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Fri, May 23rd - 7:48AM

My Book about ACIM and Psychology Is Now Published

The title is: A Primer of Psychology According to A Course in Miracles. You can read more about it on the Web site put up by the publisher here:

Some may recognize that the title is modeled after Calvin Hall's well known Primer of Freudian Psychology. As it turned out, the book is not only an overview and summarization of the system of psychology found in the Course, but is also a fairly comprehensive introduction to the Course itself since its psychology really can't be separated from its theology and metaphysics.

Comment (4)

Sun, Jul 1st - 8:14AM

History of the Editing and Publishing of ACIM

Sometimes people ask why the Course was copyrighted and why the Foundation for Inner Peace, which publishes the Course, has not published Helen Schucman's original notes, the urtext and the Hugh Lynn Cayce version (HLC). I wrote the following brief history to address those questions.



A Short History of the Editing and Publishing of
A Course in Miracles

The seminal event which led to the scribing and eventual publication of A Course in Miracles took place on a June afternoon in 1965 when Dr. William Thetford made his now famous and impassioned statement to Dr. Helen Schucman: “There must be another way!” Bill was specifically addressing the ongoing conflicts that he and Helen experienced between themselves, as well as with other colleagues and professional associates, at the prestigious Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City where Bill was Director of the Psychology Department while at the same time holding a faculty appointment as Professor of Medical Psychology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Helen began her professional career at the Medical Center as Bill’s research associate, later also to become a tenured Professor of Psychology at Columbia University.

The Early Days: from “a Better way” to “Please Take Notes”

The events leading up to Bill’s impassioned speech and Helen’s willingness to join him in finding the “better way” are recorded in Dr. Kenneth Wapnick’s biographical and historical account: Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles.[1] This account is important for understanding the origin, nature and purpose of the Course, as well as the background of its editing and publication. Therefore, I am reproducing below some excerpts from it. Also, in the Preface to the Course itself readers may find a brief account written by Helen Schucman and entitled “How It Came.”
“There Must Be Another Way”

As Helen recorded it in her autobiography, a most unexpected change came in June of 1965.

What happened next is particularly hard to describe, because I had reached a state of mind in which a positive response to it on my part was singularly unlikely. Nevertheless I made one, and from that time on a great. change began.

Some time earlier, Helen and Bill had become consultants to an interdisciplinary research project at the Cornell University Medical Center, Bill's former employer. Their responsibilities included an hour-long meeting every week which grew to epitomize all that was wrong in their personal and professional lives. The meetings were characterized by the same back-biting if not savage competitiveness and anger they were accustomed to in their own Medical Center, not to mention in their own relationship. Helen and Bill hated going, feeling both uncomfortable and angry, yet believing that professionally they had no choice.

And so this June afternoon they once again prepared to go, stopping off first at Bill's east side apartment. This time, however, their perennial negative discussion took a different. turn.

Bill had something on his mind, but he seemed to be quite embarrassed and found it hard to talk about. In fact., he tried unsuccessfully several times to begin. Finally he took a deep breath, grew slightly red-faced, and delivered a speech. It was hard for him, he told me later, because the words sounded trite and sentimental even as he said them. Nor was he anticipating a particularly favorable response from me. Nevertheless, he said what he felt he had to say. He had been thinking things over and had concluded we were using the wrong approach. "There must," he said, "be another way." Our attitudes had become so negative that we could not work anything out. He had therefore decided to try to look at things differently.

Bill proposed, quite specifically, to try out the new approach that day at the research meeting. He was not going to get angry and was determined not to attack. He was going to look for a constructive side in what the people there said and did, and was not going to focus on mistakes and point up errors. He was going to cooperate rather than compete. We had obviously been headed the wrong way and it was time to take a new direction. It was a long speech for Bill, and he spoke with unaccustomed emphasis. There was no doubt that he meant what he said. When it was over he waited for my response in obvious discomfort. Whatever reaction he may have expected, it was certainly not the one he got. I jumped up, told Bill with genuine conviction that he was perfectly right, and said I would join in the new approach with him.

One can truly say that the birth of A Course in Miracles occurred that June afternoon in Bill's apartment. In Helen and Bill's joining together to find that other way, an example of what the Course would later call a "holy instant," one finds a shining example of a miracle: "The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient. hatred has become a present love" (T-26.IX.6:1). The results were not immediately apparent, but nonetheless certain changes, internal and external, did begin to manifest….

Concurrent with the changes that Helen and Bill consciously strove to apply to their relationships, a purely internal set of experiences began for Helen as well. It was almost as if Helen had waited all of her life for Bill to make his "There must he another way" speech. This seemed to act as a stimulus that triggered off a long series of inner experiences that can he categorized variously as visions, dreams, heightened imagery, and the psychic. [2]

So began the unusual series of mental experiences that finally led to Helen hearing a by then familiar “inner voice” on October 21, 1965 urging: “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.” In the Course Preface, she says of this: “Three startling months preceded the actual writing, during which time Bill suggested that I write down the highly symbolic dreams and descriptions of the strange images that were coming to me. Although I had grown more accustomed to the unexpected by that time, I was still very surprised when I wrote, ‘This is a course in miracles.’”

One can imagine Helen’s reactions to these unusual experiences which culminated in her scribing of the Course. Although throughout her life prior to Bill’s speech and the coming of the Course she had some religious and spiritual interests and experiences, and was drawn to certain religious people and settings, she had come to regard herself as a serious professional psychologist and member of an intellectual community where atheism was the rational choice. These new experiences and her developing role as a channel for words inspired by Jesus were initially quite disorienting, embarrassing and upsetting for her. She questioned her sanity and relied heavily upon Bill for support during these strange and anxious times. It is important to understand this, because Helen’s disorientation and distress played a part in the nature of the early scribing, as did the confusion and personal confrontations that the Course material represented for both her and Bill. In his book, Dr. Wapnick comments about this:

In Helen's and my editing of her autobiography years later, the issue of writing about Jesus made her so anxious that she chose to omit…references to the authorship. Thus, she left it to me…to describe her relationship with the "Voice."

Jesus began the dictation of the Course this way:

This is a course in miracles, please take notes.
Helen continued for about a page of notes before calling Bill in a fright. She explained to him what was happening, and her feeling that the Voice "seems to want to go on....I'm sure there's more." Bill wisely suggested that Helen continue as best she could, and that they would meet at the office early in the morning to discuss this startling turn of inner events. For a while longer Helen continued. Before presenting what she scribed, an explanation need be given about the obvious differences between the material Helen originally took down and the published Course.
During the first month or so of the dictation, Helen's anxiety level was so high that the form (not the content) of the dictation was affected in the sense of the writing being ungraceful and sometimes overly terse. Several times Jesus would correct a mistaken word or phrase a day or two after it had been written, when Helen's mind was open to receive the correction. An analogy might be made to an unused faucet, which when it is first turned on runs rusty water. As the water runs for a while, the rust clears out and the water returns to its clear nature. The "rust" of interference, which would seem to result from a long period of not being used, was really due to Helen's fear of the power of her mind, and more specifically, her fear of the love of Jesus…

Even more to the point of the difference between the original and published early pages, however, was that Helen's initial experience was of Jesus being with her as an elder brother to his sister, gently and lovingly speaking to her. At about what is now Chapter Five of the text, the tone of the writing begins to change and become increasingly flowing and more objective, reading more like a lecture than a dialogue. In the beginning, therefore, the actual teaching (what is essentially found in the published books) was interspersed with personal material designed to help Helen and Bill with their own relationship, other relationships in their lives, and with their own personal problems. In addition, there were comments given on certain professional issues to aid Helen and Bill bridge the gap between their understanding of psychology and that of the Course. On instructions from Jesus, Helen and Bill removed these passages that were outside the Course's specific teachings, as they were not meant for the general readership. I shall return to the original manuscript and to its subsequent editing in later chapters, where I shall present some of this deleted material by way of illustrating the intensely personal nature of Helen's contact with Jesus, and his loving concern for her and Bill. [The interested reader may find this material in chapters 8, 9 and 10 of Absence from Felicity.] [3]

So, the initial scribing was uneven and prone to some error, as well as being quite personal, containing some material addressing certain intimate details of Helen’s and Bill’s lives. The early chapters of the Text, therefore, required more aggressive editing than the later chapters, and this was done under instructions from Jesus, and with his approval. The Workbook for Students, Manual for Teachers and Clarification of Terms required virtually no editing since Helen had become more comfortable with her role as a channel and been able to dissociate her ego from the scribing process. Thus, in the later scribing, Jesus’ message flowed through her as naturally and spontaneously as the elegant music composed by Mozart when in one single summer he produced three major symphonies, obviously doing so as a channel rather than as a labored, intentional composer.

Editing Considerations

At first, Helen and Bill had no thought of editing the material for publication at all. Only later, when they realized the Course material was to be shared with the public did they become concerned about such editing. And then it was only in the material found in the first four or five chapters of the 31-chapter Text that judgments had to be made about what material to include and how to fit it together after the personal material had been deleted. Again, this was done with Jesus’ guidance. In fact, the Course as officially published represents the work which Jesus intended for the interested public. It would have been unthinkable to Helen and Bill that it be otherwise.

The question of editing was brought up in an interview with Bill which was published in the October, 1984 issue of New Realities magazine:

New Realities: There has been some speculation that you and Helen edited the Course.  Did  you?
Thetford: No. Bear in mind that at the beginning we didn’t know exactly what  was happening.  So we asked questions of a personal nature and recorded the answers that Helen would receive.  I would type these answers as part of the continuous process, no distinguishing them from the inner dictation that Helen was recording in her shorthand notebook.  Later, when we realized that this material was obviously not a part of the Course itself, we did, indeed, delete it. It is true there has been editing of capitalization, punctuation, paragraphing and section titles in the Text. However, these changes were minor and the Workbook and the Manual for Teachers also appear exactly as they were taken down by Helen.
New Realities: Could you give an example of the personal material you deleted?
Thetford:   Oh, there were questions like, “Is there anything that we should be doing that would increase our ability to meditate better?”  There was also some commentary on psychological theories that got introduced as an intellectual digression at the beginning, which had nothing to do with the Course itself.

