“The world is run as it is to demonstrate individual responsibility!” The Betty Book
By popular demand this blog and the next will explore the belief system the Invisibles, that is, the spirits, gave to Stewart Edward White through the mediumship of his wife Betty, and after her death, through the mediumship of their friend Ruth Finley, or “Joan” as the public knew her. For the extraordinary story of the Whites and their best sellers about their experiments with life after death please read The Other Betty White: A True Story of Love Beyond Death.
Carl Jung wrote: “I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the psychology of the unconscious to read the books of Stewart White. The most interesting to my mind is The Unobstructed Universe (1940). The Road I Know (1942) is also remarkable in that it serves as an admirable introduction to the method of ‘active imagination,’ which I have been using for more than thirty years in the treatment of neurosis.”
Jung gave copies of The Betty Book to his colleagues. He wrote a forward for the German edition of The Unobstructed Universe where he took a neutral yet skeptical tone. But in a private letter he admitted: “I must own that with regard to Betty, I am hesitant to deny her reality as a spirit; that is to say I am inclined to assume that she is more probably a spirit than archetype, although she presumably represents both at the same time.”
At the beginning of The Betty Book Stewart points out that many modern wonders that seem commonplace to us were fantasies of the occult not so long ago. To flip a switch, light a bulb and banish all darkness from a room in the middle of the night would have seemed wizardry of the highest order to most of our ancestors. Stewart wonders if channeling will be a scientifically verifiable human activity some day.
Stewart describes how at first the mysterious process of automatic writing fascinated Betty and him. But then the content produced by it fascinated them more. The majestic orderliness of the exposition, and the depth of the perspective, Stewart admits could have been the product of Betty’s subconscious, or the collective unconscious, or what it claimed to be, an entity, an invisible, a spirit, a disincarnate human soul.
Stewart stresses, and will again, as will the Invisibles that this adventure in exploring the ultimate frontier is not for the purpose of developing special powers, psychic or otherwise. We are warned that only many months of immersion in the exercises given can produce any noticeable results. The exercises take us along the same path pioneered by Betty.
Unlike most mediums Betty didn’t channel dead relatives for the grieving, she didn’t get clues at crime scenes the police might find useful, she didn’t talk about lost civilizations or the geography of the afterlife. In fact, the beginning of her training was little more than exercise, learning very basic principles and techniques. But learning them, we are told, is not enough. Mere intellectual familiarity won’t do.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Betty Book is culled from the first four hundred pages of notes Betty channeled. But fifteen years had passed and another 1500 pages had accumulated. Everyone agreed, however, that the best approach was to release the material chronologically with the hope that the process, which had worked for Betty, would work for readers.
In trance Betty spoke with a voice different from her own, most often in the Scottish brogue of Anne, as the Invisible called herself. The Whites nicknamed her Gaelic for her thick accent. But the Invisibles were involved as a committee; this was a community effort. When Gaelic spoke Betty was not asleep or unconscious. She often participated directly reporting the challenges and epiphanies she was having. She related symbolic visions she was given to help explain difficult concepts, and her comments shed light and bring emotion and a dry wit to the conversations.
The Invisibles admitted that this process was trial and error on their side. They tried different approaches. Some experiments failed, and they asked for patience from Stewart and Betty while they refined their techniques. Stewart asked about examples of what seemed to be easier mediumship, with more spectacular results, like Margaret Cameron of The Seven Purposes and Darby and Joan of The Unseen Guest. Stewart probably knew about Edgar Cayce by the time The Betty Book was written. The Invisibles responded by saying such experiments were usually too one sided, requiring an extraordinary effort from the unobstructed, an imbalance that often produced spectacular failures. The Betty experiment was to be a new balanced approach.
At times the Invisibles complained about how difficult it is to work in the corridors of the human brain. Still, the goal for all human beings is to have our awakened spiritual faculties using the brain as it was intended to be used, whereas today for most of us the brain alone runs the show, creating all sorts of unforeseen anxieties.
