2009 ARTICLE BY ANN TAVES is professor of religious studies at the University of California at Seanta
Barbara. She is the author of Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and
Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton University Press, 1999). Her new
book, Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion
and Other Special Things is forthcoming from Princeton University Press
This professor explains very well how JZ transformed into a "channel" for ramtha after JZ's 1977 hallucination of Ramtha. Ironically, the so called tests by Krippner et al confirm that Ramtha is a typical imaginary being that any medium can produce while in trance or through dissociation. The tests offer no evidence that Ramtha is independent, in fact, they offer strong evidence of the contrary, that JZ produces Ramtha as a "virtuoso" performance.
In search of interpretive help, Knight called various churches remembering ‘‘that
when I was younger, a few of the members of my church testified about being visited
by angels or even by Jesus Himself.’’ None of the church people were of any help until
she happened on a ‘‘Spiritualist Church.’’ She explained to the ‘‘psychic’’ who
answered that she had a ‘‘spirit’’ in her house. The pastor of the church, Lorraine
Graham, reframed her experience in Spiritualist terms, explaining that certain
individuals have mediumistic abilities that allow them to ‘‘connect with spiritual
teachers on the other side.’’ The minister pronounced Knight a ‘‘medium’’ and told
her she was not ‘‘crazy, just gifted’’ (pp. 253–54). Knight incarnated Ramtha for the
first time during her first meeting with Graham . While Knight reported experiencing
only a momentary dizzy spell, she said that Jeremy announced to her that ‘‘the Ram
just came through you.’’ In the face of Knight’s incredulity, Jeremy explained:
Zebra, you know how you would use your voice to speak to me for him?
Yes. Well, this time you just disappeared somewhere else, but your body
changed too. … I guess to look something like Ramtha’s. He spoke to us,
Lorraine and me, and it was through your body, Zebra. It was wonderful.
Knight worried at this point that she had been ‘‘possessed.’’ Knight and Wilder later
returned for a longer visit. Over the course of several days of conversations with
Graham, Graham provided Knight with a metaphysical framework for understanding
her experiences. She instructed Knight that she could choose whether to engage with
Ramtha or not and gave her a number of books to read, including books by Helena
Blavatsky, Edgar Cayce, and Arthur Ford. Graham linked Ramtha to Arthur Ford’s
spirit teacher’s prophesy that ‘‘a great teacher would come during the latter years of
the century […] through the body of a woman’’ (p. 263). Knight was startled to learn
that the spiritual world about which Graham was teaching her ‘‘acknowledged [Jesus]
as the Christ.’’ She said that she found the spiritualist belief that Jesus taught ‘‘that
the Father is within […] rare and refreshing’’ (p. 267).
Not long thereafter, Knight received a call from the Rama Center, a spiritual
center in Oregon, asking her to speak to their group. After agreeing, she turned to
Ramtha, asking him ‘‘how [she] was supposed to do this.’’ Ramtha informed her that
she was going to be a ‘‘channel’’ rather than a ‘‘medium.’’ As if this were not the case
with mediums, Ramtha described a channel as one who entirely abdicates the body
(p. 302). He then explained what the experience would be like, saying: ‘‘you will
follow a great light until you become that light. Within a moment in your time you
shall return into your body and, indeed, time will have ebbed by.’’ He explained that
the light is God and that time does not exist in the light. ‘‘Remember, time and its
past […] do not exist within the light, yet all-knowingness is the light’’ (p. 303).
At the Rama Center, events unfolded as predicted. JZ described herself as having
no clue as to what she should do once she was seated facing an expectant audience.
To her whispered ‘‘Ramtha, please get me out of here,’’ he replied ‘‘go in peace,’’ thus
initiating an experience in which she says she felt like she was ‘‘jerked’’ from her body
by ‘‘a great hand.’’ Then, she wrote:
I remember faintly seeing the room from the ceiling … everything and
everyone seemed frozen. I looked down and saw the top of my own head.
[…] Then the misted light filled the room […] I somehow felt and knew
that I was part, yet all, of that light. A flash came […] I was racing or
flowing down a tunnel, but I couldn’t see the sides. I just remember that
there appeared to be a wind taking me toward a brilliant light at the other
end of the tunnel. […] The closer I came, the more brilliant the light was.
Its lightning flashes began to bathe me in a warm peaceful glow that I
cannot possibly explain. I just know that I had no fear, no regrets, and no
limitations. I was rapturously free. […] No sorrow, no pain […] just
oneness with the great light. […] I was not detached from the whole but
was the whole. I did not want to leave the light. Then a flash came and I felt
heavy once more, with eyelids, arms, legs that tingled as if they were asleep,
and a head that pounded. I slowly opened my eyes. […] Images were
moving, and voices that were faint were becoming audible.
Wilder continued to interpret
her experiences in spiritual terms throughout the period in which Knight expressed
doubts about her sanity and it was only under pressure from him that Knight agreed
to the crucial second visit with Lorraine Graham. Wilder’s intimate involvement in
the interpretive process suggests that Ramtha was in a sense a co-creation of Knight
and Wilder. Knight played unconsciously into Wilder’s fascination with New Age
phenomena by hallucinating (unconsciously generating) a New Age warrior, while
Wilder in turn confirmed the authenticity of what she had seen and supported the
process of interpreting and developing her experiences within the New Age
metaphysical framework offered by himself and elaborated by Lorraine Graham.
In the case of JZ Knight, she incarnated Ramtha for the first
time immediately after Graham explained the concept of mediumship to her and
introduced it experientially by means of a visualization exercise. (Graham had Knight
visualize a scene in which she alternately viewed the river of past and future as if in a
canoe floating down stream and from a vantage point a hundred feet above the
canoe. Graham described the higher vantage point as analogous to ‘‘inner vision.’’
She told JZ that if the ‘‘vibrational frequency’’ of one’s inner vision is high enough,
‘‘then you can become an instrument through which a contact can be made from the
other side’’ [p. 254].) Though JZ claimed not to understand what Lorraine was
explaining to her, she almost immediately thereafter performed what Lorraine had
described by incarnating Ramtha for the first time.
While Knight was largely unprepared for this first experience of incarnating
Ramtha, her return visit with Graham provided additional cognitive support, such
that by the time the Rama Center invited her to speak, Ramtha was prepared to
take charge of the process. When JZ asked Ramtha how she was supposed to speak
to the group, Ramtha responded that she would do so as a ‘‘channel’’ rather than a
‘‘medium,’’ following a suggestion made by Graham on their second visit. When
Knight asked Graham what she would do if she accepted her ‘‘mission,’’ Graham
Downloaded By: [Stanford University] At: 18:39 20 April 2009I’m not sure, maybe you will channel. I’m still getting used to the word
channel since all that has ever been before are trance mediums. […] As I
understand it, a channel leaves her body, as in death, and allows the entity
to express his own personality. A medium serves only as a bridge between
dimensions but does not entirely leave her body. (p. 266)
Ramtha picked up on this suggestion from Graham, elaborating on the idea of a
channel leaving the body ‘‘as in death’’ in terms of the familiar descriptions of near
death experiences in which individuals ‘‘journey to the light’’ (pp. 302–4). JZ then
had the sort of experience that Ramtha suggested she would.
In all three cases, the transition from vision to incarnation involved some sort of
visual practice. Smith was absorbed by an inner vision, which when enacted allowed
her to engage directly with Sivrouka/Flournoy.