Conducted by James Bolen in 1977
About this Interview
President of the Foundation for Inner Peace in New York, Judith Skutch has been called a “cosmic catalyst” in the field of consciousness exploration. Her studies and activities have helped in large measure to bring understanding and responsible communication to this enigmatic, challenging field. In this first-time, exclusive interview, Judith shares her powerful experiences and discoveries in consciousness exploration, as well as personally reveals how a new-age thought system (A Course in Miracles) has dramatically changed her life and the lives of others.
~By James Bolen
©1977, All Rights Reserved,
Used with Permission
NEW REALITIES: How did you become interested in the field of consciousness exploration?
SKUTCH: Initially through my own experience, particularly one in childhood which was profoundly mystical. Years later, still remembering its impact, I began to question the nature of reality as defined by the physical world. My questioning took a more direct form as it became apparent that my three-year-old daughter was displaying unique abilities one could call parapsychological.
NEW REALITIES: Let’s start with the mystical experience.
SKUTCH: It occurred when I was thirteen. I was in the state between half asleep and half awake and started to slip into blackness. I struggled with tremendous fear against losing myself. The emotional pain was intense. Then the shape of a triangle seemed superimposed on my mind and I felt my consciousness forced through the triangle’s apex, which I equated with death. Instead of annihilation I suddenly sensed myself suspended in a unified field. There was no perception, just a feeling of beautiful, distilled, absolute light.
NEW REALITIES: You could then see things?
SKUTCH: I was not a body. I was seeing without eyes. It was more an awareness of a total reality that far transcends the senses. It was the epitome of knowledge. It was atonement, it was joy, it was peace. I remember so vividly feeling the thought, “At last I’m home,” and when that occurred to me there was an echoing voice from within and all around me saying, “Now you know, now you know, now you know. . .” I didn’t know what I knew, but I knew all. Does that make any sense?
NEW REALITIES: Sounds like a mystical paradox. . .
SKUTCH: William James wrote that such experiences are ineffable. One cannot translate them; we just don’t have the adequate language.
NEW REALITIES: What happened when you awakened?
SKUTCH: I tried to tell my mother about the “dream” but couldn’t convey its meaning. For quite a while afterward, I felt euphoric, filled with wonder, happiness, and relief.
NEW REALITIES: So you acquired knowledge that death wasn’t what you expected?
SKUTCH: You can say I intuited immediately that my view of death had been erroneous. Also, this has been substantiated by other experiences – psychic in nature – such as a fall from a window when I was very small, and how I watched my body fall from an out-of-the-body position. Or the time I was ill and managed to put my fingers, so I thought, through the bed.
NEW REALITIES: What about your daughter and her abilities?
SKUTCH: I was not interested at all in what we call the psychic until well after Tammy’s birth. My educational background, both graduate, and undergraduate, was in journalism, This was put to use in the college text department of a publishing firm in New York City, writing advertising copy for book jackets. When my first child Jonathan was born a neighbor and I began a small private business, which I conducted at home. So I was very busy with pragmatic matters.
When Tammy was very small she seemed to be attuned to the world around her in a way that went beyond the five senses. Quite often she was able to know what I was thinking and feeling and to act upon this knowledge. She also had precognitive dreams which accurately predicted short-range future events. When one of her dreams disturbed her, I would soothe her and remind her it was “only a dream.” But she would insist it was real, and actually called such dreams of the future “reals.” I recalled some of the reports I had heard about J.B. and Louisa Rhine’s work with ESP and card guessing and was not too surprised to find my daughter, at the age of 5 or 6, facile in this area, too.
NEW REALITIES: Did you connect your earlier experiences with your daughter’s?
SKUTCH: Not at first. But subconsciously I must have been receptive to the idea. I certainly didn’t feel threatened or think she was strange. Not too long ago Tammy told me that it was my casual acceptance of these incidents that allowed her the freedom to develop.
NEW REALITIES: When did you get more than vaguely interested in consciousness exploration?
