ACIM Terminology

Okay, I am going to get super real here. It took me some time to adjust to the terminology used in A Course in Miracles, and not because it is based on Christian terminology, but because although the words were the same, their meanings were different. This initially created some confusion, as ‘that which is nameless cannot be named’ – but here we are putting all sorts of labels on things. Now whilst this is a necessary part of an educational process – we need words to be able to communicate what we are talking about, I found myself defaulting to former beliefs around these words. It is because of this that it is important you have the basic foundational understanding of what these words mean.

The definitions below are from the Complete and Annotated Edition of A Course in Miracles. Not all definitions are listed here, but a handful have been selected for your ease of reference. If you would like more information on the clarification of terms, I highly recommend you get your own copy of the Complete and Annotated Edition of A Course in Miracles. You can find the softcover version here.

  1.  Atonement
  2. Christ
  3. ego
  4. extension
  5. fear
  6. forgiveness
  7. God
  8. Heaven
  9. Holy Spirit
  10. level confusion
  11. love
  12. mind
  13. Self / self
  14. soul

Reconciliation with God through the wiping away of that which seems to separate us from God: our sins. In Christianity, this was achieved through Jesus paying for the sins of mankind in his crucifixion. In the Course, the Atonement wipes away our ‘sins’ through our recognition that they were never real in the first place, a principle that Jesus demonstrated in his resurrection (which is referred to as ‘the Atonement’ in the Course). ‘The full awareness of Atonement, then, is the recognition that the separation never occurred.’ (T-6.III.5:5).


God’s one Son, ‘the holy Self we share’ (W-Re.5.In.4:2). Although there are an infinite number of individual Sons, they all share a single universal Self: Christ. Christ is distinct from Jesus, since Jesus is one of the Sons, while Christ is the single Son of which all the individual Sons are part.


The mind’s belief that it is separate from others and on its own (independent from God), and that its needs are met through attack. This belief has produced our experience of being a separate entity bounded by a body (the body being a dream symbol of the ego), yet it is a false belief, for our real nature is at one with God and with all living things. The ego’s voice is a constant, insistent voice in our minds, yet it is the voice of something that does not exist. As such, the only power it has is what we give it.


The natural dynamic of the mind whereby ideas in the mind are expressed outwardly, looked upon, and then strengthened in the mind. In Heaven, we extend our being in the act of creation. On earth, our function is to extend love and healing to other minds, using the body as an instrument of this extension. Projection is the distorted use of extension, in which the mind disowns what is within it by ‘hurling’ it outside.


The emotion that stems from the belief that danger is near and that we are vulnerable to it. The ego’s single emotion and fundamental mood, which includes within it the emotions that led to it: anger and guilt. There is no actual basis for fear; it is solely of our own making. ‘Fear cannot be real without a cause, and God is the only cause’ (T-9.I.10:6).


Letting go of our false perception that another sinned against us and deserves our anger, and thereby releasing that person from the guilt we had laid upon her. Forgiveness, then, is the recognition ‘that there is nothing to forgive’ (T-15.VIII.5:7). This contrasts with the conventional understanding of forgiveness, in which we retain the perception that another sinned against us and deserves our anger, yet then try to let go of the anger that is part of that perception. ‘Forgiveness is the central theme which runs throughout salvation’ (W-169.10:5). The Course teaches that through forgiving our brothers, we come to forgive ourselves.


The infinite Being Who created the Sons of God, created Heaven as the dwelling place of His Sons, created the Holy Spirit as the communication link with His separated Sons, and indeed created reality itself. God has no gender or form, but He does have a will, thoughts, and feelings, which are timeless and limitless. God is pure love, without the slightest hint of anger or attack. His love for us is beyond our current comprehension. However, He does communicate with us in the dream of time and space: He hears all our prayers and speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.


The transcendental abode that God created for His Son, beyond time and space; a realm of pure spirit, perfect oneness, and absolute changelessness. Heaven is the only realm that is actually real. It is our true home; we are there now, merely dreaming we are in this world. We do not go to Heaven after we die; we awaken to Heaven when we have completely relinquished the ego.

Holy Spirit

The third person of the Trinity, Who was created by God in response to the separation as God’s remaining communication link with His separated Sons. He is both the Voice for God and the Voice of God, Who guides all of the sleeping Sons back to awakening. ‘The Holy Spirit is described throughout the course as giving us the answer to the separation and bringing the plan of the Atonement to us, establishing our particular part in it, and showing us exactly what it is’ (C-5.2:1).

level confusion

Confusing different levels by assigning the attributes of one level to another. Primarily refers to confusing the physical and spiritual levels, especially by assigning the attributes of the spiritual level to the physical. Reality, identity, and happiness actually belong only to the spiritual level, but we mistakenly see these attributes as being found on the physical level. Miracles are ‘the means of correcting level confusion’ (T-2.VII.3:3).


The single real emotion, which includes in itself all other positive emotions. Love is the inevitable response to the recognition of worth in another. We can only truly love as God does, Who loves everyone totally and equally. Special love, which is selective and partial, is really hate masquerading as love. The Course often contrasts love and fear: ‘The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite’ (In.1:8).


The aspect of the self that includes the faculties of awareness, volition, thought, and emotion. Mind is completely nonphysical; it should not be confused with the physical brain. Mind in Heaven is one with spirit. Mind on earth is separated from its true nature and split between the opposing voices of the ego and the Holy Spirit, requiring it to choose between them.


When capitalized, refers to Christ, the true identity that we share with all our brothers and all living things. In lowercase, usually refers to our individual identity, often without specifying the nature of that identity (in which case ‘the self’ is a synonym for ‘oneself’ or ‘yourself’). In lowercase, sometimes refers to the ego, ‘the self you made’, a false identity that opposes our true Self.


A divine element in us that retains its heavenly purity. As the Course says, the term is often used as ‘an equivalent of ‘spirit’, with the understanding that, being of God, it is eternal and was never born’ (C-1.3:5). However, the term has additional shades of meaning in that, unlike ‘spirit’, it usually (though not always) has the connotation of being something individual (each of us has a soul), and in that, also unlike ‘spirit’, it is sometimes framed as imprisoned or starved by the mind’s attachment to separation.