The following is a much-needed article addressing A Course in Miracles students and all students of spirituality concerning the recent disputes between various Course-related authors and “teachers” of A Course in Miracles (also referred to as ACIM or the Course). It’s probably more appropriate to refer to most of these folks as merely “authors” (and not “teachers”) of A Course in Miracles due to their lack of application of its most important principles and because they have indeed written Course-related books.
Although this article may be of more interest to ACIM students, there are a few lessons behind these incidents that may have an affect on everyone in the spirituality movement in the following ways. (1) This situation challenges us to let some authors and self-proclaimed “teachers” of Course related materials know that it is not okay to attack others and justify it as “loving” behavior, especially since some authors have been launching such attacks for years. (2) We can see from this experience that it is possible to study even the most advanced form of spirituality and yet still fall prey to one’s ego. In other words, the ego is alive and well-even in the ACIM world. (3) It’s time for serious students of A Course in Miracles to recognize that there are some “teachers” and “scholars” of ACIM who choose to analyze and preach the material, rather than understand and experience it. They are similar to the religious fanatics that ended up crucifying one who came to demonstrate how to live these principles-Jesus. In other words, they are unconsciously attempting to make a religion of ACIM. So beware of such “Blind Guides!” (4) Despite these seemingly unfortunate developments, such events allow students of these various authors to see the humanness of their “teachers”-especially when they fail to apply the most fundamental Course principles. This awareness encourages these same students to seek out their own ways of discovering and living the principles of A Course in Miracles, thus teaching their teachers.
In case you haven’t heard, a book was written a few years ago (The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard) that brought a great deal of insight into the meaning and application of A Course in Miracles-one of the most influential (but sometimes complicated) spiritual books of our time. After The Disappearance of the Universe (also referred to here as DU) became such a huge success, some of the “interpreters” and/or authors on the Course seemed to develop an urge to publicly attack the material in DU and its author, Gary Renard. They now are saying that his claim to have been visited by two ascended masters, who gave him deeper insights into ACIM, is complete fiction-a lie. They also claim that although their own behavior of attacking Renard may look unloving, they feel compelled to act on behalf of the Holy Spirit to prevent students of ACIM from being led astray.
The three primary authors who are on the attack are Jon Mundy, Robert Perry, and Greg Mackie. Jon is a wonderful Course teacher (speaker and author) who publishes an ACIM related magazine called “Miracles.” He’s also been studying ACIM longer than almost anyone. Jon Mundy is a well-respected teacher of ACIM with a wealth of knowledge stretching beyond the Course. He certainly grasps the primary concepts in ACIM, possibly second only to Kenneth Wapnick himself. The latter two authors, Robert Perry and Greg Mackie, are mostly known for running a center and newsletter that analyzes the Course and for their intellectual breakdowns of the Course material. They are also known for having openly challenged the beliefs and teachings of other ACIM authors (namely Ken Wapnick) considered to be more respected and knowledgeable on the Course than they are.
The following section of this article summarizes several of the attacks/claims that these three authors are making against Gary Renard. As a long-term facilitator of ACIM and one who has worked with individuals on both sides of this growing dispute, my purpose here is to share an objective viewpoint, while remaining rooted in spiritual principles. I have worked with both Jon Mundy and Gary Renard in conference settings; and although they are currently not seeing eye-to-eye, at the time we worked together, I felt we all seemed to agree on most of our individual interpretations of the principles of ACIM. It surprises me somewhat to see Jon participating in these recent attacks on Gary, but knowing him, I am certain that it’s only a matter of time before he will choose differently.
Jon Mundy has contributed an immeasurable amount of light to understanding A Course in Miracles-particularly in his “Miracles” magazine. However, in a recent issue, he published articles written by himself as well as by Robert Perry and Greg Mackie. In these articles, each presented his “proof” that (1) the physical manifestation and teachings of Gary Renard’s two ascended masters (known as Arten and Pursah) are a fabrication of Gary’s and that (2) the material in the book offers no original or important insights into ACIM. The following are some of the primary pieces of “evidence” presented by these authors, followed by my own responses.
