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The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942

 

CHAPTER V
BETTY LEARNS TECHNIQUE

 

BEFORE finally setting out to follow Betty, as well as we can, through the twenty years of her inner expansion, I must describe—very briefly—the mere externals of technique.

 

The first Ouija board period lasted but a few days. The toy seemed to be used only to attract her attention, and to direct her to a more facile method of communication—automatic writing. Indeed about the only clearly defined "message" it conveyed was the admonition, over and over repeated, "Get a pencil. Get a pencil."

 

I was not present at Betty's first experiments at automatic writing, though of course I saw the results eventually. She described them as slow and fumbling. The first script was ill-formed, without capitals or punctuation or spacing, like one long continuous word. She had to go over it painfully, dividing the words from one another. Sometimes it was necessary to guess at some of them, from the context. But they made such good sense that she brought the scrawls to me. We decided to go on with it.

 

With practice the writing improved. The words


 

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were divided; the letters clearly formed; the sentences capitalized and punctuated. The whole process gained speed and certainty, until it had the facility of one writing a letter about something he really wanted to say. And the content of the instruction thus conveyed was so forward looking and yet so practical, that I settled back in my own mind to much the same anticipation as I would have had in the writing of a book. Here was material; here was the ability to write. What more could one want?

 

And then, after only nine months of it, we were blandly informed that shortly the writing would cease! And it did!

 

We resolved to try a new technique. Betty bandaged her eyes and lay flat. I took her wrist. This was in December, 1919.

 

The experiment was an instant success in that Betty appeared at once to slip easily into a kind of expanded consciousness. Perhaps double consciousness would be better. Her self seemed to be mainly centered in the expansion, but at the same time she retained enough connection with physical existence to talk to me in report of what she saw, heard or did. I think my touch on her wrist was what held this channel open. And I suspect I may, in some mysterious fashion, have contributed to the conditions that enabled her to function in her two aspects at once. At any rate, when she worked alone she brought back nothing for record,


 

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though she did report in general even greater personal success. Or perhaps my touch on her wrist was merely her sort of tea leaves or crystal ball— the device that opened the channel. I preferred to think the former. For if my function was only as recorder of what was said, I shall claim a heavenly crown of patience. Even after the technique was established, I was often forced to sit for long intervals, holding Betty's wrist, while she was most happily busy at her own invisible affairs.

 

But that is a bit ahead of the story. Though from the very first attempt Betty managed this slipping into the double consciousness quite easily, the other aspect—the reporting back—was a different matter. When she tried to tell me about it—whatever it was—her speech was halting, stumbling, fragmentary almost to the point of incoherence. Obscurely, through that incoherence, I thought I caught glimpses of something important. But as compared to our easy, rapid automatic writing this seemed to be a very ramshackle makeshift. Still, I was in it for the duration. Gradually emerged a reasonable explanation. In the automatic writing Betty had been an amanuensis; had merely lent herself as a machine. Now she was to be brought into touch with realities, which she was to absorb and tell about. Also—as herself partaker of this superconsciousness—she would receive direct impressions, would hear words with some "inner ear." While still in the supernormal state, she would bring down these things to that fragment


 

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of normal consciousness retained for the purpose, and through it report to me for record.

 

That was the program, as I understood it, and it seemed both reasonable and interesting. She made quick progress. Soon she was able to tell me matters that made sense in what was gradually revealing itself as an ordered and progressive expansion of herself. And then once more, just as this method in turn began to be really useful, it was interrupted and something new attempted.

 

We had no warning. On January 28, 1921—almost a year after the first Ouija board trial—Betty withdrew herself into one of her patience-trying private sessions. All I got out of it was a fragment now and then of her side of conversations with her Invisibles—"I'd like to: but can I?" "How silly!" "Where do I find it? will you show me?"—tantalizing bits. Finally—after over an hour of this—she turned to me.

 

"They can't tell me what I'm working toward because they cannot tell yet what I'm capable of developing," said she. "They can't predict: it all depends on me. They want me to do regular laboratory work, but how can I?—How they shove! " she cried. "How they shove me! My, what a force they're putting behind me, pushing me on, on, on!—My other consciousness with you is slipping, slipping—I'm just barely conscious whether I'm talking or not—It's a new phase—I don't want to lose consciousness."


 

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She was immobile and silent for thirteen minutes. Then she sighed deeply and slightly moved her feet.

 

"I can move now. Rouse me. It is all over for tonight. What did they do to me? I was holding intercourse with somebody, but it did not get back to my waking consciousness."

 

I shook her wrist gently, and after a few moments she came back. Whether I liked this or not I did not quite know. But Betty seemed no worse for it. On the contrary, her color was bright, her vitality increased.

 

The following day's session began again with some private business which wag not confided to me. I gathered that Betty was being persuaded to something. " Oh go ahead; I don't care," she muttered at one time. "I don't know what you're doing," she complained. "Oh, do be definite and don't muddle it!" she cried. "I'm not cross! " she disclaimed, "I've got to breathe! " "I don't believe it's going to work anyway," she protested. "— Well, I'll try."

