The “Scholarly Edition”

What it is and why we need it

The idea of the Scholarly edition is very simple and, when you think about it, very obvious.  It is simply to “get ACIM right.”  And the word “Scholarship” implies that “right” is not measured by hunches or any subjective impressions but by evidence and facts.  While the interpretation of evidence may vary widely, the evidence itself tends to be rather “fixed” unlike human memories or subjective hunches.

Scholarship is not the only way to measure “truth” nor even the most important perhaps, but it is certainly one of the most reliable ways of measuring falsehood!  The lie and the deception, the “fixing” of data and falsification of results, these are the obstacles to truth that Scholarship is superb at detecting and clearing from the path.  And that really is what scholarship is for, it is a means of systematically and very reliably detecting mistakes and deceptions and clearing a pathway for truth.  Sometimes scholars even stumble on the latter!


“Our only integrity as scholars is not to be right and correct but to be honest and public.  ‘Fixing’ data entails a deliberate intention to deceive.  When one scholar accuses another of fixing the evidence, somebody has lost his integrity.”

-         John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, p. 114


The word “scholarship” itself implies an honest, truthful, evidence-based, methodical inquiry which has as its goal the impartial discovery of reliable and correct information. 

It is in that way different from “Revelation” or “Divine Inspiration” or “Intuition” or “Hunch.”  It is not a substitute for any of those, but rather a complement which is vastly superior to any of those in reliably identifying error so that it can be corrected!

Where there is a choice between “human memory” and “textual evidence” or other “physical evidence” the scholar will always hold the latter to be more authoritative where it is genuine.  Memories are notoriously fallible, while the words on written pages tend to be rather stable over time!  Scholarship is a product of scribal culture then, in which words, having been written, are “fixed.”  In oral culture we have no “fixed record” but only highly malleable memories.  While memory can sometimes be very precise, it can also be notoriously unreliable and very difficult to ‘do scholarship’ on.  However inaccurate a written record might originally be, at least it is “fixed” … it doesn’t change over time.  It holds still for the microscope!

For instance, one may say “I remember I wore a black suit to that wedding” but if the photos reveal it was the blue suit, we’re going to believe the physical evidence over your memory.  The story of “virtually no changes” propagated by Helen and Bill and Ken and Judy was “remembered” into the status of myth by incessant repetition to a whole generation of ACIM students who in turn “remembered it” to their students by incessant repetitions which have not yet ceased! 

Many who repeat it today know very well that it’s not true, yet they are so attached to the myth that they prefer it to the truth.  They tend to be less than supportive of my efforts to find and reveal the truth.

Which came first, the memory or the myth, the chicken or the egg?  It matters not, both were false!  And it was not subject to being checked against the evidence because the evidence was very deliberately kept secret.  When it finally was checked against the evidence we found that “virtually no changes” required a caveat: “virtually no changes except for the removal of the equivalent of about five chapters worth of material and the near-total re-writing of another five chapters worth which involved the introduction of hundreds of sloppy mistakes, errors, and omissions due to the lack of proofreading.”  That’s what the textual evidence reveals.

Did human memory simply forget about this in subsequent accounts?  Possibly to some extent it did.  I think it likely that the Scribes had no idea how many errors and omissions they had inadvertently introduced.  It is almost certain they did not.  Until you proof it you don’t know there are any errors, let alone how many there are!  And they didn’t proof it.  I think that since they were specifically told not to make some of the changes they did make, they had a bit of ‘bad conscience’ and literally “chose to forget” about those bits.  And “those bits” mostly happened early in the process.  The editing of the later volumes, for instance, is difficult to fault at all.  So those were the most recent memories and about that material it was true to say “virtually unchanged.”  Between not knowing and conveniently forgetting, we can observe nothing remotely unusual.  This is the way “oral culture” records history … variably … sometimes with high accuracy, sometimes with “convenient” accuracy, and sometimes with “flattering” accuracy.  And of course, sometimes with “no accuracy.”

This particular topic, human group memory, is one extensively studied by Biblical Scholars because most of the historical accounts in the Bible were written some years after the events they describe.  The events had been “remembered,” perhaps by some individual participants or witnesses, but certainly by “communities” who viewed the recollections as important.  Later they were important enough to be written down.  But how much might the story have changed in decades of oral re-telling from what had originally transpired?  As we see in the case of the ACIM “story” … some things do get preserved with excellent accuracy, some things get lost, and some things get flipped right around, and it is not random!

