Their approach is self consciously American. Consistently witty, they simultaneously accept and reject all explanations of the phenomena, because the right words for what really happened probably don’t exist yet. They focus on providing sane and simple practices any one can experiment with. I found in Across the Unknown such a provocative collection of exercises and observations of consciousness that I decided to devote this blog to that book only. The masterpiece authored by the Whites and their invisible friends, The Unobstructed Universe, Jung’s favorite book by them, will be the subject of the next blog. The work of the Whites is in my humble opinion a key artifact of American Metaphysical Religion.
The Betty Book is playful, abrupt, its appendix made tedious by detail. Across the Unknown in comparison has a stream of consciousness feel. Most of Part 1 is a rambling rehash that leaves readers wondering if Stewart was already in shock about Betty’s fateful illness, or if perhaps the writing suffered due to the addition as co-author of Stewart’s little brother Harwood, a tennis coach in Montecito, California. Or perhaps this explains it: “Consequently, when the translation slowed down or the intake seemed blocked or we otherwise encountered what the records term “difficulty”–we followed the natural impulse to redouble the pressure and work twice as often and twice as long. As a result, things always went from bad to worse, until finally Betty went on a temporary strike and refused to do anything more at all. Fortunately the book shifts into higher gear after page 77.
First some words need to be redefined. The first is imagination. Betty didn’t think much of the word, but the Invisibles held in high esteem. “I don’t think,” Betty interjected, “that’s a very good word–imagination. It’s too cobwebby with unrealities.” “Imagination?” they cried, astonished. “Why, that is the very gateway to reality! Imagination is the Power of Transportation–that overrides space and time! Imagination enables you to put yourself anywhere. It’s the power of juxtaposition, that puts together things that were never put together before, at points of contact that nobody else ever thought of. It’s the power to see the Pattern.”
Another word that needs redefining is spiritual. “They are terribly anxious,” added Betty, “to take away any solemn ecclesiastical idea from ‘spiritual.’ Once recognized as standing for spontaneous enjoyment, legitimate heart indulgence, the word will have rough-and-ready hiking clothes instead of vestments.”
The Invisibles also have a word to say about how living humans think of our dead, even when we believe in life after death. “INVISIBLE: When you think of us don’t bother about our shape or substance. It is a living and loving form still: nothing unnatural or vaporous. Don’t make such an unattractive picture of the change. Keep us in your hearts as we were; It is nearer the truth, and more comforting than trying to comprehend the difference. The more naturally you can think about us, the less apt you are to go astray on phantoms of your own conception. Dear me, why do you get so fantastic over that? It’s terrible to be loved so fleshlessly! It handicaps a conception of warmth and response existing as-ever and for-ever.” “BETTY: They’re so real, so real, and so much more vibrant.” The once famous slogan of the religion of Orpheus that dominated the Mediterranean for centuries was an attempt to convey the same message: soma sema (the body, a tomb).
AGING AND OTHER NEANDERTHAL SUPERSTITIONS
Certain passages in part two provide comfort and inspiration to readers dealing with aging; that will become a predominant theme in Stewart’s later metaphysical books, providing a service to a generation of elders who had survived the depression only to suffer World War 2.
“INVISIBLE: Why saturate your whole being with a sensation that has to do with only a smaller part of it? Even when the body is tired, there is no longer any need for YOU to live in its tiredness. Just take the sensible measures appropriate to a tired body, and then withdraw into your higher serenities.” Yet this is also an unconscious presentiment of the fatal illness about to take Betty from him.
The Invisible continued: “For even today, certainly, the old man who acts in forward-looking vigor is numbered perhaps by hundreds as against untold millions living in wistfulness of vanished youth. The average man, meanwhile, is engaged in expending the accumulations made at the peak of youth, spreading them thin over the years, until at last he stands bankrupt before his gray remaining days, searching half-heartedly for some interest real enough to carry him through.”
Stewart explains that older people make the mistake of trying to use their bodies to recapture the glories of youth. “If you’re going to face a great and shining future, you must use a new and bright apparatus with which to express your greater capacities.” He points out that during the earliest days of human evolution, when survival was the only culture, slowed reflexes and reduced strength equaled death, but he asks us to see our own American “youth-cult as a Neanderthal superstition.”
Betty puts it this way: “But as long as we allow those old flesh-thoughts to sit around like old black crows, just spoiling the party, we’ll never be able to believe in the fruit of our life. It will be obscured by the age of our arteries, denied by the stiffness of our muscles and every other old kill-joy in our bodies.”
