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 rightly 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 training” (T-1.VII.4:1).
But that’s a simplistic rendering of a complex idea. A Course in Miracles is a self-study curriculum that teaches its students that the only problem they truly have is their decision to think apart from God – that is, to imagine that their will and God’s will are separate. This split leads to fear and guilt which we then project onto the world. This allows us to believe that we aren’t fearful and guilt-ridden because of any decision we made; it’s all caused by the mean and nasty world outside of us. We blame the world for our problems. And since God made that world, and we fear God as well. That’s the psychological set-up that human beings are dealing with, according to A Course in Miracles. Through the text and especially through the daily lessons, the course aims to restore to our minds their capacity to think with God and to remember our fundamental unity with all Creation. The dysfunction and pain of fear and guilt abate.
A Course in Miracles is not for everyone, of course. There are plenty of people for whom it is too far-out, its metaphysics too hard to believe or even understand, and so forth. This is okay! The course is clear that it is only one form of what is calls the universal curriculum. There are many ways to be whole and healthy – including atheism, psychotherapy, Buddhism and others. There is no one way to be right. Rather, there are many ways and it is incumbent on us to find the way that works for us. If that’s ACIM, great. If it’s not, that’s great too.
Really, A Course in Miracles is simply one expression of the perennial philosophy. Using Christian language and imagery, with a healthy dose of Freudian psychology and Platonic philosophy, it gently asserts that we are not separated from God but only believe that we are separated.
In other words, there is no expectation that A Course in Miracles is the only way to live a spiritual life.
Moreover, the course is deeply personal and meets each student where they are. Thus, one person’s practice of the course may look entirely different from somebody else’s practice. Just compare some of Ken Wapnick’s course-related writing to that of Tara Singh. It is possible to have two very different but effective teachers because the course emphasis is on the individual, not on conformity to some group standard or ideal.
The value of the Atonement does not lie in the manner in which it is expressed. In fact, if it is used truly, it will inevitably be expressed in whatever way is most helpful to the receiver (T-2.IV.5:1-2).
Really, A Course in Miracles is simply one expression of the perennial philosophy. Using Christian language and imagery, with a healthy dose of Freudian psychology and Platonic philosophy, it simply asserts that we are not separated from God but only believe that we are separated. Thus, its goal is to restore to our memory the fact of unity. We are mistaken; it aims to correct our mistake. No more and no less.
It is also critical to understand that A Course in Miracles really has no centralized leader or board of directions. There is certainly the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM) headed by the late Ken Wapnick and his wife Gloria. The Foundation aims to help students understand and bring into 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. You don’t see that sort of variety or permissiveness in a cult!
The Foundation for Inner Peace publishes a version of the course that many students consider the “official” version. The FIP was established by the scribes – Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford – for the purpose of disseminating A Course in Miracles. At the same time, there are several other version of the course available – older ones, modified ones, altogether rewritten ones . . . The course is a diverse community with considerable dissension when it comes to “what it says,” how to understand what it says, and how to practice – or embody – what it says.
And again, the course – while it aims to help us work better with our minds in order to restore us to the sanity of remembering God – is also clear that it’s not the bottom or the only, line. It’s not the only way to heal and it’s not the only way to come into contact with God. If you want to shake the dust off your sandals and try something different, then go for it. It’s not a big deal.
Is that to say that there are not teachers out there who ask a lot of their students? That there aren’t groups that are demanding loyalty from their members while also professing to follow A Course in Miracles? It’s possible, of course. That’s true of a lot of religions and spiritual traditions. And even within perfectly healthy and open communities, there can be individual who display cult-like behavior.
I don’t mean to suggest then that one can’t find examples of behavior in the ACIM community that aren’t troubling. For example, a number of students have been troubled by this teacher and the group that he founded. But I know people who studied with him, and moved on when it was time to do so. They’re solid course students and good teachers in their own right.
In my own experience, most students of the course are disciplined and intelligent and altogether in touch with their own power of decision. Most of them study at their own pace and in their own way – sometimes venturing out to study groups for tea and discussion – but rarely more. Indeed, most serious students have more in common with monks than with cult members.
So no. For my money – and you are entirely welcome to disagree of course – A Course in Miracles is not a cult. It’s radical. It’s intense. It can change your life and that can be a scary experience – both for you and people who love you. But it’s not going to ask any sacrifices of you – it isn’t going to take anything that you didn’t want to give anyway. The only teacher it is really going to share with you is the Holy Spirit – your inner teacher, who is the Voice for God, the part of your mind that remains healed.
To the extent it functions for the individual, the course offers a way towards joy and peace. Curious sojourners are invited to take a look at it, to try it, to shelve it and try it again. It’s okay! As noted earlier, the bottom line is that if it works, great. And if it doesn’t work, then that’s great, too.
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I had been working with one of “God’s teachers” of ACIM. He has used numerous brainwashing techniques with me. “In other words, if it’s not for you, shake the dust of your sandals and try another path. No sweat. No big deal.” When I finally decided I was sick of his abuse, he basically said that when people don’t follow God’s directives, that’s when they get into trouble. I have since been struggling with an increasing fear of having something horrible happen to me. Maybe you can be more specific on how I can “shake the dust off..”
Thank you for reading & for your comment.
You should feel good about your decision to turn away from a teacher who was not helping you grow closer to God. When we feel guilty or fearful, it’s generally a sign that we have allowed judgment to enter our thought process. It’s important to remember that we do that – other people don’t do it for us or to us. Taking responsibility for our own process – whether that means devoting ourselves to a teacher, leaving a teacher, or even taking a break from A Course in Miracles altogether – is always a good sign. It means – however much we don’t realize it yet – that we are actually listening to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We aren’t supposed to be unhappy. We aren’t supposed to walk around in fear or terror, waiting for God to strike us down.
But that said, your question is more how do we shake the dust off? In a practical way, not a “let’s just write it up on the website” kind of way. It’s a good question.
One thing that I try to do with regularity is practice gratitude. I know that can sound lame – and maybe it is – but it works for me. No matter how bad my day is going, no matter how mean my students are or how bossy the boss is or how lousy the weather is – I can always find one or two things for which to say thank you. When I do that sincerely – really allow myself to recognize that there is some good – then I almost always feel a tiny shift inside. And a series of tiny shifts are all we need – they add up!
Do you pray? Set aside for a minute all the books and rules and practices that surround this idea of prayer or meditation. If there is one thing that ACIM makes clear it’s that we are heard. The bible says it, too. Do you now the section where Jesus says that we should imagine ourselves taking his hand and that that “is no idle fantasy?” Sometimes my prayers are all beautiful and deep and amazing. And sometimes I just sort of fall into a chair and say, I don’t know. I feel terrible. I hate everybody and I’m afraid to do anything. I don’t even believe in you anymore, Jesus.” Sometimes I just make the prayer that simple – I vent. I let it out. I say something like, “you know what? I don’t believe you can fix this. If you want to show me otherwise, go ahead.”
When I am deeply in touch with my sense of powerlessness and despair – when I’m willing to lay it out before Jesus that way – then I almost always find myself feeling some relief. Maybe not right away but maybe in a few hours I’ll glance up from what I’m doing and realize that while I’m not exactly bouncing around in joy, I’m at least not feeling as terrible as I did when I asked for help.
Another option: can you do something for someone else? Even if it’s small and insignificant – literally just saying hi to one person you pass on the street – can you do that? Remember that Holy Instants are not necessarily these big explosions of meaning and bliss. Sometimes it’s just a couple of strangers saying hi in passing. The other day I was a little down. I was bogged down in some work and was also trying to figure out some issues for a political organization with which I am involved. It was crazy! Egos bouncing around, not time to do anything.
So I baked bread. I made cinnamon raisin bread for my family because they love it. And it helped. It really did. It’s like the Course repeatedly assures us, that the love we extend to others is really love extended to ourselves. I feel so grateful for that!
I guess what I am saying is that – having made this great decision to move in a gentler, more loving direction – then continue to take tiny steps. God wants you to be happy, Jennifer. He doesn’t punish us for choosing Buddhism over ACIM, or for shopping at Wal-Mart, or for eating meat instead of veggies, or walking away from a teacher who was hurting us. God spoke to you in that moment – God was with you! And so God remains with you, as well. Take a few minutes here and there to remember that. Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Go extend some kindness to someone. Write a letter to Jesus or just have a long heart-to-heart with him.
Each of these steps will be like another shake of the sandal, a little more dust loosened.