On over a dozen subjects the Invisibles delivered what amounted to, as Stewart writes, “a complete short essay, properly formed and proportioned.” But these essays arrived only a few sentences, usually one sentence, at a time. According to Stewart, the Make it So chapter of The Betty Book was made from 25 entries, ranging from page one of the channeled material to page 390; a year and a half had passed between the first and the last. Stewart kept index cards divided by subject. He was amazed when he finally put the sentences together in the order received and found they required no editing.
Often the Invisibles used symbols to teach Betty. Her skeleton pulled from her body was meant to show her that she could and should give up the smothering beliefs about herself and the world she had haphazardly acquired. She could choose to renew her body, put on new metaphorical clothes and different jewelry, and even enjoy the surroundings of her choice. But the process isn’t easy. At first Betty feels cold, her naked consciousness exposed until she learns to attract substance and how to concentrate it with her thoughts.
The first exercise is relaxation, specifically relaxation with appreciation. Stewart asks us to cultivate the feeling we get when we admire a beautiful sunset or rare flower, to enjoy the sound of frogs chirping in the night, or the sight of “good old pups,” as Stewart puts it, wagging their tails, leading the way on a walk. He asks us to notice how it expands our senses, how we experience what we’ve been missing wrapped up in our own thoughts (and iPod): bird song, the tint of the sky behind a lush hill, small wonders that refresh the soul. He says for most people the soul is like a dehydrated husk.
This love of nature as a source of spiritual inspiration is one of the foundation stones of American Metaphysical Religion. As Catherine Albanese shows in her seminal works Nature Religion in America and A Republic of Mind and Spirit, American Metaphysical Religion has a relationship with nature far different from the common Christian beliefs about soulless animals and using up natural resources before the end days.
The Invisibles ask us to keep in mind that we are doing this opening up, this deliberate relaxation and appreciation, with the intent, the eager desire, of knowledge of our spiritual faculties and dimensions. With our thoughts and body quiet, as we admire some panoramic view perhaps, we are ready to receive. That doesn’t mean becoming a medium, or hearing the voice of a dead person in your head, it means nourishing your soulful qualities, enriching your emotions, drawing down inspiration, and inviting collaboration. “Take it on faith for a moment,” Stewart asks, “that from the world of the spiritual that is part of us, and should be a balanced part of us, comes an instant almost automatic response to any genuine contact.”
“Take up more and wider interests. Grasp the joy of living. Mingle more with people.” These aren’t the usual instructions for spiritual development, but Stewart tells us the Invisibles repeated them over and over again. “Proportion is key. In our society the physical dominates and the spiritual atrophies, but societies where the spiritual dominated the physical were equally harmful to human happiness and progress.”
HOW TO UNOBSTRUCT
We are told that even in the obstructed our thoughts have substance. Most thoughts, the Invisibles say, are like rockets that sputter and quickly fall to the ground. But thoughts that are long dwelled upon, filled with emotion, live on.
In the unobstructed when an Invisible wants to attempt a creative project helpers are found by proposing the right altruistic goal. You can’t pay people, or use reason, or charm, or any of the vices that keep corporate politics and business going. But you can dream up an idea that will help people in the obstructed. That will get you all the help you need.
“The practical application of this in everyday life is to watch carefully, guard your thought chambers. Allow full scope in all directions until they begin to create undesirable, dragging or belittling things. Then destroy these misbegotten things without looking at them by flooding them, overwhelming them with the raw material for a new and better structure. At once, without delay, replace the undesirable combination. Repeat this operation continuously whenever barnacles collect.”
These “misbegotten things” are also called “blood sucking little things.” We’re told that everything we pay attention to takes a little time from us, a little energy. Betty compares it to a tax. Lives are wasted, given away in bits and pieces, an emotionally traumatic relationship here, a bad job experience there, the TV series we can’t miss, a few hours online every day, and the miscellaneous details of daily living, can vampire all our energy, until nothing is left, and the purpose of another life goes unfulfilled.
