Jesus, possibly the greatest miracle worker of all time, has written a book called A Course in Miracles. I remember my reaction when I first stumbled across this incredible claim. I was training as a spiritual healer in England, and was looking out for good books that could help me in my training. It struck me as amazing that here, in book form, was a possible communication from Jesus in which he is teaching us how to be miracle workers. In his earthly ministry he performed spectacular physical healings, and here, in his book, it seems clear that he is teaching us to do what he did—that he expects the students of his course to follow in his footsteps: "Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself, and can therefore abolish both" (T-1.I.24:1).
Yet is this remarkable idea consistent with the rest of the Course, which focuses on the healing of the mind and views the body as an illusion? That is the question I would like to explore in this article. There seems to be good reason to ask this question. Perhaps the view most commonly held by students is that for us to be absorbed with how to heal our ailing bodies is to get sucked into the illusion, to get caught in the trap of "making the error real." The Course even has its own term—magic—for healing which is simply aimed at the removal of symptoms, where external agents are seen as having the power to heal the body. It lists those agents as amulets, charms, medicines, chants, and "bits of magic in whatever form they take" (W-pI.140.10:1). It is pretty clear that it is talking about anything which is used for the purpose of healing the body, no matter how apparently "spiritual" or non-physical that agent is.
In addition, the Course comes down hard on our desire to fix the illusion—to rearrange the externals of our lives in order to be happy. It seems so natural for us to want to change external circumstances that we perceive as challenging, including our bodily condition, and to see those changes as having the power to make us happier. Yet the Course teaches us to seek salvation only in our own minds, and not outside ourselves in the world of form.
So, from this point of view, healing is a rather dodgy business to be in. It appears to mean using magic to fix the illusion. This is clearly in opposition to the Course's goal of allowing the Holy Spirit to heal the mind. How, then, does this tie in with the fact that Jesus worked miracles of physical healing in his lifetime, that he is the author of a book entitled A Course in Miracles, and that he makes explicit his assumption that the students of his course will learn to heal the sick and raise the dead?
To answer this we need to look closely at what the Course itself teaches about sickness and healing. A sick body, according to the Course, is a witness to a depressing view of reality. It is a teacher which convinces our minds that reality is full of suffering. Imagine for a moment that you are struck down with a debilitating and painful disease. Won't this tend to make you feel that you are separate from others, since your body is sick and theirs isn't? Won't you feel that you are limited by your body, trapped inside "a solid wall of sickened flesh"? (W-pI.137.2:3). Feeling trapped by your body, won't you come to the conclusion that it has power over you, power to reduce you to fear and inflict suffering on you? That your body is the cause of your experience, with your mind at its mercy? Won't all this instill in your mind the utmost importance of the body's condition and the basic message that the body is real? Almost certainly it will seem more real to you than the truth which you may intellectually "know." You would surely be tempted to conclude that God is a god of cruelty.
In other words, the devastation of a sick body is a witness to a devastated reality. Yet the body can become a witness to a totally different view of reality. Imagine now that into this terrible scenario of suffering a miracle worker comes and heals you completely with a miracle. What would happen in your mind?
You would be faced with the realization that this bodily condition, which seemed to burden you with so much, has been wiped out in an instant. The body, which seemed so real and solid, has just been changed by the mind—yet the body is normally seen as more powerful than the mind. Wouldn't you learn something fundamental about which is stronger—the mind or the body? "If the mind can heal the body, but the body cannot heal the mind, then the mind must be stronger than the body. Every miracle demonstrates this" (T-6.V.A.2:6-7). And further, wouldn't the fact that this witness can so easily be changed by the mind challenge your whole view of the body's reality? After all, if the body can be changed so easily, it must not have been as real and solid as you thought. The Course refers to this very phenomenon: "The miracle is means to demonstrate that all appearances can change because they are appearances, and cannot have the changelessness reality entails" (T-30.VIII.2:1).
