Forgiving the  World

Forgiving the  World

Forgiveness is one of the central themes of A Course in Miracles and most of the teachings on it are in harmony with the statements of Jesus from the New Testament.

It registers with most people that if we hold ill feelings toward another that love cannot manifest. This will cause great interference with communication with the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, something I had difficulty in relating to was the advice of the Course for us to forgive inorganic and non-human things that have no conscious intent to do us harm. There are numerous occasions when the Course tells us to forgive the world itself, such as:

“Unto us the aim is given to forgive the world. It is the goal that God has given us.”

It is easy to understand why we need to forgive fellow humans for they are consciously aware of what they are doing. If someone calls you an idiot then there arises a need to forgive because of the offense that can be taken.

But the world and the inorganic things in it do not attack us, neither do they have the consciousness to do so.

So, the question I had for many years was how am I supposed to forgive a world which I have never seen attack me and to which I hold no grievance or ill feelings?

How to Forgive a Rock

Most seasoned students of A Course in Miracles understand the basic principle of forgiveness as explained in the text.

We are taught that the standard way of looking at it is in error, which is this:

When an offense or an attack is made the person overlooks the act from a standpoint of superiority, taking pity on the offender. But the Course says this:

“Forgiveness is not pity, which but seeks to pardon what it thinks to be the truth. Good cannot be returned for evil, for forgiveness does not first establish sin and then forgive it. Who can say and mean, ‘My brother, you have injured me, and yet, because I am the better of the two, I pardon you my hurt.’ His pardon and your hurt cannot exist together. One denies the other and must make it false.” T-27.II.2

Contrary to orthodox thinking the Course teaches that with true forgiveness we recognize there is nothing to forgive:

“He will teach you to remember that forgiveness is not loss, but your salvation. And that in complete forgiveness, in which you recognize that there is nothing to forgive, you are absolved completely.” T-15.VIII.1

Whether you see forgiveness in the orthodox way or the Course way, some acts certainly present a challenge. Suppose someone kicks your dog, hurts your child or even kills a loved one? Just telling yourself that nothing happened or there is nothing to forgive doesn’t always prevent grievances from occurring, yet this is the ideal to which a student will aspire.

We generally know when forgiveness is necessary because some type of grievance will surface. The great benefit of true forgiveness is that a grievance will disappear.

With people in general, forgiveness and grievances are associated with living people and relationships, but as it does with many concepts, the Course gives a twist of meaning that is different than anything we find in our dictionaries. Forgiveness is no exception for it expands its application beyond human relationships to the world at large and tells us to “forgive the world, that it may be healed along with me.” W-pI.82.1

It talks a number of times about forgiving the world which is essential to seeing the real world:

“The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness.” T-17.II.5

In discussing the world, the Course seems to use the same definition as is used by our dictionaries. The Oxford Dictionary defines the world as “the earth, with all its countries, peoples and natural features.”

The Course doesn’t give a specific definition of the world but seems to assume we know what it is. From my reading of the Course, it appears to mean, “all those things that can be perceived by the senses,” which is very close to that of the dictionary.

Correspondingly it speaks of “the world of dreams, where all perception is.” T-13.VII.9 Perception selects, and makes the world you see.” T-21.V.1

I’ve seen students apply the idea of forgiving the world to many situations that have nothing to do with human relationships. For example, if they stub their toe on a rock, they feel they must forgive the rock or if a storm comes up and interferes with a picnic, they think they must forgive the weather.

This type of thinking never made sense to me as I could find nothing to forgive in a rock, a storm or anything else that is not human.

Since the Course asks us to forgive the world, I figured that it must be defining forgiveness in a different way from the standard Oxford Dictionary which says it is when we “stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”

Notice that the standard definition only includes humans, not things, but the world includes everything we can perceive with the senses.

I continued to wonder, in addition to fellow humans, how do I forgive a chair, a computer, a tree or a mountain according to the Course?

I thus searched through the Course looking for something that would make sense of the idea of forgiving the world at large.

After much searching, I finally came across a key passage that turned on the light – that could give meaning to the forgiving of both humans and the rest of the world. Here it is:

“To forgive is to overlook. Look, then, beyond error.” T-9.IV.1

I’m sure I have read this several times before, but the full meaning did not register.

The great part about this definition is that it applies to all things in the world of illusion, human and non-human.

What does the Course tell us to do when we forgive a brother? It tells us to overlook the offense as if nothing has happened.

And what does it tell us to do about all things in the world we see? Again, it tells is to do the same thing. We are to overlook this world of illusion and see the real world that lies just beyond normal vision. We are told this:

“The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness.” T-17.II.5.    

“The real world was given you by God in loving exchange for the world you made and the world you see. Only take it from the hand of Christ and look upon it. Its reality will make everything else invisible, for beholding it is total perception. And as you look upon it you will remember that it was always so. Nothingness will become invisible, for you will at last have seen truly.” T-12.VIII.8

We then forgive this world the same way we forgive a brother by overlooking or looking beyond the illusion as if it did not exist. Just as sin is an illusion, so is the world we see which includes not only people in bodies, but trees, mountains, lakes and all that is upon the earth. When we forgive the world of illusion then our eyes are open to see another much greater world called the real world.

The beginning of real vision where the real world is seen is explained here:

“You will begin to understand it when you have seen little edges of light around the same familiar objects which you see now. That is the beginning of real vision. You can be certain that real vision will come quickly when this has occurred.” W-pI.15.2

Look around your room, pick an object and see it as not being there, or forgive it, and the light from the real world will appear.

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