I recently came across some publishing industry statistics from both the USA and Canada. The figures are similar in both countries. Only 15% of the population ever buys books. Only 10% use public libraries in any given year. A large proportion of the latter are students at all levels who need the library to complete assignments, and another large proportion are those who need library reference materials for work. In short, not many people CHOOSE to go to the library for discretionary reasons. Of all books sold, nearly half are never read by anyone. Or so the Canadian publishing industry says. 85% of the population gets current affairs news from television and radio, not newspapers or newsmagazines. (The same 15% who buy books may well be the ones who buy newspapers.)
“Functional adult illiteracy” rates run as high as 50% in Canada. Now these people CAN READ. They can read street signs and product labels and simple instructions but if asked to write a letter to a supplier to complain that the new electric stove they just bought doesn’t work in a way LIKELY to result in the supplier understanding the problem, 50% can’t do it.
What those numbers tell me is that at least half the population of North America who graduated at least from grade 8 with “functional literacy” skills (i.e. they COULD have written that letter in grade 8) not only choose not to read books or newspapers but would actually have serious difficulty in doing either if they HAD to for some reason. And the explanation is that they simply haven’t read much that is more complex than a product label in years and have lost the ability to process written language effectively. Many do need to read a fair bit in their work, and so their literacy skills are maintained by use and practice. Many have to write comprehensible reports and documents also. That group CAN read but PREFER television for “entertainment” to “reading books.” These are the ones who CAN read but choose not to.
When it comes to basic logical thinking, critical thinking, being able to understand what an “argument” really says and being able to recognize a bogus argument, I’ve met Ph.D.s who can’t do it. They just don’t have analytical skills. They may well be able to read or listen to an oral presentation of ideas but afterwards have no clear idea of what it was that was said. They all know whether they LIKED it and usually know whether they AGREED with it, but they can’t begin to tell you why.
Those even moderately familiar with the field of Biblical scholarship will know that an enormous amount of work has gone into sifting through hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts and manuscript fragments in the attempt to reconstruct the “most original” wording of the Bible that can be achieved with the evidence currently available. And every time new evidence surfaces, there is great excitement. It’s pretty obvious that if “the contents” of any book are of interest to you, you want to know WHAT the REAL CONTENTS REALLY ARE! In the case of the Bible, and A Course In Miracles, through multiple careless copying without thorough proofreading, a huge number of copying mistakes have arisen. In addition there have been intentional changes by people who, while they were no doubt “well intentioned,” altered the material in the belief that they were “correcting errors.” In some cases they may actually HAVE corrected errors but more often they were simply interpolating their own interpretive ideas and didn’t really understand the material they were modifying. The result can be even worse than a mere copying mistake because it’s more difficult to detect and thus undo! Tom Whitmore’s “original” interpretive edition of the scribal version of the Hugh Lynn Cayce edition is a classic example of that. Well intentioned, but utterly incompetent in execution resulting in what can only be described as a “travesty.” Seven thousand new errors were introduced while 300 original errors in the file he started with were overlooked and preserved. I don’t question Tom’s “good intentions.” But anyone who can and does read can see the catastrophe that resulted.
If we want to know what Jesus MEANT then it’s fairly obvious that we’re better off looking at what he REALLY SAID rather than somebody’s copying mistake or bungling, if well intentioned, efforts to correct Jesus’ poetry to the Chicago Manual of “PROSE” Style.
It’s FAIRLY obvious but that concept goes right over the heads of most people. I mean you aren’t often going to get an argument against that idea, but sometimes I’ve been given arguments. It is usually of the form of, “Oh, I feel guided to this [error-riddled] version so I’m comfortable with it.” This is like a mechanical clock with a cog missing. It won’t keep accurate time. Objectively you KNOW it is full of errors and is not accurate and sometimes is downright misleading but you imagine that your “guidance” prefers you to study an inaccurate, flawed, error-riddled copy rather than an accurate one? WHAT KIND OF GUIDE ARE YOU LISTENING TO? What risk or hazard or danger is there to you in looking at an ACCURATE copy?
And I’ve heard an argument there too, not from many, but from two, “Oh, I find these footnotes so distracting! Why must you keep interrupting my train of thoughts with the facts?”
You know ego is afoot at that point, and what this all means is that the person in question is more interested in the acceptance and approval of his or her particular community of associates. And within that community a particular version is regarded highly, so even if that regard was misguided, it’s safer not to form an independent opinion divergent from the rest of the tribe.
