There has been some speculation that you and Helen edited the Course.
Bear in mind that at the beginning we didnít know exactly what was happening.
So we asked questions of a personal nature and recorded the answers that
Helen would receive. I would type these answers as part of the continuous
process, no distinguishing them from the inner dictation that Helen was
recording in her shorthand notebook. Later, when we realized that
this material was obviously not a part of the Course itself, we did, indeed,
delete it. It is true there has been editing of capitalization, punctuation,
paragraphing and section titles in the Text. However,
these changes were minor and the Workbook and the Manual
for Teachers also appear exactly as they were taken down by Helen.
NR: Could you
give an example of the personal material you deleted?
there were questions like, ďIs there anything that we should be doing that
would increase our ability to meditate better?Ē There was also some
commentary on psychological theories that got introduced as an intellectual
digression at the beginning, which had nothing to do with the Course itself.
what do you think the Courseís purpose is?
help us change our minds about who we are and what God is, and to help
us let go, through forgiveness, our belief in the reality of our separation
from God. Learning how to forgive ourselves and others is really
the fundamental teaching of the Course. The Course teaches us how
to know ourselves and how to unlearn all of those things which interfere
with our recognition of who we are and always have been.
NR: Why do you think
it was named "A Course in Miracles"? Why not a Course
in Love or Forgiveness or Truth?
good reason, we realized later. I do remember, however, when Helen
called me that memorable night and said an inner voice was dictating to
her which kept repeating, ďThis is a course in miracles, please take notes.Ē
At the time, I certainly didnít respond positively to that title.
However, when you get into the Course and then into the definition of what
a miracle is, it does make sense. In fact, itís the only appropriate
name for the Course.
NR: And a miracle is
. . .
THETFORD: I think a
miracle is the love that sustains the universe. Itís the shift in
perception that removes the barriers or obstacles to our awareness of loveís
presence in our lives.
The Course also tells us that there
is no order of difficulty in miracles - one is not more difficult than
another, since the expression of love is always maximal.
NR: What was your reaction
as a psychologist when the Course presented you with the concept that there
are only two emotions: love and fear?
THETFORD: I remember
very distinctly typing that section, where it says, ďYou have but two emotions,
fear and love, one you made and one was given you.Ē And I remember
thinking that concept really takes care of the whole psychological problem
of different emotional states. And itís true, for example, that anger
is imply an expression of fear in action. I canít get angry unless
I first feel threatened in some way, which means Iím afraid. Love
is really the only other emotion that exists, and it simplified things
greatly to recognize this as a fact.
NR: And what
is love by your definition, the kind of love being referred to here?
simply, love is the absence of fear. You might also say that fear
is the absence of love. Love and fear cannot co-exist at the same
time, although most of us try to live as if they can. We try to balance
a little fear with a little love, and hope that we can know the difference.
Yet when we let go of fear for an instant, love is automatically there.
It isnít something we have to figure out or look for, love simply is.
Itís very much like the sun which
is hidden by clouds on a foggy day. Although we canít see the sun,
we know it is there. The moment the fog lifts we can see it.
Such is the case for us, too, the moment we can stop our fearful thoughts
we can accept the love and light which is always there.
NR: That pretty
much entails trust itís there always, yet it seems weíre often brought
to a place, almost a precipice, and asked to step out, with faith itís
still there. Thatís real hard to do, or to muster up the trust to
THETFORD: I frequently
refer to that in my own life as ďcelestial brinkmanshipĒ - when weíre out
there walking the plank, not knowing whatís going to happen next.
But how else can we increase our awareness of our God given potential if
we donít take the plunge into the unknown?
I think all of us have to be at
least partially willing to try to find out if there is a different and
better way to live, otherwise we will simply persevere in the same old
patterns of our lives.
NR: The Course also
distinguishes between the ego and the Self in other than conventional terms.
What was your reaction to this as a psychologist?
term ďegoĒ as used in the Course refers to our surface or false self, which
identifies with the body as its outward form of expression. This ego-body
identification is the self we made as contrasted with the spiritual Self
which God shares with us. The ego is really our belief in a self
separate from God. The projection of this thought of separateness
gives rise to a world of form. The ego believes that this phenomenal
world exists independently, although it has not existence apart from the
split mind that projected it.
NR: One of the
most provocative concepts the Course presents is that this world is illusory,
not real, and that God is really not invested in it. That God is
only invested and concerned for us, not our things, and itís we who value
them, not God. Thatís a very difficult concept to grasp and deal
with, isnít it?
THETFORD: Yes indeed.
Itís a challenge and problem for all of us. But as you know, many
twentieth century physicists have written extensively on the implications
of quantum mechanics for mysticism and mystical thought.
Ken Wilber has recently edited a
book entitled, Quantum Questions which deals with the issue
of physical reality and mystical experiences in the writings of Einstein,
Heisenburg, Edington, Schroedinger and a number of Nobel Prize-winning
physicists. Wilber points out that all of these remarkable scientists
developed a transcendental or mystical view of the world. While modern
physics does not prove that mysticism is true, it does remove any major
theoretical blocks to the possibility of spiritual reality. In effect,
the solid material universe has dissolved into a series of abstract mathematical
The point here is that many physicists
view the material world in the same was that the Course does; that this
world is illusory since physical matter is no longer understandable in
terms of our sensory awareness. Somehow we are perceiving something
that isnít there, and it is our perception of it which gives it reality.
The question then becomes what is the nature of the sustaining power which
lies behind all forms?
The Courseís emphasis on changing
or shifting perception applies to everything in our lives, not simply the
external universe, and most particularly to our relationships - the way
we look at ourselves and others. As we shift this perception, or
rather as we shift our attitudes from fear to love, from guilt to total
acceptance, then what we see as the limited, bounded universe also shifts.
Anything that is perishable is seen
as an illusion, and anything that is eternal is true knowledge and comes
from God. The Courseís goal, then, is to enable us to shift our perception
to the point where God can take us to the realm of knowledge. Its
immediate purpose is to help us remove the obstacles to our awareness of
loveís presence in our daily lives, which is what the miracle is all about.
When we begin to recognize and accept the presence of Godís love in our
lives, many of these other questions that we raise simply disappear.
They no longer seem relevant, because theyíre questions the ego asks based
upon the perception of a limited, bounded universe.