"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles

The Purpose of Time

VI. The Holy Instant and Special Relationships

45 The holy instant is the Holy Spirit's most useful learning device for teaching you love's meaning. For its purpose is to suspend judgment entirely. Judgment always rests on the past, for past experience is the basis on which you judge. Judgment becomes impossible without the past, for without it you do not understand anything. You would make no attempt to judge because it would be quite apparent to you that you do not know what anything means. You are afraid of this because you believe that without the ego all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego all would be love .

46 The past is the ego's chief learning device, for it is in the past that you learned to define your own needs and acquired methods for meeting them on your own terms. We said before that to limit love to part of the Sonship is to bring guilt into your relationships and thus make them unreal. If you seek to separate out certain aspects of the totality and look to them to meet your imagined needs, you are attempting to use separation to save you. How, then, could guilt not enter? For separation is the source of guilt, and to appeal to it for salvation is to believe you are alone. To be alone is to be guilty. For to experience yourself as alone is to deny the oneness of the Father and his Son and thus to attack reality.

47 You cannot love parts of reality and understand what love means. If you would love unlike to God, Who knows no special love, how can you understand it? To believe that special relationships, with special love, can offer you salvation is the belief that separation is salvation. For it is the complete equality of the Atonement in which salvation lies. How can you decide that special aspects of the Sonship can give you more than others? The past has taught you this. Yet the holy instant teaches you it is not so.

48 Because of guilt, all special relationships have some elements of fear in them. And this is why they shift and change so frequently. They are not based on changeless love alone. And love where fear has entered cannot be depended on because it is not perfect. In His function as Interpreter of what you have made, the Holy Spirit uses special relationships, which you have chosen to support the ego, as a learning experience which points to truth. Under His teaching, every relationship becomes a lesson in love.

49 The Holy Spirit knows no one is special. Yet He also perceives that you have made special relationships, which He would purify and not let you destroy. However unholy the reason why you made them may be, He can translate them into holiness by removing as much fear as you will let Him. You can place any relationship under His care and be sure that it will not result in pain if you offer Him your willingness to have it serve no need but His. All the guilt in it arises from your use of it. All the love from His. Do not, then, be afraid to let go your imagined needs, which would destroy the relationship. Your only need is His.

50 Any relationship which you would substitute for another has not been offered to the Holy Spirit for His use. There is no substitute for love. If you would attempt to substitute one aspect of love for another, you have placed less value on one and more on the other. You have not only separated them, but you have also judged against both . Yet you had judged against yourself first, or you would never have imagined that you needed them as they were not. Unless you had seen yourself as without love, you could not have judged them so like you in lack.

51 The ego's use of relationships is so fragmented that it frequently goes even further—one part of one aspect suits its purposes, while it prefers different parts of another aspect. Thus does it assemble reality to its own capricious liking, offering for your seeking a picture whose likeness does not exist. For there is nothing in Heaven or earth that it resembles, and so however much you seek for its reality, you cannot find it because it is not real.

52 Everyone on earth has formed special relationships, and although this is not so in Heaven, the Holy Spirit knows how to bring a touch of Heaven to them here. In the holy instant no one is special, for your personal needs intrude on no one to make them different. Without the values from the past, you would see them all the same and like yourself . Nor would you see any separation between yourself and them. In the holy instant, you see in each relationship what it will be when you perceive only the present.

53 God knows you now . He remembers nothing, having always known you exactly as He knows you now. The holy instant parallels His knowing by bringing all perception out of the past, thus removing the frame of reference you have built by which to judge your brothers. Once this is gone, the Holy Spirit substitutes His frame of reference for it. His frame of reference is simply God. The Holy Spirit's timelessness lies only here. For in the holy instant, free of the past, you see that love is in you, and you have no need to look without and snatch it guiltily from where you thought it was.

