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

The Dream and the Reality

I. Introduction

1 To substitute is to accept instead. If you would but consider exactly what this entails, you would perceive at once how much at variance this is with the goal the Holy Spirit has given you and would accomplish for you. To substitute is to choose between, renouncing one in favor of the other. For this special purpose, one is judged more valuable and the other is replaced by him. The relationship in which the substitution occurred is thus fragmented and its purpose split accordingly. To fragment is to exclude, and substitution is the strongest defense the ego has for separation.

2 The Holy Spirit never uses substitutes. Where the ego perceives one person as a replacement for another, the Holy Spirit sees them joined and indivisible. He does not judge between them, knowing they are one. Being united, they are one because they are the same . Substitution is clearly a process in which they are perceived as different. One would unite; the other separate. Nothing can come between what God has joined and what the Holy Spirit sees as one. But everything seems to come between the fragmented relationships the ego sponsors to destroy.

3 The one emotion in which substitution is impossible is love. Fear involves substitution by definition, for it is love's replacement. Fear is both a fragmented and a fragmenting emotion. It seems to take many forms, and each seems to require a different form of acting out for satisfaction. While this appears to introduce quite variable behavior, a far more serious effect lies in the fragmented perception from which the behavior stems. No one is seen complete. The body is emphasized, with special emphasis on certain parts, and used as the standard for comparison for either acceptance or rejection of suitability for acting out a special form of fear.

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A Course in Miracles

The Dream and the Reality

II. Substitution as a Defense

4 You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. It has taken many forms because it was the substitution of illusion for truth, of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one and still is what it was. That one error, which brought truth to illusion, infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. Your whole world rests upon it. Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship which you have ever made is part of it.

5 You have expressed surprise at hearing how very different is reality from what you see. You do not realize the magnitude of that one error. It was so vast and so completely incredible that from it a world of total unreality had to emerge. What else could come of it? Its fragmented aspects are fearful enough, as you begin to look at them. But nothing you have seen begins to show you the enormity of the original error, which seemed to cast you out of Heaven, to shatter knowledge into meaningless bits of disunited perceptions, and to force you to further substitutions.

6 That was the first projection of error outward. The world arose to hide it and became the screen on which it was projected and drawn between you and the truth. For truth extends inward, where the idea of loss is meaningless and only increase is conceivable. Do you really think it strange that a world in which everything is backwards and upside-down arose from this? [ It was inevitable.] For truth brought to this could only remain within in quiet and take no part in all the mad projection by which this world was made. Call it not sin but madness, for such it was, and so it still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it. When you seem to see some twisted form of the original error rise to frighten you, say only, "God is not fear, but love," and it will disappear.

7 The truth will save you. It has not left you to go out into the mad world and so depart from you. Inward is sanity; insanity is outside you. You but believe it is the other way; that truth is outside and error and guilt within. Your little senseless substitutions, touched with insanity and swirling lightly off on a mad course like feathers dancing insanely in the wind, have no substance. They fuse and merge and separate in shifting and totally meaningless patterns which need not be judged at all. To judge them individually is pointless. Their tiny differences in form are no real differences at all. None of them matters. That they have in common and nothing else. Yet what else is necessary to make them all the same?

8 Let them all go, dancing in the wind, dipping and turning till they disappear from sight, far, far outside you. And turn you to the stately calm within, where in holy stillness dwells the living God you never left and Who never left you. The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections and your wild substitutions which you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason.

9 In your relationship, where He has taken charge of everything at your request, He has set the course inward to the truth you share. In the mad world outside you, nothing can be shared but only substituted, and sharing and substituting have nothing in common in reality. Within yourselves you love each other with a perfect love. Here is holy ground in which no substitution can enter and where only the truth about each other can abide. Here you are joined in God, as much together as you are with Him. The original error has not entered here, nor ever will. Here is the radiant truth to which the Holy Spirit has committed your relationship. Let Him bring it here, where you would have it be. Give Him but a little faith in each other, to help Him show you that no substitute you made for Heaven can keep you from it. In you there is no separation, and no substitute can keep you from each other. Your reality was God's creation and has no substitute.

10 You are so firmly joined in truth that only God is there. And He would never accept something else instead of you. He loves you both, equally and as one. And as He loves you, so you are. You are not joined together in illusions but in the Thought so holy and so perfect that illusions cannot remain to darken the holy place in which you stand together. God is with you, my brothers. Let us join in Him in peace and gratitude and accept His gift as our most holy and perfect reality, which we share in Him.

