Stories submitted to Professor Quaesitor
Originally printed in the NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2007 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: "Hearing Voices." Quest 95.6 (NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2007): 211-217.
In the January-February 2006 issue of Quest, our Thinking Aloud piece acquainted us with several stories, some personal, others more well known, of people who heard voices. As these types of occurrences fall under the unexplained laws of nature, or powers latent in humanity, the Third Object encourages us to investigate them. Professor Quaesitor invited readers to share their experiences of "Hearing Voices."
As one reader had a question about the nom de plume of Professor Quaesitor, we would first like to share a little background and give a short Latin lesson to help explain. We have excerpted some of the correspondence between Jim Caffrey and John Algeo, to whom his letter was forwarded. Reader, Jim Caffrey wrote:
I am writing in response to the Thinking Aloud article "People Who Hear Voices" in the January-February 2006. Yet, as I started to address my remarks, I puzzled at the nom de plume of Professor Quaesitor and was further confused by the results of a Google search on "Quaesitor" which yielded:
Quaesitors are the investigators, lawyers and judges of hermetic politics. They decide in matters of hermetic politics, particularly regarding the Code, keeping structure in the Order of Hermes. A Quaesitor must devote some of his time to investigate when charges are brought up.
Quaesitoris are the magistrates of the Order of Hermes, with a dash of Inquisitor thrown in for good measure. They represent the authority of the Tribunal, and [it] is their duty to hold court, investigate complaints, and pass judgment on those who commit crimes against the Order.
My confusion is concerned with the apparent uneasy fit between the definitions of Quaesitor and the subject matter of hearing voices, as well as why respondents are not asked to share their experiences directly with the researcher, be it yourself or someone else. Please forgive my confusion and concerns, but a name, even a nom de plume, is important.
John Algeo replied:
Dear Jim:The Olcott staff has forwarded your message because I was involved in the genesis of the "hearing voices" matter—though now it seems several eons ago to me. I am currently in India so have not seen the issue of the Quest in which the piece appeared and was not aware of its publication at all. Indeed, I had forgotten all about it, but here is the background:
A while ago, I was still involved with the production of the Quest magazine because I had edited it for some years. A physician in Baltimore, a very long-time Theosophist, sent me his account of "hearing voices." I thought it was striking and would make an interesting piece for the magazine, but that it would be better if it were the beginning of a series, so that is what I proposed to the magazine, and as somebody needed to be responsible for selecting pieces to appear as follow-ups, I proposed an old friend mine, Prof. Quaesitor. I am quite sure that his name has nothing to do with either of the uses you Googled. It is just from the Latin source from which they also apparently were derived. That Latin source, I believe, means something like "an inquirer, one who asks questions, one who is on a quest." Prof. Quaesitor is a curious fellow—well, I mean he is curious about things, but doubtless others might regard him as a curiosity himself, so perhaps "curious fellow" should be understood in both senses.
I will inquire of the editorial department of the Quest what their intentions are regarding this topic, and I will happily refer your message to the professor, assuming of course that you are amenable to having it published.
With all good wishes from,
Professor Quaesitor and me, John Algeo, International Vice President of the Theosophical Society
The following articles are accounts from readers who were kind enough to share with us their personal experiences of hearing voices, what it meant to them, or how it affected their lives whether or not they had an explanation. Occasionally the "voices in our heads" are loud enough for us to hear, but it is up to us, individually to understand what they are saying.
I did appreciate the Thinking Aloud article relating hearing voices stories to the Third Object. Such a subject could use more exposure. My more memorable memories of hearing voices date back to the early 1980s, when I held a go-go job as district manager for a specialty contracting firm. I ran a small office in Northern New Jersey and one evening after work was rushing to drop-off some materials at an overnight service. It was the first time I visited this particular location, which was on a busy truck route just off an even busier highway. I had parallel parked in front of the place and after completing my drop-off, walked quickly out and got in my car.
