The Black Pits And The Pendulum

March, 1992: I was trying to figure out what to do with myself and where I wanted to go with my life. I’d been through two breakups in the previous few months. Alexandra and I had grown apart, and as far as I could tell it seemed like that separation was going to be permanent. (I was wrong, but didn’t know that at the time.) My writing had become almost non-existent, I was facing the possibility of dropping out of collegeĀ for lack of money, and while my exploring spirituality hadn’t ground to a halt, it was starting to feel pointless or foolish.

Part of that not grinding to a halt was reading a book by psychic Ruth Montgomery called Aliens Among Us. One of the chapters was about a Cherokee medicine man who created paintings of scenes from other worlds he said he had visited through astral travel. (I’m not giving his name here because I want this blog to stay anonymous and anyone who knows me well would think of his name as a search term, but it’s easy enough to look up.) And as it turned out, he lived just two miles from the college where I had just spent so much time with Alexandra and Tanya doing our spiritual explorations, as well as more recently dating someone who had broken up with me only a few days before.

Addresses and phone numbers for each of the people in the book were given in the back of Aliens Among Us, and the phone book verified that the medicine man still lived there. I wrote to him (a real letter, remember, this was 1992) and asked if we could meet. He responded immediately and said yes, and to call him. So I did, and we arranged a time that Tanya and I would go visit.

I could write a whole entry about that visit alone, and certainly the next four years that we were friends before his passing in January of 1996, of cancer in a hospital in the middle of a blizzard that shut down the region around us and buried my car in a snowdrift. But the one thing I want to concentrate on here is that he was the one who introduced me to the idea of using a pendulum, and taught me how to use it.

The basics: The first pendulum I used was a simple key ring tied with string to a thin twig of wood. I kept a long string, which I would roll up around the wood when I wasn’t using it. The idea was that you would concentrate on a question or an idea, and that the pendulum would respond by swinging this way or that, answering in a way that would be predetermined. Or rather, you could ask the pendulum to predetermine it. In my case, the first time I used it – and it worked surprisingly well that first time – it “told” me that a circle was yes, back and forth was no, a diagonal was maybe / undetermined, and side to side was unknown. This hasn’t changed for me in almost twenty-five years.

The idea of using a pendulum hit me at the right time. I’d let my meditations and experiments with clairvoyance and clairaudience completely slide, and seemed no longer capable of doing them anymore. Tanya and I still occasionally used a Ouija board, but by that point she had moved out of the immediate area and so our visits, and using the board, were infrequent. The pendulum worked well for me right from the start, as I said, and spectacularly well after a few sessions, so it became a way to keep connected with that sort of seeking and experimenting.

What’s driving the pendulum to move? My guess is that I am – little twitches of my muscles, while I’m making a conscious effort to keep it as still as possible. The medicine man explained that unlike trance channeling, automatic writing, Ouija boards, and the like, he believed that what came through in the pendulum was completely ourselves – though from our subconscious, by which he meant that part of ourselves that exists well beyond our physical bodies and is in touch with the rest of the physical and spiritual worlds. The pendulum didn’t do anything more than we could do ourselves when it came to tapping into those larger places, but that it was a simple external way to do so.

So what to ask? Almost anything. The pendulum, he explained, could answer questions about the here and now, practically anything in the present moment – even locating missing objects. (The dowsing rod that people have used for centuries to find water and other such things is essentially another form of the pendulum.)

When I use it, I try ignoring the pendulum itself as much as possible. That is, I’ll try to focus completely on my question, or an image, or a person I’m thinking about, and not the physical motion of the pendulum until I re-center my attention back on it.

The one thing he said not to ask about was the future. Not that this was dangerous, but that the future was so fluid it was pointless to do so.

In that case, I’ll admit I didn’t listen to his advice. (See previous entry about my interest in precognition.) I also ran across the idea of probabilities in Jane Roberts’ Seth books – that the future exists in probabilities of what could happen depending on our actions and the circumstances our souls have set up for us, some much stronger than others. So instead of asking for specific information about the future, I would ask for what I eventually came to call the “strongest probability”, along with less strong ones down the line.

(On a side note: Now and again I’ve systematically tested what the pendulum has told me, both about certain present circumstances and questions about the future. I’ve typically found that it has about a 65-70% accuracy rate overall.)

The pendulum is the one thing I’ve done consistently over the years when it came to spirituality and the paranormal – though there have been long stretches when I didn’t use it for spirituality and the paranormal. It’s also a great way to gain self-insight and focusing on what is going through your head – it can be very much like questioning yourself. I’m adept at not examining my own motives sometimes, so it’s one way to break through to myself in an honest way. I’ve also used it on many occasions to break through writer’s block.

And I’ve used it when I’ve been deep in depression and felt like the depression would never let me go.

These are the “black pits” I wrote about here early on – the worst of the depressive moods that could last for hours to weeks. The ones that make me feel like I’m a disappointment to everyone, that nothing I do is worth anything, that everything is pointless, that everything is hopeless. I’ve never been suicidal, as I wrote before, but when I’m in those moods I just want to leave forever, find some island in the middle of nowhere, and stay on it for the rest of my life.

But I’ve brought out the pendulum during those times too. Whatever triggers the black pits, sometimes an external event but as often as not flooding over me like a tsunami from out of nowhere, my subconscious exists beyond the depression. And there have been many, many times when I’ve used the pendulum to reassure myself that no, this would not last forever. No, your life and the things you do are not pointless. No, your friends and family don’t think you’re a disappointment to them, or don’t really care about you and are just hiding it.

That no, not everything is hopeless.

These days the pendulum I use the most is actually a pocket watch I bought years ago. The watch part hasn’t worked in twenty years, but it doesn’t need to. It works as a pendulum, depression or no, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at that swinging watch with the only glimmer of hope I could muster at that moment. The watch in itself has become a symbol of hope and pushing through and up and out of the black pits.

The pendulum doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear. Heck, very often it doesn’t. But it does often tell me what I need to hear, especially when I’m stuck at the bottom.

I’m not sure the medicine man ever envisioned me using it that way, but I’m certain he would have been pleased with it.


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