How to Understand A Course In Miracles – By Chris Cade

In an email, a student asked me a detailed question about some confusion he had from reading another book on A Course In Miracles. The book he read and the topic he was inquiring about are not relevant for what I will share with you. What is relevant is that his confusion stems from trying to interpret A Course In Miracles, instead of trying to understand it.

So what's the difference? What does it mean to truly understand A Course In Miracles?

In my email to the student, I said:

“The most important thing about A Course In Miracles is not that we believe what it says, but that we understand ourselves in relation to what it says.”

This confused him even further…

But the interesting part is that his response makes perfect sense until we look at the issue more deeply. He replied:

“How can I understand myself in relation to what it says if my ‘understanding' of it depends on what may be faulty assumptions, definitions, or reasoning? And how can I have some assurance of my assumptions, definitions, or reasoning if they are not supported by those who are more advanced than I in A Course In Miracles?”

On the surface, it makes sense to believe that we need a reference point through our understanding of A Course In Miracles, to then be able to understand how we relate to it. However, this is only true when we are only coming from a logical perspective. When we pay attention to ourselves, we can learn just as much from *not* knowing something, as we can from knowing it. This is what I was trying to communicate in my email response above.

If you're anything like me, then my paragraph above needs some explanation. First, let's look at the basis of A Course In Miracles: it is founded on the basic premise that it leads us to a place of living in the moment. That's fundamentally what the teaching is attempting to move us toward when it says it is taking us “home.”

Many people spend a lot of time thinking about what A Course In Miracles is teaching and trying to interpret the words, instead of taking the words at face value and/or just feeling the words. To take words at anything other than face value is an assumption, and assumptions are based on the fact that we are not living in the present.

So, if we take the words at face value then there is not much to “think” about from the mental perspective. When we receive the words of A Course In Miracles then the only thing left to study is ourselves… to study our responses to what it says.

Let's just take the first lesson as an example:

“Nothing I see means anything.

Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to whatever you see:

Notice that these statements are not arranged in any order, and make no allowance for differences in the kinds of things to which they are applied. That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement should merely be applied to anything you see. As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic. Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded. One thing is like another as far as the application of the idea is concerned.”

The thinking student will ask questions and will try to know what A Course In Miracles is teaching. However, the students who focus on understanding themselves in relation to the teaching will notice something else…. most often, a sense of resistance.

So in lesson 1, rather than a person trying to “learn” what A Course In Miracles teaches, my recommendation is to just do the lesson, as it is written, with as little conscious thinking as possible. In doing so, thoughts often arise such as, “This is stupid. How can I say this extremely sentimental item means nothing?” By observing our inner responses, such as that one, we learn MUCH more from A Course In Miracles than we do from the words within the lessons.

At its core, A Course In Miracles is a path leading us back to ourselves. As the Text introduction states, it is but one many paths all going to that very same place: to ourselves. Therefore, anything that is written in a lesson, at its core, is also intended to bring us back to ourselves. This is what I mean by “understanding ourselves in relation to what it says.”

Asking questions of others is helpful to know the logical and knowledge aspects of the teaching.

Asking questions of ourselves is how we “understand” and embody the teaching itself.

Reflection Questions

Here are 10 reflection questions to help you dive deeper into this blog post:
  1. Reflect on your own approach to understanding spiritual teachings. Are you primarily focused on interpreting the words or on understanding how they relate to your own life and experiences?
  2. Consider the distinction between believing in a spiritual teaching and truly understanding it. How does this difference impact your relationship with A Course In Miracles or other spiritual texts?
  3. Explore the idea that understanding A Course In Miracles involves understanding yourself in relation to its teachings. How does this perspective shift your approach to studying and applying its principles?
  4. Reflect on the concept of assumptions and their role in interpreting spiritual teachings. How might assumptions hinder or enhance your understanding of A Course In Miracles?
  5. Consider the importance of living in the present moment in relation to the teachings of A Course In Miracles. How does being present influence your ability to understand and embody its principles?
  6. Reflect on your responses to the teachings of A Course In Miracles. Do you find yourself engaging in mental analysis or feeling resistance? What insights can you glean from these responses?
  7. Explore the idea of studying yourself in relation to the teachings of A Course In Miracles. How can self-reflection deepen your understanding and application of its principles?
  8. Consider the practical application of the first lesson of A Course In Miracles: “Nothing I see means anything.” How does this lesson invite you to explore your perceptions and beliefs about the world?
  9. Reflect on the role of conscious thinking in your practice of A Course In Miracles. How might letting go of mental analysis and embracing the lesson with openness impact your spiritual journey?
  10. Explore the idea that A Course In Miracles is a path leading us back to ourselves. How does this perspective shape your understanding of its teachings and your journey of self-discovery?