Physical Healing in A Course in Miracles

One of the more challenging concepts students face in A Course in Miracles is the nature of physical healing. Given course assertions that the body isn’t real (e.g., T-2.V.1:9), and that all forms of healing its apparent ills are magic (e.g., T-2.IV.2:7, T-7.V.4:2), what is the status of physical healing in A Course in Miracles?

A Course in Miracles has clear roots in Christian Science, a nineteenth century religion that suggests sickness is an illusion that only prayer can heal. Both Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford had a relationship with that tradition in their childhoods. Thematic strains of Christian Science are evident throughout the text and workbook, particularly with respect to healing and atonement.

For example, in “Atonement and Eucharist” from Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy sees atonement as an end to our separation from God.

Atonement is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage.

And later yet she discussed the relationship between truth and error, in terms that – with fairly minor semantic adjustments – should be familiar to students of A Course in Miracles.

Love and Truth are not at war with God’s image and likeness. Man cannot exceed divine Love, and so atone for himself. Even Christ cannot reconcile Truth to error, for Truth and error are irreconcilable. Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus’ teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and death by the law of Spirit, — the law of divine Love.

Eddy’s premise was that sickness was illusory and thus could be healed through prayer, through bringing one’s spirit into alignment with truth as God created it. Eddy contemplated specifically physical healing. Her own profound experience included healing from a fall.

Does A Course in Miracles make a similar case for that kind of healing?

It is true that some students of the course experience healing of this sort. I have heard and read testimony about skin cancer being healed, migraine headaches disappearing, addictions disappearing and more.

I have no reason to doubt testimony like this. It is entirely consistent with the release of guilt fostered by the course. Miracles heal the body because we are learning – through the undoing of guilt – that the mind, not the body, makes illness. What happens in the body merely reflects what is happening in the mind (T-28.II.11:4). This is as true of our sexual relationships as our relationships with food and eating.

The miracle is always about the shift in our thinking from ego to Christ, from little self to God. It has no other goal; and really, healing needs no other.

But – and this is critical – physical healing is not the ultimate goal of A Course in Miracles.

Yet half the lesson will not teach the whole. The miracle is useless if you learn but that the body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is the mind was sick that thought the body could be sick; projecting out its guilt caused nothing, and had no effects (T.28.II.11:5-7).

The real goal of A Course in Miracles is to restore cause and effect to its rightful place. Cause lies in the mind and the physical world – from our bodies to other bodies to the weather to the sea to the distant stars – are merely effects that witness to what is happening in the mind.

As our mind heals – which is to say as it accepts its responsibility as a decision-maker that is choosing to think either with or against God, or Love – the real fruit is inner peace. That might show up as a miraculous deliverance from a fatal cancer diagnosis. But it might also show up as the grace to simply accept the cancer because the cancer is not real. So there is nothing to get worked up about. There is never anything to get worked up about.

We can’t fake this insight. Most of us think of miracles in terms of what we can get materially. That’s what we do! But A Course in Miracles slowly and surely redirects our thinking, aligning it with something closer to Truth, or reality. At that level, sickness is impossible regardless of what appears to be happening in the world. We heal by realizing this. We heal by realizing that at that level, there is no sickness or harm.

In other words, we lose our attachment to the symbols of hate and guilt that show up in the world. Whatever shows up is okay. It can’t shake our inner peace because our inner peace is not caused by what is external. It is reflected there for learning purposes, but reflections are not causative.

In this sense, the course differentiates – subtly perhaps – from Christian Science. This is not to say that one path is “better” or more “right” than the other. Either can be a useful path to salvation, to the realization of our fundamental unity. It is a question of what is most helpful to us at a given time.

But in terms of miracles, the miracle is always about the shift in our thinking from ego to Christ, from little self to God. It has no other goal; and really, physical healing needs no other.

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7 thoughts on “Physical Healing in A Course in Miracles”

  1. Sean–This is so well said. I belong to a Science of Mind church (Science of Mind was birthed from Christian Science) but I am primarily A Course in Miracles student. Because there is so much emphasis on healing in Science of Mind, I always ponder about it in connection with the Course. I, too, see the similarities, but also the same difference you see. In my Science of Mind classes, I have learned how to use thought to heal. However, while we are perfectly capable of healing ourselves by USING spirit, it is when we simply turn the outcome of everything over to Spirit, that the truly deep healings begin, both mental and physical.

    By the way, in my life with my “regular” non-spiritual friends I hear nothing but pain talk. But my friends who are really doing deep spiritual work are mostly enjoying their bodies with much less attachment to them and experience little pain, if any. The “happy dream” comes in many forms and can include release from illness and physical pain!

