copyright 1988 by Eric Pement

Nov. 28, 1988


They close their eyes and lips. For a minute or two, sitting

with quiet focus, they breathe in great volumes of air, sucking up

strength for a momentous journey. Suddenly, another personality takes

over and an alien voice speaks.

Channeling has become one of the paramount landmarks of the New

Age movement, eclipsing herbal cures, mundane astrology, and flotation

tanks. Now an integral part of the Aquarian scene, channelers seem to

have multiplied geometrically in the past fifteen years.

Trying to monitor this wave is an incredible task. Its influence

is propagated through multiple avenues -- radio and TV interviews,

private channeling sessions, cassette distribution, videotape sales

and rentals, newsletters, magazines, mass seminars, conferences, and

an endless stream of channeled literature. (They don't call it

"automatic writing" for nothing.) Net profits on all this have been

estimated at from 100 to 400 million dollars annually. [1]

Exactly what is it? Jon Klimo, author of a sympathetic yet

thorough survey of channeling, says it "is a phenomenon in which

otherwise ordinary people seem to let themselves be taken over by, or

in other ways receive messages from, another personality who uses them

as a conduit, medium, or channel for the communication -- hence the

term MEDIUM or CHANNEL." [2]

One of the more popular channelers is J.Z. (Judy Zebra) Knight.

She channels Ramtha, also known as "the Ram," supposedly a 35,000-

year-old being from Atlantis who invented the practice of war. I like

Martin Gardner's summary of Ramtha's story: "Slowly he came to realize

that he himself was part of the God he hated. After 63 OBEs [out-of-

body experiences], his body vibrating faster than light, he became one

with the wind.

On the side of Mount Indus, in Tibet, free of weight,

he ascended into the Seventh Heaven, where he and God became one. He

is now part of an 'unseen brotherhood' of superbeings who love us and

hear our prayers." [3] Ramtha has made Knight a millionairess several

times over; she, in turn, has had Ramtha's name copyrighted to prevent

anyone else from channeling him.

Penny Torres and Jach Pursel are the two most popular rivals to

J.Z. Knight. Penny channels Mafu, "a highly evolved being from the

seventh dimension, last seen on earth when he incarnated as a leper in

first-century Pompeii." [4] Mafu, like Ramtha, speaks with a Slavic

accent. Meanwhile, Jach Pursel channels Lazaris, a "group being" from

beyond time and space who has (have?) never been embodied in our

dimension. Lazaris speaks with a lisp.

The range of "entities" supposedly being channeled today is

virtually unlimited. SPIRIT SPEAKS, a bimonthly magazine from

California, is a READER'S DIGEST of messages from various channeled

entities. Some of its regular contributors include Dong How Li (a

Tibetan monk last incarnated 2600 years ago), Gabriel (an angel), Dr.

Peebles (a Scottish physician from the 1800s), and Zoosh ("a non-

physical being from Alpha Centauri").

An excellent survey of the channeling scene (from a Christian

perspective) is provided in a recent book by John Ankerberg and John

Weldon. They note that the personalities being channeled "claim to be

various aspects of the human mind or the 'collective' mind of humanity

. . They also claim to be the Holy Spirit, troubled ghosts, the

spirits of animals and plants (dolphins, trees, flowers), multiple

human personalities, the inhabitants of mythical cultures (Atlanteans,

Lemurians), and even a possible alien computer that exists in the

future. Critics, realizing that some people are claiming to channel

dolphins, others the spirits of fruits and vegetables and still others

computers from the future, have come to conclude the sanity of the

nation is at risk." [5]


Channeling activity, understood in its wider sense to include

spirit possession in general, can be traced back to the earliest times

and civilizations. The acceptance of animism (the belief that spirits

are present in all of nature, including plants, inert objects, and

seasons) or the practice of ancestor veneration have provided

primitive cultures with sufficient groundwork for the rise of

spiritism. Certainly, spirit mediumship, as well as attempts at

spirit-control, can be seen in shamanism (the activities of the tribal

witchdoctor, magician, or healer in controlling the forces/spirits of


Channeling can be traced back to the ancient religions of Egypt,

India, and the Near East; thus, we should pay special attention to the

Biblical injunctions on this topic.

