In ACIM, there is a central pillar which was not clear to me before. It is an unexpected strategy for acheiving salvation, which is pointed to and reinforced over and over again. And in effect is the ONLY way.
We may be familiar with the idea that ATONEMENT is the goal. Yes it is. The course also states that atonement, true perception, forgiveness, and salvation are all one, ie synonyms.
Atonement, as salvation, is a major goal. How do you find salvation, ie atonement? How are you saved from death and suffering? What power or ability is it that you have to get there?
Recognizing that salvation and atonement are the same thing, and salvation is "the ONLY way out of hell", the next key is to ask, how do you achieve salvation? Is there a secret to it perhaps?
Jesus refers to the "how", the key, as "the secret of salvation". Simply, "you are doing this to yourself." And to back this up, the supporting statement would be, "You can be affected by nothing but yourself."
This is similar to "Only the truth is true and nothing else is true". So let's say...
I am the one who causes ALL my suffering.
Nothing else causes ANY of my suffering.
If I so choose, I will not suffer.
This may seem unexpected, because we spend a huge amount of time lost in the ego, tangled up in other people, dramas, upsets and suffering. Our focus is pulled away from this idea constantly by ego temptations. And this builds confusing walls around this core idea.
Whenever it we've bought into the idea that someone else is causing us, we are affected by something, the world is upsetting us, things are happening against our will, we don't want something but don't see how we can stop it, etc... we're getting lost in FALSE causes, and losing sight of the forgiving truth that WE ARE CAUSING THIS. The cause is in OUR mind.
It is the movement AWAY from those confusions and untruths, TOWARD the STATE of salvation/atonement/forgiveness, that is "applying forgiveness". Undoing our false beliefs about WHO is causing us, is part of forgiving.
Becoming clear about how WE are causing OUR OWN suffering, is applying forgiveness. Our goal, to achieve the STATE of forgiveness, which is also true or corrected perception, we must "correct" the "errors" we are making in our discernment of what is true.
What is true is that WE ARE THE CAUSE of ALL of our own suffering. Becoming clear about this, seeing this accurately, recognizing it fully, is true perception. Perception "corrects" as you sift through and remove belief in "other causes" beyond yourself, which are FALSE causes. Illusions.
What I find surprising is that Jesus clearly is teaching us to simply CHOOSE NOT TO SUFFER. And that if we are suffering, we HAVE chosen to do so.. And there are NO EXCEPTIONS. Our mind causes all suffering, all sickness, and death in the body. There is NO OTHER CAUSE.
At its simplest, this means, you have free will and choose what you experience. At all times. In all cases. And there is NO POWER capable of interfering with this. There are NO OTHER CAUSES of you other than God. Anything that happens, YOU CHOOSE. Anything you feel, YOU CHOOSE. Any suffering, YOU CHOOSE. You do it to yourself.
Why is that? It's simply because you have been given TOTAL FREEDOM by God. Free will provides you the ability to CHOOSE what you want and thus what you value. You ARE free to deny God if you so choose, and "God does not coerce" you to do otherwise. It IS up to you to CHOOSE heaven and happiness.
"Heaven is a choice I must make."
Because you CAN CHOOSE, and there IS NO other cause of what you experience, you CAN CHOOSE NOT TO DIE. You can choose never to be sick. You can choose to always be happy. It does not take effort, it merely takes recognition, clarity, sanity, and decision.
You do not MAKE happiness or love or peace, those are shared with God who has created reality. But you DO choose whether to accept or reject them. You do not choose WHAT the choices are, but you do choose WHICH you elect to experience - real heaven or an illusory hell.
You can choose to go home. Nothing can stop you when you choose God. Death has no power over you. You are at the effect of NOTHING in this world.
The surprising, unexpected thing about this to me, is that I did not used to think this was the main focus. I did not think forgiveness would lead to this. I did not recognize that "forgiving" was about choosing, or that I HAD a choice, or WAS choosing. I did not think the secret of salvation was even necessarily the be-all and end-all of "how to get there."
But Jesus is clear. Atonement as salvation, is achieved ONLY through the total acceptance of your free will and the exercising of your CHOICE never to die, and thus to accept God and eternal life. You are free to come and go. You are free to make yourself suffer. And you are free to wake up at any time. Nothing can stop you.
The challenge then, in applying this idea, is examining WHAT you are doing, and then identifying not IF you are doing this to yourself, but HOW and WHY. A first step is to recognize you ARE doing to this to yourself, in all cases. The second step is identifying HOW you are doing this to yourself. The third step is identifying WHY you are doing this to yourself. And then finally the fourth step is CHOOSING OTHERWISE. ie, stop hurting yourself.
This reveals that really, this world is a world is suicide and death. Every person is attacking ONLY themselves. There are NO victims. Every person here is suicidal and self-attacking and hurting themselves. And we are all trying to learn how to LOVE OURSELVES. How NOT to hurt ourselves.
That entails RECLAIMING our power and freedom as CHRIST, a co-creator with God, capable of choosing whether to live or die, to come and go as we wish, and to become willing to choose ONLY LIFE. To choose God and go home. Not through coercion or force, not through wishful thinking, but simply by being in touch with the POWER of our decision to simply be ABLE to do so.
Jesus is telling us that NOTHING happens to us against our free will, as a result of someone else doing something to us, by accident, by acts of nature, by external laws, or by ANY CAUSE other than YOU. Your mind has TOTAL DOMINION OVER THE WORLD. You are the cause.
"This is a course in cause, not effect."
Being cause, is being empowered. Being cause is being strong. Being cause is being fearless. Being cause is being miraculous and creative. Being cause is being loving and whole. Being cause is freedom. Being cause, it is impossible that ANYTHING happen to you un-chosen by yourself.
This means TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY. You have the power to choose not to die. You have the power to choose never to suffer or be sick. Anything you ARE experiencing, you HAVE chosen, and you CAN change your mind. And this choice DOES NOT depend on anyone else. Nor is this choice made BY anyone else, nor is it limited by anyone else or any circumstance.
YOU have the power of God in you. You have His freedom.
"Nothing can affect you but yourself."
Atuning to this state of total responsibility and freedom and power of choice IS FORGIVENESS. It IS the atonement, and is your resurrection.