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A Course in Miracles - A CIA Manipulation Device?

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Lying by Omission

God blessed humans with not only free will,



A Brief Critical Analysis of A Course in Miracles, ACIM

By Timothy Conway

'Enlightened Spirituality'

"A Course in Miracles," or ACIM as it is commonly abbreviated, is a supposedly channeled book-set comprised of a 669-page Text, a 466-page Workbook (with 365 daily lessons), and a 92-page Teacher's Manual (that's 1,227 pages in all).

Published in 1976, within a decade it was being promulgated in a few thousand study-circles around the USA and many parts of the world as a spiritual psychotherapy self-study course.

The 3-volume ACIM book-set is based on an earlier "UrText" (some 48,405 words longer, containing some interesting material on Freud and sex), which in turn is based on shorthand notes claimed to have been "dictated" by Jesus and "scribed" from 1965 to 1972 by an associate professor of psychology, Dr. Helen Schucman.

Dr. Helen Schucman late in life cursed the ACIM as the worst thing that ever happened to her

A non-observant, extremely agnostic Jew, she was intermittently involved in Catholic devotion and late in life cursed the ACIM as the worst thing that ever happened to her. Over 2 million copies of ACIM have been sold and it exists in more than 20 languages with further translations underway.

ACIM as a thought-system can be categorized alongside the teachings of the "New Thought" cluster of quasi-Christian church groups founded in the late 19th century descending down to today (including Unity School of Christianity, Church of Religious Science, Church of Divine Science, et al).

ACIM itself is not organized centrally into a religion or a church but functions more like a movement. Like these older church groups, ACIM has surely helped countless thousands of people come into greater peace, love and happiness, though it is also the case that many persons, especially of the more "extreme adherent" "true believer" temperament, evidently have not been well-served by ACIM material, for reasons that will become clear in this essay.

Certainly it is true, though, that numerous readers of the ACIM books have experienced a "miracle" in the ACIM's broad definition of that term: any change of a mind away from fear and separation towards love and unity.

Its readers can come much further into truth, freedom, peace, love and happiness once they are aware of ACIM’s limitations.

Though it regards itself as a "purely nondualistic thought system," for anyone who has deeply studied the truly nondual wisdom and devotion of the world’s great mystical spiritual traditions East and West, some of the language and approach of ACIM is problematic, and one senses that its readers can come much further into truth, freedom, peace, love and happiness once they are aware of ACIM’s limitations.

Theologically and psychologically, ACIM is problematic for proponents of nondual spirituality in that it posits a creationist theology that often sounds plainly dualistic or, at best, "qualified non-dualist," what India's philosophic/theological tradition would call "visishtadvaita."

For instance, ACIM's teachings presume the existence of real souls distinct from God known as "sons of God." There is a sense of "oneness" in the ACIM teaching that we are all the Christ, the Son of God. But this "Son of God" status is distinct from the status of God the Father-Mother. In other words, the soul is created and is separate from the Divine Spirit.

This is not the pure clear Advaita nondual spirituality

This is not the pure clear Advaita nondual spirituality of the ancient Indian Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the teachings of Sankara, Utpaladeva and the Kashmir Saivas, Jnaneshvar and the Marathi Varkaris, et al., which all hold that there is only God, the One Divine I Am Self playing as all selves, the One Divine Spirit playing as all souls.

Parallels to this truly sublime nondual spirituality of India can also be found in the views of Mahayana Buddhism (Avatamsaka school, Tathagatagarbha school, Chan/Zen/Son Buddhism, etc.); the teachings of the loftiest Christian mystical theologians such as John Scottus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross (see my webpages on each of them at the Religion / Spirituality section); the most illustrious Sufi masters from Bayazid Bistami and Rabi'a of Basra down through Mansur al-Hallaj, Hakim Sanai, Fariduddin Attar, Jalaluddin Rumi, Ahmad al-Alawi, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Meher Baba, et alia; and Jewish Kabbalah and Hasidic masters like Moshe Cordovero, Schneur Zalman and Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. (Again, see my webpages on several of these figures.)