11 Heaven is restored to all the Sonship through your relationship, for in it lies the Sonship, whole and beautiful, safe in your love. Heaven has entered quietly, for all illusions have been gently brought unto the truth in you and love has shined upon you, blessing your relationship with truth. God and His whole creation have entered it together. How lovely and how holy is your relationship, with the truth shining upon it! Heaven beholds it and rejoices that you have let it come to you. [And God Himself is glad that your relationship is as it was created.] The universe within you stands with you, together. And Heaven looks with love on what is joined in it, along with its Creator.

12 Whom God has called should hear no substitutes. Their call is but an echo of the original error which shattered Heaven. And what became of peace in those who heard? Return with me to Heaven, walking together out of this world and through another to the loveliness and joy the other holds within it. Would you still further weaken and break apart what is already broken and hopeless? Is it here that you would look for happiness? Or would you not prefer to heal what has been broken and join in making whole what has been ravaged by separation and disease?

13 You have been called together to the most holy function that this world contains. It is the only one which has no limits and reaches out to every broken fragment of the Sonship with healing and uniting comfort. This is offered you in your holy relationship. Accept it here, and you will give as you have accepted. The peace of God is given you with the glowing purpose in which you join. The holy light that brought you together must extend, as you accepted it.

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A Course in Miracles

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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A Course in Miracles

Lesson 198
Only my condemnation injures me.

1 Injury is impossible. And yet illusion makes illusion. If you can condemn, you can be injured. For you have believed that you can injure, and the right you have established for yourself can be now used against you till you lay it down as valueless, unwanted, and unreal. Then does illusion cease to have effects, and all it seemed to have will be undone. Then are you free, for freedom is your gift, and you can now receive the gift you gave.

2 Condemn and you are made a prisoner. Forgive and you are freed. Such is the law that rules perception. It is not a law that knowledge understands, for freedom is a part of knowledge. To condemn is thus impossible in truth. What seems to be its influence and its effects have not occurred at all. Yet must we deal with them a while as if they had. Illusion makes illusion. Except one. Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest.

3 Forgiveness sweeps all other dreams away, and though it is itself a dream, it breeds no others. All illusions save this one must multiply a thousand fold. But this is where illusions end. Forgiveness is the end of dreams because it is a dream of waking. It is not itself the truth. Yet does it point to where the truth must be and gives direction with the certainty of God Himself. It is a dream in which the Son of God awakens to his Self and to his Father, knowing They are one.

4 Forgiveness is the only road that leads out of disaster, past all suffering, and finally away from death. How could there be another way, when this one is the plan of God Himself? And why would you oppose it, quarrel with it, seek to find a thousand ways in which it must be wrong, a thousand other possibilities?

5 Is it not wiser to be glad you hold the answer to your problems in your hand? Is it not more intelligent to thank the One Who gives salvation, and accept His gift with gratitude? And is it not a kindness to yourself to hear His Voice and learn the simple lessons He would teach, instead of trying to dismiss His words and substitute your own in place of His?

6 His words will work. His words will save. His words contain all hope, all blessing and all joy that ever can be found upon this earth. His words are born in God, and come to you with Heaven's love upon them. Those who hear His words have heard the song of Heaven, for these are the words which all will merge as one at last. And as this one will fade away, the Word of God will come to take its place, for it will be remembered then and loved.

7 This world has many seeming separate haunts where mercy has no meaning and attack appears as justified. Yet all are one-a place where death is offered to God's Son and to his Father. You may think They have accepted, but if you will look again upon the place where you beheld Their blood, you will perceive a miracle instead.

8 How foolish to believe that They could die! How foolish to believe you can attack! How mad to think that you could be condemned and that the holy Son of God can die! The stillness of your Self remains unmoved, untouched by thoughts like these, and unaware of any condemnation which could need forgiveness. Dreams of any kind are strange and alien to the truth. Yet what but Truth could have a Thought which builds a bridge to truth which brings illusions to the other side?

9 Today we practice letting freedom come to make its home with you. The truth bestows these words upon your mind that you may find the key to light and let the darkness end:

10 Only my condemnation injures me.
 Only my own forgiveness sets me free.

11 Do not forget today that there can be no form of suffering that fails to hide an unforgiving thought. Nor can there be a form of pain forgiveness cannot heal.

