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Between Heaven and hell

  • January 1, 2021

Between Heaven and hell

Edited Preface from
Absence from Felicity:
The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles


Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Helen Schucman, the subject of this book, was the scribe of A Course in Miracles. From October 1965 through September 1972, she “heard” the voice of Jesus dictating to her the three volumes that comprise one of the most significant spiritual messages of our time. This book, in part, is the story of this dictation, set in the context of Helen’s lifetime search for God.

The book, however, is not a conventional biography, for it does not present a complete nor totally linear view of Helen’s life. Nor is it a psychobiography, a genre that has been somewhat in favor in our Freudian age. Echoing A Course in Miracles, this book reflects a particular point of view; namely, that the conflict in Helen between these parts of herself—wanting to return to God and the fear of such return—is the predominant theme in everyone’s life, independent of familial and/or hereditary circumstances. This was a conflict that symbolized both sides of Helen’s personality, and reflected the same ambivalence we all share regarding our relationship with God and with the person of Jesus, whose love for us was the closest the world has come to experiencing the resplendent Love of God, our Source.

In chronicling the development of this personal conflict, and its ultimate resolution, I thus am writing everyone’s story. The drama of this aspect of Helen’s inner life reflects the inner life of all people, seemingly trapped in a Godless world and wandering “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T‑31.VIII.7:1), yet all the time yearning to hear the Call of the loving God that would lead them back to Him. I therefore, for the most part, do not dwell on Helen’s worldly life—the form—except insofar as it reflects the underlying content of this conflict. Analyzing the ego is fruitless, as the Course repeatedly instructs us. On the other hand, understanding that the entire ego thought system is a defense against our true Self is extremely helpful. Thus, for example, Helen’s clear ambivalence towards her parents and organized religion—providing a goldmine of data for a psychologist seeking to find psychodynamic causes for her inner experiences—is here seen as reflective of this deeper God-ego conflict, not its cause.

The ultimate origins of this conflict, however, lie buried still deeper midst ancient scars, born on a raging battlefield of a transtemporal mind far greater than its tiny expression we call Helen Schucman. It is the mind of a larger, post-separation self (called the split mind or ego by A Course in Miracles) that is the source of our experienced personal self. Understanding Helen’s life therefore provides a model for this ontological God-ego conflict that rages inside all people. As the two sides of this battle are recognized, they can be brought together and transcended at last.

Helen, thus, not only left the world A Course in Miracles—in my opinion the world’s most psychologically sophisticated account of the mind’s subterranean warfare, along with teaching the means for undoing this war against God through forgiveness—but her own life provided a model for its teachings as well. Very few, if any at all, knew fully these two sides of Helen—Hamlet’s “Things standing thus unknown”—and it is this complex combination I hope to capture in this book. While Helen would not have wanted what I am to write to have been public knowledge during her lifetime, for reasons that form one of the important themes of this book, I know she would be pleased that I am at this time presenting her story and that of the Course’s beginnings. I therefore hope that this book will restore to Helen’s reported experience a balance that has been heretofore lacking, and that will record for posterity the wonderful if not painfully human story of a woman who remained absolutely faithful to Jesus, the one she both loved and hated above all others.

And yet, all this being said, the love and hate but veiled the Love in her that existed before time was, and will continue after time ceases to be. For beyond the personal and ambivalent side to Helen, rested a totally different self. In fact, “Self” may be a more appropriate spelling, for this part of her inner life was totally impersonal, and transcended the love-hate relationship with Jesus that in effect was her personal self. Almost always hidden in Helen, this other-worldly side nonetheless was the ultimate foundation for her life, and gave it the meaning from which all else must be understood.

Helen and I shared a deep love for one another, and for Jesus in whose love we knew we were joined, and on behalf of whose Course we had come together. It is my prayer that I am able to convey that love in these pages. In the words that Beethoven inscribed over the opening measures of his choral masterpiece Missa Solemnis: “From the heart, may it go to the heart.”