Why are you on this page?

Are you really sure you want to know more about A Course In Miracles? I mean, really sure? I’ll give you a minute to reflect…

Time’s up! It’s too late.

Why would I ask this question? Only because so many of us who have been studying this text have regretted at one time or another the day we first put our hands on the ‘big blue book’! And it’s a bit of a one way street – once you’ve tasted the sweetness of this fruit, once the poetry soothes your heart and the magic of the words wakens within you a certitude that you are joined on your path by a truly mighty companion, you will not ever be able to forget it again. Many of us have put the work down, only to come back to it at a later time. There seems to be nothing quite like it.

Is it the sophisticated psychology that manages to finally answer so many questions left over from therapy and other seeking paths? Is it the philosophy, so similar to the ancient Greek thinkers and the earliest Christian Fathers? Is it the fantastic creation myth of the separation, the source of all experience in the physical world? Or the magnificent answer of the Atonement, the reminder of an unblemished innocence, that nothing ever happened to atone for?

Maybe it is the excruciatingly incisive examination of our relationships, special hate and special love, that brings us ten steps closer to actual control over our experience of others (that would be a relief!) But perhaps it’s the workbook, 365 meditations and lessons that resonate years after we have finished completing them.

It’s hard to say precisely what it is about this text that captures the soul so completely. But in the next few pages I have added a few words to the literature already existing about A.C.I.M. in order to give the newcomer a teensy flavor of this work. Yes, here I will attempt the truly impossible – to relate in just a few brief pages the core messages of A.C.I.M.!

Part I gives a very brief, journalistic presentation of the origin and thrust of the Course, principally for those who are completely new to the work.

Part II then seeks to give a more comprehensive overview of its principle theories and the relationship between its ideas (very challenging!). It’s a bit hard going, only because there is so much to relate in as few words as possible. But try to bear with it – the sweet part is at the end!

For a more complete study of the origins, structure and ideas of A.C.I.M., please visit the For Further Study page on this site (or read my book!).

Part I

A Course In Miracles in a (tiny) nutshell

Could you imagine how a respectable doctor in psychology at a prestigious New York hospital must have felt when she began hearing a “voice” in her mind? This was the dilemma that faced Helen Schucman the day she started the work that would eventually be edited and published as A Course In Miracles (ACIM). Experiences such as these were more than likely to be classified as “psychotic” at the time in 1965. Nevertheless, she proceeded to transcribe the voice’s instructions…

“This is a course in miracles. Please take notes…”

One thousand two hundred pages later, the work was finished. What began as a tentative exploration of the voice’s message was eventually to become an extraordinary work of non-dualistic spirituality, translated today into 18 languages, and studied by people the world over. Somewhere, somehow, within the hologram of the illusion, an opening was created for this work to enter, one that would allow many people to discover a vision of non-duality told from a Christian perspective.

Christian? In language, yes. In theology, not at all.

While ACIM uses symbols we in the western world associate quickly with Jesus and his church, terms such as Holy Spirit, Atonement, forgiveness, the meaning given these symbols is diametrically different from those normally understood in this context. The reason? To correct the original errors embedded into a religion ostensibly dedicated to Love. And who does the author think he is, to be so bold as to attempt to correct the Church Fathers? Why, Jesus himself.

The source of the words coming into the mind of Helen Schucman identified itself to her as the Jesus of the Bible. But it is very clear that the spirituality he shares with us has nothing in common with that of the centuries old theology associated with his name. One by one, he corrects the mistakes recorded in the Bible and transmitted to us through Church tradition. In this way he composes a magnificent spiritual symphony pointing directly back to a union, a perfect mystical Oneness that we all share since the beginning of time.

A oneness we all still share, but are unable to see. But why?

Within the illusion of time, the different aspects of the fragmented one ‘Son of God’ have lost sight of their reality. The desire to stay separated individuals remains unseen, and our pain is too often projected onto the ‘movie screen’ of our lives, and keeps us unconscious.

‘True forgiveness’ is the technique ACIM teaches us to use to identify our projections and heal our separating judgments. For it is futile to blame a world that eventually we see does not exist, for our pains and frustrations. Our attention is constantly brought within, back to the mind where we find the ‘miracle’ of clear understanding, and the truth is recognised: there is no real separation, our original state is still perfectly intact and enfolds us once more in Peace.

