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    A look at the mediumistic practice of channeling, and some reflections on the value it may have for those examining it.

A crank call from Satan
THIS DAY IN HISTORY, 1936: FDR’s Vice President John Nance Garner, thanks to secret equipment developed by Nikola Tesla, inadvertently receives a crank call from Satan.

Start: We’ve all run across it. Whether it’s watching John Edward plying his trade, or the family story of seeing an apparition of a departed relative, we’ve all been exposed to the idea of messages from beyond.

It’s easy enough give it a passing thought and move on to things that seem more important. The subject, though, is worthy of more than a casual glance, because to ignore it is to ignore a side of reality that touches all of us.

Going Out on One Limb or Another

Probably due to the efforts of Shirley MacLaine (and her bestseller from the 1980s Out on a Limb), the general public was exposed to the concept of “trance channeling” through both medium Kevin Ryerson and J. Z. Knight’s “Ramtha.”

Channeling, going by the definition given in this Wikipedia article, can be grouped into two types. The first is a form of mediumship where psychics or “sensitives” communicate to spirits, guides, or the dead, and then relay what they “hear” to their clients.

The second is “trance” channeling, which, as defined by Wikipedia, is “a form of channeling in which the channeler goes into a trance, or ‘leaves their body,’ and then becomes “possessed” by a specific spirit, who then talks through them.”

Blossom Goodchild

If I were making an argument against the validity of channeling, Blossom Goodchild would be my poster child, just for the sheer noise surrounding her.

What Blossom does she calls “direct voice” channeling — the ability to speak to spirits, and to hear them respond. Some sites, such as this one, will argue this is not channeling at all, but I think this is simply a semantic issue.

For those not familiar with Blossom’s claim to fame (and I wouldn’t blame you), Blossom was “told” by spirit beings calling themselves “The Federation of Light” that on October 14 of 2008, there would be the unequivocal appearance of an extraterrestrial vehicle or vehicles in the sky for an extended period. It is typical from my experience of spiritual messages that there is some vagueness involved: as for the location, the answer to this was stated as “We give you the name Alabama.”

Like most of the world aware of this story, I am not at all surprised that there was no “lightship” appearance.

At first blush this is so patently absurd that I would expect you to wonder why I even give this a second thought.

What makes Blossom’s situation so striking to me is this video, from October 16, 2008, wherein she apologizes to those who have followed this for the non-appearance. I feel she is sincere in this statement, and is genuinely hurt, wincing from an understandable sense of betrayal by her “Federation of Light” spirits.

(It’s under eight minutes, if you care to watch it.)

A clarification video from prior to the event can be found here.

Not surprisingly, it appears there was no end of explanations why the “Federation” was a no-show, as a quick visit to this site will show you.

I dismiss these as New Age double-talk, fit only for people who are comfortable in lying to themselves.

(Wasn’t that a bit harsh, Daniel?)

(Oh … zip it.)

Looking at Blossom’s situation, this really is complex, if you think about it.

Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that she is not lying (she is an actor, so maybe even this isn’t a good assumption, though I have no idea how skilled an actor she is). This means she actually believes she was in communication with something that gave a specific date of an appearance, and that it would be undeniable proof of an extraterrestrial presence.

A specific this will happen at a specific then.

This means:

  1. She has some mental issue that allows her to believe she is in communication with some non-corporeal beings to the point she does not question it. Perhaps Schizophrenia (not to be confused with Multiple Personality Syndrome, as it frequently is) or some other psychosis that produces the delusions of this kind of communication could be the cause, or that she has a “fantasy-prone personality.”
  2. She actually has some ongoing communication with something that misrepresented itself or lied to her for its own reasons.

Blossom has apparently made her peace with the Federation of Light, with the following announcement: “A Global Visual Affect!” which explains a phenomenon the Federation will produce soon to demonstrate their presence.

With a nod to Star Trek’s “Scotty”: Fool me twice, shame on me.

Forgive me, but Blossom sounds all the world to me like a victim of domestic violence who won’t leave her abuser.


Those who have heard of Darryl Anka’s channeled entity “Bashar” may or may not be surprised that there are others who claim to be conduits for this “being’s” messages. Anka’s channelings of Bashar appear to fit the definition above of “trance” channeling. For those not familiar with Bashar, there is also a UFO connection in Anka’s story.

I ran across a woman a few years ago who told me the story of how she first encountered her Bashar. This woman claimed she was a UFO alien abductee, and in my estimate sincerely believed that. My memory of the details of her psychic introduction to Bashar are vague, honestly, but part of it involved her having an image come into her mind of a starfield viewed from the surface of some alien planet, followed by a splitting headache. When she asked why she was having the headache, the answer was “Resistance.”

That she was resisting being a channel.

If we accept what happened to her at face value, this implies a level of coercion. This unsettles me — a being with a message intended to make our world a better place, forcing someone to be the conduit?

Something is not right here.

We hear, to some degree, a similar story with (are you ready?) A Course in Miracles. This material was channeled also, but more in the manner of a dialogue between the source — allegedly the Nazarene Himself — and the receiver.

The “scribe” to the Course, Helen Schucman, did in later years, according to friend and Catholic priest Father Benedict Groeschel, deeply resent the intrusion of the Course into her life. In this article posted on Beliefnet, Groeschel, noted “the ‘black hole of rage and depression that Schucman fell into during the last two years of her life,’ and that when he sat at Schucman’s bedside as she lay dying “she cursed, in the coarsest barroom language you could imagine, ‘that book, that goddamn book.’ She said it was the worst thing that ever happened to her.”

When working with the Course myself many years ago, I was less than enthusiastic by the comparison, made by many Course students at the time, that it was a form of “good brainwashing.” In the Introduction itself are the words:

It is crucial to say first that this is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what to take when.

Elsewhere I am told the Course states there are other courses — other ways to God, presumably — but this assertion of the compulsory nature of the material is unsettling.

In reflecting on this with friends who are familiar with the Course, some question the truthfulness of Father Groeschel’s statements, and also raise another point to which I must concede: in dealing directly with the reception of materials of a “high” spiritual nature as the Course portends to be, may have forced Schucman into serious conflict with her ego — as a Buddhist would explain it, her own need for separation from God.

Maybe so.

Fabrication (That Which is Termed as “Lying”)

One of the most famous trance channelers in recent memory is J. Z. Knight’s “Ramtha.” Ramtha is bigger than life, theatric, and colorful: the “story” is of a great lusty warrior leader from Atlantis who, beaten down in battle, turned inward and developed great spiritual insight and powers, and promised to return to teach his soldiers these secrets.

Her/his “trademark” word, for a time at least, was an audience-hooking “Indeed!”

In watching video of her/him back in the 1980s, I noted a frequent use of the phrase “that which is termed,” such as: “that which is termed, guilt,” or “that which is termed, responsibility.” Playing devil’s advocate, if I were someone improvising to an audience, I could use little time-wasting phrases like that to give me a moment to figure out my next line of commentary.

Directly questioning the bona fides of Ramtha brings quick responses from those associated with the organization, most likely citing their vindication, tests conducted by, among others, Stanley Krippner of the Saybrook Institute, parapsychologists Ian and Judy Wickramasekera, engineer Ganapati Roa of the University of Virginia, which deemed something extraordinary was taking place in Knight during her channeling that was not physiologically possible. The study is, or course, fraught with controversy.

It is a matter of legal record that J. Z. Knight had an extended court battle with ex-husband Jeff Knight, suing over his postponement of seeking treatment for AIDS due to the insistence that Ramtha could cure him. Jeff Knight, financial resources exhausted, lost the case and succumbed to the illness.

This relatively painless (though clearly disquieting) overview of the Ramtha story by Joe Szimhart deserves a read for anyone seriously thinking about it.

Fraud? Maybe. A quick internet search will dig up piles of accusations and even a forum for embittered ex-Ramtha students.

Having realized that the Ramtha corporation is the driving force behind the New Age classic What the Bleep Do We Know? I found I that tended to look askance at it. Chris Lydgate, at the Willamette Week Online commented eloquently on just this issue back in December of 2004 in his article “What the #$*! is Ramtha — The year’s sleeper hit was inspired by a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit from Atlantis.”

So What Do We Do With This?

Having looked at the dysfunctional, the victimized, and the … not quite believable, it would be very easy to ask the question: why think about any of this at all?


Here’s why.

I know two intuitives/ psychic mediums that I trust implicitly, Sophie Lhoste, and Hélène Patry. These two, and many others, work to some degree in the same “arena” as the examples I have explored above, but what they have shown me has held up to my niggling questioning and gained my trust.

I will state that to my knowledge and experience of them, neither of these women are dysfunctional, have an unhealthy relationship to their talents, or are liars, profiting at the expense of the gullible.

Because of these examples, I feel the Christian fundamentalist insistence that all these practices are “of the devil” is simply short-sighted.

There is a vast range of experience that is part of the human condition that most of us have not recognized, and there are a few — such as these two women — who can be of actual help to us in understanding it.

All too often the people who essentially represent these areas of experience have these unhealthy failings or negative traits, and this, being the nature of public perception, colors everyone associated with it.

Because these practices are (still) essentially outside of the public mainstream and dismissed by Science in general, it is, if you will, an area of inquiry lacking any accountability. It tends to attract those whose personal quirks or failings push them out of the mainstream, and along with them others who would exploit them.

There may just come a time — or possible already has — when you start asking serious questions about these areas, and these are pitfalls of which I would ask you to be mindful.

Ask your own questions, think your own thoughts. Don’t get sucked in by authoritative personalities, or even the gently sincere.

When it comes to your life, there are no impertinent questions. It isn’t just a matter of let the buyer beware, but let the seeker beware as well.


Copyright © 2009, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.