54 All your relationships are blessed in the holy instant because the blessing is not limited. In the holy instant, the Sonship gains as one . And united in your blessing, it becomes one to you. The meaning of love is the meaning God gave to it. Give to it any meaning apart from His, and it is impossible to understand it. Every brother God loves as He loves you—neither less nor more. He needs them all equally, and so do you. In time you have been told to offer miracles as Christ directs and let the Holy Spirit bring to you those who are seeking you. Yet in the holy instant, you unite directly with God, and all your brothers join in Christ. Those who are joined in Christ are in no way separate. For Christ is the Self the Sonship shares, as God shares His Self with Christ.

55 Think you that you can judge the Self of God? God has created it beyond judgment out of His need to extend His Love. With love in you, you have no need except to extend it. In the holy instant, there is no conflict of needs, for there is only one . For the holy instant reaches to eternity and to the Mind of God. And it is only there love has meaning, and only there can it be understood.

56 It is impossible to use one relationship at the expense of another and not suffer guilt. And it is equally impossible to condemn part of a relationship and find peace within it. Under the Holy Spirit's teaching, all relationships are seen as total commitments, yet they do not conflict with one another in any way. Perfect faith in each one for its ability to satisfy you completely arises only from perfect faith in yourself . And this you cannot have while guilt remains. And there will be guilt as long as you accept the possibility, and cherish it, that you can make a brother what he is not because you would have him so.

57 You have so little faith in yourself because you are unwilling to accept the fact that perfect love is in you . And so you seek without for what you cannot find without. I offer you my perfect faith in you in place of all your doubt. But forget not that my faith must be as perfect in all your brothers as it is in you, or it would be a limited gift to you. In the holy instant, we share our faith in God's Son because we recognize together that he is wholly worthy of it, and in our appreciation of his worth, we cannot doubt his holiness. And so we love him.

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A Course in Miracles

Lesson 170
There is no cruelty in God and none in me.

1 No one attacks without intent to hurt. This can have no exception. When you think that you attack in self defense, you mean that to be cruel is protection; you are safe because of cruelty. You mean that you believe to hurt another brings you freedom. And you mean that to attack is to exchange the state in which you are for something better, safer, more secure from dangerous invasion and from fear.

2 How thoroughly insane is the idea that to defend from fear is to attack! For here is fear begot and fed with blood, to make it grow and swell and rage. And thus is fear protected, not escaped. Today we learn a lesson which can save you more delay and needless misery than you can possibly imagine. It is this:

3 You make what you defend against, and by your own defense against it, is it real and inescapable. Lay down your arms, and only then do you perceive it false.

4 It seems to be the enemy without that you attack. Yet your defense sets up an enemy within—an alien thought at war with you, depriving you of peace, splitting your mind into two camps which seem wholly irreconcilable. For love now has an "enemy," an opposite; and fear, the alien, now needs your defense against the threat of what you really are.

5 If you consider carefully the means by which your fancied self-defense proceeds on its imagined way, you will perceive the premises on which the idea stands. First, it is obvious ideas must leave their source. For it is you who make attack and must have first conceived of it. Yet you attack outside yourself and separate your mind from him who is to be attacked with perfect faith the split you made is real.

6 Next are the attributes of love bestowed upon its "enemy." For fear becomes your safety and protector of your peace, to which you turn for solace and escape from doubts about your strength and hope of rest in dreamless quiet. And as love is shorn of what belongs to it and it alone, love is endowed with attributes of fear. For love would ask you lay down all defense as merely foolish. And your arms indeed would crumble into dust. For such they are.

7 With love as enemy must cruelty become a god, and gods demand that those who worship them obey their dictates and refuse to question them. Harsh punishment is meted out relentlessly to those who ask if the demands are sensible or even sane. It is their enemies who are unreasonable and insane, while they are always merciful and just.

8 Today we look upon this cruel god dispassionately. And we note that though his lips are smeared with blood and fire seems to flame from him, he is but made of stone. He can do nothing. We need not defy his power. He has none. And those who see in him their safety have no guardian, no strength to call upon in danger, and no mighty warrior to fight for them.

