The tragic joke called time

By far most of us feel that if there’s one thing we can reliably depend upon, it’s the continuity of time. After all, there’s nothing so certain as the sun rising and setting each day, is there? How confusing, then, to read in A Course in Miracles that “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.158.4:1-3;5). Since our brain literally functions in the linearity of time (past – present – future), we really have no way of grasping the reality, let alone the consequences of this for our fixed notion of our very existence as a body in time that is born, ages, and finally dies.

For me, the bombshell sentence in that important workbook lesson 158 is: “When experience will come to end your doubting has been set.” (W-pI.158.4:4; my italics). This seems to imply predetermination. This statement seems to literally say that the moment when I will fully have accepted the Atonement is already determined, since in reality all of time has already happened. Jesus, standing outside time, seems to be serenely aware of everything that has ever happened, happens, or will happen in time, completely at ease because he knows that “A happy outcome to all things is sure” (W-pII.292): since time is an illusion, nothing can happen that could impact reality at all. Early in the text, he even says: “… let me remind you that time and space are under my control” (T-2.VII.7:9) Add to that the ego-insulting message that “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII), and it might seem as if I can just give up all my plans, ambitions and worries in my life, as the movie of time will invariably unfold of itself anyway, regardless of what I think, say, or do.

However, this would be a shining example of falling into the trap of what Kenneth Wapnick calls Level confusion. It’s hardly helpful to pretend we can live our daily lives just focusing on nonduality (Level 1), while ignoring the daily forgiveness lessons in our everyday lives (Level 2); lessons we obviously need to learn to accept the Atonement. Moreover, the Course makes it clear in many places that the mind is blessed with free will, which God nor Jesus would even consider toying with. However, in the introduction to the text, Jesus clearly adds the following nuance: “Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.” ((T-in.1:4-5) And in the aforementioned workbook lesson 158, Jesus assures us: “The revelation that the Father and the Son are one will come in time to every mind. Yet is that time determined by the mind itself, not taught.” (W-pI.158.2:8-9).

The solution to this rather confusing concept of the nature of time (again, due to the inevitable level confusion that arises once our linearly programmed brain starts to think about reality outside time), is to visualize the almost infinite stretch of time as a holographic spiral, in which the mind repeatedly goes back and forth between the guide called the ego and the guide called The Holy Spirit. Whenever we choose the ego (that is, about 99,9% of the day, and every minute in each day), we “[…] but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love.” (T-26.V.13:1). In other words, whenever we choose not to be loving, we simply relive the original instant of choosing separation, which in reality never happened. The goal of this continuous wrong-minded choosing is to produce more illusory time to be able to uphold the illusion of a separated, autonomous, individual little self. Yet the joke of time could never intrude upon reality. Billions of imaginary dream years of tragic ego-choosing has not changed the reality of nonduality in the slightest: “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4).

Workbook lesson 169 gently puts the frantic mind at rest, assuring us that we need have no care or worry whatsoever about the nature of time, or the myriad mistakes we will inevitably make before finally learning to fully accept the Atonement and end time forever: “There is no need to further clarify what no one in the world can understand. When revelation of your oneness comes, it will be known and fully understood. Now we have work to do, for those in time can speak of things beyond, and listen to words which explain what is to come is past already. Yet what meaning can the words convey to those who count the hours still, and rise and work and go to sleep by them? Suffice it, then, that you have work to do to play your part. The ending must remain obscure to you until your part is done. It does not matter. For your part is still what all the rest depends on. As you take the role assigned to you, salvation comes a little nearer each uncertain heart that does not beat as yet in tune with God.” (W-pI.169.10:1-11:5).

So our task today, and all of our days, is still solely to practice our mind’s decision maker ‘above the battlefield’, and utilize the countless forgiveness opportunities that are offered us on a daily basis. That is what time is for: to master unconditional forgiveness all the time, without exception. Always keep in mind these comforting lines from the Epilogue of the Clarification of Terms: “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your heart. Who could despair when hope like this is his? Illusions of despair may seem to come, but learn how not to be deceived by them. Behind each one there is reality and there is God. Why would you wait for this and trade it for illusions, when His Love is but an instant farther on the road where all illusions end? The end is sure and guaranteed by God.” (C-ep.1).

For those interested in a more in-depth discussion of the tragic joke called time, I would encourage you to read and study Kenneth Wapnick’s brilliant book “A vast illusion: time according to A Course in Miracles“. Not only does Ken clearly explain the Course’s metaphysics about time and space, but also how we can use time — while we still experience it as such in our current incarnation — to gently aid us on our daily practice of learning to accept the Atonement, according to the daily Lessons of Love that are offered us by the Holy Spirit. Let’s close with this beautiful quote from Chapter 13 in the text: “The Holy Spirit interprets time’s purpose as rendering the need for time unnecessary. He regards the function of time as temporary, serving only His teaching function, which is temporary by definition. His emphasis is therefore on the only aspect of time that can extend to the infinite, for now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers.” (T-13.IV.7:3-5). Have an inspired day living in the now!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, November 2022


One thought on “The tragic joke called time

  1. malcom hess

    Yes, in and out of sync with your message this week:

    Looking From Above
    The silly little I
    Playing in a box of sand
    Building castles and walls
    Protecting nothing
    Time to move on
    To something better

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s