In time, I think you will see that your decision to alter your spiritual direction – whatever form that takes in the end – is born of your connection, your deep union to a loving God. Perhaps you are being prepared to become a teacher yourself, learning how to extend love instead of fear? Every moment of our lives is a chance to grow closer to God who loves us, who never left us. The happier we feel – the more joy and grace we literally feel – the more we know we are doing God’s will.
Finally, Jennifer, please know that simply by taking a few moments to leave a comment on my blog you have done a wonderful thing! I wonder sometimes who reads, whether anybody is out there. Thank you for caring about what I do, and for reaching out to me. It’s going to be okay.
My mother was deeply involved with ACIM and still practices half heartedly. To me it was a cult, it ruined our relationship, the course told her I was toxic and she removed me from the home when I was 13 year old going through puberty experiencing some of the cults requirements of her.
I’ve since been seeking God and using the King James Bible.. it specifically says no words should be changed. I think a course in miracles is Blasphemy and a lucifarian doctrine. It leads Away from Gods word t
And suits it’s own needs.
The Devil is cunning.
A Course in miracles is a direct path to Hell.
In my humble experiance.
Hi Ashley. Thank you for reading and sharing. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience with your mother. A Course in Miracles says nothing about human beings being toxic, but as you know, people can become deeply confused about what books actually say and put them to dysfunctional and even perverse uses. Sometimes this even happens with the King James Bible. 🙂 You sound confident in your present spiritual path – I wish you all the best on it.
Thanks again for sharing.
Sean you purposely ignored the womens” experience. Its a demonic cult. The founder did not recieve revelations from Christ as she claims.. She was channeling a or several demons. Remember the Word of God says Satan masqurades as an Angel of light. This is so simple to see for “True” followers of Christ.
Thank you for your note, Roger. I don’t have a lot to add or subtract here. I’m not sure what constitutes a “true” follower of Christ; it seems to me that most folks are doing the best they can, me and you (and everyone else who comments here) included. A Course in Miracles is a fairly minor strand of Christianity, and doesn’t strike me as especially threatening. In any case, Jesus won’t forsake us, regardless of how confused we are. Love is the answer, whatever path we seem to follow in the world. As Paul wrote in his letter to the faithful of Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Our differences – doctrinal, theological and otherwise – dissolve in agape love.
Yes we really have to ask ourselves who wrote the course. Jesus never said he would channel through people. Also look up channeling on line. What the real source is and how all channeled material tries to lead people away from the Bible and the real Jesus of Nazareth. There is a beautiful side of evil so people must stay aware of that. I also read the Course for a few years and realized later I could poke holes in it even though much of the message seems very good and spiritual
Thank you so much Sean!
You are welcome Gretchen – Thank you for reading!
It’s been 8 years since you wrote that and I too am having difficulty with an ACIM teacher so i googled about ACIM and I found this perfect answer to exactly the problem I’m facing right now. So thank you and yes people still read this and you never know about divine timing.
I’m glad it was helpful, Virginia. Good luck with your practice and study!
Whoever this man is, he doesn’t sound like an authentic teacher of ACIM at all. I would get as far way from him as possible. As for getting into trouble when not following “God’s directives”, where did he get the idea that God gives “directives”?
This man sounds like a scare-mongering charlatan.
The Course aims at training teachers of God, not teachers of the Course.
A teacher of God points to the very experience you are having now as to what you are looking for, everything else by definition, is in the mind or memory, so just imagination.
When this moment is seen as real, and all else as illusion, you have seen the false as false and are free. This is where the teaching kicks in.
The holy instant shows there is no world and no you apart from thought.
Without thought I’m nothing, yes, but without thought you are everything.
Hi Jennifer, just come to peace that the course in miracles is all just man made, made up bs and walk away from it. God will not shoot you down with a lightning bolt for doing so. But you will be showing gratitude for the wonderful God there is that gave you a brain to be logical with. Trust that you have your own brains and don’t let any mortal book publishing sinister planning mind control tell you different
Exactly… There’s just one book… Al Quran is available for everyone, there’s no excuse to not know the word of God and be saved by Allah. Love to you all…
Hi Sean, I just wanted to say thank you for your post. I am someone who is really easily spooked by mention of cults and brainwashing, lol, and I had read a bunch of articles online about how ACIM was part of the MKUKTRA project. And I haven’t picked it up since, even though it was helping me SO much. But you are right. It doesn’t matter, as long as I take responsibility for my own path. And it is silly for me to fear the course. Straight up, I flat out agree with so much stuff in there, that it gives me more trust in the rest of the material. The only real fear comes when we don’t trust our own inner guide. And really, it is the only thing we can trust because it is the only thing we can know.
I also want to say that it touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes to see your response to Jennifer and how much thought and time you put into it. Thank you for that. 🙂
Thanks for the feedback and for reading. Kind words are always welcome! I hear you about the mind-training stuff, Bill Thetford’s history with the CIA and so forth. It can feel pretty strange even though when you really look a it, it’s not just a big deal. It’s interesting where our resistance to the Course – or to Love, if we want to think of it that way – shows up. I’m okay with the mind training/cult stuff, but every now and again I feel guilty because I no longer practice the Catholicism I grew up with. I think Jesus must be angry with me, or disappointed, tsk tsking up in Heaven. But then I remember that it’s just resistance, that’s all. We’re simply not in the habit of allowing ourselves to be loved as God loves us and we can find all kinds of ways to resist, to try and push that love away. In the end, it’s not such a big deal. It happens to all of us and God is very patient.
Getting closer to our inner guide is actually scary work sometimes. Over and over in the lessons we are told that we’re likely to find this or that idea crazy or scary or pointless. It goes back to resistance – we’ve been listening to the ego’s ranting for so long that suddenly hearing the still quiet voice of Spirit, or God, or Jesus – depending on how it works for you – can feel outright terrifying. We’re lucky we don’t have to get it all at once!
Thanks again for writing – be well and enjoy each step of the way, as much as you can!
Aha! Resistance. This feels like where my questions are coming from. Thanks for posting!! Christina
Thanks for reading & sharing, Christina. Many beams make a strong light 🙂
I am curious about ACIM but I need to know if the foundation believes that Jesus is the only way to Father God?
Thank you for reading – and for dropping a note.
I don’t think that one could characterize A Course in Miracles – or the Foundation for Inner Peace – as holding that the course in the one true path to God. In fact, the course is quite clear that it is but one form of what it calls the universal curriculum. Thus, we could say that there are many ways to the truth and to reality and to God and the course is just one. Of course, if ACIM is right for us, then it’s going to feel like the “one” way. But that isn’t really your question.
I think it’s good to look at our options in terms of spiritual growth. What are we looking for? Why are we looking for it? What kind of help do we need and/or want? And so forth. There are many choices in the world and the course is only one of them. If you feel it calling to you, it’s okay to look closely at it – read a little, practice a few lessons – and see what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. There’s nothing wrong with finding that it’s not right for us. And, if we’re clear at the outset that we want another path – that addresses some specific spiritual needs – then it’s okay to find and follow that path.
Thank you again for visiting. I hope my answer is helpful – feel free to ask more questions! – and I wish you all the best!
Hi Kandace —
What the Foundation for Inner Peace “believes” is not really applicable. The Foundation exists to promote the Course.
So far as “belief” is concerned, I don’t think of the Course is about belief. It is a thought system that is concerned with choice, not belief.
In answer to your initial question, the Course specifically denies that Jesus is the “only way to God” — see under the “Jesus – Christ” heading in the Clarification of Terms section of the Manual for Teachers .
I see so much crap on the internet about ACIM cults and mind control. What people need to realize is that we’ve all been brainwashed in some way or another since the day we arrived on this earth. lol.. We’ve been told what to believe by parents, teachers, religious leaders, government, friends, commercials news programs, and all forms of media. So seriously, first and foremost… who’s NOT brainwashed?
Second, A Course In MIracles is in-line with ancient philosphical and spiritual teachings such as the gnostic teachings, Plato, buddhism, Zen, and human psychology. If ACIM is brainwashing, so is all this stuff that’s been around since the dawn of mankind.
Yes, ACIM can bring up fearful stuff in your psyche but so can the 5 o’clock news. So can going to therapy. The Course itself specifically states it IS A COURSE IN MIND-TRAINING. DUHHHH!!!
I don’t see anything harmful in ACIM as a way to LISTEN TO YOUR INNER GUIDE OR NATURAL INSTINCTS, take a look at the silliness of your ego, and CHOOSE PEACE.
