The History of the
As will be discussed in more detail below, circumstances have recently arisen surrounding the earlier manuscripts of A Course in Miracles that have necessitated this explanation of the history of the Course, from Helen Schucman's notebooks to its publication in 1976. This is an edited and enlarged transcript from a session of a workshop, held in Atlanta in 20071, which directly addressed this issue in response to a question from a participant. While much of what I will say is already discussed in my book Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of "A Course in Miracles," it is my hope that this will further help to answer questions, correct misunderstandings, and allay any concerns students may have about the Course—authorized by Helen herself and published by the Foundation for Inner Peace—they are reading.
Let me start by giving a brief overview of how the Course was
written, and how what Helen took down ended up as the books we have.
This will begin the process of addressing the questions that have
been raised, which have largely been based on erroneous information.
When Helen started taking down the Course in October
1965, she wrote down what she heard. One of the misconceptions or myths surrounding
her scribing is that this was the first time Helen had heard an inner voice.
This is not the case. She had been hearing Jesus' voice at least through the
latter part of the summer, and her experience was clear that this was Jesus.
Incidentally, I should say that while Helen said she heard an inner voice, the
traditional way this kind of experience is described, she told me years later
that the experience was closer to seeing words in her mind, and then writing
down what she "saw."
early pre-Course messages she received had
to do largely with helping her deal with a close colleague of hers
who was dying of brain cancer, and who later died. Helen took these
messages down in shorthand, in stenography notebooks. She had learned
shorthand when she was in graduate school and had developed her own
version, which was partially a blend of Gregg and Pitman, the two
main shorthand methods.
The following day, whenever she and Bill would have time in what was then a very
busy schedule, she would dictate to Bill what had been dictated to her, and he
would type it out. As he would jokingly say afterwards, he would type it out
with one hand on the typewriter (this was before computers) and the other hand
holding Helen up, because she would be so nervous. Sometimes when she would read
it to Bill, she would start to stutter or lose her voice. She was always an excellent
speaker, and so this was most uncharacteristic of her.
In the first several weeks of the scribing, which consists roughly of
the material up to and including Chapters 4 and 5 in the text,
the dictation was much more personal than was the case later. It was
as if Helen and Jesus were sitting on her living room couch having
a conversation. Helen asked questions that Jesus answered, and there
were also corrections to her mishearing, what she, Bill, and I
later referred to as "scribal errors."
The Course actually
began with Jesus saying: "This is a course in miracles. Please
take notes. The first and fundamental thing to remember about miracles
is that there is no order of difficulty among them." It does not
begin that way in the published version. Some time into the scribing,
Helen complained to Jesus that he needed a better introduction, saying,
in effect: "You know, who is going to start a book with ‘There
is no order of difficulty in miracles'!" So she wrote down some
things that metamorphosed into the current introduction.
Typically, Helen would write down a miracle principle and then there
would be a lot of discussion about it, including the aforementioned
questions. These also included things Bill had in mind that he asked
Helen to ask for him. Much of the material that came during this time
was clearly not meant for publication. It was obviously meant to help
Helen personally, and to help Helen and Bill in their relationship,
the troubled aspect of which was the original stimulus for the coming
of the Course. The material was also directed
toward Helen's relationship with her husband, Louis, and Bill's relationship
with his friends (Bill was homosexual and never married).
In addition, material was given to help Helen and Bill bridge the gap
between the psychology that was being offered in the Course and
the psychology they both knew, which was basically Freudian. While
the psychology of A Course in Miracles is
heavily psychoanalytic, it deviates significantly from what Freud
taught in many specifics, though not in the general contours or dynamics
of the ego's thought system. There was thus some material on Freud
and other psychologists, like Jung and Rank.
There also was some discussion of Edgar Cayce, because Bill was quite
interested in him at that time. In fact, he pressured Helen to
read some of the Cayce writings. Moreover, they both went to the Association
for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, the institute
Cayce founded. Edgar was already dead, but Helen and Bill met with
his son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, who took over leadership of the A.R.E.
Finally, there was, among other subjects, material on sexuality, statistics,
and mental retardation; the last two being major interests of Helen's.
For a number of reasons, none of this material belonged in the published
version. First, much of it was personal to Helen and Bill, and had
nothing to do with the teachings of A Course in Miracles.
Perhaps even more importantly, Helen was notoriously inaccurate when
her own ego was involved. A great deal of this early material was
colored by Helen. She was incredibly accurate when her ego was not
in the way, however, and that is why the pure teaching of the Course is
what it is. One could never imagine Jesus saying, for example, what
is in the Urtext on sex—not that it was anything horrific, but it
obviously reflected Helen's own values and biases. I'll return to
this later. The material on Freud is heavily weighted in favor of
Freud—Jung does not come off very well. Helen did not like Jung, and
neither did Bill; they did not know much about him and his work, but
they did not like him. And so, when one reads these comments about
Freud and Jung, it becomes clear that distinct biases are involved.
important point is that when the messages Helen wrote down had to
do with something specific in the world, they were frequently wrong.
One of the myths surrounding Helen and the scribing is that anything
Helen heard had to be from Jesus, and therefore should be regarded
as sacred; not too different from the fundamentalist position regarding
the unerring nature of every word in the Bible. Nothing could be farther
from the truth regarding the Course. Helen
did not believe the words she took down were sacred; nor did Bill
(or I for that matter). At the end, I will discuss what should be
treated as sacred.
