The Higher
Trance State

Part II


     As we proceed in our exploration, we need to remind ourselves that we're examining the higher trance state as a means of entering Higher Consciousness.

      There are many elements involved in this area of inquiry, but it's necessary to keep one critical aspect of trance states constantly in mind: the relationship between the conscious and subconscious minds.

In the induction of a higher trance state, we encourage the conscious mind to be as active as it needs to be without interrupting the effective functioning of the subliminal mind.

     The conscious mind is so used to being it charge, and worries about the person being taken in by irrational nonsense, that it finds it difficult to take a back seat to the subconscious in trance state induction. Once the conscious mind really grasps that it's necessary for it to play a different role than in the ordinary waking state, and has confidence in the facilitator, it fully cooperates in any way necessary, including putting itself to sleep.

     During the induction process, we don't want the conscious mind concentrating on what is happening. So we find out what words and thoughts are most effective in helping the conscious mind recede into abeyance--into a sleep state or a state of diminished activity. This is why we speak exclusively to the subliminal mind during the latter part of the induction process, meanwhile having the conscious mind distract itself with some mentally consuming activity.

     The subliminal level of consciousness is characterized by a state of receptiveness and responsiveness in which inner or external words or thoughts are accorded the same status as conscious sensory experience. The subconscious mind responds automatically, cooperatively with suggestions from the facilitator or the subject. We make sure that the conscious mind is occupied by focusing on breathing, internal speaking or some other consuming activity, so it doesn't interfere with the subconscious mind. The subliminal mind then automatically, cooperatively follows the suggestions made to it.

     The subject must understand that she is not supposed to "try" to achieve in the usual way--that is, through conscious effort and desire. The harder the conscious mind tries to go into a trance, the less chance there is for success. Some call this the law of reverse effect. It's what we might now call a Catch 22: when we concentrate (consciously) on the idea of going to sleep, we keep ourselves awake in order to to be able to try harder to fall asleep.

Dangers in Exploring the Human Psyche

      There are innumerable false starts and destructive paths on this road to knowledge of higher consciousness. These approaches are potentially harmful because they claim to put a person in touch with elements within their subconscious which are pure creations of the therapist's/hypnotist's imagination.

      We've seen some of the unusual aspects of the subliminal mind: its super-normal abilities, its acceptance of suggestions with little or no interference from the rational elements of the conscious mind. From a wide study in this field, it becomes clear that it's possible for a misguided hypnotist to create within the subject's subconscious whatever the hypnotist believes is there to be found. If you are going to work with a hypnotist or hypnotherapist, you should be very careful, making certain that you understand completely what his or her belief system is and what trance techniques they use.

"Humanitarian fervor aside, it's the therapist's job to take power over the patient, push ahead with solving the problem, then convince the patient he or she is better, even if it means being devious."

John S. Gillis, "The Therapist as Manipulator,"
Psychology Today, December, 1974, p. 91

     Earnest Hilgard's study of trance states, Divided Consciousness: Multiple Controls in Human Thought and Action, 1977, indicates that incautious hypnotic clients can be subjected to possession under hypnosis.
"The spirit would possess him and then answer questions, particularly making recommendations for the cure of illness, including the special curative powers of a charmed glass of water."
     A number of these dangerous approaches have disguised themselves as being within the undefined fields of "transpersonal hypnosis," "transpersonal therapy," or hypnotherapy. If you're interested, I'd suggest you examine one in particular--Peter Francuch's concept of "spiritual hypnosis," because it's a system that might look tempting to the unwary. There are similar potentially harmful approaches within the other pseudo-psychology systems.

     While exploring the rarefied atmosphere of human consciousness, we must be constantly aware of the dangers of "coloring" and the presumption of finality. By coloring I mean the tendency to allow our beliefs, assumptions, and preferences to distort or predetermine our ideas and actions. In exploring the human psyche, it's a constant temptation to feel that one's theories and methods are the "final truth."

     In part I of this essay, we saw that higher trance is a much more advanced state than the ordinary trance state achieved through traditional hypnotic induction. We described the higher trance state of Betty White, outlining her extraordinary achievements in attaining a double consciousness and participating in "intelligent cooperation" with higher intelligences. In the remainder of this chapter, we'll examine how the Whites taught people to make contact with spiritual realities about them, how Betty White achieved the higher trance state and how she taught others--in an esoteric manner-- to achieve a similar condition of expanded, connective consciousness.

