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Reading Gary Renard

The first ACIM book anyone gave me was Tara Singh’s Nothing Real Can Be Threatened. The second was by Gary Renard – The Disappearance of the Universe. Singh was handed to me somewhat as a second thought. Renard’s Disappearance came with the following bromide: “This is the course.” And while for me, it has been Tara Singh who has shaped my practice and made waking up even a dim possibility, there is no denying that Renard’s book was helpful.

If we can say one thing about Gary Renard it might be this: nobody is indifferent to him. I don’t meet many course students who have such a strong opinion about any teacher as they do Renard. Even Ken Wapnick, who edited the text, taught the course and helped shepherd it through the world for several decades, seems to call forth a more mild response than Renard.

But I liked Gary Renard’s book. It was helpful at the time, and I am grateful for it. I had some issues with it – and I’ll get to them – but I still share my copy of Disappearance of the Universe with people for whom I think it might be helpful. It is accessible in a way that the course itself is not, at least initially. Disappearance of the Universe is not dense, not hard to read, and it’s even funny at times. That sense of humor matters to me. Remember what Jesus says of the separation: it’s a mad idea at which we “forgot to laugh.” Ken Wapnick pointed out many times how serious course students and study groups can be. If you’re not having fun, if you’re not laughing, then maybe you’re missing something. It’s worth considering.

Renard didn’t skip the “have fun” part of the course. If serious is the way you approach A Course in Miracles, then look out. Renard brings the funny and the irreverent. For me, in the  end, that style wasn’t a good fit, but it might be for you.

If you want to read Gary, then read him. If you want to take a stand with respect to his honesty or lack thereof, then do so. And then move on with your practice.

The premise of Disappearance is this. Renard is in spiritual crisis, seeking the “better way” that Schucman and Bill Thetford both sought and, in apparent response, two ascended beings come to him. Arten and Pursah aren’t human – they’re divine beings, former disciples and followers of the historical Jesus who, after many many lifetimes of learning the principles of A Course in Miracles, show up in Renard’s Maine living room to teach him the secrets of life and the universe. Over the course of nine years of appearing and teaching – sometimes transporting Renard through time and space – Renard writes a book under the direction of Arten and Pursah.

That book is The Disappearance of the Universe.

And that premise drives a lot of people nuts. In fact, a lot of teachers – notably Jon Mundy, Robert Perry, Bruce MacDonald and Greg Mackie – have taken serious issue with Renard and his writing. If you’re interested, you can read Perry’s analysis of Renard’s work here, while Renard addresses charges of fraud at his website.

I’m a big believer in avoiding conflict wherever possible. From a strict ACIM perspective, we are never justified in perpetuating conflict. From my confused and error-prone human status, I’m doing the best I can. And that means that I like to take what works and leave what doesn’t behind. My two cents? There’s a lot to learn from in Renard’s work. But if you can’t swallow the whole Arten and Pursah thing, if the claims to being the reincarnation of St. Thomas are too much, then let it go. Gary isn’t the only teacher out there.

The more spectacular aspects of Gary’s life are, in my opinion, the least interesting. If you are struggling to understand A Course in Miracles and you need help, then Disappearance of the Universe may well be helpful. It may not be the end of your study – for me it was important to move on from Renard – but it might be a useful bridge. Renard is faithful to what I consider a fairly orthodox understand of the course – the most notable teacher and practitioner of this approach being Ken Wapnick (to whom Gary owes a considerable debt).

A big part of Renard’s draw is that he really champions the fact that he’s not a scholar, not a religious persona, not a genius, not a writer. He cheerfully owns up to not knowing anything about where the commas go and what a semicolon does. He’s a regular guy, like you and me. And given that A Course in Miracles can be a very demanding text, a lot of people are looking for someone to bring it to another level, one that doesn’t feel so scholastic or esoteric.

There are pros and cons to that, of course. In a sense, I appreciate the need to find ways to approach the course from a less-intellectual point-of-view. At the same time, A Course in Miracles is what it is – and if it’s too abstract or if its metaphysics are too confusing, then perhaps a more reasonable thing to do is try another path. The course is clear that it is but one form of the universal curriculum. There is no shame in trying another.

But the yardstick needs to be what is helpful – what works for you.

For me, Gary’s work has not retained its level of influence. The irreverence, the drama, the earthly predictions, the resultant hullabaloo in the ACIM community eventually distracted me from my own experience of forgiveness. So I moved on.

When I first began to study the course, I was deeply confused about “where” God was – if he wasn’t out there, up in the sky, and if the Holy Spirit wasn’t up there with him, then where were they? I really struggled with the idea that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were inside of me. That concept eluded and challenged me.

It was Renard’s text that simplified that idea. I remember a few weeks after reading Disappearance and praying a bit on it, that I finally was able to move away from this idea of God as a punitive intelligence far away from me but always watching, ready to clip me upside the head at the slightest wrong. Was Renard the cause of the insight? He wasn’t the sole cause. Would it have come anyway? Probably.

On the other hand, there was something in Renard’s book – at that point in time and in my study – that loosened some interior blocks and allowed me to move forward in my understanding and application of the course. For that reason, I am grateful to Gary.

What do I think of the charges that Renard is a fraud? That he created this whole Arten and Pursah thing in order to scam students and make money? Is that all he is – a spiritual scam artist, one more snake oil salesmen getting rich off lost souls who don’t know better?

In a general sense, I feel that everybody needs to come to their own insight with respect to Gary’s writing, and the yardstick needs to be whether it helps them understand A Course in Miracles and bring into application. That’s a personal question that nobody else can answer for you.

