In A Course in Miracles, workbook lessons 61 (“I am the light of the world”), 62 (“Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world”), and 63 (“The light of the world brings peace to every mind through my forgiveness”) form a triad in Jesus’ mind training program. They could even be seen as a decidedly positive summary of the entire curriculum. Just to remind ourselves, let’s quickly revisit the central message of this trio.
First of all, “I am the light of the world” is true for everyone, since God has only one Son (i.e., all life combined, also called the Sonship). However, saying this, we immediately find ourselves bringing together (or, perhaps: confusing) the Course’s metaphysical level (I), and the Course’s practical everyday level (II) in the ‘waking dream’ we call the material world. Since everyone who experiences himself living in this dream world has the same split mind (wherein both the ego and the Holy Spirit reside), everyone both has and is the light of the world.
The thing is that almost nobody is consciously aware of this ‘inner light beyond time and space’. On the contrary, most of us walk this illusory world in a state of ego mindlessness, that is, “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). So when we read lesson 61 from this state of “wrong-minded thinking”, the ego will exuberantly conclude that I apparently am the light of the world, and others are not. Needless to say, this is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is trying to make us see here. Since you and I and everyone else are exactly the same, at least on the level of the mind, everyone is the light of the world.
That’s why Jesus says about this message that it is simply a fact: “This, then, is merely a statement of the truth about yourself.” But he also reminds us: “It does not describe the self-concept you have made.” (W-pI.61.1:4) In other words, the challenge is that we have not accepted this truth about ourselves as yet. This is because we still do not want the separation healed, since we are still so intimately attached to our special individual little self. I may be plagued by pain and anxiety, but at least I exist as an autonomous individual. In this lesson, Jesus is saying that even though we still experience ourselves as separated, we can at least begin to consider the truth of what he is conveying here.
Lesson 62 adds the central concept of forgiveness to this message. Here, he again emphasizes the fact that our view of our separated self is an illusion of self. Just as our nightly dreams are populated by various characters, so is our ‘waking’ dream world populated with seemingly separated people and events that are no more real than our nightly dreams. Again, God has only one Son, our daily experience to the contrary. That’s why Jesus states: “Illusions about yourself and the world are one. That is why all forgiveness is a gift to yourself.” (W-pI.62.2:1-2).
We usually see forgiveness as a process from me to you. I forgive you for what I think you did, or failed to do. However, almost every Course student has learned that such thinking makes the original ontological error of separation real, since it presumes a ‘better’ person who may rightfully judge ‘lesser’ people. To the ego, this makes perfect sense; but if God has only one Son, this cannot be the case. Who, then, is there to forgive? And for what? Here, once again, we can easily mix up the metaphysical level (I) of the Course and the daily, practical level (II), and this unfortunately happens a lot.
On the metaphysical level, we are taught that time is already over; on level II we are mentally reviewing what seemingly happened long ago. All people and events I perceive are “outside pictures of the inward condition of [the ontological] separation” (T-21.in.1:5); a condition that can only be sustained through constant judgment and attack, which is what we do all the time. But since the thought of separation has not left the mind of the seemingly sleeping Son of God, all “evil” that we perceive outside merely symbolizes (represents) darkness in my own mind. Therefore, true forgiveness means forgiving myself for having chosen to be the host of dark thoughts. I chose this to be able to uphold the idea of separation from God; a separation which in reality never happened. How silly!
Lesson 63, then, describes the mechanism of the practical process of forgiveness in this illusory dream world of time and space. As we all know, it is not enough to stubbornly repeat to ourselves: “I have no dark thoughts anymore. I have no dark thoughts anymore. I have no dark thoughts anymore.” That’s like trying not to think of the color blue. As long as we still experience ourselves in the level II dream world of time and space, interacting with other people, we are invited to shift the purpose of the world. Instead of constantly finding opportunities to blame, judge, and attack, we can train the mind to constantly find opportunities to see the sameness in everyone and everything. Others then become symbols of the light, which we can then recognize in ourselves as well.
So we heal our own mind by ‘placing’ others in the timeless light of Love, seeing the sameness in everyone and everything, including ourselves. That’s why Jesus says: “How holy are you who have the power to bring peace to every mind! How blessed are you who can learn to recognize the means for letting this be done through you!” (W-pI.63.1:1-2). And that’s also why Jesus answers the question in the Manual for Teachers (M-12) about how many teachers are needed to save the world with: “One”, since we are all a seemingly splintered fragment of the one seemingly sleeping Son of God, Who is still One, even in the waking dream.
This does not mean, by the way, that the one you lovingly place in the timeless light of Love, will immediately accept that light. In fact, usually they don’t. This, however, is irrelevant because time really does not exist and everything that seems to happen in time is really happening now. The ego sees this as a reason not to keep up this practice: “If I place someone in the light of Love and he keeps being an asshole, what good is it?” However, as Jesus reminds us in, the effect of our forgiveness practice (“the miracle”) should not be our concern (T-18.V.2:4). We should not be worried about whether our forgiveness will be accepted by the other. The Holy Spirit sees to it by definition that the miracle reaches its ultimate destination in time and space. All we are asked is the “little willingness” to choose to see our brother as sinless. As Jesus concludes: “What purpose could you have that would bring you greater happiness?” (W-pI.63.1:3).
Even though the observable effects of our forgiveness practice should not be our concern, many can attest to situations wherein there clearly were observable effects. In my own workshops, several participants shared their forgiveness decision about very strained relationships, wherein they found that that particular relationship unmistakably improved in the weeks that followed. This illustrates Jesus’ statement that “The Son of God looks to you for his redemption” (W-pI.63.2:2), albeit unconsciously. We all yearn to be seen as innocent and worthy of the Love of God. This is exactly the message that we send out when we decide to forgive that person, even when we’re not in their vicinity. Simultaneously, we have cleaned yet another dark spot in our own mind, which is of course the essence.
As our motivation to master this Course is strengthened by our experience of inner peace whenever we truly forgive, so does our peaceful countenance inspire those who still hesitate to make the same choice. This way, “a strong chain of forgiveness is welded” (T-1.III.9:2). The goal of A course in Miracles, then, is to fuel our own willingness to keep practicing our function of total forgiveness, embracing everyone, until “no single dark spot remains to hide the Face of Christ from anyone” (T-31.VIII.12:5). Once we reach that point, we find in glad astonishment that we’re done with time, and where we used to fear we had to sacrifice everything for salvation, we happily conclude that we gave up nothing!
— Jan-Willem van Aalst