Anybody that takes it further than this is just as crazy as ACIM says we all are. lol It say’s OVER and OVER we forgot to laugh and took this all WAY to seriously. ACIM says over and over we must LOOK AT WHAT WE BELIEVE and asks ourselves if it is TRUE? Once you realize EVERYHING is an IDEA, even GOD you can come to turns that SEE how obvious that everything we see WE GAVE MEANING TO. Why not, let your inner guidance show you the TRUTH?
For me ACIM has been a Course in freedom. It’s up to be what to decide what to believe or not. Even the course says you don’t HAVE to believe it but if you want to experience it than just do it. Nobody is holding a gun to your head or poison to you lips when it comes to this book. The Course NEVER claims to be the only path. But if it’s the path for you than it can only enrich your life if you want it to.
For the past 30 years I have been a student of the Course and it has changed my life beyond recognition.
The Course has become my main ministry as an Episcopal priest, so my own experience has benefited others as well.
However, I do recognize that the Course may not be for everyone. But for those able to embrace it, it can be the means for achieving that inner peace that we all want, and all deserve.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Hugh. It is my sense as well: when the course is right for someone, it can be tremendously powerful and beneficial. But it is not for everyone. There are endless variants: and we are all finding our way.
All of these questions and comments are so appreciated. I grew up in a cult in the 70’s and 80’s. I managed to come across ACIM in the 90’s and even though it helped me a great deal…I put it down and made sure I would never subscribe to any one specific ‘religion’ for fear of becoming part of a cult again. A few years ago I went through a literal ‘awakening’ process I could not ignore. I would wake up at 3:33 am several times a week and co
ACIM is not easy. Is taking me 16 years and now I am understanding the book!
Yes – it is true. ACIM is not for anybody after a quick fix or an easy solution. It can take quite a commitment to really experience the joy and peace the course offers. I find that the more I let go of the need to “get it” or at least get it “all at once,” the more peaceful – and happy – I am. We’ll get there eventually!
Sean; I do believe that ACIM is a cult. Any belief system that would use the name of Jesus in contradiction of his word is a manipulative force of Satan. Also if we are not convicted of our sin then Christ died for nothing. He must be the only way to heaven because that is what he said. Also you keep talking of listening to our inner selves- that is the Enemy’s voice he is fighting for souls and it is the Holy Spirit who speaks the truth- He is who we need to listen to…you may think I am brainwashed but I think you are. I have met the Lord and he is light-power-and truth. Another thing – He is for everyone…..and you don’t need a course to know him-just a cry out to him and He will satisfy and provide all wisdom and peace…..in love….
Your reference to a “belief system that would use the name of Jesus in contradiction of his word” doesn’t make any sense. After all, the Bible only tells us about Jesus second hand. In the Course we have direct access to the mind of Jesus for the first. If I have a choice to make between what others have said about Jesus and what he himself says, then it’s a foregone conclusion that I will choose the voice of the Master.
However, this may not yet be your path, and that’s OK.
P.S. The notion that ACIM is a cult is quite hilarious — if the world-wide community of Course students is really supposed to be a cult, it better get its act together!
Your description of the Course as a “belief system that would use the name of Jesus in contradiction of his word” doesn’t make any sense. The only “word” from Jesus that has been available to us until now is the Bible (and the non-canonical gospels) and the writings to be found there were composed many years after Jesus lived and is largely the work of human authors who never knew Jesus at all.
The Course does not “use” the name of Jesus. Jesus himself tells us that the Course is from him.
So here we have a choice between what others have written about Jesus and what Jesus himself says — now, for the first time ever, we have direct access to the mind of Jesus. Choosing between what others have said about Jesus (good as it may seem) and what Jesus himself is saying is surely a no brainer,
P.S. The notion that ACIM is a cult is quite hilarious — if the world-wide community of Course students numbering millions is really supposed to be a cult, it better get its act together!
“The only “word” from Jesus that has been available to us until now is the Bible (and the non-canonical gospels) and the writings to be found there were composed many years after Jesus lived and is largely the work of human authors who never knew Jesus at all.”
Three of the gospels were written by three direct apostles of Jesus Christ himself, Matthew, Mark and John. They knew him personally and were eyewitnesses to his ministry.
“The Course does not “use” the name of Jesus. Jesus himself tells us that the Course is from him.”
So living, breathing, eyewitness accounts are false? But you claim to have special revelation 2000+ years later directly from Jesus’ own mouth? … Revelation which contradicts the testimony of those eye witnesses!?
This is all New Age hogwash. I’ll stick with my cannibalistic, sky-fairy, death-cult.
You people are nuts!
Thank you for sharing, Gunther. I edited your comment to remove the first sentence which was an unnecessary personal insult, unbecoming all of us. The balance of your comment – which I think perfectly captures the spirit of the first four (now missing) words – remains intact. Thank you again for reading and offering your thoughts.
Hugh , how do you really know it’s from Jesus? Please do some research on channeling Also look up the website ReasonsforJesus. I don’t think ACIM is from Jesus himself.
I’m confused when you say “a choice between what others have written and what Jesus himself says…for the first time ever we have direct access to the mind of Jesus”
Have you forgotten that the course was written by someone who claims she was transcribing symbols shown to her in a dream? Jesus himself didn’t tell you that the course was from him. Helen said that he said the course was from him. This is no different than any other written words of Jesus and just because the mode of delivery is different doesn’t make it the truth. I find it fascinating that Jesus would feel the need to speak through anyone. Even more fascinating is that even though the structure and language is different than the Bible the context and message is still the same and removing the purposefully confusing misuse of language and definitions clearly shows that. Speaking of definitions…why would Jesus change the definitions of words to such an extent that you need an index of said words to decipher what he is saying? Which were symbols shown to Helen to start with. I’m not being facetious, I’m interested in your thoughts as these are conversations that I’ve had with others studying the course and as of yet no one seems to be able to come up with an answer that makes sense.
I don’t know if Hugh is still reading around here. I hope you don’t mind if I take a crack at your questions, as I think they are good ones, fairly raised.
Jesus is always a psychological projection. We have ideas and feelings and hopes and fears, all related to the story of Jesus, which comes to us through family, religious tradition, and the culture around us and those become our projection of Jesus. Everybody’s “Jesus” is different – those differences can be quite subtle or quite dramatic, but they’re there.
Therefore, I think it’s an error to say that ACIM – or any other text or scripture – reflects the pure words of the historical Jesus. We know a bit about that man and careful scholarship can extend that knowledge somewhat but basically . . . I think it’s clear that when we read ACIM, we are reading Helen Schucman’s words as projected onto her personal projection of Jesus.
By the way, I don’t think this is necessarily a crisis, so long as one understands the dynamic of projection and is willing to be responsible for it. Helen projected Jesus as an ideal of love and, when she began writing the course (not in a dream but scribing – effectively taking dictation from what she called “an inner voice” – over a period of many years) she projected responsibility for the project onto her image of Jesus. I suspect the material was too scary – too unfamiliar, too occult, too shallow – and so it was easier to say “Jesus did it.”
A lot of us do something similar – we have an ideal of love or nonviolence or closeness to God that we desire and we say that “Jesus” has it but we don’t. We want to be more like Jesus. That’s projection; we don’t want to be actually and personally responsible for radical love, nonviolence and closeness to God so we project it outwards onto an image of Jesus. He did it; we’re just doing our best to catch up.
When in reality, we could BE that love right here and now.
An important aspect of A Course in Miracles involves accepting all this as a default and not particularly effective way mind works, and thus letting Jesus go as a special person. The work is not to imitate Jesus’s behavior (a hopeless task anyway, for many reasons) but rather to listen to the same Voice that “he” listened to, which is in our mind.
That voice is the Holy Spirit – a staple of Christian metaphysics, as you know – and the course suggests it’s not a separate being or supernatural entity but simply our capacity to be deeply and consistently honest, peaceful and kind. In this way, if we want, we can become very very happy and help others be happy too.
The suggestion the course makes is that Jesus reached a nontrivial understanding and state of love and that those insights and the courage to live by them are entirely normal; we have them in our mind as well. On that view, A Course in Miracles can be read as a challenge (an invitation, really) to be done with projections altogether – which always create conflict and confusion – and simply live by the natural law of love which is our nature, our true self.
