Tetford, William N. (1923-1988)

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Tetford, William N. (1923-1988)

William N. Tetford, a psychologist and transcriber of the channeled work A Course in Miracles, was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a Christian Science family. In 1931, following his older sister's death, the family disassociated themselves from Christian Science and Tetford was raised from that time in a largely secular environment. Several years later he became ill with scarlet fever, and though he survived, he was bedridden for two years with the complications. Tutored during his recovery, once back in school he soon caught up with his classmates and graduated from high school with honors.

He attended DePauw University in Indiana, where he majored in psychology. He graduated in 1944, at the height of World War II (1939-45). Deferred from military action because of his medical record, he took a position at the University of Chicago supervising the buildings at which the atom bomb research was being conducted. The week after the detonation of the first bomb in Japan, understanding the full nature of the project, he resigned.

He returned to psychology by taking a course with Carl Rogers, then on his way to psychological fame with what was termed client-centered therapy, a new form of psychotherapy that allowed the analysis to arise from the patient's growing self-understanding rather than from the more common analysis offered by Freudian systems. He went on to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1949. He held several positions through the 1950s before becoming the director of the Psychology Department at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1958. Within a few weeks, another person with whom he was to be intimately related also joined the staff, Helen Schucman, who had just graduated from New York University.

Tetford and Schucman were very different personalities, and their relationship was sporadically filled with anger and hostility. However, in 1965, Tetford suggested that they work on their relationship and attempt to change it. He had been reading metaphysical literature from which he offered the discipline of meditation as a tool to assist them. They began meditating and Schucman began to receive a series of vivid images. Tetford encouraged her to keep a record of whatever she received. However, on October 21, 1965, she heard a voice say to her, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes." Tetford encouraged her to continue to record what she heard. Schucman recorded what she heard in shorthand. She read it to Tet-ford, who turned it into typescript.

The result of their collaboration over the next seven years was A Course in Miracles (ACIM). During this period, Schucman frequently expressed trepidation over her channeling work, but Tetford continually calmed her fears and doubts. It was published in 1975. Tetford, a quiet, somewhat passive man, was uncomfortable being in the public eye and allowed others to operate out front on the dissemination of the books and their teachings. In 1978 he moved to Tiburon, California, where the Foundation for Inner Peace, the corporation assigned the task of publishing the Course, had relocated. There he lived a quiet existence using much of his time trying to make the teachings on self-forgiveness real in his life. In 1986, he moved to LaJolla, California, and resided there for the last two years of his life. In the years since his death, his essential role in bringing forth A Course in Miracles has been widely recognized.


A Course in Miracles. 3 vols. New York: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975.

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, September/ October 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.