grew up in a middle-class Jewish family. When I went
to high school, I took my first philosophy class and
decided God was a crutch I didn’t need. What kind
of God would let children starve, I argued, or people
get cancer, or the Holocaust happen? During
college, a lot of what I learned from professors was
definitely extra-curricular. I left school to grow vegetables,
but I don’t remember ever growing any. There are
a lot of things from those years I can’t remember.
Like a lot of people at that time—late 60s, early
70s—I was pretty wild. Whatever sounded outrageous,
I wanted to do. And usually, I did.
didn’t know what to do with my life, though I
remember my parents kept begging me to do something.
There was some huge rock of self-loathing sitting in
the middle of my stomach during those years, and it
got worse with every phase I went through. As my pain
deepened, so did my interest in philosophy. I
always sensed there was some mysterious cosmic order
to things, but I could never figure out how it applied
to my own life. I believed other people were dying inside
too, just like me, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t
talk about it. I
kept thinking there was something very important that
no one was discussing. I didn’t have the words
myself, but I was sure that something was fundamentally
off in the world. How could everybody think that this
stupid game of making it in the world could be all there
is to our being here?
day in 1977, I saw a set of blue books with gold lettering
sitting on someone's coffee table. I opened to the introduction.
is a Course in Miracles. It is a required course. Only
the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not
mean that you can establish the curriculum."
remember thinking that sounded rather intriguing, if
not arrogant. Reading further, however, I noticed Christian
terminology throughout the books. This made me nervous.
I put the books back on the table. It
took another year before I picked them up again—another
year, and another year’s misery. Then I was ready.
This time I was so depressed I didn’t even notice
the language. This time I knew immediately that the
Course had something very important to teach me. It
used traditional Christian terms, but in decidedly nontraditional,
was struck, as most people are, by the profound authority
of its voice. It answered questions I had begun to think
were unanswerable. It talked about God in brilliant
psychological terms, challenging my intelligence and
never insulting it. The Course seemed to have a basic
message: relax. I was confused to hear that because
I had always associated relaxing with resigning. I had
been waiting for someone to explain to me how to fight
the good fight and now this book suggested that I surrender
the fight completely. I was surprised but so relieved.
I had long suspected I wasn’t made for worldly
me this was not just another book. This was my personal
teacher, my path out of hell. As I began reading the
Course and following its Workbook exercises, I could
feel almost immediately that the changes it produced
inside of me were positive. I
felt happy. I felt like I was beginning to calm down.
I began to understand myself, to get some hook on why
my relationships had been so painful, why I could never
stay with anything, why I hated my body. Most
importantly, I began to have some sense that I could
change. Studying the Course unleashed huge amounts of
hopeful energy inside me, energy that had been turning
darker and more self-destructive every day.
Course, a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy
contained in three books, claims no monopoly on God.
It is a statement of a universal spiritual curriculum.
There’s only one truth, spoken different ways,
and the Course is just one path to it out of many. If
it's your path, however, you know it. For me, the Course
was a break-through experience intellectually, emotionally,
and psychologically. It freed me from terrible emotional
pain. A Return to Love is based on what I have
learned from A Course in Miracles.
My prayer is that this book might help someone. I have
written it with an open heart. I hope you’ll read
it with an open mind.
bitter idols have been made of Him who would be only
brother to the world."
Course in Miracles does
not push Jesus. Although the books come from him, it
is made very clear that you don’t need to relate
personally to him at all.
a student and teacher of the Course, I have learned
much about the resistance that many people have to Christian
terms. As a Jew, I thought it was only other Jews who
would have a problem with the word Jesus. But I was
wrong. It’s not just Jews who get nervous at the
mention of his name.
the word Jesus to a group of moderate Christians, and
there is likely to be just as much resistance. I understand
why. As it says in the Course, "some bitter
idols have been made of Him who would be only brother
to the world."
is time for a huge revolution in our understanding of
Christic philosophy, and most particularly in our understanding
of Jesus. The Christian religion has no monopoly on
the Christ, or on Jesus himself.
