Channeling Ancient African Wisdom or Not

Benjamin Radford


I’m producing a documentary about channeler Neferatiti Ife; I would like your opinion about her work and on channeling from a historical perspective. What’s your take on what she does?

—M. Shabazz


I received this query from a filmmaker seeking an analysis in early 2018. I explained that time constraints didn’t allow for an in-depth investigation of her work and claims, but that I could review materials and offer an overview, putting her in the context of other channeling claims. I was sent some samples of her readings and found more online.

Ife describes herself on her website:

[I am] an Author, Channeler and Healer. My latest book is called Shine Your Divine Light. Over the last 9 years, I’ve developed my psychic channelling abilities, connecting with Ancient ancestral beings as well as Light beings from the ethereal world. These communications led to the publication of my first book, Conversations with the Blackman’s God. As well as being an experienced psychic communicator, I hold a Post Graduate Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, Bachelor of Social Science Degree in Social Work and a Sociology Degree [she does not specify which institutions she attended].

An April 2018 workshop in London, England, titled “African Ancestral Channelling and Healing Workshop” offered the following description:

If the heart is open and the lower area has healed the energy from mother earth comes up and reaches the head and crown area in the body. If this area is healed, the energy from mother earth comes up and the energy from father sky comes down and the energy mass meets in the middle. creating a powerful vibration … You will now be able to hear the words of the spirit world, you will be guided and be more at peace within … You will receive a guided meditation to relax, empower and acitvate [sic] your mind, body and spirit.

The practice of channeling—a person’s body being taken over by a spirit for the purpose of communication—has been around for millennia. There are countless stories of shamans, witch doctors, prophets, and others who claim to hear voices or receive some supernatural knowledge from the spirit world. Channelers, also sometimes known as psychic mediums, often use what are called “spirit guides,” friendly spirits who give them knowledge and help them on their spiritual journeys. To achieve the expanded state of consciousness necessary for connection, the channeler usually meditates, trying to break free of worldly influences and tune in to a higher consciousness. They may imagine themselves seeking out specific spirits of the dead, or they may be contacted by some unknown force that wishes to communicate.

Ancient spirits channeled through modern mediums have supposedly written entire books. In fact, there are hundreds of such books, many of which can be found in New Age sections of bookstores and libraries. One of the most famous American channelers in the 1970s was Jane Roberts, who claimed to channel an ancient entity named Seth. For her 1972 best-seller Seth Speaks, as well as several popular sequels, Roberts—as Seth—dictated esoteric information to her husband about the soul, the nature of consciousness, spiritual truths, higher planes of reality, and so on. Since the 1980s, New Age mystic J.Z. Knight has claimed to channel Ramtha (also known as “The Enlightened One”), a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who described, among other things, being born on the (fictional) continent of Atlantis. Knight became a multi-millionaire writing books and offering seminars and DVDs teaching the wisdom imparted to her by Ramtha. Channeling has waned in popularity in recent years, though it is still practiced (and its reality widely accepted) in the New Age community.

There seems to be no real evidence that the information is truly coming from unseen spirits or some omniscient cosmic consciousness instead of the channeler. One thing that virtually all channeled information has in common is that it is subjective, mystical, and completely unverifiable, often including themes of universal love, messages from God, cosmic unity, and so on. Since there is no way to verify information and descriptions of different planes of existence, the nature of the soul, and so on, there’s no way to know which, if any, of the channeled information is accurate.

It’s all well and good that channeled omniscient spirits can presumably tell us that the cosmos is filled with love, that we make our own happiness, and so on. But when it comes to important, practical information that could benefit mankind (like finding important lost archaeological sites, directing us to a cure for cancer, or warning us of devastating natural disasters), they are conspicuously silent.

The real explanation for channeling lies in psychology, not psychic powers. As psychologist James E. Alcock of York University notes in The Encyclopedia of The Paranormal, “the supposed phenomenon is actually very old, for it is simply automatism—automatic behavior over which an individual denies any personal control. … Today we recognize that automatism is a form of dissociation, an altered state of consciousness, in which an individual is capable of speaking or acting without awareness of deliberately doing so.” In other words, when a person meditates and clears his or her mind, random thoughts, images, and symbols may spontaneously arise. In this harmless dissociative state, though it may seem that this information is coming from another consciousness outside the body, in fact it is generated by the mind itself. It’s the same process by which artists and musicians may suddenly be inspired by a great thought, or how we dream of things we think we’d never have imagined or thought of. In the end, there is nothing pathological about channeling, but neither is it an unexplained conduit to another dimension.

Ife is the author of several channeled meditation CDs and a deck of cards. She also offers workshops on holistic healing:

Our African Ancestors are vital to our existence but their voices and wisdom are rarely heard to our detriment. My work is about bringing forth these voices and information from the higher dimensions—for the healing of the nation. The voices and the wisdom of our ancestors have been missing from our lives for far to [sic] long. This is to our detriment, and damaging to the future of our children and planet Earth. It’s time to step into a new future. A future where the Gods and Goddesses activate and shine their light. This is the place for you. I am here in this time to bring positive word vibrations and energy to start the transformative process of Planetary Enlightenment. My work is to assist the awakening of those who are ready to take the journey and walk on the path of enlightenment. Planet earth is in pain at the moment—both the environment and individuals. The process of healing needs to start now so the frequency of the planet becomes one of Peace, Harmony and Light.

If this sounds familiar, it should; most of Ife’s lessons echo rather typical New Age beliefs, limned with a bit of Afrocentrism and an added emphasis on ancient Egyptian cosmology. Ife also offers something she calls the “Ankh Healing System”:

[The Ankh Healing System is] a three pronged meditation system. Neferatiti brings in these guided Ancestral meditations. Ancestors of light and complete postivitity [sic]. They come forward from the spirit world but were born in the African continent. This energy is for the vibrational healing of people in this time. Neferatiti’s DNA links her back to the African continent and she is bringing forth this vibrational healing on this planet. It is a powerful unique healing system inspired by her connection with the Ancestral world.

If this system of spirit-guided vibrational healing can be scientifically validated, it should of course be incorporated into treatment plans at the world’s top hospitals, but as of this writing it’s only available—for a reasonable fee of course—from Neferatiti Ife.

Benjamin Radford

Benjamin Radford, M.Ed., is a scientific paranormal investigator, a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, and author, co-author, contributor, or editor of twenty books and over a thousand articles on skepticism, critical thinking, and science literacy. His newest book is Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits (2018).

Q: I’m producing a documentary about channeler Neferatiti Ife; I would like your opinion about her work and on channeling from a historical perspective. What’s your take on what she does? —M. Shabazz A: I received this query from a filmmaker seeking an analysis in early 2018. I explained that time constraints didn’t allow for …

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