Paul Cunningham, “The Problem of Seth’s Origin,” and the Rest of the Story

Not long ago a friend of Mary’s, a Seth book translator who lives in Switzerland, emailed me asking if I knew what “paper” Rob mentioned in Dreams, Evolution Vol 1, Session 881 (09/25/79):

“Recently we received an excellent, rather lengthy paper about our work in which the writer, a psychologist, discussed among other things the import of Seth’s material, as well as various explanations of his origin. We think about those subjects too, but in order to have the sessions on a week-to-week basis we concentrate upon the simple creative achievement embodied in each session itself, and let go of the larger implications. Those implications are usually in the background of our joint awareness, however.”

It sounded to me like Paul Cunningham’s paper, “The Problem of Seth’s Origin: A Case Study of the Trance-Possession Mediumship of Jane Roberts,” which can be downloaded from the internet. But that PDF is dated 2011—too recent. I emailed Professor Cunningham, asking if he was the psychologist Rob mentioned in Session 881, and was there possibly an earlier version of the 2011 paper?

His response was yes, and he hadn’t realized Rob mentioned his paper until he’d read the book himself. I told him if he still had his original papers, letters, etc., Yale would probably accept them for Jane’s collection. From Paul’s email:

“The original manuscript “The Problem of Seth’s Origin: A Study of Trance Possession” has gone through many incarnations and the 2011 version that you reference in your email is likely one of them. Ultimately, the paper has been re-worked so many times that its original expression has been lost as I became trained as an academician and learned to write like one (I eventually received my PhD in General/Experimental Psychology from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) in 1986.”

Paul still had his original paper, letters between him, Jane and Rob, and more. He decided to send his original materials to me so I could scan and share them here, and later send the originals to Yale when they are once again accepting submissions (July 2022).

I’ve added a link to a downloadable scan of his original, hand-typed paper (with highlights and notes) to the Resources page. In his paper Paul questions, from a traditional psychological perspective, whether Seth was who he said he was, or something else was going on. He reasons by use of deduction and logic that Seth is the “real deal.” He also offers various ways that the Seth phenomenon could be studied and researched in order to get some definitive answers, which appeared to be his main objective. Then hopefully people, psychologists in this case, will become open to the “possibility that the human personality may have a greater reality and a greater awareness than is generally supposed.”

I’m also adding Paul’s initial letter to Tam Mossman asking how to contact Jane, Tam’s response, Paul’s letter to Jane, and Jane’s letter to Paul with a hand-written note from Rob. Permission to share the Jane/Rob letter granted, thanks to Laurel Davies.

More than 40 years later, Paul is still very much a devotee of Jane and Seth, and is currently working on a new book, “Introduction to Transpersonal Psychology: Bridging Spirit and Science,” which is expected to be published in early 2022. Inspired by Jane’s writings, particularly aspect psychology, it is intended as “a way to communicate Seth’s metaphysical hypotheses and psychological insights in a way that will be palatable to transpersonal psychologists, and links Maslow’s concept of a “transhumanistic” psychology that is “centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, self-actualization, and the like.”

I’ll let you know when the book is available, I think it would be great for us all to support him in his quest to spread Seth’s insights.