NR:  It must have been somewhat trying during that period, living a dual life in receiving and dealing with the miracles’ material coming through and continuing your normal academic life.

THETFORD:   Yes, in a way it was like living in two different worlds.  My feelings were so complex it's hard to put it very simply.  Obviously, Helen had not flipped, nor had she lost her mind.  The material made perfect sense, but there was a feeling of having plunged into something that was way over our heads and for which we were unprepared.

Naturally, we did not discuss this with our colleagues, and none of the professional associates were aware that this was going on as an additional dimension in Helen's life and mine.  At the same time, we could not completely separate the Course from our academic responsibilities, and a good deal of the actual typing of the material did take place at the Medical Center.  Helen dictated her notes to me during our lunch hour or at odd moments, but this did not interrupt the flow of our professional commitments which included giving lectures, writing research grants and papers for publication, as well as a multitude of administrative chores - all those things that make up very busy professional lives.  So the experience that we underwent during that period was indeed a highly unusual one.

NR: Weren't there times when Helen seriously considered seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist about this?  this?  Or maybe consider obtaining some medication that might take away the voice dictating to her?

THETFORD:   It wasn't a voice in that sense at all.  Helen was not pursued by voices; it was a very specific sense of channeled communication that would come to her from time to time.  She would be aware that there was material to be transcribed, and she could do it when we chose.  There was no pressure to immediately drop anything she was doing in order to take notes.  Rather, the material was there almost as if it had been pre-recorded, and was waiting for her attention.  It presented itself to her in a very separate and distinct part of her mind; she did not experience it as an external voice at all.
NR:   Yet given the nature of someone hearing a voice - in the traditional psychotherapeutic sense - what do you think might have been the diagnosis or prognosis of Helen, without understanding the dynamics involved?
THETFORD:   I think people who do unusual things of that type are probably considered somewhat dissociated or possibly schizophrenic.  However, the fact that Helen's ability to function as a psychologist was not impaired in any way during this period was a clear indication that she did not suffer from a delusional system.  If anything, I would say that her ability to function professionally was enhanced as we continued with this work.  During the time we were working on the Course we seemed to actually increase our professional productivity and quality.

One confirmation of this is that when we completed the manuscript we were both awarded tenure as professors.

NR:   Helen seemed to have much more difficulty embracing the Course material than you did.  Was there any kind of spiritual or religious background in your life, or anything else, that made this so?

THETFORD:   Well, it certainly wasn't due to any early religious background for me.  I had gone to the Christian Science Sunday School until age seven, when my sister died suddenly and my parents lost interest in all religion.  Later in my youth, I attended various Protestant churches, but by the time I had started my graduate work at the University of Chicago, I had certainly given up any interest in religion.  Besides I recall how the University of Chicago was often described as a Baptist University where atheist professors taught Jewish students Thomistic philosophy!  With that kind of background, I think it's apparent that whatever religious beliefs I might have had would simply have become more confused.

NR:   What would you say was your philosophical or spiritual outlook then?

THETFORD:   I would describe myself as an agnostic.  I was not really concerned with whether spiritual reality was a fact or not.

Freud regarded religion as an illusion, and I think many of the graduate students and faculty with whom I associated at the time saw religion as something that lacked intellectual respectability.

NR:   Given your agnostic outlook at the time, was there anything you were involved with that might have set the stage for your being the catalyst for A Course in Miracles?

THETFORD:   Not as such, although I was one of Carl Rogers’ first graduate students after he came to the University of Chicago in 1945.  He taught that “unconditional positive regard” was an essential prerequisite for client-centered therapists.  I now realize what Rogers was really emphasizing was that total acceptance in our relationships meant expressing perfect love.  Although I recognized how far I was from being able to practice this concept in my life, I grew to appreciate its contribution to my own spiritual development.

Actually, I always thought that a Higher Authority must have goofed in selecting Helen and me for this assignment.  When Helen asked the voice once why she was chosen for this role, the answer she got was, “You're obviously the right person because you're doing it.”

NR:  What's so curious is that both of you - Helen the atheist and Bill the agnostic - would entertain the notion of doing something like this.  How do you reconcile that?  Surely something must have been triggered within you.

