Ramtha's School of Enlightenment
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|Ramtha's School of Enlightenment|
|Number of students||5,000|
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (RSE) is an American spiritual sect near the rural town of Yelm, Washington. The school was established in 1988 by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old being called Ramtha the Enlightened One. The school's teachings are based on these channeling sessions.
J. Z. Knight claims that in 1977, an entity named Ramtha began channelling through her. Ramtha, it is claimed, is a 35,000-year old ascended entity from an ancient civilization who has been teaching through Knight about how reality is created and how human beings can create their own personal reality.
Between 1979 and 1988, Knight has been having private sessions with students of Ramtha's teachings, which were called "dialogues". The dialogues were held in 24 cities (including Seattle, Honolulu, New York and Denver), when she decided to found Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, on land which was previously a ranch. By 1995 she had expanded her tours to include other countries in the world, such as Australia, Italy, Japan and South Africa. It is now a place where students can travel to and attend the more systematically organized lessons, usually staying there over the course of several days, called retreats. The campus is located on a property owned by Knight under the umbrella of JZK, Inc. (a corporation by Knight). The school's 80-acre (320,000 m2) fenced compounds are open only to staff members and students and not to the public.
In 2004, various Ramtha school leaders joined community groups to strongly oppose a proposed 75,000-seat NASCAR racetrack in Yelm. The proposal was withdrawn.
In 2007, Knight's profits from the school's activities and from sale of books, tapes, CDs and DVDs had reportedly been around $2.6 million.
The school teaches that human beings have the capacity to utilize their inner wisdom, focus their brains, and create their own reality.
The school's curriculum is based on the channelings by Knight of the entity Ramtha. Although the school has been criticised for being a cult (see below), Knight and her followers deny such claims and say that the school is neither a religion nor a cult.
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment teachings have been described as part of the New Age movement (the school itself claims to be outside it). A controversial religious scholar, J. Gordon Melton, wrote a book countering this argument called Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha's School of Ancient Wisdom.
Lessons in the school's compounds sometimes include wine drinking, tobacco pipe smoking and dancing to rock ’n’ roll music. Allegedly, it is being taught that the nitric oxide in red wine (not the alcohol), also found in pipe tobacco (not the nicotine), can help to facilitate changes in the brain as a part of the process in which to achieve these means.
Through various focus techniques, the students believe they are on their way to becoming as "enlightened" as other shamans who can alter their personal reality at will. The main activities towards that goal vary from specific focusing, meditation-like techniques, breathing techniques, blindfolded archery, energy healing (for one's self and for someone else), finding the heart of a maze, and many more. The students are taught that human beings can train themselves into such powers that will allow them to levitate, raise the dead, make gold appear in their hand and predict the future. Eventually this may lead to the "ascension" of the physical body into the "light body".
The dialogues, and a lot of transcripts from Knight's Ramtha talks, have been compiled and published over the course of many years. Videotapes of various dialogue sessions have also been released. While some of the major themes around the school's teachings are covered in these publications, a more in-depth and systematic presentation of its philosophies and teachings are only accessible by attending a retreat in person.
In February 1997, Knight hosted a conference of scholars who had been studying her, the students and the school for the previous year. During their research phase, they also observed Knight's Ramtha sessions and measured various physiological functions of her body. The researchers examined Ramtha’s teachings and the school's practices from a variety of perspectives, including physics, feminism, parapsychology and religion. Melton organized the research. In addition to the conference presenters, Knight invited the media to attend. However, Knight said she did not sponsor the conference to gain publicity or to convince her skeptics.
Knight paid the travel expenses and stipends for the conference presenters, which caused some of Knight’s critics to suggest she had influenced their research, a contention described as odious by Joe Bettis, one of the presenters whose Northwest Research Group partially funded the research phase but not the conference in which their papers were presented.
Apart from the conference proceedings, two papers were published. In 1998, Stanley Krippner published a paper on the psychological, phenomenological and geomagnetic results of the various studies. In 2009, Joan Hageman published a paper examining the results of the physiological testing on Knight and six students.
Controversy and criticism
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment has been called a cult by various people, including her former husband Jeff Knight, former personal bodyguard Glen Cunningham, former students of the school (such as David McCarthy or Joe Szimhart), and skeptic Michael Shermer. Melton's book, which denies the school's status as a cult, has been criticized for siding with the school and not providing a neutral description of what is going on within the school. He has also been called a "cult apologist" by various opposers of cults. His position was further criticized when he took the stand as a witness in the case of Knight v. Knight (1992–1995) against Jeff Knight (JZ Knight's husband at the time - see J.Z. Knight court cases), by further supporting that the school is not a cult.
