"Words are tools used to convey ideas with which we build concepts. In A Course in Miracles familiar words are frequently used with novel meanings developed in the context of the entire work. If you have only one book to support your study of the Course, this is it. Robert is handing us the key to understanding the multitude of concepts developed in the Course. After several years and many false starts of struggling to understand the Course I stumbled onto this work. After a month of "playing" with this Glossary I felt Robert had "cracked the code" for me. In my study groups, we still make liberal use of this book. Whether you are new to the Course or involved in advanced study, you will find this book indispensable."
—Tim Schoenfelder, M.D.
"I can best describe this book as a brilliant, fresh, and much-needed resource for all who have ever used A Course in Miracles. Robert is a modern day Teacher of God in the truest sense."
—Rev. Lee Poepping, Unity Church, Santa Clarita, CA
"I have found A Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles to be the best single volume to aid in deepening contemplation and understanding of A Course in Miracles."
—Jonathan Williams, Boulder, CO
"I want to say how much of a personal and group study Robert Perry's book, A Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles, has been. In my ten years as co-founder of a group in Illinois, we used the glossary for reference by group members, especially as an aid to new members. A particularly nice feature is that of stating the traditional Christian meaning for a given term, then listing the ACIM meaning of the same term. This is very helpful! It is both a compact and a comprehensive aid to Course students, new and experienced."
—Bob Riley, New Mexico
"I found A Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles very helpful indeed. It has helped me to understand words which may appear easily understood in normal usage but in the Course have a very precise meaning. I would certainly advise anyone studying the Course to have this glossary by their side."
"I am studying alone and have found much of the Text very difficult to understand. Then I found A Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles. What an enormous help it was. To anyone just starting their studies, this glossary is not just useful but essential."
—Ewen Cameron, Suffolk, England
"Robert Perry has given us a gift with his glossary. This gem of a Course companion does not get any shelf-time from me. It is always readily available whenever I spend time with the Course. As Robert explains in the introduction, our use of language and the meaning we give to words provide the ego with a comfortable home. The Course, though, uses words we think we understand, and by giving those words different meanings, it transforms our minds. One word at a time, one meaning at a time, our thought system shifts from being ego-centered to miracle-centered. Robert helps to hasten this process and heighten our understanding."
"We are fascinated with the update to the Glossary. As translators, we are in a unique position to see just how closely each word has been studied, explained in each context, and the trickle-down effect it produces in other definitions. A great addition to an already most valuable tool for the serious student, and an eye-opener for newcomers."
—Valerie Monk and Patricia Besada, Spanish translators of the Glossary, Milagros en Red
Introduction by Robert Perry
A Course in Miracles is a modern spiritual path. Designed as an educational program in spiritual development, its aim is to completely reverse the way we perceive the world. As part of this program in changing perception, the Course employs a unique use of language, a use which initially is quite confusing. When the reader first opens the book, he or she notices many terms which are very familiar, yet which do not appear to entirely fit their context; they don't seem to make sense in the way they are used. Since this occurs quite frequently, whole sentences and paragraphs become problematic and confusing.
There is, however, a reason for this confusing habit of the Course. The meaning that we assign to words grows out of the meaning we see in life—in ourselves, in others, in the world. Yet this is the very meaning which the Course wants to transform, the very meaning which clouds our sight and makes us suffer. What the Course does, therefore, is to take the same words we use and fill them with new meaning, meaning which expresses the thought system the Course seeks to instill in our minds.
This new meaning will often be a radical transformation of a term's conventional meaning, one that purifies or corrects the ego-based connotations of the old meaning. For instance, the term "Son of God" traditionally implies that only one unique male—Jesus—was God's Son. The Course has transformed this term to one that communicates that everyone—male and female, human and nonhuman—is equally God's beloved extension.
Or the new meaning may be an expansion of the conventional meaning, which makes it a statement about the world as a whole, rather than about just one small part. For example, the word "fantasy" traditionally refers to a specific psychological process in which we entertain imaginary scenarios that we consider more satisfying than reality. The Course broadens the application of this term immeasurably. It claims that this psychological process is responsible for existence as we know it: our thoughts, our behavior, and even the world itself. All of this is our imaginary replacement for true reality.
