A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles

a return to love marianne williamson a course in miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Ah, finally, we’ve got our hands on one of the classics on spirituality. It’s been on my personal must-read list for a long time before it found its way to me. Yup! Just like how A Course in Miracles (ACIM), the thick blue book that inspired Marianne’s bestseller, miraculously appeared on the shelf of a nearby thrift bookshop.

I guess that makes for rewording the saying, “When the student is ready, the books will appear.” Ha!

Chances are you’ve also stumbled upon the famous lines quoted above that spurred you on the quest for truth, the search for love.

And as I wrote in The Path to Awesomeness book, it is paradoxical in that the spiritual journey is not a coming to some destination, but rather a return to Source. Or, in Marianne’s words: A Return to Love.

Apart from giving ACIM a simpler approach with a lighter tone, Marianne breaks down its concepts into major aspects of life such as relationship, health, and career, and presents them in a practical manner by citing her own experiences on how certain ACIM lessons helped shift her basis of perception from fear to love — the essence of a miracle.

The Mists of Love

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we have learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment—or unlearning—of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts. Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.

We came here to co-create with God by extending love. Life spent with any other purpose in mind is meaningless, contrary to our nature, and ultimately painful. It’s as though we’ve been lost in a dark, parallel universe where things are loved more than people. We overvalue what we perceive with our physical senses, and undervalue what we know to be true in our hearts.

That’s just from the intro part, yet it already captures the heart of the book — the meaning and purpose of life, which is love.

To realize that, we need to shift from eyesight to insight. Marianne says love requires a different kind of “seeing” because it is hidden beyond the physical world.

She tells the tale of The Mists of Avalon to illustrate her point. Avalon is a hidden magical island surrounded by impenetrable mists. Unless you believe the island exists, the mists won’t part.

Marianne likens love to Avalon. That it’s also a place within us hidden in plain sight. That it’s also covered by mists — fear-based thoughts that cover our perception.

But just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. What’s real doesn’t go away. We can cover it with lies, but the truth doesn’t stop being the truth.

So what does it take to part the mists? We have to believe that love exists. And it does. Once we believe it’s there, love reveals itself to us.

a return to love

Come Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit guides us to a different perception of reality: one that is based on love. His correction of our perception is called the Atonement.

The only thing lacking in any situation is our own awareness of love. In asking the Holy Spirit to help us, we are expressing our willingness to perceive a situation differently. We give up our own interpretations and opinions, and ask that they be replaced by His. When in pain, we pray, “Dear God, I am willing to see this differently.” Surrendering a situation to God means surrendering to Him our thoughts about it. What we give to God, He gives back to us renewed through the vision of the Holy Spirit.

As Marianne puts it, the Holy Spirit is the force of consciousness that corrects the errors in our perception.

Of what consciousness is that? One that is based on love. In the religious context, it’s what we refer to as “Christ,” as personified by Jesus. Marianne reminds us that like Jesus, we are all God’s children. We are all the “only begotten Son.” There’s only one of us.

That’s how God sees us: as who we really are, not what we do (yep, including our “sins”). The job of the Holy Spirit is to return to us that awareness, at one with God (known as “At-one-ment”). It helps us see as God sees, from the eyes of love.

But the Holy Spirit won’t force us. Free will, remember? So Marianne offers us a simple prayer to call on the Holy Spirit for help whenever we’re having fearful thoughts: “Dear God, I am willing to see this differently.”

And how would we know God’s response? There will be a feeling of relief. Then, we return to our peace of mind.


The purpose of our lives is to give birth to the best which is within us.

We can all contribute to a global rebirth to the extent that we allow ourselves to be awakened from our own personal dream of separation and guilt, to release our own past and accept a new life in the present. It is only through our own personal awakening that the world can be awakened.

One of the most enlightening teachings of ACIM is the shift of focus from crucifixion to resurrection. It’s that crucifixion symbolizes death — the death of our old self; while resurrection is the rebirth — the birth of Christ in us, the awakening of our new self.

Marianne interprets crucifixion as the energy pattern of fear, resurrection as the energy pattern of love. What makes the shift possible? Forgiveness, which is the function of a miracle worker. She then lays out in the book how, in simple ways, we can become one.

