A Course In Miracles

Rediscovering Forgiveness


This year, I have been taking baby steps in exploring forgiveness as a spiritual path. A chance encounter with the intriguing phrase ‘advanced forgiveness’ led me to Gary Renard’s ‘A Disappearance of The Universe’. Encouraged by my mentor GD, I revisited my hardbound ‘A Course In Miracles’ copy. Many epiphanies later, I found my longtime Buddhist practice being steered into unexplored waters. And during a turbulent work-year, the guiding star I tried to steadfastly hold onto was forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. From it, I learnt two things: one, forgiveness can indeed change your life; and two, most of what we have been taught about it is wrong.

Forgiveness, I was taught in school, is when someone does something awful, but you, taking in a deep breath of pure compassion, decide to forgive him. Because you are good, he is an ass. Plus, doing it makes you a favorite of old man God who smiles in his frosty beard and jots your name on His Special List of Favorite Children.

As I grew up, I occasionally practiced forgiveness, using the same line of thinking, just with complicated multi-syllable words. Then, three decades after my Jesuit education, I was guided to ‘A Course In Miracles’ (ACIM), which makes forgiveness the cornerstone of its entire teaching system. According to ACIM, forgiveness not only heals, it single-handledly undoes the ego’s delusional worldview; forgiveness is not just an occasional step – it is an entire path towards the peace that passeth understanding.

According to ACIM, the commonly practiced form of forgiveness is actually ‘the ego’s forgiveness’. Notice the ego subtly making itself higher than the other by allowing what is considers a perfectly obvious act of evilness to pass. The victim sees himself innocent while the other is guilty. Attempting this kind of forgiveness is valuable because it may be motivated by a noble intention, but seems at best superficial and at worst arrogant.

To appreciate a more advanced vision of forgiveness we need to first understand how the mind projects its own unacceptable emotions on others. A man who furiously blames others at office for incompetence, looking honestly within, realizes it is his secret guilt about his own incompetence in some area, which he is constantly projecting outside. Or a woman who strongly condemns her husband for being unreliable will find it was coming from her secret shame about being unreliable. When this is seen, there is a natural forgiveness that happens, because now the other is not guilty. He was simply the screen on which we were projecting our movie. This is a more genuine forgiveness than the first because there is real freedom in seeing it was all a projection, hence a misunderstanding.

This is not the grudging forgiveness of the ego, this is a laughing forgiveness that wonders how it could believe that the fault was really outside. As American teacher Byron Katie says, “Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

Perfect forgiveness, ACIM says, occurs when we begin to glimpse the dreamlike nature of the world itself. So not only is the other not guilty because it was your projection onto him, you are not guilty either: the victim and abuser are equally dream characters. The highest level of forgiveness thus rises far beyond the plains of Puritan morality into the high peaks of Non-Duality. As ‘The Course In Miracles’ says:

“Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.  It sees their nothingness, and looks straight through the thousand forms in which they may appear.  It looks on lies, but it is not deceived.  It does not heed the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt. It looks on them with quiet eyes, and merely says to them, “My brother, what you think is not the truth.”

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a doing, it a seeing: a seeing that the illusion of separate individuals is simply an erroneous mind-construct.

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a thought, it is a meditation: a sinking into the silence beyond form to see that without thought, this never happened.

In its purest form, forgiveness is a gift of love to yourself as much as to the other: because it reaffirms the truth of our oneness once again.

If it interests you to explore this form of forgiveness further, I highly recommend Gary Renard’s ‘The Disappearance Of The Universe’ before you dive into ‘A Course In Miracles’.

Picture Courtesy Heather Katsoulis

10 thoughts on “Rediscovering Forgiveness”

  1. I found this very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I would recommend a wonderful book ‘Redemption Stories: Unwasted Pain’ by Mary Ciofalo which deals with this subject in some depth.

  2. Very interesting idea Aalif. But you are referring to fairly trivial incidents of forgiveness. How do we deal with the forgiveness of murderers, rapists or terrorists? Are you saying that they too could be a projection of ourselves?

    1. You give voice to many people’s thoughts. In the oneness of Consciousness, terrorists, rapists and murderers are included. The Consciousness that they are is not in any way different from the Consciousness within you and me, though the stories they believe about whom they need to destroy and how they need to achieve it may be different from ours.

      But in essence, they believe they need to hurt, punish or destroy people in order to be safe, secure and happy. Haven’t we all believed this story with certain people at certain points? I know I have. The scale is different but the story is the same. In our case it may be a fleeting thought, not a full scale attack, but this belief is in each ego.

      The point of spiritual work is to focus on understanding oneself sincerely and honestly. As a society we have rules to keep certain people from harming others. But as Consciousness we need not harbor hatred, especially if we are concerned with spiritual evolution.

      Here’s an interesting discussion with Byron Katie on this subject with regard to Terrorism & 9/11: http://www.byronkatie.com/2006/09/inquiry-terrorism-and-the-work/

      Hope you enjoy it.

      1. Thank you for your very comprehensive reply Aalif. Yes, you are right. I too have been guilty of such thoughts in the past. It is difficult when dealing with these kinds of people and I hope that I am intelligent enough to be able to understand what makes them tick. Unfortunately we live in a society which is constantly under threat from terrorism and other forms of violence. I find that some of the people that I come across on a day-to-day basis are less than understanding in the matter. It is fear which brings hatred. Often through a lack of understanding. It’s a pity that not more people are concerned with their spirituality as there ought to be.
        Thanks for the article on terrorism. I did find it interesting.
        I do like reading your posts. They have a very calming effect upon me.
        Thanks once again for your reply 🙂

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