Imagine you’re the type of person who wants to take advice from a ghost. In 1963, a science fiction and fantasy writer named Jane Roberts suddenly discovered the lucrative ability to channel an all-seeing being from another dimension who had lived through several reincarnations on Earth. And all that being wanted to do was write self-help books. So, damn, whatever’s going on in his post-life dimension must be pretty dull. I like to think that after I die, I’ll be too busy racing go-karts and eating nothing but Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits to fix people’s sad human lives, but apparently, this ghost has time on his hands.
The loser ghost’s name is Seth. So not only are people taking advice from a ghost, but I’m pretty sure it’s a ghost who got kicked out of Heaven for skateboarding. Seth just doesn’t sound like the name of an all-knowing being to me. If I were channeling a ghost and he said his name was Colton or something, I would swipe away and look for someone more majestic and old-timey sounding like an Agamemnon or a Sky Senator Moff Profoundo. Seth is the name of someone who died playing Pokemon cards.
Despite his lame name, people loved the Seth books. Somewhere around 25 books have been published in total, and a lot of their ideas are considered the backbone of New Age ideology. Specifically, Seth focuses on the theory that thoughts create reality. This is a very convenient approach to life for people born into privilege because it means they created their reality by thinking good, and if homeless people wanted to eat, they should simply be better at thinking good!
Don’t worry; I’m not going to bypass the Robert F. Butts of it all. Did you look at the picture of that book and not notice the “notes by Robert F. Butts.” Shame on you.
Robert Fabian Butts was Jane Roberts’s husband, and after Jane passed away, he kept mysteriously finding more and more Seth material Jane had lying around. You see, Robert couldn’t just start channeling Seth himself because he and Jane had been saying for years that if anyone else claimed to be channeling Seth they were lying because he would only talk to Jane. Essentially they trademarked the ghost.
Luckily a little thing like the only person alive who could talk to him dying didn’t deter Seth from sharing his wisdom with the world. Jane passed away in 1984, and in 1995, Seth was still publishing his best work. You would think he’d run out of pearls of wisdom after 20 seth-quels, but number 22, The Magical Approach: Seth Speaks About The Art Of Creative Living, is a real humdinger.
I’m not going to lie; you can see some of the ghost’s creative struggles in this one. There is a lot of filler. Long, boring notes about what the day they channeled Seth was like written by Mr. F. Butts, dream journal entries, and a whole section on predictions Jane made about the future that are stunningly underwhelming. For example, she once predicted that some paintings her husband sold to a restaurant would still be hanging in that restaurant. Incredible. Fucking absolute wizard shit.
The prophet looked to the sky and pronounced, “Egg carton.” The people were in awe. Jane interpreted these predictions as things that happened to her later in the day. A friend wrote her that they were moving to Alaska, so that’s snowball machine and snow shoes? Another friend got a job at a grocery store which sells…cereal? Condoms? Pringles? Yes, to all, but they also sell egg cartons! Can you believe that? And if you’re about to sleep with a milk man named Mike Stove, Seth has some bad news about how that’s going to go.
I think Jane’s predictions mostly pertain to her life because a central component of Seth’s philosophy is that all time exists at once, and you already have all the information you need to make your life great. If you get cancer, that’s entirely your fault. If your Uncle dies and leaves you eight million dollars, that’s because you thought positively about your Uncle’s death. Good job!
Seth’s revelations are difficult to read because they sound so much like a shopping list for a high school theater production designer. Also they are aggressively useless. Telling someone “Milk man” will never be helpful. Telling someone “Don’t believe Milk man’s lies, his blood is the key” might save their life. There are also notes from Jane interspersed and notes from Robert about Jane’s notes, and several appendices to reference. All of the verbose language, notes, and appendixes are sort of a smoke screen to make you think wow, this sounds really smart instead of, wow, this is really poorly written. This ghost is druuuuunk:
Seth often spells out words or emphasizes things strangely to underscore how much of an interdimensional ghost he is. He refers to Jane as “Ruburt,” which I thought for a long time was him passive-aggressively calling her husband Robert the wrong name. That would have been so cool. I would have more respect for Seth if he were playing dickish power games with his channeler’s husband. “Snow shoes? Egg carton. Cuck F. Butts (underlined).”
Seth takes some time during this book to criticize Jane for not thinking positively enough about the illness that would eventually cause her death. Remember, according to Seth, it’s entirely up to you if you want to contract the rheumatoid arthritis that also killed your Mother at a young age.
It’s kind of wild that a multidimensional being would speak standard English so well. I always thought communicating with ghosts would be difficult because they would be all, “doth thou wishest to feel better? Then simply gaze upon thine inner desire to be less of a little bitch.” Seth uses big words and repeats himself a lot, but other than that, his modern English is amazing. If my grandpa came back from the dead to call me a pussy for suffering from a debilitating illness, this is exactly what it would sound like.
The book also features some of Butt’s original artwork. It’s generally pictures of things from his dreams that he interprets as prophetic or meaningful in some way which sucks because his idea of meaningful is “prominent triangle — maybe gift.” It’s also very clearly just a fun way for Robert to get his artwork out there. He mainly paints men and women who look like department store mannequins from the extra thick neck department.
He created the 1940 “Captain Marvel” character in 1968 and then again in 1980! He’s not sure if they are related, but if they are it’s definitely magical. Yet somehow this work of art inspired people so much that Seth’s teachings are still thriving today. The Seth Center in New York teaches online classes on everything from lucid dreaming to losing weight with Seth! Yep, this ghost hauled his ass back from the afterlife to do what Richard Simmons can do without dying.
Seth teaches that we are all reincarnated interdimensional consciousness. He also teaches no fatties. This work spoke to so many people because it was the first time a cult was available through the mail. Somehow no one had thought of this scam before, and it really resonated with a lot of people who wanted to be told what to do by a ghost.
Jane used Seth’s money to fund her and Robert’s other artistic pursuits. Robert always refers to his occupation as “painter,” but since I have seen his paintings, I’m going to assume he wasn’t making a ton of money off of that. The Seth Center is selling some of his original artwork of Seth for $450, along with comments from Seth about the work. (He called it gauche).
Jane was also a prolific poet and author. Her writing included a fictional series called Oversoul Seven And The Museum Of Time, which she described as a fictional continuation of the ideas from her non-fiction work by Seth. Man, you didn’t even have to try to do cons in the ’60s. She basically said this time, it’s not the ghost writing the book; it’s me making it up! And everyone was fine with that? This truly was the golden age of scamming people into paying for a ghost to be mean to them.
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