IV. The Function of Time
1. And now the reason why you are afraid of this course should be apparent. For this is a course on love because it is about you. You have been told that your function in this world is healing, and your function in heaven is creating. The ego teaches that your function on earth is destruction, and you have no function at all in heaven. It would thus destroy you here and bury you here, leaving you no inheritance except the dust out of which it thinks you were made. As long as it is reasonably satisfied with you, as its reasoning goes, it offers you oblivion. When it becomes overly savage, it offers you hell.
2. Yet neither oblivion nor hell is as unacceptable to you as heaven. Your definition of heaven is hell and oblivion, and the real Heaven is the greatest threat you think you could experience. For hell and oblivion are ideas that you made up, and you are bent on demonstrating their reality to establish yours. If their reality is questioned, you believe that yours is. For you believe that attack is your reality, and that your destruction is the final proof that you were right.
3. Under the circumstances, would it not be more desirable to have been wrong, even apart from the fact that you were wrong? While it could perhaps be argued that death suggests there was life, no one would claim that it proves there is life. Even the past life that death might indicate, could only have been futile if it must come to this, and needs this to prove that it was at all. You question Heaven, but you do not question this. Yet you could heal and be healed if you did question it. And even though you know not Heaven, might it not be more desirable than death? You have been as selective in your questioning as in your perception. An open mind is more honest than this.
4. The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms.
5. “Now” has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now.
6. The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past. Would you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it as a meeting with your own past? For you would be meeting no one, and the sharing of salvation, which makes the encounter holy, would be excluded from your sight. The Holy Spirit teaches that you always meet yourself, and the encounter is holy because you are. The ego teaches that you always encounter your past, and because your dreams were not holy, the future cannot be, and the present is without meaning.
7. It is evident that the Holy Spirit’s perception of time is the exact opposite of the ego’s. The reason is equally clear for they perceive the goal of time as diametrically opposed. The Holy Spirit interprets time’s purpose as rendering the need for time unnecessary. He regards the function of time as temporary, serving only His teaching function, which is temporary by definition. His 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.
8. The ego, on the other hand, regards the function of time as one of extending itself in place of eternity, for like the Holy Spirit, the ego interprets the goal of time as its own. The continuity of past and future, under its direction, is the only purpose the ego perceives in time, and it closes over the present so that no gap in its own continuity can occur. Its continuity, then, will keep you in time, while the Holy Spirit would release you from it. It is His interpretation of the means of salvation that you must learn to accept if you would share His goal of salvation for you.
9. You, too, will interpret the function of time as you interpret yours. If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future. This interpretation ties the future to the present and extends the present rather than the past. But if you interpret your function as destruction, you will lose sight of the present and hold on to the past to ensure a destructive future. And time will be as you interpret it, for of itself it is nothing.
We are afraid of a Course that teaches us of Love not necessarily because we cannot believe that God is Love, but that we can hardly believe we are. Jesus reminds us in today’s text that our function on earth is healing and our function in heaven is creating. As I pondered this morning over the first paragraph, Holy Spirit asked me to recite the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, Which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will be done – on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
When we pray in the spirit of the Lord’s prayer, we are fulfilling our function of healing in the world. We are saying Love’s Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We are trusting God to give us what we need – both to sustain our bodies and to give us the Mind of Christ that redeems us from a realm of destruction, decay, and death. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil is a negative way of expressing our recognition that without the help of Holy Spirit we will continue to be deceived by the perceptual world.
And when we are deceived by the perceptual world we think of our reality as one that opposes Creation. We prey upon Creation for our human sustenance. While it feels entirely natural to kill animals for our meat and destroy trees to keep our bottoms clean – ruthlessness is at the core of our human nature. It is not humanity that gets to fly away with Jesus and be taken to forever for in what possible heaven could such rabidity be sanctioned?
Past the illusion of humanity, we are the redeemed Sons of God. We are the Mind of Christ, and as the Mind of Christ we are given freedom and liberty to create in love and joy and peace. We can be trusted – not to take orders, but to be order Itself. Jesus was entrusted with the healing of the world. And when we join with Him we are entrusted with the healing of the world. But what do we do when the healing of the world is complete? We create for we are created to create.
We are not to be afraid of this for we have put away our desire for separation from God. We have taken on the Mind of Christ. We are not here to save our own skin and go live in eternity sitting about being waited upon and petted by pretty virgins or romping about with no design or purpose than to continue forever sustained by pleasures of the flesh. This kind of idea denotes ego versions of an afterlife which would soon turn particularly hellish for we are created to create, not sit about stuffing our faces and indulging in go-nowhere, amount-to-nothing activities forever and ever.
Jesus tells us in paragraph two that the reality of Heaven feels threatening to us for we cherish our own versions of heaven and hell and become very much committed to making them real. Question someone’s belief system and they become irate for we identify with our belief systems – we mistake our belief systems for ourselves. When we believe that God is vengeful, for instance, if we come down with deadly disease or we are injured in a car accident, or our kids become addicted to drugs – we take this as proof that we were right. God is getting us back for all the bad things we did, the times we sassed our parents, the times we snuck out when they said we had to stay in, the times we cheated or lied or used coarse language.
