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Approaching the Idea of Forgiveness
Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.
Participant 1: A basic question I think that concerns many of us is the central idea of the Course, forgiveness, as a way of undoing the ego, the guilt and the unconscious fear, and we’re supposed to shift our perception, to jolt the whole experience. To shift our perception so that we can look through the eyes of forgiveness, so to speak, and we see the world of the ego disappear, and we have another vision. In your experience how is that? Is it something completely abstract like, an attitude change or is there a visual experience, I mean a mental experience accompanying that?
Speaker: The feeling of peace is how we can know when we are in a state of non judgement, but to really get at the real depth of what forgiveness really is, I think it takes study and, in a sense, understanding of what forgiveness is. There are many different approaches that Jesus takes in the course to try to meet the mind at different levels. He even uses visualization exercises in the Workbook, where he says “think of someone you are having difficulty with, you have thought of them by now and envision them in light and transfer the light” and so forth. I would say that these are more initial kinds of experiences. Beyond that, you get down to the deeper realms where there is nothing to forgive and that you forgive your brother for what he has not done.
Let’s really get into that interesting idea, forgive my brother for what he has not done... but I just saw him growl at me, or he didn’t pay the money back to me that he said he would or whatever… I’ve got the behaviour right here, what am I supposed to do? Get into denial and deny what my eyes have seen? This is where the Course really gets into perception. When we talk about perception, probably the most helpful way to start to look at it is in the Workbook where you’ve got what the Course calls our real thoughts way down in our mind. They are the light. On top of that are the attack thoughts; that the mind ran away from the light, and the world of perception is on top of the attack thoughts. In other words, the world is projected there to keep the mind distracted from looking at these silly thoughts and seeing that the attack thoughts aren’t real. So in that sense, forgiveness is being able to, in a Zen sense, step back into your mind and be able to turn within and look at these thoughts, without being horrified.
Now the mind believes that it is these thoughts. You know how identified you can be to cars, houses, bodies, body image, and everything, and that’s really just a projection of the thoughts. Just imagine your own private world, that the Course calls the private thoughts, where you start to close your eyes and meditate and you hear all this chatter going on and you’ve got all these judgement thoughts about the lady down the street or the boss or whatever. The mind is really horrified of these thoughts. It feels at times almost like, what can I do? My mind is just filled with these thoughts! And, in a sense the ego is saying, right, you’re guilty, you don’t want to look at these thought. Go get involved in some kind of addiction out there in the world, get your life real busy so you can become so distracted in things and stuff that you won’t ever have time to be quiet, because it’s too scary to be quiet and look at those thoughts.
The Course is a process of gradually helping us to see that these thoughts aren’t good and these thoughts aren’t bad, they are unreal—they are nothing. But the mind is very convinced that they’re more than nothing, they’re me. I am a judgemental person, I am a controlling person, you know all these attributes that we give ourselves, have to do with these thoughts that are in there. So the Course is a process of forgiveness, it’s stepping back from those thoughts.
Another way to approach forgiveness, which I think is just brilliant when you really look at it, is that the mind is causative. The mind is the cause of everything and once it bought the crazy puff of an idea and fell asleep, cause and effect were split off and turned around backwards, so that it now believes it’s a person in a world. It seems as if the cause of our state of mind is everything that is happening around us. In this world it’s like yeah, but what you do when a tornado is coming? There’s danger if there’s a killer loose that’s going through your neighborhood on the news. If the body seems to be ill or to be sick or to have cancer or something, what do you do? This seems to be taking away peace of mind; this is like a real problem, and I’ve got a sick body or something. But the body, as well as the entire world, is part of the screen that the ego counsels as where the problem is. So what Jesus is saying is forgiveness, in the ultimate sense, is the reversal of that, it is slowly being able to transfer these ideas in more and more situations as you go through your daily life and experience, and to bring cause and effect back around, to see that the mind is the cause. That this is a decision that I am making, and my state of mind is an effect. So that, literally, I can choose peace in a concentration camp or when my Toyota car has suddenly vanished from my eyes. In any situation, that peace is a choice.
Questions a lot of times come up when we get into these things. Like when we get into sickness for example, people say, now wait a minute, now you’re telling me, that my state of mind is a choice? This can in a way be very empowering, because I am not victimized by these projections or by these things on the outside. It’s always a choice. But wait a minute, I don’t know about this idea. When I’m sick it makes me feel even more guilty, because look what I’m doing to myself. This is a common thing that comes up, and a common trap.
Ultimately, to really get down to sickness and to start to look at what’s happening with that, is what the Course teaches in lesson 136 and in the back of the book How is Healing Accomplished, that it’s a decision that the mind is making. And the mind feels guilty, so what it does is it projects the sickness out onto the body, which is like calling a witness up on the stand, and then saying, See God, I’m not whole and complete, eternal and changeless. I’m this weak little frail body and I’m right about it, you know, I am little and I’m right. In a sense sickness comes about out of the fear of healing, when the warm, gentle reminder of light comes in our mind, which the deceived mind is afraid of. It then chooses a defence mechanism to provide a witness that will say, you’re wrong God, and I am right. This now leads us into the authority problem, which the Course tells us is the basic underlying problem, in our mind, of everything.
There’s an authority issue going on in the deceived mind, it believes, between itself and God and that’s too big of a thing to think about. Me? I’ve got an issue with God? It’s too monstrous of an idea, so the mind, literally, projects it out into the world. So that now I am a person in the world, and, I don’t have an authority problem with God, I’ve got an authority problem with my parents or with a certain politician that I like or dislike, or with a lawyer or with my husband or with my boss. There’s a big one. It gets transferred and projected, when really the central authority issue is, was I created by God as spirit, and changeless and eternal or, can I make myself up? Can I make myself up as I go along, can I make something that is different than that? And everyone who seems to come to this world, and believes that they’re a person in the world, has that authority issue, only within their deceived mind, going on. In reality of course, God knows his Son is eternal and changeless, but within the dream, within the dreaming of the world, there is an issue going on with God. This is not a conscious issue. How many of us have started off in all kinds of different routes to come to Unity and the Course. If you look back and you look at your journey, you can see that maybe you believe this about God, maybe this and that and then we finally come to Unity and the Course and we come to—God is Love. There’s something about that idea—God is Love, that just resonates, you know, yes! I’ve always known that had to be the truth.
Then the Course comes along and it says, ok now every time you get angry at someone, every time you make a special love or special hate relationship, every time you start to try to justify your thoughts with something in the world… I’m angry and I’ve got a good reason for it or whatever. This is just an expression of that authority problem. That you may even come to a conscious thought that God is Love. But the Course is helping us to really get down to changing our perceptions so that we literally can see the world differently.
So that’s kind of a synopsis of forgiveness. And all I can say is that, in my life, it has to be an experience. I don’t want the Course to give me another theology, where I can go around and tell people, this is the way it is, we’re projecting this and we’re doing this, and so on. Once again we get back into that talking about where it can become like another religion. We don’t need another religion, we’ve had enough religions. Jesus says that there can never be a universal theology, there’s never going to be a time on this planet where everybody has one religion and everyone says, Yeah, do you believe that? So do I! The ego is this fragmented thing where everybody has a perceived different self-concept and different beliefs and within the perception of the world, there won’t be any universal theology, but there can, and must be, a universal experience.
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