Keeping Error Unreal
Chapter 9 is entitled “The Acceptance of the Atonement”. Perhaps every student of the Course is familiar with this phrase and recognizes it as an essential idea in the Course’s teachings. Early in the text we read, “The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself” (2.5,5:1). And toward the end of the Course we read, “[This course] is concerned only with Atonement, or the correction of perception” (CT.IN,1:2). This statement is followed by, “The means of Atonement is forgiveness” (CT.IN,1:3).
While reading Chapter 9, “The Acceptance of the Atonement”, the following sentence—referring to the means of Atonement—stood out for me: “Forgiveness through the Holy Spirit lies simply in looking beyond error from the beginning, and thus keeping it unreal for you” (9.4,5:3). “Keeping error unreal for me” means that I do not let my own or another’s error have effect on me, in the sense that I do not let it take away my peace of mind. I have attained the peace of God through learning this Course and I can retain it only by “looking beyond error and thus keeping it unreal for me.” I look beyond error from the beginning. For example, the instant I begin to think I see error in another and am tempted to make it real by attacking it, in that same instant I let it go. With practice this happens more rapidly than before. Thus, I look beyond the error to his true identity. He is my brother. My Father is his Father. He is what I am, namely, the holy Son of God. To see him otherwise is to veil truth with illusions; it is to make error real.
Jesus is trying to teach us that all error is nothing more than a form of one error. The one error is the belief that “the separation has occurred”, which includes the belief that we are separate from one another and from God. Jesus would have me give up this false idea about myself and accept the true idea that I am not separate from God, but one with Him. He would have me accept the Atonement for myself by understanding and accepting that “the separation never occurred” (6.2,10:7). It never occurred because it cannot occur. It cannot occur because it opposes God’s Will and God’s will cannot be opposed. It can seem to be opposed in a dream because anything is possible in a dream. But a dream is not reality. Thus, separation is merely an illusion; it seems real, but it is not.
Thus, we can translate “keeping error unreal” into “keeping separation unreal”. The belief in separation takes many forms. For example, it may come in the form of “I believe I am an ego” or “I am a body” or “I can attack and be attacked, hurt and be hurt, kill and be killed.” We can, then, legitimately replace the word ‘separation’ in the phrase “keeping separation unreal” with any one of these words: the ego, the body, attack. For example, we could say, “Forgiveness lies in looking beyond attack from the beginning, and thus keeping attack unreal for you.”
To say, “I look beyond attack from the beginning, keeping it unreal for me” means that I have decided never to give attack effect, and “What has no effect does not exist” (9.4,5:7). What the world judges as attack I understand as a call for love. And I respond to the request for love by offering it. Thus, even under seeming attack I remain aware of love’s presence. And then, being one with God, I am invulnerable; I cannot be attacked, hurt, or killed.
This sense of perfect safety makes the proposition, “Nothing real can be threatened, I am real, and therefore, I cannot be threatened” not just a radical and fascinating syllogism; it makes it an honest and accurate description of what I believe and experience. It makes fear meaningless to me.
Copyright © 2009, 2021, 2023 • Robert J. Hellmann