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1 Volume 15 Number 3 September 2004

THE ARCH OF FORGIVENESS


Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

I. Between the Pillars of Forgiveness One of the central themes of A Course in Miracles, most clearly expressed in the workbook for students, is Jesus request that we frame our lives with forgiveness. From the time we awake to the time we go to sleep, we are to think of the days right-minded purpose: a classroom in which we learn the Holy Spirits lessons of undoing guilt through forgiveness. Thus we read, for example: Be sure both to begin and end the day with a practice period. Thus you will awaken with an acknowledgment of the truth about yourself, reinforce it throughout the day, and turn to sleep as you reaffirm your function and your only purpose here (W-pI.61.6:1-2). And from the closing pages of the manual for teachers we read a similar exhortation to remember our daily purpose: If you have made it a habit to ask for help when and where you can, you can be confident that wisdom will be given you when you need it. Prepare for this each morning, remember God when you can throughout the day, ask the Holy Spirits help when it is feasible to do so, and thank Him for His guidance at night (M-29.5:8-9). Without the Holy Spirits Presence in our lives, the days are governed by the egos fierce injunction to continually feed its insatiable hunger for existence. In other words, we orient everything around satisfying the multitudinous needs the ego has established for our survival, which of course means the egos survival. These range from the basic physical needs necessary for our existenceoxygen, water, food, rest, and shelterto the psychological needs craved by our quasiinfinite need for specialness. Indeed, from the moment we awaken, our attention is commanded by satisfying these various needs. As we age, moreover, the physical demands made on us increase, as our bodies slowlyand sometimes not so slowlybreak down, requiring more and more attention, care, time, and effort. One could not ask for a more potent symbol of the hopelessness inherent in a body framed by need, than our need to breathe. The lack inherent in the ego thought system is projected onto the body, which continually experiences a lack of oxygen. We inhale the molecule that sustains our existence, only to repeat the respiratory process again some fifteen to twenty seconds later, and again and again and again, until all breathing ceases at death. The same pattern, of course, is found with food and water, though not quite as temporally persistent. On the psychological level of our special relationships, we find a similar dynamic of scarcity, wherein our need for love, attention, and approval is virtually insatiable. We can conclude that almost every waking concern is for the betterment of our self, very often at the expense of others. All this nicely serves the egos hidden purpose of maintaining our separate existence, but holding others accountable for our happy or unhappy lot. Moreover, its strategy entails our living in a perpetual state of mindless- nessi.e., the bodywherein our focus is placed anywhere but the mind, where the original decision for the ego is held in the shrouded vaults of forgetfulness. This decision can never be reversed, for in the mindless condition we no longer know we have a mind, let alone one that can choose the correction for the ego thought system. Into this world of unsated needdependency and cannibalism (special love),

2 judgment and attack (special hate) shines a light from outside the bodys borders, from the mind that is the home of Lights reflection. This is the call to be happy and glad, born of the pain that is the inevitable result of an existence of separation, suffering, and loss. We have recognized at last the futility of living from one need to the next, satisfying each one only to have another rise to take its place, or the same need revisited almost as soon as it is quieted. Our tolerance for pain having been exceeded, we exclaim: There must be a better way (T-2.III.3:56), and thus allow the light of the better way to re-enter our minds and undo the guilt that is the source of our pain. In response to our request for help, we are told by the Holy Spirit that the problem does not lie in the world that has not met our needs, nor in the needs we believe we have. Rather, we learn to our amazement, the problem is found within the need concept itself, which reflects the original belief in separation. Just as Jesus tells us that the problem is not what we think, but the fact that we think at all (T31.V.14:3-4), the problem is not our specific needs, but that we believe we have needs in the first place. In other words, since needs arose after the separation and remain dependent on that thought for their existence, the problem is with the original belief we have separated from our Creator and Source, as we read from the opening pages of the text: Until the separation, which is the meaning of the fall, nothing was lacking. There were no needs at all. Needs arise only when you deprive yourself. You act according to the particular order of needs you establish. This, in turn, depends on your perception of what you are. A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct. ... The idea of order of needs arose because, having made this fundamental error, you had already fragmented yourself into levels with different needs (T-1.VI.1:6-2:1,3). Our focus for the day now changes, for we no longer look to the world or body to satisfy our special love or hate needs. It is the mind that is the source of the problem, and therefore the home of the solution as well. Forgiveness is the name given by Jesus for this process of shifting attention from the body to the mind, which is why he states that the only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness, because those who have been forgiven have everything (T-3.V.6:3). Thus our only need is to forgive, which corrects the egos purpose of meeting the needs generated by specialness, allowing us to remember our abundance as children of God. We are therefore asked to shift our perspective in how we see the world from the guilt-ridden perception of the egos principle of one or the other to the Holy Spirits guiltless vision of together or not at all: The certain outcome of the lesson that Gods Son is guilty is the world you see. It is a world of terror and despair. Nor is there hope of happiness in it. ... The outcome of the lesson that Gods Son is guiltless is a world in which there is no fear, and everything is lit with hope and sparkles with a gentle friendliness (T-31.I.7:4-6; 8:1). An excerpt from Helen Schucmans poem Transformation nicely expresses this shift: The trivial Enlarge in magnitude, while what seemed large Resumes the littleness that is its due. The dim grow bright, and what was bright before Flickers and fades and finally is gone.

