A Short History of the Editing and Publishing of A Course in Miracles
By Joe R. Jesseph, Ph.D.
Sometimes people ask why the Course was copyrighted and why the Foundation for Inner Peace, which publishes the Course, has not published Helen Schucman's original notes, the urtext and the Hugh Lynn Cayce version (HLC). The following brief history addresses these questions. For a more complete account see Kenneth Wapnick's Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles. Relevant excerpts from that book are linked from this Web site: The Scribe.

The seminal event which led to the scribing and eventual publication of A Course in Miracles took place on a June afternoon in 1965 when Dr. William Thetford made his now famous and impassioned statement to Dr. Helen Schucman: “There must be another way!” Bill was specifically addressing the ongoing conflicts that he and Helen experienced between themselves, as well as with other colleagues and professional associates, at the prestigious Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City where Bill was Director of the Psychology Department while at the same time holding a faculty appointment as Professor of Medical Psychology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Helen began her professional career at the Medical Center as Bill's research associate, later also to become a tenured Professor of Psychology at Columbia University.

The Early Days: from “a Better way” to “Please Take Notes”

The events leading up to Bills impassioned speech and Helen's willingness to join him in finding the “better way” are recorded in Dr. Kenneth Wapnick's biographical and historical account: Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles.1 This account of Wapnick's is important for understanding the origin, nature and purpose of the Course, as well as the background of its editing and publication. Therefore, I am reproducing below some excerpts from it. Also, in the Preface to the Course Text readers may find a brief account written by Helen Schucman and entitled “How It Came.”

“There Must Be Another Way”

As Helen recorded it in her autobiography, a most unexpected change came in June of 1965.

What happened next is particularly hard to describe, because I had reached a state of mind in which a positive response to it on my part was singularly unlikely. Nevertheless I made one, and from that time on a great. change began.

Some time earlier, Helen and Bill had become consultants to an interdisciplinary research project at the Cornell University Medical Center, Bill's former employer. Their responsibilities included an hour-long meeting every week which grew to epitomize all that was wrong in their personal and professional lives. The meetings were characterized by the same back-biting if not savage competitiveness and anger they were accustomed to in their own Medical Center, not to mention in their own relationship. Helen and Bill hated going, feeling both uncomfortable and angry, yet believing that professionally they had no choice.

And so this June afternoon they once again prepared to go, stopping off first at Bill's east side apartment. This time, however, their perennial negative discussion took a different. turn.

Bill had something on his mind, but he seemed to be quite embarrassed and found it hard to talk about. In fact., he tried unsuccessfully several times to begin. Finally he took a deep breath, grew slightly red-faced, and delivered a speech. It was hard for him, he told me later, because the words sounded trite and sentimental even as he said them. Nor was he anticipating a particularly favorable response from me. Nevertheless, he said what he felt he had to say. He had been thinking things over and had concluded we were using the wrong approach. "There must," he said, "be another way." Our attitudes had become so negative that we could not work anything out. He had therefore decided to try to look at things differently.

Bill proposed, quite specifically, to try out the new approach that day at the research meeting. He was not going to get angry and was determined not to attack. He was going to look for a constructive side in what the people there said and did, and was not going to focus on mistakes and point up errors. He was going to cooperate rather than compete. We had obviously been headed the wrong way and it was time to take a new direction. It was a long speech for Bill, and he spoke with unaccustomed emphasis. There was no doubt that he meant what he said. When it was over he waited for my response in obvious discomfort. Whatever reaction he may have expected, it was certainly not the one he got. I jumped up, told Bill with genuine conviction that he was perfectly right, and said I would join in the new approach with him.

One can truly say that the birth of A Course in Miracles occurred that June afternoon in Bill's apartment. In Helen and Bill's joining together to find that other way, an example of what the Course would later call a "holy instant," one finds a shining example of a miracle: "The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient. hatred has become a present love" (ACIM Text-26.IX.6:1). The results were not immediately apparent, but nonetheless certain changes, internal and external, did begin to manifest….

Concurrent with the changes that Helen and Bill consciously strove to apply to their relationships, a purely internal set of experiences began for Helen as well. It was almost as if Helen had waited all of her life for Bill to make his "There must he another way" speech. This seemed to act as a stimulus that triggered off a long series of inner experiences that can he categorized variously as visions, dreams, heightened imagery, and the psychic.2

So began the unusual series of mental experiences that finally led to Helen hearing a by then familiar “inner voice” on October 21, 1965 urging: “This is a course in miracles, please take notes.” In the Course Preface, she says of this: “Three startling months preceded the actual writing, during which time Bill suggested that I write down the highly symbolic dreams and descriptions of the strange images that were coming to me. Although I had grown more accustomed to the unexpected by that time, I was still very surprised when I wrote, ‘This is a course in miracles.’”

