An Introduction to studying A Course of Love - Thursday, December 1st, 11:30-12:30
What is A Course of Love?
ACOL is more than a book. It’s a complete course on Self-knowledge, a body of transformative wisdom, a new way of living and being in the world.
Most books enter our lives to inform us. A Course of Love enters our lives to transform us.
A Course of Love (ACOL) is one of those few: a book that changes lives. ACOL is a complete course on Self-knowledge leading to lasting benefits to your life. It’s not a book of mental concepts, but one that reaches into your heart and works a transformation.
Listen, for example, to the words a reviewer posted on Amazon.com:
This is the most transformative book I’ve ever encountered! It is truly a gift. . . You will be transformed if you read it and take it in!
Kathryn A. Twinfeathers, Reviewer
ACOL posits that all changes we would like to see happening in our lives, even in the world, stem from a single change: moving from seeing ourselves as separate individuals, to seeing the truth that we are an integral part of life, and of an eternal Consciousness that exists in Unity.
This realization has a profound impact on the way we live and interact with others. As we live by the truth of who we are, the inherent qualities of our Being begin to infuse the inner and outer aspects of life, bringing change at every level. As ACOL puts it,
The only difference between the life you are living and the life you want lies in your willingness to express who you are.
You stand not separate and apart from anything. How difficult it is to believe that you need not change the world but only your own self. How difficult to imagine that this one change could bring about all the changes you would imagine that even an army of angels could not bring about.
As we remember our true identity, we let go of previous limiting beliefs that brought about experiences of struggle, loneliness, and pain. Our authentic Self leads us to live in certainty and with a clear sense of meaning and purpose.
The three books in the Combined Volume: The Course, The Treatises, The Dialogues
The Combined Volume, published by Take Heart Publications, includes all three books that form A Course of Love: The Course, The Treatises, and The Dialogues. Its presentation is developed carefully. It is easiest to understand when the three books are read from the beginning and in sequence.
The Course provides you with what is needed to live as who you really are. The Treatises help integrate this new understanding into daily life. The Dialogues invite you to live newly, in union and relationship, in dialogue, and as the creators you are. This brief passage summarizes it:
A Course of Love gave you the understanding you needed in order to realize that you are [a being who knows love without fear, joy without sorrow, and life everlasting]. The Treatises gave you a way to apply this understanding. This Dialogue is meant to give you the means to carry what you have been given.
The Course: first book in A Course of Love
Here you are gently and gradually guided along the way to knowing your true Self. ACOL foresees that the mind will be puzzled by the word “love” and ask, “Why is this book called A Course of Love?”
The word love is part of your problem with this Course. If I were to take the word love and change it to some sophisticated-sounding technical term, and say this is the stuff that binds the world together in unity, it would be easier for you to accept.
If I were to say you know not of this sophisticated term and this is why you have believed in your separation rather than in your unity with all things, you would be far more likely to nod your head and say, “I was but ignorant of this, as was everyone else.”
If a scientist were to tell you that a benign energy had been found that proved your connection to everything in the universe, and gave it some fancy name, you would say, “A new discovery has been found and I am willing to believe it may be true, especially if others are also going to believe it to be true.”
You feel a little duped at being told love is the answer. Letting go of what your mind would tell you in favor of what your heart already knows is but the purpose of this Course.
The mind may say, “Yes, yes, I know. Tell me something I don’t know.” The mind may reel at contradictions, cling to known truths, compare this wisdom to other wisdom. The mind will attempt to understand with its own logic and fight the logic of the heart.
The purpose of this Course is to establish your identity. This is a course for the heart. The birthplace of the new. We take a step away from intellect, the pride of the ego, and approach this final learning through the realm of the heart.
The Treatises: second book in A Course of Love
While The Course describes the foundational principles on which our true Self rests and seals the rift between mind and heart, The Treatises help us to bring that wholehearted connection into everyday life.
A “treatise” is a work that offers an in-depth understanding of a particular topic. There are four treatises in total, each one dealing with a specific subject: 1) A Treatise on the Art of Thought; 2) A Treatise on the Nature of Unity and Its Recognition; 3) A Treatise on the Personal Self; 4) A Treatise on the New.
The Treatises show you how to live as who you are, how to act within the world as the new Self you have identified. [They] are no longer concerned with coursework as the work of this Course has been accomplished in you. These Treatises are simply concerned with assisting you to live what you have learned.
