With practice, channeling transmissions from the unseen world of the subconscious can be a moving and powerful experience. Whether you want to deepen your insight into your own nature, or you want to reach outward for communications from beyond, you can learn to limit the scope of your investigation, achieve a trance-like state, and locate a guide to aid you in your journey, helping keep that journey safe and productive. See Step 1 for more information.
Starting Your Investigation
Decide between exploring your consciousness and communing with the spirit world. Different traditions use the word “channeling” in different ways. Some channelers aim outward, in an attempt to contact others, or inward, to learn more about the self. Depending on your interests and goals, this decision can lead you into very different traditions, rituals, and practices, though most types of channeling involve a similar process, first inducing of a trance-like state and then communicating with some “other.”
In supernatural or spirit channeling, the goal is to tap into the world of spirits and communicate with them. Practitioners often want to contact deceased relatives or famous historical figures, or otherwise make some contact with the dead. Spirit channeling as we think of it today, with crystal balls and Ouija boards, was extremely popular in intellectual occult circles in the mid-to-late 19th century. Though this kind of for-profit mediumship is widely dismissed by scientific skeptics as an orchestrated con against the often-wealthy participants, spirit channeling has historical roots that extend far beyond the Victorian stereotypes.
Consciousness channeling is a newer phenomenon. In some New Age philosophies, practitioners of channeling will meditate and attempt to visualize archetypal figures that are manifestations of their own subconscious, “past life” figures, or metaphorical representatives of some psychological trauma. This figure will often guide the participant through different interactions and communications with the aim of healing the spirit and learning about the self.
Be open to wrestling with strange phenomenon. Whether you want to find comfort and understanding by consulting an oracle, or you seek a deepened understanding of life and death, it’s important to articulate your goals for channeling and be realistic about them. If you’re going to embark on a channeling journey, it’s important to commit to an often-quizzical, mysterious way of interpreting the messages you receive. The better you are at receiving them, the more you’ll get out of the experience. Embrace the mystery of it. Anyone who’s ever cracked open an iChing or tried to learn about Tarot knows that channeling can be a frustrating and complex process. It doesn’t always work like a movie, where a candle flickers and you hear the voice of some long-dead relative. Have a specific inquiry in mind–a specific thing you want to learn–and accept that you might not get the answer you’re looking for.
Take it seriously. If your goal is get out a Ouija board and ask a ghost what afterlife farts smell like, you should probably spend your time doing something more constructive. Channeling only works if the participant is fully committed and open to the possibility of learning something about yourself and consciousness that might be hard to believe or understand.
Read up on occult symbology and symbolism. Because the process often involves the interpretation of symbols, it’s important to do a little research before you jump in head-first, to get more out of the experience. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Occult by Colin Wilson are excellent primers to the ideas and images you’ll need to be familiar with. James Merrill’s modern verse epic The Changing Light at Sandover chronicles his communications with a spirit named Ephraim.
Ask a very specific question. All methods of channeling require that you have a very specific inquiry in mind for your spirit guide or your own subconscious. It’s unlikely that any spirit guides–internal or external–will come forth to answer a question that’s unserious, dishonest, or trivial, so give some thought to an appropriate question that deserves a complicated answer.
Make it specific, but not too specific. A question like “Does Bill really hate me when I show up late for work?” is probably better saved for a Magic 8-ball. You want your query to be broad enough to allow for complexity and personal enough to be worthwhile: “How can I be a better person in my work?” is more like it.
Let one question lead to another. If you’re concerned about your work persona, let that question spiral into more questions, so you may look for possible answers in your investigation. Who am I when I work? What does my work mean to me? How should I approach my work? What is a worker? These may all be applicable questions that circle around your initial one. Look for the answers to questions you didn’t ask.
Start keeping a dream journal. As you embark on a journey into your mind, you may find it more and more difficult to distinguish between the dream state and your waking life. Symbols will surround you and will pop up at unexpected times. This is a good thing! You just need to be ready to capture them for further analysis later, making a dream journal or a channeling journal an excellent resource for your investigation.
Keep a small composition book beside your bed. When you wake from any dream, however boring or uneventful. Write down everything you remember from it immediately. What did you see? What did you feel? Who was there? This kind of interpretation and attention to detail will serve you well in your channeling experiments.
Going into a Trance
Meditate deeply, focusing on your breathing. Find a quiet, meditative location where you’ll feel comfortable and calm. Settle into a comfortable sitting position, on the floor or in a straight-backed chair, and sit with your body upright, your back straight. Go with soft, natural lighting and silence. Close your eyes or focus somewhere in the middle-distance–a blank wall or a calming spot would do nicely.
Articulate your intentions for this meditation by centering yourself around some mantra like, “I will achieve trance and I will return to normal consciousness with a full memory of what I experienced. I will achieve a deeper and deeper trance state with practice.”
You don’t need to sit in the lotus position in the middle of a crossroads at midnight or prostrate yourself in front of a goat skull and candles to channel. Focus on your comfort and achieving the trance-like state, not superficial details from the movies.
Focus on your breathing. Sit quietly and breathe deeply. Feel your breath go into and out of your body. Feel the air going into your lungs, filling you with nourishing oxygen, and going out into the world. Breathe in and breathe out. Do nothing but breathe for several minutes. Let thoughts come and go, focusing on none of them. Just focus on breathing.
Use the power of suggestion to slow your body’s rhythms. To move deeper into a trance, start with a specific part of your body, like your left hand. As you breathe, feel the air coming into your body in your left hand. Move your consciousness into your left hand, and focus your energy on relaxing your left hand. Say, “My left hand is relaxing, my left hand is relaxed.” Move the relaxation to your left arm, then your right hand, your right arm, and your legs in the same fashion. Spend 30-60 seconds on each part of your body, focusing your full consciousness and attention on relaxation. Wait until you feel that part of your body relax before moving on.
After you’ve relaxed your body, give weight to your body. After you’ve relaxed your body, you want to introduce a feeling of heaviness, as if your body were covered in many blankets, or buried in sand. In the same fashion, establish a consciousness connection with your left hand, focusing your energy into it fully. It should still be relaxed. Say, “My left hand is heavy.” Spend 30-60 seconds focusing on each part of your body in the same way.
After you’ve given weight to your body, give warmth to your body. In the same way, move around your body giving warmth by saying, “My left hand is warm.” Focus your energy on achieving a state of warmth, as if you were in a warm bath, or had placed a heating pad on each part of your body. Your body should feel extreme comfort, but you should not feel sleepy.
End each trance meditation slowly. When you decide to return to normal consciousness, focus on your fingers and your toes, wiggling them and returning them to a more normal state. Feel your body gradually cool down and look around the room, letting your mind return to it’s normal way of thinking. Stand up and walk around when you’ve stretched out a bit. Don’t just jump up and start pacing around–if you’ve been sitting long enough, you might have sleepy limbs and could sprain an ankle. Bad juju for consciousness meditation.
Gradually deepen your trance by practicing. The goal of the trance is to blur the lines between your body, your consciousness, and the world around you. Move through the stages described in the previous step, achieving the trance slowly, focusing on calming your body. Practice introducing your body to the trance-like state with many days of practice before attempting to deepen your trance or channel in any way. This is a process you must commit to, if you want to achieve results.
It may be slow going at first, but as you progress, you might notice the previous steps becoming easier and easier. If you focus on warming up your left hand, you may feel your left arm become warm at the same time, or both arms become warm. This is a good sign that your training your mind and body to achieve a trance state more quickly.
When you think you’re ready to move on to a deeper state of consciousness, add another step to your trance: feel your forehead grow cool. In many traditions, the “third eye” located on the forehead signifies your connection to the subconscious or the world of the unseen. Isolate that part of your body by saying, “My forehead feels cool.”
Test the strength of your consciousness. If you want to start seeing results and get some sense of how strong your connection with the world of the unseen has become, try an experiment: select a very specific time that you’d like to wake up, and plant the seed of that time into your mind at the end of your trance meditation. After cooling your third-eye, focus on the time you’ve selected by saying, “I will rise tomorrow at 6:00.” Don’t set an alarm and try sleeping as normally.
Practice visualization. After much practice in achieving your trance state, you should start to feel more comfortable moving into and out of that state. If you’ve grown quite strong, it’s time to start spending more time exploring it. This is the beginning of real channeling. Before you find a guide or source to transmit to you, though, spend some time working on visualization and finding a deeper more immersive layer of consciousness.
Visualize objects and colors. After you’ve cooled your third-eye, let your subconscious suggest a color. Say, “I see blue,” and repeat it until the color settles into your mind and you really see blue. At first, you may see a mishmash of colors, but continue practicing until you can settle and “see” what your mind tells you to see.
It may be helpful to give the color an object, like a pen or a car. See the blue pen. Watch it. Feel it’s weight in your hand and try to “use it.” Spend time visualizing many colors and objects before moving on.
Visualize yourself falling deeper. Different mediums or channelers use a variety of exercises to fall deeper and allow the subconscious to take over. This is an important way of getting more in touch with the world of the unseen, and can be quite exhilarating when you re-emerge from your trance state.
