The Seth Material: The Spiritual Teacher That Launched The New Age
I recently finished The Seth Material by Jane Roberts, which was an interesting read. When I was growing up I remember this book from our personal library (yes, we had a dedicated room for a library, it also had a computer). In a way, I’ve been familiar with the idea and story of The Seth Material since I was very young. This doesn’t mean I’ve actually practiced anything in the material since early on in my life, in fact, that’s somewhat the opposite.
Another ‘philosopher’ that I’ve been acquainted with for a long time is Ayn Rand. I’ve been familiar with the philosophy of Objectivism as laid out by Ayn Rand since I was younger, as it influenced my older brother quite a bit. I have also read The Virtue of Selfishness, We The Living, and Atlas Shrugged as well (and even The Art Of Fiction). I would describe myself as an Objectivist in my general outlook on the world. I believe that there is an objective reality, I believe that reason is the only efficacious means of acquiring knowledge, I subscribe to the idea of an objective science of morality, and I am quite a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist.
On a side note, an acquaintance of mine, a poster of slanted partisan writing, recently bemoaned about how Trump supporters are fans of Rand and her ‘misfit’ philosophy. I posted that I was a bit miffed about the association, as Trump has very little to do with Objectivism, at least for anyone with a deep understanding of the philosophy. When I related the seven virtues of selfishness to her, even though she’s read Rand until ‘bored to tears’, she said those were wonderful to live by but that she didn’t agree with the whole philosophy one iota. This doesn’t really make sense, but I stopped paying attention when she started posting articles about how Trump and Rand are a perfect fit as if I don’t know what it means to be an Objectivist though I call myself one. I only take this as a reflection of her process of thought, not mine.
Anyways, so how does Seth fit into all of this? Well, in a nutshell, it doesn’t. I’ve lived almost my entire adult life as an atheist, and technically that means having no belief (or care really) in any kind of god. But, as with most things, atheism can also come with a package of other attitudes and beliefs, at least in America. Being an atheist typically also means that you believe in the monopoly of ‘reason’ and science, that there is no ‘supernatural’ phenomenon (such as psychic abilities, or ghosts), and a general poo-poo-ing of anything unseeable and unprovable. This is all well and good and serves very good purposes, but I also think it’s a bit limited. It keeps you from accepting things on faith, being that which should be believed without any regard to evidence or lack thereof. You end up not believing things simply because some authority figure said so and other people thought it made sense for no reason whatsoever.
These days I consider myself an atheist in the strict sense, being that I don’t believe in any kind of diety or in any kind of special beyond-reasonable relationship with a ‘higher’ being. Honestly, I don’t believe in a ‘higher’ anything, whether we are the only beings in all of existence or only a fraction of a dimensionally infinite cosmology.
The thing is, even though we live in a reality where what is considered real can be determined by our ability to sense it, that doesn’t keep us from experiencing it from a subjective point of view. We are not omniscient and our experience is colored by who we are, what we think, and ultimately by what we believe. I’m not making an argument that reality is subjective, as I don’t believe it is. I’m not really making an argument for any kind of spiritualist apologetics, as there is no point.
What I am saying however is that we are going to ultimately perceive and ultimately believe what we want to believe. This is a realization I’ve made in the last year, and it’s a useful realization. Are we right or wrong, is our perception, our belief, real, objective, and provable? Sure, objective reality is the final arbiter, and you can choose to want objective reality to be the final arbiter in your mind. Will objective reality determine who lives and who starves, who achieves and who fails, who is right and who is wrong? Yes, it will, in terms of our common existence in the present.
Our experience is something intimate to us. It is our own and no one else’s. No one else can know what it’s like to be me, and I can’t know what it’s like to exist as someone else. Our consciousness is an incredible thing, as it perceives the outer world while at the same time being aware of ourselves and our own ‘inner’ nature, to extend the phrasing. We not only observe and record where we are, but we create and contribute to our own existence, building upon ourselves with ourselves using our own consciousness.
When someone is delusional, the fact that they are delusional has no impact on the validity of their experience as it pertains to them. I can tell you that I know that something I may have believed in the past was false, but while I was reaching and exercising the now erroneous conclusion it was true, it was real, to me. That doesn’t mean it was real to you, or to my loved ones, but, in the end, if I’m not objectively harming another person, does it matter?
In essence, while reality is objective, what I’m saying is that experience is subjective. If we choose to believe, despite or even because of our own anecdotal evidence, that psychic powers exist, or that doing some kind of voodoo will help us get better parking places, or that the spirit of a dead friend is watching us, then for all intents and purposes, that is our reality. If I ‘believe’ in psychic or emotional energies, I’m not going to claim that they are verifiable in objective reality, because they’re not. That’s not the point of believing in psychic or emotional energies. The point is to shape your experience, to make sense of your perceptions, to interact and participate in your subjective reality in the effort of making your life the best it can be.
I personally believe consciousness is a dizzying phenomenon that’s only barely understood. We flex our consciousness, our ability to perceive objective reality, our amazing leaps of logic, every day we are alive. But it doesn’t stop, we continue to flex our consciousness as we turn away from the physical world completely and dream. We almost completely disconnect from our physical existence and enter into an existence where the rules are entirely different. Is this existence all in our minds, or is there something more to it?
Our consciousness can do many things all in the gestalt of experience. We alter our consciousness, our thinking and perceptions, with drugs all the time in our modern life. Is it so hard then to consider that perhaps there may be more windows to look out of and receive information with our consciousness than the purely physical world can present?
That seems to be the central question The Seth Material attempts to answer. Jane Roberts is a renowned medium, or psychic, who ‘channels’ an incorporeal personality that calls itself ‘Seth’. On a regular schedule, Jane would allow ‘Seth’ to, in a way, enter her mind and body and speak through her to her husband and her friends in her ESP class. This is nothing really new, this is what mediums have been doing for ages. Seth is what you would call the ‘control personality’. And much, but not all, of what Seth says isn’t revolutionary in terms of the tradition of spiritualism in America, but nevertheless the story and the phenomena are fascinating.
The Seth Material records the early experiences of Jane in regards to the personality known as Seth, and as well offers us a glimpse into the workings ‘behind the scenes’ that goes on during the production of many of Seth’s ‘own’ books. One day Jane relates having a tremendously psychic experience and writing out an outline of how reality is a form of ‘idea construction’. Because of this, she decides to explore the phenomena further, using a spirit board, and eventually just herself. At the same time, she also writes a book on extrasensory perception, and how one can foster such perceptions in their own life.
Seth begins to come through regularly and starts delivering fascinating material in regards to our own construction of our experiences, of reality, of spirits, personality, energies, dimensions, and reincarnation. In fact, I was able to dig up some video of Jane speaking as Seth:
For instance, one of the main tenets of Seth’s work is that we ‘form our own reality’. That our perceptions, in a way, form what we are perceiving, and that we are in control of our reality on an inner level far beyond what we experience on an ‘outer’ level. In fact, not only are we ‘in control’ of our lives but we have lived, or will live, several lives. Not only in succession but all at once, in a “Spacious Present”, as time is only a construct of our three-dimensional reality.
What I always found intriguing about The Seth Material was how it presented the idea of supernatural phenomena not as planes of spiritual existence, with gods, spirits, demons, and angels outfitted with bespectacled superpowers, but in terms of personality and psychology coupled with alternative dimensions accessible through alterations of consciousness. The idea is that we can control and alter the operations of our consciousness to tap into wellsprings of existence and knowledge beyond our singularly focused three-dimensional reality.
I actually read Seth Speaks, and The Nature of Personal Reality before I read this book, which caused me to already be familiar with many subjects throughout the book. In fact, I would recommend that the reader read those first two books before reading this one. This book reads as though you’re ‘in on it’ from the beginning, though it does an impressive job of bringing you into the fray as well. However, if you’re looking for detailed outlines and rhetoric on extensive new age topics, you’ll be better off with the books Seth ‘wrote’ himself.
The book delightfully covers much of the breadth of Seth’s material through the point of view of Jane, including personality fragments, probable selves, astral projection, and the nature of physical reality. It is engaging to approach the material from the point of view of the person who seems just as astonished as you are. In it, Jane details her growth as a medium and many of her own personal struggles and experiences in regards to The Seth Material in her own life. She details Seth’s clairvoyance experiments, some of her own astral projections, and some dream experiences, all in a seamless effort to show the practicality and veracity of the material.
The Seth Material forms an almost soothing narrative of hope in a way. It offers us an alternative way of looking at things, particularly the idea of our own existence after death. It also offers us new lights to shine on our pursuit of purpose and meaning in our lives. For those who may be wrestling with issues of existence and psychology, it shows that we are in control of more than we know and that that control can help us, or hinder us. Fortunately, it’s also the tip of the iceberg, as Seth has gone on to ‘write’ many more books. I will be reviewing these titles in the future.
For those new to the ideas of spiritualism, looking for a spiritual teacher, or just even a new voice and perspective with which to view their lives, I can easily recommend The Seth Material. It’s a fascinating narrative and look at an intimate phenomenon that helped, well, “launch the new age.” Seth stands as one of the most renowned psychic personalities since he first started talking. If you’re interested in super detailed material in regards to your new age pursuits, I recommend Seth’s other books where he has full reign to dive into such subjects.
This review was part of a larger series of reviews dealing with Seth and Jane Roberts