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A Course in Miracles (ACIM)
All you need is love....love is all you need. --the Beatles
A Course in Miracles [ACIM] is the name of a book, allegedly dictated by Jesus to Helen Schucman (1909-1981), a research psychologist. ACIM is Christianity improved: Jesus wants less suffering, sacrifice, separation, and sacrament. He also wants more love and forgiveness.
ACIM is a minor industry. To find out what Jesus really had in mind when he came to save the world, you can buy ACIM or one of a dozen similar books from the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP).* About 1.5 million copies of ACIM were sold worldwide between 1976 and 2002. FIP also sells audio and videotapes, and conducts workshops, seminars, and discussion groups.* Its sister organization, The Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM), has an academy where you can get the Holy Spirit to help you understand the real message of Jesus. You may then return to your everyday life situation with a deeper appreciation for the difference between appearance and reality, illusion and truth. The academy is known as "The Institute for Teaching Inner Peace Through A Course in Miracles" (ITIP).
Why should anyone believe that the words of Helen Schucman are the words of Jesus? She was a clinical psychologist by training (she received a Ph.D. in 1957 from New York University). She claims that from 1965-1972 an inner voice dictated to her the three books that make up ACIM. She was assisted by a colleague, William Thetford (1923-1988). In 1972, another psychologist and his wife, Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick, assisted Schucman with her work. The Wapnicks are the ones who started FACIM.
Why is it called A Course in Miracles? According to Schucman, the voice said to her: “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.”1
ACIM got a big boost when Marianne Williamson,2 one of America's most popular New Age spirituality writers, began promoting her version of it in the 1990s. The teachings of ACIM are not new. They have been culled from various sources, east and west. That does not make them false or worthless. But to claim that they were dictated by someone who has been dead for 2,000 years is a bit much to swallow. Did she really hear voices or didn’t she want to take responsibility for what she thought?3
Essentially, in ACIM, the term "miracle" refers to that change of mind that makes it possible for the Love of [Abraham's god] to be somehow expressed in the world. This expression of love is referred to as forgiveness in the Course and it is reasonably accurate to say that the miracle spoken of in the Course (and indicated in its title) is forgiveness.
2Williamson might be called Oprah's patron saint. She's all about love and healing, yin and yang, being wounded, and using love and prayer to heal all wounds. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course In Miracles (1992) was number one on the Publishers Weekly non-fiction best-sellers list for eleven weeks. Williamson promoted her book and ACIM when she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, an episode that received more pro viewer mail than any other show for 1992. She also plugged the book and the course when she was interviewed by Barbara Walters on the ABC television news show 20/20.
3If the former, I have nothing to add. If the latter, however, I must say that I am much more sympathetic to the approach of someone like Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998), another psychologist who taught love and forgiveness. He took responsibility for what he claimed and seemed to say: This is what I've learned; take it or leave it.
books and articles
Gardner, Martin. “Marianne Williamson and ‘A Course in Miracles,’” The Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1992.
Course In Miracles A Biblical Evaluation by Russ Wise
A Course in Miracles or in Brainwashing? by Ali Sina