“Condemn and you are made a prisoner. Forgive and you are freed. Such is the law that rules perception.” ACIM, Workbook page 379, Lesson 198.
Lesson 198 tells us that if we condemn anyone, then we believe we can be injured and others can injure us. “…Illusion makes illusion…” Both injury and condemnation are illusions and yet, Jesus tells us, we need a further illusion to help us overcome all illusions: forgiveness. “Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest. Forgiveness sweeps all other dreams away, and though it is itself a dream, it breeds no others. All illusions save this one must multiply a thousandfold. But this is where illusions end…” W379.
We frequently condemn others. Just switch on the television or read the headlines of any newspaper and it will be evident that we are constantly judging and condemning others. Some would say we are justified in condemning a violent criminal, for example. Yet, A Course in Miracles teaches us that all people are holy sons of God. Those who perform violent deeds are lost souls who are crying out for love. Instead of judging them, we need to offer them the miracle of love by forgiving them. Obviously, criminals need to be locked up it they are a danger to society, but Jesus does not deal in ACIM with problems that we encounter in our world. His goal seems to be to help us awaken from the dream of the world so that this unreal world—a world created by mental projection—can be overcome altogether. Then we will return to our pre-separated state and finally live in peace.
Forgiveness is so crucial to all Jesus’ teachings in ACIM. That is why countless lessons deal with forgiveness and so much is written about it in the Text and the Manual. The following passage explains the importance of forgiveness: “Forgiveness is the only road that leads out of disaster, past all suffering, and finally away from death. How could there be another way, when this one is the plan of God Himself?” W379. Forgiveness is the plan of God! Could that be why He placed the Holy Spirit in our minds at the time of the separation? The Holy Spirit will always advise us to avoid the path of conflict and follow the path of love and forgiveness.
ACIM makes it clear that the path back to God is a long and arduous one because the ego has dominated our lives for so long. Yet, it gives us hope that we can remember God and awaken from the ego’s dream world. In order to do so, we need to see with the vision of Christ, so that we are able to rise above this world and enter the real world, a world where everything is forgiven and everything shines in the light and love of Christ. The real world, we are told, is the last stop before Heaven. “The face of Christ has to be seen before the memory of God can return…the face of Christ is the great symbol of forgiveness. It is salvation. It is the symbol of the real world. Whoever looks on this no longer sees the world. He is as near to Heaven as is possible outside the gate…” M83.
Everything we experience in this world has emanated from our own minds, through the process of projection. If our hearts and minds are troubled, we will inevitably experience turmoil and conflict in our lives and the lives of those around us. That is why it is so important to take responsibility for all that is going on in the world, and to remember that we are not victims. We have created the world we see, so how could we be victims? If we would prefer to see a peaceful world, then it is up to us to extend love (instead of projecting fear.) In Chapter 12, Jesus tells us: “I said before that what you project or extend is up to you, but you must do one or the other, for that is a law of mind, and you must look in before you look out….When you think you are projecting what you do not want, it is still because you do want it….” T231. For example, if we say we want peace with our neighbours but we are not experiencing it yet, then, at some level, we don’t want peace. This is because what we experience we have created. We cannot blame anyone else.
So what is the way out of a world of conflict? “The power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world. You can decide to see it right. What you made of it is not its reality, for its reality is only what you give it…” T231. Jesus often mentions the fact that we are prisoners. Yet, by listening to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Voice for God, we can choose love and forgiveness instead of pain and conflict, which is the inevitable result of listening to the ego; this is the choice that will ultimately set us free.
In Lesson 198, Jesus tells us that we can free ourselves from the darkness of the world and let the light into our minds, by remembering and repeating the following:
Only my condemnation injures me.
Only my own forgiveness sets me free.
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