“I don’t think there are angels out there,” the man telling me this is a psychic. I called Don Clarkson to learn more about psychics working in Portland. He works out of an office downtown at 1033 SW Yamhill, and as his website will tell you, he’s a Psychic Counselor and Personal Coach. But by his own admission, he came to the business reluctantly. Clarkson was a real estate broker in 1978 when he attended a personal growth seminar called Life Spring. There was a one-day exercise called “Natural Knowing”. The participants went with a partner into a room and closed their eyes and watched for pictures to emerge from their subconscious. “I thought it was a joke: sit on the floor next to somebody you don’t know and go through this process.” In response to my curiosity, Clarkson invited me to his office.
I take the elevator to the fourth floor and walk down the hallway when I hear Don’s voice: “Are you lost?” I turn around, and see a tall broad-shouldered man with short silver hair, mustache and goatee. Clarkson ushers me into his office. I set my bag on the couch and sit down.
“Would you like some tea?” he offers and I say water would be fine, but we get to talking and soon forget about the water. Clarkson tells me how he first experienced psychic phenomena at Life Spring. “I started by describing her dining room, and I said there’s a chair in the corner and the back of it is broken. And she agreed, and I did that for 45 minutes, and everything I said was right . . . I was in tears and telling her, ‘This can’t be. You’re just saying that.’ And so, we decided to test it further.” Clarkson attempted to describe her best friend: “I see a woman sewing a floor-length black skirt with a bold flower-print.”
Finally, Clarkson was incorrect. Her friend didn’t sew. Clarkson tried again and said, “I think they’re having marital problems, because she’s seeing another man.” And the woman said, “No, you’re wrong. She has a great marriage.”
They took a break, and Clarkson went out to the parking lot to smoke a cigarette; and she went to a payphone and called her friend. She explained what she had been doing the last hour and conveyed how Clarkson described her sewing. Her friend was startled; she had just bought a sewing machine. When she also ventured there was marital problems, her friend confirmed this.
Clarkson describes this experience as “very shattering” and he spent the next two years in serious distress. He was a bookish reader, so he read everything he could find trying to prove or disprove the psychic experience – until he finally met a mentor. “A friend of mine had a party, and I went over and sat next to a woman. After a while I said, ‘Do you have an ex-husband named Rex?’ She looked at me and said, ‘I know that, but how do you?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know.'” The woman invited Clarkson to her office where she had an astrology practice.
“At the time,” Clarkson confides, “I had been doing it as a ‘parlor trick’ at parties – friends would say, ‘Give Don a name and he’ll tell you what their house looks like.’ I got tired of it. And I also felt weird. People would look at me weird, and I didn’t like that.” Clarkson says, “I told her and said, there must be more use for it than this.” She invited Clarkson to come back that night, to attend her class. She taught “Huna”, Hawaiian Shamanism, and gave Clarkson a context for going beyond parlor tricks.
“She said, ‘If you can read their house, can you do it for their health?'” In 1980, Clarkson started doing readings of people who came to her for counseling – people she just couldn’t figure out.
“She had a client,” Clarkson begins, “so I came in and closed my eyes and suddenly, I’m watching her as a nine year old and she’s getting into bed with her brother and they have sex. And that was tough; how do I bring this up? I fought that reading for like 15 minutes. So I finally opened my eyes. They were both waiting, and I described what I saw. She was just irate and said, ‘That’s got nothing to do with now’, and the counselor said to her, ‘Do you mean that’s true?’ Because, the woman’s issue was an inability to maintain a relationship with men. As I watched, I could see her parents were very abusive, alcoholic; and at the time I saw the brother as abusive – until I kept watching. I asked her, you did this until you were 15 or 16? and she said yes. You went into your brother’s bed for protection from abusive parents, and it became sexual? And she said yes. She hadn’t talked to her brother for years because of it, so she finally contacted her brother – he lived in another state – and they agreed that it wasn’t right, but that it was okay and they healed their relationship. Now every two or three years, I get a letter from her thanking me, because she got married and had children and had the courage to have a relationship.”
