Saturday, December 27, 2008

Absence from Felicity

Here is another book that was mentioned in Closing the Circle, and I have sofar not discussed in full on this site. I doubt anyone would read this book unless they were already interested in the Course, and for as much it is a biography, it is really about the Course which would seem to have been the defining event of Helen Schucman's life and work. Actually, the publishers of A Course in Miracles, the Foundation for Inner Peace, have a lot of material now available on-line on their recent new website, and one important audio segment is Helen's discussion of the Voice, which would make it clear to any one why Helen's years with the Course were to her the defining experience of her life.

This biography is very much in depth, and it could only conceivably be written by one who understood Helen and the Course very deeply, not to mention someone who would have to be an accomplished psychologist himself to be able to write this. Since helping Helen with preparing the Course for print, Ken Wapnick has simply become the pre-eminent teacher of the Course, and this book reflects all of that experience, and it exhaustively addresses the need of the Course student who at some point becomes interested in the context in which the Course arose. The essence of the story is simply that besides all of the evident (with the benefit of hindsight) seeds that were present in the lives of Helen and Bill, the fundamental point is that they were in a professional situation that was rife with conflict, jealousies, including a fair amount of tension between the two of them. Professionally Bill was a professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and Helen was a Research Professor under him, and they had their offices in the Black building at West 168th Street in Manhattan. So they were in New York, the Empire City, highly symbolic of all the world has to offer, good and bad. And one day they found themselves completely fed up with the professional tensions they had to deal with, and prior to going to a meeting at another facility, Bill voiced this to Helen in the now famous "another way" speech, in which he simply expressed to her that there had to be another way of relating to people and much to her own surprise, never mind his, Helen spontaneously agreed to help him find it. It was not too long after that that the Course started making itself manifest to Helen's mind. The rest is history, as they say.

This book will undoubtedly satisfy any student wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the birth place and process of the Course, and it is fascinating to see how Helen's entire life prepared her for this experience, starting from the fact that she had a long standing and early attraction to Jesus and the Bible. I can almost see her as a young child going to service at a Baptist church with the family's black maid, and all the other ways in which she explored her relationship with Jesus during her life. If there is any story that is my favorite in this book, there is the dream in which she experiences a man who helps her and intuits that this is Jesus, and later when awake asks Jesus, how come he looked like Bill, and the answer is, "Who else would I look like?" In a way this is the essence of the Course, namely it ALL happens in relationships, and depending on whether we see our brothers with the ego or the Holy Spirit, our experience of them will change accordingly, until we truly understand that they are always our best way home, and we learn to recognize our savior in them, and as the Course puts it, learn to "see the face of Christ" in them, which comes only from practicing forgiveness, until we finally have no need any longer to project any guilt onto our brothers.

Also helpful is the fact that through Helen's own experiences we can see all the mistakes we ourselves tend to make in our relationship with Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, such as trying to use them as Santa Claus, as in Helen's episodes with Jesus's Higher Shopping service, where she felt he helped her find the green panty hose she liked best, or conversely she experienced that if she was on the outs with him, she could not find anything at all. To a greater or lesser degree we've all known such episodes. If you lose something in your house, the chances of finding it are slim to none if you give in to the upset, whereas if your mind is at peace it'll just turn up when you need it. All of these episodes help to underscore the very practical meaning of the Course. Meanwhile Helen's own life also shows us why the Course's primary focus always is on seeing the ego with open eyes, and understanding honestly that it is our own resistance that prevents us from following the Course completely right away. It is a process, and this book can certainly be helpful to many.

Lastly, this book is important for the historical record, now that there are so many bootleg versions of the Course on the market, which are being promoted by unscrupulous individuals, who are achieving little but to obfuscate the message with controversy about the text of the Course itself. No author would appreciate it if the early drafts of their work were made public, and that certainly applies here. The fact that the copyright on the first edition of the Course was invalidated for technical/legal reasons has little relevance either. Once you understand the publication process of the Course, it should be clear to anyone that you always want to work with the current 3rd edition from the Foundation for Inner Peace (, which is the original publisher, established in conjunction with Helen and Bill, and completely faithful to their intentions. The 3rd edition includes the pamphlets that came later, The Song of Prayer, and the psychotherapy pamphlet.

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