On Guilt and Time and Inner Peace

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?

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Eric December 20, 2013, 7:44 am

    Hi Sean,

    I’m running out the door, so no time for one of my long commentaries, LOL. But I am stuck on something you quoted. The quote that says the separation occurred over many millions of years. I’m stuck on it, because I have never heard (or remember anyone) anyone ever referencing that line except for myself. In fact, I think it is often consciously or unconsciously overlooked as it doesn’t really jive with the mythology sometimes presented that the Big Bang Theory is the separation that happened in an instant.


    • Sean Reagan December 20, 2013, 8:41 am

      I like your long commentaries!

      I like that line a lot – I think it is challenging to a lot of concepts to which we (meaning course students generally) tend to default.

      ~ Sean

    • Pamela December 21, 2013, 12:32 pm

      Eric, that line about the separation taking millions of years seems odd to me. I even wonder if Helen heard it correctly and here is the reason. We know that this universe has been around for approximately 13.5 BILLION years. We further have strong reason to believe that our universe is only one of an almost infinitely large multiverse which is to say that the probability is high that there are at least some OLDER universes ‘out there.’ So if the Separation took only millions of years, how is it that space and time are billions of years old. Any idea?

      • Eric December 21, 2013, 2:17 pm

        Hi Pamela,

        I do have an idea on this. Though it may disagree with course lore. I’m going to be out and about this weekend, but I’ll try and reply soon.


        • Pamela December 21, 2013, 4:33 pm

          I’m looking forward to your comments.

          • Eric December 22, 2013, 3:16 pm

            Hi Pamela,

            I have a moment so I thought I would try and answer you. I’m going to preface this with this:

            First and foremost, I don’t have this completely worked out in my mind and this is certainly not definitive for me. This is also what I would call a play on ideas and ultimately is not that important, but I do think the course is far more practical and less mythological as it is sometimes presented.

            I also think the course is a philosophy on idealism or ideas and shares some of the same philosophy as Neo-Platonism. This theme runs continually through the text and especially runs throughout the workbook. As it makes statements such as: Everything is an idea, God is an idea, you/I are glorious ideas, the Holy Spirit is the idea of healing, the ego is an idea, etc.

            Also, I think some of the things that are taken literally like the term dream, has a more subtle nuance to it. I am looking at terms the course uses in more of a psychology definition, though I think it is in line with the course’s definition. For example, the dual processing of seeing. Visual perception track being HOW we see the world, while visual action track being the guide to moment to moment action. Consciousness being self aware and aware of surroundings. I think the course completely agrees with this definition in this passage:

            Consciousness was the first split that man introduced into himself. He became a perceiver rather than a creator in the true sense. Consciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego. The ego is a man-made attempt to perceive himself as he wished to be rather than as he is. This is an example of the created-creator confusion we have spoken of before. Yet man can only know himself as he is because that is all he can be sure of. Everything else is open to question. ~ Original Edition-ACIM

            Eric: Consciousness in this sense, to me at least, is the idea of “I am this or that” rather than I AM. Through this idea and perception, the mind then becomes identified with the body and surroundings, seeing oneself as separate.

            Also the term self-concept being defined in psychology as: all of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves in answer to the question, “Who am I?”

            I often see the self-concept and the ego as two sides of the same coin. I think of the self concept as the noun (one’s ideas of oneself and the relation to the world) and the ego as the verb (that which takes action to protect those ideas).

            Also one day, I was reading a physics book (no, not one the new age books like The Field or The Holographic Universe-though I read those too) and there was a section on form and the brain. This section talked about people who were born blind going through some experimental surgeries and gaining their sight. The problem was, the brain never learned to compartmentalize and separate things from each other. So many people ended up just seeing abstract swirls of colors that didn’t mean anything. Again, I am reminded of this passage from the course:

            Ego-illusions are quite specific, although they frequently change and although the mind is naturally abstract. The mind nevertheless becomes concrete voluntarily as soon as it splits. However, only part of it splits, so only part of it is concrete. The concrete part is the same part that believes in the ego because the ego depends on the specific. It is the part that believes your existence means you are separate. ~ Original Edition-ACIM

            Eric: Form is a brain construct of the concrete. It compartmentalizes and separates out and in doing so, automatically separates the observer from the observed. God knows not form, because God does not compartmentalize and separate out to perceive.

            We’ve spoken of this before, but I also want to talk about the universe and how the course speaks of the universe. Contrary to popular course lore, the course never speaks (that I know of) of the universe in a negative or ambiguous way like the world. It always speaks of the universe in the positive. The only thing spoken about the universe in the negative is our perception of it.

