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Case Profile: Jane Roberts - The 'Channel' for 'Seth'

photos of Jane Roberts (left) and with 'Seth' in control (from back cover of The Seth Material 1970)

Jane Roberts (1929-1984) is today considered one of the most famous 'psychics' of the 20th Century although perhaps the more appropriate distinguishing term now would be 'channeler' in relation to the transcendental communication of 'Seth.'  Jane reflected about her life in chapters of The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto (1981) while her close friend—and student of 'Seth'—Susan M. Watkins is the author of the memoir Speaking of Jane Roberts (2001).

Jane concluded in her 1981 book:
Seth wasn't just presenting an evocative theoretical framework through which we could view reality; he was initiating a new and superior philosophical system that explained reality more clearly than science or religion.  It was as simple as that, I decided.  So I simply had to shake off those old beliefs for myself and for my readers as well.

Jane estimated her 'trancetime' since 1963 as being approximately 4,000 hours, representing her "regular schedule of speaking for Seth" through the years.  "For eight of those years, while I conducted my 'E.S.P.' classes, though, there were three Seth sessions a week, averaging from two to three hours . . . The tally constantly rises, of course, as Seth continues to dictate his books and other material . . ."
The data provided in Susan's memoir brings additional information.  She also wrote about the Jane Roberts/'Seth' case in two volumes of Conversations With Seth (1980/81) focusing on Jane's ESP class.  
The first book about the transcendental communicator 'Seth' was published more than fifty years ago: How to Develop Your ESP Power (1966) and was followed by such books as The Seth Material (1970), Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul (1972), The Nature of Personal Reality (1974) and Adventures in Consciousness: An Introduction to Aspect Psychology (1975).

In The God of Jane, Jane Roberts offered her response to a scientist insisting that "In science, the burden of proof for any extraordinary event must fall on the claimant."
I wasn't making any extraordinary claims!  My experiences were psychological facts, regardless of the interpretations that might be made about them.  So-called paranormal events had been reported for centuries by quite normal persons.  People throughout history had recorded instances of precognition, telepathy, out-of-body experiences and all such related phenomena.  That data represented its own kind of evidence—an evidence that science had no right ignoring.

They were at the very least indications that man might possess a highly sophisticated network of inner communication.

Dorothy Jane Roberts was born in 1929 to Delmar Hubbell Roberts and his wife Marie Burdo at a hospital in Albany, New York.  Jane in The God of Jane related that a California movie studio representative having expressed interest in doing a movie about her life made her reflect about her circumstances.  The thought of someone faking a Seth trance was too much for her to see any potential for a movie yet the interest brought an unusual insight: "I suddenly realized that I'd included very little personal background in my own books."  This article presents some passages from The God of Jane.

I wasn't particularly happy with the thought of telling the world that I'd grown up on welfare, or that "ladies of the evening" often served as our housekeepers when their usual places of business were closed down in my original home town of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  That background was once as much a part of my life as my experiences today are, though, and it was from that living framework that the Seth sessions eventually emerged.

Susan M. Watkins reported in Speaking of Jane Roberts:

Her parents divorced when she was an infant and soon afterwards her mother became bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis, the same condition to which Jane would eventually succumb.  ("I'd never seen her walk," Jane later remembered.)  Raised in the Catholic Church, Jane was sent to an orphanage run by nuns while her mother was hospitalized with the disease.  Jane lived there for nearly two years.

Then she was sent home to care for her invalid mother, about whom Jane revealed:
She was on all kinds of medically prescribed drugs, which helps explain some of her actions; and if she could be "a terror," she was also quite intelligent, imaginative, and above all, dramatic.  She finally ran a telephone service from her bed, with my help.  When I was in grade school she took creative writing courses by proxy, sending me to nighttime adult writing courses where I took notes for her and she did the assignments.

As a child, Jane knew she was going to be a writer —

When I wrote poetry, the universe seemed to talk to me.  Sometimes I talked back, and on rare occasions we spoke at once.

A fortuitous occurrence is reiterated by Susan: "In her senior year in high school, Jane won honorable mention in a poetry contest sponsored by Scholastic Magazine, and as a result was awarded a scholarship to Skidmore College in Saratoga." 

Jane candidly summarized the turn of events during her formative years in her memoir, including leaving college before graduation and her mother's suicide attempts.  Jane wrote about her mother's overdoses of sleeping pills
She'd become more and more irrational, and I suspected even then that the pills for pain she took contributed.  Anyhow, I went to the welfare authorities while my mother was in the hospital, said that I was leaving, insisted that the authorities provide the care for her that I couldn't, and left for California—where my father lived.