For me, Gary’s work has not retained its level of influence. The irreverence, the drama, the predictions, the hullabaloo in the ACIM  community eventually distracted me from my own experience of forgiveness. So I moved on. I read Your Immortal Reality quickly and I haven’t bothered with his third book – Love has Forgotten Noone – at all. I don’t feel like I have the time anymore to wade through the noise. Tara Singh has proven a much more grounded and consistent teacher for me.

That doesn’t mean what I say is right for you. It may not be. As I said earlier, the question of whether his visitors were real or metaphorical – Renard has never compromised on saying that they are the real deal – has never been of particular interest to me. I have not had similar experiences and to the extent I’m skeptical – and I am – I’m also open enough to realize that I don’t know everything. I’ve left it at that and moved on.

A Course in Miracles asks us to pose one question with respect to everything we encounter on this earth – “what is it for?” (T-24.VII.6:1)

Let not your foolish fancies frighten you. What is immortal cannot be attacked; what is but temporal has no effect. Only the purpose you see in it has meaning, and if that is true, its safety rests secure. If not, it has no purpose, and is means for nothing (T-24.VII.5:3-6).

Renard’s first book has made my experience of A Course in Miracles a better one. It has helped me bring it into application – exactly the way that Tara Singh says we must, if we are truly going to experience its promise of peace and joy.

If you want to read Gary, then read him. If you want to take a stand with respect to his honesty or lack thereof, then do so. And then move on with your practice. If his books are helpful, then great. If they aren’t – if they don’t resonate, if they distract you, if the grow dim with time – then put them down and move on with your practice.

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Kimmi December 6, 2011, 7:19 pm

    I really loved this review Sean. I’m reading Disappearance now, and my husband is reading ACIM. We share with each other and Gary really has a way of putting the concepts so they are easily understandable. I came looking for reviews to find out, is this really what the course is trying to teach, or is this just his personal interpretation of it. Everything he is saying resonates with me, so I was curious to other perspectives. Do you know if the original author, Helen has ever commented on Gary’s books?

    • Sean December 7, 2011, 6:18 am

      Thanks for reading Kimmi. I think that’s Gary’s strong suit for sure – making the Course understandable. He has a real gift for that. His ideas about ACIM are very close to Ken Wapnick’s – they have very different styles of writing and teaching, but their message is largely the same. Ken was a close associate of Helen Schucman and did a lot of the editing of the Course. You might enjoy taking a look at his books (if you haven’t yet) at some point. Gary is very controversial in the Course community although that does seem to be mellowing out a bit. You can certainly find serious students who won’t touch him with a ten foot pole! But I think the real test is your own response – if it’s helping you make contact with your inner teacher, then stay close to it.

      Helen Schucman died in 1981 and so she never read any of Gary Renard’s work, but as I said above, she remained very close to Wapnick and was familiar with his work.

      Thanks again for reading.

  • sherylizz January 18, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Gary being Pursah and a discipline of Jesus. BIG EGO-sh*t going on here.
    I have NO idea why people are so full of this guy who’s so full of himself.
    Totally contrary to ACIM. A 2nd hand car salesman who jumped onto the ride of spirituality selling being yet another way to earn big bucks. And boy he’s milking this cow like you wouldn’t believe.
    Did you read his defense (he calls it clarification) on his webpage and how he reacts to the people who attack him? Embarrassing and shameful and in total clash with what ACIM teaches. Thumbs down all the way for Gary.

    • Sean Reagan January 18, 2013, 8:48 pm

      Hi Sherrylizz,

      Thanks for sharing. It’s true that Gary – and other teachers too – excite a lot of criticism and conflict. I have tried generally in my own practice to focus on what works in the books/classes/etc and steer clear as much as I can of the whole “is he telling the truth” or “is he a fraud.” It’s clear to me that Gary has been very helpful to some students; I certainly feel like Disappearance of the Universe was useful when I was starting out, even if it was kind of dramatic. In some ways, and for many reasons, I have moved on to other teachers but I’m still grateful to Gary.

      That’s one of the things I am most grateful for in the course community – there are so many teachers that if we are struggling with one, or find them too intellectual or too egoic or too this or too that, then we can simply shake the dust off our sandals and move on. There are lots of ways to wake up; even in tiny communities like ACIM.

      It’s odd but sometimes we end conflict simply by choosing not to indulge it anymore. I’m certainly not perfect in this regard, but it does seem like a helpful practice.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      ~ Sean

      • sherylizz January 19, 2013, 8:39 am

        Spot on my friend. with metta.

  • Eric G. February 21, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I’ve always been a big skeptic of channeled material and especially of today’s New Age books written. Most of it is pretty formulaic. It usually goes something like this. Person(s) is usually dealing with some negative worldly issue. Person(s) is meditating. Person(s) has experience with some type of higher entity/entities. Person’s reaction to such a phenomena is usually not in proportion to what is happening (I think Helen’s reaction was one that would be more expected from something as extraordinary as the claim). Person(s) get’s over initial shock rather quickly. Person(s) is given some form of “higher being wisdom”. Person(s) is told that this entity/entities will only come to that particular person (what I call verbal copyright to product). Person(s) writes book, gets book published, sells books, and goes on to do lectures, and makes a living off of the “wisdom” of these “higher beings.”

    Another thing they usually have in common, is that while each book may have a clever saying or some kind of insight, they usually sound rather human and ordinary. It is also pretty easy to see where these supposed “higher beings” derived their wisdom from. For example, in the Abraham-Hicks books, it is very easy to see that they take their ideas/ materials (almost word for word sometimes) from such early 20th century authors such as Robert Collier, Napoleon Hill, and Charles F. Haanel and then simply put the “ascended higher beings” spin on it and voila!

