A Course In Miracles does share many ideas with Unity, Christian Science and Religious Science, but it is also significantly different from these disciplines as well. These three disciplines are frequently referred to as New Thought religions.
Unity is officially the Unity School Of Christianity. It was formed in 1889 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in Kansas City, Missouri. Some basic Unity principles are very similar to ACIM principles. The idea that God is the source of all things and that God is good and everywhere present, is the same in both. That we are all spiritual beings created in God's image and spirit so we are also all good, is the same for both. Both teachings also tell us that we create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
ACIM is different from Unity in several significant ways. Unity encourages a study of the Bible, but interpreted through the New Thought lens of Unity's basic teachings. ACIM does not encourage a study of the Bible therefore, because of this Bible focus, Unity is more directly "Christian" than ACIM. A more important difference is Unity's way of relating to the physical world. Unity sees the physical world as a natural expression of God and our Divine natures. According to Unity we all, with God, are co-creators of the world. As such the world should reflect the Divine when we are in alignment with our true nature. ACIM sees the world as an illusion that was manifested originally by us to prove separation to ourselves. ACIM says, that God did not create the world. This is a major difference. Although ACIM teaches that as we heal we will eventually see the "Real World", or a healed world, just exactly what that means is a major source of disagreement among ACIM students and teachers. Unity has a focus on affirmative prayer in order to align our minds more with God and also to manifest the world more aligned to our Divine nature. ACIM's focus on prayer is not so direct nor is it necessarily affirmative. ACIM is not as concerned with appearances in the world. ACIM's focus on relationships as being our path back to knowing ourselves is unique. As such, ACIM's focus on a reperception of all our relationships, with a strong emphasis on letting go of grievances through the practice of "complete forgiveness", is also unique. While someone could say that they were followers of Unity because they went to Unity services and ascribed to it's principles, a person who is a student of ACIM would, by definition, be someone who was studying the ACIM book and practicing ACIM Workbook lessons. Unity does not have this strong focus on book study.
Unity encourages a diverse exposure to various New Age teachings. Hence, ACIM Study Groups have sometimes found a home in Unity churches. Individual Unity churches have a lot of leeway in how they are organized and run. Whether a particular Unity church embraces ACIM will probably depends on how the minister of that church, or that church's board of directors, feels about ACIM. The central Unity organization that trains its ministers has been inconsistent with its acceptance of ACIM. Sometimes it has accepted it as compatible and sometimes it has rejected it as incompatible.
Mary Baker Eddy published her seminal book about spiritual healing, Science and Health, in 1875. The Christian Science church was founded by her and her students in Boston, Massachusetts in 1879. Officially it is named, Church Of Christ, Scientist. By the time of its founding Ms. Eddy's spiritual healing theories were already widely studied and practiced. Science and Health was based on her own healing and the teaching that she had been doing since 1866. She taught many students her form of metaphysical, spiritual healing at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College in Boston. In some ways, ACIM has more in common, theologically, with Christian Science than with Unity. Christian Science also deals with the physical world as illusion or error. While Christian Science, like Unity, encourages a study of the Bible through the lens of New Thought interpretations, Christian Science also requires one to study Ms. Eddy's source book Science And Health. Christian Science is not as open as Unity about what other teachings should be studied by its members. Christian Science churches frequently run Christian Science Reading Rooms where officially sanctioned books are found and read by people for free. You will not find ACIM in Christian Science Reading Rooms but it is very common in Unity church bookstores.
Christian Science differs significantly from ACIM in how it deals with healing. In Christian Science members are strongly encouraged not to go to medical doctors when ill. Members are expected to go to Christian Science Practitioners and to work with their false beliefs that are causing the illness, through prayer. There have been court cases of child endangerment involving devote Christian Science parents who did not bring their children to doctors when ill because the parents were firmly practicing their religious beliefs. ACIM has no such belief against doctors. Going to doctors is not "wrong" for ACIM students. Going to doctors would be an experience in the physical world and, as such, inherently neutral. Christian Science has a very strong, hierarchical church structure with attendant church dogma. The church's historic view of homosexuality as an "illness" to be cured is one such issue. Even in recent times one could not be openly gay and have a position in the church. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people are still closeted in the Christian Science church. Mary Baker Eddy's teaching of a morally decent life has accounted for some of this historic discrimination of LGBT people. ACIM is primarily a non-behavioral teaching and so lifestyle choices do not lead to any discrimination or exclusion.
Ernest Holmes published his seminal book on spiritual metaphysical healing, The Science Of Mind, in 1926. The Religious Science church was founded by Mr. Holmes the next year in 1927 in Los Angeles, California. Of these three New Thought religions, Religious Science is the youngest. While sharing a lot in common, philosophically, with Christian Science, Religious Science does not view going to doctors as wrong. Religious Science deals with proven healing practices as part of the Whole, and therefore part of God. While a form of prayer healing called "spiritual mind treatment" is encouraged, it can be used as complementary to seeking traditional medical treatment. The major difference between Religious Science and ACIM is again, as with Unity, how Religious Science views the world. Seeing the world as part of the Whole, and God in action, makes for a much stronger world emphasis. Prosperity, personal relationship satisfaction, and good physical body health become a strong focus of Religious Science practice. If someone wants a spiritual discipline with a firm emphasis on getting one's worldly life to work better, Religious Science is a good fit. This is very different from ACIM which sees the world as an illusion and teaches us that our happiness is guaranteed, independent of world conditions. Religious Science does not have as strong of a focus on the Bible as the previous two religions, and as such, is probably the least traditionally "Christian."
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