What is your typical reaction when you are cut off on the highway? For many of us, it’s a combination of an initial moment of fright (after all, traffic casualties rank high on the list of death causes) and anger. Chances are that thoughts run through your mind such as: “How dare such foul people put others in danger? It’s one thing if they want to risk their own life, but they have no right to jeopardize mine! Is a little bit of decency on the road too much to ask? Show a little respect!” In short, attention is fully focused on the ‘perpetrator’, at least for a while, until the adrenaline level slowly drops again.
Few people realize that such reactions, though fully understandable, are primarily an attack on themselves, while it achieves nothing in changing or punishing the other. On the physical level, you would probably be surprised to see the amount of toxins you are ordering your brain to inject into your own bloodstream through shock and anger. Taking good care of your body does not go well with frequent high levels of adrenaline and cortisol. If you fully realized this chemical attack on your own body, you might be inclined to think twice before giving in to anger so quickly. Now you might say that the cortisol was caused by the driver in front of you and that it was not your own choice to do so. But is it?
A Course in Miracles teaches us that there is no world, and therefore no reason to get angry, but the Course wouldn’t be very helpful if it stopped at that. in A Course in Miracles, Jesus teaches us not to deny our feelings, but to train the mind to look at what we think is going on — from a distance, without judgment. To then include the important teaching that projection makes perception (T-13.V.3:5, T-21.in.1) provides a whole new frame of reference from which to evaluate fright and anger after being cut off on the highway. Your ‘demand’ that you be noticed and treated with respect, is apparently a projection of something else. As good Course students, we of course know what the ‘something else’ is: we demand to be seen and respected by God, which He keeps failing to do. “You were at peace until you asked for special favor. And God did not give it for the request was alien to Him, and you could not ask this of a Father Who truly loved His Son. Therefore you made of Him an unloving father, demanding of Him what only such a father could give” (T-13.III.10:2). And so everyone who doesn’t notice or respect us, we label as unloving.
Oftentimes, an additional projection is involved concerning other authority figures; usually parents. People who have been largely ignored by their parents tend to be upset much more quickly whenever friends and/or colleagues do not constantly provide them with attention and respect. Even this projection originates back to the ontological instant when we (seemingly) decided to try autonomy on our own and demanded of God that He acknowledge our existence, which of course He does not. The reality of truth is changeless, being without concepts, without differences, without something being aware of something else. The Son of God can dream of a will that is not in accord with the Will of His Creator, but the Son cannot make that into reality. “The mind can think it sleeps, but that is all. It cannot change what is its waking state.” (W-pI.167.6:1)
We stubbornly keep clinging on to this hallucinatory nightmare of seeming autonomy, until the pain gets too much. Remember the comforting quote from chapter 2: “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. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight.” (T-2.III.3:1) Many people can attest to this turning point, after having gone through an experience of hitting rock bottom physically, mentally, financially, socially or emotionally. In the case A Course in Miracles announces itself on their life path, they begin to realize that forgiveness is the better way. But they also begin to realize that forgiveness as Jesus teaches it means something quite different from what they used to think it means.
If you find yourself being cut off on the highway and you’ve trained your mind to quickly respond in the vein of: “Yes, you’ve cut me off, you bastard, but I will forgive you since I am obviously spiritually more advanced than you are, and I will not hurt myself because of what you did to me”, then you are merely fooling yourself. As Jesus explains in the psychotherapy pamphlet (included in A Course in Miracles from the third edition on), this is “forgiveness-to-destroy” (S.II.2). By valuing my own worthiness higher than yours, I am really saying that I’m worthy of God and you are not. Moreover, I am saying that I am in a position to judge who is worthy or not. Worse than that: I am still convinced there are others out there who are fundamentally different from my special glorious self. This is obviously not an ideal frame of mind to practice true forgiveness from.
“It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts.” (T-2.VII.6:1). True forgiveness becomes possible only when I realize that everyone is the same Son of God, seeming behavioral perception to the contrary. If I can train my mind to see all behavior from this frame of spiritual vision, I can change the meaning of what I perceive, turning it into true perception: “He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking [or acting] from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking [or acting] foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does. If you point out the errors of your brother’s ego you must be seeing through yours, because the Holy Spirit does not perceive his errors.” (T-9.III.2:5).
Jesus’ teaching is not about making us feel guilty whenever we experience fright or anger every time we’re being cut off on the freeway because we’re still holding on to our belief in individual existence. Again, the beauty of A Course in Miracles as a spirituality is that it doesn’t ask us to deny our experiences in duality. Rather, it provides a very effective way to train our minds to find peace where we used to find pain, by regarding everything that happens as useful lessons in the classroom we call duality. So the next time I find myself cut off on the highway, I will not feel guilty over being shocked and/or angry, but I will get myself a bit quicker to the point where I can look at my emotions without judgment, and conclude: “Ah, there I go again. This goes to show just how attached I still am to my individual body and personality. That’s OK for now. I’m being offered a forgiveness lesson in the classroom of life.” In this classroom, we have a very helpful guide, called the Holy Spirit (you can also choose Jesus, as manifestation of the Holy Spirit). Ask him in by saying to yourself: “Dear Holy Spirit (or Jesus), please help me see this differently. Regardless of behavior, each seemingly separated Son of God shares the same Life, the same Identity. Help me to choose peace instead of pain. Please help me to learn this lesson truly.”
The choice to let go of judgment / condemnation is the invitation to the Holy Spirit. Why not try it next time you step into the car. Decide to be a happy learner of Jesus’ curriculum. Experience the inner peace each time you succeed in learning the lesson. Such a change of mind also reflects itself in the body, since the quality of the chemicals in your bloodstream will be much better. And should you fail to learn the lesson today, you can at least reinforce your desire to try again next time, since you now realize the pain of judgment doesn’t serve anything anymore. This is a curriculum that you simply cannot fail to master. The only ‘freedom’ lies in the time you take to complete it. “The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. This may appear to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision, but this is not so. You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination… but the outcome is as certain as God (T.2.III.3:1).” So why wait any longer?
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: