A: When I came home from work on Monday, Oprah was rerunning an episode about two twin daughters who had been being sexually assaulted and raped by their father and two brothers until a neighbour called authorities. Towards the end of the episode, Oprah offered the definition of forgiveness that she’s found most helpful. It was something to this effect: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been different.” How do you respond to that?

J: Well, I find this definition demeaning and discouraging. Forgiveness is not about “giving up hope.” Forgiveness is about finding hope.

A: Maybe the person who coined this definition was using the word “hope” in a different way than you and I use it.

J: Hope is one of those slippery, hard-to-define spiritual terms. About as easy to explain as forgiveness. And about as complicated. Basically, though, angels use the word hope as a synonym for “trust in God.” It’s a powerfully positive, uplifting emotion. It’s an emotion that expresses an element of uncertainty. Perhaps I could rephrase that. Hope — trust in God — is an experience of emotional continuity in the face of apparent discontinuity in the Materialist laws of Cause and Effect. In other words, you still believe in God’s goodness even when you can’t see an obvious link between actions and the results of those actions.

A: A leap of faith, in other words.

J: Yes, but not a blind leap of faith. Trust, surprising as it may seem, requires an element of brutal honesty. Brutal honesty about oneself. Trust requires you to know your own limits, your own abilities right down to a “t.” This knowledge allows you to recognize situations where you’ve reached the limits of your own abilities and experience. At this point, you switch over to your knowledge about other people’s abilities and experience. You switch over the decision-making process to somebody who has more knowledge about the topic at hand than you have. You hand over the reins, as it were. Angels do this without an instant of shame or jealousy or regret. They simply accept their limits and gratefully hand over the reins to other angels. This is what humbleness feels like. Not false humility, as the Church teaches it, but divine humbleness.

A: You’re making my head hurt with all these different terms — forgiveness, hope, trust, humbleness.

J: These are all complex divine emotions. Not the same as each other, but interwoven with each other. Holistically. Hopefully, people will like the idea that God the Mother and God the Father are capable of experiencing and expressing the most complex emotions of all.

A: This switching-over thing you’re talking about . . . is this related to the research you’ve been helping me collect about the “gears” in the biological human brain that are supposed to help people switch smoothly from one idea or emotion to another?

J: You mean parts of the human brain such as the anterior cingulate gyrus?

A: Yes. And related “switching centres.”

J: Definitely. Angels don’t have an anterior cingulate gyrus, but souls-in-human-form do. Angels who incarnate as human beings need a biological “toolkit,” and a number of tools in that toolkit relate to the human brain and central nervous system. When those tools aren’t used the way they should be — when, for example, a “hammer” is used when a “screwdriver” is called for, or when the blunt end of the adjustable wrench is used instead of the adjustable claws at the other end, you can’t expect the result to be pretty. The human brain is designed with an entire set of “ball bearings” and “lubricants” to prevent the various gears of the brain from grinding against each other and causing excessive wear. Unfortunately, in many young human beings, the ball bearings and lubricants are the first thing to go. After that, you see the onset of DSM-IV psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, problems with impulse control, problems with anger control, possibly even psychopathy.

A: All because their switching mechanisms aren’t working properly?

J: The human brain is an incredibly complex set of tools and machinery. It uses many different types of switching mechanisms to help it balance incoming data and outgoing choices — outgoing thoughts, feelings, and actions. The operative word here, of course, is balance. The brain has to be able to identify, remember, understand, and fix many different sorts of problems. It has to switch constantly between different spheres of reality, between logical thought and positive emotions and practical actions, between the needs of the self and the needs of the other, between active learning and quiet processing, between past, present, and future. Believe me, human beings need every scrap of brain tissue they can muster for this job of Whole Brain Thinking.

A: So when the switching mechanisms aren’t working properly, people get “stuck.” They get stuck in one or two spheres. For example, a person who gets stuck in the past.

J: Yes. Or a person who gets stuck in logical thought. These are the people who lack empathy, who lack compassion for others. They make all their choices based on logic alone. The Church has had an overflowing cup of bishops who were incapable of feeling empathy.

A: I’ve also known some people — mostly women — who seem stuck in their emotional circuitry and can’t make a decision that’s tough. They don’t forgive other people so much as put blinders on. They try to sweep great harms under the carpet so they don’t have to deal with the fallout of taking a firm stance.

J: Forgiveness is very much about taking a firm stance. The first step in forgiving somebody — whether it’s yourself or someone else — is honesty. There must be an honest assessment of harm. This means you have to take a stance on the question of right and wrong. For the soul — for all souls in Creation, including God the Mother and God the Father — some choices are clearly right and other choices are clearly wrong. The soul knows the difference. The soul feels confident and clear when right choices are made. The soul feels abused when wrong choices are made. This is what many people call . . . conscience.

