by Robert Perry
Every Course student knows that the Course uses a number of words in a special way. For instance, we all know that forgiveness means something very different in the Course than what it means in conventional parlance. I have slowly come to realize, however, that nearly every word in the Course—apart from words like “the” and “and”—has a specialized meaning. Its meaning may not be actually contrary to the conventional meaning (as is the case with “forgiveness”), but it will be much more specific. It will now carry a Course-specific meaning, one that fits it into the Course’s larger thought system. It has become a part of the Course’s special vocabulary.
You can readily see this when you track a word as it appears throughout the Course. When I do this with any word, I am invariably struck by the consistency of thought in the usage of that word, even if it only occurs a few times over the Course’s twelve hundred pages. Even in a handful of widely dispersed references, you can see that behind that word is a minor thought system, and that this thought system is really a miniature of the Course’s thought system as a whole. In short, the Course has turned the word into an entire teaching in itself. This makes word studies in the Course an absolutely fascinating exercise.
I want to show you what I mean in this article, which is a word study of the word “ancient” in the Course. There are seventy references to “ancient” in the Course, and as you go through each one, it slowly becomes apparent that there is an astonishing consistency in the word’s usage throughout the Course, even though its first and last reference are separated by eight hundred pages and ten years in the dictation process.
The repeated pairing of “ancient” with a particular family of words
The first way in which this consistency can be seen is that “ancient” is often paired with the same words. For instance, there are eight references to ancient hate, five to ancient song, five to ancient promises, five to ancient lessons, and so on. Indeed, three out of four times that “ancient” appears, it is paired with a word with which it is paired multiple times—3.7 times on average. Clearly, when Jesus thought of “ancient,” he didn’t just think of anything ancient. Rather, he had a particular family of ancient things in mind.
The special meaning of “ancient” in the Course
The second way in which this consistency can be seen is that “ancient” doesn’t just mean “really old” in the Course. Rather, its main meaning is something like “still intact in spite of the passage of vast stretches of time and in spite of the eroding effects one would expect from that time.” We can see this in the following passage: “There is an ancient peace you carry in your heart and have not lost” (W-pI.164.4:2). We could reword the passage to mean, “There is a peace you carry in your heart and have not lost, in spite of the passage of vast stretches of time and in spite of the eroding effects one would normally expect from that time.” Thus, “ancient” in the Course is meant to inject a slight element of surprise, to engender a slight shift in perception. When it is paired with another word, like peace, we are supposed to think, “I would expect that this peace would have eroded after eons of time, but it hasn’t. Contrary to my expectation, this must be a remarkably strong and persistent peace.”
The thought system behind “ancient”
The third way in which this consistency can be seen is that there is a complete minor thought system behind the various uses of the word “ancient.” This, of course, is the most interesting part, which I will try to describe now. “Ancient” in the Course actually splits into two meanings: ancient illusions and ancient truths, each one utilizing a different meaning of the word.
The ancient illusion
The concept of the ancient illusion is drenched with irony. For instance, think about the most common pairing: ancient hate (eight references). Hate is a such an intense emotion, one that is also unpleasant and ultimately self-destructive. Why, then, would we maintain an intense, unpleasant, and self-destructive emotion over eons of time? This becomes even harder to understand when the Course spells out the ultimate price of hanging on to our hate: “And would you trade Them [God and Christ] for an ancient hate?” (T-26.IX.2:3). How ironic that we would give away God and Christ in exchange for “an ancient hate.” This kind of irony comes out quite plainly in a number of the “ancient illusions” passages. For instance, here is one about ancient promises:
And those who serve the lord of death have come to worship in a separated world, each with his tiny spear and rusted sword, to keep his ancient promises to die. (T-29.V.7:6)
This says that we have come to this separated world, armed with our “tiny spear and rusted sword,” in order to worship the lord of death and keep our promises to him. What are these promises? They are our “ancient promises to die.” A promise is a vow to which we stay faithful in spite of all the changing winds of time. But why are we staying faithful to a promise made to the lord of death, a promise to die? Most especially, why have we done so since ancient times? How insane is that?
Elsewhere, the Course speaks of “ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find” (W-pI.132.2:4) and “ancient concepts held so long and dear against the vision of the Christ in you” (T-31.VII.13:7). The ancient thoughts and concepts are clearly similar to the ancient promises. Why would we keep a thought of seeking what we don’t want to find? Why would we hold dear a concept that opposes the vision of the Christ in us? And why on earth would we hang onto these for so long that they have actually become ancient thoughts and concepts?
The Course itself asks us this question when it speaks of the “ancient dream.” The ancient dream is the dream of your sinfulness. This dream is against your interests in that it causes you to “lose sight of your Companion, and mistake Him for the senseless, ancient dream that now is past” (W-pI.156.7:5). In other words, this dream makes your true Companion, God, invisible to you, so that you think you walk alone, with your sinfulness as your only companion. This ancient dream is also without foundation. It is called a “quaint absurdity” that is “foolish,” “silly,” “senseless,” and that is even gone—”that now is past.” Given all this, the Course asks us: “Who would waste an instant in approach to God Himself for such a senseless whim?” (W-pI.156.6:5). The next line gives the sobering answer: “Yet you have wasted many, many years on just this foolish thought” (W-pI.156.7:1). It is, after all, an ancient thought.
I could give many other examples, but the basic pattern is clear. We have been holding onto something that is both deeply self-destructive and totally without foundation, and have been doing so for untold eons. Being without foundation, it is maintained solely by the strength of our will, a strength we have poured into it. As a result, we have not only held onto it, we have cherished it (T-28.I.5:6), we have held it dear (T-31.VII.13:7). No matter how insane it was, we took pains to repeat it and practice it endlessly (T-31.I.2:8), until we actually overlearned it (T-31.I.5:4). As a result, our entire world grew out of it. “The world was made by it, and even now depends on nothing else” (T-31.I.3:3). Everywhere we look, we see the outer reflection of this ancient illusion. While staying true to it, we have indeed “wasted many, many years”—indeed, many, many eons—in our approach to God Himself.
The ancient truth
The ancient truth is as beautiful as the ancient illusion is ironic and disturbing. Indeed, one is the answer to the other. Again and again we find the same basic theme: There was something unspeakably joyous and beautiful that existed in ancient times, so ancient that it was before the world began (or arose as the world began). This ancient beauty seemed to have been degraded, eroded, and even destroyed as the eons crawled by. But in fact, however much we don’t see it, it remains intact, completely unchanged and completely present. It offers itself to us right now, and if we accept it again, it will instantly return and overturn the ancient illusion. It will again take its ancient place as our sole reality, as if nothing had ever happened.
We can see this pattern in the phrases “ancient promise,” “ancient call,” “ancient home,” and “ancient love” (and in several others). Think about a promise. As I said earlier, it is a vow that someone makes that is meant to stay unchanged in spite of all the other changes that time brings with it. Yet, of course, it often works the other way around: as time passes, the promise grows weaker and is eventually forgotten. Not so with God’s promises: “Today God keeps His ancient promise to His holy Son” (W-pI.131.14:4). In spite of the fact that they are ancient, His promises are as strong today as when He first made them. Even if billions of years pass, He will keep them.
