Forgiveness, the Spark, and the Great Rays—Commentary on Lesson 121: Forgiveness is the key to happiness.

by Robert Perry

There is an exercise in Workbook Lesson 121 that is one of the more obvious forgiveness exercises in the Course. It is the one where you pick someone to forgive and then see a spark in that person, let it expand, and then transfer the light you saw around that person to a friend. The exercise seems very promising, but I personally never got that much from it. However, over time, I've come to understand it more and more, and that understanding has cause its effectiveness for me to be multiplied. Here, I want to present five concepts that supply the conceptual foundation for the exercise, and then present an expanded version of the exercise.

1. Behind every body and personality is a holy being, who has forgotten who he is.

This is the basis of forgiveness, of course-seeing beyond who the person appears to be, to who the person really is. The personality may in fact be quite selfish and malicious, but the being who currently has that personality is absolutely holy and perfect.

2. The Great Rays are rays of holiness that shine out from the spark within each person.

The Great Rays are often envisioned as shining from God to us and as us. However, the Course actually portrays them as shining from within us:

As the ego would limit your perception of your brothers to the body, so would the Holy Spirit release your vision and let you see the Great Rays shining from them, so unlimited that they reach to God. (T-15.IX.1:1)

They shine out from what the Course calls the "little spark" in us:

The little spark that holds the Great Rays within it is also visible, and this spark cannot be limited long to littleness. (T-16.VI.6:3)

The Great Rays are rays of holiness shining out from each person. Many traditions have spoken of rays of light shining out from holy people, particularly Buddhism. From The Encyclopedia of Religion:

The Buddha…practices a variety of magical powers, the most notable of which is the issuance of rays of light from his body. Touched by these rays of light, all beings become intent upon enlightenment.

Light symbolism is also conspicuous in religious iconography: saints or divine figures have a halo surrounding their head or their whole body or a flame above their head. This is particularly conspicuous in Buddhist iconography, especially in its Mahayana forms. Amida is easily identifiable by the halo of "infinite" rays emanating from his head [the Course speaks of the Great Rays extending "in quiet to infinity"].

3. When you see this person for who he is, the light in him shines onto you and awakens you.

Over and over again, the Course says that when we see our brother truly, the light in him will shine on us and awaken us to our own holiness. My favorite line about this is the following:

Your brother may not know who he is, but there is a light in his mind that does know. This light can shine into yours. (T-9.II.5:8-9)

In Lesson 161, we are told that if we see our brother for who he is, we can "scarce refrain from kneeling at his feet," an obvious reference to relating to our brother as one would relate to a holy person. In that same lesson, we ask our brother for his blessing, just as we would ask a great spiritual master, who has power to illumine us with a glance of his eyes.

Give me your blessing, holy Son of God.
I would behold you with the eyes of Christ,
And see my perfect sinlessness in you.

This is how our brother is our savior. As I've said before, the notion of our brother being our savior in the Course is not about our brother pushing our buttons, but about the holiness within him saving us by awakening us to our own holiness. Here is a passage that illustrates that.

How holy are you, that the Son of God can be your savior in the midst of dreams of desolation and disaster. See how eagerly he comes, and steps aside from heavy shadows that have hidden him, and shines on you in gratitude and love. (T-29.III.5:1-2)

4. Loving thoughts and deeds are the only visible evidence of who this person really is.

Our loving thoughts, says the Course, are the evidence of who we really are. "They came from the Holy Spirit in you" (T-5.IV.8:6). So even if our loving thoughts are only a small percentage of our overall thoughts, they are still the evidence of who the thinker is behind the thoughts. Our job is to focus on those loving thoughts as the only evidence of who someone is. That is forgiveness: "To forgive is to remember only the loving thoughts…that were given you." (T-17.III.1:1).

The Course often talks about these loving thoughts as the spark: "In these loving thoughts is the spark of beauty hidden in the ugliness of the unholy relationship" (T-17.III.5:7). I'm not sure if this spark is the same as the spark from which the Great Rays come, but I do think it's related.

5. Giving is receiving. Through giving forgiveness we generate our own sparks, and thereby reveal to ourselves who we really are.

