A silhouette of a human face with a pink and blue outer space background.
Getty Images

Redditors Revived an Obscure Cult That Believes a 'Mass Harvesting of Souls’ Is Imminent

Amid the pandemic, a “trance channeling” group from the 1980s has seen a resurgence online. But why now?
Motherboard explores UFOs, UFO culture, and the paranormal.

UFO watchers are convinced the world is closer than ever to official disclosure of alien contact, thanks to unprecedented acknowledgement from the U.S. military that something spooky is going on. But according to a growing group of Redditors, we’ve made extraterrestrial contact already, way back in the 1980s during a series of “trance channeling” sessions in Louisville, Kentucky. 


According to these true believers, the five-part transcripts of these sessions establish a unifying theory known as the “Law of One,” which supposedly holds the answers to everything from the origins of Bigfoot, to what became of Atlantis, and how to survive an upcoming mass harvest of souls.

First published in 1981, these once-obscure texts are collectively called the “Ra Material,” and they’ve sparked a recent resurgence of interest online. Over the course of the pandemic, the R/LawOfOne subreddit soared from roughly 300 to over 10,000 members, who discuss the intricacies of these texts. For many, the Ra Material serves as a bedrock for their own moral frameworks, inspiring debate topics such as “What’s your opinion of Elon Musk in the Law Of One context?” (Answer: selfish but ultimately "a tool of the greater good”) and “What does the Law of One say about limb regeneration?” (A: it’s complicated.)

The texts are the fruits of years of paranormal investigation between engineering professor Don Elkins and one of his students, Carla Rueckert. Rueckert claims she made alien contact in 1980 and suddenly began to speak strangely, describing herself as the voice of a "sixth-density," "non-human intelligence," and "group consciousness" called Ra. She began claiming to communicate on behalf of something called the "Confederation of Planets," a group of 53 civilizations all in service to the "one infinite creator" and the "law of one"—the unity of all things.


In other words, this was a collective of ascended alien souls that evolved into a united being of pure thought on the planet Venus many years ago. 

Contained in the tapes of Rueckert’s cosmic tête-à-tête, the originals of which are available on YouTube, is an all-encompassing system of beliefs that covers every New Age staple from chakras (“ray energies”) to the importance of raising one’s “vibrations.” There’s creation stories, reincarnation, and karmic realignment. 

The tapes also contain a classic Good vs Evil story with extra intergalactic steps: the benevolent Confederation of Planets on one side, and the malevolent Orion Group on the other. Figures from both even occasionally manifest here on our silly planet as “wanderers”—like Nikola Tesla (one of the good guys) or Genghis Khan (the evil Orion Group).

Hidden in the vast material are wild claims, such as that Bigfoot is from the Maldek planetary sphere and part of a species currently working through "karmic restitutions," inhabiting deep underground passages; infamous occultist Aleister Crowley is engaged in "a healing process somewhere within our inner planes"; LSD is a “vibration sound complex” that can be helpful in establishing contact with extraterrestrials; and that the Great Pyramids were constructed entirely by thought. 

The transcripts are drenched in a baffling lexicon of cosmic jargon, but perhaps the lynchpin of the ideology is the hierarchical system of “densities,” i.e. the types of consciousness it describes. We measly humans are “third density”—self-aware creatures yet to ascend to a more compassionate plane. Next up the chain are wiser life forms, like, uh, the Na'vi from Avatar. Higher up the food chain are beings of pure thought and unity like Ra—think of The End of Evangelion after everyone is blasted into orange goo.


To progress up the density ladder, us humans must pass a karmic test at the end of a 75,000 year cosmic cycle—which is imminent, apparently. Where we reincarnate as a fourth density being will ultimately hinge on whether we're self-serving—in which case we'll end up on a grisly Orion-affiliated planet—or serve others, where we'll reincarnate in a much nicer place. 

Those who have picked a team when this rapture-like “harvest” happens will climb the density ladder and become higher beings. The rest of us will reincarnate on another crummy third density planet filled with despair, war, and Funko Pops, just like this one.

Nearly 70 years since Elkins began his mission, L/L Research—a “non-profit organization dedicated to discovering and sharing information to aid in the spiritual evolution of humankind”—is still going strong. Today, it continues to explore the intricacies of channeling (and publishes the supposed results), but it also holds events and sells merchandise like #4DAF coffee cups (that’s “fourth density as fuck”).

Directors Gary Bean and Austin Bridges attempted to walk me through the key takeaways of the material, although they conceded it’s a little tough to summarize.

In a Zoom call and lengthy back-and-forth email exchange, Bean and Bridges said that, if anything, the overarching message is one about the “foundational unity of the entire universe.” Our purpose here is to evolve spiritually, to discover who and what we really are.


But with so many religious groups throughout history offering similar reflections on spiritual purpose, why are these texts—perhaps the fringe of the fringe, and never actually promoted by L/L Research—enjoying a resurgence of interest online? Especially when there’s every chance they could be, well, entirely made up?

Jim McCarty, a surviving member of the Ra sessions who transcribed and edited them, maintains they’re legitimate. 

“As I transcribed the session, I was just blown away by the beauty and precision of the message,” McCarty told Motherboard. He added that while Carla Rueckert had a great grasp of English, through Ra, she was saying words she simply didn’t know.

A skeptic, though, might say that all of the material could have been put together first and then recorded. 

