"In the Course it says “I am responsible for what I see…” That obviously can bring rise to guilt, especially looking at all the war, poverty and violence in the world. But also later in the Course it says “you are not responsible for the error, but you are responsible for accepting the correction of the error.” Can you help me get clear on this please?"
Let's begin with a brief quote from the Course to give this some context:
"I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked."
I also found this quote when trying to find something about your second thought:
"The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself. This means that he recognizes that mind is the only creative level and that its errors are healed by the Atonement. Once he accepts this, his mind can only heal."
In the Course, sin and error are conceptually opposite. Sin is the idea that you really did attack reality, within reality. Sin is the idea that this attack really happened, produced real consequences i.e. effects. Sin is the idea that sin has causal power to change God and change reality. Sin is also the idea that because it really did have the power to change God and really did do so, this change has permanently changed God in some way that He does not have the power to reverse or prevent.
Your "power to sin" overrode His power to resist sin. You made Him vulnerable through your sin and your sin was a vicious attack on Him, producing effects in Him against His will. And since it was against His will, it was "a sin" to do this. Sin proclaims that separation has really happened, through attack on reality, and that reality has been permanently modified. This is the core root of the ego's belief that it can change God, that is has power over God, that it is an authority over God, and that it can rewrite all the rules if it wants to.
Sin suggests you cannot undo what has been done, because its claim that you "really did" do what you did is allegedly proven by evidence. Sin believes it has caused real effects on God. Such real effects are impossible in reality, but the ego mind believes it anyway, seeing God as permanently damaged.
It's like if you cut down a tree or blow up a building or someone dies, in the ego's scheme of things these are absolutely 100% irreversible acts, relegated to "the past" where they can never be accessed or changed. This is how the ego created "time", by separating off what sin has accomplished as a "past" event, which has led to present suffering, and future punishment.
Sin demands punishment because it proves that you must be guilty. Since you "really did do" what sin claims to have done, that means YOU are the one who did it, and you'll take that responsibility in order to testify that sin is the truth. And so this automatically implies that you must be guilty as hell.
Guilt further demands punishment and it sees punishment as inevitable, agreeing with it because agreeing with sin and guilt being "the truth" allows them to seem to be real and accepted. Punishment becomes inevitable (eventually death), and this produces fear of punishment. The fear leads to suffering because fear creates self-punishment and brings death.
Sin is very unforgiving because, basically, the ego is saying that if you sin even a tiny little bit, there is no going back. Even a tiny sin (tiny mad idea) is enough to warrant punishment by death. It is a belief in murder, and the ego sees murderous revenge as being the only justified response. Since it believes it murdered God, it believes God would be justified in murdering it back. Thus the ego believes punishment is going to be coming and it's only a matter of time. Time is thus a delaying mechanism to try to put off death, but the ego still completely believes in death so will still bring it about anyway.
Sin can't forgive because that would undo sin. So sin finds you guilty and punishes you relentlessly with absolutely no mercy until you are dead. It seems pretty extreme but to the ego's progression of logic, it's thought system seems entirely consistent in that, as soon as you sin, you must die.
The opposite of this, in Course terms, is the idea of "error" or a "mistake". An error is simply just a mistake and mistakes are seen as being correctable. Rather than mistakes calling for punishment, which really keeps all of the effects of the mistake in place and regards them as permanently real, mistakes simply call for healing. This healing comes by correction, through forgiveness.
Thus a view of mistakes as simply errors, which can be corrected, is a very forgiving view. Making a mistake does not condemn you to death. Making a mistake doesn't mean it's the end of the world. Making a mistake doesn't mean you can never be forgiven or loved ever again. In fact, quite the opposite. If the viewpoint is forgiving, then errors are simply that... just some little error you made which has a REMEDY, i.e. an Answer. Holy Spirit is that Answer.
His forgiving attitude sees your errors as merely mistakes that are ENTIRELY undoable in all their effects and consequences. "He will undo the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him, I choose to let Him by allowing Him to choose for God for me."
He sees your mistakes as not even real mistakes at all. They are so inconsequential that they haven't even had a SLIGHT "real effect" on God or your Self. In His viewpoint, there has been absolutely no harm done in reality whatsoever, and any supposed harm must be an illusion of harm. Even if that illusion is very convincing, it is still an illusion, and seeing it correctly you would have to admit to that.
