New Realities Magazine, July-August 1984
By Robert Skutch
An exclusive presentation and behind-the-scenes story of how a profound spiritual thought system was channeled through two noted psychologists at a prestigious Eastern University. Considered one of the miracles of the Century, A Course in Miracles is now a phenomenal, quiet bestseller worldwide.
Helen Schucman, Ph.D., was a most unlikely person to scribe A Course in Miracles, as was William Thetford, Ph.D., the person to assist her. In reality, in the Psychology Department of Presbyterian Hospital in New York which Dr. Thetford headed and where they both worked, Helen was his assistant. Both also held positions at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, where Dr. Thetford was Professor of Medical Psychology, and Dr. Schucman as Associate Professor.
At the time, Helen Schucman not only had considered herself an atheist, but she also felt that any spiritual-type material – such as eventually appeared in the Course – was “rubbish.” William Thetford considered himself a “down-to-earth” pragmatist and psychologist, whose reality was adequately and safely defined through basic, materialistic world views.
However, their professional work environment was wrought with a multitude of problems and tensions. Perhaps, because of this, each especially needed the other’s support and sustenance in order to cope with the enormous difficulties they faced. And it eventually became obvious to them that they had to do something to try to change the extant feelings of hostility and resentment that surrounded them.
“Helen” and “Bill” therefore agreed to try to work toward a common goal – to ameliorate the department’s administrative and emotional problems, as well as to resolve the severe strain that had developed in their own personal relationship.
They were an improbable “miracles” team. Bill, who was 14 years younger than Helen, was an inherent optimist who, despite the formidable obstacles he faced, maintained a persistent underlying belief that there was a real way out of any difficult situation, and with perseverance one could always find it. Helen, on the other hand, was anxious to the point of agitation, and though she tried to maintain a facade of cheerfulness, her underlying pessimism and insecurity always showed through.
Besides, they handled their Interpersonal problems In very different ways. Bill was more apt to withdraw when he perceived a situation as becoming demanding or coercive, while Helen tended to become overly involved, with a resulting consequence of feeling trapped, resentful, and imposed upon. Thus, while their interdependence had grown, they had also developed feelings of anger towards each other since neither could change the other’s attitude, and their genuine attempts to cooperate were hampered by their growing resentments.
One afternoon, in the summer of 1965, before a weekly research meeting which neither of them looked forward to attending because of the savage competition which usually surfaced during these sessions, something happened. As Helen later described it: “. . . Bill had been thinking things over and had concluded that our approach was wrong. ‘There must,’ he said, ‘be another way – a better way. Our attitudes are so negative that we can’t work anything out.’
“He proposed, quite specifically, to try out the new approach that day at the research meeting. He was not going to get angry, and he was determined to look for a constructive side in what the people there said and did. He was going to cooperate rather than compete. We had obviously been headed the wrong way and it was time to find a new direction. Then he waited in some discomfort for my response. It was not the one he expected. I jumped up, told Bill with conviction that he was right, and said I would join in the new approach with him.”
At some level this joining represented a real commitment that was unprecedented in the two’s relationship, and it seemed to be the signal for the beginning sofa series of remarkable events that occurred during that summer – which heralded the manifestation of A Course in Miracles.
It was while they were assiduously trying to straighten things out between themselves that Helen began a change in the “mental pictures” she had been seeing on and off for as long as she could remember. The black and white “still shots” which she often saw were suddenly beginning to appear to her not only in color, but also in full motion, and in meaningful sequences as well. Her dreams began to take on the same characteristics, and they often continued a theme that had begun before she fell asleep.
Between June, when Bill and Helen made their joint commitment to change their attitudes, and October, three more or less distinct sequential lines of fantasy and dream images reached her startled awareness. Although they overlapped one another to some extent, Helen had no idea if they were symbolic representations, much like dream imagery, or if they were somehow related to actual events. She watched them as if she were looking at a motion picture, and felt herself more as an audience than a participator. They ranged from “seeing” herself as an Egyptian priestess in a previous life – with Bill included – to discovering a sunken treasure chest, which she described as follows:
“The boat was moving slowly but easily along a very straight little canal, there was just enough breeze to help it along. The sides of the canal were lined with lovely old trees and green lawns edged with banks of flowers. ‘I wonder if there’s buried treasure here,’ I thought to myself, dreamily. ‘I shouldn’t be surprised if there were.’ Then I noticed a long pole with a large hook on the end, lying on the bottom of the boat. ‘Just the thing,’ I thought, dropping the hook into the water, and reaching the pole down as far as I could. The hook caught something heavy, and I raised it with difficulty. It was an ancient treasure chest, the wood worn from the water and the bottom covered with seaweed. I managed to get it into the boat and opened it excitedly.