    I had read about A Course in Miracles in other books, before ever reading it. I don’t know why, but I had a strong aversion to it, even though I knew nothing about it. I promised myself that I would never read such a “stupid book”. To make a longer story short, one day I went to a bookstore and there is was on the front table by the front door. A simple, thick, blue book. For some reason I felt strongly compelled to buy it, so I did. I took it home, unwrapped it, and began to read the preface.

    “Scribed?!! Scribed?!! Are you kidding me?!!” I thought. I was furious. I had been duped and wasted 30 bucks on channeled junk. I threw the book down in disgust. After some time passed, I figured since I spent so much money on this book, I might as well read some of it. So I did. As I began to read, it became apparent rather quickly that this wasn’t the run of the mill “channeled” material. This was beyond clever or having some tidbits of insight. This was profound. I felt I was reading something very important. Yet, I was still skeptical.

    So I began doing some research on ACIM. I read Helen’s story. Watched the YouTube clips on its origins (which are now mysteriously gone). Read about MKULTRA, CIA, 1960’s college university funding and Thetford, read the UrText etc. and started piecing it all together. What I came away with, was that Helen’s story and a genuineness to it that other “channeled” material did not. While it may have started like other channeled material in the fact that Helen and Bill were dealing with negative worldly situations, from their it pretty much deviates from the formulaic standard.

    While I have read many books like The Dhammapada, The Tao Te Ching, The Bhagavad Gita, The Gnostic Gospels etc.; taken psychology, read some Western Philosophy, I have never read something as comprehensive in scope as ACIM.

    Of course, like many students, I began to read authors speaking about the course. Wapnick was one of them. At about 6 months after I began to read ACIM, I read DU, because it was recommended. It didn’t take very long to see the formula in this book. It was almost word for word, the formula I described at the beginning of this reply. It became quite obvious that DU took its “higher wisdom” of ACIM directly from Wapnick. It wasn’t just similar, “A&P” were repeating ideas that were strictly Wapnick’s and were to be found nowhere in the course. It has been joked about that “A&P” are actually Wapnick and Elaine Pagels, due to the fact that the ACIM material is derived from Wapnick and the Gnostic topics derived from Pagels, a scholar who’s focus is on the Gnostic scriptures. It’s also pretty apparent that “A&P” knowledge of Quantum mechanics can be derived from such books as “The Field” or “The Holographic Universe.” In fact, I don’t see anything original in DU, except for the claims of “A&P” being Jesus’ apostles and that Jesus liked to drink (which I’m sure is Gary’s own projection due to his own alcohol issues).

    I have seen people say that it doesn’t matter if it is true or not, because it is the message. This is just another way of saying the ends justifies the means and that it is OK to use deception (to lie) to show the “Truth”. Yet, if the center is a lie, then who’s to say that what comes from that center is also not a lie? The first rule in discernment, is to not use the framework of a claim to discern whether or not the claim is true or not. For example, it would be ridiculous for someone to say it doesn’t matter if the origins of ACIM are true or not, because the world is an illusion. To use ACIM’s claim about the world as a basis to discern the validity of its origins is ridiculous. Yet, this kind of reasoning is often used with DU.

    So let’s look at “the messages” of DU that are important enough to be apathetic to its validity. Forgiveness is one of the messages in DU. That’s a pretty good message, but it’s also one that is the central theme in ACIM.

    Another message is that only Gary and a couple of others are actually teaching the course. Wow, that’s a pretty big statement. My guess is it is Gary, Wapnick, and one other then, that is really teaching the course. Now were touching on fundamentalism that often plays into organized religion. Something should be clarified here though. Gary takes his ideas from Wapnick. Yet what most people don’t realize is that Wapnick’s interpretation of the course has changed so dramatically over the years, that if you took early quotes of his and put them next to his theology now, it would look like he is arguing with himself. Wapnick’s interpretation of the course who was under Helen’s tutelage is not the same Wapnick interpretation of today. And it should be pointed out, that it is interpretation, as everyone interprets the course. Since words are read through own’s perception, that is interpretation, because perception IS interpretation. When one starts speaking about ACIM as if it were 100% fact and not interpretation, that person is arrogantly deluding themselves.

    Another message from his books is that we are from Mars. Who cares? Completely irrelevant to ACIM IMO and is getting into Scientology’s area.

    Another message from his books is not only NOT spot on with ACIM, but is antithetical to ACIM. That is that ACIM is so far advanced than other paths and they are just moving furniture around a burning house. The implication of the term, “Moving furniture around a burning house”, is that it will fail, but only gives a temporary illusion that it will work. The course says the very opposite of this,and that it is only one form of the universal curriculum and that all paths lead to God. It also says that there is a teacher of God for everyone and who will speak their language who may come from religion or no religion. THEY ALL save time. Renard time and again tries to make ACIM special by exalting it above other paths, by depreciating other paths’ worth. No where in the course does it say that it is faster than other paths. Not even in the often misunderstood section of, “I Need Do Nothing.”

    Another message is to instead of focusing on ACIM, for the teachers to start discrediting other teachers of ACIM and other paths. Interestingly enough, “A&P’s wisdom” actually is inaccurate in some of their critiques of other teachers. One would think that “ascended masters” wouldn’t be wrong on such matters and also instead of focusing on other teacher of other paths, would instead focus on ACIM. Case in point, Gary asks “A&P” about The Now. This is an obvious reference to Tolle. The response was that it won’t get you home. Again, a saying that another path will not work. They also misrepresented Tolle’s teaching, leaving a lot of it out. I would also say that some of the teachers Gary hiding behind the voices of “A&P” that are criticized seem to walk the walk better than he.

