THE SETH MATERIAL
© Ian Lawton 2005 & 2008
[I would like to thank John Ratcliff for persuading me to revisit the Seth material back in 2005. This paper has also been updated and shortened in 2008 to bring it into line with The Big Book of the Soul. I am fully aware how complex the issues of time, multiple dimensions etc are, and I don't for one moment think I understand all this fully. However I do think it's worth appraising possible inconsistencies in channeled material rather than just accepting every word without question, especially if the material is generally fascinating and widely known, as this is.]
Chapter 7 of The Big Book of the Soul discusses a number of channeled sources that act as precursors to the modern interlife regression research presented in chapters 5 and 6. These include the Seth material. Seth was a 'nonphysical entity' who channeled his thoughts and teachings through medium Jane Roberts from 1963 up to her death in 1984. Although a number of books resulted from this partnership, Seth Speaks was apparently channeled directly by him in complete book form, and so ostensibly represents his 'master work'. First published in 1972, this is an eloquent and erudite philosophical and spiritual treatise presented in a reasonably easy and fluent style, despite the fact that sometimes it deals with issues of extreme complexity.
The good news is that he lends significant support to the pioneering research on...
The Interlife Experience
[Except for the final paragraph, this section is taken directly from The Big Book of the Soul, chapter 7, pp. 220-3]
If we commence with the transition he confirms that the soul can choose to leave the physical body before death occurs; that welcoming parties come to meet it; that some disoriented souls may have a rest period, or require a degree of rehabilitation in what they may perceive to be ‘hospitals and rest homes’; that souls create their own reality in the light realms, including hellish experiences; that more experienced souls will require less initial orientation; and that after transition there can be no hypocrisy or hiding from underlying truths. As for the past-life review, he agrees that it allows the soul to ‘relive’ past events, to role-play different scenarios and to see how it has affected others:
You examine the fabric of the existence you have left, and you learn to understand how your experiences were the result of your own thoughts and emotions and how these affected others… The earth years will be experienced again, but not necessarily in continuity. The events may be used in any way the individual chooses; altered, played back the way they happened for contrast… The other actors, however, are thought-forms.
In terms of soul groups, we find corroboration that souls reincarnate together repeatedly, and that the various aspects of the light realms are demarcated by ‘psychological barriers’ based on the soul’s level of experience. If we now turn to next-life planning, Seth confirms that we deliberately undergo a ‘time of choosing’ in which we decide on the major characteristics of our next life, including our parents and environment; that we may see ‘flashes of the future existence’; that ‘all counsel’ is available at this time from ‘guides and teachers’; that we plan our incarnations with other souls who will be involved; and that some souls are impatient to return and do not avail themselves of the advice on hand. He also confirms the idea of seeing both sides of any emotional coin, and of adverse circumstances sometimes being chosen to speed up growth:
If in one life, for example, you hated women, you may very well be a woman in the next life. Only in this way, you see, would you be able to relate to the experience of womanhood, and then as a woman face those attitudes that you yourself had against women in the past. If you had no sympathy for the sick, you may then be born with a serious disease, again now self-chosen, and find yourself encountering those attitudes that once were your own. Such an existence would usually also include other issues, however. No existence is chosen for one reason only, but would also serve many other psychological experiences. A chronically ill existence, for example, might also be a measure of discipline, enabling you to use deeper abilities that you ignored in a life of good health. The perfectly happy life, for example, on the surface may appear splendid, but it may also be basically shallow and do little to develop the personality. The truly happy existence, however, is a deeply satisfying one that would include spontaneous wisdom and spiritual joy. I am not saying, in other words, that suffering necessarily leads to spiritual fulfillment, nor that all illness is accepted or chosen for such a purpose, for this is not the case. Illness is often the result of ignorance and lazy mental habits. Such a discipline may be adopted however by certain personalities who must take strong measures with themselves because of other characteristics.
Perhaps most impressively Seth backs up our earlier suggestion that traditional, deterministic notions of karma are extremely unhelpful because of their conflict with the over-riding concept of free will:
I have also discussed reincarnation in terms of environment because many schools of thought over-emphasize the effects of reincarnational existences, so that often they explain present-life circumstances as a result of rigid and uncompromising patterns determined in a ‘past’ life. You will feel relatively incompetent to handle present physical reality, to alter your environment, to affect and change your world, if you feel that you are at the mercy of conditions over which you have no control. The reasons given for such subjugations matter little in the long run, for the reasons change with the times and with your culture. You are not under a sentence placed upon you for original sin, by any childhood events, or by past-life experience. You wrote the script. Like a true absent-minded professor the conscious self forgets all this, however, so when tragedy appears in the script, difficulty or challenges, the conscious self looks for someone or something to blame.
As for the return, Seth agrees that we bring strong unresolved emotions with us to carry on working with them: ‘You may have brought negative influences into your life for a given reason, but the reason always has to do with understanding, and understanding removes those influences.’ He also confirms that the soul can enter the fetus at any time between conception and birth; that this is a gradual merging process; that the soul can vacate the body for some years even after birth; and that identification with the light realms remains strong in these early years, but gradually dwindles.
As an aside, Seth asserts that some souls train as 'creators of forms', which bears some resemblance to Michael Newton's ideas about 'designer souls' giving the evolutionary process a nudge. He also corroborates the idea of souls having the option to take brief sabbaticals in other non-reincarnational, nonphysical realms, in order to broaden their experience.
Another issue that is relatively uncontentious is Seth's support for the idea that...
We Create Our Own Reality
Although he was by no means the first person to suggest that we create our own reality in the physical plane, Seth was acting as a forerunner for the plethora of modern books on the topic – although it has now grown from simple 'positive thinking' to 'cosmic ordering' and so on. He suggests that to do this we only have to visualize a particular outcome or event. Although he promises much in the way of practical advice about how to achieve this degree of control over our lives throughout the book, when it comes down to it the advice is simple. He suggests that meditation can be important. But he also tells us that we should visualize desired outcomes just before going to sleep, because this helps to reinforce them in our dreams, which are a prime source of contact with other nonphysical realms and have a major impact on the reality we create in the physical:
[In the dream state] you process daily experience, project it into what you think of as the future, choose from an infinity of probable events those you will make physical, and begin the mental and psychic processes that will bring them into the world of substance.
He also repeatedly stresses that it is the intensity of our thoughts and emotions that determine the extent to which they affect the reality we are experiencing. However he also suggests that, rather than concentrating hard on a desired outcome, the trick is to imagine it as if it were really happening – rather in the way that an innocent child conjures up dream worlds outside of physical reality. In other words, treat it very much like play. This visualization technique is, again, commonly recommended.
Let us turn now to a number of other major strands of Seth's worldview that are somewhat more complex. The fact that they contain apparent inconsistencies may simply reflect this fact, but arguably it is at least worth laying out where the difficulties lie.
Multiple Realities and Worlds
Seth reports that there are many 'realities', and that our consciousness divides itself up holographically to experience all of them simultaneously, so that what we think of as 'me' while in the physical realm is just one element of a bigger picture. But there seem to be at least two contexts in which he applies this thinking.
On the one hand he suggests that some souls prefer to obtain their experience in what he refers to as 'probable realities', which are quite different from the reincarnational existence that all of us on earth have chosen. He seems to suggest that this is an option that any soul can take, either as a complete alternative to reincarnational existence, or as a next stage of experience once the reincarnation cycle has been fully played out. This is not necessarily in conflict with interlife regression and other evidence.
On the other hand with echoes of the idea of creating reality via our thoughts he suggests that, whenever we face a decision in incarnate life, if we intensely focus on one or more of the alternative courses of action that we do not eventually take these too will be 'actualized in other systems of probability'. He also suggests that we can access these other realities and selves in the dream state, and he even encourages us to learn to switch our focus over to them when we are consciously awake. Moreover, it is clear that he sees each of the alternatives as being played out in full and concurrently by a number of different selves who each 'consider themselves the real you, of course, and to any one of them you would be the probable self'.
