Miracles are both beginnings and endings, and so they alter the temporal order. They are always affirmations of rebirth, which seem to go back but really go forward. They undo the past in the present, and thus undo the future (T-1.I.13:1-3).
The thirteenth principle of miracles in A Course in Miracles is an early introduction to the holy instant, the Course’s life-altering perspective on the nature and purpose of both time and miracles. It makes clear that miracles – which are shifts in perception that create Love where formerly there was only fear – literally alter the temporal order, undoing the effects of our mistaken belief in the past and the future.
But how do they do this? And is this an example of symbolic language or are we meant to take the idea literally? Because if we are to take it literally, then aren’t we essentially granting miracles a supernatural quality we have already expressly denied they have?
We can start answering those questions by recognizing that time is a perception of the body, much like a three-dimensional world, the invisibility of infrared and infraviolet light, and the ability to hear sounds only in a frequency range between approximately 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
Just like a butterfly perceives colors that we do not, and a dog hears sounds that we cannot, it is reasonable to expect that a tick or a sunflower, say, have different experiences of time than we do.
When we realize that time is of the body, then we can ask a new question: what is time at the level of the spirit which, as the twelfth principle makes clear, is the only level of reality?
The suggestion is that the Holy Spirit may or may not be interested in giving an answer to that in terms that make sense to mind that still believes it is yoked to a body. But It will absolutely be interested in making clear that the real question is not whether time is real – to the body it will always be real, to spirit it will never be – but rather are we using time for atonement or for suffering? That is, are we accepting the ego’s use of time or the Holy Spirit’s?
The ego uses time to focus on death and nothingness, always laced with hints of hell. We were bad in the past, which means we are guilty now, which means we will suffer in the future. This is a bleak and merciless perspective and offers no hope or respite, which is the point. We hate it but we feel trapped by it because it seems so real. We fail to see it is merely a construction born of thinking with the ego instead of the Holy Spirit.
When we give attention to the Holy Spirit, It gently insists that the present is all of time there is, and that the past and the future are illusions which cannot cause anything – neither joy nor pain – except in dreams that accept what is unreal as real.
You are confused, says the Holy Spirit. But your confusion can be corrected. The question is, are we ready?
The instant in which magnitude dawns upon you is but as far away as your desire for it. As long as you desire it not and cherish littleness instead, by so much is it far from you. By so much as you want it will you bring it nearer (T-15.IV.2:2-4).
What does this mean in practice?
In application, the thirteenth miracle principle allows us to revisit past experiences and emotions in order to recognize the lessons they hold and to integrate these healing insights of the lessons into our present lives. By acknowledging and processing the past, we create the necessary conditions for healing and growth in the present, effectively releasing the future from the shackles of past limitations and traumas.
This is a temporary process. It occurs in the context of separation in order to undo separation, which is always how the Holy Spirit teaches us.
This is forgiveness as the Holy Spirit understands it, which is simply right-mindedness, or right seeing. It does not deny that we have tied ourselves into metaphysical and psychological knots by accepting the ego’s interpretation of time. Rather, It uses that illusion to undo the suffering that interpretation causes. It is literally the manifestation of the other way for which Bill Thetford cried out, effectively augmenting A Course in Miracles.
Miracles are experiences of release from suffering because they demonstrate that the cause of suffering is an interpretation which can be changed. We are doing this to ourselves and, when we are ready, we can do something different.