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RIP My Spiritual Teacher Kenneth Wapnick

A great man died a few days ago on December 27, 2013. He was one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth. If you don’t believe me, check back in about 50 years. He’s one of those that will become more famous with time. Like Van Gogh, minus the mental illness. Not many knew him. Relatively few noticed that he was here, or that he left. But if you were a serious student of A Course in Miracles, his name was known around the world to you as Dr. Kenneth Wapnick.

He was the most enlightened person I had ever come across in all my seeking and traveling. And that’s probably why not many people knew him. The enlightened are like that. They don’t seek the limelight. They are unassuming. (Kenneth looked like a junior high school science teacher to me.) They live quiet, yet hugely productive, lives that leave indelible marks on those they touch.

Kenneth profoundly changed my life. He was the greatest scholar and living example of A Course in Miracles that the world has seen, and I considered him my teacher. Much of my book You're Already Hypnotized: A Guide to Waking Up (and my podcast A Course in What?! is based on his work. Kenneth knew I was writing a book, which began in July 1996. The book just became available this July, around the time, it seems, that Kenneth was diagnosed with cancer. Years ago he asked me how the book was coming, and I sheepishly responded that it was a slow process. He brushed it off and said, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just write a good book.”

I took those words to heart. I wrote the best book I could, no matter how long it took. I never sent the finished book to Kenneth. I told myself that I would hand him a copy when I saw him in person. But I now know the truth. I had no intention of ever giving Kenneth the book. Deep down, I was afraid of disappointing him. I couldn’t bear anything less than complete acceptance from this man. And yet even if he disagreed with some of my work, which I expect he would since he had told me that he disagreed with me in the past, I know that he would continue to love me unconditionally. Because that’s what enlightened people do. They love you anyway.

I suppose in my life it's no coincidence that I have been laid up flat on my back for two weeks now with a herniated disc in my neck. It's the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (makes broken bones, of which I had a couple, seem like child's play). I realized, while staring at the ceiling for the last two weeks, that I've gotten away from the Course.

A Course in Miracles is always central to my thinking, but I've strayed from applying and practicing its principles in every situation. I've gotten into the habit of applying it when it's convenient for me. I had planned to take two weeks off for Christmas in order to reevaluate and rest. I just didn't realize the rest would come in this form. This is my wake up call to step-up my spiritual practice. So as I am lying on my back thinking of how I feel called to reconnect with the Course in a deeper way and to begin teaching it again (stay tuned), I received the news that my dear teacher of the Course has died. 

Kenneth’s life changed my life. And I intend for his death to do the same for me. I was never the same once I found him, and something deep within me tells me that I will never be the same now that he is gone.

I tell the story in my book of meeting a man named Peter at the Foundation for Inner Peace in 1996 in upstate New York where Kenneth was teaching. Peter and I became great friends, bonded by our deep devotion to A Course in Miracles. And then Peter committed suicide. I remember grappling with how one of the most dedicated students of A Course in Miracles could kill himself. I couldn’t find the peace I needed to move on, so I wrote to Kenneth who also knew Peter. I'd have to dig up the letter to remember all that Kenneth said to me, but I will never forget the sentence, “Do not focus on the separation, focus on the truth that you are still together.” I began to heal after that.

Though it is with great sadness that I write this, I am trying to heed Kenneth’s words and focus on the truth that we are still together.

I join with those who mourn our loss, and join as well in the gratitude that we were gifted with such an illuminating light.

As Ken used to say, "God speed."