BETTY LEARNS TECHNIQUE
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.
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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
We resolved to try a new technique.
Betty bandaged her eyes and lay flat. I took her wrist. This was in
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
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
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
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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
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
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.
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.
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
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.