Interment at devotion, North Carolina

On January 4, 1995, the following death-notice appeared in the Winston Salem journal


One of the three scientists ordered to leave the Surry County estate of Richard Joshua Reynolds died last night after suffering a heart attack and falling down a flight of steps.

Dr. Andrija Puharich, aged 76, fell about 7:15 p.m. Puharich was extremely frail and his health had been failing, said Susan Mandell, who took care of Puharich. Mandell said earlier that Puharich would not fight the magistrate’s eviction order, and that he was waiting for his social security check because he couldn’t afford to move.

The other scientists, Elizabeth Rauscher and William Van Bise, are fighting the eviction order, and said that Puharich had changed his mind and had filed to fight the eviction order.

The executor of the estate said that he had recently talked to Surry County Social Services to get Puharich involuntarily committed so he would get some medical help. “I knew he could not continue in that environment without first class medical attention.”

To the people who had known Andrija Puharich, the news of his death came as a shock. Many knew that his health had been failing, but few were aware that, in spite of his frail condition, he was fighting an eviction order. It had all started in June 1994 when Richard Joshua Reynolds died.

In 1980, Josh, as his friends called him, had invited Andrija to the estate to study the effects of electromagnetic field on brain waves.

However, when he died, he had not provided for Andrija in his will. The executor handling the sale of the estate had no alternative than to ask Andrija to vacate the premises. The date was set for September 15, 1994. Andrija was resolved to leave, sadly, but nevertheless with all intent. However, in July 1994, he collapsed and was hospitaised. Examination showed severe diabetes; kidney failure, related to the diabetes; anemia, secondary to the kidney function; high blood pressure; progressive dementia, due to the anemia and lack of blood supply to the brain.

He had sudden violent outbursts, pulled out IV’s and pulled off the telemetry patches. He also had a rash on his leg, a possible onset of gangrene.

The doctors advised Andrija to look for placement in a rest home, but he refused to even consider it. It was then decided to return him to the care of Susan Mandell, but to keep placement in a rest home in mind. On the day of his discharge Andrija was stable, talkative and in good spirits, but on the way home he suddenly developed generaised weakness and was re-hospitaised. A few days later he insisted again on leaving, and Susan signed him out.

If only he had not been so bull-headed he might still be alive.

Andrija Puharich was my former husband, and father of my two children, Yvonne and Andy. We knew that he was seriously ill, and that he had to leave the estate. We had therefore come from Holland – where we have lived since 1965 – for a possible last visit, and to help with the packing and moving. This had been four months ago, in September 1994.

Unfortunately at the last minute Andrija refused to go with Andy to upstate New York, where Andy had rented and furnished a small apartment for his father and Susan, not too far from Maritza, Andrija’s daughter.

It was a sad ending of a difficult, but also wonderful visit. It was a time of lovingness. Danica, also a daughter from Andrija’s first marriage had joined us, and in the evening we would all sit on the porch, enjoying the sound of the rushing stream some yards out in front, and the racket of the crickets. Andrija was like a child, loving every minute of our company. With a happy smile on his face he would look at each of us and say over and over again that we should do this more often. He thought it was Christmas, and he thanked me for getting the whole gang together. “You were always such a great organizer,” he said.

It was wonderful to see how, because of this happiness, his periods of lucidity became longer each day. We acted like the lovebirds we once were, holding hands and chatting away, to the delight of the children. They had never seen their parents that way.

And now, only four months later we are back in North Carolina for the interment.

We sit together quietly as we drive through the rugged countryside in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains towards ‘Devotion’, the Reynold’s estate.

Glancing over my shoulder, I see Yvonne’s hand on the black plastic box that contains her father’s ashes. Her face is pale, her eyes large and dark. The same beautiful blue as her father’s used to be. What is she thinking?

So much has happened since we left the Netherlands three days ago. After the call that Andrija had fallen down the stairs and died, we had taken the next possible flight from Amsterdam to North Carolina. Because none of the other children could come we had taken it upon us to fulfill Andrija’s wish to be cremated.

I shudder as I remember the conversation with the gentleman from the funeral home. To perform an inexpensive cremation – there was no insurance, and no money – he would pick up Andrija’s body at Mt. Airy hospital in Dobson, bring it to Greensboro – the only crematorium for Surry County – and execute the cremation as soon as possible. Thinking of the way it is done in the Netherlands. I had asked if we could be anywhere close by to sit in prayer, and if we could see the body.

“I’m sorry,” he answered, “that’s not customary. Besides, we might do the cremation at night.”

“With nobody present, nobody to say goodbye to him?” I asked.

