New Realities Magazine, September-October 1984
"The incredible untold story behind. . .
A Course In Miracles"
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
Between September 1972, when the "scribing" of A
Course in Miracles was completed, and the following March, Dr. William Thetford
showed the material to just four people – Hugh Lynn Cayce, President
of the Association for Research and Enlightenment; Father Michael,
a Catholic priest who was a student in one of the graduate psychology
courses Bill taught; and two close personal friends.
Each had positive,
but differing, reactions to the Course. The two friends found
the material intellectually interesting, but had no desire to
work with the lessons. Hugh Lynn felt the work was "tremendously important," and
that its absolute consistency indicated to him that the Course had
the potential for changing "millions of lives." The
priest, whose background included the study of religions and mysticism,
found the Course to be completely in harmony with the great
mystical teachings of the East, and felt that the lessons were brilliantly
had had a difficult time convincing the Course's "scribe" Dr. Helen
Schucman that it was "all right" to show it to each of these
four people, he didn't try to further convince her it should be
shown to others. the Course thus went back into the filing
cabinet, safely locked away for whatever the future was to hold.
At the time
of the Course's completion, Bill also coincidentally came
in contact with Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, a young psychologist who had
received his doctorate four years previously. Dr. Wapnick had been
born and raised in the Jewish faith, but in mid-1972 had a profound
mystical experience, which led him to "know" that
he was to become a Catholic. As such, in October of that year
he was officially baptized. Eventually, Ken was taken into Bill's
and Helen's confidence, and shown the 1500-page manuscript of
A Course in Miracles. After studying the Course for
nearly three months, Ken concluded that his spiritual life was to
be connected in some way with it. He was correct.
of 1973 he began going every day to the Presbyterian Medical Center
in New York City, where Helen and Bill worked, carefully reading
and re-reading each section of the Course, and then discussing
with Helen his feelings about what he thought should or should
not be capitalized, along with precise, proper headings. When he and
Helen couldn't agree on a matter, they would ask for guidance, and
the answers each received always coincided. At the same time, care
was taken not to edit any of the material, to ensure that it remained
intact, exactly as Helen had received it.
end of January the work was done to each one's complete satisfaction,
and the manuscript that had originally been 500,000 words of run-on
copy was now a self-study course that was easy to read and consistent
in style. Helen finally felt a sense of freedom, Bill knew they had done
their best, and Ken felt a keen sense of gratitude that he had been able
to contribute to a work that he knew was of great spiritual significance.
this time, the Voice that had dictated the Course to Helen
was quiet, except for dictating to her what appeared to be technical
information concerning some sort of electronic device that had
something to do with healing. The dictated information seemed
incomplete and not totally clear, but was supplemented by images
that Helen had of the device itself, which she was able to describe
in her own words. Neither Helen nor Bill understood the technical
aspects of the information, however, and so they decided to put the
material away until such time as someone with an engineering background
might come into their lives. (In the ensuing years, the material has
been shown to a number of eminent scientists, but no one has yet been
able to supply the information necessary to construct the equipment.)
Meanwhile, Helen and Bill continued their professional duties, while
making little progress in healing their personal relationship.
1975, Bill, through a friend, met Douglas Dean, a professor of
engineering, whose interest in parapsychology had led him to do
some exploratory research with Kirlian photography. Bill felt
that it might be a good idea for Helen and him to meet personally
with Prof. Dean to explore some topics of mutual interest. He
therefore invited Douglas to have lunch with them at Presbyterian Hospital
in New York City, where he and Helen had their offices.
the invitation, Douglas immediately thought of his close friend
Judith Skutch, who shared his interests and who was president
of the Foundation for Parasensory Investigation. Judy, he knew,
was also extremely anxious to talk to representatives within the
orthodox medical community about holistic approaches to healing,
and he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for her to present
her ideas to professionals who were connected with one of the
most prestigious medical institutions in the country.
for Parasensory Investigation, founded by Judy and her husband
Robert Skutch in 1971, helped raise funds and issue grants for
investigation and research of paranormal phenomena. Running the
Foundation was an eighteen-hour-a-day job for Judy, since its
personnel consisted only of herself and Bob, and he had full time
employment during the day as an investment counselor.
there were so many research projects that were in need of funding,
Judy's time was spent talking to those seeking funds, weighing
the importance of the projects, seeking advice from her many professional
friends in the field, and in general helping to put people with
common goals in touch with each other.
that the Foundation had to offer as grants were extremely modest,
and initial research support was funneled through the Dream Laboratory
at Maimonides Hospital, which was experimenting in altered states
early days of their Foundation, Bob had not only started working
with paranormal healing, but had also become interested in the process
writing." In the Course of his delving into the latter
subject he had felt the urge to experiment with the concept himself.