We humans tend to form our opinions based on our evaluation of the acceptability of those opinions to our particular social network. It’s actually very rare among humans that genuine methodical research and evaluation of evidence, which alone can provide something resembling an objective and empirical conclusion, ever takes place. There are at least two obvious reasons. The first is that it’s HARD WORK which takes time and takes certain intellectual skills and tools and techniques. The majority of humans amir today do not possess those skills and/or are not inclined to spend their leisure time doing that work. The second is that unless you are an academic, your “peer group” doesn’t do that sort of thing but does have opinions none the less. If you veer off from the herd and do that you might end up with deviant opinions. That can be quite frightening. It feels safer in the herd, even if it is a herd of lemmings.
With regard to the use of print material of all kinds, then, there are a number of obstacles which stand between most humans and effective, logical, rational, and skillful use of that print material. Most humans will never use print material very effectively either because they CANNOT and aren’t interested in learning how to or because they WILL not to for a variety of reasons, some of which have been mentioned.
There was a time, less than a century ago, when print was the only mass medium of communication, and if you didn’t use it then you were disconnected from civilization. Literacy rates were much higher then. If you wanted news you either had to learn to read a newspaper or get someone to read it to you. There was no option. Radio, which became a public mass medium in the 1920s, was the first step down the slippery slope.
Television and radio news is scary. You know how long it takes to read, aloud, at the usual pace of broadcast, one page of a broadsheet newspaper? It takes almost 30 minutes. And 30 minutes is longer than the typical broadcast news show. My morning paper is usually nearly 100 pages. Okay, 60% of that is advertising. So I’ve got 40 pages of print, all of which is “news” of some sort. That would take 20 hours to read if I read it aloud at a broadcast pace. Because I happen to be literate and a fast reader I can do that in maybe 2 hours, reading silently. Poor readers, or half the population, might take 100 hours or more to wade through it, struggling with each word, and at the end they’d have understood rather little of what they read. They’d spend two weeks of full time work to read one day’s newspaper. And then they wouldn’t understand half of what they had read.
Of course with the newspaper I don’t read most of it. I scan the headlines and only read the stories I’m interested in. MANY of those individual stories contain more words than the whole of a BBC World News report.
I actually dislike newspapers but I know if I DON’T read them I will be clueless, and I don’t want to be clueless.
Most people don’t know how to think logically and rationally and carefully and have seriously impaired reading ability. And I am pretty sure that most of that group are not at all bothered by the fact and have no intention whatsoever of doing anything to alter it.
The “book(s)” called “A Course In Miracles,” in whatever version, with whatever degree of accuracy to the original dictation, are never going to be read and understood by them. Even if a copy is read, it won’t likely be understood. Most “ACIM Students” turn to interpreters of ACIM, of whom there are a great many, to explain the message of this big, thick book which they find very difficult to read and quite impossible to comprehend. Those interpreters may be their study group buddies or leaders, Ken Wapnick or Gary Renard, or a legion of other self-proclaimed experts on the Course, or even Jack Van Impe who insists ACIM is a demonic plot to undermine Christianity. But they don’t read the book, and they don’t read the book for one of several reasons, most frequent of which is they actually don’t have the ability to read and understand what it is that they have read. They are not trained literary critics. They really don’t know how to read even if they can deal with the preparation instructions on a box of macaroni and cheese.
Alas most of those self-proclaimed “teachers of God” who interpret ACIM to them are no more literate than themselves. I’ve been astonished to watch people read lines of text which are pretty obvious and clear and extract from those lines meanings that are absolutely not there while missing the very clear meaning that is explicitly and even emphatically stated. They can “read,” in that they can recognize what words are there, but they can’t “read” in the sense of recognizing the idea the words are symbolizing.
“Projection makes perception” eh?
There was a time when I was rather distressed and disturbed by this widespread lack of linguistic capacity and literacy. Then I did some forgiveness work on it and came to realize that each of us is just exactly where each of us needs to be. I can sit down with the semi-illiterate who couldn’t wade through a page of ACIM in an hour and glean anything useful if his life depended on it and talk to him about my experience of forgiveness. Speaking man to man I can convey to him something of what forgiveness means, how joyous and miraculous it is, and watch his eyes light up as his Soul receives the love that is in my heart and being extended to him.
If my heart is clear and I’m in a place of love and genuinely willing to share and genuinely open to his sharing with me, the love flows and the communication happens at the Soul level. If I flip my “Bible Scholar” switch and start talking in “big words” about ontology and epistemology and dualism versus monism and the philosophy of symbolism and the doctrine of original sin, never mind the difference in the Christology of ACIM versus that of the Apostle Paul, his eyes will glaze over and he’ll walk away. And I will have missed a moment of sharing love with my brother.
