THE COURSE'S USE OF LANGUAGE-II
THE SYMBOLISM OF FORGIVENESS
Continuation of Chapter 3, FEW
CHOOSE TO LISTEN from
Volume Two of THE
MESSAGE OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES®
By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Forgiveness As Correction
within the Dream of Duality (Continued)
Despite its uncompromising
treatment of the difference between reality and illusion, as we have repeatedly
A Course in Miracles is practical and gentle in its advocacy
of specific application of these principles within the dream. And so the
words of Jesus meet his students in the unreal world of duality, where
they believe they are. These next paragraphs, from the same section
we have just quoted, therefore deal solely with our perception of the
dualistic world, but now corrected by the Holy Spirit to reflect
only truth. More specifically, our "special function" of forgiveness that
is discussed below becomes the reflection of Heaven's Love, expressed in
the specific forms (the classrooms of our relationships) that meet the
specific needs established by our specialness:
The Holy Spirit has the power
to change the whole foundation of the world you see to something else;
a basis not insane, on which a sane perception can be based, another world
perceived. And one in which nothing is contradicted that would lead the
Son of God to sanity and joy. Nothing attests to death and cruelty; to
separation and to differences. For here is everything perceived as one,
and no one loses that each one may gain....
The foregoing paragraphs introduce the
important role in salvation the Holy Spirit has as "the Alternative," that
presence within the Son's split mind that represents the other choice.
We shall discuss this role in more depth in a later chapter, but for now
we shall continue our discussion of symbols by examining the Holy Spirit's
role in the context of translating the ego's symbols of hate and separation
into forgiveness and joining. The following two passages from the text,
for example, express quite specifically the Holy Spirit's function of reinterpreting
the ego's symbols, thus reflecting the laws of God.
Your special function is the special
form in which the fact that God is not insane appears most sensible and
meaningful to you. The content is the same. The form is suited
to your special needs, and to the special time and place in which you think
you find yourself, and where you can be free of place and time, and all
that you believe must limit you. The Son of God cannot be bound by time
nor place nor anything God did not will. Yet if His Will is seen as madness,
then the form of sanity which makes it most acceptable to those who are
insane requires special choice. Nor can this choice be made by
the insane, whose problem is their choices are not free, and made with
reason in the light of sense.
It would be madness to entrust
salvation to the insane. Because He is not mad has God appointed One as
sane as He to raise a saner world to meet the sight of everyone who chose
insanity as his salvation. To this One is given the choice of form most
suitable to him; one which will not attack the world he sees, but enter
into it in quietness and show him he is mad. This One but points to an
alternative, another way of looking at what he has seen before, and recognizes
as the world in which he lives, and thought he understood before.
Now must he question this, because the
form of the alternative is one which he cannot deny, nor overlook, nor
fail completely to perceive at all. To each his special function is designed
to be perceived as possible, and more and more desired, as it proves to
him that it is an alternative he really wants. From this position does
his sinfulness, and all the sin he sees within the world, offer him less
and less. Until he comes to understand it cost him his sanity, and stands
between him and whatever hope he has of being sane (T-25.VII.5; 7:1-9:4;
italics mine in paragraph 7).
The Holy Spirit is the mediator
between the interpretations of the ego and the knowledge of the spirit.
His ability to deal with symbols enables Him to work with the ego's beliefs
in its own language. His ability to look beyond symbols into eternity enables
Him to understand the laws of God, for which He speaks. He can therefore
perform the function of reinterpreting what the ego makes, not by destruction
but by understanding. Understanding is light, and light leads to knowledge.
The Holy Spirit is in light because He is in you who are light, but you
yourself do not know this. It is therefore the task of the Holy Spirit
to reinterpret you on behalf of God (T-5.111.7).
Just as forgiveness remains an illusion
because it corrects the sin that never was, so too must the Holy Spirit
be an illusion as well, because He corrects (or translates) what is useless
and meaningless. And they are useless and meaningless because they are
not real. Again, we shall return to the nature
of the Holy Spirit in a later chapter.
I have said that the last step in the
reawakening of knowledge is taken by God. This is true, but it is hard
to explain in words because words are symbols, and nothing that is true
need be explained. However, the Holy Spirit has the task of translating
the useless into the useful, the meaningless into the meaningful, and the
temporary into the timeless. He can therefore tell you something about
this last step [which of course is inherently illusory since God does not
take steps] (T-7.1.6:3-6).
