If I’d not heard him channel before, I might’ve been a little weirded out when he started mumbling under his breath at super-speed. Then he would stop, rewind, then repeat in his normal voice what he’d just speed-whispered. Then the fast-forward mumbling would interject, and onward he’d speed, and then again he’d stop, rewind, and repeat in his normal voice. On and off. On and off. On and off.
“It’s very natural,” he tells me later in the conversation.
As staccato as it might seem, it is very natural. I’ve known Paul Selig for a decade, so I know from first-hand observation and experience that his channeling is smooth and comfortable for him. Its fast-and-slow rhythm takes some getting used to for a listener, but it’s also fascinating to behold. There is a bit of wonder in it.
And wonder is important to Selig and to his Guides. It’s a key ingredient in their new book, I Am the Word, released this summer by Tarcher/Penguin. The book guides readers through a process of psychological, spiritual, and existential self-actualization by offering insights and exercises that help them realign their energies.
In other words, the book wants readers to open themselves to the possibility of being all they can be.
“Once you understand that engaging in wonder will lift your frequency and align you to breaking out of a belief system that has held itself prominent, you can use it to your benefit to change yourself permanently. Period,” they write.
And let me be clear about that: the book is not just Selig’s—it’s a channeled text, so it belongs as much to his Guides as it does to Selig. During the interview, the Guides twice interrupt him to make sure they get in their say, too.
As ever, Selig steps aside and lets them speak through him. “I don’t see them. I hear them. I feel them,” he later explains. “It’s like there’s this other discourse happening that I’m party to.”
In the book, the Guides describe themselves as the Ascended Masters, “and we come through different names, and we have been present on this planet for thousands of years in different forms. We are the great teachers. We are the missionaries. And we have a great love for mankind that is deeper than you can imagine.”
Selig’s been channeling the Guides for nearly seventeen years. “I don’t know what the relationship is,” he admits. “I suppose I take it for granted.” The best explanation he can offer is that it’s a form of sponsorship. “I feel like I’m being developed,” he says. “They’re teachers. They teach through me. I get that. They know more than I do. They are a collective energy. That’s all I want to know.”
Selig first opened up psychically following a catalytic experience in 1987, when he was 25. He’d heard there was going to be a “great harmonic convergence, where people would be able to start experiencing the world in a different way if they were open to it,” he explains. So, he climbed onto the rooftop of his house and he waited. “And so I asked, up there on the rooftop,” Selig says. “I said, ‘Wake me up.’”
There was, he admits, a great deal of innocence to his request. “I was pretty astonished that it happened,” he says. “I had a physical experience that I can’t explain. But the sense of it remains. It was powerful for me.”
The experience left him clairvoyant. As his awareness grew over time, he developed clairaudient and clairsentient abilities, as well. “It’s all palpable work for me,” he says.
* * * * *
Aside from his work as a medium and healer, Selig also serves as the director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Goddard College, and he teaches playwriting for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
But his two worlds—teacher and medium—intersected in a dramatic way late in the winter of 2009. “I’d just gotten canned from a theater project I’d been working on,” Selig says. Suddenly without a creative endeavor to concentrate on, he began to toy with the idea of writing a memoir about his career as a medium—an idea pushed by his friend and fellow writer, Victoria Nelson.
But Selig’s Guides had other ideas. “No,” they said. “We have a book to write.”
“Imagine the book as sealed,” the Guides explained in a conversation that later became the book’s introduction. “A sealed book of promise that has been waiting to be unfolded for many, many, many years…. As each chapter is opened, the seal is broken, and the wonders that have been held within will open to the public who reads and wonders and accepts this vibration as its truth.”
Because of the aborted theater project, “my ego was flattened,” Selig says. That made him more receptive to the idea than he otherwise might have been. With nothing to lose, and nothing else on his plate, Selig agreed to the project.
“I didn’t see it as a mission,” he says. “I didn’t have an investment at that time about what people would think of it.”
