One of My Best Friends is a Ghost

James Wilkie Healing in Trance
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Jimmy in Trance
This may be a photo of a Vancouver spiritualist named James Wilkie...or of a timeless spirit named Rama who has come from the Other Side to inhabit Wilkie's body. Don't judge hastily: whoever it is, he can tell the future / BY ALLEN SPRAGGETT

RECENTLY I RECEIVED a letter from my friend James Wilkie that ended with the postscript, "Love from Rama. . . ." Rama is a ghost.

No, not the kind that haunts houses; he prefers people to old ruins.

Rama is Wilkie's "spirit guide" or "control"—the trance personality that regularly manifests through him. Every medium has such a guide—a kind of ghostly collaborator who helps things along from the Other Side, and drops in during seances to say a few words through his entranced mouthpiece.

Rama has been talking in Wilkie's sleep since the latter was a boy. According to Rama's own story, he is an expatriate from the Upper Nile who has passed his four—thousandth birthday "by your earth time." He was, as he tells it, high priest of a mystery religion that celebrated its rites in huge caverns ablaze with votive lights.

In the Salem of three hundred years ago, Rama probably would have been called Wilkie's "familiar," and the medium might well have been burned at the stake to drive the evil spirit out of him. In today's psychiatric consulting room, Rama might be diagnosed as a "parthenogenetic secondary personality," or a "symbiotic self"—at any rate, a presumptively morbid symptom to be exorcised, perhaps by using that modern equivalent of the ancient rite of discovering the demon's name (and thereby power over it) called psychoanalytic word—association; or possibly by shooting electricity through the medium's head.

However, Wilkie is not a mental case merely because he perceives sights and sounds that other people do not. Mozart, so witnesses attest, heard his symphonies with full orchestral effects before he wrote them down, and the prophet Ezekiel apparently saw those spectacular psychedelic visions of his that are recorded in the Bible, yet these gentlemen are not commonly considered to have been mad.

Apparently it is possible for two sets of symptoms—in these cases, unconventional seeing and hearing— to be phenomenologically similar, yet dissimilar in their causes. One syndrome may be abnormal, while the other—in the case of creative geniuses, religious visionaries, and mediums—is supernormal.

Wilkie was born in the Scottish highlands, where "second sight" is common and runs in families, where many villages have their soothsayer and the man who doesn't believe in ghosts is considered odd. Wilkie says that he has spent as much of his life in the society of ghosts as in the company of the living.

"I prefer the dead to the living," Wilkie says, "because I have nothing to fear from the dead. My best friends are ghosts." Not being a Spiritualist myself, I reserve final judgment on Wilkie's claim to have commerce with the departed, and also on the intriguing question of Rama's true identity—whether he is indeed the spirit of a centuries—old seer or merely a dramatized figment of the medium's unconscious mind.

/continued on page 57

To be continued...

Back to Media Page