by Celia Hales
Note: Presented December 2, 2018, as a part of the 20th anniversary online conference of A Course of Love, moderated by James Kelly.
I was a lover of A Course in Miracles long before A Course of Love was given. ACIM speaks to my mind, which needed the intellectual understanding of how we are to live. ACOL speaks to my heart, the love that I need to feel and to exhibit.
I have ten points of comparison and contrast between ACIM and ACOL. James will stop me so that we can have one of the dialogues that A Course of Love champions.
1–Both A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love are beautifully written; this they have in common.
The opening chapters of ACIM, in the complete edition published recently by the Circle of Atonement, is filled with references to well-known figures from history, and the writing itself is a little rough. Soon, by Chapter 5 of the Textbook, this smooths out, and we find that the writing is in iambic pentameter. This means that there are sequences of five emphasized words, interspaced with five words that are not emphasized. This scheme for poetry is what Shakespeare used. Helen, the co-scribe was very knowledgeable about Shakespeare, and so would have functioned well with any channeling that used Shakespeare’s meter. It is in blank verse, which means that the words do not rhyme. But we are soothed by poetry, and ACIM soothes us.
A Course of Love is poetic in that the writing is very beautiful. I would even call it mesmerizing throughout. This is how we are touched in our hearts when we read ACOL. We are soothed, much as the iambic pentameter blank verse of ACIM soothed us. I find ACOL to affect my emotions much more as I read than ACIM ever did. It seems really true that A Course of Love is to the heart what A Course in Miracles is to the mind. ACOL can be read easily and peacefully, and ACIM needs deep study.
ACIM puts me in a very happy mood when I read it. ACOL sometimes tenderizes my heart so that the reading can actually be painful. Of course, this is particularly true during what Jesus calls the “time of tenderness.” Jesus is a masterful writer, and he proves this, in somewhat varying ways, with ACIM and ACOL.
2-–The phenomenon of enlightenment, originally an Eastern concept, particularly of Buddhism, is called different things in A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love. It is called Awakening, always capitalized, in ACIM; and it is called Christ-consciousness, with Christ being capitalized, of course, in ACOL.
Enlightenment is a shift in perception, but not a miracle. Instead, it is revelation from God. God Himself makes the decision of when we are ready for this new way to interact with reality.
The best explanation of enlightenment that I have read is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. We interact differently with the world when we have experienced enlightenment. ACIM and ACOL both take us on a gentle pathway there. Because we are led gently, our enlightenment experience can be gentle.
And before we actually sustain enlightenment, we have glimpses, usually, I have found, when we are in an especially mellow mood.
Why would Jesus use two different words for the same phenomenon. I think in ACOL he is emphasizing that we are now in the time of Christ, and so he calls this phenomenon “Christ-consciousness.”
3—Relationships are important to both A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love.
The shift from special to holy relationships is seen in ACIM as the true way to Awakening. Our brother is our way home to God. All special relationships are seen as labile in experiencing them, and there is much hate in them, for love can easily turn to hate. A holy relationship, on the other hand, is peaceful and quiet. Not as dramatic.
There is a similarity to A Course in Miracles with the repeated emphasis in A Course of Love of the two words, “unity” and “relationship.” Unity is seen to be our way when we know that we are One with everything, the All Who is God Himself or Herself. The relationship is when we are differentiated, or individuated, into diverse beings. This is necessary so that God can actually experience Himself or Herself. The All, undifferentiated, would be as unknowable as the “nothing.” But each diverse entity is a hologram who contains the whole. We can’t know that whole in our finiteness, though.
4 – Perfection seems to be required in A Course in Miracles. There is some flexibility in A Course of Love.
In ACIM, Jesus says that he stands at the end of the pathway, to correct any mistakes that we have not been able to correct. He thus leads us to perfection by his own hand.
In ACOL, Jesus may or may not mean the same thing; it is unclear. He does not stress perfection in the same way that he does in ACIM. He MAY mean the same thing, that he will save us from ourselves in the end. But in ACOL, Jesus seems to realize more clearly that we are very fallible children of God, and he makes allowances for us in our physical bodies.