But the work still must be done; if we delay the challenge is made more painful by inertia and regret. We are told to “do it now.” By awakening our spiritual faculties our lives will be better and our enjoyment of life greater. To put if off is to stagnate and collect more suffering. Betty commented: “…the people who try to escape and have bad luck–opium, drink, why! even Anarchy!–it sounds dreadful to say that! They haven’t stability, but they are trying! We grieve most over the poor in spirit who close their hearts…”
The Invisibles talk about spiritual hygiene and decent living. Just as a daily shower keeps away vermin and disease so daily spiritual practice eliminates the misbegotten. We can lift our altitude and avoid a host of troubles. When Stewart miswrote it as “attitude” the blindfolded Betty corrected him. We are not to change attitude merely, but our altitude. Such exercises as quietly expanding our senses in appreciation of what surrounds us nourish our spiritual faculties, which enhance the inherent cognitive and perceptual powers of our minds, bringing us into harmony with life.
GLIMPSES OF THE UNOBSTRUCTED
Betty explains that in the unobstructed she has a body but of a much finer and more responsive substance. She points out that thoughts are what really move our legs when we walk, electrical chemical messages bearing our intentions; in the unobstructed, she says, “I go because I want to go…waves of pressure instead of steps.” Later she learns to combine this with another activity she compares to breathing, like a pulse of being. Together this movement without flesh and bone legs and this breathing without lungs somehow draws nourishment. As a newborn in the unobstructed Betty is as helpless as a baby. Like a growing child she must nourish herself so she can properly develop and learn to control her new mode of being.
When she looks at others from the unobstructed Betty doesn’t see their external selves, she sees them in a way she compares to x-rays. She sees character, or the lack of it. Those who lack honor, stamina and the other virtues of character she describes as gelatinous. They’re unable to pull together a form, or a coherent identity.
A constant theme of Betty’s books is that we should learn to die before we die. This is a thread common to all religions, but seldom is it taken so literally, except perhaps in Tibetan Buddhism, where the ignorant newly dead wander from one nightmarish vision to another, unaware that each himself creates his own experience of the after life. Dream yoga is one of many methods taught by Tibetan Buddhists with the intent of keeping consciousness and identity, or form, as Betty called it.
Stewart asks the Invisibles if they see us and our world as we do. Most do not, since they do not have physical eyes. They see us from the inside, and can get only a fuzzy picture of how our outsides look, a process that is somehow dependent on or comparable to memory. Some in the unobstructed specialize in understanding the laws of interactions between the two worlds and they can do surprising things including seeing the physical clearly.
Repeatedly the Invisibles warn that the obstructed mind, even such a unique and well-trained one as Betty, cannot really comprehend the unobstructed. Only a glimpse of the border is possible. Betty warns and complains about the limitations of human language and imagery. She compares the experience of the unobstructed to glorious music that sweeps you up, to air so full of energy it’s as different from the air we breathe as boiling water is from stagnant water. All her metaphors, we’re reminded, are meant to inspire, they cannot give an accurate description because the unobstructed is too different from anything we know.
Just as the physical body has senses, so does the spiritual but describing them in terms we could understand is almost impossible. We are told of one sense called perception. Perception is the spiritual sense the Invisibles want us to develop. The inspiration of artists is given as an example. Artists can study, daydream, and otherwise stalk inspiration but it usually comes unexpectedly and often at awkward moments. It arrives with undeniable clarity. This spiritual sense of perception will be developed by all human beings eventually. “Reason is not the end of the line for human evolution.”
“Consider the use of your body,” say the Invisibles. “It tells you when you are hungry, and when you are thirsty, and when you are hot or cold and also what to do to remedy it. Your physical senses take you through physical life pretty well. In the same way your spiritual sense, once developed, has a hunger for service, a thirst for harmony, a perception of the heat and cold of human hearts.”
A NEW WAY TO PRAY
The Invisibles give a new definition to prayer. To pray passively, humbly requesting and patiently waiting is not the most effective approach. “Please discard from your mind all stilted conventional meaning it may have for you now. It has become largely, and to many, a childhood ceremony almost abandoned as life engulfs us; to others an unconvincing act; a petition for favors from an overlord; a ritual; a paean of personal praise. Forget all that. Start over again without preconception. Next, as the first contribution to its meaning, assemble under it all that you have come to understand as the process of seeking spiritual contact and permeation. This process constitutes the first step in ALL constructive prayer.”
To pray is to seek wholeness. Prayer uncovers what we lack, allowing us to naturally attract what we need to harmonize with life. Prayer plumbs our depths, and reaches to our heights. Prayer is spiritual companionship.
