One of America’s favorite hobbies since at least the 19th century has been attempted communication with the dead. From backwoods cults of pre-Revolutionary days to distinguished university professors, Americans of every race and religious tradition have been preoccupied with ghostly chats.
In 2012 on television the Long Island Medium delivers a message from the dead in a dog park, while on another channel ghost hunters shout action at invisible actors; ensemble casts act out the same scenarios in prime time soap opera thrillers. Blockbuster movies like Ghost and The Sixth Sense have treated the subject seriously, while a slew of horror movies abuse it to scare us. From 1999 to 2004 celebrity medium John Edward had his own talk show with dead guests and a living audience.
It’s hard to believe that words like reincarnation, medium and psychic were hardly ever heard on television or in the movies as late as the 1970’s. But of course even now you will never hear them mentioned anywhere near politics where the sacrosanct domination of monotheistic culture has been more carefully preserved.
Polls of the new millennium show that roughly one out of three Americans believe in ghosts while eight out of ten of us believe in an afterlife. In the state of New York the quaint town of mediums called Lily Dale, founded in 1879, was the subject of the HBO documentary No One Dies in Lily Dale. Inspiration Stump and the street of charming houses (each with a telltale garden and a small sign to reflect the medium’s personal style) however humble are monuments of American Metaphysical Religion.
But mediumship is still something of a dirty secret, a nutty California pastime, lower class spirituality, or celebrity preoccupation, for many Americans it’s even a snare laid by the devil. The exceptions worthy of interest, such as Edgar Cayce, stand out sharply from the crowd of frauds and mediocrities. Anyway, some of us wonder if this life after death stuff was for real why hasn’t anyone ever put together a real plan? A story worth telling?
What kind of plan would you put together with the far seeing wisdom of a soul free of body? It should involve true love, right? A couple who have loved each other for decades, seasoned world travelers, sipping champagne on yachts, hearty hikers in the wilderness, safari veterans whose own story, without anything spooky about it, would be worth telling. But then the twist!
The fun loving yet skeptical wife becomes a medium. On the condition of anonymity she channels fascinating and surprisingly popular books. But she dies before her mission is complete. Will she speak from beyond the grave? Once the medium, now the spirit channeled, can she prove beyond any doubt who she is and finishing her job with another book, a best seller? This must happen during a great international crisis when people need inspiration, when death is everywhere and reassurance of eternal life is most needed.
Her husband should be a red blooded old school no nonsense American. An outdoorsman and dedicated conservationist, the kind of guy they’d name a grove of Sequoias after; you could picture him camping with Teddy Roosevelt in the California wilderness. A man with experience of mines, frontiers, lumber mills, and a world war. A man so good with a gun he filled a hall with horrifying trophies, even killed a big cat with a knife.
Teddy “Yes He’s Riding a Moose Across a River” Roosevelt.
He has to be a hunter any gun loving American redneck could respect. The kind of guy who could break his leg on a trail and drag himself for miles, but who would stop along the way to shoot a game bird to bring back with him for dinner. For the animal lovers among us we’ll add that his wife and her philosophy must eventually convince him to give up his gun for a camera.
He should be a writer, too. So he’s got a good skeptical head on his shoulders and a way with words. A Jack London type, as handy with a gun as he is with a pen. The kind of man who would approach his wife’s mediumship the way he did the Serengeti. A practical detail oriented explorer, an open-minded observer, never giddy, always ready.
Now isn’t that a more reasonable plan for letting people know about life after death then most of the stories we’ve heard about mediums? Not your average haphazard occurrence among questionable characters. Of course, the best part is that it’s all true. His name was Stewart Edward White. In private his wife Betty liked to call him Stewt. Before our Golden Girl, there was another famous Betty White.
THE REAL MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD
“STEWART E. WHITE, NOVELIST, IS DEAD; Author of Stories of Adventure and Frontier Life Was 73—Stricken After Fabled Career CHOKED LEOPARD TO DEATH Writer of ‘Blazed Trail’ Knew Yukon, Africa and West—Honored as Geographer” – NY Times obituary, 1946.
Stewart Edward White was born March 12, 1873, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when it was a bustling town of thirty thousand. Tom White Jr. was a great American father. His son Stewart later wrote of his admiration for his dad’s “energy, vitality, honesty, good judgment, and virility.” Judging from the heroes of Stewart’s earlier novels without Tom Jr. he might have been a bookish and indoorsy fellow.
Tom was a shrewd father. First he introduced his boy to bird watching, which easily led to camping, then hunting. Stewart’s grandfather, Tom’s own father was also a shrewd man. Captain Tom Sr. was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts in 1805. As he approached his thirtieth birthday he married. The newlyweds trekked west to Detroit. From there they hiked Indian trails and then rafted to the Grand River where they helped settle the town of Grand Haven. Tom Sr. took on a series of jobs from captaining a riverboat to building bridges.
Then in 1865 Tom Sr. bought a business simply known as Steven’s Saw Mill. Buying forest acreage and selling lumber during the decade when Michigan was America’s greatest lumber state he became a millionaire.
Tom Jr. was his father’s man on the ground for a business that sprawled over rivers and towns. Stewart and his brothers grew up in the woods, among river men, in sawmills, and lumber camps.
Arlington Hotel, Santa Barbara, 1880s.
When his father died in 1884 Tom Jr. brought his wife and five sons to Santa Barbara to winter at the Arlington Hotel. Stewart learned to ride horses. He kept a journal as he experienced the last flush of the quickly fading ranchero culture. He later wrote books of fiction and nonfiction about the twilight of the Vaqueros. Tom could see Michigan wasn’t going to support an ever expanding lumber industry so he began buying acres of forest in California then moved there with his family.
For most of his childhood instead of a school Stewart had a private tutor. When he was sixteen the family returned to Grand Rapids and settled down long enough for him to go to school; he was sixteen. He graduated at eighteen, president of his class. He set the school record for fastest five mile run.
Tom may have been surprised when high school hero Stewart started skinning and preserving specimens of birds, perhaps even more so when the budding young writer published over thirty articles in scientific and bird watching publications, including a pamphlet on the birds of Mackinac Island that the Ornithologists’ Union published. Stewart’s collection of nearly seven hundred bird skins is preserved in the Kent Scientific Museum of Grand Rapids.
Like so many parents of writers, most of whom are proven correct, Tom didn’t think Stewart could make a living as a writer. He must not have been thrilled with Stewart’s bachelor of philosophy degree from the University of Michigan in 1895, but at least the boy graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
While in college Stewart spent his summer vacations sailing on the Great Lakes in a 28-foot cutter sloop. After graduating he spent six months in a meat packinghouse at $6 a week. Was Stewart trying to prove to his father how tough he was or was this Tom’s idea of teaching Stewart about the hard realities of earning money?
Stewart explored the Great Lakes on a 28-foot cutter, but not this one.
Next he went to work in his family business, in the accounting office. After giving Stewart a good taste of life behind a desk Tom sent him on a mission. The family had invested in a gold mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Stewart was sent to snoop around and make sure the family wasn’t getting cheated.
The tenderfoot found a lawless frontier where his family was not getting cheated; they were getting robbed blind. Stewart had to face down a lynch mob when the criminals told the miners that he was holding up their paychecks. He kept cool, avoided trouble, local law enforcement did the rest.
Tom must have been pleased when Stewart went back to school. Only a year had past but his son had learned some valuable lessons about life and work. Stewart was now studying law at Columbia University. Unfortunately for dad, his first year there Stewart took an English Composition class and the short story he wrote was so good the professor convinced him to submit it to a magazine. Stewart got paid fifteen dollars.
He left school and began writing short stories and two novels in a year. Stewart’s first book, The Westerner was published in 1901. He was twenty-eight years old. The novels, though they were awkward, relied too much on coincidence, with female characters only lightly sketched, and villains grandiose yet vague, nevertheless showed great promise most reviewers agreed. A few complained of grim cruelty in the lengthy descriptions of murdered characters who did not have to die.
Perhaps to appease his father, Stewart returned to the University of Michigan to get a Master’s Degree. To support himself he took a job at McClurg’s bookstore in Chicago at $9 a week but that only made him lonesome for the wilderness he grew up in. So he set out for Hudson Bay.
Then his third book was published. The Claim Jumpers was based on his real life Black Hills gold rush experiences. Stewart was paid $500 for the serial rights. He was paid in five-dollar bills, which he stuffed in his pockets leaving immediately for fear that some mistake had been made.
In 1902 Stewart sent a copy of his book to the president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, and received a return letter. It seems upon a friend’s recommendation Teddy had already got a copy and was enjoying it. He told Stewart to look him up next time he was in Washington D.C.
Letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Stewart Edward White
Stewart set to work on what would become his most famous novel but not his most famous book. The Blazed Trail was written in a lumber camp in the freezing cold of a northern winter. He wrote from 4 A.M. until 8 A.M. every morning, then put on his snowshoes and did a day’s work as a lumberjack.
FROM MANUAL LABOR TO LABORS OF LOVE
Betty and Stewart White.
Three years after the beginning of the twentieth century. Blues legend Mississippi John Hurt began plucking his guitar publicly in 1903. Ultimate opera star Enrico Caruso recorded his first 78’s for RCA. Influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and the culture of ancient Greece Isadora Duncan created free dance. You can get a feeling for how quickly the world was going to change by looking at the names of historical figures born that year: Anais Nin, Eliot Ness, Dillinger, Orwell, Gehrig, Hope and Crosby.
1903 was a wonderful year for Stewart Edward White. He received his master’s degree from Michigan University. The Blazed Trail became a bestseller. Stewart visited his parents who had retired to Santa Barbara. Theodore Roosevelt visited, and hearing Stewart was in town asked him to join his train journey north. They talked all the way to San Luis Obispo where Stewart disembarked.
Teddy called Stewart “the kind of young American who is making our new literature.” In 1905 he made him a federal Forest Reserve inspector. Stewart held the office for four years. In his autobiography, Teddy wrote, about his Sagamore rifle range: “the best man with both pistol and rifle who ever shot there was Stewart Edward White.”
But in 1903 Stewart met someone much more important than the president of the United States. He met Elizabeth Grant, the love of his life. It took him a year to convince her fabulously wealthy parents that a rough creature from the frontier like him, and a book writer to boot, should be allowed to marry their carefully cultivated upper class gem. They must have been dismayed when the newlyweds announced they were off to hike in the wilderness of California for four months. But Betty loved her new lifestyle and flourished.
African Fern Pine tree.
In 1905, the Stewart Edward Whites moved to Santa Barbara. On their safari to equatorial East Africa, Stewart collected trophy pelts; Betty used her rifle to shoot down seedpods from the African fern pine, later planted in Santa Barbara’s Alameda Plaza. Wherever they traveled she gathered rare seeds, bulbs, and plants for Dr. Franceschi, the famed Italian horticulturist who opened a plant nursery in Santa Barbara. Franceschi introduced nearly nine hundred new species to the area. Today when you arrive at Santa Barbara Airport you see Bird of Paradise plants and wherever you go in town you’re never far from them. But there were none before the Whites introduced them.
Dr. Franceschi in apron impersonating a Scotsman.
Stewart kept his hunting trophies in a building he ironically called The Ark; a small adjoining room was his office. Betty and her philosophy eventually convinced him to use a camera instead of a gun. He left his trophies to the California Academy of Science.
“Something wrong, Mr. Ventura?”
With a friend the Whites bought property in Sandyland Cove, just south of Santa Barbara, which White claimed to have named. They built a beach cottage on one of the lots; Stewart canoed and surfed in the California sun.
One of the first white men in Tanzania he mapped it in 1913, which earned him his election as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Meanwhile his novel Ashes of Three was made into a movie at Santa Barbara’s Flying A Studios.
In 1914 the Whites hosted a benefit food drive for Belgian victims of World War I. White and friends recruited Santa Barbara locals for a military unit called the Grizzlies. “In a few weeks,” Stewart wrote, “with the enthusiastic aid of many old friends, we had actually signed up a whole battalion, a large proportion of whom were hard-bitten cowboys, rangers, out-of-door old-timers….”
Distinctive unit insignia of the 144th Field Artillery with the Latin motto “We strive.”
Their home was so popular with vacationing friends the Whites decided in 1916 to leave Santa Barbara for the blue book high society of San Francisco. “Since we possess neither a banquet hall nor a sightseeing bus,” Stewart wrote, “nor 36 idle hours a day, we moved to Hillsborough.”
Was Stewart trying to put his beloved wife in the hands of the elite she had grown up with? He must have known America could only delay so long before entering the war. From 1917-1918 Stewart joined his Grizzlies in World War I; he was a major in the 144th Field Artillery.
WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGES
Vintage 1919 Ouija board.