Imagine the effect that this miraculous event would have on your mind. The view of reality that your sick body was pointing towards would be wiped out. You would be left with thoughts such as: "Maybe I'm not limited by my body. Maybe I'm not trapped by it, or at its mercy. Maybe I'm not a victim of the world and of God." Experiencing your sick body being healed by Spirit—by a miracle—would surely send a message to a deep part of your mind, a message which speaks of a completely different reality. The body healed by a miracle would be a testament to the life beyond the body. It would be a symbol of truth, a sign of salvation.
The body can become a sign of life, a promise of redemption, and a breath of immortality to those grown sick of breathing in the fetid scent of death….Let it receive the power to represent an endless life, forever unattacked. (T-27.I.10:3,6)
Healing by a miracle, then, would turn your entire view of reality upside down. And this, says the Course, is precisely why we fear the miracle: "if he were healed physically, the threat to his thought system might be considerably more fearful to him than its physical expression [the sickness]" (T-9.II.2:5). In other words, he would rather stay sick than have his whole view of reality shattered. Surely we can imagine how disorienting it might be to see matter, which seems so real and substantial, instantly reshaped by a spiritual power. Even a mind that intellectually believes that the world is an illusion might be left deeply shaken. Course-based spiritual healing is not about fixing the illusion so that something external, specifically an improved bodily condition, can deliver us the comfort we want. It is not aimed at the body, but the mind. The body is healed, too, but only because of what that can teach our sleeping mind. It can awaken our mind to the unreality of the body and the power of the spirit in a way that mere words cannot. The Course makes this same point, saying that a healed body "can speak with power greater than a thousand tongues" (T-27.II.5:8). Thus, even when the body is healed, the goal of the healing is to reawaken the mind.
I am not trying to say that Course-based healing is all about healing the body; I firmly believe it is about healing the mind. I am merely saying that, in the Course's view, the body often does get healed, yet even that is for the sake of the mind, for the sake of its awakening.
This means that, whilst Course-based healing may look like other forms of healing—since bodies may be healed—it really is something entirely different. To illustrate this, let me share a bit from my own journey as a healer. When I first started doing spiritual healing I was studying with an organization in England which placed a lot of emphasis on the aura, the chakras, on visualizing colors and light entering the body to heal symptoms, on sending energy to the patient and so on. These are pretty well-respected healing techniques, common to many different types of healing paths. However, when I decided to focus entirely on the Course as my guide to healing, I stopped using all those techniques.
I now begin my healing sessions by actively calling into question my perceptions of this person—as a body, as a separate being, as someone who is sick. My focus now is to change my perception of the patient and overlook everything that appearances show me about this person, and to enter into a state where my mind is open to the Holy Spirit. In this open-minded state He can work through me, transforming my perception of the patient, and extending true perception through my mind to theirs.
This is a very formless approach to healing; yet, to my surprise, the more I left the healing techniques behind and focused on this formless approach, the more that concrete "phenomena" happened. The main thing people receive from the sessions is a strong sense of inner peace and mental clarity, but they also report interesting inner experiences as well as a certain amount of relief from bodily conditions such as headaches and back pain (though, as a beginning healer, I am not yet seeing the kind of dramatic alterations of matter that I spoke of above). I have come to feel that this is perfectly consistent with what the Course is saying about healing: that the focus is meant to be on the mind, although the body is included as part of the total picture.
To my mind, Jesus truly is teaching us in the Course to do the type of healing he did in his lifetime. He makes this very clear statement about his own healing in the Text: "I raised the dead by knowing that life is an eternal attribute of everything that the living God created" (T-4.IV.11:7). Raising the dead is a very physical and concrete manifestation of healing, yet Jesus is saying here that that happened only because of his inner connection with the truth, his ability to see beyond the body. He didn't say "I raised the dead by using a special breathing technique combined with directing blue light at the heart chakra." I believe that the healing he did is completely consistent with the Course's teachings on the unreality of the body and of the world, and that in doing this healing we are following in his footsteps.
I would love to see Course-based healing become recognized as a new and different form of healing, something that attracts healers who are dedicated Course students and who are also willing to let their healing develop in a way that is solely based on the Course. If this is something that Jesus is teaching in the Course—and I believe that it is—then it is a tradition that he wants to see unfold here. And in time to come, as this tradition grows, then A Course in Miracles will produce the kind of healers who did just what Jesus did.