The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, was the first spiritual book that really connected with me. I remember listening to the author narrate the audiobook version and being mesmerized by his thick, but soothing German accent. To me his message seemed to cut through the need for interpretation of stories and metaphors and went straight to the point of spirituality. The book was clear, concise and pragmatic. It was written in a question and answer format, where the moderators read the questions and Eckhart answered them. I’ve heard him criticized because he was not a spiritual teacher, nor did he have any religious education prior to his awakening. But his message just makes sense and is the basis for this blog series as it was Eckhart Tolle who said, “There is and always has been only one spiritual teaching.”
I first listened to his book in the early 2000’s and have come back to it several times in the past twenty years. I would estimate I’ve listened all the way through about ten times, certainly more than any other book. After listening around seven or eight times, I noticed that he referenced A Course in Miracles (ACIM) several times throughout the book. As much as I love The Power of Now, I decided to go deeper so I went online and ordered a copy of ACIM. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The book arrived and that was the first time I realized it was roughly 1300 pages with small print and closely resembled the size of my Bible. I was overwhelmed to say the least and I let it sit on my coffee table for several weeks before I even picked it up to start thumbing through.
In my early thirties I decided that I wanted to attempt to read the Bible all the way through. Using a version called The One Year Bible, which is the Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs, broken up into 365 digestible chunks. I started on January 1 that year and finished on December 31. It felt like an accomplishment. With that experience under my belt, I decided that if I could read the Bible, I could handle ACIM. So, after a few weeks of the book staring me down from the coffee table, I decided to commit. It was another year long adventure and I’m so glad I did it.
The story of ACIM is that it was scribed, not authored, by psychologist Helen Schucman, Ph.D. She heard an inner voice that identified itself to her as Jesus. According to ACIM.org, the voice said “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.” Schucman spent the next seven years dictating the inner voice and receiving help from her associate, William Thetford, Ph.D.
I know I was not alone in my skepticism around how this book was created. But The Power of Now resonated so deeply with me and I felt a desire to deepen my spirituality, so I suspended my skepticism and read ACIM with an open mind. What I found is that ACIM is actually a psychotherapy book designed to help us re-wire the way we think. The authors aren’t trying to hide this as there is a supplemental section at the end about psychotherapy and its purpose. Because of this, I can understand why a closed-minded person might write ACIM off as a form of brainwashing. After committing an entire year to slowly reading and absorbing the content, I found it to be far too comprehensive to be trickery.
ACIM is really incredible because it takes so much of what I learned in childhood about Christianity and helped me to see it differently. The book takes Christian terminology and explains it in a more pragmatic, psychological manner. There are no parables or stories, just explanations that help us to better understand the teachings we learned in Sunday school through a somewhat different lens. It helped me think differently, regarding terms like God, separation, atonement, salvation, and forgiveness. While many of us learned through traditional Christianity that we are born as sinners and need to be saved, ACIM offers a different interpretation of the same teachings, one of which is that there is no such thing as sin. That last sentence is a deeply rooted belief that so many of us carry and not one that can be dissolved easily. In fact, for many, I think even allowing oneself to consider the idea that there is no such thing as sin is likely to cause feelings of blasphemy. I can relate. For me, however, I appreciated being able to look at religious teachings and beliefs that are so deeply rooted in a new and fresh way.