What scholarship can do, which memory rarely can, is pinpoint “errors” and prove them beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt, thus cleaning up the record and making the truth clearer.

To date very little genuine scholarship has been done on ACIM, and much of what has passed for scholarship can be seen to have been almost unbelievably sloppy and biased.  There are many reasons for this and one is that any genuine scholar wants to start with primary source materials, or at least secondary sources which are firmly based on authentic primary sources.  Any genuine scholar is also concerned less to be “right” than he is to be public and transparent and open to peer review so that if he is mistaken, and if he is human he will be mistaken sometimes, those mistakes will be detected so that they can be corrected!  The only way to be right is to be open and public.  This doesn’t mean that everything secret is “wrong”, it just means that the hidden and the secret can’t be tested so you never know!! 

Those who actually possess copies of ACIM’s primary sources refuse to make this material available to scholars.  In that act, in a single stroke, genuine scholarship is hobbled where it is not absolutely stopped in its tracks.  You cannot do “honest and public” scholarship on materials that must be kept secret!  That’s something for the CIA, not scholarship! It is certainly the case that many professional Biblical Scholars would be interested in taking a look at ACIM and putting their not inconsiderable skills to work on it.  This will not happen so long as the only copies available are known to be inaccurate abridgements and the most original primary sources are secret.

Universities and the scholars who work in them apply “minimum standards” before accepting students, and also before accepting books for study!  The fact that available copies are known to be “fixed” and that it is known that the original material is being kept secret and won’t be made available for study creates the suspicion of fraud and hoax and the only thing that will dispel that suspicion is complete candour and public access to the primary sources.  Until that happens few scholars will even consider taking a look at ACIM. There is a whiff of the hoax and the fraud about it which is generated by this inexplicable secrecy.  And that is enough to keep it out of Academia. 

Instead of proceeding directly to a careful analysis of primary source material, scholars must detour and undertake to reconstruct the “missing” data, data that isn’t actually “missing,” it is just being withheld for the purpose … well we don’t actually know the purpose, do we ?  We can only speculate.  And to the extent that we do have primary sources, and we do, since 2000, have thousands of crucial early manuscript pages, that material is in such a condition and is so voluminous, that it requires enormous amounts of time and energy just to carefully examine it!  The first problem is that it’s on paper, in mediocre quality photocopies of ribbon-typewriter originals with a good deal of handwritten markup … material which does not do well in automated Optical Character Recognition.  It has to be processed!  Thousands of hours of processing are needed.

That’s also a “Scholarly” task, a task of primary scholarship and the skilled people who do this kind of thing for Biblical manuscripts earn large salaries.  How are we to get their ilk interested in ACIM when there is no money and sometimes even less credibility?  It’s a catch 22.  You can’t get the primary scholars with the primary sources and quite likely we can’t get the primary sources without the primary scholars.

In the last seven years vastly more money has been spent on suppressing ACIM with court injunctions and gag orders than has been spent on studying ACIM!  That doesn’t do much to encourage scholarship either!

The suppression of the earliest ACIM documents is reminiscent of when the Dead Sea Scrolls were similarly kept unavailable to scholarship for decades after their discovery.  All manner of conspiracy theories arose imagining deep dark secrets contained in the scrolls being the reason for their not being published.  When the material finally became available, the reasons turned out to be far more pedestrian.  It was simple human pride mixed with professional ambitions whose magnitude was only matched by corresponding professional incompetence.  There was no “deep dark secret” any deeper or darker than that.  I know of no reason to suppose that the reasons for ACIM primary source suppression are any more interesting.

In the past 7 years a great deal of early ACIM material which had previously been kept hidden has emerged, and very little in the way of “deep dark secrets” has emerged with it, save for the qualifications that need to be added to “virtually unchanged.”  Yes, there have been some surprises, but other than the first thing learned from the first of the early manuscripts, that the editing had been far more extensive than the publishers had led readers to believe, there isn’t a great deal which strikes me as giving anyone a motive to keep the material secret.  I can see why Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, whose account of the editing is shown to be not entirely correct by the first of the primary source materials to emerge, might have wished that material to not be published.  Once it was published, and the fact of substantial editing and a high rate of errors in that editing became known, however, I am aware of nothing further that might explain the desire to keep the material secret.  I have not been able to examine the whole of the original Notes but those who have also assure me that there is no such “deep dark secret.”  The horse has left … there is no need to guard the barn door further, save perhaps for the “habit and culture of secrecy” that Helen and Bill developed before they even discovered the Course.  Bill was gay and in the closet and Helen had been a member of the Communist party in her youth and had recently lived through the communist witch-hunts … both had secrets to keep on which their professional careers perhaps depended.  Both were good at keeping secrets and making cover stories.  The habit of covering and deceiving was developed by necessity but as with so many such unfortunate habits, it was extended into areas where it was not only not necessary, it was positively destructive.  And that habit still plagues Helen’s work!