I’m as distressed and appalled as are a few other scholarly ACIM students, at the debased “standards” the ACIM Community is prepared to accept and embrace and tolerate. Charlatans and frauds along with the sincerely deluded are the hallmark of the ACIM Community. In many cases there is a clear monetary motive. I think of Jesus driving the money-traders from the Temple complaining that they had turned “my Father’s house” from a “house of prayer” into a “den of thieves.”
So it went then, so it goes now. “Le plus çe change, le plus c’est la même chose.” (Editors Note: For those not fluent in French “The more things change, the more they stay the same” or more literally, “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”)
But remember that there is no “guru” attracting devotees without there being a population of “devotees” seeking just that kind of “guru” or teacher. Where would the would-be guru be if there were not Souls in need of just that medicine? And each Soul is just where he needs to be learning the lessons he needs to learn. There are no accident’s in God’s universe.
Being an academic, of course, I have some respect for “high standards” and, indeed, I insist on the highest. And in doing that I am doing nothing different than most people. I am doing what my “tribe” approves of and what my “peers” will accept. It’s just that my peers are different than those of others. My “tribe” is academia. I know what it takes to pass muster in that community and I mean to pass muster!
But being a human I recognize that maybe 2% of the population, if that, can even recognize “Academic Values.” But they are still humans. They are still holy sons of God, and I can still relate to them in love and with love and with joy. But not by talking professor-talk. I can relate to them by talking fisherman-talk and farmer-talk and barber-talk and whatever-talk they can relate to.
I note that in the four canonical Gospels Jesus is described as having a number of conversations with various people. It is interesting to me that in all those dialogues which are reproduced in the Gospels, Jesus does far more listening than he does talking. The people he’s talking to are quoted as saying three times as many words as he says. He asks questions, usually direct and succinct. He listens, and he speaks to them, each at their own level, each in a kind of language natural and understandable to the particular individual. By listening he makes a “connection” and shows that he loves them by caring enough about them TO LISTEN to them. He starts by ASKING them about their mirs and LISTENING to what they have to say. He listens respectfully, empathetically, and nonjudgementally.
My “gawd,” I wish I was one tenth as good as he.
In the original dictation of the Course, the Shorthand Notes, we see exactly the same pattern in Jesus’ “patter” with Helen and Bill. He addresses their concerns in THEIR LANGUAGE with compassion and understanding and without negative judgements. He stands beside them as a friend, radiating love, and melting their Souls down to the place where they want to be.
Literature, print, writing – this is one way of communicating. But there really aren’t many people who are going to be directly reached by the print medium, be it ebooks or paper books. There aren’t very many who are both ABLE and WILLING to sit down and read anything more than a paragraph or two. And in the age of “Twitter micro-blogging” the “15 second sound-byte” has triumphed over the lengthy, thoughtful, well-researched and well-reasoned essay. The quick “one liner” is what we are reduced to, and who can convey a large and significant idea in 140 characters?
But there ARE many people hungry for the “Good News” in the Course about forgiveness and the real world who need to hear that when we change our minds the Kingdom of God and its joy is as close to us as our hands.
The “Course” has been published and re-pushed in several wildly different editions all claiming to be the “original edition.” Most are almost unbelievably bad and amateurish and incompetent editions, and most are totally falsely advertised with respect to their “originality.” I wonder how many people have seriously read ANY of them. The Course has also been published in extremely accurate, careful, professional and scholarly editions. A few thousand people have noticed and appreciated that, but there are millions who couldn’t tell the difference if it stepped up and shook their hand and wouldn’t CARE even if they could!
But there is no Soul whom God created who does not respond to love. And I’ve yet to meet the man or woman who didn’t respond FAVORABLY to a genuine gift of love.
We have two books here, the Bible and the Course, and both have been savaged and butchered over their histories. Books are useful to bookish persons. Bad books are idols to “wannabe bookish persons.” Most humans can’t tell the difference between a bad one and a good one and will never actually seriously read and comprehend either sort.
The “Course” and its message will reach most of the human race, if it reaches it at all, through some means other than books.
Helen Schucman said that she figured that only a handful of people on earth could ever understand the Course. She and Bill Thetford were given, not a book to read, but a conversation and lecture series which they laboured to make into a book, with enormous difficulty. I think history has validated Helen’s “prophecy” that few would ever understand it or even be able to genuinely READ it and comprehend it.
