DID and Ramtha
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Spirit Possession or “Channeling”
Joe Szimhart (2014)
related essay: Joseph Szimhart (1995) The Cult of Ramtha (paper)
Side note: This "advice" regarding DID and demons from Great Bible Study,a Fundamentalist Christian site, is problematic in its mix of some good observations with typically crude approaches to theological issues:
"...treating alters or alternate personalities as demons will cause spiritual abuse" is good advice,
while "Alters are often found in people who have been exposed to abuse, rape, trauma, and ritual abuse. Satanic Ritual Abuse is by far the worse of all torture that a person could go through and creates very deep-rooted bondages"
is a value judgment about Satanism that has little or no basis in real human experience. It reflects an unhealthy, even pornographic, pseudo-Christian fascination with demons and their alleged powers. J Sz
DID and Ramtha
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Spirit Possession or “Channeling”
Criteria for DID in the DSM-5, the manual that describes various forms of mental, character, and social disorders, specify that the afflicted person has some amnesia when switching from one state of mind or personality to another. According to the DSM, we all have these traits to alter our roles or presentations, but normal or healthy persons, like professional actors, are aware of these alterations and the locus of control is basically conscious. Possessed (dissociated) people throughout the ages in all cultures have exhibited full or partial amnesia, not often fully recalling the god or animal spirit that possessed them during trance. Possession can have advantages when cultivated through trance techniques by a culture, as in Balinese and ancient Greek religions, but it can have negative or even evil connotations when not recognized as holy or orthodox. Christian religion, for example, affirms that not every spirit is of God. Possession by the “Holy Spirit” is considered a blessing or a charisma in many Christian circles. The Christian criterion for the authentic spirit is simple if mysterious: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” as stated in 1 John 4:2. The secular criteria for a dissociative disorder relies on the level of functional or dysfunctional behavior over time.
Islam’s founding prophet at first resisted submitting to a spirit, later identified as the angel Gabriel from the Hebrew tradition, thinking that he was going crazy. Had it not been for the comforting presence of his older and first wife, Khadija, and her encouragement, we may not have one of the world’s great religions today. Clearly, once the Prophet went with the angel as a messenger of Allah, he functioned at an impressive level. Possession is not always pleasant or desired, and it is only “evil” outside of the cult or religion in which it occurs.
In the modern era, dissociative states are sought and even relished among members of charismatic churches as well as the New Age Movement. Mediums, messengers, and channels by any other name have proliferated outside of mainline religion, so much so, that thousands of small to larger cults of devotion to channeled spirits have come and gone out of fashion with a few enduring for decades and longer. Two prime examples are Joseph Smith and his angel Moroni that led to Mormonism (Smith claimed to have channeled The Book of Mormon by gazing at magical stones, a technique called scrying), and the inspired Book of Urantia channeled and written through the collaboration of two Seventh Day Adventists. West 57th Street, an investigative television show that featured the Mafu cult in an episode in the late 1980s, found over 1500 spirit channels in the Los Angeles area alone. The featured channel, Penny Torres Rubin, described only mild consternation when the spirit Mafu first encountered her by “levitating” her mattress. The troubled visionary psychologist turned atheist, Helen Schucman (1909-1981), resisted channeling her inner spirit called “The Voice” (later identified as “Jesus”) for many months, but at the encouragement by her then boss, psychiatrist Bill Thetford at Columbia Hospital in New York City, she proceeded to write down dictation from her “Voice” for seven years, from 1965 until 1971. These dictations were presented to the Edgar Cayce Foundation that was favorably impressed, then edited by an enthusiastic Jew turned former seminarian. It was published in 1975 as A Course in Miracles. All through the process and even after the project was completed, Helen, the channel, struggled to accept ACIM. In her case, she was entirely conscious if not in charge of what was dictated. We could say the same of the Prophet of Islam and many co-conscious channels. Not all have amnesia.
My point is that possession by or submission to a spirit, god, or angel is not simply defined. One might say that each encounter is unique and has its own story. My interest in this topic goes back to the late 1960s when trances induced by drugs, yogic and shamanic activity, and meditation were all the rage. Being “out of your mind” was commonly considered as a higher form of consciousness, unless of course it got so bad that you ended up in a mental hospital. That brings me back to my topic here. At this writing, I have been working as a caseworker in the crisis and admissions department of a free standing psychiatric emergency hospital for 16 years. I have a hands-on, working knowledge with many cases of DID that can take many forms. Prior to that, I made my living as a cult interventionist or deprogrammer for 12 years. One of the many sects I track is generally called Ramtha, formally Ramtha School of Enlightenment, incorporated around 1980 as Ramtha Dialogs and The Church I Am by Judy Z. Knight (born Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, NM).