“I was bitterly disappointed. I had expected jewels or coins, but there was nothing in the chest but a large black book. The binding was like the ‘spring binders’ used for temporarily holding manuscripts or papers together. On the spine one word was written in gold. The word was ‘Aesculapius.’ The word was familiar but I could not remember what it meant. When I looked it up, I found it was the name of the Greek god of healing. I saw the same book two more times during the next week. Once there was a string of pearls around it; the other time was in a dream in which I saw a stork flying over some villages, and wondered what was so important about that. It was then that a silent Voice said to me, ‘Look at what the stork is carrying.’ I did. In the pouch was not the expected baby, but the same kind of black book; the only difference was that this one had a gold cross on the cover. The Voice then said, ‘This is your book.’ ” Neither Bill nor Helen had any idea what the book stood for until much later.
These events had an unsettling effect on Helen who reported her experiences to Bill as they occurred. And though he was extremely interested and totally supportive of her, it did not help lessen her anxieties. She didn’t like the moving images, she didn’t want them, and in general they made her feel particularly anxious, for she believed the kind of imagery she was involved in was the kind she might expect to hear about from psychiatric patients who came to see her.
As her experiences continued, she even told Bill she felt she might be going crazy, and that she really should submit to a psychiatric examination. But he pointed out that she was functioning perfectly well, suggested that she just let it be, and go along with it; that it might have something to do with the answer to the question they asked about finding “a better way.”
Although Bill, like Helen, had had no interest in – or knowledge of – anything remotely concerned with psychic or such phenomena, it was obvious to him that something paranormal was certainly going on, which he found quite fascinating.
Because of his inquiring nature, and in order to arm himself with as much information as possible so as to better understand what was happening, Bill began to search out books about psychic phenomena. One of the first he read was the life of Edgar Cayce. Cayce, sometimes referred to as “America’s greatest psychic,” had died in 1945 after having lived through almost 40 years of rationally unexplainable experiences, almost all of which had been transcribed at the time they occurred, and which could therefore be studied at the library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, an organization founded to perpetuate Cayce’s insights.
When Bill told Helen a little bit about Cayce, and suggested she might find it interesting to read the book he had found, she flatly declined to look at it. She refused to admit there was even anything to discuss about her experiences, although she had to admit to Bill that her attitude did have a certain inconsistency to it. On the one hand she knew that many of the incidences concerned things she had no intellectual, conscious knowledge of, and yet she refused to offer any suggestion as to how the information could have come to her.
Bill was not in the least put off by Helen’s attitude, and he became increasingly interested in some of the parapsychological literature, for somewhere deep inside himself he knew that what Helen was going through was extremely important for the two of them. (They later both visited the AR. E. in Virginia Beach and met on several occasions with its then president, Hugh Lynn Cayce – Edgar Cayce’s son – who proved to be empathetic, helpful and encouraging.)
Then one day during September,1965 Helen told Bill she felt she was about to do something very unusual. She was concerned about the feeling, because she had no idea what the “something” was going to be; all she knew was that it was going to happen soon. Since Helen had started keeping a diary immediately after her and Bill’s visit to Virginia Beach, Bill suggested that if she wrote down whatever occurred to her in connection with the “unusual something” she might get a clue as to what it was to be. Nothing came of her attempts at first, and she was on the verge of giving up the idea when one evening in October while sitting in her bedroom, the now-familiar inner Voice began to give her definite instructions.
She panicked, and immediately telephoned Bill. “You know that inner Voice – it won’t leave me alone!”
“What is it saying,” Bill asked.
“You’re not going to believe me.”
“Try me, Helen.”
“It keeps saying, ‘This is a course in miracles. Please take notes.’ What am I going to do?” she pleaded.
Calmly and supportively Bill said, “Why don’t you take the notes? Take them down in that shorthand you use.”