SKUTCH: When I began to notice my daughter’s growth; how she used her ability in a natural, constructive way. How she wasn’t fearful of her talents; how comfortable she was with this higher sense perception. The paranormal traits Tammy exhibited seemed to be just an extension of her lovingness, and, because of this, phenomenology somehow became equated in my belief system with minds joining in a caring way. I began to feel that the study of the psychic would lead to an understanding of the soul. And it was this understanding that would point me toward the Source, which was “home.”
All this was in 1968 when I started to devour as much as I could in print on ESP. Soon reading was not enough, and I attended lectures, joined organizations such as the American Society for Psychical Research and the Association for Research and Enlightenment. There weren’t many classes at the University level then, and I took them all. By this time I was a partner in a manufacturing company involved in interior design. But the more I explored parapsychology, the more I was drawn to the subject. Very quickly this avocation became my occupation. I met and developed close friendships with many experimenters in the field. . . sort of an instant apprenticeship. The group at Maimonides Dream Lab – Stanley Krippner, Montague Ullman, and Charles Honorton and their staffs – did the first formal study with my daughter. Ian Stevenson, Lawrence LeShan, Karlis Osis . . . learning from them all catapulted me into a commitment to psi research.
It was around this time in 1971 that my grandmother – who was a guiding influence in my life – became very ill and wasn’t expected to live much longer. In trying to get over my fear of losing her, and to share something meaningful in her last months, I started to read to her from books on survival. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” the Cayce material, reincarnation literature, anything I could get my hands on.
NEW REALITIES: Did she come to believe in survival because of this?
SKUTCH: She remained rather ambivalent about it but open. I had many unanswered questions but was willing to listen. In the ASPR newsletter, I came across Ian Stevenson’s plea for subjects for his combination padlock test for survival. My grandmother liked the challenge, and following Dr. Stevenson’s experimental design she set a padlock, choosing an emotionally charged six-letter word, known only to her, as its opening combination. But first, she translated the letters of the word into numbers. The hypothesis was that a word which had strong meaning to the subject could better be “remembered” through the trauma of death than three sets of numbers. We mailed the lock to the University of Virginia to Dr. Stevenson, where he asked psychics to try to perceive clairvoyantly the combination in advance of her death.
A few days after my grandmother died I was in her room sorting some of her things when I heard what seemed to be an external voice, loud and clear, ordering, “Go see Ena Twigg.” As I hadn’t been interested in mediumship before this, I didn’t know Ena Twigg and I didn’t know she lived in London. Dr. Stevenson encouraged me to act upon the “command,” in fact it was such a strong experience that I just couldn’t do it. My husband Bob, and I were completely unknown to Mrs. Twigg when we appeared on her doorstep with our tape recorder as our “objective witness.” That sitting changed our lives. What was an intellectual pursuit became an emotional certainty, as we heard fact after fact that could be verified. Names, dates, places poured out of Mrs. Twigg, as well as compelling unambiguous phrases which painted a perfect personality picture of my grandmother. At one point Mrs. Twigg insisted that there was a specific word she was trying to give, which was important to us. The word finally did come through – a highly relevant six-letter word. . . one that none of us ever would have guessed, I might add. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t open the lock.
NEW REALITIES: How did you feel then about survival?
SKUTCH: As I said, there was still an emotional certainty – so we didn’t give up. We had many more sittings with well-recommended mediums until we had a body of cross-referenced material that seemed to fit together like some cosmic jig-saw puzzle. The lock was never opened, but that did not negate the impact of the whole experience. We were definitely convinced that consciousness was not limited to the parameters of the human body. But we still had a driving need for objective evidence to share with others. And we felt the right road to follow led to a scientific investigation. So we decided the best way to go about it was to start a private, non-profit foundation that would be able to fund research projects in the areas in which we were interested. And so the Foundation for ParaSensory Investigation was born.
NEW REALITIES: What generally have you done through it?
SKUTCH: Our first major effort was helping to support experiments in altered states of consciousness at the Dream Lab at Maimonides Hospital in New York. We were drawn to this work primarily because we believed in the efforts of the people there who had become our good friends. When they thought a project was worth funding, we would try to raise the money that was needed. These were not large projects but rather attempts to help get worthwhile research started with seed money. Then, if the work showed promise, we found that larger organizations were more inclined to offer help to continue the funding.
