When I was a little kid, my parents’ book shelves seemed to occupy my attention more than anything in the house apart from the television. We seemed to have a lot of books and it was a weird mish mash of titles reflecting both of their personal tastes. My dad read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. We had Heinlein, Terry Brooks and Lovecraft on the shelves alongside books about D.W. Griffith, Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields. My mom read westerns. She was really into the Lonesome Dove series and had a lot of books on the topic of spirituality. What really stuck out to me was a grouping of books that seemed in line with that spiritual bent of the book shelves but they seemed to be the square pegs of the bunch. A lot of them seemed to fall into non-fiction titles having to do with the paranormal. Among them were the Seth books by Jane Roberts.
Until her death in 1984, Roberts was one of the last of a long-held tradition of spiritual mediumship. In the early part of the 20th century and in mid-19th century, mediums were all over the place. People held seances, allowed disembodied spirits to come into them while in a tance and speak through their bodies to the living. Of course, most of these people were frauds, but a good deal of them firmly believed what they were selling. Roberts, while doing research for a book about ESP, experimented with a Ouija board and was said to have come into contact with a being named Seth who communicated at first through the spirit board and later through Roberts, herself. What began as general note taking evolved into something much larger as Seth began to channel his being through Jane. She would speak for him while her husband, Robert Butts, would write it all down. Before long, Roberts would hit a trance state and begin what psychologists call Automatic Writing, a sort of stream of consciousness documentation of your inner monologue, something people are known to do without realizing it. In the end, Roberts had enough material for ten non-fiction books and three novels that would wind up ground zero for the American New Age movement which had been fermenting since the 60’s.
What Seth was remained a mystery throughout the 22 years that Robert channelled him. Who or what he was was never really the point but at times Seth referred to himself as an old ghost and in one of the more specific moments, he revealed himself to be an energy being, completely separate from physical reality, existing on a higher plane than the rest of us. The words he delivered were heavy spiritual concepts about the very nature of reality, the meaning of life, things like that. When Jane checked out for a while and Seth stepped in, the mousy woman in the cat glasses started preaching a message of individual reality, a place where each one of us is at the mercy of our selves. We are, in essence, gods and the world around us is an environment created by the consensus consciousness to keep us all in line. We exist outside of time and space and that this is just the place that we chose to experience an infinite range of challenges and emotions. What we don’t experience here in this lifetime, we’ll come back around and face next time. Through ten books, Seth told us that we exist in many dimensions at once, singular beings occupying different places at one time. Much of what Roberts brought to this world before her untimely death in 1984 were abstract ideas about the universe that would eventually find their way into particle theory and models of the universe such as Many Worlds Theory. These way out ideas, be they channelled to our world from another or just the stream of consciousness ravings of a woman in Elmira, New York, managed to find legs in a theoretical sense and without the aid of spirit boards or meditational trances.
Master occultist, Aleister Crowley, experienced something similar in the early 20th century while in Egypt. His seminal title, The Book Of Law, was said to be dictated to him by an ancient spirit bearing great truths named Aiwass. So far I’ve written about ghosts fucking with us for seemingly no other reason than their inherent ability to do so. I’ve written about angelic beings protecting the innocent from genuinely evil people and now I bring this example. Is someone out there trying to reach us in here? Seth moved an entire generation of spiritualists and individuals looking for something bigger than themselves that didn’t feel like the traditional religions of this world that had so far let them down. Seth, a so-called being from another world, brought a new kind of positivity based entirely on personal responsibility to the world and a crowd formed around his voice, Jane Roberts. Seth devotees exist to this day.