Who Forgives?

Question: Who is it that forgives? Is it the Holy Spirit in us, so that we just turn it over to Him and He does the forgiving within us? Or is it our intellect, which learns forgiveness much as we learn anything else? Although isn't the intellect just ego? So how can it forgive?

Answer: The basic idea is this: You are the Son of God. You have an ego, which is really just a belief system. It's like a computer program. It's the software you are currently running. But it's not the hardware. You are the hardware.

Your mind is naturally abstract or formless. But you have split your mind into two camps. One is your natural state. The other is your state bounded by the ego. In other words, the other half of the split is not, strictly speaking, the ego. It is you bounded by the ego. It is like Hercules in chains, or, in Course language, "the Son of God in chains" (T-21.III.3:3). You could say, then, that the split is between the Son unchained and the Son chained.

In our chained state, forgiveness is something we do, something we practice, with the faculties at our disposal. However, this practice simply begins a process that the Holy Spirit then completes.

With what faculties do we practice forgiveness? It is too narrow, in my view, to call it all by the name of "intellect." It is all of our faculties, which are, as the Course says, shadows of our real strengths (T-3.IV.1:1). The Course very much draws upon a full complement of human abilities. We use intellect and clear thinking. We use honest and searching introspection. We use will-power and goal-setting. We use our ability to focus and concentrate attention. We use the faculty of choice. We also use our emotions. We transform our emotions through the previously mentioned abilities; but once transformed, they become tools in their own right.

All of these abilities are not ego. They are the Son's faculties as they show up inside the fence of the ego. They are the shadows of his real strengths. They are the watered-down abilities of Hercules as they manifest within his chained condition. The essence of these faculties is very simple. They basically amount to the idea that we can take our mind where we want to. If we want to put our awareness in Heaven, we can. If we want to put our awareness in ego, we can. It's our awareness; we can put it where we want.

However, because of the boundary around our mind, because of those chains, the Holy Spirit has to complete the process for us. He has to actually place the realization of forgiveness in our minds.

Lesson 126 contains a great example of both sides of this—both our role and the Holy Spirit's role. The lesson is "All that I give is given to myself." In the later part of the lesson, it says:

Today we try to understand the truth that giver and receiver are the same. You will need help to make this meaningful, because it is so alien to the thoughts to which you are accustomed. But the Help you need is there. (W-pI.126.8:1-3)

In other words, on our own, we can't really understand that all we give is given to ourselves. We may think we do, but our lives say otherwise. The problem is the idea is too alien. It's a truth from outside the bounds of our current mind. It's an ego-transcending idea. To put it bluntly, in our mentally curtailed state, we are just too stupid to understand it. So we need help with it. The lesson later says:

Repeat today's idea, and ask for help in understanding what it really means. Be willing to be taught. Be glad to hear the Voice of truth and healing speak to you, and you will understand the words He speaks, and recognize He speaks your words to you.

Then we are given a practice to repeat:

All that I give is given to myself.
The Help I need to learn that this is true
is with me now. And I will trust in Him.


The upshot is that the realizations we need are from outside the bounds of our current state. We have to do the work to reach out to them, using every single faculty at our disposal. But remember, we are in chains, and being in chains, we can only reach so far. We, then, just reach in the direction of the apple we want. And then Someone Else actually brings the apple to us and puts it in our hands. We reach in the direction of forgiveness, but then the Holy Spirit has to actually infuse forgiveness into our minds.

One last thing, though: The main way we reach out to the Holy Spirit is we reach out to these realizations. Consequently, the most frequent kind of practice, by far, is for us to practice the realizations, to practice ideas that we don't fully understand. Through this practice, we reach out for the understanding we currently lack. In contrast, the practice in which we directly reach out to the Holy Spirit is a much rarer practice in the Course. You just don't see many practices in the Course in which you say directly to the Holy Spirit, "Help me with this."

What is nice about the Lesson 126 practice we just explored, from a conceptual standpoint, is that it has both of these elements. We repeat the idea that we don't understand. And then we actively reach out for Help in understanding it. Both sides are crucial. However, the first implicitly contains the second and is the more frequent kind of practice in the Course.

So, who forgives? We, the Son of God, do. We do so using our faculties of intellect, will, emotion, attention, and choice. Yet in using these, we are reaching out to an understanding that is really outside the current bounds of our minds. And so the Holy Spirit has to complete the process. Thus, when we practice forgiveness, we reach out to a realization that lies outside our current fences, and then the Holy Spirit responds by placing in our minds the realization we seek.

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