We were also enthusiastic about Larry LeShan’s early work in paranormal healing. Under Larry’s guidance at one of his training seminars at our home, my husband’s deep interest in healing was awakened. It was shortly after this that, at Larry’s suggestion, we sponsored a healing conference to bring much of the information on the subject to the attention of the public. Our first healing conference was held in 1973 at Lincoln Center in New York and was attended by over 1100 people. At Stan Krippner’s urging, we sponsored many other conferences aimed at awakening the public’s interest in psi. The most important of these was the First and Second Western Hemisphere Conferences on Acupuncture, Kirlian Photography and the Human Aura, which led to the publication of their proceedings. Besides disseminating a great deal of information, our conferences also allowed us to meet and know people such as Sister Justa Smith, Olga Worrall, Douglas Dean, and medical doctors like Carl Simonton, Norman Shealy, and Jerome Frank.
NEW REALITIES: You also worked with people such as Uri Geller and Ingo Swann, didn’t you?
SKUTCH: That came a bit later. In 1973 the astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who had just retired from the Navy, was publicly talking about mystical experiences he had during his moonshot. He said he had an overwhelming sense of planetary consciousness and was eager to work toward trying to achieve this vision. For many years he had been
interested in psi phenomena and wanted to help promote scientific research in this field. We met and recognized that we shared the same goals. Ed formed The Institute of Noetic Sciences and invited me to join his board of directors. It was Ed Mitchell who brought Uri Geller to my attention, which was quite a meeting. At a friend’s home, we witnessed enough dramatic psychokinesis to convince us that Uri had to be studied. Ed arranged to have Noetics sponsor the work at Stanford Research Institute, and our foundation funneled some of the funds. This led to a continuing study investigating remote viewing and resulted in a paper which was published in the prestigious British journal “Nature,” which also included work done with Ingo Swann and Patrick Price.
NEW REALITIES: What up to this time had made the greatest impression on you?
SKUTCH: It’s so hard to isolate a single factor. Certainly, I could name the people I was involved with. My whole life was centered around them and their activities. I learned so much from them and our enthusiasms were the same. But I guess the most striking thing to me was the way I was continually groping for answers that always seemed beyond my reach. I respected the scientific approach, supported it, and believed that it was absolutely necessary, but I also felt an intense impatience while waiting for the answers. There seemed to be something more I had to do. I was aware of a growing emptiness. The synchronicity of events leading me forward had ceased to startle me, and an awareness of something I call “guidance” was emerging.
NEW REALITIES: It sounds like you began to experience a great deal more than you bargained for.
SKUTCH: Did I ever! As I reviewed all my activities at the time – teaching at New York University, fundraising for Noetics, traveling and lecturing, radio and TV appearances, as well as beginning my doctoral work at the Humanistic Psychology Institute – I kept reassuring myself that I was having a happy and productive life. My entire family was involved in the same interests. Why should I feel so unfulfilled? I began to have dreams that were a continuation of my earliest mystical experience. This time there seemed to be a message in all of them, a message which – now this is going to sound funny because it’s archaic, but I have no better way to express it – it was a message which “bespoke love.”
NEW REALITIES: How so?
SKUTCH: An all-embracing, universal love that bordered on ecstasy. For me, it was far beyond human understanding, yet very real. In fact, it was so real that in one of my dreams when I “lost” it I kept looking for “my map home.” Of course, I recognized that I seemed to be jogging an ancient memory. Anyway, I did something totally out of character. I asked the universe for help.
NEW REALITIES: And did it answer?
SKUTCH: I’ve come to the conclusion that whenever anyone really asks for help on matters such as these. . . one had better duck. The answers come that fast. Mine came in 1500 pages of an unpublished manuscript called A Course in Miracles, which I came across in an amazing way.
NEW REALITIES: So what is it, and what was so amazing?
SKUTCH: Before I tell you, I’m going to have to explain why I cannot name the two individuals involved in this “Course in Miracles.” It is at their request that they remain anonymous, as they feel the material they “brought forth” does not need their identification to make it valid. It speaks for itself. So I will refer to them only as Dr. H. and Dr. B.
NEW REALITIES: Well, we don’t as a policy like anonymity, but since you’ve been kind enough to stick your neck out, tell us anyway.
SKUTCH: I was speaking at a research seminar at the New York Academy of Medicine in 1975, where Douglas Dean was chairman. He introduced me to a Professor who was a psychologist from a major Eastern university affiliated with a medical school. The Professor, Dr. B., invited both of us to lunch at the University to talk about mutual interests related to healing. This delighted me because I was trying hard to interest the orthodox medical community in more holistic approaches to healing. I thought that perhaps we could stimulate at least a few physicians to conduct some good related research that would help lead us to a better understanding of “new realities.” In this way, we might spark a new relationship between the professionals in the field of medical healing and other people with healing ability.
When we arrived for lunch that day we were met by Dr. B. and his colleague, Dr. H., a woman and research psychologist who was also a professor at the University. At lunch we mostly discussed research, but somehow I had a strong sense that there was another purpose for our being there. As Dr. H. and I were talking, I suddenly felt that she was attuned to something of far greater interest to me than the specifics of research design. At that point, she and Dr. B. took us back to their office for a more private discussion. There, they began to share a story with us that was to be a turning point in my life, and I think in many other lives too. The story didn’t seem bizarre to me after so many years of exposure to the different ways in which unusual information can be received. But to Dr. H. and Dr. B., it was apparently painful to discuss what had been a hidden secret for almost ten years. Their reluctance was certainly understandable in this orthodox, academic setting, where this sort of thing would really be unacceptable, to say the least.
They had been working together in a highly competitive academic setting for many years and had developed a close friendship which was sometimes strained by the stress-filled environment. One day Dr. B. unexpectedly announced that he was tired of the angry and aggressive feelings their attitudes reflected and concluded that “There must be another way.” As if on cue, Dr. H. agreed to help him find it. Apparently, this Course (“A Course in Miracles“) is the “other way.” Three startling months preceded the actual writing, during which time Dr. B. suggested that she write down the highly symbolic dreams and descriptions of the unusual images that were coming to her. Remember, this was totally foreign to her background and personality.
NEW REALITIES: What kind of dreams and images did she experience?
SKUTCH: In one of the earliest images which seemed to happen in a waking dissociated state, Dr. H. saw herself in a boat moving slowly along a very straight canal The sides of the canal were lined with lovely old trees, green lawns, and banks of flowers. She wondered if there was buried treasure there, and thought to herself, dreamily, “I shouldn’t be surprised if there were.” Then she noticed a long pole, with a large hook on the end, lying on the bottom of the boat. She lowered the pole into the water as far as she could. The hook caught something heavy, and she raised it from the water. It was an ancient treasure chest that was very worn from the water. The bottom was covered with seaweed. She managed to get it into the boat, where she opened it with great excitement. However, she was bitterly disappointed. She expected to find some jewels or at least some rare coins, but all she found in the chest was a large black book. The binding was like the spring binders that are used for holding manuscripts or papers together, and on the spine was written a single word in gold: “Aesculapius.” The word was familiar to her, but she could not remember what it meant. She and Dr. B. tried to recall its meaning but couldn’t. They looked up “Aesculapius” and found it was the name of the Greek god of healing. In a subsequent image “installment” Dr. H. saw the book again. This time there was a string of pearls around it. Neither of them had any idea what the symbols stood for until years later when the typed manuscript of A Course in Miracles was put in black thesis binders for safekeeping – similar to what she had seen earlier.
NEW REALITIES: How many of these experiences did Dr. H. have?
SKUTCH: Literally dozens. And as they told me about the more dramatic ones, I began to recognize that this woman had compressed into a three-month span some of the most incredible psychic visions I had ever heard. But what was even more potent was that they had a definite purpose in their sequence, and led up to her readiness to “scribe” the Course.
NEW REALITIES: How so?
SKUTCH: Late one night Dr. H. heard what she described as an “inner voice” that seemed to be urging her to take down what it would be dictating. When it started she was very frightened and called Dr. B. on the phone to tell him what she had just heard. It was: “This is a Course in Miracles, please take notes.” She was panicky and asked what she should do. He suggested that she should just take down whatever she heard, and they would look at it together in the morning. The next morning they started a way of working together that continued throughout the “scribing” of the Course. Dr. H. would write down what she heard in a shorthand notebook, and Dr. B. would type it unedited from her dictation. The writing itself was always under her conscious control, and never automatic. She could be interrupted at any time, and could just pick it up and go on later from where she left off. The words came so rapidly that she could hardly keep up with them even though she was proficient at shorthand.