Then comes this provocative paragraph: “The gift of illumination of the moment,” resumed the Invisibles, “is how to substitute for bodily functions the higher intelligence and vital intensities of the enduring being within you. Age, in a sense, is self-inflicted, a legacy from past generations. But within each there is something that is superior to age. Once you fully realize this, there will be no tradition of age to uphold. It will exist only as a physical cycle, quite apart from the real center of being.”
WHAT YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU
While we’re shedding Neanderthal superstitions, Stewart suggests, lets give up the fear that death is some kind of hard line or dispersal or ultimate absence from existence and consciousness.
“We keep right on, just as we have been going. How is that? Why, said they, look at what you HAVE been doing. You started out completely identified in consciousness with your physical body. As a baby you were hardly aware of any outside world. Your growth has been a steady progress away from that identification. You have become increasingly aware of the outside world. You have even come to the point where, to a degree, you have ceased to think of your body as yourself. It is more like a useful machine. You have seen how, just by noticing things, paying real attention to them, your consciousness has left its body behind to a certain and ever increasing extent. The norm of growth is to make that transfer oftener and more complete. You “develop outside interests.” In the due course of events there comes a time when you find it handier and more comfortable to move your headquarters out to those outside interests. You shut up the old house, and move into a new habitation that is closer to your work. That is death.
“And, they added, get over any idea that death is going instantaneously to transfigure you into Celestial Beings. You did not leap to maturity when you graduated from high school into college. There is no sudden jump,” they insisted, “which will transform you. You take over what you are. That is the real continuity. It’s not the continuity of going over to something easier and adapted to all your peculiarities. It is a smooth transition.”
Smooth, and yet so many of the skills we have developed, so many of our ideas and necessities are local, personal, day to day, career, competition, a total preoccupation with time bound endeavors. We’re like experienced men of the sea who suddenly find ourselves in charge of an airplane, Stewart writes, “To be sure the skills of sheet and halliard, reef and spinnaker, tack and reach are useless. But the qualities we have developed in acquiring those skills come in very handy. Alertness; coolness; judgment; prompt muscular reaction; resourcefulness; courage; caution–we learned them on the water, we can use them in the air.”
“You remember the experimental dying,” said the Invisibles, “and how you set up housekeeping with the few things you had brought along of realities–volition, patience, perseverance, loving-kindness, whatever you had of enduring qualities–and by the exercise of them created new environment. Well, you don’t have to go so far imaginatively as that. You can imagine yourself, as happens to many, suddenly transplanted, an emigrant, a refugee, any example of a suddenly uprooted being hustled into a radically changed environment. Place yourself in imagination in Smyrna or Palestine or Timbuktu or any other part of the world–without luggage! The success of your adjustment will be entirely dependent on the mental and spiritual capital you have brought with you.
“Consider one who is without firmly established supporting convictions, previously developed through his having constructed his own firm conditions of maintenance elsewhere; without the eternal verity of equilibrium; without the surrounding stability of confidence in his own power of re-establishment through summoning or magnetically attracting to himself the same replacement conditions anywhere. He will begin at once to disintegrate and throw into confusion his whole creative mechanism, by tearing it up into little worry-bits as to food and every detail as to present and future need, and his lack of possession of them at the moment. His panic over his mechanism of reconstructing his life puts him at once into the conditions he fears.”
FUTURE BUILDING MATERIALS
In the after death state in Tibetan tradition our own fears generate beings we mistake for cosmic enemies, so losing our brief chance for true enlightenment. If we expect to see hell, then hell we see. But the Invisibles tell us it’s not punishment we should fear in the afterlife, but the consequences of wasted opportunities to prepare ourselves. Betty gives a wonderful description of the process in the following passages.
“Today I’m playing such a curious beautiful game,” said she. “I’m putting together precious bits of memory perfections….Such a curious jumble of things!–memories of wide awesome spaces, and mountain tops, and flowing deserts, and young spring, and fragrances, and rosy babies–all the releasing memories I have on hand….
“I am learning how I shall use my earth experiences over here, the creative power of them when put together properly. They are building materials, just as brick and mortar are there. I pile up my memories and step on them, as it were, into a higher condition of perception. My precious sensibilities! I haven’t half enough of them! I hunt around among my deepest and tenderest feelings, my intensest longings, all the parts of me that are most quivered with life. I wish there were a lot more; they make such a little bit of building material.