12 Accept the one illusion which proclaims there is no condemnation in God's Son, and Heaven is remembered instantly; the world forgotten, all its weird beliefs forgotten with it, as the face of Christ appears unveiled at last in this one dream. This is the gift the Holy Spirit holds for you from God your Father. Let today be celebrated both on earth and in your holy home as well. Be kind to both, as you forgive the trespasses you thought them guilty of, and see your innocence shining upon you from the face of Christ.

13 Now is there silence all around the world. Now is there stillness where before there was a frantic rush of thoughts that made no sense. Now is there tranquil light across the face of earth, made quiet in a dreamless sleep. And now the Word of God alone remains upon it. Only that can be perceived an instant longer. Then are symbols done and everything you ever thought you made completely vanished from the mind which God forever knows to be His only Son.

14 There is no condemnation in him. He is perfect in his holiness. He needs no thoughts of mercy. Who could give him gifts when everything is his? And who could dream of offering forgiveness to the Son of Sinlessness Itself, so like to Him Whose Son he is, that to behold the Son is to perceive no more and only know the Father? In this vision of the Son, so brief that not an instant stands between this single sight and timelessness itself, you see the vision of yourself and then you disappear forever into God.

15 Today we come still nearer to the end of everything that yet would stand between this vision and our sight. And we are glad that we have come this far and recognize that He Who brought us here will not forsake us now. For He would give to us the gift that God has given us through Him today. Now is the time of your deliverance. The time has come. The time has come today.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 198
Only my condemnation injures me.

