The Seth Material is a collection of writing dictated by Jane Roberts to her husband from late 1963 until her death in 1984. Roberts claimed the words were spoken by a discarnate entity named Seth. The material is regarded as one of the cornerstones of New Age philosophy, and the most influential channelled text of the post-World War II “New Age” movement, other than A Course in Miracles. Jon Klimo writes that the Seth books were instrumental in bringing the idea of channeling to a broad public audience.
Other authors have written material they claimed was channeled from Seth, especially after Roberts’ death. These included Thomas Massari, who founded the Seth-Hermes Foundation and said he had channeled Seth as early as 1972, and Jean Loomis, director of the Aquarian Center in Connecticut. However, in the introduction to the first book written about Seth, Seth says “communications will come exclusively through Ruburt [Seth’s name for Jane] at all times, to protect the integrity of the material”. In The Seth Material, Jane Roberts wrote: “Several people have told me that Seth communicated with them through automatic writing, but Seth denies any such contacts.”
Study groups formed in the United States to work with the Seth Material. The Seth Material launched an era of nationwide awareness of the channeling trend and contributed to the self-identity of an emergent New Age movement. John P. Newport, in his study of the impact of New Age beliefs, described the central focus of the Seth Material as the idea that each individual creates his or her own reality, a foundational concept of the New Age movement first articulated in the Seth Material.
In late 1963, Jane Roberts and her husband, Robert Butts, experimented with a Ouija board as part of Roberts’ research for a book on extra-sensory perception. Roberts and Butts claimed that they began to receive coherent messages from a male personality on December 2, 1963, who later identified himself as Seth. Soon after, Roberts reported that she was hearing the messages in her head. She began to dictate the messages instead of using the Ouija board, and the board was eventually abandoned. For 21 years until Roberts’ death in 1984 (with a one-year hiatus due to her final illness), Roberts held regular sessions in which she went into a trance and purportedly spoke on behalf of Seth.
According to Roberts, Seth described himself as an “energy personality essence no longer focused in physical matter” who was independent of Roberts’ subconscious, although Roberts expressed skepticism as to Seth’s origins, frequently referring to Seth’s statements as “theories”. Roberts claimed that Seth indicated he had completed his earthly reincarnations and was speaking from an adjacent plane of existence. The Seth personality described himself as a “teacher”, and said: “this material has been given by himself and others in other times and places, but that it is given again, in new ways, for each succeeding generation through the centuries.”
Unlike the psychic Edgar Cayce, whose syntax when speaking in trance was antiquated and convoluted, Roberts’ syntax and sentence structures were modern and clear when speaking as Seth. Roberts often sat in a rocking chair during sessions, and she would occasionally smoke cigarettes and sip beer or wine. Afterwards, she claimed to not remember the contents of the session, and she would often read the transcript or ask what Seth had said.
The core teachings of the Seth Material are based on the principle that consciousness creates matter, and that each individual creates his or her own reality through thoughts, beliefs and expectations, and that the “point of power” through which the individual can effect change is in the present moment.
The Seth Material discusses a wide range of metaphysical concepts, including the nature of God (referred to as “All That Is” and “The Multidimensional God”); the nature of physical reality; the origins of the universe; the nature of the self and the “higher self”; the story of Christ; the evolution of the soul and all aspects of death and rebirth, including reincarnation and karma, past lives, after-death experiences, “guardian spirits”, and ascension to planes of “higher consciousness”; the purpose of life and the nature of good and evil; the purpose of suffering; multidimensional reality, parallel lives and transpersonal realms.
The Nature of The Self
According to the Seth Material, the entire self or “entity” is a gestalt consisting of the inner self, various selves that the entity has assumed through past existences (physical and non-physical), plus all the currently incarnated selves, and all their probable counterparts, and reincarnation is included as a core principle.
Wouter Hanegraaff, Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy, states that these ideas have been influential to other new age authors (some of whom use the term “Higher Self” to refer to the same concept), and that Roberts’ terminology has been adopted by some of those authors. Hanegraaff states that Seth uses various terms to refer to the concept of the “Self”, including “entity”, “whole self”, “gestalt”, and “(over)soul”.
The Seth Material says that all individuals create their own circumstances and experiences within the shared earthly environment, similar to the doctrine of responsibility assumption. This concept is expressed in the phrase “you create your own reality”, which may have originated with the Seth readings. The inner self, or inner ego, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the individual’s physical body and immediate physical environment, and the unfolding of events is determined by the expectations, attitudes and beliefs of the outer ego, that portion of the self that human beings know as themselves. “If you want to change your world, you must first change your thoughts, expectations, and beliefs.” Or, more succinctly: “You get what you concentrate upon. There is no other main rule”.
The books discuss the idea that the physical environment is constructed and maintained by the inner selves of the individual occupants (including the animals). The inner selves project, en masse, a pattern for physical reality which is then filled with energy, as needed, by each individual. All events are also produced in the same manner.
Relationship with Christianity
According to the Seth Material, Jesus Christ exists as part of the Christ entity, a highly evolved entity who exists in many systems of reality. At the time of Christ, the Christ entity incarnated as three individuals: John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, and Paul or Saul of Tarsus.
Charles Upton in his book The System of Antichrist, argues that the reason Jane Roberts multiplies the self in many ways is due to a fear of death, and that the Seth texts are based on a misunderstanding of both Christianity and of Eastern religions. The implied influences of Eastern mysticism and philosophy are also highlighted in Astrology and Psychic Phenomena by Terry Holley, E Calvin Beisner and Robert M Bowman Jr, who say “Husband Robert Butts admitted that similarities exist between Seth’s ideas and those of various religious, philosophical, and mystical doctrines from the Near, Middle, or Far East . . . and we’ve done a little reading on Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, and Taoism, for example, not to mention subjects like shamanism, voodooism, and obeah.”
According to Robert C. Fuller, Seth filled the role of guide for what Fuller called “unchurched American spirituality,” including the topics of reincarnation, karma, free will, ancient metaphysical wisdom, and “Christ consciousness.” James Alcock wrote “there seems little need to consider the involvement of any supernatural agency.”