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

CHAPTER 17
Forgiveness and Healing

V. Perception and the Two Worlds

27 God established His relationship with you to make you happy, and nothing you do which does not share His purpose can be real. The purpose God ascribed to anything is its only function. Because of His reason for creating His relationship with you, the function of relationships became forever "to make happy." And nothing else . To fulfill this function, you relate to your creations as God to His. For nothing God created is apart from happiness, and nothing God created but would extend happiness as its Creator did. Whatever fulfills this function not cannot be real.

28 In this world it is impossible to create, yet it is possible to make happy. We have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships but would transform them. And by that all that is meant is that He will restore to them the function given them by God. The function you have given them is clearly not to make happy. But the holy relationship shares God's purpose, rather than aiming to make a substitute for it. Every special relationship which you have made is a substitute for God's Will and glorifies yours instead of His because of the delusion that they are different.

29 You have made very real relationships even in this world which you do not recognize simply because you have raised their substitutes to such predominance that when truth calls to you, as it does constantly, you answer with a substitute. Every special relationship which you have ever undertaken has as its fundamental purpose the aim of occupying your minds so completely that you will not hear the call of truth. In a sense the special relationship was the ego's answer to the creation of the Holy Spirit, Who was God's answer to the separation. For although the ego did not understand what had been created, it was aware of threat.

30 The whole defense system which the ego evolved to protect the separation from the Holy Spirit was in response to the gift with which God blessed it and by His blessing enabled it to be healed. This blessing holds within itself the truth about everything. And the truth is that the Holy Spirit is in close relationship with you because in Him is your relationship with God restored to you. The relationship with Him has never been broken because the Holy Spirit has not been separate from anyone since the separation. And through Him have all your holy relationships been carefully preserved to serve God's purpose for you.

31 The ego is hyperalert to threat, and the part of your mind into which the ego was accepted is very anxious to preserve its reason as it sees it. It does not realize that it is totally insane. And you must realize just what this means if you would be restored to sanity. The insane protect their thought systems, but they do so insanely. And all their defenses are as insane as what they are supposed to protect. The separation has nothing in it, no part, no "reason," and no attribute that is not insane. And its "protection" is part of it, as insane as the whole. The special relationship, which is its chief defense, must therefore be insane.

32 You have but little difficulty now in realizing that the thought system which the special relationship protects is but a system of delusions. You recognize, at least in general terms, that the ego is insane. Yet the special relationship still seems to you somehow to be "different." Yet we have looked at it far closer than at many other aspects of the ego's thought system which you have been more willing to let go. While this one remains, you will not let the others go. For this one is not different. Retain this one, and you have retained the whole.

33 It is essential to realize that all defenses do what they would defend . The underlying basis for their effectiveness is that they offer what they defend. What they defend is placed in them for safekeeping, and as they operate, they bring it to you. Every defense operates by giving gifts, and the gift is always a miniature of the thought system the defense protects, set in a golden frame. The frame is very elaborate, all set with jewels and deeply carved and polished. Its purpose is to be of value in itself and to divert your attention from what it encloses. But the frame without the picture you cannot have. Defenses operate to make you think you can.

34 The special relationship has the most imposing and deceptive frame of all the defenses the ego uses. Its thought system is offered here, surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure. Into the frame are woven all sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions of love, set with dreams of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement and interlaced with gilded threads of self-destruction. The glitter of blood shines like rubies, and the tears are faceted like diamonds and gleam in the dim light in which the offering is made.

35 Look at the picture. Do not let the frame distract you. This gift is given you for your damnation, and if you take it, you will believe that you are damned. You cannot have the frame without the picture. What you value is the frame, for there you see no conflict. Yet the frame is only the wrapping for the gift of conflict. The frame is not the gift. Be not deceived by the most superficial aspects of this thought system, for these aspects enclose the whole, complete in every aspect. Death lies in this glittering gift. Let not your gaze dwell on the hypnotic gleaming of the frame. Look at the picture, and realize that death is offered you.

36 That is why the holy instant is so important in the defense of truth. The truth itself needs no defense, but you do need defense against your own acceptance of the gift of death. When you who are truth accept an idea so dangerous to truth, you threaten truth with destruction. And your defense must now be undertaken to keep truth whole. The power of Heaven, the love of God, the tears of Christ, and the joy of His eternal Spirit are marshaled to defend you from your own attack. For you attack Them, being part of Them, and They must save you, for They love Themselves.

