VII. The End of Illusions
1. It is impossible to let the past go without relinquishing the special relationship. For the special relationship is an attempt to reenact the past and change it. Imagined slights, remembered pain, past disappointments, perceived injustices and deprivations all enter into the special relationship, which becomes a way in which you seek to restore your wounded self-esteem. What basis would you have for choosing a special partner without the past? Every such choice is made because of something “evil” in the past to which you claim, and for which must someone else atone.
2. The special relationship takes vengeance on the past. By seeking to remove suffering in the past, it overlooks the present in its preoccupation with the past and its total commitment to it. No special relationship is experienced in the present. Shades of the past envelope it and make it what it is. It has no meaning in the present, and if it means nothing now, it cannot have any real meaning at all. How can you change the past except in fantasy? And who can give you what you think the past deprived you of? The past is nothing. Do not seek to lay the blame for deprivation on it, for the past is gone. You cannot really not let go what has already gone. It must be, therefore, that you are maintaining the illusion that it has not gone because you think it serves some purpose that you want fulfilled. And it must also be that this purpose could not be fulfilled in the present, but only in the past.
3. Do not underestimate the intensity of the ego’s desire for vengeance on the past. It is completely savage and completely insane. For the ego remembers everything you have done that has offended it and seeks retribution of you. The fantasies that it brings to its chosen relationships in which to act out its hate are fantasies of your destruction. For the ego holds the past against you, and in your escape from the past it sees itself deprived of the vengeance it believes you so justly merit. Yet without your alliance in your own destruction, the ego could not hold you to the past. In the special relationship you are allowing your destruction to be. That this is insane is obvious. But what is less obvious is that the present is useless to you while you pursue the ego’s goal as its ally.
4. The past is gone; seek not to preserve it in the special relationship that binds you to it and would teach you salvation is in the past and so you must return to the past to find salvation. There is no fantasy that does not contain the dream of retribution for the past. Would you act out of the dream, or let it go?
5. In the special relationship it does not seem to be acting out of vengeance that you seek. And even when the hatred and the savagery break briefly through, the illusion of love is not profoundly shaken. Yet the one thing the ego never allows to reach awareness is that the special relationship is the acting out of vengeance on yourself. Yet what else could it be? In seeking the special relationship, you look not for glory in yourself. You have denied that it is there, and the relationship becomes your substitute for it. And vengeance becomes your substitute for Atonement and the escape from vengeance becomes your loss.
6. Against the ego’s insane notion of salvation the Holy Spirit gently lays the holy instant. We said before that the Holy Spirit must teach through comparisons and uses opposites to point to truth. The holy instant is the opposite of the ego’s fixed belief in salvation through vengeance for the past. In the holy instant it is understood that the past is gone, and with its passing the drive for vengeance has been uprooted and has disappeared. The stillness and the peace of now enfold you in perfect gentleness. Everything is gone except the truth.
7. For a time you may attempt to bring illusions into the holy instant, to hinder your full awareness of the complete difference, in all respects, between your experience of truth and illusion. Yet you will not attempt this long. In the holy instant the power of the Holy Spirit will prevail because you joined Him. The illusion you bring with you will weaken the experience of Him for a while and will prevent you from keeping the experience in your mind. Yet the holy instant is eternal, and your illusions of time will not prevent the timeless from being what it is, nor you from experiencing it as it is.
8. What God has given you is truly given and will be truly received. For God’s gifts have no reality apart from your receiving them. Your receiving completes His giving. You will receive because it is His Will to give. He gave the holy instant to be given you, and it is impossible that you receive it not because He gave it. When He willed His Son be free, His Son was free. In the holy instant is His reminder that His Son will always be exactly as he was created. And everything the Holy Spirit teaches is to remind you that you have received what God has given you.
9. There is nothing you can hold against reality. All that must be forgiven are the illusions you have held against your brothers. Their reality has no past, and only illusions can be forgiven. God holds nothing against anyone, for he is incapable of illusions of any kind. Release your brothers from the slavery of their illusions by forgiving them for the illusions you perceive in them. Thus will you learn that you have been forgiven, for it is you who offered them illusions. In the holy instant this is done for you in time, to bring you the true condition of heaven.
10. Remember that you always choose between truth and illusion; between the real Atonement that would heal and the ego’s “atonement” that would destroy. The power of God and all His Love, without limit, will support you as you seek only your place in the plan of Atonement arising from His Love. Be an ally of God, and not the ego in seeking how Atonement can come to you. His help suffices, for His Messenger understands how to restore the Kingdom to you, and to place all your investment in salvation in your relationship with Him.
