Pike, Bishop James Albert

Pike, Bishop James Albert (1913–1969)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

James Albert Pike was born on February 14, 1913, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was the only child of James Albert and Pearl Agatha Pike. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (1932–1933), University of Southern California (A.B. 1934; LL.B. 1936), and Yale University (J.S.D. 1938). He also studied at Virginia Theological Seminary 1945–1946, General Theological Seminary 1936–1947, Union Theological Seminary (B.D. magna cum laude, 1951).

Pike was raised as a Roman Catholic and lectured at the Catholic University of America Law School in Washington, D.C., from 1939 to 1942. He left the Roman Catholic Church because he disagreed with the Pope’s encyclical on birth control. He married Esther Yanovsky in 1942. In 1944, he was ordained as an Episcopal Church priest. He rose from Chaplain to Bishop, and in 1958 became Bishop in the diocese of California. In 1966, he resigned as Bishop to become theologian in residence at the Center for Democratic Institutions, Santa Barbara, California.

Pike was a member of the bar of U.S. Supreme Court and California State. He had a weekly television program from 1957–1960, and wrote a number of books, including The Faith of the Church (1951), Roadblocks to Faith (1954), Doing the Truth (1958), A New Look at Preaching (1961), Teenagers and Sex (1965), and You and the New Morality (1967).

Pike, like some of his relatives and ancestors, had psychic powers. He heard ghosts shuffling footsteps on the floor and stairs of the library when he was dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He also experienced poltergeist activity in two of the homes in which he lived. A medium—Ethel Myers—was called in to investigate one in Poughkeepsie, New York.

On Friday February 4, 1966, Pike’s elder son Jim took his own life in a New York hotel. Jim was twenty-two. He had long experimented with drugs, including marijuana, hashish, LSD, peyote, mescaline, and others. For a few months before his death, Jim spent time with his father and the two became close, sharing an apartment in Cambridge, England, for four and a half months. Pike was especially devastated at the death. Pike had his son’s body cremated and the ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean, west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Within little more than two weeks, still in Cambridge, Pike began to experience hauntings suggesting that his son’s spirit might be behind them. There was a recurrence of a 140 degree angle, from two postcards that mysteriously appeared, to books placed on a shelf, to open safety pins, to the hands of a clock (which, after being stopped for many months, suddenly started working). Pike attempted communication with his son through automatic writing, but was unsuccessful. At the suggestion of Canon John Pearce-Higgins, who was an expert on Spiritualism, a séance was arranged with the medium Ena Twigg.

On March 2, 1966, Pike, his secretary Maren Bergrud, and Pearce-Higgins called on Twigg. Using Jim’s passport as a psychometric link, the medium said that Jim had been trying to contact his father and was asking for forgiveness for the suicide, which he said was an accident (an overdose of pills). She then relayed that Jim was pleased about his ashes being scattered at the Golden Gate Bridge. He urged his father to continue fighting the church officials who opposed Pike’s controversial beliefs.

Ena Twigg went on to say that Jim was accompanied by a German intellectual to whom Pike had dedicated his new book. The book was still at the printer. It was called What Is This Treasure? and was indeed dedicated to Paul Tillich, a liberal theologian and godfather to Jim. Tillich also urged Pike to fight those church officials who wanted to charge him with heresy.

Twelve days later, just before leaving England to return to the United States, Pike again sat with Twigg. This time she went into trance and Jim spoke through her. He prophesied Pike’s movements in the near future (which came true) and also told his father to contact the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship, and a Father William V. Rauscher, an Episcopal priest, when he got back to America. Twigg apaparently herself knew nothing of either Father Rauscher or of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship. In the fall of 1967, Pike was again shaken when his secretary Maren Bergrud committed suicide. He tried to contact her through mediums but without success.

Pike agreed to sit for a televised séance on CTV in Toronto, with medium Rev. Arthur Ford. This took place on Sunday, September 3. Allen Spraggett, religion editor of the Toronto Star, had arranged the program and acted as moderator. He first talked with Ford about mediumship and then with Pike, asking if the Bishop had any personal experience of communicating through a trance medium. Ford then put himself into a trance and his spirit guide, Fletcher, came through. Soon Jim, Pike’s son, came through and gave evidential details.

On December 20, 1968, Pike married Diane Kennedy, who had taken over Maren Bergrud’s position as director of the New Focus Foundation (started by Pike the previous year). Pike left the Church and formed the Foundation for Religious Transition in April 1969. A few months later, Pike and his new wife took a trip to the Holy Land. On September 1, they became lost in the desert. Diane had to leave her husband to go for help and could not locate him again afterward. When Ena Twigg heard of Pike being missing, she had a sitting with her husband Harry and Canon Peace-Higgins. They received a communication from Pike himself, giving directions to where his body could be found. It was found there, on a cliff in the Judaean desert near the Dead Sea, on September 7. Other mediums, including Ford, had tried to reach Pike but only Twigg managed to do so.


Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992
Pike, Diane Kennedy: Search: The Personal Story of a Wilderness Journey. New York: Doubleday, 1970
Pike, James A. and Diane Kennedy: The Other Side: An Account of My Experiences with Psychic Phenomena.New York: Doubleday, 1968
Twigg, Ena with Ruth Hagy Bro: Ena Twigg: Medium. London: W. H. Allen, 1973
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