Knight in her memoir A State of Mind retells the story that she was experimenting with pyramid power in 1977 with her then husband, the dentist Mark Burnett, by making cardboard pyramids that were supposed to preserve foods, sharpen razors, and do any number of magical operations when “aligned” properly and built to the same proportions as the Great Pyramid at Giza. I recall trying out this pyramid fad as early as 1970 with my first wife before we were married. Following directions, we aligned little pyramids over fruit, razors, and liquids—nothing extraordinary happened. Knight claims that nothing much happened either until she and her partner began laughing at themselves uncontrollably, especially after Knight put a pyramid over her head, looking like the proverbial mental case with a tinfoil hat. Through her tears she noticed the apparition of a tall, exotic man in the doorway. That entity later identified itself as Ramtha, the Enlightened One. Burnett in an interview by Jess Stearn (1985) said he could not see an entity, but did notice Judy, who appeared to be in another state of mind, interacting with something. Judy apparently allowed this Ramtha to possess her so that he could attract and teach students with his brand of Gnosis. It took her two or more years of practice before she felt comfortable enough in 1980 to perform in exclusive settings like actor Richard Chamberlain’s house for a small but devoted and growing following. Ramtha attracted a host of Hollywood celebrities in the early days. Ramtha made a national television appearance as a guest on the Merv Griffin show in 1985. The Ramtha cult has since attracted thousands of students internationally, and has made Judy Knight relatively wealthy. We must keep in mind that Judy was a successful marketing person prior to her channeling career.
Much of what Judy Knight as Ramtha teaches is derivative of 19th Century Theosophy, Sant Mat teachings in India, and New Thought—a common occult concoction used by earlier cults like The Order of the Golden Dawn, Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way, Crowley’s Thelema, Steiner’s Anthroposophy, the Roerichs’ Agni Yoga, Guy Ballard’s “I AM” Activity, and Elizabeth Prophet’s Summit Lighthouse. Theosophical societies gleaned much from Vedic tradition, accepting ideas of reincarnation and paranormal powers (siddhis) alleged to come to adepts and yogis who knew the secret, magical mantras and techniques handed down through the ages. The RSE incorporated blindfolds and a hyperventilation technique called “C&E” (consciousness and energy) in 1988 to enhance altered states to access siddhis or psychic powers.
How did Knight come up with the alter personality name Ramtha? It may have been a subconscious artifact already inhabiting her by another name, but the Egyptian connection is obvious. One could not avoid learning about Ramses II who ordered the Great Pyramid built when studying about pyramid power. However, Knight later told the story that Ramtha was a warrior who conquered ¾ of the known world, that he became enlightened and “ascended” 35,000 years ago while in the lost land of Lemuria. Ramtha teachings about “seals” are curiously derivative of chakras in yogic lore. The Hindu connection is not hard to make: “Ram” is one of the most common names for God in India, and it stems from Rama, an incarnation of the high God Vishnu and the great hero of the Ramayana, an ancient epic describing the god as a warrior-king. Syncretic concoction and not originality is a hallmark of the Ramtha cult. Ram-tha is merely the-Ram (the-God) within a Judy confabulation.
Judy Knight’s self-story reveals someone impacted by fundamentalist Christianity as a young girl. Some of her friends testified on a 20/20 television program in 1987, that as a teenager, Judy appeared possessed by a spirit that identified itself as Demias when Judy Hampton fell to the ground at a church meeting in New Mexico. The line was that a man-like voice spoke through Judy saying, “You cannot have her, I have possessed this body for a long time.” Judy Knight claims that it never happened, but if we consider that DID as a diagnosis can require amnesia, how would she remember? Judy Knight claims not to recall what Ramtha does when animating her body, so at least in that regard she is consistent.
