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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari > Channeling




                     Extrasensory Deception?


                          Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari



     "If the guides were not guides after all, who were they?"


                                   -Hungry Ghosts by Joe Fisher, p. 202


     Seth, Ramtha, Lazaris, Ashtar, Mashiyach - the vaguely Biblical-sounding

names have the ring of "prophet" to them. Indeed, for millions the world over,

these and other garrulous "channeled entities" are prophets who enjoy a

command of mass-media access that would have left the sandal-shod Old

Testament visionaries tongue-tied with astonishment.  Alexander Blair-Ewart,

publisher and editor of the Toronto esoteric magazine Dimensions, notes a bit

ruefully that "in sensationalist fashion, journalists and cameramen zoomed in

on crystals, channeling and a confused and over-excited Hollywood actress" as

the the burgeoning New Age movement's instant celebrities.


     Channeling is defined by Arthur Hastings of the California Institute of

Transpersonal Philosophy as "the process in which a person transmits messages

from a presumed discarnate source external to his or her consciousness."  The

most widely researched kind of channeling phenomena is communication with the

dead, which, as eerie as it may sound, seems to be on the increase.  The

University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Council recently found that

42 percent of American adults believe they have made contact with the spirit

of a departed individual. Of these, 78 percent said they saw, 50 percent heard

and 18 percent talked with the deceased.  Thirty percent of Americans who say

they don't even believe in life after death still claim to have had contact

with someone who has died.  It is the surfeit, not the rarity, of channeling

that puzzles investigators.


     Acolytes of the New Age hail channeled entities to be "highly evolved

beings", "spirit guides for all mankind", "angels", "devas" or even "God." 

There are precious few suggestions that they might be demonic.  Since cameras

and microphones won't penetrate the veil of oblivion that separates us from

them, all we get to see are the subjects through whom the entities speak -

housewives, schoolteachers, insurance salesmen and similarly quite ordinary



     Channeling is a little different from mediumship.  Mediums are

experienced clairvoyants who "fish" for discarnate entities. Channellers are

initially psychic greenhorns who, unwittingly or even unwillingly, are taken

over by the entities.  The first contact can be most disconcerting.  In 1963,

thirty-four-year-old Jane Roberts of Elmira, New York, was suddenly

overwhelmed by what she called a "fantastic avalanche of radical new ideas

burnt into my head with tremendous force, as if my skull were some sort of

receiving station turned up to unbearable volume."  The entity in this case

was Seth, who turned out to be a prime catalyst of the emerging New Age.  From

the early 1970s until her death in 1984, Mrs. Roberts channeled a series of

best-selling "Seth Books" that blazed the way to public acceptance of what in

an earlier period would have been condemned as necromancy.


     Even more shivery-quivery is the Australian channeler Shirley Bray's

description of how a group of entities called "the Nine" contacted her: "I

felt as if thin wires, like acupuncture needles, were being inserted into the

base of my skull.  It was uncomfortable so I stirred, moving my head from side

to side.  A voice firmly but gently said, 'Be still, it will not be long.'"


     But once the channeler overcomes the shock of such close encounters of

the first kind, the relationship may prove to be profitable beyond his or her

wildest dreams.  Jack Pursel, who admits that he was frightened to tears the

first time he channeled Lazaris, now runs a highly successful corporation

called Concept: Synergy that markets Lazaris audio- and videotapes to 500

metaphysical bookstores worldwide.  The erstwhile ordinary housewife J.Z.

Knight takes in more than two hundred thousand dollars per weekend for a

channeling seminar featuring her guide Ramtha; she says he's earned her

millions of dollars.


     A glance at the teachings of the discarnate entities reveals an

intriguing pattern.  Here's a sample from Mashiyach (pronounced Moor-shark),

channeled by Shirley Bray: "He who would find power must know that he extends

from balance in Me, that I am he.  He and thee and Me are ONE in light ...

Create ye a world within the knowing of Me within you.  Look upon your

creation and know it is the sum total of your thinking.  Thinking is creating.

Man has created his world."  From a Krsna conscious standpoint, this is called

Mayavadi philosophy.  Mayavada means "doctrine of illusion" - indeed, there's

a chapter in Ms. Bray's book (A Guide for the Spiritual Traveler) that's

entitled, "Life is Just an Illusion."