In terms of the language used . . . well, yes. A Course in Miracles DOES switch up some traditional understandings of words like “forgiveness” and “atonement.” However, again, these do so much reflect Jesus – the historical Jesus – but rather the mind of Helen Schucman. Most of the semantic peculiarities can be traced to Christian Science (with which both Helen and Bill Thetford were familiar) and gnosticism (as Ken Wapnick scrupulously cataloged).
In other words, the language is not really new or different so much as drawing on more marginalized and less familiar frames of Christianity. They can be helpful or unhelpful, according to context and what a given person is looking for in their spiritual experience.
Why do you think the language is “purposefully confusing?” That would require some insight into Helen (or Bill’s) intent, which I don’t we have. Once you understand the origins, the language is actually quite consistent. I can appreciate why someone might not want to bother with it, but I think it’s pretty clear that Helen was not actively trying to confuse people. Rather, she was clarifying a very old and fairly radical understanding of what it means to be Christian in this world. Which I think is an honorable goal, even if one feels that she failed. Which reasonable people can feel!
The course is not for everyone! Nor should it be. But for some of us it turns out to be a very powerful way of shifting our thinking away from fear and anger and hate and towards love (cooperation and coordination through communication in a shared goal of peace and happiness). I don’t think Jesus wrote it, but as I understand him and his project, I do think he would appreciate what ACIM is trying to help folks do with their lives.
Thank you again for the good questions, Liz. I am grateful for the nudge to not get too comfortable, spiritually-speaking.
Be well 🙏
P.S. I haven’t looked at this post in a long time. It may be time for an update 🙂
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Barb.
I don’t think you’re brainwashed! I think you have found a way – through Jesus – to experience the peace and joy and love that is God. It works for you. That is a good thing!
In a way, I agree with you that we don’t really need a course to know and experience God. But it does seem that a lot of us need help remembering that. It might be a very compassionate or eloquent minister or priest, or a well-written book about prayer, or a church full of like-minded believers celebrating their faith together. Somehow, there are steps we can take that bring us closer to God. Those various means – whatever their form – are given by God that we might return to God.
For me, A Course in Miracles has been the most helpful way to remember and accept the truth of my fundamental connection to God. That’s all. Nobody made me read it and nobody tells me what to think or say about it. Nobody asks me for money. Nobody tells me that ACIM is the only way or the best way or the right way. That’s why I don’t think of it as a cult.
However, that’s not the same thing as saying that it’s the perfect path for everyone. It most assuredly is not! That is really between the individual and God. I don’t presume that everybody I meet should study the course, or that every reader is secretly supposed to be a course student. Not at all. If you feel sure of the path you’ve chosen, and it works for you – and it sounds like it does – then, great. That’s what we all want. No change necessary!
Thanks again for writing, Barb.
@Barb – Considering we know much of the Gospels is not original and was altered over time, no one knows how much of it originated from the earliest Christians. We don’t even have any reason to believe they were written by the people who they are named after and there is strong reasons to conclude they weren’t. The Gospels don’t even match up in all the details, as they were borrowing from multiple texts and oral traditions that preceded them.
On top of that, there is no historical evidence Jesus ever existed. The lack of historical evidence could be taken as evidence of physical absence or even, as some early Christians believed, that Jesus was a spiritual being. In fact, many of those early Christians were willing to be martyred by other Christians for their faith in a spiritual Christ. These were people who were much closer to the origins of Christianity than any of us are today.
It was the heretical heresiologists who used oppression and violence to take over the Church. Then they went onto destroy many of the original Christian texts and kill anyone who held to some of those earliest Christian beliefs. Two of the earliest Church fathers were Marcion and Valentinus who knew Christianity before the heretical heresiologists perverted it.
They both were in the direct Pauline lineage having been taught by one of Paul’s students. Without Marcion, we wouldn’t have the basic New Testament we have today nor might we know of the Pauline Epistles. And it was Valentinus who preached a God of love, as does the ACIM, a teaching he got from the Pauline tradition. Wapnick discusses ACIM and Valentinianism.
Barb that’s true as we see through the lens of scripture itself and not mans ideas of peace. Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
God Himself through the prophet Jeremiah says there is nothing good that comes from man and outside of Gods wisdom we are separated from God before being born again of God and that we were outright enemies of Him. Having said that, being reconciled to God through His son Christ Jesus brings life and a true and unadulterated journey towards holiness and peace sets its course.
So how can one declare there are different paths to God and His peace outside of Christ being the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no other way to the Father but by Christ online.
Man is flawed at birth and later realizes there really isn’t any good in him to begin with.
I have not read or really looked into ACIM, but I read in Conversations with God that the author had done the course and referred to it in his discussion with God. I googled info about ACIM and there were the typical Christian watchdog groups that call it cultish or non biblical, etc etc. Sadly the only thing cultish I was ever a part of was a Christian church in Hawaii. Very controlling, fear based, money hungry, authoritarian leadership, as well as other signs. Funny how these groups are rarely called out as cults when they clearly preach another Jesus.
The watchdog groups basically are saying you are a dumb lamb and cannot trust your own heart. Trust me, when most people are in a cult they know it, but the fear holds them in it. Not in every case, but most people know.
I was once a very fundamental Christian, but am seeing another side of the Christ and of God. My religion caused me a lot of turmoil and anxiety. Is this of God? I say no. He is peace and love. If this is not what you are experiencing regardless of what you call yourself, then you need to reexamine your beliefs. Jesus is giving you permission. Remember, the biggest rebel in history of religion was Jesus. He paid for his revolutionary way with his life. To me he is the way, but that doesn’t mean Buddha or others did not have some revealed truth of spirituality and God. Of course they did. Open your eyes and heart.
Thanks for writing. I appreciate your point very much: fear is what keeps us in cults. It may be what attracts us to them as well. One of the things I appreciate about A Course in Miracles is that it is very clear that it is not THE way but just A way. If it’s right for someone, then great. If not, there are a lot of ways to experience God and Jesus.
I also deeply appreciate your observation that God does not intend that we suffer turmoil and anxiety. A loving God wouldn’t – and doesn’t – do that. I also happen to agree that Jesus gives us permission to examine our beliefs, the better to know and experience his peace and love. That is true in my experience.
Thanks again, Doug. I’m glad you’re finding a new way to a peaceful, forgiving and loving God and Jesus, and I appreciate that you took the time to write about it here.
I think you have a great site here. I can also say after a number of years the light is getting brighter, all the questions and doubts expressed are in my own mind as I am the one percieving them, all the people and problems that are being experenced are experienced in my mind. To be aware of this is incredible. 20 years ago Tara Singh told me to go away and come back when I was serious, this was very good advice, though at the time he told me this in front of 15 people and it was humiliating, but I was this one asking antagonizing questions, though at the time I didn’t think so.
The mind training didnt kick for about 5 years , and I’ve been so grateful since. Keep up what you are doing, its your purpose, and you are good at it.
Thank you for the kind words, Fred. They are much appreciated. Though I did not meet him nor study with him in person, Tara Singh has always been the model of the light in my study of ACIM. Thanks for being clear & reaching out –
Having read much of the material purporting to be ACIM, I conclude that there is no such “thing.” It boils down to one concept and one concept, only: do as you damned well please, for there is no recognizable truth anywhere but in one’s self. Thus, there is no need for the book, for the course, or anything else, but trust in one’s self and one’s path. No method; no guide; no Truth. That about it?
Thank you for your email. I appreciate your taking the time to lay out your thoughts.
I think I would disagree with a few of your points, though I would do so in a pretty gentle way. I think people meet A Course in Miracles where they are – meaning that it can be many things to many people, no one of which is necessarily “right” or “true.” Personally, I find the better analysis to be whether one’s approach and interpretation and “helpful” or “unhelpful” in terms of bringing about a state of inner peace and, externally, a gentle focus on kindness.
When you say there is nothing but trust in “one’s self and one’s path,” it really depends – in an ACIM way of thinking – whether the “one” in question is the healed mind in communion with the Holy Spirit or (quite frankly more likely) the unhealed mind driven by the ego. The difference matters because it is the whole difference between peace and conflict, love and fear, joy and anguish.
The Course does have a method: it’s yearly regimen of daily lessons are very much a means by which we bring the Course’s unique belief system into application. We are undoing the way that we think and the way that we see the world. And there is absolutely a guide! The method of daily lessons aims to enable us to make contact with the Holy Spirit, who is our inner guide. As well, we are encouraged to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to deepen our natural capacity for kindness and learning.