37 The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent you from Heaven. It is a picture, too, set in a frame. Yet if you accept this gift, you will not see the frame at all because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture . The holy instant is a miniature of eternity. It is a picture of timelessness, set in a frame of time. If you focus on the picture, you will realize that it was only the frame that made you think it was a picture. Without the frame, the picture is seen as what it represents. For as the whole thought system of the ego lies in its gifts, so the whole of Heaven lies in this instant, borrowed from eternity and set in time for you.

38 Two gifts are offered you. Each is complete and cannot be partially accepted. Each is a picture of all that you can have, seen very differently. You cannot compare their value by comparing a picture to a frame. It must be the pictures only that you compare, or the comparison is wholly without meaning. Remember that it is the picture that is the gift. And only on this basis are you really free to choose. Look at the pictures. Both of them. One is a tiny picture, hard to see at all beneath the heavy shadows of its enormous and disproportionate enclosure. The other is lightly framed and hung in light, lovely to look upon for what it is .

39 You who have tried so hard and are still trying to fit the better picture into the wrong frame and so combine what cannot be combined, accept this and be glad: these pictures are each framed perfectly for what they represent. One is framed to be out of focus and not seen. The other is framed for perfect clarity. The picture of darkness and of death grows less convincing as you search it out amid its wrappings. As each senseless stone which seems to shine in darkness from the frame is exposed to light, it becomes dull and lifeless and ceases to distract you from the picture. And finally you look upon the picture itself, seeing at last that, unprotected by the frame, it has no meaning.

40 The other picture is lightly framed, for time cannot contain eternity. There is no distraction here. The picture of Heaven and eternity grows more convincing as you look at it. And now by real comparison a transformation of both pictures can at last occur. And each is given its rightful place, when both are seen in relation to each other. The dark picture brought to light is not perceived as fearful, but the fact that it is just a picture is brought home at last. And what you see there, you will recognize as what it is—a picture of what you thought was real and nothing more. For beyond this picture, you will see nothing.

41 The picture of light, in clear cut and unmistakable contrast, is transformed into what lies beyond the picture. As you look on this, you realize that it is not a picture but a reality . This is no figured representation of a thought system, but the Thought Itself. What it represents is there. The frame fades gently, and God rises to your remembrance, offering you the whole of creation in exchange for your little picture, wholly without value and entirely deprived of meaning.

42 As God ascends into His rightful place and you to yours, you will experience again the meaning of relationship and know it to be true. Let us ascend in peace together to the Father by giving Him ascendance in our minds. We will gain everything by giving Him the power and the glory and keeping no illusions of where they are. They are in us through His ascendance. What He has given is His . It shines in every part of Him as in the whole. The whole reality of your relationship with Him lies in our relationship to one another. The holy instant shines alike on all relationships, for in it they are one. For here is only healing, already complete and perfect. For here is God, and where He is, only the perfect and complete can be.

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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 191
I am the holy Son of God Himself.

1 Here is your declaration of release from bondage of the world. And here as well is all the world released. You do not see what you have done by giving to the world the role of jailer to the Son of God. What could it be but vicious and afraid, fearful of shadows, punitive and wild, lacking all reason, blind, insane, and sad?

2 What have you done that this should be your world? What have you done that this is what you see? Deny your own identity, and this is what remains. You look on chaos and proclaim it as yourself. There is no sight that fails to witness this to you. There is no sound that does not speak of frailty within you and without, no breath you draw that does not seem to bring you nearer death, no hope you hold but will dissolve in tears.

3 Deny your own identity, and you will not escape the madness which induced this weird, unnatural, and ghostly thought which mocks creation and which laughs at God. Deny your own identity, and you assail the universe alone, without a friend, a tiny particle of dust against the legions of your enemies. Deny your own identity and look on evil, sin, and death. And watch despair snatch from your fingers every scrap of hope, leaving you nothing but the wish to die.

4 Yet what is it except a game you play in which identity can be denied? You are as God created you. All else but this one thing is folly to believe. In this one thought is everything set free. In this one truth are all illusions gone. In this one fact is sinlessness proclaimed to be forever part of everything, the central core of its existence, and its guarantee of immortality.