9 This moment can be terrible. But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery. You make a choice, standing before this idol, seeing him exactly as he is. Will you restore to love what you have sought to wrest from it and lay before this mindless piece of stone? Or will you make another idol to replace it? For the god of cruelty takes many forms. Another can be found.

10 Yet do not think that fear is the escape from fear. Let us remember what the course has stressed about the obstacles to peace. The final one, the hardest to believe, is nothing, and a seeming obstacle with the appearance of a solid block, impenetrable, fearful and beyond surmounting, is the fear of God Himself. Here is the basic premise which enthrones the thought of fear as god. For fear is loved by those who worship it, and love appears to be invested now with cruelty.

11 Where does the totally insane belief in gods of vengeance come from? Love has not confused its attributes with those of fear. Yet must the worshippers of fear perceive their own confusion in fear's "enemy," its cruelty as now a part of love. And what becomes more fearful than the heart of Love Itself? The blood appears to be upon His Lips; the fire comes from Him. And He is terrible above all else, cruel beyond conception, striking down all who acknowledge Him to be their God.

12 The choice you make today is certain. For you look for the last time upon this bit of carven stone you made and call it god no longer. You have reached this place before, but you have chosen that this cruel god remain with you in still another form, and so the fear of God returned with you. This time you leave it here. And you return to a new world unburdened by its weight; beheld not in its sightless eyes but in the vision that your choice restored to you.

13 Now do your eyes belong to Christ, and He looks through them. Now your voice belongs to God and echoes His. And now your heart remains at peace forever. You have chosen Him in place of idols, and your attributes, given by your Creator, are restored to you at last. The Call of God is heard and answered. Now has fear made way for love, as God Himself replaces cruelty.

14 Father, we are like You. No cruelty abides in us for there is none in You. Your peace is ours. And we bless the world with what we have received from You alone. We choose again and make our choice for all our brothers, knowing they are one with us. We bring them Your salvation as we have received it now. And we give thanks for them who render us complete. In them we see Your glory, and in them we find our peace. Holy are we because Your holiness has set us free. And we give thanks. Amen.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 170
There is no cruelty in God and none in me.

