Together with "The Seth Material", "Seth speaks" is the most well-known book featuring Seth starring himself. Apparently, this book pretty much started the New Age channelling craze. Seth is a multi-dimensional, spiritual personality from another plane of existence, who periodically speaks through the mouth of medium Jane Roberts (whom he calls Ruburt).
Now, that sentence should really be in the past tense, since Roberts is deceased, but Seth claims that time doesn't really exist, so I might as well speak in the present tense, wouldn't you agree?
I tend to avoid channelled material, but the few items I somehow managed to sift through were quite different from "Seth speaks". This book blends incredibly dense, pseudo-philosophical and boring prose with a strange and much welcome sense of humour. In general, the channelled spirits seem to take themselves far too seriously! Seth makes slips of the tongue (at one point forgetting the number of chapters he has dictated), has a love-hate relationship with cats, claims to have lost his dog somewhere on our planet, and seems fond of beer! He also insists on starting every other sentence with the words "Now". At one point he jokingly refers to himself as a ghostwriter...
As for Seth's message, it's another version of New Age thinking - I sometimes wonder how many versions there might be out there?
God isn't a person, but an ever-evolving Consciousness, referred to by Seth as All That Is. Time as we know it doesn't exist. An almost infinite number of alternate realities co-exist simultaneously. (In some parallel universe, Seth's dog presumably wasn't taken by the dog-catcher.) Strictly speaking, reincarnation therefore doesn't exist either, since all our "previous lives" exist at the same time. We are all multi-dimensional personalities, living on many different planes of existence, constantly evolving in innumerable directions. We are also somehow part of God, who is the ultimate multi-dimensional entity. Weirdly for a system that lacks time, All That Is nevertheless evolves and constantly creates new forms. This is, of course, impossible for us puny mortals to comprehend. Everything that happens to us is created by ourselves. Our consciousness creates our reality, whether good, bad or ugly. Our material world with all its suffering is a mass hallucination. We should all learn and evolve.
Since everything is an illusion suspended in a timeless Now (pun intended), it's difficult to see the point of the exercise. How can you learn and evolve within an illusion where everything exists simultaneously? At various points in "Seth speaks", our friend tends to mellow his message somewhat. I have already pointed out that All That Is apparently evolves despite there not being any time, and it would seem that our existence in some sense isn't completely illusory, after all. As for suffering and evil, Seth concedes that suffering doesn't necessarily have to exist, that we suffer due to our unevolved state, and that the point of suffering is to teach us to overcome suffering - a somewhat softer view than that taken by, say, Dolores Cannon (see my previous review on this plane of existence). Still, when it comes to the philosophical points about time, space, matter and consciousness, I would say that a few books by David Ray Griffin might do Seth some good...
Seth also says a few scandalous things about Jesus. Is anyone surprised? Apparently, Jesus was part of a broader personality incarnating as three distinct human beings: John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul. In 2075, Paul will return. This is tantamount to the Second Coming. Seth is unsure about the crucifixion. At one point, he seems to be suggesting that the entire Gospel stories are dramas and dreams, "real" on a psychic level but not in any material-historical sense. At another point, he spins a scenario similar to the Muslim one, only more weird. (Of course, the Muslim traditions about Jesus are in themselves warped versions of the Gnostic "laughing saviour".) Apparently, Jesus got away. Judas deliberately "betrayed" the wrong man to the authorities, a poor deluded crackpot who thought he was the Christ and absolutely wanted to be crucified. In drugged condition, this substitute was indeed executed by the Romans. His body was stolen by some of the disciples in the dead of night (hence the empty tomb). The real Jesus then appeared to the disciples, who therefore believed he had been resurrected. In reality, he was still alive and well in his physical body. Ah, what evangelical heresy-hunters could do with this!
Does Seth really exist? At one point, our ghostwriter comes close to conceding that he doesn't: "This voice is only used as a symbol of the energy and the strength that is available to each of you, as you utilize those abilities that are your heritage". A similarity to other channelled material is the amount of historical references which makes no sense. Seth believes in Atlantis. He expounds at length on an underground civilization called Lumania, whose inhabitants were so fearful and shy that they made up the fierce warrior god Jehovah as a protector. Seth claims to have been a 4th century pope, but no such pope is recorded by history. More damningly, Seth claims that a Muslim Arab he once met wavered between faith in Allah and faith in Moses - an absurd proposition. Presumably, Seth or Ruburt have mixed up Allah with Muhammad! But even that is absurd, since Muslims recognize Moses as a prophet. Somebody should send Seth a book by Huston Smith on comparative religion, c/o Lumania.
Part of my own multi-dimensional personage wants to believe that Seth is a real being and even help him find that poor dog of his (probably a Newfie). The other part feels that Seth is simply a part of Jane Roberts' earthly personality. He doesn't say anything that's *really* out of the ordinary compared to what every other Theosophist, kabbalist or esotericist has already said - except those parts that can be checked and disproved. But then, I suppose followers of Seth could claim that their beloved entity really did get some things completely wrong. In contrast to many other purported spirit guides, Seth is strangely unassuming.
Despite the humour, I can't say "Seth speaks" is an easy read. It's repetitive, long-winding and often really boring. But yes, it could be of some interest to scholars of comparative religion or new agey seekers. One sure wonders how the contemporary spiritual scene would have looked like, had more entities like Seth been channelled by the Neo-Theosophical faithful? Imagine a conversation between Seth and Osho!
Now, I'm not sure how to rate "Seth speaks", but finally I decided to play it nice and give our dog-loving, beer-sipping and vaguely Islamophobic ghostwriter three and a half stars.