A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a literary phenomenon that has affected the lives of many thousands of people. It is essentially a self-study curriculum that guides students toward shifting their focus from an external world that they are at the effect of to an internal one where they are the cause of their own experience.
ACIM uses both a theoretical and an experiential approach. It consists of a 622 page Text, which describes the philosophical foundation upon which its thought system is based. A 478 page Workbook for Students, containing 365 daily lessons that are designed to train the student along the lines set forth by the Text. As well as an 88 page Manual for Teachers, which answers some of the questions most likely to be asked by Course students and also clarifies terms. For new students, I suggest starting with the Manual and then reading the Text and the Workbook at the same time, no more than 1 lesson and 1 section per day.
On one level, ACIM is a restatement of the core of wisdom found in every major world religion. However, the Course clearly identifies itself as a ‘teaching device’ rather than as a religion. The Course makes no claim of superiority over any other teaching, but states that it is only one of many thousands of forms of “the universal course” that can be used for personal transformation. It does suggest, however, that students may progress faster by applying its principles in their daily lives.
The language of ACIM is extraordinarily rich and profound. The thought system of the Course is intellectually sophisticated and combines spiritual inspiration with deep psychological understanding of such phenomena as belief and defense systems, perception and identity.
ACIM is also practical. The daily Workbook lessons provide a systematic approach by which one can apply the principles of the Course. The lessons do not require a lot of time nor long practice periods, but they do require a willingness to question every value one has and to see things differently.
The psycho-spiritual training of ACIM insists on a complete reversal of ordinary, physical, reality-based perception. The aim of the Course is to remove the “obstacles to the awareness of love’s presence” within our minds. It teaches that there are only two basic thought systems, one of perception (based on fear) and the other of knowledge (based on love). The thought system of perception is inherently illusory because it is based upon interpretation, not on fact. It is founded on our belief in our separation from God and from one another. From this flows a belief in evil, sin, guilt, fear, and scarcity. It is a world of time and appearances: of birth and death, of past and future, and constant change and conflict. This thought system of perception is what the Course labels the ego.
Once we are caught in the world of perception, it is as though we are caught in a dream. We need help to awaken from the dream because our physical senses accept only that information which reinforces our beliefs. ACIM offers us an avenue of awakening by showing us experientially that our usual perception and sense of identity are distorted. It offers us a way of correcting these distortions so that we can see ourselves and the world through the eyes of knowledge rather than perception, thus becoming aware of love’s constant presence. A ‘miracle’, then, is a change in how we see our circumstances, which may or may not be reflected through an external shift in the circumstances themselves.
Unlike some other thought systems, ACIM does not suggest withdrawal from the world. It teaches that our relationships offer us unique and valuable opportunities for learning, awakening and healing. The Course offers a sophisticated analysis on the dynamics of relationship in all its various forms, and considers them to be the activating agents for change.
Transformation of the self in relationship is accomplished through the constant practice of forgiveness. In the context of the Course, ‘forgiveness’ does not pardon sins and make them real. Instead, it contends that there was no sin, since it considers that all behavior is either an extension of love or a call for love. By changing our perception in this way, we can remove the block to the awareness of love’s presence, which the Course says is our natural inheritance.
As we are led from the world of the ego to the world of love, our perception of ourselves as separated persons is corrected, and we remember our higher, or True Self. We recognize our oneness with God, our Self and all our others, and are able, finally, to “teach only love,” which is our true function.