From the early days of ACIM publishing in the late 70s, it was said that the material was “virtually unchanged” from the original dictation.  From that statement people assumed that it was already “right” and that a high standard of care and professional scholarship had gone into its preparation for printing.  After all, three of the four people involved in its first publication were Ph.D.s, and two were senior university professors.  We’re talking about people who can be presumed to know what scholarship is and who would not “fix” the data!  It was, I suppose, a very reasonable surmise.  But it wasn’t correct.

 In 1996, when the FIP Second Edition came out with numerous of “corrections” following what was described as a careful check of the FIP First Edition against the original manuscript, we generally felt, again, that “well now it’s right!”  Few of the errors corrected were very significant, and most were obviously inadvertent typos which had slipped through earlier proofreading.  No big deal.

Then, in 2000, two earlier manuscripts of ACIM were published on the Internet despite lawsuits, injunctions, and threats of lawsuits which saw hundreds of websites featuring the material being shut down by FIP (Judith Skutch’s Foundation for Inner Peace) and FACIM (Ken Wapnick’s Foundation for a Course in Miracles) to prevent the continued publication of this material.  The legal action initiated by FACIM also saw gag orders imposed which prohibited many people from quoting any version of the Course.  All the while FACIM claimed not to be trying to stifle scholarship!!!

 The first of the pre-publication versions of ACIM to show up on the net in January of 2000 was a copy which probably pre-dates 1972 which was preserved by Hugh Lynn Cayce.  It’s come to be known as the “Hugh Lynn Manuscript” or the “Hugh Lynn Cayce Version” or simply “HLC.”  It was first announced as “Jesus’ original dictation” and also as “Thetford’s original typescript.”  It turned out to be neither.  By August 2000 when an even earlier manuscript was released under the name “Urtext” it was clear the HLC was not “the original” but that this older one was thought to be, until it too was studied more carefully and was discovered not to be the Urtext at all, but a later, already heavily edited intermediate draft.

With the release of each of these, the initial response was “well NOW we finally have it “right”.”  But we didn’t.  Once again the conclusion was hasty and not supported by the evidence. Further inquiry reveals there are at least two and possibly three still earlier versions of the Text portion of ACIM which are still being kept secret.  We know that we don’t have either the original shorthand notebooks, called simply the Notes here, nor the original Thetford transcription of those notebooks, which is the version to which the name “Urtext” properly applies.  While some of the USCO material might be Thetford’s original transcript, much of it clearly is not, and there is very little evidence to suggest that any of it is.

The “deep dark secret” revealed by this material was rather simple and not terribly surprising.  The “story of the Course” from 1965 when the scribing began to 1996, say, when the Second Edition was undertaken, was an “oral history.”  There was little documentation of the history, and most of what there was, was kept secret.  But there were many many oral recitations of recollections which were remembered and repeated by others, leading to a genuine “oral tradition” in which certain phrases were repeated as gospel (in both senses of that word) and were believed to be wholly trustworthy.  Among these was the “virtually unchanged” description of the editing.  It was “remembered”, not just in the oral tradition that grew up around the original Scribes, but in quite late statements (as late as 1987 for Thetford) by the Scribes themselves, that there were “virtually no changes.”  In fact, in the later part of the ACIM Canon, from what I can tell of the matter, there were indeed rather few alterations of significance such that it is not misleading to say of this later material, that there were “virtually no changes.”  In the earlier material however, particularly the first ten chapters and most spectacularly the first five, a substantial portion of the oldest known from of the material is wholly different than what was said to be “virtually unchanged”.  About half of it is entirely missing, much of what remains has been re-worded totally, the meanings of some of it have been reversed, and the original order of presentation and sequence has been significantly altered.  Whatever “virtually unchanged” might be stretched to mean, it can’t be stretched that far!  There is only a distant resemblance to the original in much of it.

