Dorothy Jane <I>Roberts</I> Butts

Dorothy Jane Roberts Butts

Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County, New York, USA
Death 5 Sep 1984 (aged 55)
Elmira, Chemung County, New York, USA
Burial Ontario, Wayne County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 72983366 · View Source
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Jane Roberts was an American author who published in a variety of genres, including poetry, science fiction and fantasy, novels, nonfiction, and the work for which she is most renown, the books and related manuscripts known collectively as the Seth material.

Jane was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, the only child of Delmar and Marie Burdo Roberts, who divorced when she was an infant. From an early age, Jane was responsible for caretaking her bedridden mother, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, the same condition to which Jane herself would eventually succumb. The two lived in spare circumstances, but Jane knew from the age of five that she was going to be a writer and as a young girl would take her poems to the nearby Yaddo art colony, knock on the door, "and ask if there was a poet there who would read my stuff because I knew it was really good," as she remembered years later. Eventually she was let in the door and got to hobnob with such luminaries as Louis Untermeyer and Adrienne Rich. She went on to attend Skidmore College for three years on a poetry scholarship. In December of 1950 she married Walter Zeh, a long-time Saratoga friend, and continued to write while taking a variety of other jobs, including society editor for the Saratoga newspaper and as a supervisor in a radio factory.

Then in 1953, while "cutting up, dancing, and raisin' hell at a party," she met Robert F. Butts, a commercial artist who had shown up at the shindig on a last-minute impulse. "I took one look at him and that was it," Jane often said of this meeting. She was 24 and married; he was a 34-year old bachelor. Eventually the two left town together, Jane filed for divorce, and she and Rob were married on December 27, 1954, at the home of Robert's parents in Sayre, Pa. The couple devoted their lives to their respective art, each writing and painting with a fierce dedication and taking whatever part-time jobs they could get to pay the bills (Jane at one point selling kitchen knives and Avon products from a bicycle basket). By 1956, Jane's science-fiction and fantasy stories were selling regularly to genre and general market magazines, and three of her fantasy novellas were published by Ace. She was the only woman invited to the first science-fiction writer's conference in 1956 in Milford, Pa. The couple moved to Elmira, NY, in 1960, to find steady part time work --Rob in the local greeting card company, Jane in an art gallery. Their lives seemed set, their art defined.

But on a September evening in 1963, everything changed. Jane sat down at her table to work on poetry; Rob was in his back-room studio, painting. "It was very domestic, very normal, very unpsychedelic," she would later remember. And then "Between one normal minute and the next, a fantastic avalanche of radical, new ideas burst into my head with tremendous force ... It was as if the physical world were really tissue-paper-thin, hiding infinite dimensions of reality, and I was flung through the tissue paper with a huge ripping sound." When she "came to," Jane found herself scrawling the title of this odd batch of notes: The Physical Universe as Idea Construction. Before this, Jane had never had any interest in psychic phenomena, and though her fiction typically dealt with such themes as clairvoyance and reincarnation, intellectually neither she nor Rob believed in extrasensory abilities or that anyone survived death once, let alone many times. Yet soon after this episode, Jane suddenly began recalling her dreams, including two that were inarguably precognitive, the first, as far as she knew, that she'd ever had. Their curiosity piqued, Jane and Rob decided to investigate further, and she managed to land a contract with a New York publisher for a do-it-yourself book on ESP.

"Rob and I were pleased, but somewhat appalled, too," she later wrote. "[for example] We'd ... never even seen a ouija board." It was while they were experimenting with a borrowed ouija (room fully lighted, Rob taking notes) that they began to get messages from a decidedly unique character that identified itself as Seth, "an energy essence personality no longer focused in physical reality." By the second or third ouija session, Jane realized she was hearing the words in her head, and the urge to say them aloud rather than wait for the planchette kept growing stronger. "I became more determined to fight it... yet I was terribly curious ... In some crazy fashion I felt as if they'd back up, piles of nouns and verbs ... until they closed everythng else off if I didn't speak them. And without really knowing how or why, I opened up my mouth and let them out."

This was the beginning of the Seth material, the monumental body of work that Jane would produce over the next twenty-odd years of her life. Dictated from an alternate state of consciousness, or trance, as Seth, the "energy essence personality" in question-- always at her own behest and with Rob recording every word in his home-made shorthand (which he would type up later with meticulous care)-- Jane's books include: The Nature of Personal Reality; Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul; the two-volume set of The "Unknown" Reality; The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression; and The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, to name a few. For several years she also held a weekly ESP class in her living room, during which Seth would often come through and converse freely with students. Ever-questioning and self-assessing, gifted with impeccable integrity and balance, Jane also wrote half a dozen books examining her own experience in regards to the Seth personality and ideas (perhaps best summed up by the oft-repeated phrase, "You create your own reality, individually and en masse"). Her Oversoul 7 fantasy trilogy explores this territory from a novelist's perspective. More than seven and a half million copies of her books, which now include virtually all of the previously unpublished Seth sessions, have sold worldwide, in more than a dozen languages. She died in 1984 at the age of 55, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis.

Jane's lifework, including her personal journals, poetry, dream notebooks, essays and observations, interviews, extensive correspondence, and the Seth material in its entirety, as well as Rob's notes, records of daily life and events connected with their work, and voluminous other ancillary materials, have been placed in the Sterling memorial library's Jane Roberts archives at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; and with some restrictions this collection is open to the public.
Death is following,
I hear his step upon the stair.
And birth is waiting,
And behind this death and birth
A million doors
Which will open and close,
Through which my image must pass.

There is always one following,
And one waiting, and none forgotten.
For the end shall overshadow the beginning,
And the shadow of the rock is the rock.
This moment is Forever, poised upon our dream.
I am born a million years and know no tomb.

c. Jane Roberts
November 17, 1954
used by permission

Other quotes and descriptions excerpted from Speaking of Jane Roberts: Remembering the Author of the Seth Material, Moment Point Press 2001, by Susan M. Watkins.
View Cenotaph at HERE.

Family Members

Gravesite Details Though Jane Roberts Butts and Robert F. Butts Jr. are interred together in the Wayne County, NY, Furnaceville cemetery, there is another gravestone with their names on it in the Sunnyside cemetery in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania.
  • Maintained by: theSearcher
  • Originally Created by: Bob Davis
  • Added: 7 Jul 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 72983366
  • Bernice Latou
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dorothy Jane Roberts Butts (8 May 1929–5 Sep 1984), Find a Grave Memorial no. 72983366, citing Furnaceville Cemetery, Ontario, Wayne County, New York, USA ; Maintained by theSearcher (contributor 47215448) .