THE NEAR COUNTRY
Betty first set out on her Road, it seemed to her—and hence to me—that
she journeyed far to touch even the first contact with these new and
strange "forces". And when she came actually to that phase in which she
"left the body" in order to explore or to follow wheresoever in the
"other consciousness" she was led, the impression of distance was
deepened. She so expressed her experience.—"I'm going away off now."
"My! I'm going deep!... Still farther?" "I'm being taken away now."
Always the impression of
some remote destination. And when she faced back the return trip seemed
to her as long.
This impression, astoundingly, proved
to be an illusion. It arose, I think, partly from Betty's own sense of
change of environment,
which in our world ordinarily means distance; and partly from mankind's
age-long mental habit of considering heaven "up" and hell "down," and
the heavenly messengers descending to us on ladders or beams of light.
After Betty had gone to her Unobstructed Universe, she showed an amusing
impatience over this idea. She was talking, through Joan, to a young
woman she had known well in our life. Something was said that indicated
confusion in the
* I quoted this incident in
but it is worth repetition here.
THE ROAD I KNOW
latter's mind. Betty stopped the
discussion with the abrupt question: "What is your idea of where I am now,
"Why," replied the young woman,
rather vaguely, " why, I just think of you as suspended somehow, in
"I am right here!"
stated Betty vigorously. "There is
only one universe. There is no
separate 'heaven.' My world is your world plus."*
Even while here, she grew to
understand that the two phrases, "leaving the body" and "going far",
were only a manner of speaking, and that she could modify them to
advantage. Leaving the body became more a matter of
from the body. And the "journey" simply did not exist!
"It makes the world seem so small,"
she commented, " when you reach out for people, and the space between
somehow shuts up like a telescope. I don't understand that. Got to do
some experimenting around. I don't see how you can pull out and push in
space like that. . . ."
The following long pause was
obviously occupied in the "experimenting around."
"Why, how astonishingly near that
brings things!" she burst out. "Isn't that astonishing! Why,
that astonishing! Even the distance
to the other consciousness is
not a distance of space; it's a slowness or torpidity
THE ROAD I
in penetrating. It's just lack of the
right combination that makes it seem distant. It is so near when you
clear that intervening denseness which is not space. . . .
"How can I tell this? Supposing I was
in a dark room, and then a bright light was turned on. The darkness and
the light occupy the same area, don't they? One overcomes the other and
reveals what the other did not. Well, instead of being in the dark
substance of consciousness, I'm in the brighter revealing one. Density
is gone. I'm in the same place I was, but with greater vision.
"It is all one; here; now. All the
heavens and bells and universes superimposed. Why, that is perfectly tremendous! It gets nearer and
nearer until it all seems
right on top of me! More and more revealing light! ...
"I can't pierce it further. I'm not
big enough: it would overwhelm me and burst me. I can't do it....
This was enormously interesting to me
at the time. It is more so today, for now it appears as the first
inkling of the brilliant exposition of Space and Time Betty was to give
us, fifteen years later through Joan, in her book,
In the immediately subsequent
sessions the concept was further developed.
"I see!" she began, after a long
interval of silent investigation, "space is only an imaginary boundary, not a
definite reality. How curious it looks! There isn't
THE ROAD I KNOW
any such thing as that word-pattern
we call space. It's altogether different! . .
She paused to examine further.
"This is too much for me! " she
resumed. "My goodness! There's no use trying to figure it out while
you're living. You couldn't hold on to the idea when you brought it
back! I don't believe I could
stand an idea
like that and get back and live again sensibly. But I'll try to tell
you. I'm gasping over it, and I'll spoil it; but I'll try—
"Yesterday when I looked at a pebble
under the microscope, I looked down into a deep canon of space. I can
walk on that pebble; and yet, by the magic of concentration, a tiny
crevice in it can be refracted to the illusion of a real canon with true immensity. How can you measure space?
How can you give anything so
elastic and changing the name of space? Don't you see, space is not real at all. It is contained in an attribute
of your consciousness."
"Consider," suggested the Invisibles,
"the magnitude of your own illusion of space as compared with the space
of an unrefracted pebble. Now raise it again to an incomprehensible
magnitude such as you can only guess at."
Betty thought this over awhile.
Then, in a puzzled tone:
"We are all apparently occupying the
same space. It doesn't seem to be a case of distance at all.... This
THE ROAD I
is quite new to me and very
satisfactory; because I never could see how they'd have room for
everything and everybody who'd ever died. This is much better; only I can't understand it
"Well, anyhow, I'm never going to have
any respect for space again, because I know now it's altogether too
unreliable. It depends utterly on who is looking at it. I'm sorry I did not get that intelligently, but
anyway it was a grand muckraking
and exposure of space! You see, it's a word that hasn't any standing at
all, except with us. It represents only what we think about it. But I must say it's rather exhausting to struggle with, since I
don't seem to have much influence with it, and yet have work to do in it!"
"Space is not distance," concluded the
Invisibles. "Space is degrees of perception. Distance is only slowness
in getting there."
"How can one speak of 'life beyond',"
cried Betty, "when