“Fiends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears ...” (Julius Caesar 2.3) Ah. A perfect iambic pentameter line.** Of course, William Shakespeare wrote it. “Friends, teachers, Course students, lend me your minds.” Notwithstanding William Shakespeare and the Beatles (“Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song and I’ll try not to sing out of key.” – A Little Help from My Friends) I am asking all of you A Course In Miracles students to lend me your minds. Will you read along? Will you follow my thoughts? Will you understand and integrate them? Interesting questions, especially if you read the article in Miracles Monthly Volume 25, Issue 1 “Books Are Never Going to Save the World.” (March 2011)
The author of the article, Doug Thompson, makes a very cogent argument that a vast majority of people don’t read much, and even when they do, they don’t have the training and the mental acuity to follow and understand what they are reading. How many of you will actually read this entire article? And of those who do, how many will understand what I am trying to communicate? Perhaps you will consider this a challenge worth accepting.
The Doug Thompson article elicited a large amount of comments, and many of them were negative. The negative comments were never about Mr. Thompson’s main premises: most people don’t read, and of those who do only a very few understand much of what they read. If this is true, as Mr. Thompson firmly believes it is, then the healing accomplishments of A Course In Miracles will come through our actions and relationships rather than people’s engagement with the written words in the Course book. The negative comments were all about a side theme in the article which was Doug Thompson’s criticism, at times quite harsh, against just about all the printed editions of A Course In Miracles with the exception of his own, the ACIM Urtext Manuscripts, although this is only strongly implied and never said directly. The biggest target for Mr. Thompson’s criticism was the ACIM Original Edition published by the Course In Miracles Society (CIMS).
Okay, let’s examine a premise, did Doug Thompson harshly criticize the Original Edition? He called it “utterly incompetent,” a “travesty,” and a “catastrophe.” He also directly implied that the publishers, “didn’t really understand the material they were modifying.” Later in the article Mr. Thompson implies that the Original Edition is “unbelievably bad and amateurish and incompetent.” He also says that the Original Edition is “totally falsely advertised.” Yes. I would call all of this harsh criticism. However, is that a problem? It’s only a problem if we see it as such. Why is harsh criticism a problem?
Several challenged me, Rev. Tony Ponticello, because I am the editor of Miracles Monthly and in charge of what appears in it. I was asked, “Why did you publish this article?” Why? Because it was a thought provoking, wonderful article, well written by a noteworthy and important person in the A Course In Miracles community. This person, Mr. Thompson, wasn’t shy about expressing his opinion. To that I say, “Bravo!” I’m rather tired of us all trying to be so “spiritually sweet.” I find our greater Course community’s tendency towards affectations of “spiritual correctness” usually phony and, personally, rather disgusting. Let’s give Mr. Thompson his due. He put it right out there.
Now, just because this article appeared in Miracles Monthly does not mean I, Rev. Tony Ponticello the editor of Miracles Monthly, in any way, shape, or form agreed with Mr. Thompson about his opinion of the A Course In Miracles Original Edition. It also does not mean that the Community Miracles Center endorsed Mr. Thompson’s opinions of the Original Edition. Every issue of Miracles Monthly has a very important statement on page two. “The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do no necessarily represent an ‘official’ position of the Community Miracles Center.” And – as Mr. Thompson eloquently pointed out – few people read and only a small percentage of those who do read understand what they have read. Apparently not that many have read our “Editorial Credits” statement on page two (even though it’s bordered by a bright red box and appears in every issue!), and of those who have read it even fewer understood that it meant. Mr. Thompson’s opinions were his own and didn’t necessarily reflect mine (the editor) nor did they represent any official position of the Community Miracles Center.
Miracles Monthly has always been a publication that published a vast diversity a views, sometimes very strong views. You never know what you might read in Miracles Monthly. (Yea!) We have tried to take the high, balanced road in every controversy in the A Course In Miracles movement. Those who have read our publication will know this from how we extensively covered the copyright controversy and the controversy over Gary Renard’s books, The Disappearance of the Universe and Your Immortal Reality. Also, we have always favored thought provoking, interesting articles that did present strong challenging views. We have never been an advocate of banal, boring, “spiritually correct” pieces that appeal to the absolutely lowest common denominator of A Course In Miracles students (... snooze). Why did we publish “Books Are Never Going To Save The World?” It’s just the kind of article we’ve always published!
