“ ‘Knowledge is Truth’: A Course in Miracles as Neo-Gnostic Scripture”

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies

A Course in Miracles represents a modern-day neo-gnostic scripture that reflects significant trends in contemporary Western religiosity, especially the quest for alternative forms of esoteric “spiritual” knowledge and experience in a nominally Christian or post-Christian Western world. While this text has largely been ignored or marginalized in mainstream scholarship, a critical evaluation of the Course, its editing, reception, and contemporary interpretation not only represents a fascinating case study in how “texts” become invested with “scriptural” authority, but illustrates how the Course’s claims about Jesus and God exemplify the gnosticizing trajectories in the contemporary New Age movement.

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  • 3

    Widengren 1950; 1969546–93.

  • 6

    Coburn 1984435–59; Graham 1989 129–69; Gill 1987 129–46.

  • 7

    Davies and Wollaston 1993; Malley 2004.

  • 8

    Sugirtharajah 200864.

  • 9

    Geertz 1973.

  • 10

    Graham 1987b134.

  • 11

    W. C. Smith 1993141 (emphasis added).

  • 12

    Graham 1987a68.

  • 13

    Levering 19895.

  • 14

    Levering 19892.

  • 15

    Levering 198911.

  • 16

    Biderman 199513.

  • 17

    Biderman 199549.

  • 18

    Biderman 199550.

  • 19

    Wimbush 200814.

  • 20

    Sugirtharajah 200867.

  • 21

    Holdrege 1996.

  • 23

    Hanegraaff 1998; Newport 1998; Basil 1988.

  • 24

    Hanegraaff 1998443.

  • 25

    Campbell 1980.

  • 26

    Hanegraaff 1998303–04.

  • 27

    Cf. Newport 199813.

  • 28

    Newport 199817.

  • 30

    See e.g. Wapnick 19891998 [1983] 1995 1997; Wapnick and Clarke 1995; Williamson 2012 [1992] Jampolsky 1985 Skutch 1996 [1984].

  • 31

    Groeschel 199382; Larson 2004; Miller 1997; Carroll 2003; Upton 2001 221–50.

  • 32

    Price 2008132.

  • 33

    Price 2008134.

  • 36

    The primary source material is Wapnick 1991. Gallagher 2014 241 describes this account as “hagiographical . . . Wapnick’s account of Schucman’s life is clearly an insider’s.”

  • 37

    Gallagher 2014241. Gallagher further notes that Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures first published in 1875 may have “provided Schucman with a model of the type of book” that she would later write (244).

  • 38

    Wapnick 1991115notes that Schucman was “repelled” by what she regarded as “its ‘spooky’ and more incredible aspects” and described these readings as representative of “the nutty fringe of religion.” Wapnick 1991 481 denies that either he or Schucman ever discussed gnosticism as his “interest in it did not really begin until after her death” (in 1981) and “she had no conscious awareness of this important philosophical and religious movement” although he concludes that “there must have been part of Helen’s mind that was familiar with this tradition.”

  • 39

    Raschke 1980.

  • 40

    King 1999.

  • 41

    Joseph 2012.

  • 42

    Wapnick 19838352; Wapnick 1995 102.

  • 43

    Wapnick 1991480.

  • 44

    Wapnick 1991480–81.

  • 46

    Wapnick and Clarke 199539.

  • 47

    Wapnick (1983) 1998. In his 1992 preface to his 1983 work Forgiveness and Jesus published in the 1998 edition Wapnick wrote: “My teaching now however has a somewhat different focus from before. . . . In my early years of teaching the Course . . . I often taught in the context of the Bible even though it is obvious to serious students of A Course in Miracles that it and the Bible are fundamentally incompatible. . . . I would no longer make some of the statements found in Forgiveness and Jesus” (xiv–xv). He explains this as progression: “since I believe that a bridge between the Bible and the Course has been established I typically now emphasize the discontinuity between the two” (xvi). Wapnick clearly changed his mind teaching and public interpretation of the Course in the years following Schucman’s death.

  • 48

    Wapnick 19894.

  • 49

    Wapnick 19894.

  • 50

    Wapnick 19893–4.

  • 51

    Wapnick and Clarke 19952.

  • 52

    Wapnick 198938.

  • 53

    Wapnick 19892124.

  • 54

    Wapnick 19893–4.

  • 55

    Wapnick 19894–5.

  • 56

    Wapnick 19896.

  • 59

    Jonas 200142.

  • 60

    Wapnick 1989544.

  • 61

    Wapnick 19897544.

  • 63

    Wapnick and Clarke 199543; cf. Wapnick 1989 7.

  • 66

    See Perry Mackie and Watson 200348–57.

  • 67

    Wapnick 19896.

  • 70

    Wapnick 1989415418.

  • 74

    Wapnick 1989418415. As Wapnick puts it “The fundamental unreality of this thought [of separation] is what marks the uniqueness” of the Course (415).

  • 97

    Perry Mackie and Watson 200343–59.

  • 98

    Perry Mackie and Watson 2003ix.

  • 99

    Wapnick 1989539.

  • 100

    Perry Mackie and Watson 20036.

  • 101

    Perry Mackie and Watson 200338–4044–46.

  • 103

    Perry Mackie and Watson 200340.

  • 105

    Wapnick 19954.

  • 119

    Wapnick 1989473.

  • 138

    Wapnick 1991398–400. Wapnick reports that this “very specific message came on October 2 1976” that is after the publication of the Course.

  • 139

    Roukema 2010116. Cf. contemporary authors Walker 2003 103 203; Fox 1988; Eddy 1994 [1875]; Jung 1968 19; Furst 1968; Yogananda 2004 11–13.

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