The “story of the editing” process by which Helen’s original Notes were turned into printed books which has been told and re-told turns out to be a highly romanticized “virtually mythical” account with only partial contact with the facts revealed by emerging documentary evidence.  We can learn from these earlier manuscripts that the material was never proofread at all.  This is confirmed by Ken Wapnick.  With each re-typing, and there were at least six we know of, with evidence of more, large numbers of changes were made.   It’s not yet possible to even list all the changes, but of the thousand or so I’ve found and investigated, I’d say there were in the order of perhaps a thousand changes in each retyping, some intentional and some very clearly inadvertent. Some were in fact “corrections” made according to instructions.  Many were inadvertent errors and omissions, and some were alterations or relocations of material made in direct contravention of the Scribes’ explicit instructions, even where it appears to have been intentional and not accidental.  In the absence of proofreading against earlier versions, any error that crept in, unless it was something obvious that led to conspicuous grammar or spelling problems, tended to remain through subsequent editions.  While a few of these were caught when the material was finally proofread for the 1996 edition, by no means all of them were caught.

The editors did what they were directed to do, and then they did a great deal more, some of which they were specifically directed not to do.  They did make some dictated corrections.  In other cases corrections are dictated which they did not make.  They did remove “personal material” that had been taken down by Helen along with the Course, but they also removed a very large amount of material which is in no way “personal” or only of interest or value to Helen and Bill.  The editors did a good deal they were not directed to do, which includes re-writing and re-arranging large swaths of the first five chapters in a manner that is in no way any sort of “correction.”  And while they were doing this, they made a considerable number of inadvertent typos and omissions which is entirely to be expected when copy-typing and editing such a large document without any proofreading!  Of these they seem to have been virtually unaware! 

The result is that in a very large number of cases the text which has been advertised as “virtually unchanged from the original dictation” is actually either “virtually unrecognizable” or just as often in the early chapters, it is simply not there.

There are many explanations and ways of understanding how this situation arose, and I have my favourites as might you!  Yet in no “explanation” that is more developed than the demonstrably false myth that some divine power guided every keystroke the editors made can the result be denied. The process of editing and rewriting was carried out in such a way that there remain a huge number of “differences” between the oldest known form and later forms which are very obviously “errors.”   That is an incontrovertible fact.  Yes, many of them aren’t very important in my opinion … but the Author said “every word is important” so who am I to judge any error as “not important?”

There are many other changes which are highly questionable and may be errors.  These include the removal of material which is in no way personal and the re-writing of material in ways which either doesn’t really change the meaning (in which case it was not a necessary change or a “correction”) or in ways which actually distort the meaning, in which case it was either a “correction” of a previously mistaken statement or a “corruption” of a previously correct statement.  In some cases it is obvious which is which, in other cases it’s not so unambiguous.

The result is that, especially in the first few chapters, we don’t really know what’s ACIM on the page and what is “editorial error.”  Even where we can check back several versions, we can’t check back all the way because that material is still secret.  If the pattern of editorial alteration we see from the Sub-Urtext through to the FIP Second Edition is consistent in the earlier versions, and preliminary indications are that it is, then the oldest and best we’ve got is already well endowed with typos, inadvertent omissions, and gratuitous re-writing which introduces error along with the actual corrections.

There are a number of explanations for this aside from postulating fraudulent or malicious intent on the part of the Scribes.  They were having difficulty with the material – and each other - from the outset, and while Helen’s difficulties appeared to lessen in the later part of the dictation, her problems with the early material appear to have remained intense right through to the editing in 1973-75.  We can see why the “Voice” instructed that all decisions about what to include or exclude should be left to Bill, and we can see the problems that resulted from the Scribes not heeding that instruction.

The proofreading the material required was substantial and certainly would have taxed the personal resources of the Scribes.  Considering they both had full time jobs at the time, it was beyond their means to do this proofreading.  I remain surprised that they formed the impression that the material didn’t require proofreading, but apparently they did and this also points to a source of problems … they had come to incorrectly assess when they were ‘divinely guided’ and when they weren’t!  Without question there was some divine guidance, but equally without question, there were some ‘failures of guidance.’  Wapnick describes how they “felt” the material was all exactly as Jesus wanted it, yet we can see today they were mistaken.  At some level they had to know they were mistaken and therein may lie the motive to cover up the evidence and try to hide the original manuscripts which they had to have known would tell the story they chose not to tell.

As I write in January of 2007, we are about half way to prying open the ‘secret history of A Course in Miracles’ with the publication of two of the pre-1975 manuscripts, and two more to go!  In this situation, there is enough to cast doubt on many readings, in that we can often detect that there are variant readings and material that is missing in later versions, but we haven’t been able to track many of these discrepancies back to their roots!  The result is often uncertainty.