Helen received the Course by EAR. She HEARD it; she didn’t read it. Then she tried to take what she had heard and make it into a book of the sort she recognized as worthy. Many have read FROM that book and felt something compelling, something drawing them into it more deeply. And, most being genuinely unable or unwilling to read well, most turned to “interpreters” to tell them what these strangely grand yet mysterious passages really meant. There has been no shortage of volunteers to step up to the plate and offer interpretations for a price.
There has, however, been a shortage of serious literate, literary criticism of this most magnificent piece of poetry ever penned in any language, and there has been, I’d say, a shortage of genuine understanding of what the first line of the Course really means: “You will see miracles through your hands through Me.” And with the first line not being understood, and actually omitted in most print copies, the rest is not understood either. In the place of understanding we are told that we don’t exist. Life on earth is a cruel joke played on us by a mean and nasty cosmic trickster. But in the end it’s okay, we will all dissolve into blissful oblivion. So there is HOPE my friend, in the end you disappear.
Obviously there ARE people who are drawn to that kind of message and crave to hear a confirmation of their own self-loathing and profound belief in the reality of guilt, so there is no shortage of “teachers” willing to share that message.
The fact that there are people, and a lot of them, who find that nihilistic vision of salvation ATTRACTIVE, at first shocked me. I was similarly shocked to discover that people who aren’t actually mentally retarded sometimes vote Republican. Shock can be good for the Soul (smile).
After I got over the shock I simply remembered “projection makes perception.” If THAT is what you think, if that is what you WISH, then that is what you will FIND! And where there is a demand in a free market, there will be a supply. And if that is what you think and wish and find, that is your lesson in this incarnation and you need to learn it and far be it from me to tell you that you should not learn what you need to learn.
A Course in Miracles is about miracles. Miracles happen on this earth when we forgive and replace grievances with love. When we do that then the “illusory world” of sin and guilt we invented is replaced in our awareness by the real world of joy and harmony and the solution to every problem. This real world is the “Gate of Heaven.” And when we get to the Gate God takes the next step and translates earth into Heaven.
The Course, as the Course says, “is simple” but it also says it is “the hardest lesson you will ever have to learn.”
So, you know, it may sound odd for a scholar, an academic, a publisher and peddler of books to point out that, “Books are never going to save the world.” But it’s true. It’s our love, not our books, that will save the world.
In the Course as originally dictated Jesus says that every day should begin with the prayer, “What miracles do you want me to perform today?”
“You will see miracles through your hands through Me.” – Jesus
Jesus also said that he is in charge of space and time. And that’s a good thing, because other people and God know I’m not competent to take charge!
But because God created me and I AM LOVE then I MUST be competent to TEACH ONLY LOVE for THAT IS WHAT WE ARE.
So just as millions misunderstood Jesus’ message 2,000 years ago and came up with all manner of bizarre and crazy interpretations, well so it goes today. But that doesn’t in any way detract from the fact that his message is love and forgiveness, and when we offer HIM the “little willingness” to be conduits for the love of God to our brothers, literate or illiterate as they may be, SOMETHING VERY PROFOUND happens. That something is the Kingdom of God, and in it, miracles are abundant.
There is not enough paper in the universe for Ken Wapnick and Gary Renard to publish books insisting we don’t exist and miracles don’t exist to change that one, eternal, cosmic fact which is instantly undeniably apparent to the Soul who really does forgive and extend the hand of love where there once was an ancient hatred.
“YOU WILL SEE MIRACLES THROUGH YOUR HANDS THROUGH ME!” – Jesus.
That’s prophetic. That’s predictive, and that’s true. You will. The only question is “when” you choose to do so.
And WHEN you do you will also know – and I DO mean KNOW – that “you exist.”
I’ve got a stack of copies of “ACIM” about two feet high. Most of them CLAIM to be the “original edition.” Only one of them actually can make a credible and honest claim to be that. Are all these other publishers “liars?” I prefer to think that’s not the case. I prefer to think they just didn’t do their homework and are honestly mistaken. I suspect that in many cases they just WANT so badly to do “the original” that they persuade themselves they have done so, even though they haven’t, because they really don’t know HOW it is one goes about doing a genuine “original” that really IS “original.”
The dictionary offers two broad definitions of the word “original” which are almost antonyms. One is “the first” as in “origins” and with ACIM that would obviously apply only to the first written record, which is the Shorthand Notes. The other is something new, creative and innovative, something never seen before, as in “an original interpretation of Handel’s Messiah.” In the first case we’d expect something old and primary and foundational. We’d expect Handel’s Messiah as it was first and “originally” written and performed. In the second we’d expect to see something new, innovate, and never before seen. We’d expect a rendition of the Messiah of a sort and kind we’d never before even imagined. And likely of a kind and sort Handel himself never would have imagined.