We might immediately ask under exactly what conditions an alternative reality and self is created. Although what constitutes 'intense focus' remains unclear, this must happen regularly because the decisions themselves can apparently be quite trivial: 'your slightest thought gives birth to worlds'. But there are a number of arguments against this 'multiple worlds' hypothesis that are discussed here main thrust is that, although after death we can replay and role-play events from our incarnate lives while in the light realms, the physical reality that we actually experience as we go along in incarnate life is unique and collectively created. But Seth shows apparent inconsistency by appearing to support these ideas as well:
Perhaps your life span runs for seventy-seven years. After death you may, under certain conditions and if you choose, experience the events of those seventy-seven years at your leisure – but not necessarily in terms of continuity. You may alter the events. You can manipulate within that particular dimension of activity that represented your seventy-seven years. If you find severe errors of judgment, you may then correct them. You may perfect, in other words, but you cannot again enter into that frame of reference as a completely participating consciousness following, say, the historic trends of the time, joining into the mass-hallucinated existence that resulted from the applied consciousness of your self and your 'contemporaries'... Your life is your own personal experience-perspective, and when at death you take it out of the mass physical time context, then you can experience it in many ways.
We also saw above that he accepts that when other souls appear to be present during out reliving of experiences in the interlife they are imprinted 'thought-forms' only, and do not represent the full consciousness of those other souls.
Having said that he separately appears to contradict all this again when, in the context of alternative histories of earth as a whole, he describes 'other probable systems of physical reality' as if they all have equal validity. It is difficult to make any sensible comment on these apparent contradictions.
Seth repeatedly suggests that all incarnate lives – past, present and future – are happening in parallel, and that feedback between them can and does occur. Again there are a number of objections to this view that are discussed here. But we find that he also appears inconsistent on this issue, because elsewhere he accepts that future events or lives in the physical realm do not already exist except as mere probabilities:
Some of the events that I see connected very clearly with these persons in the future may not, in your physical system, occur. They exist as probabilities, as potentials, actualized in thoughts but not turned into definite physical form. I told you that no events were predetermined.
When you understand the nature of reality, then you realize that predictions of future events are basically meaningless. You can predict some events and they can occur, but you create the future in every moment... You can tune into certain probabilities and predict 'that they will occur', but free will always operates. No god in a giant ivory tower says 'this will happen February 15 at 8.05'; and if no god predicts, then I do not see the point of doing so myself.
To complicate matters further, in another section he seems to attempt to combine both ideas by suggesting that the future already exists in definitive as well as probable terms:
I would have to tune into a future date, in your terms, and probe it with all of its ramifications in order to ascertain which of the probable actions I saw in your 'earlier' would be actualized in your 'later'.
Of course it may be that Seth is attempting to explain concepts that our limited human intellects simply cannot grasp. But on the face of it these ideas are contradictory and his attempts to combine them do not make logical sense.
Science, Religion and History
From a scientific perspective Seth's supporters argue that he displays a knowledge of quantum theory more advanced than its general state at the time of writing. He adds to this descriptions of 'coordination points' where space-time is warped such that they provide increased potential for creating physical reality, and of how our thoughts achieve this because they are essentially 'electromagnetic energy units'. Meanwhile from a psychological perspective he describes in some detail various states of consciousness, relating them to dream states and to Jung's anima and animus archetypes, although accepting that dream symbolism is largely personal and cannot be interpreted using universal rules.
He also has much to say about the key figures, origins and intentions of, and symbolism underlying, various religions. Unsurprisingly he concentrates heavily on Christianity, with certain controversial revelations about Christ himself, but he also discusses Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. In particular his take on the latter's doctrine of anatta or 'no-self' corresponds closely with the theory of the holographic soul in that he recognizes its failure to properly account for the survival of the individual soul:
...the Buddhists come closer, generally speaking, to a description of the nature of reality. They have not understood the eternal validity of the soul, however, in terms of its exquisite invulnerability, nor been able to hold a feeling for its unique character.
In addition he reveals the ways in which religious records were often deliberately falsified for political and other reasons, an issue discussed in some detail in Genesis Unveiled. On top of this he asserts, as channeled material so often does, that important manuscripts containing fascinating revelations remain hidden in old monasteries – although this time in Spain rather than the usual suspect of Tibet.
However when we come to supposed historical matters Seth's material again becomes arguably rather more suspect. He opens this aspect by discussing what appears to be a previous earth:
...some data concerning a lost religion, belonging to a people of which you have no information. These people lived on a planet in the same space that your earth now occupies, 'before' your planet existed. They destroyed it through their own error, and were reincarnated when your planet was prepared. Their memories became the basis for the birth of religion as you now think of it.
