Jane Roberts

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Jane Roberts (May 8, 1929 – September 5, 1984) was an American author, poet, psychic and trance medium or spirit medium who "channeled" a personality named Seth. She was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she attended Skidmore College.[4] The publication of the Seth texts, known as the Seth Material, established her as one of the preeminent figures in the world of paranormal phenomena.[1][2]

The Yale University Library maintains a comprehensive archive documenting the work and life of Jane Roberts, including published writings, unpublished writings such as journals and personal papers, correspondence and audio recordings of various channeling sessions, including the Seth Material and other recordings.[3]

Published work

In addition to the Seth texts, which were published in eleven volumes, Roberts was also a published author of science fiction novels, poetry, and several books about ESP development.[1] Her non-channeled books include How to Develop Your ESP Power (aka The Coming of Seth), The Seth Material, Adventures in Consciousness, Psychic Politics, and The God of Jane. Roberts' novels include The Education of Oversoul Seven, The Further Education of Oversoul Seven, Oversoul Seven and the Museum of Time (all three later reissued in one volume as The Oversoul Seven Trilogy), Emir's Education in the Proper Use of Magical Powers, and The Rebellers among others. Her books, including the novels and the channeled Seth material, have been described as influential in starting the trend of "channeling" and other new age practices such as "dreamwork" and "lucid dreaming".[5]

Roberts described the process of writing the Seth books as entering a trance state during which Seth would assume control of her body and speak through her, while her husband wrote down the words she spoke. These episodes are variously referred to as "readings" or "sessions".[6]

Roberts also purportedly channeled several other personalities,[1] including the philosopher William James,[7] through a process she described as using a typewriter to write "automatically"[8][9][10] and the impressionist painter Paul Cézanne.[11][1]

Seth Material

In late 1963, Jane Roberts and her husband, Robert Butts, experimented with a Ouijaboard as part of Roberts' research for a book on extra-sensory perception.[12] According to Roberts and Butts, on December 2, 1963 they began to receive coherent messages from a male personality who eventually 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.[13] Butts served as stenographer, taking the messages down in home-made shorthand, although some sessions were recorded. These messages, channeled from Seth through Roberts, consisting mostly of monologues on a wide variety of topics, are collectively known as the "Seth Material".

The Material through 1969 was published in summary form in The Seth Material, which was written by Roberts using material from the channeling sessions. Beginning in January 1970, Roberts wrote books that she described as dictated by Seth. Roberts claimed no authorship of these books beyond her role as medium. This series of "Seth books" eventually totaled ten volumes, although the last two books appear to be incomplete due to Roberts' illness. The list of titles includes Seth Speaks (1972); The Nature of Personal Reality (1974); The Unknown Reality (1977-1979), The Nature of the Psyche, Its Human Expression (1979); The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events (1981); and Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment (1986). Robert Butts contributed notes and comments to all the Seth books, and thus was a co-author on all of them.

According to Roberts, Seth described himself as an "energy personality essence no longer focused in physical reality" who was independent of Roberts' subconscious, although Roberts herself expressed skepticism as to Seth's origins, wondering if he was a part of her own personality.[1] Roberts, as Seth, was at times stern, jovial or professorial, and he frequently assumed a distinct accent which was not identifiable. 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.


Dr. Catherine L. Albanese, Professor of American Religious History at the University of Chicago, stated that in the 1970s the Seth Material "launched an era of nationwide awareness" of the channeling trend and directly contributed to the "self-identity of an emergent New Age movement and also augmenting its ranks."[14] Dr. John P. Newport, in his study of the impact of New Age beliefs on contemporary culture, described the central focus of the Seth material as the idea that, for each individual: "you create your own reality". He wrote that this foundational concept of the New Age movement was first articulated in the Seth material.[15] According to historian Robert C. Fuller, a professor of religious studies at Bradley University, 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".[16]

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 stated 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."[17]

In the realm of science, the only criticism that the late amateur physicist Michael Talbot could muster was admission of jealousy that Roberts was able to explain the nature of reality without all the effort that he had put forth in studying the subject: "To my great surprise--and slight annoyance--I found that Seth eloquently and lucidly articulated a view of reality that I had arrived at only after great effort and an extensive study of both paranormal phenomena and quantum physics" (Beyond the Quantum).

Roberts and the Seth Material have attracted critiques from outside the paranormal community. Charles Upton, in The System of Antichrist, posited that the reason 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.[18]

Amateur magician and critic of parapsychology James E. Alcock opined "In light of all this, the Seth materials must surely be viewed as less than ordinary. There certainly was the time and talent for fraud to play a role, but we cannot discriminate between that possibility and the possibility of unconscious production— At any rate, given these circumstances, there seems little need to consider the involvement of any supernatural agency."[citation needed]

Posthumous publications

In 1995, Amber-Allen published The Magical Approach, one of Seth's last books. In 1996, sessions 1 through 510 of the Seth Material (the "early sessions" which preceded the dictation of the Seth books) were published posthumously by Robert Butts in nine volumes, along with seven volumes of previously unpublished personal messages which accompanied the later sessions. In 1997, Amber-Allen published Seth's last book, dictated by Roberts from her hospital bed, The Way Toward Health. Roberts' and Butts' manuscripts, notes and recordings were donated to the Yale Library.[3]. Robert Butts remarried and lived in Sayre, Pennsylvania until his death in May, 2008.