New Realities
: What’s been the reaction to all of this among your old friends and colleagues?  Sympathetic, supportive, dissociative, concerned?
Thetford: I haven’t been in contact with many of them, although the few I have been in touch with are sympathetic to the material.  I have no idea what the general reaction among my former colleagues would be, nor have I tried to find out.
However, I’m sure most of them would have thought Helen and me crazy at the time if they had known what we were doing.  Bear in mind though, that it all began in 1965, and this is now 1984, when I think there’s a great deal more receptivity to spiritual concepts than there was nineteen years ago.  So perhaps it’s really not quite fair to speculate on this now.
New Realities: At the same time you and Helen didn’t show it to anyone then, you kept it hidden and your activities completely secret.
Thetford: Yes. And I certainly would not have shown it to them. I had more sense than that. My assignment as I saw it was to learn the material myself and not confuse my responsibilities at the Medical Center with our transcription of the Course.

But as I’ve said, this is another, much brighter day.
New Realities: What do you now think about all of this, the fact that you were a special integral part of what some prominent people have referred to A Course In Miracles as one of the most important documents of the century?
Thetford: Quite frankly, Helen and I had no intention of publishing the Course when we were transcribing it. Quite the contrary. The material seemed specifically for our spiritual education.  We regarded it as our “guilty secret,” something we were committed to doing, but at that time there was no indication we were supposed to share it with others.

When we did agree to have it published anonymously, I thought very few people would be interested in changing their perceptions through the methods suggested by the Course—I thought it was too difficult. Certainly in my lifetime, I never expected that thousands of people would regard the Course as their map home. [4]

When Helen and Bill undertook the initial editing of the Course for publication, in addition to deleting personal material in the early scribing, they went through the Text to designate chapters and section headings. The original scribing, now called the urtext, lacked the kind of organization that would make the material more accessible to a general reader. There were no chapter or section designations. Even the paragraphing was not well done, reflecting an arbitrary procedure Helen used at first. The material had been taken down with Helen using a system of shorthand and Bill typing up the material as she read it to him. So they organized the material to make it easier for someone else to read and understand. This initial effort produced what has come to be called the “Hugh Lynn Cayce” version (HLC).

Beginning in September of 1965, Helen and Bill were in occasional contact with Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce, and President of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach. When Helen began to have the unusual experiences leading up to the scribing, Bill took an interest in the Cayce material along with many other metaphysical and spiritual writings. It was at his suggestion that they first visited the A.R.E. and Hugh Lynn. After some considerable skepticism and resistance to what Helen regarded as “spooky” and “magical,” reflecting her discomfort with her own developing experiences, she agreed to visit the Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Eventually Helen’s anxiety subsided and she came to respect Hugh Lynn and the Cayce body of work. So, after the scribing had begun, in October, 1965, Helen and Bill returned to Virginia Beach in order to obtain Hugh Lynn’s opinion and suggestions, which Helen now appreciated, while he became warmly supportive and encouraging of Helen and her new-found role as scribe.  

In 1972, as an expression of their gratitude to Hugh Lynn, and for purposes of further review, Helen and Bill gave him a copy of their edited work which included Helen’s second re-typing of the Text manuscript. This is what has been called the "Hugh Lynn Version," now referred to as the “HLC.” It was made clear to Hugh Lynn that Helen and Bill were providing this material in appreciation for his help and for his personal review and comments. The manuscript was not to be shared with others except for his son, Charles Thomas. Hugh Lynn died in 1983, but Charles Thomas Cayce, current President of the A.R.E., recalls conversations in which this point—so central to Helen's concern for privacy—was understood by all parties involved. Eventually, the Text volume of the HLC came to be stored in a locked archival room at the library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, while the other two volumes were apparently misplaced or lost. Persons associated with both the Foundation for Inner peace (FIP) and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM) were aware of the existence of this volume in the A.R.E. library archives and decided not to ask that it be removed, feeling that it was secure and might have some usefulness in the future for historical purposes, or for reference and research—as well as respecting the gift of appreciation which Helen and Bill had made to Hugh Lynn.

Concerning the Hugh Lynn Cayce (HLC) Version: More about Editing

I will return later to a discussion of the copyright for A Course in Miracles and the litigation around it, but suffice it to say at this point that in 1999 certain parties associated with the defendant in that litigation visited the A.R.E. for the express purpose of obtaining an illicit copy of the HLC text volume. They managed to sneak the original out of the library and copy it, and then return the original to the archive shelf. Immediately upon their arriving back home, the HLC was copied and distributed on the Internet and elsewhere. It has since become known not only as the HLC, but as the “JCIM” (“Jesus’ Course in Miracles”) and the “Thetford Edition” of A Course in Miracles. The later designation is based on some people’s misunderstanding of remarks found in Helen’s original notes—the urtext—where Jesus urged Helen to stay focused on the scribing and unconcerned with editorial details. She had a tendency to use matters of form as a way of procrastinating her scribal task. Bill was to take care of the editorial details. This in no way meant that Bill was to become the chief editor of the Course, a task which ill suited him and which he disdained in any case, being notoriously impatient with matters of detail. Bill was supportive of Helen and helped out by typing and proofing what he typed, but Helen always was the editor-in-chief. It was primarily Helen who did the editing for the HLC. Bill had a good sense of humor and would no doubt be quite amused to find that someone came up with the idea of a “Thetford Edition” of the Course!

The designation “JCIM” is supposed to suggest that the HLC is actually the version of the Course that Jesus preferred. Helen would undoubtedly find that interesting, but probably not at all amusing. She and Bill had no question that the officially published Course is the version that Jesus endorsed.

Before further discussing the urtext and the editing of the HLC for official publication, I would point out that Absence from Felicity was first published in 1991. This was eight years before the HLC was dishonestly obtained and distributed, and nine years before a similar fate befell the urtext. Kenneth Wapnick had been given permission by Helen to write her biography after her death. He was entrusted with the urtext as well as her personal papers and the original short-hand scribal notes. Absence contains quite a lot of selected material from that collection as well as from Helen’s and Bill’s correspondence. In addition, in Absence Dr. Wapnick discussed the HLC and the process of editing for publication in which he participated as Helen’s assistant. In other words, interested students of the Course and the general public were provided with a considerable amount of information from and about the urtext and HLC long before those manuscripts were taken and distributed without permission. The HLC and urtext were not officially published by FIP precisely because that was not Jesus’ wish. So, of course such publication was not authorized by Helen and Bill. Both of them were quite satisfied with the official, edited version. Following the first publication in 1976 they both lived on for many years, Helen dying in 1981 and Bill in 1988. During that time they withdrew from public involvement with the Course, feeling that they had fulfilled their part, and not wanting a teaching role which Helen, especially, assigned to Kenneth Wapnick. However, if either of them had expressed any dissatisfaction with the publication, or suggested that the HLC and urtext should be published, then FIP certainly would have complied with their wishes, especially since Helen would only make such a request in compliance with instructions from Jesus. And again, the selected material that Kenneth Wapnick published from the urtext was made available to the public with Helen’s permission for a posthumous biography, trusting Kenneth’s discretion.

Now, to return to matters of editing, copyright and publication: first, the raw urtext was a private, personal document. The need for editing the early scribing (what is now roughly the first four or five chapters of the Text) arose both from its personal nature as well as from Helen’s considerable difficulty in those early months, as discussed above. Thus, the urtext lends itself to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Further, because of the wide ranging discussion of ancillary topics, there was a lack of focus upon the central message. Jesus directed the editing in order to make the published material as faithful as possible to his intent. Even so, he was limited to words for communication. There are inherent difficulties in communicating his message of non-separation with word symbols, since they themselves are the symbolical tools of the separated ego mind, designed to communicate in terms of separation or metaphysical dualism. A profoundly important statement in the Manual for Teachers is directed to this point:

Words can be helpful, particularly for the beginner, in helping concentration and facilitating the exclusion, or at least the control, of extraneous thoughts. Let us not forget, however, that words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality (M-21.1:8-10).

Word symbols simply cannot fully communicate the non-dualistic truth of God’s Oneness, although they can suggest it or point to it. An equally important statement in the Workbook addresses this:

Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say "God is," and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless (W-pI.169.5:1-4).

So, words themselves are problematic in communicating Truth, which is completely abstract, formless, and unable to be accurately symbolized. But Jesus was confined to the use of words in order to reach us in the darkness of our mindless, dreaming state. Further, in the Course Jesus often attempts to communicate at our rudimentary level of understanding by using words rather loosely with respect to their definitions, as well as employing metaphor. For instance, in so doing he sometimes speaks as though God knows of us and hears our prayers, but when the Course is understood in its entirety, as a complete and logical thought system, it is clear that this is not the case. Oneness does not know of separation or about the details of our dream of separation.

In the early channeling, matters of language became even more problematic as Jesus attempted to reassure Helen, as well as instruct both Helen and Bill in a radically new thought system; one that flew in the face of their professional training and every common sense assumption they had made about life and reality. For that reason, as well as others I have mentioned, the early chapters of the Course required a more careful editorial eye in consultation with Jesus. And the point of all of this is simply that the editing for publication was done with integrity and under Jesus’ guidance so as to give to the world the most authentic, pure and lovely version of his message. The editing was done in service to Jesus and his students, hardly in an attempt to withhold secret spiritual truths or to deceive anyone as some have suggested.

All that said, if one is inclined to obtain one of the manuscripts not intended by Jesus to be published, they are now available, though not as officially published by the Foundation for Inner Peace. The same non-dualistic message of the Atonement can be found in them by any intelligent, discerning reader. And it will be evident as one goes along that the differences between the published Course, the HLC and the urtext with respect to the content of the message are inconsequential, especially after one arrives at Chapter 6 in the Text.

An interesting and instructive method of comparison is to begin reading at the end of the Text rather than at the beginning. There, in those last chapters especially, as Helen’s scribing was flowing smoothly, one finds hardly any differences between the published Course and the HLC at all, not even in the chapter and section titles. In the HLC Helen frequently used capitalization for emphasis, whereas italics are used in the published Course, and the only important difference between the urtext and the official publication in the last chapters is that in the published Course there are chapter and section designations with titles. With the exception of some very minor differences, the words are the same. And, as I have said, there are no significant differences between versions of the Workbook and Manual for Teachers.

