Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Tragedy of James Pike

Alice C. Linsley

Has occult involvement by Anglicans contributed to the spiritual decay of the Episcopal Church? That question came up in response to "The Crisis of Authority in Anglicanism."

Many bishops have been lax in upholding the doctrine and discipline of the Church and this has turned Anglicanism into a schismatic brand of modernist Christianity. In this tragedy, the Episcopal Church bears a large portion of the shame, beginning at least as early as James Albert Pike.

Pike was charged with heresy three times, though the charges were dropped. Apparently, it was politics as usual in the Episcopal House of Bishops. In October 1966, he was formally censured by his fellow Bishops. This was the year his son James Jr. committed suicide.

Pike was never deposed by the House of Bishops though he rejected the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the doctrine of Hell.  He also supported the ordination of women and the acceptance of homosex. In December 1960, Pike had an essay published in Look in which he argued that the Church was no longer relevant for contemporary life.  He became a severe critic of the Church, her Tradition and the Bible.

Pike met the Christian apologist Elton Trueblood at a conference in Alaska and there was correspondance between the men in 1955. Trueblood taught Philosophy at Earlham College and mentions Pike's apostacy in his book The Company of the Committed.

James Albert Pike

Pike's Demise

In August 1969 Bishop James Pike and his third wife who he married in 1967, went to Israel to gather material for a book Pike was writing. The book was to present Pike's version of the origins of Christianity. On September 2nd they set out in a rented car for the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by the devil.

After passing Herodion, Pike turned off on an unpaved track which he believed led north to Jericho. In fact, he was at the beginning of Wadi Mashash, leading east towards the Dead Sea. Soon the unpaved road ended where it had been washed out by flash floods. The Pikes tried to turn around, but the rear wheels of the car dropped into a deep rut. They couldn’t free the car and didn’t know how to use the jack.

The Pikes abandoned the car after trying unsuccessfully to get it out of the rut. Then they walked for two hours until Bishop Pike was too exhausted to go on. They found a relatively flat rock under a bit of an overhang that gave them some shade. As the sun was setting, Diane Pike left her husband and continued walking. After some ten hours of climbing steep canyons in the moonlight, she stumbled onto the road being built between Ein Gedi and Ein Fashha. A security guard found her and she was taken to police authorities in Bethlehem.

When they returned to the place where Diane had left her husband, they found the map that Diane had left with her husband but no clue as to where he had gone.

Pike's Apostacy

Pike was raised as a Roman Catholic and became an agnostic while attending the University of Santa Clara. After earning his Law degree, he worked in Washington D.C. After WWII, Pike and his second wife, Esther Yanovsky, joined the Episcopal Church.  He had met Esther while she was attending his law class at George Washington.

He entered the Virginia Theological Seminary and then the Union Theological seminary. He was ordained in 1946, though he never renounced his agnosticism. In 1952 he became Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where he used the pulpit to proclaim social reform. In 1958, following the death of Bishop Karl Morgan Block, Pike was consecrated the fifth Bishop of California. 

Though he was originally from Oklahoma, Pike was never comfortable with the values of America's heartland.  He lived most of his adult life in the urban centers of the East and West and was clearly out of touch with the average Episcopalian.

Pike's third marriage was to a woman about half his age.  He was 56 and she was 31. Diane Kennedy Pike was the executive director of a foundation that conducted research into life after death and paranormal experiences.  James and Diane collaborated on the book, "The Other Side: An Account of My Experience with Psychic Phenomena." The book tells of  Pike's dabbling in necromancy in an effort to establish contact with his son, James Jr., who committed suicide in a New York hotel in 1966. James Jr. was Pike's son by Esther Yanovsky.

After three days of temperatures above 100 degrees, the hunt for Bishop Pike was called off. At a news conference, Mrs. Pike reported that the seer who had put her husband in contact with the spirit of his son had had a vision of him alive in a cave near the place Diane had left him. Off duty army scouts and local Beduoin searched for him, but his body was not found.

On September 7th, James Pike's body was found. Pike was climbing a steep ascent in Wadi Mashash when he slipped and fell to his death.  He was buried in St. Peter's cemetery in Jaffa under a tamarisk tree.  Before his death in 1969, Pike announced that he and Diane were ending their affliation with the Episcopal Church and with all forms of organized religion.

Related reading: The Crisis of Authority in AnglicanismThe Modernist-Traditionalist Divide in Anglicanism; Impressions of the New American Anglicanism; Anglicanism and Spiritualism; Why Not Leave Anglicanism? A Followup by William G. Witt

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