Did Jesus really dictate A Course in Miracles to Helen?

Question: In the last chapter of Ken Wapnick's Absence from Felicity, he says that A Course in Miracles didn't really come from Jesus dictating his words to Helen. Rather, it came from a part of Helen's own mind that was connected with the "abstract love" of Jesus. He just provided the content; she herself provided the specific words. What is your view?

Answer: My short answer is that the Course material itself clearly claims that Jesus is the source of its words, and I see nothing in the Course that supports Wapnick's alternative theory. Of course, we can never prove that Jesus really dictated the Course to Helen. What we can say, though, is that when the Course makes this claim, there is no reason to doubt that it means what it says quite literally.

There is no doubt that the Course material claims to be dictated by Jesus. In the Urtext, the author of the Course refers to Helen's scribing as "taking dictation" from him. In a Manual section about Jesus we are told plainly, "This course has come from him" (M-23.7:1). Elsewhere in the Course, Jesus refers to its words as "my words" (T-31.VIII.8:1) and "the words I speak" (W-pI.RV.In.9:2); in fact, he stresses that he has "made every effort to use words that are almost impossible to distort" (T-3.I.3:11). There is no hint anywhere that the Course's words came from anyone but Jesus.

Wapnick acknowledges that Jesus is the identified author of the Course: "Almost the entire text of A Course in Miracles is written in the first person, where the 'I' is clearly identified throughout as Jesus" (The Most Commonly Asked Questions about 'A Course in Miracles,' p. 97). He simply believes that this claim shouldn't be taken literally. Here is his theory of what really happened when the Course came through Helen:

While [Helen's] experience most definitely was of Jesus—a person outside herself—relating to her and dictating to her, in truth the reality was much different. Helen was able to return her mind to that memory of God's Love—her true Identity—symbolized by her as Jesus. By uniting with him, she united with love. That union has no form or specifics, for love, as we have seen, is abstract and beyond all divisions of the ego. This love, of which Jesus was the manifestation, flowed through the separated mind we know as Helen (the water taking shape in the glass) and came out to the world as the three books we know as A Course in Miracles. Thus, it was Helen's mind that gave the Course its form; the content came from outside her ego mind, from a love that is nonetheless within her mind, as indeed it is in all of us. (Absence from Felicity, 1st ed., p. 480)

As he sums up his theory on the next page: "Helen was responsible for the Course's specific form; the abstract love of Jesus—the source—for its content." The abstract love of Jesus was like water; Helen's mind was the glass that gave that water its form.

On what basis does Wapnick believe this? In general terms, this theory stems from his view of Course metaphysics (see our article entitled The Relationship Between the Circle's Teachings and the Teachings of Ken Wapnick for Wapnick quotes that express the views in this paragraph). In that view, God doesn't even know we are here, for if He did know, that would make the separation real. Since He doesn't know we are here, He doesn't really do anything to help us. This means that He didn't really create the Holy Spirit to help us, nor does Jesus help us. Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus are illusions, symbols of God's Love within the dream, generated by our own minds. Therefore, these "Helpers" cannot give us specifics of any kind, including the specific words of the Course. All specific forms are supplied by our own minds, even specific forms that reflect Heaven; only the content of God's Love comes from Heaven, and even that isn't actively contributed by Him. How could it be when He doesn't even know we're here?

However, I see nothing in the Course that supports Wapnick's metaphysics. The Course tells us clearly that God does know we're here (see T-4.VII.6 and T-6.V.1). It tells us that the Holy Spirit is a "creation of the one Creator" (C-6.1:2), created in loving response to the separation to show us the way back home. It portrays Jesus as a real Son of God (like the rest of us) who has awakened completely to God, yet who still "has remained with [us] " (M-23.5:9) in order "to lead [us] from the hell [we] made to God" (C-5.5:4). Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus are thus real beings who actively help us return to God. They not only give us the mental content of healed perception, but also "answer every specific problem" (T-11.VIII.5:5) we have, and give us all the specific forms we need to fulfill our function in God's plan for salvation: "In time, [the Holy Spirit] gives you all the things that you need have, and will renew them as long as you have need of them" (T-13.VII.12:4). Giving us the things we need to serve God's plan for salvation would naturally include giving us the words of the Course, words Jesus calls "the thoughts I brought to you from Him Who sees your bitter need, and knows the answer God has given Him" (W-pI.RV.In.8:1).

In that discussion from Absence, Wapnick uses a "special message" to Helen and the Song of Prayer supplement to support his view. Both of these sources present the same basic message. In essence, they tell us that as we progress on the path, we will have less and less need to ask for specifics, as we learn that the only thing we really want is God Himself. Both encourage us to move in this direction of asking for God Himself rather than specifics. However, neither says that God and His Helpers don't provide specifics. This is especially evident in the Song of Prayer:

You have been told to ask the Holy Spirit for the answer to any specific problem, and that you will receive a specific answer if such is your need. You have also been told that there is only one problem and one answer. In prayer this is not contradictory. There are decisions to make here, and they must be made whether they be illusions or not. You cannot be asked to accept answers which are beyond the level of need that you can recognize. Therefore, it is not the form of the question that matters, nor how it is asked. The form of the answer, if given by God, will suit your need as you see it. This is merely an echo of the reply of His Voice. The real sound is always a song of thanksgiving and of Love.