NEW REALITIES: How long did this entire process take?
SKUTCH: It took six years, and what emerged were three books. The first one is a text that lays the theoretical foundation for the Course‘s belief system. The next one is a workbook for students with a lesson a day for a year. The lessons are gently graduated so that they correct the student’s misperception of reality, and bring him to an awareness of what he truly is. The third book is a manual for teachers, which raises many specific questions and answers them. It also has a glossary of special terms the Course uses. When the dictation ended, there were some 1500 typewritten pages of material, and probably about 500,000 words.
NEW REALITIES: What is its essence, and why did it have such an impact on you.
SKUTCH: When I was shown the material that day, I immediately read the introductory paragraph:
“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. the Course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
“This Course can, therefore, be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.”
Instantaneously I knew that this was my “map home.”
NEW REALITIES: You read only that much and could come to that conclusion?
SKUTCH: Yes. There was a sense of compelling recognition. It seemed as if all the experiences I’d ever had prepared me for, and culminated in, this moment.
NEW REALITIES: And the essence. . .
SKUTCH: Basically, the essence is spiritual truth – the same truth that has always been. But the Course expresses this truth in an inspired, poetic, and practical way that surpasses anything else I have seen. Spiritual and psychological themes are woven in a specific and organized way. Throughout our lives we are constantly reminded to “love thy neighbor;” this Course tells us how. I like to think of it as the definitive, spiritual “How to. . .” book. The primary emphasis is on how we can remove the blocks to our awareness of love’s presence. It offers us a means to do this through showing us just how to forgive, and in doing this, to heal all our personal relationships. Shifting our perceptions away from ego identification, as the term is used in the Course, is the problem we all have to overcome. It is not easy! For the ego’s idea is “here I am, alone, trying to fight my way through this.” As long as we believe we are individual egos in competition with each other and with the universe, we cannot recognize that we have never been really separated from our Source or from each other. Through forgiving others we forgive ourselves, and so we gradually become aware of the one Self that we all share.
NEW REALITIES: Had Dr. H. been familiar with anything like this or curious about it prior to its occurrence?
SKUTCH: No, not at all. Quite the contrary. She had struggled with religion in her early life, gave it up, and had come to think of herself as an atheist. She would even become annoyed when somebody mentioned God. All this was the antithesis of what she wanted to be; an orthodox research psychologist, with no time for nonprovable, intangible things.
It was important to me that neither of these two people had the background or interest in spiritual literature or psychical experiences that might have prepared them for this. Yet the ideas are entirely compatible with mystical tradition, presented in a form that makes it particularly useful for our Western society today.
NEW REALITIES: In what way?
SKUTCH: Because the Course is Christian in statement, and yet it deals with universal spiritual themes and not with religious doctrines. Its purpose is to help us achieve a universal spiritual experience. Whatever path we choose, the purpose is always to help us reach a state where we recognize our oneness with the All. The Course does not claim to be the only way of reaching this. Actually, it combines a lot of Eastern approaches within a more familiar Western framework. That’s why Dr. B. sometimes calls it the “Christian Vedanta.”
NEW REALITIES: What’s the workbook with a-lesson-a-day like?
SKUTCH: It’s designed to speed up a shifting in our attitudes from fear to love. So it is change in the way we see ourselves that we’re after. Changing perception can, of course, be personally very stressful at times. I think that the difficulty is due to all the unfinished business in our lives that comes up for review and for letting go. And if we want to lead loving spiritual lives, we must get through the unfinished business of our strained relationships quickly. There is likely to be a lot of stress that can be temporarily unsettling as we begin to face these unresolved problems. The workbook is a tool to help speed up our recognition that we have the ability to deal with these problems. For example, daily lessons range from “I am never upset for the reason I think,” and “There is another way of looking at the world,” to “My mind is part of God’s. I am very holy,” and “I trust my brothers, who are one with me.” Also, the Course stresses that it’s an “unlearning system” that helps us give up illusions and reach through to the knowledge that we are created by God. And that as one with God we can practice the kind of forgiveness that leads to a loving recognition of this oneness. It is the achievement of this state that takes us to the threshold where God can take over for us. So we are helped to work through our misperceptions about ourselves and our fellow human beings and the whole world around us and can arrive at a total awareness of what we truly are – Spirit.
