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Channeler Drops Her Guard Jz Knight, Self-Proclaimed Voice For 35,000-Year-Old Warrior Ramtha, Goes Public With Scholarships

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“I know I’m an enigma in your midst, to say the least,” said JZ Knight, stepping to the rostrum at this year’s Yelm High School graduation ceremonies.

A modest self-introduction, perhaps, from a woman who was about to hand out $300,000 in college scholarships, and who purports to be the vessel through which a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit, Ramtha the Enlightened One, speaks to the world.

In Thurston County’s rural town of Yelm, which until this year had just one traffic light, Knight is indeed an enigma. And so is her life, her wealth, her spiritual movement, even her home, that enormous white mansion on the sprawling ranch behind the high stucco walls and closed iron gates at the edge of town.

Inside the walls also are Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment and its celebrity-sprinkled throngs of generally mellow, affluent, educated, sweat-clothed students, hooked on organic food and self-sufficiency.

They have made Knight, 49, wealthy and enabled her to build a business and real estate empire in this community of 1,900 about 60 miles southwest of Seattle.

Now, after years of shunning the news media, she has begun to step out of her walled, guarded isolation.

Knight is being advised by a Beverly Hills publicist for singer Michael Jackson and actress Linda Evans, a Ramtha student and close friend of Knight. And she has opened the secrets of her movement to a researcher in religious studies who is writing a book about her and Ramtha.

Some of the author’s conclusions, however, won’t be what the New Age channeler would like the world to believe about her and her spiritual alter ego.

J. Gordon Melton, an adjunct professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, neither dismisses Ramtha as a highly profitable hoax nor accepts the guru’s existence as reality. He has a third theory.

“I think that what we have in JZ is a very extraordinary example of … what we would call a multiple personality phenomenon,” Melton said in an interview.

Knight emphatically denies that she has a multiple personality - although, ironically, she has touted Melton to reporters as a “totally authoritative” expert on Ramtha.

The author of the American Encyclopedia of American Religions and an authority on fringe religions, Melton testified on Knight’s behalf as an expert witness on the Ramtha movement at a 1992 trial arising from a property fight between Knight and her fourth former husband, Jeffrey Knight.

The ex-husband claimed he had been under the cult-like influence of the Ramtha movement during the marriage. Melton testified it wasn’t a cult.

To research his book, now near completion, Melton was permitted to attend normally closed Ramtha events and to survey almost 2,000 students.

He believes Ramtha represents a chunk of Knight’s buried memories and experiences that has become a secondary identity. He thinks Knight sincerely but mistakenly believes that Ramtha exists as a separate being.

But Knight insisted: “I’ve seen Ramtha … (and) that’s not my personality. I don’t have a multiple personality.

Melton said he mentioned his multiple-personality theory to Knight but didn’t press the point because “the issue of who is Ramtha touches to the very heart of her religious experience. And while I don’t share that belief, at the same time I recognize how important and holy it is to her.”

Whatever one may choose to believe about Ramtha, Knight seems comfortable in the down-home environs of Yelm, a farm community rapidly becoming a fringe of suburbia. But she seems still to be struggling for legitimacy.

Largely unnoticed, Knight has awarded scholarships at Yelm High School annually since 1988, favoring hard-luck kids who mirror her own deprived childhood.

But her awards last month to the 1995 graduates - 31 scholarships totaling $300,000 in a class of 225 - were the most extravagant ever, and the first she has publicized.

Her appearance among a parade of civic leaders bestowing awards at the student assembly suggested Knight has gained halting acceptance in Yelm, if not respectability.

Ramtha disciples call themselves “students” or “masters” because their guru greets everyone as “beloved master.” Locals use the term “Ramsters,” as do some students.

At a time when some apocalyptic cults, ruled by authoritarian leaders, have spawned violence and death, the Ramtha school seems to have remained mostly a source of cheery affirmation and noncoercive teaching of the secrets of self-fulfillment.

However, ex-students say Ramtha has delivered apocalyptic messages, too, through Knight’s voice and body.

They say the spirit has warned his flock about “gray men” - evil agents of government and a new world order - and to be prepared for “earth changes” - a New Age term for natural catastrophes.

“There’s this group of bankers and political figures that supposedly control everything that’s going on,” said a former Ramtha student, Cindy Osborne. “You were always supposed to have two days of food and clothing packed in the back of your closet so that you could grab it and move.”

Another ex-student, Grant Allen, who left in 1992, added, “I think the biggest fear was government, and government falling apart and being extreme in its militancy, and perhaps its enactment of martial law.”

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