Having been privileged to be involved with the team that scribed and published A Course in Miracles (The Foundation for Inner Peace) from the beginning, I then was lucky enough to spend 1978 travelling the length and breadth of India, Nepal, Ladakh and Sri Lanka. The whole experience was one which had a deep impact on my life, made even richer by the daily reading of the Course’s daily Workbook lessons.
After about a year I returned to London via a month in Egypt and continued working with A Course in Miracles. We held regular meetings, at first in the Stone Room, one of the oldest parts of Westminster Abbey, and then in the Dean’s Drawing Room. These meetings in Westminster Abbey came about through a wonderful connection between Judy Skutch (Whitson) and a remarkable lady named Lillian Carpenter, the wife of the Dean of Westminster Abbey, Edward Carpenter. It is worth introducing the Abbey and Lillian Carpenter early in this story. Somehow the Abbey has always been an underlying theme to the Course’s beginnings in this country and Lillian’s openness to it was a kind of nurturing.
Westminster Abbey is one of the most iconic buildings in Britain in terms of architecture, history and cultural significance. It has been the setting for every coronation since 1066 and many other royal occasions and a place where the St. James version of the bible was dedicated and signed by the sovereign as were other versions throughout the centuries.
It was the Jerusalem Chamber, formerly the Abbot’s house of Westminster Abbey and the oldest room in the Abbey, where these signings took place. Henry IV died in the Jerusalem Chamber in 1413 and the Committee, which wrote the Authorized Version of the Bible met there in 1611. The Abbot’s house was made into the Deanery when the monastery was dissolved in 1540 and this is where the Dean resides.
Lillian Carpenter was a remarkable person. She was an independent seeker, champion of the poor; a prayerful meditator and she welcomed people of all sorts and conditions to her home. Although “the Dean’s wife”, she moved away from Christianity and found her home in the Baha’i faith. She did not reject Christianity, but believed there was an underlying unity of all religions. Through Lillian’s generosity, Westminster Abbey became a vital link in the seeding of A Course in Miracles in the UK, and from those early meetings, mostly held in the drawing room of the Deanery, other study groups sprung up around the country. The early 1980s saw a steady growth in A Course in Miracles in the UK. I continued to attend study groups in the Dean’s House in Westminster Abbey.
The next significant date was 1986. Two Course students, Marian Russell and Eileen Wood, ran the imprint called Arcarna for the publishers, Routledge Keegan Paul. Up to this time the only English version of A Course in Miracles consisted of the three-volume blue books from the Foundation For Inner Peace. The Foundation was in the process of producing these three volumes in a single hardcover version. Marian and Eileen thought it would be a very good idea if we could produce a single paperback version of the book and fully expected the request to be rejected. Judy said that she and the group would “ask upstairs” and get back to Marian and Eileen. To everyone’s amazement (including Judy’s) the answer was “Yes” and so the process began.
Four of us formed a small committee in London to advise on the form the book would take and of course the main criteria was to ensure it was true to the original three-volume version. The only difference apart from its size and form turned out to be its colour which Routledge insisted had to be green to match the other books in their Arcarna collection rather than its original blue.
As we neared the completion of the green book the question arose at one of our committee meetings as to where we should hold the public launch. It was blatantly obvious that there was only one place for it – the Jerusalem Chamber! Lillian Carpenter readily agreed and the date was set. One may wish to appreciate the historic significance of having what many people see as a contemporary restatement of the teachings of Jesus, disseminated from the place that heralded the launch of the King James Version of the Bible.
The launch was certainly a grand occasion with Dr. Bill Thetford, (co-scribe of the Course) Dr. William Whitson and Judy flying over from the States to make the presentation in front of a large group of us and members of the British press. And so another amazing chapter in the early dissemination of A Course in Miracles was underway.