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The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942

 

CHAPTER III
BETTY'S OWN NARRATIVE
1.

 

A FEW months ago, and quite by chance, I came across a number of folders in which Betty had filed a mass of papers and notes. Among them were sheets on which she had written down—apparently at irregular intervals—her own personal impressions concerning all this long arduous discipline and unfoldment. They are fragmentary and undated. I think perhaps they were notes for a personal narrative which was never undertaken. They do, however, give an invaluable background for the account of her training drawn from the actual records. The following—as far as it goes—is what Betty herself, in her own normal person, wrote of her thoughts and impressions concerning her experience. It is as she wrote it, except that I have here and there inserted a word obviously intended, or rearranged certain material out of logical order. But in no case have such slight alterations changed the sense.

 

2.

 

"Most of us," her notes began, "come into contact, 41


 

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sooner or later, with some one who has had experiences of a startling nature, something that points to the existence of powers beyond those we ordinarily possess. If such an experience happens to us personally, it is all the more arresting because we are forced to believe in it and try to explain it. Few things that can happen to us in the course of life are as thrilling— in the true sense of the word—as staggering, as these glimpses of an extension of our powers. Something long buried in us seems to come to the surface temporarily and convince us that the thing experienced is quite possible and true. I say temporarily, because at first it has tremendous tides. The high tide of our first enthusiasm has an ebb that drains away everything, leaving us far away from the original flooding inspiration. Then everything goes cold, flat and hopelessly inaccessible, if not actually repellent.

 

"It seems that the development of these higher powers within us runs a definite course, with symptoms almost as recognizable as measles. Exaltation and security; then flat-tired incapacities of all kinds, and doubt. After suffering long from each symptom, as if it were fatal, I have tried to sum up the whole experience from the vantage point of ten years of constant struggle.

 

"Why the struggle? I do not know. Certainly neither sorrow nor lack of life's experiences turned me to it. It must be born in people. Perhaps it was a gift from a long line of Scotch ancestors, all of whom seem


 

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to have had to struggle thus. At any rate, it has all happened along with an exceptionally busy adventure some life, and a happily married one.

 

"To tidy up the subject in my own mind I have hunted up some notes written in the very beginning of my psychic experiences.

 

"One night during dinner we and a friend discussed a psychic book I had been reading. The friend then told of her success in Russia at moving tables and we were inspired to try it ourselves, solemnly swearing 'on honor' to be honest in the experiment. After dinner the lamps were put out and by the firelight, kneeling around a small table, with tips of fingers touching the top and our little fingers joined, we three sat quietly waiting. After a brief wait we were thrilled by a strange feeling of vitality in the table and movement began. Until midnight we experimented, too spellbound with our own astonishing success to carry out our original engagement to go to the 'movies.'

 

"The table tipped once for yes and twice for no, and moved around the room in designated directions. Next we tried pencil and paper and bad a little success. Hearts were repeatedly drawn, 'love' and 'Helen' written, and a few uncertain attempts at words. These were done with a pencil held in one person's hand, with another person's hand placed lightly upon it, the elbows off the table.

 

"On a subsequent evening some friends came to call,


 

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bringing with them a Ouija board. With the usual protective veneer of suppressed hilarity, we proceeded to experiment with this. We tried the board with different combinations of people, receiving a jumble of sense and nonsense, vague advice on business, unremembered anecdotes of childhood playmates. Some of the names spelled out were familiar and others strange. The impression left was one of confusion, but also a certain bewildering credence. The first thing that really moved me was a message from my old colored nurse, an adored foster mother, who was with me from my birth to my marriage. Then came my mother, who had died in my babyhood, and called me daughter, a name strangely novel and beautiful to me as I had never known my parents. She urged me to try writing with a pencil.

 

"This in private I tried to do, with growing success each day. At first the letters all ran along together and had to be separated into words. I kept my eyes closed in order to free my mind of all outside distractions, but this was not so necessary later except when my attention wandered or became concentrated on the words being written. The messages were very simple ones urging me to continue, but they brought me a strange and beautiful elation. My mother confirmed my lifelong impression that my family (nearly all of whom had died in my childhood) had been watching over me and trying to influence me for years. I was pathetically


 

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almost frantically implored to have patience, faith and persistence in spite of failure or interruptions from opposing forces. Great insistence was made upon practice, constant practice, and keeping my mind a blank.

 

"'This is only a weak beginning. You will develop rapidly if you will only follow our influence. Will you make a little shrine of yourself for us to work through? There are many of us trying to get at our loved ones. After a while you will be able to talk and act with us. We want you to begin to practice giving yourself up to us so that we can talk through you. It will take some time for you cannot know our laws. Sit quietly a while, think of cosmic things, we will help.'