Putting this Lesson in context is helpful so we can see how the ego set up its system of defense to keep us from changing our minds about the original decision to choose separation. As always, I rely heavily on Ken Wapnick's description of this process, which has been very helpful to me with his clarification of the ego program and how it came to be.
The choice that was made for the ego was a decision to run away from God. We believe we stole our individuality and unique separate self from God. This required that we annihilate Him in order for us to become independent of Him and authors of our own lives. Thus, we think we have made ourselves.
The ego has convinced us that we have sinned, we are guilty, and we must now fear God, Who is out to get us for what we have done. None of this is conscious, but it is what we unconsciously defend against. This defense is what constitutes the making of the body and the world as a way to hide from God's punishment that we think we have coming. God is seen as cruel, and we believe He is determined to find us and punish us. We hide from Him by continuing to choose our bodily identity and this world as our protection from His wrath. The way the Bible portrays God is part of this projection. Our attack on God is now part of the thought system we hold in our own minds. This is the thought system of attack. It is based on the belief that the original attack got us something we wanted. Now we see value in attack. We see the world as attacking us, but the attack we think we see in the world is actually just our own attack thoughts projected out onto the world. These attack thoughts originate in our own minds, but now they seem to be coming at us from the world.
Clearly, we don't want to see ourselves as the attackers and have convinced ourselves that we attack only in self-defense. We see others as attacking us first, and we tell ourselves that we have no choice but to defend ourselves. This is how we protect our image as innocent bystanders who would never initiate an attack. However, this is just a myth because ideas do not leave their source and the source of every attack always starts in our own minds. Jesus exposes this whole thought system to us, so the ego can be seen for what it is---simply a belief in the mind that we have given power. Without this understanding, we would not see the origin of our attack thoughts and their consequences. We would stay caught in the myth of our false innocence and belief in victimhood, while never seeing the source of the problem in our own minds and therefore never addressing it where it is. The ego has us focus on seeing our problems as originating in the world where they can never be solved. The answer is in our own minds and released by bringing awareness to our thoughts and giving them over to the Holy Spirit. When we take responsibility for our attacks, they can be healed. When we blame others, we remain helpless victims of circumstances.
"It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident. No accident nor chance is possible within the universe as God created it, outside of which is nothing. Suffer, and you decided sin was your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide for God for you." (T.21.II.3.1-6) (ACIM OE T.21.III.17)
When we chose to identify with the body and the ego, we chose self-interest as our primary goal. Meeting our needs at the expense of others underlies all of our actions. However, we want to appear like the well-intentioned good guy, doing the best we can in an ill-intentioned world. While acting in a civilized way, we ultimately want our way, which means winning at someone else’s expense. Our real motives are kept hidden, even from ourselves. They are well defended and reflected in the image that we hide behind, which Jesus calls our "face of innocence." By wanting to appear innocent, we cover over the enraged victim who wants to attack. This is the shadow that we turn away from but must be willing to look at if we are to heal.
Jesus is showing us that with each attack we make, we reinforce fear. Why? It is because when we attack, we fear retaliation. While we see the purpose of attack as a way to defend and protect ourselves and to get what we want, in reality, all we do with this strategy is to keep the fear firmly ensconced in our minds. While we tell ourselves that we attack to keep ourselves safe from fear, our attack is how we keep the fear, rather than escape from it.
We maintain our image of being good in an attacking world by holding the myth of this "face of innocence." We protect our image by holding beliefs like: "I didn't mean to hurt." "I would never attack if they had not done that to me." "If I do not defend myself, I will be taken advantage of." Yet Jesus says that this is all just a cover-up. When we attack, he says, we mean to hurt, and there are no exceptions to this. "No one attacks without intent to hurt." (W.170.1.1) Even in self-defense, where we think we are trying to make ourselves safe, we are basically saying that our safety comes from cruelty. We think we can free ourselves, get our needs met, and gratify our desires through attack.
Jesus is exposing this "face of innocence." When we are able to see how it has all been set up, we become motivated to change it so we can know our true innocence. The belief we hold that we had no choice but to attack is seen as a ruse for our desire to attack. We think that if we don't defend, which is the same as attack, then we will be attacked by others; however, in perfect Oneness, there can be no attack. How can one mind attack itself?
