The Upside-Down World of “A Course in Miracles” – by Paul Architetto
This article was first published in the Christian Sentinal, PO.Box 11322, Philadelphia, PA 1913, USA, Spring 1995 and is reproduced with their permission.
“Together we are as one, we are the Messiah,” the woman said to me on the phone. “It is about God. You’re scared (blank) of God. The Course teaches that the miracle is the correction of error. We have the illusion that the guy over there is a (blankety blank), but that’s our problem. That guy is the Messiah!”
Thus began my indoctrination into A Course in Miracles last spring. I had phoned Karen hoping to learn more about the people and practices of this strange New Age religion that has been creeping its way into the Christian church. An invitation to attend the Course meetings in lower Bucks County Pennsylvania was listed in New Frontier magazine, a leading New Age publication.
A Course in Miracles’ origins are clearly outlined in the Course book, published in 1976 by the California-based Foundation for Inner Peace. It was written via channelling by Helen Schucman, a Columbia University atheist psychologist over the span of seven years. Channelling is the process by which one hears an inner dictation in this case described by Schucman as the “Voice”. She goes on to state that this Voice made no sound, but gave her a rapid, inner dictation which was written down in a shorthand notebook, later being typed by her collaborator Bill. It was, as she described, an attempt to find “another way” to deal with “the angry and aggressive feeling our attitudes reflected,” meaning herself and Bill, the head of her department at Columbia. “Apparently this Course is the other way,” she claimed.
The 1,200 page book is laid out in chapter and verse and is divided into three parts, the “Text,” the “Workbook for Students“, and the “Manual For Teachers.”
There are over 1 million copies in print. With its royal blue cover with gold lettering, the $25 book (available at bookstores) is suggestive of a Bible. It even has its own concordance. Its followers believe that the voice dictating it was Jesus Christ through the process of channelling. The Course’s popularity is soaring with the help of its chief guru Marianne Williamson. She is the influential speaker (and frequent television talk-show guest) and author of the best-selling book, A Return of Love which expounds upon the principles presented in A Course of Miracles.
The writing style of A Course in Miracles is noticeably alluring and poetic, seeking to draw the reader in deeper (it “illuminates the concepts presented,” says Schucman). Topics include The Forgiveness of Illusions (Text 16), What is Christ?, What is the Real World?, What am I? (Workbook pp. 6,8,14), How Do God’s Teachers Deal with Magic Thoughts?, and Is Reincarnation So? (Manual pp.17, 24). Each page is intense, with strange new concepts presented to radically change the way one thinks and perceives the world. Other related material available from the Foundation includes cassettes, lesson cards, videos, and channelled prayer, poetry, and psychotherapy (by Schucman).
I soon discovered A Course in Miracles to be a combination of New Age philosophy, psychology, and religion combined. For the first hour of the first meeting I attended there was a lot of talk about ego, fear, God, judging, love and illusion (e.g. anything that is not love is an illusion). Christian terminology was thrown in for good measure although it was wholly insincere, deviating from sound doctrine. The Christian guise is so extensive that one must wonder whether Schucman truly channelled the book, or simply perverted God’s word using the New Testament as her resource. The book is a supreme attempt to explain what the Bible is really saying. Diverse terms and ideas were served up, thrown together, and tossed around like some philosophical salad. “Jesus” was mentioned once or twice in passing, as well as the “Holy Spirit”.
The sad irony is that here was a group gathered around discussing how “holy” they were, not realising that their definition of “holiness”did not come from the Bible. I found it all to be very disturbing, but most of all confusing. Geri, one of the regular attendees of the gathering, seemed to be struggling as well. She expressed still having trouble understanding the Course material even after several years of study. Nancy took this opportunity to say that she believed the entire Course could be summarised into one page, one main theme. She then went on about angles, and right angles, and whatever. She tried to encourage Geri, saying that the understanding would just come to her eventually.
After about an hour of reading and discussion, Karen excused herself and brought back a small box from upstairs. The box was labelled Sayings From A Course In Miracles and contained a few hundred cards with sayings on them. She passed it and we each randomly picked a card and read it aloud. Then Karen asked everyone to “share the miracles that happened during the week.” Miracles, as the Course defines them, can happen every day. During this time of sharing, Geri talked about her son Tommy, who died a few years ago. She claimed to hear his voice in her head, very clearly. He is with her all the time now, she said adding that she is at peace and functions better now because he is with her. After bringing this subject up again during my second visit, Karen finally asked Geri a very pointed question. “When you’re speaking with Tommy, and the phone rings, do you go to pick up the phone?” Geri seemed startled by this question, and simply replied “Well that’s just never happened.” For the record, Karen said that she was not judging, and that anything that was OK with Geri was OK with her. But it was evident that Karen had great reservations about his matter, as well as everyone else based on their silence.
I believe the Course is spiritually dangerous. The teacher is given power to make things up, and will go unchallenged due to the willingness of the student. During my second session with the group, I heard Karen exclaim, “As Jesus said, ‘Grab hold of your humanity,'” and the group accepted it at face value. Obviously, Jesus never said this in the Bible.
