“Bashar” is an extra-terrestrial.

“Mafu” is a highly evolved being from the seventh dimension, last seen on Earth when he incarnated as a leper in first-century Pompeii.

“Ramtha” is a 35,000-year-old ascended master, once a barbarian warrior-king, later a Hindu god, now beyond even deity itself.

“Lazaris” is a disembodied personality with no incarnations—a being with no past lives in his portfolio.

These are not characters from Superhero Comix, or a “Star Trek” episode. They are “entities.” And these entities, with others like them, have helped to create a modern mass-mania—the so-called channeling craze.

Besides their general implausibility, these entities have three things in common: They have no physical existence (that is, they are “spirits,” or “spirit beings”); they are mainly interested in dispensing their philosophy of life to human beings; and they operate through other humans to do so, temporarily assuming control of the body during trance. People who subject themselves to such entrancement and control are called “channelers,” or simply “channels.”

According to the channels, the function of the trance state is to disengage the mind from involvement with the space-time world by shutting out sensory input. The same effect is achieved by making the input of a single sense dominant and repetitive, as in the chanting of mantras. This state of disengaged attention permits contact with the nonsensory realm of spirits and also vacates control of the physical faculties for use by the spirits themselves. While the channel is in an entranced condition, the controlling spirit, or entity, will lecture, counsel, teach, or otherwise advise its human audience. As the entity operates the channel’s body, it comes through as a “new inhabitant,” a distinct and different personality. As one channel put it, “Channeling is a form of voluntary possession.”

Rush Hour Of The Entities

How significant is this trend? When the Los Angeles Times published a major article on the phenomenon, they headlined it “The New, Chic Metaphysical Fad of Channeling.” Is this just another diversion for New Age dabblers, or is it something more enduring?

The impact of channeling is easy to see, but difficult to assess. Its current high profile comes chiefly from celebrity endorsement. Stars of stage, screen, and tube have given public testimonials about their spirit guides. Linda Evans (of “Dynasty”) and Joyce DeWitt (formerly of “Three’s Company”) follow the guidance of Mafu, channeled by Penny Torres, a California housewife. When Sharon Gless won an Emmy for her role in “Cagney and Lacey,” she announced in her acceptance speech that her success was due to Lazaris, channeled by Jach Pursel, a California businessman. Shirley MacLaine consults Ramtha, channeled by J. Z. Knight, a Washington State housewife and breeder of Arabian horses. Ramtha/Knight has also appeared on the Merv Griffin show. Other entity-channel teams have become local radio and television personalities.

Publicity alone is ephemeral. There is more to the trend than the fleeting favor of movie stars. There is extensive grassroots involvement as well. Channeled books are the top-selling titles in the growing occult and metaphysical market; many of them instruct readers how to contact their own spirit guides and become channels themselves (see “Entities in Print,” p. 26). New magazines also serve interest in the subject—Metapsychology: The Journal of Discarnate Intelligence “mines the lode of wisdom and knowledge coming from trance mediumship”; and Spirit Speaks presents an ongoing, channeled “symposium,” in which different entities channel their responses to a featured topic.

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Mastercard Metaphysics

The final evidence of channeling’s impact is found on the bottom line: channeling pays. It pays big, for the simple reason that large numbers of people are willing to part with the price of admission, however steep. Pursuing channeled guidance can be seriously expensive. And supplying it can be seriously rewarding. A case in point is Lazaris, channeled by Jach Pursel. By Pursel’s own declaration, Lazaris is a commercial entity as well as a spiritual one.

It costs $275 to partake of Lazaris’s wisdom at a weekend seminar. Between 600 and 800 people fill each session, which means that Lazaris channels an average of $190,000 into the bank per weekend of transcendental discourse. Lazaris has a two-year waiting list for private consultations, at $93 per hour. Or you can reach out and touch Lazaris by phone at $53 per half-hour, billed to your Visa or MasterCard account. Audio tapes of Lazaris are available at $20 per set, videotapes at $60. Pursel also sells New Age baubles and art. He is co-owner of the “Illuminarium” gallery in Corte Madera, California. The gallery specializes in expensive crystal jewelry and visionary paintings. It grosses five million dollars a year.

A reporter once asked Pursel if he didn’t think it incongruous that a “spiritual” entity like Lazaris should be preoccupied with acquiring material wealth. Pursel replied: “I find it strange that spiritual entities need fancy business cards, that they need press secretaries … yeah, I do. And I don’t like it that that’s happened.” So far, however, he has not disliked it enough to alter his merchandising style. Or the lifestyle based upon it: “You don’t have to have a miserable life to be spiritual. You don’t have to sacrifice everything for your spirituality. You can have everything—and be spiritual!”

