Ramtha Meets the Scholars
(photo by Mark Frey)
How exciting that you're going to the Ramtha conference. I read the book Ramtha such a long time ago. It was very good and had concepts that at the time seemed hard to conceive, and now seem so easy to conceive. Time has a way of doing that, doesn't it?
- e-mail letter from a friend on the East Coast
The headlines in the daily papers were amazing: "Ramtha Seer Isn't Fraud, Scholars Say," (The Olympian), " 'JZ Knight Not Faking It,' Say Scholars," (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).
After years of cynical treatment, sarcasm, and outright attack by the media on both longtime channeler JZ Knight, and Ramtha, the 35,000-year old ascended warrior and spiritual teacher who speaks through her, what had happened? In a word, "what happened" was a conference, but it wasn't just any gathering of scholars. This was the two-day "In Search of the Self" Conference held February 8-9, at JZ Knight's beautiful French chateau-style spread on the outskirts of the village of Yelm, WA, about an hour-and-a-half south of Seattle. Sixteen professors (including the moderators) - from such respected institutions as the University of Oregon, Colgate, Chicago Theological Seminary, the California Institute of Integral Studies, University of London, Saybrook Institute (San Francisco), and the University of South Florida, among others - presented their findings after a year-long study of Knight, and of Ramtha's teachings. While it's their collective, learned opinion that Knight is not faking it, that she's not having multiple personality disorder, and that psychological and biofeedback tests demonstrated dramatic changes when Knight was hooked up to scientific instrumentation, the scholars still can't definitively conclude what to make of it all. "We know something's going on here," one of the scholars tells me during a coffee break, "we just can't say, at this point, specifically what it is."
For those of you who may not know, Ramtha is, in the words of JZ Knight, who has been channeling this entity, an "enigma" - or, more familiarly, the Enlightened One. Ramtha is ostensibly the spirit of an Atlantean warrior king who lived over thirty five thousand years ago, and who ascended into his own godlike consciousness. He has been the subject of many books, magazine articles, and television programs since first appearing to Knight in her Tacoma kitchen in the late 70s as a shimmering, seven-foot-tall presence. ("At the time," Knight told me in an interview, "not only didn't I know who Edgar Cayce was, I didn't even know what the word metaphysical meant.")
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (RSE) in Yelm, Washington was formed in the early 80s, and has continued to expand, both in the breadth of the teachings and in the numbers of students who make the trek twice a year for the programs. At present, there are over three thousand students, called "masters" by Ramtha, from 23 countries worldwide. Unlike many other channeled entities who merely philosophize, Ramtha provides his students with very specific practices, including one called "Consciousness & Energy" (or C&E), a breathing technique for increasing the student's capabilities in such realms as co-creation, psychic healing, remote viewing, and personal unfoldment. I've also heard of various medical miracles, involving Ramtha students and distance healing, that have been occurring as a result of some of this training. (They also have an excellent website at www.ramtha.com). From my perspective, as a freelance New Age writer (and not a Ramtha student), the conference in Yelm, some thirty minutes east of Olympia, is a watershed event in the 25 years since the New Age burst on the American cultural and spiritual landscape. How ironic, I think to myself while waiting in the splendid indoor pool room of the mansion for the conference to start, that the first serious studies of New Age spiritual phenomena by university-disciplined examiners should be focused on the 35,000-year old Ramtha. Here, probably, is one of the furthest out of the channeled entities who've broken such new ground since all this wildness we call the New Age began unfolding. In fact, the very use of the word "channeling" appears to have first been coined by Knight to describe her full-body trance work back in the early 80s. This unique conference was organized by J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions in Santa Barbara; Joseph Bettis, Ph.D., a Buddhist by choice, and former chair of the department of Religious Studies at Western Washington University; and Brett Alt, a staff member at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. Melton, a Christian minister in his early fifties, has for the past thirty years been studying the emergence of new religious movements. He's a freethinker with encyclopedic knowledge, and an acknowledged champion for the freedom of individuals to worship as they will. Over the past thirty years, Melton's become an authority on the New Age, both in the U.S. and overseas, from angels to UFO-based religions and everything in between. (The weekend I was in Yelm, someone handed me a copy of the international edition of Time magazine, which had a story about Melton's testifying on behalf of new religious movements in Germany and France.) Three years ago, he began to research Ramtha for a new book, Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha's Modern School of Ancient Wisdom, which will be published later this year by Beyond Words Publishing of Portland. "The real idea for the conference of scholars came out of my studies of Ramtha," Melton tells me, before the meeting gets underway. "I realized that this was something more than New Age pablum, that Ramtha was offering a very sophisticated spiritual perspective that had great depth to it, whether you agreed with the teachings or not. I had to admit that this wasn't just another regurgitation of New Age ideas."