At a memorial gathering for Theodore Roosevelt in 1919, White was on the platform and was introduced as the “author, soldier, and hunter, who was one of the Roosevelt Party on his big game hunt through Africa.” Losing the friend who taught him to say “bully,” such a virile human as Teddy, must have turned Stewart’s thoughts to the mystery of death.
Until 1919, he wrote: “I had paid occult matters little attention. I knew that spiritualism had been “exposed.” He was a successful writer, a world traveler, in love, and wealthy in the new world that was California, a big game hunter, yacht club favorite, a man of thought and action. What little he knew about spirits was that all such nonsense had been proven fake years ago. On the other hand he “had some experience with such phenomena as the swift transmission of news by savages across wide wastes of sparsely inhabited country.” In two months all his preconceptions would be blown away.
On March 17 at a dinner party some friends pulled out a Ouija board so the boozy Whites, overcoming Betty’s initial reluctance, tried it out for fun. In an atmosphere of frivolity and derisive laughter they replaced the planchette with a whisky glass. When the glass moved, Betty thought the others were playing tricks on her so she retreated, ignoring their denials, and watched from a distance.
In fits and starts of vague answers and what could have been dismissed as coincidences, certainly nothing convincing, they joked, considering it nothing more than a party game. Until the glass very firmly spelled out: “Why do you ask foolish questions?” Betty thought she was being tricked again when the glass spelled “Betty” repeatedly and urgently. When she finally came over, just for kicks, it went round and round in circles like a happy puppy. With Betty on the planchette a new message was repeated: “get a pencil.”
A few days later, alone at her desk, feeling foolish, Betty sat with paper and pencil at the ready. To her surprise her hand moved involuntarily or unconsciously and she began performing the time honored American tradition of automatic writing. Stewart was intrigued and helped her puzzle out the words since every letter from beginning to end was in a flow uninterrupted by spaces or punctuation. The message was deep enough, and intriguing enough, to invite further exploration. The Whites found themselves in touch with what they called The Invisibles.
The Spirit’s Book by Allan Kardec ignited the spiritualist movement in 1860.
This was no ordinary séance of alleged dead acquaintances communicating mysterious messages. This wasn’t the Kardec Spirit’s Book with its descriptions of life after death, reincarnation, and the operation of the law of karma. This was no Edgar Cayce reading of remedies, past lives, and Atlantis. The Invisibles were proposing a great experiment. They would teach Betty to be a different kind of medium, a highly refined instrument.
Automatic writing started out very slowly, words might take an hour to form, slow movement by slow movement, but then they became more fluid pouring out complex and articulate messages in an unbroken flow. But then after a few months the Invisibles made the formal announcement that the automatic writing would stop. The Whites were disappointed. The experiment had been such a success. That was when on a business trip Stewart ran into a copy of the book Our Unseen Guest.
1943 reissue of Our Unseen Guest with introduction by Stewart Edward White.
Our Unseen Guest was a popular book in the immediate aftermath of World War I. The anonymous authors who called themselves Joan and Darby also started out with a Ouija board and automatic writing. But they went on to mediumship. A spirit calling himself Stephen claiming to have died in the war gave a remarkably coherent philosophy of life and death.
Betty became a voice medium, with the same initial struggles and slow progress followed by uninterrupted flow, of her automatic writing. Stewart took notes in shorthand; tape recorders were still a few years away. He reports the curious phenomenon of blindfolded Betty in trance correcting him when he miswrote a word, for example, when he wrote “attitude” instead of “altitude of soul.”
In 1921, Stewart’s book Conjurer’s House was made into the movie The Call of the North directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A year later he and Betty boarded their boat. To a friend Stewart wrote: “Fifteen tons, fifty feet, sleeps five, thirty-seven horsepower, heavy duty engine, built sea-going, speed nine knots. No phonograph! No wine cellar. We are going north, that is all the plans we have. We two are all there are on board, though we are thinking of getting a cat…Her name is the Wreckless; be careful how you spell it.”
The White’s hot spot to yacht.
In 1923 Stewart was a research officer for the American Society of Psychical Research. His book Credo published in 1925 was his first publication of the channeled information, though he didn’t reveal the source. Followed by the folksier more accessible Why Be a Mud Turtle in 1928. The philosophy of life in these books struck a chord with so many readers the Whites were encouraged to continue their experiments.
They were joined by Joan and Darby, and by Margaret Cameron whose book The Seven Purposes was published in 1918. Years later with World War II looming just ahead Stewart was impressed that The Seven Purposes had correctly warned a world deluded with the hope of war having ended forever that even darker times were coming. That was the stated purpose of the spiritual communications, to help more people understand death, because so many would die soon in a battle that would decide the fate of humanity.
In May 1927, the Boy Scouts of America designated a new distinction, the title of Honorary Scout for “American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys.” Eighteen men were found worthy of the first list including Charles A. Lindbergh, Orville Wright, and Stewart Edward White.
Poster for film based on Stewart Edward White’s novel The Killer.
The Depression of 1929 did not harm the Whites. Stewart published a book in 1930 and two in 1932; the year President Hoover proclaimed him one of his favorite American novelists. Stewart’s 1919 novel, The Killer, was made into a film that year called Mystery Ranch. But Stewart and Betty were enthusiastically exploring her newfound talent.
The channeled messages, Stewart now understood, revealed an organization and forethought he admitted the subconscious might be capable of, but then how to explain the “attitude” and “altitude” incident and so many like it?
THE BETTY BOOK
“In answer to the desperate need of a stricken world, this book offers a new pattern for individual and social living…based on recapture of faith, not in the ‘there ness’ of immortality, but in its ‘here ness’”. The Betty Book.
The Whites, with some prodding from friends on this and the other side decided to reveal that their philosophy came from channeled material. But they wanted to retain some anonymity, so while Stewart admitted to his readers that his wisdom was from an unexpected source, he did not reveal that Betty the medium was his wife.
The risky move was rewarded when The Betty Book was published in 1937, instantly becoming a classic of spiritualist literature. My own copy of The Betty Book, bought on eBay recently for about three dollars, is a 1973 psychedelic paperback reprint by Berkeley Medallion who specialized in filling airport gift shop and hotel pulp racks in mid twentieth century America. The title The Betty Book is at the top in smaller font than the subtitle “Excursions into the World of Other Consciousness” with the quaint statement “Recorded and vouched for by Stewart Edward White.”
1973 psychedelic edition of The Betty Book.
The Betty Book begins by explaining that history is a process of deoccultization. We take for granted the wonders of electricity, for example, that would have seemed like magical powers to our ancestors.
