Elizabeth Calvert Grant "Betty" White Biography
Betty and Stewart White
Birth: 1880? in the Eastern United States
Death: April 5, 1939 at her home in Hillsborough, California, United States
Betty was raised by well-to-do parents of Newport R.I. She married Stewart Edward White on April 28, 1904; they had no children. She accompanied Stewart on many of his travels; she was the guide "Billy" to whom many of his books were dedicated. The White's settled in the family homestead in Santa Barbara, and later moved to Hillsborough, a suburb of Burlingame for the well-to-do. In 1922 Betty discovered, while using a ouija board, that she was able to communicate with entities which would later be dubbed "the invisibles". They invited a small circle of friends including "Darby and Joan" to participate in sessions during which her channeling abilities matured. Stewart's first book openly acknowleging Betty's contacts was The Betty Book (1937), a compilation of the messages his wife received followed shortly thereafter by "Across the Unknown". These first books resulted in thousands of letters from the readers. The White's were very private people who had kept Betty's abilities under wraps for over a decade. Shortly after the first two books were published, Betty passed on. Stewart sent off a letter to members of the circle detailing Betty's final moments:"My dears:
"I am at home again, and can sit down now and tell you the whole story. And it has the Happy ending, so do not let the necessary first part harrow you. Betty's work of the past twenty years had, and is having its glorious culmination; and in a way that could not have been brought about otherwise.
"Up to ten days before she died, the progress of the treatments seemed to be going slowly, but well with no real set-backs. The main trouble seemed to be cured, and the symptoms of the damage that has been done were diminishing. Then, without reason, the liver became overactive, pouring quantities of bile into the stomach. Nothing would stop that. Had to be fed by glucose vein injections. She became weaker, emaciated, and finally the physical frame was worn down to the point where only her fighting spirit held her. And it would have continued to hold her, I am convinced had that been worth while.
"For she continued long after she knew she could go at any moment, simply because she believed she had a job and that job was not finished. What she could not see was that the finish of the job was not for this side. At any rate by the afternoon of April 5 she was so weak that she could whisper only a word at a time, and that after gathering strength for the effort. In the afternoon the doctor came to the house; I took him into the room, but was not looking at her when I heard from him a gasp of awe; 'My God,' he said, 'the woman still smiles!' I must add that since the liver flare up she had been suffering great pain, -- for about the preceding ten days. About five she fell unconscious. Just before eight I went into the other room, sat down and said to her as distinctly as I could, after our manner of telepathy: 'You are not where you can decide whether the job requires you to stay and endure this. As far as I am concerned, I would gladly release you. I will take you by the hand and go with you just as far as I can, and place it in the hand of the one who is waiting.' In about a half minute Minna came into the room to say it was over. What she told was this: that suddenly Betty spoke in an loud clear voice, saying: 'Its all right. I've had a talk with my boy. You can take me now.'
"Now comes the part I almost despair of getting 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 dark veil, the impenetrable barrier, the sharp division was whisked away. It became as thin as mist. Instead of being a big portentous thing this death business was a comparatively unimportant and trivial detail. I was literally astounded that Betty had had to make so short and simple step. Death is the bunk. All the things I had been dreading, and bracing myself for, and keeping on the beam to avoid weren't there. For almost instantly it became most gloriously evident to me that the serious thing death had threatened to do was actually non-existent. We dread the separation.