All of these amazing spiritual masters shared the pure nondual teaching that originally, fundamentally and ultimately there is "Only the Divine Reality," the all-glorious ONE who miraculously can seem to manifest on an empirical, experiential level as the many souls or viewpoints or personal consciousnesses. But these personal consciousnesses or souls do not have their own independent existence.

A dualistic theology is there in ACIM underneath its purported 'nondualism'

This is important because a dualistic theology (which is there in ACIM underneath its purported "nondualism") eventually leads many folks to feel like they are separate from their own Source, more like a mere puppet fixed to "someone else's" strings-- rather than being the open, free, vast, empty-full Divine Self of all selves, the Pure Awareness or Absolute Reality in which all phenomenal beings "live, move and have their being."

It's a fundamental issue here of Who/What am I, really? Am I, in my deepest nature, merely a "creature," a "created soul," separate from a distinct Creator?

Or, as the towering German Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart stated so brilliantly some 700 years ago when he spoke of our real identity behind the creaturely-aspect as the "uncreated aspect of the soul” (i.e., pure Divine Spirit, beyond all identifications with soul or ego), am I not really this simple, open, Pure Awareness? This is the Hosting capacity for all "guests," all phenomenal objects, including the notional mental object of a separate "God."

The work of the late great nondual mystic Douglas Harding (1909-2007) is very useful here. See and especially Doug’s delightful, pure genius "experiments" section on knowing Who We Really Are (“the Science of the 1st Person”), clearly showing that our true Self Nature is not any entity or thing, but the ultimate Divine "No-thing," the non-phenomenal, Absolute Source of all things-events-beings, the Open Capacity for experience. This Open, Absolute Identity is what is being affirmed by all the world's great mystics in what has been termed the "Perennial Wisdom Tradition."

This Absolute Identity or God-Self or Buddha-nature is ONE ALONE.

Individual souls (or personal consciousnesses) are included in the ONE Awareness as phenomenal manifestations of the non-phenomenal Unmanifest, but they are not fundamentally self-existing entities "other than" This Absolute. The Absolute has "no second," no "rival" entity or entities.

Which is why the Absolute is considered "nondual" and truly Divine.

ACIM's theology is also grounded in the idea that people's experience of the world is a cognitive mistake or error.

This is very different than the best of Indian Advaita, which teaches this same idea as a preliminary doctrine but ultimately counsels that the world is a dream or illusion emanated by God (Brahman), not by the ego, and that it is an emanation out of pure Divine playfulness or lila (pronounced “leela”) and loving Grace, not a "mistake."

In other words, Advaita (nondual) Vedanta, Advaita Kashmir Saivism, Jnaneshvar and his Maratha Varkari tradition of Advaita poet-sages, and other nondualists of India all view the human situation as a beautiful, poignant aspect of the infinite, Suprapersonal Divine Who plays and adventures with the idea of being merely a finite, person.

All the ups and downs, pleasures and pains are integral aspects of this Divine adventure, the Infinite Formless God sporting as finite forms. Paradoxically but most profoundly, it is God who is having all the experiences in the guise of each unique, precious person, while always simultaneously remaining prior to and beyond all experiences.

There are strong parallels to this exalting notion of the world and our situation being a Divine Play in the writings of the best mystics of Christianity and other traditions--such as in the work of that dazzling Irish Catholic theologian John Scottus Eriugena, who was such an influence on Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross and others. Even the non-mystical tradition of Catholic theology always rejected the horrid idea of the inferior kind of Gnosticism of ancient times which supposed that the world was a mistake, an evil realm created by a fallen spirit.

By harsh contrast, ACIM views the normal human situation as a mistake, a bad dream, and it is the big bogeyman "ego" that is responsible for this experiential dream.

Even ACIM's posited goal state -- the refined soul being part of a multitude of souls who have let go the illusory dream of fear, guilt and separative ego-- still feels like something of an exalted heaven-realm, not the "beyond-the-heavens" Awakeness of Infinite Divinity, to which the greatest sages of India and elsewhere all point in unison, from the Upanishadic sages and the Buddha onwards.

