Norbert's Reviews > A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
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Jan 05, 2009

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Read in January, 2005

There is something peculiar and paradoxical about New Age spirituality and that is fully embodied and exemplified by the personality of Marianne Williamson. Who is this famous Marianne of Daughter of an immigration lawyer in Texas, she went to the Claremont colleges in California but apparently did not graduate with a degree. Instead, she experimented with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll. Rather than getting a regular professional career in law or medicine, she became a single mother, a bookstore manager, and then a spiritual teacher. Eventually, she published A Return to Love around 1992, made it to Oprah, and skyrocketed to NY Times bestselling author status. Now she is one of Oprah's best friends and teaches her interpretation of New Age spirituality on cruise ships, very much like the character Elizabeth Costello in J.M. Coetzee's novel by that name. She hobnobs with the rich and famous and is very wealthy herself. She has founded charities but has also garnered tremendous criticism for her temper and judgmental qualities. She is sexy for her age and dresses more than well when she goes in front of her rapt audiences. Her lectures, however, are all variations on the same material she published in her first book--A Return to Love. In fact, her jokes are canned, as in this one she told a couple of years ago, which in fact came from her first book published in the 1990's: "I studied with an Indian guru, but I wondered to myself: what does he know about life when he doesn't even date?"
As Marianne herself repeatedly states, A Return to Love is "Cliff Notes" to A Course in Miracles, which is often considered the scripture of the New Age. However, because the Course is a channeled text that sees Christ in everyone and forgiveness as the sole purpose of life, it can be hard to decipher for the average reader. This is where Marianne comes in: as the interpreter. She uses her own experiences to illustrate Course lessons and readers love her not only because they can better appreciate the Course after reading her but they must also share her foibles, as they are known to laugh at her jokes, despite them having been told countless times.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Kate I find this review to be more about the woman than about the material presented in her book?

Norbert Michelle wrote: "I find this review to be more about the woman than about the material presented in her book?"

It's true: I wrote too much about the author rather than her book. However, the book is somewhat autobiographical in nature. I need to go into greater depths about the book itself. Thanks for pointing it out.

Kate No problem! Thanks for being so willing to revisit. I like to see what I may have missed when I read something and have a different experience than someone else. I appreciate your openness!

message 4: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Harrison I think people like that she did not have the "perfect" life and yet she has found a path to God and happiness. A perfect example of God's love and forgiveness. It gives us hope. Whereas you, being a human being seem to be judgemental.

Norbert Amy wrote: "I think people like that she did not have the "perfect" life and yet she has found a path to God and happiness. A perfect example of God's love and forgiveness. It gives us hope. Whereas you, be..."

Amy, what is a book review but a judgment? In that sense, everyone on this website is judgmental, yourself included. I never said Marianne was supposed to lead a perfect life. I am just telling you like it is--which is that contemporary New Age spirituality has quite a partnership with celebrities and cruise ships, and that is an undeniable fact not confined to Marianne alone. Other famous speakers like Eckhart Tolle go on Oprah, too. This is not just my opinion--it is a fact. As someone has said it before: we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. It is not possible for everyone to agree, and certainly not about something which they identify with strongly, and spiritual/religious works especially tend to elicit such responses.

Norbert The book is not that useful to people who are already advanced spiritually or who are well read in philosophy and religion. However, it is of some use to those who are lost and confused.

message 7: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Agree with you. While it is a great book with positive messages it feels like there's a lot lacking. This is what I call "ear tickling" faith, where we focus on the positive only which saves many lives so is not bad by any means, And can turn someone's life around. Marianne seems like she has great intentions. But for the seasoned Christians, you may find that this book is lacking some substance and it can be a great starting point in troubled times but I would hope people continue their search for a better understanding of God beyond this book because there is much more than just 'love'

message 8: by Alex (new)

Alex Still recommend it?

message 9: by An (new) - rated it 1 star

An Thys Thank you for your review and the extra personal info. I started reading it a little while ago and was disappointed as I expected so much more after the rave reviews I read everywhere.

message 10: by Norbert (last edited May 09, 2014 05:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Norbert I would recommend to people who are interested that they read the original text of "A Course in Miracles" (ACIM) and then read Marianne's interpretation of it, which is what this book really is. To read "A Return to Love" first and then go to "A Course in Miracles" is like first reading the Cliff Notes to Hamlet and then reading Hamlet itself. And I can assure you that the Cliff Notes version of Hamlet is not as good as the original. Along the same lines, I doubt that everything Marianne says is an accurate reflection of ACIM. Why do I say this? It is because ACIM sees one's ego as the great impediment to spiritual progress. In other words, if one stops being too self-centered and egocentric then a lot of problems can be solved. So, instead of focusing on what one's ego wants in any relationship or issue, what is important is the greater good or what benefits all parties involved instead just oneself. Seen in this light, Marianne's flippant career advice of "just do what you love," for example, is unlikely to be a real faithful implementation of ACIM, and is in fact quite juvenile, because it is narcissistic and is no different than any other such advice you can easily pick up on the street or, even worse, on TV by watching people like Donald Trump...

Norbert Jane wrote: "I'm still at a loss for where your review of the book is. But I have a pretty clear picture of the person who wrote it! Thanks for submitting your own biography "
You're welcome!

message 12: by K (new)

K Norbet, it is very evident through your personal attack and judgement of Marianne's life and character that you have not studied the text of ACIM and applied the principles. If you were, then you would not have gone directly to demeaning and trivializing Marianne's work and her life path. Never once does Marianne promote narcissism, in fact she clearly and consistently states in her lectures, over and again to listen for the quiet voice for God within us for guidance in all career and life decisions. That we manifest the gifts we all hold through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with love. Love has no opposite and cannot be argued. Clearly you are deeply caught in the illusion of ego. Read the text and do the lessons. You'll be quite alarmed and also enlightened and comforted by the revelation of the depth of your misunderstandings and the delusions and power of the separated ego when you begin to commit to study and practice the principles of A Course in Miracles. Peace Karene

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