“But, Bill” Helen persisted, “what if it’s gibberish? Then I’ll know I’m crazy.”
“Helen, let me tell you something,” he said, ignoring her remark. “I’ve been doing some reading, which I haven’t shared with you because you’re so antagonistic to the whole subject. But there have been numbers of people – some of them very well-known people – who have had creative inspiration come through them in a mystical way. Einstein claimed to get inspiration this way; and certainly the great playwrights and poets. . . just look at all the mystical poets!”
“I’m not a mystical poet,” she protested. “I’m a psychologist, and I don’t know that I believe in this.”
“But it can happen to anyone when they ask,” he told her, “and on some level you must have asked.”
“I can’t make it go away,” she complained, ignoring his remark.
“Well, since you can’t make it go away, why don’t you go with it. Take it down and bring it into the office early – before the staff arrives – and we’ll go over it together.”
“And if it’s gibberish?”
“We’ll tear it up, and no one will ever know.”
Helen hung up, went into the living room and told her husband Louis she was going to do some work in the bedroom, and would be out shortly. She closed the bedroom door, turned off the overhead light, and sat in a chair by a lamp where she allowed herself to listen. This is what she heard that first night:
“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 this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
Although the Voice wanted to continue, Helen was in a panic and she refused to listen further. She quickly closed her shorthand book, and put it into the briefcase she carried back and forth to work each day. Then she went into the living room and told Louis she was going to bed.
The next morning Bill got to the hospital at 7:30 – a half an hour earlier than usual; he found Helen already there, in a state of great agitation.
“I don’t know what to do, Bill; I just don’t know what to do about it.”
Bill suggested she read him what she had taken down, which she managed to do despite some uncharacteristic stuttering. “Sounds rather interesting to me, Helen,” he said. “Is that all there was?”
“No,” Helen answered. “It seemed to want to go on, but I was afraid.”
“How do the words come?” Bill asked.
“It’s hard to describe,” she answered. “It can’t be an hallucination, really, because the Voice does not come from outside. It’s all internal. There’s no actual sound, and the words come mentally but very clearly. It’s a kind of inner dictation you might say.”
“Do you know what you’re writing?” Bill asked, “Or would you describe it as an automatic process?”
“Oh, no. It’s not automatic at all, I’m perfectly aware of what I’m doing.”
“Why don’t you try and write some more tonight,” Bill suggested. “See what happens.”
“I don’t think I can,” she answered. “I really find it too upsetting. ”
Despite her reluctance to continue writing, she did not have the ability to eliminate the Voice. This became obvious that very afternoon when she was on the telephone. As soon as she hung up the receiver, the inner Voice began. She jumped up, and hurried into Bill’s office to tell him what was happening. After reassuring her again that there was nothing to be frightened about, he suggested that the best thing for her to do was simply to take the words down whenever they came, and see if that were less disturbing to her than continuing to fight it.
She argued with him for almost half an hour, pointing out that this was not what she wanted to do. But even while she was telling Bill this, during his responses, the inner Voice would gently reappear. In desperation, Helen finally agreed to try to take the words down. “But just until I see what it is,” she added.
It took less than 15 minutes for her to get an idea of “what it is,” for shortly after she returned to her desk, the voice began to dictate the first words of the Text of A Course in Miracles. What she heard was: “Principles of Miracles,” which began,
1. There is no order of difficulty in miracles. One is not “harder” or “bigger” than
another. They are all the same. All expressions of love are maximal.
2. Miracles as such do not matter. The only thing that matters is their Source, Which is far beyond evaluation.
3. Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.
4. All miracles mean life, and God is the Giver of life. His Voice will direct you very specifically. You will be told all you need to know.
5. Miracles are habits, and should be voluntary. They should not be under conscious control. Consciously selected miracles can be misguided.
6. Miracles are natural. When they do not occur something has gone wrong.
The telephone interrupted, and Helen did not hear the Voice again until that evening at home, when it continued dictating the Principles of Miracles right where it had left off, at number seven. That night Helen finished taking down the 50 principles of miracles that begin the Text; even though she refused to read what she had written, she remained stunned. She did not have any idea of what A Course in Miracles was – it could have been just the 50 principles as far as she was concerned – but she did know that the material was coming from an unusually authoritative source – one she did not intellectually believe in.