    Yet my question was this. Instead of focusing on another teacher and the Now, why didn’t “A&P” expound on the Now as it has to do with ACIM? ACIM is rich with passages talking about the Now, the present, the Holy Instant both as an aspect of time and as timeless. So instead of focusing on this to get a deeper understanding of the now with passages like:

    “The Holy Spirit interprets time’s purpose as rendering the need for it unnecessary. Thus does He regard the function of time as temporary, serving only His teaching function, which is temporary by definition. His emphasis is therefore on the only aspect of time which can extend to the infinite, for now is the closest approximation of eternity which this world offers. It is in the reality of now, without past or future, that the beginning of the appreciation of eternity lies. For only now is here, and it presents the opportunities for the holy encounters in which salvation can be found.”~ACIM

    Why did they waste time on that? As the course says, a good teacher will not teach, “Don’t do this, but do that”, instead a good teacher will teach, “Do only that.”

    Interestingly, Gary came to one of his friend’s websites I was at to promote something I can’t remember and I asked him about this. He didn’t give a very good reply. So I pushed the issue. He gave another weak reply and then left. It was then brought to my attention from someone on the website that his very next podcast was talking about the Now, so I listened. Again it was not very good, IMO and sounded like it had quickly been put together. I think this is because Gary only focuses on a couple of things in the course and this wasn’t one of them. One of the reason Gary said his 3rd book is being delayed is because he wanted to rewrite some of it. My bet, is there will be a more substantial section in it on this topic.

    As I said, I am a huge skeptic of channeled material. It seems ironic that ACIM is my main path. I have 3 different versions of ACIM and six hard copies. I have the entire combined FIP version on audio on my iPod, the Original Text on my iPod, both of which I listen to regularly. I have the Original Edition e-book on my phone and many many books from various authors on ACIM.

    Yet, there is still a part of me that is skeptical, ironically enough. But, I didn’t accept ACIM at face value. I researched it, and tried to use discernment to the best of my abilities. There is something about ACIM I cannot deny, despite what skepticism I may have. DU and YIR’s “ascended masters” on the other hand are so obviously formulaic purposefully made up literary devices, that for me, could not pass the skeptic test. While I may have a bias towards channeled material, I would like to clarify that I do not believe Gary simply because I don’t want to believe Gary. The fact is, there are many things in his book that don’t add up. There are inconsistencies in facts that his “ascended masters” say that are not only not in line with the course, but are antithetical to the course. I’ve only given a small sampling. There could be pages written on other examples and the whys of it.

    Gary has always pleaded that it should be the message that counts. Yet, Gary held up ACIM to such scrutiny and pledged that if he found any evidence it was a fraud, he would expose it, even though its central message is of forgiveness. Why should Gary not be held to the same standards?

    Yet, lets recap the messages Gary is sending us. There is the message of forgiveness that everyone knows about, but there is also these. The message that Gary’s “ascended masters” tell the infallible Truth and that Gary is only one of a few that truly teaches the course. There is the message that eventually all other teachers will have to follow Gary’s lead in teaching the course. There is the message that other paths are simply moving furniture around a burning house. This is the implication that paths other than ACIM will fail, thus exalting ACIM and making it special over other paths by depreciating the other paths. These messages are in line with the fundamentalism that is permeating organized religion and these are just some of the messages from Gary.

    Based on that, I think it is extremely important to use discernment as to whether Gary is telling the truth or not. Look at the claims he is making. We use discernment everyday in our lives, why do we tend to throw it away when it comes to spirituality?

    Which brings me to the trump card that is so often used when this topic arises. Those who look for controversy will find it. This sentence is so often used by believers of Gary’s story. Yet it essentially translates to this: I want to believe in Gary’s story and what you are saying is threatening my belief in Gary’s story that brought me comfort and this is now making me uncomfortable, which is causing conflict in my mind and I don’t like it. So to stop you from making me feel uncomfortable, I’m going to say this line from the course in hopes that you’ll stop because you’ll feel that it makes you look nonspiritual to question Gary’s story. Then I can begin to push this conversation back out of my awareness and once again embrace the beliefs I hold so dear that brought me comfort.

    Beliefs may temporarily bring comfort, but as the course says, in belief there also lies non-belief. Eventually, beliefs in “spiritual gurus” will need to be laid aside.

    • sherylizz February 21, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Brilliant comment. Hats off.
      I personally found DU incredibly disappointing. I want my money and reading time back…
      DU is the ultimate EGO trip in which Gary is inflating himself tremendously.
      DU is about 1) Gary, 2) Gary and 3. Gary.
      I was left with overall irritation that someone who considers himself an ACIM teacher, thinks about himself as not just special, but SUPER-special.
      A Course in Miracles teaches that there is only one of us here. To be special means we have SEPARATED ourself from others.
      “Renard time and again tries to make ACIM special by exalting it above other paths”
      –> Gary is dead wrong here. It goes against ACIM teachings that the special relationships of the world are destructive, selfish, and childishly egocentric. No person or thing is Special. If we see it as such, we are still caught up in perception and in the dream.
      So thinking that ACIM is special is totally anti-ACIM.
      ” The message that Gary’s “ascended masters” tell the infallible Truth and that Gary is only one of a few that truly teaches the course.”
      –> Another example of Gary still being totally lost in the maze of EGO-(La-La) land.
      ACIM doesn’t need teachers who think they are special (distanced themself from the rest) and preach their own glory.

      • Eric G. February 22, 2013, 2:09 pm

        Hi sherylizz,

        Thank you very much and I have to say I agree. It is unfortunate, but not all that uncommon in spirituality. My hope is that people will begin to look to some of the implications of what is being said and not simply take them at face value. Just like other aspects of our life, we should use discernment when it comes to spirituality. It doesn’t make someone non-spiritual to speak up on such matters. Apathy does not equate to spirituality.

        I think any good teacher would not only allow questioning, but welcome it. It is one of the things I liked about what The Buddha said. Don’t accept anything at face value from anyone, including himself. Question it.

