Nov 29, 2021

In Good Spirits

Carissa Schumacher channels the dead for her A-list celebrity clients. But most days, she’s in the forest.
Carissa Schumacher channels the dead for her A-list celebrity clients.
But most days, she’s in the forest.

Irina Aleksander
The New York Times
November 26, 2021

Last Saturday night, a group gathered at the Flamingo Estate in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles to meet the spiritual adviser Carissa Schumacher.

At the front of an open-air room, a seat awaited Ms. Schumacher under a large floral arch. After guests, including the actresses Jennifer Aniston and Uma Thurman, filled the rows of chairs, others moved to the floor. Andie MacDowell reclined on a rug among a heap of pillows. Ms. Schumacher was supposed to appear at 8:30 p.m. A gospel choir sang while everyone sat around and glanced at Ms. Schumacher’s empty chair and at each other.

Since 2010, Ms. Schumacher has worked as a medium, meaning someone who receives messages from people who have died. She doesn’t have a website and is often booked months in advance. Her prices are another obstacle, with sessions priced at $1,111 per hour. (She likes the synchronicity of the number.)

Ms. Schumacher might fall under a category of so-called New Age practitioners. But spiritualism — the belief that the living can communicate with the dead — is very old, its popularity surging in times of high mortality rates: in the Victorian era, for example, and after major wars in the United States and Europe.

In late 2019, just as the world was on the precipice of a plague of biblical proportions, Ms. Schumacher said she began channeling Yeshua, a.k.a. Jesus Christ. Transcribed recordings of some of those sessions appear in a new book, “The Freedom Transmissions,” out Nov. 30.

The party was for the book, but it was also a chance for her clients, many of whom hadn’t experienced the Yeshua channeling, to see what it was all about. Maybe she would channel him at the party. No one was quite sure.

Ms. Aniston, who’s been seeing Ms. Schumacher since 2019, has a Rolodex of healers, astrologers and numerologists that she’s acquired over the last 30 years. Ms. Schumacher’s advice, she said, has helped her navigate personal struggles, work and friendships. “The Yeshua channeling thing is way out there,” she had told me earlier, “and for some people, it’s going to be insane this idea of someone channeling Jesus, but it’s more about this message that she’s tapped into. Everything she’s communicated to me just resonates with me and excites me.”

Rooney Mara, another client, couldn’t make it to the party, but spoke to me by phone. She hadn’t experienced Yeshua’s transmissions, but was open to the idea. “I’m pretty much open to everything,” she said, adding, “I think because she’s channeling Yeshua, that automatically closes the door for some people. But she could be channeling anyone. It doesn’t close the door for me.”

Ms. Schumacher finally appeared a little after 9:30 p.m. A petite woman of 39, she walked tentatively toward the front of the room, removed her metallic gold heels, and sat cross-legged beneath the giant floral wreath, which now looked like a halo. The wall behind her was covered in photos of rainbows.

“We love you so much!” someone screamed. She put her hands together in prayer and nodded to a few fans around the room. “For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Carissa,” she said. “I knew my whole life that I would be a channel for Yeshua.”

‘Lost Souls’

A few weeks earlier, I had met Ms. Schumacher at her home in Escondido, Calif., outside San Diego, where she lives with her partner, David Carnell, a mission assurance engineer at a defense technology company. “Hello, beloved!” Ms. Schumacher said, embracing me while their two rescue dogs milled at our feet. (“Beloved” is how Yeshua addresses readers in the book.)

Ms. Schumacher wore brown leggings, suede brown boots and a turquoise hooded sweatshirt, saying that she mostly wears Faded Glory, Wal-Mart’s clothing label. A tangle of Native American medicine necklaces jangled around her neck, a gift from a Cherokee healer. Ms. Schumacher grabbed a turquoise JanSport backpack and we headed out to the Elfin Forest, a vast recreational reserve near her home.

Ms. Schumacher estimated that she goes to Los Angeles almost never. She doesn’t like the collective feeling of dashed hopes that tends to fester there. “There’s this tragic lost souls energy,” she said. “I think a lot of people go there to become something or to find themselves, and very rarely do they actually.” What they find instead are the cults, gurus, healers, psychics and the swollen egos that drive them. Ms. Schumacher doesn’t want to be known for any of the above. “I hate talking about myself,” she said. “But I have a lot to say about my journey with Yeshua.”

Not that she doesn’t understand how that sounds. “I can’t even say ‘channel for Jesus’ without laughing,” she said. “It sounds so freaking blasphemous! And frankly, really insane.”

Ms. Schumacher isn’t the only medium to attest to channeling biblical figures. Besides Esther Hicks, whose best-selling “Law of Attraction” series in part inspired the popular 2006 documentary “The Secret” and was based on messages she said she received from “Abraham,” there are also authors who tour lecture halls with the promise of channeling John the Apostle and the Virgin Mary.

Susan Gerbic, the founder of Guerrilla Skeptics, a group that conducts sting operations of people she calls “grief vampires,” told me that the invocation of religion was consistent with a psychic’s desire to feel special. “If you are in conversation with dead biblical figures, then that is really special and holds a lot of power,” she said, adding that it also served as a shield against skeptics. “Who’s going to attack someone who’s playing the religion card?”

