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I. Group Profile
Name : Channeling
Founder : While there was no one, definitive founder, there have been (and still are) numerous practitioners of Channeling whose charismatic testimonies have furthered recognition of the phenomenon. 1 .
Year Founded : Dating from earliest recorded history, there have been accounts of humans receiving messages, prophecies, voices, or other communications from spirits or elements not of human form. The recent resurgence of interest in, and the adherance to, Channeling, especially as a spiritual practice, grew out of several mid- to late-twentieth century mediums and the widespread notoriety of their published transmissions. 2 .
Sacred or Revered Texts : Though there is no one primary text, many channelers will relay their channelings in print. Several authors have garnered considerable income from the sale of transcribed and published channelings, and more than one channeled text (or entity) has become the basis for small religious movements. For instance, eighteenth-century Anna Leet (1736-1784), widely known for her communications with the souls of the dead, and for spreading the belief in the possibility of doing so, has been considered to have "sown the seeds for the birth of Modern Spiritualism," a major nineteenth-century paranormal activity, through her teachings. Similarly, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1722), and Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910), AKA "the Poukeepsie Seer," were two of the earliest and most widely followed spirit communicators. 3 .
Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

II. History of Channeling
Early Accounts :
There have been documented reports of oracles and prophecies dating back to--and probably before--Greek and Roman Mythology. Any Greek god worth his olives sought and heeded the prophecy of the appropriate oracle: little different from today's mystics, Themis offered divine advice to her audience when asked "we implore you, tell us by what device our wreck and ruin may be repaired"...certainly an eternal struggle, and one modern gods and goddesses tackle daily today, and not always for $2 a minute. Apollo, among other titles a god of prophecy, had his oracle at Delphi, and freely shared every prophecy he received. 4
The Revelations of Biblical lore, and numerous reported incidents of mediums or channels receiving spirtual messages have, repeatedly throughout history,offered communication from and about supreme beings. From the Book of Revelation, chapter 1, verses 1-2: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John" 5 , one gets a pretty clear definition, and one strikingly similar to what comprises the origins of modern channeling. An earth-bound soul acted as the agent or medium through which an other-worldly being delivered her message.
A Renaissance through Spritualism :
In the modern age, spirit communications surged in popularity with the arrival of a series of key eighteenth- and nineteenth-century spiritual leaders. The Swedenborgian Movement of the 1740s, Anna Leet's "Shaking Quakers" communicating with souls of the dead shortly thereafter, Andrew Jackson Davis and his "mystical medicine" 6 of the 1840s, and two incredibly influential little girls from Hydesville, New York, all added to a burgeoning fascination with every thing psychical. Kate and Margaret Fox gave a new meaning to having an audience "rapped" around their little fingers: when they first heard "rappings" in their parents' home, they were (naturally!) alarmed, but quickly became the darlings of an enormous group of followers convinced that the two genuinely relayed messages from "the deceased after their bodily death". From the Fox sisters' tabletop rappings the American Spiritualist Movement was formed (1848), and, according to Gordon Stein, "by the middle of the nineteenth century, due to the influence of people like Davis and the Fox sisters, there were an estimated three million people in the United States who believed in mediums and Spiritualism, and by the end of that century, there were about ten thousand trance mediums in the United States." Spirit communications continued to increase dramatically until making a gradual decline by the end of the century. 7
Twentieth-Century Evolution :
Some scholars refer to the Fox sisters as the origin of the enormous following of spirit channelers (Swatos, Melton), some instead cite Swedenborg (Stein), and still others look to major twentieth-century figures as the real pivotal mediums of the current practices of channeling. J. Gordon Melton suggests that channeling is simply the "contemporary term for the earlier Spiritualism," though with the distinction between them being that the earlier version was more centrally concerned with "communications with dead friends and relatives" whereas the more recent channels relate "philosophical and theological teachings from a disembodied entity." 8
At the start of the twentieth century, there were a few notable figures in paranormal activities--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took time out from his friend "Sherlock Holmes" to witness for Spiritualism, and wrote extensively on the subject--though seemingly only as a warm-up for the huge rush of famous and infamous characters of the mid- to late- century world of spirit communicators. By the 1920s, a formerly struggling photographer from Kentucky named Edgar Cayce had established himself as a premier psychic by recognizing peoples' health problems and offering readings and teachings, and later forming the Association for Research and Enlightenment as a repository for his collected works. According to Michael F. Brown, the thousands of pages of Cayce's works housed at the ARE (learn more about them: the New Religious Movements ARE page ) earn the channeler the (dubious) distinction of being the "most prolific channel in American History" and perhaps most notable for all that, simply because he dabbled in such diverse areas in his readings. 9
Just in time for the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, psychic Jane Roberts began receiving messages from the young boy entity "Seth" and by most all scholarly accounts, set in motion a revised and expanded psychical revolution that would eclipse the relatively minor success of her channeling predecessors. Rather nicely described by Rosemary Ellen Guiley as "a form of mental mediumship that became popular in the United States and elsewhere as part of the 'new age' movement,...communication through automatic speech and automatic writings with various nonphysical beings," Channeling is indeed a favorite among 'new agers' and thrived as that movement began in the 1970s. 10 As Roberts related in her channeling of the late, great psychologist William James, " pill will cure the soul's melancholy" ( Afterdeath Journal , 96), but many followers seemed to believe a good, channeled communication could. And there's the major reason often supplied for both the return of, and wide success of the mediumship seen throughout history: people could find a soothing balm for that melancholy soul in the "new" practices such as channeling. New age adherents are able to select those elements of spirituality and consciousness that satisfy their own needs, and may easily form a personalized, easy tradition away from the more conventional and restrictive confines of organizational faiths. While populist religious traditions often have struggled to help their adherants to "establish contact with a more austere, impersonal deity," people have historically sought alternate paths and "have found it convenient to postulate a host of anthropomorphic gods and goddesses, since religion requires the spiritualization of emotion, and it is very difficult to attach emotions of love and veneration to an impersonal absolute." "Seth" was then, naturally, one very popular channeled little boy.
Close on Jane Roberts' psychic heels came former insurance man Jach Pursel, the very successful channel for "Lazaris," actress Shirley MacLaine and her books detailing her "spiritual odysseys," the legally troubled but financially successful JZ Knight and her entity "Ramtha," and the more recent Neale Donald Walsch and his "Conversations with God" series. Many publications have been printed and reprinted, videotapes and inspirational materials have been sold like metaphysical hotcakes, and groups like the followers of "Michael," "the Urantia Book," and the "Course in Miracles" continue to thrive and grow as new agers sell their services on line and on the paperback rack at the bookstore. An internet search for "Channeling" on any major search engine will produces hundreds of references to channelers and/or channeling web pages and discussions. Some channelers enjoy a fair amount of public recognition as being more plausible or acceptable than others, though critics and skeptics of mediumship have denounced channelers alternately as "frauds," "satanists," "culters," "maniacs," "crooks," and other, more extreme (and unpublishable) names.

III. Beliefs of the Group
Followers and practitioners of Channeling vary somewhat in their definitions of the practice, but for the most part hold certain common beliefs. Channeling is generally considered the transmission of messages or ideas from non-human entities, or spirits or souls outside the human body, to and through a human, for translation and transmission to that, or other, humans.
It is also generally accepted that the medium, or person serving as the channeler, must be emotionally and intellectually prepared to receive and transmit any such communications. Many "how to" channeling resources stress that mediumship is not for everyone. Most adherents to the Channeling Movement believe that a medium needs direction and/or preparation to fully receive and relay such paranormal communications. Often, but not always, preparation to channel may include the Channeler's induction to a trance or meditative state, and may or may not require the use of crystals, stones, chakras, or other talismans to encourage the communications.
Depending on the particular channeler, communications may come from the spirits of dead people, from otherworldly presences, or from spiritual leaders. A large segment of current Channeling proponents, for example, report and discuss channeled messages from a higher, divine being, though there seems to be a general consensus among channelers that traditional Christian notions of there being just "one all knowing God" is not necessarily so, and that the source of their spiritual messages may well be many spiriual entities. Channelers often refer to the existence of multiple layers of consciousness, and to the idea that Channeling is more accessible to those open to accessing those alternate levels.

IV. Links to Channeling Web Sites
General Channeling Information/Resources:
The Spiritual Connection
A popular and informative page discussing Channeling news, including links to other related sites.
"What is Channeling?: Mediumship and the New Age"
Channeler Marina Michaels has compiled a very practical and conversational article offering just the material her article's title suggests: information about Channeling, what it is, how to do it, what she's learned and the reality versus the myths of available Channeling lore. (The main page, "Sonic Net is also an interesting basic "Independent Website on Spirituality.")
The Channeling Page
Another good source of information from and about channelers, providing basic concepts on Channeling, and links to channelers and chat groups.
The Gale Group Biography Resource Center
A general on-line biographical reference tool loaded with personalities,with particularly comprehensive information on leaders and practitioners of religious movements (much of it attributed to J. Gordon Melton).
"Don't touch that dial!"
An interesting and initially balanced (with a decidedly anti-cult skepticism at conclusion) article by Eric Pement (1988), subtitled "The New Age Practice of Channeling," offering broad historical and social overview of Channeling and its rise to popularity in recent years. Notable for its full discussion of the topic--and for the fact that it was accessed by direct link from a popular Channeler's page.
The Watchman Expositor
An outstanding and impartial source of information regarding many current events in new religious movements, with a particularly comprehensive description of Channeling.
Mystic Planet Presents Channeling
Includes lots of links to Channelers, and messages from some of the best-known entities in Channeldom.
The Spirit Web's "Channelings & Higher Realms" Page
Lists many Channels and their entities, including links to electronic transcriptions of their more recent transmissions/messages.
About.Com's "New Age: Channeling" Page
Information tool "About.Com" weighs in with their very complete and impartial, almost encyclopedic reference site about Channeling, Channelers, the history, controversies and major entities of the practice.
"The Best of the Alternative Web"
Llama links touts itself as being "alternative," and does indeed offer vast amounts of information about alternative movements, including Channeling and related paranormal activities (see "consciousness expansion"). A fun, informative and colorful site offering links to pages on many new age topics.
Specific Channelers and Channeling-Based Groups:
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment: The American Gnostic School
Pop Channeler JZ Knight's page; loaded with information about Knight and her channelings, her schedule, her products for sale, and words from Ramtha.
The SpiritWeb's Urantia Page
A brief description of the beliefs of the revelations believed to be in the Urantia Book, and answers to FAQ about the Urantia Book and its channeled teachings.
The Urantia Book On Line
The sacred text of the Urantians, a group guided by spiritual channelings, is the Urantia Book, and this site allows electronic access to the entire text, along with links to further information about the movement.
Swedenborg and Channeling
An article (actually a thesis paper presented at a recent Cesnur conference) discussing the history and controversies revolving around Emanuel Swedenborg and the rise of Swedenborgianism. A long and scholarly paper, but one loaded with historical analysis on a central figure in the re-emergence of mediumship, and worth reading for anyone interested in the subject.
Spring's Haven Spiritual Center
Offers classroom and indepent study in Spiritual education, holistic channeled healing and psychic development. Center ministers also offer channeling services in Reiki and psychic channeled readings from Rev. Vickie Carey, D.D.
The Michael Teachings Page
Suggestions and coaching from the entity Michael's channelers on "how to channel," how to get Michael's books, and some recently received channelings from Michael.
The Seth Network International Home page
Offers brief update for and about the activities of followers of the late Jane Roberts and her primary entity Seth, and refers anyone interested to links to a Seth-heavy bookstore, Seth followers mail list, and information about the Seth conference in October 2000.
Home page for the ReCreation foundation--Neale Donald Walsch's organization-- discussing the group's beliefs, news, and Walsch's anwers to queries about his phenomenally (commercially) successful dialog with God.
God Channel
A site representative of the many pages available discussing transmissions from God.
Ask Merlin Channeled Psychic Readings
A variant of other channelers, Merlin combines a broad range of new age ideas with the more magical elements of consciousness to create this hybrid-Channeling/Psychic business and page. One stop new age/metaphysical shopping...
The Kryon Channelings Page
A rather homegrown page, and an excellent example of the hundreds of channelers with electronic resources devoted to sharing the messages they receive, their own definition of "channelling" (sic), and detailed explanations as to why theirs is an authentic and plausible entity/spirit/voice/being/prophecy. This page, from Lee Carroll, offers readings much like installments in a drama series, perhaps exciting continued interest in a cast of channeled characters (as in: "Wo returns!").
Connecting with your soul
This channel offers a "program" that will help the purchaser of the program to make contact with his "higher self." One of hundreds of on-line businesses angling for the favor (and business) of new agers.
"A Spiritual Beacon on the Internet"
Channelings from "the Assembly of Light," information about "The Prophecy Stones," and some sample readings.
Purchase a "How-to" Manual...Sort of
This site markets itself as offering "everything you need to know about mediumship and spirit channeling"--as long as you buy the "ten lesson study guide," when in fact it is the homepage of The First Spritual Temple, a "Christian Spiritual Church," and much of the "how-to" information is found in the religious movement's online literature and teachings. There is much good information here about mediumship, spirituality, Spiritualism, and spirit communications.

V. Bibliography
Brown, Michael F. 1997.
The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age : Harvard University Press.
Doyle, Arthur Conan 1918.
The New Revelation : George H. Doran Co.
Gardner, Martin. 1988.
The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher : Prometheus Books.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 1992.
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits ; "Channeling," pp 61-62: Facts on File Press.
Humphries, Rolfe, trans. 1953.
Ovid's Metamorphoses : Indiana University Press.
Melton, J. Gordon, ed. 1996.
The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol.I, Fourth Edition ; "Channeling," pp 216-217: Gale Publishing.
Montgomery, Ruth. 1965.
A Gift of Prophecy: The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon : William Morrow & Co.
New International Version. 1991.
The Family Worship Bible : Broadman & Holman Press.
Roberts, Jane. 1978.
The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James : Prentice-Hall Inc.
_______________. 1979.
The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression; A Seth Book : Prentice-Hall Inc.
Stein, Gordon, Ph.D., ed. 1996.
The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal ; "Channeling," pp 153-9: Prometheus Books.
Swatos, William H., Jr., ed. 1998.
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Society ; "Spiritualism," p 492: AltaMira Press.
Urantia Foundation. 1955.
The Urantia Book : Urantia Foundation.
Walsch, Neale Donald. 1998.
Conversations with God (an uncommon dialogue), Book 3. : Hampton Roads Publishing.

VI. References
  1. Stein, Gordon, Ph.D., ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal , p 154: Harvard University Press.
  2. Melton, J. Gordon, ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol.I (A-L), Fourth Ed. , p 216-17: Gale Publications.
  3. Melton, J. Gordon, ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol.I (A-L), Fourth Ed. , p216-17: Gale Publications.
  4. Humpries, Rolfe, trans. 1953. Ovid's Metamorphoses , p 14: Indiana University Press.
  5. NIV Version.1991. The Family Worship Bible , p 1272: Broadman & Holman Press.
  6. Stein, Gordon, Ph.D., ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal , p 153-5: Prometheus Books.
  7. Swatos, William H., Jr., ed. 1998. The Encyclopedia of Religion and Society , p 492: AltaMira Press.
  8. Melton, J. Gordon, ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol.I, Fourth Ed. , p 216-17: Gale Publishing.
  9. Brown, Michael F. 1997 The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age , p 192: Harvard University Press.
  10. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 1992. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits , p 61: Facts on File Press.

Created by Trish Downey Phipps
For Soc 257, New Religious Movements
University of Virginia
Spring 2000
Last modified: 04/19/00