My take on Judy Knight is that she is a woman trapped, possessed in the truest sense since childhood by a chronic disorder, not a demon. Many people with DID report severe childhood neglect and sexual abuse as does Knight in her memoir—she was raped by a drunken uncle at age four. The cure or treatment for DID is to bring the patient to an awareness of the division of roles and to integrate the locus of control to the primary actor that we identify as that conscious individual. As an untreated channel, JZ Knight is dis-integrated. In Christian terms, she is a house divided evidenced by her long-standing position that she cannot be responsible for what Ramtha hears, does, or says. Judy refused to testify in a court case about Ramtha student Wayne Allen Geis, an alleged sexual predator that confessed his sin of molesting a minor to Ramtha who purportedly read a letter from a 15 year old girl that said Geis raped her. Judy said she was in trance at the time and cannot recall reading or hearing it.[i] Of course, that is not wholly true. Researchers have shown that people with DID have an inner self or core that retains memories as a self, not only in mental compartments and perhaps not perfectly or well, but nevertheless the memories are there. In any case, the judge opted to not require Judy to produce Ramtha on the witness stand as it would turn his court into a circus side show with no certainty that Ramtha would tell the truth anyway.
Prior to 1985, Judy Knight sold an audiotape of Knight channeling Jesus with harsh, accusatory content: “You crucified me!” she yelled at her Ramtha devotee audience. This audio-tape has been presented as proof that Judy Knight channels other spirits, but she denies it was channeling by calling it acting. I have a copy—Judy’s Jesus act was not one of her better performances, to be sure, and that may have more to do with her denial than anything else. We must recall that Knight proclaimed early on that Ramtha is Christ for you in this age.
All Christian teaching on this aside, the principle for mental health professionals to consider is the integrated self that is the individual actor in society, the one that takes responsibility for his or her behavior, ideas, and participation in the social arena as an intellectual and a moral being. Judy Knight, like so many cult leaders, has retreated into her own disintegrated or insecure being, performing through her front man act as Ramtha behind a construct of a unique religion based on recycled if re-imaged teachings gleaned from past occultists. The limitations of such an arrangement are obvious. It is the direct opposite of healthy schools and churches that easily relate to the wider discussion known by philosophers as the long debate about what can be known as opposed to merely contrived and believed. The Ramtha teaching that murder is not wrong as such and that we should never say we are sorry for wrongs—there is no right or wrong morally in the Ramtha teachings—is the opposite of healthy systems that create viable codes of conduct. Ramtha is basically antinomian save when it comes to Judy’s self-interest, at which time she will spend lots of money on lawyers suing anyone that violates the Ramtha trademark or non-disclosure agreements. Ramtha has no healthy teaching on how we govern with civility. Ramtha is essentially a selfish god with a glaring narcissistic personality disorder.
Good schools and universities share a body of basic information that easily translates to other good universities. A Harvard professor of chemistry can teach chemistry at Ohio State. Any mainline Christian, Muslim, or Jewish cleric can carry on a healthy and understandable relationship with scholars of other faiths and even share in rituals while respecting core principles. A modern rabbi would not insist on taking the Communion host at a Catholic mass, but would certainly be welcome to preach. A Buddhist monk would remove his shoes while visiting a traditional mosque as a guest.
A student never graduates from a school/church/training like Ramtha or Scientology, but if one did, that graduate would have nowhere to teach save within their cult or by starting a new cult following. No student of Ramtha could teach at a Scientology center and vice versa, if you get my drift.
Cults of this kind are forms of totalism whereby knowledge constricted in loaded language drives devotion inwards, where it cannot be easily shared save within the cult milieu itself. It is a formula for isolation from truth, not the expansion into a working reality afforded by rigorous science and sane religious practice. It is the reason why so many new religions fail to grapple with problems of knowledge as the knowledge they disseminate has no useful translation outside the cult.
In religious terms, this is a path to hell, to a self-imposed isolation from all that is a good in our shared human reality. From this view, Judy Knight might as well be possessed by a demon as have a chronic dissociative disorder. The fruits of her actions are the same either way. She hates freedom as evidenced by her followers who traded their freedom for the feeling of being superior. Judy Knight in her world is not allowed to be one with her inner god that calls itself Ramtha who jealously guards an imaginary world all her own, even tethered to her by legal trademark. God properly understood cannot be leashed like a dog to anyone. Freedom comes with responsibility, and this is what is lacking in people with DID, and to a great extent with anyone that pretends to channel gods and spirits. If it comes from your mouth or your pen or your body, own it. That is what the mental health manual and all good mental health practice asks of its patients.
Patrick McNamara (2011) Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology (2 volumes)
J.Z. Knight (1987) A State of Mind
Jess Stearn (1985) Soul Mates
Joseph Szimhart (1995) The Cult of Ramtha (paper) http://jszimhart.com/essays/ramtha_paper_1995