Excerpts from the Academy class held at the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
The world of linear time—past, present, and future—is one of the frameworks of our physical universe, and it is certainly one of the frameworks of our experience here. We all have a past, we all experience ourselves in the present, and we all anticipate a future, both as individuals and as members of races, various groups, and species. But linear time is a projection of what we usually refer to as the ego's unholy trinity, which is a constellation of the thoughts of sin, guilt, and fear in the mind that preceded the physical universe. They are the foundations of what A Course in Miracles refers to as the wrong mind: the part of the split mind that is the home of the ego, which is the home of the thought system of separation. Sin says we have separated from God, and that what we did was an awful thing. We are overwhelmed with guilt, not only for what we believe we have done, but for what we believe we have become: sinful, separated persons at God's expense. Then the guilt becomes so intolerable that we have no recourse but to believe we deserve to be punished, the inevitable result of the belief in guilt or sin: I have done something terrible; I am something terrible; therefore, I deserve to be punished, and now I am afraid of the punishment. When we project that out, sin becomes the past, guilt becomes the present, and fear becomes the future; I have sinned in the past; I experience this enormous self-hatred in what I think of as the present; and I am terrified of the future, which inevitably will bring the punishment that I so justly deserve. Sin, guilt, and fear projected out make for the past, present, and future.
Coming back to "I will forgive, but never forget" . . . By making the past real, I am making the meaning of the past real: namely, sin. As Jesus points out over and over again in A Course in Miracles, as well as in The Song of Prayer, how can you forgive a sin that you have made real? To do so, you first have to make it real and then somehow magically pretend it is not there, which is the meaning of "I will forgive, but never forget." This is why that statement would fall under the rubric of forgiveness-to-destroy. It is perhaps a not-so-subtle way for the egos in all of us to hold on to the thought system that gave rise to our own existence, a thought system of sin, guilt, and fear that is protected by projection. I see the sin, evil, and wickedness in you; I do not see it in myself. The ego tells us that is how we will be home free; that is how we achieve our innocence. In truth, of course, it is exactly the opposite, and there is no way out unless we are willing to step back and look at our accusations of others. No matter how justified they appear, no matter how many thousands, millions, or billions of people agree with us, until we step back and see beyond the projection and the justification for it, realizing this is a projection of what is inside, there is no hope of any meaningful change in ourselves, and certainly not in the world.
While most students of the Course can accept, understand, and agree with all this in principle—it is hard not to agree with it when it is presented this way—they find it almost impossible to do because there is such a fear that we say masquerades as a stubborn refusal, but underlying it is the fear of looking at our own sin. In "The Fear to Look Within" in the text, Jesus says the ego tells us "not to look inward, for if you do your eyes will light on sin, and God will strike you blind" (T-21.IV.2:3). Do not look within your mind, because if you do you will see your sinfulness, you will experience your guilt, and your fear of God's retaliation will be justified because God will strike you blind, which is a nicer way of saying God will annihilate you—He will destroy you and cast you into oblivion. So we do not look within.
At the beginning, there is only a within; there is only a mind. In fact, there is always only a mind, but the ego convinces us that psychosis is the way to go, so we seemingly project what is within. I say "seemingly" because in reality, guilt does not leave; we seemingly project it and that gives rise to a world. Then we make up a body with a sensory apparatus that perceives a world, but the whole thing is literally made up, which is why it is psychosis. We see a world and experience a body that are not there. In our insanity, we are so sure we are right, because our bodies and our brains tell us we are. The smartest brains in the world tell us how we got here, what the world consists of, how it came into existence, and how it will cease to exist one day. And they are all wrong because they do not look within. There is a reason we do not look within: our eyes will light on sin and God will strike us blind!
Projection always comes to the rescue, and then we attack outside what we secretly believe is inside. That is what is meant by the line in the workbook that says, "The [unforgiving] thought protects projection" (W-pII.1.2:3). Our unforgiving thoughts, judgments, angers, annoyances, and grievances protect the fact that we have projected our own grievances against ourselves, our own sense of sin, and our own guilt onto other people, but we do not know we have done it. That is the problem. I cannot emphasize that enough. It is our unawareness of what the Course refers to at the end of the text as our "secret sins and hidden hates" (T-31.VIII.9:2). Secret and hidden. We are unaware of them, and as long as we remain unaware there is no way they can be corrected and undone. If they are not corrected and undone, they will fester in the unconscious and inevitably get projected, which is why, once again, there is no legitimate hope for any meaningful change in the world. The hope lies in changing the mind, not in changing the world (see T-21.in.1:7).
