For all my love of coziness, homey simplicities, the friend on the phone, the cat crying at the door, good coffee and my own bed, travel lures me like a preacher to the promised land.
Foreign countries and climates, uncertain destinations, the crowded train, the empty city at two a.m. are springboards to altered time and space, to the self stripped to barest essentials, good manners finally meaning, merely, tolerance for the unknown.
When I returned from a 99-day trek through Europe in 1974, I felt unhinged from an American past, politics, from a territorial boundary of “us” and “them,” from a fear of foreign philosophies. I came home ready to go again but my inner itinerary whispered no, not again, for a long time.
Six months later, a book came into my hands that brought back the best of travel. Not the beauty of waking on a beach in Greece, or recrossing paths with fellow travellers, but to lands of belief beyond anything I’d ever encountered, with a guide called Seth.
The repeated message of Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts is “that each of you create your own physical reality; and en masse, you create both the glories and the terrors that exist within your earthly experience. Until you realize that you are the creators, you will refuse to accept this responsibility.”
Each of you creates your own physical reality. . . .
The circumstances of Seth’s author status — he is a non-physical being — no longer seem extraordinary to me, but bear describing in view of the armor our society insists upon inserting between itself and anything invisible, much less a bodiless Seth.
One evening in 1963, Jane Roberts sat down to write poetry and “suddenly my consciousness left my body, and my mind was barraged by ideas that were astonishing and new to me at the time.” When she “woke up,” she discovered that she had produced a manuscript, entitled The Physical Universe as Idea Construction. She began researching psychic activity with her husband Robert Butts, and experimented with a Ouija board. “After the first few sessions, the pointer spelled out messages that claimed to come from a personality named Seth,” wrote Jane, in the introduction to Seth Speaks. “Neither Rob or I had any psychic background, and when I began to anticipate the board’s replies, I took it for granted that they were coming from my subconscious. Not long after, however, I felt impelled to say the words aloud, and within a month I was speaking for Seth while in a trance state.”
Since that time, Jane Roberts has authored sixteen books, five of them dictated by the personality called Seth, in 4,000 hours of twice-weekly “Seth sessions.” According to Robert Butts, who has recorded every Seth session, Jane goes in and out of trance very quickly, with open eyes. As Seth, her eyes widen and darken, her mannerisms become more angular, her facial muscles rearrange themselves, and her voice deepens. Robert Butts describes her transformation into Seth as “original, and absorbing to watch and participate in. Regardless of degree, Seth is uniquely and kindly present. I am listening to, and exchanging dialogue with, another personality.”
After reading the five Seth books which were published between 1972 and 1982, and the nine books authored by an out-of-trance Jane Roberts, there is no question in my mind that the Seth books were not written by Jane Roberts, but by a personality which merges with Jane’s, and is larger, to put it mildly. Jane’s books grope to convey the multi-dimensional nature of reality. Seth’s automatically invoke it, never seem stilted or dry.
I speak with the inner vitality that is inherent within each of my readers, with the inner knowledge that also belongs to them.
You are given the gift of the gods; you create your reality according to your beliefs; yours is the creative energy that makes your world; there are no limitations to the self except those you believe in.
I am Seth. I speak my name joyfully, though names are not important . . .
You create your life through the inner power of your being, whose source is within you and yet beyond the selves that you know. Use those creative abilities with understanding abandon. Honor yourselves and move through the godliness of your being.
— The Nature of Personal Reality
Seth’s utmost compassion for all beliefs, no matter how small or stern, fearful or expansive, create a hothouse for self-examination, with Seth’s instructions urging one on, his competency as a writer so attuned to the power of language, the poignancy of change, that one feels compelled to awaken the inner equal to such gracious humor, wit, intelligence, and empathy.
But he is not a God, merely a fellow traveller who writes, “Permanency and stability basically have nothing to do with form, but with the integration of pleasure, purpose, accomplishment, and identity. I ‘travel’ to many other levels of existence in order to fulfill my duties, which are primarily those of a teacher and educator, and I use whatever aids and techniques serve me best within those systems.”
Seth is an elder but an equal, who insists, “Basically you are no more of a physical being than I am, and I have donned and discarded more bodies than I care to tell. . . . Consciousness creates form. It is not the other way around. . . .” He repeats the theme that we create our own realities in thousands of ways, in Seth Speaks (1972), The Nature of Personal Reality (1974), The “Unknown” Reality (Volume 1, 1977; Volume 2, 1979), The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression (1979), and The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events (1981). He covers the psychological activity of atoms, Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, reincarnation, potential realities, the simultaneous past and future, pollution, photosynthesis, viruses, violence, the sexual characteristics of personality after physical death, and more. No topic is taboo with Seth. Whether he is discussing quasars or the Crusades, Seth’s focus is consistently on the innate abilities of energy in every form, everywhere, to do more than cope, but rather to bring the greatest weakness to eternal awareness and transform it to a strength.
