As one of the two persons responsible for scribing A
Course In Miracles what has been the impact of it on
has changed my life totally. I recall typing the first
fifty principles on miracles that came through Helen
Schucman in the fall of 1965, and realized that if this
material was true then absolutely everything I believed
would have to be challenged - that I would have to reconstruct
my whole belief system.
the time, however, I thought that would be impossible;
I didn't know how I could do it. Yet I felt that was
a requirement, since the material that came through
Helen in the beginning phase seemed so authentic and
genuine. I went into shock for a brief period, wondering
how it would be possible to make such an abrupt change
in my perception of life and the world.
Later I realized that
God is merciful, and does not ask us to make changes
so abruptly, that there would be adequate time to gradually
begin to shift my perception. I think what was important
was my willingness to change, not mastery of the material.
And, of course,
I moved from the middle of Manhattan, where I had lived
for twenty-three years to Tiburon, California, something
I thought would never happen. I had settled into my
routine as a New Yorker, and felt that the Big Apple
was the center of the Universe and the place where I
belonged. That move was probably the greatest cultural
shock I have ever experienced, making an abrupt transition
from the turmoil of a hectic life in New York City to
the tranquility of Tiburon.
I left academia as well. First by retiring from my position
as Director of the Psychology Department at the Presbyterian
Hospital of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center,
and several years later retiring from my position as
Professor of Medical Psychology at the College of Physicians
and Surgeons of Columbia University.
Was that to devote full time to the
Course, or to pursue other interests?
combination, I think. After 20 years at Columbia I felt
that it was time to leave academia. It seemed natural
to leave when the Course was published.
exactly was your role in the scribing process of the
Course? Did you hear a voice too?
Helen and I knew from the beginning that this was a
collaborative assignment, although I did not hear a
voice. While Helen heard the inner dictation, she was
incapable of transcribing the material directly herself,
since she found the content of the Course too threatening.
My role was to offer the considerable support and reassurance
needed each day for Helen to continue her shorthand
notebook recording. She would then read the material
to me, and I would type it directly from her dictation.
the Course challenged your own belief and thought system,
too, why didn't you just reject it, chuck it out?
my intellect did rebel at times. But I was the one who
had asked for another way, a better way, with regard
to the extremely stressful professional context in which
Helen and I were trying to function. When the material
in “A Course In Miracles” began coming,
it was obvious to me that this was the answer to my
question, very clearly the answer. So to reject it or
even disregard it was never even a consideration.
What specifically about it made it
obvious to you that this was indeed your answer?
the fact that it was so totally different from the way
I had been operating throughout my life. But the authenticity
of the material more than anything else struck me. I
knew that Helen had not made this up, even with her
authenticity. . . ?
the material was something that transcended anything
that either of us could possibly conceive of. And since
the content was quite alien to our backgrounds, interests
and training, it was obvious to me that it came from
an inspired source. The quality of the material was
very compelling, and its poetic beauty added to its
It seems quite unusual that you, an established psychologist
holding two very prestigious positions, would even consider
embracing such material, considering your training and
the rigid tenets within academia to which you no doubt
subscribed and adhered.
think if it had not been for many of the extraordinary
experiences that occurred during the summer of 1965,
neither Helen nor I would have been willing to accept
the material she scribed.
You have reported some
of those experiences in these pages in the material
from Robert Skutch’s new book, Journey
Without Distance. However, our experience associated
with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was not
reported. Perhaps as much as anything, that series of
events crystallized the whole new direction that we
Mayo Clinic event occurred in September and didn't
the Course begin the next month in October?
had been asked to go to the Mayo Clinic and find out
why they made money on their psychological service operations,
while at Columbia-Presbyterian, it seemed that we were
always losing money. I thought I knew the answer to
that question because we saw primarily clinic patients
who couldn't afford fees, and the patients at the Mayo
Clinic were middle or upper class and able to pay.
Nevertheless, it seemed
this was an important trip to make and I asked Helen
to accompany me. Just before we took off - I think it
was the night before - Helen had this very vivid image
of a church, which she described to me in great detail,
she even made a sketch of it. It was an old church with
a number of turrets and towers. She thought it was probably
a Lutheran Church. She was convinced that somehow we
would see that church from the airplane window as we
were about to land in Rochester. That, of course, seemed
rather unlikely, since the airports I know aren't built
near churches. Anyway, we kept our attention very closely
focused on the windows during landing, and much to Helen's
disappointment and distress no such church was visible.
In fact, Helen was so upset at not finding her church
that I didn't hold out much hope of accomplishing our
business the next day unless she could somehow be reassured.
Rather desperately, I suggested to Helen that we hire
a taxi and see if we could find her church anywhere
in the Rochester metropolitan area.
So Helen and I went church
hunting. At first we thought we would confine ourselves
to Lutheran churches. I think there were two of those
and neither one was remotely like Helen's image. Then
we decided that we might as well see all the other churches
while we were at it. I think there were twenty-seven
altogether in the environs of Rochester. And not one
of them bore any resemblance to Helen's image. Obviously,
she was pretty crushed, but we pulled ourselves together
in preparation for the following days business.
The next day, after we
had successfully completed our survey, Helen and I prepared
to leave our hotel. I went down to the lobby to wait
for her with the luggage, and noticing a newsstand I
decided to get a paper. Instead, I saw a little booklet
entitled, “The History of the Mayo Clinic”.
Thinking it would be nice to have a souvenir of our
visit, I purchased it for a dollar. As I leafed through
it very quickly, I saw a picture of Helen's old church,
exactly as she had described it with all the turrets
and towers. It was even a Lutheran church. The only
problem was that it had been razed and the Mayo Clinic
was actually built on the former site of this Lutheran
church. It was a very dramatic moment, and I was eager
to share it with Helen. When she came down, I said quickly,
“Helen you really weren't out of your mind after
all. Your church was there but its no longer around.
When you thought you were looking down on it as from
an airplane, you were really looking back through time.”
Helen displayed a peculiar mixture of emotions. On the
one hand, relief that she wasn't totally crazy, on the
other hand, it was clear that she was doing something
which she regarded as highly paranormal, and this was
an area that made her very uncomfortable.
On our way back to New
York, we had to change planes in Chicago. While we were
sitting in the waiting room, Helen spied a young woman
in the corner reading a magazine and looking vaguely
unhappy in the way people frequently do when they are
waiting for planes in airports, I was surprised when
Helen said to me, “See that young woman over there,
she's really in serious trouble - she's got a lot of
problems.” Helen insisted that she would go over
and speak to this woman. As it turned out the woman
whose name was Charlotte, had never been on an airplane
before. She had flown on Ozark Airlines to Chicago en
route to New York and was in a state of panic. She knew
nothing about New York. We later found out that she
was leaving her husband and two young children, and
was in a state of great distress.
Charlotte was booked on
the same plane as we. During the flight, we sat on either
side of her, holding her hand, and trying to calm and
soothe her. We asked where she was going to stay in
New York since she didn't know anyone. She said that
since she was Lutheran, she though she would contact
a Lutheran Church and somehow they would find a place
for her in the city.
It was at this point that
Helen and I exchanged glances. The message was clear
to both of us. Helen heard her inner voice saying, “And
this is my true church, helping your brother who is
in need; not the edifice you saw before”. The
authority of this inner voice became increasingly familiar
to both of us when the Course began a few weeks later
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
of this is that when we completed the manuscript we
were both awarded tenure as professors.
PART 2 >>