Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book Review: A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles is a textbook for those on the mystic path to recovery. It contains 4 parts: the textbook, a set of exercises, a teacher's manual, and a glossary. This book is channeled; like all channeled books, the important question is: "have they got anything useful to say?" In this case, the answer is an unqualified "Yes!" In addition to a viable roadmap to the mystic path, there are some interesting interpretations of the Bible, one of which I'll talk about below.

As I mentioned before, the mystic path aims at direct experience of unity with God (or the Universe, if you prefer). Before this can happen, the "baggage" must be dealt with. The Course has a unique way of dealing with it: forgiveness. You deal with your baggage by forgiving what you see of it in others. However, the Course has an unconventional definition of forgiveness. It doesn't mean "you've done something terrible to me, but I forgive you"; it means "you've seemingly done something terrible to me, but what I really am cannot be hurt, so there is nothing to forgive." The extreme case is given by the Crucifixion, where Jesus said: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do."

So how does this relate to baggage? It is a principle of psychology that what we hate most in others is the traits of ourselves that we push below the surface. Therefore, by forgiving them in others, we also forgive them in ourselves. As an example, have you ever been driving and had another car tailgating you and swerving back and forth to get your attention? If so, you probably have also been behind another car that was driving much to slowly and got a little impatient about it. The two situations are really two sides of the same coin. So if you can forgive the tailgater, you can also forgive yourself for secretly wanting to apply high explosives to the slow car in front of you.

Now for the workbook exercises: these are designed to be done no more than one per day. If it takes you more than one day to do an exercise, or you skip a day, don't worry about it. Each exercise consists of an idea that is to be applied in short sessions, and throughout the day. There are 365 of them, but, like I said, don't worry if it takes you more than a year to do them all. (Just between us, I only got through about 40.) The first half of the exercises is designed to erase your current way of perceiving the world, in order to make room for the perception given by the second half.

You can read the teacher's manual now if you really want to. The Course Police won't break down your door and arrest you. You'll probably get more out of it if you read the text first and do all of the exercises.

The bottom line? I've chosen the hermetic path, but I'm still reading the book. You should too.

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