Questions About The A Course In Miracles Teaching


Basic question about what A Course In Miracles teaches. What is it's metaphysical theory? What are it's religious implications? How is it similar to other spiritual teachings? How is it different?

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A Course In Miracles teaches that everyone is God's holy child. We are all equal. Even Jesus is our equal. ACIM teaches that the physical world we appear to be in was not created by God, but is an illusion of our own making. It is a manifestation of our false belief in separation. It is literally a dream we are dreaming. Our job, while here in physical reality, is to accept this and learn how to prepare ourselves to wake up to our Reality which is the Christ.

A Course In Miracles teaches us that there is a Voice for God in our minds that is always talking to us, telling us that we are: unlimited, one with all life, eternal, and literally invulnerable. That Voice is the Holy Spirit. There is another voice in our minds that we made up that lies to us and tells us we are: limited, separate, mortal, and vulnerable. That voice is the ego. A primary focus of ACIM is to teach us how to tell these two voices apart. Once we do that we must choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust the Holy Spirit's counsel. We will always hear the voice of the ego while here in the dream but we should not accept it's guidance or counsel about anything. ACIM is not about the death of the ego, but how to properly relate to it.

Since we are actually dreaming the physical world and everything in it, all our many brothers and sisters are part of that dream as well. They are behaving just as we have asked them to. As such, having grievances about them is having a grievance about ourselves. When we hold onto grievances we attack ourselves and we feel: weak, vulnerable and have pain accordingly. A major part of the ACIM teaching is learning how to let go of all of our grievances. We do this by a practice of "complete forgiveness" which is different from what is usually called forgiveness in the world. Complete forgiveness starts by our realizing that whatever is happening, we have asked for. We then offer up our perceptions and thoughts about the reality of the grievance to the Holy Spirit and ask for a new perception to be given us. Once the Holy Spirit gives us this new perception we must choose it as ours. This is how grievances are truly let go. Since our brothers and sisters bring us these forgiveness lessons, our relationships are actually our salvation. When not bringing us forgiveness and grievance lessons, are brothers and sisters give us opportunities to celebrate our joy and our eternal nature, thus strengthening our belief in them. ACIM is literally salvation through relationships.

A Course In Miracles has a strong focus on healing. We heal by recognizing the eternal Spirit in ourselves and in all our brothers and sisters. We let Holy Spirit guide us as to what to do in the physical world to manifest the healing of ourselves and others. Frequently this spiritual healing produces shifts in the appearance of physical reality – such as shifts in the appearance of the health or sickness of our body and the bodies of others. Sometimes this spiritual healing does not produce such shifts in appearance. We are asked to believe in the truth of the healing regardless of the appearance of "symptoms." The "miracle" is the mental shift in perception. It frequently has observable effects but not always.

A Course In Miracles teaches us to be patient with our spiritual healing process and not to judge it in any way. We have no way of knowing how far along we are on the path.

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"Metaphysical" is an ancient word dating back to Aristotle and the fourth century before Christ (BC). When Aristotle wrote his treatises he would state a certain point and then after that he wrote what he called the “tá metá tá physicà.” That means “the work after the physics” and these were the ideas that underlied the premises which he just stated. First he’d state his postulate and then he’d give the “metaphysics” of it, ie: what were the causative thoughts underneath it. The word “metaphysics” itself didn’t become popular until later in Aristotle’s career when he actually wrote a treatise named “Metaphysics.” In that dissertation, which is sometimes called “The Doctrine of Causation”, he wrote about why particulars arise from the universal. This became his doctrine on metaphysics in the fourth century BC.

In our modern times, "metaphysics" has come to mean the causative forces that lie underneath the physical reality that we experience. Astrology is usually considered metaphysical because it deals with causative, cosmic forces that lie underneath the physical world. Tarot cards are considered metaphysical because they deal with causative, spiritual archetypes that underlie the physical world. A Course In Miracles would be considered metaphysical because it deals with the thoughts and mental processes that give rise to the manifestation of the physical world. Most metaphysical systems exist because students hope that through a better understanding of the causes that lie underneath, one can have a more effective function while here in physical reality.

