The five final lessons in the workbook of A Course in Miracles all carry the same lengthy title: “This holy instant would I give to You. Be You in charge. For I would follow You, certain Your direction gives me peace.” (W-pII.361-365). Clearly, one of Jesus’ main goals for the workbook is to motivate his students to consistently step aside, accepting that they had been wrong about everything, and let their lives be guided by the directions of the Holy Spirit, through whatever means they allow these to reach them. The reward: “Inner peace; happiness; a quiet mind; a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world; care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always.” (W-pI.122.1). Sounds compelling enough, wouldn’t you say? So why don’t we follow through?
Most students of A Course in Miracles know very well why we do not yet choose this guidance: it is because we still think we know what’s best for us to find our much-desired lasting inner peace and happiness. Of course, all attempts to this end eventually fail, since any imagined attempt to separate from Oneness cannot work: “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.10:2-4). So we told this made-up god that we can do very well on our own, ‘hellbent’ on proving that we are very much able to find peace and happiness by ourselves.
Early in the text, Jesus debunks the myths that form the basis on which we think we can find this peace and happiness: “First, you believe that what God created can be changed by your own mind. Second, you believe that what is perfect can be rendered imperfect or lacking. Third, you believe that you can distort the creations of God, including yourself. Fourth, you believe that you can create yourself, and that the direction of your own creation is up to you. These related distortions represent a picture of what actually occurred in the separation, or the “detour into fear” (T-2. I.1:9-2:1). Needless to say, Jesus makes it abundantly clear elsewhere that all of this never actually occurred; time and space constitute the illusion of duality, wherein everything is separated, uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear. But in this world we certainly believe the separation has actually happened, which means we still believe we are right about where salvation can be found.
In Chapter 29 of the text, Jesus presents to us the bottom line of his message: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy? Be you glad that you are told where happiness abides, and seek no longer elsewhere.” (T-29.VII.1:9-10; my italics). Happiness abides in the choice to relinquish our precious autonomous individuality, and choose to return to the Oneness of the Heart of God. This is the ultimate terror for the ego, for this choice means its demise. Jesus continues: “No one who comes here but must still have hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside himself that will bring happiness and peace to him.” (T-29.VII.2:1). This is the case for everyone who walks the face of this earth. Anyone who is born here has decided, as a fragmented part of the one sleeping Son of God, that happiness might yet be found as an individual in time and space. Jesus explains to us, gently and with infinite patience, that this is not so, and that there is something much better, which we will experience by waking from the ego-dream of dualism.
The ego interprets this ‘waking up’ as annihilation. Since we’re so identified with the ego, we unconsciously sabotage our spiritual efforts all the time (that is, we keep rejecting, judging and condemning), until the pain gets too much and we exclaim that “there must be a better way!” According to A Course in Miracles, this ‘better way’ is called forgiveness – not in the sense of making the errors of others real and then haughtily overlooking them, but in the sense of seeing the same ‘face of Christ’ in every living thing, and rejoicing in everyone’s inherent sameness as the Son of God. Practicing forgiveness is the process by which we slowly wake up to what Jesus calls the real world, in which we still inhabit a body, in which we still interact with others, but these are now correctly perceived as the one Son of God, in Whom we will waken as one, without any comparison, rejection or judgment whatsoever. In fact, seen from outside time and space we are already awake. We are merely reliving the movie of time up to that instant.
This joyful state of mind of forgiveness, or right-minded thinking, is not something I can (or should) make and cultivate with much diligent labor within the ego in my mind. This would be fruitless, as the ego is the idea of separation, judgment and attack. I ought to realize, every day again, that the Holy Spirit is already present within my mind. “The Holy Spirit is in you in a very literal sense. His is the voice that calls you back to where you were before and where you will be again. It is possible even in this world to hear only that voice and no other.” (T-5.III.3:7-9). And from Chapter 18 in the text: “You have been wrong in thinking that it is needful to prepare yourself for Him. It is impossible to make arrogant preparations for holiness, and not believe that it is up to you to establish the conditions for peace. God has established them. […] Your willingness is needed only to make it possible to teach you what they [the conditions for peace] are.” (T-18.IV.4:3-5) Choosing forgiveness, therefore, is a constant practice in which the Holy Spirit occupies the mind increasingly more often, whereas the ego’s presence slowly but steadily decreases. This is how the black spots of unforgiveness in the mind slowly dissolve one by one.
The Holy Spirit’s voice is, as it were, the pulse of peace that is continually present in my mind, but which is obscured as long as I choose to focus on the ego, by judging and attacking people and things around me. Therefore, the basis for successfully practicing forgiveness is to stop hindering this pulse of peace. An important key here is to simply choose not to condemn any longer. When I say ‘simply’, I do not mean ‘easily’. Really quitting condemnation may be comparable to quitting smoking: you know it’s bad for you, but you still keep doing it. It requires, first, a solid understanding of the purpose of life here in time and space (which is to realize you are the dreamer of the dream and to accept the Atonement for yourself), and, second, a firm understanding what you and I essentially are: the pure spirit of the Son of God, albeit holographically asleep in a dream of time and space. In this regard, it may help to realize that you and I are not here for the first time, nor may it yet be the last time. As long as there are forgiveness lessons to learn, we will reincarnate over and over again, not because we are punished, but because we still choose to condemn. So, again, the royal road to the real world is: stop hindering the pulse of peace, simply (but not easily) by giving up condemnation.
Any time I catch myself becoming even mildly annoyed over anything (literally anything!), I can realize that the situation at hand is irrelevant for salvation; in fact, I’m pointing a sword at myself. Condemnation will hurt my own mind, as it feeds the ego and obscures the voice of the Holy Spirit still further. If my spouse or my parents seem to push my red buttons, I can realize that it’s not important, at least not for accepting the Atonement. This doesn’t mean one should not take care of worldly matters any longer. Any (ego-based) pain that people bring up to discuss, should be given loving attention, without metaphysical preaching that “it’s all illusory anyway”. Nor would it be wise to end all insurance policies because you have stopped condemning and now think that God will take care of everything. You live a normal life just like anyone else, except that you now radiate peace, where you used to radiate judgment. This inner peace will not go unnoticed. “When I am healed I am not healed alone.” (W-pI.137). Radiating peace attracts peace. If for about a month you practice reasonably successful in forgoing condemnation, you will at some point realize with astonishment just much more peaceful you feel compared to all the previous years you’ve spent in rejection and attack. This realization in turn nurtures the “little willingness” (T-18.IV) that Jesus says is required to follow him to the real world, where we will see the open gate to our Home before us and will not hesitate to pass through, and once again experience the eternal peace of our Creator that “passeth all understanding”.
See also “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: