A Course in Miracles is a complete self-study spiritual thought system. As a three-volume curriculum consisting of a Text, Workbook for Students, and Manual for Teachers, it teaches that the way to universal love and peace—or remembering God—is by undoing guilt through forgiving others. The Course thus focuses on the healing of relationships and making them holy. A Course in Miracles also emphasizes that it is but one version of the universal curriculum, of which there are “many thousands.” Consequently, even though the language of the Course is that of traditional Christianity, it expresses a non-sectarian, non-denominational spirituality. A Course in Miracles therefore is a universal spiritual teaching, not a religion.
The Text presents the theory of the Course and has built into its study the development of the experience of forgiveness that is the Course’s goal for the student. In this regard, A Course in Miracles states that “its goal for you is happiness and peace.” (Text, p. 241) (T-13.II.7:1) The Text also explains the basis for fear and guilt, and how they can be overcome through miracles, which are defined as maximal “expressions of love.” The miracle is defined as the shift in perception from fear to love.
The Workbook for Students consists of 365 lessons, an exercise for each day of the year. This one-year training program begins the process of changing the student’s mind and perception, though it is not intended to bring one’s learning to completion. As stated in the Preface to the Course, “At the end, the reader is left in the hands of his or her own Internal Teacher, Who will direct all subsequent learning as He sees fit.” (Preface: ix)
The Manual for Teachers is written in question-and-answer form and provides answers to some of the more likely questions a student might ask. It also includes clarification of a number of terms the Course uses, explaining them within the theoretical framework of the Text and for their practical application through the Workbook.
A Course in Miracles was “scribed” by Dr. Helen Schucman through a process of inner dictation she identified as coming from Jesus. A clinical and research psychologist and tenured Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, she was assisted by Dr. William Thetford, her department head, who was also a tenured Professor of Medical Psychology at the Medical Center where they both worked.
A Course in Miracles was first published in 1975, the year Dr. Schucman assigned copyright of the Course to the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP). In 1996 FIP assigned the copyright and trademark to the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM). There are currently about three million copies of the Course in circulation worldwide. Translations in Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish are also available, with many other translations now in progress.
What exactly, then, is A Course in Miracles? The summary introduction, which appears in its Text, is quite succinct and brief. It reads:
“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”
This Course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.”
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Fifteen years of studying the book A Course in Miracles has taught me something I have always wanted, but didn’t know how to achieve. Freedom. The Course was “given” in thought form to a struggling, atheist, Jewish research psychologist named Helen Schucman, in the mid-60’s (she took it down in shorthand!) by a voice that she discovered was that of the figure Jesus. A person who has heard too many stories of Christian hypocrisy, or may have suffered religious trauma, might have a reflex repulsion to that name “Jesus” but it doesn’t really need to be such a big factor in understanding the principles of freedom. He could be named Elijah or Buddha or any other name. He even says, “There are many paths to Truth” in the book, demonstrating that He aims to take people where they are, with love, and lead them ever-so-gently to knowing their True Identity as Love and beloved.
Through the Course, I have had myriad opportunities to let go of worldly ego constructs, which are rooted in specialness, and have caused me to forget that I am a child of God. Specialness is everyone’s desire … totally understandable if you use the values of this world. We all want to be seen as unique, worthy, and desirable because of our individual traits. We argue when someone hurts us by saying, “But I’m such a nice person. How could they do that to me?” The Course leads us past the thinking of the world to the mind-blowing “metaphysics” of Jesus’ teachings. “Metaphysics” means “beyond the physical.” Our task is to let go of everything we thought was true, all the images in front of us that seem so true, to the actual truth of everything. We are all One. We never separated from our Creator. We’re actually 100% free, but we’re just dreaming we aren’t.
This is a big one: this world does not actually exist, except in the dream that our minds are experiencing. All our experiences are coming from our minds. We are making this whole thing up.
Jesus said these things when he walked the Earth as a learner and teacher. Over the centuries, His statements have been skewed, re-written, and misinterpreted. He gifted the psychologist Helen Schucman with a correction, so that others could benefit from what he really meant to say. The Course is full of His corrections, and they ring absolutely true. For instance, how could a wholly loving God also talk about “seeking vengeance,” or “enemies?” How could a loving God allow His Son to suffer and die? (Hint: He didn’t die, nor did he suffer.) How could a loving God see a dualistic world with (I know, it’s uncanny) right and wrong? Good and evil?
The only feasible answer to these questions is that this world never did exist. One God with One Love for One Being (all of us) could not change His nature and see duality. The minds of humans only imagined that He could.
How did we get to that point? The Course explains it as our having a “tiny mad idea” that we could be separated from our Creator. When that tiny mad idea “came true,” human bodies came into existence and started to perceive themselves as separate entities. We essentially left the Oneness of Heaven, saying, “I got this. I can do a better job at existing than being at One with God. I’ll take on a body and prove to myself that I am an individual capable of all sorts of wonderful things, and that I don’t need God’s love to survive and be happy.” Then we took the ego (symbol of separation) as our teacher and learned that life is uncertain, full of doubt, scary at times, and not consistently peaceful. We tried to use “idols” such as alcohol, work, domination, achievements, sex, food, drugs, exercise, fame, popularity, approval – the list goes on and on – to numb our feelings of inadequacy and isolation. None of them worked for more than a temporary period, and then we were back to the task of filling our emptiness, endlessly seeking for something we couldn’t find. The Course says this is the ego’s message: “Seek and do not find.”
Jesus answers this state of despair with the eternal message that we never left God, called “the Atonement.” In many religions, atonement is seen as “making up for one’s sins.” But the Course shows us that we never sinned! God can’t see sin. He can only see our True Nature, which is His nature, too. We’ve been innocent all along, but we were dreaming of guilt (our own and others’) and separation.
Being unchangeable, God is like our experience of the sun’s light. It’s always there, but the clouds sometimes obscure it. The clouds in this metaphor are thoughts of separation from our Source. With the Course, the voice of Jesus is helping us see that the clouds aren’t real, that we never could be separate, and that when we remember our True Identity, they will be lifted from our sight. Our minds are extremely powerful, and we can use them to completely wake up to the fact that we are still at home with God, peaceful and free. While we seem to have bodies, we can use them as communication devices to do this awakening, by forgiving all we thought was true about our world, and extending love to everyone we meet. The only real thing is, of course, love.
Source: A Course in Miracles published by The Foundation for Inner Peace, Temecula, CA. www.acim.org