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Channeling as a field of paranormal study - an academic essay

abracad, · Categories: channeling, externally authored

by Malgorzata Duszak

The field of parapsychology investigates the enormous variety of mind challenging ESP phenomena. Trance mediumship represents one of the topics approached by paranormal researchers and scientists. The alleged communication with the invisible dimension stimulates as much enthusiasm as sheer frustration and the theories that offer to shed light on the phenomenon of such contacts are many. Among the most popular explanations appears the theory of mediums’ subconscious as one directly responsible for creating an “illusion” of the external entity communication. Other researchers “blame” the collective unconscious for disguising itself as separately existing spiritual entities. Still others indicate the mental disorders as mistaken for channeling discarnate beings. Much as all these explanations appeal to our rational minds and logic, the intuition tempts the investigation towards different direction. Why not consider, after all, the possibility of the genuine communication; a true telepathic contact with the beings from beyond this 3d dimension? This essay will present several of the most common “rational” explanations put forward by various investigators of the present times. It will encourage, however, the sincere consideration of the possibility of the true contact with extra-dimensional intelligences. It will demonstrate a number of devoted to their work mediums who genuinely believed their messages to originate in the realms beyond ours. In search for the truth, their interpretation must not be dismissed.


The communication with the immaterial realms certainly did not commence recently. In the Old Testament times, the prophets held contact with the divine realm and even with God. In the second half of the second millennium both Dee and Swedenborg engaged in the active communication with the realm of the deceased. [1] However, the more serious and scientific research of these “paranormal” activities has begun with the founding of the Society for Psychical Research in England in 1882. [2] Mediums such as the Fox sisters or Mrs. Piper became subjects of investigation. [3] The phenomena they produced staggered the spiritual enthusiasts as well as scientific minds and the research flourished. As a result, some of the paranormal manifestations, for instance photographs of the communicating spirits, turned out to represent mere hoaxes. [4] It must be admitted, after all, wherever the mass curiosity goes, there will always be stories and “facts” invented to constantly nourish it. Fakes and deceivers abound in every field of human endeavor and the area of the paranormal renders itself particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

Nevertheless, fake incidents considered and excluded, the enormous amount of the psychic communication still remains unexplained. The number of these impossible to ignore instances grew in the last century to such an extent that the paranormal scientists have shifted the focus of their study from that of trying to prove or disprove the mediums’ authenticity to the analysis of the nature of the manifested through them phenomena. [5]

Before the survey of the theories that emerged as the result of their study begins, the brief explanation of what precisely channeling is seems appropriate. According to the generally accepted definition presented by Baruss, channeling represents a “communication of information or energy from apparently nonphysical sources such as spirits.” [6] The entities may claim to represent the spirits of the deceased or inhabitants of other dimensions. Whatever their origin, they certainly usurp the existence independent of the mediums’ minds.

It is precisely here where the theories of the investigators begin to emerge. Very few of them openly and “without a shadow of a doubt” admit that the channeled information does come down to us from the genuine dwellers of the “other side.” Perhaps it is not negative that they do not. The open mind to the variety of possible explanations (read: fence sitting, which is not bad in this case) without arriving to firm conclusions represents the characteristic of every objective and continuously truth-pursuing researcher. New data becomes available every day and one must remain open to all the options before the mystery is finally, if ever, resolved. It does not seem destructive, then, for the paranormal researchers not to embrace openheartedly the channeled information as coming from “fair dinkum” spiritual beings.

The concept of remaining open to the variety of options, however, works in both directions. Researchers should not firmly hold on to the theory that the entities are real in case other explanations arise, but they do not seem equally receptive to them possibly being real. Declaring their theories to represent the product of their open mind in the journey toward the truth, they reject the probability of the genuine extra dimensional communication, which contradicts the validity of the “open mind” declaration.

So what exactly did the investigators arrive at while “voyaging” towards a better understanding of the phenomenon of channeling? Among the most prominent ideas emerges the theory of the subconscious mind as a primary and a mysterious creator of all channeled communication. Richet in particular asserts strongly against any claim to the existence of the external intelligence exerting influence on the medium’s mind. He says this about Smith who composed Sanscrit writing when under the influence of her communicator:

Now to admit that an extra-terrene intelligence moves the brain of
Helen Smith to inspire her with Sanscrit,…, is an inference so contrary

to common sense and logic that I shall admit any hypothesis short of
mathematical or physical impossibility, rather than that of an extra-terrene mind. [7]