At any rate, after the first few weeks, Helen's experiences began to
change. Instead of being a conversation, the dictation became
essentially straight lecture, as if Jesus were standing at a podium
speaking, and Helen, his devoted student in the auditorium, were
writing down everything he said. As one reads the text from Chapters
4 and 5 on, one can see a real difference in the style of writing—more
fluent, less inconsistent in language. The writing also becomes
increasingly more beautiful, reflecting Helen's love of Shakespeare.
From about Chapter 16 on, there are an increasing number of passages
in verse, and the last two chapters are all in iambic pentameter.
This was unknown to Helen at first, but after a while she realized
the words were coming in a definite rhythm. From Lesson 99 on, the
entire workbook, including rather prosaic instructions, is in blank
verse (i.e., unrhymed poetry). Finally, portions of the manual are
in blank verse, as are portions of the two pamphlets that were scribed
Purpose, Process and Practice and The
Song of Prayer). In other
words, as Helen's hearing became clearer, the writing became clearer
and more beautiful.
One of the examples I have used in the past to describe the early weeks
of the scribing is how if you live in the Northeast or Midwest and
leave your house for vacation and shut the water off, when you come
back and turn it on, very often you get rust because the pipes are
old. You have to run the water for a while until the rust runs through,
and then the water is clear again. In a sense, Helen's hearing was
like that. She had a vision prior to the Course coming
through her in which she saw herself on a beach with a boat, and it
was her job to get the boat into the water. A stranger, whom she later
identified as Jesus, arrived to help her. On seeing what she described
as an ancient sending-and-receiving set in the boat, Helen said to
him: "Maybe this will be helpful." But he responded: "No,
you're not ready to use this yet." In retrospect, Helen understood
this as a reference to the Course, which
had not yet begun. She was the "ancient sending-and-receiving set,"
but her equipment was still entangled in seaweed, to keep to the nautical
Helen took down the Text in about three years (1965-1968). Nine months went by and she began taking down the Workbook (1969), and a few months after the Workbook was completed (1971), the Manual for Teachers came, concluding in September of 1972, almost seven years since she began the scribing.
Helen, Bill, and I called Bill's original typing the Urtext, from the
German word ur, meaning "original." The word has come to refer to
any original manuscript. Bill would read back to Helen what he had
typed to be sure they got every word right. There were times when
Helen did not read everything in the notebooks to Bill, because, as
she told me later, she knew it did not belong. And sometimes she dictated
something directly to Bill that was not in the notebooks. I mention
all this to emphasize that she did not consider every word to be sacred;
it was obvious to her that a great deal of this early material was
personal, and also clear to her that sometimes she got in the way.
Again, the early writings were awkward and inconsistent. One example
of this is that Helen wrote down: "Miracles are cobwebs of steel."
Jesus then said to her: "That's not what I said," and corrected it.
A lot of that went on, for at the beginning the scribing was informal.
then retyped the text twice, and in the process did some editing,
per Jesus' instructions. It was something for her to do at night—a
distraction in a sense. She liked to be distracted, as also seen in
her paying attention to form and avoiding the content. In fact she
used to say to Bill: "You pay attention to what it says. I'll pay
attention to how it says it." She was always very proud of the poetic
nature of the writing.
Jesus very clearly told both Helen and Bill that whatever was personal
or specific did not belong in the published version, even though there
was no thought then of publishing it. It was obvious at some point,
though, that this was not just for Helen and Bill, so they were specifically
told to take out all material that did not belong to the actual teaching.
There was a wisdom to this, not only because much of it was private
and not meant for anyone else to see, but also, as Helen was more
than aware, because her ego definitely got in the way. The workbook
needed no changes at all; it was pretty straightforward, and the manual
was the same way, because by that time Helen was really in the scribal
groove, as it were, the writing just flowed through her.
As I mentioned, Helen and Bill had become friendly with Hugh Lynn Cayce,
who was a southern gentleman in every respect, obviously dedicated
to his father's work. He was very supportive of what Helen had
done and was impressed by her. There is a cute story in this regard.
I think the second or third time that Helen and Bill went down to
Virginia Beach to see him, they showed him some of what Helen was
already taking down, and he was impressed, believing that his father
had something to do with it. One of the stylistic peculiarities of
the early portions of the scribing is that it sounded like Edgar Cayce,
with some obvious
"Cayceisms." If you think the Course is hard to read,
you should try reading Cayce. There are a lot of archaicisms in the
Cayce material, and Helen, having read some of Cayce's work, was influenced
by him. And so you can see this influence at the beginning of
the text, but it quickly falls away.
And so this one time, a very skittish and anxious Helen was leaving
Hugh Lynn's office, and he said to her: "You must be a very advanced
soul, but you certainly don't look it." This was part of Helen's "costume."
She did not look "very advanced," I assure you, although she had a
definite air of authority about her, unmistakable to anyone who knew
her. Yet she acted like a typical neurotic—phobic and anxious— and
was quick to judge at the same time that this exalted piece of writing
was coming through her.