Learning is not meant to last. You have realized that all of your learning and studying has taken you as far as you can go.
But now the time is upon you to leave learned works behind in favor of observation, vision, and revelation. Now is the time to leave behind study for imagining, envisioning, and desire. Now is the time to move out of the time of becoming who you are to the time of being who you are.
These Treatises are some of the most profound material I have ever read.
Monte M. Page, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology
The Dialogues: third book in A Course of Love
As the title suggests, The Dialogues are an exchange between the reader and Christ-consciousness, which is present in all that she or he is in relationship with. You are invited not only to listen but also to respond.
The Dialogues culminate in an intensive “40-day experience” that takes place in your inner world: “The Forty Days and Forty Nights.” It’s a preparation to live in the world in unity and relationship with all of life, continuously listening and responding to every aspect of creation.
The Dialogues place us on the way of direct knowledge. This is the new way of coming to know your Self, the way of sharing in unity and relationship.
Creation of the new has begun. We are an interactive part of this creative act of a loving Creator. Creation is a dialogue. Creation—which is God and us in unity—will respond to our responses. Will respond to what we envision, imagine and desire.
Creation of the new could not begin without you. Your willingness for the new, a willingness that included the leaving behind of the old, a willingness that included the leaving behind of fear and judgment and a separate will, was necessary to begin creation of the new.
What will the future hold? It is up to us creating as one body, one mind, one heart. Because it is the new future of a new form joined in unity and relationship, the only guarantees that are known to us is that it will be a future of love, a future without fear, a future with unlimited freedom.
Make no mistake that what is asked of us is everything. What is asked is our total willingness to abandon the old, our total willingness to embrace the new. But also make no mistake that what is given to us is everything. All the power of creation is released onto us. Let us begin.
Now is the time to truly begin to “hear” my voice in every aspect of creation and to respond with your own voice in all of your own acts of creation. It is time to realize that you are a creator. It is a time of true revelation in which you are revealed to your Self.
A Course of Love
ACIM & ACOL
Is A Course of Love related to A Course in Miracles?
We often hear the question, “Is A Course of Love a sequel to A Course in Miracles?”
While this is a matter for each reader to decide, the overwhelmingly positive reviews of A Course of Love (ACOL) on Amazon.com seem to indicate that a very large number of its readers found it to be truly helpful.
As of this writing (June 2022), the Combined Volume of A Course of Love has a 4.7-star average rating from 500 reviewers.
Some reviewers state they are familiar with A Course in Miracles (ACIM) and recognize the voice in ACOL as the same one that dictated ACIM.
As one reviewer on Amazon.com put it,
These writings are the true pen of Jesus as in A Course in Miracles. Same voice, same message mostly but updated language style for contemporary readers. Humanity called this forth, it was delivered. This book goes everywhere with me and has changed my life.
Holly Slabbinck, Reviewer
Why would we need another course if we already have A Course in Miracles?
What some ACIM readers understandably ask when they come to know of ACOL is why there would be a need for Jesus to extend what already seems to be a complete course.
This question is not so different from the one some Bible readers ask when they hear of ACIM, or even the one some ACIM readers ask when they come to know of the existence of new ACIM editions that add hundreds of pages to the version that was authorized by Helen Schucman for publishing in 1976.
This pattern has been observed in other circles too; for example, traditional Christianity views the Gnostic gospels as apocrypha, Theravada Buddhism contends that the extended body of teachings held by Mahayana Buddhism (e.g. Tibetan and Zen Buddhism) is questionable, and some orthodox Muslims consider Sufism as heresy.
Just as it is not possible for either ACIM or ACOL readers to prove that Jesus is the source of their respective texts, so it is not possible for them to determine whether ACIM or ACOL can really help you start living by the truth of who you are and be an expression of love or Christ-consciousness on earth.
We simply invite you to approach either work with an open mind and heart, and to draw your own conclusions based on reading each work directly.
What we can do here is to offer you glimpses of what ACOL says in relation to ACIM, to help you feel if this new material resonates with you. ACOL explicitly states that it is related to ACIM:
This is a course in miracles. . . . Where the original Course in Miracles was a course in thought reversal and mind training, a course to point out the insanity of the identity crisis and dislodge the ego’s hold, this is a course to establish your identity and to end the reign of the ego.
