A New Age Christian's History with “A Course In Miracles”
As a high school teacher, I had a deal with my students. They could ask me any question, and I would answer it honestly. Over the years we had some memorable chats about really deep issues. Like, “Do you think aliens will ever come to earth?” “Where were your ancestors from?” “Did you ever smoke marijuana?” I was never quite comfortable with my response to one particular question: “Were you ever a part of history?” But on occasion I was asked, “What is your religion?” My answer: “You might call me a New Age Christian.” It was something I'd never googled, but seemed appropriate at the time to describe my belief in both evolution and the teachings of Jesus, and the inevitability of being resurrected just like him in his example (the best way to teach anything). But I'm not big into the Old Testament (unless numbers are involved, like the Year of Jubilee). It seems anything can be justified, including slavery, lynchings, and the taking of children from their refugee parents. We use a 2000 year old book for this, during a time that we can't even agree on what the elected leader of the free world said yesterday. I'm more of a William Barber type of Christian, focusing on the simple love and brotherly care of Jesus and his resurrection, from the New Testament. But it goes MUCH deeper, let me explain.
I was raised in a Methodist family. Other than remembering as a child the song that Jesus loved me, it was a very tepid relationship. The fellowship and mutual support was always good. Without drawing any rigid religious conclusions, I basically felt that if I lived a reasonable life and was considerate towards others, that any final judgment would go well. My 4-person nuclear family was very stable, with only one marriage each.
I also grew up in a funeral home. Before doing this, my folks had talked to me about having a dead person lay in state in our front room for viewing, for 2-3 days before the funeral. Of course as a young proud boy, I assured them it wouldn't bother me. The stairs were right next to that front room, where I went up to my room, one of three upstairs in the hundred-year old house.
It did bother me... I don't remember if it was the second night of the first lady that reclined in the open casket downstairs, or the second dead person they brought in. I vividly remember lying there in the back upstairs bedroom, all alone, sleepless, in the deafening quiet of a Nebraska night. My eyes were fully open, staring at the ceiling...thinking... I thought long and hard, and ended up making my decision. If that person got out of their casket, and started walking up the stairs to kill me...I would let them kill me. Because if a dead person can run around like that dead, why worry about dying? That served its purpose for years, including when my teen friend, Jerry Carey, was shot to death in a watermelon patch, but I hadn't really taken care of the issue.
Some 35 years later, I found myself in a Twelve-Step program, Adult Children of Alcoholics. Not because my parents drank, because they didn't, but it was the most generic Twelve-Step program I could find, and my goal was to do a little life tuneup. Most engineers don't move into something lightly. If the big picture doesn't take, they'll either find the error, study it more deeply and develop a total visualization...or move onto something else. I couldn't make sense of the steps for almost a year, but I finally got used to the jargon and usual patterns, and I finally made the total shift, from focus on alcohol to working on any special relationship that develops from having imperfect parents and mistaken beliefs...
When I got close to picking a sponsor, two things happened. First, I ran into a former marine, 14 years my junior, who told me: “Look, I'm willing to be your sponsor under one condition. If you want to meet every week, and work a new step each week, I'll sponsor you. If you want to make Twelve-Step a new addiction and screw around with it the rest of your life, count me out.” I counted him in. The second thing I was noticing was that of the people working the twelve steps, that there were several who were just flying through the program with tremendous growth and unbelievable insights. They were also studying something called “A Course In Miracles.”