I left with a fellow student who had just graduated.  I'd been dating him regularly.  He had a motorcycle, and the two of us took off on it.  It was 1950.  We crossed the continent on that cycle, and crossed it several times later by car.

Susan shared some other details about Jane's life.

She and Walt returned to Saratoga several months later, married ("We didn't dare show our faces in town otherwise") and Jane took a variety of jobs, including one as Society Editor for the Saratoga newspaper and another as a supervisor in a radio factory.

Then in 1953, while "cutting up, dancing and raisin' hell at a party," she met Robert F. Butts, an artist who was working on the Mike Hammer comic strip with someone Jane knew and had shown up at the party as a lark.  Jane was twenty-four and married; Rob was a thirty-four-year-old bachelor.

"I took one look at him and that was it," Jane told me years later.  "Not long after that—I mean, we hadn't even kissed or touched or anything—I told him, 'I'm leaving town and I'm leaving with you or without you, so make up your mind.'  And Robbie felt the same, and he did the honorable thing, you know, and talked with Walt, and told him that we were leaving, and you know, Walt was relieved . . ."

She and Rob drove to Marathon, Florida, to file for Jane's divorce, and were married on December 27, 1954.

The couple lived in Tenafly, New Jersey, commuting to New York City, where Rob found office work in the comic book field.  They moved to Rob's hometown of Sayre, Pennsylvania when a New York City job interview at a company that produced labels and advertising designs for clothing resulted with Rob being hired as artist for a facility located in the small town.

More details are provided in Conversations With Seth, Volume One with Susan mentioning jobs that Jane had: "At one point Jane sold Avon products and kitchen knives by bicycle . . ."  During this period Jane wrote 'science fantasy' short stories and novellas for magazines.  Accompanying her first published short story in a 1956 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, editor Anthony Boucher referred to Jane as "a stunning little brunette who ranks high among what [writer Cyril] Kornbluth calls Boucher's Belletristic Beauties . . . she can write—freshly, imaginatively, and sounding (God bless her!) like no one else in or out of our field."  Susan mentioned that this magazine bio is "to modern eyes mind-bendingly sexist."
The couple moved in 1960 to Elmira, where Rob worked at a greeting card company and Jane in an art gallery (1960-64) and later as an aide in a nursery school.  "They found a one-bedroom second-floor apartment . . . with big wraparound bay windows looking out toward the Chemung River, a block away."  Jane's novel The Rebellers was published in 1963 as an Ace double paperback.  That year, Rob had back trouble, their old pet dog Mischa passed over and Jane was having difficulties settling on another book idea.

On the evening of September 9, Jane began working on some poetry.  What happened next was described by Jane in The Seth Material (1970).  "My body sat at the table, my hands furiously scribbling down the words and ideas that flashed through my head . . . Those ideas were only a touchstone for what would come later."

Jane recounted that shortly afterward she began recalling her dreams and "in the next two months I had two vivid precognitive dreams, the first, to my knowledge, that I ever had."  Then: "At a newsstand we noticed a book on ESP.  The words 'Clairvoyant Dreams' popped up from the cover, and we bought it."

Rob suggested Jane write a book about ESP.  At first, she was hesitant as she had no experience with nonfiction.  She recalled Rob telling her: "Couldn't you work out a series of experiments and try them out?  Use yourself as a guinea pig."  The idea made sense to Jane: "I could investigate a subject that intrigued me, and do a book at the same time."

She sent an outline for the book to her publisher and was surprised when there was a quick enthusiastic response.  Jane wrote:

. . . what did I have to lose?  (It wasn't until much later that I remembered that another of Rob's suggestions had launched me into fiction in the first place.)

So we began.  We settled on the Ouija Board first, because it seemed the least complicated of our various experiments.  Our landlady found a board in the attic and we borrowed it.

Susan described the Ouija Board experiments that followed.

They sat in a fully-lighted room, both of Jane's hands on the pointer, one of Rob's hands free to write down whatever they might get.  Much to their surprise and embarrassment, the pointer quickly began spelling out messages, claiming to come from a man named Frank Watts who'd lived in Elmira and died in the 1940s.  

Jane remembered that at that time she and Rob "were much more interested in finding out what made the pointer move than in the messages it gave."  They later learned that a man with the communicator's name was known to have lived in Elmira before his passing in the 1940s.  During the December 8, 1963 Ouija Board session, the messages included the proverb "Consciousness is like a flower with many petals."  Jane and Rob asked Frank if they could "refer back to you on any specific question in the future?"  The response came that "I prefer not to be called Frank . . . That personality was rather colorless . . . I call myself Seth."