        Jesus, in the UrText basically said the same thing to Helen and told her to check his credentials. LOL

        I’m not a teacher, more of a student, but I have no problem explaining my stance or interpretations of ACIM, and if I say something, I don’t expect it be taken at face value. I would like to think that I would be more than happy to explain the “why” I said what I said. if I were questioned.

        • sherylizz February 22, 2013, 3:37 pm

          I totally agree with what you say.
          Personally I think ACIM is about being teacher/student at the same time.
          The Buddha was right of course. And… you probably know the following quote old koan attributed to Zen Master Linji “If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him” – one of the meanings given to it is: “being humble. the instant you think you are, you’re not.” Sort of ego/pseudo enlightenment.
          On the last day of the 10 day Silence Vipassana meditation retreat (I highly reccommend it, look for information at dhamma.org) we are told:
          “you DO NOT need a guru, you are your OWN guru.”
          In the past I had been to 2 satsangs (a weekend event both times) by different teachers. I decided not to attend satsangs again, because I felt so uncomfortable both times by the slavish devotees and the blank look in their eyes. It looked as if they had been fused with the teacher.
          They didn’t DARE questioning the teachings. Unconditional acceptance. Kinda scary.
          So yes, yes, yes, as you said: QUESTIONING is essential and teachers should indeed welcome it.
          sorry for my rudimentary English, I’m from the Netherlands

          • Eric G. February 22, 2013, 5:50 pm


            You’re Enlgish is awesome!!

    • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 8:12 pm

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for that long and articulate comment – I appreciate the depth of your convictions! And I also appreciate that you took the time to add your perspective so responsibly to my site.

      I’m not sure that I have much to add to what I’ve already said about Gary. In general, I think ACIM students should work with teachers who are helpful to them, and that they are free to make that decision for themselves. What works at one phase may not work at another. There is a lot of information out there, and for the most part I think we are all doing the best we can to sift through it and make healthy choices. We stumble from time to time but that’s okay. I would never try to talk somebody out of refusing to read Renard, and I think if they want to read him, then that’s okay too. They’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t in time.

      I have found in my practice of A Course in Miracles that Jesus either helps me make the right choice or – if I insist on my own choice – then uses that to teach and heal me. In the end, there are no mistakes, and we are all going to get home.

      You are right, of course, when you observe that those who want conflict will find it. It seems we can never say that enough, can we? The corollary is always helpful too: those who want peace will find it, too. I have to remember that.

      Thanks again, Eric!



  • Eric G. February 21, 2013, 1:18 pm

    I suppose I should proof-read :-). At one point I spelled the word there as their.

    • sherylizz February 21, 2013, 2:13 pm

      you are FORGIVEN!! (smile)

      • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 8:15 pm

        That’s the spirit!

    • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 8:13 pm

      If I had a nickel for every every grammatical error I’ve made on this blog . . .

  • Eric G. February 22, 2013, 1:49 pm

    Hi again Sean,

    I read your “About” page and liked it. Very down to earth, thanks for sharing. I also read your resources page. I too read J. Krishnamurti. I have quite a few of his books. Half-Price Books is one of my favorite places to hang out, so I’m always getting some kind of book. I see that Tara Singh has been a major influence on you as far as the course. I have his book, “Commentaries on A Course in Miracles” and enjoyed reading it. I actually tend to enjoy reading the earlier books and authors about the course. People like Jampolsky, Prather, Singh, Vaughn, etc. For me, they are more in the spirit of practical application and everyday living of the course, rather than focusing on the speculative theology interpretations about the course, as newer books tend to.

    Now days, I tend not to read other teachers so much. I pretty much stick to reading the course itself and love how my own understanding is blossoming. I was reading so many books about the course early on in my study. Ironically, it was one day I was reading a dialogue with Krishnamurti and someone in the audience about truth. The person asked Krishnamurti what was truth? Krishnamurti said they should explore this question together and see what they find. The person though, kept interrupting asking what was truth. Finally, fed up with the interruptions, Krishnamurti asked, “Do you want truth or an explanation?!” The light bulb turned on. I realized this is what I had been doing constantly reading other authors. I was looking for an explanation about the course. It dawned on me that since ACIM was so comprehensive and profound and I wasn’t grasping the whole thing quickly, that I was looking to speed up my “understanding” by looking for quick and easy explanations about the course to accept and adopt as my own thinking and then I would “understand” the course. I decided then to focus my attention of study on the course itself. At that time this happened, I was reading Wapnick’s “Love Does Not Condemn” and found it so deep in dry theology speculation and comparison, that it helped in my decision.

    But it is understandable for a new student to look to teachers to help them. I think we live in a fast food society so to speak, and like results NOW. ACIM isn’t that way though. One might get a basic premise within a short amount of time, but I think anyone who studies the course seriously will say that the understanding deepens as one studies it. The comprehensiveness of the course is enormous. Hopefully, students will begin to trust themselves and have the patience and study the course through their own lens, rather than simply looking to another’s explanations of what the course says. There is an awful lot of “Well ‘so and so’ say this…., ‘so and so’ say that…..”

    While there are some really good teachers out there, I don’t think any of them are completely accurate in their interpretations of the course. I don’t think any of us are. There are different teachers for different people. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think it is so much about a spiritual ladder as to what teacher resonates with a person as much as interpretation. For example,IMO putting mathematical equations into spirituality and attempting to reduce everything down to a concrete numerical number in the attempt to explain abstract ideas doesn’t make someone more spiritually advanced. It is just another conceptual idea from a conceptual mind. Like the term “enlightenment” the term “non-duality” has become such an overused “spiritual” buzz word, that it has seemed to cheapen it to a bumper sticker slogan.