Thus began the actual transmission of the material which Helen would take down in more than 100 shorthand notebooks over a period of seven-and-a-half years. The situation proved to be tremendously paradoxical. On the one hand, she resented the Voice, objected to taking down the material, was extremely fearful of the content and had to overcome great personal resistance, especially in the beginning stages, in order to continue. On the other hand, it never seriously occurred to her not to do it, even though she frequently was tremendously resentful of the often infuriating interference.
The morning after she took down the 50 principles, she met Bill at the office an hour before the staff usually arrived. Since their offices were away from the main flow of traffic in the building, they did not have to be concerned with people coming by and inquiring as to what they were doing. Nevertheless, they locked the door to Bill’s office every morning over the next seven-and-a-half years, whenever they met to go over the material she may have taken down the previous day.
When Bill asked Helen that first morning to read what she had written so he could type it up, she could barely get the words out. Before she was half way through the first sentence she began a coughing fit that lasted over five minutes. Then she had to keep clearing her throat, as it seemed to be continually filling with phlegm. After more than an hour, she had been able to dictate only the first 18 principles, and Bill had to leave to keep an appointment. They decided to try and finish the transcribing after work that day.
Bill was finally able to receive the 50 principles from Helen late that afternoon, after much stuttering, stammering, yawning, and coughing on her part. He gave her the original copy he had typed, while he took the carbon home with him. As he carefully read and digested what he had typed, he realized that if it were all true, then absolutely everything he had believed in the past would be false. He was not only startled, but very apprehensive, for he recognized that if he were to take the material seriously, it would involve him in a mind shift of tremendous proportions – one which seemed to be far in excess of what he personally felt he could do. He was also aware that somehow he had asked for “a better way,” and there was no question in his mind that this was the answer to his request. He had never tried to envision what that answer might be. And he certainly never expected that it might come in this form. He felt overwhelmed with doubts. However, he also felt a sense of obligation to at least try to suspend disbelief for not only had he asked for it, but he recognized almost instantly the truth of many of the ’50 principles. He also felt there was a vague familiarity to them, even though they contradicted his conscious belief system, and seemingly bore little resemblance to anything he had known in the past.
Bill called Helen that evening, and asked her what she felt about the 50 principles. She told him she had not reread them, and had no interest in rereading them. She said she had reluctantly agreed to take down the material, but that didn’t mean she had to read it, think about it, discuss it, or believe it. She added that the Voice had been dictating that evening, and it looked as though she and Bill had better adjust their schedules so they could meet
regularly at his office every morning at 7 o’clock.
The Voice would dictate to Helen almost daily, and sometimes several times a day. The timing never conflicted with work or social activities, starting at some time when she was reasonably free to write without interference. As a result she began to carry her shorthand notebook with her almost everywhere she went “just in case.”
That in itself, of course, was no guarantee that she would do the job without protesting. She could, and very often did, refuse to cooperate, at least initially. But she soon discovered she could have no peace until she relented and joined in once again. Despite being aware of this, she still sometimes refused to write for extended periods. When this occurred, it was usually at the urging of her husband that she did return to work, for he knew full well that she could only eliminate her distress by resuming her function as Course “scribe,” and he was able to convince her that to continue fighting the inevitable could only have a deleterious effect on their relationship.
Neither Helen nor Bill had any idea, of course, how much material there was going to be, and after two months of listening and writing, Helen asked how long the Text would be. The answer she received was that she would know when the Text was completed because she would hear the final “Amen.”
As the material continued to flow, and Bill continued to study it, he realized he had almost no background in spiritual or mystical writings, and that he was vastly unfamiliar with many of the references to which the Course alluded. He had always associated spiritual teachings with formal religion, and was unfamiliar with mystical tradition. He recognized, therefore, that in order for him to be able to consider and evaluate the Course seriously he would have to give himself a cram course not only in the world’s religions, but also in mystical practices, for it was apparent to him that although the Course was not a religion, it did have a basic mystical foundation.
Thus he immediately began to read as avidly as possible all of the books he could find that might be related In some way or another with mystical disciplines. In the process he compiled a vast library of material, a collection that he tried sharing with Helen, who would have no part of it. Although she told him she was not interested in reading mystical material, it was clear that she was glad he was doing so. For the more he told her about what he was learning, the more reassured she was that what they were doing was not odd, but was Indeed consistent with the most profound philosophical and spiritual teachings of the ages, both East and West.