Ms. Schumacher told me that she tries to avoid the spotlight. “I say no to everything,” she said. Among the things she has said no to were a potential TV show with Discovery Studios and another that the actor Rob Lowe, also a client, proposed in which Ms. Schumacher would channel for other celebrities. She wanted to say no to the book party too, she said, but her fans convinced her the party was really for Yeshua.

She recalled something Brad Pitt once told her. “Brad said that in the beginning of his career, he never knew that the cost of having a public life would be his freedom,” she said, “I’ve heard that in the back of my mind all this time.”

We settled on a cluster of rocks above a stream, where Ms. Schumacher pulled a pipe out of her backpack, packed it with kinnikinnik — a Native American smoking mixture — and began to recount how she became a channel for Yeshua. “People are like, ‘Oh, it must be so amazing being Yeshua’s channel,’ and it’s not,” she said. “I meant it is, but it requires a huge amount of discipline.

‘Searching for Something’

Ms. Schumacher was raised in Westport, Conn. Her father, a Catholic who became Unitarian, worked for Pitney Bowes, the mail services company. Her mother taught English as a Second Language classes. In grade school, a cemetery field trip earned her the nickname “Crazy Carrie” after she called out the names on the graves before her class would reach them. It stuck with her until middle school, when she was bullied again for developing early. “I struggled a lot with self esteem, and some of that resulted in feeling like I needed to please guys,” she said, “so that I can feel loved and wanted.”

Ms. Schumacher attended Brown University, where she majored in cognitive neuroscience. She went on to work in biotech, and eventually landed in San Diego at NovaRx, a pharmaceutical company developing a lung cancer vaccine. She was vague describing her time at the company. “I was pretty traumatized,” she said. “I felt like I was dying. I just needed to let everything die.” I asked if she felt comfortable explaining what she meant. “Are you talking about the New York Post story?” she asked.

In 2006, Justin Murdock, the Dole Pineapple heir, became the C.E.O. of NovaRx, after he and his father, David Murdock, invested $35 million in the company. In 2010, Ms. Schumacher accused Justin Murdock of sexual harassment, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Mr. Murdock’s lawyer, in a comment for this article, said that the case was dismissed with prejudice and that there was no merit to Ms. Schumacher’s claims.

After leaving the company, Ms. Schumacher moved to the Elfin Forest. One day, she said, she returned home from a hike and felt a blue flame swirl down her spine. She heard glass shatter and a baby cry. She said this is when she first felt Yeshua’s energy.

Her naturopathic doctor suggested she meet Danielle Gibbons, who lives in southern Oregon and says she has been channeling the Virgin Mary since 1994. (She has a YouTube channel.) In 2011, Ms. Schumacher attended Ms. Gibbons’s workshop in Los Angeles, and subsequently booked private sessions with her roughly once a year. Ms. Gibbons told me that she didn’t know Ms. Schumacher was a Yeshua channel until much later, in 2019.

Ms. Schumacher said that she spent the next decade preparing her channel for Yeshua. She meditated daily, cut out sugar and caffeine, and limited her diet to five foods: broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, chicken and watermelon. “If someone’s channel is diluted,” she said, “there’s a kind of film or gunk that the energy gets stuck in and can’t push through.”

Ms. Schumacher, who dated men and women in her 20s, assumed she would also have to be celibate. But then she kept getting a message, “David with a black dog.” She signed up for Mr. Carnell’s profile, which had a photo of him with a black dog, was the first one that popped up. When she took him to a John Mayer concert for his birthday, he understood when she suddenly had to go channel the dead lover and brother of a woman in another row. “That’s love,” she said.

By 2013, Ms. Schumacher had started channeling for friends, then friends of friends, and eventually put on free events. She also received a message in a dream to lead her followers into the desert. She began hosting journeys to Sedona, Ariz., where she invited clients for meditations in caves and occasionally channeled their dead relatives.

Ms. Mara attended such a journey in 2018. She first wrote to Ms. Schumacher under an alias when she had just finished filming “Mary Magdalene,” a 2019 film in which Ms. Mara starred. “The first session was just out of this world incredible,” Ms. Mara said. Other mediums were more vague, making generalized statements that could apply to anyone. But Ms. Schumacher, she said, knew specifics about her family that no one could have known. “Even if she did somehow figure out who I was,” Ms. Mara said.

Ms. Schumacher then invited her to Sedona. “I was definitely scared and slightly resistant to it,” Ms. Mara said. “I think I pulled up and almost turned right back around. But after a few hours I was like, ‘Nope, I can trust these people. We’re all just human here, searching for something.’”

Ms. Schumacher thinks of her referral system like trees, with each person referring six others. Rain Phoenix, Joaquin’s sister, referred Ms. Mara, who then referred the director David Fincher — “we had a really ‘wow’ session,” Ms. Schumacher said — who then referred Brad Pitt. Mr. Pitt also didn’t write his real name, but signed his initials. “I thought he was Brad Paisley,” Ms. Schumacher said. (Mr. Fincher could not be reached; Mr. Pitt declined to comment.)

