In the last issue of THE SUN, I began a series on Seth, the “energy personality essence” who has written six books through Jane Roberts while she is in a trance or dissociated state. Seth is no romantic “spirit guide” intent on comforting widows that a deceased spouse lives on, and Jane Roberts is no publicity-hungry medium claiming contact with “higher forces” who offer predictions for the next presidential race.
In 1963, writer Jane Roberts had an out-of-body experience one evening after she sat down to write poetry. When she “woke up,” she discovered she had written a manuscript. Neither Jane nor her artist husband Robert Butts had ever expressed any interest in psychic phenomena or altered states; they regarded themselves as serious artists, unconventional only in their somewhat reclusive lifestyle and unmaterialistic values. Neither had ever used any mind-altering drugs, unless cigarettes and beer count. Jane’s out-of-body experience and the resulting manuscript (complete with title: “The Physical Universe as Idea Construction”) was inexplicable, unasked for, a little frightening, and therefore all the more intriguing. As conservative as they were at that time, they could not ignore Jane’s experience. With some embarrassment, they purchased a Ouija Board. After the first sessions, the pointer spelled out messages from someone who called himself Seth. Soon after that, Jane began to hear the words in her mind before Seth spelled them out, and followed her impulse to speak them aloud. Since that time, Seth has dictated six books in a rather long-winded and dedicated delivery (19 years, fours hours weekly) with one purpose: to remind us of the abilities of consciousness.
This theme is hypnotically repeated in the six Seth books in a thousand different ways: we create our own reality. The books require that a reader have considerable curiosity about creativity; your homework is in no way done for you, nor is one relieved from the task of serious study with gossipy asides Seth certainly could indulge in if he chose. He never mentions which current world figures he thinks are good guys or bad. He doesn’t tell you what to eat, what to expect, when Atlantis will rise, when California will fall into the ocean, or when we will discover a cure for cancer. No drama.
Sometimes I buy People magazine when I’ve had too much of Seth. I am a reluctant scholar of anything; why then, are the Seth books the only body of work I have ever committed myself to? Because Seth slices through any seeds of dogma in my psyche, and fans my determination to be a responsible human being without once saying “you ought to be.” Because Seth has become my friend, dependable and loving and human, despite his formless state, a delight when he pokes fun at people with Messiah complexes, calls Jane’s cat “a sweet creature,” with a smile and no condescension, and makes asides which reveal how much he loves his work. Who does he say he is? He admits that there is overlap in his consciousness and Jane’s, but he also exists independently of her. In comparing himself to earthbound philosophers who live in bodies, he said, “I am not such a philosopher that I can compare my own thoughts and works with those of the noted professionals . . . I think I am — if you will forgive me — in my own way more earthy than those other gentlemen.
“I am — again in my way — more rambunctious and playful. The word ‘truth’ is a heavy one, and the more times it is repeated the more distant and inaccessible it seems. I do not put labels on my own theories, and I explain — or I try to explain — my most ‘profound’ statements by adding a dash of zest, a smidgeon of humor, an egotistical touch of humility. I consider myself an exuberant psychological explorer, finding myself, at my own request, happily set adrift among universes, able to shout with a loud and hearty voice from the hypothetical shore of one to another, news of what I have found and am still finding.”
Somehow, what he is finding is knowledge I already know, we all already know, but have forgotten. I have always, particularly on blacker days, had visions of a “future” self, wiser and more expansive, who reaches back to me, outstretched hands crossing eons of time and space, infusing me with a faith and fire I could never ignore. I identify with Jane as the longing learner who asked questions with such a vehemence that she broke barriers most of us maintain, and I identify with Seth as one who trusts life totally, who sends back to smaller selves a how-to book describing nuts-and-bolts care for an eternally changing consciousness.
As Seth symbolizes trust in life, suicide can symbolize distrust of life, and so I chose, for the second installment of the Seth series, Seth on suicide.
Seth suggests that all deaths are suicides in a sense, as all life forms choose their time of death on subconscious levels. But the context in which we choose to die is as significant and inter-connected to whom we are becoming as the context in which we choose to live.
I find it hard to accept that all deaths are chosen, that millions of Jews obligingly walked into crematoriums, that seventy-five people with plans to go to Florida volunteered to drown in a plane which crashed into an icy Potomac River, that an acquaintance really wanted to die when she deliberately jumped off of a mountain top in Colorado last October.
But what if they did, on some level? One cannot appreciate the options of belief Seth offers if one clings to the level where life is all there is, where we wait for a tragic finger of fate to tear us away from the known, the familiar, our precious plans to catch up with our fantasies.
Not only is “life after death” an inherent assumption in the Seth books, but such ancient concepts as reincarnation, and newer ones like “probable realities” create the open-ended universe Seth says we live in.