Once again we see a Lesson that emphasizes our responsibility for what we feel, whether it is gratitude or injury. This Lesson affirms that we are not the victim of this world. In fact, the world can have no power over us, except that which we give it. No one can take our peace away. If we blame anyone for taking our peace, we need to recognize that we have actually chosen to throw it away. We justify our decision to do so by insisting that someone else is responsible for taking it from us. Isn’t it hopeful to know the decision for peace rests with us? The power is in our own minds to choose Heaven or hell. Today, the Lesson is again about forgiveness, but we must remember that we only forgive what has not really happened, meaning we forgive our belief that there is a world outside of our own minds.
When all the blocks to love have been healed through forgiveness, we "perceive no more." (W.198.12.5) God takes the last step to bring us home, where there is only a state of Oneness with our Father. We could experience this now, but we don't because of our fear of our Father's love. Undoing this fear is a process of bringing our blocks to the light. Jesus exhorts us to be content with healing by forgiving all our brothers without exception because that is the way we become attuned to reality. "The Holy Spirit knows your part in the redemption, and who are seeking you and where to find them. Knowledge is far beyond your individual concern." (T.13.VIII.7.3-4) (ACIM OE T.13.II.7) We are to be content with our role in the redemption and not be concerned with goals for which we are not yet ready. We still have guilt to heal. We still have judgments to release or we would not be here. We still value our separation because we still value our existence, our specialness, and our uniqueness. While we still hold onto this image of ourselves, we will resist love. "Now you must learn that only infinite patience produces immediate effects." (T.5.VI.12.1) (ACIM OE T.5.VIII.81)
The guilt we are holding onto is due to our belief that we have sinned in separating from creation in the first place. Sin reminds us that we are separate, and separation affirms that we exist. There would be no existence without it. The end of separation does not depend on time. The end of separation can come today, as it is within our power to choose to end it. How far we open the door depends on how much fear we have. Our fear shows up as resistance. Remember the first Lesson of the Holy Spirit, which is "To have, give all to all." (T.6.V.A.) (ACIM OE T.6.V.a.) It takes us away from trying to get.
As we step onto this path of healing, the door opens to new awareness---though it may just open a crack at first. Conflict comes with this opening because we now hold two opposing thought systems in our minds. We are at the beginning step in reversing the perception of how we have always seen things. Our wrong-minded perceptions are now being turned right-side up. This conflicts with our current way of seeing. Thus, while we want what Holy Spirit has to offer, the conflict becomes more and more acute, as we have one foot in each world. This is painful and disorienting to us. It is like standing with one foot on the dock, while the other is in a boat moving out to the sea. However, when we release our wrong-minded perceptions, we will be easily carried down the river of truth. Our willingness and our desire will determine how quickly we let go of our fear and step into the thought system of the Holy Spirit, where all conflict is resolved. When we have forgiven it all, time will be no more.
Even though the separation did not actually happen and this is all a dream, we are reminded that we have to deal with the illusion as if it has happened. "What seems to be its influence and its effects have not occurred at all. Yet must we deal with them a while as if they had." (W.198.2.6-7) It is true that we are not actually here, but only dreaming our existence. We are not a body; we, therefore, can't be sick and can't die. In fact, there is no world. Even though it is all illusion, our way out of this illusion is through forgiveness of what has not happened. Forgiveness is an illusion as well, but it is the only illusion that ends all illusions. While duality does not exist in truth, to us it still seems to be our reality.
Jesus reminds us, "Injury is impossible," (W.198.1.1) which is clearly the case outside of this dream. In effect, there is nothing to forgive because nothing has happened. However, we do have the experience of an injury in the dream, and it has painful consequences for us while we believe all of this is real. We need to forgive what we believe has happened. If we condemn, retaliate, and attack instead of forgive, we demonstrate that the injury was real. Our illusory belief in the ego myth that we separated from God brings a thought system of sin and guilt. When this thought system is projected out, the result is an illusory world and illusory bodies. "And yet illusion makes illusion." (W.198.1.2)
"For you have believed that you can injure, and the right you have established for yourself can now be used against you, till you lay it down as valueless, unwanted and unreal." (W.198.1.4) We believe we can cause injury and therefore others have that same right. We believe that attack has power and sin demands punishment. Forgiveness shows us that the erroneous thought system of the ego can be undone. Then we see that attack has no value. When we have given up our "right" to attack and see no value in it, we will know our invulnerability. We will know that we can't be hurt. "Then does illusion cease to have effects, and those it seemed to have will be undone." (W.198.1.5) Forgiveness undoes the cause, which is the mind's belief in sin and guilt; and therefore, the effects are also undone. Without a cause, there can be no effects. Our interpretations of past misdeeds are replaced by the love we gave and what was given us. The story of the past is no longer relevant, and we recognize that it is not even true.
All the ways we try to fix our perceived problems in the world, all the ways we justify our "good" reasons to condemn others, and all the ways we even wish injury, punishment, and withdrawal of love from those whom we perceive have injured us are based on the belief that we are vulnerable, that we can be hurt, and that we have the right to retaliate in whatever form we choose. When we attack, we believe that attack will be used against us and when it is, we feel victimized. Why do we hold onto victimhood? Why do we hold onto hurt feelings of what others have seemingly done to us? In other words, why do we make our self-worth dependent on what others may see in us? Jesus reminds us that we do this to justify our attack on them. We look for this justification in our desire to judge, condemn, and attack, which continues the separation. Is this what we really want?
