The Betty Book Revisited Part 2


This second instalment focuses on the mechanisms of self in the world, leading to greater self-awareness. It considers the motive forces of desire and will, and then how they can be marshalled to lead to a balanced and harmonious life.

It also addresses the idea of an enduring self, and how it may more effectively be the guiding influence in life in the material world.

The Excerpts


  • You get nowhere at all unless you desire. You do not move your little finger unless you have a definite wish to do so; you do not swallow, look, shift position, speak, understand, perform any activity whatsoever, physical or mental, unless you have first sent out from within yourself a self-originated impulse that starts the machinery. 
  • The force used, the mechanism employed, maybe altogether an outside thing. It is possible for a child’s hand on a lever to accomplish mighty results, but the origin of it all is desire for something, on the part of one man or many. That is the thing that is born within the human being, mysteriously, out of nothing
  • Now according to this philosophy every desired, when it is a definite outgoing desire, produces an impetus. This is true whether or not that desire produces any apparent effect. 
  • Before it can result in an action it may be inhibited, or it may encounter opposing forces that nullify it. 
  • But in the substance of thought – an idea we have examined – an impetus is produced – that proceeds on In its own direction and according to its own laws until its forces exhausted or until it is destroyed or deflected by other influences.
  • It may be likened a child’s mechanical toy that runs when you place it on the floor, until the power of its mainspring is exhausted; or the ripples from a stone cast into water. 
  • The strength and vitality of that impetus depend on the intensity and vitality of the desire and the clarity of the perception.
  • That proposition, then, is simple enough in its initial statement. In its ultimate results it becomes complicated beyond present human understanding. 
  • The billions of crosscurrents that setup of impetuses, old and nearly spent or new and vigorous; feeble in their inception or powerful; solitary or united; running with or counter to one another, make for a bewildering tangle. 
  • The ultimate effect is probably under some law, but that law we did not now at present


Desire is a force – a impetus – not an abstract notion. As to whether it is finally effective depends upon the intensity and vitality of the desire and the clarity of perception. But in a world of billions of desires we are in the midst of a bewildering tangle that constitutes the foundations of much of our complex human activity.

For Buddhists, desire is the source of suffering – and if we identify with the energies of desire that we send forth, vesting our sense of meaning and worth in them, it is easy to see that that can be the case. 

However, here desire is the foundation of action, and the issue is not desire per se, but its quality (in terms of intent and execution).

Spiritual Impetus

  • Each person has his own individual spiritual impetus which he makes from whatever genuine aspirations and desires he may possess. 
  • “The will” they told us, trying to define this out-reaching desire that results in impetus, “is separate from either the mind or the brain, it is the driving force of the being, that makes you decide for or against. It is what you build with. Is the conscious part of your soul. Will is a poor name for it, but we have no better. 
  • You measure growth against it as you measure a child backed against a door. It is like a number you are labelled with, what you amount to, your measure.” 
  • By this inner and individual thing, that is yours personally and can be set in motion by no one else, you build your personal impetus.” 
  • You get yourself a certain individual power formula: it produces a certain result. That is impetus.
  • “Unless something happens to stop that impetus or deflected, it will carry you along its appointed route until the force is spent.”
  • Thus a very large percentage of your present life is made up of unspent impetus brought into being by the desires of your past life. 
  • Only a small percent is fresh impetus. 
  • In that fashion you are increasingly a slave of your past, unless by new and strong desire you create new impetus that shall override the old.
  • “But,” say they, “You can change the formula you have made for yourself. The development quality it can put forth in new impetus is exactly according to the inspiration with which you combine it.”
  • Therein lies man’s control over what he calls destiny.
  • “Destiny,” they define it,” is the spending of impetus unarrested by spiritual consciousness.”


Here a deeper spiritual impetus (will) is contrasted against desire, whose roots are shallower (driven by more facile motives?). It seems we have two sources of impetus that we must strive to fuse into one.

Spiritual contact through prayer

  • Next, as the first contribution to its meaning, assemble under it all that you have come to understand as the process of seeking spiritual contact and permeation. 
  • This process constitutes the first step in ALL constructive prayer. “In that phase,” said the Invisible, “It is an assembling and offering up of your best self for union with the Overstrength. 
  • Only when this has been made habitual are we ready to proceed further.
  • “It is only by the strength of this contact that you gain the courage for the second step; to plumb the depths and know yourself. It is the inspiration that quickens your perception. 
  • You cannot plunge all at once into a knowledge of your spiritual lacks, because that MUST come gradually.”
  • “These two levels of prayer we must learn to perceive and use before they can give us more.” Betty ended.
  • When the subject of prayer was first presented to us as such, the first step -the spiritual contact step – was re-expressed in terms which might be illuminating to quote here. In essence, they told us, it is merely a spiritual association approached with human warmth of desire; And amounts in the long run to a great lifelong companionship.
  • “I don’t understand that,” said Betty, “I’ll review it.” “I approach divine companionship in prayer as I reach for warm friendship,” she went on after a pause, ”only with greater expectation.”


