Kenneth Wapnick Memorial Tributes
"From the heart, may it go to the heart."
The following tributes and expressions of gratitude were submitted to the Foundation following the death of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick. While Kenneth's physical presence is no longer with us, his wise, gentle, and loving spirit will forever remain with the Foundation, and with all those whose lives he touched.
February 22, 1942 – December 27, 2013
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In his nonfiction book, A Healing Family, Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe recounts what it's like to live in a family with a severely autistic child. When the book came out, the Associated Press wrote: "Oe has written a moving portrait of life with his son, Hikari, who was as born with a brain deformity so severe that doctors advised the family to let the child die. Oe and his wife decided otherwise. And through the love and attention of the entire family, the boy's musical talent emerged, leading to his unlikely blossoming into a successful composer." One should not assume that Oe's family portrait is sentimental or false in any way. In fact, Kirkus Reviews called the book "honest to a fault."
But what does this have to do with the life and teaching of Kenneth Wapnick? The answer is nothing, and in a generalized way, everything.
With a loving smile on his face, Kenneth quipped that someone once compared his students to autistic children (and that would include me as well), making him a teacher of the autistic—not too far from the truth, if we're being honest here. It's not that we can't learn, we can. But we take on attributes similar to the autistic when we willingly draw the veil of forgetfulness across our minds by continually choosing the ego and its results in the world.
If you read Oe's book, you can see why Kirkus mentioned Oe's "fault" of complete honesty. He writes about the human condition with an unblinking eye, citing both joy and sorrow and everything in between. In a chapter titled "Compassion," he recounts a particularly painful day in his life: the day he let go of Hikari's hand in a crowded shopping mall when he could no longer tolerate his autistic child's erratic behavior. Coming to his senses hours later, Oe frantically searched for his son, finally spotting him through a foggy window. Looking back on the incident years later, he wrote: "…even now, because of this experience, whenever I see an article these days about some young mother dropping her baby on the floor to keep it from crying, I can never bring myself to condemn these inexperienced, unfortunate people; instead, I identify with them, imagine myself in their shoes, feel their torment."
While I think Kenneth was too experienced a psychoanalyst to "feel our torment." he certainly knew where our pain originated (in the mind), and he addressed our choice for the ego within the context of the Course consistently, repeatedly and without fail. Did Kenneth get frustrated with his students' refusal to change their minds (or to even look)? I think so-yes. But don't kid yourself; Kenneth, better than any of us, recognized where all suffering lay.
So do we get a free pass, then? Not exactly.
In the same chapter, Oe goes on to explain how his whole family tried to support Hikari at different times and in different ways, with his daughter acting not unlike the Kenneth of the family. "While my younger son and I tend simply to support Hikari regardless of the circumstances, my daughter first gathers ail the facts in the case and then explains them to him, often urging him to reconsider his position. In the end, I suppose, she proves to be his best ally."
Kenneth understood the facts (the teachings of the Course), and he was willing to explain them. Like Oe's daughter, in this way he proved to be our best ally, always gently urging us to reconsider our position. To me, that was the essence of his being and his teaching.
I'll end my tribute with one last excerpt from Oe's book. In it, he discusses how Hikari grew into a composer of classical music despite his handicap.
"Hikari may not be good with words, but where music is concerned he has a carefully cultivated ability to concentrate, one that his mother and his teachers have helped him develop but which he himself has also honed by listening to recordings and the radio during almost every waking hour for more than twenty years. The French philosopher Simone Weil has written about this sort of concentration, asking what it is that could link such apparently disparate experiences as "study" and "the love of god," and concluding that "the key is in the fact that prayer is a matter of concentration. Prayer is the directing of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward god."
I'd like to thank Kenneth and Gloria for a lifetime of helping us to direct our attention inward and to hear the music within by gently presenting the facts (in this case, asking us to recognize what is really going on in our minds) and urging us to reconsider our position (change our minds).
As I've heard Bob Draper (a.k.a, Mr. Cold Water) say: "There is no free pass." The continuing work is ours.
