Talking with Gary Renard

In The Disappearance of the Universe, bestselling author Gary Renard chronicles his extraordinary conversations with Arten and Pursah, two “ascended masters” who introduced him to the profound spiritual psychology A Course in Miracles. Eight years later, the book (along with his second book Your Immortal Reality) remains a portal to the Course for ever increasing numbers of spiritual seekers throughout the world, and a pivotal work in its own right. I recently talked with Gary about how his understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles’ central teaching of unique forgiveness has evolved since the publication of Disappearance. As always he was entertaining, forthright, and incredibly clear in his ability to articulate the Course’s uncompromising truth and transformative message. (I’m excited to be attending Gary’s upcoming workshop in Colorado Springs September 24. Go to Miracle Promotions for information and reservations.)

You’ve been under siege a couple times by others in the Course community. What have been your greatest forgiveness opportunities since writing The Disappearance of the Universe? What have you learned from these experiences and how has your forgiveness practice deepened and changed over the years?

You mention I was under siege; I think that’s a good way of putting it. In fact I have a T-shirt I made that says “I survived the A Course in Miracles community.” (Laughs) One of my favorite quotes from the Course–and I try to remember this whenever something happens–says “every response to the ego is a call to war.” And war does deprive you of peace but in this war there’s no opponent. So we’re responding to things that literally are not there.

So sometimes I try to picture myself playing a video game up on a wall in a room. And I’m the only one in the room. There’s this game and there are figures in the game and sometimes the game shoots back at you and there’s not really anything there. And that started out as kind of like an intellectual concept for me but I find that the more that I think of things that way over the years the more it becomes my experience. Today something will come up on the Internet; someone will send me a nasty email or something like that and in terms of responding to it I think of it like a video game where there’s really nothing there; literally nothing happening. So there’s no need to respond to it. And it’s the responding to it that makes it real in your experience. I think it takes practice but I think that over the years forgiveness develops to the point that it becomes nothing, it’s like there’s nothing happening. That may not sound very exciting to some people but what it leads to is peace.  And then when you’re in a position of peace you can start to have all kinds of experiences because you make room for spirit to come in. Where when you’re responding; you’re responding to the ego.

And you know people feel it’s very important how they look. They want to look good, they want to make things look good, they want to make it look like they’re doing good and what if that wasn’t important? What if the world wasn’t important? I used to say that I could do A Course in Miracles very well if I could just give up the world. (Laughs) But if you become even a little bit popular, if you have any public exposure; there are going to be people out there that act a little strange and project their unconscious guilt onto you. But, of course, people don’t know that they’re projecting. If they did, they would probably try to stop doing it but they don’t know. They only think that they’re right.

I think maybe the hardest thing about the Course for people to get that I have said before but I think bears repeating is that what they see in other people that they don’t like is actually what the Course calls the “secret sins and hidden hates” they have about themselves that they have chosen to see in other people. And if they understood that, they’d be more willing to forgive because they’d realize what they’re really forgiving is themselves, because there’s nobody out there for their forgiveness to really go to except themselves.

You can think of those people out there that get to you (even though they’re not really there) as being an aspect of your mind calling out for help, calling out for love. And that’s important because it shows the consistency of the Holy Spirit’s thought system that no matter what happens, no matter what anybody else is doing, the proper response from us is always love and forgiveness is the expression of love because it leads to the experience of love. We don’t really have to try to be more loving people.

You know a lot of people think they have to emulate Jesus and be like him and try to act like him; that’s not really our function as Course students. Our function as Course students is to forgive and it’s the forgiveness and the undoing of the ego that leads to that love. When you undo the ego, love is all that’s left. You don’t have to worry about that part of it. You don’t have to worry about what you are because you are love. All you have to do is undo the ego (through forgiveness) and as you do that love is natural. Our job is just forgiveness and the Course says it over and over again although most people don’t notice it the first few times because there is such unconscious resistance because this is death to the ego. And on some level the ego senses that (as the Course says) and so there’s all this unconscious resistance.

