(Investigator 133, 2010
Channeling is the New Age word for spiritualism or
mediumship in which
a spirit, control, or guide from the past, or in some cases an entity
from the future, speaks through a chosen medium.
The auguring and prognosticating by ancient oracles, shaman and many
biblical characters are legendary, but it was not until 1848, when the
Fox sisters, two young American schoolgirls, began allegedly
communicating with the spirit of a dead peddler, that spiritualism
entered its heyday. Starting with raps and knocks, which seemingly came
from nowhere, the girls developed a system whereby conversations could
be carried on at length.
Following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, and
the discovery of electricity, religious dogma became subject to
scrutiny resulting in religious dichotomy. The search to find the means
with which to scientifically support traditional beliefs began, and
within a few years there were hundreds of practicing mediums and
millions of spiritualists worldwide. Some of the principal mediums and
the phenomena associated with them are mentioned elsewhere.
Whereas in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century
spiritualists concerned themselves primarily with consoling the
bereaved by claiming to be a communication link between those passed on
and the living, modern channelers have widened the parameters to
include psychological counseling, apocalyptic predictions, and a wide
variety of socio-economic advice and philosophical teachings.
The last decade or so has seen a phenomenal resurgence of modern
spiritualism (now called channeling). Gone are the traditional physical
appurtenances, reliance now being on the thespian charisma of the
medium, the "spirit" voices produced by them, and the percipient’s
Channelers can be found in every country, but the principal
concentration is in California.
Ms. J.Z Knight for example, channels Ramtha, whose wisdom, according to
her followers, appears to be infinite. Ms. Knight, a former Seattle
housewife and TV cable executive and her spirit "Ramtha", are
undoubtedly the best known channeler and entity in the USA, possibly
the world. Her spirit control allegedly came to her in a blaze of light
(typical of the visitation descriptions in the Old Testament) when she
was experimenting with pyramids in her kitchen one day in 1977.
Claiming that he was "Master of the Winds", and that he had come to
"get her over the ditch", he allegedly told her that she was his
daughter. "Ramtha", we are told, is a 35,000 year old Atlantean warrior
who swept through Atlantis into India where he ascended into a higher
consciousness and became a Hindu God-man. Speaking through Ms Knight,
he teaches that we create our own reality; that God is not a remote
deity but is part of all human beings, therefore man is himself divine
and has no reason to feel guilt; that there is no heaven and hell and
that man has within himself the means to achieve whatever goals he
These are all standard New Age metaphysics about self-created
realities. The sale of Ramtha books, videos and cassette tapes,
seminars and consultations have made J.Z. Knight a millionaire. A
session with the "ascended master" costs $400, a weekend $1,500. People
have sold up their homes and businesses, and families have broken up
and moved to Oregon to be near their guru.
Channeling is promoted as a way to obtain new knowledge and to enhance
general problem solving abilities and personal development. Ramtha,
like all the other channeled entities appears well versed in the
minutiae of modern life — strange for one so long dead, and from a
mythical continent to boot. The name "Ramtha" is copyrighted, and in
1985, Knight told her followers that Ramtha was a non-profit
organization. One year later they were informed that it could no longer
be used as a tax deductible. Whether the status ever existed or whether
it was revoked by the Inland Revenue Service is a matter for
One of Ms Knight's more lucrative enterprises was the raising and
selling of Arabian horses to followers who bought them on Ramtha's
advice. One woman paid a quarter of a million dollars for a horse.
Subsequently Washington State issued a cease and desist order to
prevent Ms Knight selling horses on the supposed advice of her spirit
Other well known channelers in America include, Jac Purcel, who has two
spirit guides — Lazaris, a non-physical entity, and Dr Peebles, a 17th
century Irish doctor. Kevin Ryerson, who advised on, and appeared as
himself, in the Shirley MacLaine film Out on a Limb, has four guides —
a 17th century Irish pickpocket, a Haitian witchdoctor, a Nubian slave
and biblical John. Other channelers even have messages coming from the
stars and the future, as in the case of Darryl Anka who speaks with the
authority of one from the Essassani civilization 300 light years
distant, and Pamela Newstead whose inspiration comes from the star
Perusing the evidence given in other relevant chapters in this book for
the existence of spirits it would be reasonable to assume that they are
in fact nothing less than complete corporeal entities who have not only
retained all the physical characteristics and faculties they possessed
before departing this world, but have acquired some remarkable powers
in addition. In seeking to understand the psychology of belief in
spiritualism it is necessary to note the religious parallels.
