It is my sad news to report that Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, the teacher of A Course in Miracles since its beginning, has passed over. His foundation gave this message: ” It is with the utmost sorrow that we inform you of the death of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick on Friday December 27, 2013. He died peacefully at home with his beloved wife Gloria and family at his side. The family will have a private service and plans are being made for a forthcoming public memorial.
“There is no death. The Son of God is free.” (W-pI.163)
“Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.” (T-11.VI.7:3-4)
Ken was my dearest friend, and definitely my mentor in ACIM. All of the articles I have posted on FB about ACIM were given to Ken first for his comments. We never had any significant disagreements. Ken was a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology and a fine theologian as well. His many books and videos survive him. He fulfilled the job Jesus laid out for him and he is receiving, I am sure, thanks, gratitude, and good reviews for his life by the angels.
For me, it is a great personal loss. Ken was my fan as well as my mentor. Part of Ken’s journey into Spirituality came from his love of opera. Over the years I sent him many arias, scenes and operas that I performed and he was always a heart-felt fan. I always knew that I could share anything with him and get his honest answer.
We will not dispute the higher decision to call Ken Home now, but we inevitably wonder about the future of ACIM without Ken. Ken, there with Helen from the beginning, was appointed by Jesus to be the teacher of the Course. He held the ship steady even while ACIM was splintering into schisms at an alarming rate, matching even Christianity’s early splintering into sects, which continues to this day. Thankfully Judy Skutch remains at the helm of The Foundation for Inner Peace.
Thank you, my dear, dear, dear friend and brother Ken I love you and I so thank you for all you gave me in this life. You lived a Christ-like life and touched us all. Fly high dear friend. I will see you again one day. ♥♥♥♥
Many elements contribute to an artist more than early piano lessons or exposure to concerts. To me, wonderment at the natural world and the presence of beauty was the precursor to my artistic ability. It made me philosophically curious and from that curiosity a voice came to give expression to the awe.My country beginnings did not include very much music. But music comes from the natural world of which we are a part. That which awakened the artist in me was my childhood world of the garden and my maternal grandparents.
I was born April 16, 1948 in Carthage, Missouri, a little town of 11,000 people nestled next to the Missouri Ozarks. For the first eight years of my life my family lived in the country, five miles southwest of town, on a “truck farm.” For you city people who don’t understand this term, a “truck farm” in Missouri is a small acreage where one plants a few small crops and raises a few animals. It sounds like heaven to a kid, doesn’t it? Well, at least it did to this kid. My maternal grandparents lived on the adjacent tract providing me with every kid’s dream, to live right next to grandma and grandpa. Joining the tracts was a large acre garden that fed both families. It did much more that feed us. It nurtured us. Every inch of that childhood ground has stayed with me as faithfully as my grandmother’s voice and touch. Looking back now, I would have to say that my childhood was the garden.
My grandmother was a grand person indeed. Lena Ritchie was known throughout her neighborhood world as a supremely kind, God-fearing Baptist woman, who had a distinctive froggy, foggy voice. Grandmother had a vocal condition known now as “spastic dysphonia,” or colloquially called, “monster voice,” except that nothing could be monstrous about Lena. Everyone in the neighborhood heard her monster voice as the distinctive sound of her kindness. My grandmother gave me a wonderful model of love which often approached the ideal unconditional love we are all here to learn. I knew that no matter what I did, my grandmother would still love me. That love was her real theology.
Grandmother didn’t like to pick her flowers for a bouquet.She explained to her “Joe-Boy”that as far as she was concerned, flowers belonged alive and growing outside. If she picked them, they would die. I began to see that the ground of the garden gave life to all; the flowers, the potatoes, the berries, the corn, and us. We were the caretakers of the earth as the Bible said and we belonged in the garden.
I never met a better human being than my grandfather, George Ritchie. For most of his life grandpa had been a tenant farmer, plowing land near the Spring River, river-bottom area. Rivers and gardens were the models for his life. When grandpa retired from farming he purchased the land and house of my childhood and planted his garden. In the night he worked part time at Hercules Powder Plant, gun powder, that is, not facial! In the day time he worked in his garden. Usually he had two tag- a-long companions: an old mutt dog named Ginger for his color, and me, Joe-Boy.
When we weren’t in the garden we were usually fishin’. Grandpa may have claimed to fish to put dinner on the table, but that was just the ruse. He fished to be near the river. We seldom caught very many fish on our river expeditions. Everyone we caught was “a nice one.” We never caught a “bad” fish. I liked that. For me, much of the excitement came from our journeys through the tall river-grass and grandpa’s stories about copperhead snakes. Grandpa had discovered the “Ozark kung fu” of killing copperheads. He had learned it, like his other skills, out of necessity. After World War II, Hercules Powder Plant refused to allow their night watchmen to carry guns, fearing the risk of explosion was greater than the risk of burglary. So grandpa was allowed to carry only a three foot long “billy club.” Since his nightly patrols took him through heavy cover, he frequently encountered copperheads which he would rhythmically dispatch with a stroke of his club. You could call it “Ozark kung fu.” He had plenty of opportunity to hone his skills on our farm as well. Grandmother was a strict believer in the literal interpretation of Genesis and was sure that every snake ought to be ritually killed for righteousness sake. More than a few times, a cry could be heard in the neighborhood, “George, there’s a snake. Kill it!” It was grandmother’s one weakness. Grandpa could not refuse her. He became a master of snakes.
Once we safely negotiated the tall river grass, we baited our hooks with a variety of arcane, home-made mixtures, cast our lines, sat, became quiet, and grandpa and I flowed with the river. Usually we would catch a few perch, a mud-cat or acarp, and head back home to the garden.
When I was about seven years old, grandmother and grandpa introduced me to the wonders of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in nearby Oklahoma. For years they had been going there to the promised land of fishing, bringing back huge catches of crappie, blue-gill, catfish, and white bass, all for table fare. Having survived the great depression, they were determined never to go hungry again. A huge freezer chest of frozen fish from Grand Lake made it seem unlikely. And yet, like the river adventures, the important thing was really to go to the lake and be there. At Grand Lake, no convenience was denied a fisherman. Large in-door, heated fishing docks, with theatre seats for comfort, were situated over key areas for crappie and other pan fish. Cedar trees were suspended from the docks to entice the cover-minded crappies to huddle there in schools, unaware of the fate which awaited them. It was a grand invention for a Grand Lake. Grandmother and grandpa introduced me to these holy haunts with a fervor reserved otherwise only for the garden. I soon learned to jig, as well as fish with live bait. The crappie never had a chance.
We traversed the entire 1200 miles of shoreline of Grand Lake in our crusades for crappie. Holy memories are indelibly imprinted in my mind of our favorite docks. Grandpa liked Ice Box Bluff, but it was a little Spartan for grandmother. The theatre seats were not as plush and “comfy” as some other docks. But it was at Ice Box that grandpa fought the leviathan carp! Grandpa and I loved to fish for carp. They grew big and they gave a great fight. They also required imagination to catch because they had only a small, soft, sucker mouth, and were picky eaters. They had no real teeth but they had a sweet tooth, preferring baits made with lots of syrup, honey, coca cola, and Wheaties. I fixed a homemade carp bait that was a lot like banana bread so that if the carp didn’t bite we could eat the bait! Carp fishin’ was fun. Ever concerned about practicality, grandmother had even figured out a way to make them edible. Most people used to say, “Clean a carp on a pine board. Throw the carp away and eat the board!”But grandmother had found that if she cooked them for days in a pressure cooker she could make fish cakes out of them that tasted remarkably like salmon cakes. The grandmother of invention had given us a new reason to stalk the wily carp.
Grandpa took no prisoners. He used a forty-five pound test cotton line that looked sort of like a clothes line. In addition to the small treble hook which was concealed within the dough ball of homemade sweets, he suspended a large grappling hook to snag the carp under the chin in case the small hook missed. It was serious business!We usually caught carp weighing between four and seven pounds. But one day at Ice Box Bluff, grandpa set the hook into a big one. You can tell when the hook is first set how big the fish is. This one didn’t give. “For heavenly days,” grandpa exclaimed. It was the closest he got to swearing. “What have I got here?” The carp fought long and valiantly but eventually could not contend with the clothes line rope, and grandpa pulled in his biggest Carp, weighing 13 pounds. It looked like it weighed 100 pounds and grandpa was just as proud of it as if it had. We ate it, of course. It provided fish cakes for a month!
