Survey of A Course in Miracles

Survey of A Course In Miracles
Metaphysics Dept MET580

A Course in Miracles is a strange blue book that talks about Jesus and Christianity in very different and metaphysical ways…

Please read the excerpt below from one of my favorite books, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley & Jay Kinney.  This section is from the chapter entitled “Finding the Inner Christ: Esoteric Christianity” and discusses A Course in Miracles.

A Course in Miracles
To believe in God, must we believe in the Devil?  The more orthodox versions of Christianity say we must.  Even the Lord’s Prayer implores the Almighty to "deliver us from evil" — which the original Greek states more clearly as "the evil one."  Nevertheless, some versions of Christianity see the dark powers of the world from a different perspective.  Among the most popular of these today is one expounded in a strange blue-bound book entitled A Course in Miracles.

The Course, as its admirers call it, is an anomaly in Christian history.  Most Christian mystical writings are considered to have been written by humans on earth — inspired by the Holy Spirit, perhaps, or informed by a deep inner experience, but still composed more or less in the ordinary manner.  Not so the Course.  Dictated to a skeptical New York psychologist named Helen Schucman in the 1960s and 1970s by an inner voice claiming to be that of Jesus Christ himself, it thus falls into the burgeoning category of "channeled" materials, meaning that those who wrote them down believed they were transmitting them from a source outside their own minds.[31]

The Course, which has attracted a large following since its publication in 1975, inspiring a number of best-selling books by Marianne Williamson and Jerry Jampolsky, is not a religion or a church.  To enter its world, one simply needs to get hold of the book (originally bound in three volumes consisting of a "Text," a "Workbook," and "A Manual for Teachers," today they are available in a single volume) and do the assignments — for the term "course" applies very literally.   The heart of the Course is its Workbook containing 365 daily lessons, whose goal it is to undo "false perception" and help the student acquire "true perception."[32]

"False perception," according to the Course, is the world we see — a world of bodies, of distinctions, of separation.  The "real world," on the other hand, can only be seen thru the eyes of forgiveness, which acknowledges that all evil is merely delusion and that God’s love is the only reality.

The Course also focuses on a personal relationship with Jesus, less as God and savior than as an "elder brother" who would show us the way.  This idea, combined with its view that the physical world is the result of error and delusion (the Course recognizes no conscious figure of evil like the Devil), sets it apart from conventional Christianity.  That may explain why the Course has been most welcomed in New Age circles that emphasize positive thinking.

The Course teaches that in the beginning "God extended Himself to His creations and imbued them with the same loving will to create."[33]  This collective creation is known in the Course as the "Son" or the "Sonship" and includes not only Jesus Christ but each of us.  Regarding the historical Jesus, the Course says, "Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you."[34]

At some point, however, the Son chose to exercise his free will and believed he could be separate from God.  Hence the Fall or "separation," which engenders the illusion that we exist as beings independent from each other and from God.  Indeed the closest thing the Course has to the Devil is what it calls "the ego."  The Fall encompasses the world we ordinarily see — time, space, the physical realm, even our own bodies.

The remedy God has given in response is known as the Atonement, also known as the Holy Spirit.  According to the Course, "Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit," who "has established Jesus as the leader in carrying out his plan since he was the first to complete his own part perfectly.  All power in Heaven and earth is therefore given him and he will share it with you when you have completed yours."[35]

In contrast to conventional Christianity, this representation of the Atonement ultimately consists of recognizing that the Fall never really occurred.  God’s will cannot be gainsaid.  For this reason miracles are not only possible but "natural. When they do not occur something has gone wrong…. Miracles transcend the body. They are sudden shifts into invisibility, away from the bodily level.  That is why they heal."[36]

What can one make of the Course?  It’s impossible to say whether it was telepathically dictated by Jesus Christ — how could anyone tell? Even comparing it with Christ’s words in the Gospels in useless, since the Course insists that the Apostles got parts of his message wrong.  (Many modern scholars agree.)

In a sense, the Course’s popularizers have done it a disservice in weakening its insights, making it sound much like another update of the gospel of positive thinking.  In its hard-headed rigor it resembles the teaching of the Desert Fathers, urging students to scrutinize their minds for "attack thoughts" or "grievances," which, the Course says, "hide the light of the world in me."[37]  However, it differs from the teaching of the Desert Fathers, and from much of Christianity, in seeing the consequences of the Fall not as sin, but as a belief in sin.

Some have said the Course is ultimately not Christian at all.  The Course’s notion of Atonement, for example, is not the conventional Christian one:  the book claims that "the crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did."[38]  It even speaks of the journey to the cross as "the last useless journey."[39]  Yet esoteric Christianity embraces a vast landscape of theologies, and in its inner "turning" toward God thru the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Course is indeed Christian.  How one will reconcile it with other versions of Christianity will in the end depend upon one’s own beliefs and experience.



