A Course in Miracles, Christian? Jewish? New Age?
D. Patrick Miller’s new book, Living With Miracles (May 12), provides common sense advice to potential followers of the spiritual sensation known as A Course in Miracles. The Course is beloved by seekers of many faiths, with each attaching their own label to it. The author investigates where its teachings belong in the pantheon of religious traditions…..
Q: How have traditional Christians reacted to the voice of Jesus in the Course? How have non-Christians reconciled their beliefs with that voice?
Some evangelical Christians have identified the Course as the work of the anti-Christ, charging that it seems to say some nice things while actually leading people down the path of satanic deception. Other, more moderate Christians have found the Course useful or profound even if they don’t accept the totality of its teaching, and still others have chosen to see it as it describes itself: a correction of contemporary Christian belief right from the horse’s mouth, as it were. It’s interesting to note that, for a teaching generally identified as Christian, many of the most prominent personalities associated with it came from Jewish backgrounds, including Helen Schucman, Ken Wapnick, the publisher Judith Skutch Whitson, and two chief popularizers, Jerry Jampolsky and Marianne Williamson. Bill Thetford, who typed the Course with Helen, had a family background in Christian Science. As the Course material came together he began researching its central themes in comparison to other spiritual traditions. He was the one who tagged the Course as “the Christian Vedanta,” noting the strong parallels of its metaphysics with Eastern teachings.
Q: You note that the Course has been misidentified as a “New Age” teaching. Why did this label get attached to the Course, and how do its teachings differ from what is generally called New Age?
In the early days, the Course was often referred to as “channeled” because of its unusual origins. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, but it helped to popularize ACIM among the New Age audience, accelerating its rapid spread to millions of readers. But the same association tended to make people mistake it for something superficial and self-serving when in fact it’s a profound path of self-confrontation and surrender. For instance, it’s not unusual to hear both students and critics say that the Course teaches “you can create your own reality,” i.e., you can get whatever you want through visualizations, prayer, and other spiritual means. What the Course actually says is that we are all responsible for the world we see – and the world, at any given moment, is an accurate reflection of what we actually want it to be. It’s pretty hard to deny that the world is a mess – a chaotic mix of beauty and horror, love and terror. To change the world or your situation in it, you don’t visualize things getting better, but instead forgive everything you see whether you are judging it as good or bad. Over time, your perceptions of the world and your place in it are gradually transformed by forgiveness to become consistently loving, which is what you and the world really need. But it’s not necessarily what most people want in the short term; being a loving person often takes a back seat to goals of personal success, greater wealth, the perfect romance, and so on.