The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942




IN THE same file that contained the material embodied in the last chapter I found another manuscript, dealing with the same subject—Betty's beginnings in this job of unfoldment, and how and why she undertook it. The one already quoted was written in 1929. This one must have been done earlier—in 1922. Nevertheless I think they must be read in this reverse order. The emphasis of the 1929 document is on externals, so to speak, while the earlier one deals more with the inner impulses.




"For a longtime," this manuscript begins, "there had been an uneasy sense within me of having strayed from the path I desired. I did not try to think it out, I just drifted along.


"During my long wanderings under wide skies, in silent places, the accumulated dust of civilized matter-of-fact life was wiped off. The fresh new surface was more sensitive to reflections from the big simple forces


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around me, and gradually my old outlook was replaced by a wider vision. It happened quite simply and naturally, without any attitudinizing. I began to grow up.


"Whenever we returned from the isolation of our wilderness travel, I took up worldly affairs with enthusiasm, but each time certain things grew a little less satisfactory and other things vaguely distasteful. Then came the war to teach us reality.


"After it was over we looked again at our individual lives. I knew the secret of my vague discontent. I had rediscovered the immense possibilities—outside of selfness—in what we vaguely call the spirit. I felt my feet on the road for which I had searched all my life. The vast accumulated experience of the world had, oddly enough, been admitted only to the surface of my mind, and had left little impress on my heart. Like a child who, with wonder and fascination, discovers that water is wet and that fire will bum, I began my investigations; of the world where lives faith, vitality and the wisdom of the heart—all the big things we live by but cannot analyze in laboratories.


"The first idea that came to me was disconcerting. If I were to die tomorrow, the body I fuss over would leave me, would leave me standing 'as is'? Standing in what?


"The awkwardness and unpreparedness of this inevitable situation struck at my imagination. It was too stupid to slouch along in such an improvident unthinking


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fashion devoid of any purpose, of any inner core which I could retain beyond the moment of this life'


"This rather hazy determination to do something about it was strengthened by the stimulation received through automatic writing, which began in the early spring following the armistice. Now for nearly three years I have struggled for comprehension, passing from automatic writing to a curious state of freed or double consciousness in which I absorb experiences directly somehow, and Stewart records them in words spoken through me, or by me as first hand impressions.


"There has been no sudden reformation of my character, accompanied by a firm grip on destiny! During all this time of intensely interesting and puzzling manifestation I had many days of doubt and distraction. I felt like a child walking on stilts—above my usual self, but awkwardly maintaining balance. Only recently has the natural spontaneous happiness of it come to me, and with it a wonderful feeling of firmness inside, somewhere apart from my usual surface consciousness.


"Now let me retrace my steps in this quickening process.


"As I stated, I decided it was high time, and highly desirable and entertaining, to take control of myself. The idea was simple enough, but difficult to carry on. The slothfulness of the human creature is beyond comprehension when we compare it with his latent possibilities. Week after week came the same pleadings in


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automatic writing before I seriously arranged my busy days to comply. "'Make up your mind to give up a short time every day to us.' "'Set aside an hour, the same hour, every day.' "'You will need months of practice.' "'It all depends on you and your cooperation.'


"'Have you anything more important to do? Ask yourself that question when interruptions threaten and you are tempted to set this hour aside.'


"'You will not be able to jump right into success. Do not expect it. It takes much assembling of forces and much elimination by careful experiment.'


"'Remember, we can do nothing without your will to reach us.'


"'Give us time every day; it is more important than anything else you can do.'


"So far nothing startling, but it sounded reasonable; an intelligent beginning. I have found that the only way to learn to shoot a gun, or swim, or acquire any new ability, is by the simple method of shooting or swimming, and keeping on doing it. I was interested enough, and curious enough, to try to follow directions, and decided on at least a half hour every single day, without exception.*


"Being rather humorously inclined, after making


* As a matter of fact, the time she thus dedicated averaged much longer.


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this determination I settled myself and asked politely what I was supposed to do next. My first instructions were in the direction of ordering my mental equipment.


"'Can you manage to be more in the mood and give more time to preparation? It is the only way. You did not have any success before today because your mind was absolutely separated from us by worldly affairs. We are helpless in that case.'


"'You must think of us as natural everyday friends who are with you just as others come into your world.'