Jesus says that the unworthiness and other forms of self-attack that we hold onto in our minds are attributed by us to something that our parents or others did to us. This is our wish to make them guilty and responsible for our condition. "Whatever form they take, they are always an attack on the self to make the other guilty." (T.16.V.1.4) (ACIM OE T.16.VI.43) We accept this picture of ourselves to produce the illusion that others have hurt us, yet these attributes we experience within ourselves are what we have actually accepted as true about ourselves. In other words, it is a self-inflicted wound for which we crucify others outside of ourselves. It is an attack on myself to make the other guilty and is the basis for the special relationship. "Whenever you consent to suffer pain, to be deprived, unfairly treated or in need of anything, you but accuse your brother of attack upon God's Son. You hold a picture of your crucifixion before his eyes, that he may see his sins are writ in Heaven in your blood and death, and go before him, closing off the gate and damning him to hell." (T.27.I.3.1-2) (ACIM OE T.27.II.3)
"A sick and suffering you but represents your brother's guilt; the witness that you send lest he forget the injuries he gave, from which you swear he never will escape. This sick and sorry picture you accept, if only it can serve to punish him. The sick are merciless to everyone, and in contagion do they seek to kill. Death seems an easy price, if they can say, 'Behold me, brother, at your hand I die'." (T.27.I.4.3-6) (ACIM OE T.27.II.4)
While we pay a price for the pain that we hold onto, it may seem to us like a small price to pay if it "can serve to punish him." (T.27.I.4.4) (ACIM OE T.27.II.4) As long as we appear to be the victim of what others have done, we feel vindicated of our responsibility for our own issues. Yet, in effect, we are actually the victimizer, holding them guilty of what they have done to us. This is something to really take in and ponder. Unsettling as that may be, we are liberated when we see it is only our own condemnation that injures us.
Forgiveness leads us out. It points to the truth. It helps us remember the Song of Heaven. Time was made for us to learn that the answer to every problem is in our own minds. There is only one problem, and it is the belief in separation. We have been given the Answer and that is the Holy Spirit, Who will give us a whole new interpretation, correcting every misperception we hold about ourselves and about our brothers. Course-based forgiveness is not about seeing the sin in the other and forgiving it. It is not about overlooking anything real. It is, in fact, about releasing any condemning thoughts that we hold about the self or the other and offering these thoughts to the Holy Spirit for healing. We don’t do the healing. We watch our minds for unforgiving thoughts, inquire deeply into their source, and put them on the inner altar. The Holy Spirit is the Healer, Who shines our misguided thoughts away. We bring our darkness to His Light.
When I believe that I have been hurt in any way, I remind myself that I can't be hurt. If what you say has hurt me, I remind myself that it is my guilt projected onto you. We will experience injury, as long as we justify and believe in our right to condemn. Jesus tells us again and again in the Course, "Forgiveness is the only road that leads out of disaster, past all suffering, and finally away from death." (W.198.4.1) Yet he asks, "And why would you oppose it, quarrel with it, seem to find a thousand ways in which it must be wrong; a thousand other possibilities?" (W.198.4.3)
We believe in this world that we made and justify its existence and argue for the correctness of our perceptions. We would rather be right than happy. "Is it not wiser to be glad you hold the answer to your problems in your hand? Is it not more intelligent to thank the One Who gives salvation, and accept His gift with gratitude? And is it not a kindness to yourself to hear His Voice and learn the simple lessons He would teach, instead of trying to dismiss His words, and substitute your own in place of His?" (W.198.5.1-3) This is what we do every time we invest in the illusion and try to fix things "out there" in the world. It is a losing proposition. What we have the power to do is to change our minds. No matter how much we invest in arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, it will still sink. No matter how invested we are in trying to control things in the world, we will still lose.
I just have to look at my life to see how much I have tried to control things in the world to no avail. It has all unfolded as it will. Control is painful, but we do it in the mistaken belief we can have what we want by controlling people and events. It is beautifully illustrated in the movie Ruby Sparks , where a writer named Calvin produces an ideal romantic partner of his dreams who he can control only to learn that control does not bring him the love that he craves and is not the answer to his loneliness.
We can change our minds about the way we see the world, and we can respond to seeming attack by recognizing that we can't be hurt. Jesus reminds us, "Forgive, and you will see this differently." (W.193.3.7) While the forms of our problems change, the answer is always the same. The answer is forgiveness and letting go of the guilt in our own minds. Yet so often we choose not to apply it; instead, we argue with it, we avoid it, and we give ourselves reasons why forgiveness does not apply to the situation. This one, we tell ourselves, is beyond my ability to forgive; and this one is different and needs my own solution. Yet this is how we keep ourselves prisoner to the world.
No matter how guilty we feel or how much we think we have hurt others, the Self that we are is untouched. "The stillness of your Self remains unmoved, untouched by thoughts like these, and unaware of any condemnation which could need forgiveness." (W.198.8.1) This Self becomes apparent when we release our thoughts of anger, worry, specialness, and attack of any kind. Whether I attack you or me, only I can be injured by my condemnation. Even this is an untrue perception. Jesus tells us that what we are in truth remains untouched. Therefore, none of our experiences, no matter how seemingly horrendous, can touch the truth of what we are.
Today, we practice saying, "Only my condemnation injures me. Only my own forgiveness sets me free." (W.198.9.3-4) These are the words that have power when we apply them. "His words are born in God, and come to you with Heaven's love upon them." (W.198.6.4) There is no suffering or pain forgiveness cannot heal. Jesus asks us to recognize the importance of this to our lives in ending illusions, which means ending the suffering and pain of our lives. "Forgive and you will see this differently." (W.193.3.7) Even when I accept that and remind myself of the truth of these words, I recognize that I still try to fix and control situations in the world, manage circumstances and events in my life in my own way, believe I know my own best interests, and justify attack. It is such insanity. Forgiveness truly sets us free. "Then are you free, for freedom is your gift, and you can now receive the gift you gave." (W.198.1.6) By seeing the holiness in our brother, instead of condemnation, we come to know our own holiness, and thus we are taken to the end of time and space and delivered from bondage. We are set free. All we need do is to recognize how wrong we have been about everything and choose Jesus as our teacher in all circumstances.
"Those who hear His words have heard the song of Heaven." (W.198.6.5) When we contemplate these words and live by them, they "contain all hope, all blessing and all joy that ever can be found upon this earth." (W.198.6.3)
Love and blessings, Sarah


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