Ken Wapnick

The Meeting Place of A Course in Miracles® and Christianity
Part 2

By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

The second development was on a different level. My mother decided it would be a good idea if the family were exposed to classical music, and so she joined one of the classical record clubs. The introductory offer was the Toscanini recording of the nine Beethoven symphonies. It was love at first hearing for me, and it began a romance that was to continue for many, many years. Classical music, and especially Beethoven, opened up a world I had never known existed. It was not an outer world, but one within, beyond the normal range of my feelings and experiences. Over the years I felt myself increasingly drawn into this world, and music became the most important influence in my life. When I would hear the late music of Beethoven or the mature Mozart, I knew its depth was still beyond me, but it acted as a guide for an inner development I intuited but did not understand.

In my undergraduate years, I became distinctly aware of this inner and outer dimension. On the one hand, I was fascinated by the different psychological theories, understanding that each reflected some aspect of human behavior; on the other, I knew that none of the theories could address my experience of listening to music. These theories, in fact, seemed to have nothing to do with it. In my senior year, I attended a lecture by B.F. Skinner, the leading exponent of behaviorism and a man I greatly respected. Answering a question after his formal talk, he made the typical "Skinnerian" comment that if he were given an infant at birth, with total control over every aspect of that child's environment, he could make a Mozart. At that point in my life I did not believe in Heaven, but did know Mozart's music was not of this world and that environmental or psychological manipulation could never produce Mozart's sublimity. Strangely enough, however, despite my clear awareness of the duality between these inner and outer dimensions, I felt no conflict between them. I was quite comfortable following these two paths simultaneously.

This pattern continued into my second year of graduate school, when for the first time, I began to question what I was doing with my life. I was finding the study of psychology increasingly irrelevant to my real interest in music. However, I had no musical ability to speak of, and certainly was not interested in studying music from a theoretical point of view. Therefore, I finally resigned myself to finishing up my studies, but was now painfully aware of the inner tension between these two worlds.

The first serious attempt to integrate the two came in my dissertation, which began as a study of the spiritual dimension of Beethoven's music. However, it did not take me long to realize that this would never pass a doctoral committee. As I proceeded, I also realized that I had no real investment in the actual subject of the dissertation. My concern was only that its central idea remained; namely, that psychology tended to ignore or distort this inner dimension of human experience (this was in the 1960s). How I ended up with my ultimate subject, the 16th century mystic St. Teresa of Avila, would take another book. In retrospect, it was a most providential choice. Especially interesting to me was my strong positive identification with Teresa, at a time when I was not only not a Christian, but did not believe in God! However, even though I did not believe in Him, He certainly was around. Without God's help the dissertation could never have been completed and accepted. Thus, at the age of twenty-six, I had my Ph.D. in clinical psychology.


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