The first part of our mission statement for the Circle is “living A Course in Miracles.”
What Course student couldn’t affirm that? The second part, however, is a bit riskier: “anchoring a tradition that will carry its light to the world.” That brief phrase carries all kinds of connotations that are more controversial among Course students. It suggests people intentionally gathering in a form that a) endures across generations (part of the meaning of “tradition”) and b) has the purpose of bringing the Course’s light to the world.
How do we know the Course wants us to do such a thing? How do we know what Jesus wanted for the Course’s life in the world? The Course itself is almost completely silent on this subject. Aren’t we being a bit presumptuous if we believe that Jesus wants us to “anchor a tradition that will carry its light to the world”?
Actually, Helen did receive some messages about the Course’s life in the world. One such message, received on December 31, 1975, has been particularly formative for me.
The message was really about the coming year, 1976. Jesus says, “This year will be different.” After hinting that there is a great deal he cannot tell them without frightening them, he then says,
This year you will set up a place which will be the home of the course; a place where it will grow from infancy into a helper of the world.
If we believe this guidance, Jesus wanted a place that would be the earthly home of the Course. This may sound exclusive, but the purpose of this home is clear. It would have the same purpose as Jesus’ own earthly home two thousand years ago. It would be a safe shelter in which, like the boy Jesus, the Course could “grow from infancy into a helper of the world.”
This growth is clearly not about a growth in page count. The Course was already completely dictated by this time. It had even been published in its initial form (the “Criswell Edition”). No, the growth here is growth as a presence in the world, growth in its ability to make a difference in the world. We know this because of what it is growing toward — being “a helper of the world.”
That says so much. It says that Jesus wanted A Course in Miracles to grow in its ability to make a difference in the world, and do so from the shelter of a particular home. The next lines show us why that shelter was needed.
It will grow slowly, because nothing can be permitted to go wrong. It must develop without error, and with nothing to mar its perfect purity. It is the Word of God, to be kept holy forever.
This time there will be no failure, no loss of truth, no misunderstanding and no misinterpretation.
The Course needed that shelter not because it needed safety from physical injury, like a child, but because it needed safety from a different kind of injury, from misinterpretation. Notice all the ways in which Jesus said this: It needed to develop “without error,” “with nothing to mar its perfect purity,” so that it would be “kept holy forever,” with “no loss of truth, no misunderstanding and no misinterpretation.” All of these are different ways of saying “without the adulteration of its pure message.”
In other words, as it grew from infancy (embraced by a tiny circle) to “helper of the world” (having global influence), it needed the correct understanding of it to go with it. That way, what reached the global stage would not be a distorted version of it, a caricature, a parody. How much could that help the world, or at least help it in the right way?
Notice those two words that begin the final sentence quoted above: “This time.” We all know what happened “last time,” when Jesus himself grew from infancy to helper of the world. If the Course really does represent his true message, then “last time” there was profound “failure,” “loss of truth,” “misunderstanding” and “misinterpretation.”
But this time it was meant to be different. The Course would grow up in the shelter of a place founded by Helen, Bill, Ken, and Judy — individuals who had devoted their lives to it. From there, its influence would grow slowly, and that would allow the pure understanding of it to keep pace with its expanding influence, so that eventually, the Course would stand forth on the global stage in all its perfect, radiant purity. Just imagine that! This provides the context for the next line, which we often refer to here at the Circle:
I will direct its growth as it reaches from the paper on which it was written into the hearts for which it was intended.
Here we have a snapshot of what it means for the Course to grow into “a helper of the world.” It needs to reach from “the paper on which it was written into the hearts for which it was intended.” Its message needs to go into people’s hearts, lots of people’s hearts, or else how could it justly be called “a helper of the world”? Yet that process needs to be carefully directed; specifically, directed by Jesus. It cannot just happen willy-nilly, or the Course would either not reach those hearts, or would reach them mired in misinterpretation.
It saddens me to write this, for in my view, things immediately went completely awry. This “home of the course” was not founded in 1976. Both Helen and Bill backed away from public leadership roles with the Course. The Course escaped from home into the New Age scene and has ever since been an “anything goes” movement without structure, guidelines, or standards, like a wild child that grew up on the streets. Ken went on to carry the flame, but within a few years of Helen’s death, he began departing radically from the literalist interpretation he had initially shared with her. I have always believed that this was his polarization with all the New Age craziness he saw around the Course. As a result, rather than a force for purity, I believe he has become one of the greatest sources of Course misinterpretation. He went on to found what he seems to believe is this home in 1988, but the Foundation for A Course in Miracles has never been a launching pad for the Course into the wider world. It has been more of a fortress, isolated from the rest of the world while it buries time capsules for some distant and unknown future.
I realize this is a dark picture, but I believe we have to face it without flinching. It’s not the whole picture (there is actually more to this piece of Helen’s guidance), but until we face the current state of things, we cannot take action that is appropriate to that state. We also cannot understand the full reason for the Circle Course Community, since it is the Circle’s attempt to take action.
I will leave it at that for the moment. What I originally intended as a single piece will have to turn into a short series. Maybe that is better, so we can digest each stage before going on. Also, while completing this, I had a phenomenally synchronistic experience, which I take to be guidance about what I am writing. I’ll leave that, along with the rest of Helen’s guidance, for the next installment.
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]