A Course in Miracles Text Made Simple

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Chapter 17: Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

Section IV: The Two Pictures

Read ACIM Chapter 17, Section IV (pages 357-61)

What does Jesus say is the purpose of relationships?

In paragraph one, Jesus explains that our relationship with God is a relationship with our innate, true happiness. He tells us, “Because of His reason for creating His relationship with you [to make you happy], the function of relationships became forever ‘to make happy.’ And nothing else.” (1:3-4) Note: Jesus elaborates on this in depth in Workbook Lessons 100-103. “God, being Love, is also happiness.” (W-pI.103)

Why do happiness and accepting Love’s unity always go together?

Since God (Love) is synonymous with oneness and not separation, God relates to His extensions of Love as one with Him. This is the same as saying Love relates to Its extensions as one, continuous Whole. Our happiness, therefore, lies in accepting Love’s unity. We cannot try to separate from Love’s unity and continue to be happy because God, Love and eternal happiness are synonymous.

This means that to imagine we are separate from Love’s oneness is to imagine that we are separate from happiness. “For nothing God created is apart from happiness, and nothing God created but would extend happiness as its Creator did. Whatever does not fulfill this function cannot be real. (1:6-7) Our lesson in this is to clearly understand that when we are not extending happiness (Love’s oneness) as our Creator does, we are not extending anything that is real.

What is the ego’s replacement for God’s undivided Love?

Because we have chosen to join with the ego’s replacement for God’s undivided Love or happiness, we now think that our happiness lies in the special relationships we have made. Jesus says, “Every special relationship you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call of truth.” (3:3) The call of truth comes from the Holy Spirit, Who is right there in our minds, waiting to return us to the truth.

In paragraph four he gives us a little history within the framework of the ego’s story. “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.” (4:1) So here we see that the special relationship is the ego’s chief defense in its battle with God. When our minds are completely occupied with images of special relationships, God’s Answer, the Holy Spirit, is hidden from our awareness. The ego knows that if we quiet our minds and listen to the Holy Spirit, our relationship with God will be restored to us.

Why is Jesus telling us about the true motivation behind our special relationships?

In paragraph five Jesus tells us, “The ego is always alert 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.” (5:1-3) Jesus is telling us the true motivation behind our special realationships, not to make us feel guilty or afraid, but to clearly see the chief replacement for God (special relationships) is not what we want and will not make us happy. As we see this clearly we will become more open minded to receive the mind healing insight that is offered by the Holy Spirit.

Why does Jesus talk about ‘the two pictures’?

In this section Jesus gives us the metaphor of ‘the two pictures’ to show us the difference between the special relationships the ego makes and the experience of the holy relationship, which is brought to us by the Holy Spirit. He describes the ego’s picture of special relationships as a defense mechanism that is offering us its ‘gifts.’ “The frame [around separation through the special relationship] 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 [separation from God’s oneness]. But the frame [the gift of the special relationship] without the picture you cannot have.” (7:5-7)

In this world of specialness and individuality, the special relationship is the ego’s most prized gift. “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.” (8:3) Special love, special bodies, special accomplishments, special praise and accolades all look like glittering jewels that have great value and appeal within the framework of the ego thought system. Of this glittering, imposing value system Jesus tells us, “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.” (9:9-11)

Jesus compares the ego’s picture, promising us uniqueness through our special relationships, with the Holy Spirit’s picture, which is the holy instant. “The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent to 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.” (11:1-5)

When we accept the Holy Spirit’s gift of the holy instant, special relationships disappear. The face of Christ is recognized in every brother equally. When we accept the ego’s gift of the special relationship, the holy instant disappears. Love’s seamless unity is replaced by seeing differences and special, unique bodies. We can’t have both. We have to choose which has more value to us.

What is one of the chief barriers to being aware of Love’s presence?

In paragraph 13 Jesus emphasizes that one of the barriers to being aware of Love’s presence is to try to bring reality and value to the special relationship instead of seeing it clearly for what it is and letting it go. Jesus tells us, “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” (13:1-3) With the ego’s ornate frame and out of focus picture, it tries to hide the fact that the special relationship is the denial of God’s universal Love. It is the opposite of the truth and an attack upon our true Self. When we expose the ornate and heavy frame to the light of the Holy Spirit, “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.” (13:5-6)

By comparing these two pictures, Jesus brings to our awareness what is of true value. He helps us see the difference between truth (wholeness) and illusion (separation) and shows us how much help we have in letting go of the special relationship, ego’s chief defense against the truth of our wholeness. He tells us, “Let us ascend in peace together to the Father, by giving Him ascendance in our minds. ... 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.” (16:2,5-8)

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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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