Former students of the school have accused the RSE of practicing brain-washing and mind-control, as well as using intimidation and fear techniques to keep students in the school. David McCarthy, a student of the RSE between 1989 and 1996, calls Knight a "spiritual predator", and he mentions various parts of the teachings which had an intimidative character, such as the prophecy that unless students remain faithful to Ramtha, they will become prey of the "lizard people", and that the ancient figure of Jehovah would return to earth accompanied by lizard people, in a spaceship. The former students (including David McCarthy and Joe Szimhart) have formed what they call Life After Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (also known as LARSE), a community group to provide support for people who have quit the school and find themselves lost.
A further controversial issue regarding the Ramtha teachings involve the so-called "days to come", which were prophesized earth changes. Instructions reputed as coming from Ramtha were given to the students, telling them to leave the cities, find a place in the country to grow their own food and become sovereign or self-sufficient. Another instruction was told to students to build underground shelters to protect themselves and their families.
Various incidents within the school's grounds have been characterized as controversial. Glen Cunningham, in an interview with David McCarthy, describes how, one evening, Knight suggested that all students should stay there overnight because she said it would be "good for the energy". That was before the Great Arena (formerly used as horse stables) had been floored, and as a result there would be a lot of dust in the air. Cunningham says that there was a very old woman among the students, who begged him that she did not want to do this and she wanted to go home, but Ramtha said that she can stay under the protection of Ramtha and her bodyguard. Leaving the arena the following day, the old woman died of pneumonia (due to the dust in the air and humidity).
Another incident which is mentioned by both Cunningham and Joe Szimhart is the practice of running blindfolded in a large fenced field. Szimhart mentions in particular an occasion around the year 1990, in which about 1,000 blindfolded students were directed to split up and run across the field, with their hands in the "Consciousness & Energy" position in front of them, and the exercise was meant to help the students overcome their fears. Szimhart recalls how many people crashed into each other, and that there were some injuries. A customer of his ended up with a deeply bruised shoulder and a big lump on his forehead. Aside from the minor injuries, a few people had to be treated at the hospital.
In 2004, three members of the RSE produced a controversial film that combined documentary interviews and a fictional narrative to posit a connection between science and spirituality, called What the Bleep Do We Know!?. The film has been criticized by the scientific community due to its mis-representation of quantum physics, and an unnecessary connection to consciousness. The American Chemical Society's review criticizes the film as a "pseudoscientific docudrama", saying "Among the more outlandish assertions are that people can travel backward in time, and that matter is actually thought."
- Pemberton, Lisa (July 16, 2006). "Behind the gates at Ramtha's School". The Olympian. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
- Brenner, Keri (January 27, 2008). "Disillusioned former students target Ramtha". Retrieved November 19, 2009.
- Lydgate, Chris (December 22, 2004). "What The #$*! is Ramtha?: The year's sleeper hit was inspired by a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit from Atlantis.". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
- Knight, J.Z. (2004) . Ramtha: The White Book. Yelm, Washington: JZK Publishing. p. 28.
- RSE - School-Religion
- RSE - About Us
- Cunningham, Glen & McCarthy, David (2008). Glen Cunningham Interview.
- Szimhart, Joe (July 1998), Essay on Gordon Melton's Study on Ramtha, retrieved November 20, 2009
- Students of the RSE. http://ramtha.com/Remarkable.html Videos of Remarkable Students from the School. External link in
- Maynard, Steve. "JZ Knight to open ranch to scrutiny: Upcoming conference will allow professors a chance to voice their opinions on teachings of Ramtha". The News Tribune. Tacoma, WA. 2/1/97. A.1
- Iwasaki, John. "JZ Knight not faking it, say scholars". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/10/97. B3
- Conference proceedings video In Search of the Self. Yelm, WA. February, 1997.
- Krippner, Stanley et al. The Ramtha Phenomena: Psychological, Phenomenological, and Geomagnetic Data. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 92:1, January 1998
- Hageman, Joan H. et al. Sympathetic Reactivity During Meditation. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine. 19:2, 2009.
- Knight, Jeff; Szimhart, Joe (1992). The Jeff Knight interview, 1992. YouTube.
- Shermer, Michael (2002). Why People Believe Weird Things. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 295.
- Melton, J. Gordon (1998). Finding enlightenment: Ramtha's school of ancient wisdom. Beyond Words Pub. ISBN 1-885223-61-7.
- Kuttner, Fred; Rosenblum, Bruce (November 2006). "Teaching physics mysteries versus pseudoscience". Physics Today. American Institute of Physics. 59 (11): 14. doi:10.1063/1.2435631.
- "The minds boggle". The Guardian Unlimited
- What the Bleep are they On About?! Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Wilson, Elizabeth (2005-01-13). "What the Bleep Do We Know?!". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
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- Ramtha's School of Enlightenment - official website