It is estimated that the average person has about 60.000 to 80.000 conscious thoughts a day. Over 99% of these thoughts are about either the past or the future. We try to predict the future (especially our physical and psychological safety in the future) based on what we learned in the past. As a Kundalini yogi teacher once put it: “Aside from the challenge of what we think all the time, the fact that we think all the time is just as serious a matter.” In a sense, we are all control freaks, trying to secure a safe future for our self (our ego, really) by making up stories about what might happen, based on what we remember from our interpretation of our previous experiences. If you think about it, that’s a pretty wobbly and silly basis on which to live life.
Enter A Course in Miracles and its view on time. In Workbook lesson 158, Jesus drops a bombshell for all his students who think they are on a long journey in time back to their acceptance of the Atonement. From his own viewpoint outside of time and space, Jesus has the formidable task of explaining the illusory nature of time to students whose very thinking is based on the notion of the reality of time: “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic. Yet there is a plan behind appearances that does not change. The script is written. When experience will come to end your doubting has been set. For 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).
This stunning paragraph alone could warrant a complete book of its own, and this has indeed been written: if you really want to take a deep dive into this matter, please do read Kenneth Wapnick’s “A vast illusion: time according to A Course in Miracles“. It’s fascinating reading. We won’t go that deep into this in this blog post. But instead of unconsciously skipping over these lines because to the ego they are utterly incomprehensible and therefore vague rubbish, we could find a truly liberating message in this concept, one that will make you leap up with joy once you accept its consequences.
Take, for example, the fourth sentence: “When experience will come to end your doubting [about the question “What am I?”] has been set.” This strongly suggests predetermination, as does the entire paragraph. In fact, in Workbook lesson 292 Jesus assures us that “A happy outcome to all things is certain” (W-pII.292). He knows this for sure, since he speaks to us from outside time and space, and is therefore aware of all that ever happened or yet will happen within the dream, as the fifth sentence emphasizes: “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.”
Does this mean that it really does not matter what I think, say and do each day, as everything is predestined anyway, even the fact that I am now reading this blog post? How would that relate to the notion of free will? Regarding the concept of free will, Jesus states that “Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time” (T-in.1:4-5); and “The power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world” (T-12.VII.9:1). However, since our true will is the Will of God by definition (the ego’s will only consisting of feeble wishes to deny reality), Jesus concludes that “Awaking unto Christ is following the laws of love of your free will, and out of quiet recognition of the truth in them” (T-13.VI.12:1).
The seeming contradiction between the predetermination of linear time versus our free will is resolved once we realize that we solely choose to believe in time’s reality as a means to convince ourselves that we can deny the Will of God, which in reality is our own true Will (like it or not!), in which there is no room for individuality and separation from oneness. Once we get into the practice of focusing on the holy instant, that is, accepting the now as it is and calmly asking the Holy Spirit for help in what to think, say and do now, do we begin to notice that we are the architects of our own fate in this dream: we are not victims of an unpredictable and threatening force called time: we make time, either for the purpose of perpetuating the illusion of separation, or for the purpose of lessening our craving need for more, much more of such time.
Always remember that now is the closest approximation to eternity that this world offers (T-13.IV.7:5). Through our (self-)forgiveness practice, we learn that we are not a body chained in time and space (although this is still our common experience), but that we are formless spirit, at one with all life, at home with God outside time, merely dreaming of exile. Countless reports of people with near-death experiences conform this notion. As Jesus puts it in Workbook lesson 97, “I am spirit”: “You are the spirit lovingly endowed with all your Father’s Love and peace and joy. You are the spirit which completes Himself, and shares His function as Creator. He is with you always, as you are with Him. […] Each time you practice, awareness is brought a little nearer at least; sometimes a thousand years or more are saved. The minutes which you give are multiplied over and over, for the miracle makes use of time, but is not ruled by it” (W-pI.97.2:2-3:2).
Let’s review a pep talk from Jesus about time, as he urges us to choose the mind guide of the Holy Spirit every more often during the day: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother.… The interval you think lies in between the giving and receiving of the gift seems to be one in which you sacrifice and suffer loss. You see eventual salvation, not immediate results. Salvation is immediate.… For a miracle is now. It stands already here, in present grace, within the only interval of time that sin and fear have overlooked, but which is all there is to time. […] The working out of all correction takes no time at all.… Be not content with future happiness. It has no meaning, and is not your just reward. For you have cause for freedom now.… The Holy Spirit’s purpose now is yours. Should not His happiness be yours as well? (T-26.VIII.1:1; 2:6–3:1; 5:8–6:1; 9:1-3,9-10).
You and I have every reason to end the tyranny of time right now. Let us be glad our safety as spirit is by definition guaranteed. All our uncertainty and misery stem solely from the mistaken choice of desiring to be unlike our Creator, and hitherto hiding into a dream about time and space, until we see there must be a better way, and we slowly start to remember our Identity as the Son of God. And this is really free will par excellence. “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1). So say goodbye to the tyranny of time by choosing the Holy instant a little more often each day. Happy practicing!
— Jan-Willem van Aalst, June 2022