"'Do not strain, nor think of us as supernatural. It is only that your earthly vision is as limited as that of a new-born baby.'


"'Be content to let us lead you like a little child, step by step.'


"'Drop every worldly, selfish thought. We cannot give you a formula for experiment. It is a case of condition of mind and soul.'


"'You must abandon yourself to our method, not confine us to yours. Let it come to you by degrees, naturally, as a plant grows.'


"These instructions, and some on relaxing, came sometimes very haltingly, sometimes fluently, as fast as my pencil could travel. Always, from the very first, accompanying each instruction, was a sentence or two urging me to do my part.


"It took some time to get into the front of my mind,


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into my everyday consciousness, just what my part was. It came to me at last as a surprise. It was strengthened will power; though that does not quite express it. Firm substance; resolution, is more nearly it. My part was the holding of myself in control. This was insisted on until I could have no doubt of what was wanted of me.


"I knew how good it felt to have a manageable body.* So why stop there? Why not try, as they urged, to get control of the mental and spiritual muscles? Here was training for an exciting new game. I was interested. There was no use in just sitting and listening. I would do my part, and see what happened next.


"My first effort was disconcerting and slippery, a skiddy performance. What I called my mind refused to stay on the road. Before taking up the pencil I tried, as suggested, to 'prepare my mind.' Every annoyance I had ever experienced, long forgotten, returned to memory to buzz around like diabolical mosquitoes. With persistent effort I banished that annoyance, but its place was taken immediately by an insistent swarm of trivialities of different character. All my pet hobbies and pastimes took possession! It was enough to make one believe in personal devils!


"An obstinate Scotch-headedness determined me to


* She was a competent sportswoman and no mean acrobat in an amateur way. She could stand on her head, for instance, as easily as a dog sits up. S.E.W.


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do battle for possession of my own mind. Something interesting was being said to me, but my shockingly bad mental manners—squirming, teasing and interrupting—kept me from hearing it. At least I should make myself listen. Then I could calmly decide on the merit of what was being said. All this traffic of mind must be dodged. The logical course was to make a safety zone in the traffic. I drew an imaginary circle around myself, and stood triumphantly ungettable.


"The pencil began to write fluently: 'When worries and world annoyances come, you can rise strongly and determinedly, spend a few moments in calm, and at once descend, reinforced to the object in hand. Brush away the stinging fly before he sucks your life blood and leaves poison in its place. This alone takes much conscious manipulation to accomplish. You see I am not giving you noble, difficult tasks to perform. I am only setting a few simple exercises as a point of contact in the beginning. Master these and you will have the vision and strength to see that you are mastering yourself and your destiny.'


"'We want to urge you, and keep on urging you, to remember every hour the powers you possess, the forces you have within you to draw upon. Use them in every little thing you do. The degree of success you have depends on the amount of energy put into it.'


"'It is obvious that each should be big, but of his own volition stays small.'


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"I shall not quote much further. Day after day I was exhorted to strive for 'habitual consciousness' of unified life. The overwhelming passion of the pleading kindled the commonplace words as I wrote them. Could my own lazy, comfortable subliminal (whatever that may be) stir itself to meet such a frenzy of solicitation for my salvation? As I had lived with it many years and knew only its inertness, the evidence all pointed to an outside force trying to act on my rather reluctant personality.


"The idea of communication was not new to me. In my early childhood I remembered that Grandma Marin and Uncle Calvert had been the butt of the family for professing belief in it. What if all these years they had been trying to reach me and tell me that it is true. This ceased suddenly to be merely an interesting game, and became a matter for serious investigation. I determined to throw more vitality into it; to keep my head steady, but to follow with my heart the possibility that they, my family, were trying to lead me. Whatever it was, I must find out.


"So I continued my daily hour of quiet. With astonishing results. There was never any indication of their taking possession of me in the ordinary sense of overcoming a weak will by a stronger. On the contrary all my experience proves that no spiritual growth is possible without strong control of one's own earth mind; without resolution accompanied by voluntary self effort


* The communicators.

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and sympathetic enthusiasm. The depth of wisdom and the exceptional technique in developing comprehension of the spiritual life, rather than the evidential material given, forced us to accept the fact that an outside being was directing a systematic course of instruction.