Seth’s storyline does not feel to me like an invention to soothe earthly egos frightened of their own mortality. Mortality, says Seth, is in a sense “real,” but in a universe which has no closed systems. “Events spin like electrons, affecting all psychological and psychic systems as well as biological ones. It is true to say that each individual dies alone, for no one else can die that death. It is also true that part of the species dies with each death, and is reborn with each birth,” writes Seth.
If dying is a biological necessity to insure the continued vitality of the species and each individual knows inherently that he or she must die physically in order to survive spiritually and psychically, as Seth says, then why is a fear of death so real to so many? Why do we yearn for assurance that our individuality is not “curtly dismissed” at death? Perhaps it is not due to the tyrant ego, earthbound and hungry for more, but merely due to the desire to be, as it confronts its preferences of how to be, in what form, in what circumstance, with no recipe book except the one we create.
We cannot deny death. But neither can we deny the glimpses of an enduring validity, of prime purpose behind our lives and our deaths, and “it is to that knowing portion of each individual that I address myself,” says Seth.
Our beliefs shape that purpose and the purpose can only grow as much as the beliefs are flexible, and are not mistaken for “truth.” According to Seth, power is only dangerous when an individual’s natural impulses to express purpose have been denied repeatedly, until the creative impulses are intensely focussed into highly ritualized and rigid patterns of belief and behavior, which fear any other pattern. When the creative impulse to be is given natural expression, private lives and civilization are changed for the better. “Psychologically, your impulses are as vital to your being as physical organs are. They are as altruistic, or unselfish, as your physical organs are.” But that’s under “ideal” conditions. How many people do you know who live under “ideal” conditions? What are ideal conditions?
Seth maintains that if we live in a flawed world, it is not because we are essentially flawed; it is because we have forgotten how to trust our most immediate and familiar selves. “The inner self is not remote . . . not divorced from your most intimate desires and affairs, but instead communicates through your own smallest gestures, through your smallest ideal.” If one believes that the spiritually wise, intuitive self is remotely inaccessible, residing in a grandiose ideal, then the gap between experience and the ideal becomes a gulf only an interfering God could bridge. Therefore the bewildered self who created the ideal distrusts itself all the more, and typically projects the distrust rather than owning it. A physical death may be demanded by the self in an effort to detour the distrust.
On November 18, 1978, more than 900 Americans led by the Reverend Jim Jones poisoned themselves in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Seth was in the midst of dictating The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events at the time. He described the people who died as victims of “an epidemic of beliefs,” who killed others and themselves for the sake of ideals, not an uncommon act in human history, and hardly one to celebrate.
The Jonestown suicides represent the results of religious fanaticism, “inverted idealists” who are not content to manifest their dreams step by step, in practical, peaceful expression, but feel that any act is justifiable in the pursuit of an ideal. Whether it is a religious ideal or a scientific ideal, Seth describes the sacrifice of life as a means to serve the sacredness of life as the most self-defeating strategy our species has invented.
When Jane and Rob speculated on the connections between the mass suicides at Guyana and the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, which occurred a mere six months apart, Seth agreed that the two events represent obviously connected examples of the belief, “The ends justify the means.”
“Religion and science both loudly proclaim their search for truth, although they are seemingly involved in completely opposing systems. They both treat their beliefs as truths, with which no one should tamper . . . Right now your cultish religions exist in response to the cultish behavior of science.” Seth equates cults with fanaticism, and “you are a fanatic if you consider killing for the pursuit of your ideal.” Cults thrive on fear, and seek to sabotage any belief or trust in spontaneous change, in the freedom to rewrite the script. Seth insists that we have a natural immunity against all thoughts and beliefs that do not fit in with our own. No one need be a party to a suicide, whether it expresses itself as a living death of distrust in one’s own power to choose, or as a soldier bearing arms under a nationalistic banner. “. . . Wars are basically examples of mass suicide,” says Seth, “embarked upon . . . with all of the battle’s paraphernalia, carried out through mass suggestion, and . . . by men who are convinced that the universe is unsafe, that the self cannot be trusted, and that strangers are always hostile.”
It is odd to trust so much someone I cannot see, cannot touch, but Seth’s ability to trace the subtlest wiring of human belief, no matter how tangled or blocked, to the original impulse to be, fine-tunes my ability to forgive the most murderous act, to walk past any school of thought that encourages fear in any form. Seth’s oceanic desire is to remind us that no death comes unbidden, that death is as spontaneous a creation as our own lives, engineered by our beliefs, which, no matter how distorted, cannot destroy in some final deed of discipline the impulse to be.
“For in the miraculous spontaneity of the sun, there is discipline that utterly escapes you, and a knowledge beyond any that we know. And in the spontaneous playing of the bees from flower to flower, there is a discipline beyond any that you know, and laws that follow their own knowledge, and joy that is beyond command. For true discipline, you see, is found only in spontaneity. Spontaneity knows its own order.”
(Next month: Seth on animals.)