TheValhalla of fishing docks was Teague’s Dock, surnamed “Old Lady Teague’s” by grandpa because it had been purchased from our friend, Leonard Pane, the area auctioneer, by a woman named “Teague” who possessed a redoubtable appearance, complete with multiple pounds of pancake makeup. With this curious visage she greeted the fishermen that came to her dock. Nobody liked her, including grandpa. But the dock had its own drawing power. It was plush to the hilt. Padded, comfortable theatre seats encircled the extremely large fishing well in the middle of a well heated dock. Snack bars and a bait shop were handy within the dock, and it was situated over one of the best locations in Grand Lake for crappie, catfish, bass, and of course,carp. I once saw a man catch and land a forty pound carp on an eight pound test line! I was awed as if watching the real life filming of one of those National Geographic presentations where monsters of the deep are shown to an audience all agape! But the sneakiest fishin’ took place when the crappies were nesting. The mother crappie sat on the nest guarding her eggs, while the daddy crappie patrolled the perimeter,striking at any object which came into his territory. We soon discovered that if we threw in a jig near the nest that we could catch the daddies like nobody’s business! Needless to say, I felt very guilty about this and have sought to atone for it ever since. The day’s limit by Oklahoma law was 37 crappie per day, per fisherman! Most of the other fish had no limits! We often caught our limit, returning home as proud as if we had found the Holy Grail. Now I wish we had let most of them go. I haven’t kept a fish I caught since then. Like the flowers that belonged alive in the garden, the fish belonged alive in the lake.
It is no small thing that Genesis talks about the”Garden of Eden.” That ancient writer knew perfectly well what an apt image the garden sets up in our minds, ancient, connecting, and wonderful. Grandpa loved to stroll through the garden to “visit” with all the wonderful things growing there. Ginger and I took in all of his love for the earth and the Creator of all life.But Ginger had an easier time of it in one important way. He didn’t have to be distracted by the competitive world-view being peddled on Sundays by the variety of Baptist preachers that sought to “instruct” us in the ways of their strange universe. Many of them did not act like Jesus in the Bible. They seemed to be so mad at everybody and everything. Finally I made a personal discovery that I should believe in the God that Jesus showed me. One of my helpers in this discovery was Rev. Ray Stone, pastor of the First Baptist Church when I was a small boy. Brother Ray stood out from the rest of the preachers of my childhood. He was full of Love and Light. He was a “gardener!” “Just be so in love with Jesus,” he would say, time and time again, in trying to warn of the pitfalls to come in life. You know, I was and still am!
God created a Garden and I knew what a garden was like! He created a river, and I knew what a river was like. God wanted us with Him. God was like Jesus and grandmother Ritchie!I’ll take that God. He can stroll with us through the garden as we visit the plants. He can go to the river with us, and we will flow together!
When I was a little boy, I thought the worst thing I could imagine would be the death of my grandfather. How I loved grandpa. God was good and grandpa lived through my childhood. But when I was 9 our family moved out of the truck farm house and into the big city of Carthage,about five miles away. I gladly rode my bicycle back out into the country to be with grandmother and grandpa. But then one day Hercules Powder Plant blew up. The explosion could be felt as far away as Tulsa, 120 miles away. The explosion was just a quarter of a mile away from my grandparents’ house. Our family got into the car and drove out to Powder Town to check on my grandparents. We got to within a half mile of them before we met a road block. Dad and a few other men set off walking through the woods to try to reach their house while we drove back to Carthage to wait. They had survived the blast without injury but their house was significantly damaged. My childhood paradise had been destroyed.
Inmost people’s childhood there were moments of love and moments of pain. We live with the fact that there was a snake in the garden, but in time, we see that it was beautiful nevertheless. Though unable to forget them, the bad times can never compete with the wonder and beauty of the garden, with flowers that never got cut,with baby chickens and old dogs named Ginger, with the fresh, clean smell of the air after a thunderstorm, with grapes and berries, pecans and pear trees, with sun-ripened watermelons, and corn picked with our own hands, with homemade bread and canned preserves, with quilting bees and a neighborhood awash in friendliness, with trips to the river—for the river was always around us—and returns to the garden.
The bad times can never compete with the best days of family. The garden is my memory. I will hold to that. I wish I could take my garden and give it to others. But to each has been given his own. Not everyone’s garden looks the same, and in some the snake was more present than in others. But if you will look now, there is something of a garden to remember and hold to. When I leave this world I expect to visit the garden once again.I know grandmother and grandpa are waiting there for me. To them it will seem as if they only just arrived, or as if they never left. The tool shed door will still need fixing and the well water will still satisfy. Old Ginger will still follow grandpa’s every step and an old three legged cat, Smokey, will still climb trees. The mimosa tree will still attract the humming birds and the clothes dry clean on the line. And the River will still flow just nearby. The snake did not win. The garden stays, fixed in my heart with love that was true.
