I recently finished reading A Course in Miracles (ACIM), a book “scribed” by Helen Schucman between 1965 and 1972. It had been on my radar for a while because the first spiritual self-help book I read (or rather, listened to) was Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of ‘A Course in Miracles.’ At that time and the years after, I had no desire to check out what the book was about, but as the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Perhaps, I was desperate for miracles to happen, because after I had watched one of Eckhart Tolle’s YouTube videos on ACIM late last year, I was intuitively called to get a copy of the book and embark on the course.

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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

I would describe ACIM, like many others who resonate with the teachings, as a “New Age Bible.” The Course was dictated (channelled and recorded word-by-word) by Columbia University psychology professor Helen Schucman, with the help of her colleague William Thetford, from an inner voice she recognized as Jesus. To know that this seemingly mystic source was born in an academic setting, for me, is a miracle in and of itself since I had been frustrated with academia’s reluctance to embrace spirituality and was also increasingly empathically feeling the operations of guilt in institutions. I also started using the term “the innocence of knowledge” even though I didn’t know why other than that it had a good ring to it. After reading ACIM, many of my obscure philosophies began to make more sense.

I have yet to be aware of the repetitive evidence of my miracle-working abilities, but I was surprised that many of the teachings in ACIM were lessons that I had been working through in recent years, some in the most abstract of ways that my mind didn’t even fully understand. In this post, I’ll share core lessons of the Course that resonated with me and that I remember well (since I didn’t make notes while I was reading) and in the next post, I will write about some deviations I have with the material.

1. The authority problem and the source of all evil: to erroneously believe that we are the author of ourselves (i.e., to identify with the ego)

This lesson triggers my ego which wants to believe I can change myself (all by myself) and change the world with me. Despite forgetting again and again the futility of this error, I have at least learned enough through experience to know the importance of this humbling lesson. ACIM teaches us that souls are given authorship from God (or whatever name you want to call the ultimate divine power)*. To deny otherwise is to choose the ego as the authority and that comes with all the errors in our perceptions of the world.

2. The foundation of the ego’s world is guilt

The ego is the result of the illusion of separation. The ego creates judgement, and consequently, an attack, as a form of rejection to maintain this separation. Those who do not attack are the ego’s enemies because they have a better chance of letting it go. Therefore, to release guilt is to release the ego. And vice versa, to the ego, the guiltless are guilty. If we pay attention, we’d be surprised at how often we do something (or not do something) to avoid guilt. We’d also notice how much our society operates through guilt.

3. Forgiveness is to let go of the ego’s judgement and to allow for divine atonement

Forgiveness is to correct the ego’s errors. The power of forgiveness is that it requires divine intervention. We can’t will our way into forgiving. We can only allow it to happen by temporarily suspending the ego. ACIM calls this the Holy Instant when we surrender the projection of guilt (onto ourselves or another) to the Holy Spirit.* Or in simple terms, surrendering our attachment to the pain caused by judgment to a larger universal power in a moment of complete presence. In ACIM, the Last Judgment is God’s final verdict of our holiness, which is always true when we surrender. However, the practical me likes to think of the Last Judgment as the last judgment that the ego gets to make before it dies!

As I’ve been tricked by my ego many times, I like to keep this reminder close at bay: if we are frustrated by someone else’s identification with their ego, that is, their attachment to guilt, fear, projection, and attack, then it is because we have not completely forgiven ourselves. Behind a person’s actions can only be one of two operations: to love or to call for love. When we come against attacks, it means it’s time for less judgment, more surrendering, and more loving (even if the recipient is only ourselves).

4. Knowledge is certainty; all else is perception

Last year, I wrote a blog post exploring why academia is a disempowering place despite the notion that knowledge is power. Now I know why: our guilt-based world has inverted the truth about knowledge. We seek knowledge (usually through empirical means) to convince ourselves that what we know is certain. But the reality is all that we seek to know is just a matter of perception. According to ACIM, knowledge is always true. What is true does not need to be proven. And since the opposite of guilt is innocence (in the rulings of the court), true knowledge that is ego-less (and therefore, guilt-free) is always innocent. So let us return to the innocence of knowledge!

