Testing Channeling

Channeling is the transmission of a message from a disembodied entity to an audience through the efforts of a medium. Some mediums act as a go-between and merely pass the information on (John Edward, Sylvia Browne) while others use trance to become a vehicle for the entity to temporarily speak and act through (Edgar Cayce, JZ Knight).

For this sample test, we’ll assume that the entity doing the talking is located in the room and can independently perceive its audience (rather than seeing and hearing what the medium sees and hears). I believe this has been the case with every channeling I’ve attended, but the mechanics of mediumship will vary and you may encounter different scenarios.

First we need to establish that the information we’re receiving is really coming from an unseen entity and not from the medium himself. The value or prescience of this information isn’t important yet; we need to evaluate the channel itself before we start worrying about what comes through it. The degree of honesty and authority an entity demonstrates on a given subject is a judgment you’ll have to make over time, just as it is with any embodied person you meet.

You can devise a basic test for this one pretty easily. The entity can presumably wander the room, so all you have to do is ask it a question about something the medium can’t see. Write a message on a piece of paper obscured from view, making sure to check for reflective surfaces and the eyes of possible accomplices to keep things clean. If the entity can recite that message through the medium, then you have something impressive on your hands.

A long, unguessable message easily meets our criteria for weeding out false positives; now we have false negatives to deal with. If the test fails you’re just going to hear excuses for it, and if you inadvertently stack the deck against the entity they may be justified, so it’s important to ask the entity the following questions beforehand to prevent ambiguity:

1. Are you willing to participate in a quick test to confirm your presence?
2. Can you see the surface of the paper I’m about to write on?
3. Can you read aloud a message written in English?

If you receive something other than a solid “yes” to any of these questions, ask the medium if it would be possible to speak to another entity. Keep doing this with new entities until one comes along who’s eager to play the game, otherwise you probably won’t get anywhere. Trying to force a test will just work against you.

If the entity answers the first question affirmatively but has trouble with the others (e.g. it only sees through the medium’s eyes, or it doesn’t independently understand English and the medium’s brain somehow acts as a translator) then you at least have the opportunity to come up with a new test that’s more suitable.

And if you have the means, here’s a more complicated and potentially more interesting option. Seat the medium in a soundproof booth and sit outside the booth asking the entity questions. The entity should have no trouble hearing you — assuming the medium’s ears aren’t involved in the process — by situating itself outside the booth next to you. Record both sides of the conversation and play them back together. Do you get a coherent dialog as a result?

If the medium isn’t interested in participating in even a simple test, you have to start asking yourself if he has something to hide, or if he just doesn’t appreciate the need for an investigative approach. I’m not really sure which is worse, and you may be better off working with someone else either way. If the entity declines to cooperate and instead asks that you just have faith, well, the notion of faith in spiritual matters is, in my opinion, just a frighteningly effective tool for preserving the ambiguity needed to keep people believing in silly things (usually for someone else’s benefit). If the entity needs you to take a message to heart then granting you confirmation is the easiest and most effective way to make that happen. In a sane world, they would all be jumping at the chance. It just makes sense. Resort to faith at your own peril.

I should add that these tests don’t immediately confirm the presence of an entity. They only confirm that the medium can access information beyond the reach of his senses. The first test could conceivably be passed by a remote viewer, for instance. However, with more experience and more tests I think a separate entity would quickly become the simplest explanation. I’d devote more attention to this caveat but I don’t think you’ll find someone that tests this positively anyway. If you do, let me know.

Alert readers have probably asked themselves how a disembodied, immaterial being can be sensitive to material objects or even have a location in the first place. What exactly is it seeing and hearing with, and how could light and acoustics possibly be involved? And what does it mean to be somewhere in space and yet not occupy it? I’ve only come across a few unsatisfying answers from believers, and those are a subject for the future.

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