Lazaris/Pursel may seem extreme, but he is by no means unique. It has been estimated that over 1,000 active channels practice in the Los Angeles area alone. Southern California may be “the land of a thousand channels,” but it is only a focused version of what is happening more diffusely in other places.

Spirits With A Past

Channeling itself is no novelty. In fact, it is essentially identical to old-fashioned trance mediumship, one of the most ancient practices known to humankind. Indeed, there is irony in the fact that this spiritual relic is the latest rage of our “secular” age, the hottest fad of the so-called New Age movement.

In recent centuries, secularism and scientism have conspired to demystify the universe, but they have not delivered on their promise to eradicate irrationality. Secularism has weakened Christianity, but not superstition. It makes the concept of “Truth” distasteful—and thereby makes falsehood exotic. By rejecting the supernatural, secularism becomes a veil of denial; beneath it, spiritual error grows in the dark, without hindrance or attention.

Therefore, in the modern world there have been periodic outbreaks of spiritistic enthusiasm. Interestingly enough, these outbreaks often coincide with periods of religious ferment, and the rise of aberrant religious teachings.

The origins of modern spiritism can be traced to the activities of the Fox sisters in upstate New York in 1849. Margaret and Katie Fox began by hearing mysterious rappings in their house at Hydesville. They ended by becoming active spirit mediums and public celebrities. Their trances and spirit messages excited a wave of fascination that eventually reached across the Atlantic to England and Europe.

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The next wave of spiritism began in the 1870s, a decade that also saw the founding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Theosophical Society. Mediums of the time introduced some new wrinkles, including “automatic painting” under spirit control and “materializations” of “ectoplasm,” the barely visible stuff of which spirits are supposedly made. Periodicals appeared that were exclusively devoted to the subject. It was during this period that the general interest in mediums and spirits sparked efforts to investigate the matter scientifically. The Dialectical Society was formed in London in 1869, and the Society for Psychical Research at Cambridge in 1882.

In the twentieth century, public interest in spiritism has continued to rise and fall in cycles. The appetite for spirit contact increases after each major war. Spiritism often has its strongest attraction for those who have suffered personal bereavement, and after a war it always gains in appeal and credibility.

Today we live in an age of continual war—multiple, overlapping conflicts that have interruptions, but no end. Death dominates the headlines, and loss overshadows our lives. In an age that daily faces mass extinction from pestilence, pollution, and nuclear war, it is no wonder that the spirits are back and busier than ever.

The Modern Outburst

It is clear we are now in the midst of another major outbreak of spiritism. The spirits are not only more active than before, but in our biblically illiterate society, they are finding more people who are eager to lend them an ear. An expanding audience not only believes in them, it also believes them; it not only accepts their existence, it accepts their guidance as well.

To the casual observer, this renewed fascination with spirits and spirit contact seems to have exploded into prominence without warning. The mass media uniformly treat channeling as a fringe phenomenon that swelled to fad status overnight. Public perception was brought to instant focus in January of this year, when ABC-TV aired Shirley MacLaine’s miniseries based on her own experience with channelers and entities: “Out on a Limb” was a startling, prime-time testimonial to MacLaine’s occult conversion and her belief in spirit guides. Suddenly the subject intruded on our collective attention.

But that impression of suddenness is a media-projected illusion. The unnoticed reality is that spiritism has been steadily working its way into the mainstream of American culture for the last 20 years. The disturbing reality is that channeling is just the tip of an iceberg, the visible part of a much larger pattern. The sobering reality is that the new spiritism has moved beyond the weird and the supernatural into the normal and the mundane. Quietly but convincingly, the entities have been serving notice that they intend to shape our future.

What will their influence be? Assuming (for the moment) that the new spiritism will have a noticeable effect on our culture, what form is it likely to take? When that influence becomes concrete reality, what will it look like?

Teachings From The Twilight Zone

The entities’ primary tool is their teaching. They will mainly affect our collective psyche, the presuppositions of our popular world view. In simple language, fans of channeling adopt the understanding of God and reality that the entities teach them.

Just as mediumship is no novelty, neither is there anything new in the beliefs that attend it. From ancient times, spiritism has consistently been the source of communications that embody the essence of occult philosophy: Death is unreal; All is One; we are Divine Beings and can control Reality with our powers of Mind. It hardly needs pointing out that this glittering vision of possibilities bears a striking resemblance to the serpent’s temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. The entities give us no additions to that agenda of deception. What they give us is a new aggressiveness in pushing it, and a new use of high-tech tools to push it with.

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The entities endlessly repeat the three-fold primal lie: There is no death; man is God; knowledge of self is salvation and power.

Shirley MacLaine’s TV miniseries was a virtual occult catechism. In one breathtakingly blatant scene, MacLaine is initiated into the understanding that Divine Being and the Human Soul are one. She and her spiritual adviser stand on Malibu Beach with their arms flung open to the cosmos, shouting, “I am God! I am God! I am God!”

When Ramtha channeled in to the “Merv Griffin Show” in October of 1985, Merv wanted to know, “What is your most important message that you want everyone on this planet to hear?” Ramtha replied, “What is termed God is within your being.… And that which is called Christ is within your being.… And when you know you are God, you will find joy.”

Equally egregious examples can be culled from a random scanning of channeled material. The denial of death is a dominant theme, always implied and often expressed. The entities endlessly repeat the primal lie, the three-fold creed of error: There is no death; man is God; knowledge of self is salvation and power.

Today, that message is merchandised. Both message and messenger are commodities, items of commerce to be packaged, promoted, and sold. The spirits have always been marketable, but the size of that market has been strictly limited. When spiritism reaches a critical mass of popularity, it graduates to a new level of commerce and becomes mass-marketable. In this way it roots itself in the very foundations of our consumer society. That in itself represents a quantum leap from the days when believing in spirits and going to seances was considered eccentric at best.

Today’s spiritism, in contrast to that of the past, has enormous commercial potential, and commerce controls the shape and direction of mass culture. In his book Masks of Satan, Christopher Nugent says, “The Moloch of consumerism is king, and the first thing it consumes is conscience.… As the idols descend we have a convergence of the culture and the occult, a kind of ‘occulturation.’ … I would conclude that our culture may be becoming so demonic as to render particular cults redundant and superfluous.”

Nugent’s conclusion may seem overstated. But in view of the open merger of spirit contact, occult philosophy, mass media, and high finance, it hardly seems fanciful.

Biblical Meanings: Delusion And Judgment

Channeling is part of a larger trend that is intensifying and will probably continue to do so. It is easy to see why. Spiritism’s powerful appeal caters simultaneously to the modern state of mind and fallen human nature. Spirit contact fits perfectly into the jiffy-solution mentality of our day. It’s quick. It’s morally undemanding. And above all, it provides a strong, immediate experience of the “beyond” to substitute for our alienation from God.

Spiritism, therefore, accelerates the process of spiritual decline toward apostasy and judgment, for it involves not only a rejection of God, but an active embrace of his replacement. It is, as the prophets put it, “spiritual adultery,” carried to completion. The biblical language that deals with spiritism is a litany of loathing: It is called evil, error, folly, falsehood, apostasy, and abomination (see, for example, Deut. 18:9–14 and Rev. 21:15). In the Old Testament, those who indulge in it are considered defiled and deserving of exile or death. In the New Testament, spiritists are identified as opposers of the gospel and enemies of the truth.

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The Bible treats spiritism as a symptom of social corruption as well as of personal culpability. The extent to which a society endorses or indulges in spiritism, therefore, is a spiritual thermometer. As a social symptom, widespread spiritism represents the final stage of a long process of spiritual decay. It is the terminal phase of a people’s flight from God—terminal because beyond a certain advanced stage in the development of any sin, God’s judgment is no longer intended to admonish or correct, but to cleanse and extirpate. Terminal conditions call for termination.

Back To The Future, Forward To The Past

In that light alone, the current goings on have an urgent relevance to our lives. Christ exhorted us to “discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3). Part of that discernment comes from understanding the spiritual currents of the age.

The new spiritism is only one of many tributary streams in the rising flow of occult influence. It is only one of many means by which the basic message is drummed into the popular mind. It has less significance in its own right than it does as a representative symptom—a milestone on the road to delusion.

Western culture seems to be relapsing once again into the spiritual and intellectual condition of ancient Rome. Franz Cumont’s Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans describes the crumbling classical world in terms that are indistinguishable from the New Age Movement’s vision of the future: “In the declining days of antiquity the common creed of all pagans came to be a scientific pantheism, in which the infinite power of the divinity that pervaded the universe was revealed by all the elements of nature.” If channeled New Age Occult Cosmic Humanism is the wave of the future, it is only because it has always been the way of the world.

Brooks Alexander is senior researcher at the Berkeley, California-based Spiritual Counterfeits Project. This article is based on research in progress for a book-length manuscript to be completed this fall.

Are The Entities For Real?

What is the nature of channeled entities? Are they objectively real, but disembodied beings that exist in some ethereal realm?

There seem to be four basic options: (1) the entities are real and are telling us the truth about themselves; (2) the entities are real and are lying to us; (3) the entities are a “dissociative reaction,” a mental dysfunction unrecognized as such; (4) the entities are a conscious fraud for the purpose of gain.

We can eliminate option (1) because the entities’ claims are plainly at odds with the biblical view of reality. In fact, many entities explicitly reject the Bible’s message of sin and salvation.

It has been suggested that a channel splits off part of his unconscious mind into a separate personality, which in turn is manipulated by an entity. That explanation has the virtue of covering all the bases. It allows for real entities as well as real pathology. It also illustrates that deception is basic to the channeling process, since the entities themselves have encouraged a very different view of their nature.

Thus, the full answer to our question could involve options (2), (3), and (4) at various times and in various combinations. After all, deception and derangement are basically variations on the demonic theme. We should not be surprised to see them turn up as items on the demonic agenda.

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We would naturally expect channels to insist on the objective reality of their entities. Some do, but others are curiously ambivalent. Jach Pursel says, “I suppose Lazaris could be a different part of me, a ‘higher’ part of me or something. And, ultimately, I’d say, well, if you want to think that, fine. Because what really matters is the value you gain from it. And if talking to another part of me can help you improve your life, then have at it.”

That airy indifference to matters of factual accuracy apparently rubs off on followers. A successful corporate executive who lives in California’s trendy Marin County says, “I can’t say that Lazaris is really a disembodied spiritual guide. To me it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s truthful and helpful.” Ram Das (né Dr. Richard Alpert) is one channeling fan who is also a psychologist, and therefore should be able to evaluate the phenomenon. But he, too, uses his confusion about the facts as an excuse to avoid the issue of interpretation. Writing about “Emmanuel,” an astral-plane entity channeled by East Coast housewife Pat Rodegast, Ram Das says: “From my point of view as a psychologist, I allow for the theoretical possibility that Emmanuel is a deeper part of Pat. In the final analysis, what difference does it really make? What I treasure is the wisdom Emmanuel conveys.”

Ram Das is correct—in one sense. In the final analysis, it is the “wisdom” that counts, not the bearer of it. The wisdom of the entities—whoever or whatever they are—is the “earthly, natural, demonic” wisdom of James 3:15. That is enough to identify the phenomenon regardless of who the messenger is. As Robert Burrows, editor of publications for Spiritual Counterfeits Project, has pointed out, real entities do not have to be channeled for real lies to be told or real damage to be done. Satan’s purposes can be served without directly serving him or making direct contact with spirits who do. It doesn’t always take a devil to do the Devil’s work.

In that respect, as strange as it may seem, it does not matter whether entities exist objectively or not. The runaway popularity of a flagrantly demonic message is cause enough for concern.

By Brooks Alexander.

Entities In Print

“Automatic writing” is doubtless as old as the alphabet. The spirits have always been prolific authors. Every generation has its own form of channeled writing, and ours has the most lavish variety to date.

The current wave of channeled publications was set in motion by the late Jane Roberts. During the early 1970s, Roberts was channel for the entity “Seth,” author of Seth Speaks and numerous other books. Today hundreds of people claim to be channels for Seth.

The Seth books were a milestone because they were produced by Prentice-Hall, a respected general-market publisher. Earlier spirit scribes had mostly been printed by obscure specialty houses. When the Seth venture proved successful, more such writings began to appear from major publishers.

Authors also published spirit-dictated material under their own names. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was dictated to Richard Bach by an entity that appeared in the form of a bird. Bach claims that he simply wrote down the stream of thoughts and impressions that the entity poured into his mind. The book broke all publishing records since the legendary success of Gone With the Wind, and topped the best-seller lists for over two years.

The entity-authors of the eighties are a diverse lot, even if their message is redundant. “Jesus” himself is claimed as the source of A Course in Miracles, a three-volume work that uses biblical terminology to distort biblical doctrine. The disciples of Jesus are also popular writers, especially “Saint John.” Other literary entities include “Raphael,” an extraterrestrial; “Ra,” an ancient Egyptian; and “White Eagle,” a Native American. There are travelers from other planets, dwellers in other dimensions, denizens of ancient and lost civilizations, and the very gods themselves. And now there is Messages From Michael, written by a collective entity: “not a ghost, not a spirit, but an amassing of souls on a higher plane of existence.” Shades of “Legion” (Mark 5:9)!

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The sheer number of titles in print today is unprecedented. The major New Age/Occult bookstore in Berkeley has seven shelves of channeled material. Three of those shelves hold the “older” books—the Urantia Book, the Aquarian Gospel, the works of Edgar Cayce, and so on. The remaining four shelves hold more recently published material. Those four shelves outsell the rest of the bookstore.

That’s not a mere publishing trend; it’s a stampede.

By Brooks Alexander.

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