In the U. S. in the last twenty-five years there has been an explosion of popular interest in less traditional spiritual areas--Eastern religions and meditative practices, Western metaphysics and occult subjects, parapsychology and transpersonal psychology, divination tools, astrology, mythology, nontraditional ideas in science, medicine and healing, etc. Among these different manifestations of spiritual ferment is the increasing phenomena of channeling and the teachings, books and tapes which result from it. Channeling is a process of opening to and receiving information and energy from the unconscious--areas outside one's normal waking consciousness. The whole area has gotten more media attention and recognition in recent years, but is still portrayed as a rather dubious phenomena. And there are enough questionable channels and channeling to confirm one's prejudice. However the best channeling--not the most sensational--expresses a wisdom both simple and profound, enlightening and evocative. Modern channeling is largely concerned with psychology, and orthodox psychology may be enriched by it.
In the broadest sense, channeling is a normal part of human nature and has been in evidence throughout history. It is demonstrated when we receive intuitions and insights, both consciously and in dreams. It has been an integral part of religious life under different names where God, the Holy Spirit, angels and heavenly saints commune with mankind and respond to one's prayers. Most religions and scriptures have arisen through revelation or spiritual inspiration. In its modern form, channeling arose outside of orthodox religion in the 19th century spiritualist movement when mediums went into trances at seances so that the departed dead might speak through them. As a result of the theosophical movement at the turn of the century which was said to come from a hidden brotherhood of spiritual masters and teachers, channeling came to be associated with spiritual revelation. Since that time the phenomena has become more varied and more conscious, with the emphasis becoming more experiential and psychological and less about religious belief systems. Within traditional religion the phenomena has manifested in such things as speaking in tongues, Marian apparitions or even in the capacity of the priest to bless.
Channeling can be received in a full trance, a partial trance or in a conscious state. In a full trance or mediumship, the conscious ego is totally separate and not identified with the material which comes through. Often another voice or personality will present itself during the channeling and express material which later the conscious individual may not have known or may not agree with. Automatic writing--where the writing hand is not controlled by the conscious ego--is a related phenomena, as is using the Ouija board. In a partial trance the ego receives the material in an altered state induced by hypnosis, meditation or a dream. In conscious channeling, the material seems to be received almost telepathically or clairaudiently. Usually, the better material involves a more conscious process.
Channeled material can be sensed and received in various ways. There can be a felt sense, a feeling or energies which then the ego has to translate into appropriate words and concepts. The material may also be experienced as thoughts or words heard inwardly. There may be visions or dreams which express something in symbol or through persons and situations. These may come at unexpected times or more commonly after some effort has been made to be open, sensitive and receptive. Synchronistic happenings may reinforce the process. These channelings have a sense of bringing a new and inspiring influx of energy and insight.
The sources of channeled material are controversial as they are not capable of being verified. It may come from the subconscious (subpersonality) or superconscious of the individual. Those involved may also experience it coming from another source altogether--God, the Holy Spirit, a spirit voice, an inner teacher or guide, a deva or angel, an extraterrestrial, or another human who may be in or out of a physical body. Many of the sources identify themselves and are willing to respond to questions, although with some channelings there is less conscious control or interaction.
Assessing the value and validity of channeling material or teachings (a larger consistent body of material) must be based on the value and usefulness of the material rather than any claimed authority. There is a variety of channelings--some terrible, some wonderful--and one must use both one's intuition and one's intellect to discriminate and determine what may have relevance and usefulness. The better material is better written and emphasizes things of significance and principle rather than banal generalities, pompous pronouncements, meaningless terminology, spurious trivia and personality glamour. The material itself will be valued if it is actually helpful or illuminating rather than just giving the impression of presenting a higher and obscure knowledge. The better teaching will also encourage the reader to determine and find the Truth within himself and not require a blind obedience or surrender. Another measure is the consistency with the life of the channel--that they are leading a life of virtue and service.
Psychology as a separate body of knowledge didn't really begin until the 19th century. As psychology has endeavored to become a science, it is natural that the material, instinctual and behavioral aspects should be those which have been first emphasized and articulated. Some early theorists even disavowed the possibility of spiritual or nonphysical reality. However, as psychology has evolved, humanistic and transpersonal areas and the further reaches of human development have gained wide acceptance as legitimate aspects of psychology.
