The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942




THAT concept—the hereness rather than the thereness—had at least the merit of relieving my own mind. I had never quite liked the idea that Betty was being taught to "leave her body" and go sky-hooting off into unknown and distant spaces. But if leaving the body meant, as it now seemed, merely a complete withdrawal of attention from the body, and a transfer of being into a different center of the same consciousness, why then that wasn't so bad. Nevertheless the new field was "remote" in that, without such training as Betty was receiving, we enter it consciously only through the portals of death.


In that sense, at least, she was exploring a distant world. Exploration of this new region was not merely to satisfy curiosity: it had a definite purpose, concerned as it was with universals.


"I am always afraid of being monkey-minded over here," she told me. "There's so much to see and do."


Though the Invisibles described the purpose as "expansion of consciousness," that appeared to have a number of facets. She was to learn wisdom by precept and actual experience: she was to establish headquarters


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in the higher consciousness from which to direct her daily life: she was even to develop certain supernormal powers which are generally lumped under the term "occult."


This last was an alluring side line. It had the fascination of taking rabbits out of hats. Doubtless that is why it is made the end and aim of many so-called systems of development. The average of us, whether we believe or wholly scoff, like to bear about Adepts and Masters and White and Black Magicians and Witch Doctors and Voodoo, but only as they are able to perform mystifying stunts. Well, in due time Betty learned to perform stunts, when they were useful to the main objective—but only then.


That was the point. Either she or the Invisibles—I forget which—once stated the criterion for that sort of thing. "When a means is made an end­in-itself, it at once becomes a deterrent." In other words, conscious attempts to develop psychic powers for their own sakes are putting the cart before the horse, and are quite likely dangerous in the long run. The safe road is to seek higher consciousness, and then such psychic powers as are useful to that end accompany, or follow as a by-product. Betty did acquire psychic powers. But she was never much interested in them, except as faculties to be utilized in the world of higher consciousness as we utilize our faculties of sight and hearing in our own world.


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Nevertheless, as they were her faculties and for her use, enough legitimate occasion in ordinary life happened by to furnish material for many chapters of the believe-it-or-not variety, were the telling of such our program. For instance, as we have seen, she had been taught very definitely how to leave her body, in the occult sense. But that ability was for the purpose of her explorations, and she confined her use of it to just that purpose, except on a few rare and obviously legitimate occasions. As when she reached across the continent—three thousand miles—to the sick-room of a relative. She reported to me how he was, she described the room, who was in that room, and what they were doing; details confirmed to the last item by letter.


She also learned to partake of another's mind which is perhaps more accurate than saying she could " read" another's thoughts; and—again on very rare occasions—did so; but ordinarily her scruples would not permit.


"It would be an invasion of privacy," said she.


Doing psychic work in the usual sense for others was no part of her job; and this aspect, too, she declined. However, because the circumstances made it seem to her almost obligatory, she solved a mystery as to whether murder or suicide, so convincingly that not only did the widow receive a large sum of insurance, but a rascally business associate was glad to disgorge.


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Over the period of years such things happened—not often—but when they did they were of practical value.




For most of us, I think, such unique possibilities would have held something of a lure. But Betty was not much tempted. Her interest was too completely centered in the exploration of her new world. And this, even I could see, was a man-sized job.


Betty's attempts to describe that world were a constant struggle. This new region, it seemed, was so utterly novel as to be next to inexpressible. But apparently the reporting back was an essential part of her program, perhaps for crystallization in her own mind, perhaps for my benefit.


"I am trying hard to accustom myself, because I dimly feel I must acquire for you an actual knowledge of these fundamentals," she told me. "They must be made living, vibrating intensifications of your consciousness, not just dead symbols of vaguely comprehended verities. I must accomplish it, first in my own exploratory fashion, then in its refinements and adaptations—its mental concepts and its verbal monuments."


Naturally she had a human desire to share her discoveries. "I take such a childish delight in having a private


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world," she confided. "I'm so bursting with it sometimes that it seems as though people must know I have a big secret.... I'll make a beautiful window so they can look and see what I see."


This was ordinarily her attitude. But once in a while she balked a little at marring the clarity of her vision by any attempt at translation.


"Oh, but it would spoil it so to make a diagram of it!" she protested. "It's such a fragile thing! It's just begun.... Please! Have I got to spoil it?"


She seemed to listen; then added in a confidential whisper:


"Let's put it away quietly, as it is; just tiptoe away and leave it, like the bird's nest I used to visit."


Again she paused. To me it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation.


"I don't think I can say it," she yielded at last. "I'll try.