Attack and defense are all about putting our needs ahead of others and trying to justify our position that we had no choice but to do what we did. There is no way to paint our attacks in a pretty way. Attack is the cornerstone of the whole ego thought system, all of which started with the belief that attack got us something that we wanted. This thought system originated in the belief that we won the battle with God, gaining our independence at His expense, and now we think we are free from Him. We have taken His place on the throne, and now we believe we hold the position of ruler of our kingdom.
This Lesson reminds me of Lesson 160, "I am at home. Fear is the stranger here." (W.160) In both Lessons, it is clear that we are asked to remember who we are as a reflection of God, which is Love. What we have made of ourselves is what we have come to believe we are, but it is not the truth. Our true Self is not fearful nor is it cruel. We have been created in the image of God, which is pure love. As long as we think of ourselves as bodies and personalities, we live in a state of fear and believe we need to defend ourselves from all of the evils of the world. Defense thus becomes our way of trying to stay safe, yet we can never find our own freedom by hurting another with our attacks.
We attack because of fear. If we felt perfectly safe and not lacking anything, we would not attack. We have come to believe that to hurt someone else will free us and protect us. We justify the need to do this because of what we perceive someone else has done to us. We retaliate in many ways, including through anger, withdrawal, irritation, resistance, suspicion, seduction, provocation, demands, impulsiveness, jealousy, manipulation, whining and any number of strategies that we believe will get us what we want. "For the god of cruelty takes many forms." (W.170.8.6)
What is helpful is to consider our own preferred ways of attacking and defending ourselves. It is helpful to look at how this plays out in our lives. We can bring our own thought system to awareness and make another choice. When we are willing to see that we are all the same and that we all share the same thought system of the ego and the Holy Spirit, we will see everything expressed in this world as either love or a call for love. It may come in some rather grotesque forms, yet Jesus reminds us that love is the only natural response, regardless of the form of the call. This is obviously quite a challenge for us, which is why it cannot be done by us alone. We need the Holy Spirit. Our mistaken perceptions must be brought to light where they are shifted when we are willing to give them over to the Holy Spirit.
My initial reaction to this Lesson was quite clearly that "I'm not cruel." Yet, when I was willing to take a closer look behind my image of goodness and benign kindness and past my defenses, I could see that there are many ways I use to hurt those around me; and they are all, in fact, forms of cruelty. The dictionary defines cruel as liking to inflict pain and suffering. The Course is uncompromising in calling our hatred what it is and not covering it up with niceties. It describes irritation akin to murder, which may seem far-fetched to us, yet it is the same thing because it is all attack.
Whatever the form of the attack and however we might justify that it was deserved, Jesus tells us that we could never be free ourselves if we hurt anyone else. This is because we are only hurting ourselves when we hurt others. Mind is cause, and the world is effect. Everything must be brought back to the mind. If we knew we were really only hurting ourselves when we attack, we would not do it. We ultimately cannot have our own freedom when we hurt another. All attack does is to further reinforce our own fear. If we felt perfectly safe, we would not attack. We justify our attacks, seeing those outside us as "unreasonable and insan e, " (W.170.6.4) while we are always "merciful and just." (W.170.6.4) We think there is power in attack, but if we look at it dispassionately, we find this "cruel god" (W.170.7.1) is nothing and is, in fact, actually powerless.
"Ideas leave not their source," (W.156.1.3) means attack cannot come from anything outside of us. I know this is a hard thing to accept because we see attack coming at us from outside and seemingly independent of our own thoughts. The ego has set it up this way. The world seems to be the cause and we seem to be at its mercy. Yet the truth is that everything starts in our own minds. The world is just a reflection of our minds. We have turned cause and effect around, seeing the world as cause, and we are its effect. It is not so. While this may seem disconcerting, it is also empowering because it means that all change starts in our own minds. It is the only place where change can be made.
As long as we are in the process of learning to undo our fear, we will manifest opportunities in the world to learn this. We will have people in our lives to teach us about what is unhealed in our minds, and instead of attacking them and seeing them as enemies, we can learn to use all the situations, people, and events in our lives, as opportunities to forgive. Our immediate concern is that we will then become "doormats" for abuse. The god of cruelty in our minds tells us that we must be foolish to listen to what Jesus is telling us. It tells us that we are naive if we choose to refrain from attacking to protect ourselves. It is this cruel god who mocks us for being some kind of spiritual hero. There is no question that we can and must take certain actions in the world by dealing with people and situations that confront us. We must do what is necessary, but we can still do it while focusing our attention on our purpose, which is to heal our minds of attack thoughts through forgiveness. The world thus becomes a valuable backdrop for this purpose and will become a witness to our choice to forgive.