Early in the process of the retyping, Jesus told Helen: "Leave decisions
about editing to Bill." At that point, Bill was reasonably sane about
the Course and Helen was not—she would have
taken out anything that did not "read right" to her. This instruction
had to do with the original version that Helen was so anxious about,
and therefore her judgment would not be clear—Bill's would be—about
taking out the early material that did not belong. That certainly
did not mean that Bill was the one to do all the editing. This
was not his strength. Helen was the editor on their team. Bill did
not have the patience for it. In fact, when Helen and Bill would write
articles—they published many professional articles—Bill would write
the rough draft. Helen then would tear it apart, edit, and re-edit
it—still another source of tension in their already fractious relationship,
for they would argue constantly. Helen was indeed an inveterate editor,
and here is a funny story in that regard. There was the time when
I had a luncheon appointment with a friend, which Helen knew about.
When I was about to leave the office, Helen was on the phone, and
so I wrote her a very brief note, telling her I was leaving. Without
pausing in her conversation, she took out a pencil and began to edit
Regarding the Course, Helen never made editorial
decisions on her own. She was very clear that this was not her book.
While she claimed to be responsible only for the form, not the content
that she knew was not hers, she did nothing with this course that
she did not feel came with Jesus' blessing, including any thoughts
from Bill about what should be left in or taken out. As the editing
proceeded, the text was originally put in four volumes of thesis binders.
Helen would only want to show people volume IV because the writing
there is so beautiful.
Helen and Bill prepared an edition of the text for Hugh Lynn (and later
the workbook and manual), which we (Helen, Bill, and I) came to call
the Hugh Lynn Version, to differentiate it from the earlier manuscripts.
Thus, in this version there was a footnote that expressed gratitude
to Hugh Lynn for his support. Though gracious and sincere, it was
obviously meant only for Hugh Lynn Cayce. Also in that version, an
earlier archaicism was left in, where the Holy Spirit was referred
to as the Spiritual Eye, merely because Helen was nervous about the
phrase "Holy Spirit." Therefore she used "Spiritual Eye" as a euphemism—a
phrase, I think, that Cayce used. It dropped away after the early
sections, but it had been left in for the Hugh Lynn Version. And so
Helen decided to replace it with "the Holy Spirit."
I met Helen and Bill in the late fall of 1972.2 I was in the midst
of my own journey then, and was on the way to the Middle East. When
I returned in May 1973, I saw A Course in Miracles for
the first time, and what I saw was this Hugh Lynn Version. I read
it through twice—the text, workbook, and teacher's manual. After
my second reading—the fall of 1973—I said to Helen and Bill that I
thought the Course needed another edit,
for a number of reasons. The capitalization was notoriously inconsistent.
Helen felt that with very few exceptions, and I will mention those
as we go along, Jesus left it to her to capitalize, punctuate, make
paragraph breaks, and put in titles, because the text came through
without titles or breaks—no sections, chapters, or even paragraphs.
Helen, again, felt that was her job; that in effect Jesus did not
care about commas, semicolons, or paragraphs, but only the message.
And so Helen supplied the capitalization, punctuation, paragraphing,
and, along with Bill, the section and chapter titles. One prominent
exception was Jesus' insistence that Son of God always be capitalized,
to distinguish the Course's usage
from the traditional Christian one, where the term was reserved for
Jesus alone, and always capitalized. Therefore, he wanted the same
capitalized term to be used throughout the Course,
but with the meaning extended to embrace everyone, not just him. Atonement
had to be capitalized, too, differentiating it from the ego's atonement.
With those very, very few exceptions, everything on the form level was
left to Helen. Thus, when I read it, I felt that Helen's idiosyncrasies
needed to be smoothed out, and both Helen and Bill agreed. Let me
briefly discuss some more of these. Helen went through a period
where any word remotely associated with God or Heaven got capitalized.
And then Helen had two comma philosophies: more and less. Moreover,
she had a quaint British way of using a semicolon when a colon should
be used. The section and chapter titles were also a bit strange. Helen
would often entitle a section based on the first paragraph, and therefore
many titles did not quite fit, and some of the section breaks seemed
arbitrary as well. The paragraphing, too, was very inconsistent, and
I later found out why. Helen went through a period when she thought
every paragraph should have nine lines. She also had two philosophies
about the usage of the words "that" and "which," and could not make
up her mind which it should be; sometimes it would be "which," other
times "that," and I often had to go back over our editing and change
a that into a which, and vice versa. And the same with punctuation.
Helen would frequently change her mind about the commas, and so I
would go back over the manuscript and make the necessary adjustments.
What is important about this is to realize that Helen was very loose with this Course—not with the meaning, to be sure, nor the vocabulary, but in the sense that the form was not sacrosanct to her. Indeed, none of us thought this was a sacred text in which every word was literally the Word of God. Helen knew what A Course in Miracles said, and knew the way it should say it, and she never deviated from that, despite tinkering with the form.
There also was some material that did not belong, as it seemed to be
remnants from the old days—nothing that made any difference in terms
of the teaching; for example, there was a discussion about Freud that
did not fit, for it came out of nowhere and was out of keeping with
the rest of the material.
was a tremendous amount of punning and word-play in the dictation,
some of which is still there, but nothing to the extent that it was
at the beginning. Bill was a marvelous punster, and I have rarely
met anyone as quick or as clever with puns as he was. And so there
were all these puns that seemed designed to make Bill more comfortable.
Some of these were dreadful and were removed. Here is one example:
Jesus was making the point that he could reinterpret anything the
ego made into a right-minded thought. And so he took some of the more
prominent Freudian defense mechanisms and gave them spiritual interpretations.
It seemed a bit too cute to us to keep in. One example had to do with
fixation—we should be fixated on the divine; and sublimation—we should
be oriented towards the sublime. Therefore, these were taken out.
