5X5 Episode 51

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5X5 Episode 51
Skepticism 101 - Channeling
29th December 2008

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5X5 50 5X5 52
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
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Skepticism 101 - Channeling[edit]

Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.

J: (unintelligible chanting)

J: (in terrible South-Asian accent) Okay. My name is Ramdaj, you may ask me any question.

R: Mmkay what is channeling?

J: I am channeling right now, the ancient spirit of Ramdaj he has come from far away.

E: How far?

J: Mmmm. Two thousand years. Namaste

R: That's funny because you're speaking English.

J: Yes I know but that is the way it works, sorry.


S: This is the SGU 5x5 and the topic for tonight is channeling. Which is the modern manifestation of the old spiritualism and seance. It involves the claim of an individual who is the conduit for, or the channel for, a spirit. So it's channeling a spirit from the spirit world so they can use your body to speak to the living.

J: Steve you're right it is very closely related to spiritualism or maybe spiritualism is related to channeling. The only real distinction is that the channeling allows many different beings to join the party. This includes ancient humans from thousands of years ago, aliens from other worlds, and even beings that were never even corporeal in the first place. The advantage is obvious, the channeler doesn't have to answer those nasty questions about relatives, or people that were recently alive – that would be easy to disprove. So I mean who could doubt the word of an alien or somebody who lived 2,000 years ago, it's a little, it's harder.

S: But the real advantage and this is the reason for the form of channeling that exists now is that the seances of 100 years ago were more– involved a lot of physical tricks. You know, having noises or voices or making a trumpet sound or a tambourine shake so the con artists who were pulling off the seance and pretending that that their mark was talking to the spirit of their dead loved one, convinced them with these physical manifestations they were using escape artist tricks. The problem was that people like Harry Houdini exposed it. They exposed the industry of spiritualism by showing that these tricks can all be duplicated with a little bit of stage magic. So when this practice had its resurgence they essentially just eliminated all of the physical manifestations of a seance and just left the core of "there's a spirit in my body speaking with my voice" therefore the channeling occurs 100% in the mind of the channeler and there is nothing physical to debunk or to catch them up on. It's just either you believe them or you don't.

E: And they come up with all kinds of excuses, I mean you start asking some specific questions about the being that they are channeling and the channeler just has a way of dancing around it. I mean for instance, if somebody such as J.Z. Knight who claims to channel a 35,000 year old cromagnon warrior called Ramtha, I mean what questions are you going to ask of that and try to get some validity as to see to see if it is really true or not. There's really nothing much you can say or do. Like you said Steve, you either believe it or you don't. And it it's an act. It's a cheesy stage magicians act it's all that it really is.

S: And of course, for convenience, the spirits always speak English or the language of the channeler

E: (Laughs) That's right.

S: And when pushed on this they do give an answer whihc just about amounts to "that's just the way it happen to work" and yet they speak English like, if you remember Evan, we investigated a local channeler[1][2] who alleged to channel the spirit known as...

E: D'Hartma

S: D'Hartma, yeah Dahartma. An ancient like 700 year old Nepalese spirit who spoke English because the channeler spoke English but yet spoke English with a sort of vaguely Nepalese accent.

R: Goofy accent

S: Yeah so why the accent, if you're getting the language from the channeler why are you still retaining your own accent in a language you could never could speak when you were alive? It makes absolutely no internal sense, but that's what creates the act, right? So I'm just going to take on a different persona, speak in a funny accent, often, you know, with some shenanigans like with their eyes closed or some other kind of theatrical elements and that's it. It's just a complete act.

J: That's how I plan on retiring.

R: By starting a channeling business?

J: Absolutely

R: I hate to break this to you Jay, but you're going to have to get a lot better.


J: You know what Rebecca, I've seen some channelers, and no, I don't.

R: (Laughs)

S: Yeah the low rent ones, I mean the local sort B or C channelers are terrible

R: Alright, you're a C channeler

J: Thank you.

S: Only the cream of the crop make it up to like the J.Z. Knight where they're bilking millions from people.

J: J.Z.!


S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


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