Apparently the way is cleared for such flagitious use of authority. The Course exhorts the student to use the ideas presented even though they “will be hard to believe,” while others may be “quite startling” (Preface ix). It unashamedly admits that “it cannot be too strongly emphasized that this course aims at a complete reversal of thought” (Manual 24). It reinforces this with an entire lesson devoted to releasing the student from all he or she currently believes. This lesson is entitled “My thoughts do not mean anything” (Workbook, 10). What other fictions would the teacher feed these hungry students who are willing to be brainwashed? Moreover, how was Karen, a grade school teacher, influencing the minds of the teenagers that she educates?
Misquoting seems to be systematic of A Course in Miracles. Misquoting the Bible and taking it out of context seem to be par for the Course. For example, in the Preface, page xii, it states that, “only minds can really join, and whom God has joined no man can put asunder” and specifically references the Text, page 356. But on page 356 the text reads “God’s Son is one. Whom God has joined as one, the ego cannot put asunder.”
Not only is this a direct misquoting of the text, but the context is different. Furthermore, this is just one example of many feeble attempts to sound Christian in nature. Certainly this reference is a distortion of Matthew 19:6 where Jesus said, clearly talking about marriage, “therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” The twisted interpretation of God’s word in the Bible is characteristic of most cults.
Clearly one of the most despicable aspects of the Course is the wholesale attack on Jesus Christ by redefining who He is. Although many false religions lower Christ’s position from that of deity to just a mere person, the Course goes one step further. It reduces Jesus to that of a ‘term,’ an ideology, the so-called Christ Consciousness (whereby one can be like God by getting over his or her spiritual amnesia, achieving this enlightenment through various methods like meditation). It states:
“The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion. And Christ needed his form that he might appear to men and save them from their own illusions. – Manual/Clarification of Terms 5.”
Evangelical Christians believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and came into the world to save man from sin, not from illusions. The Course, however, denies that sin exists in the world. This point cannot be overemphasised. The Course also dismisses the reality of death and the devil. The Course teaches that there is only error, and error can be corrected. Without sin, there is no guilt, and thus one can achieve peace of mind. This is the Miracle. The ramification of this denial of sin is that man’s atonement through the blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary is effectively eliminated. Indeed, who needs a Saviour to save us from imagined evils? Striking at the very essence of the cross, the Course boldly states that
“the crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did. Many sincere Christians have misunderstood this.”
More to the point, it states, “sacrifice is a notion totally unknown to God” – Text 3. This is blasphemous.
The Course continues to malign Christ on various levels. It impugns the Christ that Christians have accepted into their hearts and lives, as well as belittling its own ‘illusionary Christ.’ Discussing Christ, it states:
It is possible to read his words and benefit from them without accepting him into your life – Manual, Clarification Terms 5.
The Course preaches its very own fabricated ‘Jesus’, and yet contradicts itself by downplaying his importance! It even has the audacity to proclaim that it is ‘Christian in statement’ – Preface, ix. During a second session with the group, while others were reading aloud from a section called “The choice for Completion,” I silently read on. I discovered what I thought to be something sexual in nature. My suspicion was soon confirmed when the group came upon this particular section. Karen started a discussion about the exchanging of power in relationships between men and women. Then she got sexually explicit, and as I sat there aghast, Karen spewed forth some profanity which really spiced things up. I was shocked!
After completing the group reading, “Sayings from the Course”, and sharing time, Karen suggested group meditation. She whimsically stated that she was not sure if she could ‘get a channel tonight’ but here goes. As I believed such meditation to be potentially dangerous, I knew to start praying heavily at this point. Karen asked everyone to close their eyes, relax, and then led the group on some ten minute astral journey. She started the trek by telling everybody to focus on a ball of light above their heads. She ended up with everyone sitting around God’s feet. I silently prayed the entire time, ignoring the evil nonsense around me. I prayed for protection from evil. I prayed that Jesus of Nazareth would reveal himself and deliver these people from their bondage. After the demonic crescendo had passed, I actually felt refreshed from fellowshipping with the true Lord of the universe.
Finally, everyone stood up and joined hands in a circle. There was prayer for miracles in the upcoming week. Then the group drew closer, everyone resting their arms atop of everyone else’s shoulders. Names were called out as there was prayer for healing for the friends and family of the group. Wanting to have a little fun, I yelled out ‘Gus!’ (Gus is a friend’s dog who had recently been stung in the nose by a bee after attacking a hive). I figured that Gus the dog would not be opened up for any spiritual attack by me naming him. I nearly lost my composure at the thought of this mockery of their ‘holy circle.’ When it was all over, hugs were going around. I tried to maintain my distance. But Karen made sure to get me, saying I had to get one since I came out, and ‘everyone gets a hug.’
A Course in Miracles is a New Age religion that claims to have all of life’s answers. Unfortunately, there is nothing new under the sun. [Ecclesiastes 1:9] Its followers have embraced the same old lie from Satan, that they can be like God, and surely they will not die (Gen. 3:4,5). They deny reality. Even a five year old child is capable of understanding the difference between good and bad, and that evil is a real thing. The Bible asks,
‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?’ – 1 Corinthians 1.20.
A five year old can understand the simplicity of the gospel, where the message of the cross is that Jesus Christ died for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). But the Course is confusing and altogether burdensome in its complexity. The course itself is the illusion. It has much to say about absolutely nothing. With faithful study, it will scramble your mind, turn your world upside-down, and get you to believe the absurd. I believe it is a lie from Satan who is a liar and the father of lies (John. 8:44). It is intellectual as well as spiritual death to all those unfortunate enough to be caught in its snare.