5 But let today's idea find a place among your thoughts, and you have risen far above the world and all the worldly thoughts that hold it prisoner. And from this place of safety and escape, you will return and set it free. For he who can accept his true identity is truly saved. And his salvation is the gift he gives to everyone in gratitude to Him Who pointed out the way to happiness that changed his whole perception of the world.

6 One holy thought like this, and you are free; you are the holy Son of God Himself. And with this holy thought, you learn as well that you have freed the world. You have no need to use it cruelly and then perceive this savage need in it. You set it free of your imprisonment. You will not see a devastating image of yourself walking the world in terror with the world twisting in agony because your fears have laid the mark of death upon its heart.

7 Be glad today how very easily is hell undone. You need but tell yourself:

8 I am the holy Son of God Himself. I cannot suffer, cannot be in pain; I cannot lose, nor can I fail to do
All that salvation asks.

9 And in that thought is everything you look on wholly changed.

10 A miracle has lighted up all dark and ancient caverns where the rites of death echoed since time began. For time has lost its hold upon the world. The Son of God has come in glory to redeem the lost, to save the helpless, and to give the world the gift of his forgiveness. Who could see the world as dark and sinful when God's Son has come again at last to set it free?

11 You who perceive yourself as weak and frail, with futile hopes and devastated dreams, born but to die, to weep, and suffer pain, hear this: all power is given you in earth and Heaven. There is nothing that you cannot do. You play the game of death, of being helpless, pitifully tied to dissolution in a world which shows no mercy to you. Yet when you accord it mercy will its mercy shine on you.

12 Then let the Son of God awaken from his sleep, and opening his holy eyes return again to bless the world he made. In error it began. But it will end in the reflection of his holiness. And he will sleep no more and dream of death. Then join with me today. Your glory is the light that saves the world. Do not withhold salvation longer. Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?

13 They must await your own release. They stay in chains till you are free. They cannot see the mercy of the world until you find it for yourself. They suffer pain until you have denied its hold on you. They die till you accept your own eternal life. You are the holy Son of God Himself. Remember this, and all the world is free. Remember this, and earth and Heaven are one.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 191
I am the holy Son of God Himself.

There is a sense of urgency in this Lesson, but it is not to make us feel bad about where we believe we are now. Jesus is only encouraging us not to delay our happiness. He makes a strong plea for our release so we can release our brothers and sisters. Our brothers and sisters are released when our minds are released because there is only one holy Son of God. We have imprisoned the mind as a result of our belief in sin and guilt that we project onto the world, and now we see the world as imprisoning us. We don’t think of ourselves as the holy Son of God because we have denied our own identity, choosing instead to align with the ego mind. We think that the only holy Son is Jesus. Yet in the Course, Jesus says that he is our elder brother, who took this journey we are now taking, and thus he can show us the way. He showed us by his resurrection that we are not bodies but eternal, spiritual beings. He demonstrated the invulnerability that is ours as well, given us in our creation. Jesus says he is no different than we are, and where he is, we are too, as we have the same nature.
 
When we awaken from this dream, we too will realize that we have all power (W.191.9.1) and have had it all along. It has always been with us. "There is nothing that you cannot do." (W.191.9.2) Jesus is relying on us to escape from this hell that we have made; (W.191.7.1) and when we are released, everyone will be released with us. How can they not when the world is just a dream projected from our minds?
 
Jesus is helping us to release the dream we are dreaming. By turning to him for help, rather than worshiping him, which he asks us not to do, we can reclaim our own identity that is the same as his. We do this by giving him the thoughts that block our awareness of who we are as God's holy Son. This means we are called to look at the thoughts that we are holding of shame, anger, betrayal, embarrassment, grievance, victimhood, specialness, jealousy, competition, need, lack, desire, and any other self-attacking thought that blocks our realization of the Self we are. He asks us to lay our thoughts of guilt and shame at his feet. To do so, we must be honest and have the courage to look behind our defenses.
 