At the end of this article are a summary and conclusion, which offer ideas as to how we can all learn from this experience and grow from being self-proclaimed “experts” or “scholars” of A Course in Miracles into living examples of its principles. To be part of the latter group requires moving beyond merely memorizing and quoting the Course to actually applying its concepts, something to be learned by these disputing authors and all students of spirituality.
THE THREE STRIKES
SUMMARY OF JON MUNDY’S ATTACK
The following text in bold include points and actual quotes from Jon (and the other authors disputing Renard’s claims) that were recently printed in “Miracles” magazine. These quotes and points are followed by my responses.
1. “According to Pursah, up to now, no other teacher of the Course, beside Gary Renard, has presented us with such a clear understanding of the Course.”
Although I understand how Jon sees this as boastful, the comment is in part true. That is to say, The Disappearance of the Universe simplified and clarified many of the Course’s concepts that, up until now, had been treated mostly with intellectual dissection. Some teachers and students of the Course like the previous academic approach and have even benefited from it, but others have been looking for an interpretation of the Course that, as with Gary’s, felt like a breath of fresh air.
2. Jon acknowledges that DU “Keeps to the basic metaphysics of ACIM.” Jon also observes that DU is also essentially “In line with Ken Wapnick’s insights regarding the Course.”
This is a high compliment, given that nobody on Earth seems to have quite the complete grasp on the Course as Wapnick. So why not spend more time complimenting Gary for this achievement?
3. Jon and the other detractors of Renard and DU maintain that “ACIM says nothing about ascended masters, past lives, future lives” as DU suggests.
I beg to differ. The concept and definition of ascended masters happens to fit quite well with ACIM’s description of the “Teachers of teachers,” who, despite being beyond human illusion (allowing them to ascend), have chosen to incarnate (or sometimes remain ascended and assist from the higher realms). As for ACIM saying that “Reincarnation cannot be true in a real sense…,” well, neither are the articles written against Renard or the lives we are all living right now! In fact, reincarnation is at least as real as ACIM, its scribe, and this conversation. Let’s keep in mind that without Helen’s “past life” connection and “past” commitment to Jesus, we would not have ACIM.
4. Currently Jon refers to his original liking of DU as, “Being taken in.”
Why use such a negative connotation? It makes Gary’s work sound like a conscious plot to undermine its readers. Jon continues and states that something eventually stopped him from agreeing with the material in DU. In particular, it is that Arten and Pursah (the ascended masters Gary claims to be in conversation with) predict a nuclear bomb in a major city. Jon bases his point on the idea that “the Holy Spirit would never say anything that would upset or disturb us.” Once again, I beg to differ. Over the years, ACIM has proved disturbing to a lot of people. In fact, it’s been so disturbing to the world-renowned Unity Church that many of the branches withdrew support of ACIM and no longer have study groups in their churches.
5. Jon points out that Gary Renard spends far too much time, especially in his new book, promoting himself.
I agree that Gary spends way too much time in his new book defending, as well as promoting, himself. Also, I don’t agree with a few of his insights or statements. But that’s just my opinion! It doesn’t mean I need to stand on a podium and try to convince the whole world that he’s a fraud. Such personal views are all perceptions and opinions and are rarely worth expressing-albeit always worth forgiving.
6. Jon points out that “When Arten and Pursah speak, they sound just like Gary.”
Although this could indeed prove that Gary is a filter though which these masters, Arten and Pursah, speak, it doesn’t mean he made them up. Ironically, even the scribe of ACIM, Helen Schucman, as a filter affected the tone and writing style of the Course material-a point made clear in her personal diary notes.
7. Jon seems to disagree with Renard’s comment that “The intellectual who uses his understanding of the Course to prove himself to be intellectually superior to others isn’t really practicing the Course.”
Yet, this is absolutely true! The operative word here is intellectual. Your intellectual mind will never make the leap into true spiritual understanding and actually “Practicing the Course.”