A parent calling to a child is a similar concept. Ideally, the parent should keep calling until the child comes home, but the ideal is not always the reality. The child may be so rebellious and unresponsive, and the parent’s love may be sufficiently weak and imperfect, that the parent eventually just gives up and stops calling. Again, this is not so with God’s call to us. He has never ceased calling to us since the world began. His call to us is therefore an ancient one. Rather than the world ending God’s call, His call will end the world: “The ancient calling of the Father to His Son, and of the Son unto his own, will yet be the last trumpet that the world will ever hear” (T-27.II.6:7).
We all know the old saying “You can’t go back home again.” At the end of the Thomas Wolfe novel You Can’t Go Home Again, the protagonist realizes, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood…back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame…back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time.” You have moved on, and your home has moved on from you. Thus, in this view, there is a homesickness that can never be cured. Yet this is not the case with our heavenly home. At one point, Jesus tells us, “And as I am made whole we go together to our ancient home, prepared for us before time was and kept unchanged by time, immaculate and safe, as it will be at last when time is done” (W-pI.rV.In.8:8). Look at the perfect constancy of this home. It was “prepared for us before time was.” It was then “kept unchanged by time, immaculate and safe”—like a child’s room kept undisturbed awaiting her return. Only our room has been kept undisturbed through billions of years. And “when time is done” it will still be exactly as it was. When it comes to our true abode, we really can go back home again.
One of the most poignant “ancient” lines is this: “Father, my ancient love for You returns, and lets me love Your Son again as well” (W-pII.248.2:1). We all get inspired by stories in which, for instance, two high school sweethearts go their separate ways, lose touch for years, build their separate lives, and then, in middle age, reconnect, fall in love again, and spend the rest of their lives together. This line captures an extreme version of that story. In the beginning, we shared a love with our Father that was everything to us. It was our whole reality. Then, for reasons that made no sense, we left Him and dreamt up a world as our replacement for Him. Over the ages that followed, our love for Him seemed to wither and vanish and become a thing of the ancient past. Yet it never really vanished. It just got covered over. And now we find it again. Now it returns, in all its original power. Even though ages have passed, our love for Him hasn’t diminished one iota. Indeed, it is so powerful and all-encompassing that, caught up in its rapture, it lets us love everyone.
The poignancy of this basic idea—there is something that was everything to us that apparently vanished but now returns—is the reason, I believe, that students find “The Forgotten Song” so deeply moving, for this is the essence of that beloved section. The section (T-21.I) speaks of an “ancient song” (7:5, 9:5), an inexpressibly lovely song. We listened to it with others in a wonderful setting, wrapped up in the loveliness of the experience, in love with the setting and our companions, as well the song (6:3). We cherished this song so deeply that it would make us weep to remember how dear it was to us (7:2). Yet somehow we strayed away from it. The world arose, including the sun and the stars and the body (8:1), and we got caught up in it all, causing us to forgot the song. While the ages wheeled by, the song slowly receded from memory, but not entirely. We kept just a few notes with us, “just a little wisp of melody” (6:2). Like a cherished keepsake, we kept this wisp of melody as “a soft reminder” (7:2) of what once meant everything to us. And “from just this little part” (6:3) we can remember the whole song. Though the song seems to lie entombed in a distant and unrecoverable past, it can all come flooding back into our awareness, its power as fresh and undimmed as it was in the beginning. And when it does, we will realize that nothing in the world we learned is half so dear as this song (7:4).
This, however, is precisely what we fear. We fear that as the song returns to us in all its power and beauty, we will throw this world away. And we will. The song will once again become everything to us, while the world recedes to nothingness. The apparently ancient past will rise up and completely replace the seemingly immediate present. What is the song that has power to do this? It is the “ancient hymn of love” that we sang to our Father in the beginning, and that, somewhere inside, we sing to our Father still (9:6). “The Forgotten Song,” then, turns out to be an achingly beautiful expansion on “Father, my ancient love for You returns.”
Notice how different are the ancient illusion and the ancient truth. The ancient illusion is something we insanely keep intact over eons, in spite of the fact that it is both self-destructive and without foundation. In contrast, the ancient truth stays lovingly intact over eons, in spite of the fact that we long ago turned our backs on it and it seemed to disappear. The ancient illusion makes up everything we see, yet it has no actual power and can therefore vanish in an instant. The ancient truth is unseen, having apparently vanished long ago, yet it retains all of its original power and can become everything for us again any moment we choose.
Our notions of the journey versus the Course’s “ancient journey”
Notice also that between the ancient illusion and ancient truth, we have an entire picture of our journey. It is a picture that stands in stark contrast to how we ourselves probably view that journey. We may, for instance, assume that our ego arose in this life, as our original childhood purity was overwritten by the programming of society, and innocence gave way to the usual egoic struggle with the world. At some point, we woke up and realized that there must be a better way, and began our spiritual journey. We have now been on that journey for a few years, maybe a few decades, but it is slow going. We have the best of intentions, we want the highest, and we really do try, but we face some rather formidable hurdles. The pressures of daily life make it very difficult to focus on our spiritual awakening. The need to survive and get ahead means that we can’t always afford to be the nice guy. Our societal programming means that our automatic reactions are often the opposite of our highest intentions. And chances are that we weren’t granted all of the abilities that would make spiritual progress really easy—abilities to hear clear guidance, to understand spiritual principles, and to experience God.
In short, despite our good intentions, pure desires, and sincere efforts, we are hemmed in by a series of brick walls. If those could just be cleared away, we could literally race forward spiritually. You would think that God would want that and so you would think He would clear those walls away. Certainly He has the ability. Thus, you would think that He would arrange our lives to be more conducive to spiritual progress. You would think He would give us the clear guidance and the powerful spiritual experiences we so deeply long for. But most of the time He doesn’t. He seems rather remote and silent instead. Which leaves us to heroically struggle to get over all those walls with very little help from Him. No wonder our progress is glacial.
The picture of our journey provided by the references to “ancient” couldn’t be more dissimilar. To begin with, the time scale is utterly different. From this perspective, the ego did not arise in this life as socialization rubbed out our childhood innocence. Rather, our ego is truly ancient. It is older than the pyramids, older even than the stars. And our spiritual journey isn’t recent, either. When we got on the spiritual path some years ago, we weren’t starting a new journey, but rather renewing a very old one: “We only start again an ancient journey long ago begun that but seems new” (C-Ep.3:2). We have been searching for time beyond measure. It is time to end this. “Let us end the ancient search today by finding the light in us” (W-pI.69.3:5).
What is even more different is that in this story, we are not the sincere hero doing our best to surmount objective barriers. Rather, we are an antihero who insanely clings to an ancient illusion that is utterly self-destructive and totally without foundation in reality. We don’t just cling to it, we cherish it, we hold it dear. There is no reason to hold onto it—it goes against both truth and our happiness—yet we have stubbornly done so literally for eons. All of the barriers we see to our spiritual growth, all of those brick walls I described above, are really just excuses. The real story lies inside us, in an ancient addiction that we refuse to genuinely face. Rather than face it, we just displace it onto various outside factors over which we have little control.
