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Imelda Shanklin: Forgiveness

Hi Friends -

Imelda Shanklin's essay on Forgiveness has got to be one of the all-time great articles published by Unity. Eric Butterworth wrote about it, saying:

Imelda Shanklin, one of Unity's great teachers, gives an important prayer test. She says, in effect, "Father forgive me for expecting in the human that which is found only in the divine." Note, "forgive me." In other words, I have sinned by expecting in the human of the person something that can be found only in the Christ within the individual. I must take responsibility for my attitudes.

I suspect that she was one of Eric's teachers or at least one of the people from whom he drew great insight and inspiration. I love this essay.

Forgiveness is contained in her book Selected Studies, which was sent to me by a friend of TruthUnity.

In 1907 Imelda Shanklin was one of four employees at Unity. She was ordained by Unity in 1918 and eventually became Editor of all Unity publications. Here is her profile on TruthUnity (with a short video clip of her at her desk in 1926).

Take it from Eric ... she is a great teacher.
Mark Hicks


When we speak of forgiveness we ordinarily mean a feeling of superiority which refuses to acknowledge susceptibility to offense. On occasions we mean that self-deceiving indifference toward an act that is glibly expressed in the words: "Oh, well, whatever he may have meant, I forgive him."

Genuine forgiveness is not a casual act, not a superficial work. The word means a cleansing or a blotting out of transgression. Forgiveness is wrought in the very texture of the soul. It is a deep searching thoroughness of reclamation which invades the subconscious areas and joins the experiences of the soul to the sinless activities of God. It is a fundamental part of the work which we have to do in order to attain salvation of soul and body. It must be made to unite our thoughts, from the beginning of creation, to the purity of God, upon which no act of man can cast a stain.

Our work of forgiveness centers in the self. Each soul that takes on a human body for motives other than those which actuated Jesus Christ has need to learn the use of forgiveness as the Master used it when he prayed that evil deeds might be forgiven in their doers. The prayer that his persecutors might be forgiven came from a consciousness that he had escaped contact with the intended persecution. Inasmuch as he had refused to make contact with the acts, there was in him no offense for him to forgive. But he knew that act and intent react on the soul of their originator. He did not say: "I forgive you." There was no occasion for such words, for he had not received into his consciousness that which would have need of forgiveness. In a fullness of forgiving love which only Divinity encompasses, he prayed that in that exalted identity which he called the Father, the acts might not be lodged to the hurt of the actors. Being one with the Father, he spoke of forgiveness in the highest zones of consciousness, against the time of need in which his persecutors should cry for the blotting out of their transgressions.

The word "debt," as Jesus Christ used it in the Lord's Prayer; the word "transgress," and the word "trespass," have virtually the same meaning. They indicate a crossing, as of a line of demarcation, a passing from a direct line of action into a zone that lies outside the original specifications of the soul's activities. Sin is committed when we determine to follow a line of action not identical with God's creative process. We transgress the law of the absolute when in a finite capacity we attempt to do what belongs to God in an infinite capacity. From the time in our soul's history when we first desired to incarnate, we have needed forgiveness. Original sin is the passing over from Spirit to matter, the carrying of the Image-Likeness into fleshly incarnation. The radiations of God's Spirit bring forth and sustain his creations. Individually God's creation is the man to whom He gives dominion over impulses and desires. We transgress, cross his radiations, when we develop a shadow man to till the ground of human desire, for in so doing we focus our interests and our operations in the zone where time and matter operate. The story of the prodigal son is an allegory that shows transgression to be a crossing over from the Father's house into the alien kingdoms of shadow substance and evanescent joys, and a recrossing in return to the realms of His abode.

Knowing what constitutes transgression, we know how to become forgiven: We must return to our original relationship with God.

Forgiveness does not come from God, because God does not receive offense. The forgiveness that restores us to him, that leads us back into the zone where his radiations directly and perfectly sustain us, is a return on our part into that holy union with him in which his Spirit absorbs, transmutes whatever there may be in us that is foreign to itself. The work of transmutation that is performed by his Spirit is what is meant whenever allusion is made to God's forgiveness of sin. God forgives us in the sense that he, radiating from us, annuls all conditions and results not native to himself. Forgiveness is a unionizing of the soul with God, comparable to the raindrop's reception by the sea.