One can imagine Helen's reactions to these unusual experiences which culminated in her scribing of the Course. Although throughout her life prior to Bills speech and the coming of the Course she had some religious and spiritual interests and experiences, and was drawn to certain religious people and settings, she had come to regard herself as a serious professional psychologist and member of an intellectual community where atheism was the rational choice. These new experiences and her developing role as a channel for words inspired by Jesus were initially quite disorienting, embarrassing and upsetting for her. She questioned her sanity and relied heavily upon Bill for support during these strange and anxious times. It is important to understand this, because Helen's disorientation and distress played a part in the nature of the early scribing, as did the confusion and personal confrontations that the Course material represented for both her and Bill. In his book, Dr. Wapnick comments about this:

In Helen's and my editing of her autobiography years later, the issue of writing about Jesus made her so anxious that she chose to omit…references to the authorship. Thus, she left it to me…to describe her relationship with the "Voice."

Jesus began the dictation of the Course this way:

This is a course in miracles, please take notes.

Helen continued for about a page of notes before calling Bill in a fright. She explained to him what was happening, and her feeling that the Voice "seems to want to go on....I'm sure there's more." Bill wisely suggested that Helen continue as best she could, and that they would meet at the office early in the morning to discuss this startling turn of inner events. For a while longer Helen continued. Before presenting what she scribed, an explanation need be given about the obvious differences between the material Helen originally took down and the published Course.

During the first month or so of the dictation, Helen's anxiety level was so high that the form (not the content) of the dictation was affected in the sense of the writing being ungraceful and sometimes overly terse. Several times Jesus would correct a mistaken word or phrase a day or two after it had been written, when Helen's mind was open to receive the correction. An analogy might be made to an unused faucet, which when it is first turned on runs rusty water. As the water runs for a while, the rust clears out and the water returns to its clear nature. The "rust" of interference, which would seem to result from a long period of not being used, was really due to Helen's fear of the power of her mind, and more specifically, her fear of the love of Jesus…

Even more to the point of the difference between the original and published early pages, however, was that Helen's initial experience was of Jesus being with her as an elder brother to his sister, gently and lovingly speaking to her. At about what is now Chapter Five of the text, the tone of the writing begins to change and become increasingly flowing and more objective, reading more like a lecture than a dialogue. In the beginning, therefore, the actual teaching (what is essentially found in the published books) was interspersed with personal material designed to help Helen and Bill with their own relationship, other relationships in their lives, and with their own personal problems. In addition, there were comments given on certain professional issues to aid Helen and Bill bridge the gap between their understanding of psychology and that of the Course. On instructions from Jesus, Helen and Bill removed these passages that were outside the Course's specific teachings, as they were not meant for the general readership. I shall return to the original manuscript and to its subsequent editing in later chapters, where I shall present some of this deleted material by way of illustrating the intensely personal nature of Helen's contact with Jesus, and his loving concern for her and Bill. [The interested reader may find this material in chapters 8, 9 and 10 of Absence from Felicity.]3

So, the initial scribing was uneven and prone to some error, as well as being quite personal, containing some material addressing certain intimate details of Helen's and Bills lives. The early chapters of the Text, therefore, required more aggressive editing than the later chapters. This was done under instructions from Jesus, and with his approval. The Workbook for Students, Manual for Teachers and Clarification of Terms required virtually no editing since Helen had become more comfortable with her role as a channel and been able to dissociate her ego from the scribing process. Thus, in the later scribing, Jesus’ message flowed through her as naturally and spontaneously as the elegant music composed by Mozart when in one single summer he produced three major symphonies, obviously doing so as a channel rather than as a labored, intentional composer.

Editing Considerations

At first Helen and Bill had no thought of editing the material for publication. Only later, when they realized the Course material was to be shared with the public, did they become concerned about editing. And then it was only for the material found in the first four or five chapters of the 31-chapter Text that judgments had to be made about what material to include and how to fit it together after the personal material had been deleted. Again, this was done with Jesus’ guidance. In fact, the Course as officially published by the Foundation for Inner Peace, represents the work which Jesus intended for the interested public. It would have been unthinkable to Helen and Bill that it be otherwise.