NEW REALITIES: What other basic teachings does the Course deal with?
SKUTCH: Well, the problem of guilt, which is central to our mistaken perceptual belief system. Guilt necessarily reinforces fear and whatever form fear may seem to take – hate, anger, depression, and so on. The central conflict is always between fear and love. Fear leads to anger and hate. If we did not experience fear how could we ever be angry? It is dealing with the fear, learning how to let it go that helps us relinquish our belief in the reality of guilt. In the Course, we, the whole human race, are called “God’s Son.” And God’s Son is sinless. Because we are each His Son. His real Son cannot sin, so there is no need for punishment. We certainly all make lots of mistakes in our lives, but mistakes call for correction instead of punishment. So here is a central shift in the usual belief system. By not seeing anyone else as guilty, and by extending love instead of fear, we can begin to recognize the truth about our real identity as a sinless Son of God. It’s both simple and profound, and also hard to practice – to overcome our lifelong conditioning and to accept our reality instead.
NEW REALITIES: Have you been able to apply any of these concepts yourself?
SKUTCH: Oh, yes. If the method didn’t work for me I would have thrown it out months ago. I can give you an example. One day not too long ago, I had to take a trip in the New York City subway system. That week a woman had been violently attacked on an almost empty subway car, and I entered the train with uneasiness. And it just happened that I too found myself seated alone except for three rowdy youths across from me. I heard one of them remark what an easy “rip off” I would be, and they appeared to be under the influence of drugs. There is no doubt I was fearful. And also angry. They appeared very menacing. My workbook lesson for that day was “I trust my brothers who are one with me.” Practicing this required extending my loving thoughts to anyone I perceived as attacking or threatening me. Although I considered trying to summon a guard by pulling the emergency cord, I forced myself to let go of my fear and ask my Higher Self for help. I began to exchange my fears of these young men for thoughts of compassion for their difficult lives and unmet needs. Finally, the “miracle” occurred. An internal burst of light transformed my vision of them into a totally different view. I actually felt love for them pouring out of me, and as I responded to this in wonder I smiled at my challengers. Something happened. They appeared a bit surprised and smiled back. And when they were about to leave the train, one of them gave a mock salute and said pleasantly, “Goodbye, ma’am.”
NEW REALITIES: Frequent expressions like “Son of God,” “sin,” “guilt” and so on, give it the flavor of a new religion or cult borrowed from the old. Is it a new religion?
SKUTCH: No, it isn’t a religion, and shouldn’t be confused with theological systems. The distinction between truth and illusion is a very major one in the Course, but it does not require a commitment to religion. The Course is actually opposed to the idea of introducing a new system and just tries to encourage people to work within whatever their present framework is, with this as an additional dimension. There are no “gurus” and no “official establishment.” The emphasis is always on the Inner Teacher, speaking to each of us according to our understanding and our needs.
NEW REALITIES: Why do you think the Course carries a Christian theme, then – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – if you think it’s ecumenical?
SKUTCH: It answers this question itself – because Christianity is the predominant religion in the Western world, and its history or some of its beliefs are not very Christian. The Course tries to help us understand spiritual teachings without the distortions involved in institutionalization. Some Biblical scholars, in fact, have told us that the material seems to be very close to what the early Christians probably believed. I think there comes a time in everyone’s spiritual life when symbols and forms no longer matter. . . and when people are ready, they can feel the essence of a teaching rather than be distracted by the words. I myself am Jewish, but I was not the least bit threatened by the Christian terminology because in my heart I recognized the truth of the Course‘s teaching. My father has been prominent in Jewish communal life for many years and is a recent past President of the World Council of Synagogues, so I was exposed to a full range of Jewish tradition and thought through my childhood. This also included extensive religious education. In fact, Abraham Herschel, the late Professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary, was one of my early idols. With these strong roots in Judaism, perhaps I have been better able to appreciate the broad spectrum of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
NEW REALITIES: How do women react to the constant use of the masculine terminology?
