ACIM Reading for Today
A Course in Miracles
What It Is
As its title implies, the Course is arranged throughout as a teaching device. It consists of three books: a 622-page Text, a 478-page Workbook for Students, and an 88-page Manual for Teachers. The order in which students choose to use the books, and the ways in which they study them, depend on their particular needs and preferences.
The curriculum the Course proposes is carefully conceived and is explained, step by step, at both the theoretical and practical levels. It emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology. It specifically states that “a universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” (Manual, p. 77) Although Christian in statement, the Course deals with universal spiritual themes. It emphasizes that it is but one version of the universal curriculum. There are many others, this one differing from them only in form. They all lead to God in the end.
The Text is largely theoretical, and sets forth the concepts on which the Course’s thought system is based. Its ideas contain the foundation for the Workbook’s lessons. Without the practical application the Workbook provides, the Text would remain largely a series of abstractions which would hardly suffice to bring about the thought reversal at which the Course aims.
The Workbook includes 365 lessons, one for each day of the year. It is not necessary, however, to do the lessons at that tempo, and one might want to remain with a particularly appealing lesson for more than one day. The instructions urge only that not more than one lesson a day should be attempted. The practical nature of the Workbook is underscored by the introduction to its lessons, which emphasizes experience through application rather than a prior commitment to a spiritual goal:
“Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.
“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.” (Workbook, p. 2)
Finally, the Manual for Teachers, which is written in question and answer form, provides answers to some of the more likely questions a student might ask. It also includes a clarification of a number of the terms the Course uses, explaining them within the theoretical framework of the Text.
The Course makes no claim to finality, nor are the Workbook lessons intended to bring the student’s learning to completion. At the end, the reader is left in the hands of his or her own Internal Teacher, Who will direct all subsequent learning as He sees fit. While the Course is comprehensive in scope, truth cannot be limited to any finite form, as is clearly recognized in the statement at the end of the Workbook:
“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.” (Workbook, p. 487)
A Course in Miracles Workbook Lesson for Today
I have given everything I see in this room
[on this street, from this window, in this place]
all the meaning that it has for me.
The exercises with this idea are the same as those for the first one. Begin with the things that are near you, and apply the idea to whatever your glance rests on. Then increase the range outward. Turn your head so that you include whatever is on either side. If possible, turn around and apply the idea to what was behind you. Remain as indiscriminate as possible in selecting subjects for its application, do not concentrate on anything in particular, and do not attempt to include everything you see in a given area, or you will introduce strain.
Merely glance easily and fairly quickly around you, trying to avoid selection by size, brightness, color, material, or relative importance to you. Take the subjects simply as you see them. Try to apply the exercise with equal ease to a body or a button, a fly or a floor, an arm or an apple. The sole criterion for applying the idea to anything is merely that your eyes have lighted on it. Make no attempt to include anything particular, but be sure that nothing is specifically excluded.
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 #105: What is the best method to study A Course in Miracles? In my experience, study groups bear little resemblance in content to what is expressed by the Foundation, so I do the work alone. Should the text be read first, before beginning the workbook, or hand in hand? If I begin the workbook and miss several days or weeks, do I need to begin again or pick up where I left off? Does it matter? I would prefer to work with other people, but most of them I’ve spoken to aren’t even aware of the non-dualistic nature of the Course. I find when I try to explain that aspect, generally people are not willing to hear it and try to convince me that I have it wrong. Also I’ve heard people say they like the Course because they can combine it easily with their other spiritual practice – – I find it nearly impossible to do that and have moved away from spiritual teachings I used to hold dear. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the one who is confused. Please advise.
A. (1) In keeping with the actual theory of the Course, there actually is no best method for studying it. It in essence is a curriculum undertaken by the student under the guidance of the Holy Spirit or Jesus. The “training is always highly individualized” (M.9.1:5). Jesus advises us to study the text very carefully and not proceed too quickly lest we plunge unnecessarily into overwhelming fear (T.I.VII.4,5), and he also explains that the “theoretical foundation.…the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful” (W.in.1:1), so he clearly expects his students to spend time with the text at some point in their process. But he does not say which should be done first. So if you are comfortable studying the text while you are doing the lessons, that is what you should do.
He also tells us not to do more than one workbook lesson a day (W.in.1:6). The middle of Lesson 95 might be helpful in answering your question about what to do if you miss several days or weeks in your practice of the lessons. The instruction there focuses on recognizing the ways in which the ego creeps into the process, and that we ought to respond to “our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea” with forgiveness (W.pI.95.8:3). That is the key. Jesus does not keep track of how punctual we are in following he instructions for the day; his interest is only in helping us train our minds to think more and more in terms of forgiveness. It makes the most sense, though, to pick up where you left off, rather than begin all over again.
(2) The Course says nothing about groups. Some people find it helpful to study with others; some do not. It depends entirely on the preference of the individual. In our experience, it is more common than uncommon that people find the uncompromising nature of the Course’s non-dualism intolerable and fear provoking, which then causes them to dilute its message to make it say something that it does not, or to mix it with other systems, thereby doing justice to neither. One of the Course’s strengths is the manner in which it integrates a metaphysics of non-dualism with living in the world. This is quite a challenge, but the Course gives us all the support we need in our journey back to our home in Heaven, the state of perfect Oneness.
Q #203: A group of friends and I are reading A Course in Miracles, and we want to know whether the lessons must be strictly done daily, or if you may stay with some of them for a week or two, until you grasp them deeply?
A: The only specifications for the Workbook practice are given in its Introduction. It does not say not to repeat a lesson, it only says: “Do not undertake to do more than one set of exercises a day” (W.in.2:6). It is therefore not out of keeping with the Workbook instructions to repeat a lesson. If it is a particularly meaningful or difficult lesson, it might be a good idea to stay with it for a couple of days. However, there is a risk in thinking that a lesson needs to be done perfectly, or even “grasped deeply” before moving on to the next lesson. This would be a trap, because it is unlikely that many of us will ever do one of the lessons perfectly. If we could, we would have reached such an advanced state of spiritual growth that we would not need the lessons at all. The best thing is to try to do what the lesson asks as best you can, being aware of the resistance that comes up. Resistance is what makes the lesson impossible to remember; it is behind our forgetting the repetitions, and our difficulty in understanding the lesson. It is important to recognize this, as a demonstration of our unwillingness to learn the thought system the Workbook teaches, and of our refusal to allow our minds to be trained “to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world” (W.in.4:1). If we mistakenly believe we can master a lesson in a few days, we are underestimating our attachment to the ego’s thought system, and this will hinder our progress rather than help it. The important thing is to be sincere in our attempts to study and practice what the Workbook teaches, aware that we are full of resistance, and willing to forgive ourselves for our often mediocre efforts. As long as we continue to study and apply the lessons as we are instructed, we will make progress. It may be helpful for your group to occasionally reread the Workbook instructions together. It keeps us on track to go back to the beginning once in a while.