L.A. LIFE, Daily News –June 29, 1985
By Terry Young
As a teenager, Ginney Ererly went from door to door expounding the virtues of being a Jehovah’s Witness. But at 18, she says she found the faith “flawed” and fell away from it.
After graduating from college, she left for Puerto Rico to immerse herself in a different culture. But after three years of living in what she considered an environment too dominated by men, she came back to Los Angeles.
Working at a beachfront restaurant, Ererly bumped into a man with money and drugs. And she latched onto life in the fast lane, until she says she saw her friends’ lives disintegrating. So she pulled out of a nosedive.
Ererly, 42, who has drifted in and out of philosophies, says she has now found something to cling to – the three-volume set of A Course in Miracles.
The books sit in a pile in a corner by the fireplace in her Van Nuys apartment. But they aren’t collecting dust. She, like other believers in A Course in Miracles, uses the books daily as a devout Christian might consult the Bible or a Jew would look to the Torah.
One of the three books is a daily workbook containing 365 lessons. The lessons have taught her that “people around us are just a witness of what is going on inside us.”
“When I get angry at someone,” says Ererly, who has curly brown hair and clam, blue eyes, “I am just angry inside.”
There are no prohibitions against anger, but she says her faith has taught her that the feeling isn’t worth the effort. Her faith does not restrict swearing, but she chooses polite words. Her faith doesn’t prohibit drug use, but she says she no longer desires them.
She says she was skeptical at first. “A friend had told me about the course, and I got the book, but I really couldn’t seem to figure it out. But one day, I happened to pick it up, since I had kept it next to my bed, and when I started reading, it started making sense,” Ererly says.
Embracing the faith, Ererly says she believed the change in perception caused by the books led to improvements in her life.
She found herself spending less time at a favorite bar and more time reflecting on A Course in Miracles. She formed her own study group and talks enthusiastically about her view of life.
Miracles come to her often. “It is just a shift in the way I see things,” she says when describing her miracles.
“I used to see my boss as an ungiving tightwad,” she confesses, ” but now I see that I was judgmental, and by judging, I was in error.”
With a laugh, she says she considers that attitude change about her boss “a miracle.”
They firmly believe that miracles do happen paying attention suddenly cuts in front of you. You don’t collide. But you are filled with a sudden anger, even though nothing happened except that you had to come to a stop.”
The rage, she says, is senseless. It doesn’t bother the person who wandered by. It only eats at the person who experiences it, she points out.
Miracles occur, Camplin says when there is a change in perception. To forgive that anger-producing event is a miracle, she contends. And that is all the course requires.
“In truth, we are all spirit,” Camplin says, “and the body is just an expression.”
There is no price tag attached to this faith, Camplin says. There is no requirement of money offerings. There are no temples to build.
Skeptics might ask what is demanded by the faith. “Nothing,” Camplin replies.
Believers don’t recruit. New members are “drawn” to the course on their own, Camplin says.
Indeed, the teaching does seem to attract seekers, people who have become dissatisfied with their religious upbringing.
Cindy Williams, a 37-year-old Canyon Country resident who was once a practicing Baptist, is among those seekers.
She had been divorced and fell into a period of disillusionment as she raised her three children. “I had been taking courses and reading books. I had been exploring different ideas of how I might feel OK.”
Now a temporary secretary, Williams says she was “leery” when she first heard about the group. “I thought it might be a brainwashed group or one of those kooky groups that try to get all your money,” she says.
After embracing the belief, she says her life has made steady improvement. She doesn’t let the problems of this world bother her. She strives to get in touch with her real self – the spiritual self.
Until then, she says she will strengthen her faith by looking for the miracles that will help her deal with the problems of everyday life. “I’ve got my feet firmly planted on this illusion.”
It does not surprise Lucky Altman that faiths are developing that incorporate psychology and religion. Altman, director of the inter-religious studies program at the National Conference of Christians and Jews, says many people become disillusioned with “mainline” religions because they may think they ignore individual needs.
“Some teachings have been too involved with don’t and punishments,” she says. However, it is a matter of perception. The 10 Commandments, for instance, could be turned around to say “tell the truth” instead of “don’t lie” or “love life” instead of “don’t kill.”
She says mainline religions must incorporate a change in perspective if they are to succeed at motivating good behavior and worship while making individuals feel good about themselves.