Oprah and A Course in Miracles

Written by Darren Hewer

faith_oprahOprah Winfrey is the highest ranked TV talk show host in history, and every day millions of Americans tune in to The Oprah Winfrey Show. There is much to admire about her, including the philanthropic efforts of her various charities. She is deeply respected by her many viewers, and was able to become one of the most well-known media magnates despite a difficult childhood.

A 2004 study concluded that the “Oprah effect” of her endorsement of a book on her show equals on average $80million in sales.[1] With such great influence should come great responsibility. Many of Oprah’s viewers are eager to embrace whatever she recommends, so she should use careful judgment when making endorsements on her show.

Recently Oprah began promoting something called A Course in Miracles” (hereafter ACIM) on her show and website. This course is described on the site as “a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy” and “an educational program for retraining the mind that is spiritual, rather than religious.” This teaching, by Oprah’s close friend Marianne Williamson, offers a way to live a “more loving and peaceful life.” What is the origin of this teaching, and what does ACIM actually teach?

Although ACIM claims not to be a religion (the website explicitly states the course “is not a religion”) the teaching has a religious foundation. In 1965 psychologist Helen Schucman claimed she began dramatically experiencing an inner voice saying “This is a course in miracles; please take notes.” With help of fellow professor William Thetford she transcribed what she claimed the Voice was saying to her. The result was eventually edited by Ken Wapnick and published in 1975 by the Foundation for Inner Peace (formerly known as the Foundation for Parasensory Investigation) .

Religion scholar Dr James A. Beverley notes, regarding the formative years of the movement, that

it was regularly claimed that Jesus was the ultimate source of ACIM. In fact, Wapnick stated at one point, “It was very clear to me that Helen could not have written it and I just could not imagine it having any other source than Jesus himself.”” [2]

If true, this would be a valuable resource which would help us understand Jesus’ life and teachings better. What, then, does ACIM teach? Among other things, the course teaches that:

“The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself.”
“God’s Name is holy, but no holier than yours. To call upon His Name is to call upon your own.”
“There is no sin.”
“The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol … It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray.”
“Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross.’”

Regardless of what we conclude about ACIM, we must at least admit that the Jesus we find here is nothing like the Jesus of the Bible. Much like The Secret (last year’s New Age fad which was also featured on Oprah’s show) ACIM claims that we are all “God”. Also like The Secret, ACIM sometimes uses Christian language, but changes the meanings of the words so that they convey entirely different messages, and even ends up disrespecting Jesus by remaking him how they would like him to be rather than how he really was.

The New Testament documents, which were written in the first century AD by eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry (or those who consulted eyewitnesses) describe a very real Jesus (ie not just a symbol) who acknowledged the reality of God and sin, and called people back into full relationship with God. There is no evidence of the ACIM‘s Jesus to be found in the New Testament. Why trust ACIM instead of the Bible, which was written about 1900 years before Helen Schucman claimed to have her visions?

Some who embrace ACIM do so, in part, out of rebellion against the perceived dogmatism, blind faith and exclusivity of the Christian faith. Ironically, ACIM is extremely dogmatic. Its purpose is “thought reversal” and it encourages readers to practice its ideas without exception even if they find them to be unbelievable. In other words, simply believe and follow its exclusive truth without questioning … some of the very things many find distasteful about traditional religions.

As it turns out, all beliefs are exclusive, even the belief that there are no true beliefs… that belief excludes those who think there are true beliefs! The question is: Which beliefs are right and which are wrong? We’ve seen that the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus described in ACIM cannot both be described accurately. Which, then, is true? The question is not merely an academic one; it has practical implications for our daily lives.

Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times. How do our lives become this way? Is it the case that, as ACIM teaches, there really is no evil in the world, and that we can all have peace in our lives if we merely believe that we can? Or is the deeper problem that our pain isn’t just imaginary, it is real?