We are introduced to a cast of invisibles, especially Anne, also known as Gaelic for her pronounced accent. “‘Anne knows much more than I do.’ Betty reported, ‘but I was selected because Joan and I were nearly of the same frequency while I was there; because I have so recently come over, and therefore am in closer touch with you and your ways of thinking; and, finally, because I worked so hard at it while I was there, that I developed certain qualifications.”
Perhaps, the first chapter closes, communication between living souls and dead, might someday be as common as radio.
The book ends with an experiment where Anne created what she called masks, so that Betty’s face seemed to change to that of a child, and then to an exaggerated caricature, seen by everyone present. Stewart wondered if it could have been a mass hallucination.
Betty thought she was a medium because she had an especially sensitive nervous system. She wondered if human beings might evolve more sensitive nervous systems so that in the far future communication with the invisibles could be a natural experience as common as a chat with a neighbor.
Carl Jung gave The Betty Book to his colleagues to read. Tina Keller M.D. had worked with Jung all the way back to when he left Freud to find his own way. Inspired by her interest in Tai Chi she was the first to bring movement and dance to Jung’s active imagination therapy. In her 1971 lecture at the C.G. Jung Institute she reminisced about him. She reported that Jung gave her The Betty Book when it was first published.
Tina Keller, M.D.
Keller “read and reread” all Betty’s books that followed. In 1971 she declared: “Betty White, the brilliant woman who had accidentally discovered her mediumistic gifts, dictated to her husband, the writer and explorer Stewart Edward White, a long series of teachings, full of wisdom and salty humor, for practical application in living. They were communicated by different personalities or quasi- personalities whom the Whites dubbed “the Invisibles.” It was stated emphatically that only those who really practice the teachings could, through experience, come to understand them. My own experiments, based on the books, proved this to be both true and extremely important.”
However, eerie presentiments appear in the Betty Book, hidden meanings were about to become starkly clear. “Betty was to be fitted for an introduction into the realities of another consciousness, –that of these invisible intelligences. She was to go to them, instead of their coming to her. It was described as a “lessening of density,” and a “change of specific gravity.”
1937 brought a much greater adventure than the publication of the Betty Book. Betty died. Soon after her famous garden of rare plants from all over the world “that only bloomed for her” withered and died despite the best efforts of experts and Stewart himself, an experienced gardener.
ACROSS THE UNKNOWN
Stewart and Betty’s next book Across the Unknown: A Formula for Living was finished, or so they thought, as The Betty Book became a success. In Across the Unknown the invisibles taught Betty how to cross over while still alive. Led step-by-step by the invisibles to a state of consciousness available to everyone but rarely used by anyone she described the after death state.
Betty described being reduced to a single point of consciousness. That essential atom of herself couldn’t be pinned down in space-time, from the perspective of which it seemed to be everywhere at once, yet nowhere.
Her birth there was not unlike her birth here. She began helpless, her surroundings unclear, wanting simple things, the way an infant needs nourishment and warmth. With various exercises, questions, and explanations the invisibles helped Betty experience greater awareness and control of her mysterious new consciousness.
She also developed a new perspective of life on earth:
“How could you tell anybody that all those unsubstance things we do and putter with and play with are only the shadow of what we are actually creating in this great strength we do not see? They are experimental samples of life we look over and play with for selective purposes. Ordinarily they are the only reality we recognize, but from here they seem just shadows.”
New terminology is offered: spirits are now invisibles. The worlds of life and death are not separate, in fact, they are one. The life we know is in the obstructed universe. When we die we return to the unobstructed universe. The difference is frequency. The world of bodies is a low vibration. The high frequency of the invisibles penetrates matter, permeating it with consciousness. In fact, matter itself is consciousness.
Betty and the invisibles give advice about better living. The lower self subject to faults like irritability, gluttony, even self-destructive thoughts, should not be treated as evil or an enemy. We are advised to think of a tennis match or other sport, a friendly game, rather than a mortal battle.
We are told appreciation is a great force in the universe, a radiance of the power of love. Every tragic event in the news each day and all those never no one ever hears of are counteracted by uncounted acts of kindness that combine like instruments in a symphony to lift life and make it worth living.
How significant that Stewart gave the name “The Blazed Trail” to one of the chapters. The Blazed Trail was the title of his most popular western. Most of the chapter titles are frontier related: “Border Country,” “Pioneer Methods,” “Homestead.” Stewart wanted to make clear that the exploration of the borderline between life and death was the natural extension of American ambition. Now that the west was settled only one unknown remained.
But before the book went to press Betty became ill. She suffered two months before passing away. Publication of Across the Unknown was delayed. Stewart added an afterword titled “I Bear Witness,” an extraordinary testimony of love.
“Four months ago,” Stewart wrote, “the manuscript of this book was put in final form and sent to the publishers. And so was completed another full turn in the spiral of Betty’s work. But not, apparently, the work itself. According to the Invisibles something of this yet remained to be accomplished–something they refused to define, except that it was different from what had gone before. “Like a blossom,” said they. “A blossom?” Betty asked. “Something that occurs at the end of effort, as a demonstration to others. It is a natural attribute of your accomplishment. Of course you could go on living as you are, but then you couldn’t have the demonstration at the top of your endeavor.”
“At that time the true meaning of this escaped me altogether. My interpretation was that Betty was about to begin another spiral of instruction; with the difference they mentioned appearing largely in the treatment. Accordingly, when she was overtaken only two weeks later by a serious and rackingly painful illness, I was convinced that the success of the job demanded her recovery. It seemed to me defeat at this point would mean that everything we had built up through all these years, and that so many people had taken from us and believed, would crumble into disrepute. And so I fought with every means at my command to hold her back from the Great Adventure.
“Another strong incentive to battle, of course, was our natural dread of separation. I shall not dwell on this, but it is necessary to touch upon it sufficiently. We had been married for thirty-five years. In that time we had been apart for but three periods of any length: twice during my explorations into unknown parts of Central Africa and once during my service in the World War. We had met together the adventures of life, and
they had been varied: years of pack horse travel in the Rockies and Sierra; the cattle ranges of Arizona before the movies came; fourteen months in Africa; sixteen seasons in Alaska–here, there, and everywhere in the wild and tame corners of the earth. And adventures also among people, and ideas, and for twenty years the pioneering in these strange dim regions of the higher consciousness.