If the loving thoughts of others reveal who others really are, then our own loving thoughts reveal to ourselves who we really are. With enough loving thoughts, we will finally prove to ourselves that we are not the sinner we thought, but a being of pure holiness. If, as the old saying goes, "To err is human, to forgive divine," then our forgiveness proves to ourselves that we are divine. We see this very idea in the practice at the end of Lesson 121:

Forgiveness is the key to happiness.
I will awaken from the dream that I
Am mortal, fallible and full of sin,
And know I am the perfect Son of God.

My forgiveness will eventually prove to me that I am not mortal, fallible, and full of sin, that I am the perfect Son of God. My errors have proven to me that I am all too human, but my forgiveness will prove to me that I am divine.

INSTRUCTIONS

Purpose: to learn to give forgiveness and see that, when you do, you receive forgiveness.

Morning/evening practice: 2 times, for 10 minutes

  • Identify someone to forgive. Think of someone you dislike or despise or find irritable or want to avoid. The one that has already come to your mind will do.
  • Close your eyes and see him in your mind, and look at him a while. Try to find some little spark of light in your picture of him. You are looking for some loving or true quality in him, or perhaps some kind thought or caring gesture of his-some distant reflection of the light of God in him. Everything hinges on this, so take your time. Once you find something, see it symbolized as a tiny spark of light somewhere in your dark picture of him. Then see this tiny spark slowly expand until it completely covers your picture of him, replacing all the darkness with light. In other words, see him only in light of this one loving quality or act. See this as the only clue to who he really is. If you succeed, he will seem to be a holy person, without a single flaw, radiating light. You might even imagine Great Rays shining out from him. Now look at this changed picture a while. Appreciate how lovely and spotless it is.
  • Now think of someone you consider a friend. Try to transfer the light you saw around your "enemy" to this friend. This makes the friend seem to be much more than a friend. He is revealed to be your savior, with power to enlighten you with just one glance of his holy eyes.
  • Now let your savior offer you the light you gave to him. Then let your former enemy unite with him, so that they both offer you this light. Why wouldn't they give this holy gift to you, when you gave it to them, and revealed your holiness in the process? See rays of forgiveness pouring off of them and onto you, absolving you of your "sins," causing you to radiate the same Great Rays that they do. See yourself at one with them, united in the holy light of forgiveness that you have given and received. "Now have you been forgiven by yourself" (13:3).

Frequent reminders: every hour—do not forget

Repeat, "Forgiveness is the key to happiness. I will awaken from the dream that I am mortal, fallible and full of sin, and know I am the perfect Son of God." To understand these lines, it helps to insert "through forgiveness" at the beginning of the second sentence. Remember the old adage, "To err is human, to forgive divine"? Forgiveness is what proves to us that we are more than human, that we are divine.

One more point: If you are really going to say these lines every hour, you'll need to either spend time memorizing them or have them written down on a card.

EXPANSION OF THE EXERCISE FROM LESSON 121

Begin…by thinking of someone you do not like,
who seems to irritate you,
or to cause regret in you if you should meet him;
one you actively despise, or merely try to overlook.
It does not matter what the form your anger takes.
You probably have chosen him already.
He will do.

Now close your eyes and see him in your mind, and look at him a while.
Try to find some little spark of light in your picture of him.
You are looking for some loving or true quality in him, or perhaps some kind thought or caring gesture of his-some distant reflection of the light of God in him.
Everything hinges on this, so take your time.

Once you find something, see it symbolized as a tiny spark of light somewhere in your dark picture of him.
Then see this tiny spark slowly expand until it completely covers your picture of him, replacing all the darkness with light.
In other words, see him only in light of this one loving quality or act.
If you succeed, he will seem to be a holy person, without a single flaw, radiating light.
You might even imagine Great Rays shining out from him.
Now look at this changed picture a while.
Appreciate how lovely and spotless it is.

Now think of someone you consider a friend.
Try to transfer the light you saw around your "enemy" to this friend.
This makes the friend seem to be much more than a friend.
He is revealed to be your savior, with power to enlighten you with just one glance of his holy eyes.

Now let your savior offer you the light you gave to him.
Then let your former enemy unite with him, so that they both offer you this light.
Why wouldn't they give this holy gift to you, when you gave it to them, and revealed your holiness in the process?
See rays of forgiveness pouring off of them and onto you, absolving you of your "sins," causing you to radiate the same Great Rays that they do.
See yourself at one with them, united in the holy light of forgiveness that you have given and received.
"Now have you been forgiven by yourself" (13:3).

One Comment

  1. Nicci Barker
    Posted April 28, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    thank you. nicci

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