To sum up this discussion of matters pertaining to editing, I'll again present some material excerpted from Kenneth Wapnick’s Absence from Felicity. For those who have an interest but do not care to purchase this book, there are several excerpts from Absence published on the World Wide Web in the collection. In particular, the entire chapter 12 from Absence entitled, “The Editing (1973-1976)” is available to be read at:  Other excerpts are linked from the Web site dedicated to Helen and called “The Scribe. See:
I completed my first reading of A Course in Miracles during the ten weeks I spent back in the States in 1973. I read a copy of Helen's second retyping (at least of the text) which was presented to Hugh Lynn Cayce, and thus it was named by us, as mentioned earlier, the "Hugh Lynn Version." The text, incidentally, was divided at that time into four volumes, corresponding to the four thesis binders Bill had bought to house the manuscript. I read the text, workbook, and manual straight  through, and then began the text again when I returned to Israel. Helen, Bill, and I agreed to do the workbook together, but only on Helen's condition that we start  with Lesson 51, the beginning of the review  for the first fifty lessons. Helen never liked the first fifty lessons...I completed my second reading of the three books, which I did much more slowly, sometime after our return to New York. Shortly afterwards I began again, partially in preparation for a glossary-index for the Course, something I thought would be useful. As it turned out, however, I did not seriously begin work on that book until 1977, when we were all in England, and even then it was not to be completed for another five years.
At any rate, I was reading the text again, and very carefully at this point. I commented to Helen and Bill that I thought the manuscript needed some additional editing. Some of the personal and professional material still remained, and seemed inappropriate for a published edition. The first four chapters did not read well at all, in large part because the deleted personal material left gaps in the remaining text, and thus required minor word additions to smooth the transition. Also, some of the divisions in the material appeared arbitrary to me, and many of the section and chapter titles did not really coincide with the material. (I later learned that Helen's usual methodology was to draw the section title from its opening lines, even if the subsequent material went in a different direction.) Finally, the paragraphing, punctuation, and capitalization were not only idiosyncratic, but notoriously inconsistent.
Helen and Bill agreed that it did need a final run-through. As Bill lacked the patience and attention to detail that was needed for such a task, we decided that Helen and I should go through it together. And so we did, never realizing just how long it would take us to complete the editing. I earlier quoted Helen's statement that she had come to think of A Course in Miracles as her life's work, and she approached the editing project with a real dedication. She and I meticulously went over every word to be sure that the final manuscript was right.
Helen was a compulsive editor, and an excellent one at that. She would not really edit a manuscript, however; she attacked it. While Helen had a pronounced writer's block…no such block existed when it came to editing something previously written…It was therefore all the more remarkable that she was able to resist the great temptation, not to mention compulsive need, to edit the Course and "improve it." To be sure, some amount of editing was needed in the early chapters, and Helen felt that Jesus was helping her to do just that. But otherwise, she was basically able to leave the manuscript alone….
A major focus of our work was the early chapters of the text. We went through at least two complete edits of these, and many, many partial ones. As I indicated in Part II, the first weeks of the dictation were characterized not only by Helen's extreme anxiety and fear, but by the informality of Jesus' dictation to her. The conversational tone of these sessions, coupled with the personal material that was interwoven with the actual teaching, made the editing very difficult. As briefly mentioned above, stylistic gaps were left when the personal material was taken out. Incidentally, the miracle principles that properly begin the text did not come point by point, but were interspersed with considerable other material, as is apparent in the excerpts cited in Chapter 8.
I remember half-jokingly asking Helen at one point to suggest to Jesus that perhaps he might re-dictate the early chapters, but it was clear that this was not going to be done [because of Helen’s resistance]. We thus did the best we could in reorganizing this material into coherent sections and chapters that would fit in with the text as a whole. A discerning reader can sense the difference in tone and style as the text continues. Roughly the current fifth chapter of the text marks one such dividing line, after which the text was dictated pretty much as it is found now. Personal material that came afterwards did not present the same editing problem, as I commented above, for it was not so interwoven with the material of the text itself.
Our basic procedure was that early in the morning I would read through the material we would cover later that day, or review our previous day's work. I would pencil in those corrections and changes I thought were necessary. Helen and I would then go over these together, after which I would go back over what we had done, and re-present this to Helen. This procedure went back and forth in these early chapters, until we felt it was the way Jesus wanted it. We both felt his presence guiding us in this work, and it was clear for the most part that our personal preferences and concerns played no important role in these decisions. I added the qualifying phrase "for the most part," as Helen did feel that Jesus allowed her the license to make minor changes in the form, as long as the content itself was not affected. This license only extended itself to questions of punctuation, paragraphing, capitalization, and minor word changes (such as switching "that" for "which," and vice versa; see more below), but never to the inclusion or exclusion of important material.
Several times during our editing Helen would recognize a word that she had changed from the original dictation, and that she and Bill had not caught in their initial editing. And so we changed these words back to the original ones. I was impressed throughout by the integrity with which Helen went about the editing. I have already remarked on the ferocity of her editing when it came to professional writings, and yet she was able to resist such compulsivity during the editing of the Course. Any changes we made in the order of material (I've indicated earlier how certain paragraphs were moved around) we showed Bill, who likewise shared Helen's attitude of absolute integrity and fidelity to the original dictation.
Bill usually was most uninterested in form, but I remember two strong exceptions. Helen had told me how insistent he was that the final inspiring paragraph of the text -- "And now we say 'Amen,"' -- not be broken up, and that the full paragraph be on one page. He continued his insistence with the published edition, although it naturally fell that way in the typesetting. Second, Bill insisted that there be fifty miracle principles, even though in the original dictation there were only 43, later changed to 53 in the two re-typings by Helen. Again, this kind of insistence was unlike Bill. In these numbering changes, incidentally, no text was added or deleted; the material was simply rearranged….
The paragraphing, punctuation, and capitalization, which rarely had any bearing on the teaching itself, nonetheless became a major focus of our work, one obvious reason being the distraction value they held for Helen. During her two retypings of the text, Helen imposed on the manuscript her peculiar idiosyncrasy of having most paragraphs be nine lines, almost always regardless of the content of the material. Helen thankfully did not object to our correcting these. More than one reader has commented on the Course's use of semicolons, which often were used in place of the more proper colon. This too was Helen's preference. And as we began to go through the text, I discovered that Helen had two comma philosophies: excessive and minimal. I cannot recall (denial sometimes serves a merciful purpose) how often—when Helen would suddenly decide on a comma-philosophy change well on into the editing—I would have to go back to the beginning of the manuscript to change the commas. In the end, we arrived at a decision to over-comma, in the hope that this would be of more help to a reader already having to struggle with the difficulty of the Course's concepts, not to mention its often complicated sentence structure. I am not sure to this day how consistent we were (there are still some changes I would be tempted to make, as I am sure many students feel should be made as well); however, the content of the Course was never jeopardized as a result of our editing.
Helen often had fits about the use of sentence splices or incomplete sentences, but knew that these were an important part of the Course's presentation, serving the stylistic purpose of added emphasis. We kept all these, despite Helen's "better" judgment, although at the urging of a friend who was a professor of linguistics, we did change in later editions some of the more glaring dangling participles.
Finally, there was the capitalization. One can see an "evolution" in Helen's style as one traces the Course from its original dictation in the notebooks, through Bill's first typing and Helen's subsequent retypings. The process culminated in Helen's feeling that every word even remotely (a slight, but only slight, exaggeration on my part) associated with God should be capitalized, including pronouns and relative pronouns. I should mention that while here again Jesus left Helen with the freedom to do as she wished, he did make some exceptions. Under his specific instruction, all pronouns referring to him were to be lower case (in the earlier manuscripts Helen always capitalized them…), to reflect his unity with us (more below). Jesus instructed Helen always to capitalize the term "Son of God," to emphasize the inclusion of all of us as part of God's one Son, in contradistinction to traditional Christianity's exclusion of all but Jesus from God's special Sonship. Pronouns referring to the Son, however, were to be lower case, to emphasize our separated state. The exception, of course, would be when "Son of God" refers to our true Identity as Christ, where the pronouns would be capitalized. Also, Jesus asked Helen to capitalize all pronouns referring to the Trinity—God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit—otherwise the reader might not always know for whom (or Whom) the referent was meant.

In the "Hugh Lynn Version," the one we were editing, Helen's capitalization was quite inconsistent. While I did originally try to talk her out of what I believed to be the excessive stylistic emphasis on God's divinity, I soon abandoned this fruitless enterprise and ended by saying to Helen that I would capitalize the Course words any way she chose to have them be, but that the capitalization should be consistent. This clearly appealed to her sense of logic, and so we set out in writing the rules of capitalization we would follow, and kept to these as best we could….

I have already briefly mentioned that when Helen was writing down Jesus' words, she underlined all those that seemed to carry greater emphasis. In the typed manuscripts these words were all put in caps for ease of typing, but were obviously excessive in their number. Thus another part of our work was to leave only those words or phrases that seemed to require added emphasis. These are the italicized words in the published books.

The workbook and manual required very little editing work, other than our reading through them together to be sure that all was correct. Only punctuation, paragraphing, and the perennial capitalization were corrected, not to mention the "that's" and "which's." [5]

Finally, before leaving the subject of editing, there is the second edition of the Course to consider. That edition was published in 1992 and is distinguished by its addition of a notational system for ease of reference and citation. The Errata [6] pamphlet for the second edition begins with a summary of what was involved in this editing. That summary can be found on the Web at: Much of it is quoted below, but it would be sufficient to say that the editing for the second edition was painstaking! A thoroughgoing effort to find and correct all the errors from the beginning of Helen’s re-typings was conducted. There were no errors of real significance, but there were many errors in the first edition, primarily because Bill refused to participate in the detailed proof reading that is customary for manuscripts, where one person reads out loud while another reads silently.