Betty has this poetic comment about prayer: “It’s a beautiful form, a grand rhythm. In utter obliviousness of everything else I fling myself, abandon myself to one collective thought, the beauty of a physical world. I sweep it whole right into my heart, everything, the little Alpine flowers on Kearsage `top, the undersea gardens, the desert bloom, the frost crystals, the world of the magnifying glass, the stars-all the physical universe. The manifestation of overpowering love and intelligence, I gather them all in my own great
rush of worship. It’s an offering, a concentration of my life’s experience returning to its source. Once spent, I lie still and quietly life recharged filters back to me, recharged with vitality, strength and eagerness to take my part, to be victorious with humility, conscious of the immensity of the scheme. When the renewed life flows back into me my great effort is to retain it, to contain it all in all, for the force of the renewed life must be converted into world activity.”
“You are engaged at present in spiritual absorption of yourself,” an Invisibles states. “There still remains in you a stronghold of earth inertia which must be overcome before we can proceed freely and satisfactorily,” said they. “This barrier is in the nature of a wall built of years of depositing weighty things that should have been disembodied by spiritual application. Everybody builds this wall. It must be disembodied before we can proceed, or you will be continually returning to it. It is a kind of a world dump of unassimilated experiences, merely recognized mentally, but not lived up to.”
If we do not practice spiritual hygiene the consequences are compared by the Invisibles to the famous statue Laocoön and His Sons. The preoccupations of the lower self paralyze and slowly strangle us. But as spirit absorbs experience, it dissolves obstructions. “This wonderful transmuting, absorbing substance is what you set in action by spiritual contact. Once set in action, you cannot stop it. It is bound to act, to consume. The more faith you have in it, the more powerful it is. Oh, well, you could never fully utilize this power until you had first destroyed all your own earth conventions and limitations. If they were really destroyed, so they could not dilute with doubt, then you could utilize the full power of the spirit.”
“If you once get that idea,” Betty concluded, “you can start absorbing things. It makes the whole solid world soluble in spirit. To you it looks as though nothing could destroy Mount Diabolo, but from here it seems as though sufficient spiritual power could actually dissolve it. And far beyond, I can dimly sense the power to put together again.”
“We ingest experience as the sustaining nutriment of life. That nutriment is assimilated as the body assimilates food. By means of it we are empowered to fill out one level of consciousness so that we may rise to the next.” Betty imagines herself standing with a comical amount of baggage, so much luggage dragged with her everywhere she goes, but now she can hand it all over. Not only will she be liberated but her soul, that superior yet subtle centerless center of herself, will be the better for the nourishment. To surrender memories of suffering to the subconscious is to forget them, but not in a cavalier fashion, rather in the faith that your own greater wisdom will process your experiences while you go on living in the present instead of the past.
“Choose the companionship of inspiration wherever it feeds and nourishes,” advised the Invisibles, “Whether in the gift of dead poets or the sweating toil of living workers. Outside your hours of duty refresh and stimulate your thought chambers by constantly associating yourself with the aristocracy of the spirit wherever you can recognize it. There is always such a drag to the commonplace, such a vortex of it. You must continually guard yourself against it if you are going to maintain yourself above it.”
Betty uses the metaphor of oil making paper translucent to describe the way spirit dissolves body, allowing the soul to fill all the being, the body “becomes just a thin clothing for the spirit.”
CRISIS: AVOIDANCE AND RECOVERY
“Your world is a vast storehouse of all sorts of things and experiences and must be considered, in one aspect as a test of selection,” an Invisible says. Betty adds: “Such a mess: I can’t separate it. Some of it is just the debris of unabsorbed responsibilities, things people have left cluttering the world. Lots of it is that. That just complicates things terribly. And some of it is unfinished work-very tiresome that unfinished work! -in different stages of evolution. People didn’t put strength enough into the impetus and left it around; it isn’t refuse, like the other, because it has a start. And then there is more stuff, you see, and a lot of it is very useful, all kinds of handy little kinks and knick-knacks, very useful each in its little bit of a zone of action. But you pass through those, like the phase of children and toys. That is why they speak so slightingly of the world as a man speaks of toys.”