SUMMARY OF ROBERT PERRY’S ATTACK
Now let’s turn our attention to the attacks of Robert Perry, who begins by stating…
1. “In all of the excitement about DU, there is an uncomfortable question loitering in the wings, virtually unnoticed…Is the story true? Did ascended masters actually appear? It seems “spiritually incorrect” to even ask such a question. After all, the book brought thousands to the Course, as well as thousands lapsed back to the Course…”
First of all, let us give thanks to the gods of Olympus that Mr. Perry has come along to save us from the likes of Gary Renard. Yet even Robert acknowledges that DU has brought many lapsed Course students back to their studies of ACIM-albeit these are often students that Robert and company have turned away from the Course. In fact, in all my years of teaching ACIM to thousands of students in various countries, the two most common reasons I hear people turning away from the Course are (1) the highly intellectual nature of most of its teachers and authors-with little or no practical application and (2) the apparent hypocritical behavior of those who spend so much time attacking other ACIM teachers and authors in an effort to prove their own ACIM superiority.
2. Robert Perry goes on to sarcastically state that “If the story is really true, every student should take notice. After all, here is the real truth, delivered straight from the heavenly realm, and without parallel.”
If Robert is looking for a book to make fun of due to the high level of its claimed origins, why doesn’t he go after Neale Donald Walsh who claims to have had a Conversation With God? After all, his book is also claiming to be “from the heavenly realm.”
3. Mr. Perry admits that most people he has talked to, resist confronting the issue of DU’s authenticity on the premise that the authenticity does not matter as much as the message.
Isn’t it funny how “most people” understood the importance of applying one of the Course’s key concepts: “Content versus Form,” yet Robert himself missed it? It’s one of those moments when the students become the masters. In a nutshell, when applied to this specific scenario, this Course concept suggests that we give priority to the content of a message and not worry about the form or details of the messenger.
4. Perry continues with “Some say we can’t know if the story is true or false…but have we tried?” He adds, “We would naturally expect the understanding of ascended masters to be far beyond the human level and with stunningly original insight into ACIM.”
What we can know for sure is that the material in DU lifts our spirits and offers tangible applications of the Course…an important point Perry and company somehow missed. Furthermore, throughout the book, Gary owns his personal flaws and judgments and then practices forgiveness. How is that for originality? As for Robert trying to tell us what ascended masters should be like-how would he know what ascended masters are like, especially since he and his colleagues claim there is no “proof” that they even exist?
5. Then comes the most stunning of all of Robert Perry’s attacks. Referring to ACIM students and teachers and their inability to comprehend the material, he states, “You need to appreciate the immense gap that I personally experience between the Course itself and people’s representation of it. I have spent my adult life studying this document, and my overwhelming experience [tells me that] there are ideas I never hear ACIM students or teachers talk about…When people approach the Course, I observe them seeing only what they have been taught to see. I can even tell which teachers they have been influenced by. I spend huge amounts of time with my nose in the Course taking in its complex symphony of themes. And I regularly interact with students, hearing their distillations of the Course, each composed of a hand full of inherited ideas. The difference between the two is truly night and day.”
Whew! How did any of us ever study the Course before Robert came along? I’m amazed at the depth of ego that this paragraph portrays. The way he speaks of the commoners who don’t have his depth of Course understanding is shocking. All facilitators of ACIM have seen misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the material-including those that come from Robert and company-but we don’t usually find it necessary to attempt a public flogging or see ourselves as superior.
6. Robert then leads us to the real basis for his attacks. He states that it felt like Gary was merely channeling (being influenced by) Kenneth Wapnick.
As most ACIM students are aware, Robert has spent a considerable amount of time trying to stir debates with Wapnick, as if to battle for title as the lead scholar of ACIM. Fortunately, Ken Wapnick won the debate by not bothering to respond to any of Robert’s silly charades. This really makes it clear as to why Jesus chose a man such as Wapnick to be part of the Course founders and not Robert Perry.
7. Robert goes on to put the final nail in his own coffin-of-a-case against Renard by pointing out that “DU is filled with many Wapnick-like concepts, such as non-duality. It also includes Wapnick’s pantheon of historical figures, such as Shakespeare and Freud.”
