The Secret to Learning A Course in Miracles

By Anthony Gold

Early in my professional career, I stumbled across a set of writings that drastically challenged my beliefs and way of viewing the world. You see, I was an engineer – a very logical person with a highly tuned sense of critical thinking. In other words, very methodical in my thought processing.

If there was a bug in a piece of software or hardware, I would find it. If a piece of writing has a grammatical mistake – it will jump out to me (unless it’s my writing, in which case the errors go regrettably unnoticed). If a book or movie has a plot hole, it will be painfully apparent to me. Very rational, clear, data-driven thinking.

In fact, most people use some form of critical, judgment-based thinking as part of their cognitive awareness – it’s just that engineers tend to be more extreme.

But then I discovered Edward de Bono’s classic text, The Use of Lateral Thinking, and my world turned upside down.

What is lateral thinking? It’s a form of problem solving using much more indirect and creative approaches that are not logically nor empirically obvious. In one of de Bono’s earliest exercises, he asks readers to place three upright bottles on a table spread out to form a triangle where the distance between the base of each bottle is slightly larger than the length of a kitchen dinner knife. Then, the reader is instructed to form a platform on top of the three bottles using three identical dinner knives – a platform capable of supporting a full glass of water. And no part of any knife can touch the table.

The solution – which is perfectly obvious in hindsight – can only be achieved through lateral thinking.

A more modern-day example of lateral thinking was introduced by Shane Snow in his terrific business book called Smartcuts.

Pretend you are driving a car in the middle of a thunderstorm and you happen upon three people on the side of the road. One of them is a frail old woman, who looks on the verge of collapse. Another is a friend who once saved your life. The other is the romantic interest of your dreams, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet him or her. You have only one other seat in the car. Who do you pick up?

You can easily make a case for each one of the three: the elderly woman clearly needs help. Your friend did something incredibly heroic for you and is deserving of reciprocity. And the once-in-a-lifetime chance – never to happen again – to spend time with your dream partner is hard to pass up.

The clear solution isn’t apparent using traditional critical thinking approaches. But with lateral thinking, it’s obvious. You pick up the elderly woman and give the car keys to your friend. You stay behind with the romantic interest to wait for a cab.

By questioning the original assumption on which the problem is based (e.g. you can only help one person), the clear solution is revealed. And as I began practicing lateral thinking, my skills not only as an engineer – but as a problem solver and creative idea generator – exploded.

Which brings us to the secret of learning A Course in Miracles. Lateral thinking and questioning the assumptions on which the world is based.

We think the world exists out there and things happen in the world which affect us either positively, negatively, or not at all. We further believe that with some striving and perhaps a bit of luck we can achieve some degree of happiness. And finally, we believe that happiness is based on worldly elements: loving partner, healthy body, sufficient cash, comfortable environment, quality friends, societal status, good self-esteem, and positive reputation.

This thinking, what the course refers to as ego-thinking, will never allow one to learn A Course in Miracles, and will never lead to happiness. It isn’t until we’re willing to question the fundamental basis of our ego thought system that everything changes.

To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning. (

Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. There is no exception to this fact. (W-pI.16.1)

Lateral thinking allows us to choose a different mindset, what the course refers to as spirit-thinking. From such a perspective, we realize that our thoughts make up the world we see – not the other way around.

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. (W-p.23.2)

And once we begin practicing lateral [spirit] thinking, not only do we quickly learn A Course in Miracles, but the path to true happiness is clearly revealed and instantly experienced.

Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore this new way of thinking, and I’ll show you how to solve the “3 knives” problem. I look forward to seeing you then.

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