Bill had a thing about there being fifty miracle principles—he liked
the round number. When the principles originally came through,
there were forty-three, and this metamorphosed over the course of
Helen's retypings to fifty-three. In the original, as I mentioned
earlier, a miracle principle was given, and then came a long discussion,
followed by another principle. It was all very informal. Helen
and Bill, and then Helen and I—which I will get to shortly—made some
changes, where discussion material from the miracle principle was
taken out and put into a separate section in the same chapter. Since
Bill wanted fifty, and we knew this would not change the content at
all, Helen and I simply followed the earlier procedure by removing
three principles and incorporating them into other sections in the
chapter. So these were the kinds of things we did, and Helen never
made the final decision without checking first with Jesus to see if
there were any objections.
After discussing these editing issues, Helen and Bill agreed that the Course should
really be gone through one more time—word by word. As I have said,
Bill lacked the patience for this kind of work; he would not have
been able to sustain that much concentrated time with Helen over the
long period this would take. In addition, Helen and I were very comfortable
with each other and knew we would have no difficulty with this particular
assignment. And so we all agreed that Helen and I would go through
the entire Course, word by word. This took over a
year, most of the time being spent on the text, as the workbook and
manual required practically no editing.
We spent an inordinate amount of time on the first four chapters. It
has been suggested, I know, that this editing is something I essentially
did on my own, or that I influenced Helen's decisions. Anyone who
knew Helen would clearly recognize the absurdity of this idea.
No one, including Jesus, could ever get her to do anything she did
not want to do. To think that I could have had an influence on Helen
is most strange. Indeed, we were very close and she respected me—I
was like her spiritual son—but in no way could that be taken to mean
that something I might suggest would be seen as gospel, unless she
believed it to be true and checked it first with Jesus.
Let me give another example of personal material that was taken out.
There was a section called "True Rehabilitation" that was specifically
meant for Bill, to help him with his own bodily concerns as he prepared
to attend a conference on rehabilitation at Princeton University.
While the message was personal to Bill, it remained in the Hugh Lynn
Version that Helen and I were editing. We all agreed it did not belong
in the published Course (although I did
reproduce it in Absence from Felicity). However,
the close of the message contained a lovely prayer, which was perfect
for the Course. Helen and Bill asked me
to find a place for it, and "Special Principles of Miracle Workers"
in Chapter 2 seemed like a perfect fit, where it is now. Among ourselves
we referred to it as the "Prayer for Salvation," and it begins with
the words: "I am here only to be truly helpful."
There were three other sections, or parts of sections, that began as
personal messages to Helen, or to Helen and Bill, but fit in perfectly
with the flow of the teaching material: "True Empathy" (Chapter 16),
"I Need Do Nothing" (Chapter 18), and "The Branching of the Road"
(Chapter 22). There is also "Right Teaching and Right Learning" in
Chapter 4, which was originally meant for Bill, who was terrified
of having to teach an undergraduate course in psychology at Columbia
University. The personal material was removed (though, again, I cite
much of this in my book), leaving the more general teaching. There
was also an interesting addition. A relatively major focus of my time
with Helen was her poetry, and one of my "assignments" was to rescue
scraps of poems that Helen would write on little pieces of paper.
If I were able to preserve these, Helen was later able to generate
the rest of the poem. This was always successful, except for one fragment
that Helen could never do anything with. Finally one day, she said
to me that this fragment was not a poem but belonged in the Course,
and she wanted me to find the right place. The verse began with the
lines "There is a risk in thinking death is peace," and it found its
rightful home in Chapter 27 of the text. All these examples are
discussed in more detail in Absence from
they serve to illustrate the point that the scribing of A
Course in Miracles was more informal than one might
You can see Helen's writing on our edited pages, which remain in my
safekeeping. My writing is there as well, where I rewrote something
as per her instructions, or made suggestions for her to review. As
often as possible during the day, Helen and I would go through the Course,
and every once in a while Helen would say, "I changed this word. This
is what it should be," and we would go back to what she originally
heard. Any changes that were made I would then take home with me,
type up, and present the copy to Helen the next day, and we would
go over it. To repeat, the first four chapters were a tremendous amount
of work, so much so that I once said to Helen: "Why don't you just
ask Jesus to dictate this again; it would save us both a lot of time."
I shall not repeat her not-so-delicate response.
Thus, anything that was changed was done so, first of all, because of
style—the writing, to use Helen's word, was clunky, meaning awkward.
And so she wanted to clarify the writing because she knew her hearing
was not that clear in the beginning. We made the changes that Bill
had requested—we took material out of the miracle principles and made
it into sections, as I mentioned earlier, so that there would be exactly
Therefore, we kept the meaning, and the changes made it much more readable.
What was originally there was not how it was supposed to be in the
published version. Again, Helen's hearing was rusty at the beginning,
and her considerable anxiety colored what she heard. Students really
have to be clear that these are not the literal words of Jesus—the
meaning is, but not the actual language. As I said before, Helen's
ego got in the way of some of the more specific messages to her (and
the editing was completed, we then had it retyped. When I later saw
the notebooks and Urtext, I realized that some of what I was reading
was not in the published text, but clearly should have been as it
came later in the scribing, an obvious result of Helen's retypings.
