A Course in Miracles

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A Course in Miracles
A Course in Miracles, Combined Volume, Third Edition as published by the
Foundation for Inner Peace.
EditorHelen Schucman, Bill Thetford, Kenneth Wapnick
AuthorThere is no author attributed to ACIM, although it was "scribed" by Helen Schucman
CountryUnited States
Publisher1976 (New York: Viking: The Foundation for Inner Peace)
2007 (The Foundation for Inner Peace, 3rd ed.)
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Part of a series of articles on
New Thought

A Course in Miracles (also referred to as ACIM or the Course) is a 1976 book by Helen Schucman. The underlying premise is that the greatest "miracle" is the act of simply gaining a full "awareness of love's presence" in one's own life.[1] Schucman claimed that the book had been dictated to her, word for word, via "inner dictation" from Jesus.[2][3]

The Course consists of three sections: the "Text", "Workbook for Students," and "Manual for Teachers". Written from 1965 to 1972, some distribution occurred via photocopies before a hardcover edition was published in 1976 by the Foundation for Inner Peace.[4] The copyright and trademarks, which had been held by two foundations, were revoked in 2004[4] after lengthy litigation, because the earliest versions had been circulated without a copyright notice.[5][6]

Throughout the 1980s annual sales of the book steadily increased each year; however the largest growth in sales occurred in 1992 after Marianne Williamson discussed the book on The Oprah Winfrey Show,[4] with more than two million volumes sold.[4] The book has been called everything from "New Age psychobabble"[7] to "a Satanic seduction"[4] to "The New Age Bible".[8] According to Olav Hammer, the psychiatrist and bestselling author Gerald G. Jampolsky has been among the most effective promoters of the Course. His first book Love is Letting go of Fear, which is based on the principles of the Course, was published in 1979 and after being endorsed on Johnny Carson's show went on to sell over 3 million copies by 1990.[9]


A Course in Miracles was written as a collaborative venture between Schucman and William ('Bill') Thetford. In 1958 Schucman began her professional career at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City as Thetford's research associate.[10][11] In the spring of 1965, at a time when their weekly office meetings had become so contentious that they both dreaded them, Thetford suggested to Schucman that "[t]here must be another way".[12] Schucman believed that this interaction acted as a stimulus, triggering a series of inner experiences that were understood by her as visions, dreams, and heightened imagery, along with an "inner voice" which she identified as Jesus. She said that on October 21, 1965, an "inner voice" told her: "This is a Course in Miracles, please take notes." Schucman said that the writing made her very uncomfortable, though it never seriously occurred to her to stop.[13] The next day, she explained the events of her "note taking" to Thetford. To her surprise, Thetford encouraged her to continue the process. He also offered to assist her in typing out her notes as she read them to him. The transcription the next day repeated itself regularly for many years to come. In 1972, the dictation of the three main sections of the Course was completed, with some additional minor dictation coming after that point.[14]

Kenneth Wapnick helped edit the book and founded the Foundation for A Course in Miracles

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a Roman Catholic priest who had studied under Thetford and worked with Schucman, introduced Kenneth Wapnick to Schucman and Thetford in November 1972. Groeschel was given a copy of the ACIM manuscript in 1973 and was instructed by Schucman not to distribute the manuscript; however, with Schucman's permission, he made it available to Wapnick. Wapnick reviewed the draft and discussed with Schucman and Thetford, further revisions that he felt were needed to publish the book. Thetford made a few further editorial decisions about the "Principles of Miracles" section, and soon afterwards opted to withdraw from direct involvement. Wapnick and Schucman deleted personal material apparently directed only to Schucman and Thetford, created chapter and section headings, and corrected various inconsistencies in paragraph structure, punctuation, and capitalization.[15] The editing process was completed by February 1975. Wapnick subsequently became a teacher of ACIM, a co-founder and president of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM), and a director and executive committee member of the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP).


The content of A Course in Miracles is presented in the three sections: "Textbook", "Workbook", and "Manual for Teachers":