a thoroughly purified being. Jesus lived within this
world of fear, and perceived only love. Every action,
every word, every thought was guided by the Holy Spirit
instead of the ego. Having been totally healed by the
Holy Spirit, He has become one with Him. He’s
not the only face the Holy Spirit takes. He is definitely
at the top, but that’s not to say he’s the
only one up there.
reached total actualization of the Christ mind, and
now has the power to help the rest of us reach that
same place within ourselves. To worship him is to worship
the potential for perfect love which lies within us
all. To think about him is to think about, and so to
call forth, the perfect love inside ourselves. That
is how he leads us out of hell and into Heaven.
tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are stories
of transformation. They are metaphors for the relationship
between the ego and the divine mind. The wicked stepmother,
which is the ego, can put the beauty or Christ within
us to sleep, but she can never destroy it. In every
fairy tale, the Prince arrives. His kiss reminds us
who we are, and why we came here. Prince charming is
the Holy Spirit, and He comes to awaken us with His
many faces, and one of them is Jesus. He is not an idol,
or a crutch. He is our elder brother. He is a gift.
Many people claim they don’t need a crutch like
Jesus. But he’s not a crutch; he’s a teacher.
want to be a writer, you read the classics. If you want
to make great music, you listen to music composed by
great musicians who have gone before. So it is with
spiritual masters: Jesus, Buddha, or any other enlightened
being. They were geniuses in the way they used their
minds and hearts. Why not learn from them, follow their
lead, study what they were doing right?
journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you
have gone deep into it."
I was most desperate, I looked for a lot of ways out
of my personal hell. I read books about how our minds
create our experience, how the brain is like a bio-computer
that manufactures whatever we feed into it with our
thoughts. "Think success and you’ll get it.
Expect to fail and you will," I read. But no matter
how much I worked at changing my thoughts, I kept going
back to the painful ones.
would work on having a more positive attitude, get myself
together and meet a new man or get a new job. But I
would eventually turn into a bitch with the man, or
screw up at the job. Sure, I could change my thoughts,
but not permanently. And there’s only one despair
worse than "I blew it," and that’s,
" I blew it again."
painful thoughts were my demons. Through various therapeutic
techniques, I’d become very smart about my own
neuroses, but that didn’t necessarily exorcise
them. The garbage didn’t go away; it just became
me, no matter what hot water I had gotten into, I had
always thought that I could get myself out of it. But
finally I got myself into so much trouble, that I knew
I needed more help than I could muster up myself. My
fear finally became so great, that I wasn’t too
hip to say "God, please help me."
light is in you."
I went through this grandiose, dramatic moment where
I invited God into my life. After that, nothing really
felt the way I expected it to. I had thought that things
would improve. It’s as though my life was a house,
and I thought God would give it a wonderful paint job—new
shutters perhaps, a new roof. Instead, it felt as though
as soon as I gave the house to God, He hit it with a
honey," He seemed to say, "there were cracks
in the foundation, not to mention all the rats in the
had read about people surrendering to God and then feeling
this profound sense of peace. I did get that feeling,
but only for about a minute. After that, I just felt
like I’d been busted. This didn’t turn me
off to God so much as it made me respect His intelligence.
It meant He understood the situation. If I was God,
I’d have busted me too. I felt more grateful than
resentful. I was desperate for help.
certain amount of desperation is usually necessary before
we’re ready for God. When it came to spiritual
surrender, I didn't get serious, not really, until I
was down on my knees completely. Nervous breakdowns
can be highly underrated methods of spiritual transformation.
They certainly get your attention. As painful as this
experience was, I now see it as an important, perhaps
necessary step in my breakthrough to a happier life.
one thing, I was profoundly humbled. I saw very clearly
that, of myself, I am nothing. Until this happens, you
keep trying all your old tricks—the ones that
never did work but you keep thinking might work this
time. Once you’ve had enough, you consider the
possibility that there might be a better way. That’s
when your head cracks open and you let God in.
are crashing into walls today socially, psychologically,
emotionally and biologically, and more people have felt
their heads crack open in some way, then have admitted
it to their friends. But this isn’t bad news.
