Maine Say (Morning Sentinel) –December 18, 1993
By Gini Cos
Christmas is the season for miracles, but how many believe that life is the season for miracles?
“A Course in Miracles“ was first published in 1975. The inspired book is ascribed to Helen Schucman and William Thetford, two psychologists, and professors at Columbia University in New York.
Ever since its publication, the book has dramatically increased in popularity. Over 800,000 volumes have been sold with little if any advertising.
The book is the course. But not a course of the school or classroom kind. “This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary,” are its opening lines.
“The course can be summed up in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists,” according to the book’s introduction.
“A Course in Miracles“ is a self-study program designed to assist people to learn about themselves. Study groups do exist but are not necessary. Participation does not require going to a study group, although many find it helpful to work with others.
So, just what is “A Course in Miracles?”
According to an informational brochure:
“Giving does not reduce what we have; it enhances it.
“Health and healing come from inner peace, from letting go of fear by means of love.
“We can be peaceful, loving beings no matter what exists around us.”
Due to the small amount of promotion given it, many participants feel that it’s a miracle the course is still on-going. The brochures say it isn’t a religion, and it is not a philosophy.
According to Waterville psychologist Keith Cook, “It won’t get you on any mailing list, and there are no membership drives.”
Recently, he and psychologist Sally Harwood, Ph.D., both members of Human Resource Development Associates (HRD) gave an introduction to the course at the Waterville Area YMCA. They like to make a presentation twice a year, said Cook, “just to try and inform people about it.” HRD is an agency through which Cook and Harwood offer counseling, psychotherapy services, training, and consultation. According to them, their involvement with “A Course in Miracles” does not relate to their professional practice.
Cook first became involved with the course approximately nine years ago. Harwood started a year later. Each had their own reasons for looking into it. The course is geared to work for all kinds of people, regardless of their specific backgrounds or issues.
While the literature claims that the course is not a religion, a statement by Robert Sandoe, a course advocate and a member of the Foundation For Inner Peace, said:
“It is a self-study course about God and us, His children. It is tied to no specific religion… The Course has been defined as re-teaching the universal truths. Its appeal and spiritual backgrounds have popularized it. This is not an organization, no formal authority, no ordained ministers, no one who speaks for all those who have ‘A Course in Miracles‘ in their lives.”
According to literature published by the Foundation For Inner Peace, those who have taken the course claim it has changed their lives but can give no clear-cut explanation as to how. People seem to agree that there are no set definitions or methods either used or rejected by the course.
At the recent presentation, Cook said that “A Course in Miracles” is not something that people tend to jump into quickly, but they must proceed carefully.
“That’s how it was for me,” Cook said. “The course does not pretend to have all the answers,” he added. “But it openly admits it is just one more option or choice towards seeking knowledge of one’s identity.”
Harwood identified the act of forgiveness as one of the course’s most important teachings for her.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about the course, and it’s very easy for the ego to set it up the way it wants,” Cook said. He defined ego as “the self that we make up as to who we are.”
Harwood added: “The course helps us peel back the layers of clutter and helps us remember who we really are. Attachments have a big part to play. The course influences me in all aspects of my life, and it helps in maintaining respect for other peoples’ beliefs.
“I entered into it for self-growth and peace, and it has helped,” she said. “I also like the idea of choice as to what’s real and what isn’t. The course deals with spiritual truths and inner healings.”
Cook added: “Oftentimes we think we are who we are by the roles we play. For me, that might be therapist, teacher, or husband. But if these things were altered for some reason, and I’m not any of these roles anymore, there’s still me. There’s still an inner core that can’t be altered. If someone’s arms or legs are lost, there would still be a basic, inner core of that person.”
Harwood said the course is “traditional, spiritual wisdom combined with psychological principles. A universal theology is not possible, but the universal experience is not only possible but necessary. But the words are the vehicle, not the teacher. It’s a never-ending learning and enlightening process.”
Harwood and Cook say that participants may not notice immediate results. Also, people can stay involved as long as they like. For some, the process is lifelong.
So why spend so much time and energy on something that may take a lifetime to learn?
Both Harwood and Cook agree: “It’s for the inner peace.”
For more information about “A Course in Miracles,” people can contact Cook at 873-1074 and Harwood 872-0664.
For information about the book, write: Miracle Distribution Center, 1141 East Ash Avenue, Fullerton, California; or Foundation For A Course in Miracles, R.R. 2 Box 71, Roscoe, New York 12776-9506; or Foundation for Inner Peace, P.O. Box 1104, Glen Ellen, California 95442.
A softcover edition of the book priced at $26 can also be ordered through your local bookstore.
An open study group is held Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m., at the Willows Nursing Home, 110 College Ave., Waterville. Beginners are welcome to come at any time.
(Note: Phone numbers, address’ and prices may have changed since the publishing of this article.)