            The course continually says things like:

            Without you there would be a lack in God, a Heaven incomplete, a Son without a Father. There could be no universe and no reality. ~ACIM

            For it seems safer to attack another or yourself than to attack the great Creator of the universe, whose power you know. ~ACIM

            Attack is neither safe nor dangerous. It is impossible. And this is so because the universe is one. ~ACIM

            What God created cannot be attacked, for there is nothing in the universe unlike itself. ~ACIM
            Think but an instant on this: God gave the Sonship to you to ensure your perfect creation. This was His gift, for as He withheld Himself not from you, He withheld not His creation. Nothing that ever was created but is yours. Your relationships are with the universe. And this universe, being of God, is far beyond the petty sum of all the separate bodies you perceive. ~ACIM

            Who can deny the Presence of what the universe bows to in appreciation and gladness? Before the recognition of the universe which witnesses to It, your doubts must disappear. ~ACIM

            The universe beyond the sun and stars and all the thoughts of which you can conceive belong to you. God’s peace is the condition for His Will. Attain His peace, and you remember Him. ~ACIM

            Infinity is meaningless without you, and you are meaningless without God. There is no end to God and His Son, for we are the universe. ~ACIM

            Yet my mind is part of creation and part of its Creator. Would I not rather join the thinking of the universe than to obscure all that is really mine with my pitiful and meaningless “private” thoughts? ~ACIM

            All living hearts are tranquil, with a stir of deep anticipation, for the time of everlasting things is now at hand. There is no death. The Son of God is free. And in his freedom is the end of fear. No hidden places now remain on earth to shelter sick illusions, dreams of fear, and misperceptions of the universe. ~ACIM

            There is another Maker of the world, the simultaneous Corrector of the mad belief that anything could be established and maintained without some link that kept it still within the laws of God; not as the law itself upholds the universe as God created it, but in some form adapted to the need the Son of God believes he has. Corrected error is the error’s end. ~ACIM

            Eric: There is a lot of talk about pure non-dualism that in many ways is very dualistic. I’m presenting this idea that I think not only is more non-dualistic, but also helps answer the often considered contradictory statement that the separation never occurred while it appears to be happening in a very practical way and not so mythological.

            God did not directly create form, but the power to create/make form does come from God. There is no other way around this, otherwise our minds would HAVE TO BE SEPARATE from God’s. To use the Tao Te Ching, we can look at the myriad of 10,0000 things stemming from the One.

            I think we often default to form when thinking of the universe. But I think we should not confuse the form we perceive within the universe, AS the universe. When we identify with form, we automatically bring the concept of time/space into it, for neither can exist without the other. Form needs time/space for form to be constructed and time/space needs form to be maintained.

            I am presenting the idea that there is not “this” universe, but there is some other “spiritual” universe of God, but that there is only the universe, and it is our misperceptions of the universe that needs to be corrected. To revisit this passage:

            The universe beyond the sun and stars and all the thoughts of which you can conceive belong to you. God’s peace is the condition for His Will. Attain His peace, and you remember Him. ~ACIM

            Eric: To me, this is not saying there is a universe beyond the sun and stars as in location. It is saying the universe beyond our limited perception and identification of form. When it says all the thoughts we can conceive, I believe it is saying the universe beyond all conceptual thinking, Reality.

            It is the ideas we hold about our selves and our identification with form-time/space as reality through the dream of consciousness that seems to make the separation real. In fact, the separation never occurred, because we are literally at home in God. It only seems to have occurred through beliefs in ideas and identification.

            Going back to the physics book, and form being a brain construct of the concrete, we can see that form-time/space are ideas that we believe to be ultimately true.

            Yet the course also says:

            We have discussed the fall, or separation, before, but its meaning must be clearly understood without symbols. The separation is not symbolic. It is an order of reality or a system of thought that is real enough in time, though not in eternity. All beliefs are real to the believer. ~ACIM

            Eric: Since we appear to be in time/space with our beliefs and ideas, the course does not just discount the relative when discussing the Ultimate. In other words, it is not using neo-advaitic concepts of spiritual bypassing. This is why the course is so practical as it often says.

            This is where I finally come to your question about the passage in the course about the separation occurring over millions of years.

            In the earlier versions of the course, instead of directly speaking to the reader with the word “you”, it often speaks of man in general. For example, the quote I used earlier said:

            Consciousness was the first split that man introduced into himself. ~Original Edition-ACIM

            There are two points I think I need to make here first.

            1. This passage is being discussed within the relative reality of time/history.

            2. While all life is of God, this book is (obviously) specifically speaking to man/humanity. Humanity at the relative level has so deeply separated itself from life itself, with all the conceptual thinking, ideas, identification with form-time/space, etc. Instead of being life, we separate ourselves from life with all of our conceptual ideas about life. In turn, man has completely separated himself from the world through dissociation and disconnect. As a result the world does appear to be insane, but that insanity doesn’t necessarily arise from the world itself, but from man. That is why there is another maker of the world according to the course.

            Man cannot be separated from the world, for I/you/we ARE the world. So with the idea that the course is speaking to humanity on the relative level, the passage that says the separation occurred over many millions of years, does make sense in the context of historic evolution.

            I was recently reading an article on the Natural History Museum in the U.K. that the earliest members of the human family were estimated to be around 6 or 7 million years ago.

            If we go back to the term consciousness, then maybe we can see where this idea of being “self-aware” and ideas of oneself through the self concept began to arise. As time passed and humans “evolved”, the separation “evolved” too. There is an interesting book I read some time ago called, “The Fall”. This book suggests that climate changes some 6,000 years ago in the Middle East and Central Asia caused an explosion of individualism and separation. It also discusses the evolution of this.

            Anyways, those are my thoughts on this at the present moment. The idea that the separation is synonymous with the Big Bang Theory is an attractive idea. I remember when I first read the course, I thought this idea myself, before reading Wapnick or Renard. There is actually nothing in the course that corroborates this idea and Wapnick has never presented anything from the course to corroborate this idea.

