William Thetford: A Focused Timeline

William Thetford was an instrumental part of the writing process of the Course in Miracles – we take a closer look at some of the key events of his life here.

25th April, 1923  – Born to John and Mabel Thetford, William was the youngest of three children. The family are committed members of the Christian Science church.

1930 – Thetford’s older sister passes away at a young age causing the family to sever ties with their church. Despite his parents reticence towards religion, William continued to sample various denominations of Protestant Christianity up until he reaches adolescence.

1932 – At the age of nine years old, Thetford falls ill with scarlet fever. His sickness goes untreated and leads to him developing rheumatic fever as well as a heart condition that result in him spending three years recovering at home.

1932-1935 – In the three years that Thetford spends recuperating at home, he devotes all of his time to reading. When he’s finally well enough to return to education he’s studied enough to begin at the appropriate age.

1944 – After successfully graduating from high school, Thetford claims a four-year scholarship to DePauw University studying both psychology ans pre-medicine.

1949 – Thetford successfully passes his graduate studies and claims his PhD in Psychology from the University of Chicago.

1949-1951 – William begins his professional career as a research psychologist for the Institute for Psychosomatic & Psychiatric Research & Training at the Reese Hospital in Chicago.

1951-1957 – In the years preceding the start of his work at the University of Columbia, William found himself working for a variety of government and academic institutions; these included postings at Lebanon, Connecticut and Cornell University.

1958 – After spending the previous years working for different institutions, Thetford finally found a position to settle in at the University of Columbia. He accepted a role at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he would go on to hire Helen Schucman as his assistant.

June, 1965 – Following years of suffering through a strained working relationship with Schucman, Thetford finally breaks down and exclaims ‘There must be another way!’ The months that followed lead to a number of spiritual breakthrough for Schuchman, culminating in the writing of the text known as A Course in Miracles. 


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.