For example, when Helen was retyping the text, one of the pages had
stuck to another. As a result, there were three paragraphs she never
saw when she was typing. Therefore that material never made it into
that version or any of the subsequent ones. Nothing in those paragraphs
was different in meaning from what was already in the Course,
but clearly should have been in. I recognized, too, other passages
that had been inadvertently left out. When the written material is
typed and retyped, mistakes happen, especially if the retypings are
not adequately proofread, which was the case with the Course.
We subsequently did proofread it at our Foundation in New York, with
one group of people reading from the Urtext to be sure that we finally
got everything right. We discovered there were words, sentences, and
paragraphs left out, mostly in the text, and one we found had been
omitted from the teachers manual. Incidentally, an errata booklet,
available free of charge from the Foundation, was prepared for the
second printing and lists all of the added material.
There were some other minor corrections and changes. As A
Course in Miracles was originally written
for Helen and Bill, Jesus would frequently address her and
Bill and say "you and each other." However, the Course is
not meant to be read by anyone but one person—each of us—who
is involved in a myriad number of relationships. And so
"you and each other" became "you and your brother."
The change was easy, for it maintained the meter—always
a concern of Helen. Yet we had missed some in our editing.
The decision made by the Foundation for Inner Peace and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles to put out a second edition of the Course in the early 1990s gave us a chance to restore all the omitted material. This was also the time when we instituted the numbering system, which we needed for the concordance we were working on3, as well as to provide a common way of referring to verses for the various translations that were beginning to emerge, similar to the Bible where, for example, anyone in the world can find John 5:16, regardless of the edition, pagination, or language. You just go to the fifth chapter, sixteenth verse in John's gospel. With the new numbering system, Course students all over the world could do the same thing.
Helen and Bill knew I would never violate their trust, they put me
in charge of what we called the archives—the notebooks and all the
subsequent typings—as Helen was always misplacing or losing things,
and Bill was not very organized. Thus I became the archivist, and
still have this material in my possession.
As I mentioned earlier, much of what I am saying now is in my book, Absence from
Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing
of "A Course in Miracles." I included there a good part
of the Urtext material that was relevant to understanding Helen
and Bill's experience of the scribing. Since I was quoting this
material, I felt I should copyright it, which in hindsight appears
was a mistake, and indeed, my wise wife Gloria cautioned me against
doing this. This was a Herculean task. The Foundation staff made
copies of all the material and these were sent to the Copyright
Office in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. What could
be safer, I thought, than the Library of Congress?
While I had a copy of the Hugh Lynn Version of the Course—actually
it was just the textbook—the original, as I stated earlier, was presented
by Helen and Bill to Hugh Lynn Cayce, and was eventually put in the
rare books section of the A.R.E. library at their headquarters in
Virginia Beach. Many years later, when I was giving some lectures
at the A.R.E., Charles Thomas Cayce, Hugh Lynn's son and the grandson
of Edgar Cayce, took Gloria and me into that locked room to show us
the manuscript that had been given many years earlier to his father.
As is widely known, there was a court case involving infringement of
the copyright by the Endeavor Academy in Wisconsin, an action brought
about by the Foundation for Inner Peace, the publisher of the Course,
and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles,
its sister organization and copyright holder of the Course.
This is not the place to discuss the details, except to say that they
were doing inappropriate things with the Course and
we were trying to stop them. As part of the proceedings, I was deposed
by Endeavor's attorney, who asked me, among other things, about the
manuscripts. I mentioned that the Hugh Lynn Version, the one that
Helen and I edited, was in the A.R.E. library. Armed with that information,
some people subsequently and unlawfully removed the manuscript from
the A.R.E., copied it, and then returned it to the library. It was
later published under the name "Jesus' Course in Miracles." The contention
was that I was the one who had changed Jesus' Course,
and that the authentic Course was the Hugh
Lynn Version that "Bill" edited. I was thus viewed as an upstart who
came along with his own ideas about what the Course said
and convinced Helen to make changes; a belief hard to understand because
nothing was changed in terms of meaning and, as I have indicated,
almost all changes occurred at the beginning of the text. At any rate,
the claim was that the Course published
by the Foundation for Inner Peace was not the true Course.
Then something happened I never would have thought possible: Under false
pretenses, the notebooks and Urtext were taken from the Library of
Congress and copied, a violation of federal law. We talked to legal
authorities at the Library, who were outraged. However, it was clear
that this case was very small potatoes to them. The Library of Congress
is under the Department of Justice, which has other things on its
mind besides someone taking a manuscript that is of no importance
to anyone outside of a very small group. So nothing was ever done
about it. We were assured by Library officials that this would never
happen again, but of course that was of no help in our situation.
The people who were now in possession of the illegally obtained material—the
notebooks, Urtext and Hugh Lynn Version—had it scanned or retyped,
and have made it available on the Internet and elsewhere for purchase.
That, then, is how all this material got out. The court case was concluded in 2003 and the copyright was declared invalid. This, however, did not apply to the Course's Preface, the additional material added to the Second Edition, the Clarification of Terms, and the two pamphlets, Psychotherapy and The Song of Prayer. Moreover, the Foundation still owns the copyright to the notebooks, Urtext, and the Hugh Lynn Version. As a result, when you go now to amazon.com and call up A Course in Miracles, the chances are, if you are not aware of this background, that you may be selecting the Endeavor or some other version, which is being marketed as the original Course. The Endeavor group has also included Matthew's gospel in the Course, because they have always held thatt the Course and the Bible are the same. Thus, in that version you are not going to get the true Course at all, not even the Urtext or Hugh Lynn version. There are at least two other versions being marketed as well. Thus people now can do just about anything they want with the Course.