            The problem is, is that the course can seemingly say contradictory things, especially in the early versions of the course. Yet, I think this is the same kind of paradox of the teachings of the ancient Advaita Vedanta teachings.

            In non-dual teachings of the Advaita Vedanta, it is said that the world being an illusion is the 2nd step and that often times students get stuck on, believing this is the end all. Paradoxically, one needs to become one with the world in order to transcend it.


  • Eric December 21, 2013, 9:29 am

    Hi again Sean,

    Like many other spiritual traditions, I find the more I read the course I see a lot of emphasis on the now. The course speaks of the now both as an aspect of time and the timeless and I think it is really important for course students to see this aspect of the course. Unfortunately, since certain course teachers have criticized Tolle, some students through the baby out with the bathwater, and think the now is nice, but it is not ACIM.

    Yet the now is so ACIM and something I’ve written on for some time now. This is one of the themes that continually runs throughout the course. The course tells us that we are much too tolerant of mind wandering and passively condone our mind’s mis-creations, and that the particular result doesn’t matter, but the fundamental error does. Yet, the mind doesn’t wander in location, but only into the past and/or future. This is why the course tells us that to be miracle workers, we must understand and respect the power of the mind. Again, we can see the course early on talking about cause and effect, when it says the particular result doesn’t matter, only the fundamental error does. It is also speaking of the very practical practice of mindfulness, or at least one aspect of it.

    *side note: I have to say Sean, reading your blogs and responding to them, always reminds me just how comprehensive and brilliant the course really is.*

    There is an interesting line in the course on the past and guilt that says:

    Yet consider this: You are not guiltless in time, but in eternity. You have “sinned” in the past, but there is no past. Always has no direction. Time seems to go in one direction, but when you reach its end, it will roll up like a long carpet which has spread along the past behind you and will disappear. As long as you believe the Son of God is guilty, you will walk along this carpet, believing that it leads to death. And the journey will seem long and cruel and senseless, for so it is. ~ACIM

    Eric: In the famous Lesson 132 about loosening the world, there is a line that states:

    You free the past from what you thought before. You free the future from all ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find. The present now remains the only time. Here in the present is the world set free. For as you let the past be lifted and release the future from your ancient fears, you find escape and give it to the world.~ACIM

    Eric: This is then followed with the statement that the world is nothing in itself, and that you must give it meaning. Yet this meaning only comes from the past. As the course tells us that this world was over long ago. “This world’s” existence comes from thoughts of the past replaying in the present moment.

    *side note: There is a section in the book, “I AM THAT: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj on the unreality of the world and its relationship to the mind and time that I thought was simple and brilliant. I’m going to have to re-read that and maybe give some thoughts on this sometime, but I think what it says is what the course is really trying to teach about there is no world.*

    Eric: But what does the course say about the now and the release from guilt? I think it says plenty and I’m going to leave this reply with some quotes from the course on this subject, but first I want to share a line from the course about the Holy Instant. Sean you mentioned about your resistance to certain things happening that you didn’t want to be there, such as your child singing continually and loudly, the Blue Jays, etc. I think we can all relate to this. It is the “if only this were different then I would be at peace.” The course says this about the Holy Instant:

    You could live forever in the holy instant, beginning now and reaching to eternity, but for a very simple reason. Do not obscure the simplicity of this reason, for if you do, it will be only because you prefer not to recognize it and not to let it go. The simple reason, simply stated, is this: The holy instant is a time in which you receive and give perfect communication. This means, however, that it is a time in which your mind is open, both to receive and give. It is the recognition that all minds are in communication. It therefore seeks to change nothing, but merely to accept everything. ~ACIM

    Eric: While the now is not only referenced to the reader, but also to how the reader sees their brothers/sisters, the quotes would make this reply extremely long, so I’m just going to provide a few here on the Now from the course:

    “The peace of God passeth your understanding only in the past. Yet here it is, and you can understand it now”. ~ACIM

    “’Now’ has no meaning to the ego.” ~ACIM

    “For the present is forgiveness.”~ACIM

    “Belief in sin arouses fear, and like its cause, is looking forward, looking back, but overlooking what is here and now. Yet only here and now its cause must be, if its effects already have been judged as fearful. And in overlooking this, is it protected and kept separate from healing. For a miracle is now. It stands already here, in present grace, within the only interval of time that sin and fear have overlooked, but which is all there is to time.”~ACIM

    “His ( The Holy Spirit’s) emphasis is therefore on the only aspect of time that can extend to the infinite, for now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers. It is in the reality of ‘now’, without past or future, that the beginning of the appreciation of eternity lies. For only ‘now’ is here, and only ‘now’ presents the opportunities for the holy encounters in which salvation can be found.” ~ACIM

    “Would you impose your idle wishes on the present, and hope to find salvation now?”~ACIM

    “No change can be made in the present if its cause is past. Only the past is held in memory as you make use of it, and so it is a way to hold the past against the now.”~ACIM

    “This is a sacrifice of now, which could not be the cost the Holy Spirit asks for what He gave without a cost at all.”~ACIM