"It is like living on the edge of a vast forest," she began. "I've lived in a clearing all my life. Now I'm going to slip into the forest. It's full of wonderful things, and I've got to find my way through. . .


She fell silent.


"I'm getting the fullness of it now," she went on presently. "It's a beautiful rest hall of the spirit. I can't describe it, but it offers marvelous strengthening peace. If I could only establish this in the midst of world affairs, it would make a proper domicile in which


THE ROAD I KNOW                                     157 to produce power and equipment for competent work...." She paused again, as if in contemplation.


"I feel so strongly this great vaulted life of limitless health, vitality and possibility, surging, pulsing with power and rhythm.... Resonance—it has a beautiful sound, made up of the harmony of little voices, like the pulse of a summer night. It is so alive this vaulted life. It is all feel and happiness. How can I describe it? It has a richness we know nothing about—all the topness of youth combined with all the depth of maturity. And there's such abounding energy to it—such abounding joy! In it I feel as if in perfect physical health. My body actually radiates—there's an outgoing of something which manufactures harmony. I don't know what the substance of it is, but it resembles intense appreciation. I wish there were a name for it. If I said 'worship' it would mean something else to most people. We have nothing like it. The warmest human glow you can imagine—affection, sympathy—cannot approach it in intensity. They are just sparks from it...."


She sighed deeply.


"I am hunting, bunting for recognized words and terms for this feeling of abounding life. I can't find anything but the word enthusiasm. That's the liveliest little word I can find. All the rest are torpid. It is discouraging to hunt and hunt around among all these


* There is much of it in Across the Unknown.

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logical and legal and leveling things and not find flame-leaping words. It's too bad!


For some moments she was still.


"My world! " she continued, with something like reverence. "The intensity of it is almost like suffering, it is so acute. I am roaming, almost despairing, hunting for terms. It is life at the meridian—it casts no shadow. It is life at its core. To translate it would wrench me to pieces. I must keep quiet...."


As a dealer in words I thought she was doing very well, and I said so. But she was dissatisfied. To her the thing itself was so much more vivid than any possible reflection of it.


"To try to tell of it," she disagreed tersely, "is like trying to bottle sunshine. In ordinary terms it simply does not convey itself."




To the very end Betty continued to find the higher consciousness largely untranslatable. Necessarily, therefore, she often resorted to symbolism. Much of this was arresting and beautiful. I cannot here quote adequately.* But the following will serve as an example:


"I've entered the hinterland of consciousness," said Betty. "Everything is radiance-filled and fresh and eager-spirited, as on a pinnacle day of extreme youth and extreme tiptoeness for life, more life...."


THE ROAD I KNOW                                     159 She broke off, leaving me to wonder what was going on.


"I'm playing a most amusing game," she explained presently. "I'm busy collecting different phases of the spell of this country. It is not a tellable thing, but I'll see what is obtainable in word patterns....


"All the words are too pompous," she continued. "They are too ponderous for the playful, blissful thing I'm doing. It is like the great, bosoming comfort of being in the water. I lie on my back in the embrace of the water, only conscious of its caress when I move. It so perfectly surrounds and accepts and sports with me. I tear it up; I tear the water up to see it mend itself so derisively, just laughing its bubbles at the futility of my efforts. I am stroking the water as I swim in the sense of its soft encompassing, and piercing it with arms thrust out. Broken drops flash back....


"I wonder if I could collect in words some of the sun spell too? I want to get the different phases in fragments, and then bring them together for that spell of enchantment which is the hinterland of consciousness.


"Now, the sun! It is very commanding. It is not so playful. All I do is to lie subordinate to it. It takes possession of me. Without resistance I give up to its expansion. Magically it dispels my clothes and enters into my bones. My very skeleton grows larger and lighter under its influence. My mind is lulled. I am all atoms and chemistry, all separated and spread out. I might be


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a mere heat radiation for all the tangibility there is of me....


"It's too bad I don't understand music, for it is all around me all the time. I get into the sweep of it, into the control and abandon of what you might call great engulfing cadences, which absorb discord and turn it into harmony. It is a curious kind of music—an intoxicating rhythm of things. If you get tired you just let go, and it sweeps you along and rests you....


"There's always a strong temptation to abandon myself completely— and yet I never do. I always want to; and I always put it deliberately aside as dangerous. I wonder why! It is curiously like fighting off drowsiness. There is always the instinct to concentrate on something practical....


"I think perhaps there's danger of getting drowned, of getting unbalanced and losing your perception. There comes a woozy point, a giving way to the drunky sensation. That's the danger point....


"I wonder what those body strings are that can be strained only so much at a time. As I come back I realize somebody has watched over them."




