rate, I was reading the text again, and very carefully at this point. I
commented to Helen and Bill that I thought the manuscript needed some additional
editing. Some of the personal and professional material still remained,
and seemed inappropriate for a published edition. The first four chapters
did not read well at all, in large part because the deleted personal material
left gaps in the remaining text, and thus required minor word additions
to smooth the transition. Also, some of the divisions in the material appeared
arbitrary to me, and many of the section and chapter titles did not really
coincide with the material. (I later learned that Helen's usual methodology
was to draw the section title from its opening lines, even if the subsequent
material went in a different direction.) Finally, the paragraphing, punctuation,
and capitalization were not only idiosyncratic, but notoriously inconsistent.
Helen and Bill
agreed that it did need a final run-through. As Bill lacked the patience
and attention to detail that was needed for such a task, we decided that
Helen and I should go through it together. And so we did, never realizing
just how long it would take us to complete the editing. I earlier quoted
Helen's statement that she had come to think of A Course in Miracles as
her life's work, and she approached the editing project with a real dedication.
She and I meticulously went over every word to be sure that the final manuscript
Helen was a compulsive
editor, and an excellent one at that. She would not really edit a manuscript,
however; she attacked it. While Helen had a pronounced writer's block,
as discussed earlier, no such block existed when it came to editing something
previously written. One day I was leaving the office for a luncheon appointment,
and Helen was on the phone. I scribbled a two-line note telling her I was
leaving and that I would be back later. Without batting an eye or losing
the train of thought in her phone conversation, Helen picked up a pencil
and began to edit my note. I always regretted not having kept it afterwards.
It was therefore all the more remarkable that she was able to resist the
great temptation, not to mention compulsive need, to edit the Course and
"improve it." To be sure, some amount of editing was needed in the early
chapters, and Helen felt that Jesus was helping her to do just that. But
otherwise, she was basically able to leave the manuscript alone.
The editing was
not without its humorous moments -- despite Helen's obvious discomfort
-- and there were quite a few of them. Helen's now almost legendary anxiety
surrounding the Course was probably never in fuller force. While she most
definitely wanted us to complete the editing project, she nonetheless would
find almost any excuse to distract us from not sitting down and doing it.
The project took us considerably longer than it had to because of these
delays, circumstances not too dissimilar from the dictation of A Course
in Miracles itself, which clearly did not have to consume seven full years.
We did most of
the editing either in Helen's offices at the Neurological Institute and
Black Building, at my studio apartment, or at Helen's apartment, the last
being Helen's favorite place. Thus we would often sit together on her living
room couch and work. Invariably, however, Helen would start to fall
asleep. We would be editing, and suddenly I would look to my left, and
there Helen would be, stumping in the corner of the couch, her usually
very alert eyes practically closed. Very often the sleepiness would be
accompanied by pronounced yawning jags that made speaking almost impossible.
And then there were the times when Helen would simultaneously begin to
cough, as if trying to expel some foreign agent stuck in her throat. At
these moments Helen would begin to laugh at the obviousness of her ego's
defenses, tears streaming down her face as she did so, in accompaniment
to this very well orchestrated anxiety fugue of yawns, coughs, and laughter.
I could not help thinking then of the end to Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger,
where three themes combine in a masterpiece of lighthearted contrapuntal
writing. The good nature of Wagner's music was mirrored for me in the gentle
humor of Helen's ego diversions, at least this aspect of them.
And then there
was the time we were returning from the Medical Center, walking on 14th
Street from Eighth to Third Avenues, on our way home to continue the editing.
We were literally in the middle of Sixth Avenue when I brought up an editing
question. I received no response and turned around, only to find Helen
on the ground, again laughing heartily at herself. There were no potholes
or crevices in the street that could have caused her to stumble, but there
certainly were the inner potholes of fear that periodically reared their
ugly head to trip Helen up. In this case, the only real victim was Helen's
pantyhose that tore in the fall.
A major focus
of our work was the early chapters of the text. We went through at least
two complete edits of these, and many, many partial ones. As I indicated
in Part II, the first weeks of the dictation were characterized not only
by Helen's extreme anxiety and fear, but by the informality of Jesus' dictation
to her. The conversational tone of these sessions, coupled with the personal
material that was interwoven with the actual teaching, made the editing
very difficult. As briefly mentioned above, stylistic gaps were left when
the personal material was taken out. Incidentally, the miracle principles
that properly begin the text did not come point by point, but were interspersed
with considerable other material, as is apparent in the excerpts cited
in Chapter 8.
I remember half-jokingly
asking Helen at one point to suggest to Jesus that perhaps he might re-dictate
the early chapters, but it was clear that this was not going to be done.
We thus did the best we could in reorganizing this material into coherent
sections and chapters that would fit in with the text as a whole. A discerning
reader can sense the difference in tone and style as the text continues.
Roughly the current fifth chapter of the text marks one such dividing line,
after which the text was dictated pretty much as it is found now. Personal
material that came afterwards did not present the same editing problem,
as I commented above, for it was not so interwoven with the material of
the text itself.
Our basic procedure
was that early in the morning I would read through the material we would
cover later that day, or review our previous day's work. I would pencil
in those corrections and changes I thought were necessary. Helen and I
would then go over these together, after which I would go back over what
we had done, and re-present this to Helen. This procedure went back and
forth in these early chapters, until we felt it was the way Jesus wanted
it. We both felt his presence guiding us in this work, and it was clear
for the most part that our personal preferences and concerns played no
important role in these decisions. I added the qualifying phrase "for the
most part," as Helen did feel that Jesus allowed her the license to make
minor changes in the form, as long as the content itself was not affected.
This license only extended itself to questions of punctuation, paragraphing,
capitalization, and minor word changes (such as switching "that" for "which,"
and vice versa; see more below), but never to the inclusion or exclusion
of important material.
during our editing Helen would recognize a word that she had changed from
the original dictation, and that she and Bill had not caught in their initial
editing. And so we changed these words back to the original ones. I was
impressed throughout by the integrity with which Helen went about the editing.
I have already remarked on the ferocity of her editing when it came to
professional writings, and yet she was able to resist such compulsivity
during the editing of the Course. Any changes we made in the order of material
(I've indicated earlier how certain paragraphs were moved around) we showed
Bill, who likewise shared Helen's attitude of absolute integrity and fidelity
to the original dictation.
Bill usually was
most uninterested in form, but I remember two strong exceptions. Helen
had told me how insistent he was that the final inspiring paragraph of
the text -- "And now we say 'Amen,"' -- not be broken up, and that the
full paragraph be on one page. He continued his insistence with the published
edition, although it naturally fell that way in the typesetting. Second,
Bill insisted that there be fifty miracle principles, even though in the
original dictation there were only 43, later changed to 53 in the two re-typings
by Helen. Again, this kind of insistence was unlike Bill. In these numbering
changes, incidentally, no text was added or deleted; the material was simply