    “ Now is the time of salvation, for now is the release from time.”~ACIM

    “The Holy Spirit teaches thus: There is no hell. Hell is only what the ego has made of the present” and that “The Holy Spirit would undo all of this now. Fear is not of the present, but only of the past and future, which do not exist. There is no fear in the present when each instant stands clear and separated from the past, without its shadow reaching out into the future. Each instant is a clean, untarnished birth, in which the Son of God emerges from the past into the present. And the present extends forever. It is so beautiful and so clean and free of guilt that nothing but happiness is there. No darkness is remembered, and immortality and joy are now.”~ACIM

    The Holy Spirit leads as steadily to Heaven as the ego drives to hell. For the Holy Spirit, Who knows only the present, uses it to undo the fear by which the ego would make the present useless.”~ACIM

    “ Take this very instant, now, and think of it as all there is of time.”~ACIM

    “Start now to practice your little part in separating out the holy instant. You will receive very specific instructions as you go along. To learn to separate out this single second and begin to experience it as timeless, is to begin to experience yourself as not separate”~ACIM

    “The Atonement teaches you how to escape forever from everything that you have taught yourself in the past, by showing you only what you are now”.~ACIM

    “The Holy Spirit can indeed make use of memory, for God Himself is there. Yet this is not a memory of past events, but only of a present state. You are so long accustomed to believe that memory holds only what is past, that it is hard for you to realise it is a skill that can remember now”.~ACIM




    • Sean Reagan December 21, 2013, 5:09 pm

      Hey Eric.

      Funny you mention Eckhart Tolle – I pulled some of his books the other day for another look. Stillness Speaks remains a favorite of mine. I think Tolle is pretty solid and accessible. The ACIM community can be pretty elitist (a fault I am hardly free of!).

      Yes, the present is the holy grail – one way or another, most traditions (or at least some strains of most traditions) point us there. I know you are not phrasing it this way, but I think it is impossible to really practice ACIM without making the Holy Instant (the now, the present) its cornerstone.

      Mind wandering is absolutely time-based! I’ve not put it that way before but you are right. It is never content to rest in the present but is always looking for some grist – be it a past grievance or an anticipated joy or vice versa or whatever – that it can chew to avoid the present. I think in a somewhat roundabout way, this was Bohm’s idea (and plenty of other physicists too, though they tend not to stray into spiritual language realms) – that time is a construct to which we give far too much psychological credence.

      And I am coming to see that this experience of the holy instant – the now – is neither impossible nor limited to spiritual giants. More and more that feels like part of what appeals to me most about the course: its practicality and insistence that without exception we can all make contact with God.

      It is the clearest practical Christian expression of this principle I have encountered.


      • Eric December 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

        Hi Sean,

        I really like the book, “Stillness Speaks” also. I have it in book form and on my iPod. It’s simple, yet I think very powerful. Since Tolle is a big fan of the course, I wonder if he got the title of his book from this wonderful passage in the course:

        How instantly the memory of God arises in the mind that has no fear to keep the memory away. Its own remembering has gone. There is no past to keep its fearful image in the way of glad awakening to present peace. The trumpets of eternity resound throughout the stillness, yet disturb it not. And what is now remembered is not fear, but rather is the cause that fear was made to render unremembered and undone. The stillness speaks in gentle sounds of love the Son of God remembers from before his own remembering came in between the present and the past to shut them out. ~ACIM

        You wrote: I know you are not phrasing it this way, but I think it is impossible to really practice ACIM without making the Holy Instant (the now, the present) its cornerstone.

        Eric: It’s funny that you say that, because this is from something I wrote about a year and a half after I began studying the course:

        The question is, isn’t here the best starting point in the journey without distance? Only by being HERE can we begin to practice the Holy Instant. Only by being HERE can we begin to realize our Truth. Only by being HERE can we give the willingness to the Holy Spirit. Only by being HERE can we release the past, thus releasing the future. Only by being HERE can we BE. And where is HERE, but Now? Not in the past and not in the future, but Now.

        Eric: It’s amateurish, I know, but essentially I was trying to convey what you are saying. Since then, I wrote a few other blogs on this subject. They were on the now defunct iworkmiralces website, so when it went down my blogs went with them. This site was also ran by a very good friend (at the time) of Gary Renard. Gary came to the site to promote his podcast, and his CD’s. It was at this time that I took the opportunity to question Renard about his “ascended masters” statements about the now in his 2nd book.

        What I pointed out to him was what I wrote here about the mind wandering and passively condoning the mind’s miscreations. And the mind doesn’t wander in location, but in time. I also stated this point about forgiveness to him.

        The course states: I cannot let you leave your mind unguarded, or you will not be able to help me. Miracle working entails a full realization of the power of thought in order to avoid miscreation. Otherwise a miracle will be necessary to set the mind itself straight, a circular process that would not foster the time collapse for which the miracle was intended. The miracle worker must have genuine respect for true cause and effect as a necessary condition for the miracle to occur. ~ACIM

        Eric: Again, the mind can only miscreate in the past or future. As I told Renard, we can pay lip service to forgiveness “ACIM style” all we want, but if we don’t practice being present and mindfulness in conjunction with forgiveness, then we will be simply be re-creating a circular process that would hardly foster the time collapse for which the miracle was intended in the first place by continually letting the mind wander and passively condone the mind’s miscreations.

