Among the odd spiritual teachings of JZ Knight, the wizard of Yelm, the most telling is likely her command to go forth and create your own reality. That would seem the first order of business if, like Knight, you’re selling a 35,000-year-old product called Ramtha.
But it’s the reality of a pirated video—in which Knight, as the guttural-voiced medium who channels ancient warrior Ramtha, speaks ill of gays, Catholics, Jews, and Mexicans—that has her back in court his week. This time she’s seeking a federal restraining order against libertarian Olympia think tank the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. It has been redistributing the vid in part to embarrass Knight, a big Obama and Democratic Party backer.
The Foundation’s DVD includes proprietary clips that first surfaced two years ago, with Knight speaking as Ramtha’s gruff medium. It’s assembled from hours of tape in which Knight makes such observations as “I’m telling you this, every goddamn Mexican family is a Catholic—they’re breeding like fucking rabbits”; “All gay men were once Catholic women”; and “Fuck God’s chosen people! I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now.”
Knight says the video takes comments out of context. When she is shown in one clip saying, “Fuck you Catholics, you assholes,” for example, she’s claims she is reacting to the church’s history of allowing priests to serially abuse boys. But EFF attorney Trent England insists the vid is “the truth” and goes so far to claim that, “When it comes to sheer, unadorned racism, Donald Sterling can’t hold a candle to JZ Knight.”
Knight, now 68, says she’s been channeling the Ram since 1979, when he emerged one day in her Tacoma kitchen. That led to a multimillion-dollar business called the Ramtha School of Enlightenment at the gated site of her former Thurston County horse ranch in 1988, which this year has blossomed into a globe-trotting expansion of her teachings she calls the 2014 Ramtha World Tour.
Hers is not a religion or a cult, she insists, but an “academy of the mind” that supposedly involves the latest discoveries in neuroscience and quantum physics. Her many doubters included at least one of her three husbands, the late Jeffrey Knight, who called Ramtha a fraud. Nonetheless, Knight has attracted thousands of paying faithful to Yelm, including actresses Linda Evans, Shirley MacLaine, and Salma Hayek, who have all agreed not to divulge the sect’s secrets.
But they leak out nonetheless, and the most damaging has been the video—regularly posted to YouTube and elsewhere on the web, then quickly removed after Knight’s lawyers step in. They’ve been kept extra-busy of late. Besides the EFF action, Knight two weeks ago succeeded in stopping Ramtha critic and former student David McCarthy, filing an action in New Zealand preventing him from disseminating the video. Another longtime nemesis, ex-student Virginia Coverdale—already barred from distributing the vid—this month took another approach. She joined an Olympia doctor, Brian Keay, in claiming Knight had urged her followers to drink lye as part of their enlightenment experience. Coverdale told Q-13 News the lye concoction was a dangerous ritual, referring to it as “Jonestown-ish.”
Knight’s stinging response was to suggest Keay was a quack, vowing to report him to the State Medical Board. On her website she attacked the duo for having an “intimate relationship.” In a Jonestown-ish comeback, Knight added that “Coverdale and Keay epitomize ignorant rumormongers in their attempts to demonize [Ramtha] with lots of scare tactics but no facts. And Q13 Fox drank the Kool-Aid Coverdale and Keay served up.”
Knight’s still got support from Thurston County Democrats, to whom she donated $65,000 a few months back, spurring EFF to re-distribute the vid. Party chair Roger Erskine recently told The Olympian that Knight was simply “a good Democrat” and he wasn’t returning the funds. That was opposite the tack taken by the State Democratic Party two years ago when the vid first surfaced through GOP sources. Embarrassed Dem leader Dwight Pelz called Knight’s video comments “offensive” and ordered the party to donate $70,000 in Knight contributions to the Anti-Defamation League and others.
Some of Knight’s students were recently quoted in the Nisqually Valley News, claiming to be gay, Jewish, and Mexican and denying Knight was racist. On her website, Knight linked to the paper’s coverage, saying it “heralded the defense of JZ Knight” in her video battle. She also linked to three “terrific letters to the editor” defending her—one of them written by her. In it she took shots at Coverdale, McCarthy, and other “vigilantes” and “right-wing extremists.”
The fact is, some people just don’t get Ramtha, she said. “If you don’t like the satire of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert,” Knight wrote, “you would not understand Ramtha’s satire either.” Truthiness in a trance? That joke’s got to be 35,000 years old.
Rick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing.