As she explains in the beginning:
Those who’d been dealing with the spirit world far longer than I had were forever talking about their guides as if they knew them. The former Navy officer in me always wanted to ask, Where’s the evidence?
Which is exactly the point. Somehow, as I've read confessionals from other mediums (including the well-know "psychic lawyer"), I've never been totally able to suspend my disbelief--not because I wanted to believe but wasn't persuaded, nor because I didn't believe but wasn't convinced otherwise--but because I know that it's very easy to make this stuff up. It's too easy to cherry-pick a cold reading and self-report a "successful" session when all the medium has done is bring through everyone's grandmother with the usual "heaven is nice" message. In this case, the medium is the message. How do I know that the medium is telling the truth? How do I know that the medium is not delusional?
Ms. Giesemann understands the credibility factor and front-loads her account with evidential material throughout; and while it's certainly possible that she's "making it all up," I'm inclined to think that she's not.
The catalyst to her mediumship journey is the tragic death of her stepdaughter. From there, she seeks out credible mediums in an attempt to contact her. After these initial successful contacts, she befriends several credible mediums and ultimately decides to enroll in Arthur Findlay College, a "boot camp for mediums" (though the curriculum goes well beyond basic training).
What Ms. Giesemann reveals in her subsequent sessions and experiences is consistent with accounts by other contemporary mediums, but I had an epiphany of sorts about halfway through the book: There really is no such thing as a medium, per se. A "medium" is no more talented, "psychic," or "attuned" than the average person. A medium is simply a conduit... I suspect that all the heavy lifting is done by the "other side." It is the "other side" that brings the survival personality to the medium, translates and focuses the message, coordinates the participants, and lends energy to the session. The medium simply listens, and repeats. A medium is simply someone who has learned to distinguish this information from the usual background mental noise that runs through our brain.
(Though this is probably an oversimplification. Seth frequently discusses the psychological gymnastics required by the different layers of consciousness to allow this sort of "unofficial" information to get through. Basically, the human ego instinctively filters out a wide range of information of this sort, and the human brain simply does not register it. The human ego must briefly "step aside" and allow information filtered through other layers of the personality to surface and be recognized. Seth argues that this aspect of the human ego developed as a survival mechanism, as the human race chose to focus exclusively on physical data.)
So her accounts of her sessions are quite interesting and evidential... And I was able to enjoy reading them without the niggling doubts that almost always accompany other mediumship books (i.e., "How do I know you're not just making this stuff up?")
But there's more to the book... Here are a couple of parts that I thought were unusual and interesting, not so much because of what they are, but because of the skeptical "prove-it-to-me" approach that Ms. Giesemann adopts.
For example, she experiments with "channeling": her normal consciousness steps aside, and her body seems to fall under the control of other consciousnesses (specifically, "Sally" and a Russian-accented "Boris"):
I heard the spirit woman tell us to call her Sally and that we could refer to the male spirit as Boris. I struggled to hold the link as my rational mind rebelled. Was some part of me making this up? The names seemed silly to me. Sally explained that they knew I would have a hard time believing anything they told me. She was right. My disbelief would only have increased if they had called themselves something more alien.
“Names to us mean nothing,” she explained. “We in the spirit world recognize each other by our personal vibration. It is you humans who need to put a label on everything, and so we give you these names as a convenience.”
Boris and Sally appear regularly during the sessions for several months, giving information that is indistinguishable from the bulk of channeled messages: universally affirmative, generally uplifting, vague, and similar what you might find in an average self-help book. After several months, Sally and Boris disappear and are replaced by "Sanaya," a personality that seems both a synthesis and evolution of Boris and Sally. Her messages are more fully developed and seem to originate from an actual consciousness rather than a caricature.
It would be easy to dismiss these entities as aspects of Ms. Giesemann's subconscious (and they may be), but I think that there is another mechanism at work. The bulk of channeled or "spirit" information, or hypnotically obtained personalities from "past lives," generally resists any attempts of verification. (See, for example, "The Siren Call Of Hungry Ghosts."). Past-life personalities spin elaborate histories of names, dates, and events that turn out to be completely bogus; elevated spirits solemnly predict future events that fall flat; and channeled personal advice, when followed, often leads to disaster. All this information seems to originate from fully-formed, independent consciousnesses that speak with authority. Where is the information coming from? I don't think that we know. But I don't think that it comes "just" from the subconscious. As I've argued, we don't even know what consciousness is, much less what anything that is "not consciousness" is. The human consciousness is merely the small tip of a larger, more elaborate gestalt that exists (as Seth says) in "many dimensions." We barely understand our own consciousness; we know nothing of these other aspects of the larger personality.
So, channeled spirit communications *may* be a) undifferentiated aspects of the experiencer's greater personality that manifest as ego-like communicants, b) mischievous discarnate personalities, c) "splinter" consciousnesses that have broken off from the larger personality and seek expression through the ego, d) actual independent conscious entities that desire to communicate, with varying degrees of veracity, e) independent gestalts of consciousness that appear independent, but aren't, and are drawn to the channeler based on the channeler's expressed wishes and interests, f) aspects of the channeler's "higher" consciousness or "entity" that are communicating verbally.... none, or at different times, any of the above. We really don't know. But I think the whole experience is interesting, because it gives us a glimpse of the higher "powers" (if you will) or capabilities of human consciousness that we have not explored--yet.
In any case, "Messages" is more proof that the phenomenon, whatever it is, is real.
In another interesting section, "Sally" and "Boris" are asked about angels. Prior to this, Ms. Giesemann has a number of interesting synchronicities involving angels that seem designed to convince her that angels are real. Like me, she is a professed agnostic on the subject. "Angel" is code for "religion"; and the subject that has been heavily influenced by decades of superstition and misconception. So what are angels? "Boris" explains:
Of the so-called archangels, this would refer in our reference to a being of sorts, yet with no form—an energy of a much higher order, an energy of pure consciousness that can be in many places at the same time, able to impress thoughts upon those in need of assistance. This energy is very real and available to all of you at all times, and as experienced throughout the ages, these different frequencies of consciousness have differing roles. There are those who help with the sickness, those who help with the grieving, who help with the location of missing objects: differing roles just as you have different roles on your earth plane.
So, the supplicant calls upon a higher power or force for help, and help is rendered. Throughout history, this has been a universal human impulse. In different eras, these forces have been called nature gods, associated with and guardians of physical locations; in other eras, they were named gods (Zeus, Athena) who were patron tokens of cities, nations, and races. Later they were called intercessory or patron saints. Like Ms. Giesemann, I'd rather not call them "angels," but I'm convinced not only by personal experience and the extensive anecdotal evidence that they are real.
So, overall, as a skeptical journey into the heart of mediumship, "Messages Of Hope" succeeds; and as an exploration into the varieties of human consciousness, there's much food for thought.