'Channeling' session makes some doubt jurist's prudence

The Arizona Republic/July 27, 1995
By Gail Tabor

Courtroom drama has never reached such heavenly heights.

In a Payson courtroom, a judge allowed a medium to "channel" the spirit of a centuries-dead man. The spirit then gave testimony in a pretrial hearing on a slander suit that has been bopping around the court system for two years.

After the spirit's testimony, the lawsuit was dropped, and legal history was made.

The spirit, said channeler Trina Kamp, is Dr. Pahlvon Duran, a 15th-century Englishman who provides inspiration for an organization called the Church of Immortal Consciousness. Kamp is the leader of the group, which is based in Tonto Village, east of Payson.

Spectators at the hearing gave this accounting:

Lights were lowered in the courtroom. Church followers broke into a Beatles tune, In My Life, and Kamp's head lowered to her chest. On the second verse, she raised her head and said, "I am Dr. Duran….I wish to get on with the show."

For a guy who has been dead 500 years, Duran is hip.

Since moving to Tonto Village from Mesa about eight years ago, Kamp followers have inspired controversy. They have been labeled a cult, devil worshipers, baby sellers. The talk resulted in the slander suit the church brought against a Payson couple who, they charged, started most of the rumors.

Surrounded by a mob of relatives in her Tonto Village home, Kamp answered some of the gossip before bringing Duran forth for an interview Tuesday. She also outlined some of her religion's tenets:

There is no death, there are no dead. We live beyond our bodies. Christ does not create us to kill us. There is no hell. Christ's teachings are basic; evils are of our own mind.

As for the accusation, Kamp explained them this way: The groups is not trying to intimidate non-members into moving away from Tonto Village, leaving it for the exclusive use of her church.

"No brainwashing , sorry," she laughed, adding that nobody is forced to give Kamp all his or her money, although the group is a collective and money is shared. There is no illicit sex, because Duran teaches monogamous relationships as a way of life.

Kamp didn't get angry until talk turned to the story about church women having babies and then selling them for adoption.

"That is a filthy rumor," she raged.

Other rumors about the group say members sell their sons, sacrifice animals and have women dancing nude around a campfire. As a result of these rumors, Kamp said, their children have been threatened.

It was at this point, Steven Kamp said, that the church fought back through the courts.

"What do you do when, as a man, when your family is threatened?" he asked. "We did nothing until their attacks turned against our children."

Trina kamp said Duran first appeared to her when she was 9 years old. Now 47, Kamp said she, Duran and her husband formed the church 12 years ago. Duran is the teacher and spiritual advisor.

"Mediums run in families, it's in your blood," she said. "Some have it, some don't. It's commitment with Duran and me."

Kamp settled in a large chair, legs crisscrossed under her, and closed her eyes, Her surrounding family and friends started singing a hymn.

Kemp's head came up from her chest and, in a low, gravelly voice, announced that Duran was ready to get started. The accent sounded more like a Scottish burr than an English lilt.

Other teachings of Duran, the voice said, are against promiscuity, because that brings about disease on the planet. He believes in the Commandments of Moses, of people loving others despite and beyond their sins. It is a simple teaching, Duran continued, of love, and giving, of parents looking at their children as reflections of themselves, of loving someone more than yourself.

The courtroom appearance in Payson two weeks ago was, the voice, said, the first time he had ever testified.

"I thought I did a wonderful job," the voice added.

He had to cut it short, however, because he told the court he had an appointment in Russia.

His advice to both sides?

"I said 'Stop, I want this settled today.'"

It was. Both sides agreed to drop the suit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-filed.

The unorthodox remedy has irked some people in Payson, where critics are saying that jurist's lost its prudence.

Judge Michael Flournoy of Coconino County Superior Court, calling from a houseboat on Lake Powell, said he never would have allowed the testimony in a regular trial. However, he believed the plaintiffs just wanted to present what their beliefs and convictions were all about. Duran did that.

"I believe people settle their differences," he said. "It was interesting."

Flournoy took over the case in August 1994, when the church petitioned for the removal of the original Gila County Judge, Robert Duber of Globe. Duber refused to allow Duran's testimony.

Bill Norman of the Arizona Supreme Court's administrative office said an extensive search of a comprehensive national database showed no record of such testimony occurring anywhere else.

Robert Meyers, presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court, didn't think such an appearance would be allowed in Maricopa County, but he would never say never to anything.

"Every judge is his own boss on the bench," Myers said.

Norman said the database won't list the testimony as divine intervention, the twilight zone or anything else colorful. Instead, it will be entered as a mundane ADR: Alternative Dispute Resolution.

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