A lot of people study the Course but they never practice it. I remember when Disappearance first came out eight years ago and I was very naïve. I thought I would just be welcomed in the Course community with open arms—here’s a brother sharing his experience—and I would say the majority did that. But there was this group of people that used the Course to be right, to be superior to other people, and I ran into this group because my first publisher D. Patrick Miller threw me to the wolves. (Laughs) He knew these people; I didn’t. And I was like, Patrick, what are you doing; these people hate me? And he said, well, get used to it.

Anyway there was this group on the Internet trying to get me any way they could and one of them, he was a professor and thought he knew everything about the Course and was always talking about how Ken Wapnick was this terrible person and how Gary Renard was just a Ken Wapnick stooge. So after a couple of months I asked him to answer one simple question for me: How do you think that the goal of A Course in Miracles is achieved?  And, he couldn’t answer me. He didn’t know that the goal of the Course is achieved through forgiveness. He hadn’t done the workbook, never knew it was all about forgiveness. And it surprises me over the years that there are quite a few people like that who really don’t know what the Course is about. They think it’s about the theory but it’s not. The Course says a universal theology is impossible. But a universal experience is not only possible, but necessary. So in the end the Course is much more experiential than people understand. It looks very intellectual at first but that half million words or so are meant to lead us to a place beyond all words. And I’ve been experiencing that more and more as the years go by.

When I wasn’t very well known people naturally had a lot of questions about where the first two books came from. Was it my real experience? And I was guided by my teachers Arten and Pursah that when something like this came up; I should answer it. Then all of a sudden in the past year they said OK, you’ve answered enough questions. You did your job. It’s all on the record. You have this discussion group with 5,000 members, it’s all archived there, and anybody who has a question can find it there. So, as you put it, I’ve been under siege a few times and had to answer some questions but now, they say; you don’t have to do that anymore. That comes as a relief to me because now when something comes up I can just say, that’s silly. I don’t have to say anything. I can just say; why don’t you just look it up.

You married for the first time before you encountered A Course in Miracles and wrote about learning to apply forgiveness in that relationship. Having been well along in healing your mind through forgiveness by the time you and Cindy got together; how has that affected your relationship?

It’s definitely shaped our relationship. I got divorced after 25 years which is definitely one of the biggest forgiveness lessons of my life and I write about that quite a bit in my third book which you’ll see; and in fact one of the reasons the third book has taken so long is because my life has undergone such dramatic changes in the last few years. When the book starts I’m living in Maine and married to a woman named Karen and within a year I’m living in California and I’m living with a woman named Cindy and that year alone would be enough to write a book about. And there are these enormous forgiveness lessons and I’m not going to go into details now because it takes a book to do it but the bottom line as you’ll see is that because of A Course in Miracles I actually have a very good relationship right now with my former wife and that couldn’t have possibly happened without the Course.

Cindy was already studying the Course when I first met her. She got turned on to The Disappearance of the Universe through her mother. I get a big kick out of the fact that I’ve actually met so many people whose mothers introduced them to the Course. Cindy already knew the Course and it was her mother’s idea to have her come and hear me speak; in fact I met her mother before I met her. Her mother had a PhD in psychology and music and Cindy has a master’s degree in spiritual psychology. She had read Disappearance, she understood the Course, and we could talk about the Course. I would get together with Cindy and her mother and her sister Jackie for Thanksgiving—just the four of us—and we’d talk all day about the Course.  

It’s been a lot of fun for me to be with someone who really gets it. Cindy and I are also writing a book together about relationships but that’s going to take a while. One of the things we’re trying to do is cut down on our traveling. We’ve had almost three months here where we haven’t travelled much and we’ve been having so much fun. I think we’re leaning more toward that because I really have needed more time to write and have found it almost impossible to write on the road. There are just so many distractions. So we’re going to make the time to write. Because people definitely appreciate workshops and meeting me in person but for every one of them there’s ten others who just want the next book. The books are very important to people so I’m definitely getting back to being a writer instead of just a speaker.

It isn’t unusual for an author to take five years between books. I think the big mistake that I made was telling people; I set up these expectations that I didn’t meet. So, I shouldn’t have said anything about it and I’ll never make that mistake again. But I’m definitely getting back to writing. I feel good when I write something. It’s not always fun to write. There’s a quotation about writers that says I hate to write but I love to have written.

You know Gary I was wondering about your role as a celebrity in the Course Community. How the fifth stage of the Development of Trust in the Teachers’ Manual is partly about releasing our death grip on our special identity (the dream figure we think we are). As such a very public Course figure, has this been even more challenging for you?  Because people really revere you and it seems like there’s this whole new wave of people just reading The Disappearance of the Universe for the first time in the last couple years that think that you have “special” information. It came to you in a very unique way but it’s really the shared right mind that you’re reflecting, right? I just wondered in terms of your own process if it’s hard not to get pulled in by that celebrity? Is that something you have to forgive and watch?

I know exactly what you’re saying but the truth is that’s never been much of a problem for me. From the very beginning I never felt special, I never felt like I did anything special. The information was given to me. Yes, I gave my life experience which I think has been helpful to people; seeing this guy trying to apply forgiveness. But I never presented myself as being anything other than human; which I am. I don’t talk to people any differently today than I did eight years ago. I remember the first A Course in Miracles conference I went to; sitting with everybody else and talking and I went to my fourth A Course in Miracles conference this year and I just sat with everybody and talked. And some of the other speakers wouldn’t do that; you wouldn’t see them all weekend.

I’ve always been accessible and willing to talk to anybody. So I don’t feel like I’ve had to do a lot of forgiveness in the area of specialness because I’ve never felt special. I feel like my work comes through me and I add my own experience to it and that’s about it. So it’s the teachings on the one hand that don’t come from me and then I have my personal experience which I add to it and I think it’s the combination of the two that make people enjoy my books. Because it takes the teachings and presents them clearly but it also makes it more human; it makes it something that they can relate to.

You’ve never shied away from sticking with the Course. Telling the hard truths—to the ego, anyway—things like God did not create this world, God doesn’t know about this world. Really sticking with the pure metaphysics of what the Course is saying. And it seems like there are more self-proclaimed “abbreviated,” “improved upon” versions of the Course than ever. And people perhaps thinking they have some kind of special connection with the Holy Spirit and special advice for others. What do you think of these kinds of things?

Well, when it comes to sticking to the Course; it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. (Laughs) Ken Wapnick, of course, is the sticker to the Course. One thing I admire about him is that he’s never wavered from that in 35 years. And the last time I went to Temecula he was saying, I don’t know what’s wrong with you people; you come here over and over to hear me say the same thing. But the beauty of the Course and the beauty of Ken is that he can say the same thing in a hundred different ways; say it very beautifully, and actually you have to. Because repetition in this case is mandatory because you’re not going to get it unless you hear it a thousand times and try to apply it a thousand times.

And you know, people note the difference (between sticking to the Course and not) if they hear it. At the A Course in Miracles conference in San Francisco people would come up to me and say thanks for sticking with the Course, making the information about the cause instead of the effect. And I think that if you give people the information and explain it clearly then they do understand the difference.

I don’t think it’s necessarily advisable to teach the Course because I think it makes it harder to do the Course because then you’re trying to give a certain message to people. If you really want to do the Course I would advise people to just concentrate on doing it and not correcting other people. Another one of my favorites is that the Holy Spirit guides you to what you should do. You can be guided by the Holy Spirit to what you should do in the world but it comes from the mind. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t guide you to what other people should do. And I get emails every week from people telling me what the Holy Spirit told them that I should do. (Laughs) It’s never about getting other people to practice forgiveness; it’s about you practicing forgiveness.

It’s not your job to save others, to save the world. If we all kept coming back to save the world, nobody would ever leave. The Holy Spirit wants you to get out of here; the Holy Spirit wants you to go home. So I think you have to let the Holy Spirit do its job. Our job is simply to follow the Holy Spirit and practice forgiveness. People think of Jesus as being the ultimate leader and that’s not true; Jesus was really the ultimate follower. Because as he says in the Course, he actually just listened to one voice, he just listened to the Holy Spirit. There wasn’t the ego to listen to. And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about being some great spiritual leader. Arten and Pursah said to me in the first book that the most progress is not made by being a great teacher; it’s made by being a great student.

When it comes to new and improved versions of the Course, well; I look at it this way. Before Helen Schucman, most of the channels were what you’d call trance channels. They found a way to get their conscious mind out of the way and for information to come through their unconscious minds. That’s the best information, not filtered by the conscious mind. And most people don’t understand that everybody has access to the Holy Spirit, there’s no doubt about that. But they filter that information with their ego. Before Helen most trance channels like Seth for example (Jane Roberts) would just become a totally different personality and Seth would come through. Edgar Cayce; the way he got his conscious mind out of the way was he actually went to sleep.

A Course in Miracles was unique because although a lot of people think Helen would hear an audible voice she would actually see the words like they were on a blackboard and then write them down with her own brand of shorthand. And I think it was the shorthand that helped get her conscious mind out of the way and she was the greatest channel who ever lived and I say that based on the information that she gave. I don’t judge the way that people get the information. You see it; you hear it; that doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the information that matters. And the Course says specifically that only very few can hear God’s voice at all. But then people heard that Helen was hearing the voice of Jesus and all of a sudden everybody was hearing the voice of Jesus. And it was like; oh, yeah; I hear the voice of Jesus, too, and this is what he said.

The Course is saying that only very few can hear that voice at all because you have not undone your ego. And the way to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, really; is to do the forgiveness work that undoes the ego and then the Holy Spirit is all that’s left. But that would take years of work. (Laughs) Applying forgiveness to everything that comes up in your life on any given day in front of your face eventually undoes the ego and spirit is all that’s left. So if I wasn’t taking the time to do that forgiveness work or to do it at all; it’s much easier to say this is what Jesus told me and I don’t have to do my forgiveness homework, all you have to do is love instead of fear. Which is fine, except people will choose their own love which is special love instead of the universal love the Course is talking about which applies to everybody equally. So rather than practice forgiveness so you can have that experience it’s much easier to just make up your own Course. Well, why would Jesus take seven years of his time and then some (if you count the supplements) to give all this information to Helen with a very specific program and technique and then come back a couple years later and say, oh, no; this is what I really meant. You don’t really have to do all that; I was just kidding. It doesn’t make sense.

No, it doesn’t. And it is already an accelerated Course.

That’s why it talks about the miracle substituting for learning that may have taken thousands of years. Even though it’s a dream, the Course says a miracle worker can save time. I actually heard someone say recently that the Holy Spirit is passé. (Laughs)

Well, and the Course says if we could jump into God’s arms we would; but we can’t because of all this unconscious resistance based on the unconscious guilt in the mind over believing we separated from God.

That’s right and some people don’t like it in my books when I point out things like that and urge people to stick with the Course. But I’ve been kind of set up by my teachers. People don’t like people who are successful and they’ll accuse me of making money and there are a couple things I say. First of all, I don’t make that much money. (Laughs) If I really wanted to make money I would go out and be like Wayne Dyer and stick with the New Age teachings that everybody finds acceptable and easy to swallow. I would be ten times more successful if I did that. And I’m not complaining because I’m known all over the world, my books are in 20 languages, and I get to go to all these great, exotic places. I’m just saying that if I wanted to be huge I wouldn’t be teaching A Course in Miracles. Arten and Pursah set me up in such a way with that first book that is so clear and specific about the Course and what the truth is that if I went out and said anything different, then most people would come up to me and say, Gary; what the hell are you talking about?

You can’t really back out of it at this point, can you? 🙂

No; but that’s OK with me. I really got into spirituality about 1978 and I looked around for like 14 years and I have a bookcase full of books most of which I’ve never read. It was a little like I was being told things that I already knew because once I saw them I would remember that I had learned these things before at another time. And then, finally, the Course showed up and Arten and Pursah after the second visit told me I was going to start studying this book called A Course in Miracles which I had never heard of. And I went and bought my first book and started reading it and it might as well have been written in a foreign language. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. So I put it back on my shelf like most people do and after seven or eight visits from Arten and Pursah, I started to get what they were saying and went back and picked up the Course again and it made sense to me. And I thought, Jesus; if it will do that for me, it will do that for anybody. Because it doesn’t make any sense to anybody at first. So I started to think this was worth doing and I started to get excited, even though I didn’t know if anybody was actually going to read it.