     When psychology professor Jon Klimo recounts the themes commonly

expounded by channeled entities, he's giving us nothing more than a breakdown

of the main tenets of Mayavadi philosophy, to wit: we all have a higher self,

which is ultimately One Self (called "All-That-Is" or "The Universal Mind);

this One Self is an impersonal, absolute God, perceivable only as light and

achieved only through silent contemplation; the material world is an illusion,

merely the dream of this God, and until we realize we are God, we are subject

to that dream of our separate individual existences in the cycle of birth and

death. [See Chapter Four of Klimo's Channeling: Investigations on Receiving

Information from Paranormal Sources, 1988]


     We'll return to these philosophical issues a little later on.  Its clear

that the entities have an agenda and, uncorporeal though they may be, they

have the means to fulfill it.  But who are they?  That's what a British-born

investigative journalist named Joe Fisher wanted to find out - because, while

gathering material in Toronto for a book on channeling, he fell in love with a

channeled entity named Filippa.


     Fisher, who's written two best-selling books (The Case for Reincarnation

and Life Between Life), met Filippa in Toronto in the summer of 1984 through a

channeler he calls Aviva in his latest book, Hungry Ghosts.  Aviva, an avowed

Marxist, was forced to suspend her unbelief in the supernatural after she was

taken over by an entity calling himself Russell Parnick while being treated by

hypnotherapy for myelocytic leukemia.  The more she allowed Russell to use her

body as a channel, the more her disease gradually subsided.  As word got

around Toronto's esoteric scene, Aviva's regular seances attracted followers,

among them Joe Fisher.


     There was no doubt in the minds of those in attendance that something

very extraordinary happened to Aviva each time she was put into trance by her

hypnotist.  As Fisher describes it, "her voice was barely recognizable.  Gone

was the high-pitched jocularity ... Her enunciation was now unequivocally

masculine; the English accent was unmistakable.  This was an entirely

different Aviva, strangely assertive and uncompromising.  This was a voice

which claimed to belong to Aviva's guide [Russell] , a discarnate individual

who had lived as a sheep farmer in Yorkshire during the last century." 

Russell in turn introduced other entities: Hanni, Willian, Mi-Lao, Sebotwan,

Ernest, Sonji, Tuktu, Kinggalaa - and Filippa Gavrilos.  They became the

guides for the regulars attending the seances.


     Through Aviva, Filippa spoke to Fisher with "Greek inflection lending

charm to broken English.  Her delivery was subdued, pensive and poignantly

tender ... Whatever the quality of her speech, Filippa always spoke to me like

a lover for whom the fire still smoldered."


     Filippa told Joe that they'd indeed been lovers in the 1700's, when they

lived in Theros, a Greek village "five day's walk from the Black Sea."  He had

been Andreas Cherniak, a militiaman born of a Greek mother and a Slavic

father.  Filippa was a small, fair-skinned, black-haired Mediterranean beauty. 

But their affair ended tragically when the village elders disapproved. 

Andreas/Joe was judged by the priest and banished from Theros.  After her

death at age fifty-three, Filippa's astral self withdrew into the non-physical

plane of existence (called bardo by the Tibetans: bar - "in between lives", do

- "island").  Joe was now in his fourth life cycle since Andreas.


     Joe found Filippa's chronicle appealingly plausible. "Sitting on the

floor of Aviva's living room, I found myself breathing the air of a bygone

era, roaming parched valleys and ancient crypts.  I imagined Filippa's dark

eyes and long black tresses."  Ten years before, he'd written his first novel

on the Greek island of Siphnos and had been quickly captivated by the land and

its culture.  He had a natural fondness for small, dark-haired women.  As a

boy, he'd felt a strange fascination for the name Filippa.  Now he knew why.


     Joe longed to establish "guide contact" (direct mind-to-mind

communication) with Filippa.  To this end he took up daily meditation, never

completely linking up to Filippa but coming tantalizingly close.  Once he had

the insight of a dusty pathway winding to a stand of tall, spindly trees in

the distance. Through Aviva, Filippa excitedly proclaimed that this was where

they used to meet as lovers.  Sometimes he'd get a loud buzzing in his ears. 

He'd then feel Filippa's presence strongly, and "a strange sense of

contentment and reconciliation and a suspension of worldly anxiety" would

settle around him for as long as the buzzing lasted.  In March, 1985, he had

the fleeting vision of a young woman walking towards him wearing a long white

garment.  He knew this to be Filippa, and wept out of joy and sadness, loss

and anguish.  "My terrestrial love life was doomed," Fisher writes. "No woman

of flesh and blood could hope to emulate Filippa's love and concern."


     Joe became obsessed by his impossible love.  "If Filippa could have

assumed a physical body, I'm sure I would have married her.  But she was only

a voice, a voice that resonated with more love, compassion and perspicacity

than I had ever known.  Within the space of a few months, she had demonstrated

an acute awareness of my feelings and foibles, she know the people in my life

and their effect upon me, and she was even able to relate specific

circumstances in which I had found myself, situations unknown to Aviva or

anyone who attended" the seances.  "'I can see energies,' is how she explained

her ability to know me inside out.  'I can see in your mind.  If you make in

your mind, I can see.'"