He then introduces the idea of 'reincarnational civilizations', arguing that each has 'come to our point of physical development and either gone beyond it or destroyed their particular civilization' through 'aggression and a lack of understanding and spirituality':
They were given another chance, having the unconscious knowledge not only of their failure, but the reasons behind it. They then began with a psychological head start, as they formed new primitive groupings. Others, solving the problems, left your physical planet for other points in the physical universe. When they reached that level of development, however, they were spiritually and psychically mature, and were able to utilize energies of which you now have no practical knowledge. Earth to them now is the legendary home. They formed new races and species that could no longer physically accommodate themselves to your atmospheric conditions.
Unfortunately it is not clear whether these people left while still incarnate using some sort of physical space travel to colonize other planets, or simply chose to incarnate on other planets instead of earth at some point. In any case, he then continues:
On your planet they were involved in three particular civilizations long before the time of Atlantis; when, in fact, your planet was in a somewhat different position... Particularly in relationship to three of the other planets that you know. The poles were reversed... These civilizations were highly technological.
The first of these civilizations is hardly described at all, other than that it 'generally followed our own line of development and faced many of the problems that we do now', and was 'largely situated in what we call Asia Minor'. But we have much more on the second civilization, called 'Lumania':
The second one was, in fact, far superior to your own along these lines. Sound was used far more effectively, not only for healing and in wars, but also to power vehicles of locomotion, and to bring about the movement of physical matter... The strength of this second civilization lay mainly in the areas now known as Africa and Australia.
Seth goes on to describe how the landmasses were somewhat different then, and how the Lumanians did not attempt to expand out of their own territory or to civilize the 'large, unorganized, dispersed, primitive culture' that occupied other parts of the planet. They were substantially telepathic, but could also convey a far more subtle and multi-sensual or dimensional range of thoughts and images than we can now in both their spoken language and their art. He initially insists that they had lived in cities that were protected from outside interference by 'energy fields', but then describes how most of their cities were underground and reached via natural caves. They also set up underground outposts in various areas to keep an eye on their more primitive neighbors, especially in the Pyrenees because 'giant-sized' men lived there.
However, in their 'experiment' they were so determined to eschew violence and aggression that they created 'energy blockages' that changed them physiologically, in a detrimental way. So more and more they left to live and interbreed with the more primitive cultures around them in the hope of balancing out their physiological flaws, but this experiment too was not a success and they eventually died out. Having said that, Seth also asserts that they still 'coexist in time' with us and that there are 'bleed-throughs' – as well as that there is another system of reality in which their experiment with non-violence was a success, and in which 'a completely new type of human being emerged'.
He then suggests that some of the Lumanians' underground dwellings were discovered by the third civilization, which led them to copy some of their art as best they could in the cave paintings that we now associate with the Upper Paleolithic 'explosion' in southern Europe. This is, however, all we ever get to hear about the third civilization, which still supposedly predated Atlantis. He mentions this latter 'fourth civilization' on a number of occasions in passing, but the only real details we obtain of the Atlanteans are that they were able to use coordination points to 'achieve great stability in roads, buildings and the like'. Seth himself is supposed to have had incarnations in both Lumania and Atlantis.
What are we to make of all this supposedly historical material? It follows a trail first laid down by the theosophist Madame Helena Blavatsky in the late nineteenth century and continued in various other channeled material ever since, most notably that of the 'sleeping prophet' Edgar Cayce in the first half of the twentieth century. There are a number of objections to the idea that any of this describes any sort of genuine prehistory of the physical planet earth, most of which are discussed in more detail in Genesis Unveiled, but to summarize:
* Even if there had been a previous physical planet occupying the space that earth now does, according to Seth it would have had to have been there for long enough for life forms of the same complexity as modern humans to evolve on it. This is entirely implausible in the light of modern understanding of the development of our solar system. Yet by contrast Seth does appear to support the idea of evolution and not, for example, the Hindu worldview that the earth is created and destroyed on a regular cyclic basis, with humankind apparently reappearing fully fledged at the outset each time.
* Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that the previous civilizations who migrated to other star systems did so in a reincarnational rather than a space travel context, there is nothing in the archaeological record to support his contention that previous civilizations existed with the kind of advanced levels of technology he suggests – as in building cities, having vehicles to travel around in and so on. Severe doubts surround the provenance, authenticity and dating of most of the supposedly ancient, anomalous artifacts that have been found, and nor is there any reason to suppose that the supposed level of technology displayed by, for example, the ancient Egyptians must have derived from an earlier advanced civilization.
* Seth says absolutely nothing about the timescales for these civilizations, but the orthodox and surely sensible view of modern human evolution places the emergence of our species at around 200,000 years ago or thereabouts. Yet it seems unlikely that he means all of these prior civilizations existed since then, given the context of his assertions about a 'previous earth', about the modern earth occupying a 'different position' – an idea he does not clarify even when pressed – and about landmasses being in a somewhat different position from now.
* Seth refers to the Lumanians as one of the predecessors of the Atlanteans. The other major civilization often discussed in this kind of material is that of the Lemurians, and the two words are not totally dissimilar. Yet the word Lemuria derives from a mistaken mid-nineteenth century assumption about the distribution of Lemurs in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean, which led to the idea of a former landmass between Africa and India that has now sunk – albeit that ever since then it has come to be associated with a supposed former landmass in the Pacific. Rather more troubling, he makes a separate, brief reference to the earlier civilization of 'Mu', although no details are given. Yet this word Mu – which is often merged with the idea of Lemuria – stems from a complete misunderstanding, and arguably even deliberate fabrication, of certain aspects of the Mayan alphabet by a certain Charles-Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, again in the mid-nineteenth century. Of course Seth might have wanted to use names with which we are all familiar, such as Atlantis, but if so why would he not have adopted the name Lemuria instead of Lumania – if the two are indeed synonymous? And why would he also use a name like Mu without further clarification, when it is of such obviously dubious pedigree? It is also notable that his description of the Lumanians deserting their cities to interbreed with their more primitive neighbors has all the hallmarks of the biblical account of the antediluvian 'fallen angels', and a version of this tradition seems to be de rigour for virtually all channeled material.
These supposedly historical aspects may or may not be considered as important pointers to the reliability of at least some of the Seth material. He is not challenged on these potential limitations during the sessions, but there is one major escape route as described in Genesis Unveiled and The Wisdom of the Soul: it is that, if these descriptions of earlier technological civilizations have any validity at all, it lies in them representing soul memories, either of nonphysical realms or of other physical planets, which have been mistakenly assumed to relate to earth. In the main it is not possible to suggest that this is what Seth himself is describing, because he emphatically places his three or four most recent previous civilizations in the physical context of earth itself. However he does make one brief reference to 'ethical codes originating in the time of Atlantis that were given by a race from another star' – although again it is not clear whether he is suggesting that these were physical extraterrestrial visitors, or reincarnating souls who migrated to earth.
Having said all that, one of the central themes in Genesis Unveiled is that of advanced, angelic-type souls who have incarnated on earth from time to time to introduce or reassert the universal and timeless spiritual wisdom that is our birthright. And in a similar way Seth refers to 'Speakers':
The Speakers predated the emergence of any religions that you know, and the religions of the Speakers arose spontaneously in many scattered areas, then grew like wildfire from the heart of Africa and Australia. There was one separate group in an area where the Aztecs dwelled at a later date... Various bands of the Speakers continued through the centuries. Because they were trained so well, the messages retained their authenticity. They believed, however, that it was wrong to set words into written form, and so did not record them... The Speakers, singly, existed in your Stone Age period, and were leaders. Their abilities helped the cavemen survive. There was little physical communication, however, in those days between the various Speakers, and some were unaware of the existence of the others. Their message was as 'pure' and undistorted as possible. It was for this reason, however, through the centuries, that many who heard it translated it into parables and tales.. [and their] distortions have hidden the messages... This inner knowledge has always been available, but has to become physically manifest – literally made flesh. The Speakers were the first to impress this inner knowledge upon the physical system, to make it physically known. Sometimes only one or two Speakers were alive in several centuries. Sometimes there were many. They looked around them and knew that the world sprang from their interior reality. They told others. They knew that the seemingly solid natural objects about them were composed of many minute consciousnesses.