 

"In the meantime a telegram had come with the sad news that Lizzie, a much loved and devoted friend and retainer of the family, had had a stroke of apoplexy and was unconscious. I asked the Ouija board* if she would recover.

 

"'Do not worry, she will not suffer long, she will come to us in ten days,' the board answered.

 

"I said, 'Are you sure?'

 

"'About,' was the answer. In twelve days she was dead.

 

* But by this time Betty had, I thought, abandoned the Ouija board for automatic writing. This may be a slip on her part, or she may indeed have recurred for this purpose to the earlier method.


 

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"At about this time, also, came a sudden written message from Stewart's father, asking him to give financial aid to a friend of ours who needed capital to give him a business opportunity.

 

"'Write a letter at once, now,' the message urged, 'it is a question of time.'

 

"We were at that moment in a friend's camp at some distance from a post office, with no known communication that day, but no sooner was the letter written than a man arrived who was delivering something and returning at once, and to him we entrusted the letter. Later it proved that time was an important element in receiving the information regarding the loan.

 

"These circumstances, or coincidences, if you prefer, had at least the effect of arousing our interest. We determined to investigate slowly and carefully and honestly each step, not letting ourselves be carried away by any desire of our own to believe or disbelieve.

 

"Mediumship was now being urged upon me in the messages. My first and second efforts at this caused a strange sensation of being lifted out of myself and almost slipping over the edge, as when just losing consciousness under ether. Before letting me go, however, Stewart demanded assurance that I was really in the hands of my friends and for this purpose asked for a test. His father was asked to give the name of an old lumberman employed years ago, a name unknown to me. A curious jumble of names of old 'lumber jacks'


 

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came, all unknown to me, some of them known to Stewart, but the desired name did not come and the test failed.

 

"The next day this was written. 'It will be impossible for us to answer the tests for the present, because your father is not yet in our sphere and cannot communicate directly; as soon as that is made possible we will be able to convince you. At present it would only confuse you and not add to your faith. It is disappointing to us to have the delay, but we understand and do not blame you. It will be invaluable to have Stewart for us, so we must wait. We will let you know when we are ready for the tests. In the meantime we will write you regularly and try to prepare your mind for what we want you to do. We will not make you nervous. We promise that, and that no evil will come to you, for there are too many of us working over you. That is the great strength and hope of your particular case. It is all for your happiness. Dear child, fear not; tell Stewart to give you up to our care every day for a little while. From earliest times in the history of the race a few have experienced what you are now doing. It is now daily becoming more common, and we hope soon to be acknowledged before the world.

 

"'Give your mind to thoughts of our love for you and yours for us. It is the stepping stone which brings us safely across. We cannot succeed without that. Love is a powerful medium of communication. So much depends


 

48                                    THE ROAD I KNOW on you, we can only succeed if you do your part.'"*

 

"During this time and subsequently," Betty's notes go on, "my mind was exalted with my secret. I was supremely happy. There followed, however, a sinking, haunting period of lack of faith in myself. All I had ever learned of the subconscious mind tormented me with questionings. Could I be hypnotizing myself with this thing? The beautiful nearness and protection, which had been a lifelong companionship, cherished in the very fiber of me†, suddenly fell away, leaving me lonesome as a deserted soul. This temporary loss and struggle, in milder form, took place again and again after receiving various false predictions.

 

"Several books of similar experiences read about this time, and a wholesome and too lively sense of humor which occasionally brought on a childish and rather hysterically amused attitude towards the whole affair undoubtedly saved me at this period.

 

"My first experience of this kind of false prediction was astounding. I had asked a very foolish question, 'Will I have a long life?' The answer was, 'You will die

 

* All this—the table tipping, Ouija board, the visit to the friend's camp, the death of Lizzie—I recall as having happened in 1919.— S.E.W.

† Betty had always, though vaguely, felt herself under the care of the unseen. S.E.W.


 

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of cancer of the stomach in ten months.' Feeling a great personal interest in this statement and that something really should be done about it, I rallied a little efficiency and asked if I should go and have an X ray taken. The answer was rather blighting to a happy psychic, 'No, it will do no good.'

 

"I was not particularly depressed by this, strange as it may seem. My principal impression was that it was really sad for Stewart and that I must certainly hurry and finish up a lot of things at loose ends. It was honestly rather an exciting stimulating thought and if I could only persist in it efficiency would be tremendously increased. At once, however, a less hurried hand wrote, 'You will live many happy years.'

 

"This was my first experience with what I later learned to call the 'Blind Forces.' I had been repeatedly warned to maintain my faith in spite of interruptions from opposing forces, so I was not altogether unprepared. A number of almost childish pranks followed at intervals. Curiously enough, in some there seemed to be an element of truth, perverted in transmission. For instance, while sitting at a table in a hotel dining room my hand had a feverishly insistent desire to write. I took a menu, and on the back, with a haste which cramped my hand, received this message, 'Your Aunt Nina is in danger. She is in an automobile wreck. It is on the grade east of Hollywood (this after a slight hesitation).


