Ramtha's School of Enlightenment
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, founded in 1987, emerged as one of the major organizational expressions of the New Age, a millennialist movement that swept through Western esotericism in the 1970s and 1980s. The school was founded by Judith Darlene "J. Z." Knight (b. 1946), a young housewife in Tacoma, Washington, who in 1977 had an encounter with a spiritual being who identified himself as Ramtha the Enlightened One. Shortly thereafter Knight began to channel Ramtha, and in the 1980s she became one of the most popular of New Age channelers.
Channeling messages from spiritual beings has been an integral part of modern esoteric movements since Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and continuing through Spiritualism and Theosophy. Through the twentieth century, more than a hundred groups built around channeled teachings have appeared.
Ramtha identified himself as a thirty-five-thousand-year-old warrior who had become a conqueror of nations. While recovering from an assassination attempt, he contemplated the nature of the universe, found enlightenment, and ascended from his mortal existence. In the present, speaking through Knight, he addresses his students as "masters" and reminds them of their ability to be creative, divine beings.
Knight presented Ramtha in weekend sessions held around the United States, but then in 1987 she ceased traveling and founded Ramtha's School of Enlightenment at her ranch near Yelm, Washington. The Ramtha school teaches a form of gnostic esotericism that views individuals as divine beings who have been trapped in this world by forgetfulness. It offers a set of spiritual practices designed to assist students to remember and again attain their divine status. Basic to the practice is "C&E" (consciousness and energy), a form of kundalini Yoga.
As the 1980s came to a close, the practice of channeling came under intense criticism, and the New Age movement as a whole distanced itself from the practice. Simultaneously, Knight became the focus of widespread criticism, some critics suggesting that the school had turned the Ramtha movement into a brainwashing cult that pushed members into weird and even dangerous practices. In 1996, as part of a larger study of the movement by an interdisciplinary set of scholars, Knight allowed herself to be monitored by a team of psychologists as she went into and came out of trance. The psychologists concluded that Knight was neither faking the process, nor was it a sign of pathology. Their work significantly contributed to the quelling of the controversy that had previously swelled around the school.
Since its founding, Ramtha's school has been especially attractive to people in their thirties, the average age of new members being thirty-five. The school thus stands in stark contrast to the many new religions that emerged in the West in the 1970s that drew recruits from young adults (eighteen to twenty-five). The school also has attracted a well-educated female majority, and well over half of the members are college graduates. As the 1990s come to a close, there are approximately three thousand students of the school, which has grown steadily during the years of its existence.
Knight, J. Z. A Beginner's Guide to Creating Reality:AnIntroduction to Ramtha and His Teachings. 1997.
Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha'sSchool of Ancient Wisdom. 1997.
Weinberg, Steven Lee, et al., eds. Ramtha. 1986.
J. Gordon Melton