One night Helen was taking down what she heard from the Voice, when she realized what she was hearing made no sense at all. She became extremely agitated, for her immediate fear was that she had finally lost her sanity. She protested to the Voice, indicating that what it was saying was senseless, but the Voice merely reacted by calmly telling her to take down what she heard, assuring her that in the morning she would understand the words perfectly well. She was not reassured, but she did indeed take the words down as she heard them, even though she was sure what she was writing was pure gibberish.
When she met Bill in the morning, she told him her worst fears. . . that even though she had been reassured to the contrary by the Voice, she was certain that what she was about to read to him would make no sense at all. After dictating to Bill what she had taken down the previous night, he read it back, and Helen listened with a mixture of concern and trepidation. This is what Bill read:
“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.”
Bill was barely able to finish without his voice cracking. He looked across at Helen, and was astonished to see her burst into tears. Instantaneously they each recognized that what Helen had been unwilling to comprehend the night before was clearly the Course‘s version of the Lord’s Prayer. And though neither said a word, each felt a unity with the other that had never been felt before.
Throughout the writing – which spanned a period of over seven years – the acute terror Helen felt at the beginning did gradually recede, but part of her mind simply never allowed her to get completely used to the Idea of being a channel for the Voice. And although there were times when she felt curiously transported as she wrote, those times were widely spaced and usually brief. For the most part she was bleakly unbelieving, suspicious and afraid.
However, in this one area, Helen did have the complete and unquestioning support of Bill, who comforted her at her most fearful times, and humored her when she was most obstinate. In addition, her husband’s attitude was unexpectedly helpful. After Helen had been writing at
home for a few weeks, Louis had asked her what she was working on. With considerable misgivings she decided to tell him the truth. His reaction was more than tolerant. He was actually encouraging. Although it was evident at the start that the content disturbed him (and she therefore stopped showing him the material) he actually encouraged her involvement, and unlike Helen, did not find the process itself anxiety producing. Without the support of these two men, it is obvious she could not possibly have done the job.
At the time that Helen had begun to feel less uncomfortable with the content of the material, she found herself now and then changing various words that she felt were inconsistent with the basic concepts of the material that she had been taking down. Usually the urge to change them back to the original was so strong that she did so within days. If she didn’t, the matter was apt to disturb her until she did. Furthermore, it quickly became apparent to her that the original words were not chosen at random, but were indeed very carefully selected. Sometimes what seemed to Helen to be inconsistent at first, was explained later, and the original wording was necessary for the sake of subsequent clarity. At other times specifically worded ideas were referred to later in contexts of which she had not originally been aware, so that changes she was tempted to make, would have eventually reduced the consistency of the thoughts rather than enhanced it, had her own feelings prevailed.
One day, about two years after she had started scribing the Course, Helen began to be aware that much of the material she was then taking down had a poetic nature to it. Glancing through the more recently transcribed pages of her notebook, she said to Bill that a good deal of the recent material was written in blank verse – iambic pentameter, Shakespearean style. “How much of what we’ve already done do you suppose is written the same way, Bill?” she wondered. “I just love poetry.”
Bill took out the 500 or so pages of typed manuscript, and started leafing through it, and to his amazement, many of the parts he looked at were written in the same poetic meter. He couldn’t believe that he had been listening to, typing and reading this material for so many months without noticing such a thing, and so that night he went back to the very beginning, and began to read to himself. The initial material certainly was written in prose, and he wondered where the change had taken place. He thumbed through the pages, scanning quickly and hurrying on, until he detected where indeed the material seemed to slide in and out of blank verse – a short way back. And as he re-read the words, the newly recognized rhythm of many of the passages seemed to make the material even more beautiful and inspirational. He called Helen on the phone, told her what he had learned and read her a sample:
“Let us be still an instant, and forget
all things we ever learned, all thoughts we had,
and every preconception that we hold
of what things mean and what their purpose is.
Let us remember not our own
ideas of what the world is for. We do not know.
Let every image held of everyone
be loosened from our minds and swept away.”
She seemed deeply pleased and gratified, and after a short silence merely said, “Isn’t that lovely, Bill, isn’t that lovely.”