What we see often happening today is that one person will quote one version, another will point out that the passage reads differently in another version, and the argument will rage as to which is “right” or “best”. It is often very hard to tell without digging deeply into the actual fabric of the editing, and much harder to tell without the actual original Notes than it would be with the original Notes.  Such digging takes time and skill and tools that few people have readily at hand and available for this task, so the result is often even more uncertainty.  So the debate proceeds, often very poorly informed, as to which version is “best.”  While each has its own strengths and weaknesses my answer to that question is “the best version is the one you actually read!”  If pressed further I have to admit that they are all sadly lacking anything resembling a high degree of accuracy or integrity and all regrettably distort the original dictation in entirely unnecessary and wholly unacceptable ways due to the fact that no one has undertaken the fairly straightforward and basically simple – albeit HUGE -- task of reviewing all the editing changes and at least correcting those hundreds that are obvious errors!  In short, the material has never been thoroughly proofread and there is no list of all the editing changes that were made.  Were there such a list, it would be immediately obvious with most of the changes which were “corrections,” and which were “mistakes.”  After that rather simple process of sorting all the changes into three categories 1) mistake, 2) correction and 3) not sure, there would only be a very few in the “not sure” category.

Seriously, we could take a poll of ACIM students or draw together any team of a dozen or so competent ACIM Scholars and simply have everyone vote on every change.  I have no doubt that there would be near-unanimity on the vast majority of changes.  Most really are either quite obviously corrections or quite obviously mistakes, with only a few where it’s not immediately obvious which it is.  In the latter cases, in the few dozens I’ve dealt with, careful inquiry and widespread discussion usually results in a consensus as to which it is.  There are VERY few “variant readings” I know of, and I know of many hundreds, where it’s at all difficult to achieve consensus on whether we’re dealing with a mistake or a correction.  Basic scholarship probably can’t resolve all uncertainties about the editing, but it can readily resolve the overwhelming majority of them rather easily. 

As noted earlier, scholarly tools are very good at identifying and proving errors, and thus cleaning them up.  The application of such techniques to ACIM, just in terms of fixing indisputable errors, would result in a hugely more accurate version of the Course.

A “Scholarly Edition” then involves the very straightforward process of identifying all variant readings and then sorting them as indicated above.  At the end of any reasonably conducted process, there will only be a handful of variants left where there isn’t consensus, and in those cases the lack of consensus can simply be footnoted and both variants included!

The result would be (will be, this WILL be done one day) a version of ACIM in which there are very few uncertainties as to whether what we see on the page is what Jesus really dictated or something the editors mistakenly put there instead.

Asking for an accurate, reliable, honest and scholarly copy of ACIM that “gets it right,” insofar as human scholarship can achieve that goal, doesn’t seem to me to be asking for anything unreasonable or extreme.  To me it seems rather basic!  To me it seems rather astonishing that this hasn’t yet been done!

It’s doubly astonishing because the Author of ACIM makes his own intentions and desires very clear in a few statements in the Notes which Ken Wapnick has chosen to reveal which are quite unambiguous.  As for the “importance” of every word, Jesus says “every word is meaningful.”

“As long as you take accurate notes, every word is meaningful. But I can’t always get through. Whenever possi­ble, I will correct retroactively. Be sure to note all later correc­tions. This means that you are more receptive than you were when I tried before.”[1]

It is awkwardly obvious that this view was not entirely shared by all of those who later were to edit and re-write these “meaningful” words.  In the end they simply left that bit out!

      Jesus also states:


“Contradictions in my words mean lack of understanding, or scribal failures, which I make every effort to correct. But they are still not crucial. The Bible has the same problem, I assure you, and it's still being edited. Consider the power of my Word, in that it has withstood all the attacks of error, and is the Source of Truth.”[2]


We are informed here that perceived contradictions, whether caused by lack of understanding or “scribal failure” (error) are not “crucial” but that “every effort” will be made to correct them.

Jesus goes on with one further highly relevant comment:


“I told you I would edit the notes with you when it was helpful to do so….I have already told you in connection with Cayce that out of respect for his great efforts on My behalf I would not let his life-work lead to anything but truth in the end. These notes are part of your life-work, and I will treat them with equal respect.”[3]


In reference to Cayce, we are dealing with an author who was dead for 20 years at the time.  In reference to the Bible, the documents are thousands of years old. Getting it “right” isn’t “crucial”, the Bible for all its well-known errors is still described as having withstood the attacks of error, but is “important” enough that “every effort” will be made to undertake those corrections “when it was helpful.”