Once you understand the concept of forgiveness-to-destroy and why "I will forgive, but never forget" does not work, you need to be aware of why you do not live it and practice it. That is the key thing to focus on. We come back to our old friend resistance. The bottom line is we are resistant to the truth and are terrified of it because the truth will make us free. None of us wants to be free because the ego tells us that to be free means we will cease to exist, since the only true freedom is to be back in Heaven where we never left. This is what the Course refers to near the end of the text as "Freedom of Will" (T-30.II). We are the extensions of the Will of God, which is forever free because there is no conflict, nothing enchaining or imprisoning it.
To the ego, freedom means to be free from the Oneness of God. That is why everyone makes such a big deal in our world about being free. People talk about external freedom, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is the wrong emphasis if you want to be really free. To be really free means that what people do to your body does not make any difference because you are free within your mind. You may not be free to change external circumstances or situations, but you will grow to understand that the external situations are not responsible for your happiness or unhappiness, or for your imprisonment or freedom. It is our decision for the ego that imprisons us, and it is our decision for the Holy Spirit that frees us. Nothing else makes any difference, and nothing else matters.
Thus, when you fight for your external freedom, as groups have done throughout history, it is so tempting to do it with the ego, and you know you are doing it with the ego if you believe in separation, justified attack, justified revolts, or if you believe your happiness can be bought at the expense of someone else: the bad guys have to die so we can live. This is why no revolution ever really works—it is based on the principle of one or the other. You oppressed me, now I am going to overthrow and oppress you. Then I get power, and since I am still part of the same thought system that I believe I overthrew, I do the same thing. Nothing ever changes because we just keep recycling the same thing over and over again, since that is who we think we are.
There is a reason we recycle the same thing over and over again. We do not think we are creatures of love in this world; we think we are creatures of guilt. Creatures of love do not come into this world; they stay home with love. It is the people who feel they have abandoned and rejected love, who have run away from love, fleeing from a made-up god they believe is coming after them, who come into this world. They run into a world they have made, believing love is here, when in reality what is here is the guilt that accompanied them when they ran away from love in the first place. What preserves the guilt is projection. Once again, the unforgiving thought protects projection (W-pII.1.2:3). Guilt is preserved by our projecting onto others and judging them, finding fault with them and perceiving ourselves unfairly treated. That is who we believe we are. It is in our DNA, and because it is, we will steadfastly resist anything that would undo or change that DNA. There is that little voice inside that tells us that if we let go of our judgment and anger, if we see all people as the same and let go of our guilt, we will just go poof and vanish, disappearing into oblivion, which, of course, is not the way the process works. At the end of the process, we do disappear into the Heart of God, but before that, what disappears is our guilt, anguish, depression, anxiety, fear, and discomfort. We do not lose our sense of self until the very end when it is no longer meaningful to us.
It is very helpful to be aware of the resistance in all of us to accepting the fact that forgiveness-to-destroy does not work. If we acknowledge that forgiveness-through-separation cannot work, but that true forgiveness—nothing happened and there is nothing to forgive—does work, then the ego warns us that that means the end of who we are. That is the fear. If you do not see your resistance to learning and practicing true forgiveness, then you will never learn and practice it. You will think that you are doing so, but all that you will really be doing is practicing forgiveness-to-destroy.
One last point: Near the end of the second chapter on forgiveness in The Song of Prayer, Jesus tells us not to set forgiveness "in an earthly frame" (S-2.III.7:3). Do not set forgiveness in an earthly frame because that is forgiveness-to-destroy. What does he mean by "an earthly frame"? The body is the earthly frame. Therefore, do not see forgiveness as a process that occurs between you and someone else. Forgiveness is a process that occurs in your mind. Ultimately it is the expression of your forgiveness of yourself for having chosen the ego instead of the Holy Spirit. That is true forgiveness, which means you will not apply forgiveness in a way that reinforces and therefore breeds further separation. To say "I will forgive, but never forget" is clearly a dualistic statement. There is an "I" forgiving you, but it is also a statement, as we have seen, that reinforces the belief in sin.