“In the course of this last exploration we had finally arrived at the settled conviction that permanent separation is impossible. Nevertheless it is only human to dread the temporary parting: to contemplate such an interim as something dismal to be endured. I feel sure that this was a stronger consideration with me than with her. There is always a difference between any conviction, however profound, which is arrived at by study and inference; and the understanding belief, which comes of experiencing directly the thing itself. For years Betty had been running back and forth to the other consciousness as easily and naturally as a cat in and out of a house–remember her various essays at experimental dying–whereas I had stayed on the inside only looking out. That she should face her final transition to this consciousness with serenity, then, was only to be expected. And it was equally inevitable that, in spite of any amount of philosophizing, there remained in the depths of my being, essentially unmodified, the primitive fear of death and separation.
“Accordingly, I now realize definitely, Betty’s strongest incentive in her fight was myself. This was not clear to me then, or my own attitude might have been different. She could not foresee how I would take her going, and she was reluctant to bum her bridges. For over two months it was just this that held her, in spite of the greatest pain and in face of what must have been almost overwhelming temptation. “I could go so easily!” she told me, “at any minute. I have to fight against it in the night.” She asked me a little wistfully, “If it came about that way, you wouldn’t mind too much letting me go, would you?” And I, in my ignorance, replied emphatically: “I most certainly would!”
“Two months passed and she became weaker and weaker, until finally the physical frame was worn to the point where only her fighting spirit held her. By now she could only whisper a word at a time, gathering strength for each effort. In the evening the doctor came to the house. I took him to see her, but was not myself looking toward her, when I heard him exclaim: “My God! The woman still smiles!”
“Then for the first time I allowed myself to entertain a doubt as to the wisdom of our persistence. What job could there be that was worth such suffering? A little later Betty closed her eyes. We were not sure whether she was conscious or in coma. I went into another room, sat in an easy chair, and “projected” in her direction as strongly as I could these words: “You are now where you can decide whether or not the job requires you to stay here and endure this. As far, as I am concerned, I release you gladly. I will take you by the hand, go with you just as far as I can, and place it in the hand of the one who is waiting.”
“A minute or so later the doctor came to tell me it was over: that suddenly Betty had spoken up, as clearly and gaily as had always been her habit. “It’s all right,” said she. “I’ve had a talk with my boy. You can take me now.”
“Now comes the part I almost despair of setting down adequately. But it is the big thing, and I must try. My first momentary reaction was of relief that she need no longer go through such agonies. The next was a faint but growing surprise that the apprehension of death as a dark veil, an impenetrable barrier, a sharp division was whisked away. It became as thin as a mist. Instead of being a big portentous thing, it was really a comparatively unimportant and trivial detail, after all. Then, as the minutes passed, I became literally astounded that all the things I had been dreading, and bracing myself for, simply weren’t there. For it was becoming increasingly, most gloriously, evident to me that the only serious threat of death did not exist.
“This next is very difficult to convey. Let me see if I can give an inkling. You know the cozy, intimate feeling of companionship you get sometimes when you are in the same room; perhaps each reading a book; not speaking; not even looking at one another. It is tenuous, an evanescent thing–one that we too often fail to savor and appreciate. Sometimes, in fact, it takes an evening or two of empty solitude to make us realize how substantial and important it really is. Then, on the other hand, you know how you draw closer by means of things you do together. And still more through talk and such mental interchanges. And most of all, perhaps, in the various physical relationships of love and marriage.
“Now when you stop to think of it, all these latter material contacts, right through the whole of life, are at root and in essence aimed at really just one thing: that rare inner feeling of companionship suggested feebly in the sitting-by-the-fire idea. That is what we really are groping for in all friendly and loving human relations, hampered by the fact that we are different people more or less muffled from each other by the barriers of encasement in the body.
“Well, within a very few minutes that companionship flooded through my whole being from Betty, but in an intensity and purity of which I had previously had no conception. It was the same thing, but a hundred, a thousand times stronger. And I realized that it more than compensated for the little fact that she had stepped across, because it was the thing that all our physical activities together had striven for, but–compared with this–had gained only dimly and in part. Why not? Actually it was doing perfectly what all these other things had only groped for. So what use the other things? And why should I miss them?
“Does this sound fantastic? Maybe; but it is as real and solid as the chair I am sitting on. So much so that I have never in my life been so filled with pure happiness. No despair; no devastation; just a deeper happiness than I have experienced with her ever before, save in the brief moments when everything harmonized in fulfillment. And furthermore it has lasted, and is with me always.
“This, I now believe, is the “great blossom” of which the Invisibles spoke; the final significance to which all of Betty’s twenty years of work was to lead. Here is her concrete proof of one reward that can come to those who follow in her footsteps, her final evidence that her instrument of twenty years’ forging is strong enough to withstand the supreme test:
“Of course I do not delude myself that those who pursue Betty’s teachings to this culmination are going to be able, all of them, to gain this point of view in face of loss. Not all of them, nor completely. But it is a demonstration that it can be done; and it is forerunner of what will, one day, be the universal experience of those who follow the trail she has blazed across the unknown.”
So ends the book but not the story. Because the blossom Betty and the invisibles had in mind was much more than Stewart Edward White bearing witness in an afterword. The Great Experiment continued. But imagine the impact of that last paragraph for readers who had read him for decades. Across the Unknown first hit bookstore shelves in August 1939. The classic film The Wizard of Oz premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The first day of September the Nazi blitzkrieg overran Poland starting World War II.
THE UNOBSTRUCTED UNIVERSE
Everyone wondered why Betty didn’t immediately return through a medium like her friend Joan. Stewart insisted he was content with the overwhelming sense of Betty’s “merry” presence that kept him company intermittently but every day. Then the phone calls and letters began.
Friends, acquaintances, even strangers reported experiences with Betty. Some felt the same flood of happiness at her presence. Others had dream conversations with her. Practical jokes and emotional epiphanies were reported. Stewart had the sense that Betty was making the most of her newly gained unobstructed body. He didn’t have anything he needed to ask her, he wanted no further proof of her survival, and he thought it would be trivial and disrespectful to demand a showy demonstration.
Six months passed. Then Joan had a puzzling experience in New York City. First she boarded the wrong bus. Then she indulged herself by deciding to make the mistake a happy accident by shopping in a department store she hadn’t visited for years. As soon as she entered she fixated on a cart stacked with red Chinese lacquer boxes on sale at a clearance bargain price. She had to have one, she thought, but they were sold out, she was told. She insisted on speaking to the manager and demanded they look in their stock rooms and call the warehouse. They found one for her. But instead of returning home happy with her purchase she was vexed because she already had Chinese boxes and had nowhere to put this one. All this behavior, the wrong bus, the impulse buy, was very unlike Joan who prided herself on planning her adventures, whether mystical or mundane.