The better channeled teachings share a positive picture of man--not a view which sees him stuck in limitation, problems or pathology. They also believe in the vast potential that is mankind's inheritance and destiny. Their approaches to realizing this potential entail methods of cultivating awareness, openness, inner listening, trust, education, invocation, meditation and prayer, using imagination, visualization and creative modes of expression. Some of these methods correspond to those used in various psychotherapies. I believe this overlap provides an opportunity for psychology and psychotherapy to be enriched and made more holistic and effective.
Some of the better and more prominent channeled teachings are those of: Alice Bailey, Ken Carey, Eva Pierrakos, Eileen Caddy, Mary-Margaret Moore, Sanaya Roman, Helen Schucman, Helena Roerich , Edgar Cayce, Jane Roberts, Neale Walsch, Dorothy Maclean and Pat Rodegast. There are many others of lesser caliber. There are several magazines which focus on channeling and a number of books which have explored various aspects of it. It is an increasingly widespread phenomena as can be seen by the advertisements for psychics, who channel, on TV.
Most of these teachings have a number of common themes and similarities as well as real differences. The differences mostly concern the form of the teaching--the particular perspective, emphasis and terminology. There are some points of disagreement between channeled teachings, however. These center around the importance given to negative, painful, or even, emotional experiences. Certainly most channeling places the emphasis and importance on learning how to attune to the Higher Self or spirit and live it. Some of the channels imply that we need not understand the world or how precisely our human mechanism functions, we need only learn to trust, listen and act on our inner spiritual guidance, which will show us the answer to every particular difficulty in life. Others discuss human psychology in more detail. The goal for both is not a personal one but one which entails learning to live by something beyond the person or the ego.
Eva Pierrakos' writing contradicts this emphasis on transcendence and says, like most orthodox psychology, that one's pain, one's shadow and all the unconscious defenses and repressions must be made conscious first and worked through before one can devote oneself to more transcendent or transpersonal concerns. Perhaps these teachings are for people at different stages of growth. Probably, the emphasis on transcendence does not imply advocating an escape from our personal problems or difficulties. Rather, in going through them we transform our selves when we try to live from the highest possible within us. This approach unites our personal power with a spiritual power which makes change more truly effective.
Alice Bailey's channeling clearly articulates a human developmental and evolutionary program which may help account for some of the apparent disagreements. Ken Wilbur also has attempted to construct a spectrum psychology based on the process of organic psychological growth that is related to a hierarchy of human needs and progressive refinements of consciousness. In this model, the various schools of psychology each have a particular relationship to certain stages of development and their associated pathologies. Therefore, instead of trying to analyze these different channeled perspectives in a right or wrong manner, I think probably that they each have their place in a more holistic conception which honors the reality of individual constitutional differences as well as developmental and evolutionary variance. The final stages of human development in Pierrakos' teaching, once the lower self and mask have been made conscious and integrated, are not so different from some of the other teachings--like Mary-Margaret Moore's or Sanaya Roman's.
Even when most of these channelings devote only a small amount of attention to negative, painful or fearful elements, rather than the positive, they say that one needs to be aware of them. The negative is not given the same ultimate reality as the positive, but rather offers us valuable information about the ways our thinking is out of alignment with the reality of the higher Self. Negativity creates blocks and distortions in the expression of the positive qualities of our Higher Self.
It is a shared assumption that we are not limited to our past experience or determined by our conditioning. As an intrinsic consequence of having an inner or spiritual nature that transcends the personality, we have the capacity to transform limiting and dysfunctional patterns. Certain existing psychotherapies including Jung's alchemical understanding of the individuation process or Assagioli's psychosynthesis also provide a good interface and transition from a personal to a transpersonal focus.
All of these teachings posit a fundamental psychological dualism. Although eventually, a more unitary consciousness is realized, the nature of human consciousness is one in which a synthesis is slowly forged out of a crucible of conflict. The conflict initially is within the various components of the personality itself, but after some measure of integration has occurred, is translated to the polarity of the lower self/ego/personality with the inner self/Higher Self/Self. The goal of this synthesis is therefore more than a personal integration or actualization. The goal as uniformly expressed in these sources is a transpersonal one. Therefore, all have a spiritual frame of reference although some would not be called religious in a traditional sense.
The process of self-realization is expressed with different terminology in the various writings. Often the differences are merely of a semantic nature but sometimes they reveal differences in emphasis or perspective. Intermediary agents, connecting the ego to a deeper place within are variously called the Holy Spirit, the still Voice, the Presence, an inner space, or an Awareness but all seem functionally equivalent. The fact of this duality and the necessity for a synthesis is emphasized in Carey, Caddy and Schucman. However Bailey and Roman seem to emphasize becoming aware and sensitive to the various energies which qualify our inner being as part of the process of fusion. Just as the personality is composed of mental, emotional, vital and physical elements, so is the higher self constituted of several energies; abstract mind, spiritual will, love, intuitive knowing, etc. to which we may become increasingly sensitive.