The Two Levels of Teaching Within the White Material

       Betty and Stewart Edward White approached the study of higher consciousness through Betty's developing a specific method of communicating with higher intelligences and expanding her consciousness to understand the higher dimension of these intelligences. Stewart was a well-known writer of adventure books; he came at this as a person interested in communication: receiving new information and passing it on to interested readers. Their books 1  constitute a primer in achieving a higher trance state, but it requires a careful study of their material to get at its essence.

     The exoteric level of teaching in their books refers to the achievement of generalized spiritual contact with higher consciousness. This aspect of their teaching is of immense value and I suggest that anyone genuinely interested in achieving higher awareness will want to study this level of their teaching in detail. The other, esoteric level of teaching in the Whites' material refers to Betty's achievement of a higher trance state. The concepts and techniques involved in the esoteric level of teaching are not spelled out overtly, but must be discerned within the subtleties of the description of her development.

     In what follows, I'll first give a brief introduction to the exoteric material concerning generalized contact with higher consciousness. In this way, you'll be able to get a feeling for this important aspect of their work. In the concluding part of this chapter, we'll see some of the essential details concerning how Betty achieved a higher trance state and how we can follow these techniques ourselves if we can develop the necessary capabilities of insight, intuition, and discernment. This second part of our exploration must of necessity be circumscribed and suggestive in nature only, because the actual initiation into the higher trance state must occur exclusively within the interaction between a Perennialist savant (living or discarnate) and a thoroughly prepared and tested aspirant.

Contact With Spiritual Realities Encompassing Us

"We try to give a graded instruction from kindergarten up, to convey a method of arousing and stimulating and strengthening spiritual faculties dormant through generations of neglect."
     Betty's development occurred in collaboration with higher intelligences; once she developed a method of contact, she was able to learn from these teachers. The Whites made it clear that merely reading about their journey to and study of higher consciousness does not in itself constitute the attainment of a higher trance state.
"Before proceeding with this graded instruction, however, it is absolutely essential that we realize one thing fully: the necessity of something besides intellectual recognition of truth. . .   We must not only read and understand: we must do until we absorb into the substance of ourselves. . . .   This is not knowledge: it is development. . .   Put most of your energy into doing a few simple things advised, instead of trying to grasp too much at a time."
     The aspirant must begin by realizing that she has her being within "the great ocean of spiritual influence," that she exists within the larger circle of higher consciousness.
"When we are pervious we are permeated by [higher consciousness] and obtain from it various elements of expansion and growth. But ordinarily in our world-absorbed consciousness is no chink or cranny by which its influence can enter. We are like people swimming in a sea completely encased in diving suits that admit no drop of the life-giving water. . .   But this contact or permeation can be brought about by a definite process of personal volition."
     The first step to this contact with or permeation by higher consciousness is genuine desire to open ourselves to a more comprehensive reality. "We must want to reach out in harmony with spiritual forces." To have such effective desire we must feel the limited nature of our ordinary consciousness.
"Most people proceed through life 'busy with their own thoughts.' . . .   The teeming inner life of your mental activities holds you, so that you are cramped within yourself and things outside are half noticed or perhaps not noticed at all. . . .   Now stop short and let things about you into your consciousness. You will be surprised to find how many actually have had no existence in you. Birds' singing for example: a moment ago you literally did not hear them."
     What we're after is a shift from a small circle of internal mental concentration to an out-going expansive feeling of ourselves, an opening to influences from without. "This in itself is a form, a simple form, of spiritual contact."

"The appreciation of beauty, in the sense of a surrender to its influence rather than a critical analysis, is another example both of what I mean and of a simple spiritual contact."
     What we're seeking is the feeling of expansion and wide-heartedness, the real sense of getting outside ourselves and realizing our place within a greater realm of being.

     To get outside the small spotlight of our ordinary consciousness, we must relax physically and mentally. We do this by imagining ourselves in a relaxed physical state and attending to casual sensory impressions to still the mentally rigid contraction of attention within.

     As we relax and open ourselves to a wider reality, we begin to achieve a sense of wide-hearted receptivity to influences from the realm of higher consciousness.

"The results grow in us from so feeble a beginning that they do not reach even our watchful consciousness for a long time. . .   Maintain yourself forcefully . . . to receive. What you contribute of spiritual readiness measures the strength you gain by contact."

"From the world of the spiritual that is part of us . . . comes an instant almost automatic response to any genuine contact. . . . The moment we succeed, however feebly, in gaining spiritual awareness or contact, a kind of chemical action takes place; we are getting results of some sort, growth has begun."

