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The strange case of Reed Erickson and the ‘Course in Miracles’

by Ken Winston Caine

I was exposed to A Course in Miracles in 1982, in Ojai, California, when as a reporter I met Reed Erickson.

Erickson was the social activist and philanthropist who had financed the original publication of the ‘Miracles’ set of books.

While touring his “ashram,” he took me to the basement and opened fresh boxes and gave me a complete set.

I’ve been reading them ever since. I’ve NEVER made it completely through, from beginning to end, though it is likely that I’ve read nearly every word of the books. I’ve participated in a few “Miracles” study groups. There were many in Ojai at the beginning of the ’80s — probably because of Ojai’s Theosophical origins and probably because Reed Erickson was there then and passing around copies. He was a fascinating man. Wish I’d known more of his extraordinary past and deeds when I met him and later, while I still lived there and while he was still alive.

Wish I could have shared with Ojai more about him.

He was terribly misunderstood and underappreciated during his final decade and was considered a crazy, addled wealthy drug addict by some of the Powers that Be in Ojai in the early ’80s. His antics were being regularly reported in the Ojai Valley News Police Blotter column.

It was because of that that he called me.

I was assistant publisher of the paper and editor of the Sunday edition. He asked if I’d come out and have a talk with him about what he might do to “stop the persecution” he was experiencing at the hands of the local police.

I mentioned to Gary Markley, the police chief at the time, that I was going to visit with Erickson. He told me he’d like to know what was the “magical white powder” that he was constantly sniffing according to various reports filed with the Ojai Police by a string of locals Erickson had hired as house help and then abruptly fired — often without paying them. And he’d like to hear my assessment of just how crazy Erickson really was. I didn’t agree to report any of my findings to the police but did keep in mind what they were curious about.

When I visited Reed Erickson he offered me some “magical white powder.”

That’s what he called it.

I declined his offer because he wouldn’t tell me what it was.

Wish he had told me more about the substance. He might have persuaded me to take a snort. I’ve since learned that he had financed scientific studies of many botanical hallucinogens and psychoactive substances used by indgenous peoples worldwide. (I didn’t know that about him at the time — and neither did the local police, and he didn’t tell me that. In fact, we didn’t know much of anything about him except he was rich and eccentric, funded an educational foundation in his name, and his housekeepers were repeatedly finding themselves fired and without having been paid are were reporting this and other behaviors of his to the police.) His magical white powder could have been just about anything. And could have been a fascinating story on its own if he’d been willing to teach me a little about it.

But Erickson wasn’t one to reveal much about himself or his personal doings or discoveries. And, I’ve since learned, he had so much he could have revealed. So much that Ojai would have loved to have read. So much that needed to be said. He could have emerged as another of Ojai’s beloved rich eccentrics. But I didnt do him that justice in any piece I wrote. In fact, I don’t recall even writing a piece about him. But I’ve since learned quite a bit.

Erickson, who had turned a $5 million inheritance into $40 million, financed all kinds of fascinating and needed research and social action. And possibly was one of the most influential people ever in the “transgender” movement, and was one of the first surgically transgendered persons.

He spoke not a word of this to me. Didn’t offer any specifics of his social activism or of his wealth building and wealth granting activities. Did refer to his Erickson Educational Foundation which he said offered grants to worthy projects.

He showed me a photo hanging on the wall in his basement of a grasshopper pump on an oil well and told me this was “a great gift from God and the source of much infinite goodness.” Interestingly, in the biographical materials I’ve located in recent years, there is no mention of his having oil investments or having owned an oil well. But he certainly gave me the impression that that was the source of his wealth. I remember specifically asking him what was the source of his wealth. And that may have been when he summoned me to follow him to the basement and pointed with reverence to the picture on the wall.

(This wasn’t the first photo of an oil well that I’d seen on anyone’s wall. My step grandparents had one in their living room, sort of a reverent recognition of something that had brought at least a moderate level of comfort to their lives. Because of that, I may have drawn a greater assumption than I should have about what Erickson was suggesting when showed me the photo on his basement wall. Or maybe not. He enjoyed being mysterious. Enjoyed mindf—-ing, as they used to say in the ’60s and ’70s.)

I’ll share more of his story later. Suffice for now to say that I am grateful for the memory of having met Reed Erickson and to him for turning me on to the strange, fascinating, inspiring work, A Course in Miracles.


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  • million-selling self-help author, success coach, therapist, book coach, ken winston caine helps you come true by facilitating rapid breakthroughs in your life, business, income, health, relationships and energy levels
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