The question of editing was brought up in an interview with Bill which was published in the October, 1984 issue of New Realities magazine:

New Realities: There has been some speculation that you and Helen edited the Course.  Did  you?

Thetford: No. Bear in mind that at the beginning we didn't 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.

New Realities: Could you give an example of the personal material you deleted?

Thetford:   Oh, there were questions like, “Is there anything that we should be doing that would increase our ability to meditate better?”  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.

New Realities: What's been the reaction to all of this among your old friends and colleagues?  Sympathetic, supportive, dissociative, concerned?

Thetford: I haven't been in contact with many of them, although the few I have been in touch with are sympathetic to the material.  I have no idea what the general reaction among my former colleagues would be, nor have I tried to find out.

However, I'm sure most of them would have thought Helen and me crazy at the time if they had known what we were doing.  Bear in mind though, that it all began in 1965, and this is now 1984, when I think there's a great deal more receptivity to spiritual concepts than there was nineteen years ago.  So perhaps it's really not quite fair to speculate on this now.

New Realities: At the same time you and Helen didn't show it to anyone then, you kept it hidden and your activities completely secret.

Thetford: Yes. And I certainly would not have shown it to them. I had more sense than that. My assignment as I saw it was to learn the material myself and not confuse my responsibilities at the Medical Center with our transcription of the Course.

But as I've said, this is another, much brighter day.

New Realities: What do you now think about all of this, the fact that you were a special integral part of what some prominent people have referred to A Course In Miracles as one of the most important documents of the century?

Thetford: Quite frankly, Helen and I had no intention of publishing the Course when we were transcribing it. Quite the contrary. The material seemed specifically for our spiritual education.  We regarded it as our “guilty secret,” something we were committed to doing, but at that time there was no indication we were supposed to share it with others.

When we did agree to have it published anonymously, I thought very few people would be interested in changing their perceptions through the methods suggested by the Course—I thought it was too difficult. Certainly in my lifetime, I never expected that thousands of people would regard the Course as their map home.4

When Helen and Bill undertook the initial editing of the Course for publication, in addition to deleting personal material in the early scribing, they went through the Text to designate chapters and section headings. The original scribing, now called the urtext, lacked the kind of organization that would make the material more accessible to a general reader. The material had been taken down with Helen using a system of shorthand and Bill typing up the material as she read it to him. There were no chapter or section designations. Even the paragraphing was not well done, reflecting an arbitrary procedure Helen used at first.  So they organized the material to make it easier for someone else to read and understand. This initial effort produced what has come to be called the "Hugh Lynn Cayce Version" (HLV or HLC).

Beginning in September of 1965, Helen and Bill were in occasional contact with Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce, and President of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach. This was because when Helen began to have the unusual experiences leading up to the scribing, Bill took an interest in the Cayce material along with many other metaphysical and spiritual writings. It was at his suggestion that they first visited Hugh Lynn and the A.R.E., but only after some considerable skepticism and resistance on Helen's part to what she regarded as “spooky” and “magical,” no doubt reflecting discomfort with her own developing experiences.

Eventually Helen's anxiety subsided and she came to respect Hugh Lynn and the Cayce body of work. So, after the scribing had begun, in October, 1965 Helen and Bill returned to Virginia Beach in order to obtain Hugh Lynn's opinion and suggestions, which Helen now appreciated. For his part, Hugh Lynn had become warmly supportive and encouraging of Helen and her new-found role as scribe.

In 1972, as an expression of their gratitude to Hugh Lynn, and for purposes of further review, Helen and Bill gave him a copy of their edited work which included Helen's second re-typing of the Text manuscript. This is what has been called the "Hugh Lynn Version," also referred to as the “HLC” or "HLV." (In recent years a version of this manuscript has been given the acronym "JCIM" and even erroneously referred to as the "Thetford Edition." See further discussion below.) It was made clear to Hugh Lynn that Helen and Bill were providing this material in appreciation for his help and for his personal review and comments. The manuscript was not to be shared with others except for his son, Charles Thomas. Hugh Lynn died in 1983, but Charles Thomas Cayce, current President of the A.R.E., recalls conversations in which this point—so central to Helen's concern for privacy—was understood by all parties involved. Eventually, after Hugh Lynn's death, the Text volume of the HLC came to be stored in a locked archival room at the library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, while the other two volumes were apparently misplaced or lost. Persons associated with both the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM) were aware of the existence of this volume in the A.R.E. library archives but decided not to ask that it be removed, respecting the gift of appreciation which Helen and Bill had given to Hugh Lynn, as well as feeling that it was secure and might have some usefulness in the future for historical purposes, or for reference and research.

