This book is a frank and yet somewhat sympathetic look at the written texts collectively known as ACIM (A Course in Miracles). When I first saw this book, it struck me as being either a critical denouncement of ACIM or a glowing account of its divinely-inspired truth. It was a delightful surprise to learn that it is neither of these. It is a mostly objective account, though slightly skewed toward favorable views of the work. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has any curiosity about ACIM, or has tentatively decided to buy into its premises.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the first section, which features a candid account of Schucman's life as well as of her very rocky professional relationship with Thetford. We learn that Schucman (an incredibly gifted woman intellectually, but exceedingly conflicted and driven) had an on-again off-again interest in Christian esoteric spirituality all through her youth and well into her adult life. However, upon deciding to devote her life to psychiatry, she began to embrace a publicly-professed agnosticism, all the while secretly keeping two purses containing rosaries among her private things, and occasionally sneaking off to masses anonymously. It appears that she was of a decidedly spiritual nature though always professionally very ashamed of admitting that fact. As a result, the picture painted is of a woman of deep inward paradoxes, a perpetually fascinating figure, but tormented by conflicting priorities.
The second section of the book is devoted to exploring the main themes of ACIM. One very interesting chapter concerns the ACIM doctrine that the world is an illusion and that it was not created by God. This teaching is a central theme of ACIM. Although Berkeley's idealistic philosophy is briefly mentioned, the author never discusses it at length, and chooses instead to focus on such modern physical theories as string theory to demonstrate that even contemporary scientists believe that the world we see and experience in daily life does not accord with ultimate reality. Certainly an uncritical naive realism is not what ACIM teaches. I would love to find a book that explores ACIM's metaphysical teachings on a deeper level than this one does.
The third part of the book deals with contemporary assessments of ACIM. The author presents the Christian point of view (that the work is demonic and spiritually dangerous) without ridiculing that point of view in any way. I would say, yes, it is valid to come to this conclusion if you are a Christian. For this section shows very clearly that ACIM is NOT a Christian text, and can in no way be interpreted as such. The author relates his own personal spiritual journey, and tells how ACIM has had (and continues to have) an overall positive spiritual impact upon his life. He openly declares that ACIM is not for everyone, and that it may well initially create more havoc and unrest in a person's life than other methods, which are overall less demanding.
My admiration and respect for ACIM has deepened as a result of my reading this book. I think that the book has an enduring spiritual depth as well as some passages of extremely beautiful spiritual prose. I am also glad that through a seemingly fortuitous twist of fate, there is a version of this book in the public domain, so that it is an open text. I admire the fact that ACIM takes a decidedly different approach than most other new age spiritual books, most of which focus on prosperity and ego-gratification. As most works on mysticism make clear, one can certainly use spiritual principles to achieve worldly success and gratify the ego's need to feel special in some way, but any attempt to put worldly success at the center of one's existence in the place of God is tantamount to the establishment of a false god.