As a result, since February 1972 he had been taking down material
every evening in a meditative state, and the large amount of inner
guidance that he had received proved of great value to him not
only in his healing work, but also as a reliable source for helping
him reach decisions that seemed to need more than a logical basis.
healing and automatic writing were among the subjects the Foundation
was interested in helping to research, and Judy and Bob felt the
Foundation should also help bring such subjects to the attention of
the public. The Foundation also sponsored a number of public conferences
beginning in 1973, such as "Psychic Healing:
Myth Into Science," featuring people like Drs. Lawrence LeShan
and Stanley Krippner, healers Olga Worrall and' Edgar Jackson,
and Sister Justa Smith whose pioneering research involved the
effect of psychic healing on the stability of enzymes.
Krippner's urging the Foundation also sponsored the first two "Western Hemisphere
Conferences on Acupuncture, Kirlian Photography and the Human Aura." These
were the first conferences that dealt with these matters, and
the importance of them was significant enough for their proceedings
to be published.
Judy kept watch over the numerous research projects the Foundation
was helping to fund, including the breakthrough work in remote
viewing done at Stanford Research Institute International with the
Israeli psychic, Uri Geller. This project, the results of which were
published in the prestigious British journal, "Nature," plus
a mini conference on psychic phenomena attended by 16 world renowned
physical scientists, were tremendously important in helping to
get worldwide recognition of the importance of investigating psychic
continued taking on more and more responsibilities. She joined
ex-astronaut Edgar Mitchell's Institute of Noetic Sciences as
a founding member of the board; she became a faculty member at
New York University's School of Continuing Education where she
taught courses in experimental parapsychology and new dimensions
in healing; she also accepted radio and television invitations
to talk about the work she was involved in, and, as if that were
not enough, she also began her doctoral work at the Humanistic
Psychology Institute. Her external life thus began to resemble
a company of whirling dervishes. And it was also beginning to
cause her physical pain, as she developed a severe peptic ulcer.
knew the effect the emotions can have on one's physical well-being," Judy
recalls, "but the knowledge didn't help the symptoms at all.
In fact the knowledge that I was doing this to myself made me
feel even more frustrated. I searched and searched for the answers
that would help me out of the prison I had built for myself, but
nothing seemed to help. All I knew was that with all the different
aspects of the work I was doing, there wasn't one project that
didn't leave me with a feeling that the answers were incomplete
– that something was missing. I respected the scientific approach,
supported it, and believed it was absolutely necessary, but we
were not touching at all on any spiritual aspects, even though
we were aware in all of our projects – and especially in the healing
projects in which we were involved – that spiritual statements
were being made over and over again."
The void continued
inside, as if splitting her apart. And one day, alone in her bedroom,
she began to weep, and without even knowing how or where the words
came from, she let out a desperate, wrenching cry: "Won't someone up there please help me!" The
words took her aback, for she had never used them before, or even
had thoughts like that before.
on May 29, 1975, that Douglas and Judy drove to the Medical Center
on upper Broadway in Manhattan. There she met Dr. William Thetford,
a tall, handsome, quiet and gentle man, and Dr. Helen Schucman,
a slight, short, late middle-aged woman who couldn't have weighed
more than 100 pounds, and who was Dr. Thetford's co-worker. The
four went into the cafeteria, where Bill led them to a relatively
When the required
small talk was completed, Judy brought up the subject she wanted
to discuss with Bill and Helen, but somehow neither showed any interest
in pursuing the topic of holistic health. Both kept talking about
research in general, and the more they talked the more Judy wondered
what she was doing there. As the conversation continued, however,
Judy began to feel there was something on Helen's mind that she wasn't
revealing, though for the life of her she couldn't imagine what it
might be. All she knew was that it didn't have anything to do
with the research designs she was discussing. And then, as they were
eating their desserts, Judy found herself turning to Helen and saying
something she couldn't believe: "You
hear an inner voice, don't you?" Helen paled in response, and
Judy felt apologetic and embarrassed for what she had spontaneously
immediately by pushing his chair back from the table, and invited
Judy and Douglas to his office. Once there he and Helen introduced
them to their associate, Dr. Kenneth Wapnick. Bill then shut the door,
locked it, and asked quietly, "You
will keep what we say in this room confidential, won't you?"