And, you know, Ken Wapnick said the same thing. He was the first person who ever read The Disappearance of the Universe and liked it. But he said, Gary, I don’t know who will read it. Helen herself when asked how many copies of the Course they should print, said it was probably for six people.

(Laughs.) I know; I love that story!

Nobody teaches the Course like Ken but his experience was that most people once they hear what the message is; they don’t want it. I think in the last few years–and I think Disappearance has had something to do with this–Ken’s crowd has dramatically increased. The last time he did a five-day retreat there were so many people that they had to move it to a theatre.

I heard that. The one about death and dying.

Yeah. Because that’s a popular topic; dying. (Laughs) I think my books have helped make people more aware of Ken’s work and that’s one of the reasons that Arten and Pursah came; to give people the message in a way they could accept and understand. But if they want to keep going with the Course and keep expanding and practicing it; Ken has enough work to keep people busy for a lifetime.


I think a lot of people have been pointed in (Ken’s) direction by my books and that makes me feel good because I’ve never thought it was about me. More like this is something cool I get to participate in, to be part of, and to see it happen. And I get email messages every single day from people who are saying this is what clarified A Course in Miracles for me, this has changed my life. And then, what really affects me is when people write to me and say that it saved their lives because they were planning on killing themselves and then they read Disappearance and thought maybe they should make the best of this lifetime, maybe they should make some real spiritual progress while they’re here. Besides, if I kill myself; I’m just going to have to come back and start all over.

And that’s been maybe the best part. All the people I’ve been able to meet over the years and all the messages from thousands of people. And like you mentioned, in the last year or two it seems like a whole new wave of people reading Disappearance and that tells me that people keep sharing it by word of mouth. It keeps doing well and that tells me it will keep going for another 20 or 30 years.

Right. I know so many people that came to the Course through reading The Disappearance of the Universe.

If I never did anything else public I would still feel like I’ve made some kind of contribution. I know the information didn’t come from me but I did give my experience in a way that people could relate to. I’ve noticed in the last two or three years since I’ve been doing podcasts with Gene Bogart all over the world–which I thank Gene for because it was his idea that people in all different countries know who I am–that Disappearance is introducing a lot of people to the Course. For example, the Course was just published in Norwegian and my book was just published at about the same time; so they’re both new. And they’ve invited me to go there so I’m going there next year. And there are a lot of countries like Finland which I just went to and Denmark where the Course is relatively new. So there are a lot of countries where people think of me as the introducer of the Course. In this country Marianne Williamson came first as the person that introduces people to the Course.

Like Ken Wapnick, you have always talked a lot about being normal. What does that mean for you?

People are surprised when they meet me because if you don’t ask me about spirituality I don’t talk about it. I can talk about baseball, I can talk about the markets, and I can talk about traveling different places; beer. (Laughs) Ken Wapnick said; and I always remembered this: Don’t forget how to be normal. And there are a lot of spiritual teachers in the world that I swear do not know how to carry on a normal conversation. You know like, I’m moving to California; what’s it like in California? And they’ll give you a speech about how they’re going to save California from California and I’m like, but what are the beaches like?

Well, and the beauty of the Course is that it’s just so practical. We’re just supposed to be applying its forgiveness in our lives from moment to moment. That’s it. Then go have a pizza.

Exactly. You don’t have to change anything; you just have to look at it differently. Now you’re looking at it with the Holy Spirit and that’s the only difference which is why the Course says enlightenment is just recognition. It’s not a change at all.

But suddenly your life has meaning.