        I never did get a very good reply from him and he left fairly soon after that, but it was brought to my attention that the very next one of his podcasts was on the now. I listened to it out of curiousity and found he kept tying to make it all about the metaphysical and disregarded the practical aspects that the course teaches.

        Interestingly, coincidentally, the passages I quoted to Gary about mind wandering and a few others are now in Gary’s new book with his “ascended masters” attempting to re-visit this topic.


  • Eric December 21, 2013, 9:38 am

    Sean: I like that line a lot – I think it is challenging to a lot of concepts to which we (meaning course students generally) tend to default.

    Eric: I do too and I agree, it does challenge a lot of the course lore that course students may default to. There is a lot of mythology taught about the course, but I think some of the mythological interpretations are far more practical than they may seem at first glance.

  • Michael Mark December 22, 2013, 8:36 am

    Hi Sean,

    I’m probably getting off track from your main point in this post, (which I enjoyed thoroughly for it’s primary raison d’etre as well), but that quote you referenced about the separation taking millions of years is one that leapt off the page when I read it and I couldn’t resist. My path has always been one of finding connections, and I suspect this is true for many of us. This quote struck me as an innocuous-seeming line, with powerful connections to other ideas that have resonated with me.

    There is another quote that leapt out from the Course when I read it that partners with the millions-of-years quote and I think that together they point to a reality we are perhaps discovering through our healing. That quote is ” ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away’ means that they will not continue to exist as separate states.” T-1.III.2

    I want to keep this brief- but the feelings are large so I will do my best!- but the first quote about millions of years really struck me because of how closely it matches the discussion of the separation contained in Ken Carey’s writings, and Return of the Bird Tribes in particular. Some elaboration on this is also contained in A Course of Love that dovetails very nicely with the “millions of years” quote. In both cases, the notion is that as spirit moved into matter, (in an effort to express Love), there was a loss of contact with the formlessness that is our true identity. There was a loss of the “knowing” that whatever happens in form is okay, because it isn’t primary- it is a changeable, malleable EXRESSION of who we are, and not WHO we are. Our error was misperceiving the expression as the reality, which is the classic inversion of form for content.

    I have really enjoyed pondering this connection from time to time because it suggests to me the reality we are experiencing is not one big cosmic mistake. Our experience of it is deeply flawed, but we don’t need to become fixated on being someplace else- on finding/obtaining peace and knowledge so we can “escape” a world that has four seasons. We are not sinners, losers, or nincompoops for having an experience that involves shapes and colors and chemistry- we are simply way off track in our interpretation of what it is and what it means, and as a result it has become hell…

    The second quote, about heaven and earth no longer existing as separate states plays into this for me, because it suggests a unification of the world we see around us each morning when we awake with the invisible Reality we can only know in our hearts, in peace, in the recovery of the knowledge that our Content is changeless and eternal.

    This unification is what Jesus accomplished I think, within his own heart and mind (and thus within all of us)- walking the Earth with full knowledge of who he is. I think sometimes in navigating the difficult mental re-tooling necessary to withdraw our sense of identity from the world of forms, we come to view the world of form as “the problem”, without realizing that there is perhaps a reason why we once desired to extend into it- a holy reason, a joyous reason.

    The world of form is not itself “the problem”. The problem is the misperception of form and content. We need not feel guilty for finding ourselves in an experiencing involving laptops, birds, trees, moon and stars. Guilt is the inevitable result of separating ourselves from the invisible, eternal, timeless Reality from which we are all, as one Sonship, extended. Without the separation, could we imagine heaven and earth passing away as separate states, and somehow realizing a return to their rightful, unified relationship? Could we imagine a world that is the expression of our union in and through Love, and of our knowledge that we share an identity in Christ, a knowledge that is enhanced by the presence of one another, not hindered by them?


    • Sean Reagan December 22, 2013, 3:49 pm

      Hi Michael,

      It’s good to hear from you. I hope all is well in – Maine? Somewhere north of me, if memory serves.

      Thank you for sharing. I am not familiar with the texts that you mention but your summation resonates with my evolving understanding of how duality came to dominate human thought. There is a lot of mythology and symbolism that we have used to explain/understand/remember this (not the least of which is the execution and varied resurrections of Jesus), and all that has its place surely, but I am also beginning to see that it is quite simply a habit of thinking to which we are deeply attached and which – with help – can be undone.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the need to refrain from judging ourselves for misinterpreting reality. Indeed, in a way, it is understandable that we go to this place – our forebears can hardly be blamed for it. What is interesting is coming to that interior place (psychological space?) – where I think many of us as course students are – where we begin to perceive we have a choice in all this and don’t have to just suffer/bumble along.

      In relation to that, I really appreciated these lines of yours:

      I think sometimes in navigating the difficult mental re-tooling necessary to withdraw our sense of identity from the world of forms, we come to view the world of form as “the problem”, without realizing that there is perhaps a reason why we once desired to extend into it – a holy reason, a joyous reason.

      That is nicely – helpfully – put. Thank you.

