I've been sent two channelling books to review, Revelation: Joseph's Message (2008) and The Joseph Communications: Your Life After Death (2011). I have mixed feelings about channelling literature, but I'll try to give an objective sense of the contents and then give my two pennyworth.
The books come from a new-ish circle based in the north of England, and are transcripts of trance sessions channelled by Michael G. Reccia, via a 'highly-evolved spirit guide' who (obviously) goes under the name Joseph. Revelation is a series of talks on particular subjects: creation, death and karma, health, work, power, etc. Your Life After Death focuses on the experience of life after death. There is a third book which I haven't seen, and a fourth is said to be planned.
The set-up is similar to Jane Roberts's Seth. As 'Joseph', Reccia talks fluently in front of small gatherings - first delivering a discourse on a particular topic, then answering questions. Joseph describes himself as a former denizen of this world, who some time ago chose not to reincarnate, and wants to help us rediscover the truth about reality and the severity of the situation we face. The delivery is clear and articulate, with no funny accents or behaviour, although Reccia as Joseph gesticulates a lot and sometimes bangs the desk to emphasise a point.
My impression is that the ideas accord mainly, but perhaps not completely, with the picture given by theosophy and spiritualism over the past century and a half. His concepts are sometimes quite hard to follow, but that's typical too. An example:
We wish to talk about beginnings today, and about the seed that is within the human soul; for the soul is not the seed, it is a covering, a vehicle for the seed and not the seed itself. The seed is separate and comes into being of its own violition. Yet there is a paradox here, because it does not have that volition until it becomes separate. So we ask you to consider that God wishes separation in order to grow. The volition first comes from God but, at that point, the seed becomes aware of its own purpose. In other words, God at first thinks of separation and, at that point, the separation exists. Again, the paradox is that the separation is a concept of God, and therefore a part of God, so actual separation never - in terms of your understanding - exists.
So each seed is separate and yet contained within the whole that is God, but God allows the seed to experience growth through the illusion of individuality. The seed is then clothed in various radiations that allow it to interact on a physical level with that physical level. These can be compared to 'skins' or fields of various energies that complete the illusion of separateness from God, from the inner to the outer, the skins become more dense, but they are nothing more than shades put around a light and, within those shades - and particularly within the outermost three - the Earthly perceptions and consciousness reside; but these are nothing more than an illusion, a field which is tissue-thin.
Our task in contacting you is to peel back the layers of misconception that separate the seed from its greater whole and, in doing so, to create an increase of the God-power within the fields, so that the growth that is expected of the seed by God in projecting Itself into individuality can take place. We have to warn mankind that this expected growth is not taking place at this time.
A chapter on 'medicine' argues that the idea of illness is a misconception. There is nothing really wrong with us. We are part of God, and because God is perfect it follows that we are perfect too. If a patient gets better after medical treatment it is because he/she has faith in the treatment. The treatment itself does nothing; it is the patient's faith that makes them well.
In another chapter, Joseph reveals that he was a citizen of the ancient civilization of Atlantis, which existed before the 'second coming' of man. (Reccia reports having been given images of 'a beautiful city set against a lilac-coloured sky and surrounded by peaceful waters in which sailed majestic vessels, intricately carved and decorated.)
Joseph describes Atlantis having a different technology, using 'particle physics' to move objects, able to move and rearrange buildings with the power of mind, heal without touching, and so on. However at some point there was some kind of cataclysm, when it all went to people's heads and changed them.
There was a lot of pain, there was a lot of death, which was caused by these people suddenly creating dark things, dark thoughts that previously didn't exist on the Earth. It changed the nature of how animals looked at each other, and the vibrations were absorbed by the flora and fauna. The earth became a more aggressive place...
I tell you the Earth that I knew is vastly different from the Earth that you know - just a pale shadow of how it used to look. Mistaken thought has done all that, has caused the havoc, the chaos... It is arrogance to suppose that your people are the first people; that your civilisation is the first civilisation. It is not.
This was the Fall, and is the origin of human problems - an idea that Joseph returns to often. Another concept is a sort of mental force field around the Earth made up of humans' thoughts and passions, and which as a result is mainly negative. This 'Field' distorts our thinking, and we let it attract us back into life again and again.
These themes are developed in Your Life After Death, although the focus is less abstract and more personal. Here are a few extracts:
Very quickly in the lower spiritual realms you learn that you have to guard and 'treat' your thoughts - not to hide or mask them but to work on them because your thoughts are instantly displayed in the colour-shield that you have around you. You cannot approach a person in one way and think towards them in another. There is no subterfuge - you do wear your colours 'on your sleeve' and those around you recognise what you are thinking, what you have thought and what you have done because of those colours...
When you view someone in front of you on Earth - your 'friend', your 'enemy', your 'relative', your 'loved one' - you are only seeing one aspect of them. The soul of that person has gone through many incarnations, many experiences, and you do not really know who you are addressing. With the people around you, were you to see who you were really addressing you would be shocked, humbled and amazed and you would change your attitude towards many people. You would approach each person and say, 'I do not know who this person is; I cannot judge them; I cannot be angry with them; I cannot feel superior to them because I do not know who they really are and what they have achieved to this point in their lives.' Appearances are deceptive - please remember that and it will help with your transformation of the physical world...
Souls find themselves in landscapes that are very familiar to them and yet are brighter, clearer and more polished. The skies are bluer; the clouds are whiter; the architecture more perfect; there is a symmetry to the trees (and by symmetry I do not mean they are equally balanced one ach side - I mean that the God within them is more apparent, so more symmetry, perfection and harmony is perceived within their form) and there is nothing that jars about the landscape.
You see great landscapes that on Earth would perhaps frighten you or be too awesome to contemplate. There are towering cliffs, waterfalls, basins of cascading water and vast plains. There are mountains that, to you on Earth, would seem too immense to take in, with dimensions too great to understand. You see spirits who have come from Earth living in places that would terrify you on Earth - living at the edge of waterfalls, living on the edge of chasms, living high in mountains without fear (because there is nothing to fear) ... taking in the majesty of the landscape rather than concentrating on fear of harm to the human frame, which no longer applies...
You are able (using the modern idiom) to 'multi-task' quite easily in the spiritual realms, but you multi-task with your full participation in different aspects of your experience. You can have as many or as few experiences at the same time as you wish, and you can be as involved or as uninvolved in those experiences as you wish. In other words you can be casually involved in a conversation but also be aware that you are undertaking great spiritual tasks at the same time whilst also being aware that, on another level of your consciousness, you are absorbing knowledge whilst you attend a lecture or speak to highly evolved spirits about the evolution of your soul ... and all these things are happening with your conscious participation at the same time.
Many people arrive in the spiritual worlds (as we have said in earlier chapters) and do not wish to change; they wish to get back to the Field and they wish to remain as they always have been - and for them progress is relatively slow. There are other souls who have investigated spiritual possibilities within and outside of themselves and there exists within those souls an eagerness to see what is next. With those souls the journey is far easier and they progress away from the initial physical plane much more rapidly than those souls who wish to come back and be dictated to by the Field once again. Then there are those souls who, fairly instantly upon leaving the physical plane, regain knowledge of who they were before they came to the earth plane. For them it is simply a matter of remembering and re-instanting their personality as an advanced soul and then gaining instant admission to the sphere from which they have come and to which they can gain entry again.
He describes the various spheres of existence and talks about the Lords of Karma, souls who 'have evolved to a point where they have been given custody of certain souls ... in the name of love' and are charged with placing each soul in circumstances where they can grow the most, both on Earth and on other worlds, and plotting out the course of their lives. However in what seems to be a radical departure from other examples of the genre, Joseph forcefully insists that reincarnation is never forced on anyone. People reincarnate of their own volition, because they are drawn in by the Field, wanting to go on having sensual experiences and/or to complete unfinished business.
So many choose to come back, and when they choose to come back, when the decision has been finally and absolutely made and we say to them, 'Are you sure?' and they say, 'Yes,' with an anger. 'Who are you to interfere?' ... they are already pulling themselves back towards the earth plane through free will.
I hope I've given a fair summary of the contents. There's no doubt about the sincerity of everyone involved. The books are attractively produced, and I'd judge them to be a significant addition to channelling literature. I'd also say the project has all the ingredients for commercial success, as the team behind clearly have a good idea about business, branding and marketing (see their website).
On the other hand I'm cautious about taking this sort of material at face value. Even if one happens to accept mediumship as a genuine phenomenon one is bound to wonder about the genesis of these 'spirit teachings'. The stuff about Atlantis is surely fantasy, and it's disturbing to see it being presented as fact. Certain odd comments seem to me to be neither true or wise, eg. 'The Buddhists are mistaken. They strive for Nothing, yes, but they strive for obliteration of the consciousness, which cannot happen,' Ditto the insistence that illness is just in our heads and that all medicine is effectively placebo.
This might not matter if the material is genuinely helpful. For people who haven't thought about it much before, to be stimulated to think about survival, and the nature of the changed psychological environment, is perhaps useful. But the underlying tone, in Revelation particularly, is one of complaint and exasperation: 'Message to Earthlings from Utopia: Your planet is horrible and your situation is dire! It's your fault! You must learn to be spiritual like us!'.
I realize some people find this inspiring, perhaps from appearing to be delivered by some wise being beyond our ken. But for all the obscure metaphysics, and the sermonizing about the need to change our ways, there is little of what would help us to achieve that. It's all about the destination, nothing about the actual journey.
If it's spiritual guidance we want, I'd argue we should look for it closer to home. Lately I've been re-reading one of Jack Kornfield's books, The Wise Heart, which offers practical advice on how to deal with issues such as fear, anger and resentment, from a human who has had to deal with these issues himself. I have to say, I find this much more helpful than listening to lectures about humanity's shortcomings.
I suppose a come-back to my complaints is that I'm not ready for this sort of exalted teaching. I won't argue with that. But I'm genuinely interested in the phenomenon of channelling and in the worldview that it promotes. Is it all a mysterious confabulation of human minds? Or is Joseph what he claims to be? And in that case, are such teaching entities perhaps themselves sometimes subject to the illusions they strive to warn us against?