5. We learn what we teach

Heidegger’s philosophy (which was very much influenced by Daoism) on truth as the process of unconcealing is a poetic way of looking at perception and knowledge. As human beings, we forget the spiritual truth we “know” when we are “thrown into” the world, so we embark on a journey of unconcealing the layers that veil the essence of our Being. In ACIM, we are simultaneously students and teachers. But since we don’t know, or rather, our perception has not reached the level of truth, we come closer to knowledge through experience. We teach by example and simultaneously learn by living (and teaching) what we want to acquire. As ACIM notes, “To have peace, teach peace to learn it.”

Interestingly, a teaching philosophy I once wrote for an academic job application contains similar ideas. I probably didn’t impress anyone on the hiring committee since I didn’t get the job, but this lesson may be insightful to you if are a teacher by profession and are suffering from imposter syndrome!

6. True empathy is not a joining of suffering

ACIM explains that to share suffering is to follow the ego’s path of separation. Joining another in suffering to create a special relationship separates the bond from the whole and makes the past (pain) real by strengthening the ego and attacking an “other” through weakness. True empathy, on the other hand, strengthens the empathizer and the collective whole (because we are one of the same). True empathy does not judge through the ego and therefore, is an invitation made by Spirit to respond to the situation in a certain way.   

As a wounded empath learning to reclaim my power, this lesson is a source of encouragement but also a challenging one. From my experience of shared suffering as a sensitive child combined with the burgeoning awareness of a spiritual awakening, I am learning that “sovereignty” is more loving and empowering than “solidarity.” Although I intuitively know that joining in suffering leads us away from love, I am still learning not to feel attacked by the the collective ego’s (or my superego’s) moral judgment. Perhaps, what is in the way is my know-it-all ego thinking that it knows best in how I should serve (i.e., fix) the world. Gratefully, I’ve been humbled enough to intermittently remember that how the act of service manifests in our lives is also to be surrendered. 

7. There is no order of difficulty in miracles

Two weeks ago, I had plans to see the solar eclipse with a friend in the Hamilton area (about an hour drive from Toronto). Just as I was making my way into the packed commuter train, my friend texted me to ask if I wanted to abort mission because of the heavy clouds. I texted back that I wanted to take the chance. When I reached our pick-up location, three hours before the peak, the sky was still completely overcast. Yet, something in me knew that we were going to see the eclipse (even if my mind couldn’t predict the future). I didn’t tell my friend about my intuitive premonition, but I told her that I had recently finished reading ACIM and there was no order of difficulty in miracles. Low and behold, by the time we reached Dundas Conservation Area, hiking our way to what was called Groundhog Hill, the sky had completely cleared up and we were able to see our shadows under a sun that was beginning to be eclipsed by the moon.

This story is fuel for the dreamer in me: a reminder that there is really no miracle too large to witness. If the clouds can be moved out of the way for us to witness the miracle of a cosmic event, who is to say that a stubborn mind cannot be budged, or a locked-up heart cannot be freed? Because “all expressions of love are maximal…There is no order of difficulty among miracles.”

I was originally going to include my reflections about the parts in ACIM that I did not resonate with but this post was getting quite long. Those insights, I believe, also deserve their own space, so I’ll be continuing this topic in the next post.

total solar eclipse at its peak surrounded by clouds
2024 total solar eclipse, photo by Carol Fung on Unsplash

*I believe that all words are just labels, but our minds associate the labels differently depending on our experience. In the case of Christian references in ACIM, I prefer to call the Holy Spirit simply as Spirit since it’s a term that is well-used in the New Age community, and it feels more comfortable for me as a non-Christian. Ironically, I like the word God because of all its complex associations in religion and anti-religion. I like to believe that normalizing the word God can help with forgiving any painful pasts that the word has been linked to and encourage a greater acceptance of our spirituality.  

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