11. Seek and find His message in the holy instant, where all illusions are forgiven. From there the miracle extends to bless everyone and to resolve all problems, be they perceived as great or small, possible or impossible. There is nothing that will not give place to Him and to His majesty. To join in close relationship with Him is to accept relationships as real, and through their reality to give over all illusions for the reality of your relationship with God. Praise be to your relationship with Him and to no other. The truth lies there and nowhere else. You choose this or nothing.
12. Forgive us our illusions, Father, and help us to accept our true relationship with You, in which there are no illusions and where none can ever enter. Our holiness is Yours. What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect? The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your love. Let us not wander into temptation, for the temptation of the Son of God is not Your will. And let us receive only what You have given and accept but this into the minds which You created and which You love. Amen.
As we end of our review and study of Chapter 16, Jesus brings us to the end of illusions. For me, this chapter has been one in which I have had to call Linda and ask her to teach and learn with me as we pored over the sections and asked Holy Spirit to illuminate it for us with personal illustrations from our life. Because we have known each other from grade school and have many (and I mean many) shared experiences in holiness and out of holiness it was a time of utter honesty and shock to learn and teach each other of the mechanics behind our special relationships and the reason that Jesus tells us to bring them to holiness.
To use another person, be it friend, lover, spouse, or child to in any way make up for a blighted past is just plain wrong. To believe that it is someone’s duty to atone for what was stolen from you in the past is just plain wrong. To bring your past to any relationship whatsoever and expect that person, pet, passion, or profession to soothe your wounded ego and make things better for you is not just wrong but it is selfish and self-serving and thus doomed. To base our relationships with anybody or anything on what we can get from it, how it will maintain or increase our status in the world, or to latch on to anybody at all and use them for vengeance or allow yourself to be party to this kind of subtle and not-so-subtle form of use is plainly not love. It is not God’s way but the ego’s way. And yet that is what we do in the name of love, and we keep the cycles going by teaching each other that this is not only okay but to be expected – that smart people do it this way. We don’t marry beneath ourselves. We don’t hang out with losers. We have nothing to learn from so-and-so because she is slutty. We snicker about people who love for the sake of love and have to struggle against all odds to make a go of it.
Our ego-driven relationships are all special relationships. It is astonishing to discover that while we have been insisting that marriage, family, professions, callings, and so forth are love-based under close examination the ulterior motives of ego become apparent. How we use our relationships for pride, for status, for wealth, for scapegoats, for all sorts of things! How highly indignant we become when they do not fulfill the roles we have assigned to them, or we find that we are also being used in similar ways!
Each time we use our relationships to fulfill our own needs, for healing, for recompense, as some kind of reward for good behavior or punishment for wrongdoing – we make a mockery of love, we make a mockery of what relationship is all about, we make a mockery of God and Sonship. And it is these wrongful relationships that keep us bound to flesh and time. For we become addicted to the drama, we chain ourselves through duty and obligation to what comes from them, we keep ourselves trapped in the illusion that it is all about love when it is all about nothing at all that resembles God and the one relationship that would include all.
Our salvation does not come through our flesh relationships. There is nothing about my past that holds me accountable to you or you accountable to me. I do not have to travel back in time and make an account of all the things I did for you, and you did for me so we can ascertain once and for all who owes what to whom. You will always think you did more for me and I will always think I did more for you because when a relationship is special it is not a relationship at all but a transaction, an alliance, riddled by a contrived sense of martyrdom and self-pity.
When we bring the past into our relationships we bring fantasy because my version of the past will never match your version of the past. We will always be at odds about what happened, when it happened, and how it happened. We will see things through the eyes of vengeance and spite toward anything and anyone that would disagree or doubt our opinions, perceptions, and theories. Even when we have a shared sense of agreement about the past we will each judge the past on where we are now and what we know now and so we will judge the past and the players in it with a sense of reproach. Knowing this, who in their right mind would not let the past go?
When James and I first got married, our relationship was very special. Because I knew about the special relationship I tried not to let it get too special and because we were old enough and wise enough to have learned from past mistakes and the mistakes of others, we eventually turned it around and made it holy. But for several years we used our relationship as a way to take vengeance out on the past. We drank too much. We ate too much. We spent way too much money making up for the things we were denied in the past. We rubbed our specialness in the faces of everybody we knew in our glee at finally having made a “good” match. James doted on me publicly and privately, and in return I doted on him, and because we spent so much time doting upon each other, we failed ourselves.
Jesus tells us that when we seek specialness in the other, we are not looking at the glory in ourselves. The special relationship becomes the substitute for our own glory, and the vengeance it wreaks upon us for trying to find glory in someone outside of ourselves becomes our substitute for salvation. And so special relationships are doomed – there is nothing that can save them as they are. They must be given up and turned over to holiness. And this at first will seem like an incredible loss, but it is not a loss at all. And we must learn not to look at it as a loss but as spiritual gain.