Well it certainly makes sense that a man with Wapnick’s understanding of the Course would sound similar to that of ascended masters. After all, great minds think alike! Yet I find it hard to believe that Robert somehow missed the fact that ACIM does indeed have a flavor of Shakespeare and Freud. This is, in large part, due to Helen’s admiration for Shakespeare and her clinical training in Freudian psychology.
SUMMARY OF GREG MACKIE’S ATTACK
Now, we’ll move on to what Greg Mackie refers to as the “Twelve Reasons I Don’t Believe Gary Renard’s Account of The Disappearance of the Universe. Mackie’s list states the following:
1. Occam’s razor theory says that because we are asked (in Renard’s book) to accept the existence of two entirely unproven entities, it makes the possibility unlikely.
Mackie’s point here is totally absurd and only confuses the issue. His argument is like saying that if you cannot find the proof of your parent’s existence, you yourself might not really exist. This position is intellectual pride at its highest. Renard need not prove the existence of these entities. Greg is the one who has the burden of proving that Gary is lying.
2. We only have Renard’s word, and he is an invested party.
Technically, Mackie and all the other DU detractors also stand to benefit from winning this debate, as it would move them up a notch as authorities on ACIM.
3. There is a lack of evidence or witnesses, and Gary offers only a convenient explanation by claiming that we should focus on the message and not the messenger.
Helen, who scribed ACIM, also had no evidence or witnesses and suggests that we accept her story of someone even more potentially unbelievable than an ascended master, that is, Jesus himself. Furthermore, the idea of focusing on the message and not the messenger is not Renard’s idea; it’s something Jesus teaches in ACIM. Once again, it’s about focusing on the content of a message and not the form of the messenger.
4. There has never been a verified instance of ascended masters or other advanced spiritual beings.
Are you kidding? If this were true, it would have to include Jesus. So why then is Greg bothering to study the Course?
5. DU follows other messages in the spirituality genre with extraordinary claims that do not hold up.
It’s always sad to witness the wounds that turn a skeptic into such a distrustful person. It really makes no sense to condemn Renard’s work on the grounds of previous authors turning out to be frauds. By the way, since Greg and company are calling for proof of Renard’s claims, how do we know that their claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit in their fight to save the world from Gary Renard is valid? What proof does he have that his inspiration does indeed come form such a Source?
6. The material in DU is similar to Ken Wapnick.
So what?! Wapnick was good enough for Jesus to have chosen him to assist the Course’s development. That should be enough of an endorsement for others to side with Ken (and now Gary for that matter).
7. Renard’s dialog with the masters is far too cavalier and crude.
Yeah, yeah, I know…masters would never be so casual nor would they have a sense of humor…Yet I have dined with many masters, and they are usually casual and have a great sense of humor. If they didn’t, they would probably spend less time being masters and more time in serious attacks on teachers who promote love and laughter.
8. The ascended masters should be amazing beings of transcendent love and wisdom remarkably free of human foibles.
How would Greg know, especially since he says there is no proof that ascended masters exist?
9. The dialog sounds like a literary creation.
Good point, but it is coming through the author’s filters.
10. The book contains numerous factual errors, such as claiming that human beings are not related to apes.
You’ve got to be kidding. Only a narrow-minded academic would believe man has evolved from apes. Do you really believe Jesus would tell you that you came from an ape?
11. Gary’s defenses are not convincing, nor are the defenses of others who have said that he is such a “nice guy.” But nice guys are capable of even committing murder…Besides, if a person perpetrates fraud, why should we trust him?
Wow! It’s great to know that we have an ACIM teacher/author who likens an important Course author to someone who is capable of murder. Again, you have to convict him first.
12. Someone who has truly spoken to ascended masters would portray humility. But Renard is always boasting about the success of DU.
Why should Greg care what Renard says about his success?
SUMMARY OF GARY RENARD’S DEFENSE
In all fairness, a review of Gary Renard’s written defenses need to be included here.