SKUTCH: When I am asked that question, and of course I am, many times, as I lecture around the country, I have to reiterate that this Course aims at correcting many of our past misperceptions and reinterprets word usage. So that “brother” refers to our oneness in relationships and “son” is used because it is the Biblical term. I suspect that when these terms bother people they are actually becoming defensive. It would be pretty awkward to have to say “Son” or “Daughter” as the case may be every time the term comes up. And I’m sure that in the Kingdom of Heaven there are no gender identity problems.
NEW REALITIES: Why do you suppose it was given the title, “A Course in Miracles?” It seems like a rather provocative, presumptuous title.
SKUTCH: Maybe because the redefinition of miracles that is given at the very beginning of the text really sums up the Course‘s philosophy. (See miracles examples at end of the interview.) It tells what a miracle is and what it is not – its importance is not in physical demonstrations, but the underlying love that unites us all. Miracles merely correct the mistakes in thinking we have made. They are natural, being inspired by love, and since love is maximal, there are no large or small miracles. They come only to point to their Source – to truth and ultimately to God. When I showed the fifty principles of miracles, which are listed in the first volume, to my friends in parapsychology, the general reaction was, “Of course. A perfect description of psychic phenomena.”
NEW REALITIES: Is this why you’ve changed your foundation’s name from Foundation for ParaSensory Investigation to Foundation for Inner Peace?
SKUTCH: When I was introduced to the material by Dr. H. and Dr. B. they weren’t surprised to see my affinity for it. The “inner voice” had also predicted that “a woman would come along who would know what to do with it,” and they had been instructed to hand the manuscript over to her. It had also indicated that that woman was now ready for her own spiritual education, which, of course, was truth to my ears. My path was made clear. I just knew it was my life’s work. The change of the foundation’s name was a reflection of this realization.
NEW REALITIES: This has been a tremendous leap for you, from parapsychological research to a spiritually oriented belief system. What do your friends and colleagues think?
SKUTCH: First of all, it didn’t seem like a leap to me, but only a natural progression. We’re each searching for the identical solution, which I believe is within us all. Naturally, when I show this material to my more academically minded friends and to people in the medical community. I try to pick out those who already are attuned to this way of thinking, and like me, are searching for a suitable form. This one seems to have a great appeal to psychiatrists, psychologists, hypnotherapists and other people who are concerned with psychotherapy since it has a direct application to their work. In a sense, it is a psychotherapeutic system; it says that only the mind can be sick or mistaken – and the body simply responds to the errors of the mind in terms of physical illness.
In studying the Course, I have gained a clearer sense of what healing is all about, and how it can be applied by each of us, individually. Sickness is incorrect thinking and can be healed by correct thinking. It is a mistake that must be corrected at its source. Healing is of the mind since only the mind can make mistakes. I had to use this myself, dramatically, to fully appreciate it. For years I had bouts of stomach ulcers and soon after I began the Course, I had a severe attack. I tried everything, orthodox medicine, psychic healing, diet – to no avail. I was told I would need an operation. One day in terrible pain, it just dawned on me that I was using my illness to cry out for an immediate slow-down which, according to my work ethic, I wouldn’t allow myself to take. Something clicked and I felt a draining of the tension, fear, and anger that had been lodged in a painful way in my midsection. I decided I did not want or need this illness any longer. I could give myself that rest guiltlessly. Within three days my X-rays were clear, and I’ve never had an attack since.
NEW REALITIES: Sounds a little like Science of Mind. . .
SKUTCH: There are a number of similarities, although these are only a small part of a much more comprehensive thought system developed in the Course.
NEW REALITIES: What do you see as your next step in all of this transformation?