For a long time I was certainly no help to Betty in her struggle for expression. I was still looking for something "definite." I think my effort to pin things down


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put her on the defensive. The Invisibles did their best to combat this attitude. They were always encouraging her to loosen up; to make an amusing game of it.


They tell me it is just play." Betty herself was speaking. "They only want to make it play. It keeps the right balance....


"Oh dear! " she begged. "I want to get it into something tangible for Stewart. You've got to cast a material shadow for him. You've got to make it into something like coin he can spend to get things with, or he won't think it any good!"


She paused a moment.


"I feel as though I had dived to a great depth to get something for you," she told me, "and when I came up and looked at it with your eyes, it was nothing but a cockleshell."


As I look back I realize I must have been a great trial, nevertheless I believe my insistences were useful. My stubbornness gave Betty an anchor to windward; counteracted any danger of drifting. At least the Invisibles were kind enough to tell me so.


Betty realized that for this period anyway, we must have different points of view.


"I am emboldening myself," she told me one day, after a long initial pause, "and it takes time. Funny game!... I have to embolden myself in order to acquire an authoritative presentation of things. You see, we work in different mediums. Yours offers adjustment


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to the highest reaches of comprehension compatible with earth conditions; my records are translations from other conditions extending beyond normal experience. Each time I have to transmute myself for participation to the best of my ability in the new conditions, and then struggle to turn them into word symbols giving approximate concepts. I keep my contacts with you by passing back and forth from one type of comprehension to the other. It is slow hard work, but it has to be done. I hold my little bit of consciousness as on a magic carpet, miraculously freed from what I can only symbolize to you as terrestrial gravitation—that being the hampering customary conditions as compared with this greater scope of action....


"Coming here is like coming from a stingy little cabin to magically wrought palaces and vaulted temples, with still more beautiful places beyond—a vast and colorful world purpled over with mystic promises. How can I tell you these things, when they are so big and I am so little? My audacity in even sensing them awes me!...


"Today's experience seems to be a lesson in selection. There appears to be an elaboration and richness in my surroundings which surpasses all my powers of perception. I sense intricacies of beauty I cannot even comprehend. I could easily lose myself in convolutions of the varied appeals to my senses.


"Fortunately there is within me a controlling desire


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and ability to see a few great simplicities of this different and more powerfully vital form of life. While I can sense the stupendously manifold lesser manifestations existing in this particular arc of my illumination, at the same time I can see the fundamental motivations behind them. Because of my hold on these I can support the wealth and beauty and elaboration.


"My effort," she interrupted herself to explain, "is always and always will be, to do the thing itself before I can know about it."




Obviously many of Betty's experiences were symbolic shows arranged by the Invisibles. For example:


"I am carefully approaching something—a great Presence." It was Betty speaking. "I want to see if I can make out who he is and what he has to tell me....


"Now I can't come any nearer to him, so I will just have to listen carefully. Something is shaping vaguely, as a mass comes to form on a potter's wheel....


"He is showing me carefully guarded treasures. I know they are treasures, but I don't know what to value them with. I am to select from them as the natural appeal is to me. And then I am to wear them, because of the dignity and responsibility they imply, as a treasure bearer should. It is like an emblem of office laid on me, and I am trying to conduct myself as worthy. I


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wish you could understand what this kind of spiritual pride is, how it differs from the pride of arrogance. It is a lofty tingling thing that is married to humility.


"It must be a great poverty of spirit that makes people go unadorned with the emblems of their belief. These emblems now being showed me are beautiful things, so marvelous in design and workmanship, so distinguished in prerogative. They mark the rank that serves. They acknowledge before all men's eyes the grandeur of kinship, the unity of human experiences. I go appareled thus in crowded places, a member of a great fraternity, seen of all men, but unrecognized by the saddening majority. I am not at all self-conscious about these things I wear, because mockers do not seem to notice them—at least they do not believe they are real....


"I could not pick out much of that treasure: I did not dare. I had only courage enough to see about two things I could support. I took a beautiful golden disc thing to wear over my heart to keep it from hardening, to keep it tender in spite of contacts with the world. I wanted that very much, very much. And then there was a banner I wanted to hold up over the crowd where all people could see it; but I did not take that because my hands would not be free, and I must have freed hands. The thing I did take was a kind of cloak. It had only a back to it. Somehow it keeps me going forward. I couldn't turn around and go back in it. I do


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not care much about the backward-looking part of me, and I wanted to cover it up with something that was more nearly the texture of my ideal.


"There are so many things in that treasure heap. I just selected the things that would give me strength.