“I thought you wanted it as inexpensive as possible. If you want another kind of cremation…”

“No, but it sounds so cold and heartless. How will you bring Dr. Puharich to Greensboro?”

“In a body-bag, ma’am.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Andy had handed me a tissue and put his arm around me, “papa taught us that the body is only a place where the soul lives temporarily”, he said, “it is not him in that bag, mama.”

I could tell by his voice that he too was shocked and in the eyes of Yvonne I saw the same.

“He also told us that the body is a temple for the soul. Even in the poorest part of India, they cremate their dead with respect,” I had whispered.

Seeing our distress, the gentleman promised to deliver Andrija’s ashes to the motel, so we could have a private ceremony.

Next to me, handsome in his dark suit, my son looks solemn. I know that he is thinking of how to conduct the ceremony, what to say. I would like to voice my feelings also, but I know that I won’t be able to. Instead I’ll read a last farewell that Phyllis Schlemmer, a long-time friend of Andrija, has given me. It is from Judith Skutch, another friend, and supporter of his work. Unable to come herself, she had faxed the message to Phyllis:

“Beloved teacher… it is with tremendous gratitude that I celebrate your life today. You will never know how profoundly you influenced my life. There must be thousands of others who can say the same thing. Go in peace and watch over us. With love. “

Judith’ words reflect my own feelings. Andrija had been my teacher also, and he certainly influenced my life profoundly. Although we were together for only seven years, we had known each other for nearly forty.

I had just turned 26 when I met Andrija. I was a happy girl, very much in love with a wonderful boy, with whom I was to go to Holland to visit my parents, and afterwards to India. How differently everything had turned out.

Meeting him after he had just taken his mentally ill wife to a hospital, Andrija -then Dr. Puharich, to me – begged me to take care ‘temporarily’ of his three daughters. When we were “young and foolish” and fell in love, my life changed drastically. Instead of going with my friend to Holland, I became a full-time mother of three little girls, and later of a daughter and son of my own.

After we had signed the papers necessary for the release of Andrija’s body from the hospital the next day, we were surprised when asked if we wanted to see the deceased. Andy and I had said yes. but Yvonne did not feel up to it. The room we were taken to was nothing more than a storage room, a large closet where they, kept mops. pails, and other cleaning paraphernalia. The nursing supervisor, a nice lady, with a kind face and a soft compassionate voice, warned us that the body had not had any cosmetic treatment and was still as it was at the time of death. We nodded our understanding; glad that at least we were able to say goodbye. After she had put on surgical gloves, the supervisor opened a metal door in the corner of the room and pulled back the plastic shield that covered the body. Yvonne was right not to have come with us.

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to erase this last memory of Andrija. His forehead was bruised from the fall down the stairs and under the hairline a wound was visible. His lower denture was gone, receding his lower jar grotesquely. Yet he had a peaceful expression as if he were merely asleep. I kissed his forehead, whispered my thanks for the love we had shared and the children he gave me, and wished him God speed. We were numb with grieve.

Crossing the last of six wooden bridges that span the Mitchell River, we are on the driveway that leads to the big old house. Such sadness, the whole place.

Inside the same filth and stench as in September, with zillion cats scurrying away. I can still hear Andrija’s slippered feet shuffling towards the stairs. We had wondered how he still managed to get up and down, unaided and we had been afraid that one day he would slip.

Quickly I go outside to the porch where he used to sit by the hour, enjoying the sound of the rushing stream. I watch the people assembled talking to the reporter from The Charlotte Observer.

Phyllis, and Henry Belk, a businessman from North Carolina, are the only people I know. Israel Carmel is there too. He is a healer and Phyllis’ husband. Another medium, like Phyllis, is Mary Myer. She has brought a portable cassette player and a bouquet of red roses. Joseph, her husband is an engineer and a psychical researcher. Also Elizabeth Rauscher, the other scientist who faces eviction, is present. We are waiting for Susan.

Off to the side I spot Kenneth, the caretaker of the estate. He is a big, burly, bearded man with the kindest eyes I have ever seen. When I had first met him in September, he wore a cowboy hat and, what looked like a shark-tooth necklace on his hairy chest. He carried a knife and a gun, “to protect me from snakes,” he said. He was at the time with his little daughter, and his tenderness towards her, belied his stern exterior. He and his wife had come to love and respect Andrija.

I touch the small gold wedding band on my right hand ring finger. Not wanting it any longer, I had given it to Yvonne many years ago. “Maybe you want to wear it today,” my thoughtful daughter had said.

When Susan appears, Andy asks us to follow him to the bridge for the scattering of the ashes ceremony. He is hugging a white porcelain urn close to his heart.