Whenever I think about the definition of "error" I always think about someone taking a simple math test. If they are learning math and the goal is to learn everything there is to learn about math, then the goal is not punishment. The goal is not to derail the learning process to punish the student and kick them out of the class and leave them for dead. The goal is fixated on the accomplishment of learning and its completion. So any teacher teaching correctly will lead the student to that completion of knowledge no matter what happens.
So then if the math student takes this test and gets some answers wrong, does it call for punishment and death? The ego would say yes. The ego will call it a sin, call for guilt, and demand punishment. It will try to blow it up into a huge drama and make the person suffer. And then there will be fear of punishment and fear of being kicked out of class and ending up on the streets and dying.
But a few simple errors in the math doesn't call for this. It's just numbers. The numbers aren't even important. That's not the goal. The goal is the completion of the learning. So the student made some errors, so what. It's no big deal. The world didn't end. Millions of people were not affected. Nobody died from it. It didn't really cause any "real effects" of any significant kind. The student just needs some CORRECTION, i.e. some continued education to learn about the truth. To get the correct "answer".
Holy Spirit sees this way, very forgivingly. He sees all errors as just simply mistakes which need correction and nothing else. He does not see them as calling for anything else or justifying anything else. He sees them, in effect, as calls for love, and the only response valid is to provide more love, more clarity, more truth. To be the answer and to share that answer. It does not ever cross His mind to get all pissed off about how the answers were wrong, or to dwell on terms of punishment, because all that does is develop a separation between the student and the goal. Separation is used by the ego in its idea of sin, it is not used by the Holy Spirit.
So as far as Holy Spirit sees it, if you are in error, it is not even a "real error". Just as dreams are not reality, errors are not real whereas sins are the idea of real error. Your errors are just illusions of errors. They are already seen correctly by Holy Spirit and He will gladly teach you how to see them correctly (to accept correction) so that you too can agree with Him as to what the truth is.
In truth you have not "really" made any "real mistakes" at all. All of your mistakes are illusions of mistakes. All of your problems are illusions of problems. And any belief that you made a real error only calls for forgiving correction, i.e. healing, it does not call for more attack. And it definitely does not call for death.
So you could say, the Holy Spirit's sole forgiving focus in having you accept the truth. i.e., that you complete your learning of what the truth is. To get the answer. To do that means solely that you are to accept the correction for yourself. The corrections lead you to "what is correction", and the "correct answer" is the state of being that is the Atonement.
In the atonement there is a wholly forgiving attitude, it is recognized that sins are never real, and that nothing has happened to reality whatsoever. It is a clarification of the truth, a return to sanity, and an awareness that only love is real. By accepting it, you are accepting correction, because you are accepting a "correct" meaning of the truth. In essence this correlates to why "accepting the atonement for yourself is your sole responsibility."
In other words, it is not your responsibility to punish yourself, it is not your responsibility to be guilty or shameful, it is not your responsibility to suffer and be sick and die, it is not your responsibility to believe illusions are real, and it is not your responsibility to turn a mistake into a sin. In other words by responsibility we mean, "you do not have to do that". There is no CALL for that. Sin calls for guilt and so on but in truth, sin's call is ignored and all the things it claims follow on from it do not have to follow on from it, and have not.
So in that sense, from Holy Spirit's perspective, you are NOT responsible for "real sins" or "real wars" or "real violence" or "real poverty". Because these things are NOT real. They are illusions. They aren't the truth or the correct interpretation of reality. You could say you are responsible because you are the one who is DREAMING them, just as you could say that if you have a dream at night you are responsible for being the dreamer, but that doesn't make the dreams real.
There is no real war, or real death, or real sin, or real guilt, or real fear, or real sickness, or real suffering, or real poverty, or real bodies, or a real world, or real death. None of this stuff is real because the so-called "sin" in the big-level-mind which supposedly led to the conclusion that is all of these things, has not really happened in reality.
You will not be able to find peace about the suffering in the world while you believe, and therefore perceive, that it is REAL. It means you are making the fundamental error of believing that an ILLUSION is reality, that we really ARE separate from God, that bad stuff really IS happening and that it is producing really terrible effects that nobody can heal or reverse. That's the ego's thought system at work.
