"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles
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CHAPTER 17
Forgiveness and Healing

I. Introduction

1 The betrayal of the Son of God lies only in illusions, and all his "sins" are but his own imagining. His reality is forever sinless. He need not be forgiven, but awakened. In his dreams he has betrayed himself, his brothers, and his God. Yet what is done in dreams has not been really done. It is impossible to convince the dreamer that this is so, for dreams are what they are because of their illusion of reality. Only in waking is the full release from them, for only then does it become perfectly apparent that they had no effect on reality at all and did not change it. Fantasies change reality. That is their purpose. They cannot do so in reality, but they can do so in the mind that would have reality different.

2 It is, then, only your wish to change reality that is fearful, because by your wish you think you have accomplished what you wish. This strange position in a sense acknowledges your power. Yet by distorting it and devoting it to "evil," it also makes it unreal. You cannot be faithful to two masters who ask of you conflicting things. What you use in fantasy, you deny to truth. Yet what you give to truth to use for you is safe from fantasy.

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CHAPTER 17
Forgiveness and Healing

II. Fantasy and Distorted Perception

3 When you maintain that there must be order of difficulty in miracles, all you mean is that there are some things you would withhold from truth. You believe that truth cannot deal with them only because you would keep them from truth. Very simply, your lack of faith in the power that heals all pain arises from your wish to retain some aspects of reality for fantasy. If you but realized what this must do to your appreciation of the whole! What you reserve unto yourself, you take away from Him Who would release you. Unless you give it back, it is inevitable that your perspective on reality be warped and uncorrected.

4 As long as you would have it so, so long will the illusion of order of difficulty in miracles remain with you. For you have established this order in reality by giving some of it to one teacher and some to another. And so you learn to deal with part of truth in one way and in another way the other part. To fragment truth is to destroy it by rendering it meaningless. Orders of reality is a perspective without understanding, a frame of reference for reality to which it cannot really be compared at all.

5 Think you that you can bring truth to fantasy and learn what truth means from the perspective of illusions? Truth has no meaning in illusion. The frame of reference for its meaning must be itself. When you try to bring truth to illusions, you are trying to make illusions real and keep them by justifying your belief in them. But to give illusions to truth is to enable truth to teach that the illusions are unreal and thus enable you to escape from them. Reserve not one idea aside from truth, or you establish orders of reality which must imprison you. There is no order in reality because everything there is true.

6 Be willing, then, to give all you have held outside the truth to Him who knows the truth and in Whom all is brought to truth. [Salvation from separation will be complete or will be not at all.] Be not concerned with anything except your willingness to have this be accomplished. He will accomplish it; not you. But forget not this: When you become disturbed and lose your peace of mind because another is attempting to solve his problems through fantasy, you are refusing to forgive yourself for just this same attempt. And you are holding both of you away from truth and from salvation. As you forgive him, you restore to truth what was denied by both of you. And you will see forgiveness where you have given it.

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CHAPTER 17
Forgiveness and Healing

III. The Forgiven World

7 Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you? In no fantasy have you ever seen anything so lovely. Nothing you see here, sleeping or waking, comes near to such loveliness. And nothing will you value like unto this nor hold so dear. Nothing that you remember that made your heart seem to sing with joy has ever brought you even a little part of the happiness this sight will bring you. For you will see the Son of God. You will behold the beauty which the Holy Spirit loves to look upon and which He thanks the Father for. He was created to see this for you until you learn to see it for yourself. And all His teaching leads to seeing it and giving thanks with Him.

8 This loveliness is not a fantasy. It is the real world, bright and clean and new with everything sparkling under the open sun. Nothing is hidden here, for everything has been forgiven, and there are no fantasies to hide the truth. The bridge between that world and this is so little and so easy to cross that you could not believe it is the meeting place of worlds so different. Yet this little bridge is the strongest thing that touches on this world at all. This little step, so small it has escaped your notice, is a stride through time into eternity and beyond all ugliness into beauty that will enchant you and will never cease to cause you wonderment at its perfection.

9 This step, the smallest ever taken by anything, is still the greatest accomplishment of all in God's plan of Atonement. All else is learned, but this is given, complete and wholly perfect. No one but Him Who planned salvation could complete it thus. The real world, in its loveliness, you learn to reach. Fantasies are all undone, and no one and nothing remains still bound by them, and by your own forgiveness, you are free to see. Yet what you see is only what you have made, with the blessing of your forgiveness on it. And with this final blessing of God's Son upon himself, the real perception, born of the new perspective he has learned, has served its purpose.