This means that there are no objective barriers to our spiritual awakening. This certainly does not seem to be the case. The ancient illusion has persisted for so long and its effects are so all-pervasive that we can easily think that it is the irreversible status quo. Yet however persistent and pervasive it may seem, the ancient illusion is actually powerless. The real power lies in God’s ancient truth, which is “yet more ancient than the old illusion” (T-22.I.7:2). That ancient truth seems to have withered and vanished long ago, as the ancient illusion ascended to the throne and began its seemingly endless reign. Yet it never lost an ounce of its strength. Its love never diminished. It never forgot its promises. It never ceased calling us home. And though unseen, it is here, now, “awaiting me in shining welcome, and in readiness to give God’s ancient messages to me” (W-pII.322.1:2). No matter how long it’s been, all we need do is just nod in its direction, and all its power will rush to replace the impotent ancient illusion. “An ancient hatred [will] become a present love” (T-26.IX.6:1). “An ancient miracle [will] come to bless and to replace an ancient enmity that came to kill” (T-26.IX.8:5). “Hopelessness and death [will] disappear before the ancient clarion call of life” (T-27.II.6:5).
As this occurs, ideas, truths, and experiences will arise in us that seem completely new and fresh, yet in fact they are just the ancient truth being reborn in our now open minds. They will “fill your heart with deep tranquility as ancient truths, forever newly born, arise in your awareness” (W-pI.122.8:3). They will be “the happy consequences of a Cause so ancient that it far exceeds the span of memory which your perception sees” (T-28.I.7:9). It will be “a time in which we [you and Jesus] share a new experience for you, yet one as old as time and older still” (W-pI.rV.In.10:1).
In the end, the ancient truth will completely replace the ancient illusion. It will once again “take its ancient place upon an ancient throne” (T-26.IX.3:4). Its call will be the biblical “last trumpet” at which the dead arise and all of us are changed in the twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15:51-52). “The ancient calling of the Father to His Son…will yet be the last trumpet that the world will ever hear” (T-27.II.6:7). And we will at last return to our beloved home to find that for all these ages it has been “kept unchanged by time, immaculate and safe” (W-pI.RV.In.8:8). God kept it completely undisturbed, sure that we would return.
I find that this picture radically changes my normal unreflective assumptions about the spiritual journey. Those assumptions can be boiled down to four:
- “I’m the hero of this journey; I’m doing my best against terrific odds.”
- “There are too many barriers to overcome.”
- “Where’s God?”
- “Given all this, the slowness of my progress is inevitable; it is out of my hands to change.”
The view that comes from the “ancient” references is the exact opposite:
- “I’m the antihero; I’m the ancient addict, chronically sabotaging my own best interests.”
- “There are no barriers; they are just excuses I use to cover up my ancient addiction.”
- “All of God’s Love and promises are right here, hidden by my ancient addiction, but eager and ready to give me everything.”
- “Given all this, the only thing my swift progress is awaiting is my genuine choice.”
One thing is clear: While we tend to think in terms of years and decades, the Course is dealing in vast stretches of time. Besides its frequent use of the word “ancient,” it casually throws out phrases like “a thousand (or thousands of) years” (six references) or even “millions of years” (T-2.VIII.2:5). It speaks of “a span of time you cannot realize” (T-31.III.1:4) and “time that seems to have no end” (T-24.VI.7:2). These brief references hint at the fact that we have been at this far longer than we would guess, or could even conceive. Yet that is all right. No matter how long we loiter in this dream and delay our homecoming, God and Christ can patiently wait even longer, for time has literally no meaning to Them:
What is a hundred or a thousand years to Them, or tens of thousands? When They come, time’s purpose is fulfilled. What never was passes to nothingness when They have come. (T-26.IX.4:1-3)
I have two sets of reactions to this material. The first is about the thought system behind the “ancient” references. I find that thought system to be masterful: moving, disturbing, poignant, compelling. At each point it picks my mind up and deposits it somewhere else. Further, all the separate points hang together and ultimately blend into a cohesive vision, one that offers a plausible yet radically different picture of my spiritual journey. It is a picture that stretches my mind beyond this little life and its little dramas, giving me an immeasurably broader view of my journey. In the process, it gives me new appreciation for the Course’s statement that “you are capable of enormous procrastination” (T-2.III.3:3). It calls me on my attempts to forever delay my progress by shifting responsibility onto things outside my control. Instead, it places total responsibility on my doorstep, on my free power of choice, a power that has largely been devoted to insanity, but can just as easily be devoted to truth.
My second set of reactions can be summarized simply as “How on earth did he do it?” Think about what we have seen here. Jesus is not simply using “ancient” in its usual meaning of “very old.” Rather, he has crafted a special meaning: “still intact in spite of the passage of vast stretches of time and in spite of the eroding effects one would expect from that time.” He has then divided that meaning into two opposite meanings: “kept insanely intact by us over eons, in spite of the fact that it is both self-destructive and without foundation” and “kept lovingly intact (really by God) over eons, in spite of the fact that we long ago turned our backs on it and it seemed to disappear.” Then he wove these two meanings together into a unified vision of our journey, one that is entirely plausible yet challenges our most fundamental assumptions. Finally, this unified vision meant that “ancient” would naturally tend to go with certain words more than others. Thus, we find that it is paired with particular words multiple times and that these multiple pairings account for three quarters of the references to it.
My point is that Jesus has deeply rethought the word, retooling it to fit perfectly into his overall teaching, and turning it into a miniature encapsulation of that teaching. In the process, he has made it into the bearer of an immense load of meaning and significance. And then every one of the seventy times he used it, he accessed and expressed this new meaning. He has made this common word, in other words, into a special term, a profound part of his specialized vocabulary.
Yet, of course, he didn’t just do this with “ancient.” Based on my experience so far, it seems as if he did this with every word in the Course (with the exception of inconsequential words like “the” and “of”). Now I haven’t researched every word in the Course, so I cannot be certain, but at this point, that is how it looks to me. The Concordance of A Course in Miracles says that there are 8,277 unique words in the Course. Has he done with over eight thousand words what he did with “ancient”?
Below you will find the research on which this article was based. The first section, “Summary of themes,” is my attempt to condense what is said about each of the words that “ancient” is paired with, beginning with the most frequent words and ending with the least. Then the second section, “Passages plus commentary,” is what the “Summary of themes” was based on. Its headings are the same list of words as in “Summary of themes,” only now under these headings you will find the actual passages in which “ancient” appears. You will also find my commentary on those passages, which is my attempt to draw out the implicit meaning of the word as it appears in those contexts.
Summary of themes
For each word or word group below, I list how many times “ancient” is paired with it, then I list whether that word is an example of “ancient illusion” or “ancient truth” or both (the only exception is “ancient journey/search,” which falls in neither category). Then I attempt to summarize the thought contained in the “ancient” references to that word. (Note: the references to “place” and “throne” are two separate references, but since they occur in one sentence and were hard to describe without reference to each other, I’ve grouped them together.)
Ancient illusion: Despite the fact that this hate is a highly unpleasant, self-destructive emotion, which causes us to trade God and Christ for it, which casts a dark shadow over everything, and which turns the earth into a barren desert, we have maintained it, even cherished it, for countless eons, since the very dawn of time. Indeed, it is the source of time and space. And we continue to maintain it in spite of the fact that in truth it has disappeared. Because it has disappeared, its effects are passing away from the world, being replaced by the miracle of love.