Part II

The Philosophy and Practice of A Course In Miracles (A.C.I.M.) – briefly

1. A Course In Miracles is a complete spiritual philosophy, providing us with a sophisticated system of thought, the purpose of which is to bring us into greater peace, through greater clarity of mind. Its particularity lies in the usefulness of its concepts in our daily lives, all the while keeping us focused on the highest aspiration of the spirit: achieving perfect integration with our divine origin. Since the underlying paradigm of its philosophy is based on the idea of a separation from our origin (a state of perfect ‘Oneness’), its process is to heal the separation we feel that divides us from other people. Our relationships thus become the focus of our work, healing ourselves of our separating thoughts, which brings us back into a state of mind where we recognize once more the truth of omnipresent Oneness. A.C.I.M. belongs to the family of non-dualistic teachings, but draws extensively on the work of Sigmund Freud, which underpin its ego-centered psychology. In this way it could conceivably be called a type of ‘Freudian Vedanta’.

2. The language of A.C.I.M. is purposively Christian. It should be noted that A.C.I.M. came to us as a practical philosophy, but also as a correction for Christianity. For this reason A.C.I.M. uses the symbols of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Atonement, and many others associated with the Christian tradition, but re-interprets them in a non-dualistic framework. The reader should be aware that the underlying theology of A.C.I.M. is diametrically different from that of the Bible and should not be confused with that text.

3. The pedagogical focus of A.C.I.M. is the correction of our thoughts. We have allowed a foreign thought system to enter our minds; it is Jesus’ role to explain to us what this erroneous system is, and to encourage us to make the contrast with the thoughts he is supplying us with, in order to make the choice to think with him more and more. Making these every day corrections to our thoughts, we slowly climb the ladder back up the way we descended. Over time we gain in peacefulness, harmony and clarity. Eventually we see the world as it really is, our vision is healed, and we are just a step away from our eternal oneness with our Father.

4. The theology of A.C.I.M. is based on the idea of a separation that seemed to occur when the Son of God attempted to divide himself from his Source, the Holy Father; the ‘Father’ being an original state of Love, of unity, formless and infinite, encompassing all things, while the ‘Son of God’ is the creation or extension of the Father and is indivisible from his Source. Jesus instructs us in a fundamental principle of his course (the Atonement principle) when he tells us that this separation never actually occurred, and only appears to have happened within the Son of God’s mind. As this separation cannot have happened in reality but the Son of God believes it has, we learn that the Son of God’s mind is lost in a deep sleep, and the world surrounding him appears within a dream world.

5. The decision the Son made to separate gave birth to a thought system based on the powerful concepts of sin, guilt and fear. The now (seemingly) separated Son’s mind was filled with the idea of ‘having wrought wrong’ (‘sin’), as a result of having separated from its Source; the mortifying experience of this sin is ‘guilt’; and the obviously terrifying expectation of retribution is known as ‘fear’. With such painful notions filling the sleeping Son’s mind, he imagines a further splitting away from the Source, fabricating an entire imaginary material universe as his new ‘home’ (the Big Bang). Still unsatisfied, the Son divides itself into billions upon billions of miniscule fragments that became all things associated within the phenomenal universe, of which human beings are only one small part.

6. Every divided fragment within this dream world contains the original dynamic of sin-guilt-fear, a dynamic that underpins all personal experience here as human beings. This experience of ‘being human’ is thus one of the utmost pain, since it is based on a separation, an exile, from the source of Love, from Reality, from our Home. This pain can often go unrecognised in our lives since we have become very adept at adjusting to the level of anxiety and loneliness that fills our minds by maintaining what the Course calls ‘special relationships’ with certain people, situations, activities and objects.