“The only object these things fulfill,” finished the Invisible, “is that of children’s toys; they teach people coordination. It is just the same as resistance of the air to the plane; it is something to come in contact with. You cannot overcome nothing. That is what the world is for.”
Those neglected responsibilities create what the Invisibles call “derelicts,” not so much in the sense of someone abandoned by society, more in the sense of dereliction of duty. Like runaway trains the consequences of neglected responsibilities roll forward until they collide with the apparently innocent. But the Invisibles insist there are no accidents. When asked about those who die too young the Invisibles use the metaphor of pruning. The life and identity remain, to grow again in a new way. The old way would have had difficult consequences, unforeseen results that were better left unexplored. “But just as rank growth is pruned so is weak growth.” A fresh start provides a better opportunity and preserves the harmony of the ongoing experiment.”
How can we avoid these runaway trains? ” If you accumulate enough harmonious force, there is an automatic action. Your own impetus is strong enough to fend you off. It CAN be. There is something you can generate that both quickens your senses and subconsciously directs you.”
Stewart sums it up: “In the course of our evolution we progress through a series of levels. No grade can be skipped, and each level must be filled out before it is left. We fill out our levels by the assimilation of experience, and in this process our greatest ally is the force, which we gain from spiritual contact.
“For this assimilation we are responsible not only to ourselves but to our neighbor; not only to our neighbor but to all that make up our world of being down through the perspectives of time. If we shirk what is placed before us, then we turn loose a derelict that may wreck or destroy. If we would avoid damage or destruction ourselves, we must develop to the point of acquiring protection. And our responsibility is more than our share because the past has bequeathed its heritage of fault and failure.”
“Over and over a pitcher and a bowl,” Betty reported after a few moments, “over and over a pitcher and a bowl. You fill the pitcher to your measure, and you empty it into the world, the bowl. There’s a rhythm over and over again, filling and emptying, filling and emptying, a rhythm like a great pulse.”
The key is to be sure footed and bountiful. Spiritual contact is how to become sure footed. “Keep in touch, keep it near us all the time. It works when we are not thinking of it if we will only think of it once in a while.” We must be bountiful because otherwise we stagnate, and we fail to hold up our part of the collective bargain that could make this a better world. This is the law of circulation and it operates on every level.
The automatic action of the spiritual or harmonious force can even transform businesses. “A man who has no spiritual alliance, no source of vitality renewal, whose existence is concentration on business details, gets business adhesions. He either overreaches himself by establishing a haggling standard of business, or he bankrupts his own soul. The other man keeps himself replenished and his vision raised above his work. He creates a different order of business. I grant you he’s not always as successful by the same standards; but he doesn’t want to be. He’s of a higher type of development. His business has a life-giving quality instead of a blood-sucking quality.”
“There is an open-hearted feeling hard to describe,” said they. “It is not just making yourself charitably disposed toward people; that’s an imitation, awkward, paltry, blundering. You don’t try to PLEASE people; that’s silly. You just proceed on your way, but the emanations from an open heart spread around you, working according to their law, and bringing return of rich reaction.
“In your relations to people,” continued the Invisible, “it isn’t at all this everything-to-everybody, hand-grasp idea. That’s the cheap imitation; very cheap! There is dignity and reserve and depth to the real thing. It is just a QUIET feeling, a silent feeling of kinship and sympathetic response, instead of the usual indifference we feel. “
The Invisibles explained that in the unobstructed the urge to help something good happen is as strong as the sexual urge is here. “This is the great strong instinct that carries on the spiritual world. You must get something to put in the void beneath you. It is the first big urge: get busy! Fix this mess you see under you; and when you realize how useless and futile you are, you try hard and experiment until you acquire something with which to work.”
Stewart stops here to address the cynics among us. “Most people have an instinctive aversion to Carrying Sweetness and Light to Darkened Souls. And those who try it on anyhow, generally do little but get in wrong with their friends.” But he points out there is another kind of service. When spiritual contact has made you sure footed, others are attracted. “When you want to germinate people,” said the Invisible; “you admit them to a companionship in your spiritual contact. It is like taking them in out of the cold.” Betty adds: “No use pointing out people’s faults and attacking them. That is silly. If you arouse their inner selves, they will take care of their own faults.”
