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Question: “I don’t understand how forgiveness in the Course is different than blaming the victim. I know that abusive people can, and have, misused the Course and other spiritual teachings to act from ego and hurt others. However, I still see in the Course amongst its teachers that the person who was hurt must then forgive by “accepting that what you thought happened, didn’t” and realizing that one “chose to hurt oneself through the abuser” and other concepts.”
This is a great question and one that deserves careful attention.
Truly understanding the answer to this question hinges on recognizing “level confusion,” as the Course calls it.
If we try to understand the Course’s teaching of forgiveness through the ego, the true meaning of forgiveness will be distorted. In other words, forgiveness will seem to mean that I have to forgive my victimizer by accepting that I brought this upon myself and then “accepting that what I thought happened, didn’t.” This is not the forgiveness that the Course describes.
True forgiveness, according to “A Course in Miracles”, is learned. I learn how to truly forgive when I am willing to hand my judgments/beliefs/expectations to the Holy Spirit to be reinterpreted. This then leads to experiences which prove to me that this world is not what I thought it was. True forgiveness does not blame the victim nor victimizer, because in truth, we are pure mind. If there ARE NO bodies, there are no victims and there are no victimizers.
However, the Course is practical. If a car is speeding in my direction, I’m certainly going to get out of the way. This is where we must explore the idea of 2 different levels – the “FORM level” and the “FORMLESS level.”
On this seeming level of earth or “Form Level”, there ARE victims and there ARE victimizers. This is a world of duality. There is always a trade-off. It is the way of the world. There is victim/victimizer, good/bad, leader/follower, etc. It is not real, but we've made it real for ourselves.
On the level of truth, or “Formless level”, we are dreaming a dream of a world. In the “Formless level”, we are mind, and purely mind, and are safe at home in our Source (i.e. God, Love, Oneness). But the fragmented part of our mind that put itself to sleep because it wanted to experience itself as separate (this is the ego, and this is what the Course refers to as having a “split mind”) was seemingly made concrete by its very decision to NOT be as God created us. We are the dreamer of this dream. The instant we decided to dream, the ego wrote its “script” of separation, outlining the experiences that we would have in this dream in order to make it feel very real. These experiences are the ego’s best ditch efforts to keep us believing that we are bodies.
This part of our mind has CHOSEN to put itself to sleep and to dream this dream of separation. Therefore, as the Course teaches:
The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. (FIP edition: T-27.VIII 10)
This is a teaching from the “Formless level.” It is a mistake, however, to be in the “FORM level” (the earthly level), and use the truth of this “FORMLESS level” teaching, to tell someone (or to tell yourself) that they have chosen for abuse, neglect, negative experiences, etc. This is what the Course refers to as level confusion.
This type of level confusion is not loving, and if it is said in the name of the Course, it is misusing the teaching of the Course. We can misapply the Course to ourselves, and to one another.
Let’s look at an example. I recently was the “victim” of someone leaving a huge dent in my car when it was parked on the street. I wasn’t even present to witness the accident. On this “Form Level” – I certainly seemed innocent. I didn’t want this to happen, and I was left with a $900 bill, which made me UNHAPPY.
Looking at the “FORMLESS level”, the level of truth, we could say that the ego wrote this into its “script” of my dream of separation. This incident provides solid evidence that I MUST be a body, because I can be hurt, angry, and short on cash.
To tell me that I (in the earthly “Form Level”) called this situation forth, is level confusion and all it does is give the ego a big boost. An unconscious part of my split mind called it forth (in the “Formless level”), in order to keep me believing in the dream (keep in mind that the ego is NOT our friend! But it is also nothing to be afraid of, because it IS nothing without our belief in it).
Everything that happens to us is coming from our split mind, which called chaos upon itself when it chose to separate from its Source. This part of our mind feels guilty for seemingly separating, fearing that God/Oneness/Love will be angry at us. “Bad things” that happen have nothing to do with positive or negative thinking, or the “wrath of God”. Bad things happen because we have unconsciously split our mind away from Love. Because we all are part of this one split mind, we are all doing this mistake together, each playing interchangeable roles as victim or victimizer.
We’re not stuck in the ego’s script though.
As we practice the Course and experience miracles (shifts in perception), we come to learn that there is a choice of dreams while we still remain asleep. Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit leads us to happy dreams of awakening. We teach our split mind that it is not happy being asleep, and so we start to call forth experiences that teach us that we are not these bodies. We come to recognize who the dreamer is, and that this world is not our home.
The miracle does not awaken you, but merely shows you who the dreamer is. It teaches you there is a choice of dreams while you are still asleep, depending on the purpose of your dreaming. Do you wish for dreams of healing, or for dreams of death? A dream is like a memory in that it pictures what you wanted shown to you. (FIP T-28.II-4)
The “Formless Level” teaching is that we choose painful dreams because they are how we maintain separation from our Source. The recognition that we are each the dreamer of this dream, MUST come from an EXPERIENCE that comes from within. We can’t intellectually tell ourselves that what we thought happened, didn’t, because we’ve already made it real. We have to turn to our Inner Guide, and ask for the EXPERIENCE of being shown what the truth is. Only then do we touch upon the truth that the world is an illusion, and that we are perfectly unharmed.
We don’t know that we’re dreaming. The Course’s Forgiveness shows us that we are.
So when you see someone in a painful circumstance, it is NOT an opportunity to think, “oh they chose for this.” Instead, this is an opportunity to own that you are seeing this with your body’s eyes, so it must be somehow coming from your split mind, or you wouldn’t be seeing it in the first place. When I see something painful, this prayer from the Course helps me immensely:
Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace, but let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming. (FIP edition: T-19.IV.C.i-11)
If you still feel confused, or if there still seems to be undertones of blaming the victim, recognize there may be some unwillingness to let the Holy Spirit give you a miracle. Our ego wants us to think the Course is blaming the victim, because that strengthens the ego. Touch upon your willingness to see differently and give that willingness to the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for the experience of understanding. The Course tells us that God placed the answer to the separation problem in our minds the moment we dreamt it, only we just haven’t accepted it. The Holy Spirit would have us accept and know this:
We are NOT guilty.
We are innocent and we will come to accept ourselves in truth because that IS Love’s will for us. The outcome is guaranteed. :)