This is why the Course is so radical because it is telling us that every single "bad thing" that we know, and even all of the "good things" that we know, in this world, are not a part of REALITY. They are not happening in reality. There is no world and no history and no death. There are no real people here having real poverty or being part of real war. We must learn to clearly distinguish between what is REAL, and what is ILLUSION.
Being incapable of discerning reality from illusions is our entire problem. This is the confusion that is happening in our mind. This is the reason why when we see things seeming to happen we think they are real and then become understandably upset and have reactions to it. "I am upset because I see something that is not there". We do not realize that this entire world is just a dream, it isn't reality.
Separation hasn't happened in or TO reality. Reality is unchanged in its entirety. God has not been affected whatsoever. God has not changed His mind about anyone. All is loved and all is still pure and innocent, in reality and in truth. All of this other stuff, war and death and suffering, on a make-believe planet, is not REAL. None of it. There is nothing in this world that is real, whatsoever.
Now, if your mind is in a mode where you do believe this world is real, and you see a war or poverty or violence, you WILL react to it and suffer as well. The suffering out there is symptomatic of suffering in your mind. There is separation that stands between your inner and outer mind. Part of your mind is in the body and part of it is projected externally. If there is perceived suffering without, there must be perceived suffering within.
In some way, on the highest level, if you are the one who dreamed this whole dream world, then you are "responsible" for causing all of the wars and suffering. BUT, only in the awareness that it is not real. You can't be responsible for something that isn't real. But you were responsible for making the error in the first place. You are not responsible "for" what happens IN the error, as illusions appearing to be real events, but you are responsible for owning up to being the one who has done this to yourself in a dream, and dreams aren't really happening.
So it is now your responsibility to own up to being the author of the world, and to the ego as it attempts this it will become very guilty. It will carry the weight of the world on its shoulders. It will feel tremendously guilty and sorry for others. Its pity party is it feeling sorry for itself, to cover up its deadly guilt. Your responsibility is to undo i.e. correct and heal this perceptual error that you have, which shows you illusions as though they are reality and makes them seem real to you.
You didn't REALLY create a world filled with war and death and destruction. You dreamed you did. You imagined what it would be like. But it isn't real.
This can be a bit of a mind-warp for people because if you're going to really start to entertain the idea that this ENTIRE WORLD is not "real", it's not reality, then that really opens up a can of worms. Every form of suffering that you believe in is not real suffering. There is no real suffering. Every form of sickness that you perceive and feel upset about is not real sickness. There is no real sickness. Every kind of war and conflict that you witness is not real war. There is no real war. Every form of death and disease is not real either. There is no real death.
Before coming to accept that this illusory world is not real, your split mind will attempt to find peace or spirituality by sectioning off some parts of the world as good and some as bad, some as acceptable and some as unacceptable. And you will have reactions about both. You won't be able to end the wars or save all the children or stop the sickness. You'll try to do so by spiritualizing some things though, and this will be because you fundamentally cannot accept that this ENTIRE world is illusory.
You keep trying to fix a dream through a lens of separation. You'll try to create a portion of Earth which is heavenly to defend you against the parts you don't like. Or you'll start to "fight" against things which are unjust and unfair and seem to be victimizing of others, which will just make them more real and increase them. You'll follow all of the ego's advice about how to correct this suffering, which will produce more suffering. You will fail and die, at least, if it were real.
This entire model of duality and specialness comes into question when you question whether this entire world might be unreal. To put EVERYTHING you've ever known into the same single category, instead of trying to dissect and analyze and diagnose and figure out where the truth is hiding out there. What if it is ALL false? What if none of it true? What if there IS no truth in this world because this world itself isn't true? What if its not real, in its entirety, and everything happening in it isn't real either? Where IS reality exactly?
So you are responsible for choosing again. You are responsible for owning up to the fact that you made an error, and accepting its correction. And as you do this, and still have ego left, your ego is going to interfere. And it's going to make you feel guilty as though you're taking responsibility for things that are REAL.
If you confirm that you are the one who dreamed up war, and if that war is real, then you are very, very guilty for creating a heck of a lot of suffering. If you confirm that you made up sickness and death, which Jesus does tell us, then that means that every person who ever died and was sick was your fault. That will produce a ton of guilt also.
