The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942




AS I LOOK back on these beginnings, I am reminded of the first handling of a skittish colt; and I admire the tact and skill with which the Invisibles did the job. They had, first of all, to get Betty's—and incidentally my— confidence; they must keep our interest; they must persuade her—and me—that the thing was worth doing; and finally must arouse a real desire on her part to go on. In consequence, the early communications were sugar-coated with personal matters; but, with the proportion of the latter gradually lessening, at last the personal was dropped with a finality that resulted in complete anonymity. Only when this was accomplished did they give us a glimpse of their own point of view.


"The content of first messages through new stations,"* explained the Invisibles later—six or seven years later; after they had developed Betty as a reliable channel, "is important only as it serves to retain interest and does not discourage by too complete irrelevancy. We


* The Invisibles used the term station—or receiving station—instead of the usual "medium" because, they maintained, the latter has too many connotations.


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are rarely at first attempting to say anything. We are merely trying to get a reaction to stimulus. If this could be fully understood, it would be as effective to convey a single irrelevant word—or indeed mere meaningless sounds. From our point of view the whole importance of a considerably extended period of first work is in the reaction on the part of the station to any impression. Often in a long alleged message a small phrase, a single word, or even a solitary syllable or sound is all that actually emanates from us with definite intent. The rest of the message, so-called, may be a mere going along with what the station himself unconsciously imagines to be the purport."


Nevertheless, that bit of genuine response is entirely satisfactory to them, they went on to say, no matter how confused or false or contradictory the whole thing may seem to us. That is because their interest at the moment is in the process, and not in what is said. However, they admitted, as we at this end know nothing of the process, our interest is naturally in the content, and if that content becomes too nonsensical or unbelievable we are likely to throw the whole thing overboard.


"So," they said, "we give attention to accuracy, or what you call 'evidential,' only when our hand on the pulse of your interest or belief indicates slowing down to a danger point. What we are after is not personal communication, but development of an instrument capable of something more worth while."


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This was a reasonable and logical explanation of the early puzzlements and bewilderments which Betty touched upon in her own narrative. But it could not be given at the time. She must at first gain her reassurance and encouragement as she could. Her Invisibles were very gentle with her.


"I am a friend," one told her, at the automatic writing stage, "you can trust me. We will uphold and care for you. No harm can possibly come to you. Stewart must not fear for you. We solemnly promise him to guard you. We wilt make every effort to satisfy him.


"Only hold fast to our love for you and your faith will be justified. Never mind how discouraging the outlook is, continue to believe us. Do not ask explanations, only believe."


And after a particularly confusing series of experiences:


"We have not forsaken you, but we are putting you more on your own to work. We do not want to foster dependence on us. Your unhappiness hinders. Throw it off. You have gone state from being tired. Rest, and you will regain your outlook. Perhaps we have been too eager and pressed you too hard. Poor little girl, we are sorry for you and would comfort you tonight.—Good-night, dear. Are you happier now? We are as near you as ever, but we have strained you a little too much. Forgive us."


Another time Betty had, evidently, been "getting instruction"


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beyond her saturation point. She blew up in a burst of laughter.


"So much preaching! " she cried. "I've never been so doggone good in my life! Why, I just ache behind the ears being intelligent! " and then went off in a school-girl giggling fit, renewed every time I tried to ask her anything.


"Now," said the Invisible, when at last she had sobered down, "perhaps you can rid yourself of the very self-conscious attitude we have been trying to point out to you. You were getting to be so busy with your attitude that you could not really listen to us. We are delighted to see you natural again. We do not want any solemn, virtuous-feeling saint in place of a very human little daughter."




The too-hard pressure of which they spoke was an unremitting effort to arouse Betty's will to persist. At this time she was far from convinced and was easily discouraged. Ordinarily the stimulus of the Invisibles was gently carried on by appeal to her trust and affection, or to her common sense and self-respect.


"Do you wish to be spiritually illiterate? " they asked her. Betty did not grasp the connection. "If we can get it to you, you'll see the point," said


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they. "When you see a child learning to write, you know how hopeless it looks that it should ever be able to receive inspiration from the printed page. You are in just that stage. But you've got to stick to it. In fact we are going to keep you to it. You've got to learn it sometime, just as you had to learn to write. Of course anybody, if he pleases, can remain spiritually illiterate, but then he will have to live a comparatively commonplace existence."


I challenged this last. I could not see Betty as commonplace.


"By commonplace we mean keeping your approved boundaries beyond which you make no effort to go. By restricted imagination, by neglect of the unknown—by these you keep yourself commonplace."


"But we have our ordinary daily lives to live," I objected.


"It is not your application to little necessary things we worry about. It's the unbroken application. That's the thing that makes you commonplace. If you stop work, even drudgery, often enough, and switch your center of consciousness to big spiritual proportions, you can accomplish ordinary life without getting commonplace."


This reasonable gentleness, as I say, was the rule. But at times they arose to an almost frantic urgency.


"We lash you to our own frenzy of purpose for your own salvation. Make a vow to us to carry on our work.


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We cannot always come with the force of this evening, but we want these words to burn into your soul, to be your obsession, your ruling passion. Power wanes, and we want to leave you at our highest pitch of urgency, calling to the deeps of you to answer the great duty."




Almost from the first hesitantly written words, the Invisibles began to make it clear that they had in mind an important ultimate aim. Betty, it seemed, was to be made an instrument for some purpose not yet defined.


We both possessed a healthy sense of humor, so at first we were inclined to treat such claims with skepticism and some derision. They perilously resembled these super-solemn "especially chosen to bring a Great Message to the World" assurances with which we had become familiar through certain of our acquaintances who had stumbled on "psychics." These experimenters seemed invariably to have been taken in charge by very important people, such as Plato or Aristotle or William James or even Julius Caesar and Nero.


But Betty's Invisibles had proved not to be so high-falutin. They did not pretend to be anybody in particular, and they had not as yet offered any Message. It was merely that they had a purpose in training her, which was not so unreasonable when we stopped to think of it.


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"It's only," said they "that we're giving you a little encouragement that you are more than a mere bystander taking notes. It's not a futile task. Once the inter-relation of all created things is even dimly sensed, one cannot again be small. The mantle of magnitude is over the most humble part of the whole."


What they wanted, they kept on repeating, was to teach Betty how to expand her consciousness. As a result, said they, she would become permeable to the invisible spiritual forces from which ordinary life insulates us more or less. This, for lack of a better term, they called Contact with the Source. Incidental to it would come an improved type of this thing they were now doing so imperfectly—communication from their world to ours.


"We have been a long time planning this," said they, "so do not fall us. This is a great experiment for us. Much depends on you. It is the usual thing to have a person surrender all initiative as soon as we establish communication. We want you to gain strength from us, not lose it and become dependent. Involuntary mediums are good only as long as the conditions suit them—a voluntary medium in full control would be invaluable. We do not want to be too strong on this side because it is part of our scheme to have you do your share. We can write pages very fluently and easily when we wish, but it is safer to make you an active agent instead of a passive one."


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It was about this time, I believe, that they dropped the word medium as too full of connotation, and adopted the word station instead. About this time, also, Betty resolved to give these supposed Invisibles a "sporting chance."




The expansion of consciousness desired by the Invisibles turned out to be no simple task. Betty devoted an hour or so each day to following directions as best she could. But this, she herself confessed, was not very successful, for she could not make out just what was wanted of her. At first she struggled for a complete, clear-cut intellectual picture—largely, I think, so she could satisfy me. But the Invisibles rejected the mental approach.


"How can we bring to you strongly enough," said they, "the first principle of what we want you to do? It is to expand in spirit, not intellectually. The spirit is usually like a desiccated fruit inside the brain. We fear to give you too much for that reason. You are too much in your brain. Let your spirit soak up in a simple and pleasant fashion until it is a fitting mate for your brain."


Such expansion, they asserted, would in due time result in the development of an entirely new faculty.


"It is like learning another language," said they, "so


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you can listen to us with understanding. Each time you desire to travel beyond your present country you must say to yourself: am I thinking and listening in the right language? Otherwise communication is hopeless."


There was a pause; then Betty said faintly, "I'm going away off now."


"This faculty," resumed the Invisibles presently "which we awkwardly call listening, thinking in another language, is an expansion of the progressive reality within you. You must strive for possession—as a subconscious fixture—of a faculty not sufficiently developed in you yet. Until you can absorb knowledge directly with this faculty, you will always be subject to dilutions, contaminations, dispersions.


"This absorption of comprehension, only partial of course, carried through the present channels of contact, arrives transmuted from the reality of the source into the symbols of the brain. It is almost useless to attempt much further extension of vision until you work out this faculty for receiving direct comprehension. The brain is a physical apparatus. It will always automatically take what it is able to absorb. But the inner expansive faculty, vigorously developed, can outrun the physical apparatus indefinitely."


There was a short pause.


"It is so discouraging," ended Betty, "now I see that double image at the water's edge—reality and reflection. They look just alike, but they are so different! I


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get the reality and take hold of it; but I only give you the reflection." 5.


