I came across this book about a dozen years ago in the mind-body-spirit section of a bookshop and picked it up out of curiosity. I only had to read the Introduction and the first half-page of the Text before carrying it straight to the till - no mean recommendation, as I was at the time a university student on a shoe-string budget. Having finally got myself a Kindle, this copy of A Course in Miracles was one of the first books I bought for it.
How can I describe the Course? It is a psychological approach to "enlightenment", non-dualistic in nature, emphasising forgiveness. It regards the entire physical world as an illusion, made not by God, but by us. It tells us that our reality is pure spirit, at home and safe with God. It can be summed up by these words from the Introduction: "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God."
In many ways, its format reminds me of the physics textbooks I read whilst studying for my degree. It begins with the Text, which sets out the theory, followed by a set of exercises (the Workbook for Students) to help you understand and apply that theory. Then there is an FAQ (the Manual for Teachers) to answer some of the most basic questions about the Course, and a glossary (the Clarification of Terms) to explain how some of the most important words and expressions are being used. This ebook also has the supplements "The Song of Prayer" and "Psychotherapy" included at the end, a little like appendices.
The Text is not an easy read - partly because of the almost Shakespearean language, but also because of the sheer density of information it contains. Trying to read it straight through (as you would read a novel) will probably have the same effect as reading a revision guide straight through - the brain will scream "too much information!" and will be unable to take it all in. Even read slowly, although the beauty and meaning of some paragraphs will leap out at you immediately, others will not make sense until you re-read them later with the benefit of having learned a little more of the Course's theory and system. It's not uncommon for people to find this book difficult and to put it aside for a while, only to return to it some years later when they are a bit more ready for it.
The practice of the Course is based solidly in forgiveness - total, uncompromising forgiveness of yourself, the world, and everyone in it. No exceptions. As you might imagine, this is tough. It requires you to be unflinchingly honest with yourself, and it certainly doesn't happen overnight. The Workbook is designed to lead you gradually towards this goal. This is one of the reasons why the Course is for long-term study - if you simply dip into it every now and again when it suits you, there's a pretty good chance that you will end up ignoring some of the more difficult concepts which are vital to the overall message.
The Course uses some Christian terminology and language, and makes no apology for the fact that its author is the voice of Jesus, as heard by Helen Schucman in the 1960's and 70's. However, many of these familiar terms are used in a startlingly new way. The Course is not Christianity - nor was it ever intended to be! The theology set forth in its pages is incompatible with the Apostles' Creed, and is a separate, self-contained system.
This version of A Course in Miracles is the combined third edition of the official version as approved by Helen Schucman and published by the Foundation For Inner Peace. They have so far translated the Course into about twenty languages, with more to come (a very time-consuming process, as the translators must understand every line of the Course in order to avoid distorting its message). If you are not a native English speaker, you might want to visit acim.org/Translations to see whether the Course is available in your first language.
Lastly (and I cannot emphasise this enough), this is very definitely a "try before you buy" book. A Course in Miracles (by its own admission) is not for everyone, and many will find the text simply impenetrable. Either by using "click to look inside" or by downloading the sample to your kindle, it is a *very* good idea to take a look at what the Course is like before buying it. The sample includes:
* The table of contents
* The Preface (contains background and summary)
* The Introduction
* The first seven chapters of the Text
You should be able to get an idea from this whether or not the Course will be helpful for you.
Recommended further reading material:
If you are unsure about the differences between Christianity and A Course in Miracles, then I recommend "A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue"
, which is a discussion between Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D. and Rev. W. Norris Clarke S.J., Ph.D. on the similarities and differences between the two thought systems. (Kindle edition available)
If you would like help understanding the principles of A Course in Miracles, and are not put off by blunt speech or information from unusual sources, then "The Disappearance of the Universe"
by Gary R. Renard is an excellent introduction. A more concise and somewhat more polite summary can be found in "A Talk Given on 'A Course in Miracles': An Introduction"
, by Kenneth Wapnick. Either one should be able to help you to decide whether or not the Course is for you, and get you off on the right foot if you do decide to study the Course. (Kindle editions available)
If you would like to know more about the story of A Course in Miracles than is contained in the Preface of the Course itself, then you can find it in "Journey without Distance"
by Robert Skutch. A much lengthier and more scholarly treatment can be found in "Absence from Felicity"
, Kenneth Wapnick's biography of Helen Schucman, which contains a lot of the extra messages and conversations between Jesus and Helen, and puts them into context.
I hope you find this review helpful!