“Whatever you do,” concluded the Invisible, “avoid the holier-than-thou attitude toward people. That is far from what we want. The worst ones often are the narrow and virtuous ones; they blind the trail. Nobody wants to be like them, so they go off in the wrong direction. They are very harmful people, very harmful. They would be surprised to know that often they are really worse than many in the penitentiary. Narrow and uncharitable virtue! –Why are you being given light? To distribute so quietly and unobtrusively that it will arouse no resentment or resistance.”
Every human being gives his or her impetus to the great collective moment. Impetus, stimulus, force, momentum, whatever you call the sum total of our contributions to the human experience each moment we inhabit space-time. All of these, old and new, weak and strong, most contradict each other, but they all add up to create the next moment. Most people are controlled by impetus from the past. Past beliefs of society and family, established institutions, traumas, complexes learned by repetition, can make us believe we are doomed to our fates. By awakening the spiritual sense of perception the consequences of ignorance can be avoided. The awakened spiritual senses harmonize man and nature, putting people at the right places at the right times.
AVOIDING THE VORTEX
Betty says: “–unfortunately many of our daily contacts must be with dragging, non-receptive, aggravating, non-comprehending and uncongenial personalities. Ordinarily, perhaps, in such cases we are inclined to take refuge in indifference that amounts to a separating gulf. If not indifferent, then we are contemptuous of them; or actively in conflict with them; or even, if we are of nervous sensitive temperaments, they drive us crazy. And usually we are ourselves more or less affected, more or less nagged into deteriorating emotions. Daily contact with such people is one of the first things we must learn to manage.” Or as the Invisibles put it: “Do not let your newly acquired freedom and energy be sucked into the vortex.”
The only recourse is to insulate ourselves. We do that with steady spiritual contact. In the same way that such contact helps us avoid runaway trains, it helps us stay above the vortex. The Invisibles coined the word “foredetermination” to describe the right attitude. Bring your own world into the room, like a child playing. Don’t meet the vortex on its own ground; make it meet you on yours.
“The antidote is sympathy,” Stewart writes. “Unfortunately, sympathy is one of those mildewed words-or at least it has spots of mildew. Nothing is more annoying to the average of humanity than the false sort of sympathy, even when it is wholly sincere: the sort of sympathy that is sentimentally maudlin or voluble, or ostentatiously “Christian.” And no better is the kind that tries to “share your trials and sorrows”: that so completely enters your annoyance or perplexity or grief as to adopt it; to strengthen it; -and perhaps to end by leaning against you for comfort!”
“It’s so simple,” assured the Invisible. “Any atmosphere you put yourself in you unconsciously absorb, whether it’s musical or artistic or what. If you live in this spiritually harmonious atmosphere, this greater proportion, if you develop the capacity to live in it, it begins to react on you, to strengthen you, and gives you scope beyond anything you ever dreamed of. So, while you are sorry, you are strongly sorry, not weepy sorry.”
“That’s the point,” Betty agreed. “We let these non-receptive, unbalanced personalities obstruct our streams, instead of developing a superior vitality and overflowing on them. It is very hard to do when you are sensitive to people. Non-receptivity and lack of balance look so ugly! Ugh! Like a sort of petrified malformation! It seems to be hopeless to hurl yourself on those!”
“Make no mistake about the fight,” warned the Invisible. “It is the great conflict without antagonism. The big things of your war were done more with attention fixed on the freedom of the world, than by the strength of hatred of the Germans. There is a difference in the strength you tap and the channels you open up to carry it when you fight for a cause, primarily, and not against a people.”
We’re advised to think of ourselves as avoiding capture. Take a bird’s eye view. Understand the man or woman you struggle with is not a personal nemesis, just a denizen of a certain level of evolution. Spiritual contact gives us spiritual vitality, which allows us to overflow obstacles, even human. These words take on greater poignancy when you know World War II was about to begin.
STEWART’S THEORY OF COMMUNICATION
The Betty Book ends but the reader finds a quarter of the book still unread. Appendix I on the technique of communication gives Stewart’s theory of how the Invisibles were able to use Betty’s unconscious to communicate their messages.
