This article was published May 17-23, 1987, in Toledo Magazine (The Blade)
FORGET COCAINE. The craze that's turning on Hollywood stars these days in “channeling.” This is the chic new term for old-fashioned seancing. But it isn't only the dead who are being drudged up for messages from beyond. “Entities” from other planets and dimensions are being “channeled” by today's medium's, who prefer to be known as “channels.”
Some of the biggest names in showbiz are reaching to the stars for spiritual guidance. Michael York, Richard Chamberlain, and “Dynasty” beauty Linda Evans are only a few of the Hollywood heavyweights involved with channeling. Other reportedly include George Lazenby, Leslie Ann Warren, Goldie Hawn, and Telly Savalas of “Kojak” fame.
“The drug of the 60's was LSD and marijuana,” says one disenchanted follower. “I think the drug of the 80's is cosmic consciousness.”
It's a small metaphysical world in Southern California, where it's said that you can't get a glass water without whipped cream. Everyone in this New School of Seancing knows each other—and the ranks of followers and actual channelers are swelling.
There are now said to be about 1,000 channelers—mostly based in the film capital of the world, but spreading across America. They believe they are the chosen spokesmen for the “New Transformational Age.”
This is how channeling works:
A channel, or medium, puts him or herself into a trance—this takes only a minute or less—and invites a specific “discarnate entity” to use his or her body to transmit information. These modern mediums don't use props like darkened lights or crystal balls. They say they can channel anywhere, anytime, and under any conditions.
One channel told me has gone into a trance on horseback.
America's best known channel is J.Z. Knight, a 40 year-old Bo Derek-lookalike. Ms. Knight claims to channel “Ramtha,” a 35,000 year-old man who has used her body to dispense wisdom since 1977.
Ms. Knight says she first saw Ramtha while she was playing with pyramids at her home. She placed a a pyramid on her head and Ramtha stepped into her life.
Ramtha now has a devoted cult following, mostly middle-aged women. Through Mr. Knight's “vehicle,” Ramtha claims to be warrior who created the first war, before ascending into higher consciousness.
Hundreds of devoted Ramtha supporters, including actress Shirley MacLaine, have moved to Washington state to live near Ms. Knight. This was after Ramtha announced that within three years death and destruction will come to America's less rural regions. Ramtha has advised his disciples to stock a two-year supply of food and other needs and to become self-sufficient by planting gardens.
Richard Chamberlain, star of “Shogun” and “The Thorn Birds,” used to host Ramtha's day-long sessions in his Beverly Hills mansion.
These days, followers pay $400 each for weekend group session with Ramtha.
And the profits don't stop there. Ms. Knight has become a multi-millionaire though the sale of Ramtha videotapes and other materials.
ANOTHER POPULAR channel is Darryl Anka, a 34 year-old special-effects designer who channels “Beshar.” Mr. Anka says that Beshar is “a non-physical entity from planet Essassani, which forms a triangle with Earth and the star Sirius.”
Mr. Anka used to do his channeling at the homes of followers, with mabe six or eight persons present. He had grown so popular that he now uses the Encino Women's Club in the valley, near some of Hollywood's largest film studios.
I went to see Mr. Anka's Thursday-night session. About 150 followers had assembled to either seek advice or for a learning experience. Each had paid a “donation” of $12.
I watched as Mr. Anka, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, put himself into a trance. He sat in a simple wooden chair on a well-lighted stage.
Mr. Anka closed his eyes and his head began to twitch. He grunted a few times. He settled back in his chair, his eyes still closed, and a strange, powerful voice erupted from his mouth. It carried an unusual accent.
He was in what enthusiasts call an “altered state.” In the course of 2 ½ hours, Beshar dispensed his wisdom and answered questions from the audience. One follower asked about a friend who had recently died of cancer.
Came Beshar's reply:
“She is still here and now, fourth dimension physical. There is orientation going on—assistance that is necessary to acclimate the being to the new understanding of what you call the astral realm. There is also the opportunity being presented this individual that she can function for a while as spiritual guides for her own children. There may be—for this not yet decided—but there may be an opportunity for this individual to reincarnate as one of her own children's children.
The audience oohed and aahed. They were begging to believe. But it was higher intelligence from outer space or metaphysical mumbo-jumbo?