It's good. Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re
just playing at life.
moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s
when it begins. Not that the moment of eureka, that
calling out to God is it, and it’s all Paradise
from then on. You’ve simply started the climb.
But you know you’re not running around in circles
at the bottom of the mountain anymore.
ironic! You spend your whole life resisting the notion
that there’s someone out there smarter than you
are, and then all of a sudden you’re so relieved
to know it’s true. All of a sudden, you’re
not too proud to ask for help.
is but a recognition; not a change at all."
are people who have lived on the earth, and perhaps
there are people living here now, whose minds have been
completely healed by the Holy Spirit.
religions, there are stories of saints and prophets
who worked miracles. That is because, when the mind
returns to God, it becomes a vessel for His power. The
power of God transcends the laws of this world. Saints
and prophets have actualized the Christ within them.
They have been purified of fearful thoughts and only
love remains within their minds.
These purified beings
are called the Enlightened ones.
means understanding. The enlightened understand. Enlightened
people don’t have anything we don’t have.
They have perfect love inside, and so do we. The difference
is that they don’t have anything else.
beings, Jesus and others, exist in a state that is only
potential in the rest of us. Jesus and other enlightened
masters are our evolutionary elder brothers. The Christ-mind
is merely the perspective of unconditional love. You
and I have the Christ-mind in us as much as Jesus does.
The difference between him and us is that we are tempted
to deny it. He’s beyond that. His every thought
and action stems from love. The unconditional love,
or Christ within him, is the truth that sets us free,
because it’s the perspective that saves us from
our own fearful thoughts.
in trouble because we fight too much. We fight ourselves,
each other, our planet, and God. A thoroughly loving
person is like an evolutionary mutation, manifesting
a being that puts love first and thus creates the context
in which miracles occur. Ultimately, that is the only
smart thing to do. The mutation, the enlightened ones,
show the rest of us our evolutionary potential. They
point the way.
ego is like a gravitational force field, built up over
eons of fearful thinking, which draws us away from the
love in our hearts. In Course terminology, our entire
network of fearful perceptions is called the ego. The
word ego is used differently here than the way in which
it is often used in modern psychology. It is being used
as the ancient Greeks used it, as the notion of a small,
is a false belief about ourselves, a lie about who we
though living that lie is a terrible anxiety, it’s
amazing how resistant we are to healing the split in
our mind about who we are. As uncomfortable as our life
might be, as painful or even desperate at times, the
life we’re living is the life we know, and we
cling to the old rather than try something new.
ego is our mental power turned against ourselves. It
is clever, like we are, and smooth-talking, like we
are, and manipulative, like we are. Remember all the
talk about a silver-tongued devil? The ego doesn’t
come up to us and say,
I’m your self-loathing."
not stupid, because we’re not. Rather, it says
things like, "Hi, I’m your adult, mature,
rational self. I’ll help you look out for number
one." Then it proceeds to counsel us to look out
for ourselves, at the expense of others. It teaches
us selfishness, greed, judgment, and small-mindedness.
Holy Spirit is the call to awaken and be glad."
means we can think whatever we want to think, but no
thoughts are neutral. There is no such thing as an idle
thought. All thought produces form on some level.
responsibility for our lives, then, means taking responsibility
for our thoughts. And praying to God to save our lives,
means praying for Him to save us from our own negative
Spirit was God's answer to the ego. He is God's eternal
communication link with His separated sons, a bridge
back to gentle thoughts, the Great Transformer of Perception
from fear to love. Often the Holy Spirit is referred
to as the Comforter. He comes to us in many forms, from
a conversation with a friend to a serious spiritual
path; from a lyric in a song to an excellent therapist.
the inexorable drive toward wholeness that exists within,
no matter how disoriented or crazy we get. God can’t
force his way back into our thinking, because that would
be violating our free will. But the Holy Spirit is a
force of consciousness within us that delivers us from
Hell, or fear, whenever we consciously ask him to, transforming
our thoughts from fear to love.
within us longs to go home, and He is that something.