(The Gifts of God, p. 64)


The trivial is the egos world of guilt and specialness, minimized by the Holy Spirits world of forgiveness and shared purpose, which assumes its proper stature of magnitude. This shift is almost always experienced in our relationships, which begin as ego set-ups, wherein we seek to entrap othersmuch as a spider traps its prey in its deadly and seductive webto satisfy our need for victims to take the role of victimizers, so we can justify our faces of innocence. The shift Jesus offers us for our happiness is to release the world of our special relationships from the need to attack and judge. Thus, rather than seduce and ensnare, we invite our erstwhile special partners to join us within the arch of forgiveness. In this manner, we have undone the egos thought system of separation and needs, having learned the lessons of forgiveness. Anticipating our discussion in part II, we can say, paraphrasing the text, that in undoing our judgments, we have given Jesus control over our egos, that he may guide us to loving responses in thought, words, and deeds (T-2.VI.1:3). This article drew its inspiration from the image of an archlater transmuted into a rainbowimmortalized by D.H. Lawrence in The Rainbow, his magnificent novel of the lives and loves of a three-generational family living in England. After Tom and Lydia Brangwen, the storys first two protagonists, heal their unsteady marital relationship, Lawrence describes the protective love within which their daughter Anna can now grow, her life framed by the pillars of love and strength represented by her parents: Annas soul was put at peace between them. She looked from one to the other, and she saw them established to her safety, and she was free. She played between the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud in confidence, having the assurance on her right hand and the assurance on her left. She was no longer called upon to uphold with her childish might the broken end of the arch. Her father and her mother now met to the span of the heavens. And she, the child, was free to play in the space beneath, between. Jesus thus asks us to see our days as framed between these pillars of forgiveness, beginning and ending the same, allowing its quiet strength and gentle protection to nourish our experience and sustain our learning. Each moment is filled with the single thought of healing, as we move from darkness to light, grief to joy, pain to peace, sin to holi- nessthere to rest with all the Sonship beneath the span of the heavens and the arch of his love. II. Beneath the Arch of Jesus Love As a result of the shift from the life of specialness outside the arch to within its protective confinesthe shift in perspective brought about by forgivenesswe rest in safety and peace, beneath Jesus love that gently arches above us, sheltering all those who stand within, between its strong pillars of forgiveness. How safe we are, how protected and loved we feel, thus allowing ourselves to love others and bring succor to all who suffer! The obstacles to loves flow have been removed by forgiveness, and all that remains is the blessing that loves extension brings to us and to the sorrowful world. Beneath this arch of love we are freed of enslavement to our needs, able to walk the world without tension and anxiety, no longer armed with swords of judgmentthe peace of God is ours at last. Once between the pillars of forgiveness, regardless of how mercilessly the world may treat us, we look out and hear the plaintive calls for help of those who would seek to exclude us. Attacks are seen as limitations calling for correction, not punishment. Thus we undo the seeming attacks of our enemies by gently

4 correcting their exclusion by our inclusion, welcoming them to their rightful place beside us under the arch. This welcome is reflected in Edwin Markhams simple verse of loves all-inclusive nature, which readers may recall from their high school days: He drew a circle that shut me out . . . Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the will to win; We drew a circle that took him in! Paraphrasing the familiar line from the text (T-20.IV.6:5), therefore, we can say that the arch of peace is entered two by two, as we invite our special hate and love partners to join us beneath the love that protects us in the Holy Spirits temple: The peace He [the Holy Spirit] lay, deep within you and your brother, will quietly extend to every aspect of your life, surrounding you and your brother with glowing happiness and the calm awareness of complete protection. And you will carry its message of love and safety and freedom to everyone who draws nigh unto your temple, where healing waits for him. ... And you will draw him in and give him rest, as it was given you (T-19.IV.1:67,9). Our ears are cleansed by the healing love from above, and we can at last hear the pain calling out from all who wander in the world uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear (T-31.VIII.7:1). We are among them, for no one here escapes the agony of existence apart from our Creator and Source, and each calls for a comforting hand to lead them home: Nothing but calls to you in soft appeal to be your friend, and let it join with you. And never does a call remain unheard, misunderstood, nor left unanswered. ... And you will understand it was this call that everyone and everything within the world has always made. ... The soft eternal calling of each part of Gods creation to the whole is heard throughout the world. (T-31.I.8:2-4,8). Life within the archbetween the pillars of forgiveness and beneath Jesus loveis characterized by acceptance, a principal trait of all who make their home here. Gone is the need to control and manipulate, to worry and plan, to fear a future sure to be worse than the past. In its place rests the quiet certainty that comes from knowing that nothing outside the archthe fragmented, hate-filled world of shadowscan affect the holy Sons of God who dwell within its sanctuary. They need control nothing and no one, for they know there is no danger. From within its protective love, they look out and see the self-hate and terror of each who stumbles through the world an outcast, homeless and afraid ... wandering so far from home, so long away, he does not realize he has forgotten where he came from, where he goes, and even who he really is. ... He wanders on, aware of the futility he sees about him everywhere, perceiving how his little lot but dwindles, as he goes ahead to nowhere. ... He seems a sorry figure; weary, worn, in threadbare clothing, and with feet that bleed a little from the rocky road he walks. No one but has identified with him, for everyone who comes here has pursued the path he follows, and has felt defeat and hopelessness as he is feeling them (W-pI.166.4:3-4; 5:4; 6:1-2). Whose heart could not go out to such a pained figure, especially knowing we are pained as well? And who would not embrace him with comforting arms, whispering that all is well for God goes with him, even though he feels so bitterly alone? Thus does Jesus comfort us, his little children, as he gently calls us to life