We know of course that Jesus and the Holy Spirit depend on human willingness to act in history and so long as no human is willing to take up the challenge to “correct the errors” then it won’t happen.  Yet when we are “a little willing” we have it from Jesus that he will “make every effort” to work through that willingness, no matter how long it takes!

Much of the debate that arises when the idea of “getting it right” is discussed in ACIM circles essentially involves these two ideas Jesus presents:  the “importance” and “meaningfulness” of the words on the one side, and how “crucial” mistakes are on the other.  Mistakes aren’t “crucial” in that the truth can still get through, we are told.  Yet every word is “meaningful” if taken down accurately.  While not “crucial” therefore, accuracy is “important” rather obviously because it is “helpful.”  And “meaningful.” Where there are no errors we don’t have to fuss and bother trying to interpret words that were never meant to be there in the first place.  Where there are no errors, our understanding is not limited by the absence of explanations due to inadvertent or otherwise mistaken omissions of material.

What student of any text would not prefer to have an accurate copy from which to read rather than one with numerous known mistakes that additionally is known to have an undetermined number of additional unidentified mistakes?  What interpreter of any text can’t do a better job more quickly if she knows what the text really says than if she has to second-guess every passage wondering if she’s reading the authentic words or an editorial mistake?

I am often asked “well how come Jesus allowed a version with so many mistakes to be published?”  The answer has just been given.  The mistakes aren’t “crucial” and the “message” still can get through despite them.  Better to allow it out with some mistakes that could be (and will be) corrected later than to keep it hidden until it’s perfect.  As Lister Sinclair put it: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”  Better an edition with some errors than no edition at all!

We can worry about the mistakes later … and we can be sure that Jesus is calling and has called and will call some people to address those mistakes.  The original scribal materials have been preserved, in some rather remarkable ways considering the intensity of the expressed desire of their custodians that they be kept secret, or even destroyed.

Perhaps one reason why so little has been done is the idea that without the Notes, nothing can be started.  There’s actually quite a lot that can be done without the Notes.  The work cannot be finished without them, but in the major versions we do have, the Sub-Ur, the HLC, and the FIP Editions there are a huge number of editorial changes.  Each one of those, as well as any that are eventually found between earlier versions, must be evaluated.  There is absolutely no obstacle to beginning work on the materials which are presently available. 


How a “Scholarly Edition” can be prepared

Every one of those editing changes must be examined and evaluated as to whether it’s a correction, a corruption, or a “not sure.”  As for the “not sure” category, there is of course a need to consult the earlier material in case, as has been the case with the material we do have so often, the earlier material shows that we’re dealing with an inadvertent error.  Still, there is a huge amount of work which can be done right now.  And even if the earlier versions never become available, which appears to me highly improbable, we can still improve ACIM massively based only on the material which is available.

When this gets going we may well have to break the three categories into several more sub-categories which rank, as the United Bible Society does, the degree of uncertainty where there is no unanimity.  If you have ten scholars weighing the changes, there is a difference between a vote of “5 to 5” and one of “9 to 1.”  Readers deserve to be told the degree of uncertainty where any uncertainty arises.

The first part of the task is to proofread the “digital” Word Processor file copies of the original manuscripts against the actual manuscript photocopies to make sure that we are feeding the computer “comparison engines” the most accurate material possible.  Those copies made shortly after the photocopies became available are riddled with typos.  Proofreading isn’t difficult or complicated but it is time-consuming, tedious, and very exacting.  To do a thorough job on the HLC required about a thousand man-hours of proofreading in my “spare time” over a three year period.  It is not likely to require a great deal less for other volumes, and we have the Sub-Urtext, the Workbook, the Teacher’s Manual and the Use of Terms yet to complete.  As we have two or more versions of the same document completely proofed, we can begin to isolate and list all differences between them.  While computers can help greatly with this process, generating this list is going to be another labour-intensive, tedious and exacting task to get it precisely correct.

Then comes the task of evaluating all those changes and categorizing them as “correction”, “corruption” or “not sure.”  This certainly requires a panel or group, and is an almost impossible challenge for the lone scholar.  Sure, anyone might get most right (probably would) but for any degree of “reliability” we need a panel.  This is especially the case with the ‘uncertain’ ones.  Many anomalies which I flagged as likely errors on my first pass, turned out to be accepted as perfectly all right after extensive consultation with others.  This reveals the need for a panel!

