"All fear is past and only love is here."
(See Part II Practice Summary, and also Part II Introduction)
I think of fear as related to the future, yet here it says "all fear is past." This means more, I think, than that my experiences of fear are all over. Understood that way it is almost wishful thinking. What it seems to actually mean is that fear itself is in the past. Fear comes from the past, it exists in the past only. When the past is real to me, with "all my past mistakes oppressing it," then I have fear. (And only then.) What I fear is that the past determines the future. If my past is filled with mistakes and things of guilt, and I consider it to be real, this generates my present fear of the future.
The source of fear is making the past real in the present.
The Course teaches us that, "The past that you remember never was..." (T-14.IX.1:10). At first it seems difficult to say to myself, "The things I think happened in the past did not ever happen; they are not real." Perhaps it is easier to say, "The past never existed in the way I think it did." That seems more conceivable, more acceptable. To say that is only a step toward the truth, but I think it a helpful step. We begin by admitting that our memories of the past are, to say the least, distorted.
"Each one peoples his world with figures from his individual past, and it is because of this that private worlds do differ. Yet the figures that he sees were never real, for they are made up only of his reactions to his brothers, and do not include their reactions to him" (T-13.V.2:1-2).
More than that, the past we imagine we know is filled with reasons for guilt and attack. We remember wrongs done to us, and wrongs we have done. That perception must shift. If we accept the judgment of the Holy Spirit, the perception of guilt must go. Forgiveness is a kind of selective remembering. We can begin to see the past and everything in it as either the expression of love or a call for help.
This is a kind of intermediate position. In a way we are still believing that the past is (or was) real, but we are deciding to see it differently. The ultimate truth is that time itself does not exist, the world does not exist, bodies do not exist. They are nothing but the play of thoughts in our mind.
A physical analogy helps me. Does an ocean wave exist? Is a wave real? In one sense, yes, in another, no. There is no such thing as a wave apart from the ocean. What we call a wave is no more than the play of physical energy on water. The water, the ocean, is (in this physical plan) what is real; the wave is here one moment, gone the next; in this moment comprised of one set of water molecules, in the next comprised of a wholly different set of molecules. A wave does not exist in itself, independent of all else.
The entire physical universe is nothing more than a wave in Eternal Mind. Mind is all that is real.
In this sense, then, nothing of the past is real. All of the past of a wave no longer exists. The past wave is totally and completely gone. Where it passed now lies placid and calm, unaffected by the wave. Waves do not change the ocean.
Some may be able to see it this way, to understand at least in concept that the past simply does not exist. Some of us may need the simpler form, "It never happened the way I think it did. Guilt was never real." The simpler form will eventually lead to the fuller form, so it simply doesn't matter.
When I experience fear, then, one thing to look for is the belief in the past that is behind it, perhaps hidden, but surely there. Only the past makes me fearful of the future. That is why young children are so often lacking in fear: they have no memory of past disasters to give rise to the fear. When I feel fear, let me remember that it depends on my perception of the past, and affirm: "What I remember never happened as I think it did. There is nothing to fear."
When I deliberately choose to exclude the past from my consideration of the present, "in the present love is obvious, and its effects apparent" (1:4). The constant burden of the past, dredging up remembered horrors, totally blocks this "awareness of love's presence" from my perception. All our learning is nothing but an accumulation of ideas about the past. Therefore all of it is nothing. We begin to unlearn, to deliberately forget what we think the past has taught us, and in that we find true perception and eventually true knowledge.
The world that we see, when we see without the fear carried over from the past, is the real world. This is the world we are asking to see today in this lesson. Underneath all the sounds of fear, the world is singing "hymns of gratitude" (2:2). The perception of the Holy Spirit is able to penetrate through the veneer of fear we have placed over reality. When we share His perception, we realize the past is gone, and we see and hear what is here now, when "love is obvious." Let me, then, join in the prayer: "I would see only this world before my eyes today" (2:4).
What is the Real World? (Part 3)
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