Jane Roberts (May 8, 1929 – September 5, 1984) was an American author, poet, psychic and spirit medium, who said she had "channeled" a personality who called himself "Seth". Her publication of the Seth texts, known as the "Seth Material", established her as one of the preeminent figures in the world of paranormal phenomena. The Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives maintains a collection entitled Jane Roberts Papers (MS 1090), which documents the career and personal life of Jane Roberts, including journals, poetry, correspondence, audio and video recordings and other materials donated after her death by Roberts' husband and other individuals and organizations.
She wrote in a variety of genres: poetry, short stories, children’s literature, nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy and novels. When she was in her 30s, she and her husband, Robert, began to record what she said were messages from a personality named "Seth", and she wrote several books about the experience.
In late 1963, Roberts and Butts, living in the Elmira, New York area, experimented with a Ouija board as part of Roberts' research for a book on extra-sensory perception. According to Roberts and Butts, on December 2, 1963 they began to receive coherent messages from a male personality who eventually identified himself as Seth. Soon after, Roberts reported that she was hearing the messages in her head. She began to dictate the messages instead of using the Ouija board, and she eventually abandoned the board.
Roberts described the process of writing the Seth books as entering a trance state. She said Seth would assume control of her body and speak through her, while her husband wrote down the words she spoke. They referred to such episodes as "readings" or "sessions".
Roberts also purportedly channeled the world views of several other people, including the philosopher William James, embrandt, and the Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, through a process she described as using a typewriter to write "automatically."
For 21 years until Roberts' death in 1984 (with a one-year hiatus due to her final illness), Roberts held regular trance sessions in which she spoke on behalf of Seth. Butts served as stenographer, taking the messages down in home-made shorthand, and having others on occasion make recording of some sessions. The messages from Seth channeled through Roberts consisted mostly of monologues on a wide variety of topics. They were published by Prentice-Hall under the collective title Seth Material.
Over the years, hundreds of people witnessed Seth speaking. Some went to the ESP classes Roberts held (Tuesday and some Thursday nights, Sept. 1967– Feb. 1975) for an evening, others attended for longer periods. Outside of the class structure, Roberts gave many personal Seth sessions to various individuals who had written her, asking for help. She never charged for those sessions; however, at some point she did charge $2.50 to $3.50 per ESP class of 5 to 40 people. When the books began to sell in sufficient numbers, she dropped that fee. Book sessions were almost always private, held on Monday and Wednesday evenings without witnesses from 1967 through 1982 (except for Tues and Thurs from Aug to Nov 1981).
The material through 1969 was published in summary form in The Seth Material, written by Roberts from the output of the channeling sessions. Beginning in January 1970, Roberts wrote books which she described as dictated by Seth. Roberts claimed no authorship of these books beyond her role as medium. This series of "Sethbooks" totaled ten volumes.