Soon after all became clear when Stewart visited Joan and Darby. They were not planning to channel Betty but she crashed the party. Betty began by calling Stewart “Stewt” the name for him she only used in private. Then she provided all the proof he could want.
“Betty began,” Stewart wrote, “talking to me quietly, fluently, with assured and intimate knowledge of our common experience and living. There was no “fishing” and no fumbling. That part of it became almost ridiculous, it was so easy for her where with usual “psychical research” it has been so difficult. Here, in this first evening, she literally poured out a succession of these authentications. She mentioned not one, but dozens, of small events out of our past, of trivial facts in our mutual experience or surroundings, none of which could by any possibility be within Joan’s knowledge.”
Chinese red lacquer box circa 1939.
Then Betty asked Stewart to pay back Joan for the Chinese box. The box was to be sent as a parting gift from Betty to her little sister. Betty told Stewart that the important thing was the birds on the lid. Her little sister was amazed when Stewart delivered the gift. She explained that Betty and she as children would climb into a tree to watch a nest of swallows, the kind of bird carved on the Chinese box.
With the second world war raging so soon after the first, nihilism and angst caused more people than ever to question the meaning of life. Betty offered an answer: “The obstructed universe is for the purpose of birth, of the individualization of consciousness. All matter is born in your universe. Nothing is lost. Individuality is not lost, though in its lower forms matter can be burned, turned into gas, or what have you. Yet it is all kept…the highest form, the soul, goes on undivided.”
Betty compared the obstructed universe to a black and white photograph and the unobstructed to a color photograph of the same scene. Just as a color photo provides more information than a black and white one, unobstructed souls understand more about the world.
An electric fan is the symbol of how frequency influences obstructed senses. The blades look solid when still but when the fan is on the blades seem to disappear. We can look right through them. Yet they are there. Jung later used this symbol in one of his essays on the occult without crediting the source he got it from.
In The Unobstructed Universe, Betty taught Joan how to visit the unobstructed. Joan described how she saw Betty there: “One of the things that interests me most is the beautiful bodies the people here inhabit. My body is tied: I have to go back, I cannot stay. But if anyone likes light and color–the bodies of these people shine with light and color. I recognize them by their light and color, because the intensity of their color and of their light shows their frequency. You can almost TELL their degrees that way. Certainly you feel the radiance of their individuality. They are very beautiful.
“I’d like to tell you how I see Betty,” Joan continued, “how she is with me here. She looks just as she looked in her garden, except that she shines, and there is a soft rosy glow from her, and it is warm and sweet, and very, very comforting to feel. It is friendly and kind, and there is great strength in it. Her color is a beautiful new color I have never seen anywhere else. I cannot describe it; for it is out beyond the color-frequencies we have words for. But it is made up of gold, and rich deep rose, and a sort of heavenly blue, and it pulsates around her.
“That old saying ‘the music of the spheres,’ is true too,” Joan reported, “and it’s the voices of the people around me; and Betty’s voice is a dear, singing, laughing voice. Everyone here who knows her adores her; and she is accumulating to herself a great deal of power and graciousness and strength because of the work she is doing.”
For the first time the Holy Bible came up. The Old Testament may be bloody but at least it includes singing and laughter. The New Testament promises comfort for those who mourn because mourners try to discover the truth about death and so find it only a shift of form not a final ending. “Christianity,” Betty claimed, “has done most for the world; in envisioning individual and collective liberty, in belief in self, democracy, education, real freedom. It was first expressed in terms needed for understanding at the time, just as I retell the truth now in the terms of your times.”
“So many stepladders by which to get back,” she went on. “So many stepladders the human race has accumulated, if only it could recognize them. They are recorded in all languages and in all sorts of ways; in
folk tales and the picture writings of the savage tribes; in the various bibles of the various races; in poetry, in music, in sculpture, in painting. In fact, all humanity has been reaching toward the UNOBSTRUCTED ever since humanity was.”
The Unobstructed Universe was Stewart’s most successful book, a bestseller and mass market paperback. Dutton reprinted it twice monthly repeatedly trying to keep up with demand. The world was engulfed in War. Paris had fallen in May. As the book hit the shelves Luftwaffe bombers began blitzing London.
Other books followed. The Road I Know was published in 1942. It reprinted large chunks from the earlier Betty books but also provided more detail. One chapter is titled “Everybody is Psychic.”
Anchors to Windward: Stability and Personal Peace Here and Now was published in 1943. It presents Stewart’s own philosophy of life, of course, strongly influenced by Betty’s. Stewart describes how he copes with aging, and the good aspects of it, in a world that must have been frightening to seniors who had survived one world war and who now had to survive another.
The patriotically titled The Stars are Still There (1946) included the chapter The War Dead in which Stewart shared information from Betty about what it’s like for the confused soldiers and other victims passing over in crowds. He also quoted letters from people helped by The Betty Book and the Unobstructed Universe.
An unpublished compilation “The Gaelic Manuscripts” had been circulating for sometime in a mimeographed form of which there were only 200 copies distributed to friends. I was lucky enough to find one at the Bodhi Tree bookstore. The old gray binder contained yellowing sheets of dense paragraphs in blue ink. Some of this material was published posthumously as The Job of Life in 1948. The introduction was a reminiscence of Stewart by Leslie Kimmell, his secretary at the end of his life.
Kimmell said Stewart was a quiet man with a sense of humor, a good listener, with a horror of meddling in other people’s affairs. He amused himself by reading, seeing movies, gardening, dictating letters giving advice to seekers who were encouraged to think it out for themselves with the principles Stewart suggested.
Two Cairn terriers followed him around, one chosen from beyond by Betty, with whom they often seemed to be interacting, chasing invisible toys and barking at an invisible something about four foot eleven. Stewart spent an hour a day meditating in Betty’s blue room, where he not only felt her presence but also received instruction, some of which was published in Anchors to Windward. Private interviews were granted to people seeking help only after Stewart felt more secure in the support he believed Betty and the invisibles gave him, helping him provide helpful answers. The many requests for a school or organization of some kind were “gently but determinedly discouraged.” He didn’t want to convert anyone. “Every fellow has to find his own way,” he said.
Stewart Edward White’s Golden Trout of the Little Kern Valley.
