A Course in Miracles Text Made Simple

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Chapter 17: Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

Section III: Shadows of the Past

Read ACIM Chapter 17, Section III (pages 354-57)

To hear the Holy Spirit, what do we need to do?

Paragraphs one and two explain why it is so important for us to step back from our usual way of thinking and invite the Holy Spirit into our mind. We remember to do this when it fully sinks in that what we think we know about ‘reality’ is not true. Being a ‘know it all’ just keeps us a prisoner to the ego thought system of separation. To consistently hear Holy Spirit, who does know reality, we need to make it a regular habit of remembering, “Nothing I see… means anything.” (WB Lesson 1) and, “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.” (WB Lesson 11)

We need to be willing to remember that on our own we know nothing and it is only the Holy Spirit Who can show us the difference between truth and illusions. That is why Jesus tells us, “Forgiveness is a selective remembering, based not on your selection. For the shadow figures you would make immortal are ‘enemies’ of reality. Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do. The shadow figures are the witnesses you bring with you to demonstrate he did what he did not. Because you bring them, you will hear them. And you who keep them by your own selection do not understand how they came into your mind, and what their purpose is.” (1:3-8)

Why do irritating people show up in our lives?

In this fantasy world it certainly does not appear on the surface that the ‘shadow figures’ (the irritating and guilty ones that show up in our lives) are there by our own selection. It appears to us that it is just the opposite — that we are suffering (or are unhappy) because of their terrible behavior and that they certainly did not come into our lives by our invitation. But now Jesus is telling us that we invited them there because, “They represent the evil that you think was done to you [in the past]. You bring them with you only that you may return evil for evil, hoping that their witness [seeing their guilt] will enable you to think guiltily of another and not harm yourself. They speak so clearly for the separation that no one not obsessed with keeping separation could hear them.” (1:9-11)

When we join with the ego thought system, the more someone seems to match our need for a target on which to project our guilt, judgment and hatred, the more we are attracted to that person. To the ego, this is the perfect relationship. That is “why whatever reminds you of your past grievances attracts you, and seems to go by the name of love, no matter how distorted the associations by which you arrive at the connection may be.” (2:5) We see what we want to see and ignore what doesn’t fit our wishes of what we want to be real.

As we forgive, what happens to these ‘shadow figures’?

This is why Jesus is teaching us, “To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” (1:1-2) As we continue to forgive by seeing through Christ’s vision instead of what the body’s eyes are showing us, we free ourselves from making these ‘shadow figures’ real. We see what they are for: “Without exception, these relationships have as their purpose the exclusion of the truth about the other, and of yourself. This is why you see in both what is not there, and make of both the slaves of vengeance.” (2:3-4)

Why does Jesus tell us that this world is a world of vengeance?

Jesus has told us many times in many ways that this world is a world of vengeance. (See Workbook Lessons 22 and 26) We conveniently forget that the thoughts of differences we are believing in are meant to be replacements for God’s Thoughts. We conveniently forget that making separate bodies real in our minds is trying to replace God’s oneness.

Unless we learn what is really going on at unconscious levels with all our relationships, we will not see a need to change our mind. Jesus wants us to recognize our unholy relationships (ones in which we see guilt and deem worthy of judgment) and forgive these insane ideas. That is why Jesus tells us, “Time is indeed unkind to the unholy relationship. For time is cruel in the ego’s hands, as [time] is kind when used for gentleness. The attraction of the unholy relationship begins to fade and to be questioned almost at once. Once [the unholy relationship] is formed, doubt must enter in, because its purpose is impossible. The ‘ideal’ of the unholy relationship thus becomes one in which the reality of the other does not enter at all to ‘spoil’ the dream.” (4:1-5) In the ego’s unholy relationships, the face of Christ is not what it is wanting to see. That would spoil the dream of separation. That would spoil the ego’s idea of ‘bliss.’

Even though our grievances may be hard for us to look at, Jesus is giving us a great gift when he shows us how the ego thought system works in our minds and what the ego’s real motivations are. It is only when we recognize the ego’s attraction to holding grievances when it shows up in our mind and see these thoughts for what they are that we will be willing to let the Holy Spirit reverse our thinking.

What happens in our relationships when we join with the Holy Spirit?

When we join with the Holy Spirit, only the loving thoughts are remembered. “Let Him uncover the hidden spark of beauty in your relationships, and show it to you. Its loveliness will so attract you that you will be unwilling ever to lose the sight of it again. And you will let this spark transform the relationship so you can see it more and more. For you will want it more and more, and become increasingly unwilling to let it be hidden from you. And you will learn to seek for and establish the conditions in which this beauty can be seen.” (6:7-11) These conditions are met when we are willing to focus on our brother’s kindnesses instead of counting up the hurts he gave. The more we focus on the love in our brother, the more we are letting in the truth. The more we let go of the past, the more we are freed from the bondage of our illusions.

What do we want to see? Am I joining with ego or Holy Spirit?

It all comes down to which thought system we value the most. What do we want to see? We cannot see the truth about our brother and see him as guilty at the same time. When we focus on his ‘guilty’ behavior and see him as a body, we are not seeing his eternal Spirit. We are not seeing the face of Christ. We are not seeing his true Reality as changeless Love in the Mind of Love. When we focus on one, the other disappears. “Which one you choose you will endow with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more. The spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness, the real world or the world of guilt and fear, truth or illusion, freedom or slavery — it is all the same. For you can never choose except between God and the ego.” (9:3-5)

This understanding is very significant. We are learning to recognize that there are only two thought systems and we are always choosing between one or the other. We can apply this learning to our daily lives. As we go through each day, we can learn to ask ourselves frequently, “Which thought system am I believing in right now? Am I joining with God or the ego?” This habit stimulates stepping back and questioning our habitual thoughts.

Stepping back from our habitual thoughts opens the door to letting Jesus in to heal our addictive habit of joining with ego thoughts. Jesus tells us, “My holy brother, I would enter into all your relationships, and step between you and your fantasies. Let my relationship to you be real to you, and let me bring reality to your perception of your brothers.” (10:1-2) Jesus is asking us to join with him and let him into our minds. Letting Jesus in requires a willingness to be quiet and listen. It requires a willingness to lay ego thoughts down. We can’t have both at the same time. As we ask Jesus to enter and really mean it, he will light our minds with peace gentleness and love. He will show us the goodness in every brother and extend God’s peace through us. He will bring our weary minds to a place of rest and quiet. He tells us, “Let me enter in the Name of God and bring you peace, that you may offer peace to me.” (10:8)

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Reference Keys for
A Course in Miracles Quotes

How to Read References for Quotes from A Course in Miracles

Below are example references to specific sentences using the notation of the Second & Third Editions of A Course in Miracles published by the Foundation for Inner Peace:

T-26.IV.4:7 = Text, Chapt. 26, Section IV, paragraph 4, sentence 7.

W-pI.169.5:2 = Workbook, Part I, Lesson 169, paragraph 5, sentence 2.

M-13.3:2 = Manual for Teachers, Question 13, paragraph 3, sentence 2.

C-6.4:6 = Clarification of Terms, Term 6, paragraph 4, sentence 6

The above numbering system of the Second & Third Editions is © Copyright 1992, The Foundation for A Course in Miracles.

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