Recently I was asked to speak of my deep friendship with Bill Thetford, Co-Scribe of A Course In Miracles, and I surely never tire of doing so. There was so much interest in knowing more about this man so important in bringing A Course In Miracles to us all, I’ve decided to share a bit more little-known information about him. There are only a handful of us left who knew one or both scribes personally, and therefore, know what actually took place in the years of scribing and publishing A Course In Miracles. While Bill was still alive there were already stories about him and his work circulating on the internet that were not true so now there is very little to stop “fake news” about him and the Course except the word of those of us who personally knew the “first family” of the Course.
Here is one area of Bill’s life that has been particularly misrepresented so a good place to start. An important step in his career path, and thus the unfolding of his spiritual path, was working as a senior psychologist for the CIA in Washington DC from 1951 - 54. The reason for telling you this is to clear up some totally false, preposterous information about his work there, written by people who did not know him, nor any of the principles involved, did no substantive research, and made up a narrative to suit their own goals.
So a little more about what really happened, a good part of it told to me by Bill himself. In the beginning, the CIA bore little resemblance to the organization we envision today. To greatly simplify, it was established at the end of World War II as the cold war was ramping up with the Soviet Union. It was seriously understaffed in terms of intelligence analysts to decode whatever intelligence might be obtained. This, of course, was back in the days when intelligence gathering was strictly a human endeavor without all the high-powered technology we so take for granted today.
Bill was recruited, as were many highly-educated, bright, talented young people, to serve as a senior psychologist, (he was 28) to test and determine the suitability of candidates for that job of intelligence analyst. Bill was particularly gifted in his ability to “read” his fellow human beings and was deeply interested in this line of work. By the way, I had the great good fortune of interviewing three of his former colleagues when they all worked together in Washington DC so long ago and their first-hand information and commentary about Bill was invaluable.
After Bill left the agency as a full-time employee, he remained a consultant for the CIA for another 27 years doing research on what he considered the most powerful and accurate system for predicting how egos are formed and how they react under a variety of circumstances - the PAS or Personality Assessment System. This test was designed by the man who chaired Bill’s department at the CIA and Bill was a main protege of his.
Here I want to clarify a most important point without going into all the details, which you can find in my book, Never Forget To Laugh. The inaccurate information on the internet conflates his continued and excellent PAS research, funded covertly by the CIA, and his role in scribing A Course In Miracles, designed to help us retrain our minds. This led to the noxious tale that Bill worked on and was funded by a program in the CIA called MKULTRA, where some misuse of psychology did take place as well as helpful and important research with mind control. But the fantasy asserts that the CIA was behind the writing of A Course In Miracles because of its stated mind training purpose. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! I was given first hand information by the man who was responsible for the funding of Bill’s PAS research throughout those years after he left his regular job with the CIA and was positively assured that Bill was never involved in the operational side (MKULTRA) of the CIA but only with personality development on the research side. What is true is that Bill loved to joke about using the CIA funded typewriter to type up the manuscripts of A Course In Miracles! The entire situation amused him no end.
Now put yourself in Bill’s shoes. For 20 years at Columbia, as part of his multifaceted and complicated job, he was refining the process of knowing how the ego develops and how it will respond under any circumstances (obviously of great value in knowing how foreign leaders, for instance, behave under different kinds of stress.) On the other hand, he and Helen were secretly spending many years taking down this marvelous ACIM master work on how to let that ego go. At the level of his academic work, Bill considered his contributions to the refinement of the PAS to be his most important contribution to the body of psychological knowledge. At the level of what’s really important, there was no contest - ACIM. Finally, as the scribing, editing, and publication of he Course was completed, he gave up his work on PAS after all those years. It was simply impossible to continue research into the ego while being wholeheartedly dedicated to letting it go! So the world’s expert on understanding how the ego operates had to read passages like this throughout the scribing:
“If you believe you understand something of the "dynamics" of the ego, let me assure you that you understand nothing of it. For of yourself you could not understand it. The study of the ego is not the study of the mind. In fact, the ego enjoys studying itself, and thoroughly approves the undertakings of students who would "analyze" it, thus approving its importance. Yet they but study form with meaningless content. For their teacher is senseless, though careful to conceal this fact behind impressive sounding words, but which lack any consistent sense when they are put together.” (Txt Ch. 14, Section on The Equality of Miracles)
No wonder he finally gave it all up. I think it’s difficult for us to imagine what living that double life, on behalf of all of us, was like. (Plus, not to forget, he felt he had to live another double life - being a gay man at the pinnacle of the very profession that was dubbing gays as sociopaths!)
For sure, I will be forever and endlessly grateful for Bill’s dedication to doing whatever it took to bring this brilliant and life saving message to us.
With love to all,
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