The Holy Spirit guides us to a different perception
of reality. His correction of our perception is called
Atonement. In asking the Holy Spirit to help us, we
are expressing our willingness to perceive a situation
differently. We give up our own interpretations and
opinions, and ask that they be replaced by His.
When angry, we pray, "Dear
God, I am willing to see this differently."
a situation to God means surrendering to Him our thoughts
about it. Some people think that if we surrender to God,
we’re giving up personal responsibility. But the
opposite is true. We’re taking the ultimate responsibility
for a situation by being responsible for our thoughts
people think that calling on God means inviting a force
into our lives that will make everything rosy. The truth
is, it means inviting everything into our lives that
will force us to grow, and growth can be messy.
of life is to become aware of our perfection. So, once
we call on God, everything that could anger us is on
the way. Why? Because the place where we go into anger
instead of love, is our wall to the awareness of our
that pushes our buttons is a situation where we don’t
yet have the capacity to be unconditionally loving.
It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to draw our attention
to that, and help us move beyond that point. Our comfort
zones are the limited areas in which we find it easy
to love. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job not
to respect those comfort zones, but to bust them. We’re
not at the mountaintop until any zone is comfortable.
Love isn’t real love until it’s unconditional.
We’re not experiencing who we really are, until
we experience our perfect love.
to ensure our progress toward the goal of enlightenment,
the Holy Spirit has a highly individualized curriculum
for everyone. Every encounter, every circumstance can
be used by Him for His purposes.
between our perfect spirit Self, and our worldly insanity.
He enters into the illusion and leads us beyond it.
The spiritual path, then, is simply the journey of living
our lives. Everyone is on a spiritual path, most people
just don’t know it.
Spirit is a force in our minds that knows us in our
perfectly loving, natural state, which we’ve forgotten,
but enters into the world of fear and illusion with
us, and uses our experiences here to remind us who we
are. He does this by showing us the possibility of a
loving purpose in everything we think and do. He revolutionizes
our sense of why we are on the earth.
we do in our lives will be used, or interpreted, by
the ego or the Holy Spirit. The ego uses everything
to lead us further into anxiety. The Holy Spirit uses
everything to lead us into inner peace and happiness.
Love Is Real
is not the author of fear. You are."
or God, taken seriously is a radical outlook, a major
departure from the psychological orientation that rules
this physical world. It is threatening not because it
is a small idea, but because it is so terribly huge.
people, God is a frightening idea. Asking God for help
doesn’t seem very comforting if we think of Him
as something outside of ourselves or judgmental. But
God is love and He dwells within us. We were created
in His image, or mind, which means that we are extensions
of His love, or Sons of God.
says we have an authority problem. We think we authored
God, rather than realizing that He authored us. Rather
than accepting that we are the loving beings that He
created, we have arrogantly thought that we could create
ourselves, and then create God.
made up a God in our image. Because we are angry and
judgmental, we have projected those characteristics
onto Him. But God remains who He is and always will
be: He is the energy, the thought of unconditional love.
He cannot think with anger or judgment. He is mercy
and compassion and total acceptance.
this, and having done so, we have forgotten who we ourselves
are. I began to realize that taking love seriously would
be a complete transformation of my thinking.
A Course in Miracles calls itself a mind training in
the relinquishment of a thought system based on fear,
and the acceptance instead of a thought system based
to God means to let go and love. By affirming that love
is our priority in a situation, we actualize the power
of God. Through a mental decision, a conscious recognition
of love’s importance and our willingness to experience
it, we call on a higher power. We set aside our normal
mental habit patterns and allow them to be superceded
by a different mode of perception. That is the meaning
get to the point where we realize that God is love,
it’s not too difficult to understand that following
God just means following the dictates of love.
The question is no longer
"What is God?" The question we ask now is,
"What is love?"
energy. It’s not something we can perceive with
physical senses. But people can usually tell you when
they feel it and when they don't. Very few people feel
enough love in their lives. The world is rather a loveless
hardly even imagine a world in which all of us were
in love all the time, with everyone. There would be
no war because we wouldn’t fight. There would
be no prejudice, oppression, or violence of any kind.
