Every now and then, in any field of study, someone comes along breaking new ground and setting new standards by which all others will be compared. In the world of psychic mediumship, in the early 20th century the standard-bearer was Edgar Cayce who for at least two decades astounded people with his uncanny ability to accurately diagnose illness and prescribe treatments, give business advice, and reveal other mysteries of the unknown world. By the mid-20th century a young writer from New York named Jane Roberts would emerge with the ability to channel highly esoteric and complex ideas while in trance. The massive body of work that would accumulate over 20+ years came to be known collectively as the Seth Material.
Initially begun as a research project for a book about extrasensory perception (ESP), Roberts and her husband Robert F. Butts first made contact with a non-physical entity through the use of a Ouija board in 1963. The entity identified himself as Seth and gradually the communication evolved from a Ouija board to automatic writing (with Roberts being able to dictate the voice she was “hearing” mentally) and finally channeling Seth through the use of her physical body in a trance state. Butts at first transcribed the material in a form of shorthand but later tape-recorded the sessions. Roberts also made claims to channeling the philosopher William James and French Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne which were published, but by far it was the Seth material that made Jane Roberts an international sensation and enduring presence in the realm of psychic channeling.
The Nature of the Material
The Seth material is often credited as the origin of the New Age movement. The nature of the information was indeed often extremely complex, reflecting some aspects of Eastern religious philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism and even quantum physics, but it is not the only example of highly dense channeled material that was emerging in the early and mid-20th century. By 1955 another body of work called “The Urantia Book” was published, with over 2000 pages of channeled material that dealt with the origins of Earth, mankind, and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Helen Schucman and William Thetford would publish “A Course in Miracles,” a guide for spiritual transformation that the authors claimed came from an inner voice credited to Jesus.
Seth’s teachings, on the other hand, veered away from conventional religious references and focused more on the nature of individual consciousness. He stressed that humans create their own reality through their thought forms, a radical departure from the Christian concepts of original sin, salvation, and the dualities of good and evil.
“I am trying to tell you that if you look inward, and study your own sacredness and creativity and blessedness, and joy and power, as closely as you study the sacred books of the gods, then you would realize that all those books of the gods were based upon the great reality of the individual, the individual soul, and therefore based upon your own reality,” (exerpt from Seth Audio Collection, Volume 1, Tape #22 Nov 6, 1973).
The Seth material received its share of ridicule as channeled information usually does, but the volume has been translated into 11 languages and to date has sold over 7 million copies. Interestingly, Yale University houses the collection of Jane Roberts’ work which includes journals, poetry, correspondence and audio and video recordings that were donated by Butts after her death in 1984.