Who Wrote the Course?
Before we go into this, let’s ask again: Who wants to know? And what purpose will it serve in getting an answer to this question? In other words, what’s at stake for you here? Because your investment in whether the Course comes from Jesus or not will determine what you see. In other words, I could give you all the most persuasive reasons why the Course could not have been work of a brilliant human mind (Helen Schucman), but if you don’t want to believe that, you will find reasons not to. It will fall on deaf ears. “Believing is seeing.”
I could tell you, for example, that Mrs. Schucman was a self-professed atheist with a longstanding argument with God, not an outwardly forgiving or even friendly person by any stretch of the imagination. And she was openly resistant to writing down the messages she was receiving from a voice that called itself Jesus. Her colleague, Bill Thetford, was a witness to all of this. Was Helen just a really good actor, or did they both agree to concoct a whole story to dupe the masses? If so, why wouldn’t either of them agree to put their names on the Course, or get rich from it? What motive did they have in the whole process except for what seems to me the only plausible reason: Somehow they felt it was their responsibility to publish the Course because they knew the world needed its message.
Helen once famously replied to someone’s asking whether she felt the Course was the truth: “I know it’s all true, I just don’t believe it!” I used to think this was funny and a sign of how resistant Helen was to the Course (as we all are on some level), but I’ve lately begun to feel how honest and real Helen was. Because if we really consider what the Course is saying, it flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught to believe in a world that appears to be very real. And nearly everyone with any religious background believes that God created the world; or if you’re an agnostic or atheist, you doubt the God who created our world exists. Most of us can’t wrap our minds around a God who exists (and in fact, is the only thing that really exists), but does not have any awareness of the world of separation.
The other thing that seems so apparent once you start looking deeper into the Course is its unique, authoritative voice and internal coherency. On the surface, the work seems to contradict itself in many places, yet this is due to its being more of an artistic-poetic-holographic presentation than a strictly logical and linear one. Helen, in one rare video interview, says that she would never have written something like this, and many have wondered whether any human could. Other channeled writings speak with similar authority and clarity about elusive spiritual subjects, for example Jane Roberts’ Seth material. So if you can accept that channeling is a real/valid phenomenon, we are then led to the next big question:
Assuming this is a channeled writing and not the product of a genius human mind, then who are the alleged “spirits” who speak through their human mouthpiece? And are they “good” or “bad”? Do they have our best interests in mind, or do they have some hidden agenda to confuse and distract us? And the question that everyone wants to know: How do we know that the entity that told Helen it was Jesus really was Jesus?
Ego or Evil, God or Devil, Christ or Anti-Christ
“A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.
It is this experience toward which the course is directed”
(Clarification of Terms 2:5,6)
This brings us to one of the biggest issues weighing on my mind when I read the Course, namely the question of its source. Because I believe in the phenomenon of channeling, and it seems hard to deny the evidence that there is something going on. The issue is that that something, as with everything in this world, is open to debate. Fundamentalist Christians (or even just “traditionalists”) have been quick to dispense with ACIM by citing passages such as Matthew 24:4ff that ‘many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray…For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform greats signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.’ Yet, sorry guys, that seems a too easy way to eliminate the competition…
But let’s take a step back: It’s difficult to be a critical person today and not have doubts or at least questions about the authorship of the New Testament itself (let’s leave the Hebrew Bible out of this for now, but that, too!), because it is well known that gospel writers lived decades after the events that they depicted. So even if we consider the possibility that the gospel writers were themselves channeling (or “divinely inspired”), or that God somehow ordained the New Testament to take exactly its current form (and what would that be exactly?), we still have the same basic epistemological question that we have with ACIM: How do we know? Who is the S/source?
I will propose that there’s no easy answer to this question, and I would question anyone who claims to have a definitive one.
I can only tell you how I resolved this issue for myself…
First, I will point again to the dubious claim to being the one true word of God that Christians have made for the New Testament, for the very reasons already mentioned, including internal contradictions in the gospel accounts, etc. It was quite challenging, given all of my reading and training in philosophy, to take the New Testament as more than a document of some of what Jesus said and did, and what that was exactly seemed very open to debate.
And yet, even with my skepticism about details, I couldn’t deny that the figure of Jesus that the gospels describe had been inspiring, not to mention highly quotable! When I discovered ACIM, I wondered: Why not? How can we limit Jesus’ gospel to just one writing? And why wouldn’t I believe just as much in a gospel coming through a reluctant atheist professor living in the heart of the Big Apple (i.e., Helen Schucman) as anywhere else? Especially when that gospel was a far more mystical, gnostic gospel that was more in line with the wisdom of the East – wisdom that I had already been deeply engaged with for years?
I can understand why traditional Christians would feel disturbed by the Course, because at least on the surface, it seems antithetical to their belief system. To help clarify the differences, here are 10 basic points of difference between traditional Christianity and the teachings of Jesus in the Course. Please keep in mind that I am here doing my best to present this to you in as non-judgmental and non-confrontational a way as possible, and I can be forgiven if I err on either side of things here. I also do not feel that the differences are so great! This is something we will discuss, but in the meantime…
1) God is within you and everything, not utterly transcendent, but also immanent as “the Holy Spirit.”
2) God did not create the world, the belief in separation did. In other words, the world is a manifestation of the desire to have a life apart from God.
3) You are the messiah, the Christ, as much as Jesus is. The only difference is that, Jesus fully realized this. Others who have fully realized like Jesus, even if they are not “Christians” per se, are also one with the “Christ.”
4) There is and can be more than one Bible, or revealed scripture.
5) We are not inherently sinful; we are inherently sinless, innocent. Again, we are just unaware of this fact most of the time.
6) Satan is not any more ultimately real than the ego is, both are merely part of the illusion/dream of separation; the more reality/belief we give to them, the more real they are for us. (It’s also possible to understand the devil as ego, from a Course perspective.)
7) Accepting Jesus as our savior is not enough; we must also seek what he sought, using him as our guide.
8) Only through direct experience of Perfect Love (what Jesus is) can we truly have knowledge of what it is; dogma and indirect experience are not sufficient.
9) Real forgiveness is not found by holding anything against our brother, but to recognize our oneness with him (her, or it), and that we both are in our deepest essence innocent.
10) The “Second Coming of Christ” is a shift in perception that occurs in your mind when you accept your reality as God’s Son.