“I welcome you all on this sad day to say goodbye to a man who has meant a great deal to each and everyone of us at one point or other during his life on planet Earth. I thank you for coming. Some of my dad’s friends couldn’t be here today, but they have faxed their good-byes. May I ask you to read them, and your own farewells, out loud, please.”

While in the background the music softly plays, I listen to the words of love, admiration, and gratitude for Andrija’s “pioneering spirit; his courage to tread new paths and open new doors through which he guided others with kindness, generosity and humor.”

Although my voice quivers and tears make my vision blurry, I manage to read Judith’ message, adding a few words of love of my own.

When all the good-byes are spoken, we stand in a circle and hold hands. Only the sound of flowing water overruns the silence. My daughter’s hand feels icy, as must mine feel in hers, and we tighten our grip.

After Andy has given us a chance to touch the urn, or the ashes, as most of us do, he tips the urn over the railing of the bridge. “Goodbye daddy,” he whispers, “have a save journey to the other side.”

One by one we drop a red rose into the churning water of the Mitchell River and watch them float away. When everybody leaves, we remain behind for a last farewell of our own. A white patch in the river marks the end of an era,” as Elizabeth Rauscher had poignantly stated.

Back at the motel the topic of conversation is of course Andrija.

“Such a remarkable man.”‘ I hear Phyllis say. “It was a joy working with him. I have just rewritten my, book The Only Planet Of Choice. I feel that Andrija as the founder of the original group that worked with the Council of Nine should be in it too.”

Many years ago I had beard about “The Nine” from Andy, who or what they were I had no idea.

With mischievous eyes and his typical southern drawl, Henry Belk remembers the “fun” he had with Andrija. “All those wonderful things we did together forty years ago. Do you remember Peter Hurkos?” he asks me. ‘I brought him to the United States to be studied by André.”

“Sure, I remember!’ ” I wonder if he ever knew how angry I used to be with him when Andrija, on more than one occasion had stayed away most of the night giving demonstrations with the psychic Hurkos in order to get financial support for his research from Henry’s friends.

Listening to the people talk about Andrija, I reaise that I hardly know anything about the work he did for the past twenty years. For a long time after I had left I maintained an interest in his work, but in 1974, I got fed up with him. This was undoubtedly also the reason why his three daughters were not present today. Asked about this by the reporter, who had read somewhere that Dr. Puharich had six children, I had excused their absence as being due to out of state residence, work and family commitments. Besides, I told her, they knew that their father was seriously ill and said goodbye when they visited him in July and September of 1994.

All, except one, I reflect, and I wonder how old Athena now is. Is she fifteen or sixteen? She is Andrija’s youngest daughter from his fourth marriage. Maybe she doesn’t even know that her father died. I hope that one day she’ll believe that he did love her very much, as he did all his children.

Although I too had felt unloved often enough, I always tried to convince them that they were wrong. Socrates, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and many other great minds weren’t the best of husbands and fathers either. Were they incapable of love?

I remember Andrija telling somebody that the happiest time of his life with me had been when we were together in his study, both reading and studying while his three little girls were safe and snug in their beds. Another time, we had five children by then, he said that when he was away he missed us achingly, but while at home he took us for granted. Many years later he asked me why I had always been so angry with him and why I had left him? He really didn’t know.

To my surprise I hear somebody say: “Andrija was such a spiritual man.

“He must be kidding! Andrija was fascinating and exciting. “Never a dull moment with Puharich,” as a friend of us used to say, but spiritual? To me a spiritual person has overcome the desire for worldly goods or acclaim. The Andrija I knew certainly did not fit that bill. He must have spirituaised later.

“Are you all right, Bep? You’re so quiet”

“I’m sorry, Phyllis. I was thinking of the past.”

“The death of a loved one usually brings that on. I hope you’ll also remember the good things you shared. Andrija was not an easy person to live with. Especially for the women in his life he was difficult. How are his daughters taking the death of their father?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to them about it.”

‘When are you flying back home?”

“On the twenty-second of January. I’ll spend some time with Maritza and my grandchildren first. Andy, Yvonne and I are driving to New York tomorrow.”

“Please say hello to Maritza.”

“I will.”

‘Well, I’m afraid we have to leave. It was wonderful of you and your beautiful children to have come.”

“Nice seeing you again, Phyllis. Thank you for contacting Andrija’s old friends.”

“You’re welcome, dear. It was the least I could do.”

Later that evening I asked Andy to enlighten me on the “Council of Nine.”

“It’s a long story,” he answered, “but to put it in a nutshell, it’s a circle of universal beings living outside time and space.”