BESHAR SOON pronounced it was time for a coffee break. The hall grew quiet as he twitched and turned and grunted, and within 30 seconds re-opened his eyes and became plain old Darryl again.
The applause was deafening. There are believers.
Darryl told me that Beshar first came to him 12 years ago in a spaceship. He channels Beshar in private sessions, and he's booked up two months in advance.
I am not convinced that Darryl was in a trance. Anyone who studies the numerous books on UFOs, reincarnation, spiritual growth, and self-healing could spill out the same material as “Beshar.'' The essence of Beshar's guidance was “lighten up.”
One Beshar follower is David Rapkin, a psychotherapist. Dr. Rapkin told me that channeling sessions provide him with practical instruction for his patients.
He is not certain that the messenger is really from outer space, but thinks that is unimportant. It is possible, Dr. Rapkin speculates, that the channel “accesses” into his own unconscious throuh self-induced hypnosis.
“But it doesn't matter who or what the messenger is,” he says, “it is the message that counts.”
Dr. Rapkin claims that he can now channel himself. He told me that his spiritual guide is called “Monocles.”
A grand session of channeling was recently staged at the Pasadena Convention Center in Los Angeles. It was billed as the main attraction of a three-day Whole Life Expo.
The channeling event was sold out weeks in advance—3,000 people at $35 each, packed the large hall to see American television celebrity Joyce DeWitt introduce two of the most popular channels in the business.
Jack Pursel, a former insurance salesman who channels an entity called “Lazaris,” and Kevin Ryerson, from the Midwest, who was featured on Shirley MacLaine's recently broadcast television movie, “Out On A Limb.” Mr. Ryerson channels two entities: “John,” a scholar from the year 46 B.C., and “Tom McPherson,” an Irish-Scottish pickpocket from Shakespearian times.
Mr. Pursel's Lazaris sounds like a Billy Graham-style evangelist. He preaches love and inner peace.
Actor Michael York is a big supporter of Lazaris. He has accompanied and promoted Mr. Pursel on several American television talk shows.
Along with J.Z. Knight, Pursel and Ryerson make up the Big Three in the channeling movement.
Mr. Pursel says that “the majority of Lazaris followers are college graduates, and a good number of these are post-graduates. Lots of doctors, lots of lawyers, psychologists—successful, upper-middle income people.”
It takes 12 to 18 months to get a private consultation with Lazaris.
AND LAZARIS is big business. Mr. Pursel sells videos and cassettes and runs two New Age galleries, Illuminaria and Isis Unlimited.
He charms his audience by saying that many of them are former residents of Atlantis. He says they have come back to get a second chance at preventing world destruction.
Pursel bills Lazaris as “the Consummate Friend.”
Next to me in the audience at Pasadena sat Naville Rowe, a New Zealander who lived in London for 12 years before settling in West Hollywood.
Mr. Rowe told me that he can transform himself into a dolphin, and he teaches other how to turn into dolphins through channeling.
“I couldn't believe it,” says Mr. Rowe. “My mouth began to suck air and my forehead made squeaky noises. Next thing I knew, I was one of the dolphins, swimming with them.”
Mr. Rowe says that he channels “Kachuba,” which he describes as the consciousness of six dolphins scattered around the oceans.
THE CHANNELING movement is a real social whirl.
Susan Levin has organized a forum for channels called Conscious Connection. This evolved out of a “metaphysical singles” dating service called Mix and Match.
She is also involved in a series of cable television programs on channeling.
Conscious Connection publishes a 24-page magazine of the same name every two months. Its circulation has grown to an astonishing 25,000 over the last six months.
There are skeptics to spoil the fun. They try to bring the stars back down to Earth.
“Channels give simplistic answers, and they give you that touch of magic and the esoteric,” says Gerald Larue, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Southern California.
“It's a typical religious experience, and there are benefits,” Professor Larue says. “It's uplifting, but it's not real. You have to come back for another fix, like a drug addiction.”
Reginald Alev, executive director of the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago, also takes a dim view.
“It's very sad what's going on,” says Mr. Alev. “Most of the people who get involved in these New Age groups want to know the meaning of life, and someone comes along and tells them they have the answer.
“Then they're told they're the master of their own destiny, but they don't know they are being subjected to mind control.”