Portuguese Translation Team Leader: Lillian Paes
Lillian reading the Introduction to the Course in Portuguese
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.
I was born in 1950 in Rio de Janeiro, where I grew up and still live. In 1971 I graduated from Pontifica Universidade Catolica in Rio, where I majored in English and French literature. In 1974 I gained a Master of Arts from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I taught Portuguese and French literature. Seven years later I obtained a degree in French literature from the Universite de Nancy in southern France. Thus, I became fluent in English and French as a translator and conversant in Spanish and Italian. For a time I worked as a technical translator for an international engineering company in Brazil. In the early 1980s, I became assistant and chief translator to the French Ambassador to Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. It was an ideal job and situation. I was very well paid, traveled a great deal and attended many cultural and social events connected with the Embassy. The ambassador, an impressive man of great stature, hired me to assist him in all of his professional and personal activities because he didn’t speak any Portuguese and knew nothing of Brazil and its customs. I did this for nearly three years and was very involved with being successful and earning a lot of money. But I was not happy at all, because I was losing the spirit of life. I knew I had to change my life, and not waste any more time.
So in 1984 I left Rio and went to a farm in the mountains to live with a friend who made exquisite stoneware in the old Japanese way, using primitive techniques. I lived there for about a year. Although he was an exquisite artist, he didn’t know how to market his work. So I compiled a mailing list and started writing to friends. Soon his beautiful Japanese stoneware began to sell well and he was invited to show his work in prestigious art museums in Brazil. We bought a spacious house in the mountains and I helped renovate it, but he became very unhappy. An unpretentious man who preferred a simple lifestyle, he didn’t like people to call him “doctor.” He discovered he couldn’t live with the success and attention.
In 1985 I returned to Rio to study with the head of the institute in Brazil that taught the Fisher-Hoffman healing process. She had worked in the theater in Europe and in New York for many years. Later she worked with Claudio Naranjo, traveling all over Europe concerning the Gurdjieff school. One day during her class, she told me that evil does not exist. When she said that, I had a profound experience that struck a deep, familiar note. I asked her if the idea came from the Vedanta. She replied, “No, it comes from A Course in Miracles.”
After I finished the Fisher-Hoffman process in March, 1985, I searched all over Rio for the Course. After several days of searching, I finally found it in an antiquated bookstore that belonged to two elderly gentlemen from Peru. They were the first to distribute A Course in Miracles in Brazil. They had one three-volume, English copy left. I bought it and took it with me wherever I went, everywhere.
For my own use, I began translating the Course into Portuguese. I soon realized that the words and symbols used in the Course — Christian terms such as atonement or redemption or sin or life or death — did not carry the usual meanings. Instead they stood for something special which I didn’t fully understand as yet. I believed that I would have to understand the Course thoroughly before I could translate it correctly. That is, I would have to study the original English version and try to make it an intrinsic part of my life. Otherwise it would never be done in a way that made any sense.
I decided to contact Judy Skutch at the Foundation for Inner Peace in California. After we became acquainted and she learned of my background and work as a translator, and of my translated works that had been published in Brazil, she thought I should try to do a formal Portuguese translation of the Course. I said I would, and naively told her I thought it could be done in three to four months. Of course I had totally underestimated the task.
After I had worked several months with my problems of understanding and translating the Course, I contacted Judy again. She gave me permission to do the Portuguese translation officially. For the next three years it became my whole life and sole interest in Rio. It wasn’t a question of choosing; it wasn’t a question of accepting; it was that I felt it had to be done and I had to do it. Nevertheless, I had doubts about my ability to do it because I was in awe of the Course. However, I felt strongly that I must persevere, that somehow I would be able to do the job.
Three years later in 1988 I felt (mistakenly) that the translation was ready. I went to see Kenneth Wapnick at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Roscoe, New York, which was just opening. I think I was in the first group of translators who met there to coordinate the translations program, to establish guidelines, and to ensure that all the translations were consistent and correct.
After they reviewed my translation, they thought it was beautifully done in terms of the language itself. But despite my experience and obsessive commitment, it still wasn’t quite the Course, because the Course is highly technical. I had to make sure that my word choices remained consistently the same. I couldn’t change them merely to suit my personal needs or tastes, because as Helen Schucman said, if I did, a few hundred pages later I would discover why that word had to be that word.
So I went back to Brazil and used the Webster’s dictionary to carefully explore the roots of every word, even words like night, day, joy and pain to be certain of their meanings. It took two more years for me to understand the special meaning of words, especially key words, in the Course. That’s how “atonement” ended up being “expiation” in the translation. In December 1990, I returned to Roscoe for six months. I was shocked to discover that I had to change all the pronouns. When I got back to Brazil, I continued working on terminology. In the process, I learned to ask for guidance and then to surrender to it, which was eventually how I knew that I had finally found the right word. By early 1993, I had worked eight to ten hours a day since 1985, to complete the translation. Over the next two years I continued to make final adjustments at a less intense rate, while I also did research in Brazil on how we were going to publish it.
The Foundation for Inner Peace finally published the first 6000 copies of the Portuguese translation in December, 1995. By December, 1996, when I began writing a newsletter, we had sold over 4000 copies. Then I began conducting lectures and seminars which I continued for the next ten years. The Course and my translation work have totally changed my life.