Well, I started meeting Tuesdays of every week for a new step with my sponsor, and everything was going great. One Tuesday we discussed Step 3. This is the first step you have to get serious about your Higher Power, however you define him. But I did the best I could with my lukewarm beliefs. The very next night I attended an ACA meeting, and afterwards we went to “Don Z's,” where conversations and coffee often lasted well into the mornings. I'd befriended a woman at the meetings, I'll call Annie, who was finishing her study to complete her MSW, and she asked me how it was going. I shared the step I was on, and described my discomfort with my Higher Power. She got this big smile on her face, and said “Do you have some extra time right now?” It must have been about 2 am, but off to her house we went. She was a student of a local guru, and was being presented with some pretty wild stuff . She was also studying A Course In Miracles, which was a popular spiritual document, to get confirmation of the other teachings. She had this audio tape that someone had professionally done, which took a whole series of quotes out of the course book, with soft music in the background. She lit some candles, turned off the lights, and started the tape…
Before continuing with a critical turning point in my life, you would benefit from some quick background on the course... What follows is very brief and anecdotal, but all the specifics are readily available online. In the mid-60s, there were two PhD's at Columbia University who worked in the psychology department. As can happen within intellectual groups, the department was in the middle of total discord, and everyone was unhappy. These two people, Helen Schucman and William Thetford, talked often about the problem, and one day made the conscious decision that “there must be another way.” Immediately after, Helen started hearing this voice, asking her to write down the words provided, that it was A Course in Miracles. Helen fully described the experience to Bill, and he suggested she go along with it to see what happened. He agreed to type up all the notes that she would receive each day. This continued for a long time. When asked to identify himself, the voice said it was Jesus. When finished channeling the course, the voice would not provide specific details as to what was to happen next.
Some time went by, when a Judith Skutch came to Columbia University to give a speech on parapsychology, attended by both Helen and Bill. The two of them were shocked when Judith, on several occasions during her speech, made statements identical to phrases they were given in “the course.” They made sure to lunch with Ms. Skutch, and during the meeting, Judith finally asked “Do you have something for me?” She was given what they had prepared, and she took it back to California. From this point on Judith periodically conversed with the same voice, but she kept getting negative or silent responses when bringing up the publishing question. But that did not prevent the word from spreading about this amazing source of spiritual truth. People were running around with big paper sacks with photocopies of the course. After receiving an unsolicited huge check from an individual in Mexico City, the publishing question was confirmed in the positive. Instead of working with any existing publisher, The Foundation for Inner Peace would be created to deal only with this work.
Back to my miracles tape, at Annie's house... The words riveted me with their truth, but in a strange way...it was almost like a reminder of what I already knew. Every single phrase was that way. That night became one of the most memorable and loving memories of my life. To say the least, nothing could stop me from running out and buying the book early the very next day, and I headed off to Carl’s Jr. to begin my reading. From the very beginning, I would read a paragraph, and get so excited I wanted to share it with someone else, and then…the next paragraph was equally mind-blowing…the entire book was that way. I could not put it down for two solid weeks, until I had devoured it all in its entirety…complete with my own notes in the margins and many in my growth notebook. During those “happy learner” days I got in the habit of attending an early evening Saturday ACA meeting to obtain my deeply psychological questions of life, and then immediately going to A Course in Miracles meeting at Karen’s house, to get the answers. Those meetings were phenomenal…almost heaven on earth. It was the exact opposite of today, when fundamentalists of all religions seek the differences. Completely unorganized, there averaged about 30 people at each meeting, from every religious and spiritual group you could imagine…Jews, agnostics, Christians, Hindus, atheists, Buddhists…everyone was there…all with this big loving and excited smile on their faces, excitedly studying the same spiritual beliefs!
That spiritual study path opened the universe to me. I finally had an entity into whose arms I could fully leap. In conclusion, after playing around with the twelve steps and making little progress for a full year, I had shown what is sometimes called “that little bit of willingness.” When I decided to give it my best shot, just to see what would happen, and chose a sponsor, my growth was straight up. But one night at an ACIM meeting someone asked me a critical question. I was excitedly talking about one of the truth concepts when the other asked, “How can you process this document? This is not easy reading!” My response: “The Twelve Steps are so precise and action-oriented, that I used them to process ACIM.” I then thought back to those days of intense around-the-clock study. Whenever I ran into an incredibly enlightening concept, I would immediately say “Oh, that's step x!” and list it as such in my journal. I called these things BFOs, or Blinding Flashes of the Obvious. The twelve steps were used like that with all my new confirmed spiritual truths...from all sources.