We begin by presenting the sequence in which A Course in Miracles evolved into its present form, originating with Dr. Helen Schucman's shorthand notes begun in 1965. Helen took down her internal dictation in notebooks, and regularly dictated these to her colleague and collaborator, Dr. William Thetford, who typed out her words. This original typing of the three books came to be called the “urtext,” a word denoting an original manuscript.

After each of these typing sessions, Bill read back to Helen what he typed to ensure that no mistakes were made. Thus, the urtext can be considered to have been carefully checked, and to be an accurate copy of Helen's original notes. Helen later retyped the manuscript of the Text twice and the Workbook and Manual once, and none of these retypings was ever proofread.

It should be mentioned that minor alterations were intentionally made in these retypings of the manuscript from the urtext. Personal material that Helen and Bill received was omitted, since they were instructed that it did not belong in the public edition. Other changes had to do with form—paragraphs, punctuation and capitalization—and minor word changes to smooth over the gaps left by the removal of the personal material. Chapter and section titles were also added in the Text.

Helen's second typing of the Text and retyping of the Workbook and Manual were edited, one final time, in preparation for the First Printing in 1976. This editing was carried out along the same lines noted above. After the editing was completed, the entire Text was again retyped; but this too was not adequately proofread. The relatively few changes made in the Workbook and Manual did not call for their retyping. Finally, the manuscript of the three books was given to the printer and again retyped before being typeset, and this was also not adequately proofread.

As a result of this long process of retypings, some material was inadvertently omitted. Furthermore, a fair amount of typographical errors went unnoticed. Thus, when a Second Edition of A Course in Miracles was undertaken to incorporate a system of paragraph and sentence numbering, requiring an entirely new computerized typesetting, it seemed to be an appropriate time to insert the deleted material and correct all prior mistakes. To ensure that this Second Edition be as free as possible from errors, the three books of the First Edition of A Course in Miracles were proofread against the urtext that Bill had originally typed from Helen's notes. All retypings, as well as Helen's original shorthand notebooks, were consulted to trace the errors and omissions that were found.

The errata fall into several categories. Aside from Helen's omissions and mistakes, and those of the typist and typesetter, there were inconsistencies in capitalizations that, it is hoped, have been corrected. Also, since A Course in Miracles came specifically to Helen and Bill as a way of helping them heal their relationship, the "you" in the Course was often originally plural in form, addressing both of them. Frequently, the phrase "you and each other" was used. In editing the manuscript for the First Printing, this phrase was changed to "you and your brother," as the Course was ultimately meant for individuals who would be working on forgiving their specific special relationships. Some of these, as well as other plural references were missed, however, and so they have been corrected here. It should be noted that changes related only to the form of the printing—page headings, spacing, etc.—have not been included in this pamphlet.

Copyrighting and Publishing

At the end of Absence Chapter 12, which discusses the editing of the Course for publication, Dr. Wapnick concludes: “Finally, in the early spring of 1975 we had a completed manuscript of A Course in Miracles that awaited we knew not what (or whom). We found out the “who” on May 29, when we met Judith Skutch…”[7]

In his book Journey Without Distance: the Story Behind A Course in Miracles,[8] Robert Skutch describes this meeting. I will paraphrase his account here. In 1975, Judy and Robert Skutch had an apartment in New York City as well as a second home in the San Francisco Bay area. They had established the Foundation for Parasensory Investigation with its offices in New York and were quite busy with a number of projects. Judy’s friend Douglas Dean had been invited to lunch with a psychology professor at the Columbia University Medical Center and invited Judy to accompany him. Judy hoped to discuss the subject of holistic healing, which she wanted to introduce in some way to the conventional medical community. As it turned out, the professor was Dr. William Thetford, and accompanying him for this luncheon meeting was Dr. Helen Schucman. Judy was not able to elicit much interest or discussion about holistic healing at lunch, but she sensed that Dr. Schucman had something on her mind that she was not talking about. While they were eating desert, Judy surprised herself and Dr. Schucman when she heard herself say to Helen, “You hear an inner voice, don’t you?” This comment led to Bill’s moving the conversation to the privacy of the office he shared with Helen where Judy then met Dr. Kenneth Wapnick and was introduced to A Course in Miracles. Judy immediately felt very deeply connected to Helen, Bill and Ken, and the upshot of this meeting was a life-long alliance which resulted in the Skutch’s foundation changing its name to The Foundation for Inner Peace and eventually undertaking to publish the Course.

Initially, Helen, Bill, Judy and Bob thought that their job was to find a publisher for the Course, but they soon came to realize that no company was going to publish the Course without wanting to change it somehow. They would have to publish the Course themselves. A remarkable series of events followed, making publication affordable and resulting in an initial distribution of 300 photo-offset copies now called the “Criswell edition.” Before this, Helen had surprised everyone by announcing that the Course had to be copyrighted. Judy Skutch gave this account in an early statement about the fiduciary responsibilities of the Foundation for Inner Peace:

Yet the question is often asked: "Why was A Course in Miracles copyrighted by the Foundation for Inner Peace, given that it is a spiritual writing and teaching?"

Specifically, in 1975 when Helen Schucman turned A Course in Miracles over to the Foundation for Inner Peace, she also explicitly instructed the Foundation to have the Course copyrighted. When Judith Skutch at the time asked why A Course in Miracles—a spiritual document—had to be copyrighted, Helen replied: "Because he says so." "He," meant Jesus, who Helen earlier had identified as the inner voice that dictated A Course in Miracles to her.

Yet there are some who still feel that true spiritual works such as A Course in Miracles hardly need the mundane protection of copyright. The answer to this seeming dilemma is reflected in the Course's Clarification of Terms in the passage: "This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed." (C-IN 3:1). Thus the Foundation—with regard to the fiduciary responsibility given to it—trusts in the fact that when Jesus directed Helen to perfect the copyright in A Course in Miracles, he intended that the Course be "protected" by copyright limitations within the ego framework. In effect, this ensures that the Course will remain intact and exactly as it was given, so that it will never be diluted, distorted, or changed.
Clearly, the purpose of the copyright had nothing to do with commercialism or profit. Both the Foundation for Inner Peace and its sister Foundation for A Course in Miracles are non-profit organizations and have given away over 20,000 copies of the Course to those who could not afford to purchase them. Rather than financial protection, the copyright was intended to protect the integrity of the Course’s radical non-dualistic thought system; a thought system which terrifies our ego identity and which can be assumed to have led to Jesus’ crucifixion when he was in a body 2000 years ago. Then, his teachings were distorted over the centuries into an ego-compatible framework which was metaphysically dualistic.This resulted in teaching a form of forgiveness that was the exact opposite of the forgiveness based on our essential sinlessness which Jesus intended to teach. His teachings, especially as presented in the lovely, appealing language of the Course and having been delivered in the unusual manner of Helen’s scribing, drive the already insane ego even more crazy! Our fearful, insane ego tries to dilute and distort the Course's message so that it becomes some form of dualism, usually that compatible with Christianity; or it goes crazy with specialness in an attempt to co-opt the Course for purposes of self aggrandizement. Those responsible for the Course have had to learn this the hard way as they have seen both the copyright and the integrity of the Course attacked.

In the early years, the publishers of the Course were naive in assuming that the Course’s beautiful message of love would inspire respect and cooperation. They did not anticipate that people would publish books quoting and paraphrasing the Course without permission and proper acknowledgment, let alone attempt to integrate its thought system into that of the Bible with no indication of how that massive incompatibility could be accomplished without compromising the Course. They could hardly have anticipated angry public assaults upon the character of those responsible for publishing and teaching the Course, let alone that both of the unpublished manuscripts would essentially be stolen and then widely distributed on the Internet with no regard for the wishes of Jesus; and with no understanding of the concern for avoiding confusion which inspired the loving, painstaking work of editing prior to publication.

We who are dedicated to the path of the Course all have our classrooms in forgiveness. It is for those who have responsibility for publishing the Course to see the brotherhood beyond the furor that surrounded the copyright litigation lasting from June, 1996 until April, 2004. In every heart there is the longing for love. And in almost every heart there is the fear of love which our ego identity fosters. Yet that fear is itself a call for love, and those who take the Course’s teaching seriously have to learn how to hear that call, regardless of the form it takes. We have to learn how to shoulder our worldly responsibilities effectively while remembering that our only true function is forgiveness, which requires that we give up judgment no matter how tempting the provocations.

As it now stands, copyright in the first edition of the Course was set aside by the court so that what is known as the “Criswell edition” is in the public domain. However, copyright in all of the changes introduced in the second edition remains intact, as does the copyright for the Preface, Clarification of Terms, and the two supplementary pamphlets (Psychotherapy and Song of Prayer) along with Helen’s book of poetry,
The Gifts of God. FIP stated at the conclusion of an announcement about the copyright:

Because we have, for many years now, published the version of A Course in  Miracles  that contains the Clarification of Terms and the Text Preface, we want to make sure that people understand that this version of the Course has not been placed into the public domain as a result of the lawsuit—and, particularly, that certain portions of that version of the work remain protected by copyright. It is, therefore, not accurate to indicate that the "Course" (as it has been known for the last 29 years) can now be freely published by anyone who wishes to do so. A Course in Miracles as published by the Foundation for Inner Peace represents the form of publication approved by both Helen Schucman and William Thetford, both of whom lived for many years after the initial publication of the Course, and both of whom, we believe, would have approved of the improvements represented by the Second Edition.


I hope that this account has given interested students of the Course a helpful, historical overview with some explanations about the copyright and why the Course was published in the particular form that it takes, as well as why the urtext and HLC have not been officially published. I suggest that if the Course resonates with you, you regard it as having been published for only one person. Your concern, then, is to decide whether you are that person and if so, whether you will practice the forgiveness that the Course teaches. The voice that spoke to Helen and whose words we read on the pages of A Course in Miracles resides in your own mind; a mind you share with all other seemingly separated Sons of God. It is the Purpose of the Course to help you find that voice—that “Inner Teacher” of love—no matter what particular form it takes for you or what name you might give it. The Course is really very simple, but it requires of us a willingness and vigilance that may not come easily: vigilance against the ego and willingness to set aside our separate self-identity in favor of accepting shared interests and a common purpose with all our brothers.

