April 5, 2007

Why not simply accept A Course In Miracles?

Two days ago I wrote an email to Theo, who is writing from his experience of God in Christ. (Go to his blog)
He replied to my email on his blog, so I wrote a comment to his post.

Here you can read the argument. It may be of help in the clarification of some fundamental concepts of A Course In Miracles.

This was my email:

Dear Teófilo de Jesús,

I was wondering if you might know of A Course In Miracles. Thomas Merton left when A Course In Miracles was scribed, and he taught also ideas taught by Jesus in A Course In Miracles. I like it, especially in these times, when Jesus offers a new interpretation of old concepts from the Gospel. Some I have mentioned in my blog, http://teachingacourseinmiracles.blogspot.com. I am always looking at ways to introduce A Course In Miracles to a wider audience.

What does a Catholic like you say about A Course In Miracles, and the fact that is quite obvious to anyone looking at this masterpiece, that Jesus is the author of it?

Once I heared that it is on the index of the Catholic church. I do not know if that is true. Yet who was more a heretic than Jesus Christ? Isn't it the same today than it was 2000 years ago? That is why no one wants anything to have to do with it.

It has changed my life. Once I wanted to become a priest, but while growing up in a Catholic seminary I lost my faith in the god I was taught. Nothing made sense to me anymore. I could not resolve the existence of this world of cruelty with the idea of a loving God, and still can't. But through A Course In Miracles I found relief that I don't have to. It allows me to experience God in me, in everything, God not knowing of this world, God Who truly has no opposite. My relationship with Him is not broken or lacking, and therefore it is a fact that there is no sin. If sin were true, I would be forever separated from God. Separation is a false idea. So, aren't we all in need of teaching this? Teaching in oder to learn, teaching the truth; in order to learn forgiveness, I have to teach it. In order to be healed, I have to heal. In order to be free, I have to release, to free. All power is given me in Heaven and Earth. The resurrection did happen, and it must include everyone and everything. This is and can only be an individual discovery for anyone here on Earth. Nothing else will ever solve any problem that besets mankind.

Happy Easter.

This was Theo's reply:

Dear Alban:

I am about to disappoint you. I think that A Course In Miracles is nothing short of a modern Gnostic work, contradicting the Gospel in several key areas. I don't see how "Jesus" could be the author of this work. As such, this work is not apt to instruct or correct Catholic Christians in the living of the Gospel.

The Catholic Church stopped keeping an "Index of Forbidden Books" back in 1965. Such an endeavor was easy to do when the book printing output was a fairly small enterprise and a book catalog could be kept by bored clerics. That's a very impractical, if not impossible thing to do today, considering the publication output of modern media and the Internet. Besides, putting a work in such an Index would constitute a "reverse endorsement." Any such designation would be exploited by publicity-hungry authors and publishing houses who would then use the Church's censure for maximum propaganda effect. Advertisements would read "Come, buy this book! BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!" People would just flock to buy it.

Nevertheless, we all still have the responsibility to refrain from reading works damaging to the faith, unless one is prepared to face up those arguments and the truth is that not all of us are that well-prepared. Context is also important: I may read an essay by Dawkins and his coterie of lonely atheists if printed in a reputable publication, but probably would pass if it were printed in Penthouse. Such a context would provide a marked occasion for sin at numerous levels. The Catholic Christian must not be either proud or naive when facing temptation and should have a distinct appreciation of when s/he is staring down the chasm of temptation and sin, less one tempts the Lord in the process.

This brings us back to A Course In Miracles. Jesus didn't write this, nor was He "channeled" by anyone to do so. The work contradicts the Gospel, as I said, in many key places, as you yourself has admitted by denying the reality of sin. To say something like...my relationship with Him is not broken or lacking, and therefore it is a fact that there is no sin is, in my view, wrong, for it assumes that the soul has reached an ontological "perfection" in this life, that the Christian life consists only in the "unfolding" of this realization. I also think that this assertion reflects a sin of presumption of God's grace. Any spirituality flowing from such an axiom would be, in my view, damaging to one's soul.

The constant use of the first person pronouns ("I, me, mine") also unsettles me, because Catholic Christianity is a reality that transcends the individual. The Gnostic "spirituality" contained in this book sets the individual and his/her "gnosis" ("knowlegde") over and against the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

Finally, the allegation that Jesus granted a new "revelation" violates the apostolic consensus that public revelation, the one binding on all Christians everywhere and at all times, ended with the death of the last apostle; that every "revelation" since is by definition a "private revelation" subject to the discernment of spirits which St. Paul talks about, and other criteria we find in the Johannine writings, and that even if such a private revelation were to meet these criteria, it would only be binding on the person who received it, and also on those who voluntarily make its teaching their own. In this line of "revelations" we find those received by St. Margarite Mary Alacoque about the Sacred Heart, and to St. Faustine regarding the Divine Mercy, along with all "approved" Marian apparitions.

