “no” to my judgment of myself: I am the home of evil, darkness, sin… “NOT!”
#3 – The slate is now clean. The Word of God/Atonement replaces illusions.
Lesson 23: I can escape the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.
The three steps of forgiveness appear very succinctly for the first time in paragraph 5, sentence 2. It is speaking of undoing the cause of the world.
“This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so it can be replaced.”
Forgiveness is the process that gives your life true meaning.
It is all internal so you can apply it anywhere, with anyone, and become a “happy learner” in which you learn there is no world that can harm, hurt or effect you in any way because “there is no world”. (Lesson 135: “If I defend myself I am attacked.”)
You are truly a decision making mind, and not a body. You only have one decision to make, OVER AND OVER AND OVER, until the you, the decision maker in your mind, listens only to ONE VOICE, and learns all of the lessons He has to teach.
The most important things to remember about forgiveness:
It doesn’t ask you to do anything….in fact, it requires that you do nothing so you can be taught.
It doesn’t have anything to do with someone else.
It is applied to illusions, not to truth.
It teaches you how to “see” with your mind instead of your eyes.
Important forgiveness lessons:
Lesson 23 – I can escape the world I see by giving up attack thoughts. The three steps of forgiveness appear very succinctly for the first time in paragraph 5, sentence 2.
Lesson 62 –Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world.
Lesson 72 – Holding grievances is an attack on God’s plan for salvation.
Lesson 121 – Forgiveness is the key to happiness
Lesson 122 – Forgiveness offers everything I want.