“We must premise that the source of all this material is a matter for each to decide for himself. It may originate in Betty-in which case she is more of a wonder than any of us had supposed. She may, by this mechanism, tap some wide source of wisdom, some reservoir, some “universal mind.” Or, in this state of divided consciousness she may come into touch with “race consciousness,” the stored or accumulated experience of humankind. Or, finally, the source may be what it purports to be, distinct discarnate intelligences. Each is free and welcome to adopt any hypothesis that appeals to him.”
Stewart admits: “It is all pretty tough on the common sense. And if, as often happens, you suddenly find yourself an object of personal attention by Julius Caesar or Napoleon or William James-he’s a favorite–then your innate modesty is quite likely to join hands with your skepticism. You stop dead in your tracks. You are fair. There may be something in it, you acknowledge. There is a residue you cannot explain. But even if it is genuine, it is too unreliable.
“We are told solemnly of long and fluent-and ordinarily commonplace-conversations with Julius Caesar and Plato and Nero and Judas, all of whom seem to be dwelling in bliss as a Happy Family, and all of whom seem frantically eager to rush into conference at any hour of the day or night with any Tom, Dick or Harry who calls them up. William James must be either ubiquitous or must possess a large corps of secretaries to get around at all. All a matter of the translation of the impression on the subconscious. Some little thing reminds the station’s mind of Caesar or Plato or Nero or James: it seizes and personifies that idea, and is off on a tangent of its own. The subconscious has received from the station himself an impression deeper than any that can be given from an outside source.
“That, I think,” Stewart continues, “is the reaction of any man who has not already the will to believe. It would most certainly have been my own, had it not been for the fact that, even in the earliest days of the actual teaching, part of what we got was straightforward, logical, progressive, and with purpose. This carried us through until the confusions disappeared.”
Stewart points out the complexity of translating the idea or image impressed by the Invisible in Betty’s subconscious to accurate spoken language: “To go back to our simple illustration. Let us suppose that in life a son called his father Daddy, and that for purposes of identification he desires that this precise diminutive be got over. But the station used to call his own father Dad. That would first present itself as a suitable translation of the impression. It would be inhibited by the Invisibles; as would, in turn, Papa, Father, Governor, Old Man, etc. Then would ensue what the records call “difficulty.” If the station’s conscious attention were roused, failure would result. Yet to the son seeking communication with his father it would seem an absurdly easy test. How much more difficult to get over a pet name entirely personal to those who used it: or, for that matter, names or dates at all! Yet that is a “test” commonly requested.”
The Invisibles explained that the Ouija board or table tipping are easy places to start because they involve only a few choices. Automatic writing, a bit more complex, is at least limited to only 26 choices, the letters of the alphabet that make up the words. But to experiment in direct mediumship involves myriad choices, and the further complications of the mental and emotional habits of the medium.
Appendix II documents ten meetings over six weeks in 1922, when experiments in ectoplasmic and other manifestations were conducted by The Whites, Margaret Cameron author of the automatic writing best seller The Seven Purposes, “Darby and Joan” the anonymous authors of the channeled best seller Our Unseen Guest, and two others.
“Darby and Joan” an old cliché phrase for a happily married couple, were Emmet and Ruth Ebright Finley. At the Cleveland Times newspaper Ruth was known for her stories about working women, she even helped get a bill passed to support them. Ruth was a successful editor of magazines, an author, historian and feminist. Her books include: “Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them.” Emmet was a reporter, editor, and an executive in several newspaper printing and supply companies.
Appendix II begins with a gathering of friends. “Now here were eight people, all of whom by temperament and training were practical, hard-headed, and known to each other as of unquestioned integrity; and four of them had demonstrated this peculiar power, each in a different fashion. The extraordinary content of THE SEVEN PURPOSES had been conveyed largely in huge automatic writing in full consciousness. Mrs. Gaines, also conscious, spoke from a reverie-like condition of a rather lovely sensitivity. Joan, in contrast, fell into a trance state so deep that she had no consciousness whatever of what went on; no subsequent recollection of it; and no sense of time. So far as she knew, she might have been “out” four minutes or four hours. Betty’s method has been described.