If you sometimes feel guilty, you’re … well, just like everyone else on the planet. Why do we feel guilty? Perhaps we feel guilty because we are guilty. Guilty of what? Turning away from God and living a life apart from Him.

The bad news is that all of the self-help lectures and affirmative thinking in the world won’t save us. A person drowning in quicksand cannot struggle their way out. Their struggles will inevitably just pull them further down.

The good news of the Gospel is that, through Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, we may restore our relationship with God, if we accept the gift God presents to us, renounce our former lives and put our trust in God as the center of our lives. Although we lack the ability, by our own efforts, to bridge the gap between God and us, Jesus, being simultaneously and uniquely fully God and fully a human being, took initiative and the punishment we deserved on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be renewed.

You can start a new life (be “reborn”) right now by faith (trust) through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. Praying gives us the opportunity to begin to know and have a loving relationship with God, who doesn’t answer our requests like a genie from a lamp but instead promises to listen and to love us. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

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23 Responses to “Oprah and A Course in Miracles”

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Tom, I recognize that many people don’t agree with you. That is my point exactly. How could God trust HIs truth to our inward experience when so many people’s inward experiences point them in different directions? They can’t all be right because they are in opposition to each other. I think the reasonable assumption is that our inward experiences can be impacted by many different influences and so to trust totally on inward experiences alone can be misleading.

    Have you ever had an inward experience that turned out wrong? A trust in another person that eventually betrayed or hurt you? A feeling that something was true but later was shown to be false?

  • Tom says:

    (“But at the same time I also know that sometimes my inward experiences can point me in the wrong direction. Emotions are not always reliable”)

    I didn’t say anything about emotions, Lol, you see what I mean about illusions? You see what you want to see.

    (“I have had opportunity of interacting with people from many different faith backgrounds and I think we all would say”)

    99% of the population does Not agree with what I believe. :) It doesn’t change any reality, I may be wrong, they maybe wrong. A majority opinion does not a mean a thing. For instance, the majority of the people voted in every president we have, I may be wrong, but, this country is up to it’s neck in debt, crime is on the rise, Americans are still dying every day in wars , and the war on drugs is out of control, shall I go on? I can. Interact all you want, if that works for you.

    (“If He wants to be worshipped”)

    I’m pretty sure He doesn’t need or want us to worship Him, He has no ego that needs stroking.

    (“Or does the evidence confirm what God says, “the human heart is desperately wicked”?”)

    I’m guessing all of your “evidence” comes from the bible, and that you believe it to be the word of God, every bit of it right? Are you sure everything in the bible is the word of God? After all is followers were so brilliant right? These apostles, seems to me were none to bright, Jesus was constantly correcting them. Then purely from memory, 30, 40, up to 70 years later, they are writing the bible from pure memory. Then the words were translated through several languages, broken down and changed to some degree. Research it.

    Then we were born 2000 years later, and were programmed, taught that it was all true. Do not question the bible, do not question the church, just believe sweetheart. Do not have an open mind, Do not have your own experience with the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of you, and examine the evidence of that experience and let Him guide you to truth., No indeed not. And last but not least, don’t examine the difference between and emotion and an inward Spiritual experience.

    Namaste’

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Sorry Tom, I mixed up that Danny had spoken to a Guru not you.

    I think I understand the importance of having an inward experience. I know that my confidence in Jesus comes in part from an intimacy I experience with Him. But at the same time I also know that sometimes my inward experiences can point me in the wrong direction. Emotions are not always reliable and can be influenced by other things. If the foundation of our evidence is your inward experience how can you be sure it is accurate? I have had opportunity of interacting with people from many different faith backgrounds and I think we all would say about our worldview, “It feels right” and yet the things we believe are sometimes diametrically opposed to one another. Obviously we are not all worshipping the same “God”(however we might define that) and some of us must be wrong in our inward experience of God. My understanding of God is that He would not leave it up to our inward experience to judge truth. If He wants to be worshipped He would communicate Himself to us in ways that we can be certain about.

