The Historical Context for the Institute for Teaching
Inner Peace through A Course In Miracles
Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick
Helen Schucman, scribe of the Course, had a clear awareness that A Course in Miracles as A Course in Miracles would not be understood or welcomed by the world at large. She knew, from the wisdom of Jesus within her, that the purity of its non-dualistic thought system and its radical implications for daily living under the principle of forgiveness would indeed be threatening to all the thought systems prevalent in the world, including those of most spiritualities. It was clear to her that this would lead-as the Course's brief history has already demonstrated-to the Course's being considered flagrantly heretical to many, and totally unacceptable to others. In conclusion, Helen accepted as fact that the teachings of A Course in Miracles would not be widely understood in the pure form with which they had been dictated to her, nor would its true message be embraced by millions of people.
However, Helen certainly did not mean by this that the Course should be diluted or changed to suit the presumed needs of others. Indeed, just the opposite was the case. She and William Thetford, her partner in the collaborative venture of taking down the Course, knew that Jesus had given them A Course in Miracles as a sacred trust precisely because they would uphold its purity and preserve the clarity of its teachings. This holy purpose can be seen, incidentally, in the clear instruction Helen received from Jesus that the three books of the Course should not be abridged or separated, nor its curriculum altered in any way.
This sacred trust was extended to the Foundation for Inner Peace by Helen in 1975 as the official organization that would represent A Course in Miracles in the world. When she was instructed by Jesus to assign the copyright of the Course and all publishing rights to the Foundation, there were two explicit components to this assignment, reflecting the dual function the Foundation was to have: 1) publishing and disseminating A Course in Miracles; and 2) teaching the Course through publications and classes held at a future teaching center: a building Helen "saw" near a body of water, which she symbolically conceived to be white with a gold cross atop it that clearly represented Jesus. As was described in Kenneth's book, Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles, in the years prior to the Course's publication there was serious discussion among Helen, Bill, and Kenneth (and later Judith Skutch Whitson and Robert Skutch) about establishing this teaching center where they would all live together and teach the Course, which was primarily to be Kenneth's responsibility. For a variety of reasons, this specific form of a center did not come to pass during those early years, but the content of teaching always remained an integral part of the ongoing responsibility of the Foundation for Inner Peace.
From the beginning, this assigned function of holding the sacred trust was identified by the Foundation's Board of Directors with ensuring that the purity and integrity of the Course would always be maintained. While no human brain can presume to know the full extent of the Course's greater purpose, it is nonetheless clear that it will remain for future generations to accept and appreciate the true fruits of what is found within its pages. The single purpose of the Foundation's Executive Board members, therefore, as holders of this trust, has always been to collaborate in laying the foundation on which later generations would be able to build, so that there would rest secure for the future a pure text, faithful and accurate translations, and a solid core of teaching. Thus, when significantly larger numbers of people would be ready to turn to the Course, it would be there-undiluted, undistorted, and unchanged-in the same purity of form and content that Helen received from Jesus thirty years ago.
In its early years, the Foundation for Inner Peace focused almost exclusively on publishing and distributing the Course. However, Helen was quite clear in the years before her death in 1981 that the Foundation for Inner Peace was also to fulfill the other aspect of its purpose, which was to support Kenneth's teaching of the Course. This was reflected in her helping Kenneth to edit his first book, Christian Psychology in A Course in Miracles, for publication in 1978. As events unfolded and the Foundation for Inner Peace transferred its operations to California, while Kenneth remained in New York with Helen, the function of teaching A Course in Miracles eventually became assumed by the sister organization, the New York-based Foundation for A Course in Miracles, incorporated by us in 1983. Despite two legally separate organizations, however, we both have functioned together as one-two parts of one whole-always keeping in mind Helen's instructions from Jesus that the official organization of A Course in Miracles should assume the dual function of publishing-distributing and teaching. Thus, our decision-making process has been a collaborative one, even though the two Foundations have had different functions.