The foundational idea of prayer here is first to offer your ‘best self’ in seeking companionship, and then dare the journey of self-examination and awareness. When that has been attained there is more to come.

The spiritual body

  • The spiritual body, we are assured, is indestructible. It may be, as Betty saw it, crippled, embryonic, incomplete; but such as it is, it endures.
  • Furthermore, whatever we may add to it in the way of development is an everlasting possession. 
  • We may go our ways deliberately blind, deliberately neglectful, willfully procrastinating, self centered, even antagonistic.
  • These things may form over our real selves a crust that will stop growth. They may act on us, and on others about us, in unguessed ways through long vistas of time. 
  • Their effects we will have to liquidate, with compound interest. 
  • Their iron construction we will have to dissolve before again we can expand. 
  • But they cannot destroy. 
  • Whatever of the spiritual body is in ourselves-even in crudest embryo-is ours forever, on which sometime or other, when we have resolved ourselves free, we shall build


Our true nature is indestructible, but in our developmental stage we can find ourselves with intended and unintended self-imposed limits, from which we must eventually escape.


  • “So few people have any grand plan,” said the Invisible. “they can’t make any form for you because they haven’t any. That is what character is, SHAPE.”
  • “This is like those confusing maps where they colour the water and leave the land blank. It is reversed. The intangible unfleshed things, honour, character, confidence, all such things, should be visualised with shape, a substance.”
  • “That is the way our lenses actually perceive you,” answered they, “we cannot see you, as you see yourselves, without your physical eyes. 
  • Our eyes are for the enduring different kind of body. Our eyes make real to you the intangible qualities which you call spiritual. 
  • Only strainingly do we perceive the material.”


Here character is described as Shape – something that can be perceived from ‘the other side’. It’s a useful way of thinking about character in general – since we already tend to use visual metaphors – like colourful. 


  • “You see, everybody really wants stability; and they always recognise a person who has it. If you have something they haven’t, but want, they’ll pay attention to you. 
  • And if they haven’t it and DON’T want it, but you make them feel it, then they’ll begin to want it. You make your stability by spiritual contact. Then somehow the response to that contact must be shared.”


Here I see stability as the absence of extremes -a kind of centredness – a calmness of spirit – peacefulness.


  • “The balanced proportion of life is the first thing to impress on the world,” they said. “Balance is the big thing to emphasise. 
  • The world is crippled now because it has withered spiritual faculties.
  • “That should be,” they explained further, “a certain working proportion between what we call the material and what we call the spiritual. If that proportion is overbalanced ON EITHER SIDE trouble always results.”
  • By attainment of the right proportion we shall in one way or another gain all things worthwhile in this life and the next.
  •  In fact, on the whole, the problem of successful living can be expressed in that one simple formula: attain actively the proportions of life.
  •  “The rounding out of proportion is the foundation of everything.” they told us. As a general proposition that sounds broad and simple enough.
  • But when we approach the problem in search of detail, then we find ourselves in face of the greater mysteries. how’s the proportion wrong, as to the world; how is it wrong as to me? How was the balance to be struck?


Here it can seem that our propensity for materialism has unbalanced our ways of being in the world. The solution is not the abandonment of the material, but the restoration of spiritual influences to tip the balance toward attainment of the proportions of life.

The habit of spiritual thought

  • “It is an HABITUAL SPIRITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS they are after,” Betty reported one time. “the gaining of this does not mean straining or striving; 
  • It is more a matter of how frequently you think of it, just leave it calmly and comfortably. Walk your days as a creature with folded wings, conscious of the position of another element and the ability to enter it.
  • When worries in the world annoyances come, you can rise strongly indeterminately, spend a few moments in calm, and at once descend reinforced to the object in hand
  • “The thing is not to settle down into yourself, but to be always dependent on the companionship of your spirit, that seems to be just above the surface, like a mooring, or buoy.
  • The soul has to live in the body, ordinarily; but in this way you make your body live with your soul.”


Nothing says it more clearly than the last 2 dots points – banish the illusion of self-alone and dwell in a companionship – a partnership of aspects of one’s own consciousness.


For me these excerpts focus the essential attributes of a balanced and harmonious sense self in the world – of being in the material and the spiritual dimensions at the same time. They articulate a coherent sense of self – one that endures, even beneath the distractions, suffering and delusions that can blight and individual’s life.  

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