Whether there is any Truth . . . In pure non-dualism, sure. There is no Truth because there is no thing at all. Nothing to put a name to because even the mere presence of a name creates separation – this is this, not that. But few of us are there, Mercutio. Most of us are quite clearly in the world of form – of bodies and stories and buildings and roads. And in that sense, the idea of Truth can be quite helpful as it gives us a goal: it is like the light to which we orient as we work at undoing our unhealed thought system and developing a deep and radical trust in our inner teacher, in our own healed mind. We might call that Truth Love – which the Course very clearly does not profess to either teach or really even explain. Its objective – and it states this quite clearly early on and then repeats it frequently – is to help us remove the blocks which impede our awareness of Love. That’s all.
In a way, you are describing something that almost falls beyond the reach of A Course in Miracles: an experience one might have after they have cleared the blocks, after they are perfectly identified their healed mind.
But of course, that is merely my sense of things. These ideas often require a lot of sorting out in dialogue and prayer in order to get clear on them. We are really only scratching the bare surface. And it is entirely possible that you are right about ACIM and I am a rank beginner with little going on but rank confusion! It wouldn’t be the first time . . .
Take what I say with a grain of salt. Stay close to that within you which is Love, or knows Love, or at least senses Love’s possibility and presence. You will figure it out. And stay close to me, too, if you want. I need all the help I can get for sure.
Sean, you have a perfect, intellectual right to espouse whatever you wish, no matter how undefined, unmeasured, ephemeral, logically inconsistent, or made up (as is the entirety of ACIM and all religions). You use words without definition, yet you expect them to communicate. You ask people to read your words without the slightest evidence that they understand them, any more than you do. That you have some sort of faith is unquestioned; it is the caliber and reality of that faith that cheats, promising that which cannot be defined, much less delivered (or even be facilitative of being delivered). As you know, the original ACIM was written by an atheist who, only later, decided that she had heard the voice of Jesus. There followed all kinds of edits (to remove that which was ungrammatical and inconsistent, doubtless), editions, suits and counter suits as to who held the very profitable copyright, etc.. This is the word of God? You and your minions follow in a long line of people who claim to have heard the word of God, and I defy you to differentiate the basic content of the original works from those claimed by Moses, the Prophets, Jesus and his Apostles, the Essenes, Paul, Mohammed, Mary Baker Eddy, hundreds of others, culminating with the nonsense (in that it makes no sense, no matter how you use words, to anyone but yourself) of folks like L. Ron Hubbard and now those who perpetuate (for great monetary rewards) ACIM. Mind, you won’t be the last; there will always be false profits, both sincere and not, who believe it their mi$$ion to perpetuate some sort of pseudo-philosophical, anti-linguistic (in the philosophical sense) “truths,” that are so ephemeral as to communicate nothing concrete, despite claims to the contrary. If we just started with your assumptions (yes, you assume; you use logic, reason, evidence, just as anyone does who is trying to sell something, be it ideas, books, or even souls), alone, from the perspective of someone who was truly trying to get “it,” no matter how slyly you claim there is no “it,” (thus avoiding the necessity of telling your reader what you are actually talking about), you’ll find that you actually do have some sort of rationality that you wish to use to further your cause. Frankly, it is apparent that you claim that there are answers to be had in each person’s path. Yet, any path, if sincerely sought and found, can and would contrast, conflict, even eviscerate the paths of others, creating more contrast, conflict and evisceration between those who find that they disagree. Oldest story in the Book (any Book). Any time questions are asked about the content, the grammar, the linguistic import of ACIM, you demur, then proceed to try to teach a whole host of them. You do use words, you know — almost all of them undefined, purposefully so, evidently — which creates absurdities, of course, just as are your undefined (thus uncommunicated) kind and loving response to me: full of good will but argumentative/evangelistic intent, signifying nothing, because nothing is defined or even described in anything other than by intellectual/spiritual gobblydegook. Thus, my original post stands. It’s each person for him/herself, no matter how you cut it. Is it popular? Sure? So is masturbation, but it doesn’t make it significant apart from its pleasure. People, as you have doubtless discovered, are very gullible, lonely, seeking, hoping to find meaning in life, and will often listen to anyone selling (yes, selling; you do sell, you know, no matter how/why you deny it) something that sounds as though it might help. Such profits (I use the word advisedly) are rife in every country, packaging their snake oil in various ways, always at a price (you don’t do it for nothing, of course). I don’t begrudge your right to sell anything that people will buy, but I abhor your simpering pretense to have any more truth than, say, a good baseball game. The days of sleazy Bible thumpers on tv have past, thankfully, because we have been successful, more or less, in simply turning them off. Your product, minus some sort of altar call, is no different. Would that you would turn it off; it promises everything, defines nothing, and delivers exactly nothing — for which you charge money, time, and hope. Because you are smart enough to write simple English sentences, I dare you to take any 4-5 of your own and parse them the way you were taught in early English classes. Then, when you have identified verbs and nouns (the stuff of language, of course), I absolutely defy you to describe, much less define, what you are writing about, without writing a lot more such undefinable words. Bottom line: we can no more turn off our brains, our reason, our logic, our rationality, without dying, intellectually, than we can turn off our lungs, without dying, period. It is simply impossible, as all coherent philosophers have realized, whether or not they espoused dualisms, monads, quads, or chaos. I defy you to do it, as you preach others should do. Yes, I’m being negative. Why? Because you fool people into subverting the very thing that has allowed civilization to occur and flourish, despite its spate of problems: our ability to recognize problems/challenges, and then to solve them, intellectually. There is no other way — at least not one that involves real people, instead of phantoms of the imagination. We both know that you will not heed these words, even though they challenge you, intellectually. You will shake your head, think, “Poor Mercutio; he just doesn’t understand.” Ooops! Might you use the word “understand?” There goes your entire theory, movement, and quasi-meaning. I, on the other hand, will continue to worry about the many sincere people whom you lead into greater confusion, ultimately, despite the rush they will experience at the audacity of your promises. Time will undo it, of course, as it will with you. In the deepest recesses of your intellect, you already know this is “true,” no matter how you fight your rationality. Words must have definable meanings for actual communication and understanding; yours do not. Thus, my original take stands; ultimately, you preach that each person must find his/her own path, with no prescriptions, definitions, limits, or any other definable aspects. Instead, you’ll fall back on calling it love, some sort of Spirit, or even more vague Godly revelations. I sincerely hope you will wake up and stop using people to further your own path. Just let them alone, please. They don’t need you, no matter how gratuitous your words, words, words…. ‘Tis a sadness, after all, to raise hope, when the object of hope is merely more hope.
Thank you, Mercutio. I don’t shake my head at you or feel pity for you. I admire your convictions. I appreciate the time you take to express them here. I’m sorry if in this exchange – or elsewhere on the site – I frustrate or anger you.
I’m not selling anything here, Mercutio. I’m trying to understand a particular spiritual path. If my searching and rambling is helpful to others, great. If not, they are free to move along.
Yes, I am wordy. And yes, words are not the thing itself. What can I say? It feels right to me to use words in an effort to communicate and learn. Again, nobody has to stay here and read if they don’t want to or if it’s not useful to them in some way. I’m trying to be clear and thoughtful and helpful. That I fail in this from time to time is a given. Who doesn’t? I’m always in good company.
Thank you again, Mercutio. Your words stand in counterpoint to mine: I have no doubt they belong there.
As I suspected (and you knew), you did not deal with a single challenge I offered, simply returning to some need to convince (yes, convince, even though you don’t seem to mind if they are not convinced) others of the blessings you feel you have discovered (better, taught). As you may have suspected, I am one deeply involved in helping real people with real problems, some of which have been brought about by ACIM and like pies in the sky. The pain suffered by those who have come to me, in total confusion, primarily because they came to realize the absurdity of its (and others’) approaches, is real and long lasting. Thankfully, by careful listening, asking for definitions, asking a few questions, I have been able to assist a number of people past the mire that ACIM (and other fables) have offers (with no specificity, at all, other than vagueness, denial of rationality, etc.). You folks do real harm, and folks like me do our best to help assuage that harm, returning people to a reality that actually works (is consistent with experience, rationality, logic, and gathered wisdom: science). I am not angry with you, personally, for, if you were my client, I would listen the day long. I am alarmed, however, at how many people have come to me, been referred to me, and who have come to me about others, due to the intellectual vacuums offered them through ACIM and other quasi-religions. No, it doesn’t fit the strict definition of a cult; much to vague for that, but it is like flypaper: attractive, at first, until one is snared by its undefined complexities, and find themselves slowly dying. I know it will do no good, for you seem to be a true believer (in exactly what, you would have a terribly hard time defining), but I adjure you to be a little less cavalier with what you offer others, whether you charge money for it or not (you do sell books, do you not). You don’t get off as easily as you would like to believe, by asserting that people can either take it or leave it. You and I already know that many, many people do not have that capacity, being ensnared by need, overwhelmed by life, and destined for death. Those are the people you harm; I know, for I have seen the harm up close and personal. ACIM is just one more in a long list of so-called spiritual frauds for those people. It rises to mental masturbation for those of us who can actually play with it, milking it for whatever, but not taking it seriously enough to do harm. Thus, my comments and my hope: cease and desist, in the name of humanity. You are harming people, no matter protestations (yours and theirs) to the contrary. It only takes time, as you will probably see, eventually.