In September 1968, three years and 1,944 typewritten pages after she had begun taking down what the Voice was dictating, Helen heard and transcribed the following:
“And now we say “Amen.” For Christ has come to dwell in the abode You set for Him before time was, in calm eternity. The journey closes, ending at the place where it began. No trace of it remains. Not one illusion is accorded faith, and not one spot of darkness still remains to hide the face of Christ from anyone. Thy Will is done, complete and perfectly, and all creation recognizes You, and knows You as the only Source it has. Clear in Your likeness does the Light shine forth from everything that lives and moves in You. For we have reached where all of us are one, and we are home, where You would have us be.”
Helen put down her notebook, picked up the phone in her bedroom and dialed. With a sense of quiet reverence she said, “Bill, Course is completed.”
Helen, of course, did not know she was mistaken, for neither she nor Bill had any idea of what A Course in Miracles actually was. Bill, who had been avidly reading everything even remotely connected with mysticism and metaphysics, knew that what they now had in their possession was a spiritual document that was very closely related to the teachings of the non-dualistic Vedanta of the Hindu religion, and that the profundity of the Vedanta certainly paralleled the obvious profundity of the Course. He realized the basic spiritual teachings of both had many striking similarities to each other, and that the main difference between them was that the Course was stating the perennial philosophy of eternal truths in Christian terminology with a psychological application that seemed expressly aimed at a contemporary audience.
He also knew that the almost 950 typewritten pages they had accumulated contained the answer to the question he had asked almost three years before, that there must be a better way to live in the universe. The Course, he knew, was his answer, and although it was difficult to explain to himself how it happened, he felt strongly that it did happen because two people had made the conscious commitment to join for a common purpose. And in that nonjudgmental joining something miraculous occurred.
From September 1968, when Helen had “completed” scribing the Course, until the following Spring, she and Bill found themselves deeply involved in several new projects at work. Then, one day early in May, during lunch she said, “You know, Bill, I thought I was so relieved when the Text was finished, but strange as it seems I really miss my function.” During the next several clays she became increasingly restless and told Bill she thought there was going to be something like a workbook.
Two weeks later the Voice returned, and they learned that the Text Helen had received over the past three years was not the entire Course, as they had each thought, and that the forthcoming Workbook for Students was to be an integral part of A Course in Miracles. Helen was not happy; for all she knew the Workbook could turn out to be twice as long as the Text, and the dictation could go on for five years or more.
When the Voice began dictating though, those fears were quickly dispelled, for the first two paragraphs that Helen took down told her precisely what they had to look forward to:
“A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the Course possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of this workbook to train your mind to think along the lines the text sets forth.
“The exercises are very simple. They do not require a great deal of time, and it does not matter where you do them. They need no preparation. The training period is one year. The exercises are numbered 1 to 365. Do not undertake to do more than one set of exercises a day.”
Helen was a lot less resistant to scribing the Workbook than she had been to the Text. This could have been due to the fact that she was now accustomed to the Voice, but it was also probably due to the content of the introductory instructions to the Workbook. Just prior to receiving Lesson 1, Helen took down the following:
“Remember only this: you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required.”
The fact that the Voice gave specific permission not to believe the lessons, if one so desired, was quite a relief to Helen. She thus did not have to face the many ideological conflicts that the content of the Text presented to her. In addition, Helen’s resistance was lessened because she did recognize that by putting the principles of the Course into practice, relationships at the hospital had become much less stressful. Thus, being extremely pragmatic, she
could hardly choose to argue with the basic ideas of that which seemed to be helping so much.
The first lessons that were dictated were quite compact, and this too had a positive effect on Helen’s attitude, for she knew there would be only 365 lessons, and she could see, with the way the first lessons were being structured, that taking down the Workbook would not be nearly as long a job as the Text had turned out to be. Of course the lessons did get longer, but by the time Helen noticed, she was so absorbed with the way they were developing that she almost stopped complaining altogether about the intrusion of the Voice into her life.
It took 21 months for the dictation of the Workbook. When the Voice reached lesson 365 in February 1971, Helen said a silent prayer of thanks, for she once again felt her work was completed. Even the epilogue that followed the final lesson indicated to her that her function
as a “scribe” had been finished, for it began this way:
“This course is a beginning, not an end . . . No more specific lessons are assigned, for there is no more need of them…”
And it concluded with the words:
“We trust our ways to Him and say ‘Amen.’ In peace we will continue in His way, and trust all things to Him. In confidence we wait His answers, as we ask His will in everything we do. He loves God’s Son as we would love him. And He teaches us how to behold him through His eyes, and love him as He does. You do not walk alone. God’s angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless.”