Ancient truth: The ancient song is something that meant everything to you before the world began. Yet your experience of the world has virtually erased your memory of it, to the point where you remember only a little wisp of melody. Yet from this little wisp, the entire song can come back into your memory now. And with it you will remember that this song still means more to you than anything in the world has ever or will ever mean to you.
Ancient truth (4): God made an ancient promise to us, that we would find our way back to Him at last. This promise has not relaxed with time. He has remembered it, and when all is said and done, He will keep it.
Ancient illusion (1): We made an ancient promise to the lord of death, a promise to die. We have stayed faithful to that promise, and have come to this world to keep it, in spite of how utterly self-destructive it is.
Ancient illusion (4): In ancient times, we taught ourselves insane lessons such as “your will is not your own, your thoughts do not belong to you, and even you are someone else.” Yet despite how insane they were, we set about learning them with total dedication, and repeated them endlessly until we actually overlearned them. We learned them so deeply that they became the basis for our world. We need to let these ancient learnings pass away and so that truth can be reborn.
Ancient truth (1): Throughout all time, the Voice for God has offered us an ancient lesson. It has been true every day, yet today is the time we are appointed to learn it.
Ancient illusion (4): These are thoughts we have held dear for ages even though they are thoughts of seeking what we don’t want, even though they oppose the vision of the Christ in us, even though they make no sense. We need to let them go.
Ancient truth (1): In place of the ancient thoughts of illusion, new ideas will come into our awareness. Yet these ideas only seem new; they are in fact ancient. They are the happy effects of a Cause so ancient that It exceeds any span of time we could remember.
Ancient truth: God has always called to us, in spite of our listening to the world instead. His call is the call of life, which came before our world of death, and which will also end it. Thus, His ancient call will also be the last trumpet, the irresistible mandate (“clarion call”) that ends everything that is not of it. We will hear it and respond to it, because we have been making our own ancient call. All of our attacks throughout time have really been the ancient call to life.
Ancient truth: There are ancient truths that have always been true, despite all the change that comes with time, despite the presence of time itself. These truths have been obscured by time and by change, but they have not gone away. They are always newly born. When experienced, they will seem new to us, even though they are older than time itself.
Our journey may seem relatively new, but in fact it is ancient. It has been going on immeasurably longer than we would guess. It needs to come to an end. In fact, it has come to an end, yet we are so accustomed to the journey that we don’t realize it’s over.
Ancient illusion (2): We are like a senile person, living in our memories. But we live in the memory of a time that was over and done with in an ancient past, imagining that we could make this ancient past come back. Further, this ancient past was a time of hate. Why on earth would we want to live in such a distant, hateful memory?
Ancient truth (1): Instead of the time of ancient hate, I can remember Heaven. Wouldn’t I want that ancient memory, and wouldn’t I want the vision that could bring it to me?
Ancient truth: The home that Christ enters on earth—the holy relationship—seems new yet is ancient. The heavenly home that we return to is before, during, and after in relation to time. It was established before time, has been kept unchanged throughout time, and will still be unchanged when time is done. The old saying “You can’t go back home again” does not apply here.
Ancient illusion: Things that seem to be happening now, that seem new and novel, are actually just a reliving of the ancient instant of separation, “an instant so ancient that it is beyond all memory, and past even the possibility of remembering.”
Ancient illusion: What seems to be now is really a reliving of something that happened in an ancient past, a past that was never real.
Ancient truth: We have forgotten our name, the name God gave us in the beginning; we have a very bad case of amnesia. When our brother attacks us, he is really calling this ancient name, secretly hoping that the true Identity in us will answer him, and give him a miracle. When our ancient name answers him, it answers us too. Our true name returns to our memory at last.
Ancient illusion: Your ancient fears are senselessly destructive, for they hold both the future and the world prisoner. Why should your past fears hold the future prisoner? And why should your fears hold the world prisoner? Your ancient fear is also irrational, for it amounts to the fear that Christ will catch up with you and show you that you are not the homeless, penniless wanderer you think you are. Why maintain something for eons that is so irrational and senselessly destructive?
Ancient truth: Though you have forgotten it, the doorway out of this world has always been there, from ancient times, always offering you the way out. It is only a step away and it is swinging free again.
Ancient illusion: We have held onto a sense of enmity with our brother for untold eons. Why hang onto this dream? Why not let it be replaced by an equally ancient miracle?
Ancient illusion: A penalty is meant to be paid and then be done with. But we have held our brothers and ourselves accountable to an ancient penalty, one that you can never be done with, that stalks you forever.
Ancient truth: The plan that leads you toward your happiness is an incredibly long-range and far-seeing plan. It is an incredibly ancient plan, “begun when time was born.”
Ancient illusion: The dream of our sinfulness is such a “foolish,” “silly,” and “senseless” dream that we shouldn’t waste an instant on it. Yet we have wasted eons on it, for it is an ancient dream. Throughout all that time, we have chosen this senseless dream as our companion instead of God.
Ancient truth: There is a peace that we carry deep in our hearts as an inherent part of us. We still carry this peace and haven’t lost it, in spite of the passage of eons of time, in spite of how we assume those eons would erode that peace.
Ancient illusion: We have hid in dark caverns where, sequestered from light and life, we have endlessly repeated the rites of death. And for some inscrutable reason, we have done so since ancient times. Yet in an instant, a miracle can light up these caverns and put an end to the rites of death.
Ancient truth: Before time began we loved God. One would assume this love would have passed away. Yet now it returns, in all its original power. It is so powerful that it covers everything; it lets me love everyone.
Ancient truth: There are gifts that have been covered over by illusions for countless ages. Those gifts seem to have left a long time ago. Yet as soon as I let illusions go, I will find them. Despite the passage of time, they are awaiting me in shining welcome, ready to give me God’s ancient messages. Those messages have been waiting patiently for this moment for eons.
Ancient illusion: You have been imprisoned in ancient prisons. Yet when you pray, you choose a new-born chance, a chance to free yourself from all of those prisons at once. Why, then, imprison that new-born chance?
Ancient truth: This brother that seems like an alien, a stranger, is actually the opposite. He is your ancient friend, whom you forgot a long, long time ago, but can remember now.
Ancient truth: There is an ancient state that once was everything to you, but was forgotten a long time ago. Yet it was never entirely forgotten, and from the tiny memory of it that you have left, you remember how incredibly dear it was to you. This will allow it to return in all its power and replace everything that has happened since.
Holy relationship (1)
Ancient truth: A newly born holy relationship seems brand new and very fragile. Yet it is actually more ancient than the special relationship it has replaced. It is thus not newly born, but newly reborn.
Ancient truth: Before the world began, holiness reined. It sat on the throne; it occupied the preeminent place. But then, as the world arose, it was displaced by unholiness. Now our forgiveness allows God and Christ to come to earth, and Their Presence lifts holiness “again to take its ancient place upon an ancient throne.” It had been dethroned for ages, but now it returns to its ancient place.
Ancient illusion: Scar that have been around since ancient times are scars that are likely to stay for good. Yet as soon as Christ appears and casts His eyes upon these ancient scars, they are healed. Their persistence in time concealed their impotence in reality.
