Paranormal Phenomenon Omnibus

Psychic Channeling

Article by Matt Allair

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

This phenomenon has existed since the beginning of recorded history. It has the power to tap into our deepest desires, our need to confirm there's an afterlife or our desire to contact loved ones who have passed on. Furthermore, some believe that channeling can influence creativity. It is also one of the most inconclusive phenomena that relates to PSI research, due to the high ratio of psychic mediums who have been proven to be frauds. The X-Files season one episode, the highly acclaimed Beyond the Sea, dealt with the subject. In the episode, Bogg's, convicted of murdering his family and others in cold blood, developed his ability after a near-death experience when he was granted a last-minute stay of execution. Due to his mortal fear of death, the trauma of the near- execution triggered his psychic ability. This is a fairly common phenomena in PSI research, where a person develops psychic ability after a severe emotional trauma. The subject was further explored in later seasons, such as the season four episode, The Field Where I Died. While exploring reincarnation, the episode touched on certain elements of the issue.

Dating as far back as prior to Greek and Roman Mythology, there have been documented reports of oracles and prophecies starting with Themis. One can find striking similarities between modern channeling and ancient prophets who received spiritual messages from and about supreme beings. It has been argued that Jesus Christ was a medium when you consider from the Book of Revelation, chapter 1, and verse 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." Thus, an Earth-bound soul acted as the agent or medium through which an other-worldly being delivered their message. These chosen channels have been known as shamans, mediums and clairvoyants. Earliest descriptions can be found in Chinese literature dating back four thousand years. Chinese mediums were called wu and were even consulted by Emperors.

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, "Spiritualism" surged with the arrival of several spiritual leaders. Starting with the Swedenborgian Movement of the 1740's, which included Anna Leet's "Shaking Quakers", communication with the souls of the dead, Andrew Jackson Davis and his "mystical medicine" of the 1840s, as well as the famous Fox sisters. Kate and Margaret Fox from Hydesville, New York, first heard "rappings" in their parents' home. From the attention of the Fox sisters' tabletop rappings, the American Spiritualist Movement was formed in 1848.

Further accounts of the Fox family detailed the family hearing strange rapping noises in their house for over a week. Twelve-year-old Kate began to make her own rapping sounds which the noises in the house would imitate. Eventually the noises would respond to questions. As time wore on, stories spread and neighbors began to appear asking questions of the spirits of the house. Kate and her fifteen-year-old sister, Margaret, started to interpret these knockings using a "numeric alphabet" of their creation. Eventually, their eldest sister, Leah, joined and they began holding séances in Leah's home. Over time, their fame grew and they received endorsements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Horace Greeley.

Whatever their motives were in the beginning, they might have been sincere. Common sense would point out that the 'rapping' noises might have come from rats or other animals they were living in the walls, which was quite common during the eighteen hundreds. Nevertheless, the situation escalated into a phenomenon for the entire family. Several skeptics at the time demonstrated how they could have produced the rapping sounds. Yet by 1888, the most damning evidence of their fraudulence came from Margaret Fox herself when she told a reporter that she began making the noises to frighten their mother, first by using an apple tied to a string on the floor, but later using their knuckles and toes to make the crackling noises. She also admitted the sisters became very good at reading peoples faces to figure out the answers to the questions posed. Eventually, she recanted the confession to the reporter and some believe to this day the Fox sisters could communicate with spirits.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, due to the influence of Davis and the Fox sisters, there was an estimated three million people in the United States alone who believed in Mediums and Spiritualism. By the end of the century, there were about ten thousand trance mediums, after which time the "Spiritualism" craze made a gradual decline.

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

One explanation for this decline was the number of "Spiritualist" frauds who were uncovered. Spiritualism had reached such a peak, that by the end of the nineteenth century, organizations were formed such as the Theosophy Society. The organization was founded by Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the 1880's. It focused mostly on spiritual messages from entities called "Mahatmas", which they defined as spirits of wise leaders with messages for humanity. Madam Blavatsky claimed the Mahatmas would materialize messages written on paper which would drift down from the sky onto a table where a séance was being held. The means of how to do this was accidentally discovered when a team of investigators from the Psychical Research Society of London witnessed one of her disciples accidentally popping open a secret panel from a wall during such a séance. The Theosophy Society still exists to this day.

The famed magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, developed an interest in spiritualism and pursued a crusade to debunk many known spiritualists during his time. After his mother's death, he became interested and came to realize most, if not all spiritualists, were frauds. His most famous debunking was a popular female medium known as 'Margery'. He challenged her by offering $10,000 if she could produce any effect he could not duplicate; he later extended that offer to any medium under the same conditions. Houdini published many books revealing the tricks used by mediums. He also testified before congress in favor of a bill to outlaw fortune telling, in spite of some who argued that such a bill was an infringement on freedom of religion. Houdini would counter that some mediums had become so unethical that they called for old men and women to finish their lives in order to join their friends or family.

Another trick of the trade that was uncovered in the nineteenth century were "Blue Books". The medium movement became very organized and mediums passed these books among themselves. The books contained personal information on people who regularly attended séances, giving mediums details they could drop into conversation with clients which the "Spirits" would reveal.

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

While many could dismiss the phenomenon, considering the many successful debunkings that have left doubt, there is one figure that many feel may have had genuine abilities - Edgar Cayce. By the 1920s, Cayce was a struggling photographer from Kentucky when he began to establish himself as a premier psychic by recognizing peoples' health problems, offering readings and teachings. Unlike the usual Séance, he would go into a kind of sleep-induced trance. He eventually formed the Association for Research and Enlightenment in 1931 as a repository of his collected works.

What is uncanny about Cayce's readings were his prophecies of the later half of the twentieth century, including the upcoming rise of Hitler in Europe, as well as predicting the stock crash of 1929, months before it occurred. Other predictions included the Tsunami at the Indian Ocean in 2004, the prediction of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that eventually were discovered in 1947, as well as making a connection, in his prediction of May of 1926, between temperature changes in deep ocean currents and weather changes, thus predicting our current understanding of La Nina and El Nino.

As the 60s and 70s unfolded there was another revised and expanded psychical revolution with psychics such as Jane Roberts who claimed to receive messages from the young entity "Seth". Experts such as J. Gordon Melton believe that channeling is simply the contemporary term for the earlier spiritualism. The distinction between the two being that while Spiritualism concerned itself with communications with deceased friends or family, channeling focuses on philosophical and theological teachings from a disembodied entity. Other contemporary channeling psychics include Jach Pursel, JZ Knight, Neale Donald Walsch and John Edwards.

Many contemporary debunkers have dismissed such figures as the popular JZ Knight and her "Ramtha School of Enlightenment". Some charges against RSE have included brainwashing methods such as sleep deprivation to people who attend RSE seminars, as well as accusations of investment fraud. While John Edwards, another popular figure, has never been conclusively proven a fraud, he has been accused of using a technique known as "Cold Reading".

As explained by Magician James Randi, Cold Reading is a technique used to pump information from a subject while seeming to tell that same subject facts that the reader has no way of knowing. The reader will often do this by phrasing a question as a statement and agreeing with the given answer. Thus the technique is nothing more than a refined variation of techniques used by the Fox sisters a century before.

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

There have been many cases of amateur channeling that has been done through such items as Ouija boards. Some believe that the consequences of exploring such areas without proper understanding can open doors to other dimensions and times. Such an incident was recounted by Stephen Wagner through someone named 'David' who had a strange experience. David recounted that when he was around five or six-years-old, he lived with his mother, father and sister in a small town in Kentucky. He and his sister had a friend who lived in their closet, whom they called 'Clifford'. This man spoke in a whisper and neither child could never recall anything the man said. There were various encounters through the years with this man Clifford, who wore clothes dating from the 30s or 40s. Sightings of the man ended when the family moved to Tennessee.

Some years later, David's father gave a lecture to teens warning about dabbling in the occult. In the lecture, David's father recalled a time when he, David's mother, and some friends from a Kentucky church practiced channeling, after having been convinced by a church member that it was a means to communicate with God. David's father explained how he became the channeler and the spirit of a Native American took over and spoke through him. The channeling experience had opened a door between the family's household and the paranormal. It wreaked havoc on friendships; the family broke from the Kentucky church and the friends who had participated in the channeling. That fight caused the father to attempt suicide in his 1969 Buick. He was about to smash into a stone wall and was within ten feet of the wall when something remarkable happened. David's father described it was as if someone had grabbed the roof of the car and shoved it downward into the ground to a complete stop, turning the car 180 degrees. While Clifford was a benevolent entity, the situation could have taken a darker turn if that had not been the case.

Ancient Origins and Definitions / The Fox Sisters Case / The Theosophy Society /
Edward Cayce to John Edwards / Amateur Channeling / Presence Phenomenon

Another interesting side school of thought regarding the contemporary channeling phenomenon is something referred to as Presence Phenomenon. Some argue that the outcomes of channeling may present themselves when people come together with a common objective. It seems that when their minds fuse, a common field is created. In it, a presence may manifest itself in such a strong manner that it is not recognized anymore as being part of the participants. The ability of the subconscious mind to dramatize has to be taken into account when considering this phenomenon. One then needs to ask, could all impressions of presences manifesting themselves be the byproduct of the subconscious mind, or are other elements involved?

One example of the subconscious to dramatize are in dreams that are composed of various elements: reminiscences, sensory stimuli and so on. However absurd the dramatization, the dreamer has no doubt of its authenticity. This is also true for a hypnotized person. A hypnotized person might respond to the most unbelievable suggestions. One can even pose the question whether the consciousness of a human being is not a presence. Its identity is sustained by the memory of the human mind and the characteristics of genetics.

In abnormal cases, a number of rival personalities may manifest who struggle for control of the same person -- the very definition of Multiple Personalities (dissociated identity disorder). Some parapsychological experts have noted that the channeling phenomenon shares similarities to multiple personalities and have pondered if there is a relationship between them. It should be noted that there are many people who have had channeling experiences who show no signs of insanity and are very grounded individuals. Also of note, there are certain criteria that need to be met in order to establish dissociative identity disorder. Because true channeling fails to meet all these criteria, it's all swept into the catchall explanation of "Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified."

To suggest that people who channel must have multiple personalities or must be schizophrenic is too simplistic. Yet, perhaps the power of suggestion might affect a persons perception of the world around them; thereby, a person who believes he or she communicated with a spirit convinced themselves of doing so because they had no point of reference to understand otherwise.

Creativity in the subconscious mind is generally accepted. Artists in the various arts testify to their creations being taken out of their hands, as if a spirit takes over and endows it a sublime quality. For example, Tesla saw his inventions (alternating current generators) completely at work before his mind�s eye. The presence phenomenon has been documented during near-death experiences as well. Modern psychology has only begun to explore the presence phenomenon and how it might relate to multiple personalities. One significant field of research being conducted by Dr. Michael Persinger's Neurotheology involves stimulating the brain with magnetic signals that have induced in subjects, mystic, religious and spiritual experiences.

Perhaps certain components of channeling should help to raise questions about what is the nature of consciousness. Being that channeling involves the power of the human mind, perhaps that power is more psychological than paranormal. The debate about the legitimacy of psychic channeling continues and may continue until the end of time.

Sources:
Religious Movements Homepage: Channeling
Skeptic Report.com / History of Spiritualist Fraud
About Paranormal Phenomenon / Channeling
Men and the Unknown website / Channeling and the Presence Phenomenon
Association for Research and Enlightenment

Page Editing and Additional Information: XScribe

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