Because of its substance, contents, and claims, A Course In Miracles fails the "discernment of spirits" test. I believe that if you practice its teaching, you will end up in a state of spiritual confusion and captivity. My suggestion to you is that you break away from this book and return to the true Christ you meet in Word and Sacrament in the Catholic Church.

I remain,

Your concerned brother in Our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Theo

-Read also Why New Age Is a Challenge for Christianity in Catholic-Online, where A Course In Miracles is mentioned.

So, here is my attempt to answer to Theo. It turned into a long and redundant statement:

Dear Theo,

you clearly deny that A Course In Miracles was authored by Jesus of Nazareth. That is not at all my experience. When I first got the book, I clearly recognized that this book speaks the truth, there simply was no question about it. I don't know how to convey that evidence, or why it was obvious to me. If you look only at the literary quality of the work, you would have to admit that it is way too perfect, and intentionally and unconventionally selective in its use of language and words for it to be of human origin. Rhythmically (blank verse over hundreds of pages) the work reaches an unmatched perfection still using modern language. I don't know how you would get around that aspect and be able to say that it was written by a human being?

In my view you will not find a more challenging document to your beliefs and thoughts which is your self-identity. In many ways everything you believe is totally contrary to what Jesus taught. I do not mean that as a personal insult, but it is fact that the human mind is opposed to the teachings of Jesus. My mere being here, in need of correction, is what "sin" is. Man is what "sin" is, the denial of God's love. But it cannot be your reality. It can only be an illusory state of mind, a dreamed separation from God. That is why Jesus was crucified. You may disagree, but a prophesy of His suffering on the cross would not have needed to come true if the minds of the people at the time of Jesus' crucifixion whole-heartedly had embraced his teaching.

What about Jesus' admonition to be perfect as your Father in Heaven? Could He say that without you being actually created perfect by God? All you did was that you forgot for a moment who you are. Like in the Bible it says, Adam fell into a deep sleep. Nowhere does it say that he awoke. Now, could it be really so that you are sleeping and gone in dreams of a world of sin and madness? Would you care to look at this idea for a moment? What insanity and arrogance it is to think that I can reach perfection, when God created me perfect, in His likeness! I would have to assume that I somehow have the power to change what God created and turned it into something that is opposite to His will. That is not possible, except in dreams and fantasies. It sure looks real, if you look from the perspective of this world, from your body's eyes and senses, but God is the source of reality, first cause. Nothing can come between Him and His creation. Contrary, if you are not perfect, for whatever reason, how could you become perfect? Are we not agreeing on the idea that everything God created is eternal. Maybe, you are saying, a perfect God can create imperfect beings, but the absurdity here is quite obvious. Then it all comes back to me. I obviously see myself as I am not. God has nothing to do with it. I need help. I need a miracle. I need to change my mind, having completely forgotten who I am. "The world believes in sin, but the belief that made it as you see it is not outside you." (A Course In Miracle, Chapter 20.II.6). You have to take responsibility for what you see. That would have to include everything that does not reflect the light and truth of God's creation which is like Him in His likeness.

Jesus teaches to forgive regardless of the "sin" with which you are confronted. Is His idea that you have power to forgive all "sin" contradictory to A Course In Miracles? What you bind on earth is bound in Heaven, what you loose on earth is loosed in Heaven! He taught every man, not just the apostles, so I have to take his word literally directed to me, and everyone. He says that greater things I will do, because He is going to the Father. That could not be a true statement if I am unlike Jesus as a Son of God. What about His declaration that God does not judge? He also states that not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of His Father in Heaven. You literally do not exist if you are fearful, unloving, not doing God's will, unless reality can be split and governed by opposing laws and principles. But can truth have an opposite? Then, what could be more simpler than asking and receiving what I have asked: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

These ideas from the New Testament are exactly what A Course In Miracles teaches. Forgiveness is the means to remember who I am, what God wills. Can you proclaim the reality of "sin" if you know that God does not judge? You have to hold everything up to God's will, the reality that He created, which will be what it is, no matter what anyone may think it is. Can you reasonably and true to Jesus words say that "sin" is real if it can and has to be forgiven by everyone? Does reality need to be forgiven? Do you then forgive God, too? A Course In Miracles does not deny that you think there is "sin", that you believe in "sin", but it emphasizes strongly the idea that it is an error of your action of mind, which is the idea of "kata", the Aramaic expression for what we call "sin". Jesus used this metaphor to show that we do nothing but miss the target if we "sin". It is an archery term for missing the target. The specificity of the act does not matter except to me who gives it meaning, however, everything is either true or false. Can God, truth, know about "sin", the false, without becoming Himself/itself sinful, false?

