Ged’s Southern States Adventure

We’ve had yet another submission from one of our readers, an interesting story that shows how far reaching A Course in Miracles has become.

Ged Simpson was working in the architectural lighting business during the mid-90s when A Course in Miracles was arguably at its peak in popularity – he tells us here how his path crossed with a group of true-believers in the Bible-belt.

“You see here, how the light falls through this cir-cu-lar window? This is what we want through the whole building, but with lighting if that’s possible?”

Out of all the clients that I’d had as a lighting designer, James Bradshaw was by far the most charming. His rich Southern accent spoke of a time long gone.

Although I was always told that he was amongst the most devout believers at the Centre, he never struck me as particularly pious. Then again, as I’m led to understand, followers of A Course in Miracle can often come in many different guises…

“I don’t want this place to feel like an actual church. It needs to be a safe, warm comfortable place that will make people who are usually quiet feel confident enough sharing with a group of complete strangers.”

I’d been contacted in the winter of ’95 by Bradshaw, after an old colleague had passed him my card. I’d been a little unnerved at first when I found out who he represented. Up until that point I’d only ever seen A Course in Miracles on late-night shopping channels – oily religious salesman attempting to ply would-be believers with amended copies of a book written a decade before-hand of Jesus through the hands of a psychologist: the whole thing reeked of commercial opportunism.

At the time, though, I was a little short on work and not in the best position to turn down work. That’s how I found myself driving down, down, down into the Deep South to meet James for the first time.

His plan was a simple one: to convert an old service station into a new Centre for teaching A Course in Miracles. The building was a big space to work with, a retro 60s era fuel station with an equally vintage diner attached to it. I met James out front, he was leaning against his Dodge Charger parked up next to one of the disused fuel pumps smoking a cigarette. Although I knew that the gasoline had long since dried up, his attitude struck me as rather cavalier – not really what I’d expected from an inspirational leader.

“Not quite what you expected?”

My face must have told it all. I explained how I’d originally heard of the Course and he laughed.

“We’re not all money hungry charlatans you know. The Course helped me and now I’m in a position where I can help others.”

The look in his eyes was unmistakably earnest. There were none of the tell-tale signs of the Evangelical shock-jockeys of the time. He spoke in calm, even tones and never pushed his dogma onto anyone who didn’t ask. I left that day with a copy of his beloved text, I never read it but it still sits on my book shelf to this day: a reminder of that hot sunny day and a man with an unshakeable charisma.

If you’ve got your own story that relates to A Course in Miracles or the other works done by the practitioners of the movement then please send them into us via our ‘Share Your Thoughts‘ page.

A Course in Miracles: A Brief Overview

In order to gain a clear understanding of the nature with which the Course in Miracles developed from a disembodied voice in one woman’s to a full blown religious movement, it’s worth taking a brief overlook at the order of events that led up to the events of the main Course text being written.

14th July, 1909 – Helen Schucman born in Manhattan to her parents Sigmund and Rose Cohn.

1921 – At the age of 12, whilst visiting France, Helen is struck by a spiritual experience that leads to her receiving her first baptism upon her return to the United States.

23rd April, 1923 – William Thetford, future typist of A Course in Miracles, is born in Chicago to John and Mabel Thetford.

1938 – Whilst riding a subway train in New York, Helen experiences a sudden rush of great compassion for her fellow passengers – this would prove to be one of the key spiritual experiences in her life.

1949 – Thetford graduates from the University of Chicago with a PhD in Psychology.

1957 – After working with her husband in their Manhattan book stores, Schucman grows restless and returns to New York University to study Psychology, graduating in 1958.

1958 – Thetford accepts the positions of Professor of Medical Psychology and Director of the Psychology Department at the Presbyterian Hospital. Helen is subsequently hired as Research Psychologist by Bill to assist him in both roles.

June, 1965 – A negative, competitive work atmosphere develops in the department, leading to Bill making an impassioned speech to Helen exclaiming: ‘There must be a better way of living and working in the world and I’m determined to find it!’

June-October, 1965 – After this inciting incident, Helen claims to have experienced a series of ‘visions, vivid dreams and startling experiences’ that lead her first experience of hearing ‘the voice’.

21st October, 1965 – Helen hears a voice that she recognises as Jesus of Nazareth which says: ‘This is a course in miracles, please take notes.’ After telling Thetford, the duo begin the process of transcribing the ‘inner dictation’ that continues to speak to Helen.

September, 1972 – After 7 years of writing and editing, Thetford (who is given exclusive permission to edit the text that has been transcribed) and Schucman complete A Course in Miracles along with the accompanying Manual for Teachers.

October, 1975 – An attempt is made to copyright the text under the name of ‘Jesus’, as Helen refuses to claim full ownership of the text. However, authorities reject this application, as the copyrights can’t be given to ‘non-physical’ people.

1977 – Helen retires from her role at Columbia University and also chooses to retreat away from public life, preferring to no longer associate herself with the Course or any other groups.