The commandments given to Moses after the Exodus from Egypt

(about 1400 B.C.) expressly forbid communication with "spirit mediums"

(Lev. 19:31) [6], or going to one who "inquires of the dead" (Deut.

18:11). Mosaic law prescribed the death penalty both for the medium

and for the person who sought out the medium for advice (Lev. 20:6,

27). Indeed, one of the chief reasons that King Saul, the first king

of Israel, was slain was for "going to one who had a familiar spirit,

to inquire of it" (1 Chron. 10:13). Seven hundred years after Mt.

Sinai, in the days of Isaiah, the prohibition still remained. Those

who sought information from "mediums and wizards" were to be answered

brusquely: "Should not a people seek their God instead? Should they

seek to the dead on behalf of the living?" (Isa. 8:19)

In New Testament times, possession and control by discarnate

spirits were accepted realities. The actions of Jesus in casting out

"demons" and "unclean spirits" are mentioned repeatedly in the New

Testament (Matt. 8:28ff, 9:32ff, 12:22ff, 17:14ff, etc.). Jesus

likewise commissioned his apostles to cast out demons (Matt. 10:1) and

gave this authority to others not numbered among the Twelve (Luke

10:17). The early church continued to conduct exorcisms (Acts 8:7,


An interesting incident regarding a channeler appears in the

sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. While Paul and Silas

were evangelizing in Philippi, a city of western Greece, they were

persistently followed by a slave girl "with a spirit of divination"

(Acts 16:16). The Greek text literally reads a "python spirit" [Gk.

PNEUMA PUTHONA], a reference to an entity named The Python, which

inhabited the high priestess of the temple of Apollo at Delphi.

(Remember hearing about "the oracle of Delphi" in school? That was

her.) "The Python" or "python spirit" later became a generic term for

a discarnate entity which predicted the future. The apostle Paul

finally "turned and said to the spirit, 'I command you in the name of

Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And he came out that very hour."

(Acts 16:18)

It bears noting that this spirit of divination evidently could

provide some genuine information (verse 16). This was not a natural

ability, nor was the woman using methods of fraud or "cold reading,"

because when Paul cast out the spirit, she lost her powers and the

ability to make money for her owners (v. 19). If the woman had been

drawing upon a natural talent or using a swindle technique, she should

still have been able to earn money by deception, as previously. In

any case, this was not a power the Lord wanted in her life, and

through the authority of Jesus Christ it was cast out.


For centuries, among monotheistic cultures spirit communication

was usually limited to spirits of divine origin (God, Jesus, one of

the angels, etc.). Muhammad claimed multiple encounters with the

angel Gabriel, whose messages are preserved in the Qur'an. In the

Middle Ages, Roman Catholic mystics were permitted visions and

appearances of Jesus or the Virgin Mary.

Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), the brilliant metallurgist,

inventor and scientist of the eighteenth century, abandoned his career

for spiritism. Claiming to be in contact with angels, he wrote

prodigious treatises and commentaries based on these visions and

communications, and founded a major cultic movement influential among

European and American intellectuals. In nineteenth-century America

several cults, such as the Mormons and the Shakers, claimed communion

with angels or spirits of the dead.

Mary Baker Eddy often attempted to distinguish Christian Science

(which she founded) from spiritualism. Yet she herself acted as a

trance channeler briefly before "discovering" Christian Science

(1866). In "The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of

Christian Science", Georgine Milmine describes the experiences of Mary

Baker Patterson (who later became Mrs. Eddy). Mary Baker Patterson

channeled the spirit of her dead brother Albert in 1864 (or claimed

to, anyway). Milmine's book reproduces a photograph of automatic

writing, purportedly from Albert, in Mary's hand. [7] Two years

later, in the company of other spiritualists, Mrs. Patterson [Eddy]

acted as a trance medium, this time claiming to channel only the

spirits of the Apostles and of Jesus Christ. [8]

The channeling floodgates opened in this country in the mid-

nineteenth century with the advent of spiritualism, the attempt to

communicate with spirits of the dead. Historians almost universally

trace the origin of the spiritualist movement to 1848 in Hydesville,

New York, with the Fox sisters, Margaret and Kate.

