Said the self-righteous preacher, “What, in your judgment, is the greatest sin in the world?” “That of the person who sees other human beings as sinners,” said the Master. (Anthony de Mello, One Minute Nonsense, p 139)
Forgiveness is often experienced as a laborious sacrifice of factual grievances, a major effort in disowning one’s emotions and a subtle deception of reality.
Conventionally, it is the act of giving up my right to hurt or resent someone who has caused me damage, a compassionate response aimed at demonstrating my mercy towards those who have harmed me.
With ordinary forgiveness there is abstention from any outer response of anger or resentment, although the grievance, and what or who caused it, is made unquestionably real. I forgive someone for what he has done to me. Here the grievance is the main focus and continue to shine as the centre of attention also when it is forgiven.
In our current world forgiveness is a popular theme and the incapacity to forgive is often regarded as a major hindrance not only by religious people but also by conventional therapies and moralities. There seems to be almost a tendency to demonise unforgiving behaviours, while forgiveness is highly idealised. This attitude may appear to promote a more loving and peaceful world, yet when the ego twists its meaning, forgiveness inevitably becomes a major curse covered up as a blessing. Here taking up the teaching breeze of A Course in Miracles and an iconoclastic astroshamanic healing urge, we aim at dissecting the mechanics of false forgiveness as the ego operates it.
Yet please be aware that the ego’s ways are most refined, so that finding shelter behind the words of A Course in Miracles or astroshamanism does not necessarily imply immunity from false forgiveness. On the contrary this may escalate, in order for it to be unveiled and healed.
Forgiveness is not about covering up grievances and pent-up emotions with people, using good forgiving manners and excerpts borrowed from A Course in Miracles.
Forgiveness, as I see it, is not about focusing only on the “positive” and pushing grievances in the unconscious. It is about opening up to the true nature of grievances and unforgiving behaviours, experientially acknowledging what they are, rather than confining myself in a conventional attitude of forgiveness and release.
At times saying “I forgive you” can be as shallow as saying “I love you” to someone I am only physically attracted to. True forgiveness and release occur when I have fully seen and understood what I am letting go of. This implies unveiling my emotions and the fact that I am indeed full of hate towards someone, who theoretically I should forgive.
Forgiveness here is about honestly accepting the exploration of one’s shadows, being authentic with oneself and others, withdrawing one’s projections and integrating them into the wholeness where they belong.
According to A Course in Miracles the ego, which is our identity based on the perception of separation, sponsors its own plan of forgiveness whose purpose is to preserve the hallucination of a separated reality. “The ego’s plan is to have you see error clearly first, and then overlook it. Yet how can you overlook what you have made real? By seeing it clearly, you have made it real and cannot overlook it.” (ACIM, T9.IV.4)
Ego’s forgiveness is first based on the assumption that sin is real, which is the foundation of separation, followed by a forlorn attempt to release it, which is inevitably bound to boost separation itself.
Genuine forgiveness first acknowledges that sin is not real, and then it truly releases it, together with the perception of separation. Here sin, separation and all their grievances are seen as dreams from which we wake up, having no effect and consequence in our true reality.
Forgiveness is not about responding to the logic of the dream. It involves releasing the dream altogether and unconditionally embracing the reality that exists beyond the dream, which is the full perception of unity and God, or Core Multidimensional Identity.
If I have a dream in which I am attacked and wounded by a criminal, when I wake up from the dream I do not call an ambulance or the police. I acknowledge that I was just dreaming, letting go of the dream and then returning to the reality of my life. This is forgiveness.
When we focus on the dream and all its grievances, they become our reality. Whether they are big or small, acted out or denied, the purpose of grievances is always to support the ego. They constitute the structure of our split identity, which is set apart from other identities with which there is competition and a constant whirlpool of attack and defence.
This is also the case when I practice ego’s forgiveness, which is the ultimate, subtlest and dodgy form of grievance. I may also believe that sin and separation are all dreams, do many practices to let them go and even act as if they do not exist, yet if my inner focus continues to be sin and separation, they will continue to be part of my reality. And this is false forgiveness.
False forgiveness employs four major strategies, which are superbly described in The Song of Prayer: Prayer, Forgiveness, Healing (An extension of the principles of A Course in Miracles).
The first is based on condescension, a sense of arrogant spiritual superiority 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. Who can forgive and yet despise? And who can tell another he is steeped in sin, and yet perceive him as the Son of God? Who makes a slave to teach what freedom is? There is no union here, but only grief. This is not really mercy. This is death.” (Song of Prayer 2:II.2).
The other strategy involves a gloomy sympathy, a sense of being in the same boat or sharing a common sinful predicament, and is definitely less arrogant than the previous one, yet still fatal. Here “the one who would forgive the other does not claim to be the better. Now he says instead that here is one whose sinfulness he shares, since both have been unworthy and deserve the retribution of the wrath of God. This can appear to be a humble thought, and may indeed induce a rivalry in sinfulness and guilt. It is not love for God’s creation and the holiness that is His gift forever. Can His Son condemn himself and still remember Him?” (Song of Prayer 2:II.3).