In the go-go nature of my job, I often rushed around. I practically opened the car door, sat in the seat and turned the ignition in one seamless motion. Continuing, I put my left hand on the steering wheel and shifted into Drive with the intent of "seamlessly" pulling out into the busy side street. An unmistakable (male) voice spoke (perhaps in the center of my head) saying, "Look in your side view mirror." I quickly looked and saw a large truck bearing down too fast in the lane next to my car and I jammed on the brakes. Had I moved the car two feet, I could have easily died.
My humiliation was complete. I had already lost my lover, and my job as Atlanta's first female film director, with all its glamour and prestige. I was on the verge of losing my house, because I could not pay the mortgage. In order to quiet this intense pain, I decided to kill myself—and knew just where to do it. I got out my Browning .22 rifle, and walked to the woods down the street.
The quiet, little ten-acre forest had somehow survived in its wild state, in the middle of the thriving city. Box turtles poked around under the leaves and frogs peeped from the small stream trickling beside a great hollow tree. I had gone inside that hollow tree before, and had found its embrace comforting. If I killed myself there, I thought, no one would find me for months, perhaps years. By then, all that would remain would be a mere skeleton, with a rifle hole in its skull and the weapon of death lying beside it. I longed for such oblivion.
The doorway to my death-tree was about thigh-high, so I knelt down, and pushed the gun in first, leaning it against the curving wall of the treeâ€™s interior. Then I crawled in beside it, weeping the sorrowful, self-pitying tears of a pain too deep and a fear too overwhelming to be soothed by any other means than death itself. Or so I thought.
I took off my right shoe, so my big toe could pull the trigger (a rifle is not the most expeditious tool for committing suicide), and put the end of the barrel in my mouth. Then I heard the voice.
"It will be provided," boomed into my ears from nowhere. I took the gun out of my mouth to argue.
"But I've lost my love," I wept.
"It will be provided," the voice replied. This voice did not come from outside the tree, or from any source physical that I could discern. It sounded inside my head, from beyond my ears, and originated in spirit.
"But I've lost my wonderful job, because I got into dope and can't get off it," I cried remorsefully.
"It will be provided," the voice repeated.
"But the bank is about to take my house because I can't pay the mortgage, and I'll have no place to live!"
"It will be provided."
I sat for an hour inside that great and ancient tree, arguing why I should die that day, with a voice that came from out of nowhere, and whose face I could not see. All that voice ever said was: "It will be provided."
So I got on my knees, and pushing the rifle out ahead of me, I crawled out of my living, wooden tomb to join the world again. Everything that I have ever needed has always been provided. I learned from that experience to listen to the inner voice of guidance, especially after praying for something. For example, I prayed "Oh, God, I want to travel."
The inner voice responded: "You might want to check out Decatur Presbyterian Church." So, I went there and discovered that they were organizing a mission trip to Honduras to build a medical clinic.
A more recent conversation concerned indulging my vanity by checking with a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. I sat in meditation, asking to be shown the way, whether or not to go ahead with the surgery. When the voice came, echoing out of the heavens, I knew just what I would do, for it spoke those ancient words of wisdom, "If it ainâ€™t broke, donâ€™t fix it."
I put my house on the market. During the ensuing yard sales, as I brought out the possessions I had collected over the years, they seemed like useless objects to me. Saving the essentials, such as dishes, pots, and pans, I sold off the rest of it, and began to feel lighter, as if I had lost a thousand pounds.
When my house sold I felt free at last, although until that moment I had not realized how attached to my possessions I had become. Despite the advice of friends and family to reinvest my equity in more real estate, I knew that it was time to go on that spiritual quest, and that perhaps I should look for land to buy out west along the way.
I collected the essentials for the most elemental level of survival, i.e., tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, and rifle, and added in a copy of the Mother Earth News. I was afraid to travel alone, so a young female Doberman "was provided." Her ferocious appearance belied the sweetness within her. As we left the city, driving out from under a cloud, I felt as though I were hatching from an egg, discarding and leaving the old shell behind.