He also has some interesting observations about the way in which the Speakers influenced the ancient Egyptians:
The Egyptian religion was largely based upon the work of the Speakers, and great care was given to their training. The outward manifestations given to the masses of the people became so distorted, however, that the original unity of the religion finally decayed. However, efforts were being made then to map inner reality in ways that have not been attempted since.
He goes on to point out that there have been 'less than thirty great Speakers... The Christ entity was one. The Buddha was another.' But he also asserts that not only was he himself a Speaker in his earthly incarnations, but also that his channeler Jane Roberts and her husband Robert, plus at least one member of Jane's ESP class, had been - and presumably still were - Speakers. For me this raises a few alarm bells akin to Cayce claiming to have been the reincarnation of an important Atlantean priest, while many of his subjects had held prominent positions in Atlantis and elsewhere. But maybe this is just being oversensitive about possible ego issues.
To draw definitive conclusions about the reliability of the material in Seth Speaks is enormously difficult. It includes spiritual, philosophical and psychological observations of great erudition and apparent insight. But at the same time it incorporates ideas about, for example, multiple worlds and concurrent lives that often at least appear to be self-contradictory. It also contains supposedly historical material that is out of step with modern cosmology, geology and archaeology – even allowing for the fact that we may yet make important further breakthroughs in these areas – while several aspects of it appear to be of highly dubious provenance, although remaining consistent with other equally dubious channeled material.
That having been said, overall it is fascinating, and definitely should not be written off as just another hotchpotch of channeled nonsense.
[All from Roberts, Jane, Seth Speaks (Bantam, 1974)]
Confirmation of the Interlife Experience: transition, chapter 9, pp. 134–9 and 146 and chapter 11, pp. 179–80; past-life reviews, chapter 9, pp. 138 and 143 and chapter 11, pp. 174–5; soul groups and psychological divisions in the light realms, chapter 11, pp. 168 and 184–5; next-life planning and impatient souls, chapter 4, p. 66, chapter 11, pp. 170–1 and 174, chapter 12 pp. 195–6 and chapter 13, p. 221; adverse circumstances as learning opportunities, chapter 12, p. 203; no deterministic karma, chapter 4, pp. 65–6; returning with unresolved emotions, chapter 12, p. 205; the birth process, chapter 13, pp. 220–4; creator souls, chapter 11, pp. 187–90; sabbaticals in other realms, chapter 11, p. 173.
As far as the next three elements of Seth's worldview are concerned, they are spread so entirely throughout his book in a somewhat jumbled fashion that it is impossible to provide sensible references for the summaries provided, other than to direct those interested to read it in its entirety. Nevertheless, specific quotes can be referenced as follows:
* Creating our own Reality: importance of dream state, chapter 7, p. 106.
* Multiple Realities: switching focus to other selves and realities, chapter 7, p. 103 and chapter 10, p. 159; all probable selves and systems are equally valid, chapter 14, p. 227 and chapter 16, p. 258; even trivial decisions create other realities, chapter 16, p. 257; cannot alter the historic mass-hallucinated past, chapter 10, pp. 161–2.
* The Nature of Time: definitive and probable futures, chapter 20, pp. 336–7 and appendix, pp. 468–9.
Science, Religion and History: aspects of quantum theory, chapter 16, pp. 264–7; coordination points and electromagnetic energy units, chapter 5; description of various states of consciousness, chapter 19; Jung's anima and animus archetypes, chapter 13, pp. 210–15; personal dream symbolism and its relationship to other levels of consciousness, chapter 18, pp. 287–98; Christ and Christianity, chapter 14, pp. 231–4, chapter 21, pp. 370–3 and chapter 22, pp. 416–18; the 'next coming', chapter 21, pp. 375–9; Judaism and Islam, chapter 21, pp. 381–5; Buddhism, chapter 17, p. 271; falsification of historical records, appendix, pp. 421–8; undiscovered records, chapter 17, p. 272; previous earth in same space, introduction, p. xi; three reincarnational civilizations before Atlantis, chapter 15; passing references to Atlantis, chapter 11, p. 187 and chapter 22, p. 399; Atlanteans use of coordination points, appendix p. 432; civilization of Mu, chapter 20, p. 361; Atlantean ethical codes from extraterrestrial source, appendix, p. 463; speakers, chapter 17, pp. 272–7 and chapter 20, pp. 331–4.