Richet does admit there is some mysterious force that causes the phenomenon to occur, [8] but he closely relates it with the unknown power of the subconscious mind. He boldly proclaims that instead of embracing the channeling phenomenon as the contacting us external intelligence, the explanation lies in the still undiscovered faculty of our own. He confesses that the channeling occurrence constitutes indeed a strange and not understood fact, but, as he proclaims, “that is no reason for introducing gods, angels, demons, or spirits after the fashion of savages who ascribe natural forces to a fantastic divinity….” [9] He explains that the subconscious’ intelligence is such that it is capable of producing a multitude of other personalities disguising themselves as the entities from the beyond. [10] He proposes that before concluding that the channeled communication and the inaccessible “normally” knowledge achieved in this manner comes from the external force, it must be proven that our own hidden faculties have no capacity to produce it. The human intelligence, he states, might have a “greater range than that we are accustomed to attribute to it.” [11]

Other investigators refer to the collective unconscious as the well of all knowledge. They believe it is here that the source of all channeled messages dwells. If, Karolyi argues, the mind can acquire information from other minds, conscious or unconscious, through ESP, then “the contents of all unconscious minds,…, this reservoir of information could possibly be the source of mediumistic communication.” [12]

Bonewits, a 20th century occultist, developed a somewhat similar concept-that of a ‘switchboard’. [13] Every human being, he explains, continuously broadcasts and receives telepathic patterns, thoughts, or wavelengths. These are inscribed deep into our subconscious. “My entire memory has been broadcast to all the world and it is now a part of your memory. Conversely, somewhere deep down inside, I have all of your memory as a part of my memory.” [14] The communication with the deceased spirit, for instance, would be, then, a matter of “plugging in” [15] into the place on the switchboard containing the information pertaining to that particular being.

Still another group of scientists relates the mediumistic encounters with those of the mentally disturbed patients. Nash observes that the characteristics of the mediumistic séances resemble closely those of the patients experiencing hysteria. He describes how hysteria stricken people develop multiple personalities to cope better with their problems. Some of the communicating entities, he believes, come to life in the same fashion. “Some of the spirit personalities are subconscious dramatizations of the medium…” [16] Dissociative Identity Disorder represents another condition regarded by some as the possible explanation of the channeling experiences. [17]

All these and undoubtedly still many other theories circulating around that attempt to explain where the channeled messages might originate contribute greatly to the arsenal of the potential answers. They do make sense and may reflect the real process of the mediumistic phenomena. None of them should be dismissed in the pursuit of truth. However, on the same path towards the truth, the possibility of the genuine communication with the genuine extra dimensional entities cannot be disregarded either. It seems hard to do so especially in the light of the intricate and truly sophisticated messages that come down to mediums especially when accompanied by other physical manifestations that take place during their transmissions, possessions, or trance states.

Madame Blavatsky represents probably one of the most prominent mediums who could testify for the existence of the true beings communicating with her. The complexity of the information channeled through her is enormous. All the given knowledge Blavatsky attributed to the Great Masters living in astral forms in Tibet who wished to distribute it to the ignorant world. [18] Brown, another seer from the 19th century, describes his communications with archangels and angels as well as depictions of other planets and their inhabitants. [19] A. J. Davis [20] and Helen Smith [21] belong to others deeply involved in the extra dimensional contact. Among the many contemporary visionaries Norman Paulsen and sir George King represent those who obtained highly relevant for the spiritual evolution of the humankind information. They received this knowledge in deep trance states but also during the physical encounters with the beings from other realms. King, whom the entities from other space chose to represent the “Primary Terrestrial Channel”, produced over 600 so-called transmissions during which various Cosmic Masters revealed their knowledge. Both Paulsen and King not only obtained their information in the form of channeled messages but they also encountered the givers of those messages in their etheric and even physical bodies. [22] Could this also represent the trick of the subconscious?

When analyzing these and similar phenomena one must not get caught up in the fantastical aspect of it, researchers say, and rather look at these occurrences with the neutral mind. They are probably right. Too rash conclusions may be destructive. However, it must not be forgotten that most of these researchers are the same individuals who, in their quest for truth, stamp too neglectfully on the possibility of the genuine extra dimensional contact themselves. We should definitely consider their insightful theories pertaining to the nature of communicating beings. We must regard with equal respect, nonetheless, the contrary thesis-that of the true existence of other realms’ inhabitants.

The theory of the subconscious mind as the source of some mediumistic communication sounds valid. It does not seem to contradict, nevertheless, the possible existence of spiritual beings capable to contact the human beings through the vehicle of the subconscious mind. James in his theory of “dips down” offered to explain how this might occur. According to his analysis, the external intelligence makes a contact with the terrestrial mind through the series of points only. These are consequently collected by the subconscious mind and formulated into the systematic looking communication. [23] His theory elaborates in great detail the process of such contact. This short description should be sufficient, however, to demonstrate the counter to the subconscious-only theory that seems capable to include both the external entity factor as well as the role of the subconscious.