 

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Bertha will be injured. You will be called on the telephone to go to them. Do not leave the hotel this afternoon. We did not foresee it.'

 

"Shortly afterwards my Aunt and Bertha rang up and talked to me on the telephone, as hale and hearty as ever. On returning home, however, I found that at the time my butler and his wife had been in an automobile wreck which proved very serious for her, poor girl, as her face was badly scarred for life.

 

"A rather amusing prediction received in the same hurried manner while on a street car and written on a paper torn from a package, announced that there would be a change in my fortunes; that I was to be left a large sum of money by someone the spirits had advised to leave it to me for their work. Rather a moral lecture followed, telling me to decide what was the most far-reaching benefit I could confer with it, and to act while I was in my prime; and giving me clearly to understand that I was not to use the money for myself in any way; that they would keep a suspicious eye on me. It continued, 'You do not believe, you are not as excited about this as we are. We should like to talk to you more about this wonderful gift, but you seem apathetic,' as indeed I was, for I knew that it was not true. At the end, 'This is not true, Mother,' was written.

 

"I felt quite resentful and indignant over these things, even though I had been more or less prepared


 

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to expect them, or some form of 'interference.' Gradually, however, my faith grew until, even in the midst of my indignation over what seemed a very flagrant case of attempt to deceive me, I still never doubted that an explanation would be given, and my desire to continue was as strong as ever. Only the surface of me demanded that I assume an injured frame of mind, as of a virtuous person badly treated. Always, too, I guard ed myself against too easy credulity. The etiquette of my world required certain apologies, but the supreme court within me was rather lenient about the whole disgraceful affair. There was no need in being huffy about it for no satisfactory apologies were given, outside of vague remarks about these scapegoat forces every failure is hung on. As for example thus—'the forces which intruded on you yesterday will not be allowed to make an attack upon you again.' I preserved a dignified and judicial silence as there seemed nothing else to do. This promise of better protection was faithfully kept, for on two evenings soon after this, when the writing faltered or became tense, the pencil was forcibly knocked out of my hand. The false messages had always been delivered with feverish haste and great force in contrast to the calm and deliberation of other communications, especially those from my father. This 'cutting-in' baste had the virtue of making me able to recognize instantly and discount anything thus received. The imitation high moral tone adopted in the announcement


 

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of my coming fortune was particularly absurd. After the first irritation had passed, it seemed rather humorous to me and I felt as if dealing with children who had dressed up 'to play lady and go calling.'

 

3.

 

I want to break in on Betty's manuscript at this point to emphasize the strength of the opposing currents against which she persisted. As she says, the communications themselves were sprinkled with inconsistencies and crude falsifications for which, as yet, no sufficing explanations—or apologies were offered. And she had not, of course, yet learned to edit such things out. I should not have been much surprised if she had chucked the whole thing. It took some resolution to set aside, from an exceptionally busy and colorful life, so much time for anything so unreliable and doubtful.

 

For her life was indeed busy and colorful. California in winter attracts a great variety and number of people from all over the world. Our friends derisively nicknamed our house "The White Hotel" because of the almost continuous occupation of our guest rooms. We gave dinners—many of them and because we invited people in order to know them, we never set table for more than ten. Betty served tea every afternoon, soon attracting her own little circle of the faithful who came as often as they could without shame. And beside the


 

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regulars she used that hour to entertain such visitors as she could not quite work in on the "hotel" or a dinner. The flow through our house was almost continuous. We had about everything—writers, soldiers, statesmen, ranchmen, cowboys, fishermen, artists, stage people, a Japanese ambassador, a Persian mystic, a Celanese prince. No end to them. A brilliant company on the whole; a congenial company too, made so by Betty's uncanny ability to lift people to their own tops.

 

The graceful and gracious conduct of this constantly shifting social menagerie would seem a full-time job, but it was actually only one side issue of Betty's many lively interests. She had three acres of garden which she managed with the labor of one man—and it was her garden, not a gardener's garden—minutely diagrammed by her, down to the planting of the last pansy, on huge sheets of wrapping paper. With a truly professional eye she took into account color, height, background, arrangement, the seasons. And the results she achieved brought her literally dozens of blue ribbons in competition with the big estates employing as many as ten gardeners. In this garden also she collected and acclimated rare foreign plants and shrubs—concerning which even yet I am called upon to write very ignorant replies to enquiring scientists. It was this collection which gained her, in the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the unsought listing as Agricultural Explorer. In addition she was very active in our local Gar


 

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den Club, injecting into its numerous affairs certain quaint and Bettyish conceits of her own. For example, she established (for the Annual Flower Shows) an especial award which was known as the Smell Trophy to be given for that arrangement judged to produce the most pleasing blend of perfume! And another—in cash—to the sculptor submitting the design for a bird fountain, faucet head, or what-not which was at once the most artistic and could be the most cheaply reproduced. All this likewise would seem to be a full-time job.

