The first ACIM book anyone gave me was Tara Singh’s Nothing Real Can Be Threatened. The second was by Gary Renard – The Disappearance of the Universe. Singh was handed to me somewhat as a second thought. Renard’s Disappearance came with the following bromide: “This is the course.” And while for me, it has been Tara Singh who has shaped my practice and made waking up even a dim possibility, there is no denying that Renard’s book was helpful.
If we can say one thing about Gary Renard it might be this: nobody is indifferent to him. I don’t meet many course students who have such a strong opinion about any teacher as they do Renard. Even Ken Wapnick, who edited the text, taught the course and helped shepherd it through the world for several decades, seems to call forth a more mild response than Renard.
But I liked Gary Renard’s book. It was helpful at the time, and I am grateful for it. I had some issues with it – and I’ll get to them – but I still share my copy of Disappearance of the Universe with people for whom I think it might be helpful. It is accessible in a way that the course itself is not, at least initially. Disappearance of the Universe is not dense, not hard to read, and it’s even funny at times. That sense of humor matters to me. Remember what Jesus says of the separation: it’s a mad idea at which we “forgot to laugh.” Ken Wapnick pointed out many times how serious course students and study groups can be. If you’re not having fun, if you’re not laughing, then maybe you’re missing something. It’s worth considering.
Renard didn’t skip the “have fun” part of the course. If serious is the way you approach A Course in Miracles, then look out. Renard brings the funny and the irreverent. For me, in the end, that style wasn’t a good fit, but it might be for you.
If you want to read Gary, then read him. If you want to take a stand with respect to his honesty or lack thereof, then do so. And then move on with your practice.
The premise of Disappearance is this. Renard is in spiritual crisis, seeking the “better way” that Schucman and Bill Thetford both sought and, in apparent response, two ascended beings come to him. Arten and Pursah aren’t human – they’re divine beings, former disciples and followers of the historical Jesus who, after many many lifetimes of learning the principles of A Course in Miracles, show up in Renard’s Maine living room to teach him the secrets of life and the universe. Over the course of nine years of appearing and teaching – sometimes transporting Renard through time and space – Renard writes a book under the direction of Arten and Pursah.
That book is The Disappearance of the Universe.
And that premise drives a lot of people nuts. In fact, a lot of teachers – notably Jon Mundy, Robert Perry, Bruce MacDonald and Greg Mackie – have taken serious issue with Renard and his writing. If you’re interested, you can read Perry’s analysis of Renard’s work here, while Renard addresses charges of fraud at his website.
I’m a big believer in avoiding conflict wherever possible. From a strict ACIM perspective, we are never justified in perpetuating conflict. From my confused and error-prone human status, I’m doing the best I can. And that means that I like to take what works and leave what doesn’t behind. My two cents? There’s a lot to learn from in Renard’s work. But if you can’t swallow the whole Arten and Pursah thing, if the claims to being the reincarnation of St. Thomas are too much, then let it go. Gary isn’t the only teacher out there.
The more spectacular aspects of Gary’s life are, in my opinion, the least interesting. If you are struggling to understand A Course in Miracles and you need help, then Disappearance of the Universe may well be helpful. It may not be the end of your study – for me it was important to move on from Renard – but it might be a useful bridge. Renard is faithful to what I consider a fairly orthodox understand of the course – the most notable teacher and practitioner of this approach being Ken Wapnick (to whom Gary owes a considerable debt).
A big part of Renard’s draw is that he really champions the fact that he’s not a scholar, not a religious persona, not a genius, not a writer. He cheerfully owns up to not knowing anything about where the commas go and what a semicolon does. He’s a regular guy, like you and me. And given that A Course in Miracles can be a very demanding text, a lot of people are looking for someone to bring it to another level, one that doesn’t feel so scholastic or esoteric.
There are pros and cons to that, of course. In a sense, I appreciate the need to find ways to approach the course from a less-intellectual point-of-view. At the same time, A Course in Miracles is what it is – and if it’s too abstract or if its metaphysics are too confusing, then perhaps a more reasonable thing to do is try another path. The course is clear that it is but one form of the universal curriculum. There is no shame in trying another.
But the yardstick needs to be what is helpful – what works for you.
For me, Gary’s work has not retained its level of influence. The irreverence, the drama, the earthly predictions, the resultant hullabaloo in the ACIM community eventually distracted me from my own experience of forgiveness. So I moved on.
When I first began to study the course, I was deeply confused about “where” God was – if he wasn’t out there, up in the sky, and if the Holy Spirit wasn’t up there with him, then where were they? I really struggled with the idea that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were inside of me. That concept eluded and challenged me.
It was Renard’s text that simplified that idea. I remember a few weeks after reading Disappearance and praying a bit on it, that I finally was able to move away from this idea of God as a punitive intelligence far away from me but always watching, ready to clip me upside the head at the slightest wrong. Was Renard the cause of the insight? He wasn’t the sole cause. Would it have come anyway? Probably.
On the other hand, there was something in Renard’s book – at that point in time and in my study – that loosened some interior blocks and allowed me to move forward in my understanding and application of the course. For that reason, I am grateful to Gary.
What do I think of the charges that Renard is a fraud? That he created this whole Arten and Pursah thing in order to scam students and make money? Is that all he is – a spiritual scam artist, one more snake oil salesmen getting rich off lost souls who don’t know better?
In a general sense, I feel that everybody needs to come to their own insight with respect to Gary’s writing, and the yardstick needs to be whether it helps them understand A Course in Miracles and bring into application. That’s a personal question that nobody else can answer for you.
For me, Gary’s work has not retained its level of influence. The irreverence, the drama, the predictions, the hullabaloo in the ACIM community eventually distracted me from my own experience of forgiveness. So I moved on. I read Your Immortal Reality quickly and I haven’t bothered with his third book – Love has Forgotten Noone – at all. I don’t feel like I have the time anymore to wade through the noise. Tara Singh has proven a much more grounded and consistent teacher for me.
That doesn’t mean what I say is right for you. It may not be. As I said earlier, the question of whether his visitors were real or metaphorical – Renard has never compromised on saying that they are the real deal – has never been of particular interest to me. I have not had similar experiences and to the extent I’m skeptical – and I am – I’m also open enough to realize that I don’t know everything. I’ve left it at that and moved on.
A Course in Miracles asks us to pose one question with respect to everything we encounter on this earth – “what is it for?” (T-24.VII.6:1)
Let not your foolish fancies frighten you. What is immortal cannot be attacked; what is but temporal has no effect. Only the purpose you see in it has meaning, and if that is true, its safety rests secure. If not, it has no purpose, and is means for nothing (T-24.VII.5:3-6).
Renard’s first book has made my experience of A Course in Miracles a better one. It has helped me bring it into application – exactly the way that Tara Singh says we must, if we are truly going to experience its promise of peace and joy.
If you want to read Gary, then read him. If you want to take a stand with respect to his honesty or lack thereof, then do so. And then move on with your practice. If his books are helpful, then great. If they aren’t – if they don’t resonate, if they distract you, if the grow dim with time – then put them down and move on with your practice.