A Course In Brainwashing
by Tracy Moran
Catholics across the country are alarmed at the increasing
popularity of a New Age phenomenon known as "A Course in
Miracles," a system of spirituality proponents claim is the "Third
Testament" of God to His people.
Even more alarming, critics say, is that the movement is gaining a
foothold among some Catholics.
"A Course in Miracles," a 1,249-page study manual, was authored by
the "inner voice" of research psychologist Helen Schucman between
1965 and 1972. Schucman, a professor at Columbia University and a
self-described atheist at the time, claims the "voice" was that of
In 1977, New Age guru and best-selling author Marianne Williamson
discovered "A Course in Miracles" and helped spread its message
internationally, reeling in stars such as Oprah Winfrey and
Shirley MacLaine along the way.
Today, the course has sold more than 1 million copies, and more
than 2,000 groups in the United States meet to study the course,
which Williamson calls "a self-study program of spiritual
But a former disciple of "A Course in Miracles" who returned to
the Catholic Church calls it a course in brainwashing. Moira
Noonan, once a New Age minister and psychic, was introduced to the
course 20 years ago. Upon returning to the Church, she was shocked
to find that "A Course in Miracles" is sold in some Catholic
bookstores and that many fellow believers are studying it.
"They say in the course that the Holy Spirit wants us to have
these new thoughts, a new reality," Noonan explained. "It says
right in the beginning of the course to question everything....
The course is Satan's mockbible," she said, adding that its
disciples "want people to think it's a religion, but it's not."
The Foundation for a "A Course in Miracles," based in Roscoe,
N.Y., is not affiliated with any church or denomination. Dr.
Kenneth Wapnick, the foundation's director, was a Catholic
seminarian about to enter the monastery when he met Schucman and
read the manuscript for the course.
A clinical psychologist, Wapnick claims the course teaches that
the way to recover one's buried knowledge and memories of God is
by "undoing" guilt through forgiving others. It aims to remove
"the blocks to one's awareness of love's presence," which is every
person's natural state of mind.
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, who has written on New Age religions,
sees how such language can resonate with Catholics, luring them to
study the course.
"The key problem is the [course's] pseudo - Christian vocabulary
and ideas," said Father Pacwa. "People don't know the Catechism,
they don't know their faith.... The course strongly rejects the
use of reason and thinking.... This is precisely what makes the
course feasible. Once you get rid of reason, you get rid of
Noonan explained the course's attraction to Catholics by noting
that "in our culture, we want a quick fix. [The course] teaches
that you can claim a miracle. It's part of the individualistic
attitude we have in this society."
Noonan said some Catholics pick up the course thinking: "I never
really liked or understood the Bible anyway, so why don't I read
this? The language is easier for me to understand."
Critics of "A Course in Miracles" warn that Catholics who try to
incorporate its principles into their faith will severely
compromise their beliefs because the two theologies are completely
Father Pacwa said the course repeatedly misquotes the Bible and
"presents a false Jesus." Even though Jesus supposedly dictated
the course to Schucman, the course's Jesus "does not like the
Crucifixion," Father Pacwa said. "One of the things said
repeatedly and forcefully in the course is that sacrifice has
nothing to do with love-they are incompatible."
The "Jesus" of "A Course in Miracles" is not really the Son of
God, never really had a physical body, and hence never really
suffered on the cross. He even rephrases the Lord's Prayer,
replacing "hallowed be thy name" with "Our holiness is Yours,"
Father Pacwa pointed out.
With such glaring differences between Christianity and the course,
it is no wonder Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., another critic,
said the movement "has become something of a sophisticated cult."
And he should know, having studied at Columbia University under
In his book, "A Still, Small Voice," Father Groeschel recounts his
"utter astonishment" when he was told in 1969 about Schucman's
alleged encounter with "the Son of God." According to Father
Groeschel, the course that resulted from this encounter is
"centered on a Son of God who at times seems to be the Christ of
orthodox Christianity and sometimes an avatar of an Eastern
Father Groeschel said that among clergy and Religious, "There's a
lot of suspicion about the course right now."
And suspicion seems warranted, considering that the course denies
the existence of suffering and sin, claims the Holy Spirit's main
purpose is to heal people's unconscious thoughts, and reinterprets
the word "miracle" into psychological terms.
According to a recent book promoting the course, the "purpose of
this system . . . is to draw our minds into a completely different
way of thinking.... Education on this level is clearly re-
education, which demands, first of all, unlearning."
Moreover, "A Course in Miracles" purports to be a "purifier of
Christianity," as explained in the book: "Echoing the Bible, [the
course] thus presents the image of a contemporary revealed
scripture, a modern-day message from God to mankind."
Yet, ironically, perhaps the strongest argument against wedding
Christianity with the course comes from Wapnick himself. In the
book "A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue,"
published by his foundation, Wapnick and Jesuit Father W. Norris
Clarke map out the sharp differences of the two theologies,
defining them as "mutually exclusive."
Wapnick writes that "to attempt reconciliation between [the two]
must inevitably lead to frustration at best and severe distortion
at worst.... 'A Course in Miracles' directly refutes the very
basis of the Christian faith, leaving nothing on which Christians
can base their beliefs."
Whatever the course's true intention, however, Father Pacwa warns
that the course "presents a false Jesus, false Spirit and false
Gospel, and therefore it deserves simple rejection."
And even if the course does attempt to "purify" the Gospel, its
effort is fruitless, as Father Clarke points out in the
"Traditional Christianity maintains that human beings have really
sinned and turned away from God, hence [they] have the burden of a
genuine (not merely neurotic) guilt.... Then Jesus took on the
burden of our own sins and truly suffered and died on the cross to
make reparation for them. He then truly rose from the dead, with a
real, though transformed or glorified body, and is forever united
with His Father now in glory."
Moran writes from San Diego, Calif. For more information on "A
Course in Miracles," contact Moira Noonan at: P.O. Box 232716,
Encinitas, CA 92023
This article was taken from the June 2, 1996 issue of Our Sunday
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