There are many, many books, audio programs, documentaries, and youtube videos about ACIM out there. Having been through lots of them, I can say with certainty that not all of them have spoken to me in the same way these 10 items have. If I had an opportunity to go back in time to recommend 10 items to myself when I first discovered ACIM, this would be it! (It would save myself a lot of time :))
A lot of ACIM writing can be too intellectual. A lot of books also often leave out important core concepts of ACIM such as illusion, non-dualism, and forgiveness, and concentrate on the ‘feel-good’ aspects of ACIM. If you want to feel good, then fine. But if you want to make significant spiritual progress, you have to get down and dirty with your unconscious guilt and your ego. The extraordinary effectiveness and uniqueness of ACIM as a spiritual path is precisely because it deals with issues of the ego – issues which no other religious and spiritual path deal with in such clarity and detail.
To the new student, it can be hard to tell the metaphysical differences between certain materials, due to the density of ideas and the Christian language. However, they are not quite the same. The best example I can give is that of Robert Perry and Kenneth Wapnick. Robert has a very different view – eg. he thinks ACIM is not a self-study course and that God is aware of the illusion.
Now, it is fairly obvious from this site that I am more of a student of Wapnick.
However, I would like to make a distinction here – I do not study Wapnick because I am attracted to his character, or personality, or the fact that he was around during the time of the inception of ACIM, or that he is quoted / recommended by many in the ACIM community. Spiritually speaking, all of that is irrelevant to me.
The only reason I am a fan of Wapnick is: after having been through nearly all the major teachers in the ACIM space, I have found Wapnick’s presentation and understanding of ACIM concepts to be the most coherent and the most in-depth. He may not be the most readable, but I have found that he is the most accurate.
Which brings us to the next important point – that of interpretation:
Ian Patrick: You claim that you are teaching what the Course actually says. If you read a line from the book and then explain it, that has to be your interpretation, surely?
Kenneth Wapnick: I do not feel that the Course has interpretations. I think it says what it says. Now, you could ask who I am to say: “What I say it says, is what it says.” I think that is something people must decide for themselves.
IP: But you make that claim.
KW: I do. I say: “This is what it says.” I think I would be dishonest if I kept saying: “This is what I think it says,” but I really know it. I realise that people will say: “He is absolutely right,” “That’s his opinion,” “Who the hell does he think he is?” “He’s being arrogant,” or whatever. I can only do what I know. It would be the same thing as, when Helen was taking the Course down, her telling Jesus she did not agree with what he just said. He would say: “I’m really sorry, but this is the way it is.” That is not stopping anybody from saying: “Well, I read that same book and I get something totally different from it.” But I feel that I would be being dishonest to myself and others, if I qualified it as my interpretation.
(From an interview with Ian Patrick of the Miracle Network UK, 1998)
In my search, my questioning, my reasoning, my knowing – this is my conclusion as well. I do not think that ACIM has multiple interpretations. It says what it says. In actuality, it is a very simple course with very simple ideas. Simple, but profound. It is only because we would overlook the simplicity that we need it to be presented in such an elaborate form.
It is because of this point in interpretation that I find that the ACIM community tends to have 2 sets of teachers: one whose teachings are entirely metaphysically coherent with each other, and another who have different interpretations / views. I have chosen these 10 from the first set. I have also chosen these with the following points in mind:
- Accuracy: I believe these books explain what ACIM is saying, its practice, and its inception, in its entirety without leaving out important bits.
- Style: What is not readable will simply not be read! (Personally speaking :)) These materials are all well-written, well-presented, clear, succinct and accessible. They are entertaining and serious when they need to be.
- Depth: These books give the new student a good overview of the principles / story of ACIM, without overwhelming him / her with too much detail. Eg. The best two books on ACIM history are Absence from Felicity (500 pages) and Journey Without Distance (135 pages). While Absence from Felicity is an outstanding book, it’s simply too much information for the new student.
Also, please bear in mind that this is a highly personal list. Please do not be offended if your favourite author / book is not on this list. While I have read many ACIM-related books, I clearly will not have read all of them. (Especially with the rate of excellent books which are coming out these days!) I am sure that there are many others which are just as good or better. I am always open to your feedback, recommendations and criticism.
Without further ado and disclaimer :), here is my top 10:
No doubt, there will be many who have problems with “ascended masters” – and we could go into an entire discussion of why it is possible or not if such entities could exist and appear. Personally, I am less concerned about the messenger than I am about the message. The advanced spiritual and psychological concepts presented in DU are clear, complete, coherent – going into appropriate depth but yet remaining extremely readable – a combination which is so rare to find. To me, DU is done in a way which is so extraordinary that it could not have possibly come from the limited mind and intelligence of a human being. Read it with an open mind!
This is Gary’s second book. Now that the core principles of ACIM have been presented in DU, YIR is less serious and jumps around to cover several topics: Gary’s life history and his experiences since DU was published, more emphasis on forgiveness and the life of Jesus, some educational mystical / paranormal experiences which Gary goes through (I won’t spoil it for you :)), and some predictions about the future. A real highlight is Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas, 70 sayings of Jesus which alone are worth the price of the book!
3. The Forgotten Song and the Song Remembered – Foundation for Inner Peace, Produced by Bridget Winters
I’ve always felt that documentaries are just about the most effective way to learn about something. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then a video with sound is surely worth a million words! This documentary, 2.25 hours long, from the Foundation for Inner Peace was produced by Bridget Winters, an acclaimed TV producer from the BBC. Although it was done in 1987 (!), it remains to me as the best video ever made about ACIM. It features principal figures in the inception of the Course – Bill Thetford, Kenneth Wapnick, Judy Skutch, and other many people who were early students of ACIM.
