occult
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Don't be fooled as I was. Recognize occultic influences for what they are.

I didn't want to face my furies. I wanted someone else to do it for me. As a compulsive person, I was particularly vulnerable to the quick fix of mind-bending fads and cults.

Compulsive people are dependency-prone. And from childhood I'd been attracted by the invisible world.

Superstition was part and parcel of New England life. There were rabbit's foot keychains and horseshoes nailed over doorways.

Then came the Ouija board craze. Great mysteries were revealed by this means, a neighbor assured me. She had special clairvoyant insights, and in my early teens I made frequent visits to her house seeking answers to all kinds of problems.

Once as a seventh-grader, my friend Betty Lou and I attended a magic show at the Barre (Vermont) Municipal Auditorium. When the magician needed volunteers, we streaked to the stage.

Perched on wooden folding chairs, we stared obediently into his intense blue eyes. Later friends told us that after being given hypnotic suggestions, we had scratched frantically as if covered by fleas and shivered violently from icy cold blasts.

Afterward, my mind wouldn't focus. I felt confused, disjointed. The next morning I made the mile walk back to the auditorium. At my knock the door was flung open, and there he stood.

"I'm one of the people you hypnotized last night," I told him. "I've felt strange ever since you woke us up. My mind seems fuzzy. Everything is all mixed up."

"You must be one of the very sensitive ones," he replied. "Really, what I did last night was routine. Perhaps you went into a higher plane of consciousness than the others."

He pulled a chair beside mine and explained that he would call upon a higher power to help me. I didn't understand the words he used after that.

Ten minutes or more passed. His voice trailed off into a chant.

"You should have no further problems now, Miss," he said.

I thanked him weakly and backed out of the room. But a part of me that had felt safe and secure before, now felt violated.

Dabbling With Deception
Psychic phenomena continued to fascinate and lure me. Shortly after representing my state as Miss Vermont in the Miss America pageant, I visited a woman who told fortunes with a deck of cards.

I was alarmed by my tendency toward compulsive behavior, and I started looking for control outside myself. If my horoscope said to beware of short trips, I'd hesitate to cross the street for a cup of coffee.

When my marriage failed to supply the needed external control, I sought out a psychic. She called herself Madame X, and I began to depend on her for most of my decisions.

At one visit she announced that we had been joined by her "spirit guide," who also happened to be her dead mother. Together they went into the previous lifetimes they said I'd had. I was eager to believe these revelations, my imagination captivated by the intrigue of my supposed past.

One of my friends, Lois Ann, tried to warn me about the psychic's ploys. She even brought a Bible to my house one day and read to me: "Let no one be found among you...who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord" (Deut. 18:10­12, NIV).

Influenced, I thought, by her Roman Catholic faith, Lois Ann called such practices "occult." They were, she informed me, "an abomination to God." It struck me as a little far out, but I didn't say anything.

Compulsively driven as I was, I often turned my parenting responsibilities for my children, Brad, Brent and Lisa, over to my cleaning lady, Hilda, so that I could focus on my civic projects and social engagements. Werner, my workaholic doctor husband, also was seldom available to them.

A breakup was the last thing I wanted for myself and our children. Nevertheless, Werner and I got a legal separation in 1970 and divorced the following year.

In time my son Brad chose to live with his father. Several years later Brent joined him.

Meanwhile, I married again. My new husband, Randall, was a sharp trial lawyer. The children and I were happier, and I resumed my hectic social schedule.

In my obsessive busyness, I didn't realize that no amount of outside activity--only a transformation inside--could satisfy. I continued to cry out for answers from anyone and everyone.

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