    You say we are Pure and Innocent, yet I see a world full of self-centred humans making choices that are best for themselves at the expense of others. The evidence points to a different reality than what you suggest. Can we just say, “I feel Pure and Innocent inside” and accept that? Or does the evidence confirm what God says, “the human heart is desperately wicked”?

  • Tom says:

    “Are you able to point me to the parts of the book that gave you the evidence you needed to accept that humans are Pure and Innocent, that it is ego that corrupts, that everything in this world is illusion? Will I find your guru’s evidence that we are all one consciousness?”

    I don’t have a guru. I don’t measure evidence by written word, or spoken word. I measure it by inward experience, and I am thankful for that. At times the written, or spoken word will open up the opportunity for an experience.

    Words are open to interpretation, as is perception. I am not here to prove anything to you, I only asked that you be open to an experience.

    You might like me to quote parts of a book I read, which would enable you to debate them. I realize that this forum is for exactly that. I have no interest in that, debate is an ego characteristic. I am already an ego maniac, Lol, no need to add fuel to it.

    I respect your opinion and your beliefs, after all if they serve God and you well, isn’t that all that matters?

    Peace !

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Sorry Tom, I didn’t realize that ACIM was too complicated to be discussed in a forum like this and can only be understood by reading the book. Are you able to point me to the parts of the book that gave you the evidence you needed to accept that humans are Pure and Innocent, that it is ego that corrupts, that everything in this world is illusion? Will I find your guru’s evidence that we are all one consciousness? I was hoping that you could give me some compelling evidence that would give good reason to explore the issue further. But I guess the evidence is something that can only be explained through the book.

    That’s one of the things that I appreciate about the message of Jesus: the essentials are easy to explain and easily match the evidence we see in around us. Yes, there are complex parts to it because it describes an unlimited God using limited human language but the part that deals with the brokenness of humanity and our only hope being God Himself is straightforward and fits with what can be observed in the world around us. Generally speaking, the simple message is the accurate message.

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    good article thank you for posting this

  • Tom says:

    “So again, what evidence do you have that humans are Pure and Innocent? How do you know that it is the ego that corrupts and not the nature that is already corrupted?”

    You have convinced me that you are not going to read ACIM, I would discuss it with you had read it, otherwise it is futile. I will say that you are right, as a child of God, you are always right. I have enjoyed the conversation, but I think I am done here. God Bless

  • Aldo Aldo says:

    God’s Word is Truth-John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

    Jesus is the Word of God-John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
    God, and the Word was God.”

    The Truth is incontrovertible-Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”

    incontrovertible- not able to be denied or disputed.
    synonyms: indisputable, incontestable, undeniable, irrefutable, unassailable, beyond dispute, unquestionable, beyond question, indubitable, beyond doubt, unarguable, undebatable; certain, sure, definite, definitive, proven, decisive, conclusive, demonstrable, emphatic, categorical, airtight, watertight

    Consequently, the truth remains the truth whether it (He) is believed or not.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    So again, what evidence do you have that humans are Pure and Innocent? How do you know that it is the ego that corrupts and not the nature that is already corrupted?

    I have seen “A Beautiful Mind”. My recollection is that it tells of the devastation of paranoid schizophrenia. It is a very troubling thing to be unable to trust your perceptions. I have known a few schizophrenic people in my life and I have seen the frustration of living without an anchor to know what is truth. For some the solution is to take medications that adjust the chemical make-up of their brain and, ideally, realign their perceptions with reality, Others, like Nash-the real life person the movie is based on, find some other anchor point that they trust and use that to realign their perceptions.