      ~ Sean

      • Michael Mark December 22, 2013, 10:16 pm

        Hi Sean,

        Maine is correct, and all is indeed well. It is roughly a year since I started, with no small amount of hesitation and some encouragement from yourself, to do some blogging, and looking back at the transformation that writing semi-regularly has wrought within and through me is a pretty interesting winter reflection. Sort of beyond words actually. But I’m really glad I began writing. It is amazing how we this inward-facing dialogue seems to unfold and keep going… Creation is the same I think… This endless unfolding…

        Anyway, I was shopping for some groceries tonight and had the realization- related to the topic of this post- that there is this kind of reversible aspect to the separation-guilt process. The Course tells us the guilt is basically an unavoidable consequence of seeking to be separate, as if we know deep down “it’s only a matter of time until we’re caught!” Ha! The reverse is that when I feel guilty about anything, the turning of thought toward communion and unity quickly dissolves it. The two patterns of thought truly cannot cohabitate.

        It was a simple observation, but finding places where this is practical really cements things for all of us I think.

        Hope all is well on your end, too. Thanks for your continued sharing.


        • Sean Reagan December 23, 2013, 2:33 pm

          Yes! Writing is very much at the heart of my ACIM practice. I know that it doesn’t work this way for everyone, but for those of us called to it, there is so much healing in simply giving space to wordiness. Unfolding is very much the word for it – folding and unfolding, being enfolded. We are paper cranes in the deft fingers of Love!

          And double yes: when the thought of guilt intrudes on peace, a thought of love (in the form of service, creation, whatever) undoes it in the specific sense that the two cannot cohabitate. I think this moves in the direction of ACIM’s observation that peace is a result of “complete forgiveness (T-2.VI.1:1). We are not saved by degrees.

    • Eric December 23, 2013, 7:06 am

      Hi Michael,

      Very nice. I was just referencing this quote on Heaven and Earth shall pass away not too long ago, and it pretty much coincides with what you just said. There are other passages in the course that go along with this idea also.


  • Pamela December 22, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Hi Eric. There was no ‘reply’ to respond to what you wrote. So I am putting it here as the last comment on the page. Hope you see it.

    Anyway, you noted that, “Consciousness in this sense, to me at least, is the idea of “I am this or that” rather than I AM. Through this idea and perception, the mind then becomes identified with the body and surroundings, seeing oneself as separate.” I think that your definition is in line with my notion of consciousness which is pretty much an adoption of Sartre’s notion which is that consciousness is a type of separation in that it is always an awareness of something that is not itself the observer. Even when self-aware, consciousness sees ‘the self’ of which it is aware as something at least slightly other than the observer else it could not be observed!!!! This element of separation appears to be the nature of consciousness.

    Then, to the extent that I understand, you seem to suggest that when we truly know (as opposed to being conscious of) the universe, we shall know that it is Reality because the ‘form’ (black holes, stars, galaxies, parallel dimensions, etc.) will be stripped away to show the Universe really is God, Son, Holy Spirit and all Creation. That seems reasonable to me and therefore possible.

    But you then seem to suggest that somehow evolution of bodies is what produced consciousness, as if we had no consciousness before we incarnated (which has been happening over a few million years here on earth) but I see no evidence for this in ACIM. Moreover, the notion seems to suggest that consciousness is produced by being in a body and lost when the body is no more. However, as a person who has spent decades profoundly interested in paranormal research, I have to say that the paranormal evidence suggests that ghosts remain perceivers despite the death of their bodies many years ago. The ‘light body’ is just as capable of separation perception as the physical body because separation perception exists in the mind and not in the body. The body is merely a symbol of it, not a generator.

    So it still would seem, at least to the extent that we can trust science, (and I don’t want to become like some fundamentalist who thinks that science is somehow to be discarded as the antipathy of God’s Word) space and time have indeed been around billions upon billions of years and since space-time were given to us as the result of the our separation (dissociation trauma) to help us integrate the mind, the passage somehow doesn’t ‘fit’ with scientific findings. I suppose it is possible that the idea of being separate from God took millions of years to become firmly cemented in our minds after dissociation began (sort of an unraveling and splintering of the mind) and from that point on, we have merely existed believing this but I am not at all sure of this.

    • Eric December 23, 2013, 7:03 am

      Hi Pamela,

      I’m not sure if this is the platform for a lengthy discussion on the subject, but I just wanted to clarify a couple of things.

      I’m not trying to deny billions of years or dinosaurs or the Big Bang Theory, etc.

      This is why I prefaced my reply that the course is speaking directly and specifically to man/humans/humanity when it discusses the separation. This is quite obvious, obviously, lol. And I think within this context, the passage is appropriate.

      You know from reading the earlier versions of the course that it often speaks of man, as in humanity. For example, it says this about the separation in the Original Edition:

      If you consider carefully what this entails, the following will become quite apparent:

      First, the assumption is implicit that what God created can be changed by the mind of man.

      Second, the concept that what is perfect can be rendered imperfect or wanting is accepted.

      Third, the belief that man can distort the creations of God, including himself, is accepted.

      Fourth, the idea that since man can create himself, the direction of his own creation is up to him is implied.

      Eric: There is also something interesting about the definition of the world when it says,

      Project (verb): to extend forward or out.
      Project (noun): a plan in the mind.
      World: a natural grand division.