Since the New York State Department of Education could not charter the existing Foundation for A Course in Miracles, which was organized under the New York State Department of Law as a charitable, not-for-profit corporation, it became necessary to form a new corporation under the more appropriate Education Law. This seemed the ideal opportunity to integrate, in this new Foundation, the concepts and functions of both the Foundation for Inner Peace and Foundation for A Course in Miracles. The corporate name for the new organization-Institute for Teaching Inner Peace through A Course in Miracles-thus reflects the blending together in form what was always one in content.
A Course in Miracles is a self-study curriculum, which requires of all its students that they study and practice its teachings on forgiveness in the context of their special relationships. It is these classrooms that provide the opportunity to rediscover and develop the one true relationship, which is with Jesus or the Holy Spirit as Teacher and Guide. Nonetheless, it still remains true that this relationship with the Holy Spirit can be badly distorted and compromised by students' unconscious ego investments in specialness. As Jesus teaches in one of the text's more powerful sections on the treacherous nature of this specialness:
You are not special. If you think you are, and would defend your specialness against the truth of what you really are, how can you know the truth? What answer that the Holy Spirit gives can reach you, when it is your specialness to which you listen, and which asks and answers. Its tiny answer, soundless in the melody that pours from God to you eternally in loving praise of what you are, is all you listen to. And that vast song of honor and of love for what you are seems silent and unheard before its "mightiness." You strain your ears to hear its soundless voice, and yet the Call of God Himself is soundless to you.
You can defend your specialness, but never will you hear the Voice for God beside it (T-24.II.4:1-5:1).
And thus the otherwise "simple," "clear," and "direct" message of A Course in Miracles-the actual words with which Jesus repeatedly and specifically refers to his teaching-becomes almost hopelessly distorted and confused in many students' understanding. This inevitably leads to otherwise well-meaning students acting from the specialness of their egos, but firmly convinced that they are being guided by the Voice for God. Therefore, it can be helpful for students of A Course in Miracles to have a teaching center to attend, and books and tapes to study, where the Course is taught in a simple, clear, and direct fashion, and students helped to keep their study and application of A Course in Miracles on track. Without truly understanding the principles of the Course, it is impossible to effectively put them into practice, which, needless to say, is the ultimate goal of Jesus' teachings. It is because of this dual purpose of understanding and application that the curriculum of A Course in Miracles contains both text and workbook, and that built into the "plan" from the beginning was a teaching center to facilitate and support students' fulfillment of this purpose.
It should be emphasized that the Academy and Retreat Center in Roscoe does not aim to substitute for the individual study and practice that is the clear responsibility of each student of A Course in Miracles. And certainly it does not seek to replace Jesus or the Holy Spirit as the Teacher. Rather, through its various academic programs, the Center hopes to realize its purpose of assisting students in their own individual work with the Course, as well as developing their relationship with Jesus as their teacher and friend. As in the past, the Academy will continually experiment with different kinds of programs to meet the needs of its students. But always, the purpose will be to encourage students to study A Course in Miracles diligently on their own, and to practice its principles faithfully as they increasingly understand the Course's teachings over many years of study. This echoes Jesus' own urging of Helen and Bill, as Helen was taking down his words, that they "study these notes"-Jesus' term for the Course dictation-and to apply this study to their daily lives under his very personal guidance and supervision. This dual focus on study and application has always been the model for the teaching programs of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles, and the Institute for Teaching Inner Peace through A Course in Miracles.
Indeed, the staff of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles have continually felt that programs were successful if students left a lecture, workshop, or class with a deeper understanding of the thought system that Jesus teaches in his Course, coupled with a renewed commitment to apply their learning to the practice of forgiveness in their personal lives. It is in this continuing spirit of teaching A Course in Miracles-upholding the same standards of excellence one finds in the Course itself-that we sincerely welcome all of you to come to our new website to learn and progress on your journey with the Course.
(This article appeared in The Lighthouse Newsletter, March 1995)