In the summer of 1971 Bill told Helen that his feelings about “doing something” to make the material more readable had become much more intense, and he asked her if she would be willing to go through the Text with him, and ask for help in making it less formidable to the eye. Helen agreed to ask if this should be done, and the answer she received was a very clear affirmative.
Thus began a project that was almost as time consuming as was the original scribing of the material. Whenever they had free time, and almost every Sunday afternoon, Helen and Bill read slowly through the Text, feeling and asking where the natural breaks might be. In this manner, over a 14 month period, was the Text broken down into 31 chapters with 255 separate sub-section headings.
In April 1972, while they were still working on “subheading” the Text, Helen came into Bill’s office and almost resignedly announced that the Voice had returned the night before, and told her she was to take down a Manual for Teachers. She had no idea what that was going to be.
The following morning when Helen arrived at the office she said to Bill, “Well, it looks as if A Course in Miracles still isn’t completed.” When he asked her what she meant, she opened one of her shorthand notebooks and read him part of what she had taken down the night before:
“The role of teaching and learning is actually reversed in the thinking of the world. The reversal is characteristic. It seems as if the teacher and the learner are separated, the teacher giving something to the learner rather than to himself. Further, the act of teaching is regarded as a special activity, in which one engages only a relatively small proportion of one’s time. the Course, on the other hand, emphasizes that to teach is to learn, so that teacher and learner are the same.
It also emphasizes that teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day, and continues into sleeping thoughts as well.”
She then turned past three or four pages of her notebook until she reached what she wanted to read:
“This is a manual for the teachers of God. They are not perfect, or they would not be here. Yet it is their mission to become perfect here, and so they teach perfection over and over, in many, many ways, until they have learned it. And then they are seen no more, although their thoughts remain a source of strength and truth forever. Who are they? How are they chosen? What do they do? How can they work out their own salvation and the salvation of the world? This manual attempts to answer these questions.”
She closed the notebook, and with hardly any emotion in her voice said to Bill, “I guess the sub-heading can wait.” Although Bill did not look forward to more months – or years – of transcribing the material Helen might take down, he was inwardly overjoyed at Helen’s reaction to the situation. He knew by her comparative calmness that a real change had taken place in her attitude; she showed no signs of the kind of panic she had shown before, and although she certainly wasn’t enthusiastic about resuming her role as “scribe,” the fears she had exhibited previously were in no way manifest. Bill felt this in itself was a miracle, and he realized that if this change in Helen’s attitude could be credited to her working with the Course lessons, then whatever additional time he might need to devote in order to complete the job of transcribing the material, would not only be worth any sacrifices he might have to make, but would actually be a privilege to give.
The Manual for Teachers turned out to be 77 typewritten pages long, and in September 1972 Helen scribed the following:
“This manual is not intended to answer all questions that both teacher and pupil may raise. In fact, it covers only a few of the more obvious ones, in terms of a brief summary of some of the major concepts in the text and workbook. It is not a substitute for either, but merely a supplement. While it is called a manual for teachers, it must be remembered that only time divides teacher and pupil, so that the difference is temporary by definition. In some cases, it may be helpful for the pupil to read the manual first. Others might do better to begin with the Workbook. Still others may need to start at the more abstract level of the text.”
She took down more that night, and in the morning when she got to the office she read it all to Bill, concluding with:
“And now in all your doings be you blessed.
God turns to you for help to save the world.
Teacher of God, His thanks He offers you,
And all the world stands silent in the grace
You bring from Him. You are the Son He loves,
And it is given you to be the means
Through which His Voice is heard around the world,
To close all things of time; to end the sight
Of all things visible; and to undo
All things that change. Through you is ushered in
A world unseen, unheard, yet truly there.
Holy are you, and in your light the world
Reflects your holiness, for you are not
Alone and friendless. I give thanks for you,
And join your efforts on behalf of God,
Knowing they are on my behalf as well,
And for all those who walk to God with me.
When she finished, both Bill and Helen once again felt that A Course in Miracles was now complete. This time they were correct.
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