You’re an absolute newbie to A Course in Miracles who has just acquired a copy of the book (or has just opened that Course book that has been gathering dust on your bookshelf). You want to begin working with it, to try it out and see if it’s something that you want to pursue further. How do you get started? Here are a few tips:
1. Familiarize yourself with the Course through reading and introductory materials
As many Course students have observed, the Course is like a foreign language, so the first step is immersing yourself in that language. The primary way of doing that is simply reading the book. As a beginner in your first read-through, don’t worry about trying to comprehend everything you read. Just plow through it with the goal of simply letting it soak in. You can start with any volume you like, but the key is to read the book and familiarize yourself with its unique language and perspective, so you can decide if it’s something you want to continue. If you do, there will be plenty of time for more careful study later on.
Another way to familiarize yourself with the Course is through reading good introductory materials. At the Circle, we have a couple of books that are especially helpful for the beginner. One is Robert Perry’s Path of Light: Stepping into Peace with ‘A Course in Miracles,’ which is a general introduction to the Course. The other is Robert’s Return to the Heart of God: The Practical Philosophy of ‘A Course in Miracles,’ which is a tour through the Course’s thought system.
2. Decide if you want to go through the Workbook at this time
A major decision to make at the beginning is whether to go through the Workbook right away—not just reading it, but actually doing its daily practices as instructed. Some Course students do go through it right away while others wait; it’s a personal decision that you may want to pray for guidance about. As with careful study of the Text, if you decide the Course is something you want to continue, there will be plenty of time to go through the Workbook later on if you decide not to do it now.
Whenever you decide to go through the Workbook, the Circle has a couple of books that can help you on your journey: Robert Perry and Allen Watson’s A Workbook Companion Volume I and Volume 2, which offer summaries of the Workbook practice instructions, commentaries on all 365 lessons, and essays on various aspects of Course practice.
3. Consider the possibility of joining a Course study group
Weekly study groups have become perhaps the primary support system for people doing the Course. Though joining one is certainly not required, a good study group can be helpful. Groups vary a great deal, so you may want to shop around a bit to find one that’s right for you. We recommend finding a group that is focused solely on the Course, has a clear goal, is led by an experienced Course teacher whom you respect, and is conducted in an atmosphere of courtesy and trust. The Guidelines for Study Groups page on our website presents some guidelines we have found helpful in conducting our groups.
4. Consider the possibility of having a personal Course teacher
The Manual for Teachers suggests that the primary way the Course will be passed on is from a Course teacher to his or her pupil. It also says that such teacher-pupil relationships are arranged by the Holy Spirit, and that they will come together when the time is right. It’s perfectly fine not to have such a teacher at the beginning; indeed, you may never have one, since there are few qualified teachers available at this time. That being said, we recommend being open to the possibility that you are meant to have a teacher, and trusting that you will find him or her if that is the case. Be on the lookout for someone who diligently walks the Course’s path in a sincere and humble way, and be attentive to internal guidance on this matter.
5. Give yourself time to decide whether the Course is really for you
The Course says that all that is required for the beginner is that he or she “merely accept the idea that what he knows is not necessarily all there is to learn” (M-24.5:9). It doesn’t require a major commitment up front. So, there’s no rush. Give yourself time to let the Course into your life, so you can come to an informed decision about whether it is right for you. You may decide that it isn’t, and that is perfectly fine. But through your exploration of the Course, you may find the most precious of gifts: your pathway home.