Is it not apparent that a loving God would create life and then make of life a most abundant and joyful one? That if that life chose to believe in opposites, a loving Father would provide a way back to sanity and peace without bloodshed, curses, vengeance, and everlasting torment? Jesus asks us to question our belief systems. Do we believe in a loving concept of God or do we believe in a hellish one? Our ability to heal the world and to be healed comes from our courage to question, to seek, to find. Texts that teach separateness, favoritism, genocide, sexism, and other egotistical perceptions of God provide an agonizing, self-reproachful, and torturous route to the ego’s version of salvation. If we have predetermined our route to God must be within the belief system in which we were taught or raised or have accepted in the past, we are not going within but seeking without. An open mind is more honest than this – it questions everything. And questions cannot hurt truth for truth can be scrutinized, it can be doubted, it does not get its little feelings hurt when we bring our uncertainty and our sorrow and our disappointment to God and say, “I can’t find Truth anywhere. Nothing makes sense to me. I give up looking to the priest, the shaman, the minister. I give up reading the holy books. I give up trusting in anything I have been taught so far. I just want Truth.” This is where we begin – like a child with an open mind, a child who can proclaim like the little kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes, “That makes no sense!” “That cannot be Truth!” “That is poppycock!” With a mind unsullied by belief systems designed to keep us trapped in the perceptual realm, an open mind is naturally drawn to Love.
This open mind frees us from the past. It frees us from the ego’s heaviest investment, for the ego can ensure its future by using guilt from the past to keep us steeped in giving up our present and ensuring its future by a system of paying for the past in the future. In paragraph five, Jesus tells us that the ego uses the present to remember past hurts and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The present then is obscured to us for we continue living from the past. In the ego realm, when I meet you today for coffee, I will not meet you as you are today – I will meet you as you were in the past. I will remember the unkind things you said, the jealousy you expressed, the way you snubbed me, the way you showed off your Rolex thirty years ago when I could afford only a Timex. Even when you give me a delicious slice of your chocolate cake and add rich thick cream to my coffee and sweeten it with honey, even though you went to extra measures to make our time together bright and beautiful, and you compliment me on my spring dress and enquire after my grandsons – all your kindness to me will be filtered through the smokescreen of the past. I will detect jealousy, I will detect snobbery, I will detect unkindness and insincerity for I refuse to let the past go. And when I do this, Jesus says, I am denying myself the message of release that you and every brother offers me now.
Do your best to understand these concepts for we are given opportunity after opportunity to be released and find our freedom and redemption every time we meet a brother and deny the past and see him as he is NOW. This seems like a real sacrifice to the ego – for the ego cannot exist in our mind when we leave the past in the past. Those things from the past belittle us. They are not worthy of us. They make of us a lout – a churlish, puerile, and trite substitute for the Love in which we are.
When we identify with Holy Spirit every encounter is a holy encounter because we meet ourselves in our brothers; when we identify with the ego our encounters are not holy because we project our own perceptions upon them and do not see ourselves as one with our brothers, but as separate and different from us as they were in the past and will be in the future. Our encounters with others then have no real meaning except to keep spinning in time.
Holy Spirit uses time to teach eternity and now is the only part of time that can extend to the eternal. It is that blessed holy instant in which the past and the future are no more – for it is the place of peace and quiet, bliss and ease. In the blessed “now” of time, salvation can be found for it is in quietness and peace that we can remember God. Healing only occurs in the present moment – never in the past, only in the present which releases the future. When we understand and practice this concept we will experience the miracle of being released from the past and taking the present, the miracle moment, the healing that takes place in the “now” into the future, releasing it from the guilt of the past.
Ego however regards time as a worthy substitute for eternity – the goal of ego is to keep the cycles of past and future overriding the present moment – keeping us from the release from time that Holy Spirit provides. As long as we are bound to the past, we will be destructive rather than healing. We will take what happened in the past into our future.
In our personal application of this concept, we bring all past hurts, disappointments, betrayals, and hard feelings to the inner altar and give them to Holy Spirit. Working with Holy Spirit we focus only upon healing, wholeness, and brotherhood. There is no way I can turn back the hands of time and go back in the past and fix the wrong things I have done. I cannot go back in the past and bring my dead loved ones back to life. I cannot take back the hurtful things I have said or done nor can I protect myself from the hurtful things that were done to me by others. But in this moment, right now, I can heal every single thing that I did and that was done to me simply by giving it to Holy Spirit. This seems like a big sacrifice to my ego which likes to pick open scabs and lick its wounds and torture me with shame and sorrow but allowing that to happen makes me sick. It keeps my mind in an unhappy and unwholesome state of being. I am not a pleasant person to be with when I am beating myself up or bitterly complaining about old wounds.
It is up to each one of us how we want to use time – constructively with Holy Spirit which heals the past and sets the future free from the past or destructively with ego stuck in the past and projecting it to the future. In your personal devotion today give your past to Holy Spirit. Place all your guilt and shame, your sorrows and disappointments, your false pride and narcissism on the inner altar and ask for the Light of Christ to shine upon it. Step out of the past and into the present moment setting others free and thus freeing yourself from all the false ideas and conceptions of that which would project all that mess to the future and hold you bound. Pray the Lord’s Prayer as if you never prayed it before and find in it the message that makes of you a healer of Creation and not a destroyer. Remember time has no meaning except what we give it – so let its meaning be one of restoration and redemption in the name of Christ Who makes us one.
 A Course in Miracles. Chapter 13 The guiltless world. IV The function of time. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).
For daily 2021 Workbook lessons visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.
Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com