About the Scribes
Helen Schucman, Ph.D., was a clinical and research psychologist, who held the tenured position of Associate Professor of Medical Psychology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. A Course in Miracles was “scribed” by Dr. Schucman between 1965 and 1972 through a process of inner dictation. She experienced the process as one of a distinct and clear dictation from an inner voice, which earlier had identified itself to her as Jesus. Dr. Schucman’s scribing of A Course in Miracles began with these words: “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.” … Read Helen’s Autobiography.
William Thetford, Ph.D., was a tenured Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Director of the Psychology Department at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for whom Dr. Schucman worked. As her trusted friend and colleague also, Dr. Thetford assisted and supported Dr. Schucman throughout the Course’s scribing, including the events that led up to it. A vital participant, Dr. Thetford acted as transcriber throughout the entire process by typing the material from the scribed notes that Dr. Schucman had taken down and would dictate to him almost daily. … Read Bill’s Autobiography.
Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford were an unlikely team in scribing A Course in Miracles. As career-oriented psychologists working closely together at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, they were attempting to develop and strengthen the Center’s Psychology Department. While their professional interests and goals for the department were compatible with each other, their personalities certainly were not. Helen’s overtly critical and judgmental stance was juxtaposed with Bill’s quiet and more passively aggressive personality, and they clashed constantly.
It was therefore a rather startling event when, in the Spring of 1965, Bill delivered an impassioned speech to Helen in which he said that he was fed up with the competition, aggression, and anger which permeated their professional lives, extended into their attitudes and relationships, and pervaded the department. He concluded and told her that “there must be another way” of living—in harmony rather than discord—and that he was determined to find it. Equally startling, and to their mutual surprise, Helen agreed with Bill and enthusiastically volunteered to join him in a collaborative search to find this other and better way.
It was as if Helen had waited all her life for this particular moment, which triggered a series of internal experiences for her that carried through the summer. These included heightened dream imagery, psychic episodes, visions, and an experience of an inner voice. The experiences also became increasingly religious, with the figure of Jesus appearing more and more frequently to her in both visual and auditory expressions.
This period of preparation culminated on the evening of October 21, 1965, when the now familiar voice of Jesus said to Helen: “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.” Troubled, she called Bill immediately, and he reassured her that she was not going mad. He suggested she write down what was being dictated to her, and that he would look at it with her early the following morning at the office. Helen did just that, which is how the scribing of A Course in Miracles began. As Helen later described the experience:
“The Voice made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation which I took down in a shorthand notebook. The writing was never automatic. It could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again. It made obvious use of my educational background, interests and experience, but that was in matters of style rather than content. Certainly the subject matter itself was the last thing I would have expected to write about.”
Helen retired from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1977, and died in New York City on February 9, 1981. Bill took early retirement from Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons in 1978. He moved then to Tiburon, California where he served as a Consultant Medical Specialist in Family Medicine at Travis Air Force Base and as a Director of The Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon. Dr. Thetford co-edited “Choose Once Again” selections from the Course. He also made recordings of his favorite sections of the Course with Dr. Gerald G. Jampolsky. He relocated to La Jolla, California in 1986 and died on July 4, 1988 on a trip to Tiburon.
Dr. William Thetford describes how Helen and he received what he called,
the Course‘s version of the “Lord’s Prayer” (T-16.VII.12:1-7).
“Forgive us our illusions, Father, and help us to accept our true relationship with You, in which there are no illusions, and where none can ever enter. Our holiness is Yours. What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect? The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love. Let us not wander into temptation, for the temptation of the Son of God is not Your Will. And let us receive only what You have given, and accept but this into the minds which You created and which You love. Amen.” (T-16.VII.12:1-7)
See a listing of Significant Historical Dates