"This is very difficult to convey. You must understand that at no time have I been anything but normal in my attitude of mind. Neither exaltation nor despair. Just everyday and commonplace, as always. Only filled with a deeper happiness than I have ever experienced in my life, save in brief moments when everything clicked in fulfillment. I realize now that what Betty has accomplished in the past five days is actually the flowering, the goal of all the work she has been doing here in the past twenty years. It is the proof for which she was always seeking, and which she so strongly desired. See if I can give you 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. Then you know how to draw into companionship by things you do together. And still more through talk and such mental interchanges. And those possible contacts, right through the whole of life--including marriage's physical relationships--are at the root and in essence aimed at just that one thing; the rare and too fleeting inner feeling of companionship rather feebly illustrated or exemplified by the sitting-by-the-fire idea. It is what we grope for in all friendly and loving human relations, hampered by the fact that we are two different people muffled from one another more or less by the barriers of encasement in the flesh. Well, within fifteen minutes that companionship flooded through my whole being, but in an intensity and purity of which I had had no conception. It was the same thing, but a hundred, a thousand times stronger. And I realized that it abundantly compensated for the little fact that she had stepped across, had striven for, and had gained only dimly and in part; -- that is, as compared with this. And why not? It was doing perfectly what all these other things had groped for. So what use the other things? And why should I miss them? Sounds fantastic? Maybe; but it is as real and solid as the chair I am sitting on. So much so that, as I said, I have never in my life been so filled with pure happiness. Death is the bunk:
"Now do not mistake me: this is not something I have, or am reaching after for 'consolation'. It is just there, serenely, naturally, surely. It is. And it is the meaning of what Betty has been headed for. And it will be recognized as such. In Santa Barbara an old friend saw me passing and rushed out to seize both my hands. 'I've just heard the terrible news,' said he. 'What terrible news?' I asked him, 'I don't know any terrible news.' Naturally he looked at me as though I were crazy. Then I told him briefly, there on the street, what I have tried to set down for you. 'read your Betty Book,' said he when it had finished 'And I said to myself, "All this stuff is very well, and may or may no be true, but just wait until something real happens to the Whites! That tool will bend in their hands fast enough." And by God! (he fairly shouted this, out there in the street) it hasn't bent! I'm gong home right now and read that book again!' That was the effect of a hasty conversation on a typical hard-boiled skeptic. I've told the story to a number of friends, and in every case it has lit them up like a flare. 'It ís the most beautiful thing I ever heard!' is the typical reaction. And I have the title for this capstone, when I come to add it to The Betty Book, and Across the Unknown. I BEAR WITNESS.
"Its been a hard fight to deserve this Betty bore the brunt of it, of course; but how magnificently! All I could do was to maintain the bright front of courage, never to weaken to acknowledgement of even the possibility of defeat no matter what the insinuations of the 'common sense'. Somehow I felt that rack and ruin would attend such a yielding. And we did it; right through the last day. And that, I am firmly convinced, is why we were not defeated, but are still carrying together--and high--as a lark over it; and I want those who loved Betty to share. Down to 148 pounds physically, but that--as they have it in the army is--'expendable material'. And I do not delude myself that those who follow Betty's teachings to this culmination are going to be able, all of them, to gain its 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 a forerunner of what will be the faith and experience of those who will follow her trail that she has blazed at such cost. Or am I crazy? I know I am not, but others will think so. and my main job at present is to meet adequately those who expect me to wail. I haven't a wail in me. At least she has showed, triumphantly, that it can be done. DEATH IS THE BUNK.
"Of course I knew that Betty was much loved. But that has been overwhelmingly emphasized by the sheafs of telegrams and letters. It occurs to me that this is her message to them,--copied to send each of them. I could not adequately repeat it for each, nor could I hope to winnow out what each might be prepared to accept. I don't think that matters. Anyway, that is my hunch, and what is here may be accepted or thrown out or taken in as a fairy tale. But I do bear witness that it is real, and continues real.
"As ever, S.E.W.
"April 12, 1939"
Gordon Melton tells us "In the months after her death, White received communication he believed to be from her through Joan. These were gathered into a book, The Unobstructed Universe (1940), which proved the most popular volume in the series and remains in print.
"The continued response, possibly accelerated by the war, led to a number of further books. The Road I Know (1942) was an anthology of further selections from the material Betty had channeled. Anchors to Windward (1943) was a philosophical treatment of the Betty material. The Stars Are Still There (1946) grew out of specific questions sent to White during the war. With Folded Wings (1947), the last in the Betty book series, was published posthumously."
- Joan and Darby. Our Unseen Guest. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1920.
- White, Stewart Edward. Across the Unknown. N.p., 1939.
- ------. Anchors to Windward. N.p., 1943.
- ------. The Betty Book. N.p., 1939.
- ------. Gaelic Manuscripts - also here
- ------. The Road I Know. N.p., 1942.
- ------. The Stars Are Still There. N.p., 1946.
- ------. The Unobstructed Universe. N.p., 1940. (his most popular metaphysical work)
- ------. With Folded Wings. N.p., 1947.
Earlier Philosophical Books
Before Stewart White came "out of the closet" about Betty's psychic abilities he produced two books in which he would discuss philosophical concepts without naming the source.
- Credo, 1925
- Why Be a Mud Turtle, 1928
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