"The old absorption in personal intercourse with friends soon gave way to a bigger scheme. It had to, perforce. As the instruction progressed they* developed a lofty disregard of our demands for more entertaining and personal subject matter. It was evidently to be their kind of thing, or nothing. Our demands for experiments, tests, stunts, manifestations were ignored. This interesting force was not to be bullied. It then occurred to me to assume the part of a rather humble minded eager pupil, and see what such a chastened attitude would accomplish. It accomplished much.


"And so, finally, I bent my energies and interest to trying, from my end, to help the communications as they directed. I experimented with various forms of concentration. I also noted the success or failure of various impulses natural to me. And when these were successful I tried to increase their force, thus evoking my own spiritual vitality. For example: very early I discovered that this vitality was magically successful when reinforced with an outgoing from the heart, as in loving remembrance of a friend.


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"This kind of thing, however, I hesitate to emphasize. Formulas are dangerous. Your needs are not my needs. Stability may be the thing I strive for, while flexibility and abandon to spiritual imagination may be the adjustment needed for you. My spiritual strivings may therefore be a misfit for you. You must cultivate your own modeling power to proportion you so that you will attract your own developing currents. These will make you aware of your weak points and aid you in strengthening them through your conscious cooperation until the process becomes spontaneous.


"Above all, get this clear: these notes are intended only to give an example of an individual process, suited to a particular person. Do not let them mummify your own life-giving currents by inducing you to expect anything exactly similar.


"During the years, then, patient experiment has developed in me, together with growing wonderment and faith, a little comprehension of spiritual law. There have been many setbacks, struggles, doubtings. In weak moments I have had an almost cowardly longing for my old comfortably self-absorbed unawareness of life. I emphasize this again because the psychic books I have read describing other people's experiences lay so little stress on the difficulties. Very early I came to look upon these writers as beings of a superior clay, utterly set apart from me. I thought dejectedly how exceptionally unfit I was, with all my failures, my self


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tortures of doubt, my semi-paralytic state of will. If I did manage to soar serenely, I was sure to flop painfully; and then came the real test of strength in putting myself back. I shall set down the failures and discouragements, even at the risk of clouding the inspiration. We have the records of my shining hours; I shall tell of the slow minutes in between. My own method may be a painfully slow self-evolution, designed for tortoises, and the easy accomplishments of the others are a design reserved for hares, but at least I am determined to arrive some day."


(Her intention as to the ultimate use of these notes, I am unable to guess. Whatever it was, she apparently postponed it for the time being. She adds this:)


"The whole subject is much too big for me. What we vaguely, mistily call spiritual, and look at momentarily on Sundays, is as real, natural and joyous as the flesh and blood we accept as a fact of existence. This flesh and blood is the pod for the protection of the ripening spiritual body within us which we inhabit after death. Each of us must sometime develop this inner, bigger self. Ours is the choice whether to lie dormant or to start expanding at once from the seed to the plant, and so occupy increasingly more life. It seems to be a case of 'eventually, why not now?' And delay bears compound interest on the amount of effort to be paid out later.


"This concept is as old as the earth itself. We accept


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it generally as true—but unimportant at present; so we are quite content with our half-life. The moment our desire for more life passes from the purely mental into absorption by our consciousness, germination begins. If it becomes a fixed habit of mind and heart, growth will continue as it was intended to, cooperating with an orderly, useful, practical life.


"We have proved the wisdom and comfort of physical hygiene, why not teach the next generation a little spiritual hygiene? Teach them how to keep their thoughts clean and strongly muscled, to have faith in their healthy impulses, to keep open and expanding hearts. Why not give these their due proportion of acknowledgment and education, along with the development of the brain? Our brains are only the mortal machines we work through, very important as are good, well-oiled typewriters. Why stop education with adaptability to this life? Why not a still higher education? If only for the sake of the full lunged happiness there is in it, teach the next generation youths periodically to lift their eyes from the narrow treads they follow to the wider landscape they may inherit if they will."


And she ends on a high note:


"The great fact remains," she wrote of herself, "that along with the discouragements has come, in great moments of susceptibility, the setting free within me of a magic genii long bottled up. The expansion of this re


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leased, vigorously healthy being has been a happiness beyond anything I imagined possible. The old feeling, too, of being off the road is gone. However it may seem to others, so far as I personally am concerned, I know that I am joyously on my way, just come into my heritage, and longing to share it."