ACIM seems unaware of the possibility for authentic realization of the Supreme God-Self or Atman, this Self not other than the transcosmic, Suprapersonal Divine Reality or Brahman.

This incomparable, supernal Reality is what the Buddha independently calls Nirvana, the “Unborn, Uncompounded, Unmade,” Awareness-sans-surface (vinnana anidassana).

And how can anyone be a fan of ACIM's heavy verbiage, with a very paternalist tone, so relentlessly emphasizing "you" and "we" and the "ego" throughout so much of its writings.

There's so much talk about ego

(Which ACIM finally admits doesn't really exist!) and not nearly, nearly enough talk about God, the One Spirit or Pure Awareness.

ACIM's frequent bashing of the ego seems so unnecessary when compared to the lofty and gracious way that medieval nondual wisdom texts of India like Ribhu Gita and Yoga Vasishtha don't talk down to "you, the ego" but magnanimously exalt "YOU, the Divine Self" in the engagement with the reader's True Nature.

Along this line of focusing so heavily on the "ego," an obvious humorlessness and even pomposity characterizes the ACIM Text. (And profuse apologies for sounding so humorlessly pompous in making this statement!)

Many other great sacred texts display a palpable "enlightened lightness," a sweet spirituality that delights in God, in the beauties and wonders of nature, and in the dear poignancy of persons. Consider aforementioned texts like Yoga Vasishtha, Ribhu Gita, the works of Utpaladeva, Jnaneshvar (Jnanadeva), the Chan/Zen masters, Bistami, Sanai, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, and other true sages mentioned earlier.

By contrast, much of the ACIM Text just seems like it's just so ponderously full of itself, even though it gives lip-service to the idea that our ultimate state is love, light and laughter.

Is this really Jesus the Christ speaking here?

I doubt it—more like the mind of Helen Schucman (neé Helen Dora Cohn, 1909-81), who says she channeled or “scribed” what she heard from an “innner voice” identifying itself as Jesus from 1965 to 1972, subsequently closely editing it into ACIM with her colleague William Thetford (1923-84) (a closet CIA agent) and then later with Kenneth Wapnick, a Jewish convert to Catholicism.

A clinical and research psychologist by this point in her life, Schucman had been extensively exposed in childhood to Christian Science writings and New Age metaphysical material by her mother and then by working in her husband’s Manhattan bookstore in the 1930s, so this type of material would have been a major part of her subconscious mind’s hidden memory (cryptomnesia), easily accessible in the quasi-automatic writing process that ensued from 1965 to 1972.

Either that, or she was genuinely channeling some subtle-plane entity who was very much in love with pompous-sounding New Thought material.

It is worth hearing the views of the Franciscan Catholic priest Benedict Groeschel, CFR, steeped in studies of the paranormal, and a former student of Schucman at Columbia University (20 years her junior) and subsequently a close friend of Schucman in her last dozen years of life (he introduced her to Ken Wapnick and gave a eulogy at her funeral).

Fr. Groeschel heard Helen tell him many times, "I hate that damn book," meaning the ACIM, and she repeatedly disavowed its teachings and the cult that formed around it.

He finally surmised that ACIM might have been sourced in a diabolical entity, for, as he wrote, "This woman who had written so eloquently [in ACIM] that suffering really did not exist, spent the last two years of her life in the blackest psychotic depression I have ever witnessed," full of rage (See Groeschel, A Still, Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, Ignatius Press, 1993, p. 79.)

Fr. Groeschel learned from Helen that her mother used to daily read to her from Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science material when Helen was a girl. It is also notable that, as Groeschel found out, before she adopted a skeptical social-scientist's worldview for her mid-life career choice, Helen secretly had been baptized a Catholic and for several years attended Catholic mass, recited the rosary and practiced devotion to Mary after a life-changing visit to the Catholic Marian shrine at Lourdes, France. She was also attending Mass during the time she "scribed" ACIM. So her personality was clearly marked by a strange, alternating series of involvements with assimilated Jewishness, New Age thought, Catholic practices, and scientific skepticism.