In Biblical scholarship the quest has been for 500 years for the “original” in the first sense, but for the previous 1500 years, the quest was largely for the “original” in the second sense.
In ACIM scholarship – oh excuse me – IS THERE SUCH A THING AS ACIM SCHOLARSHIP?
Who do you know, who you would call by the name “ACIM Scholar,” who is actually doing something which might vaguely strike any scholarly institution as genuinely scholarly?
Diogenes wandered about Greece in search of an honest man and came up wanting. Were Diogenes to show up today in search of an ACIM scholar would he have any better results?
Is there a university or Theological Seminary with a chair in ACIM studies? Does any university Religious Studies Department include ACIM in its first year survey course of “World Religions?” Are the ideas in ACIM bounced around graduate seminar rooms? Is any version of the Course included on any undergraduate required reading list or stocked in any university bookstore anywhere on planet earth?
At the very least ACIM as the longest work of iambic pentameter poetry ever composed in any language should attract interest from literature departments. Regardless of its content, its FORM is unprecedented in human literary history. Jesus embraces Shakespeare and then dances circles around him.
Alas the answer is no. Even among the most bookish of humans who mir and breathe books, ACIM is largely unknown.
I recently walked the halls and spent some hours in the library of the seminary where I did my Biblical Studies education. ACIM is nowhere to be found. Casually I asked a few grad students if they’d ever heard of it. None had.
In one of the few places on earth where there ARE people who DO READ books and ARE interested in Jesus, ACIM remains unknown.
We all have some work to do because if we do know ACIM at all, we know “this shit works” and we have to let the secret out! This really IS Jesus! This REALLY IS about miracles!
And we have to let it out with integrity, with honesty, with authenticity and with love, because it isn’t going to fly any other way.
It might go viral in other ways and it might even make billionaires in other ways. But it won’t actually WORK in any other way than the way of love, of forgiveness, and of compassion.
As for those brothers who read into ACIM their own projections of self-loathing and nihilistic desires to cease to exist, well shake the dust off your sandals and move on to those who are willing to listen. It is to the latter we are called, to share the good news of the real world which emerges when we forgive. We are not called to “correct” the former. That is the job of the Holy Spirit who is vastly more competent at performing that task than am I.
When and if He needs my help, and my hands, I have no doubt HE has His ways of letting me know that. When I try to help the Holy Spirit by showing HIM who to correct and how, well you can guess the results.
I mean, I do roll my eyes when I see some of the incredible things some people say ACIM says. I HAVE tried to change some of their minds in the past, but I can’t say I’ve ever succeeded to the slightest degree. Perhaps I’ve sown a few seeds of doubt – but people believe what they wish to believe. Their wishes are the expressions of their free will, and we must not violate that.
In the fullness of time He who is in charge of space and time, Jesus, will see to it that God’s Perfect Plan is fulfilled. My task is but to recognize that the only “time” that is real is NOW, and the only emotion that is real is LOVE. When I can do that, miracles follow, and when I fail to do that, well it’s not pretty!
Yes, the Course deserves some basic, honest, decent scholarship and some basic honest decent standards. I’ve done my best for nearly 12 years to give it that. But that just takes us to the starting gate. The human race needs the message of the Course, and 95% of us or more aren’t going to get it though ANY book!
We don’t need to print the Course so much as we need to BE the Course in every breath in every hour of every day. That’s our part, and the rest is up to HIM to tell us WHAT miracles HE would have us perform today.
And I do thank a few scholarly students for their observations. They’ve been “thought provoking,” and these are my thoughts.
The “ACIM Community” is a shambles of chaos and confusion with large measures of deliberate deception and fraud and false advertising – and significant numbers of people laughing all the way to the bank. We’re not likely going to fix that, and I don’t personally feel “called” to do so. Two thousand years ago Jesus was grossly misinterpreted, and that hasn’t really changed.
We need to remember that HE is in charge. I don’t know the solution to this tangled mess, but I do trust that HE does.
God Bless Us All and God Speed!
(Doug Thompson mirs in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He is largely responsible for the publishing of *The Urtext Manuscripts* and *The Hugh Lynn Cayce Manuscript*, both of which have been lauded for their scholarly purity and their wonderful inclusion of, detailed forewords, prefaces, introductions, annotations, appendices, etc. To see more of Doug’s work, thoughts, and a video introduction by Doug himself go to: . Doug has been a frequent contributor to *Miracles Monthly*. See Vol.23.No.4 and Vol.24.No.6.) Y
This article appeared in the March 2011 (Vol. 25 No.1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members,Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.