There is nothing stopping any of this work from being done today except for the lack of a team with the will and the resources to actually do it!  Well I’ve got the will, but I don’t comprise a team, and as for the resources, well mine are stretched to the breaking point already.

In addition to the basic “scholarly” issues, there are many technical ones too.  Perhaps as much as a third of the time I’ve spent “proofing the HLC” has actually involved learning software, maintaining, repairing and upgrading hardware, and even searching for software suitable to do what needed doing. 

But don’t trust me on this one.  While I’ve actually done a thorough proof on one volume which gives me some idea of what’s actually involved and how much time and effort and money it takes, I’ve grossly underestimated every task at every phase of this project, expecting it would take weeks to accomplish what ended up taking months, expecting to take days what ended up taking weeks.  Some of this is due to the “jack-of-all-trades” approach I’ve taken.  Not having a budget to hire out any phase of the project, I’ve had to learn to do everything required, which means when starting the learning curve, my productivity was not very high.  But it has one very positive result, when you do it yourself you come to very profoundly understand what is involved, what is possible, and what is not and “what it would take” to “do it right” if there was a budget to hire it out!  Having done the job, I have a pretty good idea of what qualifications any applicant to do that same job needs to have!

By “thorough proof” I don’t mean that I went over it thoroughly.  I mean Deborah and I went over it thoroughly ten times until we weren’t finding any more errors.  I was finding better than 90% of the errors on each pass.  About 500 on the first pass (I didn’t kkep an exact count), about 50 on the second, about a dozen on the third, and fourth because we started looking for things we weren’t even looking for the first time, and then one or two on the next few, some of which were errors we’d introduced ourselves mistakenly, and finally none on the last pass.

I can describe the process of generating a voice synthesized audio, printing out both the photocopy and the word processor files so they can be put in a binder on facing pages, doing that twice because the initial copy of the word processor file has a lot of mark-up after the first pass, adding a Concordance Reference system and proofreading that also, keeping “version control” because of course every time a mistake is found a correction has to be made and because we’re humans, there are going to be some errors in that too so we have to proof our “corrected copy” against its predecessor, checking and double-checking …

Proofreading is not at all complicated in principle.  The conventional way of doing it is to have one person read aloud from the copy while another follows along on the original by eye.  Discrepancies show up.  But no one catches all of them in one pass on a large document.  In some ways computer generated audio is better than a human reader because there are some common mistakes humans make which computers don’t.  Computers are too “dumb” to see the wrong word and read the right one because they know what is supposed to be there, in contrast to human proofreaders who often fail to notice minor spelling errors.    The computer generated audio cuts your labour costs in half, one person can do what previously required two.

While simple in principle, in implementation on large documents, it’s actually quite complex, it’s very exacting and sometimes incredibly tedious.  On the plus side, when dealing with amazing literature like ACIM, you get to read it again and again!

Because of the quality … or lack thereof … of the photocopies we’re working with, automated optical character recognition does not produce useful results for proofing.  There are more errors in the OCR generated copy than in human copy-typing.  Therefore we simply have to do conventional proofreading though we can get some help from computers in that.

Why it’s important to “get it right”

Quite beyond your opinion or mine concerning which version we prefer or how important we feel the odd typo is, there is a much broader social need for a version of ACIM which is honest and accurate and not misrepresented as being something it’s not.

ACIM is in many ways one of the most interesting pieces of literature ever penned in any language.  It is, to the best of my knowledge, the largest single example of Iambic Pentameter which exists.  As that, regardless of one’s opinion of its authorship, it’s the kind of material English Literature departments would, if they could, love to sink their teeth into.  Whether it’s “Helen Schucman as great undiscovered poetess” or “Helen channelling Jesus” hardly matters on this point … the document exists and is extraordinarily interesting.

In Theology Schools, Seminaries, Religious Studies departments and comparative religion courses, ACIM clearly has a place as one of the most profound theological treatises ever penned.  In such schools the ideas presented by World Scriptures are studied, and examined, and ACIM has much to add to that field of inquiry.

In Psychology departments, the ideas in ACIM about “mind over matter” are of considerable relevance.

In Philosophy departments even such issues as the discussion of ‘means vs. ends’ in ACIM are totally relevant, as is the inherently “phenomenological” approach to perception in ACIM.

In Medicine the idea of healing being rooted in the “mind” rather than the body will be of interest.

In Forensic Sciences the puzzle about ACIM’s origins for anyone sceptical of the claim Helen made that she channelled Jesus is one that many a Ph.D. thesis could be generated from.