    But back to where I was getting at. I think there are many teachers out there that resonate with certain people and there is nothing wrong with reading what they have to say. As far as DU and YIR, I read both for entertainment purposes. Kind of like watching bad TV on a lazy rainy Sunday. And I’m sure I’ll read his 3rd book if it ever comes out. I won’t buy it, but there is a bookstore 2 blocks from my house, and I’ll get a coffee some Sunday and give it a read there. Plus I want to see if my hunch is right about what I said before. Yet, if someone were to ask my opinion on whether to read DU, I would advise them not to. Here’s why.

    Yes, DU and YIR talk about forgiveness. But like I mentioned before, there is a fundamentalism in them that I think serves no purpose and is antithetical to the course. Gary’s claim that what is said about the course is 100% infallible fact, is an arrogant delusion. Gary’s claim that he and only a couple of others are actually really teaching the course is ridiculous. Gary’s claim that other course teachers will have to fall in line and begin teaching the course as he does or get out of the way is ridiculous. Gary’s claim that ACIM is somehow superior to other paths is not only ridiculous, but completely antithetical to the course. Yet, I have seen time and again this fundamentalist type thinking presented by Gary repeated by his students as if it were fact. It just seems to be the start of yet another religion. One “better” than another. Besides, there are many people on many different paths that are applying the principles of the course better than Gary, better than myself and better than other course students are.

    You said that you didn’t think that Gary dumbed down the course. I have to disagree in this respect. I think Gary’s books have so oversimplified the course’s metaphysics of illusion and Reality to such a concrete elementary school level, that people are confusing adopting and accepting Gary’s explanation through conceptual thinking of what the course says with “Knowledge”. Creating a sometimes apathetic, narcissistic, solipsistic/nihilistic and sometimes even a sociopath type spirituality. I want emphasize sometimes. It would be unfair to say all, as this is hardly not the case, but I think it is despite reading DU, not because of it.

    Ken Wapnick often states that course students are the worst people on the face of the earth. Noting people going to funerals with smiles on their faces ,because “nothing ever happened.” This is obviously a very immature approach to spirituality, thought of as being “advanced.” This is what is sometimes referred to as “ego enlightenment”. It is a result of what the course calls “attempting to counter-act error with knowledge, rather than correcting error from the bottom-up.

    While not all followers of Gary act in this manner, here are some of my personal experiences from people who follow Gary’s teachings. Gary’s friend, I mentioned earlier, would go around and call people derogatory names and insult people continuously and then laugh about it. When pointing this out, he would try and distort ACIM’s metaphysics that it is all an illusion, it doesn’t really matter, and to lighten up and laugh.

    I remember a lady on a general spiritual website talking about how her son had been recently killed in a car accident or something like that. Two ladies who followed Gary, demonstrated their “ advanced spiritual wisdom” told the lady that her ego did it!

    When I questioned Gary about making the course special, someone privately emailed me and quoted a bunch of ACIM that had nothing to do with the topic. When I didn’t agree with what they said, I then received a few emails calling me many derogatory remarks, a bleeping religious fundamentalist (really? A fundamentalist? Even though I was challenging that very thing with my question?), bleeping spiritually immature, essentially calling me a psychology flunkie (even though in one quarter of psychology I scored the highest in the school and never got below an A in my other classes) and many other things that were obviously made up and projected onto me.

    While I do not agree with Bruce McDonald’s assessment of ACIM (which BTW he is not an ACIM teacher), I had a very pleasant dialogue with him via email, stating why I thought some of his critiques were inaccurate. Though we disagreed, we were both cordial. Some of the emails he received from Gary’s followers on the other hand were some of the most vicious, hate filled emails I had ever read. He shared them, but withheld the names. But sadly, those emails didn’t surprise me, because I have seen that viciousness on the internet first hand and experienced those type of emails myself. Look at Beverly Hutchinson talking about the emails she received from Gary (before YIR came out) stating that Gary threatened her about her not carrying his book and she better reconsider or in his next book (YIR) she would not look to flattering. He did end up writing about her in it.

    I also remember a random guy coming onto the website I was at asking questions about ACIM. He was confused, because his girlfriend started reading DU and he said her attitude dramatically changed. She started hanging out with other people who she found at some ACIM/DU group. He said he tried to read DU for her, but he didn’t like it and he said her and her friends would laugh at him, telling him he just doesn’t get it and putting him down. Yes, the course tells us that we need to laugh, but Gary has a history of laughing at people, not with people. It seems some of it has rubbed off on his fans.

    This is not what ACIM is about. Yes, people have to take responsibility for themselves and this all shouldn’t be shouldered onto Gary, but when we look at the attitudes and crude dialogue of these so called “ascended masters”, it shouldn’t be all that surprising it would rub off on impressionable people.

    • sherylizz February 22, 2013, 3:50 pm

      A couple of months after DU had been published I joined a DU Yahoo group. I quit after a couple of weeks. because of the rigid ideas and the insane adoration of DU (read: Gary). As if he was some sort of (half) God.
      I got fed up with a couple of moderators because I wasn’t allowed to express my ideas about the book or ask questions that probably conflicted with Gary/DU. One of the moderators told me that Gary had said “X” about a certain subject (sorry forgot what it was) and I wasn’t supposed to post my ideas/doubts about the subject. That’s when I walked out and I think I gave them my blessings…

      • Sean Reagan February 22, 2013, 5:18 pm

        And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet . . .

        I’m a big fan of moving on when something – a Course teacher, a study group, a book or the Course itself – doesn’t work.