Induction Into a Higher Trance State

     An interesting aspect of the esoteric teachings within the White material is that it is right before our eyes, but it takes an advanced kind of discernment to see its deeper meaning. A good example of this phenomenon is Betty's description of her self-induction into a higher trance state. She refers to the methodology in a manner which seems to merely describe the relationship between the brain (consciousness) and the "eternal spirit."
"The stiffness of the humanly educated mind is a great problem to overcome. It is like a spoiled child. The constant humoring of this self-assertive side, the keeping it quiet enough to communicate with the real person within is what makes the whole thing so difficult. . . .

"The eternal self must be developed as a fit controlling power. In trying to act directly on the highest--call it organ--possessed by man, his eternal spirit, we are constantly interfered with by the more developed, the more easily developed side of him which clamors, insists on translating every instinct into its own language and limiting it to its own experience and comprehension; insists we shall go no farther than the facile ready-made symbols its world education sanctions. We have to ignore it as much as possible, keeping it quiet by systematically baffling its efforts at restriction. Meanwhile, under this anaesthetic we work directly, stimulating the enduring part, trying to develop it. It should be the dominating part of man. . . .

"The main idea of the whole thing is that the thwarting process is in order to develop the comprehension of the brain, not to bring the enduring organs merely up to an equality with the brain: to work away beyond it, assuming at last control of the brain. The brain then becomes a functioning part of the general organ, which then enables comprehension. When it is adjusted to its proper proportion, then it will, later, be the channel for manifesting the level of development to others." 2

     Betty's esoteric teaching is a matter of indirect reference, nuance, and subtle hints. We should not expect an explicit or obvious set of instructions which we follow in lock-step. From the beginning, it is made clear that we must develop a new intuitive capacity completely different from the ordinary state of apprehension.
"The way of our senses is first of all to see clearly what we are going to strive for. But the way of the perception of the spirit, the way they [invisible intelligences] go at things, is first of all always a struggle toward a clear perception of what has been but dimly sensed. What they struggle for is only seen clearly after it is attained. Each attainment then provides the strength for further effort toward something again dimly sensed.

"Never mind your clarity of perception of it . . . that necessarily comes after you have maintained conditions for a long enough time to establish them."

     As we travel this path of spiritual development we make contact with spiritual forces around us by opening ourselves to a larger realm of being. As we gain this wide-hearted feeling of expansion, we receive intimations on which we must act. And this brings us back to a theme we saw at the very beginning: the necessity of doing more than merely studying this material; the indispensability of carrying out the few things advised or intuited. Actually performing the few simple things we know to do is essential, because we cannot receive more until what has been divulged is absorbed into our very being.
"Your progress is in your own hands. We can do little but watch you gain necessary strength before we can help you further. . . We can only act as the complement to the act. Of yourself you must drag yourself at least near your idea, so that you can reach it in moments, before you go further. Otherwise it is just a shallow intellectual thing. There is no substance at all in pure intellect. It is just a very fine shadow. The simplest achievement is so much more important. . . No step ahead can ever be taken until the fulfillment of what is revealed. . .   Revelation must be manifested in people's lives before more can be given from this side."

"In everything you do the amount of success depends on the amount of energy you put into it. . . Inspiration force . . . comes from a combination of conditions created by the person himself. We can only take advantage of that combination. . . We utilize what you unconsciously possess. . . You acquire exactly in proportion as you arouse yourself to take."

The Death of Self as the Entry Into a Higher Trance State

     Betty White was truly a lone explorer in the great unknown spiritual realm. Stewart served as a kind of "conceiving station," assisting Betty to organize her knowledge into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole. Betty was fitting herself for intelligent exploration of the realities of another, higher consciousness. She added new concepts to her mental and spiritual vocabulary. She developed new perceptions and experiences, which enabled her to establish a "new" being in the higher realm.

"This exit into greater life is the crowning glory of our existence here. It means transfiguration into an electrified and eternal being. . . . The exit is through the doors of self."

Betty White. The Road I Know

     To explore a completely new world of the spirit, Betty first had to discover, through personal experimentation, precisely what states of consciousness enabled her to travel to that higher reality and work within it. There were some earlier descriptions of this higher trance state in the literature of mysticism, but we're not sure how much she and Stewart had read in this material.

