Pike, James A(lbert) (1913–1969)
Former Episcopalian bishop of California, whose bestselling
book The Other Side (1968) was a powerful argument for psychic
phenomena and communication with the dead. Pike was born
on February 14, 1913, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was
educated at the University of Santa Clara (1930–32), the University
of California at Los Angeles (1932–33), the University
of Southern California (A.B., 1934; LL.B., 1936), and Yale University
(J.S.D., 1938). He later studied at Virginia Theological
Seminary (1945–46), General Theological Seminary
(1936–47), and Union Theological Seminary (B.D. magna cum
laude, 1951).
Though raised a Roman Catholic, he converted to the Episcopal
Church, in which he was ordained a priest in 1944. He
was successively curate of St. John’s Church, Washington, D.C.
(1944–46), chaplain at Vassar College (1947–49), chaplain and
head of the department of religion at Columbia University
(1949–52), adjunct professor of religion and law (1952–58),
and dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York
City (1952–58). He was elected the bishop coadjutor (i.e., with
right of succession) of the diocese of California, San Francisco
in 1958 and became bishop a few months later.
During his pastoral career, Pike wrote a number of popular
books, but his popularity jumped significantly in 1964 with the
publication of A Time for Christian Candor (1964). That volume
became one of several volumes published during the 1960s that
offered somewhat radical reinterpretations of traditional
Christian doctrines, ideas freely discussed in a seminary context,
but rarely openly discussed between pastors and church
members. This volume, two subsequent titles, If This Be Heresy
(1967) and You and the New Morality (1967), the admission of
some failures in his personal life, and some happenings at the
cathedral in San Francisco, combined to create significant enemies
in the church. Pike was forced out of office. He resigned
as bishop in 1966 to become theologian in residence at the
Center for Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara,
California.
Among the personal problems with which Pike was confronted
was the death of his son Jim, who had committed suicide
at the age of twenty after experimenting with LSD. In a
1967 Canadian television program, American medium Arthur
A. Ford communicated a message to Pike apparently from his
son Jim. The message, in the full glare of the television lights,
was highly evidential and was augmented by strongly suggestive
messages purportedly from several of Pike’s deceased colleagues,
including theologian Paul Tillich. Pike soon publicly
affirmed his belief in the reality of the phenomena he had experienced,
and this affirmation made up the substance of his
book The Other Side (1968). More quietly he also received messages
through mediums Ena Twigg in London and George
Daisley in Santa Barbara.
In 1969 he founded, with his wife Diane, the Foundation of
Religious Transition to focus upon people who, like himself,
had problems because of their demythologizing approach to
Christian belief and practice. Soon afterward, Pike died when
he wandered off and became lost in the Israeli desert in 1969.
(Three days before the discovery of his body a communication
claiming to be from him came through medium Ena Twigg
stating what had occurred and where the body would be found.)
Diane Pike changed the name of the foundation to the Bishop
Pike Foundation, and it eventually (1972) merged into the
Love Project (now the Teleos Foundation) led by Arleen Lorrance.
Diane and Lorrance have worked together ever since.
In the early 1970s, following the medium Arthur Ford’s
death, author Alan Spragett (who had hosted the television
show during which Ford spoke to Pike) discovered material in
Ford’s papers which conclusively proved that Ford had faked
the séance. Ford’s fraud was discovered in his papers, which
had been left in the care of William Rauscher, an Episcopal
minister in New Jersey, in a file of material that contained all
of the ‘‘evidential’’ facts stated by the supposedly entranced
Ford. Prior to the television séance Ford had thoroughly researched
Pike’s career.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Spragett, Alan, with William Rauscher. Arthur Ford The Man
Who Talked with the Dead. New York New American Library,
1973.