Or the new meaning may be a deepening of the old, which makes a term into an entire teaching about life, rather than just a pointer to a particular phenomenon. "Anger" normally refers to an isolated phenomenon in our lives, one that under certain conditions is considered to be natural and quite useful. In contrast, the Course views anger as allpervasive in our lives, as an unjustified, insane emotion that gives rise to our painful condition and that must be relinquished if we are to find peace.
These examples demonstrate that the Course's use of terms is neither careless nor eccentric. The terms and the meanings given them are clearly chosen with extreme care, and great wisdom lies both in the choice of terms and in the new meanings they are filled with. In researching the terms included in this book, I found, without a single exception, that the Course's use of a term was based on a penetrating insight into that word. The Course's author seemed to see before him literally everything about that word, both its essence or root meaning and all the psychological implications of its conventional usage. As a result, the Course will often turn a word's conventional meaning upside down, while at the same time carrying out its root meaning with greater purity and completeness.
Although the author of the Course admits that its terminology is not rigorously consistent on the superficial level, the consistency of thought behind a term is truly amazing. As a term is used over hundreds of pages, the various uses provide additional clues into the overall concept behind the term, fitting into it like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. Along the way, the term also interacts with other terms from the Course, playing a supporting role in the overall concepts behind those terms. The end result is that each term is a study in itself, a teaching in itself. Each term is a miniature container of the Course's entire thought system.
In essence, then, to study the Course, the reader has to learn a new language, and this takes time. Learning this language is quite different from learning a foreign language. For a foreign language uses different words to express the same world of meaning as our language expresses. The Course's language is just the reverse. It uses the same words to express a different world of meaning. This unique approach to language produces a unique psychological effect. Because the Course's words are familiar, seeing those words on the page triggers their conventional meaning. Yet because these words are also being filled with new meaning, seeing them also triggers the new meaning. Each time a word is used, then, the new and the old meaning arise and meet face-to-face in one's mind. And as they do, the old is slowly shined away by the more compelling and attractive light of the new. Eventually, all the words of the Course only trigger—and thus only reinforce—the Course's new world of meaning. The end result of this process is that the ego is evicted from one of its primary houses, the house of human language.
This use of language, then, reflects the larger process the Course guides us through, in which our illusions are brought to awareness, where they meet and are replaced by the light of truth; in which we make a shift from the current meaning we see in things to a fundamentally new meaning. If we can replace the egoic meanings contained in our words, then we have gone a long way towards replacing the egoic meanings contained in our minds. And that is the goal of the Course.
This unique language style not only facilitates the Course's goals, it also reflects the Course's overall philosophy. For this is one of many examples in which the Course operates in the same way it claims the Holy Spirit operates. According to the Course, the Holy Spirit takes forms that we made for ego purposes and assigns to them a new purpose, a new meaning: that of leading us out of the ego. The Course specifically mentions that human language, which was made to disrupt communication, can be reinterpreted by the Holy Spirit to facilitate real communication (T-14.VI.6-7). Presumably, that is precisely what the Course itself has done in its use of terms. And thousands of Course students have experienced the effects of this. They have had their entire outlook on life subtly made over, perhaps without their noticing, by this initially confusing but ultimately transformative use of language. My hope is that this glossary can speed and strengthen this effect in the lives of those students who use it.
About the glossary
I have tried to reflect all of the above in the definitions in this glossary—without going so far as writing a book on each one, which, with many of the terms, would be quite easy to do. Each entry is thus somewhere in between a brief definition of the term and a short essay on the concept. As such, the entries are subjective. They represent my current understandings, understandings which I myself frequently modify. With many of the terms in this book I have gone through several changes of understanding over the years.
For me it is a given that no glossary will ever capture all the fullness and nuance of meaning contained in the Course's terms. Yet still I hope that this one will prove to be a helpful source of understanding, reflection, study, and discussion for students who seek a more complete grasp of A Course in Miracles. My hope is that many of the definitions express more clearly what Course students already understand. And so far as I know, many of the definitions are new. Some disagree with understandings which have become accepted wisdom among Course students, yet which, in my mind, do not hold up when researched in the Course.
