The central theme in A Course in Miracles is to learn how to forgive all the remaining dark spots in our own mind. To this end, we should work on a daily basis with the special relationships that we have formed with people, with possessions, with events, you name it. Anyone and anything can be transformed from a lesson-in-separation to a lesson-in-oneness, by re-evaluating what the relationship is for. Where we used to think the special relationship would bring us happiness, the Course’s re-evaluation shows us that it brings us only pain, and invites us to choose a different teacher to interpret the particular relationship.
Once we experience the inner peace that results from that other choice, forgiveness becomes more desirable, and so we put its practice somewhat more on the foreground in the mind each day. What we oftentimes fail to recognize, though, is that this only means we are now ready for forgiveness. That’s not the same as having mastered forgiveness. As Jesus reminds us in the text: “Readiness is only the prerequisite for accomplishment. The two should not be confused. As soon as a state of readiness occurs, there is usually some degree of desire to accomplish, but it is by no means necessarily undivided. The state does not imply more than a potential for a change of mind. Confidence cannot develop fully until mastery has been accomplished” (T-2.VII.7:2-6).
Once we experience the inner peace we want so much, there’s a tendency to demand instant enlightenment, simply because we want to feel good all the time. However, Jesus’ marked tempo in the Course is molto adagio (“very slow”), and with good reason. For example, whenever I think I truly forgive someone, and yet after a while I still notice feelings of hurt, resentment, rejection, anger, bitterness, and so on, I can be sure I have not yet truly forgiven that person, or better, my chosen relationship to that person. For many Course students, that’s an all-too familiar experience. Unfortunately, what oftentimes happens is that instead of patiently trying again and yet again, we make ourselves feel guilty for being such an inadequate spiritual student. And with guilt firmly in place, the ego has the last laugh, for guilt means its continuance is ensured.
For many Course students, a major eye-opener is the realization that it is exactly the unconscious devotion to the ego’s special individuality that’s the greatest block to true forgiveness. After all, true forgiveness ‘requires’ of me to see no differences whatsoever anymore between myself and the person (or situation) I condemned. Forgiveness will never be total until I can honestly say and mean: “I would rather be at one with you in Heaven outside time and space, than perceive us as separate in this dream world.” Until then, forgiveness remains “[…] a scourge; a curse where it was meant to bless, a cruel mockery of grace, a parody upon the holy peace of God.” (S-2.I.1:2). This is because deep down, I still judge myself as ‘better’ than you. Sure, as I am so enlightened I will not consciously condemn you anymore, but I still think I’m a better Son of God than you are.
In the Song of Prayer pamphlet, Jesus cautions his students against such thinking, which truly is a major obstacle in the process of going from readiness to mastery: “There are the [forgiveness] forms in which a “better” person deigns to stoop to save a “baser” one from what he truly is. Forgiveness here rests on an attitude of gracious lordliness so far from love that arrogance could never be dislodged. Who can forgive and yet despise? And who can tell another he is steeped in sin, and yet perceive him as the Son of God? Who makes a slave to teach what freedom is? There is no union here, but only grief. This is not really mercy. This is death” (S-2.II.2).
We should never forget that although the Course’s principles are simple, going from readiness to mastery is far from easy. The reason is obvious: I want to be enlightened, but I want it on my conditions. I want to experience the Love of God, but I want to keep experiencing it as a special individual. That’s because somewhere deep down, I still believe that this unique autonomous personality is all I have and all I am. What would I be if I were to give that up? I really couldn’t tell. The ego tells me I would be obliterated into nothingness (as punishment by God), but in A Course in Miracles, Jesus assures me that the only thing that would be obliterated is the ego itself, after which only love remains: “[…] You believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love.” (T-15.V.1:7).
“You have built your whole insane belief system [i.e., separation; a dream world; time; bodies; fear] because you think you would be helpless in God’s Presence, and you would save yourself from His Love because you think it would crush you into nothingness” (T-13.III.4). Enlightenment, then, comes down to the reversal of exactly that belief. And you and I can hardly expect that to be instantaneous; while you and I still firmly believe we are a body living in space and time (and that includes virtually all of us), it’s no use telling ourselves that time doesn’t exist. We need to patiently work in time with time, to ultimately learn we don’t need time. And no, suicide isn’t a shortcut in time; it’s merely a guarantee you will need still more time [i.e., lives] to ultimately learn Jesus’ curriculum of love.
It’s hardly weak to admit that you’re still afraid of the oneness Love of God. On the contrary; once you can acknowledge this, you’re being more honest to yourself than you’ve ever been before. But now at least you’ve obtained readiness to learn Jesus’ curriculum. It also means you acknowledge that you cannot go from readiness to mastery on ego-strength alone. Luckily, the decision maker in the mind is still free to choose one of two available guides: the ego (the choice for continuing separation), or the Holy Spirit, the choice for oneness. The practice of ‘making the better choice’ is a lifelong practice. That’s why in the workbook Jesus encourages his students to frequently ask ourselves: ““Who walks with me?” This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace.” (W-pI.156.8:1-2). This may seem to take a long time, but as you nurture the skill of patience, time becomes irrelevant. As the Buddhist saying goes: “Immediate results require infinite patience”. Or, in the context of this blog: “Instant enlightenment requires infinite patience”. 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:
See my Feb. 2020 Course workshop on YouTube called “A kingdom to rule” (English captions/subtitles available).
Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.