Fall from a ladder into space. Visualize yourself climbing a ladder in darkness. Your body should be warm and comfortable. Climb the ladder for a while and then let go of the ladder. Feel yourself falling away. If you become dizzy or disoriented, focus on your body consciousness until you regain comfort and warmth.
Take an elevator down. Some practitioners find success visualizing an elevator that’s traveling down the wall of an endless rock face. Imagine an elevator with a glass door that allows you to see out: on three sides there is darkness, but on one side there is a rocky cliff with crags and tiny imperfections. Visualize them as closely as possible and continue traveling down ever farther.
Personalize your fall. There’s no right way to visualize, so do what feels comfortable for you. Some channelers like to visualize themselves as a falling feather, a ring of smoke, or as climbing down a long rope.
Finding a Guide or Source with Visualization
Stop controlling your visualizations. As you progress in your trance meditation you may find that you have more and more difficulty “controlling” your visualizations, and that they’re happening without your ability to stop them. Let this happen. This is a sign that you’ve moved deep enough to find a guide for your investigations. This is channeling.
Different traditions think about this state of being in different ways: if you want to refer to this as “going clear” or “entering the spirit world,” you’re right on all counts. You don’t have to put a name on it, necessarily, but feel free to call it what you want.
Visualize a location. After you’ve fallen from the ladder of yourself or otherwise descended deeper into your consciousness via trance meditation, settle yourself in some comfortable location. Spend time exploring it. See as many of the tactile details as possible in this waking dream. Focus your energy on inhabiting that space and really “being” there.
In some New Age traditions, it’s suggested that you fill your location with all manner of esoteric crystals and golden cushions, while other traditions may suggest you imagine a mossy wood straight out of Tolkien. Go for it. There’s no right place.
Let people come into the location. Visualize a person you know and watch their behavior as they come into your place. Let them be and observe them and their behavior. If your subconscious suggests people that you don’t know, or don’t recognize, be especially conscious of them and remember their faces and their movements. You know you’re knocking on the door of channeling when you can start interacting with people you don’t know.
Pay particularly close attention to movements that people make, things they may say, or other imagery. When you emerge from your trance, write these details down immediately. Things that may not “make sense” to you in the moment will probably be often and will require analysis and consideration later. That’s channeling.
Again, if you want to think of these figures as “dimensional archetypes” or “angels” or the “voice of your DNA,” that’s fine. Pick the symbolic representation that makes the most sense to you, and listen to what the figures have to say for themselves. It’s not a matter of right or wrong when you’re dealing with the subconscious and the unseen.
Find a figure that’s willing to speak with you. Increasingly, you may notice the figures in your channeling approach you. It may happen right away, or it may take a very long time. Let them approach you and interact with them. Speak with them.
Come clean with your intentions. Tell the figure why you’re here and what you’re looking for. Ask the figure if they’ve got your best interest at heart, and if they’re willing to guide you in your investigation. If they cannot, ask the figure to leave and continue your practice.
Establish a mutual agreement. Ask them the question or central issue that you’ve been meditating on, or allow them to show you what they wish to show you. Together, decide how you’ll communicate. Let the guide do their job: guiding you. Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with, but let the guide take charge of showing you what you want to learn.
Look for symbols and archetypes to interpret. Your questions may already be answered, and it’s your job to pay attention to what you’re being shown. The more time you spend investigating common symbols of the occult and learning what you can about archetypal representation, the more significant your subconscious observations and communications will become. It may be largely visual.
If your location is suddenly filled with scuttling lobsters and lions with their heads on backward, unbidden, you may come out of your trance and think, “Whoa, trippy!” But don’t let it drop just there. Lobsters appear on the Tarot card for the Moon, signifying lunar energy and the subconscious, while the lion appears on the card for Strength. Significant? You decide.
Choosing a Medium for Communication
Use the ouija board. If you’ve found a guide to the spirit world or the center of your own consciousness after deep meditation and practice, you may want to find more direct and simple methods of communicating with that world, without meditating for hours or end and seeking them. The Ouija allows for quick communication and transmitting. This is also an excellent way of bringing other parties into your investigation, introducing them to your guide and allowing a mutual discourse to take place.
Meditate on your specific inquiry or question, articulating your intentions aloud and allowing your contact to get in touch. All parties should place their hands on the planchette at the center of the board, then allow it to move and spell out the answers to your questions.
Experiment with scrying, sciomancy, and other methods of divination. Over the centuries, experienced mediums have experimented with lots of different methods of communicating with their spirit guides by manipulating objects, including the use of crystals, rocks, smoke, and even bones. There are hundreds of different methods to choose from, and your spirit guide may even suggest a preferred method of communication.
