Time is one of the most elusive devices the ego employs to keep our belief in the reality of what our senses perceive alive and well. After all, I may gradually accept that my interpretation of behavior of people around me may not always be correct, but I will not question my belief that my very personality is the product of my life’s experiences throughout the years, and that tomorrow will offer many more opportunities to further improve that personality. I may have lots of worries and pains today, but sometime in the future I will be fully enlightened, free of all the turmoil that I still perceive around me on a daily basis both within me and without me.
It is therefore quite startling, to say the least, to read in A Course in Miracles that time itself does not exist. Time is merely a trick to keep the mind rooted in its belief about the reality of the separated state from God. Workbook lesson 158 is especially clear about this: “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. […] 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.158.4:1-5). In a sense, everything that happens in our lives is already predetermined, but as we all work very, very hard to make our lives turn out the way we want it, we find this notion very, very hard to accept. And so each day we soldier on, hoping against hope that one day we’ll find the lasting inner peace we want so much.
Jesus’ non-compromising message about the unreality of time also means that salvation (i.e., lasting inner peace) is not to be found in the future, since in fact there is no future, since all of time happens now: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother.… Salvation is immediate. Unless you so perceive it, you will be afraid of it…. Salvation would wipe out the space you see between you [and your brother] still, and let you instantly become as one.” (T-26.1:1-3:5; my italics). We keep believing in the illusion of time because we still crave to experience ourselves as the ‘hero of the dream’; we keep wanting to ‘prove’ to ourselves and our Creator that we can do very well on our own. In a sense, each separated living thing uses time solely to keep affirming that very notion.
Imagine you would go to the cinema to see a movie, and the staff would take you immediately to the very end of the movie, reminding you that “the end is set already anyway, so why bother to go through two hours of uncertainty when you can have the final outcome immediately?” We would smack the cinema operator, since the two hours of uncertainty, tension, sensation and bewilderment are exactly why we came to see the movie in the first place! It is no different with our very own lives. Even though Jesus assures us that “A happy outcome to all things is sure” (W-pII.292), and that this “outcome is as certain as God” (T-2.III.3:10), we do not want to experience that happy outcome immediately now, our protestations about desiring lasting inner peace to the contrary. Why is that?
Well, there’s one subtle difference between our cinema movies and the movie of our personal lives, which commonly goes unnoticed. In accordance with lesson 292 above, we make sure that by far most cinema movies have a happy outcome: the hero wins, and the bad guys lose. The hero gets the biggest prize in life there is: to keep experiencing himself as a successful autonomous individual in this world, which is what we all wish. But in ‘real life’ (that is, in the ‘waking dream’ of duality), nothing lasts. We notice we get older; our bodies deteriorate and die, and we gradually seem to lose all that we hold dear. “Not one of [us] but has thought that God is cruel” (T-13.in.3:2). Since we really do not want to accept that, we keep going to the movies, to keep up our stubborn belief that we could be successful on our own in time, apart from God.
And yet there is always some form of pain in our lives, be it physical or psychological, which we believe is caused by factors outside of us. This is because the ego, which is the belief in separated individuality, can only survive by upholding (and fueling) the notion of grievances (i.e., condemnation), which is hardly a fitting framework for finding lasting inner peace: “The source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself. Each grievance you hold is a declaration, and an assertion in which you believe, that says, “If this were different, I would be saved.” The change of mind necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.” (W-pI.71.2:3-5). In one way or another, almost all of us still believe this.
The central message of A Course in Miracles is that “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1). This is because in truth, there is no-one else out there. Everything my senses perceive in time is a projection of some aspect of the sin and guilt that I do not want to look at in myself. Therefore, Jesus asks us: “What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it?” (T-20.VIII.7:3-7). The answer is: no, we wouldn’t see it, and we wouldn’t have faith in it any longer. But it would also mean that I would accept that my imagined precious individuality is not true. I still find that conclusion too painful, so I still prefer the pain I experience in the dream world of time and space, even unto seeming physical death.
A Course in Miracles teaches us not only that the movie that is this dream world will have a happy end, but that the dream world is in fact already over. We are merely reviewing what has already gone by, reliving it again because we still think individuality is our wish. But if I accede that salvation lies in my acceptance of the fact that I am doing this to myself, and that salvation is immediate, I could also choose to experience the happy outcome of the dream now, even if only for a few minutes or seconds. My mind has the power to choose to let go of all grievances and condemnation (the bedrock of separation) and align my thoughts with the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, which is my very essence. In terms of the Course, I can choose to experience the Holy instant at any time. My declaration of independence from the ego is my choice to accept the nature of my Self as pure spirit, that is, a non-temporal extension of the Love of God.
This sounds awfully metaphysical, but you and I are in fact able to experience it at any time. How? Let’s say you are bothered by some nagging physical symptom for some time now. Instead of repressing the pain through distraction or medication, which is what we usually do, we could also see it as a useful signal that there yet remains something to forgive in the mind. We could then choose to non-judgmentally focus on that very symptom, fully willing to learn the lesson, and choose to immerse the symptom completely in Love. The form does not matter; you could, for example, visualize pure white light that envelops you completely; or you could choose any form you personally prefer, as long as it’s fueled by the non-judgmental Love that reflects Heaven.
This may sound overly new-ageish; however, that thought might just be another ego distraction to what is truly the point: inviting in the Voice for Love that is the Holy Spirit, Who will guide you through the really required change, namely the choice to relinquish some form of condemnation, and accept the Atonement (i.e., Oneness) instead. We are to use all the little symbols of the world that the ego made to keep us mindless, to reverse their purpose from ‘mindlessness’ to awakening from the dream world of time and space. We may still believe it will take us many, many years to do this, but in each holy instant we choose to experience, including inner light episodes, we reflect the happy outcome of the dream right now – and “now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers” (T-13.IV.7:5). So practice with gladness in experiencing the Light within each and everyone of us right now. This way we invite eternity in, or at least its reflection. Repeat to yourself: ‘Now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers.’ Through this invitation, the Holy Spirit will find His way to your conscious thoughts a little easier than before, which is surely the “better way” to reach the lasting experience of inner peace that is our inheritance.
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:
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.