Yes, it has the meaning that you’ve given it by choosing the Holy Spirit. Because of itself the world has no meaning. It’s meaningless, it’s not there, and it’s an illusion. But that piece of information by itself is not going to help people. But if you decide to make forgiveness your function–which is what the Course is telling us–then it does have meaning because now you’re using it to undo the ego and go home. The purpose of my life is to practice forgiveness as much as I can and get out of here. That’s a real purpose because when you do it you’re not only contributing to the healing of your own mind but–because all minds are joined–you can’t help but have an influence. Now, I’m not saying you can do somebody else’s forgiveness work for them; you can’t. But you can be an influence on them. Which is pretty much what Jesus is doing in the Course; he’s saying, look, this is what worked for me as a wisdom teacher 2000 years ago. You see it more in the Gospel of Thomas. Jesus really was just a wisdom teacher pointing people in the right direction and saying this is what worked for me, maybe you should check it out. If you do, it might work for you. He’s not dogmatic about it, in fact, at times in the Course; he’s startlingly matter-of-fact about the whole thing.

When I first did the workbook I noticed physiologic changes going on. Not because it’s about the body but because whatever happens in the mind may have an effect on the body. It took me years to figure out that my body wasn’t even there; it was just a projection like the rest of it. The body is that optical illusion or as Einstein described it—optical delusion—that you’re in a body when the truth is you’re not in a body and you never were. You never actually incarnate which is why the Course says reincarnation is impossible. But it’s not saying we don’t have this series of dreams, this series of lifetimes.

When I hold my hand up in front of my face now I can recognize that it’s not me, but just a part of the same projection as everything else. It seems like a very important body, but it turns out it really doesn’t have anything to do with me which is why the Course says the body is outside of us and not our concern because it’s really part of the same projection as all these other bodies. Which means it is no more special than any of those bodies. I think these things come to you intellectually at first but as you practice them, you actually start to experience them. So now I’m to the point where my body feels very light and more like the figure in a dream that it actually is. I’m 60 years old and I feel like I’m maybe 35 and I’m enjoying wonderful health, thankfully. And I have a wonderful wife, Cindy, and even though she’s 20 years younger than me we feel the same. So I don’t have any complaints. Not that I don’t complain (Laughs), it’s just that I don’t have any real complaints.


  1. forgive………..then go have a pizza. I love it.

  2. Thank you, Mary! 🙂

  3. I had been studying ACIM with a most amazing teacher, Moreah Ragusa for about 6 years when Gary’s book, Disappearance, came out. I took to this book like a “vulture takes to roadkill”. Haaaa!! Meaning I simply devoured that book. I have been to two of Gary’s lectures in Calgary and he is just so honest. Moreah will always be my favoured teacher as she showed me a way out of my misery by practicing only forgiveness and helping me to understand the teachings in ACIM. Gary comes a close second. His books are so easy to understand as he is so consistent and never varies from the truth of what Jesus is teaching. I do look forward to his third book. I completely understand the Course, and what I am doing is simply applying the principles of forgivness to my eveyday life. Every day.

  4. Just as we always get—ask and it is given. I needed that. Always seems that way with you Gary. Thanks

  5. “Like a vulture takes to roadkill”–too funny! Yes, Gary is amazingly clear and honest; a great guy to interview. Thanks for sharing your Course experience! 🙂

  6. loved Gary’s interview!!!!! keep up the great Work!!!!

  7. Thanks so much, Samara!

  8. Ken and Gary are my favorite teachers of the Course. It is really about watching all our ego thoughts and forgiving every person and situation everyday. Love, which comes through forgiveness, is always the anwer.

  9. Well Put, Carol–thanks! 🙂

  10. Great interview with Gary Renard; thanks, Susan! I find it helpful to remember that, as Gary says, “what they see in other people that they don’t like is actually … the ‘secret sins and hidden hates’ they have about themselves that they have chosen to see in other people.” Such an important reminder that our true vocation – regardless of what we appear to be ‘doing’ in the world, is forgiving our decision-making minds for having chosen a colossal fantasy universe of victimhood, duality and projected unconscious guilt for a non-existent crime against life; our interpretations are totally silly and worthy of a kind-hearted gradual undo process by relinquishing our judgments of all. 🙂


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