Bill and Helen
spent the next two hours telling Douglas and Judy the story of
the past ten years. The events they described did not seem bizarre
to Judy, and she did not feel these people were strangers. In a way,
she remembers but can't explain, it appeared to her as if she were
being reunited with her "real" family,
and what they were telling her seemed very natural; as though
it were a continuation of events with which she had already been
unlocked his filing cabinet and took out seven large black binders,
the kind doctoral candidates use to hold their dissertations, and
put them on the desk. "Here
you are," he said, "fifteen hundred pages. A
Course in Miracles."
felt electrified, reached for the binder which contained the Text,
and opened it to the introduction: "This is a course in miracles.
It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary.
When she finished
reading that first passage, a great sigh of relief welled up inside
of her and she thankfully and silently said: "Finally. . . here's my map home." She
also knew that this was the answer to her "call for help" to
the deep-seated problem she was experiencing and which had made
want me to not show the Course to any of my friends?" she asked,
in response to the request of confidentiality.
said. "We're sure the Course is not meant to be kept
hidden. It's just that we don't want our names connected with it in
see, dear," Helen added, "it would be quite awkward trying
to explain to our colleagues how it all happened."
important than that though," Bill said, "is the fact that
this material stands completely on its own. It doesn't need any
personalities connected with it. God knows there are enough personality
cults around, and this Course should not be the basis for another
one. Helen and I don't feel we can represent this material since
we don't adequately demonstrate it. As you'll see, Judy, the material
is a self-study course, and Helen and I are no more than students."
returned home that day, she told Bob the entire story, and started
reading the Text immediately. As she got further and further into
it, a surge of gratitude engulfed her, for she knew her life was
about to be changed in a way that was beyond her wildest hopes. The
Christian terminology of the Course did not pose a problem
for her, since Bill had explained earlier in the day that he felt
the Course used such terminology because Christianity was
the dominant religion of the West, and that such language would
be the easiest for most people to identify with. He had also told
Judy that much of the Christian language in the Course was
used in a different way than traditionally. "For example," he explained, "atonement
in the Course means the correction of the misperception that
we are separate from each other and from God."
the following day on, as long as Judy was not traveling, there
were almost daily meetings she had with Helen, Bill, and Ken,
in which they would discuss in depth the meaning and intent of
after she received the Course from Helen and Bill, Judy was
scheduled to go to California in order to attend some meetings
related to the work of her Foundation, as well as to get together
with her doctoral adviser, Dr. Eleanor Criswell of the Humanistic
Psychology Institute in San Francisco. She asked Helen and Bill if
she could take the seven binders containing 1500 pages of the Course with
her to show to a number of close friends she knew would be interested.
three thousand miles away," Bill said lightly. "Nobody knows
us out there."
On the plane
that June day in 1975, she had six hours of quiet time to think
about the Course and how to deal with the requests for copies
she knew many of her West Coast friends were going to want. She didn't
have any idea how she would be able to accommodate their request,
but she remembered the very first principle of miracles in the
Text, "There is no order of difficulty in miracles," and
she realized that if her friends were meant to have them, somehow
they would get them.
One of the
first people she showed the Course to was James Bolen, editor
and publisher of New Realities (then called "Psychic"). Jim naturally was interested
in how the material had been received by a "scribe," and
when Judy told him about the content, showing him some of the
specific sections, he recognized that she had come into possession
of the most unique manuscript he had ever seen – one that he eventually
became involved with at a deep personal level.
she showed it to was Dr. Gerald Jampolsky, a psychiatrist in Tiburon,
California, with a highly successful eclectic practice. As a close
associate and warm personal friend of Judy's, Jerry was one of
the first recipients of a xeroxed manuscript. (Jim Bolen had several
copies made for himself and for Judy.) It came to Jampolsky at
a particularly appropriate time, for he had recently gone through
a painful divorce and was drinking heavily. He had begun to question
his purpose in life, and to re-evaluate seriously his life style
recognized immediately that this material could offer him a happier
alternative than the road he was taking. As a result, he has been
working continuously with the Course since that time, lecturing
throughout the world on it, writing best selling books featuring
its principles (Love Is Letting Go of Fear, Teach Only Love),
and founding The Center of Attitudinal Healing, whose work is
based on the Course's teachings. All of this has resulted
in a dramatic, positive change in his professional and personal life.
showed the Course to Eleanor Criswell, who also – unknown
to Judy – "happened" to
have a small publishing company called Freeperson Press. Through
Eleanor, Judy was able to reproduce the manuscript at a reduced
size – five by seven inches – the first published effort of the
Course. Though this greatly condensed the bulky size of the manuscript,
it proved very expensive to produce at $50 per set. Besides, the
print was quite small, which made reading difficult. Nevertheless,
it was a highly portable work which came in four paperback volumes,
a great improvement over the voluminous manuscript itself, and
despite the cost, the sets were in great demand. Yet Judy knew
that eventually a regular edition would be needed.
returned to New York, the regular meetings with Helen, Bill, and
Ken resumed. A recurring subject for discussion was what was to "happen" to the
Course. During the ensuing months, several publishers came forth who offered
to publish the material, but each time that Judy and the others asked their inner
guidance for direction the answer was "Not these people." One day,
almost in desperation, they asked: "Who is supposed to publish
the Course?" The
answer Helen heard was clear: "It is to be published by those
who have only the Course as their focus." They concluded that this could only
mean Judy's Foundation.
