Following a recent request to elaborate a bit on the notion of “We are but reviewing mentally what has gone by”, (W-pI.158.5), let’s briefly explore one of the most difficult topics in A Course in Miracles, namely time. One blog is certainly not enough to cover this topic extensively. If you would really like to delve into this most fascinating aspect of the Course, I would highly recommend Kenneth Wapnick’s “A vast illusion: Time according to A Course in Miracles“, at http://www.facim.org. A basic notion of the Course’s concept of time is indispensable, if a student is to make good progress in Jesus’ curriculum of forgiveness.
As I mention in almost every blog post, A Course in Miracles is a strictly nondualistic spirituality. This means that, according to the Course, only God is real, and God is beyond all forms, beyond time and space, beyond human comprehension. Consequently, everything in our dualistic world of perception, time and space is wholly illusory, like a dream. This isn’t just theoretical musing. As separated bodies, you and I literally do not truly exist, our sensory experience to the contrary. In reality, all of life is one collective spirit, still at Home in God, yet dreaming of exile (T-10.1.2:1), having fallen ‘asleep’ by musing what it would be like to be separate from God: this is the dream of time. The Course’s goal is to train the mind to clearly discern the difference between the conflict and misery of dualism, and the peace and Love of nondualism. The Course is here to take us out of the dream of time and space. If you are looking for a spirituality to keep your self-concept exactly as it is, but without your current suffering (P-2.In:2:3), A Course in Miracles is not for you. Salvation is found only outside time and space.
Workbook Lesson 167 elaborates on this notion of sleeping, and dreaming a dream of time: “What seems to be the opposite of life is merely sleeping. When the mind elects to be what it is not, and to assume an alien power which it does not have, a foreign state it cannot enter, or a false condition not within its Source, it merely seems to go to sleep a while. It dreams of time; an interval in which what seems to happen never has occurred, the changes wrought are substanceless, and all events are nowhere. When the mind awakes, it but continues as it always was.” (W-pI.167.9; my italics). This “continues”, mind you, is outside time and space. Since our brains cannot really grasp the abstract essence of nondualism, Jesus uses the word “continues” as if there were time in eternity, which is a contradictio in terminis.
The Jesus who has given us A Course in Miracles, through Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford, defines himself as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (M-6.1), the Voice for Love. We should not confuse this manifestation with the Biblical Jesus, who is mostly a character portrayed through the egos of those who wrote the scrolls; it is therefore a much distorted picture, despite the undoubtedly sincere intentions. The Jesus of A Course in Miracles is completely outside time and space. He therefore knows when and how the end of time occurs. What’s more, Jesus assures us that when he awoke from time and space, we were there with him. So to us who are firmly convinced we are living an important life here in linear time, Jesus says: “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)
Some students have misconstrued this statement to mean that everything in time is predetermined, and so it doesn’t matter what we think, say or do anyway. This, however, is not the case. It is true that when and how time will end is set, but time does not proceed linearly. We can save ourselves an enormous amount of time by practicing true forgiveness now, through the miracle which is (a) the realization that we are the dreamer of the dream, and (b) the conscious choice to choose love instead of anger, fear or depression. “The miracle shortens time by collapsing it, thus eliminating certain intervals within it. It does this, however, within the larger temporal sequence. […] The basic decision of the miracle-minded is not to wait on time any longer than is necessary. He [the miracle worker] recognizes that every collapse of time brings everyone closer to the ultimate release from time, in which the Son and Father are one [i.e., nondualism]” (T-1.II.6; T-1.V.2).
It may be hard to understand Jesus’ notion that the only real usefulness of time is to render the need for time unnecessary (T-5.VI.12). Perhaps the best explanation Jesus offers comes in chapter 26 of the text, where he compares our linear “horizontal” notion of time to his holographic “vertical” notion of time: “Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love” (T.26.V.13:1). In other words, everything that has ever happened in time, and everything that will stil happen in time, is happening now, at least from Jesus’ perspective outside the dream of time and space: “[…] Now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers. It is in the reality of ‘now,’ without past or future, that the beginning of the appreciation of eternity lies. For only ‘now’ is here, and only ‘now’ presents the opportunities for the holy encounters in which salvation can be found.” (T-13.IV.7). So our constant preoccupation with the past and the future distracts us from the one choice to quicken the end of time: forgiveness now. Since this would mean the end of the ego, we keep distracting ourselves in time, to prevent us from making this choice.