I’m through. I have wasted considerable breath, I’m sure. I only hope I might have injected a little caution into the mix.
Thanks again, Mercutio. I’m sorry to see you go but appreciate your perspective. Thanks again for bringing it “into the mix.”
P.S. The book is not for sale – it’s free!
Sean, this is probably the best ACIM thread I’ve ever read! There is so much color and perspectives! What a lively melting pot.
Well, I grew up in a family of Sunday school teachers of Islam, my lovely (gay)partner used to be a catholic Sunday school teacher, and his friend grew up in a Jewish family and we ALL do ACIM together. That’s what the oneness of love does.
And based on what I’ve derived from ACIM’s teachings, thank you for your thoughts Mercutio, and bless you.
And Sean, bless you. 🙂
Thank you for reading & sharing. Yes the oneness of Love bringing us together over and above and unrelated altogether from personal identity . . . it is a true joy . . . thank you for sharing the way 🙂
It has been many years since Mercutio published on this blog, so I doubt he is monitoring responses. But, his reflections and experiences closely mirror what I am learning about ACIM, as I am about to lose a spouse I love who has delved deeply into its teachings recently and now apparently views me as an illusion easily discarded without discernible rationale or explanation. Perhaps we can reconcile, but I am now like charred wood–it will be hard to rekindle and may not burn as hot.
We are humans interpreting the realities of this world with unique and constantly evolving capabilities. We are not misguided by formulating and expressing those assessments, and should not defer to a philosophy that claims such flexibility null and void as it is unassailable.
Credit to Sean for facilitating this dialogue.
Thanks for sharing, Marco. The two most metaphysical tenets of ACIM – “there is no world” and “I am not a body” – are also the two most likely to be abused by students through misunderstanding. We – by “we” I mean students of A Course in Miracles – can subtly use those concepts to avoid responsibility for all kinds of mischief.
Lost to many students is the simple truth that A Course in Miracles effectively directs us to becomes servants of one another right here in the world. The metaphysics are fun and interesting, but the real work is the work of being attentive, gentle, kind, non-dramatic . . .
It’s true that sometimes we have to make big changes in our lives – end or begin relationships, take a new job, move to a new country, whatever. But if those steps are undertaken because “everything is an illusion,” then the risk is that we’re just indulging the same old ego behavior and calling it “spiritual.”
This is a human problem as much as an ACIM problem. We really do need to just focus on being present to our lives, and not consent to be distracted from enticing philosophies and theologies. There’s a place for the metaphysics but sometimes we have to set that aside and be good brothers and sisters.
Mr.Mercuito is in the mind, your mind, my mind, its all the same.Thinking, thinking, the wheels always turning. Taraji asked his students to define the function or purpose of thought, what is it for? Without thought, the worst, without thought I’m nothing
This can be observed by anyone, the dawning is the awareness, without thought I’m everything
I just finished reading all the posts regarding ACIM and cults. This is my first experience reading your blog and I must say it’s quite a lively read!
I wonder if you could address the idea of projection, especially as it might relate to Mercutio’s posts. Don’t we often accuse others of the very thing we are ” guilty” of ourselves?
Thank you Sean, for sharing yourSelf, your love, who you really are. I appreciate your thoughts, reflections and insights.
Thank you for reading, and for a great question. It has prompted some helpful thought over the past few days. I have a few ideas I can offer but of course you should take them with a shaker of salt.
As a general rule, I try to hold the metaphysics of the Course loosely. What I mean by that is that they are a framework upon which I work out my salvation, but they are not really salvation itself. So when ACIM teaches that time is not real, I take that to heart, but I also set my watch to be sure I get to work on time.
In terms of projection, it is really a two-way street. I project you and you project me. In fact, it is not until I appreciate this fact that I can begin to undo projection in the first place. It is natural to take our projections very seriously – the people who are critical of us, the people who shower us with praise.
But it is equally important to see that we are simply their illusion, as well. We are all awash in a sea of illusion!
In light of that, the best thing often seems to simply be as kind and attentive as possible, not over think things, and trust that things are unfolding in a way conducive to God’s plan for our mutual awakening.
So . . . I am grateful to Mercutio. His concerns are good ones: we all know people who have gotten lost on spiritual paths, or been taken for a ride. His willingness to stand up for them – especially in a setting where he perceives them to be – is admirable. Calling me out as a deceiver (which he did respectfully) is important – it’s a risk of writing this way, that you start to think you really are something special. I need to look at that – consistently and thoughtfully – and Mercutio helped.
I am not as scared of conflict as I once was. People who are angry at me or who judge me feel very helpful: and I am aware that if I don’t react and become defensive and say stupid things and refuse to listen to them, that a dialogue may emerge that can be helpful to everyone – not because I have some special gift, or because anybody else does, but because when we listen carefully and respond kindly we are making a space in which God – or Truth or whatever word is most comfortable – enters and blesses. What else is worth our time and energy?
So . . . I’m not sure if that gets to your questions. Feel free to keep asking! I can be quite dense at times.
And thank you so much for asking in the first place. I wrote about projection on the front page of the blog today. It’s an important issue and I am grateful to be engaged with it.
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Sean. I’ll read your blog post on projection and get back to you afterward.
I had a run in with an ACIM freak… She tried to recruit me and when I resisted, she did everything she could think of to try to ruin my life. Started trying to autosuggest suicide when it became evident to others what she was/is. She was all about conditioning, brainwashing, control, and on and on and on. Easily the most insane individual I wish I never encountered. I imagine her obvious failure was overlooked briefly since she supplied such good LSD to all the moonies. Funny thing now is she is the one who is controlled… especially by her own fears and embarassment of how she knows just how easily NORMAL people see right through her and think of her as “stupid girl”, as I’m told. I feel sorry for that individual…. so outerspace crazy, so governed by the tornadoes of OCD emotions constantly swirling around in her unquiet diseased mind… “Oh, you should go… it’ll help you with your sh*t” she said… Alot your wackness and your ACIM helped you with yours… ITA. It made you alot of cash, but that will never buy you sanity. Best stay the HELL away from me, FOREVER. SHAME ON YOU.
I have read the comments both pro and con. I simply want to learn the information and apply it to my every day living. I am a devout Christian and will not change.
P.S. study to show thyself approval.
Thank you for reading and sharing Willis.
Of what would such a cult consist?
There is at least one ACIM-oriented group that has been identified as a cult by some of its ex-members, but such phenomena are not common among the millions of Course students worldwide.
The truth is, the Course does not lend itself well to such misuse — it is too broad it its outlook.
How can you be a “devout Christian” who “will not change”? Assuming you are a Trinitarian, you will know that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to “lead us into all truth” (John 16:13). How could that possibly happen without change?
As for the Course, I doubt if it is compatible with Christianity — its teachings are far too radical for that. But to my mind they are far superior to anything one is likely to find in the Bible (with one or two notable exceptions).
I reply to your comment from years ago about how radical ACIM is. Lest you forget, jesus was as radical in the biblical accounts as he is in ACIM. This should tell you something of the historical accuracy at least of Jesus.
Thank you for sharing this thought, Lydia. Yes, Jesus was indeed a radical – radical in his vision of how to love the world, how to structure society around love . . . in that sense, he is certainly more radical than ACIM, which I don’t think is radical so much as unfamiliar (which is often confused with radical) . . . The course does aim at healing thinking in order to bring forth love but one could also live as the New Testament Jesus lived and achieve the same result. That we don’t perhaps speaks to our need for projects like ACIM.
Thank you again for sharing 🙂 I appreciate your nudge here to give attention to Jesus.