 

But she had just as much interest and zest to put into all sorts of other outlets for her insatiable energy. She wove textiles of her own designs; she had a potter's wheel and did some really charming original pottery; she modeled in clay. She was deeply interested in Oriental Art of which she made a serious study. She wrote—for her own satisfaction, since she showed it to nobody—the gayest light verse. I found dozens of such poems, good ones, among her papers. She even had a flair for catching essentials with spirited, quick pencil sketches, a talent I had not suspected until one day in Alaska after we had been married some twenty years. Something comical in a bear's movements amused her and she recorded the beast's attitude with a few quick strokes. And all these various aptitudes she used merely for her own amusement. It seemed never to occur to her to show them to anyone; and she was


 

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always surprised when I insisted on bringing them out. It was as though they were simply the varied expression of one essential thing within her, so that it did not particularly matter what medium she happened to use. She never took any of them ponderously, nor did she pursue any of them too single-mindedly. But they were part of the "busyness" Of life to which she refers.

 

And lastly, just for full measure, she did a great deal in social service and charity work—tubercular children, the unemployed before the days of Government relief, and the like.

 

This for seven or eight months of the year. Summers we cruised, up the Pacific Northwest Coast. As we did our own navigation, and had a vivid side interest in everything from digging clams to chasing after whales, these months also had a considerable "busyness". So when I say that throughout all these twenty years,—from 1919 to 1939,—Betty never failed to find at least one hour every day for this mysterious work to which she was summoned, the strength of its compulsion can be understood.

 

4.

 

"Remembering the daily anxious messages I had received begging me to go on in the face of discouragement," Betty's own manuscript continues, "I went on with my experiment. There was a lack of my former


 

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enthusiasm, however, and this evidently reacted on the communications, which were labored and had not the interest of previous ones. I took up my pencil listlessly, always on guard to repel marauders. In my waning faith I demanded some material proof.

 

"'Convince me that you are here,' I said. 'Move my arms or legs. Make me feel your presence.'

 

"A sensation ensued of strong currents running through me, but I could not be sure that it was not mental suggestion. Stewart's arms were twisted and jerked around as if he were going through calisthenics and his hands were involuntarily clenched.* Immediately I received the following in writing:

 

"'You will not have any success with such manifestations. We do not especially recommend trying them, we are not after that kind of mediumship; we want to protect you more or less against just such things and keep our own private wire under proper control and insulation. It may be a comfort and pleasure to feel that way—that we answer and are near—but how can you be sure who it is answering you? It is the cheapest, easiest form of communication. We are building up a different variety for you and your uses. It is a far more delicate mechanism and so more difficult to manipulate. It will, however, be much more reliable.'

 

* Up to this time Betty had, in general, worked alone, with automatic writing. However, I was now "sitting in", as a spectator. The sensation of what she described was similar to the muscle-jerk induced by an electric current.


 

THE ROAD I KNOW                                      57 "We asked the question, 'Who is jerking Stewart's muscles?'

 

"'An experimental pest,' was the answer. Not until sometime later did any involuntary movement of muscles come to me and then it was unsolicited. A rare occurrence.

 

"Until the beginning of my, second period, nearly a month later, this anaemic uncertain frame of mind possessed me. It may have been due to lack of physical vitality, for I was very tired.

 

"That I did not abandon the experiment altogether as a dangerous, useless pursuit—as so many do at this period—was partly due to an obstinate disposition and partly to Stewart's interest and encouragement— combined, of course, with that of my spirit family. Gradually the fog was lifted. By rereading the communications, piecing together bits of advice sent me in regard to control of my own mind and spirit, and by the slow subtle impressions that came to me, I worked out a crude sort of formula for myself. All of a sudden it was successful, and the pall was thrown off me."

 

5.

 

All I have quoted in the foregoing was written as one piece. Betty's own phrase—"this is written after ten years of constant struggle"—dates it as done in 1929. The internal evidence of the context indicates


 

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that she was dealing with only the beginnings, for she had graduated from automatic writing by the first months of 1920. Her training in the technique of receiving and passing on what she was taught and what she experienced, was merely a necessary adjunct to her real job of growth and development. I shall sketch the latter process in due time; but first let us follow out all Betty herself had to say, in her own person.

 

BETTY'S OWN NARRATIVE (Continued)