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Some Observations on “A Course in Miracles”
I believe that it was in 1987 when I first heard about A Course in Miracles. Someone had loaned me a copy and I gave it a brief, cursory, reading. Since then I’ve been following the growing influence of this book in the Western world with great intrigue. Two years ago I purchased a copy of my own for $25 and read through its 1200 pages much more thoroughly, although admittedly not word for word. Then, in preparation for this paper, I contacted a friend and neighbor whom I’ll call Eric. Eric says he’s no expert on the Course, but I consider him to be far better versed in the work than myself. Eric was helpful in answering a number of my questions by phone, and the next day he stopped by my office for what amounted to a two-hour interview. What follows here are a number of personal observations based on that interview, as well as on my own study and understanding of this text to date.
A Course in Miracles was first published in 1975 by The Foundation for Inner Peace (based in Glen Ellen, California). Since 1975, according to the Foundation, 800,000 copies of the book have been sold worldwide. The Course is also available on audio tape. Recently I spotted the image of actor Richard “John-Boy Walton” Thomas on a huge, cardboard, promotional poster, just inside the entrance of a B. Dalton bookstore. Thomas was being advertised as a Course reader.
The human “scribe” of A Course in Miracles was Helen Schucman, a now deceased Jewish psychologist. Dr. Schucman describes how, beginning in the 1960s, she took dictation from what she called “the Voice”. The head of her Psychology department at Columbia University, Dr. William Thetford, aided and encouraged her in the work.
According to a 1991 article in Time magazine, the Course “has spawned an informal network of more than 1,000 study groups based on its introspective meditational program.” If true, that averages over 20 groups per state. Thousands of people, some no doubt living near you, give great credibility to this work. My own neighbor and friend, Eric, along with his wife, have given an introductory series to the Course in our area, and presently lead a weekly study group which uses the Course as a basis for discussion and personal, spiritual, growth.
Many books have been published in recent years in connection with the so-called New Age movement. But if there is one text among them that is to many American ‘New Agers’ what the Bible is to evangelical Christians, it is A Course in Miracles. When asked where he believes the Course really came from, Eric told me, “From a spiritual entity, a spiritual dimension beyond our own…” “But”, he said, “what is most important about A Course in Miracles to me is that I’ve been able to work through fears that block the awareness of love’s presence in my life.” He went on to talk about a “loving allowance”, which he defined as “not being judgmental; allowing everybody to discover their own personal course to God.” Eric said, “The operative word and theme of the Course is forgiveness.” The Course’s ‘miracles’ occur as such insights are allowed to begin to produce peace and well-being where there was fear, judgment, and ‘unhelpful’ patterns of behavior in the life of the student.
A Course in Miracles is heavy reading by any standard. As is often true for many westerners when reading the scriptures of any Eastern religion for the first time, there is the initial impression of totally nonsensical double-muddle-talk. With more understanding, however, it becomes very clear that the language of the Course is consistent with the typically syncretistic thought forms of the East (although this in no way serves to validate syncretism itself). Here are a few samples from the tome: “To you the miracle cannot seem natural, because what you have done to hurt your mind has made it so unnatural that it does not remember what is natural to it. And when you are told what is natural, you cannot understand it (Text, p309). Minds that are joined and recognize they are, can feel no guilt. For they cannot attack, and they rejoice that this is so, seeing their safety in this happy fact (Text, p489). The body represents the gap between the little bit of mind you call your own and all the rest of what is really yours. (Text, p560). One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth (Workbook, p297). Illusions will not last. Their death is sure and this alone is certain in their world. It is the ego’s world because of this (Manual, p77).”
A Course in Miracles is, in many ways, nothing more or less than a modern, amalgamated, somewhat westernized (perhaps even a bit Judaized) variant of the ancient Eastern world views of Hinduism, Taoism, et al. The similarities are striking, unmistakable, and a sure tip off to me as to the true identity of Helen Schucman’s “Voice”. Certainly there is also much in the Course that is similar to Christianity but, in the end, these two stand absolutely irreconcilable. The Course often uses Judeo-Christian terminology to refer to New Age / ancient Eastern concepts that are categorically contradictory to a literal interpretation of the Bible. There is, frankly, no logical way to have it both ways or, as the Course intimates, all ways. One must choose. The basic thought form of one system is truth; of the other, error.
Now, Eric, let me address this final word more directly to you. I respect you. I know you to be a thoughtful man. I also know that you are altogether sincere in your present commitment to the Course. And I realize that you are fully persuaded that its guidance really has “worked” for you to date. Yet neither sincerity nor pragmatism are necessarily a guarantee of truth. Eric, I have read and carefully considered the Course. Would you agree to do three things for me?
1. Consider a few of the most basic assumptions of historic, orthodox, Christianity-the oldest faith system in the world. All rivers do not come from the same spring. There really is an objective evil out there. Humans will not “merge” with God or a “common consciousness” some day. Rather, we will individually, personally, stand before God (a separate Being) to give an account for what has happened to the real sin in our lives while on earth. Now consider the implications for you if I’m right and you’re wrong about all this versus the implications for me if I’m wrong and you’re right.
2. Carefully read and contrast the following Bible texts with these excerpts from the Course, always remembering that “A can never equal non-A”. Regardless of what you may be inclined to believe, these two sets are mutually exclusive.
A Course in Miracles: “No one remains in hell…” (p233, WB); “Salvation comes from my one Self” (p167,WB); “My Self is ruler of the Universe” (p411,WB); “Let me remember that there is no sin” (p414,WB); “I am the holy Son of God Himself” (p353,WB). “My holiness is my salvation” (p60,WB).
The Bible: Galatians 1:6-9; Genesis 3:1ff; Matthew 10:28; Revelation 14:11; Colossians 2:9; John 10:7-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:36; Psalm 51:4; Romans 3:23, 6:23; Jeremiah 10:12; John.14:6; Hebrews 9:27
3. Let’s get together again, in a spirit of good will, to further pursue our discussion of these critical matters.