10 The stars will disappear in light, and the sun which opened up the world to beauty will vanish. Perception will be meaningless when it has been perfected, for everything that has been used for learning will have no function. Nothing will ever change; no shifts nor shadings, no differences, no variations which made perception possible will occur. The perception of the real world will be so short that you will barely have time to thank God for it. For God will take the last step swiftly when you have reached the real world and have been made ready for Him.

11 The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness. The Great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it. In the light of the real reason which He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you that there is no reason here at all. Each spot His reason touches grows alive with beauty, and what seemed ugly in the darkness of your lack of reason is suddenly released to loveliness. Not even what the Son of God made in insanity could be without a hidden spark of beauty which gentleness could release.

12 All this beauty will rise to bless your sight as you look upon the world with forgiving eyes. For forgiveness literally transforms vision and lets you see the real world reaching quietly and gently across chaos and removing all illusions which had twisted your perception and fixed it on the past. The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder and a blade of grass a sign of God's perfection. From the forgiven world, the Son of God is lifted easily into his home. And there he knows that he has always rested there in peace. Even salvation will become a dream and vanish from his mind. For salvation is the end of dreams and with the closing of the dream will have no meaning. Who awake in Heaven could dream that there could ever be need of salvation?

13 How much do you want salvation? It will give you the real world, trembling with readiness to be given you. The eagerness of the Holy Spirit to give you this is so intense He would not wait, although He waits in patience. Meet His patience with your impatience at delay in meeting Him. Go out in gladness to meet with your Redeemer and walk with him in trust out of this world and into the real world of beauty and forgiveness.

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Part I
Introduction to Lessons 181 - 200

1 Our next few lessons make a special point of firming up your willingness to make your weak commitment strong, your scattered goals blend into one intent. You are not asked for total dedication all the time, as yet. But you are asked to practice now in order to attain the sense of peace such unified commitment will bestow, if only intermittently. It is experiencing this which makes it sure that you will give your total willingness to following the way the course sets forth.

2 Our lessons now are geared specifically to widening horizons and direct approaches to the special blocks which keep your vision narrow and too limited to let you see the value of our goal. We are attempting now to lift these blocks, however briefly. Words alone can not convey the sense of liberation which their lifting brings. But the experience of freedom and of peace that comes as you give up your tight control of what you see speaks for itself. Your motivation will be so intensified that words become of little consequence. You will be sure of what you want and what is valueless.

3 And so we start our journey beyond words by concentrating first on what impedes our progress still. Experience of what exists beyond defensiveness remains beyond achievement while it is denied. It may be there, but you cannot accept its presence. So we now attempt to go past all defenses for a little while each day. No more than this is asked because no more than this is needed. It will be enough to guarantee the rest will come.

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Lesson 188
The peace of God is shining in me now.

1 Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now. Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. The light came with you from your native home and stayed with you because it is your own. It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. It shines in you because it lights your home and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home.

2 This light cannot be lost. Why wait to find it in the future or believe it has been lost already or was never there? It can so easily be looked upon that arguments which prove it is not there become ridiculous. Who can deny the presence of what he beholds in him? It is not difficult to look within, for there all vision starts. There is no sight, be it of dreams or from a truer source, that is not but the shadow of the seen through inward vision. There perception starts, and there it ends. It has no source but this.

3 The peace of God is shining in you now and from your heart extends around the world. It pauses to caress each living thing and leave a blessing with it which remains forever and forever. What it gives must be eternal. It removes all thoughts of the ephemeral and valueless. It brings renewal to all tired hearts and lights all vision as it passes by. All of its gifts are given everyone, and everyone unites in giving thanks to you who give and you who have received.

4 The shining in your mind reminds the world of what it has forgotten, and the world restores the memory to you as well. From you salvation radiates with gifts beyond all measure, given and returned. To you, the giver of the gift, does God Himself give thanks. And in His blessing does the light in you shine brighter, adding to the gifts you have to offer to the world.

5 The peace of God can never be contained. Who recognizes it within himself must give it. And the means for giving it are in his understanding. He forgives because he recognized the truth in him. The peace of God is shining in you now and in all living things. In quietness is it acknowledged universally. For what your inward vision looks upon is your perception of the universe.

6 Sit quietly and close your eyes. The light within you is sufficient. It alone has power to give the gift of sight to you. Exclude the outer world and let your thoughts fly to the peace within. They know the way. For honest thoughts, untainted by the dream of worldly things outside yourself, become the holy messengers of God Himself. These thoughts you think with Him. They recognize their home. And they point surely to their Source where God the Father and the Son are one.

7 God's peace is shining on them, but they must remain with you as well, for they were born within your mind as yours was born in God's. They lead you back to peace from where they came but to remind you how you must return. They heed your Father's Voice when you refuse to listen. And they urge you gently to accept His Word for what you are instead of fantasies and shadows. They remind you that you are the co-creator of all things that live. For as the peace of God is shining in you, it must shine on them.