Our only real safety and protection is love. There are many beautiful examples of love as protection in autobiographies I have read, including the story of Peace Pilgrim who responded to attacks with love and in doing so experienced divine protection. She tells of one incident where she was picked up by someone whose intention was to rape her. Yet when he saw how she felt totally safe in his presence, curled up asleep next to him in the car and totally trusting him, he confessed later that her trust in him made it impossible for him to do anything to hurt her. Until we have had an experience of this kind of innocent perception, we have a hard time believing in its power. This is why the Lesson says, "This moment can be terrible. But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery." (W.170.8.1-2) To think about giving up the things we think protect us can be a terrifying moment. It is a moment when we feel very vulnerable when we choose trust instead of attack. We are told in this Lesson that we need to realize love is our only real protection. It holds all of the power that we had given to fear.
The moment of terror is when there is a realization the enemy is not outside us but within. We are horrified at this, but "Today we look upon this cruel god dispassionately." (W.170.7.1) Looking at the ego is what forgiveness is all about. Looking dispassionately means looking without emotion and without guilt. We simply become curious about what we are thinking and feeling and learn to investigate what is going on in us. We may even smile at the silliness of the ego, which has no power. It is indeed a cruel god, keeping us in bondage only as long as we still believe in it. When we see it for what it is, we truly can laugh at it.
We have invested much in our defenses, and we will continue to do so as long as we believe they protect us. To believe we can throw away our sword and shield, which is what love tells us to do, sounds dangerous. We don’t see safety in our vulnerability. We think vulnerability is weak. Yet we are reminded, "If I defend myself I am attacked." (W.135) It is a matter of trust, and to get to this place, we go through the development of trust as described in the Manual for Teachers. Many of these stages seem to be painful. Yet this is only because we resist the lesson in front of us. As we are released from the bondage of our egos through forgiveness, we will see more and more how attack is only hurting ourselves. When Jesus says , "Next, are the attributes of love bestowed upon its 'enemy', " (W.170.5.1) he is saying that we turn to our specialness for our safety instead of relying on the protection of God. Love is actually our only sure safety and protection, but we are giving the attributes of love to fear, which is our propensity when we try to control everything in our lives.
We can never find solace in the ego. It is not our friend. It wants us dead while it wants to maintain its own "life." When we are upset, we turn to the ego for comfort, and it is happy to offer us no end of distractions. Whether it be food, television, sex, shopping, special love, or fantasies, it is all the same and all intended to keep us rooted in the illusion. While love is our true solace, it is now endowed with the attributes of fear.
Love feels like fear because it is asking us to lay down our defenses, and now we feel weak and defenseless. Jesus says that cruelty then becomes our god because we think our protection and safety lie in attack and cruelty. Since we see it as a god, we don't question it. We simply follow its dictates. We need to be attentive to which voice we are listening to when we believe in our vulnerability. When we tell ourselves not to get too close to someone, as we may get hurt, it is a form of protection. When we punish others for hurting us, we are keeping ourselves separate. When we justify our demands of others, we are listening to the voice of the ego.
Today, let us look at our belief that fear can protect us and question this belief. The truth is: We are invulnerable and cannot be hurt. We are as God created us. There is no death. I am not a body I am free---an eternal being of light and love. That is the foundation for letting go of our attacks and increasingly coming to accept, "There is no cruelty in God and none in me." (W.170) To come to this realization requires watching our minds and bringing our fear thoughts and thoughts of attack to the Holy Spirit, rather than defending them, covering them over, and pretending that they are not there. We must not crucify ourselves for holding these thoughts, as healing comes when we are willing to look at these thoughts without judgment. The Holy Spirit can then bring the miracle.
When we perceive ourselves as cruel and others as cruel, we are saying that God is cruel. Ideas leave not their source, and we are still an idea in the Mind of God. This is what Jesus reminds us of in the final prayer. "Father, we are like You. No cruelty abides in us, for there is none in You. Your peace is ours. And we bless the world with what we have received from You alone." (W.170.13.1-4)
Jesus reminds us that we can choose again, and when we do, we make this choice for all of our brothers because they are One with us. Today is a day of gratitude for our brothers, for it is in them that we find our completion. Our closeness to God is our closeness to our brothers. It is here that our healing will take place, as we see our own attacks in them and take responsibility for them. Thus, we can see our brothers' innocence and know our own.

Love and blessings, Sarah


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