Richet in the paragraphs above calls for the closer look at the subconscious as the undiscovered yet faculty of the human mind able to receive knowledge that the mediums then claim to receive from their spiritual messengers. He postulates we should not limit the potential of our own intelligence attributing the channeled information to the one outside of it. By stating this, is he not limiting, however, the very potential of the universal construction with us as its only inhabitants? Why not expand the perception of our own subconscious field as well as the nature of the cosmos itself? The collective unconscious may indeed hold the entire knowledge of past, presence, and future, but by no means does it diminish the likelihood of other entities inhabiting this universe together with us. And if they do, why limit their capacity to impart their knowledge on us, mortals, through the vehicle of our subconscious? The two possibilities can coexist. The subconscious represents indeed the mysterious force of our mind. But equally mysterious is our cosmos, its inhabitants, and their capacities.

Channeling phenomenon definitely belongs to the more fascinating paranormal “feats”. Much as has been done in the attempt to understand its nature, there still appears confusion as to whether the messages received from mediums represent the true contact with the intelligent entities from beyond our dimension or whether it is “merely” our subconscious fooling us all. A great number of researchers sway toward the latter. The boldly proclaim it can be no other but the unknown faculty of our own subconscious mind producing illusions of separately existing personalities outside of us. Still others resort to the collective unconscious as the possible creator of the channeled information. Few compare the mediums to mentally unbalanced patients suffering from identity disorders. Among all these assumptions, one hypothesis that should be given equal consideration is: the contacts are real. Why arrogantly dismiss such a possibility? The nature of cosmos as well as reality, scientists admit, is nowhere near being truly tapped into. If so, why limit the vastness and mysteriousness of the universe to only one plane and one form of physical existence? Who knows what really dwells on the other side, if such a place actually exists? Perhaps the ones who actually claim to reside there could teach us something about it? Shall we let them? It is about time we do. In the pursuit of truth.


Baruss, I., Alterations of Consciousness; An Empirical Analysis for Social Scientists, American Psychological Association, Washington, 2003

Bonewits, I., Real Magic, WeiserBooks, York Beach, 1989

Broad, C. D., Lectures on Psychical Research, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962

G. B. Butt, Madame Blavatsky, Rider & Co., London, 1927

Carrington, H., The Psychic World, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1938

Flournoy, T., From India to the Planet Mars; A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1994

Karolyi, G., An Excursion into the Paranormal, The Paranormal Phenomena Research Foundation Inc., Upper Sturt, 2003

King, G., The Nine Freedoms; An Authoritative Metaphysical Treatise on the progress Through Ascension to Cosmic Existence, The Aetherius Press, Hollywood, 1963

Meade, M., Madame Blavatsky; The Woman Behind the Myth, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1980

Podmore, F., Vol. 2, Mediums of the 19th century, University Books, Inc., New York, 1963

Richet, C., Thirty Years of Psychical Research, Arno Press, New York, 1975

Ed. by Shapin, B. and Coly, L., Communication and Parapsychology, Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., New York, 1980

[1] Ed. by B. Shapin and L. Coly, Communication and Parapsychology, Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., New York, 1980, p. 47

[2] C. D. Broad, Lectures on Psychical Research, Routledge & Kegan Paul, New York, 1962, p. 5

[3] B. Williams, The Power Beyond, Fast Books, Australia, 1996, page forgotten as the book no longer in the author’s possession.

[4] J. Nickell, Secrets of the Supernatural, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1988, p. 50

[5] K. Ramakrishna Rao, compiled by, The Basic Experiments in Parapsychology, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson and London, 1984, p. 2

[6] I. Baruss, Alterations of Consciousness; An Empirical Analysis for Social Scientists, American Psychological Association, Washington, 2003, p. 142

[7] C. Richet, Thirty Years of Psychical Research being A Treatise on Metaphysics, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1975, p. 51

[8] ibid, p. 207

[9] Richet, p. 204

[10] ibid, pp. 209-212

[11] ibid, p. 53

[12] G. Karolyi, An Excursion into the Paranormal, The Paranormal Phenomena Research Foundation, Inc., Upper Sturt, 2003, p. 220

[13] I. Bonewits, Real Magic, WeiserBooks, York Beach, 1989, p. 131

[14] ibid,

[15] ibid, p. 135

[16] C. B. Nash, ‘Characteristics of PSI Communication’ in Shapin and Coly, p. 49

[17] Baruss, p. 150 and G. B. Butt, Madame Blavatsky, Rider & Co., London, 1927, p. 251

[18] M. Meade, Madame Blavatsky; The Woman Behind the Myth, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1980, p. 463

[19] F. Podmore, Vol. 2, Mediums of the 19th century, University Books, Inc., New York, 1963, p. 41

[20] Williams, p. 2

[21] T. Flournoy, From India to the Planet Mars; A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1994

[22] G. King, The Nine Freedoms; An Authoritative Metaphysical Treatise on the Progress through Ascension to Cosmic Existence, The Aetherius Press, Hollywood, 1963, pp. 7-10

[23] H. Carrington, The Psychic World, Methuen & Co., Ltd., London, 1938, p. 124


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