You pointed out the idea of grace. Grace is obviously an essential part of the teaching of A Course In Miracles. By Grace I live, by Grace I am released. Since I in my humanness have completely forgotten who I am, I need a miracle of grace. I can do nothing, as the course teaches to be perfect as God created me. It would all have to come from Him. Yet I have to change my mind, since it is filled with false beliefs about myself, about everything.

Regarding the article in Catholic Online that says: "...insofar as sin is concerned, while reference to Adam's sin is silenced, it is affirmed, as 'A Course in Miracles' states, that man's principal problem is his ignorance of his divinity. Every perceptible fault that man thinks he has is more an absence of knowledge; with this is eliminated the need for salvation and for a savior." With this the absolute need for salvation and a savior is stated. You do not know who you are, which is in itself an impossibility. There is no way out except through a bridge established from outside of the framework of your idea of yourself. That is what a savior is. You cannot do it yourself. That is why Jesus says, no one can come to the Father except through Me. The course does not say that you do not need a savior. But it also says that an untrained mind can accomplish nothing. You are much to fearful to remember who you are, to remember God, unless you have trained your mind to forgive all your ideas and not give in to false ideas about yourself. What if Jesus is back already, and you can't see Him, because you look through a mirror darkly? Do you think God would let you wait a long time to be saved? Or does this seem to involve a long time only because you are indeed very fearful of being saved. Again, you need mind training.

You seem to be upset about the use of first person pronouns in A Course In Miracles, but you do not mind Jesus saying, "I am the bread of life... I am the door... I am the good sheppard... I am the resurrection and the life... I am the way, the truth and the light." There is one God, unless God is not all powerful, therefore there is one Son. Everyone has to come to know who he is in his Sonship with God as his Father. God did not create individuals that are unequal. The body of Christ, the church, I don't know about that. Certainly there is no church in Heaven, is there? I guess, we easily confuse means and end.

Regarding the idea of public and private revelation I can only say that an apostolic consensus need not reflect God's plan for salvation or Jesus' will and acts. If the apostles were not perfect, what makes us want to have them say something infallible?

I may be redundant, but the fundamental difference between the faith in which I was brought up in Catholicism, and
ALSO by the world is that everything is objective to me, existing independently from me, including the devil. If that were true, you would have to tell me that there will be eternal conflict, since God would not be the sole power of the universe. However, if everything is as Jesus in A Course In Miracles teaches me, a real solution is available, and only then, according to His saying that what ever I bind on Earth, is bound in Heaven, and whatever I loose on Earth, is loosed in Heaven. If everything I experience and see is the result of my thought, I can change my mind, and experience a different result. Then I can start to learn to think with God, God's Thoughts.

Finally, all I want to say, is, the proof is in the pudding. If your concept of truth has let to an experience of God and who you are, great. For me, it did not work. I was not happy with it. A Course In Miracles does not say, you should abandon your faith. But in a state of not knowing who you are, and if you are here, you obviously are like Adam in deep sleep, you need A Course In Miracles. To remember who you are is what A Course In Miracles is. This is obviously not a concept, but an experience, not a theology putting my salvation into an indefinite future, but an experience that can only be now.

"The mind can make the belief in separation very real and very fearful, and this belief is the 'devil'. It is powerful, active, destructive and clearly in opposition to God, because it literally denies His Fatherhood. Look at your life and see what the devil has made. But realize that this making will surely dissolve in the light of truth, because its foundation is a lie. Your creation by God is the only foundation that cannot be shaken, because the light is in it. Your starting point is truth, and you must return to your Beginning. Much has been seen since then, but nothing has really happened. Your Self is still in peace, even though your mind is in conflict. You have not yet gone back far enough, and that is why you become so fearful. As you approach the Beginning, you feel the fear of the destruction of your thought system upon you as if it were the fear of death. There is no death, but there is a belief in death." (A Course In Miracles, Chapter 3.VII.5)

We need a miracle is all I can say. A miracle can only come from God, because it is God's power that makes it possible. So what can be wrong with A Course In Miracles? What can be wrong with saving time immeasurably? Do you know God's plan for your salvation? Do you think the Bible says everything about God's plan for your salvation? Can you know how limited your understanding is, and how much you will understand and accept at a "later" point in time, even if it contradicts fundamentally what you now hold to be true?

God bless us,

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