5 – In A Course in Miracles, anger is seen as never justified, has no justification. This has led many people to try to suppress their anger, to their detriment, for anger will come out in the end. Even Jesus got angry at the moneychangers in the temple, turning over their tables, driving them out. Are we to try to do better than he? I think not.
In A Course of Love, we are understood sometimes to feel anger, but we are to act on it in only benign ways. No violence, no shouting. Anger is a human emotion, and our humanity is stressed in ACOL.
6 – A Course in Miracles seems to deemphasize the body, and in so doing we may be primed to want the afterlife, where it is believed that we are spirit not possessing of a body. We would thus think that we could only be fully happy after death, though Jesus does say that we can dream the happy dreams that the Holy Spirit brings.
A Course of Love talks in an approving way of the “elevated Self of form,” which has made many feel that we are no longer living in a monistic reality, no longer in non-duality. This has become a controversy between the camps of ACIM and ACOL. ACIM definitely state in no uncertain terms that we are living an illusion. Some ACOL enthusiasts believe that after we have reached Christ-consciousness, we are no longer in illusion, but in reality, and that includes the idea that the rocks, trees, mountains, are really real, that matter is real. I personally subscribe to Idealism, which says that this world is an idea in the mind of God, and so I don’t think the rocks, trees, mountains, are truly real. This is the philosophy first espoused by Berkeley, a philosophy of the Nineteenth Century. True reality in my view is seen as the intangibles, the love, joy, peace, harmony, that abides in us through and through when we have awakened or assumed Christ-consciousness.
So I do believe that ACIM is right in its uncompromising approach to a non-dualistic universe, in that all is One.
In this regard, I think that Jesus saw a problem with the fact that he downplayed the physical so much in A Course in Miracles. Would not everybody want to die, so that they would be finally happy in heaven? But he needs us, at least many of us, here. We have to lead others back to God, and we do have a right to be happy here. So the physical is not downplayed so much in ACOL, which of course came after ACIM.
We are going to need to come back to earth for millions of years, because that is how long Jesus says that it will take to heal the separation. He needs workers willing to do that. If the earth as a good place is denigrated, we won’t want to come back.
7 – The purpose of A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love is different. ACIM was given to dislodge the ego, the most important first step. ACOL was given to establish a new identity, and this identity is the elevated Self of form. So ACOL is seen rightly as a continuation of ACIM.
8 – A Course in Miracles was given in the time of the Holy Spirit. At the turn of the century, when A Course of Love was given, we began living in the time of Christ. And so the terms are different.
Jesus stresses the Holy Spirit as our guide in ACIM. But he stresses the Christ-Self, from deep within us, as our guide in ACOL. Actually the Holy Spirit is “a” holy spirit, and so He has always dwelled within us, but this was not stressed in ACIM, whereas the Christ-Self is naturally seen as a part of us. We do draw on the All, though, the part outside the dot of the body, and intuitively we can know much that is beyond our little self.
9 – Both A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love emphasize that love cannot be taught. What we can do is to remove the blocks to the awareness of love, in conjunction with guidance.
An early reviewer took exception with the title of A Course of Love when he or she had not read the book. Thought that it was trying to teach how to love. But there is no contradiction between ACIM and ACOL here.
10 – Masculine and feminine differs between the two books. ACIM was written in the sixties and early seventies, when our teaching was understood that the masculine pronouns INCLUDED the feminine. Our culture has changed now, and we want the feminine to be directly stated. So ACOL, given in a different era, uses “brothers and sisters” and also exalts the feminine in other ways, too. Mary, for example, is seen as complementary to Jesus, and there is a way of Mary, a way of being, and a way of Jesus, a way of doing. It is said that all of us will eventually walk the way of Mary.
We are encouraged to listen to our heart, to let the heart inform the mind, in A Course of Love. We are encouraged to be more than do, though there is room for variation in this time of transition.
A Course of Love is for the heart what A Course in Miracles was to the mind. We need the mind training to dislodge the ego. Now we need to listen to what does not need proof of God, the heart. In our heart, all of us know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
The intellectual understanding came with ACIM. The intuitive, heartfelt understanding came with ACOL.