Saving time

Short answer: It means that through walking the path of the Course, we can awaken from the dream of separation much sooner than we otherwise would. In truth, the dream of separation is already over, and all we need to do is accept that fact to fully awaken. We will accept that fact eventually, but when we do so is up to us. We can come to this acceptance sooner (save time) by turning away from delaying tactics of the ego and following a path of awakening: any path that teaches forgiveness. The Course saves time because it makes forgiveness its central message, because it teaches us how to enter the holy instant, and because it teaches us how to give and receive miracles, "the only device at your immediate disposal for controlling time" (T-1.I.48:1).


In truth, the dream of separation is already over, and all we need to do is accept that fact to fully awaken.

As real and inescapable as our present experience in the world seems to be, the Course tells us in no uncertain terms that "this world was over long ago" (T-28.I.1:6). The entire dream of separation, which from our perspective has lasted billions of years and will likely last billions more, took place in the blink of an eye, a "tiny tick of time" (T-26.V.3:5). The only reason the separation seems to still be going on is that we are reliving it in our minds, as if we were watching a videotape of an old movie. And the only reason we are reliving it is that part of our minds has refused to accept that it is over. Like a person who loses herself in memories of a loved one in order to push away the realization that her loved one has passed away, we lose ourselves in memories of the separation in order to push away the realization that the separation is over.

This refusal to accept that the separation is already over produces the illusion of time. One could say that the illusion of time is our resistance to awakening, our desperate attempt to delay our inevitable homecoming. We have already come home, and in fact we never left to begin with. But our resistance to that fact produces the illusion that we are trudging through time, traveling a long, arduous journey to an awakening far in the future, if at all. From our normal perspective, this seems to be our only choice. But since our only problem is our resistance to awakening, this long journey through time isn't really necessary. All we really need to awaken is willingness to give up our resistance and accept the fact that the dream is gone, and we never left our Heavenly home: "You can accept what has already happened at any time you choose, and only then will you realize that it was always there" (M-2.3:5).

We will accept that fact eventually, but when we do so is up to us.

"The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time" (T-2.III.3:1). Our resistance to awakening may be strong, but we can only stave off the inevitable for so long. However long it takes us to become willing to awaken, willingness will come, and when our willingness is complete, the truth we had been resisting for so long will dawn upon our open minds. This is why the Course tells us that our only real choice is not whether we will awaken, but when:

As the course emphasizes, you are not free to choose the curriculum [the lessons which lead to awakening], or even the form in which you will learn it. You are free, however, to decide when you want to learn it. And as you accept it, it is already learned. (M-2.3:6-8)

One might get the impression from all this that the choice to accept our awakening is a single, all-or-nothing choice. Indeed, ultimately it is. However, since we believe we are in time, our path to this single choice is a gradual one. Our curriculum is not a single pass/fail test, but a "slowly evolving training program" (M-9.1:7). Over time, in the context of the countless choices we make in our daily lives, we gradually learn that choosing to remain in separation brings us pain, while choosing to let go of separation brings us joy. As we come to realize this, we become more and more willing to let go of the separation, until finally our willingness is total, and the single, final choice to accept our awakening is made without reservation. Our journey through time, then, could be characterized as the gradual making of a single choice. Making that single choice will take time; how much time it takes, however, is up to us. And this leads to the whole idea of saving time.

We can come to this acceptance sooner (save time) by turning away from delaying tactics of the ego and following a path of awakening: any path that teaches forgiveness.

As we have seen, the good news is that in the end, all of us will choose to accept our awakening. Unfortunately, the bad news is that "the end can be a long, long way off" (M-1.2:9). This bad news is not something the Course takes lightly; as much as it emphasizes the fact that the final outcome is certain, it also makes it clear that the journey to that outcome can be an arduous one, at least as long as our resistance is strong:

It is time alone that winds on wearily, and the world is very tired now. It is old and worn and without hope. There was never a question of outcome, for what can change the Will of God? But time, with its illusions of change and death, wears out the world and all things in it. (M-1.4:4-7)

I think most of us can probably relate to this passage. Who among us does not feel weighted down by the onslaught of time, especially as we grow older and our bodies begin to slow down and wear out? It is precisely because time is so wearying that the Course considers saving time to be so important. Yes, a happy ending is assured no matter what we do with our time, but why suffer unnecessarily? The Course wants above all to spare us pain, and so it encourages us to save as much time as possible.

