Reviewed in Australia on 24 November 2013
Before I get started, I should state that I don't write this review to be judgey of the author or the lovers of this book. I believe this philanthropic woman is very sincere in trying to be truly helpful, and has been by presenting ideas that meet many people where they are at with their spirituality.
With that said, however, I don't find this to be the ideal book to learn about A Course in Miracles. And as Jesus (or as I like call him, J-Dog) says in the Course, "Contrast and differences are necessary teaching aids, for by them you learn what to avoid and what to seek." And, "The Holy Spirit must teach through comparisons, and uses opposites to point to truth."
Now, I am certainly not saying that the author has nothing of value to say here, and that you should avoid this book. It's obviously been very helpful to many people in its own right over the years. And it could very well be exactly what you need for yourself right now. The author certainly has some good things to share. The problem with this book is that it doesn't really represent the true message of A Course in Miracles, which is referred to in the sub-title of this book.
What you really have here is a New Age/Self-Help, semi-dualistic interpretation of the Course, while the Course itself is a purely non-dualistic teaching by nature, meaning that God is and nothing else is. The Return to Love book speaks on the same level as the popular New Age authors whose books I studied in the mid 1990s through early 2000s, most notably Wayne Dyer and Neale Walsch. For me personally, I got to the point on my spiritual path where I outgrew that level of teaching just as everyone else will (or has) at some point. This level of teaching simply just doesn't go deep enough, even if it appears to be very enlightening.
Thus that leads to the other big problem with this book, from A Course in Miracles perspective, is that what the author has to say is geared towards changing the conscious mind and not addressing the unconscious mind, which is what REALLY runs us. Changing the conscious mind will only have a temporary, helpful impact at best. Like most of the iceberg is underneath the surface of the ocean, you can't see it; most of the mind is out of our awareness. But there is a way to get in touch with it, but you won't find that way in this book. And I know for me personally, I didn't make serious progress on my spiritual path until I started addressing the unconscious part of my mind.
On a level that we are not consciously aware of, we have this guilt buried in the mind over the seeming separation from God, what the Course refers to as the "blocks to the awareness of love's presence," and "the secret sins and hidden hates" which we must undo via the true forgiveness process outlined in the Course in order to really be free. As the Course states, "Of one thing you were sure: of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them." This unconscious guilt shows up to us symbolically in the form of all our negative emotions.
The author does talk about the importance of forgiveness, however, there is no real explanation as to what true forgiveness entails, and HOW to apply it in whatever comes up in front of your face on any given day. And leaving out the fact that all our problems are symbolic of the seeming separation from God, "A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct." So the Course teaches that, "Forgiveness is the only function meaningful in time." And, "The way to God is through forgiveness here. There is no other way."
Another thing going on here with this book is that the author uses terms such as "energy"; "consciousness"; "vibration"; and such, making them out to be important and real. However, the Course says of such ideas that they are "...the domain of the ego." The Course also teaches that there is no hierarchy of illusions, "All that a hierarchy of illusions can show is preference, not reality."
Also, the author talks about God in a way that implies that God acknowledges our individual lives here on earth, and that God and the "power of the universe" are one and the same. The author even has prayers in the book that begin with "Dear God." Yet the Course teaches, "The secret of true prayer is to forget the things you think you need."
And according to the Course, there is no world, so how could God acknowledge anything happening in the world, when there isn't one. A pretty far out idea for many, I grant you that, but that is what the Course is teaching and NOT what the author is writing about in this book. And the Course doesn't just say that there is no world. It says, "There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach." And, "Whatever is true is eternal and cannot change or be changed." The universe, therefore, is obviously not true, not of God, and has no power. The Course also says, "The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself. Yet there is nothing in the world you see that will endure forever."
There's barely any mention about going Home in this book, which is what the Course is ultimately all about. Even in the section called Heaven's Gate, the author goes on a political spiel instead, making the world out to be something that needs to be fixed. Yet the Course teaches that the world cannot be fixed, "There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically." And the Course teaches, "This is a course in cause and not effect."