Ancient truth: There has been an enmity that has been around since ancient times, and that has always come to kill. Yet an equally ancient miracle has arrived, and its perfect blessing simply replaces the ancient enmity, showing it to be utterly powerless, however persistent it had been.
Ancient truth: God has been calling to us since time began, and throughout this time, the Christ in us has answered His call on our behalf. Throughout time, Christ has been giving an ancient affirmative answer to God’s ancient Call.
Ancient truth: There is a Cause (God) that is so ancient that It exceeds any span of time we could remember. Yet it is not dormant or decayed. It still has power to bring fresh ideas into our experience now.
Ancient illusion: There is a battle that has been waged since ancient times, in spite of the fact that its opponent—truth—has never responded. How can a military assault get no response yet go on for eons? It is clearly an insane battle.
Passages plus commentary
This part was done first and is the work on which everything above is based. In each category, I list the passages and then, above them, try to capture their thought. You will notice that although there are seventy references to “ancient,” I actually list seventy-three below. That is because I felt that three cases were actually double references. For instance, I classed “ancient memories of hate” (T-28.I.7:3) as both “ancient memories” and “ancient hate.”
The phrase “ancient hate” is an odd one. Hate is such an intense emotion that it takes us a lot of energy to fuel it. Yet it is also an unpleasant and ultimately self-destructive emotion. So the image of us actively maintaining this highly unpleasant, self-destructive emotion for centuries is an odd one. And we are doing more than just maintaining it; we are cherishing it (6). The image gets even odder when we see the consequences of cherishing it. We end up trading God and Christ—the supreme joy—for our ancient hate (1). Further, our ancient hate casts a dark shadow over everything (2). It scorches the ground and brings a withering blight, turning the earth into a barren desert (2). Our ancient hate is much older and more all—determining than we could ever have guessed. It is actually the birthplace of this world (5). Ultimately, “ancient hate” refers to the moment of separation that was the source of the world, a moment of hate that we have maintained throughout the history of time and space (5, 7). Yet in fact the ancient hate that caused this world has gone (7). It has disappeared, and so its effects are passing from the world as well (8).
1. And would you trade Them for an ancient hate? (T-26.IX.2:3)
2. The shadow of an ancient hate has gone, and all the blight and withering have passed forever from the land where They have come. (T-26.IX.3:8)
3. The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love. (T-26.IX.6:1)
4. An ancient miracle has come to bless and to replace an ancient enmity that came to kill. (T-26.IX.8:5)
5. The little gap you do not even see, the birthplace of illusions and of fear, the time of terror and of ancient hate, the instant of disaster, all are here. (T-27.VII.12:4)
6. And if it seems to serve to cherish ancient hate, and gives you pictures of injustices and hurts that you were saving, this is what you asked its message be and that it is. (T-28.I.5:6)
7. When ancient memories of hate appear, remember that their cause is gone. (T-28.I.7:3)
8. An ancient hate is passing from the world. (T-30.V.9:1)
The ancient song is actually older than the ancient hate. It is so ancient that, unlike the hate, which fills our awareness, the ancient song is nearly forgotten; you only retain a “little wisp of melody” (T-21.I.6:2). Yet even this fragmentary memory brings back something that you deeply cherished, more than anything you have learned to cherish since, and in some sense still cherish (10, 12). Indeed, somewhere inside you haven’t forgotten the song. “You know the ancient song, and know it well” (11). Therefore, you are still fully able to remember it (13).
So there is a contrast here between how ancient the song is—it predates the world—yet how much power it still holds for you. Normally, a thing loses power as it recedes into the past. Yet this is not the case here. The song predates the world, yet still (potentially) holds incredible power for us. For this reason, the ancient song can still come back completely, defying our usual notion that the ancient past cannot be recovered.
There is a contrast between the ancient song and the ancient hate. The ancient song is currently forgotten—it does not hold sway in our experience—but it can be remembered. In contrast, the ancient hate has never been forgotten, being continually maintained and repeated in our experience, despite the fact that in truth it is gone. So one (song) seems gone even though it is still fully present and completely recoverable. The other (hate) seems fully present even though it is long gone. Both are cherished, but the song is ultimately cherished more. Both seem powerful, but the forgotten one is actually far more powerful than the continually remembered one.
9. Listen, — perhaps you catch a hint of an ancient state not quite forgotten; dim, perhaps, and yet not altogether unfamiliar, like a song whose name is long forgotten, and the circumstances in which you heard completely unremembered. (T-21.I.6:1)
10. Listen, and see if you remember an ancient song you knew so long ago and held more dear than any melody you taught yourself to cherish since. (T-21.I.7:5)
11. You know the ancient song, and know it well. (T-21.I.9:5)
12. Nothing will ever be as dear to you as is this ancient hymn of love the Son of God sings to his Father still. (T-21.I.9:6)
13. What you will see will sing to you of ancient melodies you will remember. (W-pI.161.10:5)
The whole idea of a promise is that we make a commitment to carry out something in the future, even if that future is a long way off. It is a commitment, in other words, that is meant to hold against time. While time changes nearly everything else, the promise is supposed to stand firm. Since we usually make promises to another person, a promise is a statement that our commitment to this person is stronger than time and the changes that time brings with it. And the longer we stay true to the promise-the longer it holds firm in spite of changes that could erase it—the stronger (by implication) are the love and commitment behind it.
This is how we need to see the notion of God’s promises to us, His Son (the subject of four of the five references below). In the Course, God has promised us not that we will have land or children or any earthly thing (as in the Bible), but that we will awaken to Him. And this promise has so much love and commitment behind it that it is still intact and will still be kept, even though the promise is so ancient that it was made before time and space.
So both the ancient promise and the ancient song have a similar essence. Both are a deep love (our love of the song, God’s Love of us) that has not passed away in spite of the passage of eons of time.
One of the references is on the opposite side. It refers to keeping our “ancient promises to die” (14). Apparently, these promises were made to the “lord of death.” Whereas God’s promises to us bespeak of a profound love, our promises to the lord of death bespeak of a profound insanity. That we would make such a self-destructive promise and then keep it intact for eons makes no sense. In this sense, the ancient promises to die are very much like the ancient hatred: something extremely self-destructive yet inexplicably maintained by us for a very long period of time.
14. And those who serve the lord of death have come to worship in a separated world, each with his tiny spear and rusted sword, to keep his ancient promises to die. (T-29.V.7:6)
15. Today allow your Father’s ancient pledge to you and all your brothers to be kept. (W-pI.106.4:9)
16. Today God keeps His ancient promise to His holy Son, as does His Son remember his to Him. (W-pI.131.14:4)
17. Now are all ancient promises upheld and fully kept. (W-pII.In.5:2)
18. We ask but that Your ancient promises be kept which are Your Will to keep. (W-pII.In.7:5)
Four of these five references (which all come from the same two adjacent Text sections) refer to learning the ego’s lessons, so I’ll start with those. These four references to ancient lessons refer to false lessons that we taught ourselves an the ancient past, lessons that actually made the physical world (T-31.I.3:3). These lessons are insane, for they amount to the following series of contradictions: “that your will is not your own, your thoughts do not belong to you, and even you are someone else” (T-31.I.36). “Your will is not your own” refers to our belief that our true will, which is the same as God’s Will, is alien to us, a will that fundamentally threatens our self-interest, even though, in actual fact, it is natural to us and the source of real happiness. “Your thoughts do not belong to you” refers to our projection of unwanted thoughts onto others, so that now we see our own thoughts outside of us, rather than in our own minds, where they actually are. “You are someone else” refers to our profound case of mistaken identity, whereby we think that we are an ego, not a Son of God.