So as you start to do this, as you start to take responsibility, the ego is going to at first have a pretty big reaction of misunderstanding and misinterpretation (more errors), which imply that you are very guilty and bad for what you have "really done". And that's simply because you still believe that what you're being responsible for is a change in reality.
Now, on the topic of responsibility in general, the separation from God was an attempt to NOT be responsible. It was an attempt to disown responsibility, to disown your identity, to disown God, to disown causality and power, to disown cause and effect, and to disown Life. It was a choice to make death real, to get rid of yourself, to get rid of God, and to cease to exist, as nothing more than an effect of an external power that makes you die.
All forms of victimhood and suffering and war and poverty and sickness and all of the rest of it, all came from this IRRESPONSIBILITY. This irresponsibility is also the same thing as dishonesty. It is an unwillingness to accept or admit the truth. By disallowing the truth "access" to your mind, you entered into being irresponsible and effectively trying to shovel all sense of responsibility onto some kind of "not myself". That took the form of a split in your mind where you shoved responsibility into your unconscious shadow, and also in the form of projecting it onto others, which came later.
All suffering, attack, war and so on, all come from the Son of God attempting to disclaim responsibility for being Christ. This whole dream is all about being someone you are not, having stuff happen to you that you allegedly did not choose, making believe that you can suffer against your will, and trying to make out that you did not choose any of it. All of that violence and poverty and war and so on, you DID choose them. All of it. You made sickness and death. But you did NOT make REAL sickness or REAL death. There is a very important difference there, and it's the difference between sin and error.
Real death cannot be undone. Real sin and real guilt and real sickness cannot be undone. But if these things are NOT real, they CAN be undone, because they have not really been done at all. Sickness can be undone, and death can be undone, because you did make them yourself. You invented them, but only in a dream, not in reality. What you see as real death is not real death. What you see as real sickness is not real sickness. It's an illusion. It's a lie.
Stop believing in sickness as though it's actually real. To be a miracle worker you have to stop believing that the illusion of someone suffering is a) unchosen, b) really happening, c) out of their hands, d) something they didn't want, e) having real effects, f) is irreversible, etc.... all of these ego lies must go.
This will sound mad to those unwilling to learn, but those who are sick, those who suffer, those who die, those who are afraid, those who are guilty, those who feel unworthy, those who hate and argue, those who are victimized, ALL choose everything that is happening to them and WANT it to happen. To not accept this is irresponsibility.
That means that while on the surface it might APPEAR, as an illusion, that these people do NOT want what is happening to them and that they are suffering at the hands of some separate victimizer or cause, somewhere in their mind they MUST be choosing it, making it happen, have asked for it, and have made themselves receive it.
So having "pity" or "sympathy" for these people doing this is an ego reaction to an illusion that isn't true. Even people in war, or poverty, or experiencing violence, are "doing it to themselves". Your evaluation that these things are therefore "bad" because of what others are doing to them, is your own failure to see through the illusion of victimhood. Victims are victimizers. The sick attack others with sickness. The poor attempt to take everything away from others. These are hard pills to swallow but this is the truth.
These people are all self-destructive and suicidal and expert self-attackers, and yet they all appear to be the furthest from coming across as in any way empowered or choosing what happens. That's how the illusion operates. It makes it LOOK AS THOUGH something is true which is not. To react to these illusions of suffering as though they are truth and that the people involved are "real victims" who are not choosing any of this at all, is to fail to forgive and to fail to overlook the lie THEY are expressing and trying to convince you of.
Liars will appear as though they are being lied to. Victims will appear as though they do not want to be abused. People who are afraid will claim that someone else is causing the fear. These are all egoic mechanisms for deception and they are all part of a thoroughly spiritually-irresponsible attitude.
There is no honesty in that at all, and to have sympathy for the illusory story of how those people have things happen to them "against their will" is in fact an attack on your part, and a failure to forgive correctly, because now you have believed in and agreed with and added to their delusional mindset, joining them in it, and now two of you are deceived. This is what the Course calls "false empathy" - joining with others in their delusions and self-inflicted lies. "Innocent victims" is one of the ego's favorite lies.