"For the undoing of the crucifixion of God's Son is the work of the redemption, in which everyone has a part of equal value. God does not judge His guiltless Son. Having given Himself to him, how could it be otherwise?" (T-ll.VI.7: 5-7)
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Remembering Blessed Ken
The moment I met Ken at baggage claim in July 1982 at SeaTac Airport I knew I'd met someone extraordinary. During the days that followed at "Miracle Mountain", the first Course in Miracles Retreat which was held in rural Washington State, it became clear to myself and those who were seriously into the Course that he was the one who knew.
I had the privilege to be there to remember his first' coffee grounds talk' and his smile; that smile that has melted so many hearts. And that is where our friendship took root. He came back to lead wonderful CIM workshops in rural Idaho. During those summers he and I would take very early morning walks. He played with my son Rick who was just 9 and called him his "henchman"' and took him to a water slides park where Ken got a nose full of water more than once. He was a regular guy, an extraordinary guy, a fun guy, and a most compassionate man.
From those early days he became my spiritual mentor and my brother, just like he has for hundreds of others throughout the world. He was unassumingly powerful with a heart of gold and a Brooklyn sense of humor. He could slip in witticisms and come on strong effortlessly as an academician. I could always count on him as could the thousands of others who shared knowing him.
Maybe it's that I'm so far away physically that I don't feel Ken is gone. And in the same breath I say, "I can't believe he died". My heart goes out to precious Gloria, my sister, and all of the CIM Staff who had the honor of being so close to him. Thank you for all you do and have done. He would want us to 'stay calm and carry on' with the Course.
Kindest regards and love,
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My friend and teacher;
You told me the truth.
Thank you, dear Kenneth.
My love and gratitude.
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It seems fitting to write to you because your many letters continue to be treasures beyond description. I cherish them and I have no doubt that your books, articles, workshops, videos, and letters will endure as long as any member of the Sonship needs your help to awaken from the dream of separation.
I have no words that would fully express my gratitude to you, but I can share some giggles that I think you would like.
Okay, so I'm a silly goose. Do you know how long it took me to call you a goofy gander without pangs of guilt? And don't tell me you didn't ask for it.
When I mentioned that we might be Skyping someday, you told me it was unlikely because you still balance your checkbook with an abacus. May I borrow it?
You made fun of my special diet food (so generously offered to you) with the memorable comment: "Yummmmmmmmmmy." Okay then, starve, and no you can't go the San Francisco Zoo with us and eat your Limburger cheese in the car.
I could go on and on. And guess what, I think I finally got your point: Don't take you, myself, the ego, or anything else, (including A Course in Miracles), too seriously.
Humor aside for a moment, I send immense gratitude for your courage in staying true to the non dualism of A Course in Miracles, while teaching in such a way that students at all levels of understanding can benefit. I know of no other western spiritual teacher who can achieve that as you do. In addition, I continue to benefit immeasurably from your extraordinary knowledge of Catholicism, great classical composers, classical literature, Vedanta, Bhakti Yoga, and of course, Freud's work.
We see your death as untimely and we grieve. Still there is the realization that "I know nothing" and therefore do not understand anything about the dissolution of your form or why it occurred when it did in what we call "time." Our small Seattle area ACIM group is consoled as we continue to view DVDs that, in some sense, keep you with us in form and above all, aid us in continuing the practice of A Course in Miracles as you taught it to us and as you made it available for future generations.
In the words of the German children's song, Danke (English translation): "Thank you for everything you give us, thank you for everything we share, thank you for simply being with us. Thanks for being here." We know you haven't gone anywhere.
Miriam, your name for me (aka Marilyn Melcher or Mari]
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This will be my last letter to you. As I write these words my ego is telling me to be sad. It is telling me that I lost a good friend. It is telling me to be faithless. It is telling me that death is real.
Yet as you me and all our brothers, the ego lies. It lies when it tells me that you will no longer teach me. It lies when it tells me that you will no longer comfort me. It lies when it tells me you are gone. It lies and lies and lies.
My dear brother, I know you are still with me, with all of us. I remain the beneficiary of your wisdom. I smile as I remember your wonderful sense of humor. I still ill feel the warmth of your hugs. How can I miss you when you are always with me?
