The Combined Volume, Third Edition of A Course in Miracles, is the only edition that contains in one place all of the writings that Dr. Helen Schucman, its Scribe, authorized to be printed. It is published solely by the Foundation for Inner Peace, the organization chosen by Dr. Schucman for this purpose.
The Course was originally scribed in a collaborative venture by Schucman and Thetford. In the early form of ACIM (commonly known as the "Urtext") the "Voice" described them as scribes taking down the words of Jesus. According to Wapnick, Jesus was "a symbol of God's love and not the historical Jesus of Nazareth". In 1976, the Course was distributed as a three volume set, which had evolved from the original notes and comprised the three sections of the Course: the Text, Workbook, and Manual.
For the first 19 years of its circulation the book was published, printed and distributed directly by the students of the work. In 1995, the printing and distribution of the work was licensed to Penguin Books for five years. The teachings of the book have been supported by such mainstream commentators as Oprah Winfrey in her interviews with author Marianne Williamson, and are supported by some "New Thought" churches such as the Association of Unity Churches.
Between 1965 and 1972, Schucman filled nearly thirty stenographic notebooks with words she received from the Voice. The collaborative venture between Helen Schucman and William Thetford would ultimately evolve into the the Course. Eventually the manuscript totaled 1,500 pages and was placed into black thesis binders. Schucman and Thetford did not want their co-workers, professors in the psychology department at Columbia University Medical Center, to know about the existence of the Course. They were embarrassed and considered it their "guilty secret." This process was a collaborative venture between Schucman and William Thetford, a psychology faculty member at Columbia University who was her superior and colleague. Schucman and Thetford worked together in private offices in "an air of secrecy," as they both believed that their professional reputations at Columbia would be adversely affected if their professional peers found out about the Course. Thetford was encouraging, and in their spare time at work, Thetford typed as Schucman dictated aloud from her notes as well as directly. Revisions were made including, for example, the omission of various references to their personal lives. The manuscript went through two additional drafts, one edited by Schucman alone , and the subsequent one edited by both of them. In the third draft, the manuscript was split into chapters and sections, to which they added titles and headings. This material eventually became the Text.
When Schucman experienced some personal difficulties and hesitance after hearing the "inner voice," Thetford, her work supervisor and friend, contacted Hugh Lynn Cayce at his Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to seek his advice and counsel, and Schucman met with Cayce before she began to record the Course.
The earliest known draft of the original manuscript reads more as a journal than as a study guide and contains material related to the personal lives of Schucman and Thetford (as in the authors' application of the abstract principles to concrete events in their lives) that was later edited out prior to the work's initial publication. Some of the material edited out appears to have been some extraneous theories about sex which may have been edited out in the hope of maintaining a greater focus on the primary aim of the material (forgiveness) in the published edition. One such section of the Urtext states that "...[a] miracle worker MUST understand (the proper use of sex)."The earliest known draft of the work is commonly referred to as the "Urtext").
A copy of the third draft was given to Cayce in 1970, along with a draft of most of the Workbook.
This more "polished" copy of the manuscript is commonly referred to either as the HLC (after Hugh Lynn Cayce) or the JCIM edition and in 2000 it was published under the title, "Jesus' Course in Miracles".
Father Benedict Groeschel, who studied under Thetford and worked with Schucman, arranged an introduction of Wapnick to Schucman and Thetford in November 1972. In 1973, Schucman and Thetford presented the third draft of the complete manuscript to Wapnick and Groeschel. Wapnick subsequently became a teacher of the Course, co-founder and president of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (FACIM), and a director and executive committee member of the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP).
Wapnick was a clinical psychologist, who between 1967 and 1972, directed a school for disturbed children and served as chief psychologist at Harlem Valley State Hospital. In 1972, Wapnick abandoned his Jewish faith and sought to convert to Catholicism so he could become a monk. Groeschel, a priest and a member of a Franciscan order, and who also had a doctorate in psychology, heard of Wapnick's intended conversion, which interested him, and so they met.
Wapnick reviewed the draft and discussed with Schucman further revisions that were needed to place the book in final form. Over the next thirteen months, Wapnick and Schucman edited the manuscript again, substantially rearranging and deleting material, altering chapter and section headings, and correcting various inconsistencies in paragraph structure, punctuation, and capitalization. This editing process was completed in approximately February 1975.