This is not a course in philosophical speculation, nor is it concerned with precise terminology. It is concerned only with Atonement, or the correction of perception. The means of the Atonement is forgiveness.…

All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. Theological considerations as such are necessarily controversial, since they depend on belief and can therefore be accepted or rejected. A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends (Clarification of Terms-IN 1:1-3; 2).

[1] Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in  Miracles, by Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D., © 1991, 1999, Foundation for A Course in Miracles, Temecula, CA, 92590
[2] ibid, pp. 83-85
[3] ibid, pp. 179-181
[4] James Bolen, “An Exclusive, Candid Conversation with William Thetford, Ph.D.,” by James Bolen in New Realities, October, 1984, © James Bolen, Larkspur, CA, 94939 (Note: New Realities magazine is no longer in publication, however Mr. Bolen retains copyright in this article.)
[5] Absence from Felicity, op. cit., pp. 347ff.
[6] Published concurrently with the second edition; some copies still available from the Foundation for Inner Peace as well as on the Web, as noted.
[7] Absence from Felicity, op. cit., p. 355
[8] Journey Without Distance: the Story Behind A Course in Miracles, p. 105ff. by Robert Skutch © 1984, Celestial Arts (Revised Edition, © 2001, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA)

Comment (3)

Tue, Jun 26th - 10:28AM

About Bill Thetford and the CIA

Last fall someone inquired of me about a Web site which puts together a few facts about Bill Thetford’s professional career and then comes up with some preposterous claims regarding his relationship to Helen Schucman and her channeling of A Course in Miracles. More recently, I’ve learned that the Web site in question has fostered some rumors which are spreading among students of the Course as well as non-students who have an affinity for conspiracy theories. Below is an edited version of the letter I wrote in reply to the inquiry of last fall.


To begin, I immediately discounted the Web site you asked me to look at, because it contained what appeared to me to be some wildly outlandish statements and suggestions, beginning with the headline: "ACIM: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas! The MKULTRA Milieu Surrounding the 'Scribing' of A Course In Miracles." That statement in itself immediately announces that the author of the site is out to establish guilt by association -- a strategy that a trial lawyer or tabloid journalist might use, but not a very credible approach to serious consideration.

None of us who are familiar with the facts about Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford could possibly take seriously the claims made on that Web site, but I can see how people who are not familiar with those facts could take them seriously; especially if they are already skeptical about the phenomenon of channeling and even more so if they are not familiar with material actually found in the Course itself.

Anyone who cares to have an informed perspective should at least become acquainted with relevant portions of the following books: 1) The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles by Kenneth Wapnick; 2) The Complete Story of the Course: The History, The People, and The Controversies Behind A Course in Miracles by D. Patrick Miller, and; 3) Journey Without Distance: the Story behind A Course in Miracles by Robert Skutch.

On the Web, let me suggest the following site: The Scribing of A Course in Miracles

One notable statement, which was written by Helen and concludes the first part of the Preface to the Course, says: "The names of the collaborators in the recording of the Course do not appear on the cover because the Course can and should stand on its own. It is not intended to become the basis for another cult. Its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher."

The Course can stand on its own. You don't have to believe it was channeled from Jesus to make use of it, and you don't even have to believe in Jesus. Neither do you have to believe in the phenomenon of channeling.

It has always been clear to me that the Course was not intended to be the basis for a religious organization of any kind. Neither does it encourage proselytizing or setting up study groups. What it means by "teaching," is not formal didactic teaching (or preaching), but teaching love and forgiveness by example; something I think the CIA would have little use for, especially back in the 1950's. That said, it is true that for most of us the Course material is not easy to understand, integrate and apply in spite of the fact that it continually says it is a "simple course." So a teacher and a study group can be helpful. But, the only teacher of the Course in whom I have complete confidence is Kenneth Wapnick, who was intimately associated with Bill and Helen, having first met them in 1972 and then working closely with them to prepare the Course for publication in 1976. When one reads his autobiographical accounts (see links at: KenWapnick.html), it is evident that Ken's own spiritual journey had led him to a place of knowing the message of the Course before he ever read it. He, too, had experienced an inner presence that he recognized in the voice that speaks from the pages of the Course itself. In effect, Ken became Helen's designated teacher of ACIM, while she and Bill preferred to stay in the background after the Course was published. And Ken, who knew Bill and Helen very, very well, just laughed when I told him about the CIA conspiracy theory regarding the Course. He thought Bill would be quite amused and no doubt have some clever remark to make, since Bill had a very good sense of humor. Helen, on the other hand, would probably not have been amused at all. She was very intelligent and could be scathing in criticism when she was so inclined.

Nevertheless, even a glass of water can be misused, let alone a spiritual document. So, in spite of its intent, yes the Course has been misrepresented and misappropriated, sometimes with very unfortunate consequences. As you say, the Endeavor Academy is a case in point. The Course, like the glass of water, can serve a constructive, helpful purpose or a harmful one, depending upon who is making use of it. Obviously the same is true of the Bible, the Koran, and countless other spiritual writings. Likewise, psychology can be misused, which brings me to the CIA and MKULTRA.

According to John Marks in his book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,[1] back in the Cold War era of the 1950's and 60's the CIA had an interest in being able to make use of the scientific knowledge and professional techniques of psychology. They sought to have rapport with a wide range of psychologists to whom they could have access for information, consultation and research. Consequently, a large number of research projects of various kinds were funded by the CIA through MKULTRA, and a very long list of some of the most distinguished names in psychology benefited from this funding, most of them not having a clue about the nefarious activities of people like Drs. Gottlieb and Cameron which were discovered later. Remember, it was not until the Church committee investigations beginning in 1975 that the unconscionable activities sponsored by MKULTRA funding came to light. But, the mere fact that a particular psychologist's research was funded by the CIA through MKULTRA should not be used to incriminate that psychologist. Neither should the fact that a psychologist was employed by the CIA be used to vilify that person. Back in the fifties, there was a lot of concern about Russia and communism, and there was a high level of public confidence in the CIA. What we've learned since then should not serve to discredit every one of the distinguished psychologists who received funding through MKULTRA, or who was employed by the CIA. The practice of guilt by association, which the Web site in question attempts, is reminiscent of another phenomenon of the late 1940's - early 1950's: McCarthyism.

Among the psychologists whose research was funded by the CIA through MKULTRA was the widely known and beloved Dr. Carl Rogers, who was instrumental in the development of what has become known as "humanistic psychology," and who founded the "Person-Centered Approach" to psychotherapy. His goal was not to manipulate, brain wash and deceive people, but to free them from their conflicts so that they could become "fully functioning" persons -- "self-actualizing" human beings. Yet he received funding for some of his research through the CIA's MKULTRA program, just as did Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman.

In his book Marks discusses and quotes Rogers as follows:

Although he says he would have nothing to do with secret Agency activities today, he asks for understanding in light of the climate of the 1950s. "We really did regard Russia as the enemy," declares Rogers, "and we were trying to do various things to make sure the Russians did not get the upper hand." Rogers received an important professional reward for joining the Society [of Human Ecology] board. Executive Director James Monroe had let him know that, once he agreed to serve, he could expect to receive a Society grant. "That appealed to me because I was having trouble getting funded," says Rogers. "Having gotten that grant [about $30,000 over three years], it made it possible to get other grants from Rockefeller and NIMH." Rogers still feels grateful to the Society for helping him establish a funding "track record," but he emphasizes that the Agency never had any effect on his research.
It is common for psychologists to seek government funding for their research projects, and in the "publish or perish" climate of prestigious universities like Columbia it is not surprising that some of the work done by Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman received funding through MKULTRA. But it is hardly accurate to characterize that research as being directed toward "brain washing," any more than it would be accurate to characterize Roger's work that way.

My principle point here is that it is important to understand the historical context for the MKULTRA funding as well as to realize that not all of the psychological research funded by the CIA was of the dishonest and inhumane sort carried out by Gottlieb, et. al.

Another example of legitimate psychological research funded in part by the CIA is Dr. John Gittinger's "Personality Assessment System," or PAS. This system was of particular interest to Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman for very sound professional reasons, and it utilized one of the intelligence and personality assessment tests which has been a standard in the psychology profession for decades: the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales (WAIS) which were a refinement of the earlier Wechsler-Bellview Intelligence Scales. Gittinger began his work on the PAS in 1948-49 when he was a psychologist at Central State Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma. To this day, the PAS is utilized by professional psychologists who are responsible for psychological diagnosis in connection with mental health treatment. Following are some excerpts from the PAS Web site:
Psychologist Dr. John Gittinger conceived the fundamental idea behind the Personality Assessment System, or PAS, many years ago when he observed that our personalities are shaped, to a large extent, by the way we use the several components of our intellect. He realized that each person learns to cope with life by using (or not using) the intellectual strengths and overcoming (or not overcoming) the intellectual weaknesses that she or he may have learned or acquired by genetic endowment. He saw that, over the period of our maturation into adulthood, this process produces what we call each person's "personality." The result, in other words, for each of us, is a coherent pattern for how to "do" life....
Even John Marks, in his anti-CIA book, In Search of the Manchurian Candidate, recognized and reported that the most positive development during the 1950's and 1960's in the CIA was the Personality Assessment System....
After Dr. Gittinger’s retirement from government service in 1978, many of the psychologists with whom he had worked developed university affiliations. Students at such prestigious institutions as Cornell University, The Ohio State University, The University of Missouri, and American International College are among those who have been provided with an opportunity to learn to analyze and interpret PAS profiles. Further, the Gittinger Assessment Center, established at Hocking College in 1984, serves as a site for training, resources, information, data collection, and future development of the PAS.

It is quite understandable to me that Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman would have an interest in the PAS and in conducting research with it. Certainly any psychological test (like the glass of water I mentioned) could be used for unethical purposes of manipulation and control. However, Bill and Helen, like Carl Rogers, were psychologists interested in helping people. Helen's particular interest was in children, and particularly mentally retarded children.

