Book Review: A Course in Miracles? Or a Course in Confusion?
by Stephanie Brail
I've had a copy of A Course in Miracles since the 1990s. When I first got it, I tried reading it and could not get into it. Yet, Marianne Williamson was all the rage (Williamson's book Return to Love was a huge new age hit in the 90s), and so I felt there must be something in there for me. After all, Williamson was quoted so much at the time, it just seemed like this was some sort of grand, amazing course all serious seekers should be taking. Maybe I wasn't quite "ready" for it.
Over a decade passed, and A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is no longer the "hot" ticket it seemed to be in the 90s. For some reason, though, I still had the book in my bookshelf. It had survived many moves (even an out-of-state move). So recently, I dusted my copy of ACIM off my shelf and took another look at it.
My response? Umm...well, apologies to anyone who is deeply into the course, but I believe A Course in Miracles is probably up there as one of the worst spiritual books ever written.
I've finally realized that my initial response to ACIM was really the correct one. There wasn't something lacking in me, that I could not get into the book the first time around. Rather, the book itself is written poorly. It is pretentious and confusing, written in convoluted language that is meant to appear profound but ultimately is nothing more than mental masturbation.
The gist of ACIM is that we're at fault for our own suffering, because we (not God) made up this illusion of our lives, and if we could just stop believing in the illusion, we'd be filled with miracles and love.
OK, so the idea of love being all there is happens to be a nice one, and of course we all want miracles in our lives. All that sounds nice. It's just that the rest of the theology in the book is contradictory, at best.
Let me back up and also remind you (or in case you were not aware), that ACIM claims to be a channeled message from none other than Jesus Christ himself.
Channeling is a very tricky thing, and it's always important to be extremely judicious when hearing channeled information. While I think there are some legitimately channeled messages out there, a good number of them are not authentic.
At best, they are the person's subconscious mind, at worst, they could be the "inspiration" of a mischievous spirit wandering by.
So is it possible that Jesus could channel a book? Sure. But would He channel a book that directly contradicts things that he said while here on earth?
Actually, for me, the more compelling proof that Jesus was not the source of this material goes back to my initial complaint - this book is just not well written. I believe that if Divinity wanted to say something, It could do so in a much more eloquent, inviting manner.
Now, some fans of ACIM defend the circular logic, as one commenter on Amazon.com did:
I think that the circularity is intentional. Got to get the mind thoroughly confused and off-kilter almost in order to allow the deeper part of us to hear something that is beyond words, beyond concepts, beyond time and space, beyond mind.
But this just doesn't gibe for me. Saying that it's convoluted on purpose is what I'd call a rationalization. I don't need convoluted writing to get me to connect with spirit. I have a much easier way of experiencing the deeper part of myself that is beyond words, and it doesn't involve the pain of reading hundreds of pages of badly written gobbledy-gook. It's as simple as a prayer, or a minute of meditation.
A good portion of ACIM is dedicated to exercises that are really all about disassociating yourself with the world around you. Not necessarily a good practice for people with real jobs or those who need to take care of little children.
Some former disciples of ACIM have complained that following its teachings was a form of denial that kept them from fully experiencing their full range of emotion. It was perhaps a useful crutch to them at the time, but ultimately left them feeling like half a person.
Now, I do realize many people have benefited from this book, or at least feel they have benefited from it.
If A Course in Miracles works for you, great. (I'm sure I'll hear from you in the comments.) For those of you who may have tried getting through this dense tome, and found you weren't "grepping" it, don't blame yourself. I personally think this book is not from a divine source. It contains some truths and half-truths, but nothing you can't get from clearer, more inspired sources.
Sorry, Marianne Williamson.