Today I begin a series on the spiritual classic, A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I feel the need to share these thoughts, because the book has exercised such a strong and beneficial influence on my life since, under the tutelage of Marianne Williamson, I began studying it a couple of years ago.
My hope is that these blog entries will acquaint readers with the richness of A Course in Miracles, which Williamson describes as “basically Christian mysticism.” After all, according to the great Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, such spirituality remains the last best hope for saving Christianity. Rahner, said “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.”
The same might be said for the world in general: either it will attain mystical consciousness of creation’s basic unity, or the world itself will cease to exist. That is, far from being irrelevant, mysticism as understood by all the world’s Great Religions as well as by serious human beings who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” is the only thing that can save us now.
My hope in writing these pieces is also that the articles to follow might lay the foundation for a book I intend to write. It will connect ACIM with liberation theology, which I consider the most important theological development of the last 1500 years, and the most significant social movement since the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848.
The connection, I believe, is necessary, since without it, the Christian mysticism presented in A Course in Miracles – despite Marianne Williamson’s brave efforts – runs the risk of skimming over the most pressing socio-economic problems facing our contemporary world. I’m referring to the so-called war on terrorism, the threat of nuclear war, and the omnicide represented by human-induced climate chaos. I want this series to centralize those problems directly in the light of liberation theology’s historical Jesus.
Put otherwise, what I will recommend here is an engaged mysticism based on the magnificent insights of ACIM. But I intend to link them directly to the even more magnificent teachings and practices of Christian mysticism’s inspiration, Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth as understood by those he addressed historically during his brief life on earth – his poor and oppressed neighbors in imperialized Palestine more than 2000 years ago.
Jesus’ neighbors were like their counterparts in today’s Global South – brown and black people, impoverished by colonialism, considered terrorists by their imperial masters, and tricked by religious leaders who lay in bed with the rich and powerful.
It was to these nobodies that Jesus of Nazareth spoke when he announced the program he called the Kingdom of God. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (LK 4:18). Notice the people addressed here: the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed and blind.
To repeat: the problem with Christian mysticism even as presented in ACIM is that it too quickly spiritualizes those categories. In doing so, it forgets the actual condition of those listening to Jesus for the first time. They were illiterate peasants seated before one of their own who articulated their fondest hopes.
Those hopes centered not on abstract spiritual enlightenment, but on a homeland free from imperial invaders who raped their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and who tortured and crucified their insurgent fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. That was Jesus’ audience. And when his words are interpreted with them in mind, they take on a meaning that is revolutionary in every sense. They turn everything upside-down.
The same is true of A Course in Miracles. When its words are interpreted with the historical Jesus and his Jewish audience in mind, they take on a revolutionary meaning that inverts the world’s “truth” that (the course reminds us) stands 180 degrees opposite the truth of God. For starters, consider what that means relative to the practice of Jesus:
• The religious world tells us that God is neutral and loves everyone the same. The Judeo-Christian tradition itself along with God’s choice to incarnate as a poor person, and the programmatic words of Jesus quoted above, all express God’s “preferential option for the poor.” The poor and oppressed are God’s chosen people. They are special in God’s eyes.
• The world says that capitalism and private property represent the height of human economic development. In contrast, Jesus appearing in the Jewish prophetic tradition, held that the earth belongs to everyone. Private property as understood by capital’s apologists is a distortion of God’s plan.
• Similarly, the world maintains that market mechanisms of supply and demand will solve every problem. Jesus, on the other hand, proclaimed a Jubilee Year. As explained in the Bible, its intention was to reverse market distortions by having property lost to creditors and bankers revert back to its original (poor) owners. That was Good News for landless farmers.
• The world claims that the poor are guilty and deserve their lot in life. Jesus’ incarnation as a poor person directly contradicts such conviction. As noted above, the incarnation itself says the poor are God’s special people.
• The world lionizes the history of emperors, kings, generals, popes and bankers. Jesus had harsh words for all such oppressors. The historical memory guiding his life was that of a God whose first revelatory act in history was the liberation of slaves from bondage in Egypt.
• The world claims the right to use violence (even nuclear) against the insurgents it deems “terrorists.” Meanwhile, Jesus himself showed sympathy towards those Rome considered terrorists. In fact, he himself was executed as a terrorist by the Romans. He incorporated into his inner circle at least one Zealot insurrectionist and advocated a social program that paralleled in many ways (such as land reform) the program of the Zealot Party.
• The world (at least in the Global North) interprets religion as a mind-centered collection of beliefs compatible with nationalism and war. Jesus transcended all of that. He was a genuine mystic who crossed boundaries in the name of universal divine love and human brotherhood.
My hope is that this series will highlight contradictions like those and will embody the intersection between two splendid revolutionary sources – A Course in Miracles on the one hand, and liberation theology on the other.
So, let me get on with my project. In my next posting, I’ll begin by sharing my remarkable encounter with Marianne Williamson. Then I’ll move on to explanations of A Course in Miracles as explained by Marianne and to liberation theology as understood in the Global South. All of that will prepare for entries that will connect specific parts of ACIM with Jesus the Christ.