        • sherylizz February 22, 2013, 5:43 pm

          true true

      • Eric G. February 22, 2013, 5:39 pm

        Well I wouldn’t feel too bad about that Sherylizz. The same thing happened to me too. In fact another thing that would happen there is I would pose a question, someone would answer it using the DU framework, but whenever I tried to answer their reply with what I thought were some pretty good points about their reply, my reply was never allowed through.

        Since that seemed to be a common pattern, it seemed to me from my perception to be a way to strengthen group polarization by using groupthink tactics. It gave the illusion that the member’s response to my question was so outstanding in logic that there really wasn’t a good rebuttle to it.

        I think the bottom line is, it is a site to promote DU and Gary and it seems to be about making Gary look good. After all, his ex-wife (wife at the time) got caught pretending to be a fan under a false name, and constantly put Gary and DU on a pedestal, while threatening anyone who challenged him. I pretty much left there too after not too long.

        • sherylizz February 22, 2013, 5:46 pm

          Good to know it wasn’t “just me”…

    • Sean Reagan February 22, 2013, 5:19 pm

      Hi Eric,

      Well, I am with you on the sense of the Course as being “comprehensive and profound” and requiring serious sustained study. I say often that it meets us where we are and then moves on with us. I think that’s true. When we are open to it, it can be quite powerful and life-altering.

      I guess, too, that I agree people want answers now. The older I get, the less convinced I am that this is just a contemporary phenomenon. Some people are ready to do the hard spiritual lifting and some are not. Some want the results without the work and study and so forth. I guess that’s always been the case. I try not to get too worked up about it.

      And yes, one can slip quite quickly into the comparing this and that teacher, or debating whether the Course was properly edited, or whether it’s the historical Jesus or something else altogether who is the scribe, or whether the urtext is superior to the sparkle edition, or whether Thetford was pushed out. What good is any of that? I have opinions about each of those issues but they’re still just opinions. The right and wrong that is inherent in my judgment is a poor substitute for following Jesus and relying on his wisdom and that of the Holy Spirit. The right mind comes through in flashes; I’m still learning.

      I hope you understand that I respect your own opinion about Gary. I would never suggest you should advocate for him. I hope that all of us inquire of the Holy Spirit what is right and necessary, make the space to hear the answer, and then proceed accordingly. Some people follow Gary, some read him and move on, and some feel compelled to keep out of the ACIM canon. I trust my brothers and sisters to make their own decisions. How can I not?

      IN part, that trust is premised on the fact that serious students will get what they need when they need it. For a while you read a lot, then you had an insight and you began on concentrate on the text itself. That’s how it’s supposed to go. I was given a book by Tara Singh and one by Gary Renard. I read them both. One changed my life and the other I didn’t need to pick up again. I don’t fight that. How can I? The Holy Spirit was speaking to me in both reading experiences. We are always learning.

      I also respect that you disagree with me – on particular points and perhaps even generally. That’s part of being separated humans and it’s okay and even necessary. I steer clear of Course debates as much as possible – largely because they distract me from the harder, more important work. I don’t want to take anything away from you. I am grateful for your articulate and well-reasoned writing on my site. You make your points respectfully and clearly. Lots of people wander through here and you are teaching them! They will read our exchange, and SherryLizz’s thoughts, and the thoughts of other readers, and hopefully it will help them make a good choice. And if they don’t, that’s okay. The Holy Spirit can use anything to teach us.

      It is a hazard of this process that we end up becoming fundamentalist about our chosen path, or holding others at bay because they don’t share our thoughts or follow our leader, or whatever. It has happened with every religion of which I am aware, both large and small, and I see no reason why A Course in Miracles should be any different. I’m sad for the pain that it causes some people and the hurt that some people inflict in its name. I wish that didn’t happen. What I can do about that is attend to my own study, my own practice, my own teachers, and my own friends. I can have dialogues like the one that you and I are having – gentle and respectful exchanges of ideas and experience.

      We have to be true to what we know to be the truth – as imperfect as we are, as broken as we are. All I can say regarding Gary is what I’ve said. I think if people read my work closely, they will see quite clearly how I approach the Course, and can make any inferences necessary about teachers I follow and teachers I don’t. I’m finding my way like everybody else – including Gary Renard. And I’m confident that we are all going to make it home sooner or later.

      Thanks again, Eric. I really do appreciate your contribution to this site.

      ~ Sean

  • Eric G. February 22, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I think I’ve said what I wanted to say on the subject and I appreciate you letting me do so freely. I don’t want to kick a dead horse so to speak. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Gary is definitely one of my forgiveness lessons that I have to deal with. Obviously not one that I want to let go of as of right now. 🙂

    I just wanted to let you know, that while I may disagree with you on a few points, I’ve been reading some of your blogs and we have more in common than you may think. I appreciate your honesty and sincerity to your path.

    I look forward to having an open dialogue on future blogs that you have written and maybe we can learn from each other.


    • sherylizz February 22, 2013, 6:21 pm

      “Gary is definitely one of my forgiveness lessons that I have to deal with. ”
      Same here… I’m really glad that at least I realize that… If I hadn’t known I would have been totally lost in the woods, and without the breadcrumbs to lead me back HOME!!!
      Each time before I hit the SUBMIT button after having written down my anger and irritation about Gary, I ask myself what part of me is projected/reflected in Gary. I KNOW that the answer will dawn upon me one day. Till then I forgive myself for being so judgmental. (SMILE).

    • Sean Reagan February 23, 2013, 7:13 am

      Thanks Eric! I’m grateful that we’re sharing this path this way right now.

      I appreciate your observation – seconded by Sherrylizz – about Gary Renard as a forgiveness lesson. All of my ACIM teachers – in a sense, everyone whose books I have read to one degree or another have required me to forgive them. Ken Wapnick, Tara Singh, Renard. All of them. Clarity in that way seems helpful, somehow.

      Thanks again.


