“What could you want forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? ...All this forgiveness offers you, and more...” Workbook, page 217, Lesson 122.
On reading this passage it seems that forgiveness really does offer everything we want. We all want to be happy, peaceful and safe. ACIM tells us that forgiveness is the way to be like that. Deep inside, we probably already know that. When we hold a grievance against someone, the mind can go over and over the problem, the heart beats faster, we feel angry and stressed and we have no peace of mind. But once we take the decision to forgive the person and just walk away, peace automatically follows.
Lesson 122 goes on to explain that forgiveness has a much more important function than simply giving us peace of mind. “Forgiveness lets the veil be lifted up that hides the face of Christ from those who look with unforgiving eyes upon the world. It lets you recognize the Son of God, and clears your memory of all dead thoughts so that remembrance of your Father can arise across the threshold of your mind.” ACIM, Workbook p. 217. This implies that those who are unforgiving have forgotten that they and everyone else are one with Christ; by forgiving someone for a perceived grievance one is acknowledging that the person is, indeed, a Son of God, as we all are. The act of doing this helps bring the memory of God into our minds. This is important because, according to the Course’s theory of the creation (or miscreation) of the universe, we have all forgotten God; we have forgotten that we are still one with Him in Heaven, and we believe that the world created by the ego is our true home. Jesus tells us in the Course that the more we forgive, the more able we are to remember our true nature—which is spirit created by God and one with Him.
Numerous lessons in the Workbook deal with the topic of forgiveness. Lesson 61: “Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world. “ Lesson 121: Forgiveness is the key to happiness.” Lesson 249: “Forgiveness ends all suffering and loss.” And Lesson 297: “Forgiveness is the only gift I give.” Those are just a few of them. And on page 530 of the Text we are told, “....Forgiveness is the only function meaningful in time....” This is because the Holy Spirit teaches us to be forgiving so that we can awaken from the dream. Once we have completed all our forgiveness lessons we are free to transcend time and the world.
One of the key things to bear in mind as one studies A Course in Miracles is the concept of illusion. If we actually lived in a world where someone could harm us, cheat, steal or lie to us or worse, then maybe it would be difficult not to judge this person and difficult to forgive him. But none of this is really happening. If we think it is, then we are listening to the ego instead of the Voice for God, i.e. the Holy Spirit. This is clearly implied by the following passage on page 530 of the Text: “Salvation is no more than a reminder this world is not your home. Its laws are not imposed on you, its values are not yours. And nothing that you think you see in it is really there at all.” It is worth re-reading that last sentence because we believe everything we see with our eyes. ACIM teaches us not do that.
The renowned A Course in Miracles teacher Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, in his booklet The Arch of Forgiveness, explains that if we follow Jesus we will live within his arch of forgiveness, safety and love; if we follow the ego we will live in the unsafe arch of the body. “When we identify with the mind—the decision maker as learner—and learn the principle of forgiveness from the teacher of love, we are safe, and nothing that happens around us could ever hurt us. Regardless of world events—collective or personal—we remain safe because we remain within the arch. When we step outside, however—leaving the mind and fleeing to the body and its dream—we lose our happiness, because none exists outside the arch.” (Sadly, Dr Wapnick passed away on 27th December 2013.)
It’s not easy to forget about the body, the world and all its problems, especially when we are regularly bombarded with violence, chaos and catastrophe whenever we switch on the television or the radio. It’s not easy to see suffering and remember that it is not real. But that is what Jesus is asking us to do. One way to make it a bit easier is to try to detach from the body, if possible; try not to focus on it and withdraw one’s attention away from it. Meditation is useful in this regard because one can become totally unaware of one’s body when meditating. It also helps not to speak too much about health problems and not to worry too much about appearances, whether one’s own or that of another. And a most useful tool for rising up above the illusory world of the ego is the Workbook. All the lessons are designed to help correct our perception of the world and lead us, eventually, to liberation.
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