God is as the sea which receives the drop, the tributary, the glacial flow, and makes these waters to become its own. The little torrent froths down the yellow cliffs of clay; the muddy water is received into the body of the universal deep and becomes again a part of that which it forsook, that in which it has salvation and perpetuation. Our souls, with the petulance, the turbulence, the hates, the worries, and the doubts that now or ever have been given temporary life by us, are received into God by a process of merging, and the merging is forgiveness. At the instant of the soul's being received into God the traits that are not of God are obliterated, and we then have become partakers in the Jesus Christ forgiveness.

Jesus Christ taught that judgment does not come from God but from man. God does not know offense, therefore he cannot judge. Man knows offense, and man judges. Receiving offense and forming judgments, together constitute transgression; they carry the soul across the direct radiations of God into the world of finite and changeable states. Because man knows offense he must forgive, and his forgiveness never can have effect anywhere save in his own consciousness. The forgiveness which he practices sets him right with God, and this restored relationship automatically sets him right with his fellow men and all the other objects in his environment.

Those who forgive specifically and vicariously do the works of Jesus Christ. When the Master prayed that his persecutors might be forgiven, he prepared the way by which they might return when they should realize how greatly they had transgressed the radiations of that divine love which we call God. It was a transcendent influence for the quickening of God's love in them. One who prays understandingly for one who does not understand, sets, so to speak, a beacon aflame in a Stygian morass, to which the wanderer comes and by that light kindles his extinguished torch. Forgiveness flowed from the Master as brilliancy flows from the sun, because he was God in a veil of incarnation so sheer that the world saw his divinity.

Because it makes us right with God, forgiveness heals all ills, makes the weak strong, the cowardly courageous, the ignorant wise, the mournful happy. It removes inhibitions from ability and sweeps aside the impediments that have caused us delays and stumblings in our race toward God. When we are directly sustained by the radiations of God, God fills us, and we become again his, as in the perfection of the sixth day, when we stood divinely fashioned in the light of his creative era.

Our recrossing the lines of trespass is not wholly left to our initiative. The Spirit of God never forsakes the soul. It speaks to all who are in the strange country of trespass and it desists not until its voice is heeded and we retrace our ways back to God and his conscious immortality.

Any one who experiences pain has transgressed; he has need of the forgiveness which Jesus Christ exercised in the Father. Any one who finds himself in an unpleasant circumstance must, if he would have release, avail himself of the forgiving principle which Jesus Christ employed. Whenever there is suffering, whenever there is unhappiness, whenever there is restlessness, then is the time to pray forgivingly, that we may be brought again into line with the direct radiations of God. The evidence of transgression is dissatisfaction of some kind. Forgiveness is a blotting out of the transgression; it cannot operate while we occupy the place reached by crossing over from God's direct radiations. In its deepest sense, forgiveness means a restoration of the conditions and the associations which existed before the transgression was performed.

It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend why the mental act of forgiveness wipes out the offense and makes conditions to be as they were previous to the transgression. The matter becomes plain when we remember that life is spiritual and that the mind is the agent or the active principle in Spirit. To receive offense, we ourselves must have crossed over the lines of radiation from God's mind. Having crossed over, our minds see an act obliquely, and the obliquity of our vision reacts in our minds as offense. When we return to God the act may still exist or it may be repeated; but because the divine radiations do not move in judgment, we do not judge when we are in line with God's mind. Not judging, we are not offended.

The personal part is always the difficult part, the source of the direct offense. One may say of another: "I thought him to be my friend; but I found him false, and I was deeply hurt." We should not be hurt by what any one does; we cannot afford to be hurt by any act, for hurt of any kind scars the soul and works as an illness in the flesh. The illness will not be healed fully while we continue to be hurt, and the scar will not be absorbed until we come back into the mind of God where no offense registers; where the direct radiations of his love forgive the effect of transgression. If we carry friendship over the boundaries of Divinity and hold it in humanity, we shall receive shock after shock, each more painful and amazing than a physical blow could be. In the zone of humanity we cannot demand of another conformity with our ideals of uprightness. We cannot justify a hurt by saying that we expect loyalty, honesty, and tender regard from our associates. We may expect these in life, but we ourselves must see that they are present, self-provided. If others offend us the forgiveness due the situation is not to be exercised toward the offenders, but toward ourselves for having expected of the human what we can find only in the divine. We cannot hold others to account for their failure to meet our demands of them. We must come into the direct radiations of God where his vision shows us that he is taking an individual course in each soul and that his course is beyond criticism.