If you are completely new to the Course – I can think of few better ways to get a good overview of ACIM in just over 2 hours than to watch this documentary. The documentary is in two parts: The Forgotten Song and The Song Remembered. The Forgotten Song are about the origins of the Course, and The Song Remembered are personal testimonies that examine different aspects of ACIM. Having multiple personalities who come from different walks of life – business people, ex-convicts, psychologists, etc. – explain ACIM in their own words is both amazing and helpful. I thought it was so good and so helpful to me that I actually transcribed the entire thing…
The entire video is available on youtube, in 16 parts, and I have embedded them here for easy viewing:
If you like it, please buy the DVD from FIP!
Wapnick for new ACIM students can be intimidating. He is an academic and a scholar – as such, many of his materials can be quite dense. Like the ACIM text itself – he teaches in the language of the Course, and assumes that the reader is already familiar with this language. He frequently references Shakespeare, Beethoven and Nietzsche. How many of us have the intellectual capacity to appreciate Hamlet? String Quartet No. 16? Thus Spoke Zarathustra? Also, a lot of his books are edited transcriptions of his lectures, which often results in a rather unstructured, and dare I say, ‘rambly’ format.
This audioprogram produced by Nightingale-Conant strikes a great balance: it is a well-structured, well-packaged program with the clarity and insight of Wapnick, with a very practical aspect – it has written reference materials and a guidebook with questions for you to work with after each session. I can’t think of a better way for a new student to get started on Wapnick than this set. From the description on the FACIM store:
This eight-CD set is an in-depth presentation of the teachings of A Course in Miracles. It is a distillation of several of our Foundation’s tape sets, including: “An Overview of A Course in Miracles,” “Living A Course in Miracles,” “Form vs. Content: Sex and Money,” “Love Does Not Oppose,” “Climbing the Ladder Home,” and “The Gift of the Ego: Fear/The Gift of God: Love.” The CD set includes a printable Guidebook, as well as an accompanying booklet containing a prelude and postlude to each disc.
I was introduced to this book by Gary Renard – it has been one of his best recommendations so far! TMTT is a product of the collaboration of two gifted teachers: Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira. TMTT is an exposé on the ego, its workings and how we can dis-identify with it (I say dis-identify and not ‘undo’ as the book says, I don’t think the ego can be eliminated / undone, it is more of a choosing against the ego, but then it could be a semantics thing). I love this book because it is framed in a language I can understand – I found the metaphysics clear, structured, and I found many methods which were very helpful, such as Byron Katie’s The Work.
This book is a great introduction to the story of ACIM and its principal characters in its development. Written by Robert Skutch, who originally founded the Foundation for Inner Peace with Judy Skutch Witson, JwD is an enthralling read about the inception of ACIM. I especially find the sections about Helen’s paranormal / psychic / mystical experiences especially fascinating.
7. The Most Commonly Asked Questions about A Course in Miracles, Gloria Wapnick and Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
The only other Wapnick material on this list, this book is a compilation of the 72 most asked questions about ACIM and clear answers from Dr. Wapnick himself – including the perennial favourite: ‘Why are we here? / How did the impossible happen?’ You can’t get more structured than a Q&A format! I love this book – it helped me so much in answering my questions about ACIM and I even got the answers to those questions which I hadn’t even thought of… The entire text of this book is actually available online here.
Jerry Jampolsky is a psychologist and was one of the early students of ACIM. This book is not a ‘classic’ for no reason – for over three decades, this little book has changed the lives and attitudes of many. While it is not really an ACIM book, it is an excellent distillation of the psychological principles of ACIM. A very readable book, in a language that everyone can understand, with lots of lovely illustrations. You might want to try this one first if you have a lot of trouble with the Christian language.
Patrick Miller is a journalist, author, independent publisher, and literary consultant. (He was also the first publisher of Gary Renard’s Disappearance of the Universe) It thus comes as no surprise that his book is extremely well-researched and crystal clear in its presentation. Understanding A Course in Miracles is a rare bird in ACIM literature – it examines multiple viewpoints from teachers and critics of the Course alike, while retaining a good sense of balance. Some of the controversies around the Course are also covered. All this, plus a brief overview of ACIM’s principles and inception! A great all-round starter text.
The last item on this list is also one of the most exciting, and the most recently published. When I first read about Alex and his project for a graphic novel explaining ACIM concepts, I was highly skeptical. But as I surfed on to his webpage which presented the glossary of symbols as used in the novel, I changed my mind. I had a moment of, ‘wow – this is not only really cool, this is genuinely meaningful.’ There was something about it that spoke to me in a way that I knew its source was authentically inspired. It’s difficult for me to explain this feeling, just in the same way I can’t exactly describe how Spirit communicates with me. It’s just a deep sense of knowing.
I really think that there is going to be a big wave of ACIM materials which will appeal to the younger generation, and also make it a lot more accessible to the general population, utilising all sorts of different media. This book is definitely one of those.
The book certainly didn’t disappoint, and I loved the way (usually) dry and theoretical ACIM concepts were brought to life by pictures. I also think Alex has a great understanding of the Course – metaphysically speaking, I was in agreement with pretty much everything that he said (pertaining about the core concepts of ACIM). After reading the entire book, I realised how ambitious it was to present so many ideas in 200 pages – being familiar with the ideas I was able to follow the novel, but I did wonder if someone completely new to ACIM would be lost by the rapid succession of concepts. I highly recommend this novel, but I think it’s definitely meant to be read as a brief overview of ACIM, and should be read in tandem with a text such as The Disappearance of the Universe.
That’s it! As I said earlier, there are always new books coming out and I have many on my ‘to-read’ list – so expect this list to evolve over time! Also please let me know if you have any recommendations or comments on this list.