Judy's mouth dropped open. She knew the Foundation (whose name by then had been changed to the Foundation for Inner Peace) had hardly any money, and that it would cost over $30,000 for the first printing.
ask where the money's to come from," Helen said. As they closed their eyes
Judy clearly heard her Internal Voice say, "Make the commitment
as Helen and Bill had made the commitment ten years earlier to
find a better way of living in the universe, so did Judy make
the commitment to somehow publish A Course in
on cue, the next day she received a call from Reed Erickson in
Mexico, where he then lived, who was founder of the Erickson Educational
Foundation, for whom Zelda Supplee, a friend of Judy's, worked.
Zelda had brought Reed up to meet Judy one evening two years before,
and that was the only time either she or Bob had met him, or even
spoken to him.
it seems, had sent Reed a copy of the original manuscript a few
months before, and he wanted Judy to know that his life hadn't
been the same since. He went on to exclaim about the beauty of
the language, the truth of the ideas and the practicality of the
lessons, and said he was already studying the Course with
a group of his friends. He urged that this material be published now
in a hard cover edition with the respect it deserved. Judy told him
that she and her associates had coincidentally reached the same
decision just the day before, and she regretted not having enough
money to publish it in hard cover. He then agreed to pay the entire
cost of that first hardcover printing – 5000 sets consisting of
a Workbook for Students, a Text, and a Teachers Manual.
copies were delivered on June 22, 1976, and that evening a party
was held at Judy's and Bob's apartment. Coincidentally, it was
a book publishing event as well as a birthday – that of Douglas
Dean, the link who was responsible for the first joining of Judy
with Helen, Bill, and Ken.
200 copies of the Course were sent as gifts from Reed Ericson
to personal friends and acquaintances whom he felt would benefit
by having the books. These people lived in all sections of the
country, and many of them were leaders in their fields. As a result,
the Course began to get excellent exposure almost immediately.
in the group also sent out complimentary copies, and Bill sent
one to Hugh Lynn Cayce, who had been so helpful to Helen and him
a few years earlier. And of course there were over 200 names that
the Foundation had accumulated, of people who had requested information
about the Course; these people were informed they could now
purchase the hard cover books.
Judy again left for the West Coast, she took 64 hardbound sets
with her, and had an additional 64 sent so that she would have
enough for all the people who might want to purchase them there.
enthusiasm she met with in California was a harbinger of what
was to come. Groups began forming to study the Course, and
word-of-mouth from those involved created an increasing demand
for the books. In addition, the Association for Research and Enlightenment
had reviewed the Course for its large membership, and a hefty
response was generated from that quarter.
Jim Bolen featured an exclusive article about the Course,
along with his personal interview of Judy, in New Realities' first
issue – April 1977. It was the Course's first public disclosure
and presentation, and it created a phenomenal response, and a deluge
after the New Realities article, orders had been received from
all 50 states, as well as from numerous foreign countries, including
Australia, India, and South Africa. In addition, letters of gratitude
arrived daily from those who recounted how the Course had "already" helped
them see and feel things in different ways, and helped them heal relationships
that they had previously thought could not possibly be healed. For
Helen and Bill, that was the so called "bottom
line." The letters were their reward for the ten long years they
had spent in receiving, transcribing, and nurturing the material.
over 160,000 sets have been distributed, and A
Course in Miracles is now in its thirteenth printing.
The Foundation for Inner Peace, sole publisher of the Course,
has also embarked on translation of the material into Spanish,
French, German, Portuguese, and Hebrew – all at the instigation of
Course students from countries that speak these languages. In addition,
two video tapes – each one hour long – have been produced: one telling
how the Course came, the other describing what the Course says.
To this day
there still has not been any paid advertising of the Course.
There are, however, numerous people in various professions who
now work with the Course, and who speak about it in many
of the lectures they regularly give. Thus a psychiatrist may address
a holistic health conference, a futurist may speak in front of
governmental officials, or a psychologist may talk at a seminar on
personal transformation – each describing how the Course has
influenced his or her life; each thus continuing to pass the word
along about, as one lecturer describes the Course, "One
of the most important documents of the century."
