The past is gone; forget it

In order to maintain my sense of my special personality, my own unique individual self, I keep comparing myself to everyone around me. I especially focus on what makes me ‘better’ than someone else, especially those that I don’t really like. Unconsciously, I constantly manage of my list of arguments why I am right about something or someone, and others are wrong. The ego especially likes to emphasize situations that clearly illustrate that I have been treated unfairly. After all, such cases are plausible arguments for my unconscious plea to God that I am an innocent victim and should therefore be accepted back into Heaven, while the guilty ones should be punished and sent to hell.

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, there’s a slight problem with that. Or better yet, a fundamental problem. After all, one of the central tenets of this non-dualistic message is that God does not condemn, since God is Love, and nothing else. Love does not condemn. See for example workbook lesson 170, which by the way states that not only there is no cruelty in God, but there is also none in you and me (W-pI.170). The ego has a big problem with that statement. Since the ego is the idea of condemnation, attack and separation, if this statement is true, this implies that the ego is not true. This is indeed the metaphysical premise on which Jesus’ entire curriculum rests. However, since you and I are still so thoroughly identified with this special individual ego self, we quickly read past such lines and primarily focus on how the Course can make us feel better in this dream world of time and space.

Again, the chief way of making myself feel better is to compare my own innocence to the faults (the Course says ‘sins’) of those around me. To do this, I must constantly focus on what happened in the past, or, better, on how I interpret what seemingly happened in the past. In fact, clinical research in the nineties showed that not only do we have some 50 to 60,000 thoughts a day, but also that over 98% of these thoughts focus either on the past, or on the future. Obviously, you and I plan the future based on our past experiences. And so I relentlessly clutter my thought stream with interpretations of the past, in order to be able to emphasize my special innocent self that may righteously condemn others, because their selfish egos keep treating me unfairly, preventing me from finding the Love of God that I want so much.

To find that Love, however, A Course in Miracles tells me that I should forget my brother’s past entirely. In workbook lesson 288, we read that this is the idea …”that leads the way to You [God], and brings me to my goal. I cannot come to You without my brother.” (W-pII.288.1:1-2). This is true because God is Love, and you and I, being the Son of God, were created in like fashion, and are therefore equally worthy of this Love. “To know my Source, I first must recognize what You created one with me [i.e., my brother]. My brother’s is the hand that leads me on the way to You. […] Let me not attack the savior You have given me [again, my brother]. But let me honor him who bears Your Name, and so remember that it is my own.” (W-pII.288.1:3-9).

This is of course directly antithetical to the ego’s dictum of one or the other. If I should regard myself as equally worthy of the Love of God as anyone else, then the ego is clearly out of business. This realization immediately fuels the fear of the disappearance of my very self. It is this realization that makes people close the dark blue book and forget about it for a long time. Until the pain of constant judgment gets too much, and the nagging notion resurfaces once again: there must be a better way. Once you and I become slowly willing to accept — with much reservations at first — that perhaps my essence is not a body, that time and space are a ‘vast illusion’ (W-pI.158), and that my perception and interpretation of the past only serves to keep up the illusion of false autonomy and individuality, real hope of salvation becomes possible.

A major form of forgiveness to this end is to learn to forget the past, since the past is gone. The past remains in my mind only as long I want to hold on to it, to nurture the ego. But the past is not here in and of itself. To recall once again lesson 288: “My brother’s sins are in the past along with mine, and I am saved because the past is gone. Let me not cherish it within my heart, or I will lose the way to walk to You. My brother is my savior.” (W-pII.288.1:4-6). This is true because, apart from form, the way I perceive my brother is the way I perceive myself, which is the content the Course always addresses.