Jane wrote in The Seth Material:

Through the whole session I'd been hearing the words in my head before they were spelled, and I'd felt the impulse to speak them.  Now the impulse grew stronger and I grew more determined to fight it.  Yet I was terribly curious.  And what could happen, after all?  I didn't know—and this made me even more curious.

The pointer began to spell out the answer to Rob's question.


The pointer paused.

. . . Actually it was the words that pushed at me—they seemed to rush through my mind.  In some crazy fashion I felt as if they'd back up, piles of nouns and verbs in my head until they closed everything else off if I didn't speak them.  And without really knowing how or why, I opened up my mouth and let them out.  For the first time I began to speak for Seth, continuing the sentences the board had spelled out only a moment before.

Susan appraised: "And thus, from one moment to the next, Jane's life had changed utterly, and her life's work truly began."

In 2018 Jane Roberts can be seen channeling Seth in "The Seth Video" (taped in 1974) available to be viewed in the entirety (59 minutes) on You Tube.  Seth is heard to say: "As I have told you often, there is a spiritual biology within your being and it speaks through each of your moments . . . Your atoms and your molecules and your cells know themselves to be part of All That Is." 
Concerning reincarnation, one of Seth's pronouncements in The Seth Material expresses something I remember reading in several other transcendental communication cases.
"You will reincarnate whether or not you believe that you will," Seth began, smiling.  It is much easier if your theories fit reality, but if they do not, then you do not change the nature of reincarnation one iota."
Jane Roberts reflected about her life and her destiny to become known as a 'psychic' author in Chapter 6 of The God of Jane.  The chapter is entitled "Goodbye Freudian Flaws, Darwinian Demons, and Crucified Gods."
As I went rummaging through my past, I was mildly shocked when my own notes reminded me that Rob and I had been married almost ten years before the Seth sessions started.  From my 1979 vantage point those early years seemed strangely telescoped and shortened, so that I thought of our marriage in one breath and the first Session started in the next—as if there were hardly any time between.  But I know we spent most of those years in our Water Street apartment, both working, painting and writing steadily, buying nothing on credit so that we'd have peace of mind, concentrating on our work.  We went without a car for several years.  We had freedom within the system, we figured, as long as we kept our wants in line.  So even though we just had enough to get by, we felt quite triumphant most of the time.  We were learning our crafts and supporting ourselves.  When I sold a story or Rob sold a painting, we knew that it was all worthwhile.

So I had all that behind me when the Seth sessions started late in 1963, and since then I've acquired those 4,000-some odd hours of trancetime, and more evidence of life's greater dimensions than I could reasonably expect.

Jane admitted that her psychic experience brought realizations that were "shockers" as far as her relationship with the world was concerned.
. . . I discovered that psychics were either scoffed at, thought of as frauds, nearly idolized, or supposed to be all-wise and all-knowing — all attitudes that drove me up the wall.  For example, on tour to publicize The Seth Material, Rob and I were almost yanked out of a studio just minutes before we were to go on the air.  A secretary had been unable to establish the whereabouts of Raymond Van Over, the psychologist who wrote the book's Introduction.  The studio suspected that he didn't really exist and that we were "frauds."  Luckily, at the last moment, he was located.  We were allowed to go on the air.  Then, I was bewildered, embarrassed, and confused.  Now I wouldn't have gone on if they'd plied me with gifts.

But the fact is that I was very sensitive to criticism for the very good reason that often I still shared many of the beliefs that stimulated it.  Coming to psychic awareness, strongly gifted in that area, I still carried along with me the beliefs that I'd acquired from my own background and the culture of the times.  And I was always weighing my "new information" against the old.

In the following chapter, Jane wrote: "I'd always thought that the universe knows us no matter who or what we are, and at times that knowledge had risen into vivid emotional awareness."  Another realization expressed in the book is: "We each do experience events as if we were at the center of reality, of course.  That's a psychological fact . . . Each of us must have the focus of the universe turned in our direction at the intersecting point between Being and our particular being, as that universal energy is transformed into our private experience . . . this would apply . . . to each consciousness — to cats, insects, plants, objects that we consider inanimate, and to atoms, whatever their organization."

Jane at times would fondly refer to Susan M. Watkins as "Sue-Belle." 

