In my line of work I'm often required to meet with high-level sources. But rarely are they as high-ranking as the ones I met through Lawrence Furman, the psychic and magician who allegedly channels "entities" from other dimensions. My interest in a psychic reading wasn't very elevated: I was hoping that Furman's beings could help me figure out how to ease my stress-related back problems, solve the most publicized crime of our time, and win big at Calder.
Furman, a thin, five-foot-eight man with an almost elfin air about him, conducted his channeling session in a darkened room while sitting in a special black chair in his North Miami home. (In Furman's belief system, there are no skeptical quotation marks placed around his experiences, and words such as alleged are never used. To make what follows easier to understand, I'll dispense with most of those conventions, too, but all these strange doings can be read with caution in mind.) To his right were religious artifacts rarely found in the home of a nice Jewish boy like Furman: a shrine to Mary, complete with a painting of the haloed Virgin, and another of an unfolding rose. Incense burned in the room, and crystals and gems were scattered beneath the paintings to draw in energies from other realms.
Furman didn't waste much time before he hit pay dirt. He closed his eyes, grunted and moaned, then began speaking in an old, craggy English accent filled with pompous circumlocutions. He kept his eyes closed most of the time, leaning forward, the corners of his mouth pulled down as if he were some haughty professor. "My dear friend," he said, "I am Philos, introduced to you as the keeper of the Akasha." Apparently this was the cosmic equivalent of being the Librarian of Congress, except with a bit larger database. "The Akasha is the compendium of the experiences and the knowledge of humankind -- all their interactions, all that has been done, all that has the possibility of being done, and all that could possibly be conceived of being done by the human entity on this planet since before time as you know it began."
This was the kind of source who could help me write my ticket to the big time.
"Philos" said his goal was to assist people by transmitting the information he had access to in his dimension. I appreciated his generosity, and expected to exploit it for my own benefit. Because while I believe in an afterlife, my main question is: What's in it for me? After listening to some more musings about how the Akasha worked, I was eager to pose a few tough questions to prove to Mr. Spirit-World-Know-It-All that I wasn't just another gullible follower. Even so, I felt, in some strange way, as if I actually were talking to someone else beside the 45-year-old magician in front of me.
"Is there any way channels or their entities could prove what you're doing, to reassure skeptics that it's not just an act or charlatanism?" I asked.
"Can you prove to me that the chair you are sitting on is indeed solid?" "Philos" responded. "Indeed, I can provide, through the mouths of your physicists, proof that the space between its atomic structure is as great a distance as that between the Earth and the moon."
Maybe, but a clever philosophical conundrum wasn't what I had in mind. I was looking for something more dramatic A a spinning head, like in The Exorcist, or convincing evidence of telepathic powers. The voice continued, "Is there a spirit that has indeed entered this person's body and is speaking to you from other dimensions? I would say yes. But could I prove to you that it is true? I would say no."
I then carefully laid the groundwork for a question that had a bigger personal payoff: "Can you predict specific events, like what's going to happen in the fourth race tomorrow at Calder?"
The entity didn't take the bait. "I can give indications about probabilities that are set in motion," the voice said.
Perhaps I would have better luck on the news front. I subtly set my trap with a dry, innocuous question. "Are you able to get information about dead spirits or about how spirits who are currently dead died?"
"Okay," I said with mounting excitement. "There are a lot of people who are wondering who killed Nicole Simpson." I added a bit of explanation in case the entity hadn't had time A what with his Akashic responsibilities and all A to watch Court TV or read a newspaper: "There's a big murder mystery involving O.J. Simpson and who killed Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Do you have any ideas on that?"
"Yes, but I will not reveal them," the supernatural stick-in-the-mud said. "That is a kind of fortunetelling that is not the purpose of this medium."
Still looking for proof, I asked the entity to illustrate his psychic powers by telling me things about myself he couldn't know. "It seems as if you're challenging the medium," complained "Philos." Despite his concerns he gamely named specific items that might have applied to me: the year 1940, a supposedly important year for my father (false); a car accident involving a blue vehicle (I did have an accident, but there were no blue cars); pride at receiving a college award (true); shame at being chastised by my parents over a report card (true -- but that's a universal experience).
So what if he had a mixed record? Nobody -- even the omniscient "Philos" -- is perfect. And I was getting a $70 reading for free. But it was time to meet another being. It seemed that I was the interviewer on a kind of celestial talk show. Suddenly Furman began speaking in a soft, feminine voice, his face taking on a placid look quite different from that of "Philos." Speaking in a slower, higher-pitched voice, this new entity said, "You are not alone in the journey you have undertaken." There was something comforting about the presence now in the room, but I was also wary of the odd female quality that had taken over Furman. "What being are you?" I asked, wondering perhaps if he was channeling a departed drag queen.
"I am Miriam who comes to you," the voice said. Furman and his acolytes believe that "Miriam" is the voice of Mary, the mother of Jesus. "Even though you practice the Jewish faith, you once also were known to my son, and you also were one who held him in very high esteem."
I pressed for more details. "Did I know him personally?"
"You knew of him during those days...during the time after which the body of Christ was known to walk on Earth," the female voice said. "You called yourself a believer."
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By now Furman's eyes were open, although he still seemed to be in a trance. The voice began talking about my need for faith and trust, and that prompted me to say I was becoming suspicious of him. At that point the voice said, "Are you willing to journey with me for a moment?"
"Begin to breathe down into your stomach. Open your mouth, close your eyes, and keep breathing down," the new entity advised. "I may leave and another may come." With that, I noticed, Furman stood up and began waving his hands back and forth across the space in front of my body. I kept breathing, and I felt myself starting to relax as the Philos character returned, urging me to "open throat, open belly." During my breathing I was swept by a wave of profound relaxation, and burst into convulsive, fulfilling laughter. Something peculiar was happening, but it felt good.
Afterward I felt profoundly tired and could barely drive myself home. My back still hurt, but the next day I felt strangely energized and more aware of sensations. Those feelings faded away by the following day, though, and I was back to my usual everyday self. I guess even all-powerful beings from other dimensions have their limits, too.