Lesson 184, "The Name of God is my inheritance,"
provides perhaps the clearest description in A Course in Miracles
of the need for symbols in the dualistic, separated, and unreal world which
we made and in which we find ourselves. And yet we recognize the total
unreality of such symbols when compared to the pure truth of our non-dualistic
reality as Christ. The excerpts from this lesson, which the reader may
recall from All Are Called (pp. 362-63), focus first on the ego's
dualistic world of separation, the little names made to substitute for
You live by symbols. You have
made up names for everything you see. Each one becomes a separate entity,
identified by its own name. By this you carve it out of unity. By this
you designate its special attributes, and set it off from other things
by emphasizing space surrounding it. This space you lay between all things
to which you give a different name; all happenings in terms of place and
time; all bodies which are greeted by a name....
These paragraphs, then, clearly describe
the ego's world of separation and differentiation. The sleeping Son of
God dreams that he has shattered the unity of Christ into billions and
billions of fragments, each of which is seen as different and then named,
thus each fragment is set off one from the other. The mind then programs
the sensory organs of the body to perceive this fragmentation, and the
brain to interpret and classify these data into a world that appears to
be understandable and certainly very real. The workbook lesson continues
by describing the Holy Spirit's different interpretation of such data or
symbols, how His use of the world's symbols or names, by their very nature
dualistic and illusory, can yet lead us back to the unity of the one Name
we share with God:
What are these names by which the world
becomes a series of discrete events, or things ununified, of bodies kept
apart and holding bits of mind as separate awarenesses? You gave these
names to them, establishing perception as you wished to have perception
be. The nameless things were given names, and thus reality was given them
as well. For what is named is given meaning and will then be seen as meaningful;
a cause of true effect, with consequence inherent in itself...
This is the sum of the inheritance the
world bestows. And everyone who learns to think that it is so accepts the
signs and symbols that assert the world is real. It is for this they stand.
They leave no doubt that what is named is there. It can be seen, as is
anticipated. What denies that it is true is but illusion, for it is the
ultimate reality, To question it is madness; to accept its presence is
the proof of sanity (W-p.l. 1 84.1,3,6).
It would indeed be strange
if you were asked to go beyond all symbols of the world, forgetting them
forever; yet were asked to take a teaching function. You have need to use
the symbols of the world a while. But be you not deceived by them as well.
do not stand for anything at all, and in your practicing it is this thought
that will release you from them. They become but means by which you can
communicate in ways the world can understand, but which you recognize is
not the unity where true communication can be found.
And so we recognize, on the one hand, the
basic unreality of the world, and yet still are taught by Jesus in A
Course in Miracles how to operate within such a world as to be able
to teach its unreality in the world's terms, understandable to ourselves
and to others. Thus is the non-dualistic metaphysics of the Course united
with its loving and gentle application in the dualistic world of separation
Thus what you need are intervals each
day in which the learning of the world becomes a transitory phase; a prison
house from which you go into the sunlight and forget the darkness. Here
you understand the Word, the Name which God has given you; the one Identity
which all things share; the one acknowledgment of what is true. And then
step back to darkness, not because you think it real, but only to proclaim
its unreality in terms which still have meaning in the world that darkness
Use all the little names and symbols
which delineate the world of darkness. Yet accept them not as
your reality. The Holy Spirit uses all of them, but He does not
forget creation has one Name, one meaning, and a single Source which unifies
all things within Itself. Use all the names the world bestows on them but
for convenience, yet do not forget they share the Name of God along with
you (W-pI.184.9-11; italics mine).
Our final example in this section of
the Course's use of symbols is from the end of the text. This incisive
passage from "Self-Concept versus Self " discusses the role that concepts
(symbols) play in the dualistic ego thought system, and the importance
of ultimately moving beyond all thoughts about ourselves -- which
are inherently dualistic -- to the non-dualistic truth: our Identity as
Christ, our real Self.
Concepts are learned. They
are not natural. Apart from learning they do not exist. They are not given,
so they must be made. Not one of them is true....
Thus, we need first exchange the Holy Spirit's
concepts of forgiveness and healing for the ego's guilt and hate, the gentle
precursors to moving beyond concepts entirely. The section continues:
A concept of the self is meaningless,
for no one here can see what it is for, and therefore cannot picture what
it is. Yet is all learning that the world directs begun and ended with
the single aim of teaching you this concept of yourself, that you will
choose to follow this world's laws, and never seek to go beyond its roads
nor realize the way you see yourself. Now must the Holy Spirit find a way
to help you see this concept of the self must be undone, if any peace of
mind is to be given you. Nor can it be unlearned except by lessons
aimed to teach that you are something else. For otherwise you would be
asked to make exchange of what you now believe for total loss of self,
and greater terror would arise in you....