In mid-July 1975, Skutch Whitson met briefly with her doctoral adviser, Eleanor Criswell, who had a small printing company called Freeperson's Press. Criswell advised Skutch Whitson that she would be willing to assist in having the manuscript published, took responsibility for the manuscript pages and in August 1975, they were taken to a Kopy Kat copy center in Berkeley to be reproduced. In August 1975, Skutch Whitson organized a reception at 2000 Broadway, San Francisco, where Schucman and Thetford were introduced to a number of people. During this time period, a number of copies were distributed, hundreds according to Skutch Whitson and Skutch. The first edition of 100 copies of the Criswell edition was bound with a yellow cover and a copyright notice. Robert Skutch filed the copyright for ACIM for FIP on November 24, 1975, swearing to a date of first publication as October 6, 1975 in the form of the Freeperson Press edition. Zelda Suplee, director of the Erickson Educational Foundation, a friend of Skutch Whitson, was given a copy of the uncopyrighted manuscript by Skutch Whitson, prior to the publication of the Criswell edition. In 1976, Reed Erickson, a wealthy transsexual philanthropist, received a copy of the manuscript which he used as a basis for study by a group in Mexico. Erickson was the primary financial backer of the first hard bound edition of the Course donating $440,000 for this printing. Later that year the FIP began to publish the Course in a set of three hardcover volumes. Five years later, in 1981, Schucman died of complications related to pancreatic cancer.
In 1983, control of the copyright was transferred to the FACIM as headed by Wapnick.
In 1985, the FIP began publishing the three volumes in a more manageable single soft-cover volume, but without any editorial content changes.
In 1992, the FIP published a second hardcover edition which contained some editorial content additions and minor changes. Amongst these changes were the addition of a verse numbering system and also the addition of a "Clarification of Terms" section which had been written earlier by Schucman. It was Schucman's desire that a non-profit foundation publish the work.
In 1995, FIP entered a five year printing and distribution agreement with Penguin Books for $2.5 million which expired in December 2000. Currently some copies of some of the earlier draft versions of the book are available both online and through private publishers.
A notable feature of The Course is its unique choice of language. Author Robert Thompson Perry explains: "the meaning that we assign to words grows out of the meaning we see in life--in ourselves, in others, [and] in the world," but the Course is designed to transform the student's thought system, and the lexicon it utilizes is aimed specifically toward this end. "A student of the Course must relearn language," Perry says, and "eventually, all the words treated by the Course trigger and reinforce the Course's perspective in the student" Some notable examples are listed below:
"Fantasy" and "ego"
Some Christian apologists consider the Course both counterfeit and heretical. Christian talk-show host John Ankerberg has insisted that "the Bible teaches the opposite of what the Course teaches on almost every subject." Anton van Harskamp reported that reading the book induced in him "a mood in which bewilderment and boredom take turns." A long-time teacher of the Course, Hugh Prather, notes that some ACIM students he knew had become "far more separate and egocentric," while others had even lost "the ability to carry on a simple conversation". He and his wife, he confesses, had ended up "less flexible, less forgiving and less generous than we were when we first started." This he attributes, however, to 'ego,' rather than to the Course as such. Expressing admiration for the tenets of ACIM, he concludes: "A Course in Miracles can survive in the 21st century. In fact, it can transform the 21st century - if those who see the reality it points to choose to extend themselves beyond their ego boundaries and make the interests of another their own."
Joel Kramer, by contrast, goes so far as to say the Course may be considered a form of brainwashing. Victoria Hardy draws attention to the fact that William Thetford had received funding from the CIA's sinister Project MKULTRA for research into the human personality. She says that to adopt a spiritual "truth" derived from a program "littered with dark deeds, suffering, government intrusions and deceptions seems like the ultimate manipulation".
Joe Jesseph counters that "a great number of research projects were funded by the CIA through MKULTRA, and a very long list of some of the most distinguished names in psychology" benefited from such funding, including the revered, in some quarters, Carl Rogers: "The mere fact that a particular psychologist's research was funded by the CIA through MKULTRA should not be used to incriminate that psychologist . . . The Course was not intended to be the basis for a religious organization of any kind. Neither does it encourage proselytizing or the setting up of study groups. What it means by 'teaching' is not formal didactic teaching or preaching, but teaching love and forgiveness by example - something I think the CIA would have little use for."
At its heart, the origins of ACIM remain suspect and subject to validation. The work claims to be a channeled book. There is debate about the true origins of this work. It has been established that Schucman was a distinguished clinical psychologist working at Columbia University. By her own admission, the environment was extremely stressful and challenging. The origins of her voice were never verified or explained.
Skeptics contend that the likely source is either a complete fabrication or the result of psychosis. Conspiracy fanaticists find much to question with the origins of ACIM.