“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite. “This Course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” (A Course in Miracles: Introduction)
A Course in Miracles is a unique, universal, non-dual, self-study spiritual thought system that teaches that the way to Love and Inner Peace is through Forgiveness (the undoing of the ego). A Course in Miracles makes no claim to being the only way to God; it is one of many paths that help us to awaken to our True Nature and to return to the Love that We Are; in other words it is a path of awakening that is undertaken with the study and practical application of the ideas laid out for us, step by step, in the Course.
‘This course was sent to open up the path of light to us, and teach us, step by step, how to return to the eternal Self we thought we lost’ (ACIM Review V.5.4)
The Course ‘came through’ an academic psychologist, Helen Schucman, in the form of an inner dictation, and started in 1965. Helen lived in New York, and was a non-practicing Jew, who had an intense yearning for religious and spiritual understanding, but had despaired of finding it. She was a complex character with many inner struggles and fears that plagued her throughout her life. She was passionately drawn to Catholicism, but was frustrated that the church could not give her that which she yearned for.
Helen had many mystical experiences, including dreams and visions. She had a ‘revelation’ which took place on a New York subway, when the carriage filled with light and she ‘saw’ all her fellow travellers as Holy, with the Love of God shining in their faces. She had a particular dream where she found herself in a cave, searching frantically for something, and she unearthed an ancient scroll with the words ‘God Is’ on it. She was not comfortable with these visions because she didn’t understand them at all.
Helen worked with William Thetford, also a professor of medical psychology, and their relationship was a classic ‘love/hate’ relationship amidst a highly charged academic environment. They fought constantly and were both concerned with their own personal and professional acceptance and status. One day Bill unexpectedly announced to Helen that he was tired of the angry and aggressive feelings their attitudes reflected, and concluded that ‘there must be a better way’.
Helen without hesitation agreed to help him find that better way. This was the ‘little willingness’ that was given to the Holy Spirit, which the Course tells us constantly is all that is required to open ourselves up to the help of Spirit. At the time Helen was having highly symbolic dreams and Bill encouraged her to write these down. One evening while doing this, she was surprised when she wrote ‘This is a Course in Miracles. Take notes’. This is her description as it appears in the Preface to the Course:
‘This was my introduction to the Voice. It made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation which I took down in a shorthand notebook. The writing was never automatic. It could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again. It made me very uncomfortable, but it never seriously occurred to me to stop. It seemed to be a special assignment I had somehow, somewhere agreed to complete. It represented a truly collaborative venture between Bill and myself, and much of its significance, I am sure, lies in that. I would take down what the Voice ‘said’ and read it to him the next day, and he typed it from my dictation.’ (ACIM Preface)
The Preface gives a detailed and wonderful description of this story, as well as ‘What It Is’ and ‘What It Says’.
Bill and Helen’s work in taking down the Course was done in utmost secrecy. The whole process took about 7 years, with the Text coming first, followed by the 365 daily lessons of the Workbook, and finally the Manual for Teachers. It was later followed by further material in the form of The Song of Prayer, and The Psychotherapy Pamphlet. Helen herself produced many beautiful poems related to the Course, and more so to her relationship with Jesus, the ‘Voice’.
On the Course book cover there is no authorship mentioned, nor of those who collaborated in taking it down as it was felt it should ‘stand on its own’, and after all it was ‘not of this world’. The copyright is owned by the Foundation for Inner Peace and well over 2 million copies have been sold worldwide.
The Course has been translated into 20 languages, with many still under translation. Translations in Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish are also available, with many other translations now in progress. The Afrikaans version has recently been translated and published as ‘N Kursus in Wonders’.
The Course is made up of 3 distinct ‘volumes’:
The Text presents the theory of the Course and has built into its study the development of the experience of forgiveness that is the Course’s goal for the student. In this regard, A Course in Miracles states that “its goal for you is happiness and peace.” (Text, p. 241) (T-13.II.7:1) The Text also explains the basis for fear and guilt, and how they can be overcome through miracles, which are defined as maximal ‘expressions of love’. The miracle is defined as the shift in perception from fear to love.
The Workbook for Students consists of 365 lessons, an exercise for each day of the year. This one-year training program begins the process of changing the student’s mind and perception, to perceive the world through Love instead of fear. This learning is done with the help of our Inner Guide, or the Holy Spirit as referred to in the Course.
The Manual for Teachers is written in question-and-answer form and provides answers to some of the more likely questions a student might ask. It also includes clarification of a number of terms the Course uses, explaining them within the theoretical framework of the Text and for their practical application through the Workbook.