Students of A Course in Miracles no doubt notice the emphasis the text places on the difference between sin and mistakes. If you are ever to attain any measure of inner peace, understanding this distinction is crucial. A sin is permanent, irrevocable and unforgivable. The sinner is forever guilty, and this can never be reversed. Jesus uses the image of a stain of blood to depict the gravity of sin: “The stain of blood can never be removed, and anyone who bears this stain on him must meet with death.” (M-17.7:13). A mistake, on the other hand, is merely an error that can be corrected and thus erased; forgotten entirely.
Chapter 19, in particular, discusses this distinction between sin and error. In (T-19.II.1) we read: “It is essential that error be not confused with sin, and it is this distinction that makes salvation possible. For error can be corrected, and the wrong made right. But sin, were it possible, would be irreversible. […] Sin is not an error, for sin entails an arrogance which the idea of error lacks. To sin would be to violate reality, and to succeed. Sin is the proclamation that attack is real and guilt is justified.” Jesus then proceeds to explain why the ego is so stubborn in maintaining that sin can never be corrected: it is the best way to be able to point a finger at someone for his wickedness, automatically labeling yourself as the innocent ‘victim’. My own wish to be convinced that I am not sinful, but someone else is, can only be maintained by continually finding objects (or subjects) of guilt.
Make no mistake in how eagerly you and I still cling to the idea of sin in someone else. Again, in (T-19.II.5) we read: “Any attempt to reinterpret sin as error is always indefensible to the ego. The idea of sin is wholly sacrosanct to its thought system, and quite unapproachable except with reverence and awe. It is the most “holy” concept in the ego’s system; lovely and powerful, wholly true, and necessarily protected with every defense at its disposal. For here lies its “best” defense, which all the others serve. Here is its armor, its protection, and the fundamental purpose of the special relationship in its interpretation.” Further on in the text, Jesus unmasks our secret hidden fear that haunts us in our unconscious mind: the fear that I am the real sinner (over having abandoned God my Creator). Seeing sin in another is, bottom line, a projection of the fear that I am the actual sinner whom God will surely punish in the dreaded Last Judgment. And so I spend my life “proving” to God that others are sinful and I am innocent.
A painful example of this projection and refusal to see the distinction between sin and error can be seen with the Jews who survived World War II. Their well-known statement that they “will forgive, but never forget” well illustrates their conclusion that what happened back then is a blood stain that can never be removed. The Nazi Germans are the ones to be punished by God, and all their victims are obviously innocent and should be allowed back into Heaven. While the point is not to deny the horrible things that happened in WW II (this has been thoroughly and reliably documented), to keep focusing on the ‘badness’ of the ones who ‘sinned’ back then is to keep the pain in the mind alive. The pain lies not so much in the remembering per se, but in the accompanying condemnation of those who committed the crimes. If I still refuse to recognize that even the most horrible war criminal is still a Son of God, I keep my own unforgiving mind very much alive, and therefore deprive myself of the inner peace I want so much. The argument for the statement “We will forgive, but never forget” is usually that we can learn from the past, to prevent such a hell from ever happening again. It’s true that we can learn from the past, but it’s quite something else to use this as an argument to keep condemnation alive.
We don’t have to accuse the Jewish people of doing this – we all willingly employ this thought mechanism in our everyday lives. Just take a look at your own mind for a moment, that is, from above the battleground, as an observer. You will probably have no difficulty in compiling a list of people that you don’t like and situations that you dread (caused by forces beyond your control, of course). As Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out in his essays and workshops, most of us only have to look at our relationships with our parents, or any other authority figures in our lives such as teachers or bosses/managers. Countless generations of adults have hid their pain for never having received their parents’ love that they feel they rightly deserved. Countless employees have chosen to feel victimized by their boss for not getting the rewards they feel they rightly deserved. The key element here is that I keep remembering the most painful events to be able to keep my condemnation alive. Again, my investment in upholding condemnation is born from my projected fear that I am the sinner for having rejected the Love of God, and therefore the one to be punished. Seeking to forget that, I project it out onto suitable scapegoats such as the authority figures mentioned above.
Luckily, this realization about projection also points to the way out of this inner hell. If forgiving means forgetting, I must find in mind a clear, convincing, undeniable reason to forget, otherwise I simply won’t allow myself to forget anything. This convincing reason, as mentioned above and in earlier posts, is the realization that I am not an individual in an uncontrollable world, but I am the dreamer of the dream of separation. Our entire dream world is holographic: the whole is found in each part. This is true for both the ego thought system and the Holy Spirit’s thought system. The metaphysics of A Course in Miracles need to be fathomed to a certain degree to find the convincing motivation to let condemnation go and to practice true forgiveness. Taking the above-mentioned authority figures as an example, the Holy Spirit offers us ample opportunities to reconsider our relationship with them, and giving our thoughts over to the Holy Spirit and gladly accepting the unconditional Love that automatically and gladly fills the vacuum of the withheld condemnation.
Realizing that the seeming separation into billions of fragmented individuals is a joke, we can slowly realize that on the spiritual level, me and my parents/boss/teacher do not have separate interests at all: we are the one Son of God who chooses to remain asleep in this dream world. Practicing true forgiveness (that is, including the forgetting of the condemnation that accompanied it) is the royal road to slowly lead this dream back to its beginning, where it will vanish into the nothingness from whence it came. Choosing to regard the everyday world this way is called Vision in A Course in Miracles. And Vision can only be chosen now. To conclude, we review an inspiring thought from Workbook Lesson 164 that captures the essence of the message of this post:
“What time but now can truth be recognized? The present is the only time there is. And so today, this instant, now, we come to look upon what is forever there; not in our sight, but in the eyes of Christ. He looks past time, and sees eternity as represented there. He hears the sounds the senseless, busy world engenders, yet He hears them faintly. For beyond them all He hears the song of Heaven, and the Voice for God more clear, more meaningful, more near.
The world fades easily away before His sight. Its sounds grow dim. A melody from far beyond the world increasingly is more and more distinct; an ancient call to which He gives an ancient answer. You will recognize them both, for they are but your answer to your Father’s Call to you. Christ answers for you, echoing your Self, using your voice to give His glad consent; accepting your deliverance for you.
How holy is your practicing today, as Christ gives you His sight and hears for you, and answers in your name the Call He hears! How quiet is the time you give to spend with Him, beyond the world. How easily are all your seeming sins forgot, and all your sorrows unremembered. On this day is grief laid by, for sights and sounds that come from nearer than the world are clear to you who will today accept the gifts He gives.” (W-pI.164.1-3).
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: