A Course in Miracles asks us to rethink the way we use time. Rather than hold the past as a “light” in which to see and understand the present, we are asked instead to let it go entirely.
In the course, the present moment is itself sufficient unto all needs, both real and imagined.
In a way, it feels natural and right to use the past as a yardstick against which the present should be judged, in order that the future might be an improvement. That is how bodies operate and always have.
1. I touched a hot stove yesterday and it hurt.
2. Today I will not touch a hot stove.
3. Therefore I will not spend the next six hours in pain.
That’s a silly example, perhaps. Here’s a better, more practical one. Probably some of our distant ancestors did something like this:
1. Yesterday, Ogg ate some red berries from that bush.
2. Today Ogg is dead.
3. Therefore I will not eat red berries from that bush.
That is how civilization emerges! We judge the present according to the past, make any and all requisite adjustments, and sail into the future in better health and with bigger smiles. Eventually we get canoes and toilet paper and twelve string guitars. I’m pretty grateful for those things.
But obviously it doesn’t always work. It seems pretty clear that our habits of consumption are ruining the planet, rendering it inhabitable for our selves and our descendants. That’s not very smart.
And when it comes the deep interior – the heart of us, the gut of us, the mind of us – it doesn’t work well at all. We are not good at forgiveness, justice, peace or love. We pay lip service to those ideals, but they are rarely actualized. Indeed, when Jesus came along and said “love one another” he was executed for his troubles.
When we judge each other by the past, we hurt ourselves and we hurt each other. There is no other way to say it. Our past is unhealed and so it teaches us wrongly. We see bodies that we want to sleep with, bodies we want to praise us, bodies that we want to use as muses, bodies that can earn us money, bodies that can protect us.
We all agree that’s a terrible way to live – we are all talking about spiritual alternatives – and yet we keep on doing it. We know first hand the anguish of living without peace, and we are witnesses its awful manifestations day after day, year after year, perhaps lifetime after lifetime.
And yet we keep on doing it.
Nothing you have ever learned can help you understand the present, or teach you how to undo the past. Your past is what you have taught yourself. Let it all go. Do not attempt to understand any event or anything or anyone in its “light,” for the darkness in which you try to see can only obscure (T-14.XI.3:5-8).
If we are going to be serious students of the course – which is to say, students who are intent on awakening *now* – then we have to see two things in that passage.
The first is the absolute absence of equivocation. We didn’t learn some good information and some bad. We aren’t letting some things go while keeping others.
We didn’t learn squat. And so we have to let it all go. Period.
The other thing to see is that we are being called – again, unequivocally – to approach our lives in a state of what I sometimes think of as spiritual passivity. We aren’t being asked to figure things out, come up with plans for inner peace (ours or anyone else’s), or ways to solve this or that problem.
In every way possible, we lack both the means and information to end the conflict and chaos of our lives and the world. We are broken, we are breaking, and it’s only going to get worse. All we can do is surrender.
The apparent hopelessness – lovelessness even – of that assessment is, of course, mediated by the Holy Spirit.
God did not abandon you. And so you have another lesson sent from Him, already learned for every child of light by Him to Whom God gave it . . . Learn of His happiness, which is yours. But to accomplish this, all your dark lessons must be brought willingly to truth, and joyously laid down by hands open to receive, not closed to take (T-14.XI.4:2-3, 5-6).
When we are faced with conflict, it is helpful to be attentive to what is going on inside us: how do we want to react? What do we want to say? What are we telling ourselves is a fair and reasonable response? Checking in internally is helpful: if we encounter even the faintest hint of fear, then we can be assured we are still using the past against the present, still heeding the ego rather than the gentler, kinder alternative (T-14.XI.5:1-2).
This is not always comforting! When someone is yelling at us, say, and we’re sitting there trying to keep the Holy Spirit in mind, we’re apt to feel pretty scared or discombobulated. Sitting through hard times – sadness, fear, jealousy, anger – is hard. But it’s okay. It’s more than okay.
As we turn increasingly within, and are rewarded accordingly, we begin to realize that our reliance on the Holy Spirit is never misplaced. We become more confident that we aren’t being abandoned in the middle of a horrible storm. Help is always here.
If our action or reaction in any situation is familiar – if it makes sense – if we are busy telling ourselves that what we’re doing is reasonable and justified, perhaps we can take another moment to be sure that we aren’t simply repeating past lessons? Perhaps we can ask if there is another way?
Yet the essential thing is learning that you do not know (T-14.XI.1:1).
If we already knew how to love, and how to be at peace, and how to radiate joy, we would do so. We have forgotten. We have to be clear about that or we are not going to get anywhere with A Course in Miracles. On the bright side, when we *are* clear about it, the movement towards light becomes very quick indeed.