To teach ourselves such upside down lessons was “indeed incredible. But you accomplished it because you wanted to, and did not pause in diligence to judge it hard to learn or too complex to grasp” (T-31.I.2:8). The section goes on, talking about “how carefully you learned it, and the pains to which you went to practice and repeat the lessons endlessly” (3:1). Indeed, we have so overlearned these lessons that they have become an unbreachable wall that shuts out the truth, the truth that is really in our best interests.
Here again, then, we have an example of us doing something that is totally upside down, a total contradiction of our nature and our interests (teaching ourselves that our will is not our own and we are someone else), yet doing so with real determination and consistency over a long period of time. Indeed, “overlearning” refers to continuing to practice and rehearse something even after you have reached competency with it. So we didn’t just learn an insane ancient lesson, we overlearned it.
In all four references, the main thing is to let the ancient learning pass away and be replaced by truth.
The fifth reference refers to the other side-the ancient lesson spoken by the Voice for God. This lesson has always been true. It is “no more true today than any other day” (23), yet today is the day when we will devote ourselves to learning it and will finally do so.
All five references go together quite nicely, in that the first mentions the contrast between the Voice of truth’s lessons and our ancient lessons. And the fifth again mentions the Voice for God’s lessons. In other words, all five speak, directly or indirectly, of letting go of our ancient lessons and instead learning His ancient lessons.
19. Now does your ancient overlearning stand implacable before the Voice of truth, and teach you that Its lessons are not true; too hard to learn, too difficult to see, and too opposed to what is really true. (T-31.I.5:4)
20. Now is he free to live as you are free, because an ancient learning passed away, and left a place for truth to be reborn. (T-31.I.13:5)
21. An ancient lesson is not overcome by the opposing of the new and old. (T-31.II.1:1)
22. Forgive your brother all appearances, that are but ancient lessons you have taught yourself about the sinfulness in you. (T-31.II.9:1)
23. Let us today attend the Voice for God, Which speaks an ancient lesson, no more true today than any other day. (W-pII.275.1:1)
The ancient thoughts are very much like the ancient lessons, ancient hate, and ancient promises (to the lord of death): something we have “held so long and dear” (25) against our own best interests. Either they are ancient thoughts that are “against the vision of the Christ in you” (25) or they are “ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find” (26).
Four of the five references are about these kind of ancient thoughts. The fifth one is about what is meant to replace them: “ancient new ideas.” The combination of “ancient” and “new” is interesting and significant. What replaces the ancient ego thoughts are ideas that seem new yet are really so ancient that they are actually older than the ancient ego thoughts. They are the “the happy consequences of a Cause so ancient that it far exceeds the span of memory which your perception sees” (28).
24. Think not ancient thoughts. (T-31.II.7:3)
25. And the door held open for the face of Christ to shine upon the one who asks, in innocence, to see beyond the veil of old ideas and ancient concepts held so long and dear against the vision of the Christ in you. (T-31.VII.13:7)
26. You free the future from all ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find. (W-pI.132.2:4)
27. We name it [the ego] but to help us understand that it is nothing but an ancient thought that what is made has immortality. (C-2.1:10)
28. The ancient new ideas they bring will be the happy consequences of a Cause so ancient that it far exceeds the span of memory which your perception sees. (T-28.I.7:9)
All four references to an ancient call are positive. The first two (which are in the same paragraph and so really can’t be separated) refer to “the ancient calling of the Father to His Son, and of the Son unto his own” (30). This call is, in a sense, both alpha and omega. It is ancient, yet it is also last—”the last trumpet.” This is a reference to the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15, which ends all death (thus the reference here: “death must disappear before” this ancient call—29). This call is also a “clarion call,” which is “a powerful request for action or an irresistible mandate. It derives from the cloud of a clarion, a medieval trumpet. It is frequently used in a religious context, and is the name of several missionary Christian groups” (from Answers.com). The point here is that this ancient call has power to end all that is not of it, all that happened between its ancient birth and its final sounding.
The third reference (31) is talking about our brother’s attack, which seems to be a “call to death” (T-31.I.10:3), as really being “the ancient call to life” (similar to the Father’s “ancient clarion call of life” in 29).
The fourth reference likens the ancient melody (or song) to the ancient Call. Both are portrayed as an ancient vocalization from us, a calling from the Son to the Father (very similar to our brother’s “ancient call to life”).
In all four references, the point is for that ancient call to sound now and be heard now.
29. And hopelessness and death must disappear before the ancient clarion call of life. (T-27.II.6:5)
30. The ancient calling of the Father to His Son, and of the Son unto his own, will yet be the last trumpet that the world will ever hear. (T-27.II.6:7)
31. Without your answer is it left to die, as it is saved from death when you have heard its calling as the ancient call to life, and understood that it is but your own. (T-31.I.9:2)
32. A melody from far beyond the world increasingly is more and more distinct; an ancient Call to Which He gives an ancient answer. (W-pI.164.2:3)
These ancient truths are either about the illusion (“you will believe that others do to you exactly what you think you did to them”) or about reality (“God is but Love, and therefore so am I”). The second and third are both ancient and new. The second says that the ancient truths are “forever newly born” (34) and the third (35) is associated with “a new experience for you, yet one as old as time and older still” (W-pI.RV.In.10:1). The ancient truths, therefore, are much like the “ancient new ideas” that come from a Cause older than the world.
There is something deeply attractive about an ancient truth, from before the world began, that is forever newly born and that is just now born into our awareness.
33. The world but demonstrates an ancient truth; you will believe that others do to you exactly what you think you did to them. (T-27.VIII.8:1)
34. In quietness it rises up to greet your open eyes, and fill your heart with deep tranquility as ancient truths, forever newly born, arise in your awareness. (W-pI.122.8:3)
35. We practice but an ancient truth [“God is but Love, and therefore so am I”] we knew before illusion seemed to claim the world. (W-pI.rV.In.10:6)
All three of these references are to the idea that we have been journeying, searching for untold eons, far longer than we would guess. Thus, it may seem like we have been on this journey for just a few years, or just a few decades, but in fact we have only started again “an ancient journey long ago begun that but seems new” (38). This journey may seem like it has no end in sight. The fact is, though, that it’s really over and we just don’t realize it. Since it has been going on for so long, our main priority is to end it, and contribute to the ending of it for everyone (37).
36. You have reached the end of an ancient journey, not realizing yet that it is over. (T-18.VIII.13:1)
37. Let us end the ancient search today by finding the light in us, and holding it up for everyone who searches with us to look upon and rejoice. (W-pI.69.3:5)
38. We only start again an ancient journey long ago begun that but seems new. (C-Ep.3:2)
In the first two passages, we are living in an ancient memory, and yet this memory is of a “time gone by” (T-26.V.10:1). We are like a senile person who lives in their memories, trying to call back a time long gone “as if it could be made again in time” (this line directly precedes the first reference below). Yet the irony here is that the time we are holding onto is “the time of terror and of ancient hate” (T-27.VII.12:4). Why hold onto that? Rather than living in a memory of a past that is gone and cannot be recovered, we need to let an even more ancient memory return to us, the memory of Heaven (41).