I, Rev. Tony Ponticello, teach A Course In Miracles classes through the Community Miracles Center. I use the Original Edition in all the classes that I teach. I lecture frequently about ACIM. I always quote from the Original Edition when I lecture. I write about ACIM. I always quote from the Original Edition when I write about ACIM. This means that I think that the Original Edition currently is the best ACIM edition readily available to ACIM students. This should be obvious. (Isn’t it obvious?) Do I think the Original Edition is perfect? “No.” I think it’s the best practical alternative we currently have. Taking even this position has been a risk. Many, many more people still use the Foundation for Inner Peace edition. I would have a greater possible student base if I used the FIP edition, no question. I know teachers who still use the FIP version even though they believe the Original Edition to be better for just this reason of having a larger base of prospective students. However, I don’t use the FIP edition. That edition is not acceptable to me anymore. There is, in my opinion, a better, readily available book. That book is the Original Edition. Did you all read that? Did you understand it? Maybe you should read this paragraph again.
Doug Thompson has produced, with the help of Miracles In Action Press, a very, very impressive edition of A Course In Miracles. It’s named ACIM Urtext Manuscripts. When I say “impressive” I mean it. I am positively impressed, almost incredulously so. (I said “almost.” Don’t skip that word.) It is a scholarly work that shows an incredible amount of time and effort spent. It demonstrates an amazing high standard. I am so glad it exits in the world. I am happy students can buy it and study it. The Community Miracles Center sells it. It sells well. Only someone like Doug Thompson could have produced this. It surely is/was his special function, a role for him alone. Before people criticize Doug Thompson and his opinions they should really take a good long look at ACIM Urtext Manuscripts. Every time I do one word comes to my mind, “Wow!”
However I will most likely never teach from it. “Why?” Several reasons.
1) The Urtext itself is the mostly unedited typing by William Thetford from Helen Schucman’s reading of her Shorthand Notes. If you read the Urtext, it seems obvious (it seems obvious to me) that this was a first, quick, rough draft. It was never meant to be published. It was a wonderful effort on the part of Ms. Schucman and Mr. Thetford to get the material down on paper. I am making a “wonderful effort” (it just turned midnight) to get this article typed into my computer. I am typing relatively fast. (At least for me. I never was a very good typist). I know I will have to reread what I am typing now many, many times more to get it “right.” (And of course you all know by “right” I mean exactly what Holy Spirit wants me to write!) I do not believe the Urtext was ever meant to be the book that the vast majority of A Course In Miracles students would read and study. It’s rough. Bill was typing as fast as he could. There is substantial personal material in it that has very little relevance to others besides Ms. Schucman and Mr. Thetford. They only had a little time each morning. They had professional, income earning work they had to do.
2) The A Course In Miracles Urtext Manuscripts is published in a very odd format that does not lend itself to accustomed, average, reading and study habits. An 8.5 inch by 11 inch book is not the norm and not what people like to hold in their hands and carry around. Sorry. It’s just not. CIMS first published the material in the Original Edition as the Jesus’ Course In Miracles (JCIM). That was also in 8.5 inch by 11 inch format. It was very difficult to hold in your hands and even harder to read. The line on the page was so long the eyes had trouble following it and my eyes would frequently loose line focus in the middle of the page. As mind opening as JCIM was to the A Course In Miracles students who first saw it in 2000, this format would never be the format large numbers of A Course In Miracles students would gravitate to. CIMS learned that, and when they published again they put the book in a standard 6.25 inch by 9.25 inch format. Good move! Miracles In Action Press, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your content is, this 8.5 inch by 11 inch format is primarily going to appeal to the scholar, not the average ACIM student.
3) The type size is very small (tiny) in the Urtext Manuscripts making it very hard to read. It’s much smaller than what you are reading in Miracles Monthly right now. The thoughts in A Course In Miracles are difficult enough for students to handle. If they have to strain to read the words themselves there’s no energy left to strain the mind to grasp the thoughts.
