This Baby is too Precious to Throw Out: An Editorial on the Copyright Controversy

As the controversy over the Course’s copyright has heated up, students all over are looking for an enlightened response. One of the most common responses I have heard is that we should dispense with the book and its words. The words are what the mess is over. If we get away from those words we have gotten away from the problem.

I have heard this response in several forms. One is that we, the Circle, should interpret the obstacles we are encountering as a kind of message from the Holy Spirit. “When you repeatedly hit up against a brick wall, Someone is trying to tell you something.” What that Someone is trying to tell us, in this account, is that we should stop writing specifically about the Course and write instead about universal spiritual themes. We should not couch things in Course terminology, should not tie ourselves so exclusively to the Course. We should stop clutching the book so tightly and should instead broaden ourselves. Many sincere people have offered this possibility to us.

Another form of this same idea is that this is what all Course students (and not just the Circle) should do. “Ken Wapnick is saying that he owns the Course; well, let him have it.” All he can own is the words, so let’s dispense with the words and focus instead on applying the principles. Let’s do as it says in Lesson 189 and “forget this course.” Let’s close the book, put it down, and rise up and live it.

A final form is not so upbeat as the previous two. This one is simple disillusionment. The human mind automatically identifies the messenger with the message. If the messengers of the Course are so flawed and ego-driven, how pure can the message be? I have heard long-term students express deep disillusionment, and I truly feel for them. When you invest in a spiritual path, you invest body, mind, heart, and soul. And when the teachers that handed you this path (that sold you this bill of goods) turn out to have feet of clay, those deep parts of you that invested in it turn sour and feel sick. You want to purge yourself of the whole vile mess.

I completely understand all of these perspectives. They are natural human responses to a situation like this. Yet I do not agree with them. I see them as classic examples of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Therefore, in all respect to the people who have offered these points of view, I would like to offer my perspectives on the three opinions I recounted above.

Should the Circle take our copyright difficulties as guidance that we should effect a basic change of “course”? I don’t think that guidance is a simple matter of looking up the events of your life in a dictionary of symbols. I believe that as you come up against a brick wall, you never assume. Instead, you turn within and listen. In front of one brick wall the Holy Spirit might say, “This way is blocked. I have another way for you.” In front of another He might say, “Go buy a sledgehammer. This wall is going the way of the Berlin Wall.”

In this situation we have listened very intently, and nothing we have heard has altered the basic mandate we have been given from the beginning: We are here to represent A Course in Miracles and the purpose for which it came. We are meant to do this in our writings, in our lives, and in this copyright situation. To do anything less would be unfaithful to our Guide.

Should Course students in general close the book, put it down, and rise up and live it in their daily lives? This idea assumes, I believe, that once you scan the Course’s principles with your eyes and fix them in your mind, the Course’s job is done. Now it is your job to go out and live those principles. And keeping your nose stuck in the book is the surest sign that you are not doing that.

I felt more this way in my first ten years with the Course. Read it, put it down, and live it. But I didn’t have a clue about how to actually live it. Slowly I discovered that the Course is not just a collection of principles, but a course in how to live those principles. Now I am taking the course. I am immersed in its words all day every day. Those words are not my substitute for living the Course, they are my vehicle for doing so. Letting this vehicle carry me forward is proving a considerably faster means of travel than my earlier vague attempts at “living the Course.”

Finally, is the current copyright mess justification for becoming disillusioned with the Course? My response is that I don’t think we understand what we have in this book. I don’t think we realize what a sublime and otherworldly treasure we hold in our hands. In a dark and war-torn world, one ray of pure light from beyond the thunderclouds of insanity is precious beyond measure. It is a treasure for the ages, and I believe that people will be drawn to its radiance for millennia to come. A treasure from beyond time is ageless, and it will still be fresh and alive when the current controversy is long forgotten. I am certain that the Course will live on long after the petty squabbles of this day have passed into dust. Not because I say so, not because that is the way it should be, but because people in prison cannot help but gravitate toward the window.

So let’s not be too focused on this whole mess. It’s just a case of people doing what people do. What else would we expect? Why not, then, let the copyright controversy slip to the background, while we immerse ourselves in this book, this treasure? Let’s take this course so fully that someday we really will be above the petty squabbles that characterize humanity; someday we really will be different. On that day we can truly show our brothers a better way. We aren’t ready yet; that much is clear. That in itself should tell us that we still desperately need this book. Let us not, then, be too eager to throw it out. The bathwater, yes, but not this baby. He is too precious. Last time this holy infant came we killed him. Let’s not throw him out again.