A Course in Miracles teaches that the separation from God occurred over “millions of years” (T-2.VIII.2:5). Yet the separation lives in and acts through us with our consent now. As we become aware of the through process known as separation, we naturally orient towards dissolving it, which is simultaneously a movement towards inner peace.
Speeding up this dissolution – for it is possible to end the separation and experience inner peace now – 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. They will assume they are responsible for the separation.
Second, those who are guilty make time in order to facilitate the expiation of their guilt. The thinking goes something like this: I am guilty now because of what I did in the past but I will be absolved (or punished) in the future.
In this way, 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. Why make our learning harder than it has to be?
Taking note of separation-based thinking now is what enables us – with considerable assistance from Jesus and the Holy Spirit – to end it now. And that is our goal. We don’t want to understand the problem; we want to solve it – or, better, we want to see that is is already solved. That is the beautiful and never-not-helpful essence of lesson 79 and lesson 80.
So what does the separation look like right now? Its form changes from student to student. Perhaps it is the blue jays harassing our beloved chickadees at the feeder. Perhaps it is the neighbor running his lawn mower or leaf blower when what we’d prefer is a monastic silence. Perhaps it is our fear of going to dinner with new friends later who might find us boring. Perhaps it is a diagnosis of cancer, or anger at this or that politician, or our fear of dying.
All of those examples are formal (literally having a form) reflections of an underlying belief that we are separated from God. Do you see how they all make our happiness and peace contingent on ideal external circumstances? If the blue jays leave, then our chickadees will be safe. If the neighbor pipes down, then we will be able to pray and know peace. If our new friends don’t respond with gushing praise and admiration, then we’ll be miserable.
And so forth.
When we set the world up this way, we are separating various parts from what is whole – what is God – and then assigning value to the various pieces. And then we ask those pieces to become responsible for our inner peace and joy.
Basically, we ask the divisions we have made 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 we project onto something external (be it a person, a place, an event, a piece of food, the weather, etc.), we are effectively confirming that we believe we are separate from God. As a result, something other than God – with whom we are joined – becomes responsible for my happiness and peace or lack thereof.
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 fix the problem of separation.
Guilt is intolerable. Of course, we have a sad gift for bearing a lot of it over long periods of time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s desirable. Or helpful. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t have another choice in this regard. There is always another way.
Unfortunately, we have used our creative powers of healing not to turn inward with God – which is the only solution to the problem of guilt – but rather to make time and then wait for a solution that cannot come because it is not in time.
This is basically a trick of the ego. On the one hand, we get to 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 hand, we are never going to actually end guilt because – like the horizon itself – its “end” is always a frozen image 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 to our understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles – it does not work.
This is one of the blessings – and by blessing I mean both opportunity and pain-in-the-ass – available to us as ACIM students. In a calm and collected way, we are able to make contact with the simple truth that the way our thinking (which is to say, our egos) try to solve the problem of guilt doesn’t work. We have to try something else.
And what else shall we try? That which has no opposite – that which cannot be other or else because it is All – 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?
Attention given to the wholeness of the present moment is a 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 an example from earlier, we 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 chickadees on the new-fallen snow, our identification with the smaller birds as victims of the larger, more aggressive birds, the language we use to describe the experience . . . all of it.
If we can observe all this without judgment (so much as possible – this is not necessarily easy), then we are 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 (which the ego emphatically does not do).
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 the 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), and thus ends altogether the time structures that guilt relies on for its existence.
In a way, everything always leads us back to a present experience of God – an awareness that right now, without condition, qualification or impediment – we remain precisely and perfectly as God created us. Because it is not possible to leave God, guilt is not a justified response to anything. 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 and God, as mediated by A Course in Miracles, to go beyond mere ideas and into actual experience itself. Heaven is here and now. Find out what that means so you can share it with your brothers and sisters. What else is there?