Since the beginning people have performed experiments, made conscious
efforts to pierce the veil that hides the invisible world. All cultures have
devised methods of interrogating the Transcendent.
The forms of yoga come to mind, prayer and meditation, ascetic
disciplines like fasting and breath-control, the native American vision quest,
the classical mystery rites of Eleusis and Dionysos, and so on and so forth.
Human tradition is replete with methods
of inducing experiences of other worlds.
Since the quest of Gilgamesh to discover the plant of
immortality, it has insinuated itself into what seems like a game, playing
with a Ouija board. This is a
device for stirring up the unconscious and talking with spirits, (best to avoid
if mentally unbalanced). The first
time I tried it, the experience was quite interesting and made a memorable
It was my first year at Columbia University in Manhattan, and
for a change of pace I liked to hang out with a painter friend, Mark Whitcombe,
on City Island, which was connected by a bridge to the Bronx. Mark sparked my appreciation of Cezanne
and we went sailing on Long Island Sound in a boat moored nearby his
One evening it was suggested we try playing with the “talking”
Ouija Board. So out came the board
with letters of the alphabet and we sat around a large wooden table–Mark, his
wife, his father, Richie who owned the Black Whale, and Steve, also a painter,
and several others who participated.
Once we started, I was riveted. I barely touched the pointer,
along with the others, and it seemed to move of its own accord. I was not
pushing or directing it, and I doubt if anybody else was. Its movements were robust. The pointer appeared possessed and
spelled out some words and repartee the content of which I forget.
What I clearly recall is that when Mark’s wife, Elizabeth,
asked, “Who’s there?”, the pointer briskly spelled out J-A-M-E-S D-E-A-N–the charismatic actor and star
of Rebel Without a Cause who died in
a car crash in 1955.
What quickly became apparent was that something guided by a
definite intelligence was interacting with us; and it was an intelligence
intent on lifting us up, that wanted to educate us spiritually. This
intelligence seemed to know what each of us was thinking as well as details of our
personal history. One by one, the
intelligence (JD?) engaged us, stunning us all by its knowledge of our lives but
also very much by the quality of its advice.
I remember Mark’s father’s astonishment. He had been struggling with the wish to
sail his boat back to Australia all the way from City Island in the Bronx. He wrestled with his own ego as to
whether he was up to such a venture at his age. The advice from the board was not only wise but poetic. The entity
on the board said one thing: “Sail beyond self.” Richie got some sound advice for his business, and much
to Steve’s surprise, the intelligence urged him to return to his native faith,
which was Jewish. Steve was amazed
because he had been thinking intensely about his Jewish heritage.
What the entity said to me was a warning, “Stay away from
Gordon Morse.” I was certainly not
thinking of this man and nobody in our circle knew of him or his name, an older
gentleman I met in Central Park who painted religious icons. “Why should I?” I
asked. “Bad soul,” was the
reply. I never saw anything “bad”
at all about this fellow, but then I didn’t know him very well.
The whole experience that night was very puzzling. Everything about it suggested the
presence of an external intelligence, and one with benign intent. Maybe it was that of the group, or some members
of the group. On this view, the group unconscious was the intelligence and
directed the pointer. Or, maybe it
was a discarnate intelligence, and thus not in anybody’s body–a friendly ghost,
or helpful angel. In that case, maybe it was
James Dean, or an anonymous spirit masquerading as him. Why any member of
our group would come up with ‘James Dean’ is another mystery.
The truth is that I don’t know what or who was spelling out
the words that implied awareness of our intimate selves. I’m certain, however,
that none of us could have known about all the private matters that “James”
seemed to pry out of our heads.
The experience was the first of its kind for me, but there would be
others—I was just beginning to ally myself with Gilgamesh in the hunt for the plant
See my book,
Experiencing the Next World Now