So there is no explanation on what it means to go Home, and how to go about doing that. And as the Course says, "This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true." And, "This world is not where you belong. You are a stranger here. But it is given you to find the means whereby the world no longer seems to be a prison house or jail for anyone." So you won't be finding the way to return to where you really belong through this book, at least not by taking it at face value. You're likely to be left with the idea it's about making your life better rather than awakening from what you think of as your life. And there's no mention of our lives being self-predetermined. Like the Course teaches, "The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself."
Furthermore, there's no mention of how time and space is adjusted by the Holy Spirit and disappears for us as we perform a miracle, a miracle meaning that we apply forgiveness on whatever comes up in front of our faces on any given day. "When you perform a miracle, I will arrange both time and space to adjust to it." And, "The miracle shortens time by collapsing it, thus eliminating certain intervals within it."
The author also implies that our uniqueness, individual identity is something to be valued. Yet with the final destination of the Course being the return to Oneness, you can't have both Oneness and individual identities; it's impossible. And the Course teaches, "Forgiveness is the end of specialness." And, "You can defend your specialness, but never will you hear the Voice for God beside it."
I understand, and this is perfectly ok, that very few are ready for the real message of A Course in Miracles which is why there are so many mis-interpretations of the Course out there such as this one. The real message is just too threatening for one's ego for most people at this point in time, including many who consider themselves to be spiritually progressive when they are actually rather conservative. So, it's just a matter of what you're ready to accept, nothing wrong with that, but people shouldn't confuse this book as being the same as the Course.
Don't get me wrong, I do feel that this is a good book for people wanting to investigate new ideas and break free from the thinking of the world and the confines of organized religion, or perhaps for people who struggle with low self-esteem; this would certainly be a step in the right direction. But this book is more about "don't die with an unmet potential" or "live life to the fullest" or "become a better human" kind of a book; certainly nothing wrong with that. However, Return to Love leaves much to be desired if you're looking for a clear explanation on what A Course is Miracles is really all about; you'll just end up confused and conflicted because it's not consistent with the Course, even if you're not consciously aware of it.
Just from the Introduction piece alone the author states, "Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we have learned here." And, "We came here to co-create with God by extending love." Well, if we didn't have fear, we would not have been born into this world to begin with. In fact, the Course says, "The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear." So we're not here to co-create with God, we're not really here, we need to awaken from the belief that we are here and return to where we are a co-creator with God and the same as God, by removing the "blocks to the awareness of love's (God's) presence" via the true forgiveness process.
So if you are indeed looking for a book that puts A Course In Miracles into the everyday vernacular, without compromising on the integrity of its message, I would highly recommend The Disappearance of the Universe: Straight Talk about Illusions, Past Lives, Religion, Sex, Politics, and the Miracles of Forgiveness by Gary Renard. It explains A Course in Miracles like nothing else does, and is the only book (along with his follow up book, Your Immortal Reality: How to Break the Cycle of Birth and Death) I've ever read on spirituality that made total sense to me from cover to cover, and left me with no unanswered questions.
Gary's books are the real deal when it comes to the Course, you may not agree with everything said, and it may downright piss you off, but you will get the straight up truth, no sugarcoating, and no being told what you necessarily want to hear. Like it states, "As with Jesus' teachings of 2,000 years ago, the world is attempting to do its usual job of obliterating the truth by incorporating parts of it into its illusions and covering over the real message of the Holy Spirit. We won't leave out the ideas you don't like. If you resist them or don't want to accept them after you hear them then that's your decision, but at least it won't be because you weren't told."
~ Mike Lemieux, author of Dude, Where's My Jesus Fish?: A Compilation Highlighting the Blunt and Uncompromising Teachings of Arten and Pursah On A Course in Miracles