 

Then ten minutes of silence. Suddenly a guttural sound in her throat— gr—, a pause, and the sound was repeated several times, until it extended itself into an almost recognizable word, grandma. After ten seconds, very distinctly and clearly the two words Grandma White. But the voice that spoke them was not Betty's! By the same slow and painful process came my love; many more; the name Mary. And finally the beginning of a sentence, make her—.


 

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It took just an hour for these few words, with a lot of under-breath rapid comment of protest and apology from Betty. At last she said to me:

 

"Doesn't amount to anything. I wish you'd take me out. I'm tired. It is not coherent, and I cannot help it. They dull me and then do it themselves."

 

After this she continued daily to work—and clearly and valuably—by her old technique of reporting back, from the other consciousness, in her own person, until February 11, when a second attempt was made at what might be called "direct transmission." Here is the entire result of something over an hour.

 

"Mary—rather hard—realize difficulties—give consideration channel—undeveloped. Progress slow" (came explosively, as one word)"—Sarah—m-mil-militate—aren't you sasf—" (meant for satisfied, probably) "—don't be so—"

 

Here Betty broke in. "Oh, I'm working so hard! Why do I have to work so hard!"

 

Then, very slowly, with a pause between each word, but clearly: "Method new. No more now. Good night. Wake up!"

 

Nothing happened for five minutes. Then Betty, to Me: "Wake me up. I'm tired—shoving me around that way! I stopped breathing—but I found a new way to breathe. I felt it when it changed. I felt absolutely safe. It isn't uncomfortable unless you stop to think about


 

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it. If you don't think about it, you don't have to breathe. Everything swirled and swirled and rocked in a kind of rhythm. I felt myself to be more of a gas substance than flesh and blood. I was; just vaguely conscious of trying to force out something, working very hard."

 

She "awakened" presently, of herself, refreshed, without fatigue.

 

Nothing further was attempted in the new technique until February 17, though we had the usual sessions in that week. After this manner we continued, using Betty's old technique of reporting back in her own person most of the time, with an occasional laborious period of practice in allowing herself to be used as a mouthpiece. With such practice the difficulty lessened, the facility improved. But nothing important was said that way. Like the first of the automatic writing, the communication was largely personal; a phase almost completely abandoned in the other method.

 

"We cannot yet—hold it steadily—long enough for subtle explan­ations—" the Invisible laboriously answered my query as to why this was so. "Your receiving apparatus very primitive—Excuse us!"

 

Not until about the first of May did those in charge consider Betty flexible enough to use for the transmission of anything seriously integral with the main effort. And I should think it fully a year thereafter before the interchange switched back and forth, from Betty in


 

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person to Betty as a mere transmitter, freely, without checks and stumbles. Until, in other words, the instrument was perfected.

 

People have asked me how I knew—outside the context of what was said—when to ascribe to Betty, and when to the Invisibles. Her voice was slightly different in quality and timbre, in the latter case: the phraseology was not of Betty's habit; but the most convincing, and at the same time unproveable, distinction was a decided "feel" of personality. That would, of course, mean nothing to anybody but me; and rarely, when it did not matter one way or the other, I was not myself certain. But ordinarily I was sure.

 

I have also been asked about physical symptoms, as to Betty's condition while in this state of consciousness.

 

It was obviously trance, but not complete as in the case of Joan, who actually seems to "go away", leaving her organism to be used. Betty was supposed to work—said the Invisibles—"with intelligent cooperation": I cannot do better than to quote from The Betty Book as to this.

 

"She was to go to them, instead of their coming to her.—And as intelligent cooperation presupposes participation, her consciousness was not taken from her in the customary deep trance. That does not mean that she was conscious as you and I are conscious. She was unaware of her physical surroundings—she went tout of her body', as the occultists have it, to some other


 

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phase of existence. But in that somewhere else she retained her faculties of thought. She was not put out, drugged. She was transferred— Occasionally, but rarely and only for certain exact accuracies, she goes so 'far away'—as it seems to her—that apparently there remains to her only a shred of (our) consciousness. Bur that shred is always there, and through it the approach to 'intelligent cooperation' is always possible."

 

It took about five minutes for her to become entranced, and about the same time to "come out" after the session was finished. "I'm coming down like a leaf, zig-zag," she once described her return to normal consciousness. I could see no physical change while she was in this state, except that her respiration became almost imperceptible. Nor did she ever suffer any ill after effects, even temporary. None of the nausea, dizziness or the like which some psychics undergo. On the contrary, she always awakened pink-cheeked and refreshed.

 

Now, having finished the external mechanics of Betty's technical training, we are at last ready to back track, and take up once more her beginnings; but this time from the point of view of the inner consciousness.

 

BETTY TAKES THE ROAD