Seeing the Past in the Present
A Course in Miracles teaches us that through the ego we project onto the present from our individual past in the hopes of healing past hurts. We hold against those in the present injuries we perceive others caused in the past and expect them to make up for what we think those others did to us in the past.
For example, you felt your mother was emotionally distant so you find yourself drawn (usually unconsciously) to emotionally distant partners in the (again, unconscious) hope that they will give you what your mother didn’t. If they do, you feel it is a “match made in heaven”. If they do not, you resent them and replay your drama with your mother over and over. Why, you wonder, can you never get your needs met?
Recently I discovered that I was projecting hurt from my first holy relationship onto Hannah, with whom I am presently in a holy relationship. This erupted in a horrific way, but cleared up something that had been very confusing and difficult for me in my relationship with her. Fortunately she was understanding.
This is a very specific example of seeing the past in the present. But that episode was symptomatic of what has been occurring for me—and confusing me—for the entire time of this transition in consciousness. I have written before about the echo of the ego remaining although it fell away over five years ago. Others have described this to me as the habits of the ego unwinding after it is gone, like the momentum of a bicycle after you stop pedaling. Or as ACIM puts it:
“Your holy relationship has, as its purpose now, the goal of proving this (a will separate from God) is impossible. Heaven has smiled upon it, and the belief in sin has been uprooted in its smile of love. You see it still, because you do not realize that its foundation has gone. Its source has been removed, and so it can be cherished but a little while before it vanishes. Only the habit of looking for it still remains.” (T-19.III.8)
That echo has been loud and blocked the full extension of my new experience of existence. I didn’t understand it at first, because I couldn’t find the structure of the ego anymore—my belief in it. Yet…here were these ego responses, often at their most vicious and intense. It is as if without my belief in it as me to “modify” the ego by trying to be a “good person” it was just raw ego. I would get over ego eruptions—guilt, fear, anger, defensiveness, projection—far quicker than I used to, but they were dismaying.
As time has gone on however, they have wound down. And what has become clear is that ego responses as well as other habits of thinking like a person are the way I see the past in the present now. That was my former experience of existence. It is gone, but I see it now as a fog before my new experience of existence so I cannot fully see or experience the new.
When I acted from the past it felt either incredibly inauthentic, while I was confused about was authentic; or I simply knew “that is no longer me”. Yet I couldn’t reach through the fog to What I am. For a long while I was left feeling uncomfortably inauthentic with no way out. But, thankfully, what has emerged from the fog lately is this new experience of existence as Spirit. Before I could sense it, but I could not access it. Bit by bit now I do. The past is still here obscuring, but much more clearly recognized as what it is. I catch myself doing what it says in the quote above, “looking for it” habitually. In essence, what I look for is the old way of seeing myself. I turn in the direction of the ego, so long trusted but untrustworthy, and find its echo and then find its echo is only that, because it is gone.
So seeing the past in the present isn’t limited to specific experiences. Any time you go through a shift, whether in self-concept or, eventually, in your experience of existence, there is a period of overlap where the old way of seeing yourself for a while obscures what has newly emerged in your awareness. These are those episodes that ACIM refers to as “disorienting”, but they always settle out as the old falls away completely leaving only the new in your awareness.