There would be no sorrow. There would only be peace.
us are violent people, not necessarily physically, but
emotionally. We have been brought up in a world that
does not put love first, and where love is absent, fear
sets in. Fear is to love as darkness is to light. We
need love in order to live happily, as much as we need
oxygen in order to live at all. It's not that mysterious,
really. Without love, the world is simply not a great
place to be.
problem with the world is that we have strayed from
God, or wandered away from love. According to the Course,
this separation from God (Love) first happened millions
of years ago. But the important revelation, the crux
of the Course, is that in reality it never actually
happened at all.
to A Course in Miracles states,
Course can be summed up very simply:
Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God."
means is this: Love is real. It’s an eternal creation
so cannot be destroyed. Anything that isn’t love
is an illusion. Remember this, and you’ll be at
says that only love is real: "The opposite of love
is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite."
When we think with love, we are literally co-creating
with God. And when we’re not thinking with love,
since only love is real, then we’re actually not
thinking at all. We’re hallucinating. And that’s
what the Course says this world is: a mass hallucination,
where fear seems more real than love.
paranoia, anxiety and trauma are literally all imagined.
That is not to say they don’t exist for us as
human beings, and need to be brought to light in order
to be released. But they do not replace the love within
us. They are literally a bad dream.
explains that our mind has been split in two, with one
part staying in touch with love, and the other part
veering into fear. Fear manufactures a kind of parallel
universe where the unreal seems more real than the real.
Course in Miracles, sin is loveless perception.
The way out of sin or fear is through opening the mind
to God or love. Love casts out fear the way light casts
out darkness. The shift from fear to love is what the
Course means by a miracle.
the real source of our problems, which is always on
the level of consciousness. Thoughts are like data programmed
into a computer, registered on the screen of your life.
If you don’t like what you see on the screen,
there’s no point in trying to erase it off the
screen. If you don’t like the effects in your
life, you have to change the nature of your thinking
because thought is cause; experience is effect.
Thoughts of love in your
mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning
Thoughts of fear in your
mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning
worldly problems are actually just symptoms of the real
problem, which is always a lack of love. The miracle,
a shift from fear to love, works on an invisible plane.
It transforms the world at the causal level. Anything
else is just a temporary palliative, a fix but not a healing,
a treatment of the symptom but not a cure.
To say, "God, please
help me," means, "God, correct my thinking."
"Deliver me from
hell," means "Deliver me from my insane thoughts."
will not violate the law of cause and effect. It is
the most basic law of consciousness. As long as we follow
the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have done
to you), we are safe. Adam and Eve were happy until
she "ate of the knowledge of good and evil."
What that means is that everything was perfect until
they began to judge, to keep their hearts open sometimes,
but closed at others. "I love you if you do this,
but not if you do that."
our hearts destroys our peace. It's alien to our real
nature. It warps us and turns us into people we're not
meant to be. Freud defined neurosis as separation from
Self, and so it is. The real Self is the love within
us. It's the Child of God. The fearful self is an imposter.
The return to love is the great cosmic drama, the personal
journey from pretense to self, from pain to inner peace.
is no time, no place, no state where God is absent."
have been times in my life, when I have felt that sadness
would overwhelm me. Something didn’t turn out
the way I wanted it to, or there was some conflict between
myself and someone else, or I was afraid of what was
going to happen or not happen in the future.
in those moments can be so painful, and the mind begins
an endless search for things that could make us feel
better, or change the situation.
learned from the Course is that the change we’re
really looking for is inside our heads. Our outer circumstances
will always be in flux. One day they love you; the next
day you’re their target. One day a situation is
running smoothly; the next day chaos reigns. One day
you feel like you're an okay person; the next day you
feel like you're an utter failure. What can change,
however, is how we perceive those experiences. And that
shift in our perception is the meaning of miracles.
a Biblical story where Jesus says we can build our house
on sand or we can build it on rock. When our house is
built on sand, then the winds and rain can tear it down.