  • The "Textbook" presents a thought system about truth and illusion on two levels:
    • It states that everything involving time, space, and perception is illusory. It presents a monism which states that God is the only truth and reality: perfect, unchanging, unchangeable, extending only love, though not in time and space, which cannot really be comprehended from a dualistic perspective. The theory further states that all life as we perceive it is actually one life (because God has only one son, sometimes called the collective sonship), dreaming of separation and fragmentation. It claims that eternity is outside time and space and that this dream never occurred in reality and is "already over", though not the (illusory) perception. When addressing the question of how such an illusory dream could arise from a perfect and unchanging God, the Course states that to ask that question is to presume that the time-space dream is real, which it states is not. A Course in Miracles states that to think we exist as individuals is the fundamental error. However, since we experience ourselves in time and space, reading these pages, the course presents its thought system on a second level:
    • The time-space level, or "perceptory" level, which is referred to as "the dream". A Course in Miracles states that this level was "made" by the "sleeping Son" as an attack on God. Furthermore, the "Son" is regarded as not just Jesus, but as all collective life. In this time-space dream, perception is continuously fueled by what it originated from: separation, judgment, and attack. This results in what the Course calls the "sin-guilt-fear" cycle: we sinned by rejecting God and making a universe of time-space (the Big Bang); this results in guilt over our rejection of our Creator, and subsequent fear of God's wrath. The "sin-guilt-fear" is described as too horrendous to face, and therefore subsequently projected out, so that to Homo sapiens it seems that evil is everywhere except in himself. The world becomes a threatening place, in which we are born only to fear, fight, and die. The thought that keeps this process going is referred to as "ego", or "the wrong mind". A Course in Miracles concludes that happiness cannot be found in earthly time-space life, and urges the reader not to commit suicide but rather to make a fundamental mind shift from "condemnation-out-of-fear" (mindlessness) to "forgiveness-out-of-love" (mindfulness), since our "right mind" is outside time-space and cannot be harmed by worldly attacks. According to the course, seeing "the Face of Christ" in all living things is the way to "accept the Atonement" and ultimately awaken from the dream and return to the eternity of God. Ultimately, this means the end of individuality and of the ego. In this respect, there are parallels with the Indian concept of karma and the Bhagavad Gita, which Helen Schucman reports that she was not familiar with, although William Thetford was. The basic philosophy of the Course could be described as Vedanta in Christian dress and can be seen in the same tradition as other Eastern-influenced American religious and philosophical thought such as that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary Baker Eddy and Joel S. Goldsmith.
  • The "Workbook" presents 365 lessons, one for each day of the year, which claim to recondition the student's mind from "condemnation-out-of-fear" to "forgiveness-out-of-love". A Course in Miracles defines "miracle" as the conscious choice to make that mind shift, including its non-observable effects on the minds of others.[citation needed] The workbook lessons attempt to train the reader to see oneness in all living things for a steadily increasing time of the day. The lessons aim at convincing by experience. The core message of the workbook is that, to forgive oneself completely, a person must (a) forgive all living things, and (b) do this by instruction of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the "Voice for God," "right mind," "Inner Teacher," or "intuition"). At the end, after one year, the workbook states that it is "a beginning, not an end".[citation needed]
  • The "Manual for Teachers" is a collection of questions and answers. It aims at motivating the reader to become a "teacher of God": a human being living in time and space, but at the same time seeing oneness in everything, having let go of all individual and separate interests, and being fully guided by the "voice" of the Holy Spirit.[citation needed]
  • In the third edition, the two pamphlets "Psychotherapy" and "The Song of Prayer" were added. They elaborate on the parallels with current psychotherapy and on the meaning of prayer, respectively.[citation needed]

Foundation for Inner Peace and other editions[edit]

In 1975 a limited edition release of 300 copies of the first three sections of the book was published by The Foundation for Inner Peace, which had been created solely to publish A Course in Miracles. In June 1976, FIP published the first three sections of ACIM as three hardcover volumes in a 5,000 copy run, along with the publication of the supplemental booklet Psychology: Purpose, Process, Practice. In 1985, FIP began publishing a single soft-cover volume containing all three sections. In 1992, FIP published a second, hardcover edition. This revision added some editorial content and a verse-numbering system, as well as a "Clarification of Terms" section. At this time, FIP also published the supplemental Song of Prayer booklet.[citation needed]

In October 2004, a long-standing copyright battle over A Course in Miracles ended with a ruling that put the work into the public domain.[citation needed]

In January 2006, Course in Miracles Society, a non-profit established in Omaha, Nebraska, published A Course in Miracles-Original Edition (ACIM OE), which is the 1972 manuscript as completed by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford.[citation needed]

In August 2017, the Circle of Atonement published A Course in Miracles: Complete and Annotated Edition, which contains the original material that Helen Schucman wrote up to 1972, prior to the Foundation for Inner Peace edition.[citation needed]


Since it went on sale in 1976, the text has been translated into 22 languages.[16] The book is distributed globally, spawning a range of organized groups.[17]

Wapnick said that "if the Bible were considered literally true, then (from a biblical literalist's viewpoint) the Course would have to be viewed as demonically inspired".[18] Though a friend of Schucman, Thetford, and Wapnick, Catholic priest Benedict Groeschel has criticized ACIM and related organizations. Finding some elements of ACIM to be "severe and potentially dangerous distortions of Christian theology", he wrote that it is "a good example of a false revelation"[19] and that it has "become a spiritual menace to many”.[20] The evangelical editor Elliot Miller says that Christian terminology employed in ACIM is "thoroughly redefined" to resemble New Age teachings. Other Christian critics say that ACIM is "intensely anti-biblical" and incompatible with Christianity, blurring the distinction between creator and created and forcefully supporting the occult and New Age worldview.[21]