8 We practice coming nearer to the light in us today. We take our wandering thoughts and gently bring them back to where they fall in line with all the thoughts we share with God. We will not let them stray. We let the light within our minds direct them to come home. We have betrayed them, ordering that they depart from us. But now we call them back and wash them clean of strange desires and disordered wishes. We restore to them the holiness of their inheritance.

9 Thus are our minds restored with them, and we acknowledge that the peace of God still shines in us and from us to all living things that share our life. We will forgive them all, absolving all the world of what we thought it did to us. For it is we who make the world as we would have it. Now we choose that it be innocent, devoid of sin, and open to salvation. And we lay our saving blessing on it as we say:

10 The peace of God is shining in me now. Let all things shine upon me in that peace, and let me bless them with the light in me.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 188
The peace of God is shining in me now.

The focus now is on entering the holy instant. It is to experience moments of stillness and a withdrawal from the world into the quiet center of the mind. Only in the holy instant do we have the experience of deep peace. What is needed to come to this experience is for us to look at our blocks to love reflected in all our judgments and attitudes toward others. In releasing them, we experience the reflection of Heaven. It is a feeling of deep peace and a sense of being at home. It requires a willingness to take responsibility for our thoughts and a recognition that everything we perceive starts within our own minds.
 
The world is a projection of the guilt in our wrong minds. When the blocks to love are healed, the love in us extends from our heart to everyone. "It pauses to caress each living thing, and leaves a blessing with it that remains forever and forever. What it gives must be eternal. It removes all thoughts of the ephemeral and valueless. It brings renewal to all tired hearts, and lights all vision as it passes by. All of its gifts are given everyone, and everyone unites in giving thanks to you who give, and you who have received." (W.188.3.2-6) Now the gifts we give are returned to us ". . . beyond all measure." (W.188.4.2)
 
How we know whether we have chosen the ego or the Holy Spirit comes from what we perceive. Jesus says, "It is not difficult to look within, for there all vision starts." (W.188.2.5) Yet the ego tells us not to look within. It says that all is dark there, and God will destroy us because of the sin in us. So, we are afraid to go there. "Loudly the ego tells you not to look inward, for if you do your eyes will light on sin, and God will strike you blind. This you believe, and so you do not look." (T.21.IV.2.3-4) (ACIM OE T.21.V.42) As a result of this belief that we hold, we feel safer in our distractions. Yet when we are willing to look at these false beliefs, we can go beyond them to the light. That light is already in us, blocked by our dark thoughts. Willingness is required to go beyond our defenses. We set up defenses against the love we are because of our fear of God. When we are willing to look past our defenses with honesty and courage, it is the beginning of vision.
 
The world is an outward picture of our inward condition. Thus, we can clearly see what we have aligned with, whether it is with the dark thoughts of the ego or with the love of the Holy Spirit. Both the problem and the solution are in our own minds. This is where all healing takes place. What we see with our eyes and take in with our ears and other senses is designed to deceive us that there is actually a world out there, acting on us. But the world is in our own minds. Everything we see starts and ends there. That is what is beautiful about this process because all power is in us. "The power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world." (T.12.VII.9.1) (ACIM OE T.11.VIII.70) Nothing outside of us can take our peace and joy. If we do not feel the peace and joy that are ours, it is because we have chosen the ego thought system of judgment, condemnation, and specialness.
 
We cannot release what we refuse to acknowledge in ourselves. Our beliefs, opinions, concepts, values, and thoughts are what we need to acknowledge as keeping us from love, as we are tempted to deny or project our guilt onto others. It is important to resist this temptation if we are to heal what stands in the way of the love we are. "Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all." (W.188.1.4) It is not light we need to seek because we already have it. To find this light, simply look within. It is not about struggling with the ego or struggling against our obsessive thoughts. To do so is to give them reality. It is not even about trying "hard" but only about surrendering. It is to give up our way and follow His way.
 
"Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now." (W.188.1.1-3) To seek for a future state of enlightenment is what many of us try to do, yet this is precisely what keeps it at bay. We are in the past or future and not accepting the present moment. The moment of the holy instant, where there is an authentic knowing that floods our minds, is the moment of knowing that it is all here now. Chasing the goal of enlightenment is just another ego ploy to "seek and do not find." (T.12.V.7.1) (ACIM OE T.11.VI.49)
 
We need to give up control, as everything has already been determined. The end is certain, so what do we do now? The answer is to choose love in every moment. In every circumstance that is in front of us, we can stay aware of our thoughts and choose how to respond, whether from the ego or from the Spirit. Let your life be guided by Love in each moment. No matter what you are facing, keep asking how Love would have you respond to the situation. The Answer is within you. It requires tuning into the Voice of the Holy Spirit. The ego will tend to speak first, but it is never the truth. When we turn to the Holy Spirit, He will always offer His guidance, which is in direct opposition to the ego.
 