     The more Joe Fisher loved Filippa, the more he hungered for tangible

proof of her existence.  Proof that Filippa was really who she said she was

would further lend force to the book he was preparing to write.  And proof

would require a journey to Theros, the mountain village in the parched

mountains of northeastern Greece, to find evidence of her earthly sojourn.


     Not only did Fisher set out to unearth Filippa's past life, he wanted to

verify the last incarnations of Englishmen Russell Parnick, William "Harry"

Maddox and William Alfred "Ernest" Scott.  Two, Harry and Ernest, said that

they'd died in this century, Harry in WWI and Ernest in WWII.  These claims

could be easily cross-checked by a look at British military records. Russell,

Aviva's guide, had given ample dates and placenames from his life in the

Yorkshire Dales for Joe to trace.


     But as Joe Fisher would find out after two trips to Europe, the four

entities had been clearly and deliberately lying from the start, though they'd

managed to string him along by clever use of half-truths, ambiguity and

obfuscation.  Filippa's lies turned out to be the most blatant and most

crushing for Joe personally.  She'd repeatedly claimed to have journeyed by

foot from Theros to Alexandropouli.  But Alexandropouli, which Fisher presumed

to be an ancient site of Alexander the Great, turned out to have been founded

only in 1920.  It got its name from King Alexandros, who visited it in 1919. 

For a seventy-year period before that, it was known as Dedegats, a settlement

of Turkish merchants; prior to 1850, the place had no history at all.  Thus

Filippa, deceased in 1771, remembered a city that was not then built.  She

called it by a name that she could not have known and told of ships in a

harbor she could not have seen.  A professor of Greek language found many

other discrepancies in her memories of life in eighteenth-century Greece. 

There was no trace of a town called Theros.  And no Greek could understand

Filippa's taperecorded utterances of her putative native tongue.


     "Their knowledge is impressive," writes Fisher of these four and other

channeled entities he investigated, "their insight remarkable, their

charismatic hold on their followers undeniable. Moreover, the voices'

ostensible link to a higher and greater state of being seems to place them

above suspicion in the minds of those who prize their counsel.  Yet surely it

is important - essential, even - to establish, if possible, the nature of the

beast that is shuffling through the pipeline created by the trance state.  Who

are these entities really?


     "The answer to that question is as unwelcome as it is unavoidable ... the

evidence left me in little doubt that earthbound spirits or 'hungry ghosts'

have wormed their way into that juicy apple of spiritual regeneration known as

The New Age."


     But is it logical to suspect all channeled entities because of the

mischief of a few?  Can't we hope that there are some genuine guides out in

the ether somewhere?


     Joe Fisher tried to keep this hope alive even after being cheated by

Filippa.  He visited renowned channeler George Chapman at his home in the

Welsh village of Trer-Ddol.  Chapman's special distinction is that his guide,

Dr. William Lang, has been authenticated beyond reasonable doubt as the spirit

of a distinguished Middlesex ophthalmologist who died in 1937.  Despite their

initial disbelief, surviving members of the good doctor's family have

testified that the entity speaking through the entranced George Chapman can be

none other than Dr. Lang himself.  Medical professionals have confirmed the

entity's thorough familiarity with the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases

- even as they watched, Lang through Chapman has healed hundreds of patients.


     But Fisher came away from his session with Dr. Lang unsatisfied.  "...I

felt much the same in the company of the charming and deferential Dr. Lang as

I did while conversing with the spirits whose claims remained unsubstantiated. 

I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was wrong.  While seeming to

co-operate fully, Dr. Lang was fudging.  He told me nothing new, nothing

incisive.  And when I raised the question of charlatan spirits who crave

physical sensation, the discarnate surgeon avoided the topic completely ...

Comparing him with other, blatantly suspect entities, I was haunted by one of

Lt. Col. Arthur Powell's observations in The Astral Body.  He wrote that it

was impossible to distinguish truth from falsehood in communications from the

next world 'since the resources of the astral plane can be used to delude

persons on the physical plane to such an extent that no reliance can be placed

even on what seems the most convincing proof.'"


     "Hungry ghost," the term Fisher uses for the entities who speak through

channelers, is a translation of the Sanskrit word preta.  According to the

Preta Kanda section of the Garuda Purana, an ancient book of Vedic wisdom, a

preta is a human being deprived of a gross physical body because of

sinfulness.  His soul is trapped, earthbound, within the subtle body (composed

of mind, intelligence and ahankara or false sense of identity). Like any

ordinary human, the preta's mind is agitated by the urges of lust, but he

lacks physical senses with which to satisfy his desires.


     Milton, in Comus, captures the pathos of "shadows" (ghosts) clinging to

this world even past the point of death.


          Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp

          Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres,

          Lingering, and sitting by a new-made grave

          As loath to leave the body it lov'd,

          And linked itself by carnal sensuality

          To a degenerate and degraded state.


     Having no bodies of their own, pretas hunger (hence their name) for

vicarious pleasures through the bodies of humans, much like decrepit lechers

who seek gratification through pornographic movies.  Hungry ghosts seem benign

because they are genuinely attentive to the physical health of their subjects

- witness Aviva's remarkable turnaround in her fight with cancer when Russell

arrived.  But as Joe Fisher states, "Their eagerness to communicate, their

concern for the medium's health and strength, their preoccupation with life

after death and reincarnation and the occasional admission that they missed

the pleasures of incarnate life, all suggested humans who no longer had

physical bodies yet longed to live and breathe once more."  Seth, who called

himself an "energy essence personality," sometimes requested his host Jane

Roberts to drink beer or wine for his gratification.  Joe Fisher tells of two

entities who seemed to want sex through their subjects.  He recalls the mental

exhaustion, emotional turmoil and muddled thinking that plagued him during his

time with Filippa - symptoms hinting of psychic vampirism.


     The Garuda Purana states that in cases of preta-possession (pretadosa),

"mysterious events do often occur ... many are the signs of ghosts."  Dr. John

Nevius, who studied possession extensively in China during the last century,

wrote, "The most striking characteristic ... is that the subject evidences

another personality, and the normal personality for the time being is

partially or wholly dormant.  The new personality presents traits of character

utterly different from those which really belong to the subject in his normal

state ... Many persons while 'demon-possessed' give evidence of knowledge

which cannot be accounted for in ordinary ways ... They sometimes converse in

foreign languages of which in their normal states they are entirely ignorant." 

And Emanuel Swedenborg, the famous eighteenth century clairvoyant, warned:

"When spirits begin to speak with man, he must beware lest he believe in

anything; for they say almost anything; things are fabricated of them, and

they lie..."


     Pretas hover in homes where Vedic principles are not observed and haunt

persons who are unclean and unregulated.  By these standards, practically the

whole population of the western world is open to pretadosa, New Agers

included.  And what better way is there for a hungry ghost to seduce

starry-eyed New Agers than with pap "we're all one" philosophy?  Joe Fisher

takes point-blank aim at the whole fraud.  "When all is said and done, there

is no shortcut to Nirvana.  But in this narcissistic age of instant

gratification and swift solution, the great deception of channeling is that we

may glide effortlessly back to the Godhead.  All we have is pay our money,

take our seats and dream on as loving discarnates lead us to enlightenment. 

Why, the Big E. is just around the corner and anyway - didn't you know? - we

are God."


     Many bogus gurus have succeeded in the West the same way. In fact, in the

late 1970's a world-famous Mayavadi yoga society was almost shaken apart when

a Sanskrit-quoting preta that claimed to be the group's deceased founder began

speaking through a senior staff member.  Though at last exposed, the spook

held sway over fifty people who deserted the organization rather than give up

their belief that the great yogi had returned to them.


     The way Back to Godhead is not the way of pretadosa.  Krsna declares in

Bhagavad-gita, bhutani yanti bhutejya: "those who worship ghosts and spirits

will take birth among such beings." By the chanting of the holy name of Krsna,

the evil influence of ghosts and sinful life is destroyed immediately

(bhutebhyo 'mhobhya eva ca sarvany etani bhagavan-nama-rupanukirtanat prayantu

sanksayam sadyo, from Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.8.27-28).  But as Srila Prabhupada

used to say, "This world is a place of cheaters and cheated."  People's

spiritual aspirations are channeled by their stubborn resistance to the holy

name of Krsna into the most inauspicious realms of consciousness.  Their

welcoming of hungry ghosts as spiritual guides is indicative of their

desperate devotion to lowly habits and fallacious ideas.


     The desire to understand the real self beyond the body and to link our

consciousness with the Supreme is an exalted aspiration, indeed the only goal

of human existence.  But successful completion of this goal requires that we

be purified of lust, which impels us to the sinful activities of meat-eating,

illicit sex, intoxication and gambling - activities that according to the

Garuda Purana are very attractive to ghosts.  Purification need not be

troublesome, however.  Krsna is the Supreme Pure, our dearmost friend and

indwelling guide, and He has made Himself available to the fallen souls of

this dark age of Kali-yuga by the simple process of hari-nama, His holy name. 

We should obtain the holy name only from those devotees whose attentive

hearing and chanting of transcendental sound has carried them beyond the grip

of material desire.


     For all their seductive cant, the hungry ghosts and bogus gurus are dead

wrong.  We are not God, and our individual existence is not a figment of

cosmic imagination.  Life is not an illusion.  There is a purpose to

everything, and it is realized when we recover our eternal link to the Supreme

Person and His pure devotees.