When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort, and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in the summer.
—A Course in Miracles
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) was “dictated” to Helen Schucman during the mid 1960’s and was first published in 1976. Since then, teachers such as Marianne Williamson, Robert Perry and Kenneth Wapnick have given it a certain amount of popularity.
ACIM is a 1200 page, three-volume book that offers a complete system of spiritual psychotherapy. It uses Christian terminology to express universal spiritual themes. Unlike much of Christianity, it is more a philosophy than a dogma. Its sole aim is to help its students remove the psychological blocks that humans tend to hold, which prevent us from experiencing love and joy.
The three volumes are the Text, the Workbook and the Manual for Teachers. The Text is the first book in the three-volume series. It is the foundation on which ACIM rests. It is by far the largest portion of the text at 669 pages. It is also the most abstract of the three books. Reading and studying the text allows the student to understand some of the radical concepts that ACIM teaches. The text redefines just about every common Christian term. Each of these concepts is presented in a new light, devoid of the guilt that has come to be associated with them after 2000 years of misuse. It is in the text that we begin to see the gospel message of Jesus clarified and integrated with modern psychology.
The second volume, The Workbook, is a practical expression of the concepts in the Text. It provides 365 daily lessons to train the mind to perceive correctly, thus allowing miracles to happen naturally. It is the tool that is used to “remove the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence”. The Workbook is divided into two sections. The first section works to undo the thought patterns we currently hold. The second replaces them with a more accurate thought system. Over the course of a year, these simple yet profound lessons reshape the way the student thinks. By using these lessons, a new vision of the world is achieved, and the student begins to see through eyes of peace and forgiveness, rather than through the eyes of doubt, fear and prejudice.
The third volume, The Manual, is ACIM’s way of preparing its students to bring their newfound peace of mind to others. Many find it to be the easiest to read and follow, making it a good starting point. ACIM states over and over that we are all teachers to each other. Either we teach a message of fear or one of love. The manual helps us to present a message of love in a clear and direct way. The Manual also includes a Clarification of Terms, which shines light on some of the basic concepts in the Course material.
WHERE DID ACIM COME FROM?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. According to the writing in the three volumes, the author was Jesus, speaking through Helen Schucman. Some people believe the book came from her subconscious and others believe that Jesus wrote it directly through her. The nice thing about ACIM is that you don’t need to believe in Jesus, or believe that he wrote it, in order to benefit from it. There are many people who ignore the claim that Jesus was involved altogether, and still experience the peace that ACIM promises. I personally do believe that Jesus was the author of this book, but I don’t think it matters very much in the long run. Like all spiritual paths, ACIM should be evaluated based on its effectiveness. Like all thought systems, it should be free of contradictions. Where it came from or how it was inspired is of little consequence either way when you judge the material on its other merits.
IS ACIM RIGHT FOR ME?
That is not something I can answer. ACIM is a great path for a lot of people, but it is not for everyone. I recommend that you read A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, or Introduction to A Course in Miracles by Robert Perry. They are both easy to read, and they both outline the basic tenets of ACIM. Also, you may want to find a study group in your area. A list of study groups throughout the world can be found through The Miracle Distribution Center. If, after doing these things, you feel like ACIM is going to be a part of your life, I recommend you purchase a copy of the book and begin to study it on a daily basis. Many people find that joining a study group helps them understand the material more easily.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ACIM?
I have been a student of ACIM since 1991. Like yoga and meditation, it has become a fundamental part of my spiritual life. It has helped me to move beyond much of the bitterness I held toward Jesus and the Catholic Church. It has helped me look at the world in a more peaceful light and perceive things in a more pure way. I read from ACIM every day and use it a great deal in my spiritual counseling work. In short, it has been a miracle in my life.