Nothing to Forgive
By J. Michaels*
[As it appears in the June 2011 Newsletter]
The goal of forgiveness is to realize that there is nothing to forgive. That goal is stated quite eloquently in one of the most articulate and persuasive books ever produced in the English language, the revolutionary spiritual teaching of A Course in Miracles. I have studied this divine curriculum on a daily basis ever since the first time I picked it up, almost twenty years ago. That teaching, studied so diligently and absorbedly, changed my life in unimaginable ways and led me away from an egocentric, self-absorbed existence to a life now filled with blessings. That long and inspired journey taught me forgiveness, which opened my mind to the infinite possibility of a life existing alongside the delusional and ego-ruled existence that we know as “the world”. I came to see that divine possibility as an ever-existing reality which lives just outside our perceptual boundaries, yet knows no peer or even comparative examples in an inherently-limited, perceptual world. If I may, I will borrow a few minutes from your day to tell you of my adventure and the treasures found in its pursuit.
I received a copy of A Course in Miracles from my wife shortly after the death of my mother. At that time, I had no idea of what it was about (neither did she) and certainly no forewarning of how much it would eventually impact my life. I have always had an inquiring mind, especially when it comes to matters of mind and spirit and that inquisitiveness, accompanied by a deep inner connection, compelled me to study this strange new book. Within a few minutes of my initial reading, I knew I held something very special in my hands. Having always possessed a preference for anything out of the ordinary, the book quickly grabbed my attention and I proceeded to delve into it with an open mind. Despite my proclivity for the unusual, I am also a very pragmatic, results-oriented person and surprisingly the Course appealed to those leanings as well.
What I discovered was an articulate (even poetic) curriculum for seeing the world as we know it in an entirely new light, one that left me both hopeful and spiritually enlivened. It is an intelligent and insightful view of both the frailties of this world and the reality of the divine realm. Better yet, it gives very precise instruction for dealing effectively with the former and for discovering the truth of the latter. Unlike many spiritual practices, it deals not only with spiritual concerns but also with the part of the mind which drives our ego-centric lives as well as the part capable of unveiling and living in the unified Mind of the Divine.
An essential component of the practice of Course precepts is forgiveness, as mentioned previously. The big difference however is the way the Course defines the term. Unlike the traditional perception of forgiveness as pardoning someone for wronging us, the Course prescribes forgiveness as a means for eliminating the barriers created by the guilt and fear driven ego mind and thereby revealing to us our true spiritual nature. It does so by providing compelling arguments that we should forgive not because someone has wronged us but rather because, in truth, the “wronging” only occurred in an illusory state of mind, or dream. As radical as it may seem, this revolutionary worldview has been proposed and endorsed by such great historical minds such as Plato, William James, Albert Einstein, and Carl Jung, as well as contemporary luminaries such as Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and Dr. Wayne Dyer. The Buddha himself taught that most of us live our lives in a dream state and that our main goal in life ought to be to awaken from it to the reality of our divine nature. Jesus of Nazareth spoke of his “Father’s House” and the many wonders of the divine world as his truth.
The good news is that we can awaken from the illusory dream of a perceptual-based world created by an ego-ruled mind and live our lives in a more enlightened way. That way is the path of forgiveness and of A Course in Miracles.
In order to provide an example of how forgiveness works in the material world, I offer a story from my own life. Many years ago, shortly after my wife and I married, she began to experience dreams in which I was unfaithful to our marriage vows. Although she readily admitted there was no basis for suspicion or the dreams, she continued to have them. Having studied dreams for many years, I understood that they were simply revealing to her aspects of her subconscious that had nothing to do with reality. Yet the dreams seemed so real to her that upon awakening, she was actually angry at me for some time until it completely dawned on her that she had been dreaming. This is much like what we all experience in dreaming at times and points out how “real” our lives can appear to us, even in a dream state. It is only upon “awakening” that we realize that we have been dreaming and have finally returned to the real world.
I remember similar experiences during the sixties as I experimented with hallucinogenics. The state of mind induced by those drugs convinced me, while under their influence, that my altered state of mind was, in fact, my reality. I was so convinced of it that I did some pretty stupid things. Unlike some others, I did not go as far as to believe I could fly and leap from an upper level balcony, but I suspect that was due more to good providence than good sense.
All of these experiences, including my wife’s dreams, convinced me that our sense of reality is very much conditioned by our state of mind and, that in a perception-based existence, our reality is not only limited but distorted as well. Once we accept that premise, it is but a very short leap to consider the world as we perceive it as misrepresented at best and illusory at worst. My years of study of the Course and subsequent experiences in the world have only served to confirm that belief and to further convince me of the unsatisfying and false view of reality the material world presents.
Though it may seem that we have traveled a tangent here in search of an answer, we have not. For the basis of forgiveness as I have described it here is predicated on the fact that we judge, condemn, and even crucify ourselves and others based on behavior and performance in a world built on illusion. Having said that, should we not forgive ourselves for something we never, in truth, did? Should we not reconsider our allegiance to a world built on such a fragile foundation? And would not a good starting point for that reevaluation be letting go of any judgments or resentment based on what may or may not have actually happened? Any reaction to an event is based on the assumption that what we perceive is true or else would we not simply ignore it? If that premise of truth does not persist under the microscope of reason, do we not do ourselves and others a grave injustice by continuing as if it does? Is it not possible, as the Course states, there is nothing to forgive.
What we discover, once we accept the absurdity of a life based on an illusory foundation, is a reality much more satisfying and certain than any found in the limited, contradictory, and uncertain world we have accepted for so long. Despite a long history of disease, violence, death, wars, and nightmarish epochs such as the Inquisition, we continue to accept our “reality” as our due; while at the same time expounding that it was created by a benevolent, loving Creator. I don’t blame this mess on God. I believe the world as we perceive it is a result of our own misguided perception and willingness to accept illusion as our reality. No perfect, loving God would deign to create divine offspring only to then let them live in such a world. I submit that God did create the world; only not the one we perceive and “validate” with our frail and unreliable senses. I believe He created a world so superior to what we normally experience we would be filled with joy at the mere sight of it. That world, my friends, exists. It has always existed and it will exist forever, whether we are aware of it or not. Yet once we do awaken and become aware of its truth, we will know beyond any doubt whatsoever, that it is the real world and that we have spent our lives dreaming a nightmare of our own construction. But rather than regret, we will know only of the all-encompassing Love our Beloved Creator has used to create the real world. I know this from A Course in Miracles. I know this from practicing forgiveness for twenty years, including the forgiveness of my son’s murderer. And I know this from having seen and touched that world.
Nothing I can put into words can adequately describe of what I speak but know it is a promise made by God to His lost and errant children as they leave the dream of hate and come home to Him in Paradise. Is it not worth some small effort to consider the possibility of a divine life that exists now, and not just some abstract and distant promise of an artifact of mortal death? I look around at the material world and I see no reason to cling so fervently to it or the dismal existence that it offers. For me, I’ll bet my money on forgiveness, and God.
Copyright 2011 J. Michaels
Writer, Storyteller, Poet
Spiritual Life Coach