Here are a couple of examples of direct metaphysical thoughts in ACIM:

"I see no neutral things. -- What I see witnesses to what I think. If I did not think I would not exist, because life is thought. Let me look on the world I see as the representation of my own state of mind. I know that my state of mind can change. And so I also know the world I see can change as well." (Wk.Or.Ed.54.3)

"The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but will to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result, not a cause." (Tx.Or.Ed.21.1)

Notice how each of the above quotations deals with the cause, our thoughts and perceptions, that lies underneath the physical world we appear to be in. Hence, they are an example of the metaphysical teaching of ACIM. It should be noted that the word "metaphysics" never appears in ACIM. Also, because of "metaphysics" association with things like astrology and Tarot cards, some students do not want to call ACIM metaphysical.

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A Course In Miracles does share many ideas with Unity, Christian Science and Religious Science, but it is also significantly different from these disciplines as well. These three disciplines are frequently referred to as New Thought religions.

Unity is officially the Unity School Of Christianity. It was formed in 1889 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in Kansas City, Missouri. Some basic Unity principles are very similar to ACIM principles. The idea that God is the source of all things and that God is good and everywhere present, is the same in both. That we are all spiritual beings created in God's image and spirit so we are also all good, is the same for both. Both teachings also tell us that we create our life experiences through our way of thinking.

ACIM is different from Unity in several significant ways. Unity encourages a study of the Bible, but interpreted through the New Thought lens of Unity's basic teachings. ACIM does not encourage a study of the Bible therefore, because of this Bible focus, Unity is more directly "Christian" than ACIM. A more important difference is Unity's way of relating to the physical world. Unity sees the physical world as a natural expression of God and our Divine natures. According to Unity we all, with God, are co-creators of the world. As such the world should reflect the Divine when we are in alignment with our true nature. ACIM sees the world as an illusion that was manifested originally by us to prove separation to ourselves. ACIM says, that God did not create the world. This is a major difference. Although ACIM teaches that as we heal we will eventually see the "Real World", or a healed world, just exactly what that means is a major source of disagreement among ACIM students and teachers. Unity has a focus on affirmative prayer in order to align our minds more with God and also to manifest the world more aligned to our Divine nature. ACIM's focus on prayer is not so direct nor is it necessarily affirmative. ACIM is not as concerned with appearances in the world. ACIM's focus on relationships as being our path back to knowing ourselves is unique. As such, ACIM's focus on a reperception of all our relationships, with a strong emphasis on letting go of grievances through the practice of "complete forgiveness", is also unique. While someone could say that they were followers of Unity because they went to Unity services and ascribed to it's principles, a person who is a student of ACIM would, by definition, be someone who was studying the ACIM book and practicing ACIM Workbook lessons. Unity does not have this strong focus on book study.

Unity encourages a diverse exposure to various New Age teachings. Hence, ACIM Study Groups have sometimes found a home in Unity churches. Individual Unity churches have a lot of leeway in how they are organized and run. Whether a particular Unity church embraces ACIM will probably depends on how the minister of that church, or that church's board of directors, feels about ACIM. The central Unity organization that trains its ministers has been inconsistent with its acceptance of ACIM. Sometimes it has accepted it as compatible and sometimes it has rejected it as incompatible.

Mary Baker Eddy published her seminal book about spiritual healing, Science and Health, in 1875. The Christian Science church was founded by her and her students in Boston, Massachusetts in 1879. Officially it is named, Church Of Christ, Scientist. By the time of its founding Ms. Eddy's spiritual healing theories were already widely studied and practiced. Science and Health was based on her own healing and the teaching that she had been doing since 1866. She taught many students her form of metaphysical, spiritual healing at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College in Boston. In some ways, ACIM has more in common, theologically, with Christian Science than with Unity. Christian Science also deals with the physical world as illusion or error. While Christian Science, like Unity, encourages a study of the Bible through the lens of New Thought interpretations, Christian Science also requires one to study Ms. Eddy's source book Science And Health. Christian Science is not as open as Unity about what other teachings should be studied by its members. Christian Science churches frequently run Christian Science Reading Rooms where officially sanctioned books are found and read by people for free. You will not find ACIM in Christian Science Reading Rooms but it is very common in Unity church bookstores.

