“This is a thought which can be used to say that death and sorrow are the certain lot of all who come here, for their joys are gone before they are possessed, or even grasped. Yet this is also the idea that lets no false perception keep us in its hold, nor represent more than a passing cloud upon a sky eternally serene....” ACIM, Workbook page 448, Lesson 300.
The longer one lives the more aware one becomes of the transient nature of life on earth. Happy moments come and go but how long do they really endure for? This is particularly noticeable at Christmas time; all the planning and preparation and then, within a few short hours, Christmas is no more. But then it isn’t very long before we start planning again for the following Christmas. And so the cycle repeats itself, year after year.
The truth of the matter is that nothing in the world of duality lasts for very long. Nothing can stop the hands of time, which march relentlessly on and on. We try to make the good times last, and we look forward to happy events such as weddings, holidays, the birth of a child, etc., but, try as we may, we can’t hold on to happy moments for very long. They will ultimately slip away. And what Lesson 300 is saying is that the world will slip away too.
Lesson 22 also highlights the impermanence of everything in our world – something that the Buddha discovered centuries ago. It teaches us to tell ourselves, as we look around: “I see only the perishable. I see nothing that will last. What I see is not real. What I see is a form of vengeance... Is this the world I really want to see?” The answer to that question is pretty obvious.
The key to understanding Lesson 300 is to realise that time is just another of the ego’s illusions. The Course teaches us that far from being linear, as it appears to be, time is holographic, i.e. every present moment contains all other moments. Thus the past, present and future are all taking place simultaneously, only we choose to focus on one segment of it at any given time. Time is one of the major illusions that was created by the ego at the time of the separation. The split mind devised space, time and the world of phenomena to “escape” from Heaven, and we have been trapped in all this ever since.
In the Course, time is considered to be but a "little hindrance" to eternity but, because we believe in it, we can put it to good use by living under the direction of the Holy Spirit, as He represents the “right” portion of the mind. We do this by turning to Him for advice and asking Him for guidance whenever we are unsure what to do or how to react to a particular situation. This is called the holy instant in the Course. Referring to our belief in time, the Course states: “Yet since you do believe in it, why should you waste it going nowhere, when it can be used to reach a goal as high as learning can achieve?” T550. We can use time by living in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and this will eventually release us from time altogether. It is the release from time that is the goal as high as learning can achieve because it will be replaced by eternity.
One could become quite alarmed at the thought of our world lasting for just an instant and then disappearing. But if one realises that the world is as unreal as time, then this idea is not so disturbing. We read on page 413 of the Workbook: “The world is false perception. It is born of error, and it has not left its source. It will remain no longer than the thought that gave it birth is cherished. When the thought of separation has been changed to one of true forgiveness, will the world be seen in quite another light; and one which leads to truth, where all the world must disappear and all its errors vanish...” If the world is part of the illusion and is blocking us from the truth, then shouldn’t we welcome its disappearance?
One word in the passage above points to the way out of the illusion of the world of time and space: forgiveness. By practising and learning all our forgiveness lessons we will eventually overcome the ego and its fabrications of time, space and the world. As we read on page 551 of the Text: “Forgiveness is the great release from time. It is the key to learning that the past is over. Madness speaks no more. There is no other teacher and no other way. For what has been undone no longer is.” On the following page we are advised to: “Forgive the past and let it go, for it is gone....Look gently on your brother, and behold the world in which perception of your hate has been transformed into a world of love.”
But what will it be like when the world finally does end? Will the universe disappear in some terrible cataclysmic event? Will it be a horrible, painful experience? The Course has this reply to those questions: “The final judgment on the world contains no condemnation. For it sees the world as totally forgiven, without sin and wholly purposeless. Without a cause, and now without a function in Christ’s sight, it merely slips away to nothingness. There it was born, and there it ends as well. And all the figures in the dream in which the world began go with it. Bodies now are useless, and will therefore fade away, because the Son of God is limitless.” W455.
That’s not such a bad ending; the world merely “slips away to nothingness.” And if we remember that we are immortal spirit, then there is nothing to fear. As Lesson 95 points out, “I am one Self, united with my Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace.”
In the Manual it is explained that the ending of the world is, in fact, a joyous event. “Can what has no beginning really end? The world will end in an illusion, as it began. Yet will its ending be an illusion of mercy. The illusion of forgiveness, complete, excluding no one, limitless in gentleness, will cover it, hiding all evil, concealing all sin and ending guilt forever....The world will end in joy, because it is a place of sorrow. When joy has come, the purpose of the world has gone. The world will end in peace, because it is a place of war. When peace has come, what is the purpose of the world? The world will end in laughter, because it is a place of tears. Where there is laughter, who can longer weep? And only complete forgiveness brings all this to bless the world...” M37.
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