Sometimes Elkins and Rueckert seem to be daring the reader into disbelief. The two starred in B-Movies that lampooned New Age UFO groups, and in their first book, The Secrets Of The UFO, which lays the groundwork for the Ra material, Elkins writes on the very first page: “The information in this book is either nonsense or the most centrally important thing that you could possibly learn.” Meanwhile, in the intro to the Ra Material, Rueckert recalls Elkins’ praise for an inherent gullibility when it comes to successful channeling.


But for some readers, that doesn’t matter.

Reddit user InvisibleFireball, who has a scientific materialist background but developed an interest in “deploying belief as a tool”, said that he stumbled onto the Law of One subreddit during the height of the COVID-19 crisis and suspended his disbelief around channeled material.

“I have not been disappointed,” he told Motherboard. “Even if channeling is an entirely fraudulent enterprise of equal parts cynical theater and creative writing, it can still be worth the read—and it may not be that.”

For others, the growing discourse around Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon drew them to the material. 

“Coming to the realization of the reality of off-world civilization really opened my mind up a bit,” Danny, 42, from Nebraska, said. “There was much more going on, and things weren’t as simple as I had been told as a kid going to church.”

While he doesn’t study the material regularly—nor take it literally—he likes the idea that we’re all the expression of the same being, that we are all god experiencing itself, a little like the Bill Hicks bit about a news anchor on LSD. “I think it’s beautiful and makes sense to me,” said Danny. “I enjoy the thought experiments presented by the notions of our human past and life on other civilizations.”

Others do take the material literally as well as metaphysically. A Reddit user named IRaBN told Motherboard that they spent years exploring most religions, but found the Law of One following an interest in UFOs, the pyramids, and alternative healing, before coming to the conclusion that they were a wanderer from the sixth density with a mission on Earth to serve others.


A 1988 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, featuring an interview with a woman who claims she can channel ancient spirits.

Chosen Ones and eschatological terrors are, of course, part and parcel of many religions, monotheistic or otherwise. But even doomsday sermonizing with an intergalactic twist wasn’t entirely new when Elkins, McCarty, and Rueckert transcribed the material. In 1954, an English taxi driver, George King, claimed to have received messages from outer space—informing him that he was to become “the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.” The Aetherius Society that he founded continues to send its communiques back into space via a unique kind of prayer circle. 

A decade prior, a Bulgarian mystic practicing esoteric Christianity called Peter Deunov warned that galactic waves were en route to obliterate life on earth. Those that weren’t on board with the upcoming new era would find themselves reincarnated somewhere else, while those that made the cut would ascend.

Since the Victorian times of seances and spirits, supposedly channeled material has fallen in and out of fashion. It seems to once again be enjoying a resurgence with a distinctly digital distribution. Take to Instagram and search “Channeling” (418K posts) or enter common channeling targets like the supposed civilizations of the Lemurians or Plaeidians on YouTube and you’ll see videos with many thousands of views.


Common among all these contacts are individuals whose evidence is, more or less, their word. 

Despite the often outlandish claims, experts suggest the majority of these channeling “instruments” believe they really are embodying visitors from distant galaxies. 

“95 percent are not conscious frauds,” professor of psychology, Ray Hyman, told the LA Times in a 1986 article about a yuppie-tinged resurgence of interest in channeling.

That could be because the mechanics of channeling remain opaque. Charlotte E. Dean at the University of Hertfordshire, who has led studies into paranormal belief systems, told Motherboard it's “somewhat unclear about what exactly occurs during these experiences.”

Dean posits that channeling of entities could be related to disassociation, though: “Individuals who are prone to dissociation often become absorbed in tasks or situations and may experience some sensations of detachment from themselves or the world around them,” she said. “These channeling and dissociative experiences have also been associated with aspects of cognition such as heightened suggestibility, fantasy proneness, and susceptibility to false memories."

As for why this kind of material is picking up right now, it could have something to do with mass trauma events like the pandemic. Studies show that, at least for some people, spirituality can help them process difficult events. The closeness of death during the first world war, for example, may have led to a rise in the spiritualist church.

With such a huge increase in subscribers during the pandemic, Heidi Campbell, the director of the department of New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies at Texas A&M University, suggests the ongoing impact of restrictions could also have simply compelled people into finding a sense of community or newfound spirituality online. 

"This extra time, combined with loneliness, motivated people to see what possibilities the internet had to offer in terms of social interaction and spiritual engagement," Campbell told Motherboard. "Many online communities experienced notable growth and expansion during this time - it's not surprising that digital religious movements or groups did as well."

Whatever you think of The Orion Group, dolphin densities, group consciousnesses, or Bigfoot, The Law Of One offers an interesting case study in lived religion—where spiritual seekers interpret and live their own spiritual codes, building out their cosmologies in real time, and sometimes creating secondary sources themselves.

According to Dean, channeling experiences have been "shown to have positive implications for psychological well-being and social adjustment". And whether or not those beliefs include battling cosmic evil, the overarching message remains one of peace, love, harmony, and service to others. 

Of course, like all religions, not everyone will approach the Ra Material with pure intentions, especially when anyone can claim to be speaking on behalf of unseen forces. Carl Sagan famously criticized one of the more prominent channeling practitioners, who claimed to contact beings from the Pleistocene era. But while it’s true that even benign spiritual beliefs can lead to fixation and abuse, these messages from supposedly inhuman entities reveal a deep desire for unity and selflessness—and you can’t get much more human than that.