Despite Seth’s self-knowledge fueling my own, I stumble over the textbook nakedness he has chosen to wear, with not so much as a handscribbled doodle drawn in the margin by Rob. Rob plays scribe to Seth, taking down every word he says, often including intonations, every hem and haw, when the doorbell rings, the minute they started the session, the minute they stopped. Through the years I’ve made my peace with Rob and Jane’s circumstances, their need not to cushion the reader with a host or hostess’s congenial persuasions, a cup of hot tea, a delightful digression from the matters at hand — Seth, and his multitude of books backed up behind him like patient pack mules, waiting to be delivered.
Does Jane resent it? Where does she “go” when Seth steps in? In God of Jane, she writes that she is not unconscious but conscious in a different way, at a more concentrated level, with a greater capacity for a rich blend of consciousness in which her own altered awareness “is only one of the psychological ingredients.” “This state of perception has nothing to do with classical pathological dissociation,” writes Jane. She doesn’t feel possessed or invaded. “I don’t feel that some super spirit has ‘taken over’ my body. Instead it’s as if I’m practicing some precise psychological art, one that is ancient and poorly understood in our culture; or as if I’m learning a psychological science that helps me map the contours of consciousness itself. . . .”
She describes it as “almost always an exhilarating experience, like riding some perfect gigantic ninth wave of energy, knowing exactly how and when to ‘jump in,’ and feeling absolutely safe and supported even when embarked upon such a strange psychological flight.
“. . . In this analogy, Seth is that ninth wave of energy — an energy that is aware, unique, individualistic, and yet endowed with all of the general characteristics of energy itself; as if his consciousness rises like some superreal mental creature from the tidal waves of a primal ocean of energy, so that he is himself and yet a part of a greater reality. And by prearrangement, I wait by the shores of my own private mind until I sense the approach of that psychological surge. Then throwing off the clothes of my usual consciousness I mentally jump in, striking that wave at a certain point and making an intersection with it that results in the phenomenon of Seth as he appears in our sessions. . . .
“. . . Riding that wave of personified energy, I sense where currents from other realities enter our own world, how our own consciousnesses circle around probable events like fish deciding which morsels to nibble upon; and mostly I sense the eddies and underground caves within our minds where our ideas mix and merge; yours and mine.”
The most common criticism I hear of the Seth books is that “they are too intellectual.” Seth can be professorial, but that seems perfectly designed to approach Jane — who must let Seth borrow her body — from the exact angle of her prejudices. In many ways, Jane Roberts has not easily lent her self to an association with psychic phenomena, altered states of consciousness, and it is easy to feel her discomfort in the early Seth books, her scandalized intellect listening to Seth’s rap, her inner psychologist eager to find a loophole through which to reveal diseased intentions. She relaxed over their 20-year friendship; Seth’s desires proved to be simple and harmless. “We have never told anybody to do anything,” he said in 1978, “except to face up to the abilities of consciousness.” Jane’s own writing continues to improve dramatically, her descriptive faculties soaring to Seth’s at times. Still, Jane and Seth seem separate.
Some of Jane’s poetry, which feels embarrassingly flat to me, Seth praises for what it is, and I feel his love of humanity personalized in his love for Jane, her beliefs and word choices, her own business. I am touched by this delicate detachment in Seth from seeing results, from making demands that we complete ourselves in one bold stroke of perfection, now.
“Man is in the process of becoming,” he writes in The Nature of the Psyche. “His works are flawed — but they are the flawed apprentice works of a genius artist in the making, whose failures are indeed momentous and grotesque only in the light of his sensed genius, which ever leads him and directs him onward.”
1975, the year I bought my first Seth book, was also the year I bought a SUN, then “North Carolina’s Magazine of Ideas.” In it was a review of Seth Speaks, which I was in the midst of rereading and indexing, fascinated that I finally had the book in my hand I’d been reading ahead all my life to find. Sy Safransky’s review of Seth Speaks echoed everything I felt, and the reverberations brought tears to my eyes, made me pick up the phone, thank the man for saying it so well. He wrote, “. . . There are worse sins than nudging your neighbor to look at the rainbow. Given a glimpse of infinity I’m hard pressed not to blurt it out over dinner. As I read Seth Speaks, all those loose pieces of understanding — the assorted souvenirs of my journeys through inner space, meditations, psychedelics — fell into place. No New Age cant. No cryptic pearls. No kissing the feet of the guru. Just the facts, friend. If they’re reading books a hundred years from now, they’ll be reading this one . . . If his words evoke for you the same renewed wonder at the possibilities of creation, the same suggestion of undreamt-of expression, unacknowledged realities, and unlimited self-realization, I might escape a little of the karmic shitstorm that comes from saying: read this book.”
THE SUN magazine has been powerfully influenced by Seth’s influence on Sy. Appropriate then, that with the 75th issue of THE SUN, we begin the first of a series, celebrating Seth.
Next month — Seth on suicide.