What Is Channeling?

April 6, 2021
Helané Wahbeh, Director of Research

When you hear the word channeling, what comes to mind? Many of us would think of Bashar, Seth, Barbara Marciniak, Edgar Cayce, etc. In other words, most people think of trance channeling, where a person allows a supposed entity (deceased spirits, aliens, angels, higher self, etc.) to use their body as a vehicle to communicate.

I am a trained clinician, naturopathic physician, and Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. I also happen to come from a long line of trance channelers and received a BIAL grant for researching the physiological effects of full-trance channeling:

As someone who bridges the worlds of scientific inquiry and the esoteric, I have a more encompassing definition for channeling:

“Channeling is the process of revealing information and energy not limited by our conventional notions of space and time that can appear receptive or expressive.”
– Excerpt from The Science of Channeling

One of the most confusing things about channeling is its name. Many people associate it with trance channeling. Others use it interchangeably with terms like psychic, medium, psi, ESP, etc. When I first engaged in conversation with people about these phenomena, I found that the terms meant different things to different people.

For example, as a naïve new researcher in the field, I formally reviewed the literature to understand the terms used for trance channeling (Miller and Wahbeh 2018). There were 29 different terms used to describe this form of channeling and the people who do it.

Multiple research studies show that channeling is experienced on a spectrum. On one side, you have widespread experiences like intuition and gut hunches. Telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition lie somewhere in the middle. Rarer experiences like trance channeling and out-of-body experiences are on the far side of the spectrum. Channeling comes in so many forms.

At IONS, we call your unique way of channeling your Noetic Signature. There is no right or wrong signature. All are beautiful and unique. Just as each snowflake is different yet equal in its exquisite beauty, each person’s Noetic Signature has inherent value.

In this blog, we’re going to share a comprehensive overview of channeling, including:

In future blogs, we’ll take an even deeper dive into each of these topics.

A Brief History of Channeling

It appears that everyone comes into this world capable of sensing beyond their traditional five senses. And thus, channeling has been recorded throughout written history, from the Delphi Oracle in Greece to various ancient traditions in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

But channeling practices are not just a thing of history.

A survey of 488 societies worldwide found that 90% had some channeling tradition (Bourguignon 1976). In modern times, we see channeling everywhere! You can easily find information about intuitives, psychics, channels, mediums, sensitives, and more. Typing “mediumship” into Google returns 2.8 million results, not to mention all the TV series and movies depicting characters with channeling capabilities.

Channeling is a universal human experience.

So, why do these common experiences of accessing information beyond conventional notions of time and space remain so taboo? In the West, intuitive abilities have historically been associated with witchcraft — which was falsely associated with devil worship. It’s easy to see how channeling abilities have been misunderstood and misconstrued, especially where phenomena like trance channeling (that is sometimes referred to as spirit communication or even spirit possession) are concerned.

In addition to the religious condemnation, channeling faces scientific condemnation.

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence for psi phenomena, it remains taboo in mainstream science. Those of us who study it anyway stake our reputations and sometimes our livelihoods in the pursuit of the truth. By joining the Institute of Noetic Sciences, I sacrificed my academic career; but like others in the field of parapsychology, it was more important to me to have the freedom to research these topics, regardless of taboos.

In fact, parapsychology is an amazing field to be in because much of it operates on a new paradigm. Science currently operates on the materialist paradigm: Humans are machines made of meat, consciousness is a happy accident, and matter is fundamental.

The post-materialist paradigm flips these long-held beliefs on their head: Consciousness is nonlocal and fundamental.

Inevitably, there’s going to be push back. But for those of us who have had the direct experience of channeling, we know this paradigm shift is inevitable. That’s why IONS continues to explore this exciting new frontier through the lens of the scientific method.

An Overview of Channeling

In my book, The Science of Channeling: Why You Should Trust Your Intuition and Embrace the Force That Connects Us All, I share about the IONS Channeling Research Program and what we’ve learned by investigating these six research questions:

  1. What do we already know from published and unpublished resources about channeling?;
  2. How common is channeling, and what are its characteristics?;
  3. How does channeling work?;
  4. Are there defining characteristics of someone who channels easily?;
  5. Can we verify the information?; and
  6. Is the content useful?

In this blog, I’d like to share an overview of these findings with you. You can also watch a video about some of our findings here.

Is Psychic Channeling a Mental Health Issue?

Many people who reach out to IONS have had a noetic experience. Sometimes they are excited. Other times they are confused. A number of them are even afraid they’re going crazy.