“My great longings take precedence; they are the readiest for fulfillment. All my satisfied memories support them and give them substance and structure. It is so vast. I make my selections of conscious participation by my great longings developed on earth, and by satisfying them develop others, thus gaining cognizance of still vaster possibilities….I feel like a yeast cake, or the building of a honeycomb, or something just made of the thought cells of experience. It would be terrible to come over without any intensities to build on.
“All this is to show us the way we are constantly preparing or neglecting our future building materials. The only way it can be demonstrated is through symbols of intensity, which is eternal life substance. You can continue to quicken yourself wholesomely, naturally, normally in every faculty–physical, mental, spiritual–each year freeing yourself, moving toward youth instead of age, the youth of your next and higher phase of life. It doesn’t come through thinking; it isn’t thinking, it’s DOING– like physical exercises, only these are everything: will, sensory, every kind of pleasurable participation in living vitally.
“I feel the difference just as you can tell electric current or when it’s shut off; just as definite as that. This current is the intensity that runs through to our pleasures and beliefs and longings: the permeation of the spirit, which is so difficult to put into convincing words–”
LIKE PARKS IN A CITY
Development depends on spiritual contact. “The single thing I can get hold of today is the drabness of our life. Why don’t we intensify it? There are not enough breathing spaces, like parks in a city; not enough moments of susceptibility to happiness and well-being. It’s not punctuated; it’s all run together with the details of life. If we could only make ourselves distribute more and more frequently through our hours little breathing spaces for the spirit to mount to consciousness of strength and well-being, that would be the training we need in the gradual acquisition of the happiness we won’t take. But we shut it all out except for the occasional hour, and gradually the barrier thickens. We must keep it thin and easily broken through. It’s the frequency, not the length of time, that does it.”
“INVISIBLE: Our end is dependent on the establishing of magnetic control from yours. That lacking, misunderstood, or thrust aside by circumstances of life, the conviction or quickening contact is gradually dimmed, sometimes to the point of extinction.”
AVOIDING SPIRITUAL ANEMIA
Perhaps the greatest challenge to spiritual development is the physical denial so many religions have taught. Extensive fasting, austere disciplines, rigid denial are not only unnecessary but potentially harmful. “INVISIBLE: Always in the earlier years of spiritual development the effort of stilling your objective minds to reach your inner ones has certain accompanying symptoms which result in a flattening and dulling of the entity as a whole. It is just as when, in a sport, one uses undue effort in the beginning and exhausts oneself in doing what later can be done quite easily. The aching muscles of the mind and spirit sometimes interpret themselves in reflex even on the bodily muscles. A curiously aging effect is produced, co-existing with the moments of increased vitality and spiritual exuberance. To overcome this interaction the body must be made as robust as possible. Sometimes the flattening and dulling of it comes through various misinterpretations of the relation between the spiritual and the physical. For instance, the growth in refinement of the inner being may interpret itself into anemia of the physical being–into restrictions of foods and appetites of all kinds. Actually no such negations interact favorably on the higher centers. That sounds like a dangerous doctrine, but in reality the danger is more apt to occur on the side of damaging the spontaneity of the body’s functions–its buoyancy and equilibrium and youthful confidence and carelessness. Only too easily the aspirations of the inner life misinterpret themselves into such restrictions as an over-regulated child would suffer.”
Apparently this is a normal stage in spiritual development, a turning inward that can diminish outer qualities. “INVISIBLE: A person susceptible to the simple purity of the higher consciousness is apt to be contented with what is in reality only the seed, and have little imagination as to the flower. As a matter of fact these first stages, held apart from life and labeled spirituality, have actually a sterile quality. At this point in the individual’s development, in order to attain a closer integration with the higher consciousness, much is stripped away of sense perceptions. In consequence there is an unavoidable loss of the form of the thing, and if the aspirant stops there, very little of usable product can result. It is much as if the seed of a plant were shipped from the place in which it is indigenous, to a far country; and as if, in that far country, the recipient were content to possess the seed, and did not plant it.”
