When you yourself have spent enough time exploring spirituality, you have probably learned about A Course in Miracles. Maybe you have even “done” it. A huge number of spiritual seekers-New Age, Christian, Buddhist-have see the Course or at the least have it sitting on the bookshelf. It has turned into a familiar part of the landscape.
And yet that familiarity masks what a unique and unconventional document A Course in Miracles is. The Course falls into the category of channeled material, yet most such material generally seems to ride the waves of popular currents of thought, telling us more or less what we expect to know: “You are God.” “You create your own personal reality.” “You could have it all.”
As the Course echoes countless themes from the world’s spiritual traditions and from modern psychology, what’s perhaps most striking about it’s how original it is. Just whenever you believe that do you know what it is going to say, it heads off in some completely unfamiliar direction, the one that appears to have no parallel in some other teaching, ancient or modern.
Therefore, if you want to hear the old familiar truths, A Course in Miracles isn’t for you. On every page, it is wanting to overturn the taken-for-granted assumptions which your world is built.
For instance, many of us naturally want to distinguish ourselves through noted achievement, ability, and recognition. All of us desire to be special. The Course highlights as possible only be special by being better than others, and that trying to make others worse than you is definitely an attack. It says, “Specialness is triumph, and its victory is [another’s] defeat and shame.” Trying to defeat and shame another, it says, just leaves you burdened with guilt.
Similarly, many of us make an effort to fashion a confident image of ourselves, by adopting pleasing appearances and responsible behavior. The Course says that this image we’ve so carefully crafted is really an idol, a false god that people worship in place of our true identity, which no image can capture: “You’ve no image to be perceived.” The Course claims that people don’t need a refined image or special attributes, for underneath these superficial things lies an old identity that’s the same as everyone else’s yet has infinite worth.
Finally, most of us think that if there is a God, the planet was produced by Him. The Course reminds us of what most of us know, that the planet is a place of suffering, disease, war, and death a course in miracles lesson 1. Then it says, “You but accuse Him of insanity, to think He made a world where such things seem to possess reality. He is not mad. Yet only madness makes a world like this.”
When you yourself have ever suspected that there is something deeply wrong with the planet, that there is an insanity that has seeped into everything, including perhaps your own personal heart, then a Course may be for you. For it’s in the midst with this bad news that it delivers its good news.
It promises, “There’s a method of living on earth that’s not here, though it generally seems to be.” In this way, the distressing appearances of life no more govern our state of mind, nor dictate our response to others. We could find “quiet even yet in the midst of the turmoil” of the world. We could respond with open-handed generosity, even if others make an effort to hurt us. We could forget about days gone by even if its residue lies all over us. We could walk through our day with “no cares and no concerns…no concern with future and no past regrets” even though we’ve failed to manifest the life of our dreams.
Just how do we reach this unshakable peace? We get down to business and start retraining our minds. We practice seeing things differently. In this process, the Course provides abundant help. It includes hundreds of exercises directed at shifting us right into a new perception-exercises in forgiveness, entering the present, seeing ourselves differently, and experiencing God.
Yes, the process takes effort (how did effort become so unpopular?). And yes, it promises to turn our inner world upside down. Yet perhaps we’ve grown tired of our inner world, possibly even somewhat sick of it. Perhaps we’ve realized that as mercurial because it is, it’s remarkably resistant to real change. Perhaps, then, we’re ready to try something new, or to take something off the shelf that people only thought was familiar. Perhaps A Course in Miracles is the one thing we’ve been looking for.