“Oh!” And Phyllis is the medium through which these beings speak` “Don’t sound so skeptical, mama. Phyllis has convinced many scientists that she is a genuine medium.”

“I’m sure she is, but I’m a bit confused. I didn’t reaise that the Nine also have to do with outer-space stuff. Uri Geller was also a medium, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, sort of. An extra-terrestrial, called Hoova spoke through him. They all work towards the same goal.”

‘What goal?”

“To warn us that the earth is in deep shit and about to destroy itself. Have you ever read Uri?”

“I tried to, but it was too much hocus pocus for me. Maybe I’ll try again.”

“You should. By the way, you still have ‘Briefing For the Landing on Planet Earth’ I lent you. Read that too. It’s a very good book, written by an objective observer of the channeling sessions.”

“The what?”

“The sessions when Phyllis is in trance.”

“There’s so much I don’t know! Are you familiar with the Nine, Yvon?”

“Not really, but I hope to be soon. Phyllis has asked me to translate her book. Apparently a Dutch publisher has shown an interest.”

“How wonderful! Just the thing you said you’d like to do, being involved with daddy’s work. Maybe…”

“Hey you guys!” Andy interrupted, “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a beer, and some television.”

“One more question and then I’ll leave you two. When you were fourteen, Andy, you told me that you were a space-kid. What did you mean by that?”

“That any minute now my eyes will turn green. Next my antenna will pop out of my head, and I’ll beam you to your room. I’ll tell you another time, mama. Goodnight!”

That night I lay awake long. Could it be true that Andrija had been in contact with space intelligence? Who was this “Maverick,” as he used to call himself?

Was he, to quote Aldous Huxley: “One of the most brilliant minds in parapsychology”? Or had he been a man who was easily misguided by so-called psychics, a man who told tales, or had he been crazy? During my short marriage to him I had often accused him of being too gullible, too naive. I had admired his brilliant mind, and begged him to use it for research that would benefit mankind. For a while he did, when he and a friend worked on a hearing aid that would give sound a new route to the brain – through the teeth and facial nerves. The device, for which a patent was granted, would eventually consist of a miniature microphone and transmitter, to be worn on the wrist, or carried in a pocket, and a miniature receiver to be installed in a hollow false tooth. Through contact with nerve ends in a live tooth next to the false one, electric signals would be transmitted via the dental and facial nerves to the brain. How proud I had been when Andrija told me jubilantly that they had made a deaf person hear. All they had to do from there on was to bring the complex equipment down to portable size.

He had stumbled upon the possibility of nerve conduction as a means of helping the deaf, by accident. When he and his friend Joe Lawrence were both captains at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Md., (Andrija in the Medical Corps and Joe in the Dental Corps) Andrija treated a boy who suffered from hearing voices in his head. When he learned that the boy was a cutter, and that he worked with carborundum stones, he had Joe replace the fillings in his teeth.

His assumption, that if carborundum dust came into contact with amalgam fillings the tooth would operate as a radio receiver, had been correct. The voices in the boy’s head stopped.

Too bad Andrija had not pursued the research. It may have given him the recognition he later on in life felt was withheld from him.

After we had returned to the Netherlands, we received the obituary that a friend of Andrija’s had sent to the N.Y. Times Newspaper and Time Magazine.

She had also faxed it to newspapers in London. Reykjavik. Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Los Angels: DIED, ANDRIJA PUHARICH, M.D. LLD. 76 – internationally acclaimed American scientist, inventor, researcher, physicist, theorist, and author – of heart failure, in North Carolina. Editor of “THE ICELAND PAPERS” (Select Papers on Experimental and Theoretical Research on the Physics of Consciousness) 1979.

Dr. Puharich was a leader in the field of psychical research, merging quantum mechanics and relativity into a new scientific world-view to examine the way in which brain/mind function gives rise to a focused consciousness.

Member of many scientific societies and recipient of numerous awards and honors, Dr. Puharich’s many friends and colleagues knew him as a true Renaissance Man. Six children and three grandchildren survive him.

To write an obituary about Andrija must have been difficult. What to put in? He had done so many things. In addition to The Iceland Papers and Uri he wrote The Sacred Mushroom, 1959, and Beyond Telepathy, 1962, both published by Double day & Company, and both reissued in 1974 by Doubleday in paperback editions. He also collaborated on a book by John G. Fuller, Arigo, Surgeon of the Rusty Knife, and published over fifty papers and articles in scientific and professional journals.

It was then and there that I decided to have a try at writing Andrija’s biography. Not only to satisfy my own curiosity as to what had made Andrija such a controversial figure, but hopefully also to bring to the children a better understanding of their father.


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