A dear friend of mine studied ACIM the past 20 years. I thought its teaching on forgiveness and the gift of betrayal particularly beautiful, inspiring, and spiritually expansive of Christian teachings.
However, this past year he began chanting “reality is an illusion” almost randomly and referring to himself in the third person as “One.” To me, showing indications that he had somehow become brainwashed by dogma.
A few nights ago he killed himself, after telling friends that he wanted to return to his Father, that he was tired of the Illusion.
The ego exists to protect our physical body. It is a self preservation gift so that we can experience, enjoy, share, and co-create in this world.
And a friend of mine who studies cults told me years ago that this philosophy of denying reality is from a Hindu sect.
I don’t disparage anyone of their religious beliefs, but I think it is very sad to see people surrender the gift of their good sense to any catechism.
Thank you, Belle, for your thoughtful and honest comment. I am sorry that you lost your friend.
A Course in Miracles does have a lot in common with Advaita Vedanta which is a Hindu spiritual tradition. It is not precisely about denying reality so much as learning to distinguish between illusion and reality. It is not for everyone. It can easily be misconstrued.
You sound clear and level-headed in your assessment of spirituality: I am sure you are a gift to those who share your path, whatever it is.
Thank you again for writing.
Thank you, Sean. It has been a terribly sad, shocking, yet, unfortunately, not a wholly surprising incident. My friend’s speech in recent years derogated Reality as sub-par to the ephemeral and hypothetical. This said, I did witness a persistent self preservation instinct (ego?) in his final weeks. He contacted his doctor for help, visited the ER twice and called friends. I dreamed about him the night I learned of his jump. He smiled, laughed, told me that the incident was to remind people to love each another. And his jump from the building in my dream felt like he was flying into a quantum time tunnel, not killing himself. My own personal belief is that if Life is but a dream, I choose to experience it as Row’ality. I wish I’d done more, maybe shaken him, like Cher did in that scene in MOONSTRUCK, telling Nicolas Cage to “Snap out of it.” Something I perhaps can tell myself NOW. Thank you again for your gentle, kind reply.
For many students of the Course, the behaviour of your late friend would come under the heading of ‘level confusion’. Here’s how Ken Wapnick deals with this:
Q #1185: A question about level confusion. If I remember correctly, all illness is caused by level confusion. I would think that identification with all things of Level Two would cause illness. Please explain. Perhaps your answer might enlighten me about some subtleties of level confusion. If feeling threatened, I am to use denial properly, i.e. “nothing in this world can harm me” and yet not say “nothing in this world can harm me because I am not a body” since body denial is improper. True?
A: When we speak of Level Two, we are not speaking about a level of reality. We are referring to a level of discourse in A Course in Miracles . Sometimes Jesus makes Level One statements: “Pain is impossible,” for example (W.pII.284.1:2). Well, since that statement does nothing for most of us — we continue to experience pain as real — Jesus then must talk to us about pain as though it were real, even though he knows it is not. This gets us into the other level of discourse in A Course in Miracles . Thus, Level Two discussions focus on helping us learn about right-minded and wrong-minded ways of interpreting pain, to stay with that example. Level One says that all perception is illusory. Level Two contrasts wrong-minded and right-minded perception.
Level confusion regarding sickness refers to the “levels” of mind and body, where we tend to think that sickness originates in the body in some way, not with a decision the mind makes. The foundation of this is “the belief that there is a creative ability in matter which the mind cannot control” (T.2.IV.2:8). What corrects this distortion is understanding that the body is nothing but a projection of the mind; it is never anything other than an idea in the mind. A sick body is still an idea that has never left the mind; a healthy body is an idea that has never left the mind. It is a confusion of levels to think that physical and psychological symptoms are caused by something other than a choice made by one’s mind.
Now to the issue of using denial properly. If you are feeling threatened, the first thing you want to do is acknowledge that, and not pretend you are not feeling threatened, by covering over your feelings and trying to convince yourself that you are not a body, when you are feeling very much like a body. Denying what you are feeling will not help you advance spiritually, as Jesus tells us (T.2.IV.3:8,9,10,11,12) . It would be more helpful to do something that would calm you down or take you out of the threatening situation. Then you can have a conversation with yourself: “I know the Course teaches that nothing in this world can harm me, but I feel threatened right now, and so I will ask the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher as I go through this experience. That will help me not judge or blame myself or anyone else, and that is what will bring healing to my mind, regardless of how my body is feeling.” This is the compromise approach that Jesus encourages us to follow that meets us where we are and gently leads us toward the experience of true invulnerability and innocence (T.2.IV.5) . At this level, we practice “true denial” by learning that we can be peaceful regardless of the condition of our body. Nothing external can give us the peace of God or take it away from us.
There are many traditions that have taught that the ego is not real. That isn’t necessarily say there is not a real self nor that the world is real. Speaking of illusion is simply to state the obvious fact that we don’t see clearly the reality we are part of. It’s not only ACIM and some Hindu sects that teach this. It’s also found in Buddhism and Taoism. In the West, David Hume spoke of the bundle theory of the mind, maybe having learned of it from missionaries coming back from the East.
As Hume gives example to, this hasn’t been limited to the religious. Carl Jung, Julian Jaynes, Tor Norretranders, Iain McGilchrist, Susan Blackmore, Daniel Dennet, etc are serious and well respected thinkers, including scientists, who also question egoic consciousness. Jaynes is particularly interesting, as he explores in depth what brain research shows about how the human mind operates and, in studying ancient texts, how that has changed over time. He argues that humans have not always had a singular egoic consciousness. This can be approached from a purely secular and scientific understanding.
As to the sad ending of your friend’s life, there are risks in any spiritual practice and it should never be taken up lightly. If one is dealing with serious psychiatric disorders, one should be particularly cautious. A teacher or mentor is always recommended, when possible. Carl Jung warned against trying to change someone who is dealing with serious psychological problems. You might disturb a delicate balance that is keeping far worse problems at bay. I takes a very experienced therapist, minister, or guru to wisely handle crises.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t explore the depths of the psyche. There are many potential benefits for doing so, irrelevant of what you believe or don’t believe. Jung saw the process of individuation as a natural impulse and the endpoint was the undoing of the false sense of self, the clinging ego. Peter Kingsley, a scholar on the pre-Socratics, has just published a book where he places Jung in this perennial tradition of spiritual practice. Jung himself was a psychologist and it was through working with thousands of patients over decades that he came to respect the immensity of the psyche and the potential within it.
That said, if that seems risky to you, then maybe it’s not for you. It is something one should only do when ready for it and when one is drawn to it. The ego serves a purpose in our society, but it is not the only structure the mind can take. Other societies have had other psychological ways of being in the world. And likely other societies in the future will find other ways as well. The ego is only one way of being and it has its limits, but admittedly it’s hard to challenge the ego because it means questioning the socially constructed reality that you were born into and indoctrinated in from childhood.
To undo that is to open oneself to the forces of the psyche. The ego contains what we don’t know how to handle until we are ready for it. In the metaphysical framework of the ACIM, God won’t seek to destroy your illusions. We are free to cling to them or to let them go.
I pray with my cat Wompus every night
I have been going to ACIM in my city for a little over 2 months. I have still gone back and forth on it and in your article I like when you said something like we are all different on where we are in the course. Some of it I understand and some I don’t. Most however is the people in the group. Most are Catholic and I was never Catholic. I still believe there are many differences between the Catholic and Protestant and so if I say something in the group that is Bible related someone says, “It doesn’t matter”. I still believe what the Bible says is true. It makes me uncomfortable when I hear people say we created the animals and tree, plants, flowers, etc. I believe how the world has become yes humans have created that, but I believe that God created wildlife and plant life not me. I do believe God is in me and I am his child but it also makes me uncomfortable in that we can discuss something from the Bible and someone will say, “The Bible says that, but the Course says…” For those reasons I have still been back and forth in if I want to go back or not. I was in the Christian Protestant church for 26 years and grew tired because it has become more of a show and a lot of the Bible is not practiced in this organized religion that has become more of the world. That is why I have tried this. I still don’t know what to do
Thank you for your note.
It’s important for everyone to remember that A Course in Miracles is not for everyone. Also, it might be right for someone at one point but wrong at another. That’s the nature of the spiritual expeience. Nothing happens by accident! And we are all finding our way. So we practice ACIM and see how it works and if it’s a fit, then great, and if not, that’s okay too. The course itself points out that there are many ways to know God, and it only one of them.
