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History, Definition, Message

Peter Solon, Ph.D. (BIO)


While there are many historical accounts of A Course In Miracles, there’s only one in the Course itself. The Preface to the first Volume, The Text, begins by explaining that

A Course in Miracles began with the sudden decision of two people to join in a common goal. Their names were Helen Schucman and William Thetford, Professors of Medical Psychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.1

The relatively brief Preface––it’s more or less six pages in length–– is divided into three sections, “How It Came,” “What It Is “ and “ What It Says.“ The first section, “How It Came,” describes Drs. Shucman and Thetford as “anything but spiritual,” explaining that they were  “concerned with personal and professional acceptance and status.” These two people were professors of medical psychology at an Ivy league school in New York City and had “considerable investment in the values of the world.” The Preface goes onto explain that “their lives were hardly in accord with anything that the Course advocates”2 and their relationship with each other was “difficult and strained.”

Dr. Shucman, the psychologist who received the material, describes the birth of A Course In Miracles as follows:

Psychologist, educator, conservative in theory and atheistic in belief, I was working in a prestigious and highly academic setting. And then something happened that triggered a chain of events I could never have predicted. The head of my department unexpectedly announced that he was tired of the angry and aggressive feelings our attitudes reflected, and concluded that, "there must be another way." As if on cue I agreed to help him find it. Apparently this Course is the other way. 3

Dr. Shucman continues her first person account.

Three startling months preceded the actual writing, during which time Bill suggested that I write down the highly symbolic dreams and descriptions of the strange images that were coming to me. Although I had grown more accustomed to the unexpected by that time, I was still very surprised when I wrote, "This is a course in miracles." That was my introduction to the Voice. It made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation which I took down in a shorthand notebook. The writing was never automatic. It could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again. It made me very uncomfortable, but it never seriously occurred to me to stop. It seemed to be a special assignment I had somehow, somewhere agreed to complete. It represented a truly collaborative venture between Bill and myself, and much of its significance, I am sure, lies in that. I would take down what the Voice "said" and read it to him the next day, and he typed it from my dictation. I expect he had his special assignment, too. Without his encouragement and support I would never have been able to fulfill mine. The whole process took about seven years. The Text came first, then the Workbook for Students, and finally the Manual for Teachers. Only a few minor changes have been made. Chapter titles and subheadings have been inserted in the Text, and some of the more personal references that occurred at the beginning have been omitted. Otherwise the material is substantially unchanged.4


Consisting of three primary volumes, a theoretical Text, a practice oriented Workbook for Students and a Manual for Teachers, the Course  defines itself as a “teaching device” that emphasizes “application rather than theory.”

The Text is largely theoretical, and sets forth the concepts on which the Course's thought system is based. Its ideas contain the foundation for the Workbook's lessons. Without the practical application the Workbook provides, the Text would remain largely a series of abstractions which would hardly suffice to bring about the thought reversal at which the Course aims.

Finally, the Manual for Teachers, which is written in question and answer form, provides answers to some of the more likely questions a student might ask. It also includes a clarification of a number of the terms the Course uses, explaining them within the theoretical framework of the Text.

The Course makes no claim to finality, nor are the Workbook lessons intended to bring the student's learning to completion. At the end, the reader is left in the hands of his or her own Internal Teacher, Who will direct all subsequent learning.”5


A brief description of the message of A Course In Miracles––one among many––can be found in the “Introduction” to the Text.

This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance.6


  1. 1.    A Course In Miracles, Preface, “How It Came”

  2. 2.    A Course In Miracles, Preface, “How It Came”

  3. 3.    A Course In Miracles, Preface, “How It Came”

  4. 4.    A Course In Miracles, Preface, “How It Came”

  5. 5.    A Course In Miracles, Preface, “What It Is”

  6. 6.    A Course In Miracles, Introduction

What Is A Course In MiraclesWhat_Is_ACIM.html

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