The crucifixion is a great symbol for forgiveness, our redemption. However, it also symbolizes the past. What the ACIM teaches us is that our salvation lies in the resurrection, where the wounds of our past can be healed. It is where our lives can be renewed and returned to our eternal nature, which is love.

a return to love

Love, Only Love

There is no fear that love does not dissolve. There is no negativity that forgiveness does not transform.

Darkness is merely the absence of light, and fear is merely the absence of love. We can’t get rid of darkness by hitting it with a baseball bat, because there is nothing to hit. If we want to be rid of darkness, we must turn on a light. Similarly, if we want to be rid of fear, we cannot fight it but must replace it with love.

As I was reading the lines above, two of my favorite books came to my mind.

First is The Choice for Love, where Barbara beautifully describes love as the ultimate diluter. She says that unpleasant emotions are like a very dark, concentrated liquid that you can only dilute by adding water. Or like a salty soup that you can only balance by adding water, not removing the salt.

Second is The Seat of the Soul, where Gary states that the cure for absence is presence. And since darkness (evil) is an absence of light, it cannot be eliminated by another form of darkness (absence). Only the presence of light can do that.

Similarly, Marianne explains that guilt, anger, rudeness, cruelty, and other negativity are all forms of fear. And so you heal them not by removing or attacking them, but by simply replacing the fear, which they come from, with love.

Lessons in Relationship

During their time together, they will go through whatever experiences provide them with their next lessons to be learned. When physical proximity no longer supports the highest level of teaching and learning between them, the assignment will call for physical separation. What then appears to be the end of the relationship however, is not really an end. Relationships are eternal. They are of the mind, not the body, since people are energy, not physical substance. Bodies joining may or may not denote real joining, since joining is of the mind.

Relationships are assignments, says Marianne, from which people, or shall we say “soulmates,” pair up (for partners) and team up (for groups) to learn specific lessons. She relates the three levels of teaching according to ACIM:

  1. First level: the casual encounters, the acquaintances; and no, they are not accidents.
  2. Second level: includes more intense work. As quoted above, when the work is done, the relationship also comes to an end. But the physical separation is not really “the end.” It only means that the relationship is entering the next phase of learning that will require physical separation. Marianne clarifies that if the people involved learned what they were meant to learn, then what we might consider a “failed” relationship is, in truth, a success.
  3. Third level: life-long relationships and usually involves being with the “difficult” people. The greater the difficulty, the greater the lesson.

a return to love

It bears repeating perhaps all the more important ACIM lesson, which is the distinction between a special relationship and a holy relationship. We touched on this in one of our insights from Live Your Happy (a book also based on ACIM teachings), where Maria emphasizes that there is only “One Love.” And that is the love of God in each of us, intended to be shared with everyone.

Marianne sums it up this way:

The purpose of a relationship is not for two incomplete people to become one, but rather for two complete people to join together for the greater glory of God.

Special relationship is of the ego, based on fear. Holy relationship is of God, based on love. Healing is its intention and spiritual growth its purpose.

Does it mean we should end or avoid getting involved in a special relationship? No, not at all. ACIM asks that we offer it to the Holy Spirit so it can be used according to God’s will, and therefore transform it into a holy relationship.

Lessons in Career

The key to a successful career is realizing that it’s not separate from the rest of your life, but is rather an extension of your most basic self. And your most basic self is love.

Knowing who you are and why you came here—that you are a child of God and that you came here to heal and be healed—is more important than knowing what you want to do.

Marianne argues that what you want to do is not the important question. But rather, the question is: “When I do anything, how should I do it?

ACIM, the Bible, and every spiritual resource point to the same answer: in love.

And I also advocate that each of us carry out our specific mission, which is usually tied to what we love doing. In the book, I write “Do What You Love” as the 3rd Law of Awesomeness to apply this principle. With it, love comes naturally to our actions.

But I guess the real challenge that the question poses is how we do the ordinary tasks? The little things? How we do one thing is how we do everything. Doing the little things with love prepares us for our grander mission.

May we be reminded of Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

a return to love

The Power of Love

Your personal power is not something that is going to reveal itself at some later date. Your power is a result of your decision to reveal it. You are powerful in whatever moment you choose to be. The choice to be used as an instrument of love, right here, right now, is a choice for personal empowerment.

We know now that we are in the business of love. But Marianne says it’s not something we save doing for a later date. We can start right where we are. She counsels us that we don’t get our lives together first before we offer it to God. Instead, we turn it over to God first and then things start coming together. Our hearts open, and our gifts and talents begin to blossom.