If Doug Thompson and Doug Monkton, Mr. Thompson’s partner in Miracles In Action Press, want a real shot at making A Course In Miracles Urtext Manuscripts a viable, realistic alternative for “average” ACIM students they are going to have to put the book in a standard format. As it is, it looks like a scholarly, academic, reference book. With all of it’s footnotes and appendices it reads like a scholarly, academic, reference book. Doug Thompson describes himself as a scholarly academician. Let’s remember the famous “duck test.” “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably is a duck.” If it looks like an academic, reference book, reads like and academic, reference book, and was written and complied by an academic, reference scholar then it’s probably an academic, scholarly, reference version of ACIM. It’s not a book that average students and teachers are going to use. I’m not going to use no matter how often I open it up and think, “Wow.”
Doug Thompson writes that there are about 7000 errors in the Original Edition. Are there? It depends on how one defines “errors.” If you define them how Doug Thompson defines them then “Yes,” there are most likely about 7,000 errors. Doug Thompson defines “errors” as anything that deviates in any way from the way it was typed in the Hugh Lynn Cayce (HLC) edition which the Text of the Original Edition is based on. The HLC was the earlier version found in the Association of Research and Enlightenment library. This was the version Ken Wapnick and Helen Schucman later edited to produce the first standard A Course In Miracles books published by the Foundation for Inner Peace in 1976. However, a vast majority of the alleged “errors” are comma changes, the change from all capitals as the means of emphasis to italics, and an actual disturbing amount of capitalization/italics word emphasis changes. There are also many changes in the first letter capitalization of words, but Bill and Helen’s rough draft, the Urtext, was inconsistent about these and the HLC was only a little better. The commas in the HLC are not standard and in no way reflect current rules of style. Plus comma usage was not consistent even throughout the HLC.
I think CIMS made a wise decision to change the commas and align the Original Edition with a current, professional standard of style (the *Chicago Manual of Style*). If they had not, the Original Edition would read as poorly edited, unsophisticated, and unprofessional. Yes, these decisions make it different from the HLC version from which the Text of the Original Edition is largely derived, yet I would not call these “errors.” I feel that these were the right decisions to make and I am happy CIMS went in this direction instead of thinking that the right thing to do was keep it exactly the same as the HLC. And ... there still are quite a few true errors in the first printing of the Original Edition. There are more errors than I feel comfortable with. Doug Thompson is basically right, the Original Edition probably could have been better edited, proof read, and corrected. And ... a lot of people say that about my writing too!
Of course I’m not writing the words of Jesus that I hear in my mind. (Or maybe I am. It is a voice in my mind after all.) Who can say they know what was truly happening in Ms. Schucman’s mind and ears. It’s all conjecture and strongly held convictions. People want to be right about how they conceptualize the “dictation” process and they fight hard to defend their interpretation of it. I say we will never know. What we know is that there is a book with profound and complex ideas. Let’s spend our time trying to figure of what the book says and then implementing these ideas into our minds. That will keep us very busy. Trying to define the process that went on with Helen Schucman is a problem set up as incapable of solution. “Ideational preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are also favorite ego devices for impeding the strong-willed from making real learning progress.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.77) I forgive CIMS for not proof reading the first printing closely enough and not being perfect editors because I want to forgive myself. There is a wonderful document linked to the Miracles In Action Press web site where one can look at all the “errors” and changes in the Original Edition from the HLC highlighted in different color codes. Go look yourself and make your own judgment about the “errors.” <http://www.miraclesinactionpress.com/dthomp74/2007/REVIEW/OE-T_v_source.pdf> Remember that this is a comparison of the first printing of the Original Edition. Many of the true errors were corrected in the second printing.
