The separation from God occurred over “millions of years” (T-2.VIII.2:5) and so we are not – in the form in which we know and understand ourselves – personally responsible for its instigation. Yet the separation lives in and acts through us with our consent now. As we become aware of this process – and its deleterious effects – we naturally orient towards its dissolution, which is the movement towards inner peace.
Speeding up this dissolution – for it is possible to end the separation and know our true selves in the truest sense – is enhanced if we understand the relationship between guilt and time. As A Course in Miracles puts it, “[g]uilt feelings are the preservers of time (T-5.VI.2:1).
Two principles underlie the relationship between guilt and time. The first is that anyone who perceives that they are dissociated from God – and who believes that dissociation reflects reality – will naturally feel guilt.
Second, who is guilty makes time in order to facilitate expiation. The thinking goes something like this: I am guilty now because of what I did in the past but I will be absolved – somehow – in the future.
Again, time and guilt go hand in hand. The undoing of one is the undoing of the other.
It is not especially helpful to seek a moment in our past when we “chose” separation. It is not that such a search will necessarily be fruitless but rather that we never have to look beyond the so-called “here and now” to see the separation.
Taking note of its activity now is what will enable us – with considerable assistance from the Holy Spirit – to end it now. That is our goal. We don’t want to understand the problem so much as solve it – or better, see that is is already solved. That is the beautiful and – for me, anyway – never-not-helpful essence of lessons 79 and 80.
What does the separation look like right now? Its form will change from student to student. For me, at this moment, it takes the form of the Blue Jays harassing my beloved Juncos at the feeder. It is my son singing Christmas Carols at the top of his not-unimpressive voice when I would prefer a monastic silence in which to write. It is the banana cranberry maple bread in the oven, which I have never made before, and will take later to the kids’ piano recital where lots of people will eat it and – I fear – find it and its maker wanting.
All of those things – and that is just a small sample! – are forms that reflect my underlying belief that God and I are rowing entirely different boats. Do you see how they are all conditional? If the Jays left, then my Juncos would be happier, and me too. If it were quieter in the house, then I would be happily productive. Only if everyone gushes over my baking tonight will I know peace.
I am separating out parts of what is whole – what is God – and asking the separated pieces to take the place of God.
If you seek to separate out certain aspects of the totality and look to them to meet your imagined needs, you are attempting to use separation to save you. How, then, could guilt not enter? For separation is the source of guilt and to appeal to it for salvation is to believe you are alone (T-15.V.2:3-5).
Another way to say this is simply that in each moment, when I project onto something external (be it a person, a place, an event, a piece of food, the weather, etc.), I am effectively confirming that God and I are separate and that as a result something other than me – other than what I am in truth, that is – is responsible for my happiness and peace or lack thereof. How could it be otherwise? Without God, I am alone.
Regardless of whatever temporary respite projection and the external world provide (and they do provide some), guilt is always the only sure result of using separation to try and ameliorate separation.
Guilt is intolerable. I am not suggesting that we don’t have an astounding capacity for bearing it – we clearly do – but that doesn’t mean it’s desirable. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t have another choice in this regard.
Unfortunately, we have used our power for change not to turn inward in a present way – where the only solution to guilt is – but rather to make time. This is a handy ego trick. On the one hand, we can assure ourselves that we’re working on the problem of guilt because we aren’t ignoring guilt (we’re making time after all – a not-insignificant project) but on the other, we’re never going to actually end guilt because – like the horizon itself – it will always remain in the illusory realms of tomorrow where (as Shakespeare so poignantly noted), lies only dusty death.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
So much for the helpfulness of time.
It is important to be clear and level-headed about this. If we perceive ourselves as guilty now then it can only be in the future – be it the next five minutes, five weeks, five years or five lifetimes – that we will no longer be guilty. In a way, that seems very logical and reasonable. But – and this is critical – it does not work.
This is one of the blessings – and by blessing I mean both opportunity and pain-in-the-ass – available to ACIM students. In a calm and collected way, we are able to make contact with the simple truth that the way our brains and thoughts (our egos) try to solve the guilt problem doesn’t work and so we have to try something else.
What else? The only other else there is: God.
God knows you now. He remembers nothing, having always known you exactly as He knows you now. The holy instant reflects His knowing . . . in the holy instant, free of the past, you see that love is in you, and you have no need to look without and snatch love guiltily away from where you thought it was (T-15.V.9:1-3, 7).
What does this mean in a practical way? In an in-the-moment kind of way?
Attention given to the wholeness of the present moment has for me been the most effective tool of healing because it reflects an invitation to the Holy Spirit which is “the Christ Mind which is aware of the knowledge that lies beyond perception” (T-5.I.5:1).
Thus, to use one of the examples of separation I gave earlier, I can watch the bird feeder and be aware of the totality of the moment: the color of the Blue Jays in sunlight, the dance of Juncos hopping on the snow, my identification with them as victims of the larger, more aggressive Jays, the language I am using to get at the moment and so forth. If I can observe all this without judgment (so much as possible – this is not necessarily easy), I am effectively deferring to the Holy Spirit who sees and perceives as the egoic self does, yet maintains the essential connection to knowledge, or truth, or God.
In other words, the Holy Spirit is aware of the ego’s activity and bias yet doesn’t fall for it, being simultaneously perfectly at home in Christ, and concerned only with healing the mind that still believes in separation.
The Holy Spirit promotes healing by looking beyond it to what the children of God were before healing was needed, and will be when they have been healed (T-5.II.1:2).
It should come as no surprise that this healing reflects an “alteration of the time sequence” (T-5.II.1:3) because it is a letting go of the separation now (T-5.II.1:4).
In a way, everything always leads us back to a present experience of God – an awareness that right now, without condition or impediment – we are precisely and perfectly as God created us. Guilt is not justified and so time is not required at all.
We can talk about this intellectually – there is a place for that, of course – but we are also called by our interior experience of Jesus to go beyond mere ideas and into actual experience. Heaven is here and now. Find out what that means so you can share it with your brothers and sisters. What else is there?