Channelling is the modern, New Age jargon for what used to be called spiritualism or mediumship: contacting the dead. The modern revival of the ancient craft of spiritualism dates to 1848, when Margaret andKate Fox, aged 11 and 9 respectively, apparently experienced spirit possession at their home in Hydesville, NY, in the form of knocks, furniture shifting and what would nowadays be classed as poltergeist activity. The case sprang into immediate prominence and the Fox sisters began giving seances at 25c admission, producing what were deemed to be astoundingly accurate descriptions of the lives of deceased relatives of people in the audience. Among their convinced followers were Supreme Court Judge Edmonds and the novelist Fennimore Cooper. Following these first demonstrations, there was an explosion of spiritualism in both the United States and Britain. In 1888, Margaret Fox finally admitted, at a public meeting, that their spiritualist powers and experiences had been fraudulent all along and she demonstrated exactly how the effects had been produced. Her sister Kate made the same admission in a newspaper interview later the same year. But the spiritualist bandwagon rolled on and Margaret was even forced by other mediums (doubtless not unconnected with her straitened financial circumstances) to retract her confession. Among the devoted followers of spiritualism, and disbelievers in Margaret Fox’s confession, was the author Conan Doyle, whose deductive powers must have been temporarily exhausted after his creation of Sherlock Holmes.

The great magician Harry Houdini wished ardently to believe in spiritualism, to make
contact with his mother to whom he had been devoted. He searched for twenty years for a medium who would put him in contact; he grew more and more furious with one fraud after another and made it his life’s work to expose these heartless predators on the helpless bereaved. Before his own death he agreed with his wife on a coded message which hewould send her from the hereafter, by which she would know that she had at last found agenuine medium. After he died, his wife sought any medium who could tell her the message, in vain. They were all frauds, or at the very least deluding themselves.
Today’s medium is called a Channeller and tends to deliver a different style of message: not a personal message to a single enquirer, but a message for all humanity from some ancient sage. Perhaps the most famous of these is a 35,000 – year – old spirit guide called Ramtha, channelled by Mrs J.Z. Knight, who has predicted dire changes to the world we know in the very near future, such as a 200 metre rise in sea level. The shame of this is that sea level rise (but not 200 metres) is likely to be a very real event, from the Greenhouse Effect, a consequence of human misuse of the environment (specifically, the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels). The entry of pseudoscience into the field is likely to distract attention from the real scientific basis for sea level rise and perhaps bring the whole concept into disrepute, from public misunderstanding of the nature of actual evidence to the detriment of genuine scientific understanding.