SKUTCH: It is still very important to me to support scientific research in the field of consciousness exploration, and to encourage investigation of those individuals with exceptional abilities who seem to point toward higher human potential. I’ll continue to do this through the excellent work of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
For now, I’m just beginning to learn to apply the principles of the Course. Although I know I will be sharing it with others, basically, I do that to learn it better myself. In the last two years, as I’ve addressed thousands of people on this subject, I realize there is an overwhelming hunger for spiritual truths. But it isn’t in an intellectual way. That hunger is for the experience. I was most impressed with a recent survey conducted at the University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center, by Andrew M. Greeley and William C. McCready. They reported their findings in an article in the New York Times Magazine Section, January 26, 1975. The article was entitled, “Are We a Nation of Mystics?” and it claimed that four out of ten Americans have experienced a mystical state. One of their conclusions was that these episodes are for most people positive, constructive and healthy and that the profiles of those people pointed to mental health at a very high level.
I was amused at their observation that “if anything else but ‘ecstasy’ were that good for you, it would sell as if it wouldn’t be on the market next year.” The Course states that a universal theology is impossible but that a universal experience is imperative. To me, the greatest advantage of the Course is that it is so useful. It shows you how to shift your relationships in the direction of love, away from fear and attack and hate. The emphasis is always on forgiveness, sinlessness, guiltlessness, and letting go of all the obstacles to peace.
There’s a quotation I’ve always liked, I think Lincoln said it – “The best way to overcome your enemies is to make them friends.” Well, the Course goes even further. And this is my goal, or as you asked my next step. You can let the enemies you thought you saw become your saviors. And in this is the universal experience, the recognition of our Oneness with each other and so with God. When we reach this stage in our learning, our Creator will take the final step, and we will be “home.”
Biography: Judith R. Skutch
As president of the Foundation for Inner Peace, Judith R. Skutch’s life in the 1970s can best be summarized as a typical day in her consciousness exploratorium salon in the Skutch’s large New York City apartment. In one room a motion picture is being screened to a group interested in biofeedback. In another are seekers deep in meditation training. In still another room a medical research meeting is in progress.
Skutch herself seems to be in all places at once as she also juggles three telephones connecting people in the consciousness field to each other. And at any given moment, one might find an Edgar Mitchell, a Swami Muktananda or a Uri Geller on hand, not to mention the usual assortment of mediums, mystics, and scientists – or just friends of friends. To a first-time visitor, it seems a miracle that such a petite lady can keep all of this going at once, in addition to often serving her home-cooked dinners to those gathered.
To her surprise, but not to those who know her, Judy Skutch has been described as “den mother to parapsychology,” a “cosmic catalyst,” and a “Perle Mesta of Psi.” Whatever, she is constantly being lauded for the cross-fertilization of people and ideas at her salon, which has also been labeled “a place of intellectual ferment.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, where she graduated from Midwood High School, Skutch earned a degree in journalism from Hood College in Maryland and has done graduate work at Columbia. Periodically during her childhood, she experienced various mystical and psychic experiences, yet did not attempt to clarify or explore them – until later. The “later” came when her daughter displayed psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition which eventually got her into intensely studying and actively participating in the consciousness field. One thing led to another, and she wound up supporting the field by helping raise research funds and bringing people together – along with starting and heading a non-profit Foundation.
Recently Skutch discovered and published a unique thought system called “A Course in Miracles “ which she has introduced to people and leaders in consciousness exploration who have found it a shared focal point. “The way I came in touch with the Course, as well as the people who ‘scribed’ it, was totally serendipitous,” she emphasizes. She was searching for a way of unifying what seemed to be meaningful but fragmented data in parapsychology which she could apply directly to her own experience. A “chance” meeting with two psychologists in eminent positions in the medical school of an eastern university and the unexpected occurred – Skutch was presented with the Course. She now devotes the majority of her time to the Course and its philosophy.
An energetic educator who crisscrosses the country lecturing and teaching on university campuses, Judy Skutch is also a faculty member of New York University, where she has been conducting courses in experimental parapsychology and new dimensions in healing. She’s also a voting member of the American Society for Psychical Research and a member of the Parapsychological Association. She has appeared on numerous radio and television programs such as The Mike Douglas Show, the Barbara Walters Show, and Eyewitness News. She has also been a consultant to many authors and film producers involved in reporting new-age developments and is active as vice-chairman of the board of The Institute of Noetic Sciences, founded by former astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell. Judy Skutch and her husband Robert make the family home for their four children in New York City.
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