In Memoriam Robert F. Butts
June 20, 1919 – May 26, 2008
A slideshow of pictures, most of which were shot between 1991-1999 during visits to
the Hill House and the two Sethnet Int’l. Elmira conferences, by Paul Helfrich, Bob
Terrio, and Rodney Davidson.
Joanne and I received the following email on Tuesday May 27, 2008:
As some of you may have heard, Robert F. Butts passed away just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, May 26, 2008, with his wife Laurel Butts at his side, in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Elmira, New York, after a brief illness. He would have been 89 in June.
Up until a few weeks before his death, Rob was active and busy with his many projects, deeply involved as he was all his life with painting, writing, and directing the ongoing publication of the Seth material and the related lifework he co-created with his late wife Jane Roberts, who died in 1984. Laurel told me that Rob died peacefully, as she held him, and that she knows Jane was there also, as he made the transition from this reality to all that lies beyond.
Laurel has arranged an inclusive service for Rob as well as for Jane, scheduled for Monday, June 2nd, at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s of the Lake Church, 5823 Wallworth-Ontario Road, in Ontario, New York, a small town just east of Rochester, N.Y. Other arrangements are pending.
I am grateful to Laurel for holding the phone to Rob’s ear a few hours before he died so I could talk with him one last time. As I’ve written elsewhere, he and Jane were not only my friends but something even more than mentors to me – they were my psychic parents, the pivotal figures in the development of my creative abilities in this life, and very likely in other lifetimes as well. My heart goes out to Laurel, who is in my thoughts every day.
We had gotten word that Rob was in the hospital the previous week, the same hospital that Jane spent her final days in Elmira, NY, and was being treated for cancer. Laurel had sent out word for well wishes to be sent there. So during our Saturday Rose group session, people signed a get well card. I was actually printing out a topic from Sethnet in which people expressed their get well wishes on Tuesday when we got the news that Rob had passed away from our friend Masa in Japan. (I later thought this to be appropriate imagery of how far and wide the scope of Rob and his life’s work reached.)
Initially we were stunned by the news, but then everything became clear. Many cancers are treated on an out-patient basis, and I realized that Rob had been more ill than we realized. So we want to join Sue Watkins in extending our heart-felt condolences to Laurel Butts. I’m glad to know that she was with Rob during his final hours, and sensed Jane’s presence as well. Laurel has been with Rob for over twenty years now, and has been instrumental in helping Rob with Jane’s legacy.
Speaking of which, where do we begin to honor the legacy of this man and his life’s work? Rob was instrumental in the Seth phenomenon. He transcribed every word in every Seth book between 1963 and 1984. He created hundreds of paintings based on his experiences with Seth and Jane. He archived all of Jane’s work after she died, and fulfilled his promise to her, with Laurel’s help, to publish all the Seth material after she died. He worked with Prentice Hall editor Tam Mossman to donate all of Jane’s work to Yale University’s Sterling Archives, where it remains one of the most popular archives visited yearly. Presumably, after Rob’s passing additional materials will finally make their way to that collection.
I was struck by Sue’s comment that she considered Rob and Jane her “psychic parents.” I felt the same way back in the late 1970s after I had discovered the Seth books. I couldn’t get enough, eagerly awaited each new book, and read them cover to cover several times. Since I had been raised in a secular family, my father was an electrical engineer and mother non-religious, I didn’t have much of a spiritual framework. So my first spiritual information was encountered during my teen years in the shamanic teachings of Don Juan as chronicled by Carlos Castañeda. But in my early twenties the Seth books blew all that away, because they provided a detailed map of All-That-Is, and further, provided exercises to check out the territory through direct experience.
Back to the psychic parents concept, I know that many people felt that way about Jane and Rob over the years. So I was delighted when I found Seth’s reference to this when The Way Toward Health was published posthumously. The following is from February 1, 1984.
(4:35. “Will you say something about the feelings I’ve had about parenthood lately?”)
Let us take a break.
(Jane had ginger ale and a few puffs. “If you hadn’t asked, he was going to say something about your parenthood thing,” she said. We talked about how strange it was that no one had been in yet to take her blood pressure and pulse — not that it would have mattered if they weren’t taken. Resume at 4:40.)
Now: If you examine your feelings about parenthood in general, you will see that they bear an astonishing similarity to your feelings about your painting and our work. Only the focus is different. You are indeed both parents of an amazing body of work, and the psychic parents of innumerable people of all ages. You have set aside, however, the conventional idea of a family, as symbolized by your (car) dream of the other evening. You are actually exchanging one kind of a family for another, vaster concept, that also involves parenthood, however — but a psychic rather than a physical parenthood. The letters you receive are often like letters children write to their parents. ~ p. 83.
Like many, I wrote to Rob and Jane over the years. While I never met Jane physically, she has been in my dreamscapes since the late 1970s. While Rob played a secondary role in terms of dreamscapes, in my heart, I still had strong paternal feelings for him and his work. In this way I considered them my “spiritual parents,” and Seth as what Eastern spiritual traditions consider a “root teacher.”
