THE EDITING (1973-1975)

Chapter 12:Absence from Felicity: 
The Story of Helen Schucman  and 

by Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

I completed my first reading of A Course in Miracles during the ten weeks I spent back in the States in 1973.  I read a copy of Helen's second retyping (at least of  the text) which was presented to Hugh Lynn Cayce, and thus it was named by us, as mentioned earlier, the "Hugh Lynn Version."  The text, incidentally, was divided  at that time into four volumes, corresponding to the four thesis binders Bill had  bought to house the manuscript. I read the text, workbook, and manual straight  through, and then began the text again when I returned to Israel. Helen, Bill, and I agreed to do the workbook together, but only on Helen's condition that we start  with Lesson 51, the beginning of the review  for the first fifty lessons. Helen never  liked the first fifty lessons, as was discussed in Part II.  I completed my second reading of the three books, which I did much more slowly, sometime after our return to New York.  Shortly afterwards I began again, partially in preparation for a glossary-index for the Course, something I thought would be useful.  As it turned out, however, I did not seriously begin work on that book until 1977, when we were all in England, and even then it was not to be completed for another five years.
At any 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 was right.

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.

Several times 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 rearranged.



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