tumblr visitor


Welcome to the website of

Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD

A Message of Hope for Troubled Times

Email: TheThomasBook@gmail.com





The Philosophy Behind
Course in Miracles 

© Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD

(quoted from Part One, Chapter Four of The Thomas Book)

Members of the Course in Miracles community “think differently,” and are actually quite open in claiming that they use a different logic than the rest of the world, as I will summarize briefly in what follows here.

        The starting point of the philosophy behind A Course in Miracles is the assertion that the world as we know it is not real and the usual logic which we use is one of the sources of our suffering.

        The only reality is the Divine Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Humanity, collectively, is the “Son of God.” The world is an illusion, like a movie which the Son of God (humanity) has projected out of ignorance. It may appear that the Son of God (human­ity) suffers in this self-created world, but suffering, and our whole physical existence, is really only a dream.

        The way out of the dream is forgiveness. Once we are able to forgive others and the world, to “overlook,” or forgive, the error which brought the world into being, and continues to maintain the illusion, we will literally no longer see the world and its suffering. The title of Gary’s first book, The Disappearance of the Universe, reflects these beliefs: once we “forgive” the universe, it will disappear.

        One of the weaknesses of the philosophy is that it is not made clear what “forgiveness” or “overlooking” are. Much of the difference of opinion (and outright animosity) within the Community, revolves around these terms. It is not clear either how “forgiveness,” whatever that is, can cause the world to disappear.

        In the Course view, Jesus did not suffer, because he knew the truth that there is no suffering and consequently did not manifest it for himself. We only manifest suffering when we “make it real” for ourselves by doing something like get angry or sad or frustrated or jealous. If we can “forgive” every event, we can make it not real. Gary apparently says in his lectures that Jesus never got angry because anger would only make the reason for the anger, which is illusory, into something real.

        When we think Jesus suffered (as in the “Passion of Christ” movie), the Course says that what we are really doing is projecting our own fears of suffering onto Jesus. We do this also every time we think there is error in anyone else — the error is actually in us and we project it into the illusion which seems to be around us, by the mere fact of recognizing that it is there. If we choose not to recog­nize the error, to “choose a better way,” then the error is supposed to disappear. Jesus’ ability to “overlook” or “forgive” all error leads, in this view, to the possibility of the disappearance of the universe — and hence the end of our suffering. When enough people can overlook error, can stop projecting error into the illusion, then the Course claims the universe will cease to exist.

        It is not clear why the universe still exists, since Jesus is supposed to have been perfect and is supposed to have given the complete forgiveness of God to the universe. One would think that the uni­verse would already have disappeared if the philosophy is at all correct.

        Although the Course does not go this far, Gary (or his Ascended Masters) even says that God cannot be aware of our suffering and does not care about our suffering, because God cannot know any illusion. God does not know about our pain and so does not make it real. We are thus free to make it unreal by overlooking or forgiv­ing it. God is completely separate from the illusion which we live and cannot help us with our problems. If He did help us, He would be acknowledging that our suffering is real, which is impossible for God to do. In order to help us, God created the Holy Spirit to help us change our way of seeing the world.

        It is not clear from Gary’s writing or from the Course how God was aware enough of our suffering (without actually being aware of our suffering — thus making it real) to decide to create the Holy Spirit. It is not clear either how the Holy Spirit can be aware of our suffering without God (who is inseparable from the Holy Spirit) being aware also, but these are some of the contradictions within the system.

        If this seems like circular logic, it is. It is only with a lot of work that people are able to adopt this logic. In fact, there is a Workbook with daily exercises which, when practiced regularly, make it pos­sible for the reader to enter more fully into this circular logic. My conclusion, after trying the exercises, is that it is a form of brain washing where any sense of the reality of the world and our place in it is replaced with the views outlined above. I notice on the inter­net that there are a number of people helping former Course mem­ bers overcome the effects of this logic on their lives. They speak of the ideas as a trap, a cult, a distortion which poisons relations with family and friends.

        There is an interesting similarity here with an early Christian sect called the Docetists, from the Greek dokeo, “to seem.” This similarity will be important later in our discussion of reincarnation identity theft. The Docetists also argued that Jesus did not suf­fer — he only “seemed” to suffer, because God cannot suffer. For the Docetists, as for the Course Community, the world and our suffering likewise only seemed to be real.

        Like Gary, the Docetists felt that, as soon as we see the unreality of suffering and the world, and replace it with the realization that the only reality is God, we will be free, because our suffering only exists as long as we believe in the pain. (This also has similarities with Christian Science which is essentially a docetic movement.) The only differences between the Course and the Docetists is that the Docetists felt it was necessary to perceive the world differently and the Course says we must “forgive” the world, “overlook” the error — which may actually be the same thing.