You Ken, my teacher, our teacher, you still guide me through this desert. You still point the way to forgiveness. You are my present memory. You appear to me whenever I call to you. Literally.
Even now, at this moment, I see your smiling face. I feel your love and peace. So silent, so still, so sublime. Your Love enfolds me in its Light.
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As a Catholic Maryknoll missionary Sister, in 19751 returned to the New York area from Chile after having experienced tremendous turmoil and upheaval—both personally and politically—in the years prior to and after Chile's military coup. I returned home realizing that I needed help in understanding what I had undergone in my personal and spiritual life. I met Ken shortly after and he began to teach me the principles and practice of the Course in counseling sessions, over a period of several years. I knew from the beginning that Ken himself and this teaching embodied some very deep and mysterious level of God's Spirit, far beyond anything I had known before. I was attracted to this teaching as welt as frightened and disturbed by it. Ken's gentle patience and steadfast commitment to my learning process enabled me to continue. Most importantly, he taught me by his own loving, sensitive example. The fact that Ken also stuttered made him somehow more accessible and like one of us.
At that time Ken, based in his New York's East Side studio apartment, lived a very simple, yet busy, life as a "monk in the world," selflessly helping others. What impressed me was that he was always unfailingly happy, loving and kind, even as he showed me the murderous attack thoughts of my own ego. When I expressed gratitude to him, he would thank me for my efforts in learning forgiveness.
Over these many years, I have come to realize how much Ken lived in the world, but was not of it, knowing he was bathed in that resplendent love of God .... even while he joked, teased, exhorted and admonished his students, to "get out of the sandbox" and Join him in the Oneness of Being. While he taught us the machinations of the ego, he looked upon us with the vision of Christ in his loving eyes. We could not have had a better "elder brother" to guide us along the way .... and make us laugh, as well!
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The Choice For Peace
The choice for peace is discovered along the path, a tiny flower in a vast and lonely desert, formerly unnoticed, its breath of loveliness transforms a whole desert ... beheld from where I stand ... in the stillness of all things.
The choice for peace, once small and difficult to find, hidden within a desert world, and there within every separate thing, has, in a shining instant grown to be so large, and every other thing so small. Now, every other thing is found within the choice for peace, there found wanting, seen anew, framed within its obvious insignificance. The choice for peace now overwhelms my world—to become larger than a universe. It is not spread thin, for it points faithfully toward the infinite, given wholly to the eternal. In a breath, the choice for peace has become all there is within a finite time-bound world ... a timeless now, where only peace can be found.
Where once there was a world made to fill a little-self with dread; where once a nameless frozen terror did dwell; where once there was one destined forever to flee from what cannot be, to tread along endless winding paths of fear, to commit to carry causeless burdens of betrayal, loneliness, and loss-there is now one elated to take his place in liberation instead.
In the glimmer of an instant, and each one to follow, fearlessness replaces what cannot be ... to everywhere make wholly free. A single instant's recognition returns again, then repeatedly, to give its gift in full. Then once for all, the time of Christ extends to fill a single gladdened vision, thus a joyful heart in its release sings of wholeness to all that ls beheld. In this place, the choice for peace appears as all there ever was ... all there is.
This choice is with me always, in its promise to endure, until every remnant of what is little is given to the Truth. And thus the choice for peace, with the one that seemed to choose, is unremembered altogether with the temporal; for this choice need not cross the bridge where timeless peace stands alone. Swiftly, from this forgiven place, every other thing is seen to pass by one final time, clean and innocent of all I thought it was... all I thought I was, even now, as witness of the Truth. Every holy instant thus washes over me as one, time and space forever gone where only perfect peace abides ... and forevermore is Known. Yes, finally, only peace remains to flow across a world that never was, and never will this fleeting dream be seen, or given ... a single tiny thought again!
In gratitude to our brother Kenneth Wapnick, symbol of a Love that is not of this world. May we all continue to walk toward the boundless grace and peace which you extolled and exemplified, faithfully, in all you said, in all you did. We still hear your voice, we feel your presence, encouraging us to step beyond each little hindrance—to go further! We will not stop until we join you where you are ... where only perfect peace abides as all there Is ... yes Ken, our Home we never left! Received in the gentleness of what we thought you were, do we now turn in gratitude to join with you as what we are in Truth!