The ego of course viciously objects: ‘That’s crazy! We cannot do without the past. If you forget the past, you wouldn’t know how to drink a cup of tea, or know how to brush your teeth. And we can learn from the past, for example to prevent world wars from happening again. This Course is obviously out of its mind!” Sounds plausible. The mistake here, however, is the ego’s perennial focus on forms: tea, tooth brushes, world wars. The Course never asks us to deny the forms in the world; the key is what the forms are used for. There are only two options: for attack (ego) or for healing (Love). We only hold on to the past because this way we can justify our condemnations. Once we choose to perceive everyone as equally worthy, the past becomes irrelevant except to serve as a classroom of the Holy Spirit in which we learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. So to say “forget the past” really means “forget my condemnations”. That’s the content.

The way to practice this is really quite simple (though not always easy). Try to sit quietly for a moment; close your eyes and pick someone whom you hold some grudge against. Try to imagine what would happen if this person’s past were completely gone, which really means: taking back the projections that you placed in the image you made of that person. In the resulting vacuum, you can now ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help you see the light of Love shine in that person. Stick with that for a while and make sure you mean it. The next time you meet this person, you may be astounded by the results this miracle has effectuated. You then realize that we are able to shift the ego’s purpose of time (“I’m innocent, you’re guilty”) to the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness (“You and I are the Son of God”). When I forgive (i.e., forget) my brother’s past, I am reminded of the oneness of all creation by a Creator Who is only Love. Always remember that we will awaken to the state of mind called Heaven together, or not at all.


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

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Watching myself stumble

A Course in Miracles is a spiritual curriculum that aims to train the mind to consistently choose and experience inner peace. It promises us that a state of lasting inner peace is indeed possible — a peace that cannot be disturbed by anything, whatever seems to happen. The key to this, in one word, is called forgiveness, or the total relinquishment of any condemnation whatsoever, which makes room for Love to flow freely. This is possible by my sincerely asking for guidance by the Voice for Love in my choice of thoughts. This Voice for Love is called the Holy Spirit in the Course.

Although the principle may be simple, its daily application is far from easy. In the morning before breakfast, I may joyfully and peacefully review my workbook lesson and meditate about that for a while, and experience myself sinking into a deep inner peace. But before the hour strikes again, I find myself disliking various things, persons and events I perceive around me. These may be very, very small things. For example, I didn’t like the extremely ineffective operation of the traffic lights. I didn’t like those two scooter boys who with their reckless driving endanger elderly people in traffic. I didn’t like the cancellation of that particular important workshop because too few participants would attend, which only goes to show they probably aren’t interested in me.

By far most people regard this as the usual routine of daily life. They wearily ‘soldier on’ through their days, focusing on the fleeting pleasures and distractions that temporarily alleviate the pain. Students of A Course in Miracles, however, have the added pain of feeling guilty because they realize they could have chosen peace instead (W-pI.34), but obviously didn’t! So now I feel bad not only because of the aforementioned events, but also because I regard myself as a poor student, wondering in desperation if I will ever learn to master Jesus’ “simple” curriculum. To which the ego adds, whispering viciously: “Of course this stuff doesn’t work. Stop running away from reality, and only listen to me.”

However, in various places in the text and the workbook, Jesus is very clear in emphasizing that the problem is not primarily my continued choice for judgment and condemnation; my prime problem is the guilt I keep alive and well within myself by doing so. This guilt of course has its roots in the ontological guilt about the separation from God, which in reality never happened at all but which we still stubbornly hold on to, because we like our special individuality so much. After all, as long as I can experience guilt within myself, I “remind” myself that the original separation from God was indeed accomplished, and that I am still alive and well, and exist on my own. And everything that I perceive not to be perfect, is caused by events and people outside of me.

The metaphysical foundation of A Course in Miracles holds that life is not a collection of seemingly separated splintered fragments — life is one, our sensory perception to the contrary. I actually do not exist on my own. Although I like to think I have private thoughts, every thought boils down to a choice between the ego (the voice for separation and individuality) or the Holy Spirit (the Voice for Love and Oneness). This is ultimately the only choice you and I have. Everyone and everything around me merely serve as mirrors that reflect back to me the choices I have made in the mind. That’s why most of the time, Jesus in his Course addresses me as decision maker. His Course is primarily about training this decision maker to choose right sooner. This is a daily practice that takes time. Lots of time.