You cannot, then, ask for the echo. It is the song that is the gift. Along with it come the overtones, the harmonics, the echoes, but these are secondary. In true prayer you hear only the song. All the rest is merely added. You have sought first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all else has indeed been given you. (S-1.I.2:1-3:6)

I see two ideas in this passage that are relevant to our discussion. First, when we pray, God answers. This goes against Wapnick's view that God doesn't even know we are here; how could He answer the prayers we make here if this were the case? Second, even though the content of His answer is (metaphorically speaking) "a song of thanksgiving and of Love," notice that specifics—"the overtones, the harmonics, the echoes," the answers to specific problems—come along with the song. Wapnick seems to see a contradiction between God (or Jesus) providing the content of "abstract love" and God (or Jesus) providing specific forms, but here we are told that "in prayer this is not contradictory": the two come together. As a later passage in the Song of Prayer puts it: "God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this" (S-1.I.4:7-8).

Thus, this passage in no way suggests that God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus do not provide specifics. On the contrary, we "have been told to ask the Holy Spirit for the answer to any specific problem" and are assured that we will receive a specific answer "if such is your need." (True, it could be argued that our minds mold God's content into specific forms that suit our needs, but there is no evidence in the Course to support this—it consistently depicts the Holy Spirit and Jesus as actively helping us.) Why, then, could Jesus not have given us the specific words of the Course as a powerful and much-needed "echo" of the song of God's Love?

To conclude: Everything in the Course material itself claims that Jesus dictated its words to Helen, and nothing in the Course material asserts either that this either didn't happen or couldn't happen. Of course, it's always possible that Wapnick's theory could be correct, but I think the burden of proof is on him, and he has not met that burden. Therefore, I see no reason to believe that the Course material doesn't mean exactly what it says when it claims to be dictated by Jesus. Whether that claim is really true is another matter, but there is no question that is the claim being made.

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  1. Mike
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi Greg,
    "God doesn't even know we are here." I wondered where I heard that message. I left it open on my template. Thank you for answering and resolving this issue so clearly for me. I agree!
    I attended a weekend seminar with Ken at his School in Temecula California a few years ago. Before attending, and over the years, I had read several of Ken's books. Like Gary Renard, I too felt, "I don't know why his (intellectual) material helps me, but it does." The Course has an appeal to intellectuals but it is in exceeding the intellect that we find peace. Ken is a beginning.
    Sincerity is devotion and devotion to this Course is what Ken displays. As the Christ Mind say's, "If a brother is devoted, he is worthy of devotion." Ken is an intermediary for many. He has been for me. Thank you Ken!
    In his highly structured seminar, I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with some of his reductions. God doesn't know we are even here is one of them. After he emphasized that "We need do nothing in this world" and then contextually explained that he literally meant, nothing, I challenged him with a quote from the Course. "If you will tell me what to do, where to go, what to say and to whom, only that I will to do." Jesus (the Christ Mind) also informs us, "My party is an active party," (UR Text). There was a real group think mentality going on between those in attendance. It felt similar to my experience in studying with fundamentalists. One person asked him, "Does the Course actually say that?" I had the impression that few of his followers had heard this important quote. He acknowledged that it did, and then failed to answer my challenge in any way. Wow! A bit disingenuous I thought. His wife then made an effort at break time to seek me out, look me straight in the eye and tell me, "I don't think you understand what the Course is saying." I laughed. She clearly had her role in policing the minds in attendance. She basically let me know, "Your kind is not welcome round here." Otherwise my observation of her was that she demonstrated great support for those who agreed with her husband.
    Ken is an intellectual who can "intelligently" mask the fact that the source of his information is by study and association and not unfiltered experiential Guidance. I greatly appreciate the work he has done but ultimately his material is biased and biasing. One of your readers herein commented referring to the Jesus myth, "Although this powerful myth has lead many of us to seek higher wisdom." I believe Ken has succored many with his intellectual bent to seek higher wisdom. Hopefully their learning will exceed that of the their Pharisees and Scribes.
    If you want to call the author of the Voice Jesus, Buddha, or Lao Tzu I think it would be fine. It's the same Mind. Let's just call it the Christ Mind. This is the Mind that the Course informs us we all share have access to, then and now. Jesus is a product of Helen's culture. If she had received this text in another culture it may have identified Itself to her mind in a language that would not increase her fear, while attempting to speak deeply to her mind. The Course speaks to us in our symbols from our One Mind. We are the Christ.
    P.S. We (ego) need do nothing. The Spirit through me does all things.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Who knows?? All of the discussion is opinion alone.
    The only thing that matters is that we have the words, and that we use them as an inspiration to bring love, forgiveness and joy into the world. These discussions are a diversionary tactic; I wish you would leave Ken alone!
    Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. A.A. Milne (via Eeyore) Winnie-the-Pooh