So, some of the research Bill and Helen engaged in was funded through MKULTRA, but it is not accurate to characterize their interest as having to do with "mind control," nor is it accurate to characterize the entire body of research funded through MKULTRA that way. Further, much of what went on under the aegis of the Human Ecology Society was of legitimate interest to professional psychologists and that Society may even have helped the science of psychology to move in a broader, more humanistic direction. To quote John Marks again:
By investing up to $400,000 a year into the early, innovative work of men like Carl Rogers, Charles Osgood, and Martin Orne, the CIA's Human Ecology Society helped liberate the behavioral sciences from the world of rats and cheese. With a push from the Agency as well as other forces, the field opened up.

Now, to summarize Bill Thetford's professional career.

When he graduated from DePauw University in 1944, he was uncertain about what he wanted to do. He had majored in psychology but also enrolled in the pre-med program. Even though he was accepted at the University of Chicago medical school, he still wasn't sure he wanted to study medicine, so he decided to apply for a job at the University and wait to make a decision about whether to enroll in their med school. The job he got involved work as an administrator with the Manhattan Project with responsibilities for supervising certain buildings and for radiation decontamination. Robert Skutch[2] quotes Bill about this job:
The atmosphere in our department at the time was an extremely exciting one. There was a sense of utmost urgency and high sense of national priority to the work being done...It was the belief of the scientific community that the Nazis had already progressed very far in the development of atomic energy, and that we were in a life or death race with them.
Remember, this was before the end of World War II and the social/political climate in the U.S. was profoundly affected by that war as well as the "Cold War" which followed.

Bill finally decided not to enter medical school, but when the atomic bombs were dropped he was horrified at the devastation and quit his job. Skutch quotes him regarding his next step:
A few weeks later Dr. Carl Rogers arrived on campus. Although I knew nothing about Rogers, who even then was one of the most eminent names in the field of psychology, I signed up for his first course on Client centered Psychotherapy, simply because some of the graduate students I knew recommended that I do so.
Rogers immediately recognized a very intelligent student with keen insight into what Rogers was teaching and to Bill's dismay Rogers appointed him as a teaching assistant and then invited him to become Rogers' research assistant.

In 1949 Bill received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago after completing research related to Rogers' theory. Again, Skutch quotes Bill:
I was intrigued with the possibility of measuring the autonomic nervous system and its functions before and after Rogerian therapy...Rogers was very impressed by this study, and I was actually stunned that I had found any significant results at all.....In March 1949, somewhat to my surprise, I received my Ph.D. However, I still had no real awareness of the field of psychology...Although I had met many eminent people during my one seemed to have any awareness of how these specialized areas of knowledge could be synthesized.
Even though Bill lacked confidence in his own qualifications it seems evident that many others were quite impressed with him. This kind of situation involving Bill's humility and the high regard of others appears to have characterized much of his early professional career. After Chicago, at the suggestion of a friend, he applied for and was accepted into a position at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago where he worked in research involving schizophrenic patients and patterns of response to the Rorschach inkblot test. This was done under the direction of Dr. Samuel Beck, a leading authority on the Rorschach, about which Bill knew nothing. But, in what by now seems to be characteristic fashion, Beck was quite impressed with Bill and even regarded his lack of experience with the Rorschach as a positive factor since it meant that he would not bring bias into his studies. Bill stayed on in this program under Beck for 2 1/2 years, and it is during this time that he was introduced to Freudian psychoanalytic theory, which was contrary to Rogers' theories. Skutch quotes Bill about this period as saying:
One thing I felt strongly about, both during graduate studies and afterwards at Michael Reese, was that I did not in any way wish to be a university professor...I had already turned down several offers...I felt I had nothing to profess. Also, I did not feel that university life was something that I would happily adapt to.
Bill subsequently moved on to enroll in the Washington School of Psychiatry in Washington. D.C., because he was intrigued by the eminent Dr. Harry Stack Sullivan's interpersonal theory of psychiatry which focused upon interpersonal relations rather than the individual psychodynamics of Freudian psychology. This was during the period 1951-54 when, in addition to being a post-graduate student at the Washington School of Psychiatry, Bill was employed as a psychologist for the U.S. government. This is when Bill’s association with the CIA began. I could not find details of his government employment, although one source states that during 1953 Bill served as a consultant to the Foreign Service Institute in Beirut, Lebanon.

Skutch quotes Bill about the next phase of his career:
When I completed the study program at the Washington School, I was undecided about what to do next. Since I had long been attracted to New York City, I decided to go there to look for a position. The head of the Psychological Placement Service at the N.Y. State Employment Service said he had absolutely the perfect job for me...What he had in mind was the Directorship of the Psychology Department at the Institute of Living in Hartford Connecticut.
The Institute for Living is a very well known mental health treatment center and hospital, which was founded in 1822, being one of the first mental health facilities of its kind in the U.S. Bill stayed there as Director of the Division of Psychology from 1954 to 1955 when he moved to the Human Ecology Study Program at Cornell University Medical College. About this, Skutch quotes Bill as saying:
After a year at Hartford I received a call from Dr. Harold G. Wolff, one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine, a leading authority on stress disorders, and at the time Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Cornell...Dr. Wolf offered me an appointment as Chief Psychologist in the Human Ecology Study Program which he was directing. My uneasiness about becoming involved in a university position had mellowed somewhat by this time and I decided to consider an academic appointment. As a result, I accepted Dr. Wolff's offer, and before I knew it I became an instructor and a year later was promoted to assistant professor.
The idea of taking an ecological approach to the psychological study of human beings intrigued Bill and fit in with his general tendency to be attracted to unconventional approaches to psychology which emphasized understanding people in the context of their family relationships as well as their socio-cultural and natural environment. John Marks characterizes Wolff as not only being brilliant, but also as arrogant and quite interested in helping the CIA find ways to both manipulate human beings as well as train them to resist such manipulation, but there is nothing in Bill's history to suggest that he shared these kinds of interests. There is nothing in Bill's story to indicate that he himself had any interest in brain washing, hypnosis, drug-induced states or the like. Whether he had any knowledge of these activities being carried on with CIA sponsorship through MKULTRA is unclear to me, but I think it is unlikely that he did. Anyway, he stayed on at the Human Ecology Study Program from 1955-57, and then, upon the urging of a friend, applied for and -- even though rather unsure of himself -- took a very challenging job at Columbia University where he began in 1958 as an Associate Professor of Medical Psychology and Director of the Division of Clinical Psychology at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.

Apparently he was fascinated by his work under Wolf at Cornell, and the job at Columbia had been subject to controversy because members of the search committee could not agree upon a candidate. Faculty politics can be quite conflicted and difficult. In fact, it was this very kind of difficulty that later led Bill to make his famous speech to Helen where he said that there must be a better way for them to relate to each other as well as to their colleagues. They had been involved in some bitter, acrimonious interpersonal conflicts by June of 1965 when he made that speech, and when Helen -- surprisingly -- immediately agreed with him and said she was willing to help. This event led to the scribing of the Course following a series of unusual dreams and visions on Helen's part during the summer of 1965.

The story of Bill's relationship to Helen began when he hired her as a research assistant at Columbia in 1958. Shortly after assuming his position at Columbia, he found that his new job was going to demand much more from him than he had imagined, or been led to believe. As he was getting himself oriented and setting some priorities, the Dean of the College notified him that the University had received a large grant from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases for conducting a cooperative study of neurological and sensory deficits in infants and young children. A research psychologist with special training and skill in working with children and in psychological testing was needed. Helen became that psychologist and seven years later she and Bill became involved with the scribing of ACIM. From then on, their work with the Course was kept a carefully guarded secret, because it would certainly have jeopardized their professional status as well as their employment.

Helen herself had a very strong and assertive personality. As I mentioned, she and Bill had much difficulty in their relationship, which was one of the factors leading up to Bill's earnest plea for "a better way." Anyone who knew Helen would find it ludicrous that somehow Bill could have used "mind control" techniques to influence her!

In conclusion, I'll quote a few passages from D. Patrick Miller's book:[3]
Whether one views it as happenstance of predestined preparation, several major elements of Thetford's character made him suitable to become Schucman's helper in the recording of the Course. Perhaps most significant was his reluctance to "profess" a distinct philosophy of his own. It's safe to assume that few academics of his status could have resisted the temptation to revise, add to, or even co-opt a major project on which they were assisting a junior colleague, regardless of the project's nature or origin.
Second, Thetford's intellectual curiosity and flexibility would counterbalance Schucman's judgmental tendency, and help both of them deal with a system of psycho-spiritual thought that substantially challenged their psychoanalytic training. Thetford's brush with humanistic psychology may have also prepared him for the transpersonal dimensions of the Course material.
Finally, the younger professor's passivity is probably what made it possible for him to tolerate Helen Schucman's contrariness, albeit not happily. It remains a sad irony that the tenuous balance of the relationship between the two Course recorders never matured into a healthy reciprocity. In 1977, the year following publication of the Course, Schucman was forced to retire from Columbia-Presbyterian at age sixty-eight...In 1978 Thetford took early retirement and moved to California.

I'll just repeat that revelations about unethical and illegal activities sponsored by the CIA through MKULTRA only began to surface as a result of the Church committee investigations in 1975. The last date I see for a joint psychological publication by Thetford and Schucman is 1972, though Bill continued his role in the MKULTRA-sponsored personality research project 130 until he retired. That project was professionally sound, utilized the PAS, and would only have been of use to the CIA in the same indirect way that the research of Carl Rogers and many other legitimate psychologists would have been. I think that the reason for keeping that project classified is that the CIA hoped to prevent the Russians and other foreign countries from either knowing about or making use of psychological research sponsored by the CIA in the United States.

Perhaps this summary about Bill and his relationship with Helen will help you to understand why I regard the "mind control" allegations of the Web site you have brought to my attention as preposterous. If you want to know more about the history of the Course, you'll have to do more reading, but you might also watch the video entitled, "The Story of A Course in Miracles" which is available from the Course publisher, the Foundation for Inner Peace. See their catalog at:


[1] Marks, John. The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control. New York: Dell Publishing, 1988.