7. Since the Son of God has lost himself in dreams of pain, he needs a Voice of Wisdom coming from his Home to remind him of his true identity. The Holy Spirit is this Voice, who recognizes our illusions while never believing in them. Each fragment (human being) within the dream world remains One even within the separation, and carries within himself the capacity to hear the Holy Spirit’s Voice. Jesus is the name of an older brother who has preceded us in completely healing his mind. As such, he remains present with each of his divided brothers to guide them to listen to the Holy Spirit’s Voice, the voice that corrects our erroneous thoughts and brings them back to the truth. The Holy Spirit and Jesus are present in our ‘right mind’, while the ego dominates the ‘wrong mind’, that part of our spirit identified with the separation from God.

8. While we experience ourselves as human beings, our reality is purely mind or disembodied thought. The Course is formal on this point: pain and pleasure are not experiences that occur within the world between bodies; they are sensations we allow and provoke within our minds, independent of the actions of others. The mind, in fact, has a relationship with the body much as a computer gamer has a relationship with his figure on the computer screen. To all intents and purposes, the gamer ‘becomes’ the figure on the screen while playing the game. In this case, the screen is the three-dimensional, holographic image of our bodies and the world. As such, our feelings and experiences are not within the figure on the screen, though we may indeed experience them that way, sometimes very acutely. This is quite similar to the experience we have sitting in a cinema watching a film that excites or moves us. We relate to the actors and the scenes ‘as if’ they were real (knowing quite well they are not), and we allow ourselves to become immersed in this artificial world of sights and colors, precisely in order to have these feelings of fear, excitement, ecstasy, fear and sadness.

9. As the sleeping Sons of God, we are no longer aware that we are not, in truth, the suffering dream figures we see in our dreams. Neither are we aware of the real difference between pain and true happiness. Jesus understands our confusion, and begins his instruction by teaching us that everything in our current thought system leads to pain, while everything he will teach us will lead to peace. Contrast is his principle tool in motivating us along the path. We are not happy while following the ego’s guidance; we will be happier by following his. His goal is ultimately to have us become aware of being the dreamer of our dream (of being a body), no longer believing we are merely a figure in a world in which we are systematically victims, or unsatisfied, frustrated seekers after happiness.

10. The ego’s principle objective is to keep the sleeping Son of God’s mind in a state of separation, and to prevent it from returning inward to the Love and Oneness that are always present. It manages this by filling the mind with such pain and fear that the mind seeks to escape by immersing itself completely in the fragmented, human experience. The mind then attempts to rid itself of this guilt and pain by expelling them onto the surrounding scenes of its dream life (relationships, work, health, etc.) in the act we call ‘projection’. In this way the ego seeks to maintain the illusion of separation, but have the resulting experience be that the attendant pain come from others, and not from oneself. The responsibility for the pain of the choice for separation (a conveniently forgotten choice) thus sits firmly on the shoulders of the world, its events and conditions, and of those individuals who people our lives and cause us such distress. This trick of the ego in this way effectively disguises the real origin of our suffering in an elaborate game of projection and denial.

11. The experience to which this leads the individual is that of feelings such as ‘things are being done to me,’ and his automatic reaction is to blame. The ego’s reasoning is that if ever we manage to convince ourselves, and others, of the valid, justifiable reasons for our suffering, then we shall never be accused of the crime we have secretly accused ourselves of, namely the destruction of Oneness. We will never question the real problem (the imagined ‘crime’ of separation), and so it will go unseen, and unresolved.

12. The ego would maintain, above all, that the outside world is the cause of our psychological, physical experience. Hence the world becomes a place where we must constantly seek for ‘happiness’ (satisfaction through accomplishments, belongings, other individuals – ‘special love relationships’), and avoid ‘pain’ (anything that I esteem affects me negatively – ‘special hate relationships’). Our lives in this way become a desperate struggle to attain a sense of well-being and satisfaction by managing and manipulating the outside world, unconsciously affirming and constantly re-affirming the reality of our individuality and separation.

13. While we believe we are now ‘innocent’ participants in our lives, we are nevertheless unhappy victims, and are often plagued with feelings of sadness, loneliness, shame and fear. It is to this unhappy mind that Jesus speaks, quietly encouraging each one of us to look inward to find another explanation for our experiences. Slowly we learn that we are solely responsible for all our feelings of upset, shame and hate, and begin reversing the projection that has disguised the real cause for so long (the belief in separation). This reversal of projection is the ‘miracle’, an instant in which we ask with a truly open mind, “What is the truth here?” We say, “I do not wish to continue with these painful thoughts and feelings, I am willing to be wrong about my perceptions; other people and the world are not the problem. What is the truth?”