I’m here to assure you that, for the most part, channeling is not a mental health issue. While channelers may experience higher degrees of dissociation and psychosis, these symptoms don’t usually reach levels that are considered pathological.

For example, close to 50% of American adults will have at least one dissociative episode in their life. This can include experiencing life from a dreamlike distance, feeling detached from the environment and people in it, and even a partial or total loss of memory. By that criteria, any trance-like state is considered a dissociative symptom.

Likewise, psychotic symptoms can be found in healthy people. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, up to 31% of people worldwide have had at least one psychotic symptom. While psychosis is often associated with schizophrenia, it can manifest in more mild ways such as:

  • Bizarre experiences such as thinking that your thoughts are not your own or feeling as though you are under the influence of a being other than yourself;
  • Perceptual abnormalities such as hearing voices; and
  • Seeing things other people can’t see.

That being said, channeling and mental health issues have some clear differences. As I mentioned before, dissociation and psychotic symptoms usually do not reach pathological levels in channeling. IONS distributed dissociative and psychotic symptom screenings to 83 trance channelers and found that the average scores fell below the threshold for concern. We gave those same screenings to over 2,000 individuals with various channeling experiences and most did not score high enough that a mental health professional would be concerned.

Another notable difference is that someone with channeling experiences typically lacks paranoia, whereas people with a mental health issue are more likely to feel as though someone is out to get them.

Perhaps most importantly, people who have psychic experiences generally find that their abilities are beneficial and support positive well-being! Channeling should not cause distress, anxiety, or negative consequences in your life.

How Common Is Channeling?

Not only are channeling abilities found in perfectly healthy people, but the experience of channeling is actually quite common.

In another study conducted by IONS, we surveyed scientists, engineers, the general public, and IONS members about their channeling experiences. We were surprised to find that of the 900 participants, a whopping 90% (93-99%) had at least one channeling experience in their lifetime.

This suggests that channeling experiences are common. In fact, Rapoport, Leiby-Clark, and Czyzewicz put out a survey each year to gather information on the number of Americans that believe in paranormal phenomena. What’s interesting is that this number has increased year over year.

One overarching theme in parapsychological research is that the more we believe in phenomena, the more likely we are to experience them. This could account for that growing number. That being said, some channeling experiences are more common than others.

I think of channeling as being like a spectrum. On the subtler side, people experience clairempathy, claircognizance, lucid dreaming, and telepathy. Somewhere toward the middle are precognition and mediumship. And at the far end of the spectrum are rarer experiences like trance channeling, geomancy, psychic healing, pyrokinesis, and levitation.

Is Channeled Information Real?

Channeling may be common — but is it real? “Real” would mean that channeling can be observed with objective measures rather than just anecdotal accounts.

Jessica Utts published an interesting statistic in a study featured in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. She showed us that the effects observed in ESP research are significantly larger than the effect size of 81 mg of aspirin therapy.

In other words: Many channeling phenomena appear to be very real.

Some of the most convincing evidence for channeling can be found in the work of Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake has compiled a database of 4,000 case histories, 2,000 questionnaires, 1,500 interviews, and more than a decade of controlled experiments — all of which indicate that consciousness is nonlocal and fundamental. He and many other scientists have conducted direct mental interactions with living systems (DMILS) experiments that show us a person (the sender) can remotely influence another person’s (the receiver’s) physiology.

In these studies, a sender directs positive intention toward the receiver. Both participant’s bodies are measured for physiological changes. The results are consistent: Small but significant effects can be observed in the physiology of the receiver. DMILS is probably why, for example, we can sense when someone is staring at us.

And yet the evidence for channeled information goes beyond any individual study. In the scientific world, a meta-analysis is the pinnacle of proof. A meta-analysis looks at general trends across many studies and yields an integrated result. These types of analyses are critical because they give a more precise estimate of effect size and may give us conclusive results where individual studies cannot.

Meta-analyses related to channeling illustrate that the evidence for psychic experiences are comparable to that of established phenomena in psychology.

So yes, we have good reason to believe that channeling is real. Which leads us to yet another question: How does channeling work?

How Does Channeling Work?

At this point, no one is sure exactly how channeling works. We understand bits and pieces but more research is needed.

Relative to other branches of science, psi research is notably lacking. On the one hand, this is exciting: Psi is a relatively untapped frontier. On the other hand, the field is underfunded. Additionally, these topics remain taboo in the scientific community.