    I think that in many ways, that describes our human condition quite well: because our nature is corrupted we cannot trust our perceptions. We need to find an anchor point that around which we can realign our perceptions with reality. I guess that’s why I keep on coming back to “What evidence do you have…” If your evidence is based on “this is what makes sense to me” then it lacks credibility because your perceptions are unreliable. I have confidence in “This is what God has said…” because the anchor point is not dependent on my corrupted nature but on God’s incorruptible nature. I can know that He is truth and trustworthy to point me towards truth.

  • Tom says:

    “We don’t have to teach children to do the wrong things because it is our nature to act selfishly.”

    Oh my Goodness, you speak as if our nature is our ego, or what religious people call satan. You my dear are Pure and Innocent, you are exactly as God created you. Your ego on the other hand is selfish, and fearful. Your perception is upside down, your nature is Love. You are completely identified with your ego, which is not a bad thing, it is just where you are now. You will not be left there, you are not an ego, or a body, you are Spirit.

    We believe that we are of a split mind, light, and darkness. When darkness is brought to light, it is shined away into the nothingness from which it came. The body also disappears back into the nothingness from which it came, even science tells us this.

    We are always being taught, even in our sleeping moments, the mind never sleeps. Our teacher has been our ego, as long as we listen to it, we will not hear the Holy Spirit, who waits patiently. Salvation is found in changing the teacher. Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.

    “With the world seeming very real to our senses I would think that significant evidence would be required to convince a person that it is all illusion.”

    There is a great movie which stars Russell Crow, based on a true story. It is very entertaining also. “A Beautiful Mind” It deals with illusion and how real it seems, Maybe if you have time you can watch it, I would like to hear your thoughts on it. Thanks

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am sorry Tom. I am not trying to shoot down ACIM, I just am curious what led you to have the conviction that the world we live in is an illusion. With the world seeming very real to our senses I would think that significant evidence would be required to convince a person that it is all illusion.

    The Bible does talk about a spiritual reality the we are not fully aware of that does impact our reality but it does not diminish the genuine nature of our physical existence. One of the amazing aspects of God’s love for us is that He chose to enter into our physical reality in order to rescue us from the darkness of our own hearts. So the evidence of that reality is the testimony of God, not the perception of our own spirit. As much as I would like to think that I have clear perceptions, when I am honest with myself, I have to admit that even the good things I do comes from a selfish darkness in my heart. We don’t have to teach children to do the wrong things because it is our nature to act selfishly.

    When a person puts their trust in Jesus He begins a transformation and purification of their nature so that they become more and more a reflection of the image of God that we were called to bear originally. To me, that explanation of the problem and the solution for humanity rings true. What part of ACIM makes sense with your observations of human nature’s problems and the solution?

  • Tom says:

    “Tom, you say that the world is what we have dreamed: on what do you base that conviction? Is there evidence that everything is illusion?”

    I think that we are all on a journey, and that God comes to us all in His unique way. Your evidence is Bible based, mine comes from ACIM. I’ve read the bible, if you would read A course in miracles , we could have an evidence based discussion. The course text is about 679 pages. I can’t really do it justice here. But I’m sure that someone shooting it down without reading it is not doing it justice either.

    I have read numerous religious and spiritual books. I base my beliefs on how my Spirit responds to what I am reading, and what experience it brings. Words are but symbols, twice removed from reality, a spiritual experience cannot be described accurately with words, at least mine cannot.

    If what you are doing works for you, then I encourage you to continue it. My only advice is to remain open, God may want to show you something you won’t find in the bible.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks for sharing that analogy Danny. I would imagine that a duck thinks of himself as a “quack”. That is similar to me identifying a guy as ‘German’ when they would refer to himself as ‘Deutsch’.

    What evidence did your Guru give to explain that we are all one consciousness?

    The Bible would agree that all of humanity is connected because of how God created us to reflect His image but God also created us as physical beings with unique identity apart from all the rest of the human race. It is kind of captured in that famous verse John 3:16, “God loved the world [that would refer to our collective community as Image bearers] that He gave His only unique Son, so that anyone who believes in Him [this speaks of our individual responsibility to believe and follow Jesus] will not perish but have everlasting life.” The choice to believe in Jesus or not by each human character has an impact on their consciousness. To choose to believe brings life, but to choose not to believe results in perishing.