THETFORD:   During that summer of 1965, we had many experiences that shook up my belief system and caused me to be much more open-minded to the possibility of divine intervention.  By the time the Course started, I would say I was no longer really an agnostic.

Helen, however, had great difficulty with the Course regarding her own personal beliefs.  She continued to question what was happening to her throughout the time she was transcribing the Course, and I'm not sure she was ever able to reconcile what she was doing with who she was.

NR:   Its interesting that you often use the word “assignment” with regard to you're and Helen's involvement with the Course. Why?

THETFORD:  Well, the events we experienced leading up to the Course's dictation seemed to us to be preparation for an assignment that somehow, somewhere, we had agreed to do together.  In a sense we were fulfilling our function.

NR:  The events you refer to as preceding the Course's dictation by Helen involved a number of psychic and mystical experiences she had.  Did you have similar experiences?

THETFORD:  Yes, but they never seemed as dramatic as Helen's.  However, one that had a very profound effect on me occurred Easter Sunday in 1970.  I had agreed to take Jean, an elderly woman artist, down to dinner in Greenwich Village with some other artist friends.  It was a very cold, stormy wintry day, with sleet and high winds - unusual for that time of year.  Being without a car, I realized I was going to have a lot of trouble getting a taxi, and so I meditated briefly about what to do.  I got a clear message that I was to go to the corner of 78th Street and Fifth Avenue, near where I lived, at exactly 3:15, and the problem would be taken care of.  I had enormous resistance to doing this, but I put on my stormy weather gear anyway, walked to the corner, and tried to hail a cab.  Since I was in competition with all the doormen on Fifth Avenue it seemed utterly useless.

Then for just a moment I closed my eyes and let go of my troubled thoughts, saying to myself: “Thank-you, Father, it's already done!”  And for an instant I truly believed that.  When I opened my eyes, a chauffeur driven limousine had stopped right in front of me at the corner and the driver rolled down his window and asked, “May I help you sir?”  This, as anyone who's been to New York or lived there knows, was a highly improbable happening.

I was very tempted to ask him why he had stopped for me, and then I realized that this would be an inappropriate question; I was simply to accept this gift.  I got in and we drove over to Jean's and picked her up.  She was absolutely thrilled that I had come to pick her up in a limousine!

The interesting thing, too, is that I didn't discuss a fee with the driver.  He simply took me without any question, and when we arrived at our destination I asked him how much it was, and he said something ridiculous like “five dollars”.  I think I gave him several times that amount out of enormous gratitude and relief.

NR:   What other such experiences?

THETFORD:   While we were in the process of transcribing the Course material, I prayed that we might encounter a living teacher - someone who embodied these teachings in his or her own life.  Around this time a priest friend, Father Michael, told me about Mother Teresa of India.  Duly impressed, I obtained a copy of Malcolm Muggeridge’s Something Beautiful for God, the first book which describes Mother Teresa’s astonishing healing work with the poorest of the poor.

Shortly after I read the book, Father Michael informed me that Mother Teresa was currently in New York.  She had recently established a New York Center for her order in the South Bronx - at that time, the worst of all crime-ridden poverty areas in New York - and he had been asked to help facilitate some of her local arrangements.  He invited Helen and me to join him in visiting her in the Bronx.  Initially, I felt apprehensive about actually having my prayers answered, since I was not sure that I was up to meeting a living saint.  However, when this tiny woman graciously met us with palms extended, I felt an almost instantaneous sense of relief.  It seemed as if I had always known her.  Completely selfless and without pretense, she radiated the joy of total spiritual commitment.  Later, when she turned to me and said, “Doctor, wouldn't you like to come to India?  There is so much that you could do to help the poor,” I felt an almost irresistible impulse to answer, “Yes!”

I have met with Mother Teresa on a number of occasions since that time, including one visit she made with Father Michael to our offices at the Medical Center the year before Helen retired.  To me, her life is a demonstration of the importance of total dedication and complete consistency on the spiritual path.  Our prayers are answered, even though frequently in the most unexpected ways.


Also Read about Dr. William Thetford and the CIA

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