There is the casual offense. We are offended by the way in which things in the world are going, offended by the acts of officials and others who influence the trend of events in world relationships. To permit ourselves to be hurt is to transgress; is to pass from the calm of God's mind to the vortexes of human mentality. Life is activity. Each person in the world has his own scheme of life, which he tries to forward. He acts in the way which he thinks will promote his own ideas. God does not take offense at these acts; if we take offense at them it is because we think that our scheme is the universal scheme. The act is wrong to the one who sees it as wrong; it is not wrong to the one who sees no wrong in it. When Jesus Christ ministered in the flesh his acts were extreme offenses to many, so extreme that because of them he was crucified — He who did no man ill, but all men good.

We are offended in a minor degree by those who break the civil or the moral law. Our offense is a burden to us and no help to the lawbreaker; it does not mend the breach created by the illegal act. It is unrewarded suffering. An infracted law has within its own actions the power to bring the infractor to atonement. The sufferings that result from breaking the law are the law's lessons in forgiveness — its efforts to bring infractors into peaceful relations with itself.

With the direct offense, the casual offense, and the minor offense, the method of forgiving is the same: We are to come into line with God's radiations; let God's vision be our vision; look not upon the act but upon the actor; say to him:

"I give you Godspeed Godward."

Jesus Christ shows us how we may be forgiven a consciousness of offense held against us by others. He said, in speaking of offerings: "If thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." He did not say that we must withhold our gifts until our brother is reconciled to us. When we get the offense out of our own hearts we are again one with God, we are forgiven, and can offer our gifts. The reconciliation which we bring about in ourselves will have its effect on our brother, and there will be a forgiveness on his part toward us. When this occurs the law completes its healing processes.

In that period of the soul's history which is called Old Testament times, man required symbolical expressions of atonement for mistakes. He had to see with his eyes that which he thought would accomplish the forgiveness needed. But since the Christ of God has taught us the forgiving process, at which the symbol hints, we understand that both sin and forgiveness, both offense and atonement are fundamentally esoteric. We also understand that the complete reconciliation is found in a relationship with God which keeps us from being offended by anything. The whole matter is contained in the words: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Forgiveness begins with the one who recognizes offense. Having summarized the law, the Master explained that if we do not forgive the Father will not forgive. What we hold in mind is part of us: Holding condemnation, we are condemned; unoffended, we are unoffending. Condemnation locks the Jehovah door between man and God, and thus prevents a free expression of God's nature in the soul. Abstention from condemnation keeps the Jehovah door open, and through the open door God pours himself into the soul, completing the forgiving transmutations.

When we understand that the Jesus Christ forgiveness is God's nature expressing in consciousness, we also understand that condemnation fetters the soul, mars it, and depletes its loveliness. Remembering that God does not condemn, we accord with God's nature in every event, and say: "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." We lift consciousness above the zone of human intrigue and human hurt; we protect our souls from the violence of offense, whatever may be the source or the aspect of the act. We come into the zone of the direct radiations of God's mind, and we see the futility of any act that would violate the nature of his eternal and ever-present good. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."

To accomplish forgiveness within ourselves we must pray God to release in us his forgiving love, the love that does not take offense. We must let that love bring its light and cleansing and innocence into the inner chambers of consciousness, that there may no longer hide in us any offense, any hurt, any sorrow.

We must ask the Spirit of God to teach us how to forgive ourselves by revealing Him as the life which we have called our lives; to help us to remember His perfection in us, so that we shall not be offended with ourselves when we do not understand what is taking place within our souls.

We must ask the mind of God to remember in us that each soul is yielding as fully as it knows how, to the expression of God.

Let us pray God's love to be patient in us, if things seem not wise or right; let us pray God's wisdom to prompt us to feel that He is working everywhere to radiate his glory from this planet.

O God of love and forgiveness, love and forgive in me.

All that has offended me I forgive. Whatever has made me bitter, unhappy, or restless, I forgive. From henceforth I shall remember that thy Spirit animating me and all others is perfect, holy; that thy presence makes this planet heaven.

I forgive everything that I have remembered as offense; I forgive everything which, not remembering, may have been offense to me. If there be in the depths of subconsciousness that which holds itself as offense, I forgive; I let it go, and can no more be offended by it.

I forgive, that thy love may cleanse my soul; that thy life may flow through my flesh and make me again to be the undisguised Image-Likeness. I forgive the ignorance of the past, and from this moment I hold thy mind to be my mind, that the Light Eternal may make bright the paths of my soul. Within and without, in the past, in the present, and in the things to come, I forgive; I forgive; I forgive.