Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment
Founder: JZ Knight
Date of Birth: 1946
Birth Place: New Mexico , USA
Year Founded: 1988
Sacred or Revered Texts: The White Book
JZ Knight, founder of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, was born in Roswell, New Mexico where she experienced psychic and paranormal phenomenon from an early age. An elderly Yacqui Indian woman held JZ in her arms when she was a mere infant and declared that she was destined to “see what no one else sees.” Then, when JZ was older, she and some friends saw “blinding red flashes of light” while at a sleepover. The light abruptly stopped, and the girls apparently forgot the bizarre incident. Years later, JZ recalled the strange flashing lights. She was intrigued by their cause and why she had forgotten about them. JZ believed UFO’s or some higher power may have been responsible, beginning her interest in the paranormal. 2
Despite a turbulent childhood caused by an alcoholic father, she graduated high school and went on to a small business college. Financial difficulties forced her to quit school, but she managed to get a decent job with a cable company. In 1973, she started her own communications company. Her coworkers quickly found that JZ had an uncanny ability to determine when (and to whom) to sell. In fact, some of them believed she could predict the future. 3
Whatever psychic influence JZ had might have been inherited from her mother, who claimed she could foresee the future in her dreams. JZ’s mother knew about a family member’s death or even whether JZ made the school majorette team before the event occurred. 4
JZ’s psychic experiences continued, helping her to realize that she was indeed special. One psychic saw a great force within JZ, a force nearly as powerful as Jesus Christ. This force would help bring peace to the world. Later, an event occurred that can only be described as a miracle. A friend had forced JZ to see an evangelical healer due to her faltering health. JZ, who had become disillusioned with the hypocritical church long ago, openly denounced the minister’s healing powers. In that instant, a flash of blue light knocked the minister down. The congregation was stunned. JZ was cured of her ills. She believed she had seen the hand of God. 5
One of the most important events in her life occurred when she accompanied her friend to a psychic reading one afternoon. The psychic took a strong interest in JZ. She predicted that JZ would move to a place with “great mountains” and “tall pines.” This was where she would meet The One. This entity, the psychic foresaw, would give JZ “great influence” and destiny. Sure enough, JZ received a job offer in the mountain country of Tacoma, Washington. She took the job with the psychic’s powerful words echoing in the back of her mind. 6
The next few years were uneventful in terms of paranormal phenomenon, but JZ and her second husband Jeremy dabbled in psychic communication and mysticism. Jeremy , in particular, became interested in the properties of pyramids, which were believed to harness psychic energy. One day in February, 1977, while JZ and Jeremy were playing with some pyramids in their home, The One appeared before her. 7
Standing in her kitchen a mere ten feet from JZ was an enormous figure, dressed in flowing robes and surrounded by purple light. He proclaimed, “I am Ramtha, the Enlightened One. I have come to help you over the ditch.” He went on to say to a bewildered JZ: “It is the ditch of limitation and fear I will help you over. For you will, indeed, beloved woman become a light unto the world.” Ramtha then warned JZ that she was in danger and she must leave the house immediately, at which point he disappeared. JZ heeded this warning, moving her family into a new home. Days later, the house was ransacked by thugs. The trusting relationship between JZ and Ramtha was thus cemented. 8
The Beginning of RSE
With the help of experts in the field of psychic communication and channeling, JZ was able to turn her body over to Ramtha so that he could spread his teachings. Ramtha first spoke to the public in 1978, when he made an impact with his vast knowledge and insight. The local media soon picked up on this story helping Ramtha’s (and JZ’s) popularity to spread. The fact that Ramtha emerged in the heart of the New Age movement considerably helped his cause; people were lining up to hear him speak. JZ became a full time channel and began charging money for admittance (an idea brought to her by Ramtha himself). Even Actresses Shirley McLean and Joan Hackett became disciples of Ramtha (The Enlightened One predicted McLean would win the “highest award” for her role in Terms of Endearment). Knight’s popularity among the stars lead to her appearance on the Merv Griffin Show in 1985. 9
The RSE Today
JZ’s school has earned her millions of dollars and lots of adoration. She is among the leading New Age channelers with 3000 followers. Disciples come to her ranch in Yelm, Washington to learn the Great Work (see Beliefs and Practices). Ramtha offers courses for beginners and advanced students which are designed to let the disciples harness their divine powers. Aside from lectures by Ramtha, the students participate in “field work” which is designed to focus their concentration and energy (C&E). Field work usually involves searching a vast field for index cards while blindfolded. JZ also built a massive maze known as the Tank in her ranch which she uses for various lessons. Although the lessons seem strange to the students and outsiders, each one has a specific purpose that progresses them on the path to enlightenment. 10
Ramtha’s School tends to attract an older audience than most New Age Movements. The average age for a beginning student is mid-thirties, with some starting as young as age 6, however. According to a study of the advanced students, the typical students “are in midlife, have high levels of education and occupational prestige, and are now choosing to orient themselves in a new direction.” 11
The RSE has become more commercial in the late 1990’s. Students must purchase and watch an introductory video before attending classes. The sale of Ramtha books, video’s, and audio cassettes has become a profitable business. 12
JZ’s success, however, is not without a price. Critics claim that JZ is a fraud, and that she uses mind control techniques. Lawsuits have hurt her in recent years, including a case brought by her ex-husband who says she used Ramtha’s influence to coerce him out of a fair divorce settlement (see controversies).
