I was in my 20s and had just moved to New York City from San Francisco when I first heard about A Course in Miracles. I saw the book on a coffee table at a party and casually picked it up. I remember seeing no author on the cover. I looked at the introduction and read, “This is a course in miracles. It is a required course.” I thought that was so odd, a book announcing itself as required reading.
As you read on you realize it’s not saying this particular path is required. What is required is having experiences in which we either learn or fail to learn. And what we refuse to learn in one experience, we will eventually learn in another.
I noted the very heavy Christian language, which you don’t realize until you actually read the book is not the Christian religion. I was highly intrigued, but I didn’t pick up the book again until I saw it a year later.
A Course in Miracles is not for everyone, but if it is for you, I think you know it. It’s not a religion; there’s no dogma and there’s no doctrine. It’s powerful psychological mind training with 365 days’ worth of lessons that teach you how to dismantle a fear-based thought system in favor of one based on love.
It is a process of enlightenment. It is the path that has meant everything to me and continues to do so as I try my best to walk it every day. I think of spiritual exercise like physical exercise—you never get to stop. The minute you stop exercising your physical muscles, gravity will pull them down. The minute you stop your spiritual exercise, psychological and emotional gravity will bring down your attitude. For me, as for millions of people, A Course in Miracles is an extraordinarily profound path to inner peace.
Even so, it can be very confrontive. For example, my exercise today is: “I am determined to see things differently.” It asks you to think of any situation that upsets you. By being determined to see it differently, you realize that even if the situation is not your doing, your way of interpreting it is 100 percent up to you. You are responsible for your feelings. You take full responsibility for your experience in life. In that way, the Course calls on us to be spiritual and emotional grown-ups.
In the same vein, one of the fundamental principles of any serious spiritual path is atonement. You go back to the moment when you acted in a way that was not an expression of your Christ Self, your light self. You made amends when you could and then started from a different place. When something goes wrong you have to ask yourself, What was my part? Even if it was just five percent of the whole, you can say, Maybe I shouldn’t have been there to begin with, or I can see I got reactive when I did that. If you can find some aspect of the situation to take responsibility for, that’s the linchpin of your ability to transform the experience. By changing things on the level of cause you will then change on the level of effect. That takes humility.
Humility is also vital in a wider sense. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln established a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. He said nations have to confess their sins just as individuals do. When it comes to the horrifying lies of terrorism and the power of ISIL and others to wreak a wave of terror, you have to ask, “Did we play any part in this?” More and more people are taking an honest look at that question. When we invaded Iraq in 2003, we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein, while admittedly not a good man, was a secularist. He kept radical Islamic forces at bay. There was no al-Qaida in Iraq at that time. He was also a buffer with Iran. Our invasion coupled with having no legitimate plan for what to do once we had done that created a vacuum that the radical, extremist forces took advantage of. Even some people who supported the invasion now say it was a mistake. I’m not at all saying that this all happened only because of the United States, but I think any intelligent appraisal of the situation recognizes that this was a significant part of what went wrong.
Some humility on the part of Americans would be tremendous because we are perceived as arrogant by nations around the world. As Americans, we should move into our hearts and bear witness to the agony that has been created. The fact is, we made a mistake that caused significant suffering. If we go to God in humility and say, “Dear God, we get it,” with the willingness to look at that in its full horror and ask for forgiveness, it would do as much to change the trajectory of history going forward as any external remedy.
You hear a lot about the separation of church and state, but that was never meant to be the separation of spiritual principle and state—quite the opposite. First, it means the government cannot make you stop practicing your religion. It also means no religious leader can go into the halls of Congress and say, “You cannot pass this law,” or “You must pass that one.” It protects religion from governmental interference and vice versa. It’s a good thing. The founding fathers were seeking to protect and liberate the religious conversation, not suppress it. In A Course in Miracles and the Unity movement, there’s no religious dogma. There’s no doctrine; we’re talking about principle. We’re talking about inclusion and brotherhood and unity and justice. What could be more radically American?
We have well-known politicians legitimizing hate within the mainstream political conversation in a way that has not been true in our lifetime. How has this happened? From a metaphysical perspective, it’s because not enough of us have spoken about love within politics. Where there is not light there will be darkness. Where there is not love there will be fear. We’re not having a conversation within the political realm about that which is brotherly, that which is unity, that which stands for justice, that which stands for true democracy.
Democracy is basically a spiritual principle—the idea that we were all created equal by God. If those of us who understand the deep meaning of that are not shouting it from the rooftops, why are we then surprised when people are shouting hate from the rooftops? If we’re to be the voice of personal awakening, how could it not be intended to be a voice of collective awakening— awakening a nation, awakening a civilization?