Concerning the Hugh Lynn Cayce (HLC) Version: More about Editing

I will return later to a discussion of the copyright for A Course in Miracles and the litigation about it, but suffice it to say at this point that in 1999 certain parties associated with the defendant in that litigation visited the A.R.E. for the express purpose of obtaining an illicit copy of the HLC text volume. They managed to sneak the original out of the library and copy it, and then returned the original to the archive shelf. Immediately upon their arriving back home, the HLC was copied and distributed on the Internet and elsewhere. It has since become known not only as the HLC, but as the “JCIM” (“Jesus’ Course in Miracles”) and the “Thetford Edition” of A Course in Miracles. The later designation is based on some people's misunderstanding of remarks found in Helen's original notes—the urtext—where Jesus urged Helen to stay focused on the scribing and unconcerned with editorial details. She had a tendency to use matters of form as a way of procrastinating her scribal task. Bill was to take care of the editorial details. This in no way meant that Bill was to become the chief editor of the Course, a task which ill suited him and which he disdained in any case, being notoriously impatient with matters of detail. Bill was supportive of Helen and helped out by typing and proofing what he typed, but Helen always was the editor-in-chief. It was primarily Helen who did the editing for the HLC. Bill had a good sense of humor and would no doubt be quite amused to find that someone came up with the idea of a “Thetford Edition” of the Course!

The designation “JCIM” is supposed to suggest that the HLC is actually the more authentic version of the Course that Jesus preferred. Helen would undoubtedly find that interesting, but probably not at all amusing. She and Bill had no question that the officially published Course is the version that Jesus endorsed.

Before further discussing the urtext and the editing of the HLC for official publication, I would point out that Absence from Felicity was first published in 1991. This was eight years before the HLC was dishonestly obtained and distributed, and nine years before a similar fate befell the urtext. Kenneth Wapnick had been given permission by Helen to write her biography after her death. He was entrusted with the urtext as well as her personal papers and the original short-hand scribal notes. "Absence" contains quite a lot of selected material from that collection as well as from Helen's and Bills correspondence. In addition, in "Absence" Dr. Wapnick discussed the HLC and the process of editing for publication in which he participated as Helen's assistant. In other words, interested students of the Course and the general public were provided with a considerable amount of information from and about the urtext and HLC long before those manuscripts were taken and distributed without permission.

The HLC and urtext themselves were not officially published by FIP precisely because that was not Jesus’ wish. So, of course such publication was not authorized by Helen and Bill. Both of them were quite satisfied with the official, edited version and after the first publication in 1976 they both lived on for many years, Helen dying in 1981 and Bill in 1988. During that time they withdrew from public involvement with the Course, feeling that they had fulfilled their part, and not wanting a teaching role which Helen, especially, assigned to Kenneth Wapnick. However, if either of them had expressed any dissatisfaction with the publication, or suggested that the HLC and urtext should be published, then FIP certainly would have complied with their wishes, especially since Helen would only make such a request in compliance with instructions from Jesus. And again, the selected material that Kenneth Wapnick published from the urtext was made available to the public with Helen's permission for a posthumous biography, trusting Kenneth's discretion.

Now, to return to matters of editing, copyright and publication: first, the raw urtext was a private, personal document. The need for editing the early scribing (what is now roughly the first four or five chapters of the Text) arose both from its personal nature as well as from Helen's considerable difficulty in those early months, as discussed above. Thus, the urtext lends itself to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Further, because of the wide ranging discussion of ancillary topics, there was a lack of focus upon the central message. Jesus directed the editing in order to make the published material as faithful as possible to his intent. Even so, he was limited to words for communication. There are inherent difficulties in communicating his message of non-separation with word symbols, which are themselves the symbolical tools of the separated ego mind, designed to communicate in terms of separation or metaphysical dualism. A profoundly important statement in the Manual for Teachers is directed to this point:

Words can be helpful, particularly for the beginner, in helping concentration and facilitating the exclusion, or at least the control, of extraneous thoughts. Let us not forget, however, that words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality (ACIM Manual-21.1:8-10).
Word symbols simply cannot communicate fully the non-dualistic truth of God's Oneness, although they can suggest it or point to it. An equally important statement in the Workbook addresses this:
Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say "God is," and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless (ACIM Workbook-pI.169.5:1-4).
So, words themselves are problematic in communicating Truth, which is completely abstract, formless, and unable to be accurately symbolized. But Jesus was confined to the use of words in order to reach us in the darkness of our mindless, dreaming state. Further, in the Course Jesus often attempts to communicate at our rudimentary level of understanding by using words rather loosely with respect to their definitions, as well as employing metaphor. For instance, in so doing he sometimes speaks as though God knows of us and hears our prayers, but when the Course is understood in its entirety, as a complete and logical thought system, it is clear that this is not the case. Oneness does not know of separation or about the details of our dream of separation.

In the early channeling, matters of language became even more problematic as Jesus attempted to reassure Helen, as well as instruct both Helen and Bill in a radically new thought system; one that flew in the face of their professional training and every common sense assumption they had made about life and reality. For that reason, as well as others I have mentioned, the early chapters of the Course required a more careful editorial eye, but of course under Jesus' supervision and with his guidance.

Further, the Course is about mind, "The activating agent of spirit" (ACIM Clarification of Terms-1.1:1), not about the body and its behavior. Mind is the agent of cause while the illusory body and its behavior are the effect of thoughts in the mind. Thus, the Course is about changing cause, which is what its "miracle" is about: changing the thought system in the mind from that of the ego to that of Jesus and the Holy Spirit; changing from thoughts of guilt, fear, judgment and attack to thoughts of forgiveness. It is thought (or the content of the mind) that causes form, or what seems to happen in our dream of separation where bodies and the material universe seem real. So, the Course is about content, not form and it is about cause, not effect. For instance, sexual behavior is the result of thought and is not important in and of itself. Rather, it is the thought content behind the feelings and behavior that is important. However, early in the scribing Jesus joined Helen and Bill at their level of concern and understanding by talking with them about matters of form, such as sexual orientation and behavior. This is the kind of material that was removed in the editing not only because it was personal in nature, but because it seems to suggest that matters of form are important to the exclusion of addressing the content, or cause, behind the form. So, the early scribing found in the urtext lends itself to the confusion of content and form -- cause and effect -- and may even seem to suggest that the body and world are real when in fact it is a basic teaching of the Course that the only reality is spirit and mind while all form is illusory. Obviously this kind of discussion easily leads to confusion about the teachings of the Course on the part of new students and even for more experienced students. Therefore, material found in the urtext, and even in the HLC, must be understood in the context of both the overall non-dualistic thought system of the Course as well as the history of its scribing and editing. This is a fundamental reason why the urtext and HLC were not intended for publication and why it is unfortunate that those manuscripts are now available.

Additionally, the Course is a work of art -- a literary masterpiece in addition to being a towering intellectual document. Even so, the early chapters of the officially published Text which required the most editing are not up to the artistic standard of the remainder of the Course. And certainly the early chapters of the urtext and HLC lack the artistic and intellectual sophistication of the officially published work, which was intended to sing to the heart as music and poetry, as well as to engage the intellect.

A fundamental point in all of this is simply that the editing for publication was done for good reason, with integrity and under Jesus’ guidance so as to give to the world the most authentic, pure and lovely version of his message. The editing was done in service to Jesus and his students, hardly in an attempt to withhold secret spiritual truths or to deceive anyone as some have suggested.

All of that said, if one is inclined to obtain one of the manuscripts not intended by Jesus to be published, they are now available, though not as officially published by the Foundation for Inner Peace. The same non-dualistic message of the Atonement can be found in them by any intelligent, discerning reader. And it will be evident as one goes along that the differences between the published Course, the HLC and the urtext with respect to the content of the message are inconsequential, especially after one arrives at Chapter 6 in the Text. The Workbook and Manual for Teachers are virtually identical in all versions having required little or no editing, while the "Clarification of Terms" came after the initial "Crisswell Edition," was not part of the urtext and HLC, and required no significant editing.

An interesting and instructive method of comparing versions, if one cares to do so, is to begin reading at the end of the Text rather than at the beginning. There, in those last chapters especially, as Helen's scribing was flowing smoothly, one finds hardly any differences at all between the published Course and the HLC, not even in the chapter and section titles. In the HLC Helen frequently used capitalization for emphasis, whereas italics are used in the published Course, and the only important difference between the urtext and the official publication in the last chapters is that in the published Course there are chapter and section designations with titles. With the exception of some very minor differences, the words are the same. And, as I have said, there are no significant differences between versions of the Workbook and Manual for Teachers.

