Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Magician

In 1981 I ran poetry workshops in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne, on behalf of the Poets Union, at the request of prisoner poets. We put together an anthology, with editorial decisions shared among all participants. One prisoner in the workshop was transferred to Geelong Prison. This was before emails; the only way I could get his input without delay was to go and see him. There were poetry workshops in Geelong Prison too. I contacted the guy running them and got permission from him and the Prison to attend one.

Afterwards I had time to spare before my train back to Melbourne. I went into a café near the station and there, sitting at a table, was an old neighbour I hadn't seen for nine years. Reg and his wife had lived a few doors down from Bill and me when we all had young children. Norma and I used to babysit for each other, and we used to attend each other's barbecues and parties. Then we all moved and lost touch.

Still shaking off the prison atmosphere, I hesitated, then went over and said hello. He invited me to sit down. He was there a few days for work, but it turned out he now lived quite close to Bill and me again. He and Norma had divorced and she'd remarried. 

The business he'd had went broke. His partner, in charge of the finances, had been raking off investors' money. He eventually absconded, leaving Reg to face fraud charges. No-one believed he hadn't been in on it, though he was fighting poverty by then. He defended himself because he couldn't afford a lawyer, and succeeded in getting all but one charge dropped. For that one, he did 15 months in gaol. He was determined to clear his name of that too, but meanwhile he needed to try and earn a living. It was hard to get work at his age, after a gap that was difficult to explain. He finally landed a sales rep job. Norma stuck by him while he was inside, but the stress contributed to the breakdown of their marriage soon after he got out.

He confided that his life had undergone huge changes since then. He'd been studying Hermetic magic in some books he'd come across, and began practising it in a big way. He told me that as a child he'd been clairvoyant, but later put it aside to concentrate on things like work and family — and also because people either ridiculed it or got scared of it. I was fascinated of course. (At that time my own psychic abilities were still suppressed, for similar reasons.) I told him what I was doing in Geelong, and asked if he'd picked up anything about that. He said, 'I could tell that you'd come from somewhere very sad.' 

Apart from mentioning the encounter to Bill that night as a matter of interest, I thought no more about it. Then he dropped in at our place one day when, he said, he was passing, and we made him a cuppa and had a bit of a catch up.

He was unemployed. The sales rep job hadn't worked out. For the next few years he kept landing similar jobs and losing them again. In his sixties by then, he was dyeing his hair and lying about his age. 

He took to dropping round a lot. He was lonely. If Bill was home, they talked about blokey stuff. That was before Bill's great awakening; he was still sceptical about anything extrasensory. But if it was just me, Reg spoke freely about his occult interests. We had long conversations over coffee at my kitchen table. He taught me a lot about metaphysical matters. It just seemed that we were yarning. It was only later that I realised what an education he gave me.

Then I began having strange experiences — dreams which seemed significant, unexplained sounds and smells, and a spooky sense of unseen people being present. It started happening quite suddenly, and a lot. And I had a clairvoyant visiting me! One day, unable to keep it to myself any longer, I blurted out, 'Reg, who came to see me last night?' 

He reached across the table and said, 'Give us your hand.' He closed his eyes and started telling me what he was getting, until I realised he was describing my dear Nana, who died when I was four. 'What does she want?' I asked. He shut his eyes again with a questioning look on his face, then said, 'Just saying hello.'

Over the next weeks he was able to identify other nightly visitors as people in my life who had died; my stepfather, for instance. He had no way of knowing anything about these people, but described them so accurately that I had no trouble recognising them — even demonstrating my stepfather's funny walk.  

I didn't understand why I was getting all these visitations from dead people, but Reg said that when he dropped in the first time, his guides had told him to come and see me. He thought the Powers That Be must want me to become aware of other realities for some reason, but he didn't know what the reason could be. Then one of the poets in prison, whom I'd grown very close to, committed suicide. I thought the guys I met were so nice, they couldn't have done anything serious. But he was serving a long sentence and he'd just been told it would not be reduced. He was 24.

I was only his tutor. I found out, like most people, by opening the newspaper one Saturday morning as I sat down with my coffee. Not only grief but shock. But by then I had plenty of indication that the soul does live on after death. I simply couldn't doubt it. Now all the stuff that had been happening made sense. The tragic waste of a life would have been even more devastating if I'd believed there was only this life. I felt the Universe was looking after me by giving me so much evidence otherwise, protecting me from complete despair. It was then that I acquired the concept of a benevolent Universe that would always take care of me.

As for magic, I once witnessed Reg call down fire by an effort of will. There was a document I wanted to burn, but it was on thick card and wouldn't catch alight. Reg took it from me, held it over the sink, and exerted visible effort. His face screwed up and his shoulder muscles tightened. Suddenly the thing burst into flame, he dropped it into the sink and it burned fast. I was standing right next to him; there was no trickery. 

He tried to help us through some financial difficulties. 'Get Bill to take out a Tattslotto ticket with these numbers,' he  said. But Bill, sceptical, and agreeing only to humour me, got sidetracked and didn't put the ticket on. When the winning numbers were announced, he was so cross with himself that he swore and kicked his desk, which was the nearest object. Reg was disgusted. 'Do you know what it takes for the Guys Upstairs to orchestrate something like that?' he asked me. He never repeated the attempt.

He predicted that Azaria Chamberlain's matinee jacket would be found and her parents cleared of murder, years before it happened. And he told me I would study some kind of Oriental discipline that would change my life. He couldn't quite get the name of it, but said he could see the letters e and i, and another that might be h or k. I know now: Reiki. And he saw me moving to a tropical climate: lots of palm trees. I’ve been in the sub-tropics two decades now, and every house I’ve lived in here has had palms. Reg didn't live long enough to see any of these predictions come true.

He used to put his hands on our old dog, claiming that she wasn't well and he was healing her. We didn't see any symptoms, but I now believe he prolonged her life many months. It was only after he died that she succumbed to a blood disease which the vet said she'd apparently had a long time, which usually proved fatal in a much shorter period.  

Reg died of cancer in 1984. He was ready to go. Despite the magic, his last years were sad, with the loss of family life, working life and much of his self-respect. He never fulfilled his ambition to clear his name of the charge on which he was convicted. 

When I do psychic readings, it feels natural to hold the client's hand and shut my eyes, as Reg did. And it was he who communicated with Bill after death, somehow causing Bill to become a psychic and a healer overnight, as if passing on his own gifts as a goodbye present.

I write about him elsewhere as 'Ridge', the magical name he gave himself for that aspect of his life.

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