For the most part, Gary recently offered his detractors, and all interested parties, a brilliant blow-by-blow defense that exposes many inconsistencies and un-truths. This defense has now been printed by Jon Mundy in Miracles Magazine. In a human court of law, Renard would win, hands down. But it’s worth mentioning here that he might have taken the high road (as did Ken Wapnick) and ignored those who would attack him. Nevertheless, his choice to respond may also bring about a greater good by exposing the hypocrisies that have infiltrated the Course in Miracles community (mainly some of its facilitators) and thereby turned away many from studying the Course. Alas, all is not lost. Many students of spirituality have chosen to find new ways of learning Course principles, namely by finding teachers and authors who offer fresh ways to interpret its message.
On the other hand, Gary’s newer book, Your Immortal Reality, seems to contain less inspiring material and is more about the author’s personal and professional experiences since the success of his first book. Yes indeed, Gary’s new book and his lengthy recent defenses seem to take every opportunity to promote himself and (as his detractors have stated) too often mentions how many books he’s sold. But we would all probably find ourselves a little tempted to do the same. Gary’s behavior is not unlike a child who just surprised everyone and won a race that nobody even knew he had entered. He’s proud and he wants to tell everyone about it! Our job is to congratulate him and then encourage him to move on to maturing his approach. As for his detractors, they are simply mirroring the behaviors of the classic jealous siblings who want some credit of their own-a cry for love (and attention) that deserves nothing but love and forgiveness.
There are a several lessons we might all learn from this controversy. A few are as follows:
1. First of all, it should be pointed out that, for the most part, the original team of scribe and editors of ACIM (which includes Ken Wapnick) were the best of friends and those still alive, remain such. The behavior of these later students of the Course does not reflect the original intent behind the material. It’s not unlike what the church eventually did to the teachings of Jesus-although the current group seems to be accomplishing this in record time. Yet it does bring up great opportunities to apply ACIM material, thus integrating its message to an even higher level.
2. There are ACIM religious purists who study and analyze the “letter of the law” in the book and there are ACIM mystics who choose to experience and understand the Course. When selecting your teacher, choose wisely.
3. If Gary’s ascended masters really do not exist, it means they are not Real. So then why bother debating their existence-especially if one is so certain about this? Hmmm…Let’s see…Having external, written debates with entities that aren’t real…Isn’t this behavior a little schizophrenic?
4. Jesus already warned us of such behaviors as these when he said, “I do not choose God’s channels wrongly.” Jesus also mentions in the Course, “…those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. But they must be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth.”
5. You can’t really claim to understand ACIM without understanding that Jesus was the one who dictated it. Then, once you accept this, you would have to accept the possibility that Jesus and his other fellow masters have written other materials and shared other teachings, all of which would then assist us in our understanding of some of the concepts found in the Course. Therefore, unless students and teachers open their minds to studying other Course-related materials (such as DU), such persons will remain narrow-minded and their opinionated teachings will be of little value in the long run.
6. The most important questions for all who are attacking Gary are as follows: Are you forgiving him for what you perceive in him? Are you taking any time to practice the principles of A Course in Miracles? Are you looking within at what this is bringing up for you and then forgiving yourself for your fear-based behaviors against adversaries that are not really there?
7. It’s not too late for everyone involved to make peace and choose again. Just imagine what an impact it would have if the students of ACIM learned that a dispute such as this was healed by applying the principles of the material. Would this not speak of the power of choosing the miracle of healing? Would it not be the best choice that could possibly be made at this moment?
I rarely choose to get involved with disputes such as those found in this article. I have chosen, however, in this case to do so to point out that attack is never justified and that it is possible (and not too late) to bring sanity and peace to this situation and in a loving manner. To do so may bring about a greater good for all students of ACIM and spirituality in general. In my heart I know that hidden beneath the insane, fear-based behaviors of those involved is a true dedication to ACIM and its author, Jesus. Furthermore, the individuals engaged in this controversy do indeed make a valid point that there are some ACIM authors and facilitators who lack integrity and do not accurately represent the material. But perhaps in the future, rather than attacking those with whom they disagree, a choice could be made to just peaceably part ways from such individuals and let the Holy Spirit decide their futures. Furthermore, if these detractors could just choose a miracle and make the transition from analyzing the Course to applying its concepts and principles, they might take themselves (and their students) to a whole new level of understanding and experiencing ACIM and the inner teachings of Jesus himself.