In a speech President Theodore Roosevelt listed Stewart as one of six naturalists to whom “we owe a real debt.” The Federal Fishery Bureau named a subspecies of the Rainbow trout, the Golden Trout of the Little Kern River in California after Stewart Edward White. Sadly in May 15, 1978, the Little Kern River Golden trout was designated as Threatened and added to the Federal Endangered and Threatened Species list.
The author of the massive bestseller, and classic of American Metaphysical Religion, The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), Norman Vincent Peale, praised The Betty Book, and the Unobstructed Universe in his own books.
In 1955 the Stewart Edward White Grove of sequoias in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park was dedicated on the coast of California just south of Oregon.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
During the 1957/58 season of the TV show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color six episodes were based on White’s quartet of books about the western expansion of the American frontier, The Long Rifle, Folded Hills, Ranchero, and Stampede, that became The Saga of Andy Burnett, the story of a boy who inherits Daniel Boone’s rifle. Eight of Stewart’s books and one of his series were turned into movies.
In 1965 Dutton put out a Book of the Month Club hardcover edition of The Betty Book reaching an audience of suburban households the year The Beatles first toured America, not long after the assassination of JFK.
Mass market reprints of the Betty books with lurid covers of tranced out hippie chicks were on bookracks in the late sixties and early seventies. Yet Herbert Baldwin, an apple grower in Connecticut, wrote a letter to the editor that made it into the February 1973 edition of the Rotarian magazine, wherein he praised The Unobstructed Universe as “a rational, logical description of the continuity of life after death, beautiful and believable–.” He recommended it to his Rotarian brothers, pointing out that the new paperback issued in 1973 was the 23rd printing.
The Whites continued to inspire writers from Suzy Smith, author of about thirty books including Confessions of a Psychic (1971), to University of Arizona academic (by way of Yale and Harvard) professor Gary Schwartz who wrote The Living Energy Universe (1999) in which he describes the book The Unobstructed Universe as a masterpiece.
In 2005 on a public Physics and Technology online forum a thread titled The Unobstructed Universe began: “After reading recent books on String Theory and the future of Physics, this is a very interesting read because many of the concepts put forward are only now being discussed. Whether the reality of the channeling is verifiable or not, the similarity of the concepts is striking: everything is a product of vibration and frequency. The universe only exists because it is evolving and evolution is the ultimate fact of life, everything exists because it is moving in time and space. Every thing is a form of consciousness, brought about by different degrees of frequency, receptivity, and conductivity. And here is a very toned down example, that a tree might equal 2X + 2Y + 7Z (where X is conductivity, Y is receptivity, and Z is frequency), while a stone might equal X + Y + 2Z.”
While the influence of their work continues, the Whites are curiously neglected. No serious biography of Stewart Edward White has been written. The Whites seldom appear in popular or scholarly chronicles of American Metaphysical Religion. Their books are passed between friends or stumbled upon online.
Although I could find only one photograph of Betty on the Internet all the Betty books can be read online for free thanks to Project Gutenberg Australia and others.
SPIRIT AND ARCHETYPE
“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.” Carl Jung
A friend of Jung’s from college fondly remembered Jung talking into the wee hours about theories of spiritualism and the works of researchers like the unfortunately named Sir William Crookes. Jung’s pet dachshund would listen to the conversation with such a somber expression he seemed to be considering the deepest imponderables of life. Jung told his friend that his dog would whine when occult presences could be felt in the house.
Emilie Jung, Carl Jung’s mother.
Jung’s mother Emilie left a diary in which she had recorded premonitions and all other manner of spooky experiences and strange phenomena. Emilie’s father had been so sensitive to spirits he made Emily stand behind his chair when he composed sermons, so the dead wouldn’t bother him. He held weekly conversations with his deceased first wife, to the chagrin of the second. The second wife saw visions of people and events that were sometimes proven accurate upon further investigation.
When Jung was nineteen, his thirteen-year-old cousin Helen acted as a medium in a series of family séances he organized.
One of the spirits she channeled called herself the real Helen. This Helen was a confident and intelligent somewhat sorrowful Jewish girl who claimed to have had many relationships with Jung during past lives; she could keep up with Jung, who found his actual cousin a daydreamer, average in every way. It’s a poignant moment in both their lives. According to her family the girl was in love with her dashing first year medical student cousin, and Jung was not as scientific and detached as he would later pretend. In a letter to famous ESP researcher JB Rhine, Jung described Helen as a “young woman with marked mediumistic faculties.” Helen gave him instructions for a mandala during one of these sessions, and mandalas became a central theme of his method.
Helen, Jung’s cousin.
In a way Helen was Jung’s first patient. He wrote his dissertation about her and the séances. With a cold and scientific eye he dismissed the spirits as fantasy personalities. Different aspects of her identity, and different ways of relating to difficult issues like sexuality, took form in these flights of imagination. But Jung did not mention that he had organized the séances, or that she was his cousin. Stupidly, or cruelly, he was too obvious in his description of her, and so doomed her to never marry, since the gossip about her madness quickly turned away potential suitors. She was sent to France to study dressmaking where she caught tuberculosis and died before age thirty.
In 1916 Jung himself became a medium, receiving his Gnostic classic Septem Sermones ad Mortuos, or “The Seven sermons to the dead written by Basilides in Alexandria transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung”. Jung described the strange goings on that heralded the birth of the curious document: “Then it was as if my house began to be haunted. My eldest daughter saw a white figure passing through the room. My second daughter, independently of her elder sister, related that twice in the night her blanket had been snatched away; and that same night my nine-year-old son had an anxiety dream. Around five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the front doorbell began ringing frantically. It was a bright summer day; the two maids were in the kitchen, from which the open square outside the front door could be seen. Everyone immediately looked to see who was there, but there was no one in sight. I was sitting near the doorbell, and not only heard it but saw it moving. We all simply stared at one another.”
Jung encountered a ghost in England in 1920, in a house all the locals knew was haunted. After knocks, odors, rustling sounds and echoed dripping, feeling smothered, and rigid, he experienced an apparition of a woman’s head across the pillow from him, staring at him only sixteen inches away. When he lit a candle it was gone. His experiences at most séances left something to be desired but a few left him with a lifelong respect for the unknown. Jung claimed to have not only seen the ghostly hand lifting and throwing objects at one séance, he claimed to have felt its pressure on his own skin. He witnessed inexplicable ectoplasm materializations and speculated about why sixty times the normal level of ions were measured.
Carl Jung, amateur medium.