Ramtha’s teachings are encompassed in a work known as the White Book, and these ideas are based on ancient Gnosticism of the Mediterranean. The core principles of Ramtha’s School are 1) a supreme deity is a part of every man, and 2) the key to reaching the God within us is through Gnosis or knowledge. 13 Ramtha himself does not wished to be revered as a God, but rather as an equal. He says in one of his channeling sessions, “I am but a teacher, servant, brother unto you.” 14
Who Is Ramtha?
Ramtha is a 35,000 year old warrior from the ancient city of Lemuria. The Lemurians were oppressed by highly advanced citizens of Atlantis because they believed the Lemurians were “soulless.” At age 14, Ramtha led a small army against the Atlantians and defeated them. More people joined his army, and he soon became a great warrior. He was stabbed severely during one battle, but miraculously he did not die. His enemies began to believe he was immortal. Ramtha “learned the mysteries of the unknown god and became enlightened” during the seven years he was recovering from his wound. He rose through higher levels of consciousness and eventually transformed into a being of light. He ascended as a God, but vowed to return. 15
Indeed, 35,000 years later, Ramtha returned to meet JZ Knight. Ramtha chose to channel through JZ rather than present himself in human form for several reasons. First, he did not want to be worshipped as a deity, but rather an equal. He felt that if he presented himself, he would be idolized by his students. Second, his human form limited him to a male entity. Channeling himself through a woman presented the dual male/female nature of God. Third, for reasons of his own, he believed JZ Knight was especially suited to the task at hand. 16
Ramtha’s goal with beginner students is to break them away from the traditional Western worldview. This worldview limits the individual and suppresses his power as a divine being. Ramtha aims to make the student not only believe in his divine power, but to manifest it. 17 Ramtha’s Creation myth and the philosophies stemming from it are complex and abstract, but they are essential to understanding his teachings.
The universe started as a Void of nothingness. This Void “turned in upon itself” creating consciousness and energy. Consciousness and Energy fused together causing the Void to become aware of itself. This awareness was represented in the Void as single- dimensional entity called Point Zero. Other dots of awareness formed, and the high energy reactions between the various dots created time and space. As these dot entities interacted, seven energy levels developed. The entities of awareness left Point Zero to “explore” other levels of the Void in order to “make known the unknown.” As the entities progressed from Point Zero (the highest level) to level 1, energy and time slowed. At the lower levels, the entities took on form and substance. When the entities reached the first level, they “coagulated” into human form. It was at this level that life as we know it began. 18
This theory of Creation is difficult to grasp. The main point, however, is that consciousness exists on multiple levels, with human form being the lowest. The higher the level, the greater the level of consciousness. The entities (Gods) used consciousness to create objects at their whim. In other words, they manifested their dreams to create all the objects in the world. The Gods came down to the lowest levels to experience life in its material form, but they still had their divine powers. The early humans could easily move between levels and manifest their dreams or desires. Over time, however, this ability was lost. Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment allows students to regain these powers, and carry on the task of Gods: to make known the unknown. 19
Humans often move to other consciousness levels without realizing it. The most common occurrence is moving up to the second level while dreaming. Near-death experiences, psychic visions and other phenomenon can be attributed to moving to another plane of consciousness. 20
When humans lost the power of the Gods, they fell into the “ditch of limitation,” the same ditch that Ramtha mentioned during his first encounter with JZ. Ramtha holds the Church partly responsible for this limitation when it “took God outside of Man, [and] put him far, far away.” The Church “unenlightened” man by claiming that God is far superior to humans. Ramtha’s teachings indicate that the Church “created” God to keep men in line. He even goes so far as to say Hell and the devil were “created through religious dogma for the purpose of intimidating the masses into a controllable organization.” 21
The Great Work
The Great Work of Ramtha’s teaching is literally manifesting dreams and desires. In essence, the Great Work requires reaching maximum potential of the mind. The key to manifestations lies in the cerebrum, which, according to Ramtha, has the power to make dreams a reality. In the past, humans would hold a dream or desire in their mind, and it would manifest. Today, humans play a passive role to manifestations. They absorb the world around them in their mind, and this then becomes reality. In a sense, they are trapped in the present reality. Ramtha desires to teach students the power to manifest any desire and make known the unknown. 22
Issues and Challenges
Any new religion has its share of controversy, and the RSE is no exception. The public generally perceives New Age Religions, groups in a negative light, usually without any evidence. Ramtha’s messages are certainly not mainstream, and the way in which JZ presents them is also subject to controversy. Some critics claim JZ is a fraud whose only goal is to make money. Others say that she uses brainwashing techniques to keep her students from leaving. There are a number of opinions on the matter and no clear answers.