Ms. Aniston was referred via a totally different tree, specifically “the Rob Lowe tree.” When she received a session with Ms. Schumacher for her 50th birthday in 2019, Ms. Schumacher revealed details about the death of a relative that gave Ms. Aniston clarity about her childhood. “One moment after the next just left my jaw on the floor and tears streaming out of my eyes,” Ms. Aniston said.

Later that year, Ms. Aniston attended a Sedona journey, which included a heart-opening ceremony. “My heart might have been closed down for the last 15 years or so for whatever reason,” she told me. (I wasn’t sure if she was referring to her divorce from Mr. Pitt in 2005, and I didn’t ask.)

Ms. Aniston said it is not typical for her to do anything with groups of strangers. “Normally that would paralyze me with fear,” she said. “For someone who’s built a life of walls and protection and suspicion and being, you know, a public person, it was probably the greatest gift I’ve had in terms of human experience in a long, long time.” By the end, she said, “I just put my arms around 29 strangers and thanked them for their vulnerability.”

Ms. Aniston left that journey early, and the next day Ms. Schumacher said that Yeshua spoke through her for the first time. Those who’ve witnessed it since then say that Ms. Schumacher’s voice and body change. Yeshua’s voice is deeper, more measured, and has a slight British accent.

When I asked what it’s like to channel Yeshua, Ms. Schumacher said, “It feels like I’m being flushed down a toilet. I go whoosh! And he comes up. I breathe a lot. My body shakes.” On journeys, someone is tasked with holding down her ankles. Coming back into her body is hard, she said. “It’s a little bit like … womp, womp.”

Only Human

In the fall of 2020, Ms. Schumacher emailed recordings of Yeshua transmissions to her clients. Among them was Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, who was referred to Ms. Schumacher after leaving her longtime job running the literary department at WME. She thought Yeshua’s teachings could be a book and connected Ms. Schumacher with the publisher of Harper One, which will release “The Freedom Transmissions.”

Though there’s some Christian iconography in it — references to the crucifixion, for instance — the rest is a more neutral smorgasbord of divine power surrender, Buddhism, repairing the fragmented self after trauma, and accessing “the God self,” a reference to Carl Jung.

Ms. Rudolph Walsh said that Yeshua’s teachings changed her entire nervous system. “I don’t react to the weather,” she said. “I don’t report the weather. I am the weather. And the weather is always peace.”

I asked Ms. Rudolph Walsh if she believed that Yeshua was truly speaking through Ms. Schumacher. “To me, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It matters what is being said. But do I personally believe she’s channeling Yeshua? Yes, I do.”

Later I asked Ms. Gerbic, the psychic skeptic, if she believed there were any legitimate mediums in the world. “I could give you the long answer about how we don’t know all things yet and science does not know everything, but I think you know my answer: It’s all BS,” she wrote in an email. “And the way I know this isn’t because I’ve been doing this for so long, and know many people who have been doing this for so long. But because it is NOT possible to communicate with dead people. They are dead.”

Ms. Schumacher pointed out that Ms. Gerbic hasn’t met her or read her book. “If people want to judge, it’s their choice to do so,” she said. She also wanted to be clear that Yeshua is not her alter ego. “And frankly that type of response is exactly what was said to Mary Magdalene,” she said. (According to some Christian texts, after Jesus came to Magdalene in a vision, his disciple Peter ridiculed her.)

Back at the party in Los Angeles, Ms. Schumacher held court. She had already signed a deal for two more books of Yeshua transmissions. A fashion designer offered to dress her for the event, but Ms. Schumacher bought a used turquoise Express dress online and wore that instead.

“Yeshua invites us to set our burdens down,” she told her audience. “The problem with burdens — where is Jenna? We were just talking about this.” She searched the room for the actress Jenna Dewan, who attended her first Sedona journey the year her divorce from Channing Tatum was finalized. Ms. Schumacher said the only way to freedom was through forgiveness. “Your freedom cannot be taken away when you lose your fortune or get put in a tabloid or whatever you people have to deal with,” she said. (Everyone laughed.)

Ms. Schumacher’s fans say that she is far from a cult leader: There’s no indoctrination, they say, no mind control, no shame or isolation involved. “It’s not going to be for everybody,” Ms. Aniston said. “But as long as it’s not harming anyone, I feel that to each his own. Whatever makes it easier to walk through this world with a lighter step, especially today.”

But Ms. Mara told me that it’s good to be wary. “Any time you’re looking to any one person for all the answers, that’s a problem,” she said. “Carissa is human like the rest of us, so you have to take from it what resonates and leave the rest.”

Ms. Schumacher decided ultimately that the vibe at the Flamingo Estate wasn’t conducive to channeling Yeshua. (“I am not a go-go-gadget channel,” she told me.) Instead she channeled Kenneth, a guest’s dead father who she said liked fishing and fixing cars. Kenneth’s son, John, wiped his eyes, as did many others in the room. “I’m sorry,” Ms. Schumacher said.

“Don’t be,” John said. “I loved it.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 28, 2021, Section ST, Page 12 of the New York edition with the headline: She Found the Voice She Had Been Waiting For.

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