    Knowing Jesus and following Him in every part of your life is the best way to live. That is what we were created for. That’s why we all have a longing within to be joined to something greater than ourselves. I can understand why the idea of a single consciousness is appealing; it helps answer that longing for connecting. But being connected to every other life-form in a single consciousness ignores that the source of our longing is to be connected to God, living out the purpose for which He created us. If you want to find out more about how that longing can be fulfilled in Jesus have a look at this http://powertochange.com/itv/spirituality/the-void/ I would be interested in hearing what you think of it.

  • Danny says:

    After reading the course in Miracles 3 times, I came across a Guru who explained it perfectly, he said, imagine that a TV screen is Consciousness and that the characters on the screen is the mind. What ever happens to the characters on the screen will never have any effect on the Screen or consciousness. Since we are all sharing one consciousness, you can see how the world is just sitting on this conscious screen. Here is a good one, we each have a name that we were given. It is not what you actually are, when you see a duck and say, there is a duck! Do you think that the duck thinks he is a duck? You are only consciousness. With light and dark, black and white, good and bad, consciousness knows them both. So whatever that is happening on the screen is only as important as the value you give it. Hope this helps some of my brothers obtain the fun of recognizing yourself completely!
    Peace to everyone, everywhere!

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for helping me to understand your position more clearly. It is good to be able to share ideas like this and through that get a better understanding of God, each other and the world we live in.

    When Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you” he was responding to a question about when the Kingdom of God would come. This is a question of when God would come and reign over the Earth. It was a reflection of the prophecies in the Bible that refer to the judgement of God over the sinfulness of humanity. Prophecies like what God spoke through Daniel, “and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” That was what the people to whom Jesus spoke were looking for and if they were going to believe in Jesus, He had to prove Himself by doing exactly that.

    But Jesus’ response to them was that first, the Kingdom of God must come to your heart: if anyone hopes to see God reign in the world they must let God reign in their own hearts. There will be a day when Jesus will come in great power. In the verses following this statement Jesus goes into detail about what the signs are when that great day will come, but His statement, “the Kingdom of God is within in you” is an encouragement to allow God to reign first in your heart or when He does establish His Kingdom, you will find yourself on the outside as an enemy of God.

    God’s goal is not ‘world domination': He created the world and is more than able to establish a kingdom that no one could oppose. But His passion is to be the King of our heart. That’s why Jesus came and showed us who God is in a way that we cannot ignore. That’s why Jesus died, so that we could have a way to be a part of God’s kingdom.

    Tom, you say that the world is what we have dreamed: on what do you base that conviction? Is there evidence that everything is illusion?

  • Tom says:

    “How does the Urantia Book and the Course on Miracles deal with the demand for justice?”

    We assume that life takes place outside of us, because we see things, they look so real, so vivid, so solid. Jesus said ” The Kingdom of Heaven is within you ” This means that life takes place inside, not outside. I don’t mean inside of the body, but inside of the Mind. I really am sorry Jamie, but there is nothing outside of you.

    God did not create this world, bodies, are anything else we think we see here. It’s very arrogant to blame God for what we have dreamed up. There is a reason for the phrase “Spiritual Awakening” We sleep, and we dream. What God creates is not subject to the laws of time. What God creates does not change, age, suffer, die and decay. Please don’t sell the Creator short.

    Do you demand justice from the figures in a dream, as you wake up frightened in the night? There is no injustice, there is no physical form of any kind.

  • Tom says:

    As long as you believe you deserve punishment, you will certainly be punished, but please don’t don’t pin that on God. Behavior is dictated by perception, no one of sound mind and clear perception is able to harm anyone. If your perception is distorted you will behave selfishly, and badly, causing what seems to be harm to self and others.