That was in 1975, and it was only the beginning of my awakened awareness and spiritual growth. Many mystical coincidences led me from teacher to teacher—Lame Deer of the Lakota Sioux, the Rosicrucians, and Z. Budapest, to name a few. I was led to new places by various signs, a raccoon that crawled onto my lap, a fox in the middle of the road, a UFO, a gut feeling, or a strangerâ€™s chance remark. Some lessons were gentle, some were harsh.
I learned my power as a woman, and my connection to the She Spirit who gave birth to the Universe, and nurtures and sustains it as well. I studied many religions. I learned to be sensitive to outward signs of guidance, and to heed messages from my body and psyche. I began to manifest my will through spells and magic, quickly learning that I did not know enough to tell the Universe what I wanted, because I always left out some important factor, which ruined it all. Thus, I have learned to submit myself to the Divine Will.
Seven years later, my old truck broke down for the last time, and I lost my job. But then, two weeks later, in one glorious day, I was given a new truck and a new job. In answer to a prayer, I was assigned to use my show business talents to translate from the Bible to the stage, produce and direct, the story of Jesus himself.
Stripped of all the misrepresentation and distortion by power-seeking preachers, I saw why people have tried to live up to his teachings over the centuries. His wisdom is perhaps the most profound distillation of Divine Wisdom the world has ever known. I call myself a "Jesusian" now, which allows me to think for myself and enjoy all other paths to the Divine.
And everything that I have ever needed has always been provided.
Thank you, Holy One.
All my life, I had heard people talk about the voice of God, but had never known anyone who had actually heard this voice and I had never heard it myself. I had gotten impressions and ideas that seemed to come out of the blue, but attributed them to mere passing thoughts. That changed with the following two incidents.
The first incident that altered my perception of Godâ€™s (or some internal guidance systemâ€™s voice) occurred on a summer night. I was driving through a residential area of the small town in which I live, and came to an intersection intending to make a left turn. There were no other cars nearby and the large trees growing near the intersection were heavily laden with summer foliage. The street lights filtering through the leaves left the intersection in mottled darkness.
An instant before I started my left-hand turn, I heard a distinct voice in my head command, "Donâ€™t turn!" It seemed to be a male voice and was very forceful. It startled me (to say the least) and I felt as if I could not turn. Just as I passed through the intersection, I saw a bicycle with two boys on it come out of the shadows on my left. I gasped in horror at what would have happened to those two boys if I had not heard (and heeded) the voice and had made the left turn. They both would probably have been killed or badly injured.
Needless to say, I sincerely thanked the Entity behind the guiding voice. Those boys will never know how close they came to disaster and how this voice saved them that night. For me, the incident changed my life. I now know something is guiding me. I may not always let that guidance into my awareness but I continue to work at listening better and have confidence in what I do sense. I also know hearing Godâ€™s (or my Guideâ€™s) voice is not just a religious platitude. And I am beginning to believe that what we call intuition is a quieter version of the voice I heard that night. However, in that particular instance, a commanding voice was what was needed to save those two lives. An intuitional hint probably would not have been sufficient.
The second incident was not as dramatic, but it did have a strong impact on my life. At the time, I was agonizing over the decision of whether to leave my marriage of twenty-five years. My marital relationship was becoming increasingly intolerable due to my husband's controlling attitude and behavior. I felt he was trying to stamp out all the things that I valued in myself. Yet, it was extremely difficult to leave my home and all that was familiar, as well as three children still living at home.
On the particular day that I heard the guiding voice, I was sitting alone on the living room couch crying and in an agony of indecision. Suddenly, a male voice in my head clearly said, "Donâ€™t you know I go before you to prepare the way?" My tears instantly dried and I knew that I would never be alone whether I stayed or left. However, it was the assurance of support that I needed to help me make the decision to terminate my marriage.
Since then, that support has been there for me, though not always in the way I expect. Looking back, I can see the way truly has been prepared for me.