This is in line with ACIM’s stated goal of setting the direction to what lies beyond the ego, rather than establishing how to live in the world of form once the ego has been dislodged.
This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error because it is planned only to set the direction towards it. (ACIM, FIP Edition, C-in-3)
ACIM’s effective teachings and practices lead us toward removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence. Once this goal is accomplished, ACOL comes to offer practical guidance on how to act in the world as we sustain such awareness.
A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love work hand-in-hand because the change of thinking taught within A Course in Miracles was a change of thinking about yourself. It attempted to dislodge the ego-mind that has provided you with an identity that you but think you are. A Course of Love then followed in order to reveal to you who you truly are.
A Course of Love
The need for a continuation of ACIM is also related to our tendency to keep acting as learning beings even after perception has been corrected. Accurate perception is a steppingstone to knowledge, but as long as the pattern of learning remains, direct access to inner knowledge will be hampered.
Learning is needed only until perception is cured. The perception of your separated state was the illusion for which a cure was needed—and within A Course in Miracles offered.
Since the mind is the realm of perception we have taken a step away from the realm of perception by appealing to the heart and the heart’s ability to learn in a new way. You are thus instructed not to apply your thought and your effort, your usual means of learning, to this Course of Love.
This Course is not for the mind but for the heart. It is not a way of thought and effort but a way of feeling, of ease, and of direct relationship.
Again I say to you, in the direct relationship achieved in union, no learning is required. Until you have truly recognized unity, which may come before or after completing the “Treatise on the Nature of Unity and Its Recognition,” you continue to perceive of yourself as a learning being. This is the only reason for this continuation of the coursework provided in A Course in Miracles.
While you continue to put effort into learning what cannot be learned, as you continue to see yourself as a student seeking to acquire what you do not yet have, you cannot recognize the unity in which you exist and be freed from learning forever.
Again we see how ACIM and ACOL complement each other seamlessly. As perception is corrected by the invaluable teachings and practices offered in ACIM, ACOL comes to show us how to sustain awareness of Christ-consciousness and keep direct access to Unity’s wisdom or gnosis while we continue living in physical form. As ACIM puts it,
It cannot be emphasized too often that correcting perception is merely a temporary expedient. It is necessary only because misperception is a block to knowledge, while accurate perception is a steppingstone towards it.
The whole value of right perception lies in the inevitable realization that all perception is unnecessary. This removes the block entirely. You may ask how this is possible as long as you appear to be living in this world. That is a reasonable question. (ACIM, FIP Edition, T-4.II.11)
Not only does ACOL thoroughly answer that reasonable question but it also guides us through applying it in practice: The Course describes the foundational principles on which our true Self rests and seals the rift between mind and heart; The Treatises guide us through integrating those principles into everyday life; The Dialogues mark the end of the time of learning and place us on the way of direct knowledge.
An introduction to the contents of each of those three books that form A Course of Love is offered on this page: What is ACOL?
Are there differences between the two Courses?
Certainly there are. The question is whether you see differences as a necessary change in approach or direction once ACIM’s goal of dislodging the ego is accomplished, or as a sign of incompatibility between the Courses.
Here again we simply ask you to let your own heart or Inner Teacher be your guide, instead of getting into an intellectual quagmire of confusion over use of terms and apparent philosophical discrepancies. Listen to these words from ACIM:
This is not a course in philosophical speculation, nor is it concerned with precise terminology. . . . All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it.
Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. (ACIM, FIP Edition, C-in-1-2)
Doesn’t it seem plausible that Jesus would not just dictate a course but also observe its results and deliver a “course correction” if he noticed that the movement was veering off its intended direction? Hasn’t Jesus himself stated that knowledge is shared with us on a “need to know” basis? ACIM says,
Remember that you who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness. You never really wanted peace before, so there was no point in knowing how to get it.
This is an example of the “need to know” principle, which was established by the plan of Atonement long before the CIA. No kind of knowledge is acquired by anyone unless he wants it or believes in some way he needs it. (ACIM, Circle of Atonement’s Complete Edition, T-1.48.18)
Aren’t you tired of endlessly reading and re-reading, going over the same lessons again and again, trying to figure things out, uncertain if your interpretation is correct, and puzzled by the contradictory views and interpretations given by different teachers? Haven’t you longed to finish with studying and to arrive at a place of rest? To finally be able to express who you really are with ease and joy? ACOL says,
A major difference between A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love has to do with the movement into the Time of Christ, a time of direct learning in union and relationship with God.