In some of these sources, the psychology is more implicit and in others more explicit. In Eileen Caddy's channeling, the psychology implicit within the inspirational admonitions seems to consist of qualities and virtues which can be presumed to characterize the spiritual self. The method seems to be one of gradually incorporating these qualities as we consistently try to live them. In this way we gradually remake our personality so that it reflects our spiritual nature. This has a close resemblance to traditional moral and religious practice, except that in Eileen's teaching, we are instructed to go within to our own inner connection to truth and not rely on outer authority. Some of the qualities encouraged are trust, love, openness, light, honesty, sharing, detachment, surrender and gratitude. These might be described as some characteristics of the psychology of the Higher Self.
More explicit psychological principles are articulated in Bailey, Pierrakos, Moore, Roman and Schucman. The Bailey writings are the most abstruse and difficult because they describe the inner or subjective objectivity using obscure terms and ideas that our extroverted and materialistic thinking has a hard time understanding. Metaphysics is so different from the outer world we are familiar with. The understanding of "the Rays" is a good example. Bailey gives numerous formulations and principles which describe these spiritual Archetypes and their relation to man's psychological constitution and integration. Yet this understanding is largely intellectual until greater sensitivity is established to one's inner life. Bailey's Ray typology might be used to describe the channeled sources. Caddy's and Schucman's channeling have a strong 6th ray idealistic and devotional quality. Bailey's, Pierrakos' and Moore's writing are colored by the 5th ray of concrete knowledge or science. Roman's channeling has a 4th ray intuitional quality in it's emphasis on energies and the imagination. All the teachings have a fundamental 2nd ray quality of love and wisdom.
These teachings share certain overall characteristics. As already mentioned, they seem to incorporate feminine qualities--allowing, opening, being receptive, surrender, love, and giving--which may compensate for a masculine cultural bias. However, this approach is also related to a change in our approach to God/the Self or Reality. This change is reflected in a shift from seeking a transcendent God, Who we feel separate from and merely have to have faith in, to an immanent God, Who actually expresses Himself in our experience and Who we may become co-creators with. This change requires a reevaluation of our experience and, in particular, our negative cultural judgments about our feelings, our body and our instinctual nature. Rather than trying to control these, deny or repress them, we find that they offer us valuable information about our connection to our Self and to God.
This is related to another common theme which has to do with the particular time in which we live on the planet. Most of these sources explicitly say or imply that there are changes going on which are transforming our consciousness and our civilization. Bailey talks about the transition from a Piscean 6th ray civilization to an Aquarian 7th ray one. Because the energies underlying our thinking and our experience of ourselves are changing, all our values and attitudes and the institutions based on them are likewise going through a process of change. This all can seem very complex and confusing when we try to understand with the mind. But as Carey's writing expresses, what is coming into consciousness is actually simpler, more natural and whole. These teachings prefigure a more profound transformation that is difficult to understand while we are still thinking in the old way. Bailey says that new more synthetic paths of realization like Agni Yoga will supersede traditional approaches. In Agni Yoga, which is channeled through Helena Roerich we are told that the old methods of "yogaism" are outmoded because they are cut off from their surrounding reality and a larger participation in life. The "new yoga" will reflect an active synthesis of spirit in life. I believe that this way has been exemplified by Christ and it is a way that we will learn to realize for ourselves instead of just believing in. I think that this reflects a change from identifying with our experience as personalities to one of increasingly being able to function as conscious souls. This means actually living from that place of unitive or group consciousness which heretofore has been mainly an ideal or aspiration. If these sources which represent a new dispensation of spiritual revelation can be believed, the energies of spirit are being quickened so that we may more easily become aware of what had been largely unconscious and too subtle to grasp. This has the effect of awakening us to our Self--to that inner life, being and reality which has eternally been within us. The implications of these ideas are breathtaking.
Using these teachings means helping to evoke the Self and making that connection conscious within each person and not by trying to impose something on them. This is empowering. It implies our equal participation in a larger life and the necessity for realizing and experiencing that deeper life in ourselves. More traditional methods of psychotherapy can be disempowering if they assume an inequality between the therapist and the client, or that the therapist has something which he can give the other which they do not have. With the approach which overall characterizes these teachings, both therapist and client are learners, sharing in the adventure and joy of life.
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