THE COURSE'S USE OF LANGUAGE-II
THE SYMBOLISM OF FORGIVENESS
Chapter 3, FEW CHOOSE TO LISTEN
Volume Two of THE
MESSAGE OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES®
By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
The issue of Jesus correcting
our mistakes at the level we can accept and understand has already been
discussed, but we return to it now more specifically in this chapter to
see how forgiveness serves as the great symbol of A Course in
As the correction for the ego's story
of sin, guilt, and fear of punishment, forgiveness cannot be real (since
it corrects what never happened) but is rather a symbol for what alone
is real: the Love of God. However, as the Course teaches us, this correction
does not oppose reality for it reflects the non-dualistic and non-oppositional
truth. Forgiveness thus gently undoes the ego's voice, which allows the
Son to hear the only Voice in this dualistic and symbolic world that can
lead him beyond it to the truth of God's Love. Incidentally, it is this
gentle process of correcting our errors through intermediate steps that
makes A Course in Miracles unique in the history of non-dualistic
spiritualities. It retains the integrity of a non-dualistic metaphysical
system, yet allows its truth to be reflected into the dualistic world where
the Son believes he lives. One wonderful example of this gentleness is
seen in the following passage which discusses awakening from the ego's
dream of terror. It is a nice entree to our discussion:
So fearful is the dream, so
seeming real, he [the Son of God] could not waken to reality without the
sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded
his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice
that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering
was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently
and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear (T-27.VII.13:4-5).
Forgiveness As a
Forgiveness, of course, is the means
of awakening from the ego's dream of terror. And it is a means which, Jesus
emphasizes, is illusory, as shown in the following passages:
Illusion makes illusion. Except
one. Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest.
Forgiveness is thus the process of correcting
the ego's symbols (belonging to the dualistic world), thereby undoing the
ego thought system and making room for the non-dualistic truth to be recognized
Forgiveness sweeps all other dreams
away, and though it is itself a dream, it breeds no others. All illusions
save this one must multiply a thousandfold. But this is where illusions
end. Forgiveness is the end of dreams, because it is a dream of waking.
is not itself the truth. Yet does it point to where the truth must be,
and gives direction with the certainty of God Himself. It is a dream in
which the Son of God awakens to his Self and to his Father, knowing They
are one (W-pI.198.2:8-3:7; italics mine).
Forgiveness might be called a kind of
happy fiction; a way in which the unknowing can bridge the gap between
their perception and the truth. They cannot go directly from perception
to knowledge because they do not think it is their will to do so. This
makes God appear to be an enemy instead of what He really is. And it is
just this insane perception that makes them unwilling merely to rise up
and to return to Him in peace.
And so they need an illusion of help
because they are helpless; a Thought of peace because they are in conflict
(C-3.2:1-3:1; italics mine).
We turn to two passages from the workbook
where Jesus makes it clear, again, that forgiveness itself is unreal and
illusory, being simply a reflection of the non-dualistic Love of
God not does forgive because
He has never condemned.... Yet forgiveness is the means by which I [the
student] will recognize my innocence. It is the reflection of
God's Love on earth. It will bring me near enough to Heaven that
the Love of God can reach down to me and raise me up to Him (W-pI.60.1:2,
4-6; italics mine).
We examine now a brief passage that describes
forgiveness' role in undoing the ego's illusions -- substituting a happy
illusion for the ego's illusions of fear -- and clearing the way for the
return of truth:
For Love must give, and what is given
in His Name takes on the form most useful in a world of form.
These are the forms which never can
deceive, because they come from Formlessness Itself. Forgiveness
is an earthly form of love, which as it is in Heaven has no form. Yet what
is needed here is given here as it is needed. In this form you
can fulfill your function even here, although what love will mean to you
when formlessness has been restored to you is greater still (W-pI.186.13:5-14:4;
Yet although God does not forgive,
His Love is nevertheless the basis of forgiveness. Fear condemns and love
forgives. Forgiveness thus undoes what fear has produced, returning the
mind to the awareness of God. For this reason, forgiveness can truly be
called salvation. It is the means by which illusions disappear (W-pI.46.2).
Our final passage in this section on forgiveness
provides yet another clear description of the dualistic nature of forgiveness,
which is based upon the contrast of opposites, but which should not be
confused with the non-dualistic reality that has no opposite. The reader
may recall, incidentally, the earlier quoted passage from the obstacles
to peace (T-19.IV-C.11:2-3) where Jesus emphasizes the importance of distinguishing
between symbol and source, form and content.
Unweakened power, with no opposite,
is what creation is. For this there are no symbols. Nothing points beyond
the truth, for what can stand for more than everything? Yet true undoing
must be kind. And so the first replacement for your picture is another
picture of another kind.
And so forgiveness is a temporary correction
-- a means to an end -- for the belief in the reality of the ego's insane
thought system. It is a "kind (though illusory) undoing" of the ego's illusory
"doing" of attack. To state this important point once again, understanding
the important distinction between the truth of non-duality and the illusion
of duality, emphasized again in this passage, is essential if one is truly
to understand A Course in Miracles. Since, once again, forgiveness
corrects what never was, it too must not truly be. Thus it
is we speak of forgiveness as a symbol, and all the passages in the Course
where Jesus speaks of forgiving your brother can be understood to be metaphors
for the process of undoing the illusion that occurs only within the mind.
We turn now to a discussion of this essential point.
As nothingness cannot be pictured, so
is no symbol for totality. Reality is ultimately known without a form,
unpictured and unseen. Forgiveness is not yet a power known as
wholly free of limits. Yet it sets no limits you have chosen to impose.
is the means by which the truth is represented temporarily. It
lets the Holy Spirit make exchange of pictures possible, until the time
when aids are meaningless and learning done. No learning aid has use that
can extend beyond the goal or learning. When its aim has been accomplished
it is functionless. Yet in the learning interval it has a use that now
you fear, but yet will love....
Forgiveness vanishes and symbols fade,
and nothing that the eyes have ever seen or ears have heard remains to
be perceived. A Power wholly limitless has come, not to destroy, but to
receive its own. There is no choice of function anywhere. The choice you
fear to lose you never had. Yet only this appears to interfere with power
unlimited and single thoughts, complete and happy, without opposite. You
do not know the peace of power that opposes nothing. Yet no other kind
can be at all. Give welcome to the power beyond forgiveness, and beyond
the world of symbols and of limitations. He [God] would merely be, and
so He merely is (T-27.III.4:4-5:9; 7; italics mine).
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