What is most important to consider about the public exposure of these
earlier manuscripts is that regardless of the version you read, you
will receive the essential teaching of the Course. In
that sense, no real harm has been done.
In another sense, however, the situation is unfortunate because people could
be misled, and at this point nothing can be done about it—the horse is out of
the barn, as it were; Pandora's box is open and can never be closed again—except,
perhaps, to clarify what inquiring students may be reading. Let me cite some
examples. There is material in the Urtext about sex and sexuality, an area that
will almost certainly pique the curiosity (if not prurient interest) of students.
Thus, for example, one will read that homosexuality is essentially a pathology
(the traditional psychoanalytic view), and that the only purpose for sex is procreation,
two positions that are antithetical to Jesus' own teachings in the Course about
seeing all forms of the ego's world as the same, the correction to the ego's
first law of chaos that there is a hierarchy of illusion (T-23.II.2). To believe
that these would be the words and thoughts of Jesus is as preposterous and unthinkable
an idea as to believe that I could influence Helen as to what belonged in the Course and
what did not. It should be obvious that these beliefs belong to Helen and not
to Jesus. Helen had her own biases about sex, and unfortunately they came through
in these early passages. Yet those who believe that every word in the Urtext
is sacred and are Jesus' words can use statements like these to support their
own preconceived notions. This same issue holds, though perhaps with less emotionality,
with material related to Edgar Cayce, Freud, and other psychologists (Helen,
as I mentioned, did not like Jung), etc.
It would be helpful to digress a moment to speak about Jesus, the scribing, and Helen's relationship to it. Again, this is discussed in much greater depth in my book and also CDs. To begin with, Jesus does not speak words. It is really important to understand this. I remember when we are at an airport, a very sincere woman came up to Helen after hearing us speak, and asked: "How could Jesus have dictated the Course; he didn't know English?" I don't recall Helen's response to this sweet question, except that she was gracious in providing a brief reply (we had to catch a plane). The question, however, reflects an important point. Again, Jesus does not speak in words. To say it differently and succinctly here, his is the content; our minds (and brains) supply the form. Therefore, Helen's decision-making mind identified itself with the non-ego presence that is in everyone. This non-judgmental thought system of love was represented for her by Jesus, as it is for so many of us. Her mind took that non-specific love and translated it into words, in much the same way as our brains translate the upside-down image cast on the retina into right-side-up perceptions. And so, as I have said many times, the form of the Course is from Helen. Here are some illustrative examples of the formal qualities of A Course in Miracles that can be directly attributable to its scribe:
1) It is in the English language.
2) Its idiom is American. There is even a reference to the Declaration of Independence and American currency of "green paper strips."
3) Helen philosophically was a Platonist. The philosophy of A Course in Miracles is Platonic, and there are even references to Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave from the Republic. Moreover, the statement that "words are but symbols of symbols. . . .[and] are thus twice removed from reality" (M-21.1:9-10), is also directly taken from the Republic.
4) Helen loved Shakespeare. The Course is Shakespearean in its language. Much of it is written in blank verse (unrhymed poetry) and in iambic pentameter, the form of Shakespeare's poetry. One can also find allusions to Hamlet, Helen's favorite play.
5) Helen was enamored of the King James version of the Bible. She did not like the content of the Bible at all, but loved the way it was written. Thus, in the Course one finds biblical "archaicisms"—the Elizabethan way of speaking.
6) Helen was fiercely logical. She had one of the most logical minds I have ever seen, and A Course in Miracles develops its thought system—the ego's and the Holy Spirit's—in a strictly logical manner. In addition, one finds that the syllogistic form of argument is both implicitly and explicitly used.
7) Helen was an educator. The Course's curricular format is clear: text, workbook for students, manual for teachers; the Holy Spirit is our Teacher; and the language throughout reflects the learning aspects of the curriculum.
8) Helen was a psychologist. Her psychological background was Freudian and she had a great respect for Freud's work. As I have been saying for over thirty years: without Freud, one would not have A Course in Miracles, as the presentation of the ego thought system is heavily based upon Freud's remarkable insights, which were second nature to Helen.
9) Helen had a love-hate relationship with Jesus. Of course there is no hate in the Course in terms of Jesus, but no one can mistake his loving and non-judgmental presence throughout.
And so, we can see how the form of the Course is
all Helen's. Interestingly, however, the style of the writing
was not Helen's, who wrote in an almost Spartan style, appropriate
for scientific writing, in contrast to the more poetic and grammatically
loose sentence structure one finds in the Course, which
incidentally used to drive Helen up a wall. The
content of A
Course in Miracles, however, is clearly not Helen's,
at least not the Helen the world knew or the person she consciously
identified with. This explains why she felt at liberty to change
the form, though never the content. Helen knew what the published Course ought
to be. One could make recommendations, and Bill and I did from
time to time, but Helen had the finished form already in her
head. And so the Course published
by the Foundation for Inner Peace is the way its scribe knew it
should be. I do believe it is a violation of hers and Bill's privacy
to read the Urtext (or any other version) when she only sanctioned
the Foundation's publication. Helen and Bill wanted me to read
it, but it is like reading someone's private diaries. Why would you
want to do that, especially when asked not to, unless you are looking
for conflict and guilt? Recall these words from the Introduction to
the Clarification of Terms:
All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. (C-in.2:1-3)
Once again, the personal and private material in the Urtext does not
belong in any published version. Most writers destroy all the earlier
versions when they finish a manuscript. I do that when I complete
a book and it is published. In reading the Urtext, students of A
Course in Miracles are not going to find "Jesus' authentic
words," but the writings of a woman struggling (at first) with the
scribal process, and thus are reading what was never meant to be read.