      Eric: It then follows right after the description of the separation this,

      The world, in the original connotation of the term, included both the proper creation of man by God and the proper creation by man in his right mind. The latter required the endowment of man by God with free will because all loving creation is freely given. Nothing in these statements implies any sort of level involvement or in fact anything except one continuous line of creation in which all aspects are of the same order. ~ACIM

      Also, it may seem like I was suggesting that the body is what produces consciousness, but considering some of the neuroscience findings of today on neuroplasticity of the brain and how one can use the mind to change the brain, I see no reason why it could not be the other way around. It is consciousness which produced the evolution of the body.

      I think you misunderstood me, I don’t think in any way the body is the generator of the separation, as you said, it is the symbol of the separation. Identification with the body as us is the problem. Even a ghost at one point had a body and if we’re going to talk about ghosts for the sake of the conversation, I would say it is their identification and attachment to the body in which is why the ghost still appears in/at the earthly realm.

      But to get back to the passage of how the separation occurred over millions of years. I’d say this. If this was indeed an error, it was one that made it past the notes, the UrText while Jesus was correcting Helen’s other mistakes, the editing that became the HLC Edition, and then the editing process that became the FIP Edition. It seems to me that it is in there for a reason.

      Unfortunately, Helen and Bill has passed on, so we’ll never know for sure, but from what I gather from reading some of the history of ACIM, the course was presented differently than it is now.


      • Sean Reagan December 23, 2013, 2:21 pm

        Pamela & Eric & Michael (and anyone else reading and thinking of chiming in on this discussion):

        Please don’t restrain yourselves on my account. I love this exchange.

        I want to offer a few thoughts which may or may not add something. I do so generally echoing Eric’s point that I am evolving in my understanding of these things, and my investment remains in finding what is helpful rather than what is right.

        I am reading L.L. Whyte’s fascinating book The Next Development in Man. It is sort of chauvinistic in the manner of the mid-twentieth century but quite remarkable in deepening my understanding of Bohm’s work (especially with respect to his dialogues with Krishnamurti) and – by extension – A Course in Miracles. Ken Wilber relies on Whyte a great deal in Up from Eden.”

        Whyte noted that the habit of our brains to play with novelty meant that we could not resist “the mental processes occurring within ourselves” as we evolved (important to note, I think, that human evolution reflected not just an evolution of bodies but of thought too).

        The outward-looking pagan became introspective; man became aware of moral conflict, aware of himself, and aware of his own separation from nature. Knowledge of conflict led to self-consciousness and to the sense of guilt. Man fell from innocence (61).

        Another word for this fall, says Whyte, is “dissociation,” which in ACIM is another word for separation. Observer and observed split.

        To some degree this is natural – in that it evolved organically – but it did present a dualism to which humans quickly became attached, effectively creating a trap into which – through successive generations – we have fallen and, importantly, have forgotten that we fell. It’s hard to even notice it now, let alone consistently maintain awareness such that we give attention to what is beyond it.

        Bohm put it like this in one of his seminars:

        A certain amount of analysis is necessary for clarity of thought; some distinctions need to be made. But we carry them too far without knowing. We slip over. And once we carry them too far, then we start assuming they are just ‘what is,’ and that becomes part of our habit (Thought as a System, 13-14).

        A Course in Miracles feels to me very much a deeply integrated, thorough and practical (and Christian) response to this split.

        • Pamela December 23, 2013, 3:53 pm

          Hi Sean, Eric and Michael,

          Here is why I find explanations that focus on the brain or evolution of the brain not satisfying. The Course tells us (and does so more than once):

          The body no more dies than it can feel. IT DOES NOTHING. Of itself, it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. IT IS NOTHING.

          In other words, the brain (the physical organ) puts no limit or boundary upon our thinking. It doesn’t restrict it so that certain thoughts or a certain way of thinking is not possible until ‘it’ gets itself together. I am reminded of a miracle testimony I once heard of a woman who had been blind for 20 years; then, suddenly, after praying every night for all those years, she could see. When she went to her doctor, he was shocked and so immediately ran her through a series of tests. He found no healing. Her optic nerve and everything else was as ‘dead’ as it had ever been, and yet she saw and, at the time when I saw her testimony, she had been seeing for ten years. What better proof that the body is nothing and does nothing? In fact, the body is soooo nothing with no effects that we are also told its death does NOT allow us escape from the world.

          The world is not left by death but by truth…”

          In other words, we should not think that when the body dies, we are suddenly possessors of all truth and fly off to Heaven. No, mind training and renewal are still needed until truth is accepted and believed.

          Eric, I am tending toward the notion that we should conceptualize ‘the separation’ as a belief system and that what the Course is telling us is that it took millions of years to fully develop this system in our minds. The beginning of this developmental period was the the beginning of space and time and I am not talking about the Big Bang in this universe but the Big Bang that started the Universe of universes. Having taken these few million years to develop the separation belief system, we are proceeding to work it out and get some mind training and this working and training, as of the date the Course was written, has taken several billions of years. Miracles will operate to considerably shorten it.

          • Sean Reagan December 23, 2013, 5:12 pm

            Pamela! I am often frustrated in correspondence with you (not with you personally – my sister in Emily Dickinson 🙂 – but with the limitations of the process) because I feel that we are saying more or less the same thing, with slight semantic differences. In conversation, these differences would iron out much quicker and more clearly; in writing they are harder to work through. Words on a page have a seeming permanence that spoken words do not.

