In September of 2015 I posted an article about forgiveness, a key aspect of A Course in Miracles’ teaching. That concept differs substantially from common religious and secular thought. I outlined those differences in my rather dry and impersonal 2015 article. Here I focus on the 6th episode Season two Netflix series of “The Crown,” which dramatizes a personal dilemma the Queen had about forgiveness.
In the episode she had to decide whether to forgive her Uncle, the Duke of Windsor, for his abdication as King in 1936. Initially she was inclined to forgive him and end his exile so he could take a job in the British government. She changed her mind when she learned that he and his wife, for whom he gave up the thrown, collaborated with the Nazis before and during the first weeks of WW II. Queen Elizabeth then told him she could not forgive him for his contacts with Hitler, that he needed to find a way to forgive himself, and she revoked her permission for him to enter the UK. We all face similar dilemmas.
In the course we find a simple and basic premise: there is nothing to forgive because the world we think we live in is nothing. It’s an illusion.
The first word in the important Text passage: The New Lord’s Prayer at the end of Text Chapter 16, is Forgive. Then, the word forgiveness occurs in both sentences three and four.
1. 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.…
3. What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect? 4 The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love. (my emphasis)
These statements in the new Lord’s Prayer about forgiveness are on the level of God’s Heaven. The Queen’s withholding of forgiveness was on the level of our illusion in the separation. The Biblical Lord’s Prayer conveys forgiveness on that level.
Give us our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.
Thus, we are forgiven depending on how we forgive others. Where did that leave the Queen, who was brought up believing that? In the TV series she consulted American evangelist Billy Graham, who pointed out how Jesus forgave those who crucified him. That was not enough for her to ignore her uncle’s treacherous involvement with Hitler and other Nazis.
ACIM teaching about forgiveness is succinct and clear when it is about us being forgiven for believing we are in a world separate from God. However, forgiveness teachings about how we forgive others in that illusion are complex. With that in mind consider Part II of the Workbook for Students, where the first of 14 Questions is, What is Forgiveness? It begins with these three sentences.
Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin.
This is the forgiveness we extend when we agree that this world is an illusion; therefore, what we thought our brother did has not occurred because nothing here is really occurring. The five paragraphs build on this idea and the twenty lessons which follow provide thoughts and prayers which complement the concept.
Aspects about forgiveness in our separated world are found throughout the Course, and especially in “The Song of Prayer” pamphlet. Helen Schucman scribed it a few months after the Course’s first publication. The Pamphlet is in Three Parts; Prayer, Forgiveness, and Healing.
Section 2, FORGIVENESS, has three demanding but helpful sections: I. Forgiveness of Yourself; II. Forgiveness to Destroy; III. Forgiveness–for–Salvation. Following are very compelling sentences from each section.
Forgiveness of Yourself;
No gift of Heaven has been more misunderstood than has forgiveness. It has, in fact, become a scourge; a curse where it was meant to bless, a cruel mockery of grace, a parody upon the holy peace of God.
Forgiveness to Destroy,
In this group, first, there are the forms in which a “better” person deigns to stoop to save a “baser” one from what he truly is. Forgiveness here rests on an attitude of gracious lordliness so far from love that arrogance could never be dislodged.
1. Forgiveness-for-Salvation has one form, and only one. 2 It does not ask for proof of innocence, nor pay of any kind. 3 It does not argue, nor evaluate the errors that it wants to overlook. 4 It does not offer gifts in treachery, nor promise freedom while it asks for death.
7. …3 Rest a while in this; do not attempt to judge forgiveness, nor to set it in an earthly frame. 4 Let it arise to Christ, Who welcomes it as gift to Him.
We see in these excerpts how Jesus’ teaching progresses from discussing haughty and supercilious forms of forgiveness to positive ways which give us the means for constructive forgiveness. The above are taken out of context, so for complete understanding do study the whole section from the Song of Prayer Pamphlet.
Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed in “The Crown” series, did not have the sophisticated concepts of forgiveness now taught in ACIM, nor was the advice offered to her by Billy Graham helpful. A Course student might have said,
As your niece and friend who has benefitted from your advice, I forgive you. But as Queen of England I cannot, and I must withdraw my permission for you ever again to visit the United Kingdom.
This approaches but does not concur with a broad view of ACIM’s forgiveness teachings. In my next blog I’ll discuss: Text Chapter 30, Section VI, “The Justification for Forgiveness,” where Jesus conveys concepts which give us a very demanding way to view forgiveness.
Meanwhile, follow the advice in number seven (above) in Forgiveness-for-Salvation. “Rest a while,” with those words to understand how to forgive our fellow travelers in this world.
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