Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Course in Miracles Behind the Scenes

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle."
~Albert Einstein, (1879-1955)

A few years ago A Course in Miracles received a lot of attention. It seems in more recent times the popularity, or at least all the talk about The Secret, may have temporarily replaced the A Course in Miracles movement. The Secret is really not a new idea at all, but an outgrowth of the power of positive thinking, and later what has become known as the law of attraction (especially through the channeling of Abraham by Esther Hicks).

But back to A Course in Miracles. The Course came to my attention while living in Southern California. I cannot recall who first introduced me to it in the 1980’s but I have several friends who have studied it for years. While living in Sedona, AZ, I did attend a few Course meetings.

But I was more intrigued with the inspirational story of how A Course in Miracles came about than I was the actual lessons of the Course.

Don and I wrote about it in our book, Whispers From the Soul: The Divine Dance of Consciousness by Don and Linda Pendleton:

One of the most intriguing spiritual channeling processes of modern times involves the development of A Course In Miracles, which is said to have been "given" directly to Helen Schucman by Jesus himself.

Helen's father was a chemist of Jewish decent but professed no religious affiliation whatsoever and considered himself an atheist. Helen's mother was the daughter of a rabbi but she had turned to Theosophy when Helen was very young. Helen had forever struggled as a child with her religious identity. She was very moved at the age of twelve during a visit to Lourdes with her parents, deciding that she should become Catholic but soon changed her mind. The following year she embraced Protestantism and was even baptized in a Baptist Church but that failed also. "I'd been baptized, but nothing was changed. I still couldn't see God." Eventually she decided on agnosticism while retaining a strong religious sense but later considered herself to be an atheist. Deciding on a purely rationalistic life even before entering college, she became an English Major, then more than a dozen years later, returned to academia for her 1957 Doctorate in Psychology.

Early in her college years, Helen encountered her first mystical experience while riding on a subway train. Feeling disgust with the display of human insensitivity so often encountered on New York subways, she was inwardly rebelling against those images when she closed her eyes and instantly encountered her epiphany in a blaze of blinding light, radiant with intense love and understanding. She was so overwhelmed that she gasped and opened her eyes. For a moment, that intense love engulfed everything in that subway car, to the point that she saw the entire scene through totally different eyes. What she had earlier seen as ugliness, she now perceived as beauty. It was like discovering truth for the first time. As the light faded, the earlier ugly reality returned but the contrast had so shocked her that it took awhile before she could regain her composure. However, the vision itself was not sufficient to alter her religious views; she continued to think of herself as an atheist.

It was in 1958 that Helen met forty-two year old William N. Thetford, Ph.D., fourteen years her junior, who hired her to assist him in special projects for the Psychology Department at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Thetford was a Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the Psychology Department at Presbyterian Hospital. His parents were Christian Scientists until the death of his nine-year old sister when he was seven. Grief stricken, the parents renounced their religious affiliation. It seems that Thetford had no particular interest in religion as an adult and had not been involved in the paranormal until after meeting Helen Schucman.

The working relationship between the two was often strained even though both exhibited mutual respect. Continuing conflict eventually led them into a pact to resolve their differences. Shortly thereafter, in 1965, Schucman began to be disturbed by psychic manifestations that were then plaguing her. He became fascinated by her visions and joined her in an attempt to understand and further investigate the phenomena, supporting her even to the point of taking her to Virginia Beach where they met with officials of the Cayce Foundation's A.R.E.

On an evening in October, 1965, Schucman excitedly telephoned Thetford in somewhat of a panic to report that the "inner Voice" was insisting that she take notes of its message to her. Thetford calmly and reassuringly suggested that she simply take down the notes in her private shorthand. She began this way:

"This is a course in miracles. It is a required
subject. Only the time you take it is voluntary.
Free will does not mean that you can establish the
curriculum. It means only that you can elect what
you want to take at a given time. The course does
not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that
is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however,
at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's
presence, which is your natural inheritance. The
opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing
can have no opposite.
This course can therefore be summed up very
simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God."

For more than seven years, Helen and Bill met in his office each work day morning on their own time and Bill, at the typewriter with Helen dictating from her shorthand notebook, would transcribe the information that Helen received the night before.

Even before the complete course had been set to paper, interested friends were sharing the unpublished 1,500 page manuscript and spreading it around the country, much like an underground press, and since its formal publication in 1975, A Course in Miracles has sold millions of copies worldwide and has been the subject of workshops everywhere.

Marianne Williamson has been conducting study groups and workshops, teaching the basic principles of the Course since 1983. In her Preface to A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, she explains that the Christian terminology in the book put her off a bit when she first encountered it in 1976 but a year later she found that, "...This time, I knew immediately that the Course had something very important to teach me. It used traditional Christian terms, but in decidedly nontraditional, nonreligious ways. I was struck, as most people are, by the profound authority of its voice. It answered questions I had begun to think were unanswerable. It talked about God in brilliant psychological terms, challenging my intelligence and never insulting it. It's a bit cliché to say this, but I felt like I had come home."

However one may feel about the source of the material, this work has touched millions of lives around the world so certainly can rest on its own power to enthrall.

© Copyright 2003, 2009 by Linda Pendleton

You may read more about the development of A Course in Miracles in the book, Journey Without Distance by Robert Skutch.



Anonymous said...

Beautiful, and so true. The Light is all around us and we are swimming in miracles.

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

How strange, I was just in the bookstore two days ago looking for a Course in Miracles...

Thanks for the info, I didn't know how it got started, only that MaryAnne Williamson was the spokesperson.

Linda Pendleton said...

how right you are. :-)

Nancy, don't you just love synchronicity? :-)