Does the story behind A Course in Miracles have any special meaning in itself? Or is it just another dramatic account of something extraordinary that happened to two people who might somehow have been "different" than the rest of us? The birth of the Course can truly be considered a miracle as defined by the Course itself, for it was brought to life through two people, seemingly locked into an untenable relationship, who asked for a "better way" and, joined in this goal, worked in total harmony. the Course's birth then poignantly illustrates one of the Text's "fifty principles of miracles" which states, "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. . . everything that comes from love is a miracle."
exactly, one might ask, is a miracle? "It is," as Bill Thetford says, "the
creative solution to a problem. When the Course says ‘There
is no order of difficulty in miracles,' it means there is no order
of difficulty in problem solving. And since all problems are the
result of our denying the existence of love, then a miracle can
best be defined as a shift in perception that allows the removal
of the blocks to the awareness of love's presence."
who study the Course recognize early in the lessons that
what they are actually learning is how to perceive in a new way.
They must un-learn a system that is based on the belief in a physical
reality, for the Course states that our only reality is Spirit,
and our conflict comes from vacillating between the two thought
systems. One belief holds we are born into bodies for a short
time – to experience some joy, some pain, some happiness, some
grief, and eventually death. The other belief – the Course's
belief – is that we are created in our Creator's image, which
is Spirit. In truth we are not bodies; we are extensions of the Thought
of God. Although our natural inheritance is a state of love, we
have chosen to dream that we have separated ourselves from our Source,
and in so doing we think we have sinned. Based on that misperception
comes all our guilt, and out of guilt comes fear. We can learn
to release this fear and undo our mistaken sense of sin and guilt
only through the practice of forgiveness, for it is by forgiving
others that we learn to forgive ourselves, and thus our illusions
of separation can be healed. As the Course states, "All healing
involves replacing fear with love."
Voice that Helen heard dictating the material really that of Jesus?
Both Helen and Bill believed the material must stand on its own,
regardless of its alleged authorship. At her deepest level, Helen
was certain that the Voice was that of Jesus, and yet she still
had ambivalent feelings on the subject. In her own words:
no belief in God, I resented the material I was taking down, and
was strongly impelled to attack it and prove it wrong. On the
other hand I spent considerable time not only in taking it down,
but also in dictating it to Bill, so that it was apparent I also
took it quite seriously. I actually came to refer to it as my
life's work, even though I remained unconvinced about its authenticity
and very jittery about it. As Bill pointed out, I must have believed
in it if only because I argued with it so much. While this was
true, it did not help me. I was in the impossible position of
not believing in my own life's work. The situation was clearly
ridiculous as well as painful.
where did the writing come from? Certainly the subject matter
itself was the last thing I would have expected to write about,
since I knew nothing about the subject. Subsequent to the writing
I learned that many of the concepts and even some of the actual
terms in the writing are found in both Eastern and Western mystical
thought, but I knew nothing of them at the time. Nor did I understand
the calm but impressive authority with which the Voice dictated.
It was largely because of the strangely compelling nature of this
authority that I refer to the Voice with a capital 'V.' I do not
understand the real authorship of the writing, but the particular
combination of certainty, wisdom, gentleness, clarity and patience
that characterized the Voice makes that form of reference seem
"At several points in the writing the Voice itself speaks in no uncertain terms about the Author. My own reactions to these references, which literally stunned me at the time, decreased in intensity until they reached a level of mere indecision. I do not understand the events that led up to the writing. I do not understand the process and I certainly do not understand the authorship. It would be pointless for me to attempt an explanation."
A Course in Miracles began to come through Helen, no one could
foresee what effect it would have on the world. But it seems clear
that this material was given to Helen and Bill for a broader purpose
than to help just two people find a "better
way" to live in the universe. It has already affected too many
lives in a positive way for it to have been given for such a limited
reason. And so it appears that in its own time, and in its own
way, it will spread to wherever it is needed.
of the Course are such that anyone who studies the material
seriously must find that his or her perceptions are changing...that
when one believes and follows the spiritual reality that the Course presents,
ultimately only peace of mind can be the result. For when we release
all of our fears we will be and feel what we really are in truth,
which is total love. As the Course urges, "Teach
only love, for that is what you are." It is then that we will
know that the journey to God has truly been a journey without
Excerpted and edited with permission from the book Journey Without Distance (The Story Behind A Course In Miracles). Copyright @ 1984 by Robert Skutch.
Copyrighted materal. All rights reserved. Used with permission.