Since Roberts' death, others have claimed to channel Seth.[16] Perhaps in anticipation of this event, in the introduction to Seth's first dictated book, Seth Speaks, he says that his "communications will come exclusively through Ruburt [Seth's nickname 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." At least one person has claimed to channel Roberts herself.[19]

Selected writings

  • Roberts, Jane (1970). The Seth Material. reprinted (2001) New Awareness Network. ISBN 978-0971119802
  • Roberts, Jane and Robert F. Butts (1972). Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. reprinted (1994) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 1-878424-07-6
  • Roberts, Jane (1974). The Nature of Personal Reality. Prentice-Hall. reprinted (1994) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 1-878424-06-8
  • Roberts, Jane (1977). The "Unknown" Reality Vol. 1. Prentice-Hall. reprinted (1997) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-1878424259
  • Roberts, Jane (1979). The "Unknown" Reality Vol. 2. Prentice-Hall. reprinted (1997) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-1878424266
  • Roberts, Jane (1979). The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression. Prentice-Hall. reprinted (1996) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-1878424228
  • Roberts, Jane (1981). The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events. Prentice-Hall. reprinted (1994) Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-1878424211
  • Roberts, Jane (1995). The Oversoul Seven Trilogy. Amber-Allen Publishing. ISBN 1878424173 Edition: Paperback; May 1, 1995 (originally published as three separate books: The Education of Oversoul 7 (1973); The Further Education of Oversoul Seven (1979); Oversoul Seven and the Museum of Time (1984)
  • Roberts, Jane (1981). The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto. reprinted (2000) Moment Point Press. ISBN 978-0966132755[20]
Seth-related works from other authors:
  • Watkins, Susan M. (2005, 2006), Conversations with Seth 25th Anniversary Edition, in two volumes. Moment Point Press. ISBN 1-930491-05-0 and ISBN 1-930491-09-3 (original version published: Vol. 1 (1980), Vol 2 (1981).
  • Watkins, Susan M., (2001), Speaking of Jane Roberts, Remembering the author of the Seth material, Moment Point Press ISBN 0-9661327-7-7[21]
  • Dahl, Lynda Madden (1995). Ten Thousand Whispers. Moment Point Press. ISBN 1-889964-06-9
  • Stack, Rick (1988). Out-Of-Body Adventures. McGraw-Hill Companies. ISBN 0-8092-4560-4[22]
  • Ashley, Nancy (1984). Create your own reality : a Seth workbook. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0131891278


  1. Klimo, Jon (1998). Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. North Atlantic Books. pp. 22,30. ISBN 1556432488.
  2. Albanese, Catherine L. (2007). A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. Yale University Press. pp. 501. ISBN 0300110898.
  3. "Guide to the Jane Roberts Papers". Jane Roberts Papers, Manuscript Group 1090. Manuscripts and Archives. Yale University Library. 2006-01-30. https://mssa.library.yale.edu/findaids/stream.php?xmlfile=mssa.ms.1090.xml.
  4. "Jane Roberts Author Biography". Hay House Newsletter. Hay House. https://www.hayhouse.com/authorbio.php?id=422.
  5. Upton, Charles (2005). The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age. Sophia Perennis. pp. 169. ISBN 0900588381.
  6. Conversations With Seth, Book 2: 25th Anniversary Edition, by Susan M. Watkins (2006). ISBN 978-1930491090
  7. pp. 61-66, "William James.... Ghostwriter?" in FATE #350, by Stanley Fisher and John Edminster (1979)
  8. Lewis, James R.; J. Gordon Melton (1992). Perspectives on the New Age. SUNY Press. pp. 108. ISBN 079141213X.
  9. Richardson, Robert D. (2007). William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism. Mariner Books. pp. 548. ISBN 0618919899.
  10. Session 718, The Unknown Reality, Vol. 2, by Jane Roberts (1979). ISBN 0-13-938852-4
  11. Time-Life Books (editor) (1989). Spirit Summonings: Mysteries of the Unknown. Time-Life Books. p. 137. ISBN 080946344X.
  12. ESP Power, by Jane Roberts (2000) (introductory essay by Lynda Dahl). ISBN 0-88391-016-0
  13. Other Lives, Other Selves: A Jungian Psychotherapist Discovers Past Lives, by Roger Woolger (1988). ISBN 978-0553345957
  14. Albanese, Catherine L. (2007). A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. Yale University Press. pp. 501. ISBN 0300110898.
  15. Newport, John P. (1998). The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview: Conflict and Dialogue. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 165. ISBN 0802844308.
  16. Fuller, Robert C. (2001). Spiritual, But Not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America. Oxford University Press. pp. 60. ISBN 0195146808.
  17. Kole, Andre; E Calvin Beisner, Robert M Bowman Jr, Terry Holley Astrology and Psychic Phenomena Zondervan Publishing House 1989 ISBN 978-0310489214 p.51 "seth+materials"+"Jane+roberts"#PPA51,M1
  18. Upton, Charles (2005). The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age. Sophia Perennis. pp. 173. ISBN 0900588381.
  19. Jane Roberts' A View From The Other Side, Mary Maracek (1997). ISBN 0-9663258-0-X
  20. "The God of Jane". Prentice-Hall Press. https://isbndb.com/d/book/the_god_of_jane.html. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  21. "Speaking of Jane Roberts". Prentice-Hall Press. https://isbndb.com/d/book/speaking_of_jane_roberts.html. Retrieved 08 January 2009.
  22. "Out-of-body adventures". Contemporary Books. https://isbndb.com/d/book/out_of_body_adventures.html. Retrieved 08 January 2009.

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