It is good to have a relaxed approach to this sort of thing – and to surround oneself with people who are humble and gentle and relaxed as well. When we are seeking to deepen our relationship with God, it’s not about making a “right” choice – ACIM vs. the bible or whatever – but rather choosing what is most helpful to us at this moment in time. And that is very personal and nobody can tell us what is right – we have to look within, listen carefully, and trust the given response. God will not leave us bereft.
In general, I think A Course in Miracles meets its students where they are – so if we find a biblical foundation helpful, then great. It will work out. If we want to incorporate the law of attraction, or psychotherapy, or healing with crystals or whatever, then great. God speaks to us through whatever means are most helpful and we should be attentive and vigilant in this regard. Trust what works. If, in time, you are called to move away from the bible, then you’ll know.
It’s true that ACIM teaches that the world is an illusion – that it is not real – but this is a very subtle point that is often misunderstood by well-intentioned students. When we walk around saying that “we” made the trees and the sun and the deer in the field, we are confused. What the course really wants us to look at is not the external things, but rather our internal perception of those things. So it’s not really relevant to get into arguing whether we made apples or quartz stones or playing cards or guitars or whatever. What’s relevant – and helpful – is getting in touch with our internal perception of those things, which is to say, our thoughts about them.
Ultimately, ACIM takes us beyond those thoughts to the thoughts we share with God.
Thus, A Course in Miracles invites us to a deep and attentive relationship with the world – its people, its sunsets, its wars, its art, its paths in the forest, its mountains and rivers. All of it. The course does not want us to change any of that – it does not ask us to disregard it or dishonor it or anything.
Rather, it asks us to deepen our personal relationship with God through sharing with the Holy Spirit – who is God’s helper, given to us as a part of us in Creation that we might learn how to see with Christ. That is all. The rest of it – this scripture vs. that, real world vs. illusion – will take care of itself. Our work is to learn to choose to share our experience of the world with the Holy Spirit in order that we might discern the Love of God that is always given, always present. The course is teaching us to make this choice over and over to see with the Holy Spirit, to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit, and it uses the world to do this – our friends, family members, neighbors, and so forth. Nothing is excluded.
I am afraid to say that a large part of ACIM is a “show,” too. That is what happens! Those of us who identify as Christians, and choose it as our path, are called to a personal relationship with God, through Christ. And what happens is that people turn it into a system – they turn it into an organization. You have to believe this, you can’t believe that. We’re special because we think this, or whatever. But God does not set conditions – God does not make demands – God does not love unequally or by degrees. God is.
So if the course is helpful to you in finding that quiet centered intensity – that deep and holy relationship – then great. Stay with it. Find a group or a teacher who helps you explore and go deeper, becoming more and more joyful and peaceful. But if it doesn’t work – and you need to keep looking for what does – don’t worry about. God goes with us everywhere; we simply need to remember it, moment by moment.
Thanks again for your note, Adrianne. Feel free to keep in touch –
Followed ACIM for years. I was a teacher to over 1,000 students. And then I was invited to church one day by a student, and *bam* my whole world fell down. It took several years, but eventually I saw the course for what it really was- brainwashed seudo-spiritual garbage. I left it behind, found solid teaching on Christ and Christianity, and never looked back. It may seem innocent and exciting at first, but it pales in comparison to the joy I found in Christ now. Coming out of ACIM is difficult, as it’s an addicting philosophy. But it can be done! Use your common sense, get a support group, and take the journey out of it! ????
Thank you for your article. I read the ACIM volumes before and just recently picked it up again with all this staying at home. I definitely am getting a better understanding now that I’m a little bit older and have practiced what I could, when I could. The person I would discuss ACIM with passed away and I’m thinking about joining a group to see what that has to offer. I don’t think it’s a cult, but like you said, some people might have cult like tendencies. I’ll listen to myself and if I don’t feel comfortable I have no problem trying to find another group.
You’re welcome, Jim. Thank you for reading and sharing. You sound pretty grounded and clear-thinking. I hope your work with the course is fruitful.
Your understanding of the Course in Miracles is incorrect. Paragraph four above…you misunderstand a fundamental paradigm of the course. God did not make the world. And the course is designed to help the student become their own authority. No outside group is needed.
That paragraph – and that sentence you highlight – characterizes a traditional misunderstanding of the world which is the reason for our guilt and fear, for which guilt and fear A Course in Miracles – as you aptly observe – is given to correct. I’m not saying God made the world, I’m saying that until we realize God did not make it – we did – then we’re going to remain fearful and guilt-ridden.
In terms of needing outside groups, every student’s path is different. Such is the nature of a self-study curriculum 🙂
Thank you for sharing!
I decided to see what was said about ACIM being a cult, and I am delighted that I did! I appreciate your example of what it means to be a Course student. We don’t have answers…..we just know that we don’t know why this dream unfolds in the way it does.
i was a student of Ken Wapnick and met with him every week until his illness and then death in 2013. I knew the Course was my path and yet it took me many years to fully embrace it. As you know, it isn’t just something to be studied. It is meant to be lived. And for anyone who wants mighty companions, you can check out “Living Miracles” and David Hoffmeister. He doesn’t profess to be anything. But, like Ken Wapnick, he lives in joy and peace. For me, having examples of those that live in peace 100% of the time shows me what is possible. There is no purpose to this world except to heal the mind so we all can experience the love of God that is within us. It takes courage and strength to unwind from the intricate lies that the ego tells. BUT, it is guaranteed that if we truly want to be free of all the ego holds, we will be! Wanting it when we are desperate is one thing. Wanting it when things are “going well” is another. Once we are willing to let go of the ego, the real fun begins. It will throw every obstacle it can at us. And just when we think we are done, something else may arise. BUT know that no matter what, we cannot fail. We are love, we are safe. And nothing can change that no matter how it appears.
Much love to you Sean!
Thanks for the kind words & clear eyes, Patty 🙂 Ken was a lovely man and an effective teacher for so many students . . . what a gift to have been so close to him! I corresponded with him briefly near the end of his life – he was very patient and helpful, and said all the right things about Emily Dickinson 🙂
Yes – the course is meant to be lived (as Helen pointed out) and so many teachers since have clarified. Tara Singh used the phrase “bring it into application” (drawing, I suspect, from the preface – “it emphasizes application rather than theory, and experienc rather than theology”). A tough row to hoe consistently but so fruitful . . . .
Thank you again for sharing this path 🙏
I was introduced to A Course in Miracles through Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in 1994. I picked up A Course in Miracles (the Foundation for Inner Peace version) in 1997 and I have never looked back. I will admit that it scared me at first; I had to put it down briefly. I was afraid because I knew it was the truth. Unfiltered and to the point. Nothing else I have ever studied was as honest. But I will say, I didn’t understand it completely, at least not at first. My understanding expanded so much, unfortunately, after my son passed away in 2012. I hadn’t read the Course in years, though I was still using my understanding of it in daily life. In 2013, I picked it up again, basically in desperation. Suddenly, the parts I couldn’t truly grasp before made perfect sense. In the years since, I make it a point to keep the book and its tenets close; I am currently using the workbook again. Every time I return to the Course, I get more out of it. I finally feel like I am advancing toward home. I understand also that it isn’t the path for everyone, but it is certainly my path.
Thank you for sharing. And I am sorry for the loss of your son.
I really appreciate your sharing that the course is not for everyone – it is not! And it explicitly acknowledges that there are many paths to salvation, of which it is merely one. But if it IS our path, then it merits our attention and devotion.
Marianne Williamson was the first course “teacher” that I read as well. I found her just after I began studying the course. Although I have moved on somewhat in how I understand and practice the material, I remain deeply grateful to her.
Thank you again for sharing.
It’s NOT about behavior in the world, it’s about self thought system. It is a course to teach inner peace. Everybody’s comments above are misconstrued from the improper teachings of some people who don’t understand it’s a “SELF STUDY COURSE”. If they are dictating how to live your life then they are so mistaken and have misinterpreted the entire object of the course. SO,…… some people think of it as a religion and it the farthest thing from that. It is very cerebral and many people really don’t understand the freedom of thought you can obtain by really looking at ones own self and not projecting your thoughts or ideas about the course onto other people. SO if some people have fallen into a group that acts like a cult then you’ve arrived at he wrong set of people. “I try and not associate with course people”, Said one of the greatest teachers of the course, Dr/ Ken Wapnick..
Thank you for sharing, John 🙏🙏 Ken spent most of his adult and professional life with Course people 🙂