To reject this and to see these people as unwitting victims is to fall for illusions just as much as they are. That is insanity. There is no truth to the idea that people "really suffer against their will". Victimization is a profound illusion meant to deceive, and it does a good job of it. Everyone who suffers and is in pain and is abused and is afraid is doing it to themselves. ACIM says this is the secret to salvation - that you are doing it to yourself. If you're doing it to yourself, you CAN stop it. If you are not doing it to yourself, you have NO CHOICE but to suffer. The ego would believe the latter, Holy Spirit believes in the option to choose again.
This is why waking up, spiritually, in awareness, has to entail taking back responsibility. You must own up to what you are doing to yourself. You must own up to what you are trying to do to others, which really is not done to others but to yourself indirectly. You must own up to what it appears that other people are doing to you, because they're not really doing anything to you at all and once again you are just doing things to yourself indirectly. You must own up to who you really are - Christ - and stop pretending to be something you are not.
This taking back of responsibility will be met with resistance by the ego, in particular because you - associated with your ego - still believe that the things you're claiming responsibility for are REAL. And because they seem real, as you take responsibility for causing what is happening to you (or seeming to), it will interpret it to mean "its your fault". You will have trouble staying out of guilt when you do this and it will likely be painful at first.
The ego does not understand how it can be possible that you are responsible for something without being guilty for it. In its thought system, the only things which are "real" is real separation i.e. real sin, which leads to real guilt and death. If you're claiming to be responsible for doing things to yourself, then it interprets that you're guilty and should be punished. It does not understand its own undoing and is completely blind to the Holy Spirit.
Gradually though, as you LET GO of the ego's viewpoint, and stop believing that IT is YOU, your efforts to own up to being who you really are will become less painful. Your awareness of your true identity will remind you that you are not responsible for "real suffering" or "real war". You are claiming responsibility for simply being in ERROR, for being mistaken, and for having chosen this mistaken way of perceiving and being. Your forgiving attitude toward yourself will increase and you'll be able to claim responsibility for what you are with less and less guilt, and less intense ego retaliations.
Ultimately, what you are responsible for is for fulfilling the function that God has assigned to you. The function of holiness, of being His Creation, of forgiveness, and of salvation. Those are your true responsibilities. And when you accept those responsibilities there will be no call for guilt. You will be responsible for being free of guilt. You will be responsible for freeing others from guilt. You will be responsible for always looking at others with a forgiving mind and seeing only that they are innocent and, perhaps, temporarily mistaken - calling out for love.
You are responsible, in truth, only for things which are true and real. And this ego world is not true or real in any way imaginable. And I sense that this really must extend all the way to even the illusion of war and suffering showing up in the dream. You are responsible for the undoing of this entire dream, eventually, but it cannot be fully undone while other parts of the Sonship are "co-dreaming" it.
For the sonship to become One and whole, we must all help each other to awaken to the truth, to spread the healing and to awaken to God collectively. Then even the "showing up" of a script of war or a script of sickness or a script of poverty or a script of violence, will no longer be needed or justified. These things will stop happening. The world, even as a fake world, will become a happier more peaceful world. Since it is just a fiction story, the story will be rewritten as a less violent one, and there will be some semblance of "peace on Earth".
By this I mean, things which happen in the physical world - events and nightmares - happen because the MIND causes them to. It paints pictures and creates disasters and sets people against each other and calls for abuse and punishment. It produces scripts of suffering and hate, it creates war and poverty. Can these things exist even in a dream if the mind is no longer dreaming of a planet filled with hate and terror?
The violence that you see, the guilt it creates, the suffering that seems real, the wars that escalate, the propaganda, the conspiracy theories about how advanced groups are trying to coerce our collective consciousness into choosing disaster etc... it's all part of what ours minds are making up as we go along. This world doesn't have to be this way. But also ultimately, it isn't ANY way, because it is not reality.
Quite simply, once perception has become corrected and is True Perception, and everyone sees that this world only ever was an illusion - a bad dream - that did not REALLY happen - it will vanish into the nothingness from which it came. And not one single person will have "really" experienced death or suffering. And everyone will rejoice together that we are all one divine, holy family, joined in unconditional love and perfect peace, forever in God's heart and mind.