Of Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a contemporary English exposition of radical non-dualism, written with a Christian symbolic image-language, and presented in a large volume that is easily called ‘biblical’ in its scope, import and intentions. It is comprised of three sections: the largest is the text (700 pages) which is the exposition of the philosophy itself, the workbook comprised of exercises meant to help the student embody the teachings he has been theoretically learning in the text, and then the manual for teachers which is the smallest piece (written in fact for students) meant to assist the student in the ideal that to teach is the best way to learn.

                This book has arguably inspired the greatest of the English, north American spiritual literature of the last half of the 29th century. It was written in 1976 by Dr. Helen Shucman who states that in writing this, she was actually acting as a scribe to the words of Christ, who dictated to her. It is considered by many teachers – even those whose teaching depends on it or at least draws from its wisdom – to be impenetrable and even sometimes a waste time. Authors such as Paul Ferrini – who I would put into this category (though I don’t know how he would presently feel about this) have said that people should basically burn the book and certainly not read it.

                It is certainly not widely read, though it is tremendously well referenced. I myself know literally zero persons who have actually read the text (but to be clear I don’t know many who might be interested).   I think there are a few reasons for this: one is that the language of the text is of an idiom that is not an English that is familiar to contemporary north americans. In fact it is set in a prose that is often in iambic pentameter (non-rhyming) which if you don’t know, is the same format that Shakespeare used. So you can imagine taking Shakespeare, modernizing the language, and writing 700 pages of non-rhyming prose on intricately detailed psycho-spiritual philosophy. You can get a sense that it might be considered difficult to read. It is certainly not a page turner for even the most devoted.    

But that is just one reason – the other reason is the simple fact that the spiritual philosophy that it professes is completely foreign to the Westerner and extremely difficult to wrap one’s mind around. In fact even most of the authors that I have seen who either draw on the course or even pose to be teachers, they themselves pose horrendous errors in how they portray the course, and virtually seem to refuse what the course says, likely mostly because it is simply so challenging to accept what the course is actually saying without interpreting it through a Judaeo-Christian lens.

                As for myself, having first studied Vedanta and the non-dualism of the eastern traditions, like Ramana Maharshi, pure Taoism, old Zen writings, the writings of Shankara, since I read those first before coming to ACIM, I was able to see what one author (I believe Bill Thetford) said – that ACIM is like a Christian Vedanta. It is the end word. It is nondualism expressed in a language of our time. It is likely one of the most important writings of our time and I would liken it to the early writings of the Bible – that were certainly not recognized for their importance in their first hundred years at least. However it is a blessing that such a pure teaching has come in a language of our Judaeo- Christian heritage, reimagining some of the cryptic and debated words from the Christian theology and making them new in an expression of non-duality. I am pleased that it is allowing me greater appreciation and entry into the theology of Christianity, allowing me to appreciate some of the symbols and words and music and scripture that surrounds me here in this culture – but giving me meaning that I can relate to. Even if the words of the course are from a human mind and not from the supposed Christ presence, this is a stroke of daring genius. For though non-dualism is The Way, however you want to call it – to express it in the language that is arguably the most important language on the planet (and the only one not to have its own expression of this pure spirituality in a popularized sense) is a long overdue act.

I am currently reading the text, the commentaries, and the workbook with 365 lessons – intended for one a day for a year – but I am finding it impossible to do at this rate. I have been diligent at this for at least seven months, but have only reached lesson 120 or so.

                I did try to read this book once about ten years ago. But I guess I wasn’t ready for it. But now for some reason it is fresh, it is engaging, it is alive and intriguing and incredible. And I am constantly amazed at the fierce, radical and unswervingly ‘airtight’ theology of nondualism expressed in this course that just refuses to budge. It challenges us on the most fundamental levels. And indeed, if we want to make change in this world, this is precisely what must be done – we must question and think utterly outside the box, and find solutions on a level different from that of the questions. ACIM suggests and helps us do exactly that.

                I am not suggesting this course to anyone. You have certainly read things that are inspired by it. I am amazed and humbled to tears that some of the things that came through me in my earlier book, LAG, were almost copied from ACIM, and I had no idea. No wonder people would talk to me about it. I had one man come up to me after a session at a Unity church and say with a cheeky smirk, “Well you’ve obviously studied ACIM and know it inside and out.” And I had to reply, “No. sorry. Never even read it.” I don’t think he believed me. Whatever. I’m glad that I’ve come to it now and I wonder how long it will satisfy my spirituality? Maybe I’ll let you know in a few years when I’ve finished reading it and doing the workbook – for the first time…