Cortney and Shana can’t remember exactly how they first became aware of the New Age promises and anxieties that would come to dominate every aspect of their lives. Their mom brought it into the house and their daily rhythms bit by bit.
As kids in the early 1980s, they would fall asleep to visualizations by the self-help guru Wayne Dyer, on audiocassette. Or mom would read passages from Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda, after tucking them into bed. Cortney remembers an eerie photograph of the yogi’s corpse in a glass coffin in the mortuary. The lore was that he just wouldn’t decay. “Mom had a real fascination with beating death,” she told us.
When the girls were still in elementary school, mom took them to an “attunement”, which must have made them the youngest Reiki Masters in Green Bay, Wisconsin—if not the whole midwest. “She was on a search,” Shana told us.
And at some point the local massage training, the flyers in the health food stores, and the mail-order books weren’t enough. Mom started going to events, a long way from home—all the way out in Washington State. One time she came home with a VHS tape and played it for the girls. It showed a woman named J.Z. Knight transform into someone she called “Ramtha,” who she said was 35,000 years old, and carried the wisdom of the ages. She also brought audiocassettes of Ramtha, which they played in the car.
This was their introduction to “channeling.” They were young teens, and didn’t know what to think. Was it magic? Was it funny? Ramtha sounded like the Great Gazoo, after all. When mom wasn’t home they’d show the VHS tape to their friends and giggle. But they also felt strange about it. Embarrassed.
“I remember yelling at my mom, ‘Why can't you be normal?’” Shana said. What they understand now is how much she desperately needed to find something that was meaningful.
“She was really struggling in the Catholic religion,” Shana said, “And her marriage,” Cortney added. “And midlife. It was the perfect storm.”
Matthew sits down with Cortney and Shana as they share their story publicly for the first time.
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