I see only the past. (A Course in Miracles, Lesson 7)
How many of our present moments do we actually spend in the present? Most of our now moments are colored by our memories of the past. We’re seeing what is not here because the past is not here. When we mentally wander off into the future, all we are doing is project our past experiences into the future. Again, we’re seeing what is not here because the future is not here. We’ve created a double illusion: we use something that is not real (the past) to create something else that is equally unreal (the future). Where is the present moment in this whole mental maze of illusions?
I see only the past because everything I see now, I am seeing through the filter of the past. From Lesson 7:
Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it? (W-7)
Let’s say you see someone today you have not seen in 10 years. Your picture of that person will be based on what you know about him from 10 years ago. But is this who he is now? How do you know who he is today if you see him through your filter?
Now let’s say you see a stranger, someone you’ve never met before and know nothing about. But she looks just like this other person you know! Your evaluation, you picture, of this new friend will be colored by your experience with the woman she reminds you of.
How many times have you judged someone wrongly by assuming he was just like an old friend of yours because he looked like your friend, was related to him, or was from the same country your friend comes from? What is your current evaluation of people who have hurt you in the past, or those whom you remember as being kind in the past?
Every encounter we have with someone else is colored by our own judgment, by our own evaluation, of that person. This is why we only see the past, and do not see our friends as they really are. The instant I see someone, whether I know him or not, I color him in with my own opinions, beliefs and judgments. How can I see him as he truly is when I do that? I can’t.
We always evaluate people based on how they were at some point in the past, and not how they are now. The ego’s favorite thing to say is: “Of course they are the same way now as they were back in high school because people don’t change. I don’t trust anyone.” Or, another one of ego’s favorites is: “I don’t care if she’s saving a million babies from starving every day. What she did to me way back then was horrible!”
‘Now’ has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now. (T-13.IV)
Everyone you meet offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the past by seeing the other person as he is now, and not how he was then. Your release of him is your release of yourself.
When we hold onto the past, we choose to do so. It’s not an automatic or natural response, but a conscious choice. It is, however, a conscious choice of the ego, which is not the real you. But as long as you identify with the ego, you will think that the ego is you, and you will keep listening to its insane reasoning.
Does holding onto past grievances make you feel liberated and at peace? No? Then why do you do it? We justify holding grudges by this insane idea that we deserve justice and that this person needs to pay for what he did. But what he did is not real now because whatever he did, he did in the past, which is not here anymore. You are bringing this hurt into the present and therefore making it real for you now. The only question you need to ask yourself is this: Does bringing the past into the present bring me peace?
The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms. (T-13.IV)
We mentally live in the past, while, in reality, we can only live in the present. By using the present to stuff it with past experiences and future anxieties (and all anxieties are projections of the past into the future), we obliterate the present and are ultimately residing nowhere, since now is the only time there is. Why do we wonder, then, why the future turns out to be just like the past? We made that choice by bringing the skeletons of the past into the future. The ego will say that history repeats itself. Of course it does, because we allow the ego to bring history into the future.
The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past. Would you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it as a meeting with your own past? For you would be meeting no one, and the sharing of salvation, which makes the encounter holy, would be excluded from your sight. The Holy Spirit teaches that you always meet yourself, and the encounter is holy because you are. The ego teaches that you always encounter your past, and because your dreams were not holy, the future cannot be, and the present is without meaning. (T-13.IV)
Love is ever present because love is the only reality. But by seeing the present through the filter of the past, we can’t see love because our filter obscures it. Since all of our judgments are based on the past, we can release all judgments by being in the now. By holding a grievance, we bring the past into the present and ensure that the future will be like the past. But the past is not even real, so we’re making ourselves a future that is based on illusion. Who can find peace in an existence based on illusion?
Heaven, therefore, is a letting go of the past entirely. Once we let go of the past, we let go of all judgments and grievances, since they are always tied to the past. The past is the barrier to the love’s presence, which is our natural inheritance, as the Course says. The past is an illusion, and is therefore nothing. It is only a perceived barrier. There is actually nothing that keeps us from experiencing Heaven, or our true nature, right now.
The now moment is the closest we can get to eternity while we are still believing in time. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but no time. Eternity is a state beyond time. Time is a device of the ego, set in place to keep us tied to the past, ensuring that history will repeat itself. Remember that the ego is not your friend, but a parasitic fear thought that can only survive if you believe in it. The ego can only live in the past or in the anticipated future (which is an extension of the past) because the ego, being not real itself, can only reside in time that is not real. The Holy Spirit, which is your true self, teaches you to be in the present moment because the now moment is the closest you can get to eternity, which is your true home. The Holy Spirit uses time to reinterpret it, showing you that time is not a linear phenomenon, existing independently of you, but simply a teaching device. Once we have removed the barrier to truth (and the barrier is the past), time, like any learning device, will become unnecessary.
If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future. This interpretation ties the future to the present, and extends the present rather than the past. But if you interpret your function as destruction, you will lose sight of the present and hold on to the past to ensure a destructive future. And time will be as you interpret it, for of itself it is nothing. (T-13.IV)