Susan first met Jane Roberts at a 1967 New Year's Eve party at Jane and Rob's apartment.  Her friend Dan had been pressing her for weeks to "meet this woman who spoke, as he put it, for the spirit of a dead person.  By then, Jane had been speaking for Seth for almost exactly four years and had published How to Develop Your ESP Power, which I didn't even know existed."  Susan was 22 at the time.  Eight months later, Dan brought her to another party at Jane's house, insisting that Susan needed to tell Jane about a vivid 'astral projection' Susan had experienced.  After the get-together, Susan telephoned Jane and asked to have 'a talk' with her.  During the visit, Jane invited Susan to join her Thursday night 'beginners' ESP class.

As a class participant, Susan was encouraged by Jane to dedicate herself to her writing and there was a prophetic incident.  When Jane mentioned a short story she had written entitled "The Chestnut Beads," Susan realized that she'd read the story in a science fiction magazine while attending Syracuse University.  Susan accepted this as "a pleasant serendipity" yet she would later find a startling coincidence and "some other rather intriguing connections."
In 1978, long after I'd married and divorced Ned Watkins (whom I met in 1968, at Jane and Rob's place), when I was putting together the proposal for Conversations With Seth, it was Jane's editor at Prentice-Hall who pointed out that in The Chestnut Beads, the main character/Jane-figure's child is named Sue Watkins!  Which of course hadn't meant a thing to me when I read it in 1963, or to Jane when she wrote it in 1957, or to either of us when we became friends in 1968.

Jane met Ned Watkins when Jane discontinued the Thursday night ESP class and Susan began attending the Tuesday night class.  She married Ned in February 1969 and their son Sean was born in October.  Susan found the marriage "mismatched" and the couple divorced the following year.  Susan observed about her relationship with Jane:
She and I were not girlfriends, or even best friends, in the way those words usually suggest; the center of our common interests precluded that.  To me she was a creative mentor-comrade-mother figure who encouraged my writing and "psychic" abilities and demanded that I take them seriously.

. . . our mutual interests were almost exclusively focused on writing and "psychic" experiences, and in analyzing what those experiences might mean.

The publication of The Seth Material was a commercial success for the publishing company Prentice-Hall, Inc.  Susan remembered Jane and Rob's joy upon receiving her advance from the publishers — circa 1970 $2,500 was a considerable amount of money for them at the time. 

Susan recalled that the idea for Jane's ESP class was originally proposed by an acquaintance who was an Elmira kindergarten teacher following the publication of Jane's first book about Seth: How to Develop Your ESP Power (1966 / later retitled The Coming of Seth).  Jane eventually ran an ad in the local newspaper and the teacher was among the first class participants.  Jane's weekly ESP classes began in September 1967 and lasted until 1975.


Jane commented about the class with her Introduction of Conversations With Seth Volume One.
. . . Seth also stresses the even greater living art that we can make of our lives, and emphasizes that the creative abilities are devoted not just to specific arts and crafts, but to the entire framework of our lives.  Certainly in those terms, class was as creative as any art form, and it was a kind of psychic theater of the mind with its own dramatic episodes.

And class kept changing, as Sue's book shows.  People came and went through the years.  Sometimes the one-nighters and people passing through outnumbered the regulars.  We could fit only so many people comfortably in that one room, yet I tried to give as many people as possible the opportunity to hear Seth speak.  For that reason I'm amazed when on occasion I hear that some scientist believes that "the whole thing is a fraud," that there is no Seth; or conversely, that I encourage blind belief on the part of my "followers."   The fact is that Seth came through some 300 times over those eight years in full light, responding spontaneously to on-the-spot questions in a way impossible to prepare beforehand.  Though I made a special effort to admit any scientists, very few contacted us.  I think four or five psychologists visited class in that entire eight-year period, and two physicists.  They were great people: But it's too bad that more of their colleagues didn't join them.  Far more professionals contact us now, and we make an effort to see them when possible.  Often Seth comes through during such visits, but between 1967 and 1975, the classes provided a ready-made platform and format for such activity.

Class attendees participated in ongoing E.S.P. experiments during classes in addition to hearing Seth speak through Jane.  Susan described what happened when Jane decided to try 'table-tipping' in a session at the house of student Rachael Clayton where class sometimes was held for a change.

"I got all ready and said the sort of thing I thought I should say," Jane recalls, rolling her eyes humorously at the memory.  "I said, 'Spirits—move this table!  Spirits, move this goddamn table!"  And it really took off!  It danced all around the room, our fingers sliding all over the top of it."

"The table started giving messages to people, you know, on the one-tap-for-A scale, with somebody writing these all down . . ."
The table-tipping became a recurring phenomenon with Jane mentioning, "Sometimes we'd have two or three tables going at once . . ."