Christian Science differs significantly from ACIM in how it deals with healing. In Christian Science members are strongly encouraged not to go to medical doctors when ill. Members are expected to go to Christian Science Practitioners and to work with their false beliefs that are causing the illness, through prayer. There have been court cases of child endangerment involving devote Christian Science parents who did not bring their children to doctors when ill because the parents were firmly practicing their religious beliefs. ACIM has no such belief against doctors. Going to doctors is not "wrong" for ACIM students. Going to doctors would be an experience in the physical world and, as such, inherently neutral. Christian Science has a very strong, hierarchical church structure with attendant church dogma. The church's historic view of homosexuality as an "illness" to be cured is one such issue. Even in recent times one could not be openly gay and have a position in the church. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people are still closeted in the Christian Science church. Mary Baker Eddy's teaching of a morally decent life has accounted for some of this historic discrimination of LGBT people. ACIM is primarily a non-behavioral teaching and so lifestyle choices do not lead to any discrimination or exclusion.

Ernest Holmes published his seminal book on spiritual metaphysical healing, The Science Of Mind, in 1926. The Religious Science church was founded by Mr. Holmes the next year in 1927 in Los Angeles, California. Of these three New Thought religions, Religious Science is the youngest. While sharing a lot in common, philosophically, with Christian Science, Religious Science does not view going to doctors as wrong. Religious Science deals with proven healing practices as part of the Whole, and therefore part of God. While a form of prayer healing called "spiritual mind treatment" is encouraged, it can be used as complementary to seeking traditional medical treatment. The major difference between Religious Science and ACIM is again, as with Unity, how Religious Science views the world. Seeing the world as part of the Whole, and God in action, makes for a much stronger world emphasis. Prosperity, personal relationship satisfaction, and good physical body health become a strong focus of Religious Science practice. If someone wants a spiritual discipline with a firm emphasis on getting one's worldly life to work better, Religious Science is a good fit. This is very different from ACIM which sees the world as an illusion and teaches us that our happiness is guaranteed, independent of world conditions. Religious Science does not have as strong of a focus on the Bible as the previous two religions, and as such, is probably the least traditionally "Christian."

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The answer here is both "yes" and "no." It depends upon how you define "Christian" and will vary from one A Course In Miracles student to another.

Here are supporting ideas to the "Yes, it is Christian" argument:

  1. It teaches us a lot about Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father.
  2. It talks frequently about certain teachings that are found in the Bible.
  3. It focuses a lot on the fundamental Christian idea of forgiveness.
  4. It guides us to have a very personal relationship with Jesus.
  5. It teaches us how to communicate with the Holy Spirit.
  6. It encourages us to pray and teaches us how to do it.

 

Here are supporting ideas to the "No, it is not Christian" argument:

  1. It is not Bible based and it does not encourage Bible study.
  2. It teaches Jesus is not the only "Christ." He is not the only Son of God. We are all the "Christ." We are all the Son of God equal to Jesus.
  3. It does not want us to believe in the devil and does not want us to believe in sin.
  4. It does not teach of hell and it says that all will eventually enter Heaven or the Reality realm.
  5. It tells us that God did not create this world. We manifested it ourselves.
  6. It teaches us that Jesus was not sent here by God to atone for our sins through his crucifixion.

 

Ultimately, how to define ACIM is very personal and there is no absolute answer to this. More traditional Christians should be aware that they will encounter some very challenging thoughts if they study ACIM. Also, some of their more traditional Christian friends may not be supportive of their ACIM study.

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© copyright 2008, Community Miracles Center, San Francisco, CA. All rights reserved.

A Course In Miracles never says we are God. It says that we are one with God. It says we are God beings and of a like quality. There is no characteristic of God that we do not share. However, God is our Creator and we are God's creation. God is our Cause and we are God's effects. That cause and effect relationship has to be understood and thoroughly integrated if we are ever to sort out cause and effect here in the illusion. The reason why de don't think we are causing the world is because we are denying God caused us. "It is as needful that you recognize you made the world you see as that you recognize that you did not create yourself. They are the same mistake." (OrEd.Tx.21.26) A fundamental denial of cause and effect produces cause and effect confusion everywhere. Understanding that we are causing the world is the first step in understanding God caused us. It is the beginning of the reestablishment of true Cause and effect. If we were God, we would be our own Cause and that is not ACIM philosophy. In fact it is antithetical to it. That idea does figure into other forms of spirituality. Alan Watts was a big proponent of that in the 1960s and 1970s. Alan Watts popularized Zen for the West at that time. God did not break Himself all to pieces so that He could reassemble Himself into a Whole. The world is not a cosmic game of hide and seek that God is playing with Himself. While this may be an interpretation of Zen philosophy (that too is debatable) it is not part of ACIM philosophy.

 

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