    Do you believe someone with a *sound, * healthy mind would choose heel over Heaven? Ponder that, who of sound mind would choose eternal torture over Heavenly Bliss?

    That being said, an unhealthy mind, distorted perception is an illness. Would a Loving God punish a sick person?

    I am pretty sure I will get nowhere with this conversation, as your mind is likely closed, and you believe what you believe, which is judgment. I speak from experience, I have been where you are, Bless you.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    “We deserve punishment?” That is a fair question Tom. I think we all recognize that we have acted selfishly in life at different points but why do those actions deserve punishment? Are they really that bad? Our sense of justice recognizes that the more valuable the victim of our selfishness is the more severe the penalty must be. In my selfishness to get from one place to another I can kill a lot of insects with my car. Nobody pays much attention to that because of the value of those insects. Now in my selfishness, if I happen to hit someone’s cat suddenly the consequences are more severe; that cat is important to someone and our society values pets. Even more so, If I were to hit a person with my car the penalty for my action becomes much more intense: humans have great value and the consequence of taking that life is significant. God, as the Creator of everything, who has created us for a purpose, is of infinite value which means to act selfishly towards Him has extreme consequences. It is not that God is so ‘full of His own importance’ but it is inherently an injustice and deserves punishment. We have all seen people be mistreated but the victim does not press charges. There is an inherent injustice that we feel when selfishness like goes unpunished. If our selfishness toward God were unpunished there would be an outcry against such an injustice.

    The wonder of this though is that God loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself in order to pay the penalty for our selfishness towards Him. Since He is of infinite value, His death is of infinite efficacy to cover all of our selfishness toward Him. Justice is served, the penalty is paid and we now are free from the cost of our sin against God. That is the Good News of Jesus for you.

    How does the Urantia Book and the Course on Miracles deal with the demand for justice?

  • Tom says:

    Jamie, The nonsense Dave is referring to the statement below, and he is right.

    “Jesus, being simultaneously and uniquely fully God and fully a human being, took initiative and the punishment we deserved on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be renewed.”

    We deserve punishment? Really?

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Dave, that’s good that you have found something that helps you make decisions in life on how to treat other people, especially your children. Our relationships with our kids is such a crucial part of society because those years of child rearing are so formative for them. The foundation of how our children make decisions and live their lives happens during those years at home and the responsibility of parents to help build a solid foundation can be very daunting.

    The Bible really helps me understand why my kids need love and direction. It also helps me understand why I feel so inadequate for the task but gives me hope that God can help guide me to love and direct the development of my children. I realize that we all seem to have this bent towards self-centeredness and that creates a lot of issues in our relationship with others, the environment around us and even with ourselves. God lovingly brings discipline to help me recognize my self-centeredness and change those attitudes. I can follow the example of Jesus on how to live and love selflessly. Jesus helps me to know how to relate to other people including my children. My kids need that same kind of loving discipline and I can trust Jesus to help me do that well.

    How has the Urantia Book and the Course in Miracles helped you to understand your kids and guide their development?

  • Dave says:

    The whole idea of slapping one kid for the wrongdoing of another never turned my crank and never will! That is why I turned to the Urantia Book and the Course In Miracles, because neither of them preach that kind of nonsense.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Danny, I appreciate your desire to help reveal truth. There are a lot of ideas around that are misrepresentations of truth and can do a lot of damage to people and relationships, so knowing what is true is very important.

    What has led you to discern that A Course in Miracles is teaching truth? What is the standard of truth that you used to measure A Course in Miracles?

  • Danny says:

    A Course in Miracles is a book which teaches Truth. You cannot claim to know the Truth more than Jesus. If any student studies the course they will find the Truth and not a Truth that you think you own as a group called Christians! That mentality is only the Ego hiding the Truth from you. Do not be afraid to look upon it for yourself before judging.
    God Bless Brother!

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