To sum up this discussion of matters pertaining to editing, below I'll again present some material excerpted from Kenneth Wapnick's Absence from Felicity. For those who have an interest but do not care to purchase this book, there are several excerpts from "Absence" published on the World Wide Web in the Miracle Studies collection. In particular, the entire chapter 12 from Absence entitled, “The Editing (1973-1976)” is available to be read at: www.miraclestudies.net/Absence_12.html. Other excerpts are linked from a Web site dedicated to Helen: “The Scribe."

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...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…no such block existed when it came to editing something previously written…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….

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 [of "Absence."].

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 [because of Helen's resistance]. 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….

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 re-typings 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); however, 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 re-typings. 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…), 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….

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."5

Finally, before leaving the subject of editing, there is the Second Edition of the Course to consider. That edition was published in 1992 and is distinguished by its addition of a notational system for ease of reference and citation. The Errata Pamphlet6 for the Second Edition begins with a summary of what was involved in this editing. That summary can be found on this site at: www.miraclestudies.net/Errata.html. Much of it is quoted below, but it would be sufficient to say that the editing for the Second Edition was painstaking! A thoroughgoing effort to find and correct all the errors from the beginning of Helen's re-typings was conducted. There were no errors of real significance, but there were many errors in the First Edition, primarily because Bill refused to participate in the detailed proof reading that is customary for manuscripts, where one person reads out loud while another reads silently. (Note that the Third Edition retains all of the changes from the second and is only different on account of the fact that it includes the two supplementary pamphlets which previously were published separately.}

We begin by presenting the sequence in which A Course in Miracles evolved into its present form, originating with Dr. Helen Schucman's shorthand notes begun in 1965. Helen took down her internal dictation in notebooks, and regularly dictated these to her colleague and collaborator, Dr. William Thetford, who typed out her words. This original typing of the three books came to be called the “urtext,” a word denoting an original manuscript.

After each of these typing sessions, Bill read back to Helen what he typed to ensure that no mistakes were made. Thus, the urtext can be considered to have been carefully checked, and to be an accurate copy of Helen's original notes. Helen later retyped the manuscript of the Text twice and the Workbook and Manual once, and none of these re-typings was ever proofread.

It should be mentioned that minor alterations were intentionally made in these re-typings of the manuscript from the urtext. Personal material that Helen and Bill received was omitted, since they were instructed that it did not belong in the public edition. Other changes had to do with form—paragraphs, punctuation and capitalization—and minor word changes to smooth over the gaps left by the removal of the personal material. Chapter and section titles were also added in the Text.

Helen's second typing of the Text and retyping of the Workbook and Manual were edited, one final time, in preparation for the First Printing in 1976. This editing was carried out along the same lines noted above. After the editing was completed, the entire Text was again retyped; but this too was not adequately proofread. The relatively few changes made in the Workbook and Manual did not call for their retyping. Finally, the manuscript of the three books was given to the printer and again retyped before being typeset, and this was also not adequately proofread.

As a result of this long process of re-typings, some material was inadvertently omitted. Furthermore, a fair amount of typographical errors went unnoticed. Thus, when a Second Edition of A Course in Miracles was undertaken to incorporate a system of paragraph and sentence numbering, requiring an entirely new computerized typesetting, it seemed to be an appropriate time to insert the deleted material and correct all prior mistakes. To ensure that this Second Edition be as free as possible from errors, the three books of the First Edition of A Course in Miracles were proofread against the urtext that Bill had originally typed from Helen's notes. All re-typings, as well as Helen's original shorthand notebooks, were consulted to trace the errors and omissions that were found.

The errata fall into several categories. Aside from Helen's omissions and mistakes, and those of the typist and typesetter, there were inconsistencies in capitalizations that, it is hoped, have been corrected. Also, since A Course in Miracles came specifically to Helen and Bill as a way of helping them heal their relationship, the "you" in the Course was often originally plural in form, addressing both of them. Frequently, the phrase "you and each other" was used. In editing the manuscript for the First Printing, this phrase was changed to "you and your brother," as the Course was ultimately meant for individuals who would be working on forgiving their specific special relationships. Some of these, as well as other plural references were missed, however, and so they have been corrected here. It should be noted that changes related only to the form of the printing—page headings, spacing, etc.—have not been included in this pamphlet.6

Copyrighting and Publishing

At the end of "Absence" Chapter 12, which discusses the editing of the Course for publication, Dr. Wapnick concludes: “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…”7

In his book Journey Without Distance: the Story Behind A Course in Miracles,8 Robert Skutch describes this meeting. I will paraphrase his account here.