The thoughts we hold in the mind are projected onto the world and mirror a world that is chaotic in which we feel cast about by events we can’t control and where we see evidence of our frailty, sadness, hopelessness, disappointments, and ultimately death. "There is no sound that does not speak of frailty within you and without; no breath you draw that does not seem to bring you nearer death; no hope you hold but will dissolve in tears." (W.191.2.6)
 
"What have you done that this should be your world? What have you done that this is what you see?" (W.191.2.1-2) We have denied our reality as the Son of God, and now, what we see around us is a witness to the chaos within. We have chosen to identify with the ego and with that choice, we see ourselves as more powerful than God. The mind is powerful and has made a choice to believe it is now an individual body and personality, living in a world of bodies. We can choose to be unaware of what we are, but we can’t change the truth of who we really are.
 
When we look at the world, it reflects a denial of our magnificence. The world reflects back to us our judgments, fears, and chaotic thinking. Is it any wonder that in this closed system, and after a lifetime in a world that keeps reinforcing our ego thoughts, it is hard to believe we are anything but what we have come to think of ourselves---as a body and personality? We certainly don’t think of ourselves as the holy Son of God, but this seeming bondage we experience in this world can’t hold us. Today, we declare our release. "For he who can accept his true Identity is truly saved. And his salvation is the gift he gives to everyone, in gratitude to Him Who pointed out the way to happiness that changed his whole perspective of the world." (W.191.5.3-4)
 
Jesus pleads with us to join with him in the holy instant where he is. Outside of this dream, the memory of who we are can be found. He is in our minds and pleads with us to leave the darkness for a while so we can have some respite and recall our holiness. He asks that we rise above the world and "all the worldly thoughts that hold it prisoner." (W.191.5.1) We hold ourselves prisoner when we pursue idols of specialness that we think will bring us what we want in the dream. He wants us to see that they bring us nothing but despair. The ego tells us, while we have not yet understood the right combination of events for our happiness, if we just keep on looking, maybe one day we will find that combination. Perhaps a different home, a new relationship, another job, or more money would bring us what we want. However, seeking for substitutes that we believe will make us happy binds us to the illusion and keeps us in a state of despair, as we keep seeking for what we will never find in idols.
 
When we see the world as a classroom for healing instead of a place to fulfill our dreams that can never be fulfilled, everything in our lives becomes a backdrop to expose the mind through simple honesty. Now, nothing that happens is seen as good or bad but only as a curriculum to show us what is in the mind, all to be given over to the Holy Spirit. Look at your life with Him, who offers us His help so we can look at our dark thoughts without condemnation. He is a symbol of God's love in our minds.
 
If I am feeling insecure, fearful, unworthy, needy, angry, full of pride, and special, I need to look at what I am holding in my mind without condemning myself. I need to look without analyzing or judging myself. The thoughts I hold about myself are not what I am. They may take up only one percent of my mind, but this is the part the ego has claimed---the part with which I identify. This little corner of the mind we keep away from our grandeur, and instead we "keep it as a hospital for pain; a sickly place where living things must come at last to die." (W.190.6.6) We think that this small part is what defines us because this image of ourselves is reinforced by the world. The world is now seen as the cause of what we are, yet only our own minds are the cause. We have reversed cause and effect. We are the ones who have used the world cruelly to meet our needs, all the while projecting responsibility onto the world for treating us badly. Because we prefer to see the cruelty in the world, rather than within ourselves, we think that in this way we can maintain our innocence.
 
To heal and awaken, we need to learn to look at the ego mind without fear. Any uncertainty or confusion that arises needs to be looked at in the same way. When we are looking at our thoughts in this way, we are looking with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Who hold the lamp so we can look at the darkness. It is not what we are. We don’t need to seek for what is true, but only for the false, which are all the thoughts we hold that block the truth. When we can look at our thoughts without fear, healing can take place. To look at our thoughts is to allow everything to be brought to awareness without telling stories about the meaning of these thoughts and emotions nor to deny or justify them. We don’t need to try to be compassionate or loving because that is the very nature of our minds. What we need to do is relinquish our investment in the thoughts that block the love and compassion in us. When the blocks are put on the altar, "All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing." (T.5.IV.8.2) (ACIM OE T.5.VI.58) That is the outcome of forgiveness.
 