            How about we all fly/drive/hike to the middle of the country for a long and wordy ACIM love-in?

            Thought – as Krishnamurti & Bohm used it – and as I am clumsily trying to use it – is not a product of the brain but rather includes the brain, or enfolds the brain. I don’t disagree with anything you are saying with respect to the body.

            The emergence or evolution of dualistic thinking/perceiving is the separation (and is thus, as you say to Eric, a belief system – or habit of thinking as I tend to call it). What had heretofore gone undifferentiated became aware of itself and – reasonably enough – slips into a subject/object framework. This works well in limited ways (as Bohm says) but is terrible in terms of inner peace and joy and fellowship and all that. We take it literally, like trying to use a spade for everything use to which a tool could be put – brushing our teeth, buttering bread . . .

            This perception is not just mental, though we tend to experience it that way: it is deeper and broader.

            The healing of this dualistic thinking/perception is a restoration to awareness of Oneness, of what is, of Truth. Thus, one is no longer obligated to associate self only with a body and so death loses its sting, to paraphrase Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The form or expression of Life can change certainly – a star, a rabbit, a Shakespeare play, a gust of wind – but it remains in content the One Thing, whether we call it God or Life or Source or whatever.

            I think ACIM gives a helpful religious (or spiritual, if that is more palatable) context (for those willing to give it attention and willingness) in which to resolve dualistic thinking in these bodies in this world and, as a result, enables us to “reestablish” contact with God – or whatever phrase suits – beyond or unconditioned by our limited ideas of time and space and self.

            So I am saying that this business of ending dualistic thinking in the world is not an end in itself but a beginning, roughly corresponding to the course’s qualification in the introduction that it’s not “teaching the meaning of love” but rather “removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence.”

          • Sean Reagan December 23, 2013, 5:25 pm

            Perhaps a bit too far to the side but I am reading Michael Pollan’s article on plant intelligence today and he makes (or records others making) some interesting observations with respect to intelligence and consciousness, to wit:

            Impressive as it is to us, self-consciousness is just another tool for living, good for some jobs, unhelpful for others. That humans would rate this particular adaptation so highly is not surprising, since it has been the shining destination of our long evolutionary journey, along with the epiphenomenon of self-consciousness that we call “free will.”

            It is always interesting – and helpful – to keep shifting the consciousness center away from this narrative physical self. Or maybe I am just indulging my love of – and winterish yearning for – spring flowers like bluets and forget-me-nots. Perhaps they miss me too!

          • Pamela December 23, 2013, 8:14 pm

            In general, Sean, we are always saying relatively the same thing because we are both Course students who accept that the metaphysical framework given in A Course in Miracles is true. At our most different, we remain no more distant that two people standing at different edges of the same field waving to one another. With that kept in mind, we have a few differences. You state that Krishnamurti & Bohm ‘enfolds the brain and includes it” but my view is why include what is NOTHING? Of what relevance to the point is NOTHING? Also, I do think that perception is mental even though it seems to includes psychoemotive components, and even though it appears to be associated with ‘physical stuff.” I think it is only mental because the Course assures us that perception is interpretation. To interpret is to provide meaning and understanding and only the mind does that. You state that:

            The emergence or evolution of dualistic thinking/perceiving is the separation (and is thus, as you say to Eric, a belief system – or habit of thinking as I tend to call it). What had heretofore gone undifferentiated became aware of itself and – reasonably enough – slips into a subject/object framework. This works well in limited ways (as Bohm says) but is terrible in terms of inner peace and joy and fellowship and all that. We take it literally, like trying to use a spade for everything use to which a tool could be put – brushing our teeth, buttering bread…

            If I understand the point being made here, I think we are in basic agreement. As I see it the Separation (as a belief system or habit of thinking) probably did ‘evolve’ or I would say it was refined and crystallized over time. I am also saying that maybe it took a few million years of time but, in my view, it took the first few million years that passed after time itself began. Our Universe was probably not yet on the scene time-wise but I think our minds were.

            However, I am not sure that we conceptualize The Separation belief system or habit of thinking in exactly the same way, although not in wholly different ways either. I see the core of it as the the belief that God is not accessible to us. We do not think that He goes with us wherever we go, or that He strengthens us in times of trouble, or that He is a very present help in trouble, or that since He is for us, no one can be against us, or that He heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds. We may even accept that The Holy Spirit is there for us but God? No, God remains as remote and distant, and as far removed from our daily lives as the farthest galaxy is from our lonely little Earth.

            In other words, in my understanding, Separation as a belief system or habit of thinking is not about whether we have dichotomized Reality in our thinking as much as we have denied the very real and close and intimate bond we have with Our Creator, God, Who is with us and able to be experienced NOW in this world WITH our experience of The Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Separation belief system is like an iceberg in that consciously we only see a very small part of it. At unconscious levels it is strong and unyielding and is our block to love’s awareness because there can be no full or complete awareness of love without awareness of God who is Love.

    • Eric December 23, 2013, 7:45 am

      PS. Pamela,

      In no way am I definitive by any means on this either.

  • Eric December 23, 2013, 8:11 pm

    Sean, you wrote:
    because I feel that we are saying more or less the same thing, with slight semantic differences.

    Eric: I agree. I was thinking the same thing.

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