  • Lynn CS March 19, 2013, 4:09 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I enjoyed your review of DU and general comments. I very much feel the same way about taking what you can from each teacher, and moving on if it does not work – or continue to work. I came to ACIM from Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth”. At this point in my spiritual journey, I don’t really read a lot of Tolle, but I’m greatful that his books pointed me to ACIM. Same with David Hawkins, and Gary Renard. Gary’s books did very much help, so I’m greatful. Take the good, forgive the rest. Contriversy really is the realm of the ego – i try not to indulge. It would be important to warn people if Gary’s books twisted ACIM, but, as someone who has studied the Course for many years, I really don’t see them stray from the message. Anyway, my two cents. Thanks again for your insight – much appreciated.

    • Sean Reagan March 19, 2013, 7:38 pm

      Thanks Lynn. It’s funny how we all get here. One of the early Course writers I read was Marianne Williamson and even though I feel like I’ve moved on, I still feel deeply grateful. I really do think we get what we need when we need it. And yes, our view on Gary’s work is pretty much the same: I think he’s pretty consistent with ACIM, the drama of the ascended masters and all that notwithstanding. “Take the good, forgive the rest.” Sage advice!

      Thanks for stopping by and dropping a line –


      • Sean Reagan March 19, 2013, 7:39 pm

        Not sure if you’re checking in on comments but if you do: I’m not familiar with Hawkins and a quick google search is a) intriguing and b) not immediately clear what the relationship with ACIM is. If you have a few seconds to share some thoughts in that regard, I’d be curious. Teachers of any stripe fascinate me. Thanks again Lynn!

  • matt May 1, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Hi there,

    Not only do I suspect that much of the ‘secondary information’ in Gary’s book is complete rubbish…mars….sort of trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator with stuff about sex….sort of trying to be a lad….information about jesus,thomas…the future of the church….stuff about 9.11….I always had some sceptisism about the ‘secondary stuff’

    But I have had psychosis for over a year….been on sickness benefit…hardly able to function as I’ve half nudged…half felt that I was being changed from beyond myself into a state of physical dissapation that feels highly artificial,highly unnatural and close to unbearable at the same time as having a 90% greater consistancy of nothingness than at any other period of my life……and all this was because while still a concrete physical person in 2010 I DID kind of treat Gary’s book like the bible…..my problem with Gary’s book is it suggests the reader get rid of their body to be replaced by 1000 orgasms of joy……….is this what the course teaches…………………is it possible…….why does no other spiritual course specify this? Is it unique to Gary or are there references elsewhere to this being the real ‘spirit’

    My problem with gary is that my life has all but totally fallen apart and become unlivable because I’ve tried to make the universe dissappear. I’m being treated by mental health people…I’m on sickness benefit….my quality of life has gone from cinemascope to youtube quality.

    Is the central premise of DU (1000 orgasms of joy) mentioned by any other spiritual path

    It has lead me into serious mental problems and psychosis
    It is on the basis of this alone that if I don’t recover and stabalize I will do everything I can to unseat what is a far more sinister exploitation than just being bogus channelled material. the central premise of what god is is highly dangerous.

    After a year of trying myself and the world has virtually dissappeared with absolutely NO evidence of anything above body warmth coming my way. My normal orgasm has diminished.

    I tried to post a detailed report of this and far worser symptoms on the DU site and was barred

    • Sean Reagan May 1, 2013, 7:12 pm

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your email. If reading a certain Course teacher – or ACIM itself for that matter – makes things this difficult, it might be a good idea to just step back. Focusing on the words another student uses to describe their personal experience of waking up is generally not helpful. The Course is actually quite clear on this point very early on:

      Revelation is intensely personal and cannot be meaningfully translated. That is why any attempt to describe it in words is impossible. Revelation induces only experience (T-1.II.2:1-3).

      It’s your call – and your path – but I’d gently suggest giving yourself a Course breather and staying close to people – professionals, if that’s necessary – who can help ground you. Sometimes a little distance breeds a helpful perspective.

      Thanks for reading & writing.

  • James Greer July 30, 2014, 10:10 pm

    Thanks Sean for your perspective. As a course student who was introduced to ACIM through DU I have seen Gary’s work as a part of my process in understanding the Course. It was not the end of the road for me but did help orient me to be open to the Course’s non dualistic metaphysics.
    Along the way I have gotten caught up in most of the concerns other ACIM students have expressed. I’ve had to recognize that it’s always been a choice to think with the ego when I’ve gotten afraid about the veracity of A&P’s claims and their existence. Jesus has helped me understand that if I’m uncomfortable at all about something it’s fear. I’ve used Gary as a way to avoid the experience of God in my mind. Not until I have had a glimpse of that love have I begun to fathom the level of hidden hate still lurking.
    Luckily Jesus helps me to look at that hate without using it against my brother as the Course has suggested I do. I’m still learning to let that propensity go. Consequently I had gone to a conference in Boston given by Gary and his wife Cindy. It was apparent that he is still a student who himself claims is not perfect. I did experience the Holy Spirit at the conference however he has a gift of articulating certain principles. My forgiveness of Gary served as an intervention for my experience of love at the conference and beyond-leaving my brother’s imperfect past in the dust! Lol.

    • Sean Reagan July 31, 2014, 5:39 pm

      You’re welcome, James. Thank you for reading and sharing. I firmly believe that all our relationships – from the well-known teachers to the proverbial encounter in the elevator – are rich with learning potential so long as we choose to stay close to Jesus and look closely with him at what is before us. It always ends up being an internal experience, no matter what the apparent external symbol! I love that you have had such positive experiences with Gary. I know that he can be very polarizing, but as you point out – and I share your conviction – forgiveness is what it’s all about, always. Thanks again for being here . . .


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