“Although I have not distinguished myself by any original researches in the field,” Jung wrote, “I do not hesitate to declare that I have observed a sufficient number of such phenomena to be completely convinced of their reality. To me they are inexplicable, and I am therefore unable to decide in favor of any of the usual interpretations.”
In a letter about The Unobstructed Universe to his friend Fritz Kunkel, Jung wrote: “Betty behaves like a real woman and not like an anima. This seems to indicate that she is herself rather than an anima figure. Perhaps, with the help of such criteria, we shall one day succeed in establishing, at least indirectly, whether it is a question of an anima (which is an archetype never lacking in masculine psychology) or of a spirit… In each individual case I must of necessity be skeptical, but in the long run I have to admit that the spirit hypothesis yields better results in practice than any other.”
In his forward to the German edition of The Unobstructed Universe, published in Zurich in 1948 Jung is more neutral than in his letter to Kunkel. He appears agnostic, willing to admit the subject worthy of further attention, but as yet without solid proof. He suggests spirits are “exteriorized effects of unconscious complexes” then admits having observed telepathic and other psychic activity of the unconscious but insists that these phenomena provide no proof of spirits.
In the forward Jung also certifies The Unobstructed Universe a classic of American Metaphysical Religion when he writes: “Mechanistic thinking is one of the many Americanisms that stamp the book as a typical product and leave one in no doubt as to its origin. But it is well worth while getting to know this side of the American psyche, for the world will hear a great deal more of it in times to come.”
STEWT ABOUT BETTY
Stewart, in the book With Folded Wings, published in 1947 after his own death, the contract signed and manuscript delivered only eight days before he died, remembers the woman he loved, and with whom he explored frontiers from Alaska to central Africa and the borderline between life and death:
“She was raised in Newport R.I., with subsequent backgrounds of fashionable hotels in Bermuda, Florida, Jamaica, California. From babyhood to the very noon I married her she was tagged about by a personal Negro “mammy,” who dressed and undressed her, and picked up things after her. Her education was in an “exclusive” girls’ school, where, she later confessed, she learned “the whole of nothing.”
“So, for a honeymoon, I took her into the Sierra where she slept on the ground and no tent; ate camp food of my cooking; and got along by way of wardrobe-for four months-on what she could stuff into one small duffle bag. This seemed to me then a nice easy trip! I had been up in the Hudson Bay region, carrying everything I owned on my back; and here we had horses to do the carrying, and I did the cooking and hard work, and
all Betty had to do was sit a horse and look at the scenery-and-oh, yes-make the bed and help pack and do the laundry and maybe wash dishes occasionally when the horses strayed! Taking a lot for granted in the beginning, only years later did I realize that I was favored with a very miracle of adaptability. For Betty had a good time always, a joyous, zestful, outflinging good time. She always had that, right through life.
For her the world was, indeed, full of a number of things. She scorned the thought that it could ever be otherwise. “Old age?” she answered someone’s pessimistic objection. “But why old age at all? Old age is when you stop looking at things!”
“Sometimes, to tease her, I would describe her as the world’s greatest mongrel, and to prove it I would gabble, almost in a breath, as it were, the catalogue of her mixture. “She is half-Spanish, half-Scotch. She was born on the Isthmus of Panama, raised in Newport, and married a Westerner. Her mother was a Roman Catholic, her father a Scotch Presbyterian, she was brought up an Episcopalian, and now what is she?” And this, together with my suggestion that she was less than five feet tall, she ignored with dignity.
“One gift, that she had always possessed, was greatly developed, or perhaps only more clearly disclosed, by the life she led with me. That was her kinship with animals as well as with human beings. She understood them; and-more important-they understood and had confidence in her. Often I have rounded the bend of an Alaskan river to see Betty, sitting on a cut bank, talking to a raven beside her. On my appearance the bird would at once fly away-though I was, perhaps, a hundred yards distant, and Betty but two or three feet.
We were having a good deal to do, at that time, with the big Alaska brown-sometimes called Kodiak-bear, we were taking moving pictures and not killing, though camera demanded much shorter range than the rifle. While these animals by no means deserve their reputation for ferocity, they are to be treated with respect. One day Betty, walking upstream, met one of them, somewhere between twelve and fifteen hundred pounds of live bear, walking down stream. She stopped, drew herself up to her full five feet (?), and pointed a commanding finger.
“Now you are a nice bear,” said she, “but you go away! Go away!” she repeated more sharply. The bear stopped, looked at her to see if she meant it, dropped his ears exactly as a well-mannered dog obeys, and turned off at right angles into the brush. After a few such experiences-not only with bear, but with deer and other wild creatures, I began to pass up the camera when occasionally she would say: “I wouldn’t fool with that one, he’s cross.”
“Quite often, when we had anchored near shore, a yellow jacket would visit the cabin. Betty would hold her hands about a foot apart and extended toward the insect, and-believe it or not-that creature would go out of the hatch and away like a bullet. “I just convey to him that this is not a nice place for a yellow jacket to be,” she answered our queries. But she confessed she could do nothing with flies. “They are too scatter-minded,” she explained.
“…Anecdotes of this sort I could recall by the score. But one other picture seems to insist. One day the Austin Strongs, Betty and I were wandering through San Francisco’s open-air zoo. Betty was some distance ahead of us. We saw her stop for a long time before a cage in which dozed a great lion, boredly oblivious to the throngs of people passing or trying vainly to attract his attention. After a time Betty walked away. That lion opened his eyes, got to his feet, followed to the end of the cage, lifted his head staring after the tiny figure just as far as he could see her in the crowd. Then he sighed, lay down again, and closed his eyes. We pursued Betty. “What were you doing to that lion? ” we demanded. “I made him pictures,” said she simply, “pictures of the African veldt.”
“Zest; joyousness; the glow of radiation; a genuine love for all things great and small.” Simple elements of personality, but rarely to be met unalloyed. People felt the rarity, without recognizing it. One day, months after Betty’s death, I was driving home from the city, with a friend-a businessman. “Wasn’t it wonderful,” he said out of a prolonged silence, “that they loaned us Betty for a little while.”
Did Betty really build a bridge between the obstructed and the unobstructed? Did she return from the dead? White is too smart to think we will be so easily swayed by a story heard third hand. He wants to inspire us to our own experiments, if not with mediumship, then with a greater appreciation of the power of imagination and the beauty of life.
Perhaps Carl Jung should have the last word in this quote from his letter to Kunkel: “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.”
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The Stars are Still There
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With Folded Wings
White, Stewart Edward
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY
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.