The Bible is regarded by the faithful as the word of God and its
interpretation the sole prerogative of the priests. A channeler's
"control" is seen by believers to be a supreme intelligence, the
channel as its communication medium.
The scriptures are looked upon as being divine revelations dictated by
a supernatural being and recorded by means of automatic writing or by
speaking through prophets. A channel's revelations, while in the 1980s
predominantly vocal, they were in the Spiritualist era mainly the
product of automatic writing or the written record of voices allegedly
heard by the medium.
The religious worship and belief in the supernatural powers of idols,
images and icons has been transferred in the New Age to pyramids and
crystals, the latter whose putative power has transformed this common
mineral into an artificially expensive and widely sought after
Man's consciousness after death, a pagan belief contrary to that found
in the scriptures, is epitomized by channelers in their frequent
references to past and future lives.
The medieval church's doctrine of indulgences whereby forgiveness could
be purchased, equates with the payment of a channeler's fee, for which
the client is told that there is no such thing as good and bad and that
we need feel no guilt for anything we do.
Many channelers have a formal religious background and believe in the
Roman Catholic doctrine of natural immortality adopted from the pagan
philosophy — that it is the spirits of the dead who return to minister
to the living, and that it is the dead who are admitted to the presence
of the highest authority gaining access to knowledge exceeding that
which they previously possessed. This being so, why should they not
return to enlighten and instruct the living?
It is a fact that when the higher knowledge purported to have been
acquired by the spirits of the dead is relayed, it never exceeds that
already available on earth. Further, the Bible itself states
unequivocally that "the dead know not anything", "that their thoughts
have perished", "they have no part in anything that is done under the
sun" and "they know nothing of the joys and sorrows of those who were
dearest to them on earth." Indeed, according to the scriptures, God has
expressly forbidden all pretended communication with departed spirits
under the penalty of death, such visitants being declared in the Bible
to be "the spirits of devils" (1 Corinthians 10:20; Revelation 16: 14,
and in Leviticus 19:31; 20:27).
Alleged intercourse with evil spirits is but a revival in a new
disguise, of witchcraft. While today we tend to regard those who call
themselves witches and warlocks as eccentrics, in the Middle Ages they
were accused of being the devil's disciples, doing his bidding, and
because their bodies were allegedly taken over by demon spirits they
spoke with the voice of the incubus. In other words, they were
"channelers". Despite the demonic and paranormal powers attributed to
these channelers of old by their ecclesiastical persecutors, one
question has never been satisfactorily answered — why, if they were
endowed with supernatural powers, were the hapless victims unable to
save themselves by bringing down the wrath of the devil on their
Today you are free to believe without fear of persecution, that the
human body can be taken over by discarnate spirits and used as a
mouthpiece, or you can dismiss it as nonsense. The high levels of
belief in various paranormal phenomena was evident in a study carried
out at the Concordia University in Montreal, Canada (Gray 1984), which
showed that sixty-nine per cent of students believed in reincarnation
and UFOs, eighty-five per cent in ESP, and approximately half believed
in astrology, faith healing, ghosts and miracles. Other surveys (Happs
1985) (Feder 1986) confirm this incidence of high belief.
How much credence can we have in those who claim to "channel ''?
Basically their teachings are a mixture of Western occult traditions,
Hinduism, Jungian philosophy and contemporary positive thinking
attitudes — a hyped up New Age pop philosophy, which is a common thread
in all the quasi-¬religious sects and human potential groups so
What is it that persuades often intelligent and successful people to
throw caution to the winds and fall for the shenanigans of channelers?