"Take the Medicine Wheel to Switzerland." Startled, I turned and looked about me from my seat on the rocky, desert ground in Arizona. There were only small cactus plants on this hilly spot. I looked to the mountains in front and behind me. I centered myself and resumed my meditation. Shortly, I heard the voice again, louder this time.
"Take the Medicine Wheel to Switzerland." I felt rather edgy this time. Never having experienced this sort of occurrence, I was bothered. As a registered nurse I knew about audio hallucinations. My experience led me to believe that it occurred only to people who were psychotic and had lost touch with reality. I was fully aware of who I was, where I was, and why I was in meditation in the Wheel this day. I was sane.
I stood up, exercised my body briefly, engaged in deep breathing to clear my mind, and sat down to complete my Wheel experience. Almost immediately, it came again very loud and insistent. "Take the Medicine Wheel to Switzerland!"
For the third time, I looked everywhere around me, but could see no one. I sat there trying to comprehend why I was being given this message and by whom. It began to make sense to me; so I completed my meditation and walked home relieved.
A Therapeutic Touch colleague who was living in Switzerland had asked me to come to her small town, Martigny, to give a couple of seminars to the nurses in their hospital as well as the general public. The focus of my talks was to be about the power and consequences of the projection of our unspoken thoughts. She also asked if I would be willing to give an all day workshop if there was enough interest. I had committed to do this. She was to let me know in time for me to prepare.
A few years prior, I had learned the Medicine Wheel meditation from John Redtail Freesoul. I found it to be helpful in making positive and appropriate decisions, and had begun sharing this orderly method of seeking internal wisdom beyond thought and emotion with small groups of friends.
My trip to Switzerland was in less than two weeks. I had just received a letter from Helene (this was in January 1991; before e-mail was commonplace) informing me that thirty-five people were signed up for the all day workshop. I was quite anxious as I had several responsibilities to attend to before going and had little time to prepare new material for a day long workshop.
Resolving a personal situation in order to clear my mind of that issue was important for me to do before leaving. I had just completed a personal interaction that felt complete and positive, yet left me feeling shaky. So I had gone into the Medicine Wheel to calm and center myself. The Medicine Wheel honors the wisdoms of the Four Directions. Wise spirits are invited into each direction. I followed the prescribed pattern as I always had. Although I believed in help and guidance from unseen sources, I had never heard a human voice coming from outside myself with no visible body present.
As I sat in the North contemplating this directive, I thought what a good idea the Medicine Wheel would be for the day long workshop. I had been practicing it for almost four years, informally shared it numerous times with friends, and introduced it publicly in a small workshop in a nearby community. I would need only a small amount of preparation. I could do it.
On the airplane, I reread the guide book, went over and over my notes, but began to question the wisdom of my decision. I asked myself, "What am I, a pale face, doing taking a Native American tradition to Europe?"
I began to feel panic. Thoughts of self-doubt predominated and I feared I was somehow violating an unwritten agreement not to claim knowledge of anotherâ€™s cultural beliefs. It was nighttime as I looked out of the window of the plane. We were over the Atlantic and the sky was clear. The full moon sent a strong beam of light straight down to the ocean below. The beam of light was a strong spiritual sign for me and though still nervous, I felt reassured.
My colleague was excited about my choice of subject. We practiced the timing with her interpreting my material into French. The day arrived. We were meeting in a basement room of the hospital. I began by explaining the sacredness of the Medicine Wheel and elicited that focus from the participants. As I said these words, a strong gust of wind came from behind me over my shoulders. There were no windows in the room and no vents blowing air. I relaxed, fully believing some form of Native American presence was with me. The workshop went smoothly and the participants were grateful for what they learned that day.
Back at home, I began to teach Medicine Wheel formally. Although today, my teaching is informal and usually individualized, practice of the Medicine Wheel continues to give me personal guidance when I am deliberating challenging decisions. I have never heard voices within the Wheel since that eventful day. I have no intellectual explanation. I can only assume that, for a reason I do not fully understand, I was fulfilling a spiritual purpose.