THE EDITING (1973-1975)


Chapter 12: Absence from Felicity

by Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

A cute yet strange aspect to our editing recurred every once in a while, when after reading a particularly difficult passage Helen would turn to me in laughter, exclaiming that she did not have the remotest idea what the words meant. And so I found myself in the rather unusual situation of explaining the Course to the person who on another level understood what it was saying more clearly than anyone else possibly could. Thus began my first experiences of teaching this material.

Interestingly enough, when in the presence of someone else attempting to explain the Course, Helen would be quick to recognize the inaccuracies of the explanation; likewise, she was expert in helping other people understand, usually in a therapeutic context, the application of the Course's principles to personal situations. She, however, very rarely explained to others what the Course said, directly or indirectly, except for two instances that I recall. In one, Helen tried to help someone understand how God could not have created the beautiful lake setting we were in at the moment, and the importance of metaphysical teachings such as that for appreciating the message of the Course; and in the other, when at a family dinner party at the home of Louis' sister, Helen attempted to explain to her very Jewish relatives the importance of not judging Hitler and the Nazis. These were relatively rare examples, however, for in general, Helen's anxiety about its thought system caused her to leave the actual explanations of A Course in Miracles to me.

The paragraphing, punctuation, and capitalization, which rarely had any bearing on the teaching itself, nonetheless became a major focus of our work, one obvious reason being the distraction value they held for Helen. During her two retypings of the text, Helen imposed on the manuscript her peculiar idiosyncrasy of having most paragraphs be nine lines, almost always regardless of the content of the material. Helen thankfully did not object to our correcting these. More than one reader has commented on the Course's use of semicolons, which often were used in place of the more proper colon. This too was Helen's preference. And as we began to go through the text, I discovered that Helen had two comma philosophies: excessive and minimal. I cannot recall (denial sometimes serves a merciful purpose) how often -- when Helen would suddenly decide on a comma-philosophy change well on into the editing -- I would have to go back to the beginning of the manuscript to change the commas. In the end, we arrived at a decision to over-comma, in the hope that this would be of more help to a reader already having to struggle with the difficulty of the Course's concepts, not to mention its often complicated sentence structure. I am not sure to this day how consistent we were (there are still some changes I would be tempted to make, as I am sure many students feel should be made as well); how- ever, the content of the Course was never jeopardized as a result of our editing.

Helen often had fits about the use of sentence splices or incomplete sentences, but knew that these were an important part of the Course's presentation, serving the stylistic purpose of added emphasis. We kept all these, despite Helen's "better" judgment, although at the urging of a friend who was a professor of linguistics, we did change in later editions some of the more glaring dangling participles.

Finally, there was the capitalization. One can see an "evolution" in Helen's style as one traces the Course from its original dictation in the notebooks, through Bill's first typing and Helen's subsequent retypings. The process culminated in Helen's feeling that every word even remotely (a slight, but only slight, exaggeration on my part) associated with God should be capitalized, including pronouns and relative pronouns. I should mention that while here again Jesus left Helen with the freedom to do as she wished, he did make some exceptions. Under his specific instruction, all pronouns referring to him were to be lower case (in the earlier manuscripts Helen always capitalized them, as we have seen), to reflect his unity with us (more below). Jesus instructed Helen always to capitalize the term "Son of God," to emphasize the inclusion of all of us as part of God's one Son, in contradistinction to traditional   Christianity's exclusion of all but Jesus from God's special Sonship. Pronouns referring to the Son, however, were to be lower case, to emphasize our separated state. The exception, of course, would be when "Son of God" refers to our true Identity as Christ, where the pronouns would be capitalized. Also, Jesus asked Helen to capitalize all pronouns referring to the Trinity -- God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit -- otherwise the reader might not always know for whom (or Whom) the referent was meant.

In the "Hugh Lynn Version," the one we were editing, Helen's capitalization was quite inconsistent. While I did originally try to talk her out of what I believed to be the excessive stylistic emphasis on God's divinity, I soon abandoned this fruitless enterprise and ended by saying to Helen that I would capitalize the Course words any way she chose to have them be, but that the capitalization should be consistent. This clearly appealed to her sense of logic, and so we set out in writing the rules of capitalization we would follow, and kept to these as best we could.

