A Course in Miracles
What is A Course in Miracles?
"A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a path of spiritual development that takes the form of an educational course consisting of a Text, a Workbook for Students, and a Manual for Teachers. Its aim is to reeducate our basic perception of reality and teach us to extend this new perception to others, so that we can both give happiness and find happiness.
The Course has no human author in the conventional sense but it was authored through a process of inner dictation. Helen Schucman (1909-1981) and William Thetford (1923-1988) were respected psychologists at the top of their field working at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. In the summer of 1965, after years of conflict with each other and within their department, Bill made an impassioned speech to Helen in which he said, "There must be another way" - a way in which people could cooperate rather than compete. Helen surprised him by saying she would join him in this new approach, It was a rare moment of joining for them which they knew was significant at the time but which had repercussions far beyond what they could have imagined.
Helen, a self-professed "militant atheist", soon began having a series of inner visions, heightened dreams, and psychic experiences. These culminated in the fall of 1965, when she heard an inner voice say to her "This is a course in miracles, please take notes." This same voice told her that she had agreed to take down A Course in Miracles as her contribution to a larger plan to restore humanity's forward spiritual progress.
Thus began seven years of "scribing" A Course in Miracles. Helen would write down the words of the inner voice in shorthand notebooks and would later dictate what she had written to Bill, who would type it up. She sometimes resisted taking dictation and often argued with the Course's teaching, yet she did her best to faithfully record what she was hearing."
- FROM A COURSE IN MIRACLES COMPLETE & ANNOTATED EDITION (Amazon affiliate).
Studying A Course in Miracles
As you might expect from something with a text, workbook, and teacher's manual, ACIM is a detailed and comprehensive educational program. The Text is like any textbook - each section is like a lecture, which presents new information while also building upon what has already been presented and discussed. The Workbook is dedicated to practicing the Course - applying it to your life in a practical and meaningful way - and is presented as 365 lessons. The Manual for Teachers is about extending the teachings of ACIM to others. Like most intensive study programmes, it is arranged in a logical sequence and is not intended to be randomly 'dipped into', in fact doing that is likely to render it quite incomprehensible. Which leads us onto an important point.
Since its initial publication in 1976, A Course in Miracles has been purchased by millions of people, but the vast majority do not go on to 'take the Course' as it was intended. There seem to be a number of common reasons for this, including:
- difficulty in understanding the (often complex) language,
- inability or unwillingness to grasp concepts which require a suspension or reversal of what we already think we understand,
- traditional religious / Christian wording is used, although the words often have very different meanings - which can be off-putting for some and completely confusing for others,
- feeling overwhelmed and never really getting started,
- resistance to the message (e.g. around relinquishing ego)
- significant parts of the original dictation were removed from early editions of the Course, leaving the foundational chapters free of context or practical examples.
Studying the new Complete & Annotated Edition (CE)
For a number of reasons, including those listed above, many students agree that using the new Complete and Annotated Edition (CE) of A Course in Miracles* - published in 2017, and based on Helen's original notebooks - has revolutionised their understanding and practice of the Course. As well as restoring around 45,000 missing words, this edition includes extensive footnotes and over 30 explanatory essays which draw from the original dictation and related sources, including Helen's autobiography. The essays were written by Robert Perry, lead editor of this edition, renowned Course scholar, and founder of the Circle of Atonement.
Studying in a group
There is a common belief that ACIM is a 'self-study' course, however, this idea cannot be found anywhere within the three volumes of the Course itself, nor in any of the additional guidance given to its scribes. Students report that being part of a group leads to a deeper understanding, increased motivation to study and to apply the Course, and numerous benefits that come from being part of a supportive community with common interests. This was certainly the case for Sarah, who leads our ACIM CE online study group.
She says: "I'd had a copy of the Course since the mid-1990s and I couldn't make sense of it. With no religious background, I was turned off by the Christian-sounding terminology (and masculine pronouns), difficult language, and not being able to see how it applied to my life. I would occasionally pick the book up, dip into it, and put it back on the shelf. This went on for over 20 years until two things happened - first I came across the Complete & Annotated Edition (CE), and then I started studying it with the Circle of Atonement.
The combination of the restored text and cameo essays in the CE turned ACIM from a difficult intellectual exercise to a practical living teaching that I could apply to all areas of my life. I began to really look forward to studying the next section of the Text, practicing the teachings, and discussing it with other students. The discussions helped me see things (especially about myself) that I wouldn't have recognised on my own and this lead to deep internal shifts which have had a profound effect on my beliefs and daily life."
After experiencing many personal shifts as a result of the Course, Sarah had the opportunity to train as a Certified Study Group Leader with Robert Perry and Mary Anne Buchowski (from the Circle of Atonement) and is leading the group through the Text over an 18-month period. This 16-min video provides a brief overview which you can watch at any time.
UPDATE, APRIL 2022: Thanks for your interest. The study group has almost completed the Text (Volume 1) and will begin practicing the Workbook in January 2023. If you would like to be added to the waiting list you are welcome to contact Sarah directly. Alternatively, you can find a list of worldwide ACIM CE Study Groups who are studying the Text here.
*The Complete & Annotated Edition of A Course in Miracles is available here and here. (The hardback is currently out of stock at Amazon UK, but global shipping from Amazon.com adds only a few pounds to the price.)