        The effects of this philosophy on human relations are quite strik­ing. The Course teachers often use the metaphor of the theatre. You need to think of yourself as a projector, they say, projecting a movie, which is the world. Since whatever is outside us is illusion which we have projected there, if we see error in someone else (out­side), we are really only confirming that it is in ourselves (the actual source of the projection). When we “forgive” the other person, we are actually forgiving ourselves, from whom the error came in the first place.

        Applying this logic strictly in the case of murder, for instance, if the police accuse someone of being a murderer, which is by defini­tion an illusion, then the police must be the murderers for having seen an error which does not exist. The police, or even the victims of murder, are projecting this image into the world and are thus making it real. Instead of accusing, they should forgive and the murder will cease to exist — if only it were who wants to question the morality of any action and correct it. If Gary’s critics see dishonesty in Gary, the Course view is that they are actually only seeing it in themselves and projecting it onto Gary. Thus, in the view of many members of the Course commu­nity, it is the critics who accuse Gary of fraud, not Gary who is accused of fraud, who are guilty as soon as they have seen the fraud and named it.

        To an outsider, this logic seems hopelessly contradictory and in practice it leads to an inability to deal with conflict within the com­munity, as a number of members have discovered as they try to deal with the problem of Gary and his critics.

        If the fault which we see is in the fault-finder, not in the one who seems to have committed the offense, people will be at pains not to see error in Gary’s writings (or in anything else) for fear they will be convicted of the fault they point out. Instead, they are encouraged to “overlook” and “forgive” the fault, instead of pointing it out and asking for an explanation. Demanding that others be accountable for their actions is seen as “attack” instead of “love.” Thus, although forgiveness is the aim of the community, members are forced to accept anything that anyone else does as valid, for fear of being seen as the perpetrator of any error they point out.

        We can see this played out in Gary’s case. Gary’s critics merely asked for clarification of certain apparent contradictions in his work. In response, Gary wrote a vicious, personal attack against them, without addressing any of the contradictions. After Gary’s reply to his critics, in which he said that he pitied Jon and accused him of “Professional jealousy and mindless attack on a fellow Course teacher,” as well as dishonesty and acting from vested inter­est instead of integrity, Jon withdrew in seeming hurt and bewil­derment and published an “Apology” in which he said that he still did not believe Pursah and Arten were real, but that he acknowl­edged that Gary did. “Let’s sit down in San Francisco and talk about more pleasant things,” Jon Mundy says, and that seemed to be enough. Jon cannot call Gary to account for dishonesty because that easy. by doing that, Jon is acknowledging that he is the source of conflict, not Gary. Many other members sided with Gary and attacked Jon in language which was so offensive the journal said they could not print it. There was obviously no room to address the whole ques­tion of honesty or truthfulness in this case because the only value held up by the community is a vague “forgiveness.” Strangely, this “forgiveness” did not seem to apply to forgiving Gary’s critics. Members even felt free to use extremely offensive language in con­demning them.

        To an outsider, the whole exchange seems a bit ludicrous. Either Pursah and Arten are real or they are fabrications. It would seem that one should be able to bring up questions about honesty with­out feeling guilty for doing so, but the logic of the community makes this impossible.

        The problem becomes more serious in regard to the blatant intimidation which Gary uses against his opponents. He teaches forgiveness, yet his reaction to his former colleagues and friends is not forgiveness but vicious attack. He even admits he emailed Bev­erly Hutchins with the following, when she refused to sell his books: “If you care about your image and your place in Course his­tory then you’ll give very strong consideration to changing the nature of our relationship.” In another email to Beverly he says: “The way things stand now, you will not be happy with my next book.” This is direct blackmail. Gary does not feel he has to change anything — it is Beverly who must change. He threatens to portray her in a negative light if she continues to refuse to sell his books, but if she will sell his books, he will change how he portrays her.

        Similarly, Gary quotes an email he wrote to Jon Mundy: “If you continue to try to attack me, I predict that only one of us is going to be hurt, and it’s not going to be me.” In whatever context, this is a threat, and his whole reply was obviously letting any future critics, including me, know that the critic was the one who would be hurt.

            If the only value in relationships is forgiveness, then questions of honesty, blackmail, intimidation and betrayal of trust are swept under the carpet — and very few people in the Course community seem to be willing or able to question this kind of conduct on Gary’s part. As we have seen, in the logic of the Course, these issues cannot be raised.

(The above is quoted from The Thomas Book, Part One, Chapter 4.)