39. You keep an ancient memory before your eyes. And he who lives in memories alone is unaware of where he is. (T-26.V.5:6-7)
40. When ancient memories of hate appear, remember that their cause is gone. (T-28.I.7:3)
41. What but Christ’s vision would I use today, when it can offer me a day in which I see a world so like to Heaven that an ancient memory returns to me? (W-pII.306.1:1)
In the first passage, Christ is being reborn into “His ancient home,” which seems new and yet is “as old as He.” So this home really spans the distance between the present and an ancient past. In the second, “our ancient home” was “prepared for us before time was.” It was “kept unchanged” throughout time, “immaculate and safe.” And it will still be that way “at last when time is done.” So the sense of this home spanning the entire spectrum of time is even stronger in the second. The main sense that comes out of both passages is that our ancient home has stayed exactly as it was and will continue to do so forever. In this sense, the ancient home is much like the ancient promise—a gift from God to us that continues unchanged by time.
42. Yet must He be reborn into His ancient home, so seeming new and yet as old as He, a tiny newcomer, dependent on the holiness of your relationship to let Him live. (T-22.I.8:7)
43. And as I am made whole we go together to our ancient home, prepared for us before time was and kept unchanged by time, immaculate and safe, as it will be at last when time is done. (W-pI.rV.In.8:8)
The “ancient instant” is the moment of separation, which contained within it all that would play out in the subsequent history of time and space. This is the same as one of the passages from the “ancient hate” list: “the time of terror and of ancient hate, the instant of disaster, all are here” (T-27.VII.12:4).
44. Time really, then, goes backward to an instant so ancient that it is beyond all memory, and past even the possibility of remembering. (M-2.4:1)
45. This is inevitable, because he made the right choice in that ancient instant which he now relives. (M-2.4:5)
The “ancient past” is actually synonymous with the ancient instant. It implicitly stresses that what is currently playing out in time is just a “reliving” of something that happened a long, long time ago. That is the key tension in this phrase “ancient past”—what seems like now is just the reliving of what is really an ancient past.
46. Only in the past,—an ancient past, too short to make a world in answer to creation,— did this world appear to rise. (T-26.V.5:3)
47. So has the teacher, too, made an inevitable choice out of an ancient past. (M-2.4:6)
Both of the ancient Name passages are from the same section. I find the idea of the ancient Name poignant, because it suggests that we have forgotten our true Name. When we were born (created by God) in the ancient past, our Father gave us a Name. This is our true Name, but we have forgotten it. Only our Father remembers it (“My Name, O Father, still is known to you. I have forgotten it, and do not know where I am going, who I am, or what it is I do”—Lesson 224). Obviously, forgetting my own name means that I have amnesia—I have forgotten who I am. However, my brother is calling to my true Name, asking for a blessing from my true Identity. And when I give him the miracle he asks for, I will remember my Name (48), which is really the same as his (49).
48. The miracle but calls your ancient name, which you will recognize because the truth is in your memory. And to this name your brother calls for his release and yours. (T-26.VII.16:1-2)
49. Your ancient Name belongs to everyone, as theirs to you. (T-26.VII.20:1)
The implication in both of the “ancient fear” passages is that we are holding onto irrational fears, and since they are ancient, have been doing so for a long, long time. The first passage says, “For as you let the past be lifted and release the future from your ancient fears, you find escape and give it to the world. You have enslaved the world with all your fears, your doubts and miseries, your pain and tears, and all your sorrows press on it, and keep the world a prisoner to your beliefs. Death strikes it everywhere because you hold the bitter thoughts of death within your mind.” The sense of this is that your ancient fears hold both the future and the world prisoner. Why should the future be held prisoner by your past fears? Why should the world be held prisoner by your ancient fears? Neither of these things make sense. So the notion of “ancient fear” being expressed here is something that is senselessly destructive. Indeed, in the paragraph just before this reference, there is a reference to “ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find.” This must be connected to the ancient fears, so again we see that the ancient fears are senseless, crazy.
The same is true with the second passage. There, “your ancient fear” that has caught up with you is Christ—your true Identity—tapping you on the shoulder. Interestingly, here again is an image of you having amnesia. You are a homeless person who is wandering around shoeless and impoverished, having forgotten where you came from and who you are. Your ancient fear is that who you really are will catch up with you. Yet since who you are is Someone infinitely wonderful, this again is a senseless fear.
So the ancient fear is just like the ancient hate, ancient lessons, and ancient thoughts—something we are holding onto senselessly, yet have been holding onto since ancient times.
50. For as you let the past be lifted and release the future from your ancient fears, you find escape and give it to the world. (W-pI.132.3:3)
51. Your ancient fear has come upon you now, and justice has caught up with you at last. (W-pI.166.9:1)
A door is obviously a point of transition to another place, a passageway that one can go through. I just found a definition that defines it as “a means of approach or access.” So an ancient door is a means of access to another place that has been there for a long, long time. In the context of these two passages, it means that for the entire duration of this world, this door has been standing there, offering us a way out of the world (53). It has been there waiting for us for eons. But the implication is that we haven’t gone through it. And that is our priority—for that door to swing free again (52), for it to be opened up again (53).
52. An ancient door is swinging free again; a long forgotten Word re-echoes in our memory, and gathers clarity as we are willing once again to hear. (W-pI.195.7:4)
53. Who stands before a lifeless image when a step away the Holy of the Holies opens up an ancient door that leads beyond the world? (C-Ep.1:11)
An “ancient enemy” or an “ancient enmity” are, of course, very closely connected to an ancient hate. It suggests an enmity so strong and deep that it can last for ages.
54. A brother separated from yourself, an ancient enemy, a murderer who stalks you in the night and plots your death, yet plans that it be lingering and slow; of this you dream. (T-27.VII.12:1)
55. An ancient miracle has come to bless and to replace an ancient enmity that came to kill. (T-26.IX.8:5)
The only sense I can get from the phrase “ancient penalty” is the idea that a penalty is something you pay for past transgressions. It is also something that should be paid and then be done with. An ancient penalty, then, means that there is some past that is haunting you forever. It cannot be simply paid for and then wiped clean. It keeps haunting you. It keeps making you pay. No matter how much time passes, it still dogs you.
56. Open your mind to change, and there will be no ancient penalty exacted from your brother or yourself. (T-31.III.7:3)
“Ancient plan” refers a plan for our happiness, our salvation, that began the instant that time was born, is still going on, and will be going on until time is done. This, in other words, is an incredibly long-range plan. Our plans tend to run for a matter of a few decades at their most long-range. Yet here is a plan that covers billions of years.
57. And it will lead you on in ways appointed for your happiness according to the ancient plan, begun when time was born. (W-pI.135.20:2)
“Ancient dream” refers to a dream of your sinfulness that is senseless and that obscures reality—the reality of your Companion—God. Yet despite how “foolish,” “silly,” and “senseless” this dream of sin is, “you have wasted many, many years on just this foolish thought” (W-pI.156.7:1). This line makes explicit the tension that is implicit in the brief phrase “senseless, ancient dream.” If the dream is senseless, why hang onto it for so long? Here, then, we have the idea that we have seen implicitly in so many of our references: ancient hate, promises (to death), lessons, thoughts, fear. If something is senseless and self-destructive, why are we hanging into it for a virtual eternity?