14. Since the purpose of projection is to avoid responsibility for our lack of peace, our attacks always ultimately fall on to specific people, people who become the ‘aggressors’, or ‘evil-doers’ in our lives. Nowhere else, in fact, do we better see the ego’s dynamic of separation than in our relationships with others; people who do not remind us of ‘Oneness’, but of division and vulnerability and sinfulness. The A.C.I.M. process is based on these relationships, working with and observing our thoughts with respect to others, since it is in our inter-personal relationships that we most directly confront our desire to remain a separate personality-identity.

15. The primary technique the Course uses to undo the separating thoughts (sensitivity, blame and judgment) we interpose between ourselves and others is ‘True Forgiveness’. By this special application of the mind, we:

  1. are honest with ourselves, identifying and recognizing our upsets and judgments instead of disguising them (ending denial);
  2. remind ourselves that the pain and frustration we feel are not really caused by another (who is likewise suffering from the same delusions) or by an outside event (life here will always present us with painful images), but come entirely from our personal decision to exclude the presence of Love from our minds (this ends the projection);
  3. realize that the tremendous cost of continuing to pretend that others can be responsible for our upsets is just not worth the price – the sacrifice of peace and genuine happiness ; and
  4. accept that the Love we seek is still present and available for us in each and every instant, when we are willing to accept it. What we truly seek and want is present, now.
  5. 16. While this might all look straightforward, when we try to apply this process in our daily lives, we quickly discover that the Love we seek does not come quite as easily as we would wish. In fact, many times we will continue to attack and blame, remaining sensitive, frustrated and fearful, despite realizing the self-defeating and destructive nature of doing so. What prevents us from practicing True Forgiveness and reaping the rewards of peace is resistance. We might also call this the secondary gain we derive from our upsets, or the unspoken investment in our suffering. When we begin to question the true cause of our upsets, a fear arises within us, that of being wrong about our picture of reality, in fact about our entire personal identity as an individual. This fear is the major obstacle we all face on the path Home, and where, as good students of A.C.I.M., we shall spend a lot of time coming to terms with our hesitation to turn Homeward.

    17. In essence, returning Home ultimately requires questioning every single value we hold about our world and ourselves. While we still remain frightened of the idea of being something ‘other’ than the little individual of our imaginations, we will struggle with our lessons in True Forgiveness. Others will repeatedly appear to us as ‘the’ problem. Nevertheless, forgiving other people for what they ultimately are not doing to us (they are not excluding Love and Peace from our minds, but we are) is the only way to begin to release our minds from the grip of separation, of individuality, of the ego.

    18. Practicing True Forgiveness is simply learning to be kind to ourselves. We have been mistaken; this is no sin. There is no judgment, there is no real separation, Love cannot be destroyed, or excluded forever. As kindness begins to find a place in our hearts with respect to ourselves, we find that our hearts naturally open to others. We include them automatically in this kind perception – we are all brothers and sisters walking a difficult path Homeward. Sameness begins to take the place of difference and competition in our eyes, the reflection of the Oneness we share in our original non-physical state.

    19. Over time, we realize the cost of separation and blame to our experience of joy and peace, and become less and less willing to pay it. Our hearts open to the presence of Love, finding it moment by moment, no longer in some future dream (the Holy Instant). Thus, we understand that nothing ever happened to alter perfect Oneness in any way. It is still perfectly intact, and our reality within It is whole and complete. There was never anything to fear, to search for, or to find. Love was always entirely present, embracing us wholly, even as we sought for it vainly in all the appearances of the world.

    20. In the fullness of time we learn to interpret all events in this world through this lens of Truth. We come to see that, despite appearances of horrendous suffering and catastrophe in the world, and despite our personal stories of failure and shame, the Love that fills our Home is still present and available. Our mind is well on the way to being healed, it is only another step to recognize the true nature of all things and ourselves as One and indivisible with our Source and Origin, our holy and blessed Father.