How do we save time? Speaking in very general terms, we save time by turning away from the ego, and listening to the Holy Spirit. The ego always delays us, because it does not want us to experience the joy of awakening; the Holy Spirit always speeds us up, because He does not want us to suffer the pain of delaying our awakening. As I said above, the journey is a gradual one of becoming more and more willing to let go of the pain of separation (the ego) and to accept the joy of release from separation (the Holy Spirit). The more willing we become to listen to the Holy Spirit, the faster we speed toward the endpoint of the journey. To get a sense of how this works, let's trace the journey through time that the Course envisions for us, a journey which starts slow but gathers speed as we go along, until we ultimately make that final choice to accept our awakening.

At first, we listen almost exclusively to the ego, and it counsels us to seek happiness through following the paths of the world. And so we go off on our merry way, searching for money, sex, companionship, career, or any of a thousand other things that we think will make us happy. But none of these paths really deliver happiness, and that is precisely the ego's purpose for them. It wants us to waste our time looking for happiness where it can't be found, and in so doing delay making the choice that really will bring us happiness—the choice for God. We may persist in following these paths for a long time. But over time, it slowly dawns on us that the paths of the world are all dead ends; no matter how promising they may seem at first, in the end they all "lead to disappointment, nothingness and death" (T-31.IV.2:3). This recognition can be a devastating experience; the Course tells us that "men have died on seeing this" (T-31.IV.3:4), either through literal suicide or simply losing hope and giving up. It seems that there is no way out, no alternative but the inexorable march to the grave. At this point in the journey, progress through time is slow, because we are mired in the ego's delaying tactics.

Yet, this moment of despair can also become a turning point. "The learning that the world can offer but one choice [death], no matter what its form may be, is the beginning of acceptance that there is a real alternative instead" (T-31.IV.6:1). The real alternative is the way of God, the path on which the Holy Spirit would lead us. Once we see the real alternative, however dimly, we begin to turn away from the paths of the world, and embark on a path of awakening, some form of the "universal curriculum" (M-2.1:2) chosen for us by the Holy Spirit (remember M-2.3:6 above, which said that we ourselves don't choose "the form in which [we] will learn" the curriculum). And it is at this point that we really begin to save time. Saving time is the very function of the universal curriculum, and of the teachers of God who teach it (see M-1.2-4). Once we begin the transition from the paths of the ego to a path of awakening, progress through time begins to accelerate.

At this point, the question may arise: What forms can a path of awakening take? Certainly the world's spiritual paths come to mind. But actually, the options are broader than this. The Psychotherapy supplement tells us that psychotherapy under the Holy Spirit's guidance saves time (see P-1.5:4-6), which certainly makes it a path of awakening. Given this, I think that any kind of recovery program that aims to heal the mind would qualify. The Psychotherapy supplement goes so far as to say that "to be a teacher of God, it is not necessary to be religious or even to believe in God to any recognizable extent" (P-2.II.1:1). Since a teacher of God, by definition, teaches a path of awakening, it can safely be said that even overt belief in God is not required to be on such a path.

What, then, is required? The sentence which immediately follows the one just quoted above gives the answer: "It is necessary, however, to teach forgiveness rather than condemnation" (P-2.II.1:2). Therefore, a path of awakening is any path that teaches forgiveness. Indeed, the Course sums up the core teaching of the universal curriculum as follows: "God's Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation" (M-1.3:5). This statement, of course, is a statement of the recognition that forgiveness brings. The implications of this are truly staggering. The Course is saying that the active ingredient in every path of awakening is forgiveness, whether that active ingredient is consciously acknowledged or not. Whatever outward doctrines or practices a path may have, forgiveness is the fuel that really propels followers of that path to God. Even if a person is not on any kind of outwardly acknowledged "healing" path at all, as long as he is teaching and learning forgiveness, he is on a path of awakening. Forgiveness is the path that brings the moment of acceptance of our awakening nearer; it is through teaching and learning forgiveness that we save time.

The Course saves time because it makes forgiveness its central message.

While all paths of awakening save time, the Course will save even more time for those who are called to follow its path. How? First, it saves time simply because it expresses the teaching of forgiveness much more clearly and directly than other paths do. True, many paths value forgiveness, and we are told that forgiveness is the central teaching of all of them, regardless of their external form. Yet the Course makes forgiveness front and center. With many other paths, one may need to sift through a lot of superfluous material or at least do some reinterpretation to find the message of forgiveness, but the Course makes the message of forgiveness almost impossible to miss. This can only make its path faster, because it focuses like a laser on the vehicle that drives all paths of awakening to God.

The Course saves time because it teaches us how to enter the holy instant.