There is a mass of beauty in them, so curiously wrought with every human perception and precious instinct. There is a long golden chain I would like to have had. It was a chain of concentration that does not bind, does not restrain you from expanding; but I did not take it. I wanted it, too; but I did not think I was fit to wear it yet. It is a great pity, because everybody who knows anything will notice that something is lacking. I'll go back some day and get it,"




"I feel it just as a vast current! " Betty was trying to describe another aspect of her 'private world.' "I am in connection with that current. Little nerve-scattering things cannot hurt me. But that's not enough. How can I arrest and deflect it, this mighty force? How can I handle it? It sweeps through and by me, partaking of me. How can I partake of it? Suppose you found yourself in a mighty thing like this; what would you do? I've got to decide."


She studied the problem.


"When you come over here," she continued, "this


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force is all you've got to begin your work with. All you have is the amount you can take and arrange. I take stock of myself—sense how much individualized current is around me which keeps at bay, as it were, what would be an all-engulfing substance if I'd let it. But I'm not going to let it engulf me, I'm going to act on it. That is as near as I can get to sensation, the first primitive sensation of creative force which I manufacture and maintain.


"It is the growth of this sensation of greater and greater radius of superior force acting on the primal substance which will make it possible for me to establish my ideal, what I actually am capable of, what my species is in the universal plan. I said species because my ideal, my little atomic arrangement I am capable of making, establishes my species in the universe. And I am capable of changing it continually.


"This makes the whole universe dependent on the amount of the life force one is able to generate and utilize. One's participation in the abounding beauty of the whole Plan is dependent only on one's own efforts. One is tremendously responsible for one's radius. That is what one is judged by."


She broke off.


"I am making it very difficult and unattractive today, I am afraid," she apologized, "because it is the beginning of an aspect very hard to put into words. But later the avidity and desire come which lift me into the


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case of it, like laughing, or breathing in the spring air, or anything else that is the gift of life....


"I feel as if I had stepped all over a bed of flowers telling you about it." Again, at another time, another attack from another angle:


"I am," she said, "very busy getting a consciousness of my aliveness for you to put down later. It's an acknowledgment and exercise of acute aliveness. I must prepare it first in quiet. It is one of the secrets of all inner creative work and progress and self-propulsion....


"One of the most essential motivations of progress," put in the Invisibles, "is the reality of this very thing, this acute aliveness, this warm eager current ever seeking new channels. Without a definitely encouraged consciousness of this aliveness you are not yet in possession of your highest capabilities. But when you gain it for your own, you will have forever in your hands the magic open-sesame of gates beyond gates. You cannot realize all the difference between what has always existed as the common eternal history of the race, and the few inheritors of actual treasure. The astonishing power, the intense stimulation beyond anything you can conceive intellectually, is the reward that awaits your efforts.


"You grasp intellectually what the raising of vibrations means. Yet could you, deliberately, sitting in your


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chair, raise your vibrations; and, clearly aware of the act, describe and control the accompanying emotion? This is, quite simply, the trained approach to acute aliveness."


"I cannot accomplish it through the channel of my mind," Betty took it up. "I must experiment and tell you myself....


"I can, for instance, walk from here to the door in various degrees of vibration—which I call that for lack of a better term. I can go as a human lima bean, for instance: life contained within an ungerminated shell, you know. I can walk somewhat in that fashion without particular sense impressions on the way. Or I can go with perhaps some simple idea occupying me, of some business or pleasure. Or I can go in various degrees above that, admitting more and more of life to my inner being, in proportion as I am increasingly released from my restricting shell. Or, finally, I can go with acute aliveness, which is the master dispeller of that containing shell; so that, while I walk seemingly as before, utilizing the same functions, actually I am permitting a flooding-in of the greater all­encompassing self. I would then walk towards the door in a beautiful spare moment, occupied happily and naturally in merging myself. There's the secret. Like warm sun rays on a gratefully receptive body, in the pregnant moment of eternity in passing to the door, all the richness of life would flood through me; and I, comfortably,


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deeply happy in my, merging with it, would slowly learn the secret of acute awareness and all that it horizons to my soul.


"I can't tell you what it really feels like: words don't hold it nicely. But it's not only a flooding-in, there's an ebb to it, and you flood out with it. Nevertheless I do not, somehow, lose control of my segment of life. The participation temporarily in the greater unity just expands the segment."


"The great effort being made today," concluded the Invisibles, "is to impart the gift of knowledge of the true nature of spiritual practises. It has been so unhumanized, so undesirably presented, so scoffed at and misunderstood. The time is ripe to present it as a warmth and shelter and beauty of the inner life, as ardently to be desired and worked for as those of the outer."