Now, if you do read it, I am not saying Helen will strike you dead
with a thunderbolt, or that it is sinful, but you should at least
ask yourself why you are doing so. As Jesus emphasizes throughout
his Course: purpose is everything; we need
to ask only one question of anything: What is it for? I can guarantee
you one thing, however: the Urtext will not enhance your understanding
of the Course. If anything, it will confuse
you because, as I have indicated, you will come across specific things
that were not meant to be read by the public and will seem to contradict
what the Course itself
teaches, not to mention its use of words and terms that suggest the
opposite of what the Course's teachings
Therefore, a question that I think should be asked by students of A
Course in Miracles who are interested in this
material is: "Why would I want to read something that might
be construed as teaching something different from what the Course is
actually saying, not to mention that Jesus, Helen, and Bill
in effect asked me not to?" It is also helpful to remember
that the material that some focus on came during the very
early weeks of the scribing, and what followed was hardly
changed at all. We thus are speaking of what happened when
Helen's hearing was not that accurate. It was during this
time, as I mentioned, that Helen was still influenced by
Edgar Cayce, and this was reflected in what she wrote down.
However, this interference was short-lived. Yet if readers
of the Urtext are not aware of this aspect of Helen's scribing,
they can easily be confused and misled into thinking, to
give one instance, that the Course is
teaching that the world is real. To be sure, there are intimations
of this at the beginning—in marked distinction from the
rest of the Course—which reflects
the Cayce influence, wherein this great psychic stated that
God created the world as a classroom, after the separation.
Again, this is hardly the position of A Course
remember on one occasion that Helen and I were with someone who was
prominently associated with the Course,
but did not really know what it said. Helen said to him that he would
never understand this Course unless he recognized
that this world is an illusion. She was very emphatic: This world
is an illusion. God had nothing to do with it, and you will not understand
this course that way. Again, no one understood this Course better
There is an interesting story about Helen when we were going through
the editing process—it was actually quite funny. Helen would frequently
become anxious during our editing, and one of the ways she would express
her anxiety was that when we would read a paragraph, she would start
to laugh and then say: "This makes absolutely no sense to me."
So the first teaching I actually did was "teaching" Helen, knowing
full well that she knew full well what the passage meant. And I also
knew that if I had said something that was wrong, she would have corrected
me on the spot. Helen knew the Course from
the inside out. She hardly ever read it, but could quote it at will.
In the years we were together, we would always quote lines back and
forth, when we weren't quoting Hamlet. She would get quite judgmental
and angry with people who pretended to know what it said but did not.
She was very clear that she was never going to teach it formally,
but she did not want anyone else teaching it who was obviously expressing
his or her ego, and not Jesus.
Returning to this important point, there is a prominent idea that what
Helen took down are Jesus' literal words; they are therefore sacred
and should never have been altered. This is as patently absurd as
the lady who wrote to me after the second (and numbered) edition was
published, accusing me of changing Jesus' Course by
adding numbers to it. Helen did not think that way. A lot of what
she heard at the beginning was just wrong, and she of course knew
that. Again, I had many personal experiences with Helen of her writing
down messages she said were from Jesus. This, by the way, occurred
during the same time period when she was writing down the pamphlets,
which are certainly pure in their teaching. Inaccuracies were frequently
the result when she was involved with specifics. Here are some additional
I think it was 1976, a year after we met Judith Skutch, the eventual
publisher of the Course through
the Foundation for Inner Peace. Helen, Bill, Judy, and I were discussing
what we thought was going to happen with the Course and
our work with it. As was typical during this period, Helen wrote down
a message for us, probably somewhere in the summer, and it said that
"This year will end in blazing glory." The meaning was that there
was to be some magnificent breakthrough; perhaps, we thought, Helen
and Bill's relationship would be healed and we would all ride off
into the spiritual sunset together—i.e., wonderful things would be
happening. Well, weeks and months went by, and no blazing glory. Finally,
it was December 31st and we were still waiting. Judy was giving a
New Year's Eve party in her apartment, which overlooked Central Park
and provided a beautiful view of the sky. Sometime later in the evening,
New York City put on its New Year's Eve fireworks display, and we
turned to each other and said: "There's the blazing glory!" Obviously,
Helen had been wrong.
Another instance of Helen's inaccuracy with specifics was when she saw
her own tombstone, indicating that she would die when she was 72.
Well, she died when she was 71. It was close, but if you are Jesus'
scribe, you should not be off even a little. She also that said Bill
would die within a year of her death, which became a big concern for
Bill. But he lived another seven years and died in 1988. Finally,
Helen said that her husband Louis would die within five or six
years of her death, but he lived for almost another nineteen years!
And so Helen was frequently wrong when it came to specifics—the ego
loves specifics— or when her messages related to areas in which she
was conflicted, as with sex and death. She was not wrong, however,
when her ego was not involved. This is why you can trust what the
published Course says.
