A Course in Miracles and an Introduction to Integral Spirituality

Marianne WilliamsonAudio, Conversations, Ethical, Perspectives, Spiritual, Spirituality 8 Comments



arianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. She has published nine books, four of which—including A Return to Love and Everyday Grace—have been #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Having developed her own unique message and teaching from her in-depth experience with A Course in Miracles, Bert begins the dialogue by asking about this central element of Marianne’s spiritual history. As Marianne explains, the Course teaches that there are only two fundamental emotions: love and fear. Fear is based on the false perception of separation, alienation, and limitation, and love is based on the correct perception of the spiritual nature of reality, which is always-already Free, Full, Sacred, and Blessed. Going on, Marianne explains that the Course doesn’t train one to love God, or love Jesus—the claimed “voice” of the Course—it teaches us to love one another, with forgiveness being the ideal spiritual practice and path to Grace.

A Course in Miracles grew out of the New Thought movement, which finds its own roots in Emerson and New England Transcendentalism. The Course uses the novel approach of adjusting one’s attitude or disposition towards qualities such as forgiveness, and through that technique, one can experience causal-formless and even nondual-unity states of consciousness. In the Course, it’s clear that to be spiritual is to be forgiving. An Integral Approach would go on to point out that the word “spiritual” has at least four different meanings, with the Course emphasizing and recognizing two of those four types: (1) the highest levels in any of the developmental lines; (2) a separate line itself; (3) an extraordinary peak experience or state; (4) a particular attitude. The Course specializes in states (#3) and attitude (#4), and an Integral Approach to spirituality — and an Integral Approach to the Course — would suggest checking in with the other two meanings as well — highest level (#1) and separate line (#2) — just to touch all the bases. Along these same lines, an Integral Map reveals that, along with nearly all the contemplative traditions past and present, the Course has little understanding of the developmental structures in consciousness (from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral to super-integral), and these structures are the basic levels (or “altitude”) through which developmental lines progress, as seen in the first two definitions of “spiritual.”

Developmental psychology has demonstrated that, cross-culturally, humans grow through the same basic structures in consciousness (along with their individual and cultural differences), and that these structures largely determine how one interprets one’s experience (although, again, the surface details vary widely from culture to culture and individual to individual). As an attitude- and state-training technology, the Course will work for nearly everyone at any level of development, but what it means to them will be very different. Although a forgiving attitude and causal and nondual states do have genuinely transcendent and universal qualities, an inner-city gang member, a fundamentalist Christian, and a liberal university sophomore are going to interpret the experiences provided by the Course — or any other contemplative training — extremely differently, even if the phenomenological experiences themselves were more or less identical. To say that we want to be aware of developmental levels, structures, or altitude is not to say that we want to unfairly rank or judge people, it’s to say that we can tailor the incredible gifts of paths such as the Course to make them more effective — it’s simply effective communication and skillful means.

Encouraged by Bert’s gentle and wide-ranging curiosity, Marianne goes on to comment on the central themes of several of her books, including A Return to Love, Everyday Grace, The Gift of Change, A Woman’s Worth, and Enchanted Love. Marianne speaks eloquently on the oft-ignored gifts of age, the importance of ritual in helping young women and men come into maturity, and how romance-as-spiritual-practice is one of the most advanced, and most rewarding, paths one can walk in this life.

Marianne is an engaging and passionate speaker, and we’d be thrilled to have you join us for this inspiring dialogue….

As you listen to this conversation, you can use the Notes app in the bottom-left corner of your screen to record any reflections that may come up for you.

Marianne Williamson

About Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed lecturer, activist and author of four #1 New York times bestselling books. She has been one of America’s most well known public voices for more than three decades. On January 29, 2019, she announced her campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for the 2020 United States presidential election.

Bert Parlee

About Bert Parlee

Bert Parlee, PhD serves as senior advisor at STAGEN in Dallas, complementing a private practice as Executive Coach, Leadership Trainer, OD Consultant and Mediator. His areas of expertise are training individuals, teams and organizations on how to bridge opposing perspectives, principles and worldviews, and thus to communicate more effectively in situations of difference, disagreement and conflict.