The word “learning” is loosely used here for no learning is needed in union and relationship. Learning is not meant to last. This is why even this coursework comes to an end. It comes to an end here and now as we move past study and learning to observation, vision, and revelation.
You who have so sought happiness without finding it, rejoice. It is not lost. . . . Have you not long lamented that if you knew what would bring you happiness you would surely pursue it? Have you not long stated that if you knew what would bring meaning to your life you would surely do it? Have you not long wished to know your purpose? To be given a goal that would fulfill the longing in you?
And have you not become impatient with advice, with teachers and with courses of study? Have you not felt at the limit of your patience with instruction? . . . Are you not ready for certainty above all else? Are you not ready to be done with studying and to begin with living?
This time we take a direct approach, an approach that seems at first to leave behind abstract learning and the complex mechanisms of the mind that so betray you.
We take a step away from intellect, the pride of the ego, and approach this final learning through the realm of the heart. This is why, to end confusion, we call this course A Course of Love.
A Course of Love
Still you might wonder whether some differences are not just changes in approach, but are in contradiction to fundamental tenets of ACIM.
Don’t you think that ACIM apparently contradicts fundamental tenets of the Bible? Hasn’t Jesus reinterpreted several biblical statements to reassure us that his new teachings in ACIM do not contradict the Bible? For example,
Let us reconsider the biblical statement “my yoke is easy and my burden light” in this way: “Let us join together, for my message is light.” (ACIM, Circle of Atonement’s Complete Edition, T-5.III.11.5)
Collecting a couple of passages from ACOL and presenting them side by side with ACIM’s quotes that apparently contradict them do not prove that the texts are incompatible, let alone that they come from different sources.
All contradictions can be shown to represent the new approach ACOL takes after perception of our separate state is corrected, leading us in the direction of establishing our identity while we remain in physical form.
To mention an example, some ACIM readers cite passages from ACOL in which the body is said to be able to become an embodiment of love, of divinity, and contrast them with ACIM’s quotes stating that the body was not made by love and is a limit on love. This apparent incompatibility is resolved when you look at other passages from ACIM that raise this possibility:
The body can become a sign of life, a promise of redemption, and a breath of immortality to those grown sick of breathing in the fetid scent of death. Let it have healing as its purpose. Then will it send forth the message it received, and by its health and loveliness proclaim the truth and value that it represents. Let it receive the power to represent an endless life, forever unattacked. . . .
The simple way to let this be achieved is merely this; to let the body have no purpose from the past, when you were sure you knew its purpose was to foster guilt. . . . This leaves no space in which a different view, another purpose, can be given it. You do not know its purpose. (ACIM, FIP Edition, T-27.I.10-11)
Other apparent contradictions are dealt with in the booklet A Bridge (please see the section below). As with nearly everyone in the ACOL community, our appreciation for ACOL did not diminish in the least our appreciation for ACIM.
ACOL itself recognizes the immense value of its predecessor, giving ACIM credit for helping usher in a new period in the history of humanity.
Many ACOL readers feel that when they revisit their beloved Course in Miracles, they are able to bring to the foreground certain aspects of ACIM that were always present, but in the background.
ACIM continues to offer invaluable teachings that are truly helpful for dislodging the ego’s hold on our minds. Whether it is required to read it before starting ACOL remains a matter for each reader to decide.
We understand that Jesus will keep extending his presence and teachings to those willing to call forth ever wider circles of ideas from within the infinite mind of God.
Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford called forth a way to inner peace; their joint appeal echoed the voices of myriad people who faced daily conflicts and wished to find a way to living in peace. That was a time of tension and unrest, epitomized by the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
Mari Perron’s powerful call to “work for God,” was brought into clarity by her friend Mary Love’s dream of a new course in miracles. In their close relationship, they together found ways to live in the awareness of love’s presence while facing loss, tragedy, and the many heartbreaks common to our time.
Ours is a time of division, hostility and hatred, epitomized by the September 11 attacks and the resurgence of conflict along religious, racial, political and economic lines.
We can only expect Christ’s message to be further expanded as new calls emerge and willing scribes are found to give voice to his limitless light.