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With the tongues of men and angels: A study of channeling. By Arthur Hastings. Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1991. ISBN 0-03-047164-8.

When he proclaimed, "the medium is the message," it's doubtful that Marshall McLuhan had ever heard of channeling. His rule nevertheless applies. When television channels channel channelers channeling, you may have noticed, it's not the channelled communication itself they capitalize. Who can recall a television show highlighting the implications of the channeled message? Instead the focus is on whether it's really a spirit speaking, part of the channeler's subconscious personality, or maybe just a hoax. The medium's still the message.

When Jon Klimo published in 1987 his book, Channeling: Investigations on receiving information from paranormal sources, it too focused not on the message but on the medium. The history, the methods and the theories of channeling were its subject. Channeled material itself was given only a single chapter. When introducing that book, Charles Tart wrote that the question, "Who am I?" is one of the most important we can ask and that some of the most significant answers come from channelled communications. Yet Klimo's book didn't quite reflect that significance.

Edgar Cayce emphasized the comparative study of channeled guidance. Until now, however, there's been no book that satisfies that order. Arthur Hastings's study of channeling, however, is a sumptuous feast. Besides containing the required chapters on the history and parapsychology of channeling, it devotes the majority of its pages examining the contents of significant works of channeled material.

The author is Dean of the Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Menlo Park, California. His academic background is in communications and he views channeling as a form of communication. He defines it as follows:

"Channeling refers to a process in which a person transmits information or artistic expression that he or she receives mentally or physically and which appears to come from a personality source outside the conscious mind. The message is directed toward an audience and is purposeful."

What is the purpose of channeling? Hastings proposes that civilization has received much of value from channeling. He gives us a guided historical tour of the channeled material that has significantly contributed to the spiritual traditions of the world. Perhaps the earliest source of channeled materials are the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in Hinduism. More recently, Mormonism owes its inception to channeling. Hastings devotes separate chapters to metaphysical systems such as Alice Bailey and Theosophy, Jane Roberts and the Seth material, and Helen Schucman and A Course in Miracles.

Never before had I read accounts of these systems of thought by someone not writing from within that system. Until reading his book I had never encountered any criticisms, for example, of A Course in Miracles. Hastings presents several in an otherwise sympathetic treatment. I found particularly interesting the criticism that the Course seems to ignore the body, that it is strictly a "cognitive" spirituality.

Throughout he also draws some interesting parallels between these systems of thought, world religions and mythologies. He clearly shows that the sources of channeling, as extra-terrestrial as they sometimes claim to be, are quite in keeping with the collective unconscious of humanity.

It is clear that Hastings sought readings from many contemporary channelers in preparing this book. His informal observations give the book a personable grounding. He can be down to earth without being frustratingly earthbound. He can enjoy having his head in the clouds, but can tell the difference between a nitrous oxide stupor and a whiff of heaven. One of the definite values of this book is the author's presence.

What about the presence of spirits? Hastings concurs in the conclusion reached by parapsychologists almost one hundred years ago: channeling is not a good courtroom to decide upon the existence of disembodied spirits. Edgar Cayce indicated, for example, that one can't discriminate between telepathic contact with the continuing effects of a person's existence and the continuing activity of that person's spirit. If not spirits, then who's there? Hastings concludes that the entities who speak are transpersonal factors within the human mind, personifications of higher intelligence.

I found myself dissatisfied. At the outset Hastings restricts his study to channeling where a separate being is active. He specifically excludes exalted states of inspired awareness (what Klimo called "open channeling"). Yet he has but few words on why channeling so often takes the form of messages from a separate being.

In this regard, Edgar Cayce's channeling career presents an interesting enigma: He consistently advised us to turn to the highest within ourselves. He himself turned down the opportunity to channel an outside entity. Yet when describing in a public lecture what happened to him during his psychic trance state, he said he went to a hall of records where an "old man" handed him a book of information for the person requesting the reading. Who was this old man? Cayce's higher self?

I can accept that the higher self is but a personification. But I wonder why even Cayce manifests the personification process. Perhaps the answer relates to why God created souls. In Cayce's myth of creation it was for the purpose of companionship. Perhaps channelers give personified form to their higher intelligence in order to encourage a companionable relationship with our higher intelligence.

Although Hastings attempts no answer to this intriguing puzzle, he ends his book with an important conclusion:

"A consistent theme in the value of these higher qualities: justice, wisdom, righteousness, humility, compassion, service, knowledge, self-respect, understanding and love. People and civilizations are judged by such qualities. Whether the tongues of channeling are from the minds of men and women or from the angels, their messages often remind us of those values. We should take these messages seriously, so that the knowledge that comes to us from channeling, or any source, will be used in wisdom and love for the benefit of people and the world."

Buy With the Tongues of Men and Angels: A Study of Channeling now!

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