58. And in the little interval of doubt that still remains, you may perhaps lose sight of your Companion, and mistake Him for the senseless, ancient dream that now is past. (W-pI.156.7:5)
An ancient peace that we carry in our heart but have not lost implies something that is such a deep central part of us (carried in our heart) that, even though it is buried, it is still there. All of us already carry the concept of something that is deep inside us but is unseen by us. This passage trades on that concept. This ancient peace is so deep inside of us, such an inherent part of us, that we can remain unaware of it for ages, yet it is still there.
59. There is an ancient peace you carry in your heart and have not lost. (W-pI.164.4:2)
The image of “dark and ancient caverns, where the rites of death echoed since time began” immediately calls to mind a group of people who have kept themselves in a very dark and closed loop; kept themselves in this dark cave, away from the light of day, and kept themselves in the endless repetition of these rites of death, away from life. In other words, they have sequestered themselves from light and life. And they have done so since ancient times. Here again is the same pattern we have seen over and over. But it can change. It need not stay that way. A miracle can bring both light and life back to them (miracles by nature bring life, and this miracle lights up the caverns). It can undo the ancient cycle they have chained themselves to.
60. A miracle has lighted up all dark and ancient caverns, where the rites of death echoed since time began. (W-pI.191.8:1)
This passage speaks of a love for our Creator that was there before time began. It is therefore an ancient love. One would think that such an old love would naturally have passed away. Yet this one hasn’t, for it now returns. To return after so long suggests that this love must have been all-consuming. In fact, we see this theme in some stories—a love that once was everything, that seemed to pass away, but in fact just went underground, and then finally returned and became all-determining.
61. Father, my ancient love for You returns, and lets me love Your Son again as well. (W-pII.248.2:1)
The “ancient messages” are actually “gifts illusions tried to hide,” gifts from God that have been “awaiting me in shining welcome.” Here again is something from God that seemed to have passed away long ago, but has merely been obscured, has been awaiting me, and now returns to me.
62. And as illusions go I find the gifts illusions tried to hide, awaiting me in shining welcome, and in readiness to give God’s ancient messages to me. (W-pII.322.1:2)
You have been imprisoned in ancient prisons. Yet when you pray, you choose a new-born chance, a chance to free yourself from all of them at once. Why, then, imprison that new-born chance? When it meets the prisons, its freedom is supposed to replace them, rather than their imprisonment binding it.
63. You have chosen a new-born chance each time you pray. And would you stifle and imprison it [the new-born chance, as well as the prayer, the asking] in ancient prisons, when the chance has come to free yourself from all of them at once? Do not restrict your asking. (S-1.IV.4:1-3)
Your brother seems like a stranger. He seems to be alien to you. Yet he is actually your ancient friend (I don’t think friend should be capitalized here), someone who was a friend in ancient times and has been forgotten. He merely seems to be a stranger, an alien.
64. In your forgiveness of this stranger, alien to you and yet your ancient Friend, lies his release and your redemption with him. (T-20.I.4:5)
The ancient state is really the ancient song (which we explored earlier). It is dim, almost forgotten. Yet is also vaguely familiar. It is like a song you listened to long ago and intensely loved. You have forgotten almost everything about it—its name, its words, its tune. All you have left is just a little wisp of melody, “But you remember, from just this little part, how lovely was the song, how wonderful the setting where you heard it, and how you loved those who were there and listened with you. The notes are nothing. Yet you have kept them with you, not for themselves, but as a soft reminder of what would make you weep if you remembered how dear it was to you” (T-21.I.6:3-7:2). So with this state, there is a tension between how little you remember of it and how incredibly dear it is to you, and this tension serves to emphasize how profoundly cherished the original state was.
65. Listen,—perhaps you catch a hint of an ancient state not quite forgotten; dim, perhaps, and yet not altogether unfamiliar, like a song whose name is long forgotten, and the circumstances in which you heard completely unremembered. (T-21.I.6:1)
A holy relationship seems new. Yet it is actually ancient. It was there in the beginning, and then was replaced by the special relationship. Now it has returned. It is not newly born, it is merely newly reborn.
66. Yet a holy relationship, so recently reborn itself from an unholy relationship, and yet more ancient than the old illusion it has replaced, is like a baby now in its rebirth. (T-22.I.7:2)
When we forgive and join with our brother, God and Christ come to earth and earth is reborn. Their Presence lifts holiness again to take its ancient place. In plainer language, when we forgive a brother, holiness is invited back into its natural place, the place it occupied before this strange world began.
67. It is Their Presence which has lifted holiness again to take its ancient place upon an ancient throne. (T-26.IX.3:4)
This reference obviously is part of the previous passage. The ancient place that holiness again assumes is on an ancient throne. Holiness, in other words, is supposed to be the ruling influence. That is the place it occupied in the beginning, but then it was dethroned, as unholiness took over. Now, through our forgiveness, it once again takes its ancient place upon that ancient throne, the place where it belongs.
68. It is Their Presence which has lifted holiness again to take its ancient place upon an ancient throne. (T-26.IX.3:4)
Here, the ancient scars aren’t so much senseless and self-destructive (as with the ancient hate, promises, fear, lessons, thoughts, dream, caverns). Rather, they are extremely persistent and durable. A scar that has been there since ancient times is a scar that is likely to stay. Yet, against all expectations, when the risen Christ looks upon these scars, they are healed, gone (just as the cross is also gone). So here we have a testimony to the power of Christ’s healing sight. It is so powerful that even ancient scars are healed by it.
69. Where stood a cross stands now the risen Christ, and ancient scars are healed within His sight. (T-26.IX.8:4)
This passage is the sentence right after the “ancient scars” passage and continues and expands the same theme: just as when the Christ meets the ancient scars they vanish, so when the ancient miracle meets the ancient enmity, it is overturned. It’s no contest.
70. An ancient miracle has come to bless and to replace an ancient enmity that came to kill. (T-26.IX.8:5)
The idea of an ancient answer being given to an ancient Call suggests that the answer has a sameness through time. It has been going on continuously, unchanged, throughout time. In this sense, it is like so many of the other ancient things: home, promise, etc.
71. A melody from far beyond the world increasingly is more and more distinct; an ancient Call to Which He gives an ancient answer. (W-pI.164.2:3)
The sense I get from the ancient Cause here is that there is a Cause (God) that is so ancient that It exceeds any span of time we could remember. Yet it is not dormant or decayed. It still has power to bring fresh ideas into our experience now.
72. The ancient new ideas they bring will be the happy consequences of a Cause so ancient that it far exceeds the span of memory which your perception sees. (T-28.I.7:9)
The battle here is ancient yet impotent, for its opponent does not respond, and hasn’t responded even though the battle has been waged since ancient times. Can you imagine a military assault that gets no response yet goes on for eons? This is clearly an insane battle.
73. There is an ancient battle being waged against the truth, but truth does not respond. (T-31.II.1:4)