From that point on, I started documenting everything in the same way. I first studied all the videotapes of Joseph Campbell, to gain a better understanding of comparative religion, and writing down their agreements, not the differences. The most notable: All religions say “only by me...” will you reach enlightenment. ACIM says that to reach God you must first take the step to the Holy Spirit, and only then can you reach God, as He takes you the rest of the way. In Christianity, that level is the teachings of Jesus. In other religions, it's the level of the Holy Spirit with that prophet. From Campbell, I also learned about the Gospel of Thomas, which I studied as well. It does not preach but is simply as if someone followed Jesus around and wrote down everything he said without comment. Half the sayings are in the Bible, half are not. Only discovered in 1945, it was obviously not canonized, but is a quite short gospel. I also studied what Jesus taught every day by example. In this respect I more closely follow the teachings of Pastor William Barber, than quotes from the Old Testament. At one time I even looked into becoming a Unity minister. But the greatest thing I learned from ACIM was to focus on the resurrection as the most important example provided by Jesus, and not the crucifixion. By showing us how he was resurrected, the message is clear: “You are not a body, but an eternal thought forever in the mind of God that visits a body for a short time. That you will be resurrected just like me.”
In the first 2 pages of the course, I was hooked. It explained how the rare communication with God is called a revelation, and deserves awe. And that miracles unite us with our brothers. It's as if the Holy Spirit is one big hologram, and in total is the Sonship. There are parts, including the prophets, placed into physical bodies at birth, but they're never totally separated from the Holy Spirit. Miracles, connections and communications between our brothers, should be normal. But in between these holy connections are the tiny bits of fear and darkness we make, separating us in mind only.
And let's get to the most supposedly heretic statement in the entire course: Jesus says that in the context of nothing and everything, fear and love, darkness and light, that we change our minds on the thought “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” He says it's better to think in terms of “For God so loved the world that He gave it to His only begotten Son...” Think about the profound effects of this thought. To give your only son implies sacrifice, but how could an omnipotent God lose or sacrifice anything? But if He gave the world to the Holy Spirit, instead we have a gift!
Is the course a cult? Most cults have a specific leader, but you virtually never hear the name of Helen and Bill who received it. Perhaps the leader is Jesus himself? If this is a love cult, based on his teachings, count me in. There also appears to be enormous interest across the world in this work. This includes eastern religions. One technical reviewer said “It's as if Jesus was born a Hindu.” I think, however, that many people who follow ACIM are embarrassed to talk about it...after all, how many times has Jesus returned to teach a course?? In the end, it's nothing but good news for Christians and all other religions. I am comfortable considering the course as a “Newer Testament” of Christianity.
Such good news is badly needed right now. Love, law, order, and truth itself is in question. Most people grew up in fairly functional families, without a parent or new stepparent looking them directly into the eye and lying. Those from dysfunctional families are better prepared for helping us deal with the truth, which will always out, than the majority. The typical American needs to get his financial house in order fast, and then with equal commitment determine the whats and hows of living in a dysfunctional family. As our country fights to know the truth, on the spiritual plane, that's easy: “Every loving thought is true.” Once our justice department finally stands behind all the truth, based on evidence and testimony under oath, a new American renaissance can begin. After that date, I see a new age of humility for all Americans (step 1 of the Twelve Steps). I believe my book “...As We Forgive Our Debtors” can be an invaluable document in helping guide such change, as everyone looks deeply into that only entity over which we have complete control...”I.” Together, we can start working towards, as the Mayans asked, “What can you make that's intelligent?” This, instead of fear and attacks on our brothers. Love and truth do not need victims. The book celebrates a marriage of two major concepts, the "Twelve Steps" and "A Course in Miracles," and promises to be a valuable tool in recreating free will and caring. In terms of a tool for directly confronting the roots of our opioid horror, there is no doubt as to the value of “...As We Forgive Our Debtors.” It's designed to deal with any problem or addiction, thanks to Bill W. and Jesus. As a retired independent investment adviser, I wrote “Forgive Us Our Debts...” to prepare you for massive economic change that will likely coincide with the eruption of truth. Its companion, “...As We Forgive Our Debtors,” focuses on healing and miracles...existential debt.
[Virus update since above was written: "For the last 2 years, I've been pestering all friends and relatives to get out of stocks & into t-bills/cash and gold mining stocks. The market has now completed the first of 3 major depression waves down, but our investments are instead going up, or safe, stable, and liquid. A Step Study of the financial book has now been completed on my FB page. We soon start a national step study program combining the 2 miraculous approaches described above. During this WWIII level financial and virus disaster, I'm making both books free to everyone as PDF downloads. The 'Year of Jubilee' has begun."]