Schucman, Helen (1910–1981)
Helen Schucman, the psychologist and channel who received
the material later incorporated into A Course in Miracles
(ACIM), the most successful channelled work of the late twentieth
century, was born Helen Cohn, the daughter of Sigmund
Cohn, a chemist. Her mother had dabbled both in Theosophy
and Christian Science, but Helen had not been interested in either.
She was influenced by a Roman Catholic governess and
throughout her life she periodically attended mass and possessed
a number of rosaries she had collected over the years.
During her teens, she was attended by an African-American
maid who saw to her baptism as a Baptist. However, through
most of her life, she was a professing atheist who was quite
aware of the dominant secularism of her professional colleagues.
She attended New York University, aiming for a career as
a writer or possibly an English teacher, but following her graduation
suffered a traumatic experience from complications following
a gall bladder operation. In 1933 she married Louis
Schucman, the owner of an antiquarian bookstore, and settled
down to life as a housewife and sometime assistant to her husband.
In 1952, however, she decided to return to school and
entered the psychology program at her alma mater. She specialized
in clinical psychology and concentrated upon the problems
of mental retardation in children.
Following her graduation with a Ph.D., in 1958 she accepted
a position at Colombia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Here she
met William N. Tetford, the new head of the hospital’s Psychology
Department. The pair was temperamentally very different,
and the next seven years they had an often stormy relationship.
Then in 1965, Tetford, who had been dabbling in
metaphysical literature, suggested that they attempt to change
their relationship and shortly thereafter, at Tetford’s suggestion,
they began to practice meditation. Schucman began to
have vivid visual experiences. Tetford suggested that she record
her experiences, but and on October 21, 1965, she heard
an inner voice that told her, ‘‘This is a course in miracles. Please
take notes.’’ Again Tetford suggested that she do what the voice
told her.
Schucman recorded what she was told in shorthand and
over the next seven years read her notes to Tetford, who transcribed
them. Eventually some 1,200 pages were received. She
then worked with Kenneth Wapnick to edit the materials that
would later be published as the three-volume A Course in MiraSchucman,
Helen Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
cles. The material, whose teachings are very close to those found
in New Thought metaphysics, claims to have been dictated by
Jesus Christ. It offers a means to a more meaningful life as an
awakened child of god who learns the self-recrimination that
manifests as guilt and hostility can be overcome through forgiveness
and learning to forgive.
Schucman was ambivalent about the material and the method
of its reception, both of which contradicted her selfprofessed
atheism. However, she slowly became more comfortable
with the material and finally allowed its publication in
1975. She assigned the copyrights to the Foundation for Inner
Peace, a corporation set up to publish the books and disseminate
the teachings. The Course took off and quickly spread
through the New Thought and New Age communities. However,
Schucman continued to be in the background and, while
identified as the channel, was known only to a small circle of
early leaders in the New York area.
In 1980, she developed pancreatic cancer and withdrew
even more and lived largely cut off from the growing ACIM
community until her death in 1981. Only in the years after her
death was the story of her life made known.
A Course in Miracles. 3 vols. New York Foundation for Inner
Peace, 1975.
Koggend, John. ‘‘The Gospel According to Helen.’’ Psychology
Today 14 (September 1980) 74–78.
Miller, D. Patrick. The Complete Story of the Course The History,
The People and the Controversies Behind A Course in Miracles.
Berkeley, Calif. Fearless Books, 1997.
Skutch, Judith. ‘‘A Course in Miracles, the Untold Story.’’
Parts 1 &2. New Realities 4, no. 1, 2 (August, SeptemberOctober
1984) 17–27; 8–15, 78.
Wapnick, Kenneth. Absence of Felicity The Story of Helen
Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles. Roscoe, N.Y.
Foundation for ‘‘A Course in Miracles,’’ 1991.

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