William Thetford bigraphy, stories - American psychologist

William Thetford : biography

April 25, 1923 - July 4, 1988

William Thetford (April 25, 1923 – July 4, 1988) was trained as a psychologist and remained professionally active in this field throughout his life. Thetford worked in a collaborative venture with Helen Schucman in writing and providing some of the initial edits for A Course In Miracles (ACIM), a self-study curriculum.

He died in 1988, aged 65, in Tiburon, California, after having made his involvement with the ACIM material and its study the most central focus of his life. 

University education

Following graduation from high school, he was awarded a four-year scholarship to DePauw University in Indiana where he graduated with majors in psychology and pre-medicine in 1944. During the course of his university studies, Thetford eventually settled on the idea of specializing in psychology, and in 1949 he received his PhD in this field from the University of Chicago.

After graduating from DePauw in January 1944 until the summer of 1945, Thetford had a job as an administrative officer at the University of Chicago working with the scientific team doing atomic research. In his graduate studies he was fortunate to be one of the first students of the renowned psychologist, Carl Rogers.

Career and hiring of Helen Schucman

For the five years following his graduation in 1949, Thetford worked as a research psychologist in both Chicago, and later in Washington, D.C. He spent 1954 and 1955 as the director of clinical psychology at The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. From 1955 to 1957 he was an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University.

A c.v. listing his positions, affiliations, grants, publications and papers is given as Appendix 2 in a biography Never Forget to Laugh by Carol Howe.

ACIM transcription

Finally in October of that year, the transcriptions of what is now known as A Course In Miracles first began. According to both Thetford and Schucman, due to Schucman’s intensely divided feelings about the work of the transcription, Schucman would at times require a great deal of reassurance from Thetford in order to complete the process that eventually resulted in the first typewritten copy of ACIM, (which later became known as the Urtext).

According to Thetford, Schucman was sitting at home on the night of October 21, 1965, when she heard an internal "voice" say to her, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes."

When she first heard this internal voice, she thought she recognized it as the same voice of the dream sequence character that in her recent dream sequences had represented the person of Jesus to her. Schucman then wrote down about a page of notes before she realized that this request was going to be of much greater significance, and would require a far greater commitment in time than it had ever asked of her before. In a panic, she phoned Thetford to ask for his advice. Thetford encouraged Schucman to do what the voice asked, and to take the notes. He offered to meet with her the next morning before work, to review her notes, to discuss them further with her, and then to determine what she should do with this "Voice".ibid., p. 199

On the following morning, after Thetford's review of the notes, he was so impressed with what she read to him that he encouraged Schucman to continue with the note taking. Schucman was initially taken aback by Thetford's reaction, but then apparently after giving herself enough time to recover from her initial jitters to honestly review the notes herself, she agreed. Soon they recognized that the notes, which eventually became ACIM (referred to as The Course by ACIM students), was their answer, the "other way" that they had agreed to find together four months earlier.

Classifying this transcription process as one of Schucman’s unusual waking experiences is an understatement at best. During the process Schucman claimed to have the mental equivalent of a tape recorder in her thoughts, which she described as being able to turn on and off at will, at her convenience, so that she might be able to transcribe into shorthand notes, what she was internally hearing. This voice identified itself as none other than the historical Jesus.

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