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You no doubt know you were the most important person in my life. You hooked me with your sudden statements and with your wit before I noticed there was so much more you gave.
You gave and gave and gave and gave—you gave yourSelf.
The first jolt I received from you in 1989 after a workshop in Canterbury where I first got to know you and Gloria. You asked me when we met by chance where I was going, and on my replying that I was going home you said: "You are home."
And then the day Gloria and you invited Margarethe and me to your house (must have been in 1992) we went in to find Archie-pooh on the sofa. Gloria shooed it away, and then you bent down, stroked the cat and said: "Daddy still loves you."
The work with you on the translation is simply unforgettable. Never ever was serious work so light and full of laughter. Staff-walking past us stopped to ask whether we were working, or what?
Another jolt I got when it dawned on me that you were loving, helpful and wonderfully witty with and towards everyone. Ever since I've been coming to the Foundation to see you do this: being the same toward everyone.
Like Jesus, you taught from the mind. You were a master, yet never letting on.
I can't hug you any more, but I still do,
Memorial Tribute by
Thomas L. Andrus
"But a man who has given his heart to learning and true wisdom ... is surely bound ... to have immortal and divine thought, and cannot fail to achieve immortality as fully as permitted to human nature."—-Plato (pg. 301, Love Does Not Condemn )
I first met Ken and Gloria at the conference in Hawaii in 1985. I told him I was much impressed by the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti. He told me that he had nothing but the utmost respect for J. Krishnamurti. Then he turned ever so slightly to me and uttered one word "Krishnaji." A holy instant. And that after giving an earlier talk, he overheard someone say "Oh, how like Krishnamurti," which made him very happy. Krishnaji. What a generous comment. I was overjoyed!
Years later when I sent in a donation for The Lighthouse I told him that the issue I liked best was the one on "kindness." When the Foundation acknowledged my gift, he penned a note "That was my favorite issue too." Great happiness!
I recently read his book Absence from Felicity for the second time in twenty years. What a beautiful story. I wanted to tell him I thought the bit about Helen's "back field" walking down the streets of New York was worth the price of admission. I hope it would have tickled his great sense of humor.
His use of the tragedies of Shakespeare to teach the Course's concept of guilt was brilliant. As a good Course student and of Ken's writings, never will you believe that two plus two equals four. For it is written in the stars that if you wish to rise above the battleground into the starry, starry night, sever the surly bonds of earth, reach up and touch the face of God, you must believe two plus two equals five. He had the smell of eternity in his nostrils! Thank you, Ken Wapnick, thank you!
"Beside the tomb the angel stands in shining hopefulness to give salvation's message: 'Be you free and stay not here; go on to Galilee!'" "Transformation" from The Gifts of God by Helen Schucman.
I am going to miss him! And a happy lightheartedness to you all!
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For the last four years I have been honored to call Ken Wapnick my friend. While doing the Course I felt a need to write him a ten page hand-written letter. After mailing it I felt silly. Why would a man like him ever write me? Before the week was out I received a reply and received one every week for nearly four years.
I felt like I was writing Jesus. His total lack of judgment, his compassion and humor was an example of everything I want to be. Let me give you an example. After writing him I started having dreams of a life I lived in Egypt long ago. I felt the need to focus on the now so I asked Ken's advice. He suggested I "go with it" and see what happens.
It began with a dream and went from there. To make a long story short, I remembered a life in which I'd raped and murdered Ken. I was a very powerful man and Ken a servant. What "she" possessed was something I did not ... peace. I was outraged and ended up destroying the very person I admired most in the world. This memory literally left me vomiting between sobs as I clung to my toilet.
When I shared the details with Ken I expected him to suggest I find a therapist. I just knew he would never write me again. His unexpected reply read, "I loved you then, I love you now and I will always love you."
Healing began for me that day. There are no words that can describe the gratitude, respect and love I feel for this man, a man who walked his talk. I would also like to express my gratitude to his wife and family for enriching his days so he could be such an inspiration to us all.