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Susan. I am only nominally familiar with Science of Mind (tried to read Holmes a few years ago and it didn’t take; Christian Science fascinates me – actually, the whole emphasis on healing is fascinating. The emphasis ACIM places on healing taking place solely in the mind – with or without manifestation in the world and body – is very rigorous and hard to sustain. It is so easy to slip into a belief that the body is useful for that it can get us, and “health” is one of those things. I agree with you whole-heartedly – when we release outcomes to spirit, then a “truly deep healing” begins, we are moving in the direction then of something radically whole.

      It does seem like a grounded spiritual practice tends to promote a certain detachment from the body – not in a negative way, but just in a simple and relaxed way. It is as if we are learning that the body is merely part of our experience of the physical world, no more and no less, and useful primarily for communication.

      Thanks again, Sue – hope all is well!


  2. Sean: As our mind heals – which is to say as it accepts its responsibility as a decision-maker that is choosing to think either with or against God – the real fruit is inner peace. That might show up as a miraculous deliverance from a fatal cancer diagnosis. But it might also show up as the grace to simply accept the cancer because the cancer is not real. So there is nothing to get worked up about. There is never anything to get worked up about.

    Pam: Sean, I am certainly not advocating ‘getting upset’ about anything as that mental/emotional state has no healing power in it whatsoever. However, Course metaphysics with respect to Reality have been compared, and I think rightly so, to a movie projector on which we project our thoughts on the screen we call ‘the external world.’ In other words, it may look like there are things ‘out there’ existing separately from what we believe to be our thoughts but that isn’t true. Therefore, cancer is nothing but a thought and healing thoughts is what ACIM is all about. In addition, ACIM informs:

    All forms of sickness, even unto death, are physical expressions of the fear of awakening. They are attempts to reinforce unconsciousness out of fear of consciousness. This is a pathetic way of trying not to know by rendering the faculties for knowing ineffectual.

    If this is true, I must ask, just exactly what is it that we are accepting when we accept unhealed cancer? It seems reasonable to think that what we are accepting is that we still have fear of awakening, that we are still engaged in attempts to reinforce the unconscious out of fear of consciousness, and that we are engaging in a ‘projection’ that the Course refers to as pathetic or ‘marked by sorrow.’ I would like to suggest that maybe it is better to accept that we are healed, that being healed is our natural state. Whether or not we manifest it in this particular life, we should nonetheless accepting thinking it right up until our very last breath – be that last breath taken by a disease or a germ or a bullet or simply old age (e.g., It may look like I have cancer, but I am totally whole and totally healed. It may look like this gunshot is taking me out but I will die with affirmations of being complete and whole and healed on my lips. It may look like I am old but I am an eternal being and I will not accept thoughts that tell me otherwise!

    1. Hi Pamela,

      It’s nice to hear from you – I hope you and your family are well.

      We agree that we are eternal beings!

      The problem is never external – it’s not the cells that are cancerous, not the body that is orgasmic, and not the other body pointing a gun. It is always our interpretation of those wholly neutral things – the internal decision to call some of them good, some of them bad, some of them right, some of them wrong. That is what A Course in Miracles addresses – the internal decision-maker that projects its fear and guilt outside and then judges it.

      At that level it doesn’t matter if we are pleased or displeased with what is happening outside. To judge it in any way is to make it real, and to make it real is to believe that our will can create apart from God’s will, and that one can meaningfully choose between them.

      Death is nothing, because the body is nothing, but we believe otherwise – and it is that belief that has to change, and that is internal. That is the only level that ACIM addresses. What happens externally as a result of that changed belief is beside the point – once the external is accepted as illusory, what happens there ceases to matter.

      So again, sure, some people might be “healed” the way the ego defines healing – the disappearance of a “bad” symptom. But others will not. And the course does not judge either way. It is not concerned with what happens to the body, only to the mind. Bodies are wholly neutral; the issue that we are dealing with is always interpretation, or judgment.

      Thus, healed cancer and unhealed cancer are the same thing. To argue otherwise is to fall into the ego’s trap of judgment.

      It is increasingly my experience that I do not need to “insist” on anything any more than I need to “resist” anything. The course is much gentler than that. I simply need to give attention to thought and share it with the the Holy Spirit (which is simply to hold it in awareness without judgment) and it is undone for me. Healing in this sense is far more passive than the ego wants to admit, given its fondness for combat, complexity and conditions.

      Thank you for sharing, Pamela. I know that we don’t always see eye-to-eye on these issues, but I am always grateful for your thoughts.


      1. You know what is amazing to me is that our interpretations of ACIM have so many common elements and yet on this particular point we are soooo far apart. I can literally find passages that, in my mind, contradict almost every point you made yet I know that does not matter. What matters most to me is that I have been able to share a few thoughts with you and I’ve not been able to do that for some time, so I am very grateful for it.


  3. Excellent, and thank you. I have focused too much on trying to heal my physical ailments only to be disappointed in the end and then doubting the course. Realizing that it’s not really about healing the body has helped me a great deal.

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