For our salvation does not come through vengeance of any kind. We will not find salvation in special relationships no matter how sexy, thrilling, and indulgent they may be. In paragraph six, Jesus tells us that up against the ego’s insane notion of salvation, Holy Spirit quietly, tenderly offers the holy instant. Rather than seeking vengeance for the past, the holy instant frees us from it. When we take the present moment and make it holy the past is gone, and all vengeance is gone with it.
When I base my relationship with you on the holy instant, you come to me and I come to you with innocence. I want you in my life for one reason alone and that is because you are my brother, we are equally and mutually Sons of God. While you play a part in my salvation you are not my salvation. Our relationship then is one of peace. It is tender and kind. All forms of attack, of judgment, of condemnation are gone. We can truly love one another in that instant and when we base our relationship upon love we base our relationship upon God.
Until we understand exactly what the special relationship is and why we bring it to holiness, we may still attempt to use holiness to make our special relationships even more special. We will pray for specialness because we still think of it as our salvation. Make him love me more, we may pray. Make him be a better son, Lord. Make him stop flirting with other women, Lord. You know how much this hurts my feelings, Lord. We will bring our ambitions for our jobs, our spats and irritations with coworkers, our desires to lose weight. We will bring all manner of specialness to the holy instant and treat it as if it is a big wish-granting mechanism in our small-mindedness and lack of understanding. It will seem embarrassing. But there are no worries. Holy Spirit prevails! We joined with holiness and the illusions we bring to the holy instant will teach us of their worthlessness. It will soon be very apparent to us that we don’t bring such tripe to holiness. The holy instant is our gateway to eternity. All that has no eternal value dissipates and fades away into the past where it belongs. Jesus assures us that no matter how attached we are to illusions, there is nothing about them that changes the eternal nor keeps us from experiencing the eternal as it is. In other words, we can make no mistakes that are eternal. Our mistakes are meant to teach us to let them go, put them down, not hold on to them, defend them, or hide them. When I hide my mistakes, I am seeking specialness. And in my specialness, I not only fail to learn from them, but I also prevent you from learning from them.
In paragraph eight, Jesus tells us something that we should already know. God’s gifts are given to us, and God’s gifts are received by us. In time, we can take as long as we want in receiving God’s gifts, but we can never not receive them. Even as we are complete only in God, so is God complete in us. This concept in relation to the holy instant is that we will all come to eternity. We will all become adept at using the holy instant the way it was designed to be used – as a reminder that the Sonship will always be exactly as it was created to be. That which would keep this from us is the dream of time, the alternate reality that is the lie. Holy Spirit teaches us this with the holy instant and in practicing the holy instant, we return the gift of our recognition of Sonship back to Him.
In reality there is simply nothing to forgive for reality is perfect. It is the alternate reality, the ego’s version of reality that must be forgiven for in that lie we have come up with all reasons to despise each other. We have no reality in the past, only the illusions that passed away with the past can be forgiven. Essentially we are forgiving the illusion, the nothingness for pretending it was real and for entrancing us with worthlessness, wasting time going nowhere and doing nothing.
This is what we learn as we practice the holy instant. This is what convinces us of the truth of God and the condition for His Kingdom. We must see all illusions for what they are and let them go gladly with the past and be no more. Love has nothing against anyone or anything; Love is incapable of lies, fantasies, or illusions of any kind. All that opposes Love is simply incapable of withstanding eternity – a world of opposites can only exist in time which has no meaning and goes nowhere.
Our power is in the choosing. Do we choose truth or illusion? Do we choose to undo the ego or hold on to it? As we align ourselves with God all the power in the universe comes to our aid. As we make the decision for Love, Holy Spirit restores the Kingdom to each of us, filling our minds and hearts with love and peace and joy. As we invest our human lives in relationship with God we remove ourselves from special relationships that destroy and enter into the One Relationship that heals all relationships. This is the One Relationship that deserves praise because the truth lies there and nowhere else. We choose relationship with Love, or we choose nothing!
In your personal devotions today join with me in this prayer of forgiveness for illusions:
Forgive us our illusions and help us to accept our true relationship with You.
For in You there is no deception and in You no deception can come.
Our holiness is Yours. And in You we find our own perfection.
Awaken us from the sleep of forgetfulness.
Heal our resistance to remember You as Mercy and Love.
Keep our minds stayed upon You so that
we are not tempted by the lies and false promises of this realm.
Temptation is not of You so let us trust only in You.
We receive and accept only what You give
into our minds which You created and which You love.
 A Course in Miracles. Chapter 16 The forgiveness of illusion VII The end of illusions. 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