CIMS is constantly working to correct the remaining true errors. The second printings (the black books with the pearls on the cover) are much better books on many levels and I strongly encourage students who want to read the Original Edition to get those books. I am currently, personally involved with this continuing process of error identification and correction. I am impressed with the care, effort, and dedication that CIMS is giving to making subsequent printings of the Original Edition even more correct with fewer and fewer errors. I am also very impressed about the transparency with which CIMS is doing this. The Community Miracles Center has partnered (as in joined) with CIMS in this project. The CMC’s A Course In Miracles web site contains an On-Line Discussion Group. One of the discussion subgroups is dedicated to these correction suggestions and evaluations. The correction “team” finds possible errors, posts them, and makes suggestions. Other members of the team weigh in with their opinions and all opinions are considered before a final decision is made. The fact that it is a team who makes these decisions is important. Who edited the FIP book over the years? Was it a team? Even more important is that this process is open to the world to observe and possibly comment on. Go to <http://www.miracles-course.org/cgi-bin/discus/discus.cgi> and look for yourselves. Check out posts on the five different categories in the “ACIM Original Edition Corrections Discussion.” Compare this process with the process by which the previous, well accepted ACIM book was edited and changed through the course of it’s history. In my mind, there’s no comparison.
Doug Thompson ends with the statement, “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.” I think Mr. Thompson is being too cynical here and possibly speaking from a predisposition that financial abundance and making money is not “spiritual.” I am not so negative about the A Course In Miracles community. I find the community thoroughly robust, healthy, and diverse. I see a majority of teachers and organizations wanting to work together to reach more and more students with profound thoughts and demonstrations of healing. I see lots of healthy joining in the ACIM community. That’s why the big conferences that we do succeed. I surround myself with a different peer group than Mr. Thompson does. Mr. Thompson appears to have done most of his scholarly work on A Course In Miracles alone, not joining with others in the work. Perhaps Mr. Thompson might consider reaching out and joining a larger ACIM culture. He might find his own purview of ACIM students and teachers severely shaken and forever altered. That could be his choice, however he doesn’t really seem like a team player.
I read Doug Thompson’s article over again in order to write this piece. I found it thoroughly engaging, thought provoking, and challenging all over again. Those of you who are stuck on his harsh criticisms and entrenched positions might be doing just what he is talking about. You might be reading something and not understanding it. Mr. Thompson’s main point, that he makes a very wonderful argument for, is that A Course In Miracles will never heal the world through the written word, but through us living its principles in relationship the best we can. Are we so blinded by our own attachment to our sacred grievances that we focus only on a minor point while missing the major thesis? Wasn’t this Doug Thompson’s primary postulate after all – that we don’t understand and appreciate what we read? Perhaps by having such a strong reaction against Mr. Thompson’s article we are merely proving that the major point he was trying to make was absolutely the truth. In this sense Mr. Thompson’s article couldn’t have been any more successful.
I started this article by saying, “Friends, teachers, Course students, lend me your minds.” So I ask you now – did you read this far? Did you keep your minds open? Or did you shut your mind down the first time you read something from me that you didn’t agree with? If so, go read Doug Thompson’s article again because that is exactly what he was talking about.
Doug – we’re ready for your next submission.
**Iambic pentameter is a style and cadence of writing that predominated in plays and sonnets especially during the period when Shakespeare’s plays were written and performed ~1594 to 1634. Shakespeare wrote much of his work in an iambic pentameter rhythm. This means two beats, the first soft, the second stressed, and then this cadence is repeated five times, “ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum.” I find it amusing that while many people talk about *A Course In Miracles* being written in iambic pentameter very few can tell you what iambic pentameter actually is. There’s another proof of Mr. Thompson’s main point. Even correct iambic pentameter writing can have individual line and passage variations. One line might be, “Dum ta, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum.” It might be “ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, ta Dum, Dum.” Because of these individual line and passage variations it is impossible to know if something is truly 100% iambic pentameter or not. Not everything written by Shakespeare is iambic pentameter. The same is even more true about *A Course in Miracles*. Although there are long passages in *ACIM* that are iambic pentameter there’s a lot of material in *ACIM* that is not. In fact, I claim that a vast majority of *ACIM* is not iambic pentameter at all. Mr. Thompson’s statement that “... *ACIM* as the longest work in iambic pentameter poetry ever composed in any language” is not a truly accurate statement in my opinion. ♥
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This article appeared in the June 2011 (Vol. 25 No. 4) 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.