“The Atonement is the device by which you can free yourself from the past as you go ahead. It undoes your past errors, thus making it unnecessary for you to keep retracing your steps without advancing to your return.” (T-2.II.6). This is because as we seem to go forward in time while practicing forgiveness (the miracle, accepting the Atonement), we are really going back to that ontological instant in time, just before the Big Bang, when we seemed to fall asleep and started the dream of time and space: “Evolution is a process in which you seem to proceed from one degree to the next. You correct your previous missteps by stepping forward. This process is actually incomprehensible in temporal terms, because you return [to the Heaven we think we left] as you go forward.” (T-2.II.6).
“In this sense the Atonement saves time, but like the miracle it serves, does not abolish it. As long as there is need for Atonement, there is need for time. But the Atonement as a completed plan has a unique relationship to time. Until the Atonement is complete, its various phases will proceed in time, but the whole Atonement stands at time’s end. At that point the bridge of return has been built” (T-2.II.7). So the amount of time we choose to remain in the dream is dependent on our choice of mind teacher: either the ego, who will stimulate the making of more time, or the Holy Spirit, who stands outside of time with our real Self, and who patiently waits on our decision to awaken from the dream. This is why diligently practicing forgiveness might save us “a thousand years of time” (W-pI.97.3), that is, several incarnations in a body in time and space.
Time is therefore indeed “a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion” – a false concept that we made by starting the dream of time and space to hide from God, and one that we can choose to end, by choosing the miracle. “Time and eternity are both in your mind, and will conflict until you perceive time solely as a means to regain eternity. […] You must learn that time is solely at your disposal, and that nothing in the world can take this responsibility from you” (T-22.II.10:2). Phew! We are not the slaves of time, contrary to our perception of decaying bodies: “While time lasts in your mind there will be choices. Time itself is your choice. […] If you would remember eternity, you must look only on the eternal.” (T.10.V.14:3-9).
How do we look on the eternal? By giving up all judgment; by seeing the “face of Christ” in everyone; by seeing no separate interests whatsoever anymore, since we all share the same fundamental interest (and longing) of returning to God our Creator. A Course in Miracles helps us to see this essential choice: “If you allow yourself to become preoccupied with the temporal, you are living in time. As always, your choice is determined by what you value. […] If you will accept only what is timeless (i.e., forgiveness, the miracle) as real, you will begin to understand eternity and make it yours. […] Time seems to go in one direction, but when you reach its end it will roll up like a long carpet spread along the past behind you, and will disappear. As long as you believe the Son of God [i.e., everyone around us and including ourselves] is guilty you will walk along this carpet, believing that it leads to death [this is the condition of the material world].” (T-10.V.14:6-9; T-13.I.3:5-6).
Once we happily choose to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can afford to be confident, patient, and trustful. Choosing a miracle produces immediate healing effects, for yourself as well as for those you probably never met, all according to the ‘plan’ of the Holy Spirit: “Now you must learn that only infinite patience produces immediate effects. This is the way in which time is exchanged for eternity. Infinite patience calls upon infinite love [i.e., choosing the miracle], and by producing results now it renders time unnecessary.” (T-5.VI.12).
To conclude: while we still believe we inhabit a physical body that is separate from other bodies, each with individual interests, we are allowing the ego to make more time for us to keep the Atonement at bay. But this our own choice, a choice we can change. When we shift teachers, realizing we “have been badly taught” (T-28.I.7:1), we acknowledge that we all share the same holy interest, and are all equally guiltless: “As you perceive the holy companions who travel with you [i.e., everyone around us, but seen in a different light], you will realize that there is no journey, but only an awakening.” (T-13.I.7:1). That is why graduating from A Course in Miracles is a “Journey without distance, to a goal that has never changed” (T-8.VI.9). “You who are beloved of God are wholly blessed. Learn this of me, and free the holy will of all those who are as blessed as you are [i.e., by practicing forgiveness and choosing the miracle]” (T-8.VI.10).
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: