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Disembodied Wisdom: Exploring the Phenomenon of Channeling

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Ed. Note: Jon Klimo is probably the world’s foremost scholar on the phenomenon of spirit channeling. After teaching at Rutgers University for eight years, he became a professor of psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology at the San Francisco–based campus of Argosy University. His book Channeling:Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources is considered the definitive work on the subject. He has also coauthored two books on the afterlife, which brings to mind Julie Beischel’s innovative research into mediumship (see “Talking to the Dead”). In the article below, Klimo discusses David Thomas’s new book Tuning In (Hampton Roads, 2011), and more generally the role of channeled material in a modern and skeptical world.

During the past forty years, as channeling has become more prominent in the public eye, it has also become an increasingly loaded, polarizing, and even emotional subject. Similar to other phenomena studied in parapsychology, consciousness research, and transpersonal psychology—and even the more extreme case of UFOs and extraterrestrials—channeling provides a litmus test of a person’s worldview on topics that could be categorized “anomalous” by consensus reality and the dominant scientific paradigm. Without definitive evidence irrefutably proving or disproving the reality and authenticity of channeling, “the jury stays out,” and we are left to our own devices to determine how we feel and what we think about channeling.

When a book comes out on the subject of channeling, I'm always curious to find out what the author’s relationship and orientation to the subject is. What is his or her story? Where does the author stand with regard to the phenomenon? Closed- or open-minded? Is the book’s frame of reference based on the writer’s indirect or, better yet, direct personal experience with channeling, or does the author take a more neutral, objective, and scholarly perspective? Is the writer a denier, a skeptic, a true believer? To what kind of audience does the book seem to be appealing? Is the reader part of the choir to whom the author is preaching or someone who doesn’t understand or agree with the topic or the author’s stance?

The mainstream has decreed that channeling is just another New Age fad for escapists, the gullible, and those who fail to think critically. To advocates, channeling represents a kind of emerging, revelatory breakthrough of insight and information from a larger, otherworldly reality that is much needed in our myopic and troubled times. Most people end up wrestling with what philosopher and psychologist William James called “the will to believe.” This is what happens to me whenever another book on channeling appears; I invariably confront my own doubts. That I have immersed myself in the serious study of channeling for more than forty years does not seem to change this process of self-evaluation whenever I assess new reports of channeled material. And so it was when I learned of David Thomas’s new book, Tuning In: A Journalist, 6 Trance Channelers, and Messages from the Other Side.

Saved by Spirits

Thomas jumps right in without introduction by presenting the first of six channels, Darryl Anka, along with transcribed excerpts from Bashar, the source, or entity, communicating through him. We also find out in the first six pages that Thomas is making a documentary film of these sessions. (The film, directed by the young Canadian director Matthew Klinck, was released in 2008 as Tuning In: Spirit Channelers in America; the book was published in March 2011.)

“I was a trained journalist who wore a grey cloak of skepticism” about channeling, writes Thomas, someone who “scoffed at such woo-woo nonsense.” But now, “I've come to believe that channeling—higher intelligence speaking through humans—is real and happening.” Thomas spends virtually no time providing the reader with any kind of historical, sociocultural, theoretical, or scientific context for the phenomenon of channeling, which actually makes sense given the overall style and presentation of this book. He doesn’t pretend to be any kind of expert. His greatest contribution, at both the beginning and the end of the book, may be the sharing of his own bittersweet story and how the channeling phenomenon became a part of it. He sits down with each channel and then with each channel’s source and uses his natural interviewing technique of openness and intuitive questioning to draw out their messages.

In a very real way, Thomas feels he has been “saved” by the phenomenon: “A decade ago I was in full-on Hamlet mode, soundly unhappy and neck deep in the slow crucifixion of the spirit…I was drinking way too much and enjoying way too little. I was in the process of getting a bitter divorce from life itself.” But then he came to realize that “much negativity and strife in my life has been transmuted or healed thanks to the guidance I received from channeled material” (which had taken place over a period of ten years). He shares that his own life “might be considered something of a ‘failure’ by a random observer…I couldn’t fit into the established order of things and concluded that there was something terribly wrong with me. There wasn’t. I was in the midst of a profound healing for all those years.” I can report that over the past sixty years, countless people like Thomas have been drawn to and claimed to be helped by such otherworldly messages, whether or not such otherworldliness can be proven.

While this is not a book about the nature of channeling itself, Thomas does give us glimpses of what he believes channeling to be—glimpses that I find very much in keeping with my own understanding of the phenomenon. “Basically, channeling involves a nonphysical entity ‘stepping down’ energy and a person going into a trance state and ‘stepping up’ energy, creating a melding in the middle where communication is possible.” He conjectures that “as our evolution speeds up, as we in a sense ascend, the veil between our physical existence and the spirit world thins.” Thomas attempts to situate the phenomenon of channeling within the zeitgeist of a generally skeptical culture. As an Everyman engaged in the quest for personal healing and meaning, he has a sense of what’s going on—of what may be going on—that a growing number of us seem to share.

Indeed, Thomas comes across as a kind of informal participant-observer-researcher, his antennae extended, attempting to pick up nuances of right-feeling direction. He tells us that “more and more spirit channelers are popping up all over the globe,” answering the call for help “in navigating the age we have entered, which some have termed ‘the Great Shift.’ There is a silent revolution of consciousness afoot, and more channeled information is a part of it. We are evolving quickly, and spirits are coming through to offer guidance, advice, and unconditional love from a broader perspective.” In response to critics who disparage the authenticity of channeling, the entity Kryon, communicating through well-known channel Lee Carroll, declares to Thomas that “all of your spiritual texts you hold so dear have been channeled.” And more solicitously, Kryon adds, “If you come to this [channeled] material with an open mind and an open heart, perhaps there is something to be gained from it, dear human.”

Channelers and Their Sources

As noted, the book’s first chapter focuses on Darryl Anka and Bashar. Thomas and Klinck next visit channel Wendy Kennedy, who is in contact with the self-described “Pleiadian Collective.” The next chapter takes us to the home of Geoffrey Hoppe and his channeled source, Tobias. Hoppe is followed by Shawn Randall channeling Torah, John Cali channeling Chief Joseph, and concludes with Lee Carroll and Kryon.

In Chapter 1, Darryl Anka, “a barrel-chested man with a soft voice and a smooth moon face belying his fifty years,” presents himself as someone who, since 1983, has been channeling Bashar, “an extraterrestrial being three-hundred years in the future.” Anka tells Thomas that people “do not have to believe that Bashar is really an extraterrestrial in telepathic communication with me. If they want to believe the words are coming from another part of my own consciousness, that’s fine. I have no way of proving Bashar’s existence to anyone anyway. The important thing is that the information, wherever it is coming from, has made a difference in many people’s lives, including my own.”

Regarding the content of channeling, Anka tells Thomas that Bashar “made it clear that we are responsible for our own lives, totally responsible, and that nothing is being done to us, but rather through us.” In this sense, we are each channeling what we are experiencing as real for us; we are creating our own reality moment to moment and for a lifetime. Says Bashar, “Whatever vibration you give off, whatever frequency you create or generate, determines, utterly and absolutely, whatever experience is reflected back to you from your reality.” This seems to be one of the dominant themes throughout the channeled literature. Bashar tells us that by getting in touch with our beliefs, we can potentially change, individually and together, the reality we are experiencing. In a process of gradual ascension, we are undergoing a change in our frequency, our consciousness, our potential and its actualization.

Thomas’s next stop is the Santa Monica apartment of 39-year-old Wendy Kennedy and her Pleiadian Collective, “a group of 2,500 highly evolved beings she channels from the ‘ninth dimension’ who speak as one.” Kennedy tells Thomas, “I define channeling as bringing in energy and translating it into a recognizable form…The source of the energy can be from our higher self, our guides, people we loved on earth now departed, or from other dimensions and realities. It’s really just a matter of choosing a particular frequency, like you would a radio station.” Much of what the Collective shares will sound very familiar to anyone who has spent time with channeled literature. For example, Thomas asks, “So reducing it to shorthand, once we heal ourselves, we’ll heal the planet?” Kennedy’s source replies, “Yes, that's exactly it.”

Thomas then goes to “the quiet, mountain hamlet of Coal Creek Canyon,” near Los Angeles, for an interview with 52-year-old Geoffrey Hoppe, a successful businessman whose wife Linda sat beside him during the interview to lend her energy to his. Hoppe tells Thomas, “So many folks out there are struggling with this shift, this ascension process, and often don't even know what’s going on. So the channeling really helps bring them relief and answers.” Tobias, Hoppe’s source, who has “lived on earth over one thousand lifetimes,” says, “We’re communicating that you are indeed God. Also, you’re living in a type of illusion, an illusion that presents itself like a matrix of human consciousness that each of you is trapped in.” Much channeled material contains this theme of being trapped in an illusion and of being challenged to awaken from it into a larger, fuller reality.

Still in Southern California, we find in 65-year-old Shawn Randall and her source, Torah, “a multidimensional consciousness no longer choosing to incarnate,” many of the themes heard in the other channeled messages. We then move to a visit with John Cali and his source, Chief Joseph, identified as the spirit of the former chief of the Nez Perce Indians. The secret to living “a more joyful, abundant life,” says the Chief, is “to simply remember who you are and why you are here. You are spirit; you are God. You are all God, and once you can integrate that into your being, your human mind, then you’ll find your lives become much easier.” While Chief Joseph’s focus ranged from sex to karma to the roles played by Bush and Cheney in the modern era, we hear many of the same themes repeated throughout this book, which in turn closely mirror themes running through the channeled literature of the last forty years and of the even larger body of writing associated over the millennia with metaphysical, spiritual, and perennial philosophical literature at large.

Thomas returns to Los Angeles for his final interview with Kryon, channeled by Lee Carroll, “perhaps the most renowned channel in the project.” In describing how he was drawn into channeling, Carroll tells Thomas, “I followed what can only be described as the urgings of my soul. It [channeling] was just something I knew I was supposed to be doing.” Kryon, who refers to himself (itself?) in the third person, tells Thomas, “You are a piece of the whole, which you call God. So think of me as a brother, as a sister, as an angelic presence.” Like some of the channeled entities, Kryon is capable of being more specific, at times even technical: “I am the first to give you messages regarding the magnetic grid of the planet being that which communicates in an interdimensional way with your DNA.” We hear that “this is the only planet of free choice…the only one in the universe at the moment to have pieces of God disguised as humans living upon its surface…You come in [to this lifetime] already to a difficult playing field where the energy is not commensurate with your divinity. And that, my friend, has caused the wars, the frustration, the lack of integrity, the dishonesty.” The emphasis is again on the Great Shift said to be taking place, an evolution of spirit and consciousness that these channeled messages hope to inspire people to embrace.

We Are All Gods?

We are told in the final chapter, “Go in Peace,” that it has been two years since the final interview was filmed, that “the movie didn’t garner a theatrical release, but it did end up being viewed by people in more than thirty countries via DVD sales,” and that the “reaction to the film has been overwhelmingly positive.” Thomas adds that he has since directed a sequel, Tuning In 2, with seven more channelers and new topics. “This work truly feels like a calling to me,” says Thomas. There is also a welling up in Thomas of the creative journalisticwriter—an almost poetic, inspired quality—which includes a digest of channeled literature that Thomas has absorbed over the years. Some of Thomas’s thinking and wording convey a metaphysical grandness and at times an overly cute or “guru-lite” quality, such as when he refers to “some science nerd named Einstein.”

By the end, one can’t quite tell where the channeled material ends and where the author’s own hopes and vision begin. Thomas writes: “You are God also.” “You are a creator.” “We are each a sovereign being.” ”We are rising to our greatness.” “We have to be our own heroes.” “You are going to have to face your inner darkness and heal yourself.” He does seem to aspire to realize his own higher self while identifying closely with the teachings of the channeled sources he has honored with a film and now a book.

At the conclusion of this book, one may wonder what the difference is between garden-variety creativity, intuition, and inspiration—available to any of us on a good day—and the kind of channeled material involving “higher intelligence speaking through humans, “as Thomas puts it. Ultimately this book may point to how we everyday embodied spirits may be evolving in our own way toward having the kind of voice and vision once only associated with thousand-year-old beings from other dimensions.

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    conrussert Sep 07, 2011

    Dr. Klimo, thank you for beginning the discussion of this book, and the related films. I am one of the seven channelers in "Tuning In Two." I found David Thomas to be a sincere man with hopes of contributing positively to our culture through introducing an avenue of healing that many in the Western world do not understand.

    Channeling "found" me - I was not (consciously) seeking it - in 1985. After channeling as a hobby for 11 years, I quit my job as a college professor to dedicate myself to this healing path.

    I believe that everything is a Metaphor of Truth - in that none of us knows THE Truth. Channelers provide various Metaphors of Truth in words that seekers can understand and integrate into their lives in order to heal. Thus, some of us say we are channeling Master Spirit Teachers, others say they are channeling a multidimensional consciousness. It's not important what we call our sources. The results are clear - people heal. They discover how to allow their lives to be easy. And that is what keeps us channelers on the path of providing these awe-inspiring services.

    Thank you again for beginning the discussion. I hope that Mr. Thomas' book and films find the audiences they deserve.

    Connie Russert

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    DwightAA Sep 08, 2011

    great, thought-full review. My own observation is that it is potentially a very big mistake to assume that "the entity" being channeled through is "a higher intelligence". Sometimes this certainly seems so.. but in other cases, "the source" may be not only off-target but intentionally deceptive and misleading or downright stupid. I now think of all sources as Story Tellers, spinning out yarns about the nature of everything. Why "entities" tell stories I don't know. (In fact I also don't know what "entities" are really.) Sometimes I think it a story telling contest to see which entity can gather the most humans into their stories. I've also found that whatever is being presented seems always a mixture of useful "truth" and extraneous "nonsense" in various proportions, depending upon the source. My personal solution to this mixture is to - as I was told - "take the jewels and run" That is, grab whatever useful "truths" are presented... those "revelations" that resonate.... and run-away before getting entrapped or charmed-into the overall storyline. I like what Connie has to say in comment #1 about Metaphors. Stories can be wonderful and healing for a time. But how long and to what extent is that time period? A final observation from me is my experience with modern day Christian prophets, ministers etc. I have observed several of them who always attribute their revelations to "the Holy Spirit" or "the Lord" or "God" or Jesus. I think some of them don't actually have any idea "who" is talking through them or "why", and the listeners rarely seem to question the veracity of the information. In other words, this channeling phenomena is a complex and perplexing experience presenting large question marks and empty blanks to be filled-in.

  • slowlygetnthar Sep 08, 2011

    I have had the spontaneous experience of channeling a few times, and at first, did not comprehend what had transpired. It first occurred when a troubled friend of mine would come and take long walks with me. She often asked my advice. Sometimes, I would get home, be completely exhausted, and have very little recall of what had transpired, what I had told her, or where all we had gone. No other part of my life lacked lucidity. I did not and do not have psychotic episodes. I am not a multiple personality.

    Finally, during one of our chats, I had the experience of my normal conscious mind sort of chiming in with a "What is going on, here?" accounting of the fact that something odd was transpiring. I could feel that something else was operating through me. It apparently gave good advice to my friend, but I was not appreciating the amount of energy it took from me to provide the service. My normal consciousness felt a little annoyed at this unsolicited intervention from elsewhere.

    A little after this occurred about five or six times, I moved to a distant geographic location. This "channelling" may have stopped, because I wasn't with my friend who needed it, anymore.

    Once or twice, I have had similar episodes, but not as prolonged. They have occurred when friends have specifically asked for help or guidance on psycho-emotional or spiritual matters, and we have spoken at great length.

    So, these channeling episodes have raised many questions for me:

    Who is it that takes over or is it some other aspect of my own consciousness?

    Did a different someone/something come through, depending on who was soliciting the advice?

    Is it necessarily a higher consciousness, or is it just some energy/entity that is strong enough to come through?

    When it comes through, I do have a feeling of no barrier between the top left side of my brain and the sky. I also have a heaviness to my eyelids. What do these physical sensations mean?

    So, I cannot claim to channel Houdini, God, the Muppets, or anyone exotic. I don't know what it is, and I am uncertain how it happens. I am just glad it has helped others. If it recurs, I just hope nothing spiritually negative arises from it.

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    Susano Sep 08, 2011

    I've been a channel since 1987 and it took me by surprise. Because I directly experienced the phenomena many times, I can not doubt that it is real but it is still an enigma and very much at odds with our Western, Mainstream, or Scientific Culture because it can't be explained, but that's not to say it does not happen. I tested the nature of what I was channeling before I brought it to others. If it wasn't top notch wisdom teaching, I wasn't interested. I am also an artist and the arts lend themselves to being an open channel for creative inspiration and the imagination more than reason and the scientific mind does.
    I later turned the channeled information into energy healing, because I wanted to bypass the reasoning mind and get to the heart through the body mind. I still tune in. I still am amazed by it...because along with the information, which is helpful and along the lines discussed here, comes energy. It's like taking a spiritual bath. The reasoning mind is still observing, testing the nature of the information, to determine if it is useful or not. It was not easy getting in sync...but in some way that's a part of the evolution. I'm really happy to find discussions like this are being seriously considered...since the New Age dismissal was the predominant slant...and maybe tuning in to a channel is even better than Facebook.

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    carallel Sep 09, 2011

    I experienced telepathic writing. Quite a bit of the information, which included drawings, has evolved into understanding. I mean, I think I am getting to understand through a magical osmosis what the spirits were talking about and what the drawings meant.

    The feeling I get is that there is a group of interactive speakers, and some of them gave me futuristic information. Messages came in like "five is better than three," which I am still curious about.

    The drawings were understandable to an extent. These depicted communities, and polarities within individuals and the magnetic interactions between individuals within the community. I believe that as I grow and evolve, more and more will be revealed to me. Also, I believe that the messages and the automatic writings are supposed to be some kind of a path for my life.

  • Sandra Stahlman Sep 09, 2011

    It would have been good for the book to also include an interview with someone channeling a loved one who had passed away, to show that perhaps it's not always just the grand scheme tips and help that channeling provides, but also the comfort provided by contact when a loved one passes. I find it helps tremendously for people to know their loved one has crossed successfully, in a world where too many people feel totally alone after losing somebody from their life.

    Great book review, thanks!

  • Anonymous Icon

    triplelight Sep 11, 2011

    I have been channeling since 1979. Happened quite expectedly. Was a 16 years old freshman at Columbia University, when Jesus and Mary spoke to me. Over the next few months, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, just about every spiritual teacher from history "spoke" to me. This initiation sent me off on a 28 year spiritual journey which culminated in 2007 with an awakening experience.

    We are all cosmic beings and we are one, and so we each have access to the wisdom of all. If you think of Thomas jefferson, you instantly establish an energetic connection with Thomas Jefferson - it is automatic and unavoidable. With practice, such an energetic connection can be translated into an ongoing dialogue which yields information and wisdom. This is the essence of channeling.

    This past winter, I spoke at IONS headquarters as part of the speaker series. In November, I will be speaking to the IONS chapter in Austin, TX.

    Kevin G. Blackwell

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    PiersA Feb 07, 2012

    Can anyone with experience of channelling comment on the following book review (and the book it's reviewing):

    It seems that apparently benign disembodied beings can be playing nasty manipulative games. And if so, how can you tell a trustworthy one?

    I think DwightAA's comments above are spot on. It's definitely worth applying discrimination and indeed scepticism, not necessarily about the reality of the phenomenon, but about the trustworthiness of the information and the entities.


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