[2] Skutch, Robert. Journey Without Distance: The Story Behind A Course in Miracles. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2001

[3] Miller, D. Patrick. The Complete Story of the Course: The History, The People, The Controversies Behind A Course in Miracles. Berkeley, CA: Fearless Books, 1997.

Comment (3)

Sat, Jun 9th - 2:58PM

ACIM Basics #8 - Jesus

What is the relationship between Jesus and the Course?
The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol. But it stands for love that is not of this world. It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray. It becomes the shining symbol for the Word of God, so close to what it stands for that the little space between the two is lost, the moment that the Name is called to mind" (M-23.4:1-4).
Almost the entire text of A Course in Miracles is written in the first person, where the "I" is clearly identified throughout as Jesus. Furthermore, there are many places where he specifically discusses his crucifixion and resurrection. There are relatively few obvious first person references in the Workbook and Manual for Teachers, but when they do occur, their impact is quite dramatic, as seen for example in Lesson 70, the introduction to the fifth Workbook review lesson, and in the poem that ends the Manual.

Interestingly, there is one section in the Manual proper -- "Does Jesus Have a Special Place in Healing?" (M-23) -- and two in the Manual's appendix, the Clarification of Terms -- "Jesus - Christ" (C-5) and "The Holy Spirit" (C-6) -- where Jesus is spoken about in the third person. Some students have understood this shift to be a significant one that indicated that the scribe, Helen Schucman, was hearing another voice in those instances, but this was not the case since Helen was always very clear that there was only one voice -- Jesus -- that was dictating to her. The three sections with third person references specifically deal with Jesus, and the shift in the person of the "voice" is for a stylistic purposes and have no other significance. It is possible, however, that a reader could understand these third-person references as the Holy Spirit speaking about Jesus.

In the section of the Manual mentioned above, one finds the following statement which specifically indicates that the source of A Course in Miracles is Jesus. Again, if a reader wishes to interpret it that way, the voice that speaks here can be thought of as the Holy Spirit:
This course has come from him because his words have reached you in a language you can love and understand. Are other teachers possible, to lead the way to those who speak in different tongues and appeal to different symbols? Certainly there are. Would God leave anyone without a very present help in time of trouble; a savior who can symbolize Himself? Yet do we need a many-faceted curriculum, not because of content differences, but because symbols must shift and change to suit the need. Jesus has come to answer yours. In him you find God's Answer" (M-23.7:1-7).
The reason no official author's name is given for A Course in Miracles is simply that Jesus was quite explicit in his instructions to Helen that this be the case. Helen was also personally clear about not having her own name appear, and was always very insistent that she was not the author of the course.

However, the Course also makes it clear that belief in Jesus is not necessary to benefit from the ACIM message:
Is he God's only Helper? No, indeed. For Christ takes many forms with different names until their oneness can be recognized. . . . It is possible to read his words and benefit from them without accepting him into your life. . . . Yet still it is his lesson most of all that he would have you learn. . . ." (C-5.6:1-3, 6, 8; ellipses mine).
With regard to the relationship between the Jesus of the Course and the Jesus portrayed in the Bible, clearly the voice which speaks from the pages of the Course is that of the same Jesus who is said to have appeared in a body in the world two thousand years ago, with the same message of loving wisdom and truth. That does not mean that the historical and biblical portrayals of Jesus present an accurate picture of who the man really was or what he actually taught.

(For those who are interested, a helpful related publication on the Web by Kenneth Wapnick is: "Jesus: Manifestation of the Holy Spirit" )

Jesus makes it apparent that his message as found in the Course is the same in content, not necessarily in form, as what he intended to teach 2000 years. With respect to differences in form, for one thing Jesus did not speak English 2000 years ago, nor had the world yet been exposed to Shakespeare or twentieth century psychology to which one finds references in the Course.

However, it is obvious that the image of Jesus found in A Course in Miracles is not the same image found in the Bible, just as the result of Bible scholarship over the years indicates that the biblical portrayal of Jesus does not resemble the historical person who actually lived, and about whom the Bible stories were written. The evidence studied by biblical scholars strongly suggests that very few of the acts and words attributed to Jesus in the Bible were actually words he spoke or actions he engaged in. More and more evidence to this effect is being presented by scholars as time passes, and is particularly available from contemporary European scholarship.

For my purposes here, it is sufficient to state that the portrayal of Jesus and his teachings found in the four gospels, as well as the teachings recorded in the other books of the New Testament, is largely historical fiction. The message Jesus is represented as teaching in the Bible is often diametrically opposed to what one finds in the Course.

The Jesus of the Bible and of the Course are mutually exclusive figures, with only the name linking them together. Rather than attempting the contortions necessary to force the Jesus of the Course to fit the image of Jesus found in the Bible, it is less difficult and far more intellectually honest for students of A Course in Miracles to accept that the biblical Jesus represents the interpretations, memories, and distortions, of the various authors of the gospels and epistles, while the voice and person of Jesus in the Course represents the ego-free being who lived and taught two thousand years ago, but whose teachings have been reinterpreted and distorted over the centuries, beginning with the first gospels which were not written down until long after Jesus died.

To summarize some of the important differences between the biblical Jesus and the ACIM Jesus:

1.) The Jesus of A Course in Miracles is a brother who is equal to everyone else as a part of the "Sonship," and whose true nature is as the one Son of God called "Christ," which is everyone's true nature. The Bible's Jesus is portrayed as unique, special, and fundamentally different from everyone else, being God's "only begotten Son," the only "Christ," and the second person of the Biblical Trinity. A Course in Miracles does not deny that Jesus is divine, but makes it clear that, in our true Identity as spirit and Christ, so is everyone else. There is no ontological difference between us. However, it is also the case that in Christ there is no individuality. God's one Son has but one Identity: Christ. In truth, there is no separate individual named Jesus and there never was, except at the level of the dream where we believe that we are separate individuals whose separate names mean something important. (See Lesson 184, "The Name of God is my inheritance"). In truth, God or Oneness has no name. As long as we believe in separation, then Jesus is a brother and a presence in our mind that can help us awaken from the dream of separation by learning to practice forgiveness.

2.) The Jesus of A Course in Miracles is not sent by God to suffer and die on the cross in a sacrificial act of atonement for sin, but teaches that there is no sin by demonstrating that in truth nothing happened to him because sin (the belief in separation) had no effect on Heaven, nor upon the Love of God. The Jesus of the Bible agonizes, suffers, and dies for the "sins of the world" in an act that supposedly brings vicarious salvation to humanity, thereby establishing sin (separation) and death as real, and clearly indicating that God has been affected by Adam's sin of separation, or acting apart from God and His Love. Thus, the biblical God must respond to the supposedly real separation and to the supposed actual presence of sin in the world. In the Bible, God responds by sacrificing His beloved Son. The Course simply points out that this is absurd; that the notions of sin, evil, sacrifice and the devil are absurd because separation from Oneness is impossible.

3.) The figure of Jesus portrayed in the Bible is incompatible with the Jesus who authored A Course in Miracles. In fact, referring to the historical images that were based on the Bible and presented in other Christian writings, Jesus states in the Course, "Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you" (C-5.5:7-8).

4.) With respect to his crucifixion, the Jesus of A Course in Miracles states that he was demonstrating the inherent falsity of the unconscious ego thought that we have killed God and destroyed his Love, therefore also killing His Son, which would be the necessary outcome of separation and the meaning of sin, if it were possible. By allowing the dreamers of the world's dream -- the separated ones -- to act out their unconscious belief in the murder of God, Jesus demonstrated: a) the body is not our reality; b) God, His Son, and Their Love cannot be destroyed; and c) the dream of death had no effect on Jesus, since he was not asleep and dreaming, therefore was and is invulnerable. Likewise, so are we in the truth of spirit and our Identity as God's one Son, Christ. In the Course, Jesus states that the message of the crucifixion is: "Teach only love, for that is what you are" (T-6.I.13:2).

5.) A Course in Miracles retains nothing of the original framework of Christianity with its portrayal of Jesus and his teachings. The biblical account of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, is a body-focused account which makes the body very real: miraculous physical birth; a life of performing physical-body "miracles;" and a painful death followed by a "miraculous" physical resurrection. Compare that to the teachings of ACIM Workbook Lesson 199: "I am not a body." A Course in Miracles teaches that the body is an illusion in the mind, and the Course's teachings are always about the mind, which is our true identity, the only cause of anything, and wherein lies the only hope of forgiveness and salvation. In the Course, resurrection is of the mind and essentially involves giving up the ego belief in separation with its beliefs in the reality of the body and death. (See the Manual for Teachers, section 28, "What Is The Resurrection?")

6.) Regarding the Christian doctrine of the Eucharist, in the Course Jesus specifically refutes the Church's teachings about sharing his body and blood with his followers, again emphasizing the reality of mind which is the only aspect of our existence wherein Jesus is present to us and where we can join with him who manifests the Holy Spirit and His memory of God's Love:

I do not want to share my body in communion because this is to share nothing. Would I try to share an illusion with the most holy children of a most holy Father? Yet I do want to share my mind with you because we are of one Mind, and that Mind is ours (T-7.V.10:7-9).
Following are some passages from the Course that have a bearing on the misrepresentations in the Bible.
I have made it perfectly clear that I am like you and you are like me, but our fundamental equality can be demonstrated only through joint decision. You are free to perceive yourself as persecuted if you choose. When you do choose to react that way, however, you might remember that I was persecuted as the world judges, and did not share this evaluation for myself. And because I did not share it, I did not strengthen it. I therefore offered a different interpretation of attack, and one which I want to share with you" (ACIM T-6.I.5:1-5).

The crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection, but the resurrection is the symbol of sharing because the reawakening of every Son of God is necessary to enable the Sonship to know its wholeness. Only this is knowledge.
The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear:
Teach only love, for that is what you are.
If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended. The Apostles often misunderstood it, and for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it. Their own imperfect love made them vulnerable to projection, and out of their own fear they spoke of the "wrath of God" as His retaliatory weapon. Nor could they speak of the crucifixion entirely without anger, because their sense of guilt had made them angry.
These are some of the examples of upside-down thinking in the New Testament, although its gospel is really only the message of love. If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, "I come not to bring peace but a sword." This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. I could not have said, "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" unless I believed in betrayal. The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. The "punishment" I was said to have called forth upon Judas was a similar mistake. Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible?
As you read the teachings of the Apostles, remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later, because they were not wholly ready to follow me at the time. I do not want you to allow any fear to enter into the thought system toward which I am guiding you. I do not call for martyrs but for teachers. No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners. Any concept of punishment involves the projection of blame, and reinforces the idea that blame is justified. The result is a lesson in blame, for all behavior teaches the beliefs that motivate it. The crucifixion was the result of clearly opposed thought systems; the perfect symbol of the "conflict" between the ego and the Son of God. This conflict seems just as real now, and its lessons must be learned now as well as then" (T-6.I.12-16).

Learning and practicing the Course is a way of life, and I think that part of that way of living for most students involves discovering that one will not rapidly grasp and implement the teaching of Jesus as found in ACIM. The Course is radically different from traditional teachings which have infused our culture in the west. We have grown up and been conditioned according to the ego thought system, of which Christianity, by and large, is one example.

For a more thorough discussion, see, A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue. Excerpts from this book are found on the Web at:

Comment (6)

Thu, May 31st - 4:32PM

ACIM Basics #7 - The Miracle

What Does A Course in Miracles Mean by "Miracle"?

Basically, the "miracle" which Jesus speaks of in the Course, and which gives the Course its title, is that change of mind from ego to Holy Spirit that permits forgiveness to take place in our lives. The miracle and forgiveness are almost synonymous, except that "miracle" refers to what takes place in our mind, and "forgiveness" is the expression of that change of mind in the way we perceive ourselves and others. Behavior -- what we do in the world -- follows from that, since behavior is determined by how we perceive.

The Course asks of us that we undertake only one responsibility, which is to accept the Atonement in our own mind. That is accomplished by the "miracle," which is equivalent to allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit or Jesus. Complete acceptance of the Atonement would mean that we allowed ourselves always to be an instrument of love in the world -- that we always would fulfill the one function of forgiveness that Jesus assigns us in the Course.

It is rather easy to be deceived about what is meant by the "miracle" the Course speaks of; about what is genuine acceptance of the Atonement; what is truly loving; what is truly the guidance of the Holy Spirit or Jesus; and what is "truly helpful." Those who undertake to study the Course can avoid this kind of deception by learning to be keenly vigilant for the ego. We must learn how to step back and look at our own minds, and then learn how to surrender our perceptions, therefore control of our behavior, to right-mindedness.

There is no behavior which is inherently loving in this world, and the more grandiose our behavioral plans are, the less likely they are to be the result of genuine spiritual guidance, or the "miracle." We need to remember that "I need do nothing" (T-18.VII) and that "A healed mind does not plan" (W-pI.135.11:1). It is a mistake to decide ahead of time that we know what is the most loving and holy thing to do in the world, or that we know ahead of time what a miracle would look like.

Regarding what the Course means by a "miracle," there are some answers in the Course that one should consult. See the Workbook, page 473 -- "What is a Miracle?" (W-pII.13) Also see the Clarification of Terms at the end of the Manual for Teachers - p. 81, "The Ego - The Miracle" C-2).

There is a Glossary-Index for the Course written by Kenneth Wapnick and available in hard copy, and many of the terms defined in that Glossary are presented on-line at the Web site of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles ( ). Here's the definition of miracle found there:

miracle -

the change of mind that shifts our perception from the ego's world of sin, guilt, and fear, to the Holy Spirit's world of forgiveness; reverses projection by restoring to the mind its causative function, allowing us to choose again; transcends the laws of this world to reflect the laws of God; accomplished by our joining with the Holy Spirit or Jesus, being the means of healing our own and others' minds.

(Note -- not to be confused with the traditional understanding of miracles as changes in external phenomena.)

Major references: T-1.I; T-2.V.11-18; T-25.IX.5-10; T-27.VI.4-7; T-28.II.4-12; T-30.VIII.3-5; W-pI.159.3-10; W-pII.13; C-2.5-10

For a more thorough discussion, and a good introduction to the entire Course, see Wapnick's The 50 Miracle Principles of ACIM which is available as a book, but also is published on line:

Also see the book entitled The Most Commonly Asked Questions about ACIM which is also published on the Web:

Although it is clear that the "miracle" that the Course speaks of is a change of mind, still the question of whether the "miracle" changes the physical world frequently comes up in discussions about the Course. It's an important question and one that I think can promote a lot of confusion about the metaphysics and message of the Course. There have been times when I've wished that Jesus had chosen another title for his Course, but I think the choice was intentional precisely because Christianity, and the Catholic church in particular, has focused so much on the kind of miracles that involve changes in the circumstances of the world and the condition of the body.

The religions of the world generally focus on form over content. Christianity, as it has traditionally been taught and practiced, is very much a religion of form and formalities. It is a religion with considerable focus on the body, including the body of Jesus who says in the Course:

I do not want to share my body in communion because this is to share nothing. Would I try to share an illusion with the most holy children of a most holy Father? Yet I do want to share my mind with you because we are of one Mind, and that Mind is ours" (T-7.V.10:7-9).

God does not share His function with a body (T-23.IV.3:1).

The Course says the world is not only an illusory projection in the mind, but that time and space are part of that illusion. Jesus says "The world was over long ago" (T-28.I.1:6), as well as that the script which we think of as our lives is already written. It says that in our dream lives, where the illusion of forgiveness is necessary and helpful, we are really undertaking "a journey without distance" (T-8.VI.9:7). It is a journey that is already over (T-18.VIII.13; T-26.V.14:4; W-pI.158.3:6).

The Course is basically telling us that the dream never happened because it comes from an impossible idea (separation), and it involves time, which is not real. If the Atonement principle is true, time and space are not true; therefore it is not possible to change what happens in the dream (a script already written; a journey already over).

Change takes place in time and space, but God is changeless -- eternal. Time and space are not real. The language of duality, which speaks of creation in terms of change, cannot describe Heaven and what the Course calls "knowledge."

In working with the Course, it is important to keep in mind this very important statement: "seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T-21.IN.1:7). Jesus makes it very clear that there is no point in trying to change the world, which means that it is a mistake to attempt to use the Course to heal the body; to obtain money; to find a special love partner, desired job, house, pleasant location in which to live; or to fulfill any of the other specialness goals sought after in service of our ego self identity. Peace and happiness can never be found in an illusory world which arises from the mistaken belief in separation from God -- separation from Love.

Peace and happiness are found only in our mind, regardless of what happens in the world. That's why the Course teaches us about the "miracle" which is a change of mind. It is in our mind where healing is needed and can take place. Once the mind is healed, the dream world disappears back into nothingness.

(In truth, the mind cannot sleep and dream (see Workbook Lesson #167. We really cannot understand that, and I think it's best to accept that.)

Within the illusion where time and change seem real, it certainly does seem that a change of mind leads to a change in the dream. Form (i.e., appearances, what is perceived) seems to change. For those with a serious interest in the Course, instead of getting caught up in confusion and debate about whether a miracle changes form, I suggest that it is best to focus on learning how to allow that change of mind which the Course calls a "miracle," without having any investment in the outcome other than caring to be at peace. It is the mind-changing "miracle" that makes forgiveness possible in our dream world, so that is what a student of the Course ought to be concerned about.

Our ego very much wants us to be concerned about healing the body and changing the circumstances of the world in which the body lives. That focus keeps us distracted from mind, which is the cause of everything that seems to happen to us, and is the source of true peace. The mind is the ego's cause, so of course our ego identity wants to keep us unaware of mind and focused on the world, which is effect not cause. The miracle the Course speaks of means the end of the ego thought system in our mind: "The ego's opposite in every way, - in origin, effect and consequence - we call a miracle" (C-2.5:1).

The ego's goal -- our goal when we identify as ego -- is to keep us unaware of mind; to keep ourselves effectively mindless!

A student of the Course is invited to focus on learning how to undo his or her identification with the ego thought system, which is characterized by self-centeredness, focusing on the self-centered needs of the body and personality, or the psychological self. Undoing the ego is what allows the Holy Spirit thought system (represented by Jesus) to be our guide. Confusion can arise if one requires changes in form (e.g., physical health, material circumstances) as a criterion for the miracle; if one become focused on the outer rather than on the inner (i.e., content, mind).

It is rather easy to confuse the ego's goals with the goal of the miracle, which is peace no matter what happens outwardly. From an ego point of view, the question arises: "Who wants a "miracle" that offers peace of mind without being concerned about changing the world or the body?"

The body may or may not appear to be healed as a result of genuine forgiveness resulting from the change of mind which is the miracle, but healing of the body is not a criterion for whether forgiveness has taken place. A person with a sick and dying body may still have a healed mind and be at peace. A person may live in poverty and still be at peace, and there are many stories about people who found their way to be at peace in the worst of circumstances, such as those of the WW II Nazi concentration camps. In any case, according to A Course in Miracles, changes in physical circumstances are an illusion -- scenarios in a dream which is already over.

The body which seems to live will seem to die. The miracle and forgiveness won't prevent that. But they will undo the belief that the body is truly alive and therefore truly capable of dying. Life and death of the body are both part of the illusion that arises from the belief in separation from God, as is a sense of lack and deprivation. The Course asks its students to focus on undoing the belief in separation, which means to undo our investment in the ego thought system with its fear and guilt, its sense of lack and its dedication to death:

When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you [mind - Son of God] will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you [mind - Son of God] who are life" (ACIM Text-6.V(A).1:1-4; brackets mine).

Whatever is true is eternal, and cannot change or be changed (ACIM Text-1.V.5:1).

Who is the "you" who are living in this world? Spirit is immortal, and immortality is a constant state. It is as true now as it ever was or ever will be, because it implies no change at all. It is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. That is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp (ACIM Text-4.II.11:8-13).

The changes the ego seeks to make are not really changes. They are but deeper shadows, or perhaps different cloud patterns. Yet what is made of nothingness cannot be called new or different. Illusions are illusions; truth is truth" (ACIM Psychotherapy Pamphlet-2.I.2:6-9).

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