Is A Course in Miracles a cult? One of my students asked me this other day. His question was genuine, but troubling. After all, the word cult has nothing but negative connotations (unless you’re a fan of this band, of course).
Generally, we understand a cult to be a group with rigid (usually in stark contrast to traditional practices and beliefs) belief systems that are religious or spiritual in nature. They are authoritarian – you have to follow the group, the leader of the group, and in the process surrender your identity. You don’t have a lot of choices in a cult. For these reasons, they are seen as exploitative and dangerous.
The other aspect of cults is that they tend to involve – in practice or in perception – some degree of mind control. And what does A Course in Miracles call itself? A Course in mind control.
But that’s a simplistic rendering of a complex idea. A Course in Miracles restores our right mind – in this, it has similarities to Buddhism and even Christianity. The goal is right thinking, forgiveness, being able to perceive what is actually there, Truth, instead of the lies and illusions perpetuated by our ego, or wrong minds.
That can seem like cutting it quite fine, I suppose. I mean, if you’re in a cult and you’re defending it, you’re going to try and define things in a favorable way. Semantics can be quite powerful.
But A Course in Miracles really has no centralized leader. There is certainly the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM) headed up by Ken Wapnick and his wife Gloria. The Foundation aims to help students understand and bring to application the course. And while I think it does aim to be definitive, it is hardly coercive. There are a lot of people running around doing stuff with ACIM that wouldn’t pass muster at the Foundation.
There are teachers – Marianne Williamson, Gary Renard, Tara Singh and others – and each of them has their following. I suppose some of them are more popular than others, with more ardent followers. That’s natural.
But the Course – while its sole goal is to help us work better with our minds, restoring us to sanity – is also clear that it’s not the bottom line. It’s not the only way to heal, to come into contact with God. Revelation – contact with God – is highly personal, according to the Course.
In other words, if it’s not for you, shake the dust of your sandals and try another path. No sweat. No big deal.
So no. A Course in Miracles is not a cult. It’s radical. It’s intense. It can change your life and that can be scary – both for you and people who love you. But it’s not going to take anything you don’t already wish you could give away. And the only place it’s going to take you is towards joy and peace.