The reasons are many and diverse, among them a disaffection with
conventional Judea¬Christian doctrines. Followers seek a direct
encounter with one who can provide simple answers for every problem, an
authority figure to give their lives structure and discipline, and a
sense of security and friendship.
The "knowledge" perceived to be coming from an entity such as Ramtha is
a lifeline thrown to save those floundering in a sea of perceived
threat and stress. In reality there are two sets of delusions at play —
the channel making putative authoritative statements from a higher
source and the believers who accept whatever is said as profound
Eugene Aquili (1987), associate professor of psychiatry, University of
Pennsylvania, suggests that channeling reflects a declining influence
of traditional religion — people reach out for a sense of transcendent
meaning; and Professor Harvey Cox (1987), a Harvard theologian,
cautions, "never underestimate the ability of organized religion to
adapt — it's very market conscious. They are all so cuddly and friendly
they seem to be yuppiefied versions of the demons and spirits of
Carl Raschke (1986), professor of religious studies, University of
Denver, sees the self induced hypnotic state of the channeler
mesmerizing an audience already predisposed to accept "God is
everywhere" philosophy, and that the New Age movement's emphasis on
human potential psychology gives these people a certain credibility —
it's a form of mass hypnosis which is leading to a mass acceptance of
It is a fact that questions designed to solicit pertinent information
from spirits are always ignored or parried by evasive answers, and tape
recordings of alleged spirits' voices when analysed by philologists
(specialists in the field of languages) have been found unconvincing
from every linguistic aspect.
There are two basic methods used, first if the "entity" provides
historical or geographical information which places him or her in a
particular place at a particular time, this information can be checked
against the "entity's" speech to see if the sound patterns and other
linguistic features match our expectations for that time and place.
Second, even without that information the speech itself can be checked
to see whether it is consistent in ways that natural dialects normally
A good example of linguistic analysis was cited by Rebecca Long (1994)
in the Georgia Skeptic. A supposedly discarnate 13th-century Scotsman
from the Isle of Arran by the name of Samuel is channeled by Ms Lea
Schultz of the Phoenix Institute located in Lexington, Kentucky.
Tapes of Samuel sessions were sent to several experts for analysis. The
Arran museum Association responded that Samuel's accent was fake and
not Scottish at all. Two linguistic specialists at the University of
Pittsburgh concluded that Samuel's speech patterns were neither Scots
English not Scots Gaelic, and "not those of a Scotsman of any century."
They pointed out that the sounds of an authentic 13th-century dialect
would be unintelligible to modern ears. They concluded that the accent
was "faked by someone who doesn't know enough about Scots English to do
Finally, what of Ms Knight and Ramtha? Steven Bakker, formerly Ms
Knight's advance man, struck a mortal blow at Ms Knight's credibility
when told how he had observed Ms Knight smoking and practising Ramtha's
gestures, slipping in and out of her Ramtha personality without
bothering to go into a trance.
In an interview reported by The Oregonian (a US newspaper) on
November 27, 1986, J.Z. Knight acknowledged that she was taking in
millions of dollars a year from the fees collected at her personal
appearances, from the sale of video-tapes and other materials, and
confirmed what sceptics have believed all along, "I am nobody's
saviour. This is a business." Perhaps this last message is getting
through as some of Ramtha's followers have expressed disappointment
with the teachings of the enlightened one. Pam McNeely of Sausalito for
example, spent more than $10,000 on Ramtha seminars, video-cassettes
and audio tapes and nearly went bankrupt following Ramtha's advice.
Notwithstanding Ms Knight's lack of credibility, and complete absence
of any tangible evidence that her entity ever existed, she successfully
sued in an Austrian court a channeler who also claimed to be in
communication with Ramtha.
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Feder, K.L.1986. “The Challenge of Pseudo-science." Journal of
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Stillings, Denis. 1987. "Channels: Stripminers of the Psyche." Utne
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Harry Edwards versus the
paranormal — on the Investigator