Thus, it became very clear to me in the years I knew Helen that I should
take with a grain of salt some of the things she said or wrote as
coming from Jesus, and this clearly included the early Urtext material.
Unfortunately, there are also some things there that if you do not
know the context, you will not understand what they refer to,
or what they mean. This inevitably means that those who were not present
and did not know Helen or Bill will misunderstand much of what is
Finally, I can assure all students of A Course in Miracles that they have not been cheated, and Helen, Bill, and I worked very hard to be sure that the book published by the Foundation for Inner Peace was the way Jesus meant it to be, and certainly the way Helen knew he wanted it.
It goes without saying that I do not want people to feel guilty if they
buy or read the other versions. People should do whatever they want,
as long as it is not hurtful; and contrary to what some people might
say, there is no "Pope of the Course." So,
whatever you do with the Course, what
is most important is that it be done without anger, judgment, or feelings
of unfair treatment. Those responses are always of the ego. Thus,
whatever you do, try to have the motivation be ego free. In that way,
whatever you do will be loving.
While some may be tempted to argue about the merits of the different
versions, all that is really important is where the Course comes
from: everyone's right mind, which each of us can choose at any point.
If you find yourself getting caught up in controversy, thinking the
arguments mean something, you will argue and see differences, where
in truth there are none. Differences undoubtedly exist in form (the
body), but never in content (the mind). Thus there can be no significant
differences among those who represent different positions. Seeing
differences and making them into something serious is when the ego
catches us, for we are remembering not to laugh at the tiny, mad idea
of separation (T-27.VIII.6:2
What motivates people to stir up controversy is the need to have there
be conflict; and when there is conflict, you know the ego has been
invited in. There can be no conflict in one's right mind, because there
everyone is perceived to be the same. Whatever differences exist,
again, are only on the illusory level of the body. Bodies differ.
People write different books and say different things; but if you
make these differences significant and the object of controversy and
conflict, if not war, then you know which voice you are listening
to. Our only responsibility is to hear the Voice of peace, and when
we do, we recognize that controversies are like boys and girls
playing in a sandbox. But you cannot get sand in your eyes unless
you sit down with them and play in the sand. If you stand up as an
adult, with Jesus by your side, then whatever is happening in the
sandbox is of no consequence to you, which means that nothing that
goes on in the world can change the experience of God's Love in your
Whether or not you agree with the issues generated by the differing
versions of A Course in Miracles is irrelevant.
Obviously everyone has a position, but that position should not affect
your peace or your vision that sees everyone involved in the issue
as the same. That means that what is going on now with the Course is
just another classroom; another way of seeing whether you want to
get your hands, feet, and eyes filled with sand, or to be able to
stand with Jesus and be at peace. When you choose vision instead of
judgment, as Jesus is always asking us to do, you will see that everyone
is involved in the same quest for returning to the mind and choosing
again, and that everyone is tempted to be afraid of this journey.
When people are afraid, they get caught in the sandbox and start playing
with its toys as if they were weapons.
The point here is that people should take whatever stand they think
is right, but to try not to let it amount to anything. The only position
that is truly right is that we all made the same mistake of choosing
the wrong teacher, and now we can make the correction by choosing
again. That is the only thing that is important. What is happening
now is just another opportunity to choose differently—to see shared
instead of separate interests.
Your perspective on A Course in Miracles will
be warped if you see it in any way as part of the world of separation
and form. It is said that the Buddha once remarked: "What are known
as the teachings of the Buddha are not the teachings of the Buddha."
And the same can be said for the Course.
In other words, A Course in Miracles is
not really a book, nor even a body of specific teachings. It is a
symbol for the Atonement, the correction for the thought of separation
that is in everyone's mind. When we recognize this, it would be impossible
to judge other students, teachers, or the Course vis
a vis itself or other spiritualities. We would not accord it any meaning
that is fragmenting or separating. This means that we realize that
what is holy is not the book, or Helen—her notebooks, pen, or the
fingers that held the pen. It is the thought system in our equal minds
that is holy. Otherwise the Course becomes
just another symbol of specialness and a means of justifying the ego's
projection of guilt in the form of judgment, division, and conflict.
Just as Christianity ended up as a religion of hate and even murder,
this Course could end up like that, too.
Unfortunately, its short history already reflects some of the same
dynamics of separation, judgment and exclusion. Yet what else
would one expect from the ego? In other words, A Course
in Miracles is written by the mind, for the mind—that
it correct itself.
Yes, it is important that this communication from Jesus be transmitted accurately, as accurately as is possible, although perfect communication is impossible within the illusion. Yet keep in mind, to say it one more time, that the true communication is not the words, but the love with which Helen joined in her mind, and which is in our own as well—a love that reflects the perfect love and oneness of Heaven. And so, work with whatever symbols are meaningful to you, but do so in such a way that you have no investment in the outcome. Fulfill your function of forgiveness as purely as you can, and what happens after that will not be your concern; otherwise you fall into the ego's trap of substituting form for content, one of the prime characteristics of special relationships. That is why I keep insisting that A Course in Miracles is not A Course in Miracles -- at least not the book or its words. If we can remember the love that is the Course, we will not be taken in by the ego's seductions of differences and controversy. And when we are able to keep that love pure in ourselves, we will not make the seeming purity of the form so important, recognizing that we are one in content, albeit different in form. And learning to remember that shared content of love in all God's Sons is the sum and substance of A Course in Miracles