After Hercules Powder Plant blew up, my grandparents moved into Carthage and things were never the same. They lost that sense of freedom and joy that living in the country brought to them.
I grew up and became an opera singer. It didn’t matter to them. They loved me still. The rest of the clan thought of me as the black sheep in the family and would often say,“Warren and Beulah’s boy ran off to the big city to become an opry sanger. We never could understand what got into him.” Nevertheless grandpa and grandmother still loved me.
In his 80’s grandpa often wondered why he was permitted such a long life. He would often say, “All my friends are dead. Everybody I knew is dead. Why me? Why am I still alive?” But alive he was and still able to plow his small garden and drive his car.
He had a small infection when he was 90 and the doctor wanted to treat him in the hospital just to be careful. It was not supposed to be anything big.The night before he was to go into hospital, he called my grandmother to him and said, “Now Lena, I want you to know I am going to die now.” Grandmother told him, “George, don’t talk like that. You’re not that sick.” But he protested in what for him was a pretty heated way, “I know what I’m talkin’ about Lena. I’m going to die now!”
I was living in New York when one morning, around 4:00AM or so, I was awakened in the spirit. My body was still asleep, but it was as if my spirit were awake and observing. I saw two angels holding my grandpa, one under each arm. They were taking him around the earth to allow him to say goodbye to certain places and people.He wanted to see me. He was young and happy and full of excitement. He looked down and saw me in my apartment asleep and said, “Why there’s Joe down there.” Then he went on his journey. The next day I knew that the worst thing I could imagine had happened. My grandpa had died. I called home and found out that he had indeed passed away about the time that I saw him in spirit. I never had any further visions of my grandpa after that. It was sort of disappointing in a way, for there was such finality about that last vision. Grandmother was inconsolable at the funeral. When the vows say, “till death do we part,” it really means it. Marriage belongs to this earthly realm. It cannot be extended into spirit. When grandmother died not long afterwards, I did not get a parting vision of her, but in the weeks after her death she came to me in dreams many times. She was young and happy and just wanted to contact me. I asked her about how grandpa was and she gave me a very interesting answer that did not fit in with my world view at the time. She said, “I am not with grandpa now. We are all spread out here like stars in the sky according to our distance from God.” I had no idea what she was talking about. Could it be that we are all on our journey back to God? Could it be that there was a time before time when we were all apart of God, all one with Him, all whole, One Garden? And could it be that we will all be with Him again? Such wonderment was the precursor to my artistry as a singer. Then there came a time, and I could sing.
The time is coming and almost is when we shall be able to call in the Light of God, that unspeakably wondrous Light of God which is Love, the Light we call “the other side,” or “home.” Most people have had to be near death to see that light, and enter it again. The transformative Light changes all who enter it by stirring our remembrance of our true Self. We are the radiance of God. The Light is us and we are it. Now you can see why we are not a body and there is no universe. We ARE this Light and in it we are all One. This Light knows no judgment. It only is the Love that is God, Truth and Knowledge. When you go into the Light you will not want to be a body again. You will weep at the thought of leaving the Light to come back to such a sour illusion as the body. Now the time almost is when we will be able to call that Light into our being now and the veils will be lifted from illusions. Your loved ones who have passed over into the Light are still here with you. We will soon need no channel or medium to contact them. Their presence will touch you when the Light comes and it will come. We will call it in. THIS IS OUR GREAT TIME OF SERVICE to each other and to the Light for God is lonely without his Son. Our minds are being prepared now to be able to call in the Light. If you have felt like a caterpillar about ready to change into something you know not what, this is part of what we have been sensing and feeling. So soon now, the Light will come and take down the barriers to our illusions. The Light will come. We will call it in and it will fall on us like the rain of Heaven, bringing with it all our beautiful memories of the Truth we have forgotten. So easily will all our fears slip away from us into nothingness and we will know that Love is all that is real. While for a while bodies will remain and the phantom we call Earth will slip in and out of the Light, I will look into your eyes and see only the Love of God and the Light will lovingly and gently wash away anything that would come between our joining. Would it not be something of great worth to you just to speak to your grandmother again, or your husband, or that child you lost too early? They are not gone. You will speak with them and you will know them in the Light. WE WILL CALL IN THE LIGHT AND IT WILL FALL FROM HEAVEN LIKE RAIN ON A DRY AND DUSTY PLAIN AND LOVE WILL MAKE ITSELF KNOWN. When the Light comes, first the air will sparkle with living glimmer, then the glimmer will enter you, every little place where you need Love’s Presence. Soon the air will become nothing but Light and the sight of bodies and planets will disappear. In the Light we will be transformed by remembrance. We are not native to this physical, dreamy place. We come from the Light. We are Light Beings native to a spiritual universe of Love which is also Light and Truth and Knowledge. We have been trying to remember our Home all these ages of bodies, coming from the Light, going into bodies, going back to Light. It is enough to make the world spin.