Betty was really working very hard to do her share well and conscientiously. In fact, as it turned out, she tried too hard.


"Don't strain in these efforts," warned the Invisibles. "Keep the body relaxed, but free and stimulate the spirit to respond with a great and rising wonder, similar to that inspired by the overwhelming beauties of nature. Unstopper your imprisoned spirit; let it rise blithely and naturally. Enjoy yourself. Don't strain. Let your heart dominate, and abandon yourself to its impulses. You will release yourself from terrible intellectual bonds: terrible, however, only when unbalanced."


"We want none of the usual abandoning yourself to outside influences," said they at another time. "It is all a matter of holding yourself together around a good firm core of aspiration and interest and aim as to where you are headed.


"And one more tip we want to give you," they added. "Run hard from the curiosity seekers who will try to make a gymkhana out of you. Don't let them even have a look in. Tell 'em anything you like, but head 'em off, for they will queer the whole thing in


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your mind if you will let them. In time you will have many clamoring after your help, but you must make them seek for themselves, not attach themselves to you like leeches."


These and similar warnings were repeated again and again. They insisted that the usual morbid curiosity in "psychics" led to a by-road, or blind alley, from which Betty must be blocked.


And another tendency of which she must be cured was over-eagerness. That was a natural mistake—once her enthusiasm was aroused for this fascinating exploration. The Invisibles gave her some kind of a jarring, I don't know what it was. I knew there bad been something startling going on. I asked Betty.


"You see," she told me, "I was just slipping over when something happened, just at the wrong moment, and checked me back too suddenly. And I was so disappointed, so eager to go on, that I flung myself back absolutely wide open, tried to get myself back by an enthusiastic abandon, and that stopped the performance. That's what brought down on my head this warning stuff. No more going ahead under these false and dangerous conditions."




"False and dangerous conditions—"—we bad thought only vaguely of that aspect. And we had taken it for


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granted that we were going ahead, that we were on our way. Hadn't we agreed "to give them a sporting chance"? But to our surprise—to mine at least—it seemed that was not enough. We must actually enlist; and of our own free will; and with a plain statement of decision. Apparently we had not been called upon for it until sufficient demonstrations had provided materials for intelligent choice. Well, now we had them. And the Invisibles squarely called a halt.


"Escape," they pointed out, "is not merely getting free. It is taking up responsibilities."


"Before going on with us," they continued, "certain facts must be faced. You must pay a price to serve our cause. If you are to succeed, you must go into training. Are you willing to do it? We do not intend to interfere with normal life, but you must consecrate your spiritual life to us, and conserve its vitality and composure.


"Perhaps this work, if undertaken, will lead you into paths you do not wish to tread, but once started you cannot choose. You must take all or nothing, so do not draw back if we lead you to the edge and tell you to look. You will be tried in the fires of experience to see if you are fit to endure."


This, I myself considered, must be Betty's decision, not mine. I felt that the expansion she had already gained must have sharpened her intuition to a sufficient wisdom. But secretly I reserved the right of veto should this mysterious warning uncover in her mind the slightest


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alarm or hesitation. She considered it carefully. "I can stop where I am," mused Betty, "where nearly everybody stops—with the comfortable crowd. But the compliment has been paid me of an opportunity to surmount normal boundaries, to accept the unillumined path of apprenticeship, wrenching myself free.... Oh, the cost of the wrench!"


What the "cost of the wrench" would be she did not disclose, nor did I confuse the issue by inquiry. Questions sometimes make cross currents.


"It is life," she reflected. "And I want to get nearer, nearer to the source of all striving life. I want to smell the wet earth and feel the cool drip of rocks. I want to sway with the presence of the wind. That is all life, life....


"I want to keep close, close as I can get, to that. I want to sniff it, taste it, drink it, bathe in it. That's where I want to be. I don't like the dead things. Some people like intellectual conquest, mechanical things, making automatons; but I don't like that, I crave the live things; things endowed with self-structure.


"I want to get near enough so I can partake of the same great vitality. Throw open all hatches. I want to go out in the wind and the light and the air. I don't know what you call that current of vitality.... Never mind its name; I'm going to get close to it!"


She fell into a long period of deep reflection. Suddenly she decided.


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"Give me all of life before I leave!" she cried passionately. "All! All! I don't want a niche. Aren't there plenty of people to fill niches? Of course, they are happier in the peace of limited struggle. But I want most tremendously and vehemently the highest possible comprehension! I want to take the suffering and all! I don't care if it tears me to bits; I want it! I've made my choice. I don't care if it is hard. It isn't all suffering. The intensification of living is worth it."


She had set foot on "The Road I Know."