The third form is forgiveness based on sacrifice and immolation, in which someone seeks the role of martyr and passively bears the torment inflicted by another, which “may pass as meekness and as charity instead of cruelty. Is it not kind to be accepting of another’s spite, and not respond except with silence and a gentle smile? Behold, how good are you who bear with patience and with saintliness the anger and the hurt another gives, and do not show the bitter pain you feel.” (Song of Prayer 2:II.4).
The last strategy is a bargaining forgiveness, an emotional blackmail in which someone forgives only if the other meets his demands, by confessing his sins, apologising, providing compensations, repenting, etc. “I will forgive you if you meet my needs, for in your slavery is my release. Say this to anyone and you are slave. And you will seek to rid yourself of guilt in further bargains which can give no hope, but only greater pain and misery. How fearful has forgiveness now become, and how distorted is the end it seeks. Have mercy on yourself who bargains thus. God gives and does not ask for recompense. There is no giving but to give like Him. All else is mockery. For who would try to strike a bargain with the Son of God, and thank his Father for his holiness?” (Song of Prayer 2:II.6).
The aim of twisted forgiveness, the ego’s plan of forgiveness, is to support the perception of separation so that no real healing can take place. It operates through bogus forgiveness practices whose real purpose is to strengthen our chains and underline separation. Their basic assumption is the idea that someone or something has caused us damage. This vision is regarded as truth and triumphs every time false forgiveness is practiced.
“This is the great deception of the world, and you the great deceiver of yourself. It always seems to be another who is evil, and in his sin you are the injured one. How could freedom be possible if this were so? You would be slave to everyone, for what he does entails your fate, your feelings, your despair or hope, your misery or joy. You have no freedom unless he gives it to you. And being evil, he can only give of what he is. You cannot see his sins and not your own. But you can free him and yourself as well.” (Song of Prayer 2:II.6).
Authentic forgiveness is the sheer opposite of ego’s forgiveness. It is based on the awareness that the perception of separation is false, as well as the idea of being harmed by someone. It forgives the other for what the other did not do, not for what he did. “Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do.” (ACIM, T17.III.1:5). It is the realisation that I did to myself what I believed was done to me.
“It is impossible to forgive another, for it is only your sins you see in him. You want to see them there, and not in you. That is why forgiveness of another is an illusion. Yet it is the only happy dream in all the world; the only one that does not lead to death. Only in someone else can you forgive yourself, for you have called him guilty of your sins, and in him must your innocence now be found. Who but the sinful need to be forgiven? And do not ever think you can see sin in anyone except yourself.” (Song of Prayer 2.I.4).
Here “turning the other cheek” becomes the acknowledgment that nobody can truly hurt us, the demonstration that we cannot hold anything against our brothers, since this would mean holding it against ourselves.
Ego’s forgiveness is not meant to work because its aim is to preserve a false perception based on the reality of sin. On the other hand true forgiveness involves the awareness that sin is not real. “God’s Will for me is perfect happiness. There is no sin; it has no consequence.” (ACIM, W-101.6:6-7).
How does it work then this true forgiveness? Since we are trapped within the ego’s reality based on separation, it is a forlorn enterprise to try and manage it on our own. Here all major paths of liberation insist on connecting with a source existing beyond the ego’s paradigm. The names given to describe this source are endless and have changed through history, yet its function has always been the same. In astroshamanism it is called Spirit Guide, or Core Multidimensional Identity, while in A Course in Miracles it is called Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is described as “God’s answer to the ego” with “the task of undoing what the ego has made” (ACIM, T79) or as the Christ Mind which is aware of the knowledge that lies beyond false perception.
The Holy Spirit is considered as a sort of bridge between illusion and reality or fear and love. It is “the part of the mind that lies between the ego and the spirit, mediating between them always in favour of the spirit” (ACIM, T132), a transformative force operating within our consciousness so at to guide us toward the true ecstatic perception of life.
Also traditional Christianity shares a similar perspective, identifying the Holy Spirit as a helper who guides people in the way of the truth or, as Jesus defines It in the Gospel of John, the “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26).
Only through the direct invitation and presence of this helping force, no matter how we call That, true forgiveness can take place. On our own we can do nothing, yet in this most helpless situation we are capable of expressing our maximum freedom and power, which is the crucial capacity to call upon that Source, Who abides indeed within us. In this respect A Course in Miracles, in its final lesson, provides a concise guidance:
“This holy instant would I give to You.
Be You in charge. For I would follow You,
Certain that Your direction gives me peace.” (ACIM, W361).
And so does traditional Christianity, in the beginning of each official prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours:
“O God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” (Psalm 70:1)
© Franco Santoro