The time for learning is almost over.
In this space I would put away all time and learning.
I would come afresh to stillness. I would call in the Light.
There sparkles all the truth my learning could not attain.
In that Light I find you,
perfect with the innocence of creation.
You have not changed.
As wisdom-bearer in Brahman’s House, who could change you?
As natural as the flow of the Tao, who could change you?
As the silence on the Buddha’s lips, who could change you?
In this Light there is stillness,
And in this stillness I have found you as perfect.
In the Light all minds join into One.
When the Light comes there is relief from time
and freedom to remember the vast ages of our knowing.
Lifetimes upon lifetimes present themselves in parade of gallant splendor for at last we remember.
Millions of years come to us in memory of who we are and the Love that grew within us.
We have not changed.
Our alchemy shows its art.
In this space I have summoned the Light and I remember that I Love you
Keeping the Faith!
Is Faith a gift or a work? Faith is a natural property given to those who ask but you have some work to do in maintaining it! Faith asks you to keep your eyes on Jesus and do the work you were sent to do. Life is full of possible distractions and so maintaining faith is not a cakewalk. Evil and suffering are there along the way to try to steal your gaze. When the wolf is at the door you need faith more than ever but holding on to it is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. These are not idle words. I have been there. There have been many days that all I had to eat was a can of pork and beans but I still managed to give some change to the beggars.
Krishnamurti was asked, “Is it true that life will take care of you?” He responded, “Yes, but you have to give yourself over to it completely.” That would be faith, moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year. It is living on a razor’s edge but somehow you know that there is no other way for you to live. The only thing that makes living this way bearable is FAITH.
In the early part of my career as an opera singer I called this “floating” in life. It is more than a little ironic that I should use such a term since I never learned to swim. But others told me that learning to float in water one had to relax and trust the water. Somehow it made sense to me, so when I moved from Tulsa to the Big Apple to start a career in opera, I learned to float. I had to learn. I had no financial support to cushion me. What I had was FAITH that God himself had given me this gift of voice and had told me to sing opera. That certainty was enough to give me the faith to “float” in life. Month after month I found someway to pay the rent and eat, though often not much. Some days I had two eggs for breakfast and lunch and a large slice of pizza for dinner. One summer I sold orange juice on the streets of New York. Sometimes I got work as a bartender. But then I would get an engagement in opera and all of a sudden I had money. FAITH (Floating) was essential. Those who had talent but no faith gave up on their careers and went back home to teach.
Then there came a month when I saw no possible way to pay the rent! But there was a singing competition called the Bruce Yarnell Memorial Award for Baritones which would be held soon and it had a prize of $1,000 and the prestige of being named the best baritone in the U.S. And Canada at the mid-career level. I entered the competition. My competitors were from the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and other regional centers. I had the faith that I could win and I worked very hard to hold on to that faith. I won and paid the rent!!
Many nights I would take flight in my dreams and actually go on journeys in the spirit. One night I went up into the spirit world and came to a “class” that was being held for spirits preparing to enter life in a body. The class was about how to “float.” The students were seated on what looked like high school bleachers with dumbfounded looks on their faces. I floated right into the class and said, “Look, it’s like this. You just float,” and as a spirit I demonstrated “floating.” I had learned how to do it, not in water but in life. There have been many times I have been tempted by fear to lose faith. Saying the Lord’s Prayer is very helpful….”lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Who is the evil one but the one who would seduce you to lose faith? Pray to be delivered from that one, and woe to those on judgment day who choose to draw others away from faith and to the dark side! That will be a life review you wouldn’t care to attend! Jesus said of such people, “It would be better for them were a millstone tied around their neck and cast into the ocean.”