Questions & Answers
[as it appeared in the May 2010 Newsletter]
There is nothing I like more than a good question about the Course. And by “good question”, I mean a thought provoking one – a question that makes me reassess what I currently believe and perhaps come to see it in a new light. As a result, we have a very interactive study group of Course students here in Louisville where everyone is encouraged to share their insights and questions. It isalso a very diverse group with people from widely varying religious backgrounds so we get a lot of very insightful questions and I’ve been making a note of them for the last 15 years.
Answer: Great question! A lot of Course students seem to be confused on the distinction ACIM makes between “magic” and “miracles” – a confusion that is apparently so common that the Course, itself, refers to it as “the magic-miracle confusion”. As a start, let’s look at what the Course has to say about “magic”:
1. ACIM says that magic rests on “the belief that there is a creative ability in matter which the mind cannot control.” (T-2.IV.2.8) and…
2. Magic also refers to “the powers which the ego ascribes to itself.” (T-4.II.9.1)Both of these statements on “magic” are amplified in the Workbook Lesson 50:
“In this world, you believe you are sustained by everything but God. Your faith is placed in the most trivial and insane symbols; pills, money, “protective” clothing, influence, prestige, being liked, knowing the “right” people, and an endless list of forms of nothingness that you endow with magical powers. All these things are your replacements for the Love of God. All these things are cherished to ensure a body identification. They are songs of praise to the ego.” (W-50, paragraphs 1 & 2)
Simply put, Jesus’ miracles of physical healing two millennia ago were for the express purpose of showing that, “as a man, …I demonstrated both the powerlessness of the body AND the power of the mind…”. Proving the power of mind over matter isn’t “magic”; it’s miracles.
The second statement is a little less clear in what it’s saying but the elaboration in Lesson 50 explains it quite well. Magic, as “the powers which the ego ascribes to itself”, are those attributes that appear to make our egos “special”, i.e., our personal resources like money, areas at which we excel, like high I.Q’s, etc.
“Magic” sees specialness in one’s self or in other people, giving some people powers that other people seem to lack instead of seeing those resources as a means for EQUALIZING ourselves and our brothers.
The primary source of confusion about miracles of physical healing and some Course students’ belief that they are “magic” seems to stem from a conflation of what the Course says about magic with Sigmund Freud’s theory about “magical thinking” (a belief in God that he identified as “infantile”) coming from a way of thinking that we develop as children – seeing our parents as all-powerful beings due to their seemingly god-like ability to fulfill our needs upon request – and that desire and ability to fulfill our every need being projected onto some heavenly being people call “god”. In actuality, that is exactly what the Course says that God would do for us should we allow it. (T-14.XI.7.3)
The utter dependence upon God (that could easily be equated with Jesus’ injunction to “be as a little child”) is precisely what the Course encourages in its students despite the fact that, in Freud’s estimation, that state of mind is childish. Ironic, isn’t it?
But then, in the urtext of the Course we find that (in Jesus’ own evaluation of Freud’s work), “Freud could not divorce miracles from magic.” And some of ACIM’s students clearly still seem to share in Freud’s confusion.
* Carmen Cameron, who is a founding member of Course in Miracles Society, has been teaching classes in A Course in Miracles since 1994. She was a presenter at the 2009 Miracles Conference in San Francisco and is scheduled to present again at the 2011 Conference. Carmen’s website is: http://peaceful-path.blogspot.com/