The “Great Scriptures” of the world play a prominent role in Universities and have some relevance in nearly all studies in the Humanities.  But ACIM is not there among them although it most richly deserves to be.

And it is not there for a profoundly simple reason.  Any professor who wished, say, to introduce ACIM into a course in “comparative religion”, which would be about the easiest and least controversial way of getting a foot in the door of Academia, is going to be immediately faced with academic colleagues who are sceptics and who will raise some questions.  Those questions will start with “What is this?”  “Who wrote this?”  “Where did it come from?”  “How authentic is it?”  “Can the bookstore order accurate copies of it for students to buy and read?”  And if any sceptic goes to the net and does a few Google inquiries, that sceptic is going to find out that there is enormous controversy about the authenticity of extant editions, that the custodians of the Notes, which is the only version which has a genuine claim to “authenticity” refuse to let anyone even look at it, and that their refusal is widely understood (rightly or wrongly) to be a cover-up of something, that these same people are extremely litigious and have gone to court to protect their copyright claims (which turned out to be fraudulent) and the millions they’ve earned from this book, and that they lost because the judge found they perjured themselves, and that the whole thing generally carries quite a bit of the aura of fraud and charlatanry.

You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes on the net to find out that much about ACIM.  And you will find out a good deal more, the Renard scandal now and the expose of that fraud, which makes the whole “Course scene” look like a circus sideshow … something no respectable academic with a concern for a respectable “academic career” is going to want to touch with a barge pole!

So the professor who introduced the idea and wanted to include ACIM in his comparative religion course still might think it’s a good idea, but he’s not going to get the approval of his department or the university senate who ultimately determine what universities teach.  They can’t even find a reputable, accurate copy of the book to order for the bookstore or library.

That can be changed.  It is possible to produce an accurate and “reputable” edition of ACIM that measures up to minimum academic standards for authenticity.

It doesn’t even matter how “true” any of those suggestions of fraud and dishonesty with regard to the Course are.  It matters that there is no way, presently, to lay such concerns and questions to rest.  There is enough truth to enough of them to feed scepticism and block “academic respectability” which simply means “academic integrity.”  An honest, accurate, no bullshit edition created in an open and scholarly manner with nothing “hidden” would do a lot to lay such concerns to rest.

The “Corrected HLC” recently released is not that edition but it is a giant step toward that edition.  It is simply one element that is required for the “potential edition” to emerge.  We need precisely proofed accurate copies of all versions.  At the very least the same work needs to be done for the Sub-Urtext, the Actual Urtext, any other “re-typing” we haven’t yet seen but has been rumoured to exist, and of course the Notes.  And then, in a process of the sort described previously, all those have to be carefully compared and each change at every point carefully reviewed and evaluated so that the corrections are kept and the mistakes corrected.

The “editing of ACIM” is a long way from being ‘finished.’

So yes, getting it “right” is important.  Whether one uses the Course in one’s personal religious life and devotion, wishes to teach it in public, or wishes to write academic papers, it seems rather “important” to know what it actually says!  In Academia this is of extreme importance.  What if you’re a scholar and you make some stunning discovery about the text, write a thesis or a book or a dissertation based on this only to learn in the end it was a typo!  What if you’re a seeker looking to know what Jesus said.  Do you want what Jesus said or do you want typos?

Right now, on any page of ACIM, but most especially in the first few chapters, you’ve got a mix of both!  And there is one way to tell, most of the time, which it is.  That way is called scholarship, primary scholarship actually -- a careful proofreading of the material against the original to find those mistakes and correct them!

Without decent primary scholarship, “secondary scholarship,” which has to do with the analysis and interpretation of the text, is hobbled.  There is no reliable text to analyse!  No analysis of a text can, in the end, be a lot better than the quality and accuracy of the text being analysed!

In the Bible Jesus tells us that you don’t light a candle and then put it under a bushel!  You put it on a lamp stand so all can share the light!  Well, with ACIM, we’ve effectively put the original, authentic text “under a bushel.”  At least for many who would be exposed to it, particularly in Academia, except for the fact of this mysterious secrecy about the authentic text, it would be available!  But at the moment it is not!

ACIM is never going to move from the “fringes” to the mainstream, and millions will thus never even hear about it, until the basic textual accuracy and integrity issues which have plagued it for years are resolved.  Resolving them is not complicated or difficult; it’s just a rather large job.

But today, it’s a job which has been begun!



[1] Absence p. 234

[2] Urtext p.18 (absolute page number 18)

[3] Absence from Felicity, p. 296