The book A Course in Miracles (CM), first published in 1976 by the Foundation for Inner Peace in Tiburon, CA, has, it seems, taken the country by storm. Millions of Americans have come to the spiritual buffet table called the New Age Movement (NAM) and have selected this book as their main course. As a result of its popularity, thousands of CM study groups have formed. Being led by facilitators (group leaders, though they dislike this phrase) and attended by people from various religious backgrounds (including Christian), CM offers psycho/spiritual nuggets that tickle the ears of all who come. Within the last few years it has become even more popular, largely thanks to Marianne Williamson and her book, A Return to Love, and Oprah Winfrey, who has given Williamson an international platform for the promulgation of the belief system of CM.
I have attended several CM study groups. My opinion is that the people there share in mutual admiration and denial. The former because we are all the holy and precious sons and daughters of God, the latter because we always remain so, since sin and evil are in reality illusions. From a Christian perspective, CM seems nothing more than a mixture of pop psychology and the Advaita Vedanta school of classic Hinduism.
In the mid-1960’s and early 70’s, CM supposedly came from “The Voice” to Helen Schucman, then a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, by way of “inner dictation” (preface). She took down the messages in a shorthand notebook (ibid.). What are some of these messages?
As mentioned above, CM advocates Advaita Vedanta philosophy. This philosophy was made a fixture in Hindu thought by the philosopher Shankara (780-820 A.D.). Shankara claimed that the Upanishads (Hindu holy writings) taught that the material world was illusion, and that ultimately sin and evil are illusory, since all is God (pantheism) and the only reality is God (monism). CM masquerades as Christian, however, as it teaches Hindu philosophy and couches it in Christian terminology.
Regarding pantheism and monism, “God created nothing beside you and nothing beside you exists, for you are part of Him. What except Him can exist?… nothing except Him is real” (Text, p. 168). Consequently, “The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist” (Workbook, p. 23). In addition, “The body is a dream” (Ibid., p. 415).
One of the most startling statements of the denial of the human condition (which the Bible defines as sinful) is seen in these words: “Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred…. It sees there was no sin (Workbook, p. 391).
Throughout CM the Bible is quoted out of context, making for the denial of virtually every essential doctrine of the Christian faith: Jesus is seen as God only in the sense as we all are; and “Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you” (Manual, p. 83; but see Jn. 1: 1, 14 cf. Matt. 16: 13). CM separates the seeming man Jesus (remember that matter is unreal) from the Christ — the SELF (God Self) in all of us (see Manual, pp. 83-84; Workbook, p. 421; but see 1 Jn. 2: 22). Resurrection is also redefined: “That is what I [Jesus] meant when I said, ‘Blessed are ye who have not seen and still believe’… the resurrection is the complete triumph of Christ over the ego” (Text, p. 192; but see Jn. 2: 19-21).
As for the crucifixion: “The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are… The Apostles often misunderstood it” (Text, p. 87; but see 1 Cor. 15: 1-4; Col. 1: 20).
As Christians, we should first know why we believe what we believe. This comes through study of the Bible. Second, we must have at least a basic understanding of Hindu philosophies, especially Advaita Vedanta. Third, we must be aware that Advaita Vedanta has been utilized by many NAM groups (and Christian Science) while using Christian terminology (ex.: Christ is the SELF [Hindu — Atman] of every person, i.e. the God within). Only then can we effectively defend the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, give objective reasons as we warn others fooled by counterfeit Christian teachings, and evangelize those ensnared by CM.