Salvation can be seen as nothing
more than the escape from concepts. It does not concern itself with content
of the mind [i.e., the different forms duality takes], but with the simple
statement that it thinks [i.e., that the mind has chosen duality over non-duality,
illusion over truth]....
Elsewhere in the Course Jesus emphasizes
that this experience of the Self cannot be taught (e.g., W-pl. 157.9),
for It is beyond all the symbols and concepts of the world. Thus this Self
can only be shown to be the end product of using the symbol of forgiveness
to undo the ego's symbols of separation.
Seek not your Self in symbols. There
can be no concept that can stand for what you are .... The world can teach
no images of you unless you want to learn them. There will come a time
when images have all gone by, and you will see you know not what you are.
It is to this unsealed and open mind that truth returns, unhindered and
unbound. Where concepts of the self have been laid by is truth revealed
exactly as it is. When every concept has been raised to doubt and question,
and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light,
then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of
guilt. There is no statement that the world is more afraid to hear than
I do not know the thing
I am, and therefore do not know
Yet in this learning is salvation born.
And What you are [the Self ] will tell you of Itself (T-3l.V.7:1-5; 8;
14:3-4; 15:1-2; 17; italics mine in paragraph 8).
what I am doing, where I am, or
how to look upon the
world or on myself.
We can understand from our discussion
in this chapter, therefore, that Jesus' actual words in A Course in
Miracles cannot be taken literally. They are not themselves "the truth,"
yet they "point to where the truth must be, and give(s) direction with
the certainty of God Himself" (W-pl.198.3:5-6). Jesus' actual words in
the final analysis then are but "an illusion of help," because without
them his little brothers and sisters would be help-less. This is
no different from a psychotherapist needing to go beyond the patient's
dream symbolism to the underlying meaning, which would otherwise be inaccessible
to both of them. Moreover, the meaning of the dream can only be truly understood
within the context of the patient's life, also, as it were, a set of symbols.
Similarly, one cannot understand any particular passage in the Course without
a proper appreciation of the whole. This is the same point as we saw earlier
in the twice-quoted statement where, speaking of the Oneness of Christ,
Jesus teaches us that "the Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of
its parts" (T-2.VII.6:3). Later in the text he adds that the Atonement
message he is bringing to us, in its totality transcends the sum of its
Thus, to recapitulate, a student of
Course in Miracles will never really be able to understand any one
passage in it without first understanding the whole, just as a therapist
would be irresponsible to attempt to analyze a dream of a relative stranger
(let alone any piece of behavior), without first appreciating where that
particular dream (or behavior) fits into the person's entire life. Unfortunately,
however, as we have seen earlier, many students are invariably tempted
to remove a sentence or paragraph from its context in the Course, and then
declare A Course in Miracles to mean what the words say,
while in reality they have contradicted the very message of the Course
itself. This would be no different, for example, from taking the famous
opening four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and proclaiming that the
three Gs and E-flat constitute the symphony, rather than understanding
the incredible development of that simple motif over four movements that
truly is the symphony. Beethoven's genius did not rest so much in his melodies
or themes, but rather in their development throughout the music, which
reflected his own inner development as an artist and person. In like fashion,
one would not wish to judge Hamlet or Macbeth by their comic
relief scenes of the graveyard digger and drunken porter respectively,
the purpose of which is simply to relieve the tension as the dramas race
to their tragic end. It would be a quite a mistake to take these scenes
as representative of the plays themselves.
My point, once again, is that removing
a musical passage or scene from the works of genius, proclaiming they are
the whole, is equivalent to wrenching passages in A Course in Miracles
from their context and thinking that they reflect Jesus' true message to
us. The short-term effects of good feelings are hardly worth the loss of
the long-term benefits of studying A Course in Miracles as it is.
Instead, students should always strive to understand the Course's teachings
in the light of their growing personal experience of letting go of guilt
through forgiveness. As less guilt remains to distort perception, the light
of A Course in Miracles' truth will shine through more and more,
allowing the student to understand Jesus' teachings with much greater clarity.
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