Is JZ a Channeler?
JZ has undergone a lot of scrutiny as one of the most prominent American channelers. Her overall performance as Ramtha is seamless. While she is channeling, her posture, walk, voice and the color of her eyes changes. Actress Linda Evans, a student of Ramtha’s, argued that if JZ is a fraud then “she is the greatest actress in the world.” 23 A skeptical psychologist became uncertain of JZ’s legitimacy when JZ put her hand on his head revealing such power that he “could hardly take it.” 24 Even if Ramtha was not real, he said, there was definitely a power within her that science could not explain. Later, a team of scientists did tests on JZ during channeling episodes over the course of a year. The results of the test categorically ruled out fraud or multiple personality disorders. 25 “We know something’s going on here,” said one of the researchers, “we just can’t say, at this point, specifically what it is.” 26 Her students swear that JZ and Ramtha have entirely different personas leading them to believe that Ramtha is indeed channeling through JZ.
Other evidence points to the contrary. One of JZ’s business managers saw her “practicing” the Ramtha personality. Her husband Jeff Knight also noticed her slip in and out of the trance to take cigarette breaks (JZ, unlike Ramtha, was a smoker). 27 And then there is the common sense argument, according to the Skeptics Dictionary Website: “…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the likelihood of a 35,000 year old Cro-Magnon ghost suddenly appearing in a Tacoma kitchen to a homemaker to reveal profundities about centers and voids, self-love and guilt-free living, or love and peace, is close to zero.” 28 It takes a great leap of faith to believe that JZ is a channeler, although scientific evidence may not be enough to discredit Ramtha.
Criticism of the RSE
Publicity surrounding Ramtha’s School has been negative for the most part in recent years. A 20/20 segment portrayed JZ as a fraud who was exploiting peoples’ beliefs in Ramtha for money. The show also claimed that Ramtha was teaching people that they are above morality due to their divine status. These beliefs, they surmised, could only lead to amoral behavior. The 20/20 exposure led to more attacks from the press on JZ and the School. 29
J. Gordon Melton, a leading scholar on new religious movements, thoroughly investigated the RSE and found that these criticisms were unfounded. Melton attributes most of the bad press to sensationalist journalism that critiques unconventional beliefs for a good story. Furthermore, anti-cult and counter-cult sentiments are popular with Americans, which intensifies the controversy. 30 . Melton’s book gave important facts rather than insinuations and smear campaigns
Anti-cultists respond that Melton’s book is biased because (1) Melton was hired to testify for JZ in a court case against her in 1992, (2) JZ provided funding for the book and (3) Melton established close ties with JZ and the school during the research thus damaging his credibility as an objective researcher. Melton also neglected to mention several incidents where people were injured during blindfolded field activities. 31 Although this omission does not make JZ a dangerous cult leader, it makes one wonder what else Melton left out of his book.
Criticism from the public caused JZ to withdraw from the public in the early 1990’s. During this period she devoted her time to her school and to Ramtha. Under Ramtha’s guidance, she reappeared to the public in the late 1990’s. As Ramtha’s school continues to succeed, it is receiving “signs of a certain legitimacy among the religious community.” 32 Today, JZ has an unprecedented number of students, and her books and tapes are selling well.
Several scandals have marred JZ’s reputation among the religious community. The first involves a student of Ramtha’s who was hired to run stress management programs for the Federal Aviation Administration in 1984. This student, Gregory May, a psychologist from California, used techniques that were “far beyond routine.” Some of the training activities involved tying employees together for long periods of time, forcing women to shower together, sleep deprivation and verbal abuse. Several employees brought charges against the FAA for trauma occasioned by May. 33 These unorthodox techniques cannot be directly linked to Ramtha’s teachings. Nevertheless, the media was quick to point out the connection between bizarre training techniques and (what they perceived to be) a destructive cult.