This Lesson describes us as small, fragile beings who are here for a short while, assailed by the world, only to be rewarded at the end by death. It is a pretty discouraging picture of "life." When we align with the ego, we believe we are guilty and victims of this world. Of course, the ego can't afford for us to see the world as bleakly as described in this Lesson, so it throws in some special love relationships and dreams and hopes and small pleasures to keep us believing there is a possibility of true happiness in the world. Then, we resent the world for shattering our dreams, and we blame ourselves, or others, for having kept us from the happiness we have been seeking in the world. Denial of our true reality has kept us in this prison. Now we are called to forgive the world and everyone in it for what it did not do to us.
 
By accepting who we really are, we release ourselves and our brothers from the bondage of the world. We become a demonstration of the choice for peace. Others will be attracted to the peace they see in us and will choose it for themselves. We offer the world mercy (W.191.9.4) so its mercy will shine on us. We can't just look at the suffering of others and say it does not matter because it is all an illusion. While it is an illusion, we are not currently experiencing it this way, and therefore, we must not deny our experience.
 
We are called to join with Jesus today. (W.191.10.4) He tells us,  "Your glory is the light that saves the world." (W.191.10.5) "Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?" (W.191.10.8) How willing are we? How important have we made this goal for ourselves? How big is our commitment to do this healing work? "There is nothing that you cannot do." (W.191.9.2) The power is in us to make this choice. "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)
 
We keep ourselves in hell when we hold grievances and forget that we are the ones dreaming the dream. How small are the events that can disturb us! How insignificant are our complaints! Yet the ego hangs onto them like a dog with a bone! "I am the holy Son of God Himself. I cannot suffer, cannot be in pain; I cannot suffer loss, nor fail to do all that salvation asks." (W.191.7.3-4) Do we believe this? Perhaps not yet, but it is the truth because we were created holy.
 
Jesus says that much of our time is spent in playing "the game of death, of being helpless, pitifully tied to dissolution in a world which shows no mercy to you." (W.191.9.3) It is a game of victimhood. We tell pitiful tales of our lives and take these stories so seriously, believing we will then be seen as innocent victims of what others have done to us. It is a role we play in this dream, and we want others to sympathize with us. "This sickly picture of yourself is carefully preserved by the ego, whose image it is and which it loves, and placed outside you in the world. And to this world must you adjust as long as you believe this picture is outside, and has you at its mercy." (T.20.III.5.6-7) (ACIM OE T.20.IV.20) He goes on to say that if this were indeed the merciless world outside of us, then we should be fearful, but we are the ones who made it merciless by projecting our own thoughts onto it. Now it can all be corrected when we ask to see through the eyes of Christ instead of our own.
 
We are called to extend mercy and not to look for it in the world. "Yet when you accord it mercy, will its mercy shine on you." (W.191.9.4) That is how we find our way out of this cycle of grievance and retaliation, control and despair, with Jesus showing us there is a way out. In fact, he tells us that hell is easily undone. (W.191.7.1) We just need to truly believe one thought, such as "I am as God created me," (W.94) and not what we have made of ourselves.
 
All of our experiences are helpful, even if we seem to fall into a black hole. I find that when I am experiencing painful situations in my life, they drive me further into this work and motivate me to heal my mind. Don't resist any of it. To resist is to say it should not be happening. The world gives us everything we need for our awakening because our thoughts have brought it all into being. Often, our greatest leaps forward spiritually are made at our most difficult times. These can offer us a certain kind of grace, even if, at the time, the experience feels ruthless. Our greatest advances are often made when we are brought to our knees. Sometimes it seems like that is what it takes. If we see these as opportunities to go deeper into our pain and learn to go past our defenses through deep inquiry, these events truly become huge gifts. When we accept that we don't know how to do any of this on our own anymore, the ego is unhinged, and we reach a true state of humility.
 
We have often talked about the apparent difficulty of trying to understand the Course. When we read a Lesson like this, it seems to be the only one we need in order to be released. Yet because of our resistance, we need the many approaches taken by this Course to undermine the ego thought system and help us to increase our willingness and our desire.
 
We are here to bless. We are here to bring the light of our glory to everyone, and we do it by being willing to be released from our own hell. The world is waiting for each of us to find the mercy in ourselves. To give and to receive are one. In extending kindness and mercy, we are receiving this gift for ourselves.

Love and blessings, Sarah

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