If the peace of God is shining in us now, there is nowhere to go to find it and nothing to seek for. It is indeed humorous to seek for the light while covering our eyes, refusing to see it is here now. "Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes." (W.188.1.2) In other words, Jesus says, although we seek it, there is also a part of us keeping it from our awareness. How do we do that? We defend against it by holding it apart from us, believing we will find it some day in the future. "Why wait to find it in the future, or believe it has been lost already, or was never there?" (W.188.2.2) Jesus calls these arguments "ridiculous." (W.188.2.3) "The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own." (W.188.1.6) There is no reason to delay our peace and joy. There is no reason to indulge in the belief that we have to atone for our sins and clean up our act in order to know Heaven. There is no need to suffer any longer. We think it is hard to find and that we need to struggle with our ego. We think that this is a difficult process, but Jesus keeps assuring us that to struggle with the ego is to make it real. Recognition of the light in us is all that is needed. The light is there now. This light cannot be lost. We do not need to try hard to find where it is. We have just forgotten who we are. It is always present, yet we deny its presence.
 
Everything that seems to happen in this illusion can contribute to our journey if given over to the Holy Spirit. Every event, every circumstance, every mistake, and every situation can be seen as an opportunity to release our self-condemnation, self-attacks, and judgments that we project onto the world. None of these things are a reason for guilt. No mistake should be used for crucifying ourselves or others. It is all there for our learning. It is just another opportunity to release our own self-condemnation that we project onto others. "In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, 'My brother, choose again'." (T.31.VIII.3.2) (ACIM OE T.31.VIII.87)
 
Jesus is not denying that we experience difficulty, distress, or perplexity in our lives. We all have a lot of stuff that occupies our thoughts, but all these challenges hamper our spiritual growth if we deny and resist them. As Ken Wapnick writes, in The Healing Power of Kindness, pp.38-39: "Rather than feel guilty, angry or depressed about a problem--physical or psychological--we need to accept it as a classroom, telling ourselves this is the form in which we will learn what we need to learn: whatever the distress, it is our choosing. This is not because we are neurotic, psychotic or bad, but because we want to prove we are who we are not; that the separated, sinful, and guilty self is real, and our glorious Self an illusion."
 
When you feel discouraged on this journey, do not fight yourself. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is out of place. I recently heard Adyashanti say that the world is "benevolently ruthless." In other words, we all get exactly what we need for our awakening. It can be grace, even though it may look like ruthless grace. Whatever you may think that you have done wrong and whatever you may feel frustrated with or sad about, do not resist it or deny it. It is in the opposition of it that we suffer. Allow yourself to accept wherever you are. Allow yourself to be defeated or discouraged. Experience the feeling, instead of trying to manage or control it. It is about absolute acceptance. The truth is that we are perfect, innocent, complete, and always in the Presence of God's Love, but our minds convince us otherwise. When we accept whatever the situation is in front of us and fully accept what we are feeling, we can immediately turn to the Holy Spirit and open our minds to His interpretation.
 
As long as we hold onto our judgments and grievances and as long as we are unwilling to take responsibility for them, we cannot know the peace of God that is shining in us now. That is why burying, hiding, or avoiding taking responsibility for our dark thoughts keeps them from being purified and washed clean by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, "We have betrayed them, ordering that they depart from us. But now we call them back, and wash them clean of strange desires and disordered wishes. We restore to them the holiness of their inheritance." (W.188.9.5-7) Actually, we do not do that because the ego will never undertake to undo itself. The Holy Spirit does it when we turn our strange desires and disordered wishes over to Him by putting them on the inner altar. This is the miracle. "We will forgive them all, absolving all the world from what we thought it did to us." (W.188.10.2) That is what forgiveness does; it washes away what no longer serves us.
 
"We practice coming nearer to the light in us today. We take our wandering thoughts, and gently bring them back to where they fall in line with all the thoughts we share with God. We will not let them [ our wandering thoughts] stray. We let the light within our minds direct them to come home." (W.188.9.1-4) Today, we practice watching our thoughts by calling them to our attention so they can be washed clean by the Holy Spirit. Thus, they leave room for only God's Thoughts. In the light that has never left us, we find God's peace.
 
Rather than blaming the world, "Now we choose that it be innocent, devoid of sin and open to salvation." (W.188.10.4) We lay our blessing on it today instead of cursing and blaming it for the conditions we have chosen for ourselves. We say, " The peace of God is shining in me now. Let all things shine upon me in that peace, and let me bless them with the light in me. " (W.188.10.6-7)

Love and blessings, Sarah

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