Margaret was 14 and Kate was 11 when they first heard the sounds

of knocking, furniture being moved, and other sounds in various rooms

of their home, in late 1847. [9] At these times, their beds would

vibrate and shake without any reason. The children were terrified and

Mrs. Fox's hair turned white through this ordeal. [10]

On the night of March 31, 1848, 12-year-old Kate challenged these

unseen powers to repeat the snaps of her fingers, which they did.

Each number of snaps would be followed by the same number of raps, and

thus the girls began to communicate with the spirits. News spread

rapidly, and the family home was visited by interested writers and

curiosity seekers. The sisters began to hold seances, communicating

with the spirits by means of a simple code. In mid-April, Kate's

parents sent her away to live with her older sister Leah in Rochester,

N.Y., hoping to quell the disruption it had caused the family. (The

spirits were usually more active in Kate's presence.) The rappings

immediately spread to Leah's house, and Leah also became a believer.

The first message the Fox sisters received was this:

"Dear friends, you must proclaim these truths to the world. This

is the dawning of a new era, and you must not try to conceal it any

longer. When you do your duty, God will protect you and good spirits

will watch over you." [11]

Fascination with spiritualism spread like wildfire, and within 30

years there were tens of thousands of spiritualists in the U.S.,

England, and across Europe, and national organizations were formed.

In 1855 the first national spiritualist newspaper was issued in

England; in 1866 a national conference was held in Rhode Island, where

resolutions were passed that citizens should abandon all Christian

ordinances and worship and close down all Sunday schools. In 1870,

Sir William Crookes, famed British scientist who invented the Crookes

tube (forerunner of the modern picture tube), called on the nation's

scientists to investigate spiritualism. Seeking to contact his dead

daughter, Crookes was convinced of spiritualism's validity.

Queen Victoria consulted several mediums, hoping to speak with

her late husband Prince Albert, who died in 1861. Seances were held

at the White House under Lincoln's presidency. British prime minister

William E. Gladstone, Canadian prime minister MacKenzie King, and Sir

Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) were all converts to


Famed magician and escape artist Harry Houdini tried to prevent

Conan Doyle from being duped by crank mediums, but Doyle remained

convinced that the spiritualists had true supernatural powers. He

believed spiritualism was "a new revelation" to mankind.

"Christianity must be modified by this new revelation," Doyle

wrote, referring to spiritualism and psychic phenomena generally.

"One can see no justice in a vicarious sacrifice, nor in the God who

could be placated by such means. Above all, many cannot understand

such expressions as the 'redemption from sin,' 'cleansed by the blood

of the Lamb,' and so forth." [12]

Houdini's 1924 autobiography, "Houdini: A Magician Among the

Spirits", is a fascinating account of the origins and numerous frauds

connected with nineteenth-century spiritualism. After over thirty

years of research, he wrote, "I have accumulated one of the largest

libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic,

witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going

as far back as 1489, . . . but nothing I ever read concerning the so-

called Spiritualistic phenomena has impressed me as being genuine."


It was not Houdini, however, who struck the greatest blow against

spiritualism. A shattering revelation had come a generation earlier,

from Margaret and Kate Fox themselves.

Forty years after the Fox sisters told the world of the spirit

rappings, both confessed they were frauds. On October 21, 1888, 54-

year-old Margaret Fox gave a public confession at the New York Academy

of Music, before an audience of over two thousand people. Standing in

her stocking feet on a small pine table on the stage, she produced

loud, distinct raps which could be heard throughout the building. Her

sister likewise gave consent. That same year, she told a crowd, "I am

here tonight, as one of the founders of Spiritualism, to denounce it

as absolute falsehood . . . the most wicked blasphemy the world has

ever known." [14]

One year later, they changed their minds, and both recanted their

previous confessions! They claimed the spirit manifestations had

always been genuine, and they had never tricked anyone with false

knocks or raps, retracting all they had said in 1888. The Fox sisters

had become alcoholics in the 1860s, and fellow spiritualists claimed

their confessions had been bought off. The last years of their lives

were spent in drunkenness, and their public speech now contained

little more than profanity. Both died as alcoholics, Kate in 1892 and

Margaret in 1893, both cursing God as they died. [15]


Spiritualism by no means disappeared with the death of the Fox

sisters. In fact, it diversified into spiritualist sects which could

be rationalistic (strongly anti-Christian), average (mildly anti-

Christian), and strongly religious, complete with sacraments and

baptism. The spiritualist movement also provided the impetus for the

study of psychic research and parapsychology.

The early quarter of the twentieth century witnessed the epiphany

of a few shining stars in the astral firmament. Two of these were

channeled books, the other was the so-called "sleeping prophet," Edgar

Cayce (1877-1945).

Cayce was raised in rural Kentucky. His parents were

Campbellites. He claimed to see "little people" as a child. The

turning point in his life occurred in 1901, at the age of 24. Cayce

had been suffering from a chronic case of laryngitis and voice loss

after contracting a cold a year earlier. In desperation, he turned to

a hypnotist, Al Layne. After Cayce had entered a deep trance, Layne

asked him to diagnose the cause of his hoarseness.

"Immediately the fateful words came forth: 'Yes, we can see the

body.' The voice diagnosed the problem as insufficient circulation.

Layne gave a suggestion that the body cure itself. Cayce's neck grew

pink, then bright red. Twenty minutes later, it became normal again.

Layne told Cayce to wake up, and when he did, his voice had returned."

[16] So goes the story in the Cayce biographies.

Cayce's life was changed permanently. News of this story spread,

and Cayce's neighbors asked him to diagnose their diseases for them.

Cayce learned how to put himself in a trance state fairly quickly, and

after he appeared to fall asleep, the voice would take over and

prescribe various unorthodox cures which always seemed to work.

Eventually, the questioners began to ask him about spiritual matters,

and from then on Cayce channeled metaphysical "truths," promoting

reincarnation, monism, astrology, gnosticism, Atlantis, mediumship,

etc. Cayce's followers were devoted to these "readings," and over

14,000 trance sessions have been transcribed, cataloged, and indexed

since his death. This material forms a vast body of occult reference

material which has been used for decades.

Equally potent has been "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the

Christ", published in 1907, channeled through Levi Dowling, who was

purportedly empowered to read the "Akashic Records" (a scribal form of

the Universal Mind, containing all the history of the universe).

Levi's "Aquarian Gospel" has provided a mythical history of the life

of Christ picked up by many cults and New Age devotees. It describes

a reincarnated Jesus, who attained Christ consciousness after visiting

Egypt, Greece, and India, during the so-called "silent years" before

his public ministry in Palestine. [17]

For a book supposedly transcribed from the Akashic records, "The

Aquarian Gospel" is riddled with error, beginning from its first

verse. It says "Herod Antipas was ruler of Jerusalem" when Jesus was

born. That should have been Herod the Great, not Herod Antipas. It

has Jesus visiting Lahore in Pakistan (31.1); Lahore didn't

historically exist until 600 years later. It shows Jesus visiting

magicians in Persepolis (39.1); Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander

the Great in 330 B.C. and was never rebuilt. Nonetheless, this book

has been adopted by many unwitting readers as "proof" of a secret

occult past for Jesus Christ.

"The Urantia Book" was also obtained through trance channeling.

Its unknown author served as a medium for dozens of extraterrestrial

intelligences, beginning in the early 1900s. ("Urantia" is the name

these space beings give to the planet earth.) Ironically, it was a

Seventh-day Adventist minister and physician, who had spent over a

decade debunking and refuting spiritualism, who was ultimately

responsible for the publication of the Urantia papers. Dr. William

Sadler finally found a channeler he couldn't expose as a fraud, whose

entities were utterly inexplicable.

Beginning in 1923, Dr. Sadler invited a group of friends,

informally known as The Forum, to examine and question these

intelligences, which were rapidly becoming more numerous. The

channeler began producing automatic writing in response to their

questions, and eleven years later these papers were completed. The

entities asked Dr. Sadler, by now a true believer, that the work be

published, though it wasn't until 1955 that the 2100-page volume made

it into print. [18] The "Urantia Book" has influenced thousands of

people, and is fully consistent with New Age ideology.


It would be hard to say just where "modern" channeling practices

should be dated from, but I'm inclined to point to the Seth material,

channeled through the late Jane Roberts (died 1984). Jane, a

housewife and would-be writer, first encountered "Seth" through a

spontaneous experience in September 1963. Jane said "a fantastic

avalanche of radical, new ideas burst into my head with tremendous

force," not unlike an LSD trip. [19]

Jane transmitted this material for over twenty years and, like

most channeled writing, it is amazingly consistent with New Age

philosophy (reality is a construct of our minds, etc.). Jane Roberts

was the first contemporary channeler to gain widespread acceptance in

the 1970s, and since then the volume of channelers and channeled

writings has fallen on our society like a deluge.

How does channeling fit in the larger picture? We interviewed

Joel Bjorling, author of a forthcoming bibliography on channeling.

Since he's up to his eyeballs in studying channeled writings, we asked

him how contemporary channeling differs from its nineteenth-century

predecessor. He pointed out that in terms of content (i.e., what is

taught), both have the same philosophy and share a common root. The

outward phenomenon is also similar -- in both cases, a disembodied

entity speaks through the channeler, usually in a trance state.

One difference this author has observed is that the spiritualist

movement focused on seances (dim lights, formal invocations, etc.) and

supernatural manifestations -- table lifting, "direct voice"

phenomena, ectoplasm, materialized writing or faces, etc. By

contrast, today's channelers do everything under bright lights,

usually on stage, and the only visible event is when an alien

personality takes them over. The channelers usually don't exhibit the

powers or physical phenomena, such as levitation, that were present in

spiritualism. (This may be due to the development of infrared

photography, but that's another matter.)

The basic themes have also differed. In spiritualism, the

emphasis was on "proof of survival" after death, and the public

largely sought reassurance that their deceased loved ones were happy

in the Great Beyond. In modern channeling, the focus is on "higher

intelligences" who have come to teach us Truth, showing us how to

alter reality and achieve self-fulfillment.

Modern channeling centers around certain themes: (1) we are all

God(s), (2) there is no death, (3) reality is a product of the mind,

(4) prosperity is our right and "we can have it all," and (5) we must

preserve the earth from nuclear or ecological catastrophe. This last

point is especially prevalent among UFO contactees, who communicate

telepathically with various "space brothers" (their term). The UFOs

generally warn that continued testing of nuclear weapons will disturb

the earth's rotation or cause some kind of interplanetary disaster.

The space brothers are also concerned about environmental pollution on

our own planet.

Despite the differences between the two movements, both

spiritualists and channelers are agreed that the traditional Christian

concept of God is false. Consider the following statement:

"Agreement [among channelers] can be said to exist on one point

only, namely, that the historic Christian doctrine respecting the

nature and character of the Deity is an imposition, the fabric of an

artificial scholastic philosophy, and contradicted by sound reason as

well as by the unanimous testimony of the spirit world. It is

certainly a remarkable fact that on this point the higher

intelligences are strangely unanimous and emphatic in their

statements, and all spiritualists are agreed." [20]

Though this observation seems strikingly contemporary, it was

actually written over 80 years ago, in an analysis of the spiritualist

movement. We believe the parallels are too close to be coincidental.


Is all channeling Satanic? In the direct sense, no. Many

channelers are not communicating with any spirit, but are simply

hucksters who have "learned the rap" and are capitalizing on the

current fascination with discarnate intelligences. J.Z. Knight may be

one such person -- former followers testify to having seen her

practice Ramtha's mannerisms, speech patterns, and accent.

Personally, I have adopted Occam's Razor when dealing with most

supernatural claims. Named after William of Occam, this principle of

logic states that when several explanations or solutions to a problem

are possible, the simplest is to be preferred to the more complex. As

he phrased it, "Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity."

William was undoubtedly using "entities" as a synonym for

explanations, but in this context I find the phraseology

excruciatingly apropos.

Some channelers may not be intentional fakers, but self-deceived

instead. I have known individuals who couldn't tell the difference

between their own wayward thoughts and the voice of God. Stream-of-

consciousness musings and personal urges have been mistaken by some

for divine revelation. Self-deception of this sort can range all the

way to outright mental illness.

I also don't discount the possibility that some trance channeling

may arise from a one's own unconscious self-will. For instance, a

voice which claims to be Sushi from Napaj, a deity of great power and

pomp, may simply spring from the inner fantasies of the unregenerate

mind. Those who believe in man's depravity should consider that man's

own evil heart may well be the source of the channelers' vulgar


Yet we cannot deny the reality of the spiritual realm. Both

Scripture and experience show that certain phenomena can only be

accounted for by demonic spirits. History records intrusions of the

demonic throughout all times and cultures, and we have no less an

authority than the Lord Jesus Christ himself who testifies to the

reality of this fact -- and to his own power to save men from the

powers of darkness.

In the preceding discussion, though Satan need not be the

immediate source of a channeled message, he may be the remote cause

behind it. Jesus called Satan "a liar and the father of it" (John

8:44) and Satan's parentage to occult sin is sure even though it may

not be immediate. On one level, whether channeling is "real" or

"faked" is immaterial; the person who seeks after "mediums and

spiritists to prostitute himself by following them" will be alienated

from the presence of God and subject to judgment (Lev. 20:6).

A man may forfeit his soul for counterfeit money just as surely

as for "real" money. But the effect of each loss will be the same,

regardless of the currency used. And in like manner, ultimately it's

not the medium of exchange which matters but the consequences of the



1. Katharine Lowry, "Channelers," OMNI, Oct. 1987, p. 50.


FROM PARANORMAL SOURCES (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1987),

p. 1.

3. Martin Gardner, THE NEW AGE: NOTES OF A FRINGE WATCHER (Buffalo:

Prometheus Books, 1988), p. 195.

4. Brooks Alexander, "Theology from the Twilight Zone," CHRISTIANITY

TODAY, Sept. 18, 1987, p. 22.

5. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, THE FACTS ON SPIRIT GUIDES

(Eugene, Ore: Harvest House Publishers, 1988), p. 16.

6. The Hebrew word here translated "mediums" (NASV) or "them that

have familiar spirits" (KJV) is the Hebrew word <'obh>. It appears 16

times in the OT and was used to indicate both spirits and spirit



OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE (1909: rpt. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,

1971), pp. 64-68.

8. Milmine, pp. 111, 115-116.

9. The exact year the raps began is dispute (1846-48); 1847 seems

most accepted and the birthdates of the sisters is not certain.

10. This account of spiritualism has been taken from several reliable

sources and reference books. The reference to Mrs. Fox's hair turning

white comes from Raphael Gasson, THE CHALLENGING COUNTERFEIT

(Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1966), p. 47.

11. Gasson, p. 48; also cited in Klimo, p. 98; and in Nandor Fordor,


12. Arthur Conan Doyle, THE NEW REVELATION (London: Hodder and

Stoughton, 1918), pp. 70, 71.

13. Harry Houdini, HOUDINI: A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS (1924: rpt.

New York, Arno Press, 1972), p. xix.

14. Gasson, p. 48.

15. Gasson, p. 49.


Worth: Dominion Press, 1986), p. 198.

17. See Per Beskow, STRANGE TALES ABOUT JESUS (Philadelphia: Fortress

Press, 1985), for good summaries of this "gospel" and other pseudo-

scriptural forgeries.

18. Steve Cannon, "Evaluating the Urantia Book," PFO NEWSLETTER

(quarterly newsletter of Personal Freedom Outreach, St. Louis, Mo.),

vol. 7 (Oct.-Dec. 1987): pp. 4-6.

19. cited by Klimo, p. 30.

20. J. Godfrey Raupert, MODERN SPIRITISM (London: Sands & Co., 1904),

pp. 210-211.


(Used by permission of the author)

Computers for Christ - Chicago

These documents are free from , providing free webcontent for websites around the world!. copy freely with this link intact. BelieversCafe.com