Currently, Melton, Bettis, and Kai McKenzie, an editor from Friday Harbor, WA, are preparing a book from the conference based on the papers presented by the scholars. Up at the long dais, I see some heavyweights in their particular fields. There's Robert Moore, Ph.D., a Jungian analyst, Chicago Theological Seminary professor, and author of numerous books on psychology. He's done an analysis of JZ Knight, and will report that her channeling is "not a part of her own mind, not multiple personality disorder, but perhaps coming from the superconscious mind." There's Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., a psychologist and inarguably this country's leading parapsychology researcher, who, along with biofeedback expert Ian Wickramasekera, Ph.D., has run a variety of psychological and biofeedback tests on Knight, both in her waking state and then while in trance. There's Basil Hiley, Ph.D., a physicist from the University of London and a longtime collaborator of David Bohm's, and Amit Goswami, Ph.D., professor of quantum physics at the Institute of Theoretical Sciences at the Univ. of Oregon, both leading lights in the field of quantum physics. There's John Simmons, Ph.D., from the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Western Illinois University, whose focus at the conference is religious ethics and the Ramtha School. There's Gail Harley, Ph.D., religious scholar from the University of South Florida, who will read her paper comparing Knight and her Gnostic school to other radical women spiritual leaders of earlier times, such as Mary Baker Eddy and H.P. Blavatsky. There's Charles LeWarne, Ph.D., a historian and currently chairperson of the State of Washington's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, speaking on the sometimes controversial effect of the newcomers on the town, and how they've achieved acceptance in the larger community. There's Constance Jones, Ph.D., a Fulbright scholar and sociologist, professor of religious studies at San Francisco's California Institute of Integral Studies, who's applied her sociology training to a study of the RSE students. Finally, there's Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., of Colgate University, a specialist on music, philosophy and alchemy, who reports on Ramtha and prophecy. Whew! A mouthful of Ph.D.'s, but just imagine: ten scholars from prestigious universities, all coming together to study Ramtha! I'm struck by the fact that these professors are putting their academic reputations on the line just by being part of this New Age conference. And yet here they are, boldly going where no academician has gone before, into uncharted waters, "into the mystic," to quote the great Van Morrison. The audience is composed of some eighty invited guests from all walks of life and levels of consciousness. Sitting next to me is Elmer Cranton, M.D., in his early sixties, a Harvard graduate, former U.S. Navy doctor, and chelation therapy specialist, very establishment in a three-piece suit, and himself a longtime Ramtha student. Just behind me is an older woman with a kindly face whose nametag identifies her as a Yelm City Council member. A couple of rows behind her is Linda Evans, the actress, who's been a Ramtha student and supporter for many years. Way in the back, there's a video crew with three cameras whirring, capturing it all for posterity. It's funny, but I suddenly get the feeling of time travel. First I go backward to the 1920s, to other earlier conclaves of spiritual radicals whose teachings were originally ridiculed but later accepted. Then I go forward, to a time in the future when these spiritual sciences will be in common use, accepted, even taken for granted. There's no question in my mind, from both the conference and its educated presenters, and from in-depth interviews with longtime Ramtha students, that something very amazing is happening at this esoteric school in Yelm. It's something very new, yet very ancient at the same time, the real results of which probably won't be known for another decade or two.
The big news, at least on one media-driven level, is that both the psychological and biofeedback testing of Knight and Ramtha, done by Drs. Krippner and Brett Alt, a staff member at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment., showed some interesting anomalies. The scientists first ran their tests while Knight, hooked up to the machines, was in her waking state, then later when she went into trance with Ramtha speaking through her. Dr. Wickramasekera is the president-elect of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, and one of the leading experts in the field. He said that Knight in her "normal waking state had a heart rate of between 85-90 beats per minute (bpm), but when she went into trance and Ramtha came through, her heart rate fluctuated between a high of 160 bpm to a low of 40 bpm in rapid succession. The high reading of 160 bpm might have been indicative of someone who was jogging, or in the throes of sexual orgasm, or physical exertion - but JZ was sitting in a chair, not moving; yet during the channeling, her readings were fluctuating wildly."
"If JZ Knight was deliberately playing a role, or deliberately acting, I don't think she would have gotten the test scores that she did," Krippner tells me later, regarding the psychological tests he performed. "If she weren't genuine, she would have tried to alter or skew the test scores to make herself look good. JZ's responses, in my estimation, hung together very coherently, and, as far as we can tell, they seem to be authentic responses."
Like the other scholars, Krippner, who has studied psychic phenomena in the Soviet Union, Brazil, and numerous other countries, couldn't say exactly what or who Ramtha is. Maybe it's that the instrumentation hasn't been invented just yet that can quantitatively measure spirit - other than the human mind, that is. But someday, perhaps - who knows? (A twelve-year-old girl at a laptop in Indonesia is probably working on it right now.) That's a subject for further studies, but Krippner's conclusion about JZ Knight's work, and that of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, sums it up best. He says, "The reason that JZ Knight is unique in any setting is not simply that she channels Ramtha, but that the information that Ramtha is giving is transformative and helpful for so many people that come here in fairly large numbers."
While the scholars had interesting and informative things to say, it is Knight herself, during her closing remarks at the end of the second day, who moves many in the audience to tears, myself included. She tells the story of her childhood, growing up in a poor family in the tiny town of Artesia, New Mexico, with a stepfather who refused to speak to her. She tells of a young girl who believed in God but couldn't God in her family's Pentecostal church. She speaks of a young woman who grew up searching for love and found it more than once. She talks of growing up to be a mother, a businesswoman, and, suddenly to her surprise, the medium for a powerful spiritual entity, and subsequently the leader of a new religious movement in a small town which had never seen anything like it (and didn't want to, either). She discusses overcoming the emotional ravages of spousal betrayal and of withstanding the bitter slings and arrows from those in the media, as well as from other practitioners in the New Age movement itself: the detractors, the doubters, and the accusers. She's endured one thing after another, and still she survived, still she overcame. I get a deepening sense of the strength and courage of this woman, through the many rivers she's crossed. A few days after the conference ended, I asked JZ Knight what kept her going through it all, to reach this positive turning point in the history of her work and her school. She didn't have to think about it: "It was the Ram," she says, "I've always known he was for real."
The Olympian referenced is from February 9, 1997. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer referenced is from February 10, 1997.