A Course in Miracles

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles (ACIM), published in 1975, emerged as the most successful channeled work to be produced in the English-speaking world in the last half of the twentieth century. By the end of the twentieth century, more than a million copies had been published. The material in ACIM was received quietly over eight years (1965-1973) by Dr. Helen Schucman (1910-1981), the assistant to the head of the Department of Psychology at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In spite of having adopted a secular atheist perspective earlier in her life, Schucman began to have visionary experiences and to hear an inner voice. Then one day, the voice said, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes." She confided this experience with a colleague, William N. Tetford, and he encouraged her to follow her inner instructions. She began to take notes in shorthand. That very evening she began receiving what was to become a 622-page textbook, the heart of the Course. Over the next seven years she also received the material for a 478-page Workbook and 88-page teacher's Manual.

The atheist Schucman continued to have intellectual problems with her channeling activity, problems complicated by the apparent source of the material she was receivingthe biblical Jesus Christ. The Course was published without her name, and her identity was kept confidential by the small inner circle of people who initially read the manuscript and assisted in the publication. Prominent among these was Judith Skutch. Once published in 1975, however, it quickly found an audience, especially in New Thought churches with whose perspective the ACIM largely agreed. The Foundation for Inner Peace was created to hold the copyrights of ACIM and to keep it in publication. However, the foundation made no attempt to control the efforts of people to form groups to study and disseminate the teachings. Numerous study groups were founded across North America and increasingly through the 1980s around the world. A new generation of teachers, including Marianne Williamson, Tara Singh, Dr. Gerald Jampolsky, and most prominently, Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick, emerged as leaders in the loosely organized movement.

In the vacuum left by the Foundation for Inner Peace, different organizations emerged to perform various functions. Saul Steinberg, owner of Coleman Graphics, which originally published A Course in Miracles, founded Miracle Life, Inc. (now Miracle Experiences, Inc.), to publish Course -related materials and promote conferences and workshops. Miracle Distribution Center has become the nexus of an international network of study groups. A center in San Francisco became the first group to evolve into a church and offer ministerial training and ordinations. Jampolsky's Center for Attitudinal Healing was the first organization to promote the use of the Course in the healing of psychological problems.

The thrust of the teachings received by Schucman concerned miracles as shifts in perception that move the individual from perceptions based on guilt to perceptions based on love, from perceptions based on ego to those based on God. The commonly held illusions lead to the disastrous belief that humanity is separated from God and deserving of punishment. The illusion of separation has itself created a separation that needs to be healed. However, we tend to deny the problem and suppress feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hate as well as the accompanying irrational projection of such feelings on others, both individuals and groups.

The Course teaches that humans have the ability to choose not to live with guilt, but must learn to see the real world and get themselves free of the harmful illusions. Forgiveness is the key to breaking the cycle of self-hate. Through forgiving others, people come to see hostile behavior patterns as a product of self-condemnation. Ultimately, salvation is a relational reality, and is found in a forgiving community. Such relationships make visible the tendency to project.

The Course also emphasizes that people generally need help from outside themselves to gain the new perspective they need. It teaches that humans have forgotten their divine nature and need to be awakened by God to the nature of the hell they have created for themselves. Sin, toward God, is an illusion. Thus individuals need to be awakened to their nature as God's children and from that point, learn to forgive.

The Foundation for Inner Peace is currently located at P. O. Box 798, Mill Valley, CA 94942-0598. It has a webpage at http://www.acim.org/. The foundation is leading the effort to translate ACIM, and German, French, and Spanish editions have already been published. The Miracle Distribution Center is located at 1141 East Ash Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831. Its Inter-net site is at http://www.miraclecenter.org/. The center publishes a list of ACIM study centers around the world.

Sources:

A Course in Miracles. 3 vols. New York: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975.

Koggend, John. "The Gospel According to Helen." Psychology Today 14 (September 1980): 74-78.

Miller, D. Patrick. The Complete Story of the Course: The History, the People and the Controversies Behind A Course in Miracles. Berkeley, Calif.: Fearless Books, 1997.

Singh, Tara. How to Learn from A Course in Miracles. Los Angeles: Life Action Press, 1988.

Wapnick, Kenneth. Absence of Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles. Roscoe, N.Y.: Foundation for "A Course in Miracles," 1991.