“We all had these things in common; we were much interested in this new exploration; we took it “lightly,” in the sense that we did not stand in awe of it, nor consider any of its aspects “sacred,” and were able to have a lot of fun with it; we knew each other, and had complete confidence in each other as friends; we had no axes to grind, emotionally, in the way of publicity, or in any other manner. Curiously enough we were at that time singularly innocent of any connection, mental or practical, with organized research; we knew nothing of professional mediums!”
Stewart reports on his merry band of explorers’ experiments with spiritual manifestations in tedious detail to prove the thoroughness of the participants on this side and the other. Spirits are named, like Lady Anne, whose thick Scottish accent Stewart attempts to render.
The experiments included color light bulbs, a 25 watt lilac bulb was chosen as most effective. A screen was draped in black cloth and set up surrounding Joan on three sides. Smoke like ectoplasm emerged from her fingers. Cold areas were predicted and found. Parts of Joan’s body glowed with something more interior than simple phosphorescence. Mist formed into a hand and forearm right before their eyes.
The Invisibles were intent on demonstrating what they called the beta body, the unique eternal form of each consciousness, as opposed to the “disintegrating shells” of physical bodies.
Joan’s beta was moved slightly away from her body. The explorers guided by the Invisibles found the right cold spot and were told to pinch. These pinches caused automatic reactions in the corresponding parts of Joan’s blindfolded physical body. Pinches in the air a foot away from her caused reflex reactions in her leg, arm, and head.
Then the Invisibles tried to make Joan’s beta body visible. The eyewitnesses got glimpses of something that Stewart probably would have used the word hologram to describe. The explorers saw many manifestations of light, “palpitating mists,” superimposed faces like supernatural pictures, the blurring out of animate objects so that the background could be seen through them, and other demonstrations of the manifestations made possible when the visible and Invisible collaborate.
Here was the rose fingered dawn of the White’s great adventure that would go so much further than some parlor experiments and a channeled philosophy of life. Eerie presentiments could be recognized in the Betty Book only after the fact, for example this comment by Betty about some of the experiments with Joan: “She said that it seemed to her intended more as a development work for the two of them than an attempt to do anything for us; and at one time remarked: “They have freed us both together for future work.” In the not too distant future Joan would be channeling Betty.
THE BETTY BOOK AND AMERICAN METAPHYSICAL RELIGION
Catherine Albanese in her masterpiece A Republic of Mind and Spirit identifies four pillars of American Metaphysical Religion: the power of the mind, the law of correspondences, energy as the source of thought and matter, salvation as healing. All four appear in the instructions from the Invisibles.
We have no reason to presume that the Whites or their friends had ever heard of John Dee, or if they had, if they knew much about him except that he was Elizabeth’s wizard. But their daring explorations of the unknown have much in common with John Dee’s traffic with angels. Dee bothered the angels with questions about his personal matters, but the Whites had better manners. And their Invisibles told them to rob them of freedom of decision would be a crime. For the Whites the complicated hierarchy and rituals of Catholic religiosity were long forgotten. They were just Americans in a living room putting to a very literal and audacious test some famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson from his essay Nature published anonymously in 1836:
“The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, and new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.”
In the next blog in this series we’ll look at the belief system offered by the Invisibles as the teachings took on more detail and depth, since Betty was with them, and not with Stewart. If you find these ideas intriguing read the books. Find yourself an old hard cover or paperback, they’re still cheap. Enjoy the peculiar sensation of being another in a long line of readers of your particular copy.
A Republic of Mind and Spirit
A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion
Catherine L. Albanese
Yale University Press, 2007
Nature Religion in America
From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age
University of Chicago Press, 1990
Our Unseen Guest:
The Finley’s Conversations with Stephen
Introduction by Linda Pendleton
Reprint of 1920 edition
The Betty Book
White, Stewart Edward
Written by Ronnie Pontiac
Newtopia staff writer RONNIE PONTIAC is a founding member and primary guitarist of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War, Exile Nation, and the award winning animated short Cohen on the Bridge. He associate produced The Gits documentary, and was art editor, then poet in residence for Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation . He’s a published author of works on obscure topics such as ancient Greek religion and the history of alchemy. Follow him on Twitter @AmerMysteries.