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Ramtha changes channels, but he's up to his old tricks
Don Lattin | on September 2, 2001
2001-09-02 04:00:00 PDT Santa Barbara -- Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old warrior from the lost continent of Lemuria, was not in a good mood.
Borrowing the physical body of spirit channeler J. Z. Knight, he surveyed the small crowd of around 100 people in the large, mostly empty meeting room at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara.
Ramtha did not like what he saw, or maybe he was just projecting.
"Do you feel embarrassed that there are not 10,000 people here? Don't worry, " he said, filling his golden goblet with red wine. "This is about to take off again -- like a firestorm."
J. Z. chose this palatial beachfront resort to roll out Ramtha Redux, an obscenity-spewing prophet who went into hibernation for most of the 1990s at his School of Enlightenment in Yelm, Wash.
Back in his glory years, Knight and Ramtha came to represent all that was wacky and weird about New Age spirituality on the Left Coast.
Knight, a Seattle businesswoman and cable TV entrepreneur, says Ramtha first appeared in her Tacoma kitchen on a Sunday afternoon in 1977. By the end of 1978, Knight says she learned to channel the spirit of the 7-foot-tall warrior.
His "timeless wisdom" was embraced by actress Shirley MacLaine and "Dynasty" diva Linda Evans, rapturing Ramtha into celebrity heaven, and making Knight one of the best known and wealthiest spirit mediums of the '80s.
Ramtha's basic message is a kind of neo-gnosticism: the idea that the physical world is an illusion and that enlightenment is achieved through various esoteric teachings and spiritual practices.
He never misses a chance to put down organized religion, or the warm and fuzzy feel of many "New Age" gatherings. His three-hour monologue -- frequently punctuated with loud breaks of classic '60s rock 'n' roll -- blends the irreverent wisdom of Lenny Bruce with the you-go-girl cheerleading of the "Oprah Winfrey Show."
Plastic glasses of red wine are offered to the audience, who are instructed not to slowly sip, but to gulp it down. This gives his workshops a well- lubricated feel -- more party than prayer.
Two glasses of burgundy are included in the $395 weekend workshop. Not included are meals and housing, which costs $365 a night at the Doubletree Resort.
When channeling Ramtha, J. Z. affects a bad English accent, and it only gets worse as she drinks more red wine from the golden goblet.
"Jesus said, 'Remember me when you drink this wine.' He was really saying, 'I love it.' Do you think he drank orange juice, apple juice or Evian water? Do you think he strained celery and drank it, and said, 'Behold. Remember me as celery?' That's not nearly as dashing and as wonderful as what he was saying," Ramtha said.
"Wine is a magic elixir that drops the veil of hypocrisy by ceasing time in the mind. When time stops, truth emerges. No wonder Jesus loved it."
Ramtha likes to wear baseball caps and torn blue jeans. At the Doubletree gig, the buttons of his black coat were straining around some extra pounds that have been put onto the physical body of his longtime channeler.
But J. Z.'s added girth doesn't bother Ramtha, who encourages women to throw off the shackles of oppressive patriarchy.
"What do all world religions have in common? The suppression of women," he told the Santa Barbara crowd, where women outnumbered men by 5-to-1. "No woman who had an abortion has sinned against God. F -- all those a -- who tell you that."
It's not surprising that many of his students are women with memories of abusive fathers, bad husbands and oppressive churches. Hundreds of them have moved to the Pacific Northwest from across America to sit at the feet of Ramtha.
One of his most famous female followers is actress Evans, who was sitting in the front row when Ramtha marched into the hotel ballroom on Friday night.
Evans, now 56, is best known for her starring comeback role in "Dynasty," the popular '80s TV show. She first hit the big time back in 1965 on the TV series "Big Valley."
Back in the '60s and early '70s, Evans was married to John Derek, who dumped her for a younger woman named "Bo." After another failed marriage to Hollywood playboy and real estate magnet Stan Herman, Evans discovered Ramtha.
Evans grew up in a family of alcoholics. After "Dynasty," she gave up on Hollywood and moved to Washington to be close to Ramtha. She has been going to the School of Enlightenment for 16 years, and says it has changed her life.
"Me," she says. "In my mind. In my brain. Me. It's like a totally different person in there."
We're sitting on a little patio outside the Doubletree Hotel. It's Saturday morning, and another teacher, Joe Dispenza, is giving the students a lecture on brain chemistry, titled "Molecules of Emotion." Ramtha is long gone. He was supposed to appear again on Saturday night, but changed his mind and didn't show up.
Ramtha calls Evans "Star Lady." During his rant the night before, he spent half an hour ridiculing the "Dynasty" star for all the plastic surgery she had back in the '80s.
Evans is hardly recognizable from her "Dynasty" days. She's wearing no make- up, and like Ramtha, she is wearing blue jeans and a baseball cap.
But the former TV star does look happy, and doesn't mind being the focus of Ramtha's wrath.
"When I left during the break last night, I felt really light," Evans said on Saturday. "It was all out on the table. When he says things like, 'Let's talk about you and your face job, Star Lady. Do people think you really look like that?' he's trying to get at our secrets. After that, I didn't have to protect anything."
Why get upset, Evans says, when you know you are God.
"All my life I looked outside of me to be loved and accepted," she said. "Then I finally heard that I was God. He is within me."
Can I just tell you what I get out of the bottom portion of this article? Evans is in an abusive relationship with JZK. Ramtha spouting obscenities about her, bullying her, and she just takes it. Instead of learning to have self-confidence, to practice assertiveness, she learns that this sort of environment is "okay". In the sense of, of course everyone knows it's not okay, but like in any abusive relationship, "you remember all the good times" and you're stuck with that.
And for outside readers out there reading this, this isn't unique. Ramtha will call everyone "Master", groom them, and then bring them down after. Over and over. How on Earth is this healthy? It's not! It's abusive.