Teaching us how to enter the holy instant is a major thrust of the Course; Chapter 15 of the Text, in particular, is devoted to this subject. But perhaps the best discussion of the holy instant as a means of saving time is in the Text section "I Need Do Nothing" (T-18:VII). In this section, the Course contrasts its means—here, the holy instant—with two other means: "fighting against sin" (T-18.VII.4:7) and "long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body" (T-18.VII.4:9). As Robert Perry has pointed out, these two means express, in a nutshell, the main spiritual emphases of the West (fighting sin) and the East (meditation); therefore, the two means discussed here end up capturing the essence of most of the world's spiritual practices. The Course does not condemn these means; it tells us that they will work eventually, and thus are worthy means for those who are chosen for those paths. (It also must be said that undoubtedly other paths have their own ways of achieving what the Course calls the holy instant.) However, it also tells us that both of these means "are tedious and very time consuming" (T-18.VII.4:11), because both assume that we must travel a long, hard road to a goal that lies far in the future. In other words, both assume that the illusion of time, and our long journey through that illusion to our eventual awakening, is real.

In contrast, the Course offers its means: Remembering that "I need do nothing" (T-18.VII.5:7). This simple statement is an invitation to enter the holy instant, an instant which saves time in at least three ways. First, the holy instant is the birthplace and home of the holy relationship, the Course's main means of extending forgiveness. Second, the holy instant is the instant in which the miracle, the Course's main time-saving device (see below), is given and received. Third, the holy instant is a shift from time into timelessness, a foretaste of the end of our journey through time, a temporary experience of our present, awakened state. The whole reason we need do nothing is that the journey through time is already over, and so there is really nothing to be done. Thus, unlike the other means, the holy instant doesn't assume that the illusion of time is real; on the contrary, it demonstrates that time is unreal. In so doing, it brings the end of time nearer—it saves time.

The Course saves time because it teaches us how to give and receive miracles.

The miracle, we are told, is "the only device at your immediate disposal for controlling time" (T-1.I.48:1). Since miracles are the means by which forgiveness is received by us and given to others, they are the Course's primary means of saving time. (It is a course in miracles, after all.) Of course, people on other paths of awakening can and do give and receive miracles as well. But as with forgiveness, the Course makes the miracle front and center, thus speeding us ever faster toward God.

How does the miracle save time? The Course tells us that by giving and receiving miracles, we can skip over huge expanses of time—not chronological time, but rather our developmental time, the time it will take us to learn the curriculum and finally accept our awakening. (See T-1.II.6 for the Course's best description of how the miracle saves time.) How much time can we save? Apparently, quite a lot: "The miracle substitutes for learning that might have taken thousands of years" (T-1.II.6:7). Drawing on an image I used earlier, if the dream of separation is a videotape of an old movie, then the miracle is the fast forward button on our mental VCR. By giving and receiving miracles, we can zip through large portions of this tedious and depressing movie, and thus reach the inevitable happy ending that much sooner.

How can we give and receive miracles? We can do so in a variety of ways. As alluded to above, we experience the miracle whenever we enter a holy instant. We experience the miracle whenever we enter into a holy relationship, which the Course at one point calls "a miracle of joining" (T-20.V.1:6). We experience the miracle any time we do a Workbook-style practice period; doing Course practices, we are told, can save us countless years of effort (see, for instance, (W-pI.27.4:6, W-pI.97.3, W-pI.123.7:3, W-pI.127.7:1, and W-pI.127.10:1). And, of course, we experience the miracle every time we actively extend a miracle to another person. This extension of miracles to others is precisely what this course in miracles aims to teach us how to do, and it wants to teach us this because extending miracles saves time for both giver and receiver. Whatever form the miracle takes, "It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time" (T-1.I.47:2). In doing so, it brings the moment of acceptance of our awakening that much closer. If this is so, then what better use for our time is there than to give and receive miracles? It is because miracles are such a potent means of saving time that the Course urges us to remember that "each day should be devoted to miracles" (T-1.I.15:1).

Conclusion

The attitude the Course would have us adopt toward time is a paradoxical blend of patience and urgency. On the one hand, it wants us to remember that no matter how much resistance we have to awakening and how long our journey through time seems to take, all is well. It must be, because time is only an illusion, with no effect whatsoever on our true Self, which abides forever in our eternal Heavenly home: "Both time and delay are meaningless in eternity" (T-5.III.5:2).

But on the other hand, the Course does not counsel complacency: "Delay does not matter in eternity, but it is tragic in time" (T-5.VI.1:3). The time we spend delaying our homecoming is truly exhausting, bringing bitter and totally unnecessary pain to everyone who refuses to accept the fact that this dream of separation is over. One need only look at the state of our world to see what tragedy our delay has wrought. In light of this tragedy, Jesus implores each and every one of us: "Save time, my brother; learn what time is for" (T-29.VII.9:3). Time is for extending the miracle of forgiveness to all our brothers. Time is for bringing about the end of time. When we learn to use time only for this purpose, we will at last awaken to eternity.

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