Susan described the evolution of the E.S.P. class in Conversations With Seth Volume One:

In the beginning, class interest was mostly concerned with what you might call "basics": discussions on the nature of identity, the "door" or envelope test experiments, table-tipping, life after death, reincarnation, healing.  Jane did occasional psychic readings, and she or Seth sometimes gave past-life impressions as they pertained to questions or remarks brought up in class—although Jane wouldn't allow Seth to come through in class for a long time: The first class session was Jane's 386th trance, in 1968, and was the first time she spoke for Seth without Rob there to take notes.

In 1971, a second "phase" of class began—initiated, I think, with the "secrets" sessions [when participants each told a secret] and carried through the reincarnational "dramas," mobility-of-consciousness exercises, the Alpha healing experiments, and, for many of us, a heightened awareness in the dream state.  Jane started speaking the Sumari songs and scenarios in November of that year; Seth Two appeared on the scene and observed that the "experiment" was continuing; and events were rapidly moving out of the realm of theory.

The third stage of class—although all of these stages slid easily into one another and were not obvious at the time—probably had its beginnings in the aftermath of the Flood of 1972, when Hurricane Agnes washed through the Chemung-Susquehannah River Valley, dramatically affecting the lives of everyone in its path.  That June 23rd, Jane and Rob stayed in their apartment with their paintings and manuscripts and the 50 notebooks of the Seth Material, alone in the neighborhood, as the swollen Chemung River crested ten feet deep on Water Street lawns.  When class resumed a month later, we began using Seth's tricky "belief assignments," plunging in depth into our individual reality systems—and, by inference, into mass reality as we know it.

Susan commented about the subject of reincarnation: "Past-life information given by Seth or Jane, divined by others, or acted out in "drama" form was important for a certain phase of class . . . such information had an emotional validity about it that couldn't be denied, even without the 'past-life' connotations."
In one of the Speaking of Jane Roberts Endnotes, Susan described initially unpublished transcripts of Seth material that became known as 'the deleted material.'
The Deleted material, mentioned in Rob's notes throughout the published Seth books, refers to the sessions directed to private matters in Jane and Rob's life, or, on occasion, to friends and others who asked for advice.  Rob excised these sessions from the ongoing body of material and placed them in their own notebooks, and as such they form a powerful, intimate examination of the joint reality (as Seth often phrased it) created and lived by one couple—Jane and Rob—and thus demonstrate how each of us does the same.

During two February 1972 evening sessions in a motel room in the Florida keys, Jane's creative self or 'Creator' ("as the voice itself puts it") spoke out.  The communication seemed to be manifesting Jane's fears about the nature of illness with Susan commenting that Jane's beliefs were expressed in "explicit, frightening absolutes"; also noticeable are suggestions concerning the scope of the ongoing work.  In this excerpt, 'Ruburt' is the 'male entity name' that Seth used for Jane.  The passage begins: "All right, call me the Creator, this part of me that's talking.  We're using it to designate what I am . . ."  Here are some other excerpts.
I'm composed of your strong drives for creativity.  My purpose is to protect and direct your energies specifically in the areas of writing and painting.

I do not want you to go hungry, or to be unhappy.  I do not want you to be in want, but outside of that nothing else concerns me but your work.  
My methods have not brought about what I wanted, however.  Now you spend half your time trying to figure them out, and what is wrong with Ruburt—time that you should be working.
The God of Jane and Speaking of Jane Roberts chronicle how Jane Roberts knew how unique was her relationship with Seth and their ceaseless rapport.  Her success as an author enabled her to decline speaking engagements and interviews if she expected the opportunities to be counterproductive to presenting herself and the Seth material in the manner she thought appropriate.  Susan revealed that among the media outlets Jane turned down was the Long John Nebel radio show in New York City 1970 and two invitations from ABC News circa 1981.
Another memoir involving the Jane Roberts/'Seth' case is The Road to Elmira Volume One (2011) by Richard Kendall, who was instrumental with "The Seth Video."  In an interview for Conversations With Seth Volume One, Richard recalled a memorable moment in class that occurred after he admitted having used heroin.  Richard commented: ". . . it's like I've just been trying to recapture forever the 'lost joys of youth.'"  Seth is quoted to have told him at the time: "Now, we will see that you do, so that you will see that there are many ways to break an egg and also so that you will not have to look back for the rest of your life with envy toward the ecstasies of your youth."  Richard commented that the statement gave him the exhilarating feeling that "someone, or some-ones" were willing to help him find joy again.

This article is continued with "Jane Roberts/'Seth': Developments in the Sessions 1964-1968 (from The Seth Material)".

This post first appeared on Interesting Articles, Links And Other Media, please read the originial post: here

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Case Profile: Jane Roberts - The 'Channel' for 'Seth'


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