All in all, this part of the editing was a most valuable exercise in practicing the important principle from the Course of recognizing the distinction between form and content; namely, that it is the purpose or meaning that gives the form its importance, not the form in itself. In this case, the content of love was expressed in understanding that these minor manipulations of form had no importance when placed next to the value of joining with Helen. As the text itself says:

Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something "outrageous," do it because it does not matter. Refuse, and your opposition establishes that it does matter to you (text, p. 206).
I shall return later to this important principle regarding Helen's relationship with Jesus.

Helen also felt the license to make the aforementioned changes of that to which and vice versa, an exercise that took quite a bit of time, another obvious illustration of Helen's attempt to control her anxiety over the content of the Course by focusing and manipulating its form. There was also the exercise Helen asked me to perform when she discovered that many times in the Course the word "know" was used in the popular sense, rather than Jesus strictly adhering to the word's more technical meaning as synonymous with the state of Heaven. Thus, for example, the Course teaches that spirit knows, but that the ego perceives.  Helen thus asked me to change all the "popular" "knows" to other words, reserving "know" for its technical usage. I attempted to do as Helen asked, which presented no problems for at least the first half of the text. "Know" became variously "recognize," "perceive," "understand," etc. But then as the material became more poetic, and passages slipped in and out of blank verse, such changes became impossible without wreaking havoc on the meter, a cardinal sin in Helen's religion. I therefore stopped what I was doing and discussed the situation with Helen, who resolved the conflict by shifting her position and asking me to change back many of the words to their original "know." One side of Helen's defensive system -- her need to be strictly consistent -- thus gave way to the other, for which the poetry was sacrosanct.

I have already briefly mentioned that when Helen was writing down Jesus' words, she underlined all those that seemed to carry greater emphasis. In the typed manuscripts these words were all put in caps for ease of typing, but were obviously excessive in their number. Thus another part of our work was to leave only those words or phrases that seemed to require added emphasis. These are the italicized words in the published books.

The workbook and manual required very little editing work, other than our reading through them together to be sure that all was correct. Only punctuation, paragraphing, and the perennial capitalization were corrected, not to mention the "that's" and "which's."

Several times during the editing Helen would be obviously moved by what we were reading, although these moments were far fewer than one would have expected; Helen's defenses were always vigilantly upheld. When we had completed the sections on specialness in Chapter Twenty-Four -- basically the last discussion in the text on this topic, although obviously its principles are expressed all the way through -- Helen told me that when she had finished writing these down originally, she felt Jesus' gratitude for having completed them. The implication was that on another level -- remember the Course's teaching that time is illusory: everything has already happened -- she had attempted this but was not able to get through the material on special relationships. Helen's "prior" defense against having consciously to recognize before her eyes her own specialness thought system of guilt, fear, and attack, was thus simply to refuse to take the material down. Now, however, because of her commitment to scribing Jesus' Course, she did so, but without paying any attention to what it said, focusing on the form and style of the writing, ignoring as best she could the Course's content and meaning. And this was also her general policy during our editing.

Although Helen and I rarely discussed this, it was clear to her that Jesus' discussion of special relationships, the heart of the ego's thought system, was almost literally a description of her own mind. Thus, she was writing down words that described her ego self. To be sure, we all share the same ego thought system, but Helen's split mind contained blatant and extreme expressions of the dynamics of specialness. As a result, Helen's daily life was indeed a living nightmare, filled with anxieties, phobias, and attack thoughts that could have easily been the subject of any standard text on neurosis, let alone the model for Jesus' description of the ego. On the other hand, of course, Helen's mind also contained the extreme expression of God's Love, which the positive side of her relationship with Jesus represented.

The editing took over a year. My recollection is that we began near the end of 1973, and completed our work in early 1975. The text then had to be totally retyped, and this took time as well. We found an elderly Maryknoll Sister who felt it was a privilege to type the manuscript for us, although she did find some of the concepts to be rough going. A beatific experience, however, when she typed Chapter Fifteen -- which among other things discusses the holy instant -- ended all her doubts, and she was able to complete the typing in very good time and spirits. Near the end I, along with Helen and Bill, began to feel an urgency to complete our work, and so there was a kind of "push" to have it done. Finally, in the early spring of 1975 we had a completed manuscript of A Course in Miracles that awaited we-knew-not-what (or whom).

We found out the "who" on May 29, when we met Judith Skutch, and I leave this next segment of the story for the following chapter.

End Chapter 12







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