Capnomancy refers to consulting the patterns of moving smoke to interpret the messages of the spirit world. Burn some sage or jasmine, laurel leaves, or sacred incense, depending on your tradition and interests, and observe the smoke as part of your meditations. Let symbols reveal themselves.
Sciomancy is the study of shadows and shades for symbols. Headless shadows are generally interpreted as ominous, though the spookiness shouldn’t keep you away from this communication method. Make a candle a part of your meditation, and observe the shadows cast in the room on the walls, for symbols or messages to appear.
Scrying is the technical term for gazing into a crystal ball and looking for prophecies or symbols. You don’t need to have an expensive ball of crystal to practicing scrying, however: it’s also common to gaze into bowls of water, mirrors, or other reflective transparent surfaces.
Try EVP, trumpet-channeling, or other sound methods. If you’re more interested in hearing the sounds produced by the spirit world, sound-capture methods of communication may be more appropriate for your investigations. In trumpet channeling, a phenomenon called “direct voice phenomenon” is the desired result of the consultation. The trumpet is basically a cone made of aluminum, a foot or two long, and used to transmit the ectoplasmic vibrations of the spirit guide.
In electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), you can record on a digital recorder or tape recorder, the white noise of the room, while you ask the questions of your spirit guide that you want to ask. Wait quietly and listen closely to your recording to see if inaudible responses were captured on the tape.
Experiment with automatic writing. For some participants, especially those interested in plumbing the depths of their consciousness, experimenting with automatic writing is an effective way of communicating with the unknown. Start with your trance meditation and move to writing in response to your queries. All you’ve got to do is get out a pen and a piece of paper and write unconsciously, without pausing or paying attention to the words you’re writing.
This is an excellent way of getting in touch with your own messages and reinforcing the agency and divinity of the self. You’ve got your own answers and can get in touch with them via automatic writing.
It’s also effective to write down all your communications with your spirit guide, after extracting yourself from your trance state. It’s important to keep a record of these communications, to allow yourself to investigate them later for parallels and symbolic echoes.
Consider letting chance affect your query. Tarot and iChing consultation are formalized methods of questioning-and-answering that give up the agency of the answer to chance. Depending on how you choose to think about it, devote yourself to it, and prepare for it, this can work alongside or as an alternative to more complex consciousness channeling.
The Tarot doesn’t require a complicated guidebook or method to start using. Get a deck and spend time analyzing each card, giving it weight. Draw cards and let your initial gut reaction to the card clue you into it’s symbolic meaning. This can be an excellent way of having your queries addressed.
Consult the iChing for anecdotal responses. Using three coins, you can create a hexagram (six broken and unbroken lines) that corresponds to a particular symbol and entry in the iChing, called the “book of changes.” With each hexagram is a brief symbolic anecdote, which can be read as a metaphorical response to the question you’re meditating on.
Cleanse yourself for reception before the channel opens. Depending on your interests and your tradition, you may find it necessary to chakra cleanse thoroughly prior to channeling, as a way of balancing and cleansing your energy pathways. On the other hand, you might find it more effective to pray, recite a mantra, or otherwise center yourself physically and emotionally. However you choose to cleanse yourself for your investigations, make sure that you establish a mutual understanding and respect with your spirit guide. It’s extremely important to establish boundaries and articulate your desires.
Develop an intense personal relationship with the source. Spend a considerable amount of time in trance meditation, developing your relationship with your guide before you start demanding the answers to life’s mysteries. This may involve picturing the source as a person or presence with a name, image, or voice, if it hasn’t already appeared to you as such. If you believe the source is within you, this may involve becoming more aware of yourself and your thoughts, feelings and habits.
End each session on a positive note. Thank your guide for their assistance and their guidance, offering respect and appreciation. Try not to end it in frustration or anger.
Record everything. Make the transmissions public by writing or otherwise recording your sessions with your guide. This both serves to distance the transmission from your psyche, and readies you to receive the next message. Keep the communication flowing through you, not sticking around and gunking up your subconscious.
Don’t try to force the source to transmit. Prepare yourself and wait until the time is right.
Negotiate the right to shut the channel down when you deem necessary. In short, make sure you stay in control.
Become aware of when transmissions happens, i.e. the time of day or the particular state/mood you are in. That period (or state) becomes your “doorway”, when channeling is easiest and most natural.
Don’t edit the message or try to interpret it during channeling. Wait until after the session is over to do this.
Reality test the transmissions. Just like you, the source sometimes gets things wrong, or sometimes cheats (i.e. tests you).
How to Meditate
How to Handle Problems
How to Relax
How to Follow Your Intuition
Sources and Citations
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