     The Neo-Platonic writing titled The Theology of Aristotle describes Plato's experience of the unitive state--and speaks of the difficulty of reporting on what he has seen.
"Often have I been alone with my soul and have doffed my body and laid it aside and become as if I were naked substance without body, so as to be inside myself, outside all other things. Then do I see within myself such beauty and splendour as I do remain marvelling at and astonished, so that I know that I am one of the parts of the sublime, surpassing, lofty, divine world, and possess active life. When I am certain of that, I lift my intellect up from that world into the divine world and become as if I were placed in it and cleaving to it, so as to be above the entire intelligible world, and seem to be standing in that sublime and divine place. And there I see such light and splendour as tongues cannot describe nor ears comprehend. When that light and splendour overwhelm me and I have not strength to endure it, I descend from mind to thought and reflection. When I enter the world of thought, thought veils that light and splendour from me and I am left wondering how I have fallen from that lofty and divine place and am come to the place of thought, when my soul once had the power to leave her body behind and return to herself and rise to the world of mind and then to the divine world until she entered the place of splendour and light, which is the cause of all light and splendour. Wonderful it is too how I have seen my soul filled with light, while she was still in my body like her appearance, not leaving it."
     Another early Perennialist savant, Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, had elucidated the higher state of consciousness which Betty was learning to achieve.

"One can develop to the point that one can leave one's physical form whenever one wants and go to the world of Divine Majesty, where one's ascent reaches the highest horizons. . . . Then, whenever one looks at one's essence one delights because one sees the light of God radiating upon oneself."
Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi,
The Mystical and Visionary Treatises
     William James's classical work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, had been published in 1902. He too spoke of the goal Betty was seeking and of the many voices that referred to it.
"This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian Mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about the mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old."

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

     When we study Betty's method of leaving her body and travelling to the higher spiritual domain, we're in for a surprise. The way we achieve this new state of consciousness, she tells us, is to die to our ordinary state of awareness.
"Now stepping outside oneself actually means the practice of making one's own in imagination the conditions of the hour of death. . . .

"Suppose the day came for the Great Adventure of departing hence. Even a picnic or a vacation or a business trip demands some preparation. One is apt to take this tremendous step quite suddenly. What is it going to be like? Why turn our imaginations away from it so piously - or is it cowardly? Why not entertain ourselves with the buoyancy of anticipation? It is quite as speculative an amusement as contemplating a trip to Thibet, or reading what astronomers say about Mars, or any other pet flight of fancy. This has the advantage that we are actually dated up for it.

"Children play beautiful games of expanding consciousness, supposing giants and mighty superlatives. I'm getting just such a cheerful imaginative picture of when we depart hence. It is as though everything had been taken from me but the residue of me, such as would remain if I were to die now. It's all I've got to orient me in this new world in which I am just an embryonic being. Every circumstance of life is gone. I am as unconscious of my body as ever I could possibly be. The merest shadow of its existence is on me."

Betty White, Across the Unknown
     What Betty had discovered was the age-old Perennialist 3  practice of "dying before you die." An aspirant such as Betty achieves a literal physical and psychic regeneration into a New Being. By successfully passing through the depths, the hidden Forms of Higher Being are revealed within her. What is achieved is not some nice, minor revision in one's mental framework or one's behavior, it is a physical and mental rebirth into the full consciousness of one's divine nature.

"There existed an exalted and final degree of initiation where the souls of men were not merely freed temporarily from their bodies in a condition of simulated death, in order to prove the truth of survival, after the great change, but where they were actually carried up to the loftiest spheres of being, to the realm of the Creator Himself. In this marvellous experience the finite mind of man was drawn into contact with the infinite mind of his superior divinity. He was able for a brief while to enter into silent, spell-bound communion with the Father of All, and this fleeting contact of incomparable ecstasy was enough to change his entire attitude towards life. He had partaken of the holiest food that exists in life. He had discovered the ineffable ray of Deity which was his true innermost self, and of which the soul-body which survives death was merely the intangible vesture. He was, in verity and fact, born again in the highest sense."

Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret Egypt, 1936

     By what process of induction was Betty able to achieve this "death state?" Here, again, we must read between the lines of her teaching to see the answer to this question.
"There is an enveloping substance you can attract and surround a person with. He cannot feel it and he is powerless against it in the sense of breaking away from it or getting out of it or thwarting . . . It seems as if first you are enveloped with it, and after that I could magnetize it with thought. For instance, having enveloped you with it, I could say: 'This substance will gradually seep into you, permeate you, relax your nervous system.' And by replenishment I could keep you from ever shutting out--being impervious, nerve bound. . . First you envelope in it; and then you put any kind of thought you want into it. It would have to be very carefully handled -- a terrible power!"
The Leap Into Higher Consciousness

     As illustrated in the image above, we must leave our bodies and "levitate" into higher consciousness.

"You cannot connect up in an unbroken series of steps with what you know. This reality is not on the outskirts; a gap must be bridged. . . . Hurl yourself into space, as it were.

"You must gain it in imagination first . . . the only function that reaches into the realms that are intangible. Reach the imagination into the reality we present. It can only be made tangible, established within you, by this type of personal experiment.

