ACIM Text Reading for January 1
How It Came into Being
In 1977 in response to many requests for a brief introduction to A Course in Miracles, Helen Schucman wrote the following, which appears as the Preface to the Course. The first two parts: “How It Came” and “What It Is,” Helen wrote herself. The final part, “What It Says,” she scribed through the process of inner dictation.
How it Came
A Course in Miracles began with the sudden decision of two people to join in a common goal. Their names were Helen Schucman and William Thetford, Professors of Medical Psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. They were anything but spiritual. Their relationship with each other was difficult and often strained, and they were concerned with personal and professional acceptance and status. In general, they had considerable investment in the values of the world. Their lives were hardly in accord with anything that the Course advocates. Helen, the one who received the material, describes herself:
“Psychologist, educator, conservative in theory and atheistic in belief, I was working in a prestigious and highly academic setting. And then something happened that triggered a chain of events I could never have predicted. The head of my department unexpectedly announced that he was tired of the angry and aggressive feelings our attitudes reflected, and concluded that, ‘there must be another way.’ As if on cue I agreed to help him find it. Apparently this Course is the other way.”
Although their intention was serious, they had great difficulty in starting out on their joint venture. But they had given the Holy Spirit the “little willingness” that, as the Course itself was to emphasize again and again, is sufficient to enable Him to use any situation for His purposes and provide it with His power.
To continue Helen’s first-person account:
“Three startling months preceded the actual writing, during which time Bill suggested that I write down the highly symbolic dreams and descriptions of the strange images that were coming to me. Although I had grown more accustomed to the unexpected by that time, I was still very surprised when I wrote, “This is a course in miracles.” That was my introduction to the Voice. It made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation which I took down in a shorthand notebook. The writing was never automatic. It could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again. It made me very uncomfortable, but it never seriously occurred to me to stop. It seemed to be a special assignment I had somehow, somewhere agreed to complete. It represented a truly collaborative venture between Bill and myself, and much of its significance, I am sure, lies in that. I would take down what the Voice “said” and read it to him the next day, and he typed it from my dictation. I expect he had his special assignment, too. Without his encouragement and support I would never have been able to fulfill mine. The whole process took about seven years. The Text came first, then the Workbook for Students, and finally the Manual for Teachers. Only a few minor changes have been made. Chapter titles and subheadings have been inserted in the Text, and some of the more personal references that occurred at the beginning have been omitted. Otherwise the material is substantially unchanged.”
The names of the collaborators in the recording of the Course do not appear on the cover because the Course can and should stand on its own. It is not intended to become the basis for another cult. Its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 1
Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window,
in this place] means anything.
Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to whatever you see:
This table does not mean anything.
This chair does not mean anything.
This hand does not mean anything.
This foot does not mean anything.
This pen does not mean anything.
Then look farther away from your immediate area, and apply the idea to a wider range:
That door does not mean anything.
That body does not mean anything.
That lamp does not mean anything.
That sign does not mean anything.
That shadow does not mean anything.
Notice that these statements are not arranged in any order, and make no allowance for differences in the kinds of things to which they are applied. That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement should merely be applied to anything you see. As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic. Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded. One thing is like another as far as the application of the idea is concerned.
Each of the first three lessons should not be done more than twice a day each, preferably morning and evening. Nor should they be attempted for more than a minute or so, unless that entails a sense of hurry. A comfortable sense of leisure is essential.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #753: This is more of a “grammatical” question, I first read this passage in the German translation of A Course in Miracles and thought perhaps it is a translation mistake, but I checked with the original English version and the passage is equally confusing. Lesson 1 of the workbook says: “That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement should merely be applied to anything you see. As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic” (W.pI.3:2,3,4,5). Can you explain the difference between applying things to anything you see but not to everything? In German it is clearly the same…what do I “have” to do, I look at things and say they are nothing but should not look at everything I see and say the same? Is this some kind of “loose” viewpoint, nothing matters anything but please do not apply this idea as a doctrine (because then it would matter)?
A: Sentence 6 holds the key to what Jesus is getting at: “Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded.” He is very much aware of the cleverness of our egos — how we all would attempt to compromise and make bargains with him so that we don’t have to change too much — how we try to get him to accept our terms and conditions for our relationship with him as our teacher. Thus, in the context of this lesson, he is alerting us to this tendency to put ourselves in control of our work with his course. He knows that we would attempt to exclude certain parts of our experience from the application, and so he is saying, “Don’t do this. It will not help you to achieve the goals of this course if you make exceptions to my instructions.” This is what he means in the statements he makes about achieving the holy instant: “The necessary condition for the holy instant does not require that you have no thoughts that are not pure. But it does require that you have none that you would keep…. In your practice, then, try only to be vigilant against deception, and seek not to protect the thoughts you would keep to yourself” (T.15.IV.9:1,2,8).
While Jesus wants us to be disciplined in our practice — because our minds are typically so un disciplined — he wants us to stop short of ritual, only because turning a practice into a ritual usually means we no longer do it in a meaningful way that would produce the desired effects. He tells us in the manual for teachers: “Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up” (M.16.2:5) . Our willingness to do what he advises, even if we forget to do it, is what affects our spiritual process, as opposed to the mere repetition of what he tells us to say at exactly the times he tells us to say it.
Q #627: If last year, I read all of the book except for the last one hundred pages and now have completed the book, is it a problem to then begin the lessons, or do I need to reread the book?
A: Aside from the specifications in the Introduction to the workbook, there are no instructions for studying A Course in Miracles. It is not necessary to reread the text to begin practicing the workbook lessons, although it usually takes more than one reading to understand the fundamental principles of the thought system the Course teaches. The only requirement for the workbook is clearly stated in the Introduction: “Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required” (W.in.9). It is important to focus on the content, rather than the form. What matters is making a sincere effort to follow the instructions as carefully as you can, without judging yourself when you fail. Since Jesus knows our resistance to the Course’s message is quite strong, he leads us gently. What he tells us in the text aptly applies to our workbook practice: “And if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself” (T.30.I.1:6,7). We are asked for a little willingness, nothing more.