So, over a two-and-a-half-week period from late February to early March, the Guides gave Selig I Am the Word.
“This was a book that was dictated to me,” Selig explains. “I did not write it. It’s a transcript of a verbal transmission. There wasn’t any writing involved.”
Accepting that the book was channeled through Selig, and not something written by him, is fundamental to understanding I Am the Word. I liken the experience to Kafka’s Metamorphosis: If a reader can’t accept from the get-go the fact that Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and finds himself transformed into a bug, then the rest of the novel means nothing. A reader must willfully suspend disbelief.
Although a work of nonfiction, I Am the Word requires of readers that same kind of openness. A reader must be willing to embrace wonder.
“Because,” the Guides explained to Selig, “once you understand that the book is already written and, to a large extent, this is a process of transcription and awareness and receptivity to the information held therein, it becomes a spontaneous act of being present for a miracle, as it were. Yes, indeed, we will say this: you can be present for a miracle.”
* * * * *
The process went something like this: Each morning, Selig ordered two or three iced coffees or maybe he got himself a glass of water. He’d make the sure to walk the dog and then, finally, he’d settle into his chair. The dog would curl up nearby and sleep. With speakerphone in his lap and CD recorder on play, he’d call Nelson. Her role as listener and note-taker was important, Selig explains, because his channeling is a spoken act. He needs a listener so that the channeling becomes more focused.
“And then,” Selig says, “I would open my mind.”
The channeling sessions with the Guides began at 11:30 a.m. “Every day they would dictate,” Selig says. “We were over each day when we were told it was over.”
The Guides worked fast. Says Nelson in her foreword to the book: “The process of dictation unfolded so quickly and so easily that the enormity of what was happening—completely coherent sentences, paragraphs, and chapters coming out of Paul far more rapidly than I could record by hand—became something taken for granted rather than marveled at.”
Selig found a sweet irony in the process, though. “I have the worst writer’s block, so I appreciate the poetic justice of it,” he says. “It was delightful. They surprised me every day with what they gave me. It was extremely exciting that this was happening through me.”
One of the keys, he explains, was not stopping, even when the information challenged him. There were times, chronicled in the text, that the Guides even called him out for his skepticism. “So,” the Guides say in their transcript, “we are going to take two minutes off this text and work on Paul’s system to release this pattern of resistance from his consciousness in order to align our language and our creations more fully to him.”
Nelson, on the line from Berkley, California, took notes. Occasionally, she interrupted with questions. Sometimes after a session, Selig would ask her, “Did that make sense,” and she’d give him feedback.
But with the exception of a few personal questions Nelson asked the Guides, I Am the Word represents a complete transcript of those channeling sessions. “It, really, was delivered in full,” Selig says. “There was almost no editing. The only thing that was imposed was the punctuation, and much of that was done by a copyeditor.”
Only by looking back at it during the editing process, and later still as a reader, could Selig really appreciate the text. “I’m reading it now for the first time,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t have the distance to experience the text as a learner. It seems well-thought out.”
That Selig sounds a little separated from the act of creation isn’t surprising. As a channel, he sees himself at most as a collaborator, not a creator. But part of that, too, is his humility and gentle nature and desire to serve—whether it be his students, his clients, his Guides or, in this case, a text.
Selig will serve at least two more texts, as well. “I Am the Word is the first book of a trilogy,” he says. “A second text, The Book of Love and Creation, was channeled last summer. I am also putting together a collection of channeled lectures that were delivered in New York City over the last two years.”
Channeling texts represents a significant shift for Selig, away from his playwriting and toward an entirely different way of communicating with people. Both forms of writing can, of course, touch people in significant ways, but Selig thinks his latest calling has the potential to make a lasting impression.
“I hope the reader is transformed, in some way, though their interaction with the book,” he says. “The book allows for this, if the reader is receptive to it.”
One need only be receptive to wonder. The Guides, speaking through Selig, speaking through the text, will take care of the rest.