In 1975, Judy and Robert Skutch had an apartment in New York City as well as a second home in the San Francisco Bay area. They had established the Foundation for Parasensory Investigation with its offices in New York and were quite busy with a number of projects. Judy's friend Douglas Dean had been invited to lunch with a psychology professor at the Columbia University Medical Center and invited Judy to accompany him. Judy hoped to discuss the subject of holistic healing, which she wanted to introduce in some way to the conventional medical community. As it turned out, the professor was Dr. William Thetford, and accompanying him to this luncheon meeting was Dr. Helen Schucman. Judy was not able to elicit much interest or discussion about holistic healing at lunch, but she sensed that Dr. Schucman had something on her mind that she was not talking about. While they were eating desert, Judy surprised herself and Dr. Schucman when she heard herself say to Helen, “You hear an inner voice, don't you?” This comment led to Bills moving the conversation to the privacy of the office he shared with Helen where Judy then met Dr. Kenneth Wapnick and was introduced to A Course in Miracles. Judy immediately felt very deeply connected to Helen, Bill and Ken, and the upshot of this meeting was a life-long alliance which resulted in the Skutch’s foundation changing its name to The Foundation for Inner Peace and eventually undertaking to publish the Course.

Initially, Helen, Bill, Judy and Bob thought that their job was to find a publisher for the Course, but they soon came to realize that no company was going to publish the Course without wanting to change it somehow. They would have to publish the Course themselves. A remarkable series of events followed, making publication affordable and resulting in an initial distribution of 300 photo-offset copies which are now referred to as the “Criswell Edition.” Before this, Helen had surprised everyone by announcing that the Course had to be copyrighted. Relative to this, Judy Skutch Whitson gave the following account9 in an early statement about the fiduciary responsibilities of the Foundation for Inner Peace:

Yet the question is often asked: "Why was A Course in Miracles copyrighted by the Foundation for Inner Peace, given that it is a spiritual writing and teaching?"

Specifically, in 1975 when Helen Schucman turned A Course in Miracles over to the Foundation for Inner Peace, she also explicitly instructed the Foundation to have the Course copyrighted. When Judith Skutch at the time asked why A Course in Miracles—a spiritual document—had to be copyrighted, Helen replied: "Because he says so." "He," meant Jesus, whom Helen earlier had identified as the inner voice that dictated A Course in Miracles to her.

Yet there are some who still feel that true spiritual works such as A Course in Miracles hardly need the mundane protection of copyright. The answer to this seeming dilemma is reflected in the Course's "Clarification of Terms" in the passage: "This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed." (C-IN 3:1). Thus the Foundation—with regard to the fiduciary responsibility given to it—trusts in the fact that when Jesus directed Helen to perfect the copyright in A Course in Miracles, he intended that the Course be "protected" by copyright limitations within the ego framework. In effect, this ensures that the Course will remain intact and exactly as it was given, so that it will never be diluted, distorted, or changed.

Clearly, the purpose of the copyright had nothing to do with commercialism or profit. The official, authorized Course has been made available, but never commercially advertised and both the Foundation for Inner Peace and its sister Foundation for A Course in Miracles are non-profit organizations. Over the years FIP has given away over 20,000 copies of the Course to those who could not afford to purchase them. Rather than financial protection, the copyright was intended to protect the integrity of the Course's radical non-dualistic thought system; a thought system which terrifies our ego identity and which can be assumed to have led to Jesus’ crucifixion when he was in a body 2000 years ago. His teachings were then distorted over the centuries into an ego-compatible framework which was metaphysically dualistic. This resulted in teaching a form of forgiveness that was the exact opposite of the forgiveness based on our essential sinlessness which Jesus intended to teach. His teachings, especially as presented in the lovely, appealing language of the Course and having been delivered in the unusual manner of Helen's scribing, drive the already insane ego even more crazy. Our fearful, insane ego tries to dilute and distort the Course's message so that it becomes some form of dualism, usually that compatible with Christianity; or it goes crazy with specialness in an attempt to co-opt the Course for purposes of self aggrandizement. Those responsible for the Course have had to learn this the hard way as they have seen both the copyright and the integrity of the Course attacked.