A common mistake many Course students make is that they think they must do the workbook perfectly in order to attain this much desired peace that cannot be disturbed by anything. However in workbook lesson 95, Jesus invites his students to honestly admit that they don’t practice the workbook lessons perfectly; in fact, far from it. “It is difficult […] not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You have surely realized this by now. You have seen the extent of your lack of mental discipline, and of your need for mind training. It is necessary that you be aware of this, for it is indeed a hindrance to your advance. […] In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must also have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. You often fail to remember the short applications of the idea for the day, and you have not yet formed the habit of using the idea as an automatic response to temptation.” (W-pI.95.4:2-5:3).

At this point, Jesus wants his students to realize that feeling guilty about the lack of spiritual diligence that we notice in ourselves, is not going to help. We need the workbook precisely because the mind needs this training. This requires honesty, patience and the happy habit to just try again. So we read in the same lesson 95: “The Holy Spirit is not delayed in His teaching by your mistakes. He can be held back only by your unwillingness to let them go. Let us therefore be determined, particularly for the next week or so, to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea. This tolerance for weakness will enable us to overlook it, rather than give it power to delay our learning.” (W-pI.95:8:1-4). In other words, don’t feel guilty every time you notice you didn’t apply the workbook lesson perfectly and you feel not at peace. Forgiveness is primarily about forgiving yourself for not being perfect yet.

Jesus repeats this comforting message from time to time. In workbook lesson 273, after a practice of over 270 lessons which should have brought us quite close to the desired state of inner lasting peace, Jesus says: “Perhaps we are now ready for a day of undisturbed tranquility. If this is not yet feasible, we are content and even more than satisfied to learn how such a day can be achieved. If we give way to a disturbance, let us learn how to dismiss it and return to peace.” (W-pII.273.1:1-2:1). In other words, I should allow myself some slack. My decision making mind will not consistently choose peace after “doing” the workbook once. Or twice. I am still too enamored by the seductive ego tale of specialness, individuality and autonomy. This is not a Course in feeling better in the dream world. This is a Course that takes you and me, as the Son of God, straight out of the dream world; but not by being ‘hurled’ out of the dream into the reality of Heaven. The dream world of time and space and individuality will only end once its alternative (the Heart of God, Oneness) is wholly desired. Obviously, you and I are not yet at that point. That’s perfectly okay, since time itself is illusory anyway.

Until we can consistently choose the Holy Spirit to guide our daily thoughts, we merely need to practice in cultivating the characteristics of the Teacher of God: trust; honesty; tolerance; gentleness; joy; defenselessness; generosity; patience; faithfulness, and open-mindedness. And simply try again whenever we stumble. As we read in workbook lesson 40: “If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.” (W-pI.40). And lesson 74 again reminds us: “Joy characterizes peace. By this experience will you recognize that you have reached it. If you feel yourself slipping off into withdrawal, quickly repeat the idea for today and try again. Do this as often as necessary. There is definite gain in refusing to allow retreat into withdrawal, even if you do not experience the peace you seek.” (W-pI.74.6).

This way we can see how everything in life can be reinterpreted as a forgiveness lesson; that is, forgiving myself for not yet having reached the top of the ladder of Atonement. My sole responsibility in this life is to keep trying to choose right a little sooner; to let go of any accompanying guilt a little sooner. Jesus helps us with this at the end of Chapter 6 of the text, the “Lessons of love”, with the following prayer to ourselves: ” I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.” (T-5.VII.6:7-11). So stop hitting yourself over the head for still not doing the workbook perfectly. That is precisely why we still need it. And remember, you and I and everyone will make it Home in the end. Happy practicing!


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.