Back in the mid-1960s a couple of psychotherapists were having trouble working together in a university hospital setting. They were intellectuals in a time and place where that meant “atheist” or at least “agnostic,” and their training was primarily in the use of psychoanalysis supplemented by sedatives and shock therapy.
Try though they might, they kept “pushing each other’s buttons” and, since they were both tenured, they really needed to find a solution.
One day one of them was getting ready for work and heard a voice say, “this is a course in miracles, please take notes.” She ignored it, but it persisted for several days. Finally, concerned that she might be having a psychotic episode, she went to her supervisor (the one she’d been having troubles with!) and told him about it. He (wisely it turns out) suggested that since it didn’t appear to be harmful, she might go along with it for a while and see what happened… . If she would bring in her notes, he would type them up and they’d go over them.
Several years and 800 pages of manuscript later, they had a workbook, a text, and a couple smaller booklets.
The material was very dense, written in almost Shakespearean English. Most disconcerting, however, was that it purported to be dictated by Jesus the Christ.
Neither of them were familiar with Christian doctrine, but even they knew this was not going to be readily accepted. Still, they found that doing this work had solved the problems in their relationship and they were finding other things in their lives changed for the better. So they decided to share the work with folks who might give them useful feedback. And so began a process that rapidly went “viral” (long before the Internet!). Copies of copies of copies were handed and mailed from one person to the next, all over the country, until some were so faint they were virtually unreadable.
About that time another woman, who’d never met them, felt an inner urge to create the Foundation for Inner Peace, and use it to publish something that would transform lives. By a strange series of events she ended up talking with them and publishing their manuscript in 3 volumes: a workbook with 365 mind-altering lessons, an equally long amazingly confusing and wonderful text, and a “Manual for Teachers” which stated clearly that we’re all teachers.
So began a movement that’s been growing steadily since. Groups meet weekly to go over the previous week’s lessons and readings, making sense of the often-strange, always awe-inspiring ideas, and most people attempt to do one lesson a day. Some people have “completed the Course” several times over—and always find something new.
The essential message is:
- humanity, altogether, is the Son of God;
- God, the source and supplier of our being, sees only our perfection and waits for us to know we’re not separated from all the peace, joy, love, life, and wonderfulness that God is and we truly are;
- what we perceive with our senses is not real, but a projection of our own mental framework;
- Jesus is an elder brother who can help us let go of our misconceptions and align our will with God’s will for our happiness;
- when we choose God’s peace, love, and joy in the moment, we are free;
- when we release whatever grievances we’ve held against ourselves or others, miracles happen and we’re that much closer to the At-one-ment of all of humanity with God.
All the lessons and all the text are designed to help us feel this message and experience it at a very deep level. In the process, lives are transformed.
When I work with the Course, I always have to modify the terminology (it’s very paternalistically Trinitarian), and remember to track the definitions given at the beginning of the Text for words that we don’t usually use the way they’re used in it.
When I lead groups through the Course, we almost never do more than 3 lessons a week, because that’s what it usually takes to really let the ideas sink in. Just skimming the surface is nice but not nearly as transformative!