He lived most of his life as a pragmatic man. Mostly Native American, the cowboy type, he worked for many years as an LAPD mechanic. He was one of those mechanics who could listen to an engine, take in a whiff of exhaust, and diagnose the problem nine times out of ten. He was a World War 2 veteran. He was haunted by the experience of helping liberate a concentration camp when he was himself a Cherokee with many ancestors on the Trail of Tears. He was struck by how the living skeletons hesitated to leave even when the gates were opened. He was seeing ghosts of forefathers across the chasm of space and time. He had grown up on a bleak reservation in Oklahoma during the dust bowl.
The cops loved him, he was the most dependable can do guy in the valley and you could always count on him for common sense advice. He loved being a cop, it gave his life purpose, especially after he became a young widower. He lived a quiet useful life. He had his adventures and misadventures, of course, but nothing too out of the ordinary. He was sad to retire. He felt aimless. He traveled rootless until he found himself in the Chapel of the Red Rocks. There he broke down, an old cynical man with no point left to his life he prayed earnestly to anyone who might be listening that he be put to some good use for whatever time he had left.
Back home he started experiencing strange phenomena. He’d be out driving and would suffer black outs during which he would drive to a certain location. He went to his doctor. Fortunately for him his doctor was what the AMA would call a quack. He had an MD but he preferred to practice chiropractic, he dabbled in hypnosis, and he had visited a psychic or two. When he found nothing obviously wrong he used hypnosis and suddenly there was a character with a Scottish brogue addressing him. The Scotty claimed to be a discarnate spirit. He asked the doctor to remind the police mechanic of his prayer. The doctor requested proof. Then commenced a medical review of the doctor’s health of such detail and accuracy there was no doubt something extraordinary was happening.
The police mechanic didn’t care for this development. He was Christian, after all, maybe not practicing, but raised as such. The doctor led him step by step, parlaying messages from this allegedly supernatural visitor who required the police mechanic to be absent. A tape of Amazing Grace played on bagpipes became the hypnotic trigger. The police mechanic would fall asleep. The spirit with the brogue would answer questions for an hour on any subject. The doctor could only compare the experience to Edgar Cayce. The police mechanic was ready to give it up for good when he was told that his mission would be to render medical diagnosis for sick people. In no way did he want that kind of responsibility or legal liability. He was told he would see the names of his clients just before they called him, right there on the wall in front of him, with his own wakeful eyes. He was shocked and dismayed when a name showed up on his bedroom wall and the next day the owner of it telephoned. But he went along when he heard the sad tale, hoping against hope that he might help the poor soul. And he did.
He went on to travel a circuit for over a decade, sometimes national, although he was best known in the southwest. He married a brilliant and beautiful young woman who travelled with him, running the business side of their enterprise, giving him two beautiful and extraordinary daughters. He gave thousands of readings, and cured thousands of people with them. He always seemed to be on the verge of success. A famous new age writer was planning a book about him. Friends planned to create a community healing center. He had a beautiful house in Taos. The Taos Pueblo Indians would bring him deer they hunted down to help feed his kids in winter. They initiated him into their mysteries, making him a Taos Pueblo shaman. The police mechanic was proud of that. He had earned it on his own. Most members of his community were humble midwesterners and southwestern retirees, pragmatic people whose long prosaic lives were taking similar twists into spiritual adventure.
I didn’t believe in psychics when I was told about him. All three of my mentors at the time had nothing good to say about psychism. But when I was challenged to accept a free reading with no participation by me except that I sit for a few minutes alone at home I accepted. The cassette tape I received in the mail included descriptions of physical experiences I had never told anyone about. I was looking for information that could not have been found by a detective and I got plenty. The past life descriptions were like poetic metaphors illustrating my talents, idiosyncrasies, and predicaments. I wanted to see this process in person. There wasn’t much to it. A stucco house in the valley. A little music. A gruff police mechanic falling asleep in a recliner. While the police mechanic was a well read self taught man the alleged spirit was a polyglot wit with an encyclopedic knowledge of history, science, and literature.
The Scot and I had long conversations that have left me with some of my favorite metaphors on the spiritual path. For example, he called Earth the Devil’s Island of space. He said the little Hitlers of the universe are gathered here, far off from teeming areas of interplanetary life, condemned to evolve through reincarnation on this planet half prison, half kindergarten. After observing so much reckless human behavior this explanation for our state of being has become my favorite.
Still I could not bring myself to recommend him, because I doubted the process. To say that a disincarnate spirit was speaking through the police mechanic, as he himself claimed, was to embrace Allan Kardec’s universe of Spiritism. Might there be some Jungian explanation? I needed some sort of proof. I was laying next to my wife when I woke out of deep sleep. I was filled with fear that someone was in the room with us but I could not move. I felt the strangest sensation of cold ectoplasmic slipperiness pouring down inside me from the top of my head. I tried to say my wife’s name, to wake her, so she could wake me or get me help. But I was so far away I only managed to say her name once and to my shock it came out in a Scottish brogue. You wanted proof, the spirit later chuckled at me.
Did he cure cancer? Some have claimed that the blends of home remedies and other treatments he recommended did just that. I will tell a more humble story, but it illustrates the awareness of mind body connection and the common sense that so often characterized his advice. I knew a young woman who had chronic pain. She had seen doctors. Exploratory surgery was advised and scheduled. I advised her to see the police mechanic first. He told her she had a crippling fear of pregnancy and was feeling pressured by her family and in laws to have a child she didn’t want. He told her to take relaxing bubble baths, paint her nails, celebrate her femininity and above all make certain she used first class birth control. She never had the surgery. Her pain went away and never returned.
The police mechanic and I were friends for years. I enjoyed conversations with him as much as I did with the spirit, although his conversations were often about car engines or other mechanical devices and how best to keep them running. He never achieved the success he hoped for. His wife, more driven by the need for it, left him. He spent his last years in Simi Valley, where so many cops retire. He lived in a double wide with a great oak tree in a grass field for his patio. His daughters and friends were always around, taking care of him. He took fewer clients. He tried to build a second practice, as a hypnotist himself, wanting to do so some good actively, instead of passively. He typed outlines for a book or two, gathered up pages but little came of it. Near the end of his life anxiety crept up on him. He couldn’t help everyone. He was exhausted by the needs of his clients. He had become so acutely sensitive walking into a supermarket was torturous, he could read the life of every stranger he passed.
Somehow in his disappointments, in the loss of his wife, his relationship with the spirit that spoke through him had soured. He didn’t want fame or fortune. Just enough comfort to keep his family together and to not have to worry about next month’s rent so near the end of his long life. The last time I saw him he showed me his family Civil War scrapbook. It included the detailed journal of an ancestor. He was fascinated by the Civil War as seen through this highly personal prism. I felt he was in a civil war of his own, himself against himself, his calling versus his very human desire to create a good life with his own hands. He had never become completely comfortable with this mysterious process that helped thousands of people. How could he? He was a WW2 veteran and a police mechanic.
He was lucky to die suddenly, gazing into the eyes of his loving elder daughter. I was left to wonder if there are other talents of the magnitude of Edgar Cayce we never hear about. But then even Stewart Edward White, once so famous a pioneer of this twilight zone of experimentation from the other side, is little remembered today. And that is why the world needs dust eaters to write books about what should not be forgotten.