With little funding (and the genuine possibility of staking one’s career), few scientists are willing to commit their time and energy to psi research (even though, behind the scenes, many are interested in this field!).

In any case, we are in the infancy of our understanding about extended human capacities. Right now, we just have ideas.

It appears as though channeling transcends time and space because the effects of psychic phenomena are instantaneous. For example, in Random Number Generator (RNG) studies, a generator produces random numbers. And yet, when a person directs their attention to the generator, the numbers become less random.

How is something like this possible?

All of parapsychology hinges on the idea that consciousness is nonlocal and fundamental; therefore, everything is interconnected. It’s as though we can all tap into a consciousness larger than the one we experience in our day-to-day life.

It also appears that our abilities to tap into this consciousness are limited by external stimuli. This is why meditation is often used to cultivate intuitive abilities: It’s about learning how to shut out the noise.

Where Does Channeled Information Come From?

We don’t understand all the mechanics of channeling yet…and we’re not sure where the information is coming from.

Here are six possible sources of channeled information:

  1. The unconscious mind. Channeling may give people permission to allow their latent talent to rise to the surface and be expressed, like in cases where ordinary people suddenly develop extraordinary abilities (sudden savant syndrome).
  2. Our transpersonal self. Transpersonal aspects include the intuitive, creative, and higher aspects of the self. These are the aspects of consciousness that go beyond the part of us that identifies as “I.”
  3. Psi. For example, in the case of a medium, a medium may not actually be channeling a discarnate entity; they may be telepathically retrieving information from the loved one who sought the medium out (typically called a “sitter”).
  4. Superpsi. In addition to getting information through the sitter, a medium may also get information through clairvoyance, claircognizance, clairaudience, precognition, etc.
  5. Psychic reservoir. Imagine that every moment in time is stored in a library. We call this a psychic reservoir, and it’s the idea that information can be accessed through a repository of everything that has ever happened and will happen.
  6. Channeling entities. Finally, there is the most obvious possibility which is that channelers are actually channeling an entity.

Channelers themselves hold various beliefs about where the information comes from. Those that practice mediumship believe they are communicating with deceased people.

Some channelers believe they channel nonhumans (angels, extraterrestrials, intraterrestrials, etc). Still others feel they are in communication with ascended masters — humans who achieved a level of enlightenment that allowed them to transcend physical life on Earth.

We conducted a survey among channelers where participants were asked what they thought the source of their channeled information was. They were able to choose as many options as they wanted:

  • 56% of participants thought the source of channeling was their higher self;
  • 50% said the universal mind;
  • 47% said the unconscious mind.

Fewer people reported channeling spirits, ETs, deities, or other entities.

Common Traits of Spiritual Channels

In our research, we have found that certain characteristics lend themselves to channeling.

First of all, in studies done in the West, women report stronger and more frequent experiences than men. This may be because women tend to carry more yin qualities. Yin is feminine energy. It is open, receptive, and connected. In these western studies, channelers also tend to describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Other demographic information, such as age and race, has mixed results.

There are also some standard personality traits among channelers. Channelers appear to be higher in extraversion and openness to experience (two metrics of the Big-5 personality test). Channelers also tend to score higher on empathy scales, express greater sensitivity to other people and their environment, and become fully absorbed in whatever they’re doing (in other words, they are very present).

That being said, we believe that everyone can learn to channel.

What is your unique way of channeling? If you’re interested in discovering or further cultivating your channeling abilities, you can order a copy of The Science of Channeling. In it, I’ll show you how to identify and hone your own channeling skills, process the information you receive, and use your unique gift to improve your life — and the world around you.

Curious to learn more about channeling? Take a deep dive into The Science of Channeling through our new online course! A part of the IONS Channeling Research Program, this self-paced program sheds light on experiences we call “channeling” — the process of revealing information and energy not limited by space and time.

In this course, you will explore the latest scientific evidence for channeling phenomena, looking at research questions such as “Is channeling real?” and “Is it a mental health concern?” Join IONS Director of Research, Helané Wahbeh, as she reveals the fascinating research on this common phenomenon which we are just coming to understand!

Learn More & Register

About the Author

Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCRHelané Wahbeh, ND, MCR, is the Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Wahbeh is clinically trained as a naturopathic physician and research trained with a Master of Clinical Research and two post-doctoral research fellowships. She has published on and spoken internationally about her studies on complementary and alternative medicine, mind-body medicine, extended human capacities, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder and their relationships to physiology, health, and healing. Dr. Wahbeh is especially known for her research around — and noetic approach to — channeling.

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