In the early years, the publishers of the Course were naive in assuming that the Course's beautiful message of love would inspire respect and cooperation. They did not anticipate that people would publish books quoting and paraphrasing the Course without permission and proper acknowledgment, let alone attempt to integrate its thought system into that of the Bible with no indication of how that massive incompatibility could be accomplished without compromising the Course. They could hardly have anticipated angry public assaults upon the character of those responsible for publishing and teaching the Course, let alone that both of the unpublished manuscripts would essentially be stolen and then widely distributed on the Internet with no regard for the wishes of Jesus; and with no understanding of the concern for avoiding confusion which inspired the loving, painstaking work of editing prior to publication.

We who are dedicated to the path of the Course all have our classrooms in forgiveness. It is for those who have responsibility for publishing the Course to see the brotherhood beyond the furor that surrounded the copyright litigation lasting from June, 1996 until April, 2004. In every heart there is the longing for love. And in almost every heart there is the fear of love which our ego identity fosters. Yet that fear is itself a call for love, and those who take the Course's teaching seriously have to learn how to hear that call, regardless of the form it takes. We have to learn how to shoulder our worldly responsibilities effectively while remembering that our only true function is forgiveness, which requires that we give up judgment no matter how tempting the provocations.

As it now stands, copyright in the First Edition of the Course was set aside by the court so that what is known as the “Criswell Edition” is in the public domain. However, copyright in all of the changes introduced in the Second Edition remains intact, as does the copyright for the Text Preface, "Clarification of Terms" found at the end of the Manual for Teachers, and the two supplementary pamphlets (Psychotherapy and Song of Prayer, both now included in the Third Edition of the Course) along with Helen's book of poetry, The Gifts of God. FIP stated at the conclusion of an announcement about the copyright:

Because we have, for many years now, published the version of A Course in  Miracles  that contains the "Clarification of Terms" and the Text Preface, we want to make sure that people understand that this version of the Course has not been placed into the public domain as a result of the lawsuit—and, particularly, that certain portions of that version of the work remain protected by copyright. It is, therefore, not accurate to indicate that the "Course" (as it has been known for the last 29 years) can now be freely published by anyone who wishes to do so. A Course in Miracles as published by the Foundation for Inner Peace represents the form of publication approved by both Helen Schucman and William Thetford, both of whom lived for many years after the initial publication of the Course, and both of whom, we believe, would have approved of the improvements represented by the Second Edition.9


I hope that this account has given interested students of the Course a helpful, historical overview with some explanations about the copyright and why the Course was published in the particular form that it takes, as well as why the urtext and HLC have not been officially published. I suggest that if the Course resonates with you, you regard it as having been published for only one person. Your concern, then, is to decide whether you are that person and if so, whether you will practice the forgiveness that the Course teaches. The voice that spoke to Helen and whose words we read in the pages of A Course in Miracles resides in your own mind, a mind you share with all other seemingly separated Sons of God. It is the Purpose of the Course to help you find that voice—that “Inner Teacher” of love—no matter what particular form it takes for you, or what name you might give it. The Course is really very simple, but it requires of us a willingness and vigilance that may not come easily: vigilance against our ego; willingness to set aside our separate self-identity in favor of accepting shared interests and a common purpose with all our brothers.

This is not a course in philosophical speculation, nor is it concerned with precise terminology. It is concerned only with Atonement, or the correction of perception. The means of the Atonement is forgiveness.…

All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. Theological considerations as such are necessarily controversial, since they depend on belief and can therefore be accepted or rejected. A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends (ACIM Clarification of Terms-IN 1:1-3; 2).

1Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in  Miracles, by Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D., © 1991, 1999, Foundation for A Course in Miracles,
 Temecula, CA, 92590.
2ibid, pp. 83-85
3ibid, pp. 179-181
4“An Exclusive, Candid Conversation with William Thetford, Ph.D.,” by James Bolen in New Realities, October, 1984, © James Bolen, Larkspur, CA, 94939. (Note: New Realities
  magazine is no longer in publication, however Mr. Bolen retains copyright in this article.)
5Absence from Felicity, op. cit., pp. 347ff.
6 Published concurrently with the second edition; some copies still available from the Foundation for Inner Peace as well as on the Web, as noted.
7Absence from Felicity, op. cit., p. 355
8Journey Without Distance: the Story Behind A Course in Miracles, p. 105ff. by Robert Skutch © 1984, Celestial Arts (Revised Edition, © 2001, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.)
9No longer available in print, but retrieved from the author's personal files.

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