Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thoughts on A Course in Miracles

I was recently at a conference where "channeled" works were questioned, and, naturally enough, A Course in Miracles was brought up as an example. The panel of speakers were kind of rough on the Course, calling it contradictory, cumbersome, and hard to understand. Of course, the same criticisms could be made of the bible!

The panel was gracious enough to mention some teachers of the Course who have been able to "mine some nuggets" from it, adding that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. They also pointed out that coming from another world, it's hard to investigate the source...a person could be wrong, crazy, or mischievous in this life; being dead wouldn't make that person necessarily suddenly right, coherent, or virtuous! The Course is "channeled" from a well-known master teacher, or so says the "scribe" of the Course. Could the scribe be mistaken, or could her "inner" voice be a mischievous soul just pulling her leg? How could we ever really know?

However, I must admit to having enjoyed the Course now and again. It's focus on forgiveness has helped me when forgiving myself or someone else is exactly what I needed to be restored to sanity. Its promise of healing was helpful when healing was my most pressing concern and desire. Its high view of the power of Love helped me feel loved when I needed that very gift. And its reminder that we are each the "son of God" (the Course knows nothing of inclusive language unfortunately) is something that resonates with me. Additionally, some of the sweetest people I have ever encountered were students of the Course. So, for those who use ACIM as their path to God, I have no doubt that they have found a treasure that has enriched their lives.

Now, the Course claims to have been channeled by "Jesus." I'm skeptical. And, the Course seems to agree with Mary Baker Eddy that the material world doesn't really exist. If that means that matter and energy are not the opposite realities we once believed, then I agree. If that means that matter is not "ultimately" real, in other words that everything is impermanent (as the Buddhists remind us), then again, I agree. But if the language of the Course must be taken literally, then everything I see is really a dream and doesn't exist at all, and I must I disagree. But, why must I take it literally (I don't read the bible that way!)?

And, yes, the flowery language of the Course is cumbersome and can get on my nerves, but the same could be said of Victorian era writing, or Elizabethan English (like we find in the King James Bible). I don't care for it, but some people love it.

In the end, ACIM is not a primary text in my spiritual life, and yet there are indeed "nuggets" from the text that are well worth embracing and some spiritual principles that are universal and life-giving. I prefer the writings of the Fillmores, Nona Brooks, and Ernest Holmes, and I don't need a work to come from another world to be of use (in fact, claims of other worldliness is cause for suscipision in my view, and yet I love the teachings of the "Abraham" me slippery).

But if the "scribe" of ACIM wrote the text in a way that was unusual for her and if it included insights she would not normally have been aware of, then it makes sense to me that she might attribute the experience to a sage or saint from the past that lives on in the consciousness of her society. She may have honestly believed Jesus was speaking through her; I don't have to agree with her interpretation of her experience to find value in some of what her "Jesus" said through her. Like any other work, I feel free to read it, evaluate it, and use what seems appropriate for me while discarding or ignoring the rest.

For someone interested in New Thought, I would suggest the Science of Mind. Or, for real beginners, I might even suggest Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. For someone who wanted to explore "channeled" writings, the "Abraham" books teach the law of attraction as well as anything anyone on this side of life has come up with. For someone who wanted to explore mysticism that has endured the test of time, I would suggest Buddhism or esoteric schools of Christianity. But for those who have found A Course in Miracles and who trust it, live by it, and have had their lives blessed by it, I would simply say, "Good for you!" and I wouldn't ask them to change a thing. If God is Omnipresent, S/he probably can be found on at least a few pages of ACIM.

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