USA Today —May 29, 1996
By Drew Jubera
If one ignored the most obvious symbolism – the address on Goodfellow Drive – there was little to distinguish the pale-brick ranch house of Mary and Charles Micha from any other suburban Ponderosa sprung whole on the endlessly successive plots that wind through North Dallas.
Yet despite its more typically lifeless features – the landscaping’s meticulousness; the locked windows to accommodate the central air-conditioning; the unpeopled front yard and streetscape – the Micha house has nevertheless served twice a week for the past year as a kind of spiritual bus depot for one of the newer of this era’s New Age spiritual philosophies.
This one is called “A Course in Miracles.”
“Here,” said Charles Micha, greeting his visitor one early morning, gently making it clear that his house was the right place, “is the center.
“We call it,” he added, “The Life Learning Center.”
Charles and Mary Micha are two of a growing number of people who say they have discovered the trans-internal highway to peace and godliness through A Course in Miracles. More than 170,000 copies of the Course, according to its publisher, the non-profit Foundation for Inner Peace in Tiburon, California, have been distributed since the three volumes of self-study texts were first printed in 1976 – numbers the publisher adds have been accomplished without advertising and with very little publicity. Groups that range in size from a handful to several dozen people also meet regularly now in homes, churches, offices and public buildings across the country to study and discuss the Course. The Michas say more than 800 people have come to their study groups during the past four years, and a number of local churches, including the Unity Church of Dallas and the First Church of Religious Science, also offer regular study groups.
“The numbers [of people interested in the Course] are enough to be significant,” said Donald Curtis, minister of the Unity Church of Dallas, where regular study groups on the Course are offered. “There’s always great interest in [the texts], and that’s without any promotion. It’s just like the Bible caught on. People found it enriching and passed the word.”
In the wider view, the Course’s swelling popularity appears tied to a larger shift in the country’s attitudes toward spirituality – a shift that one survey says has moved significantly in the past decade from formal, mainstream religion toward the kind of religious experience gained from a more individual search for meaning, which the Course encourages.
According to a survey conducted last year by William McCready, program director of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, a research center that has collected data on religious values through general surveys and other studies since 1972, 60 percent of Americans now reject the concept of “absolute moral guidelines.” McCready said that 10 years ago, only about 40 percent of Americans held that view.
“The craving of our time is for spiritual nourishment,” said Rev. Richard Shaefer, minister at the Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas. “Many of the mainline churches and synagogues are not meeting that need.”
Enter A Course in Miracles. The Course‘s three volumes – one of theory, one of 365 daily lessons and one of explanation – were written in the late ‘60s by Helen Schucman, a Columbia University psychologist. Schucman was a militant atheist until she said the words came to her in the form of meditative dictation from a voice that identified itself as Jesus. The 1,500 sheets of this dictation were eventually given to a New York parapsychologist named Judith Skutch, who with her husband Robert, founded the Foundation for Inner Peace and published the Course in ’76. Schucman died in 1981.
At its most basic, the Course emphasizes positive though as a path to a clear spirituality. In that respect, one might hear echoes rung by many of the subsequent born of the personal growth movements such as EST or TM or yoga, that washed up from the world’s karmic centers during the 1960s and ‘70s. Contributing to this familiar echoing is the ebullience of the most intimately involved with the Course – an enthusiasm that manifests itself…