A: There’s been a trend among some New Age gurus and some Progressive Christians to claim there are no moral absolutes. Hence there is no need for forgiveness. According to these thinkers, all choices are equally acceptable to God because each person is really just a spark of God trying to express itself. Neale Donald Walsch has built a lucrative empire on this idea.

J: Only a person who doesn’t want to face his own life choices would find this theory acceptable.

A: It does leave a lot of wiggle room for people who want to excuse their own behaviour . . .

J: Forgiveness is a clear and conscious decision to call forth and believe in the best that a person can be and the best a person can do. Forgiveness is a refusal to accept excuses. At the same time, it’s a gift of love that has no strings attached. Divine love goes beyond anything a Materialist philosophy of Cause and Effect can imagine. Divine love is an up-front gift, a conscious decision to offer the recipient (whether the self or an another person) a vote of confidence in his or her best self. It’s a leap of faith. It’s a boost-up. A helping hand. A sense of purpose for a person to hang onto. It does not require you to prove yourself before you get the gift of love. If you had to prove yourself first, one proof at a time, as many theologians have taught, you’d be looking at the vertical path of spiritual ascent — anagogic mysticism. Anagogic mysticism is a form of Materialist belief. God the Mother and God the Father are not required to obey Materialist philosophy. They love us because they choose to love us, not because they “owe” us anything for our “obedience” and “piety.” They believe in us, their children, so much that we simply cannot and will not let them down. They inspire us to be our best selves. But they don’t force us to be our best selves — we, as angels, choose to be our best selves. It’s as natural as breathing for all angels.

A: Including the angels who have incarnated on Planet Earth.

J: Yes. Including the angels who have incarnated on Planet Earth. There are no exceptions among God’s children. All angels are filled with trust and devotion and gratitude and courage BECAUSE God the Mother and God the Father believe in our best selves. They have faith in us.

A: So in the case of a father who has raped his own daughters, how would God look at that?

“Jesus said: From Adam to John the Baptizer, among those born of women, there is no one greater than John the Baptizer, so that his eyes should be averted. But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will know the kingdom and will become greater than John” (Gospel of Thomas 46 a-b). This Roman marble sculpture of Cupid, the God of Desire, asleep on a lion skin, dates from 100-200 CE. It was based on a Hellenistic bronze from about 150 BCE. Predators who abuse children usually portray themselves as innocent, beautiful, and divine guardians of the children they intend to seduce. (This sculpture is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum. Photo credit JAT 2017.)

J: God the Mother and God the Father would recognize instantly the selfish, uncourageous intent of the father. They would identify the problem — the father’s dysfunctional brain circuitry — and they would remember this as they worked to help him and those around him recognize the great harm he’s been choosing to create. They would not condone or accept this behaviour as acceptable. They would identify the behaviour as “wrong.” Nonetheless, they would blanket him in divine love. They would whisper to his soul, “We believe in you. We know this isn’t the best you can be. We know you can make loving choices. We won’t abandon you. We’ll stick right with you and show you why your choices have been wrong. You won’t understand at first, and you’re going to be angry and confused and resentful for a while, but that’s okay, because we know that more than anything in the world you want to be able to give love. We believe in you.”

A: And then God sends you through the human court system that’ll cart you off to jail for “X” number of years.

J: Somehow you have to get it through your thick human skull that you made an abusive choice that was very, very wrong. You have to accept that you made a mistake, you have to accept that you can learn from your own mistakes, and you have to accept that you can be a better person who makes right choices. If you receive the right kind of help.

A: Locking up a person and throwing away the key isn’t the right kind of help.

J: Nor is revenge the right kind of help. Usually it takes a whole team to provide the right kind of help to a man who has raped his own daughters. A whole team of well trained professionals. Of course, if the professionals themselves don’t believe in the soul or the power of forgiveness or the mystery of God’s divine love, they’re ill-equipped to provide the kind of mentorship the abuser needs if he’s to have any chance of living up to his best self.

A: In which case the abuser isn’t likely to be healed.

J: Healing follows insight for both the victim and the perpetrator of a crime. Forgiveness, as we’ve said, is a catalyst that speeds and facilitates the healing process. Healing is the path towards Wholeness. Not the path towards Oneness but the path towards Wholeness. Wholeness is the place — the Kingdom, the experience of self — where you know yourself and all your limits and all your strengths and all your quirks and you can be humbly proud of yourself anyway because you’re being the best person you can be.

A: Young children are like this. They have the ability to throw themselves into new relationships and new experiences to the best of their ability without any concern for status or “face.”

J: Yup. That’s what I meant when I said that to enter the Kingdom you must become again like a little child. Humble and guileless, yet full of infectious enthusiasm and intelligence. Many three-year-olds are smarter than the adults around them because they haven’t yet forgotten how to learn.

A: And they still know how to forgive. Young children are born with an amazing ability to forgive.

J: I rest my case.

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