Groeschel told journalist Randall Sullivan (for his book, The Miracle Detective, Grove/Atlantic, 2004): "I decided that A Course in Miracles was a fascinating blend of poorly understood Christianity inspired by her visit to Lourdes and poorly understood Christian Science inspired by her memory of Mary Baker Eddy's writings, all of it filtered through some profound psychological problems and processes."

Project Bluebird CIA public release papers

William Thetford: worked on Project BLUEBIRD, an early CIA mind control program that led to [the infamous] Project MKULTRA, then headed the CIA mind control Project MKULTRA Subproject 130: Personality Theory.

"Strahlenfolter Stalking - TI - MK-ULTRA SubProject 130 - Personality Theory (ACIM, Unity Church, MK-OPRAH) - 2007-06" SCRIBD

Somewhere in here more needs to be said about William Thetford, Schucman's department head and close colleague, and the one who so eagerly encouraged her to keep scribing "the Voice" in the earliest days.

According to his vita (as some have sleuthed it and posted to an earlier version of the Wikipedia page on Thetford), "from 1951 to 1953 Thetford worked on Project BLUEBIRD, an early CIA mind control program that led to [the infamous] Project MKULTRA. ... From 1955 to 1957 he was an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University's CIA-funded Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. ...

From 1971 to 1978 Thetford, along with David Saunders, headed the CIA mind control Project MKULTRA Subproject 130: Personality Theory."

Given the ACIM's overt aim, especially in the Workbook, to have its students "unlearn" everything they think they know and be subject to the ACIM's "re-education," Thetford's major role in the editing of ACIM and his prior and later involvement with CIA mind-control work is NOT reassuring.

William Thetford with Helen Schucman

ACIM pretentiously views itself as the "Third Book" of the Bible,

after the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. This grandiose view of itself and its authoritarian "closed thought system" easily lures many vulnerable persons to read it and adhere to it and be brainwashed by it, persons who are attracted to external sources of authority that tell you what to believe and what rules to follow.

One reader, posting at the Rick Ross anti-cult forum, tells of his own experience wading into the ACIM text: "In some ways, it offers very nice and flowery verses ... on spiritual upliftment.... But then things get dark. One moment, the reader is treated as a 'child of God,' for whom it is an honor for the author to serve with love and gentle guidance. In the next moment, the reader is berated as the cause of all the suffering of the world because of 'bad thoughts.'

And so it goes back and forth like this, like you're being subjected to 'good cop, bad cop.' I started feeling disoriented, confused, and eagerly awaiting each new page in a feeling of dependence. I had to exercise a little personal control in discontinuing my reading. To ease my agitated mind, I did some simple 'watching the breath' Zen-style breathing meditation. And that helped stabilize my mental state."

This reader went on to note the involvement of Thetford (and perhaps Schucman?) with the CIA MK-ULTRA mind-control program and he wonders, like others have aired on the internet, whether there was an interest by the CIA in experimenting with the fostering of mass religious movements, and whether ACIM might perhaps have been one of these "tests."

Continuing in our criticism, there's a noxious exclusivist stance the ACIM "Voice" takes in saying that students of the ACIM should really not be studying other spiritual paths but only ACIM.

That’s hubris and narrow-mindedness. To its credit, at the end of the Workbook, it is stated: "This Course is a beginning, not an end...No more specific lessons are assigned, for there is no more need of them.

"Henceforth, hear but the Voice for God...He will direct your efforts, telling you exactly what to do, how to direct your mind, and when to come to Him in silence, asking for His sure direction and His certain Word."

But persons deeply involved in the ACIM might spend several years or, as has often happened, two or three decades of their life exclusively tied to the ACIM and closed off to more mature, balanced and truly wise spiritual teachings.

There are other criticisms to be made of the ACIM, on a more pragmatic level.

With its strongly idealist metaphysics, ACIM denies as "unreal" obvious empirical-level experiences such as physical laws, sickness, tragedy, death, personal weakness ("sinfulness"), etc., which makes ACIM appear ludicrous both to conventionally-minded persons and also to more mature mystics who realize that, whereas the “Absolute-level Truth” is in fact that “there is only God,” this “Absolute Truth” includes the relative plane of phenomena.

