Pike, James A. (James Albert), 1913-1969 (Spirit)

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James Albert Pike (1913-1969) was an American clergyman, lawyer, and author. He wrote and spoke extensively on the church and social problems, Christian and legal ethics, pastoral psychology, psychical research, and spiritualism.

Pike was born February 14th, 1913 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to James A. Pike and Pearl Agatha Wimsatt Pike. After his father died he moved to California with his mother where he graduated from Hollywood High School in 1930 and attended the Santa Clara University for two years. From 1932-1933 he attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), then transferred to the University of Southern California (USC), where he received his BA in 1934 and an LLB from the university's law school in 1936. That same year he was admitted to the California bar.

Pike received a Sterling Fellowship and spent part of 1936-1937 studying for a doctorate in law at Yale, where he was awarded the JSD in 1938. He served as an expert in federal procedure at Catholic University Law School (1938-1939) and in civil procedures at George Washington University Law School (1939-1942), then with a fellow lawyer he established the law firm of Pike and Fischer, specializing in the publication of books on federal judicial and administrative procedure.

Pike married Jane Alvies in Los Angeles on August 14, 1928. They separated at the beginning of 1940 and were divorced in October 1941. On January 29, 1942, he married Esther Yanovsky, whom he had met while she was attending his law class at George Washington. He and Esther had four children: Catherine, James Jr., Constance, and Christopher.

In 1942 Pike joined the Office of Naval Intelligence and later sought and received a commission as Lieutenant (jg) in the Naval Reserve. In 1943 he was accepted as a postulant in the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1944 he moved to the United States Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration, but then requested and received inactive duty status due to his ordination as deacon in December of that year. His first appointment in the Church was as curate at St. John's Church in Washington. At the same time, he served as chaplain to Episcopal students at George Washington and studied at Virginia Theological Seminary.

In 1946 he left Washington to become a fellow and tutor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, and a few months later (November 1, 1946) he was ordained to the priesthood of the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1947 he was appointed rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, New York; he also served as chaplain to students at Vassar College. In 1949 he became chaplain at Columbia University in New York; together with Professor Ursula Niebuhr he established Columbia's Department of Religion.

In 1952 Pike became Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where he made the pulpit a place for discussion of the religious and social problems of the day. He became known as a spokesman for liberal Protestantism and in 1955 was invited by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) to host a series television programs. In 1956 he participated in a trip to Israel to study and report on Arab refugee problems, and in 1957 he was appointed to the Zellerbach Commission, which studied refugee issues across Europe.

He was selected bishop-coadjutor by the annual convention of the diocese of California and consecrated to the position May 15, 1958; later that year, following the death of Bishop Karl Morgan Block, he became the fifth Bishop of California. He held the position for seven years, until he resigned in 1965 after a sabbatical at Cambridge. Shortly thereafter (1966) he joined the staff at the Center for Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, where he established a foundation to aid people experiencing a transition in their religious lives and began an extensive schedule of speaking engagements.

A series of inexplicable events following the suicide of James Jr. in 1966 convinced Pike that his son was attempting to communicate with h im from beyond the grave, and he turned his investigative attention to the field of psychic phenomena. This capped an increasingly contentious career, as Pike's outspoken views on theological and social issues (including ordination of women, racial desegregation, and acceptance of lesbians and gays within mainline churches) had already disturbed his fellow clergy. Pike was charged with heresy three times (though the charges were dropped) and was formally censured by his fellow Bishops in October of 1966.

In 1967 Pike and Esther were divorced and Pike married Diane Kennedy, who had been his assistant at the foundation and who had helped him complete a book on psychic phenomena. In early 1969 Pike announced that he and his wife were officially ending their connection with the Episcopal Church in particular and with all forms of organized religion in general. Pike's continued interest in the early Christian church led him and Diane on a research trip to Israel in 1969 where they were lost on an expedition into the desert between Jerusalem and the Red Sea. Diane found her way to safety but Pike's body was found by a search party. He was buried at Jaffa in Israel on September 8, 1969.

From the guide to the James A. Pike Papers, 1868-1970, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Henry Hitt Crane Papers, 1902-1977, 1938-1964 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Charles H. Hapgood papers 1898-1979 1950-1979 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn William Stringfellow Papers, 1967 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Aaron W. Berg Papers, 1848-1977. Columbia University. Rare Book an Manuscript Library
referencedIn Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966. William Ernest Hocking Papers, 1860-1979 Houghton Library
referencedIn Paul W. Yinger Papers, 1928-1992 Graduate Theological Union
referencedIn Daniel Berrigan correspondence and Hanoi poems, 1965-1969 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Mike Wallace Papers, 1959-1961 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Hapgood, Charles H. Charles H. Hapgood papers, 1898-1979 (bulk 1950-1979). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Paul Blanshard Papers, 1912-1979 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf James A. Pike Papers, 1868-1970 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Reinhold Niebuhr Papers, 1907-1997, (bulk 1930-1990) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Andrew Sacks photographs, 1964-1980, 1964-1980 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bennett, John Coleman, 1902- person
associatedWith Berg, Aaron W., 1903-1978 person
correspondedWith Berrigan, Daniel person
associatedWith Blanshard, Paul, 1892- person
associatedWith Blanton, Smiley, 1882-1966 person
associatedWith Cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Coburn, John B. person
associatedWith Crane, Henry Hitt, 1890-1977 person
associatedWith Dickey, John Sloan, 1907- person
associatedWith Dillenberger, John. person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 person
associatedWith Episcopal Church corporateBody
associatedWith Exman, Eugene. person
associatedWith Fromm, Erich, 1900- person
associatedWith Grant, Frederick C. (Frederick Clifton), 1891-1974 person
associatedWith Hapgood, Charles H. person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Johnson, Howard Albert, 1915- person
associatedWith King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 person
associatedWith Krumm, John McGill, 1913- person
associatedWith Luce, Henry Robinson, 1898-1967 person
associatedWith Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893- person
associatedWith Miller, Randolph Crump, 1910- person
associatedWith Montefiore, Hugh. person
associatedWith Muste, Abraham John, 1885-1967 person
correspondedWith Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971 person
associatedWith Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898-1993 person
associatedWith Pfeffer, Leo, 1910- person
associatedWith Pittenger, W. Norman (William Norman), 1905- person
associatedWith Poling, Daniel A. (Daniel Alfred), 1884-1968 person
associatedWith Pollard, William G. (William Grosvenor), 1911-1989 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Sacks, Andrew person
associatedWith Sayre, Francis Bowes, 1885-1972 person
associatedWith Scott, Michael, 1907- person
associatedWith Shepherd, Massey Hamilton, 1913- person
associatedWith Sockman, Ralph W. (Ralph Washington), 1889-1970 person
associatedWith Stringfellow, William. person
associatedWith Wallace, Mike, 1918-2012 person
associatedWith Walsh, Chad, 1914- person
associatedWith Yinger, Paul Wesley, 1914-92 person
associatedWith Zabriskie, Alexander C. (Alexander Clinton), 1898-1956 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Legal ethics
Pastoral psychology
Philosophy and religion
Psychical research
Sermons, American
Activism and social reform
Christian ethics
Church and clergy
Church and social problems
Clergy as authors


Birth 1913

Death 1969


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