“I like the Huna model . . . well,” Clarkson muses, “the Tarot and Huna both. Tarot is incredibly complicated. It takes a lifetime to learn. I’ve been studying Tarot for 30 years and just scratched the surface.” Clarkson confides, “Huna is just the opposite: it’s very sensual. But, when you boil them down, they’re both about visualization. According to Huna, our assignment on Earth is to dialogue with our subconscious; there’s a God force in the Universe, but you’ll never figure it out; so don’t waste your time; don’t go there; your work is to figure out your own subconscious. Their metaphor for the subconscious is like the Internet, an Aka chord, an invisible golden chord. We don’t have to understand it to use it,” Clarkson points out. “So I’m a big fan of visualization and how to teach it and how to use it.”
“Huna suggests that you go outside your mind – by a power that’s outside your reasoning mind. There’s something in my subconscious that wants me to know,” Clarkson says.
I ask him about the Tarot, and how the cards fit one’s interpretation of their apparently random placement in a reading. “It’s your subconscious that’s organizing the cards; that’s making them accurate. I did a reading for a man and he said, well what if I draw the wrong card? And I said there isn’t a wrong card; it’s not about drawing the wrong card; it’s about what you can learn from that card. How much insight you can get. It isn’t magic. It isn’t out of the realm of the material. It’s the power of your mind that makes things appear to be magical – if it’s magical, than I’m excluded. What the Tarot is saying is we all have these powers within us. There’s something in me that does know what’s on the other side of the card.”
Given the power of the subconscious, Clarkson mentions, “A big problem for the individual is, we’re given images – all these inputs are pictures in our brains and they can cause us problems.” Clarkson emphasizes, “Our subconscious acts like a child, it takes everything in; it’s very open, but like a child it draws its own conclusions, and it’s often wrong.”
“When I reach that point in a reading, where I go: did I just make that up, or am I reading this? I have clues in my body – tingling in the spine – that say no, you have to pay attention to this. Because lots of times clients will argue with me and say that’s not right, and I’ll back off. I’ll say, you’re alcoholic and you have a thyroid problem and a serious sugar addiction; and the client will say, no way; but I’ll have that feeling and not back off. I’ll ask, so why would I say you’re alcoholic? Well, I got cured of that ten years ago. Oh, so you’re a recovering alcoholic. And I’ll inquire about the thyroid. I got my thyroid removed years ago. And then she says she doesn’t allow table sugar in the house, but she eats candy all day.” Clarkson ventures, “In a good reading, you will leave saying: you didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.”
“I remember the first time I did a reading of the future – I had said I don’t read the future,” Clarkson counters, “and when I did, it really upset me.” A client confirmed his reading and said, “Well, you were right, can you do it again?” I ask Clarkson if he does and he affirms, “Oh yeah, I do it every day with clients. That’s mostly what people want. They go, why would I want to talk about the past? Well I go, let’s talk about why you’re having thyroid problems; why you’re having problems with your relationships.” Clarkson clarifies, “I don’t think you can tell people what’s going to happen, but you can say, here’s where I see you going.”
Clarkson also teaches visualization, and he says, “It is important when we’re creating a vision to be specific. It’s not enough to just visualize a new job. Well,” he emphasizes, “let’s see you happy in the new job, or in the new relationship.”
“My birthday is on September 11th,” Clarkson says, “and I told that to someone who was very stirred by this and asked, ‘What’s the significance?’ and she was sure it must have metaphysical significance for someone like me. But, it has nothing to do with me. They didn’t chose that day because of me.”
Clarkson downplays the ego’s desire to connect to external forces as if we affect them and vice versa, but he reminds me “that everything we do, everything we envision will have a consequence”; it is just now rippling out there, into everything. And, our connection to the source of life – it’s hard to believe it can be only sperm and an egg that makes a human being what it is. There’s good reason to be curious. To look for a map of the soul.
“I use pictures,” Clarkson tells me. “I watch the clients in my mind and see what pictures come up.” He calls his business Practical Metaphysics. He doesn’t believe in a Higher Being “out there” that guides humanity. “I think the pictures come from my client or from the subconscious.”