Therefore, the “conventional-level Truth” should not be denied, and a pragmatic functionality for the personal consciousness “within the phenomenal dream” must be upheld.

Please see my webpage and chart on "the Three Levels of Nondual Reality" for greater clarification on NOT MIXING UP LEVELS OF DISCOURSE, and it will be obvious that ACIM is completely stuck on "level 2" with ACIM's insistence that "everything is perfect" and inability to deal with situations of injustice, severe ethical breaches, abuse, etc., as appear on the pragmatic "level 3."

It is this colossal, conditioned attachment to always having to interpret one's experience at a "level 2" ideology that leads so many ACIM adherents to be perceived by their loved ones as caught in a cultic straitjacket, incapable of being free to respond flexibly, skillfully and with true wisdom, empathy and compassion for what happens within this Divine dream of life.

Along this line, ACIM’s premise that “only defenselessness confers true strength” could lead to a foolhardy, naïve version of pacifism in the face of determined aggression (see the ACIM’s teachings on “turn the other cheek”).

Mahatma Gandhi himself, the eminent pioneer of the modern-era’s practice of nonviolent (ahimsa) resistance to evil, actually clarified that a continuum of responses must be part of the repertoire of any satyagrahi (truth-force proponent).

For instance, he thought Poles justified in taking up arms against vicious German Nazi invaders, because the thoroughly brainwashed Nazis were incapable of converting to the good; similarly, Gandhi often gave the example of a woman about to be raped by some madman—a male passerby would most likely need to act with physical force to restrain the madman, not just work on his own inner attitude about the situation and pretend that the rape-about-to-happen was "perfect."

ACIM’s doctrines, like those of numerous New Thought groups, exclusively focus on inner attitude change, and therefore when taken too literally or to extremes can be seen as subversive to the proper functioning of a rational, just society.

Such as when the Text advises adherents not to bother attempting to change the world, but instead simply to change their thinking about the world.

This can easily lead to adherents growing apathetic over our society’s injustices rather than remaining conscientiously active at the level of our public policies (i.e., politics) for the sake of progressive solutions and greater justice in the realm of economics, the environment, and social relations (think racism, sexism, ageism, etc.).

As some have charged, such apathy plays right into the core strategy of right-wing Republicans in the USA and right-wing groups around the world, who are fiercely invested in maintaining the status quo that so richly benefits themselves and their patrons, and who nastily try to suppress and vilify progressive activists trying to enact policies leading to greater fairness and sharing of wealth for the poor.

In this context, it is worth noting that the Roman Catholic Church, until the right-wing ideological shift of its leadership in the USA and elsewhere in the late 20th-century, consistently emphasized the “universal destination of goods” doctrine, a grand doctrine still enshrined in the RC Church’s revised catechism of the early 1990s. The doctrine holds that “the goods of the earth are destined for the good of all, not just the privileged few.” (See articles at the "Engaged Spirituality" section of my website.) Similar wording of this doctrine is explicitly or implicitly upheld by most great spiritual leaders.

Yet the ACIM, by sad contrast, because of its insistence on strict idealist philosophy, ignores all that and easily leads astray large numbers of its readers into an apathetic abdication of duties to be an engaged "good citizen" on dire issues of social injustice, eco-destruction, and so forth.

Speaking briefly but appreciatively of the good points contained within ACIM, we can gladly approve of ACIM's teachings on cognitive psychology, mind retraining, undoing the perception of fear and guilt with love and innocence, the importance of relationship and authentic forgiveness, and the realization [at the Absolute Truth-level, not the pragmatic, conventional level!] that "nothing bad/sinful has ever truly happened."

This is all very sound wisdom within the limited, flawed metaphysical context that ACIM presumes and the condescending tone that the ACIM material uses in speaking to the reader.

By Timothy Conway -- © Copyright 2007.


ACIM (A Course in Miracles) fanatical pusher Iyanla Vanzant
Ask yourself - what is her true agenda?


La La Land


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