BETTY'S OWN NARRATIVE (Continued)
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
"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
THE ROAD I KNOW
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
"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
THE ROAD I
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
"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
"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
THE ROAD I KNOW
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
"Being rather humorously inclined,
* As a matter of
fact, the time she thus dedicated averaged much longer.
THE ROAD I
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
"'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,
THE ROAD I KNOW
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
"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.
THE ROAD I
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.'
THE ROAD I KNOW
"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 ROAD I
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.
THE ROAD I KNOW
"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
THE ROAD I
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
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
THE ROAD I KNOW
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
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
THE ROAD I
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
that I am joyously on my way, just come
into my heritage, and longing to share it."