Another scandal occurred because of JZ’s fondness for horses. Overstepping her boundaries as a religious leader, she advised some of her students to invest in Arabian horses. These students followed her advice as if advised by Ramtha himself. Many of them lost money in this venture and bitterly left the school. Later, JZ compensated them for their losses, but the damage had been done. She had given the critics ammunition to use against her. 34
In addition to these scandals, JZ had a turbulent personal life. She was married five times, and at least once she was caught in an affair with a young student. She divorced her fifth husband, Jeffrey Knight, in 1989. Jeffrey claimed that JZ used Ramtha’s influence to coerce him out of a fair divorce settlement. He took the case to court, embroiling JZ in an intense legal battle. 35 Meanwhile, JZ faced serious financial burdens from bill collectors and taxes. She kept these problems from the public, but eventually the media picked up on them.
Although Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment is surrounded by controversy, there is no clear evidence that JZ is a fraud or that the school is a danger to anyone. Sociologists and psychologists do not believe that students are “brainwashed” to follow this movement, nor are they held against their will. Ramtha’s students are searching for answers to life’s most important questions, and the School is helping them resolve these issues. Until undisputable evidence arises that JZ is harming people, the media and anti-cultists should be careful with their criticisms.
Brown, Michael. “The Channeling Zone.” Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. 1977.
Carrol, Robert Todd. “Ramtha aka J.Z. Knight.” The Skeptics Dictionary. http://skepdic.com/channel.html
Diamond, Steve. “Into the Mystic: Ramtha Meets the Scholars.” The New Times. Accessed at http://www.newtimes.org/issue/9705/97-05-jz.html
McDonald, Sally. “J.Z. Knight Channeling New Support.” Seattle Times May 9, 1998. Accessed at http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com
McDonald, Sally. “Christianity vs. New Age.” Seattle Times May 9, 1998. Accessed at http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com
Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. 1998.
Neill, Michael. “Sure, blame the caveman: channeler J.Z. Knight’s troubles put 35,000 year old Ramtha on trial”. People Weekly Oct. 12, 1992 p. 123.
“Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment – The American Gnostic School.” http://www.ramtha.com
“The Guru and the FAA.” Newsweek , March 6 1995 p. 32.
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom: FAQ’s.” http://www.ramtha.com/html/aboutus/faqs/students/how-many.stm
- Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. p. 3-4
- Ibid. 9
- Ibid. 4
- Ibid. 9-12
- Ibid. 7-9
- Ibid. 14-15
- Ibid. 14-15
- Ibid. 46-52
- Ibid. 108-109
- Ibid. 126-127
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom:RSE Store.” http://ramtha.com/html/rse-store/product-details/v1.42.stm
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom:About US.” http://ramtha.com/html/aboutus/faqs/school/gnostic-beliefs.stm
- Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. p. 58
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom:About US.” http://ramtha.com/html/aboutus/faqs/teacher/who.stm
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom:About US.” http://ramtha.com/html/aboutus/faqs/teacher/why-jz.stm
- Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. p. 58
- Ibid. 78-80.
- Ibid. 81-84
- Ibid. 85
- Ibid. 59- 61.
- Ibid. 85
- Ibid. 146
- Brown, Michael. The Channeling Zone. p. 12
- “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, The School of Ancient Wisdom:About US.” http://ramtha.com/html/aboutus/faqs/jz/proof.stm
- Diamond, Steve. “Into the Mystic: Ramtha Meets the Scholars.” http://www.newtimes.org/issue/9705/97-05-jz.html
- Szimhart, Joe. “Book Review/Essay on Melton’s Study.” http://www.kelebekler.com/cesnur/txt/ram2.htm
- Carrol, Robert Todd. “Ramtha aka J.Z. Knight.”
- Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. 137-139
- Ibid. 144-145
- Szimhart, Joe. “Book Review/Essay on Melton’s Study.” http://www.kelebekler.com/cesnur/txt/ram2.htm
- McDonald, Sally. “J.Z. Knight Channeling New Support.”
- “The Guru and the FAA.” Newsweek March6, 1995.
- Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment. p. 147-148
- “Sure, blame the caveman.” People Weekly October 12, 1992
Created by Joseph M. Khattab
For Soc 257: New Religious Movements
Fall term, 2000
University of Virginia
Last modified: 07/23/01