The following information will help the reader in making use of the entries (not all of the entries contain all of these elements):
In some of the entries the first definition is labeled "root meaning." This represents an underlying or core meaning that both the conventional meaning and the ACIM meaning have in common.
Conventional or Christian meaning
After the term is listed in bold (and after perhaps a root meaning), some entries will first give a conventional meaning or Christian meaning, before giving an ACIM meaning. This is the meaning that in my opinion the Course's use of the term is implicitly playing off of or responding to. This conventional (or Christian) definition does not attempt to capture the entire meaning, but emphasizes the meaning that seems to relate most directly to the Course's, usually by way of contrast. This part will sometimes include comments about the Course's perspective on that conventional meaning.
Words in boldface type refer to other entries in the glossary. They mean "see this word elsewhere in the glossary." In any given entry I have not bolded all of the words that are defined elsewhere in the glossary, only those which pertain more or less directly to the term under discussion.
For study purposes, I have tried to include some of the more important Course references to a given term. This, however, is not a main focus of this glossary and so is not done with any kind of completeness. When the reference is in parentheses, this means the reference pertains to the sentence in which the parentheses occur, rather than to the whole entry. When the reference is not in parentheses and comes at the end of an entry, it pertains to the entry as a whole.
Suggestions for using the glossary
Apart from the usual uses of such a glossary I have a few suggestions. One will have more appreciation for a term if one not only reads the definition, but also reads the references given, as well as looks up the definitions for the bolded words. One can also make the terms more practical and relevant by asking oneself how a certain situation in one's life would look if one really believed the concept behind a particular term. For instance, you might consider how a difficult interaction you had today would look if you really believed what the Course says about the term "freedom."
In addition to individual use of the glossary, I think that study groups might benefit from going over a term, or cluster of terms, a week. As mentioned above, this would be enriched by looking up the references, reading the bolded definitions, and discussing application to one's life. Studying the Course's use of language is like diving into an ocean. The thumbnail sketches provided in this glossary can barely begin to hint at the depth and breadth of that ocean. I look forward to the day when in-depth studies can be done of all the Course's major terms, along with many of its minor ones (which must number in the hundreds), and even its repeating images and phrases. For now, though, I hope this modest glossary will contribute both clarity and depth to your study of the Course, and will give you a sense of the mastery of this unique tool of spiritual awakening.
Root meaning: To reconcile or set at one (it thus refers to the recovering of at-one-ment, not the state of at-one-ment). Specifically, the reconciliation of God and His children, which is achieved by the wiping away of what caused the rift: the children's sins.
Conventional: The sins are wiped away by payment for them; in Christianity, by Jesus paying for them on the cross.
ACIM: The sins are wiped away by the realization that they were not real in the first place, and hence that the rift with God never happened. Therefore, Atonement in the Course is said to undo errors (rather than sins), correct perception (rather than the corruption of one's soul), and cancel out past errors (rather than pay for them). "Atonement...enables you to realize that your errors never really occurred" (T-2.I.4:4). Put simply, it wipes away what stands between us and God with the knowledge that nothing stands between us and God. Jesus made this principle accessible to us through his resurrection, not his crucifixion (indeed, the resurrection is sometimes called the Atonement-see T-3.I.7:8-in contrast to Christianity calling the crucifixion the Atonement). This placed him in charge of the Atonement. Atonement is one of the major terms in the Course and has many aspects:
1. It is a principle: that the separation (or fall) never really occurred (see T-6.II.10:7). In this sense, it is the final lesson.
2. It is a power which, when we accept it, comes into our minds and heals our thinking (see T-1.I.37, T-14.IX.3:2). The miracle is thus the expression of the Atonement.
3. It is a plan for the return of all God's sons (see plan for salvation), a plan based on the Atonement principle.
4. It is a process, in which the Sonship progressively approaches the final reunion with God (see T-1.III.1:1).
5. And it is a purpose'the goal to which the plan and process aspire (see T-2.II.6:9).
See salvation. See accepting the Atonement for oneself.