  3. Emily Robertson
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Although I am generally much more comfortable with Greg Mackie's thoughts on the Course than Ken Wapnick's, I have trouble with this one. There is no evidence that Jesus existed as a 'real' person, and much evidence that he is a borrowed myth that the Jews were exposed to in Egypt. When I first became aware of the fact that Jesus was 'only' a myth, I mourned the 'loss' of Jesus quite poignantly. But then I realized that, as the Course states, 'What dies was never living in reality, and did but mock the truth about myself' (W 248, 1, 6) — which I take to mean that the truth about God and ourselves has never required the intermediary of a human son of God… although this powerful myth has lead many of us to seek higher wisdom.
    Like Ken Wapnick, I am uncomfortable with the duality implicit in Jesus dictating the course to Helen — first because Jesus is a mental construct in each of our minds in the first place, secondly because it denies the wonderful inspiration of Helen to channel her love/God's love in the form of the Course, and third because the story about 'channeling the voice of Jesus' relegates ACIM into the whacko nutty religions bin in many people's minds.

  4. Mary Benton
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I have a lot of respect for Ken Wapnick on some subjects, but on this one I disagree with him. If Ken's account as quoted here is true then we would have to say that Helen wrote the Course. Helen never claimed to have written the words of the Course, and most of the time, in his own teachings, Ken refers to Jesus as the author of the words, and has even referred to Jesus as "a master of words", albeit noticing Jesus is sometimes dismissive of words. Both Helen and Ken were very clear about the distinction between Helen's poetry, for which she did claim authorship, and the Course itself. Moreover, Jesus gave very specific guidance to Helen and Bill on many occasions. It is difficult to reconcile this theory as stated in Absence from Felicity with the facts as we know them, and with many of Ken's own teachings.

  5. Anne Clinton
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Dear Greg,
    I have been a student of the Course for 15 years. I have studied over the years a very large body of articles, books , and tapes of most of the well known teachers in the Course community. I am extremely grateful for all of your wonderful and dedicated work. You have obviously been a great help to many thousands of us studying the Course. I have no affiliation with Ken Wapnick other than reading and listening to his materials and attending a one day seminar. It is quite obvious to me that the man is an intellectual genius and spiritual giant. The fact that he came into Helen and Bill's lives at that particular time and assisted in editing the Course for publication was obviously no accident! Surely in your evaluation of his work, you must have considered this fact. His perspective on the Course, (i.e. what it says and how it came) does appear somewhat expanded from our own. Has it ever occurred to you that there is a strong possibility that given his place in Course history, and the quality of his work, that perhaps he might be on a higher spiritual level than the rest of us, thus making his interpretation of the Course correct and more threatening to our egos? ( not that Ken would ever even insinuate that about himself!) Given your serious dedication to the Course and it's students, I sincerely hope that you may one day become open to the gift that Ken Wapnick so lovingly offers you and all of the students of the Course.

  6. Will Christie
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for stating so well the view that Jesus did author the Course as claimed repeatedly in the Course itself.
    I seek to have all the information about ACIM I can from "both schools" (Circle of Atonement and Foundation for ACIM). Therefore, I have all of Ken Wapnick's writings. At times, I am concerned about his objectivity. He has created a very pristine intellectual view of ACIM's truth, based on his own psychological needs (as we all would do without the "reality check" of others). His view does seem to require ignoring much of what ACIM literally states. He states many times that the one and only truthful reading of ACIM (which happens to be his intellectual construct of ACIM's truth) requires that we take much of the wording as metaphor.
    Perhaps in the fullness of time, I may come to agree with him, since I grant him the potential to perhaps be on a mountain top while I am still on the mountain trail. However, at this point in my journey on the ACIM path, I feel that he puts his own theory above the actual content of the Course itself, creating a new de facto dogma based predominantly on what he claims to be true.
    I just cannot fathom a spiritual seeker of many decades not having experienced the direct intervention of the Divine within the illusion. I also do not understand why would such intervention would make the illusion real? This is one of Ken's basic assumptions.
    I have become proficient, for example, at lucid dreaming during the night. I KNOW I AM DREAMING, yet the dream continues with me consciously controlling the events and outcome. This does not in any way make my dream "real" to me while it happens nor when I awaken in the morning.
    Jesus Christ is a very real presence in my life. In one sense, he is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, yet is very much an actual entity rather than a mere abstraction. Perhaps Ken cannot accept the authorship of Jesus because Ken seems to believe that all "fragments" (separate entities) will someday vanish into a Buddhist style nirvana of non-existence where there is only God and the One Son. If this is true, I can certainly see why the human ego (and most humans) would fight against returning home, since it would mean total non-existence, as we are absorbed into an amorphous blob, like little balls of liquid Mercury being rolled into a larger puddle. No one can be sure, but at this point I suspect that we are each The Christ, and will be there when we are one. Since spiritual truth seems to often involve a paradox (from a human perspective) I can see that we will be ONE yet Many within the ONE.
    I want to thank you at Circle of Atonement for providing ACIM students with an interactive site that includes new articles and insight each month. The web site has a sense of being truly alive and filled with heart.

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