I had the pleasure of visiting the “Hill House” in Elmira, NY in 1991 and again in 1993 with my friend Bob Terrio when we made The Seth Phenomenon: An Interview with Robert F. Butts video. It remains one of the most thorough pieces ever recorded on Seth and Jane, with Rob describing his many paintings and sharing various stories about helping with the Seth books. This was also when we first met Laurel Davies.
I was awestruck during that first meeting! Rob was already in his early 70s, and the house was full of his paintings. I sat in a refurbished version of Jane’s Kennedy rocker and imagined what it must have felt like to be present during a private book as well as group ESP session. There was that famous painting of Seth. I saw Jane’s and Rob’s offices, his lined with various print editions of Seth and Jane’s books, along with the classic quote on the wall from Seth, “You get what you concentrate upon, there is no other main rule.” Laurel was a gracious hostess and made us feel at home as we went about setting up lights, cameras, and sound equipment for the shoot. Rob autographed my two aging hardback copies of The “Unknown” Reality, and they remain two of my most prized possessions to this day.
During this time Lynda Dahl and Stan Ulkowski has taken over Maude Cardwell’s Austin Seth Center, and created Seth Network International. Joanne and I would meet birds of a feather at our first conference in late October, 1996 at New Haven, CT. Stan and Lynda would go on to marshal the largest gathering of Seth-folk, over 420 if memory serves, at the now famous Elmira, NY SNI conference held in June 1997. The Seth books were back in print, thanks to Amber-Allen and Janet Mills, as well as Jane’s Aspect Psychology books. So it was a resurgent period. It’s also when we met Mary Ennis, who channels Elias, and moved to Castaic, CA to help that fledging group publish and expand the Elias forum, which in my view, expanded many core concepts in the Seth Material.
Returning to the present, we all have similar memories with the Seth books, Jane, Rob, and Laurel over the years. My memories are not special in that respect. I share them only to show the enormous respect I have for Rob and the deep appreciation for all his work over a period of forty-five years (1963-2008). The creative legacy of Rob Butts and Jane Roberts is truly a national and global treasure!
I hope that more information will become available as the years roll by, and their legacy will continue to grow. Their work was avant garde in the truest sense of the term, it was ahead of its time, and as such, remains mostly ignored and unappreciated by large segments of the current population, most of which have no clue about the tremendous influence they had on popular culture in the 1970s and onward. After all, The Nature of Personal Reality, their best seller, coined the New Age mantra “you create your own reality.” And authorship is not nearly attributed to the primary source often enough due to continued ignorance of the channeling phenomenon. Hell, even Oprah says she was “spooked” by the Seth books when interviewing to Ester Hicks a couple years ago! Ironically, I don’t think the infamous cover of Seth Speaks helped any. J
In larger terms, Rob’s passing marks the end of the beginning of a “shift in consciousness,” or what Seth referred to as a religious reformation that would center around the “Christ entity” to be completed by 2075. Many other authors and futurists imagine this shift in their own ways. For example, physicist Peter Russell called it an approaching singularity or white hole in time, social philosopher and psychologist Ken Wilber called it the centaur stage of development that features “vision-logic,” sociologist Jean Gebser called it the integral-aperspectival structure-stage of collective evolution, John White predicted the emergence of a new species of human being called homo noeticus, Elias, channeled by Mary Ennis, coined the term “shift in consciousness” in 1995 which is now used by The Institute for Noetic Sciences, author Arjuna Ardagh called it The Translucent Revolution, futurist Ray Kurzweil envisioned an Age of Spiritual Machines, and on and on we go!
In any case, Seth, Jane, and Rob created their own vision of this shift and left a legacy for us all to explore. I can’t say thank-you or express my appreciation deeply enough for pointing out that the next 50-60 years will be a time of rapid change and global transformation beyond what our wildest science fiction could predict. It will be fun to see how the Seth Material stands the test of time, and what role it, along with Jane’s wonderful Aspect Psychology, will play in foreshadowing major trends and probabilities that the collective are exploring. Will any of us will live to see the following Seth quote become reality?
“This material will take its place in the conceptual and emotional life of Western civilization, and finally will make its way throughout the world. New ideas are not accepted easily. When they take fire however, they literally sweep through the universe.” ~ The Early Sessions, Book 2, p. 314.
It’s an exciting time to be alive, and in the spirit of Seth’s Practicing Idealist we are all encouraged and challenged to live, love, and laugh each day to its fullest. Thank you Rob for your creative genius, inspiration, and humble way of living Seth’s words in the life you lived.
I also want to send my condolences, again, to Laurel Davies-Butts, who was a second wife to Rob, and helped in too many ways to mention here. We also owe her a lot, and so I’d like to say a heart-felt “thanks” to you as well. We’ll await news of any memorials to Rob and ways to help support you in the days ahead. If we can do anything, please don’t hesitate to ask. In the mean time, we will carry on and do our best until it’s our time to move to that next chapter as well.
Thank you Rob for everything! We love you, and will miss your earthly presence.
Finally, as a tribute, here is a small gallery of some of Rob’s paintings that were on display during the 1997 and 1999 SNI conferences in Elmira, NY. It includes the portrait painted by Stephen Bennett at the 1997 Elmira, NY conference. They were shot by Rodney Davidson. Enjoy!