— The Preceding is an excerpt from the marvelous book, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, a book which is required reading for our very advanced Mystery School initiates (not required for you) where we have a set of lessons for each chapter.  Hidden Wisdom is an enjoyable read that covers so much.

What others say about A Course in Miracles

Linda Seekins, wrote to the GoddessChristians forum on 8-25-08:

… I [have been] reading the Course in Miracles [and find it] completely masculine in terminology, without one mention of the female in it. I tried to read the female into this [material] so that I could absorb the message of the Course. But in recent days it was becoming more and more irritating to me for my gender to be completely left out of it. If this actually became the main scripture of the Aquarian Age [as some are hailing it], it could lead to the same abuses we women have suffered in the previous age due to literalist readings of it as only applying to men, and that the Goddess does not exist.

And, more personally, I am noticing that the Course is becoming tedious to read, for there is a repetitiousness to it that I’ve found to be putting me to sleep instead of awakening me. Having studied the Gnostic and Eastern teachings and writings, I already know most of the message of the Course, so yesterday, I decided to set it aside for a while. I might or might not go back to it at a later date, but for now I’m moving on to other things.

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In response to Linda’s thoughts above, +Katia wrote to the GoddessChristians and EsotericChristians forums on 8-25-08:

Now I know why I could never get thru "the Course", couldn’t even make a dent in it.  Thanks for reminding me.  All male language, not one whisper of the Feminine Divine.  Yikes.  I remember when A Course in Miracles became the study group rage in the pre-Internet days of the early 1980s.  A Newspaper ad in the classified section of my hometown paper beckoned me to attend one such local study group.  Young as I was (20), I went, because it was alternative Christianity they said, and I was thirsty for that.  I was the youngest person there and there were at least twenty people.

I bought the book, the workbook, etc. attended three or four meetings, but never did it "click".   I couldn’t understand why.  Just completing the reading of a single page was rough going.  I remember thinking, what’s wrong with me?  Why don’t these pages sing to me?  I was only 20, so probably that was the "problem."  Hee hee.  I went back to all there was on the "trendy alternative religion" scene in those days – to what was "singing" to me — Gnosis Magazine and a few other publications.  Had to wait another decade for Margaret Starbird’s Woman With the Alabaster Jar to hit the scene!

Anyway almost every metaphysical school nowadays swears by the Course in Miracles, and I’ve read comparisons of it to the Eckhart Tolle teachings.  Some of our students at the Mystery School mention having studied it in depth.  One even suggested we do a set of lessons or reading program on the Course — and really I would like to do that.  But alas, it still falls flat for me.  Now I know another reason why, the lack of the Divine Feminine.  I mean, I am sure I must’ve noticed the exclusively patriarchal language, but then again I couldn’t read very far into the book….

  Several years ago I read what Richard Smoley wrote about A Course in Miracles in his book Hidden Wisdom (co-written with fellow Gnosis editor, Jay Kinney).  On pages 64 – 66 of Hidden Wisdom, Smoley wrote the section on the Course in Miracles which was the introduction to this lesson.  After reading that I thought, well harumph, if Jesus’ march to the cross was “the last useless journey,” I am not sure why Jesus even did it, then.  Surely Jesus knew what he was doing.  Something just rubs me a bit wrong about the Course, I guess.  Maybe I am being too hard on it since so many people love it.  What Linda says is a good point however, that if the Course is considered the main scripture of the Aquarian Age, it might lead to more stifling of the Feminine Principle and more sexism inherent in religion.  As if we need more of that.
The famous Aquarian Gospel is also said to be the New Age scripture.  I wonder if it has all-male language.


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After reading all of the above, now please read the Wiki entry on The Course in Miracles and come back to answer the following questions:

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Cut and paste the following questions into an email, insert your answers and send to the seminary with the subject line, "Course in Miracles answers from _________ (your name)"

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1.  Have you read A Course in Miracles?  If so, tell how much you read it, how many of its assignments you did, if you attended any real-live gatherings on the topic, etc.  Please give as much detail as possible as to your study and work with A Course in Miracles.  Also tell how long ago you first read it, and if you have recently read it or worked (or are currently working) with it. If you have NOT read the Course, please write two paragraphs in your own words describing what A Course in Miracles is.

2.  What do you think of the Course?  Do you agree with its “theology”?

3.  If you had to write a review of the book A Course in Miracles for Amazon, what would you write?

4.  Please comment on what Linda Seekins and +Katia wrote about their impressions of the Course.  In what ways do you agree or disagree with them?

5.  Please comment on what Richard Smoley wrote about the Course in his book Hidden Wisdom (excerpted above).  In what ways do you agree or disagree with him?

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