When our house is built on rock, then it’s sturdy
and strong and the storms can’t destroy it.
is our emotional stability. When it is built on sand,
our sense of well-being is based on circumstances working
out our way, based on fleeting things and passing moods.
One disappointing phone call and we crumble.
is built on rock, we’re not so vulnerable to life’s
passing dramas. Our emotional stability rests on something
more enduring, something permanent and strong. When
our house is built on rock, it means we're depending
on the higher reality of God.
never realized that depending on God meant depending
on love. I had heard it said that God was love, but
it had never kicked in for me exactly what that meant.
As I began
to study A Course in Miracles, I discovered the following
things about God: He is the perfect unconditional love
within us. Whether we follow Him, i.e., think with perfect
love, is entirely up to us. When we choose to love,
or to allow our minds to be one with God, then life
is wonderful. When we turn away from love, the pain
sets in. So when we think with God, life is peaceful.
When we think without Him, life is painful. And that’s
the mental choice we make, every moment of every day.
Thought God holds of you is like a star, unchangeable
in an eternal sky."
you is the love within you. The perfect you isn’t
something you need to create, because God created it.
To remember that you are part of God, that you are love,
is not arrogant. It’s humble.
you are anything else is arrogant, because it implies
you created yourself. Your job is to allow the Holy
Spirit to remove the fearful thinking that surrounds
your perfect self. Love is changeless and therefore
so are you.
Carl Jung posited the notion of the collective unconscious.
His idea was that if you went deep into your mind, and
deep into mine, there is a level we all share. The Course
goes one step further; if you go deep into your mind,
and deep into mine, we have the same mind.
of a divine or Christ mind is the idea that, at our
core, we are not just identical, but actually the same
being. "There is only one begotten Son" doesn’t
mean that Jesus was it, and we’re not. It means
we’re all it. There’s only one of us here.
like the spokes on a wheel, all radiating out from the
same center. If you define us according to our position
on the rim, we seem separate. But if you define us according
to our source, the center of the wheel, we’re
a shared identity. At the bottom of it all, what we
are is love.
Christ is a psychological term. No religion has a monopoly
on the truth. Christ refers to the common thread of
divine love that is the core and essence of every human
The love in one of us is the love in all of us. There's
actually no place where God stops and you start, and
no place where you stop and I start. Love is energy,
an infinite continuum. Your mind extends into mine and
into everyone else's. It doesn't stay enclosed within
in Miracles likens us to sunbeams thinking we’re
separate from the sun, or waves thinking we’re
separate from the ocean. Just as a sunbeam can’t
separate itself from the sun, and a wave can’t
separate itself from the ocean, we can’t separate
ourselves from one another. We are all part of a sea
of love, one indivisible divine mind.
of who we really are doesn't change; we just forget
it. We identify with the notion of a small, separate
self, instead of the idea of a reality we share with
who you think you are. Aren’t you glad? You’re
not your grades, or your credentials, or your resume,
or your house. We aren’t those things at all.
We are holy beings, individual cells in the body of
Christ. We are who God created us to be. We are all
one, we are love itself. Accepting the Christ is merely
a shift in self-perception. We awaken from the dream
that we are finite, isolated creatures, and recognize
that we are glorious, infinitely creative spirits.
of today’s most common psychological orientation
is to analyze the darkness in order to reach the light,
thinking that if we focus on our neuroses, their origins
and dynamics, then we will move beyond them. But, we
get in life that which we focus on. Continual focus
on darkness leads us, as individuals and as a society,
further into darkness. To focus on Christ means to focus
on the goodness and power that lie latent within us,
in order to invoke them into realization and expression.
accept the Christ within" means, "I
accept the beauty within me as who I really am. I am
not my weakness. I am not my anger. I am not my small-mindedness.
I am much much more. And I am willing to be reminded
of who I really am."
to Love by
Marianne Williamson presents
the principles of A Course in Miracles with simplicity