Olav Hammer locates A Course in Miracles in the tradition of channeled works from those of Madam Blavatsky through to the works of Rudolf Steiner and notes the close parallels between Christian Science and the teachings of the Course.[22] Alternatively it can be seen more broadly as part of the tradition of mystical literature described in William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience and Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy. In " ‘Knowledge is Truth’: A Course in Miracles as Neo-Gnostic Scripture" in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies Simon J Joseph clearly outlines the relationship between the Course and Gnostic thinking.[23] Daren Kemp also considers ACIM to be neo-Gnostic.[24]

The skeptic Robert T. Carroll criticized ACIM as "a minor industry" that is overly commercialized and characterizes it as "Christianity improved". Carroll said the teachings are not original and suggested they are culled from "various sources, east and west".[25]

Associated works[edit]

Two works have been described as extensions of A Course in Miracles. Author Gary Renard's 2003 The Disappearance of the Universe, and Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love, published in 1992.[4][26][27][28] The Disappearance of the Universe, published in 2003 by Fearless Books, was republished by Hay House in 2004.[29] Publishers Weekly reported that Renard's examination of A Course in Miracles influenced his book.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Course in Miracles. Foundation for Inner Peace. Introduction, Page 1. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  2. ^ "ACIM: About the Scribes". acim.org. Foundation for Inner Peace. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  3. ^ Foundation for Inner Peace (1992). A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume (2nd ed.). Glen Ellen, Calif.: The Foundation. pp. vii–viii. ISBN 0-9606388-9-X. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Miller, D. Patrick (November 23, 2011). Understanding A Course in Miracles: The History, Message, and Legacy of a Spiritual Path for Today. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts. ISBN 9780307807793. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  5. ^ Beverley, James (May 19, 2009). Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World. Thomas Nelson Inc. pp. 397–. ISBN 9781418577469. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  6. ^ "Recipient's Common Interest in Subject of Work Does Not Limit Publication". Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal. Bureau of National Affairs (BNA). 67 (1645): 16–17. 2003.
  7. ^ Boa, Kenneth; Bowman, Robert M. (1997). An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World: Understanding and Responding to Critical Issues that Christians Face Today. Oliver Nelson. ISBN 9780785273523. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  8. ^ "The Imminent Heaven: Spiritual Post-Metaphysics and Ethics in a Postmodern Era". Archived from the original on June 21, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  9. ^ Hammer, O, 2004, Claiming Knowledge : Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age, Studies in the history of religions 90, Brill, Leiden, Boston p451
  10. ^ Helen Schucman's Career
  11. ^ "A Course in Miracles Book ACIM Lessons Online and Text". ACIM Portal. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  12. ^ Helen Schucman: Autobiography, in "Origins of A Course in Miracles" 3:27–28. Foundation for Inner Peace Archives, Tiburon, CA).
  13. ^ Skutch, Robert. Journey Without Distance: The Story Behind A Course in Miracles. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 1984, p. 58.
  14. ^ Final Dictation of The Song of Prayer
  15. ^ "The Story of A Course in Miracles = Documentary where Bill Thetford, Helen Schucman, and Ken Wapnick talk about A Course in Miracles". Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  16. ^ "ACIM Translations". Foundation for Inner Peace. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  17. ^ Bradby, Ruth, "A course in miracles in Ireland". 147 – 162 in Olivia Cosgrove et al. (eds), Ireland's new religious movements. Cambridge Scholars, 2011
  18. ^ Dean C. Halverson, "Seeing Yourself as Sinless", SCP Journal 7, no. 1 (1987): 23.
  19. ^ Groeschel, Benedict J., A Still Small Voice (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993) p. 80
  20. ^ Groeschel, Benedict J., A Still Small Voice (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993) p. 82
  21. ^ Newport, John P. (1998). The New Age movement and the biblical worldview: conflict and dialogue. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-8028-4430-9. a course in miracles christian criticism.
  22. ^ Hammer, O, 2004, Claiming Knowledge : Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age, Studies in the history of religions 90, Brill, Leiden, Boston
  23. ^ Joseph, Simon J. "‘Knowledge is Truth’: A Course in Miracles as Neo-Gnostic Scripture" in Gnosis:Journal of Gnostic Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2, March 22, 2017
  24. ^ Kemp, Daren (March 2004). Clarke, Peter (ed.). Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-134-49970-0.
  25. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). The skeptic's dictionary: a collection of strange beliefs, amusing deceptions, and dangerous delusions. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-27242-7.
  26. ^ Butler-Bowdon, Tom.50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2010. p. 223.
  27. ^ Butler-Bowdon, Tom. The Literature of Possibility. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2013. p. 223.
  28. ^ Coburn, Lorri. Breaking Free: How Forgiveness and A Course in Miracles Can Set You Free. Balboa Press, 2011. p. 193.
  29. ^ Wilson, Brandy (July 29, 2006). "Community of Faith: NEWS FROM HOUSES OF WORSHIP: 'Disappearance of Universe' author to host workshop". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
  30. ^ Garrett, Lynn (March 7, 2005). "'Disappearance' Appears Big Time". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2017.

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