Marianne points out that all the greats, such as Beethoven, Shakespeare, or Picasso didn’t really “create” their masterpieces, but rather “express” what God has put in them. Their genius is an expression, not a creation. Loved that!

So are we, too, called to be an expression of love in everything we do. If we center our careers on bringing more love into the world, however that may appear, then our job becomes our own ministry.

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Miracle Worker

Any job can become a ministry, as long as it is dedicated to love. Your career can be an empty canvas for God to write on. Whatever your talents or abilities, He can use them. Our ministry becomes a joyous experience for ourselves and others as we let a mysterious force direct us. We simply follow instructions. We are allowing God’s spirit to move through us, using our gifts and resources however He sees fit, to do His work in the world. This is the key to a successful career.

As a miracle worker, healing the world is our mission. Love is the main job description and the specific task to be performed is on a moment-to-moment basis.

To know what we are to do, Marianne suggests that we ask it through the miracle worker’s prayer: “God, please use me.” When we’re willing to be used for God’s purpose, not for our own “grandiosity” as ACIM calls it, but for the greater good of all, then our intrinsic “grandeur” will naturally radiate from within us. This, Marianne believes, is the foundation for a successful and abundant career.

Erwin McManus (author of The Artisan Soul), whose works I recently heard about from The School of Greatness podcast, has an eloquent way of putting it: “Fame is what you do for yourself. Greatness is what you do for others.”

Check out also an insight we had from another classic bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, where Rick coins the acronym SHAPE to help us hone in on our special mission, the part we play in the salvation of the world.

Heal the Mind, Heal the Body

Living within the realization that we are much more than bodies, that we are spirits within the mind of God, expands the level of our awareness and places us outside the limitations of ordinary physical law. This correction of our perception, this Atonement, is our healing. It is not the body that gets sick, but the mind. It is not the body but the mind that is in need of healing, and the only healing is a return to love.

It is not the body that gets sick, but the mind.” This particular ACIM teaching has radically shifted my approach to being healthy. In fact, it asserts that this is the first error in perception: to think that the body gets sick.

Okay, before you raise your eyebrows, consider what’s being implied in that message. As Anthony William (aka Medical Medium) also professes, what we thought of as body sicknesses are actually just a symptom. It’s the effect, not the cause.

Which points us to the real cause — the mind. We can argue that an unhealthy lifestyle (poor diet and lack of exercise) is a contributing factor. Yes, but still, the body is not the cause of the sickness.

In one of the wisest books of all time, As A Man Thinketh, James Allen articulates the same principle: “The body is the servant of the mind. If you would protect your body, guard your mind. If you would renew your body, beautify your mind.”

When the body gets sick, stop fighting the sickness. Instead, start loving the body and its own healing will happen.

a return to love

Love in Full Capacity

The ego would have us born with great potential, and die with great potential. In between, there is ever-increasing suffering. A miracle frees us to live fully in the present, to release our power and to claim our glory. The Son of God is risen to Heaven when he releases the past, releases the future, and thus releases himself to be who he is today.

I like how Marianne contends the popular notion of “reaching your potential.” She warns us that it could be counterproductive if not fully examined. She says the concept of potential could be used to sabotage ourselves, to live in the future rather than being in the present, to becoming desperate by measuring ourselves against what we could be.

In short, potential could be the ego’s better-sounding word for “not enough.” It also utilizes these “self-improvement” tools for its own agenda of trying to fill that void.

So, instead of potential, why not try “capacity”? Because it signifies we already have it. And for us to move towards our fullest potential, we need to first recognize that we have the capacity to become what we can be.

Now, you might think, “Love the pep talk, Freddie. But I have too little capacity, to begin with.”

Not a problem! Nothing’s too little for God to work on. In fact, that’s exactly what the ACIM asks of us: just a “little willingness.” For the little that we can give, God gives back a kingdom.

And that kingdom is already within you, right here, right now.

It has been joyously awaiting your return.

marianne williamson course

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

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MARIANNE WILLIAMSON is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. For the last 35 years, she has been one of America’s most well-known public voices, having been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, & Bill Maher. Seven of her twelve published books have been New York Times Best Sellers and four of these were #1.

Marianne is a native of Houston, Texas. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area. To date, Project Angel Food has served over 11 million meals. Marianne also co-founded the Peace Alliance.

Visit her at marianne.com

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