"Imagination . . . is the very gateway to reality! Imagination is the Power of Transportation--that overrides space and time! Imagination enables you to put yourself anywhere. It's the power of juxtaposition, that puts together things that were never put together before, at points of contact that nobody else ever thought of. . .

"It's the one thing you possess that connects you with the next substance. . . Utilize it to connect with what is beyond your experience, beyond the limits of your present conceptions."

Across the Unknown
     This is a partial description of how Betty achieved--and how we might achieve--a higher trance state and gain entrance into higher consciousness. The actual initiation into the higher trance state must occur exclusively within the interaction between a Perennialist savant (living or discarnate) and a thoroughly prepared and tested aspirant.

     If we develop a means of moving to that higher realm, we then work at familiarizing ourselves with this new domain of spiritual substance, a new world of connective consciousness or unity. Serious students will want to study the description of how Betty achieved the full functioning of the spiritual body.

     Finally, the entire process is completed by bringing our understanding of the spiritual realm back to the physical world and manifesting this knowledge in practical acts of inspiration and service.

"Anything acquired from the spiritual, anything whatever, must ultimately be brought to the physical and amalgamated with it, before the process is complete. . . .

"Desire to receive is but half the span of the bridge. . . Without the completion of this work you will have but struggled in vain; because the reason for its being is that, when finished, something may pass over it from the free field of spiritual perception to the congested consciousness of the world."

Across the Unknown

Features of Higher Induction Into a Higher Trance State

     Once we understand the essence of Betty White's development of a higher trance state, we must revise our approach to trance induction. Contrary to what we discussed earlier in getting at the essence of ordinary trance induction, this new kind of higher trance induction has some novel features.

     The facilitator must be familiar with the realms of consciousness as discussed in this and ancillary chapters in the book. The subject remains conscious throughout the entire induction procedure and after the trance state has been achieved. The facilitator and the subject speak at length about what images, words, and feelings help her to sublimate her conscious mind (not de-activate it). The conscious mind remains active but takes a subordinate role.

     As the subject acts to place her conscious mind in a sublimated state, by, for example, speaking word-thoughts internally or viewing a movie in her imagination, the facilitator assists her in gaining facility in speaking aloud through her subliminal mind. This is a new capability that the subject is unfamiliar with and she will be somewhat less capable of thinking and speaking through the subliminal mind than she is with the conscious mind. This is entirely natural. It's as if you were to take the center of awareness of a person from the familiar world of ordinary conscious and summarily plopped this center of awareness down into a new dimension called the subliminal mind. Just as it took us time to familiarize ourselves with being and acting in our ordinary consciousness, it will take practice in gaining facility in being and acting in our subliminal mind.

      The facilitator must not assume that the seemingly benumbed state of the subject during this time is anything more than lack of familiarity and facility in carrying out functions through the subliminal mind. This, incidentally, is what happens in ordinary hypnosis most often: the subject is working in a new area of consciousness and appears stupefied, and the hypnotist assumes, without justification, that the subject is in a permanent state of stupefaction. In fact, some early researchers in hypnotism defined the hypnotized state as stupefaction.

     Most ordinary work in hypnotism--especially stage hypnotism--occurs within this system of assumption: the state of hypnosis is one of unconsciousness, heightened suggestibility and stupefaction. If the hypnotist assumes this to be the essence of hypnotism--or trance induction--then he will usually produce the very results he expects.

     In higher trance induction the opposite is the case: the subject is conscious throughout (as much as is effective); the subject is not necessarily any more suggestible than in the ordinary state of consciousness; and the subject is not actually stupefied, merely less familiar and proficient in operating from the subliminal mind.

     The main feature of higher induction is the continual interaction between the subject and the facilitator. The facilitator must operate by the seat of his pants--continually in response to the subject's responses, never with preconceptions of what should occur. One of his main functions is to ask exploratory questions of the subliminal mind which may open new territory.

     Beyond these few descriptions of essential features of higher induction, we can only remind ourselves that the complete "initiation" into higher consciousness involves not only higher induction but the higher experience of regneration: psychic death and re-birth. The other essential features of higher induction and regeneration can only be hinted at in such written material as in this book.

Norman D. Livergood


1 The Betty Book (1936), Across the Unknown (1939), Unobstructed Universe (1940), The Road I Know (1942), Anchors to Windward (1943), The Stars Are Still There (1946), With Folded Wings (1947), The Job of Living (1948)

2 Quotations are from The Betty Book unless otherwise noted.

3 The author's recently published book, The Perennial Tradition, discusses this and other essential concepts and practices within this ancient heritage of esoteric teachings.