5 beneath his arch of love and life. We come to the arch a little child, but there, nestled between the strength of forgiveness, and nourished beneath its gentle love, we slowly grow as we are saved from the forces of fear that exist just beyond these protected confines. Safe in our home away from home, we, like little Anna in Lawrences novel, are freed from the egos vicious parenting to play under the guidance of our loving elder brother, whose quiet strength gives us the freedom to grow without fear of punishment, certain of the love that guides us to our Father. This concept of growing from infancy is beautifully captured in the following passage from the text, which integrates the symbolism of Christmas and Easter: The infancy of salvation is carefully guarded by love, preserved from every thought that would attack it, and quietly made ready to fulfill the mighty task for which it was given you. Your newborn purpose is nursed by angels, cherished by the Holy Spirit and protected by God Himself. ... What danger can assail the wholly innocent? What can attack the guiltless? What fear can enter and disturb the peace of sinlessness? ... Behold this infant, to whom you gave a resting place by your forgiveness of your brother, and see in it the Will of God. Here is the babe of Bethlehem reborn. And everyone who gives him shelter will follow him, not to the cross, but to the resurrection and the life (T-19.IV-C.9:3-4; 10:1-3,7-9). Thus forgiveness has brought us to the calm certainty of who we are, and Who loves us: Think what is given those who share their Fathers purpose [forgiveness], and who know that it is theirs. They want for nothing. Sorrow of any kind is inconceivable. Only the light they love is in awareness, and only love shines upon them forever ... a perfect calmness, and a sense of love so deep and quiet that no touch of doubt can ever mar [their] certainty. ... (T-23.IV.8:1-4,8). Here, in the stillness of purpose fulfilled, we find our peace and our rest, which once found, can be left only at tremendous cost. The pain of stepping outside the arch, having experienced its love and peace, is enormous. We know its early symptoms well: a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace (T23.IV.6:3). Who, except the insane, would ever choose the disquiet of guilt over the peace-filled life lived under the arch of love. Who, except the masochist, would ever choose a teacher of lies over the teacher of truth? Or, as Jesus puts it: ... who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? (M-4.I.2:3) It is this comforting experience of loves arms around us that provides continual reinforcement for extending these arms to all people. Stepping outside the arch causes us pain, all the more since we have known the peace beneath its dome of love. We know we have stepped outside its healing presence when we seek to exclude even one person from this arch of peace. Listenand you will hear Jesus call to you: My brothers in salvation, do not fail to hear my voice and listen to my words. I ask for nothing but your own release. There is no place for hell within a world whose loveliness can yet be so intense and so inclusive it is but a step from there to Heaven. To your tired eyes I bring a vision of a different world, so new and clean and fresh you will forget the pain and sorrow that you saw before. Yet this a vision is which you must share with everyone you see, for otherwise you will behold it not. To give this gift is how to make it yours. And God ordained, in loving kindness, that it be for you (T-31.VIII.8; italics mine). Thus we become Jesus messengers on earth, walking the world as he did, our love calling from within the arch to all those who do not yet know it, sharing his vision of Gods one Son. We indeed become his voice, eyes, feet, and hands

6 through which he saves the world (W-pI.rV-in.9:3) from the empty and meaningless existence outside his arch of forgiveness. As Jesus once walked the earth, manifesting the Holy Spirits Atonement, so now do we, representing the same ThoughtHis Voice become our own, joined with Jesus as one, for such we have become (C-6.5:1-5). Unified vision has come at last to replace the egos false perception of differences and judgment, and we can see. Thus we call to all the world to join us beneath the arch of love, safe at last within the loving arms of Gods one Sonas Heaven and earth become one: It is Gods Will that nothing touch His Son except Himself, and nothing else comes nigh unto him. He is as safe from pain as God Himself, Who watches over him in everything. The world about him shines with love because God placed him in Himself where pain is not, and love surrounds him without end or flaw. Disturbance of his peace can never be. In perfect sanity he looks on love, for it is all about him and within him. He must deny the world of pain the instant he perceives the arms of love around him. And from this point of safety he looks quietly about him and recognizes that the world is one with him (T-13.VII.7).