This inability to be in the world but not of it has given spirituality a bad reputation. “INVISIBLE: It is this passive attitude which has made people think that using the higher consciousness is an impractical way of working at things. But it is impractical only when you merely conceive a noble idea and then sit back and expect some magic to accomplish it. The brute force man, in the meantime, goes out–perhaps with a lot of destructive function and antagonism of unripened force–and tears things up, but accomplishes it somehow. The combination of these two methods is what you want. The first step must always be a tremendous work of generating your harmony of conditions toward your ideal; but there is also the recognition of the practical method of accomplishing each step as it presents itself–the seizing of the opportunity. The best results are always a question of proportion between these two–a question of balancing the higher vision with the human fibre, so that you can actually produce your highest dreams and ideals, just as the practical man produces his limited ones. That would be the complete method of the whole man: This combination must be worked on a great deal if you are to produce the higher consciousness through an efficient machinery. Usually one man dreams a dream, and another man takes it up; and the dreamer scorns his fixing of it as a low materialism. What these teachings are supposed to do is to open the gates of inspiration to the practical man, and to give creative construction power to the one who has vision but cannot share it by producing it. ”
THE PROBLEM WITH SENSITIVITY
Spirituality can have other negative side effects. “INVISIBLE: The individual who sits alone, even though thinking exaltedly, accomplishes little for his generation beyond exemplifying pure sublimity. The limitation of this method of spreading one’s influence is its wastefulness in proportion to one’s effort and intent. On the other hand, the same type of mind, capable of entering the stream of life, of participating in the trivial pleasures and interests and pastimes of his fellow beings, of amalgamating with their main purposes–which are their heart impulses, and not their surface minds–this person’s influence is incalculable. His harmonious intent and radiating, perceptive interest in life touch countless lives beyond his vision. And so I repeat: you must have bonds of genuine intense interest with your fellow beings. You must cultivate them, be proficient in them, if you are to achieve anything approaching the effectiveness of which you are capable.”
“INVISIBLE: Sensitiveness capable of absorbing wisdom through direct impression suffers enormously from the world of combat. For as awareness increases, so does suffering. A wider vision reveals not only rightness, but also the terrible wrongness. Because of this, unfortunately, the spiritual aspirant often prefers to seek a sheltered life and become a bystander. Unwilling to make what seem to him futile efforts at righting things, he prefers the refuge of passivity. Such a person may have an exquisitely sensitized vision, but he is absolutely sterile because of lack of human contact. One reason why the strength of unenlightenment is rampant is this shrinking of sensitiveness from contact with it. The bystander probably considers it fastidiousness, but it is really inertia, atrophied force, overcultivation, loss of productiveness.”
“BETTY: I want to look at him again. He’s quite fascinating, quite exquisite, but useless. If set in action, so much of him would break or crumble or change. What a pity he couldn’t be used! He’s such a highly developed specimen.
“INVISIBLE: He’s got to learn to take his sensitiveness out of the way or he can’t be put to work. The whole point is, any sensitive person is useless in employing the force of the higher consciousness if he is always vulnerable to the return blows of the world. Suppose he is trying to accomplish something, and everybody begins irrelevant personal attacks, obstructions of all kinds. The minute he becomes susceptible to that he is automatically shut off from the power current which was going to HELP him accomplish.”
“BETTY: The tiniest little bit of an effort really to accomplish, the crudest kind of a structure, is worth so much more than years of atrophied intellectual attainment. The crude little structure is a live thing. It can be extended and beautified indefinitely.”
OCCULTISM, THE PSYCHIC AND RELIGION
A reconstruction of John Dee’s holy table he used for talking to angels.
Stewart recognizes three basic paths of spirituality. He warns that the occult, including use of drugs for spiritual purposes, and “Yogi exercises” is a “drastic” path. The “psychic” path he admits is a catch all for “everything debatable, from table tipping and automatic writing to trance mediumships. In its purest use it might be defined as Invisible guidance.” Stewart warns that the psychic path can be just as dangerous as the occult path. “To place oneself indiscriminately at the disposal of unknown forces and personalities is as silly as turning over all your money to someone you know nothing whatever about, and whom you have never even seen. There is always the possibility that you will come under wise and considerate care. But the chances are you will wake up one day to find you have attracted a crowd of thugs and incompetents, with no desires beyond using you for their own purposes. And that is not all, for even though awakened, you may by then find it next to impossible to free yourself of them. Nevertheless,” Stewart continues, “I repeat, some individuals are so constituted that “psychic” offers the most effective way to begin the journey, possibly the only way–for them.” “
The third path is “exoteric religion.” Stewart gives it lukewarm praise and a humorous warning. “Any religion worthy of the name affords to those especially constituted a means of reaching the higher consciousness. Since they deal more in general principle and less in the details of instruction and process, as routes they are much less dangerous for use by the average man. But for that reason they are correspondingly less effective–and by no means altogether safe, at that. Plenty of people have gone weird over religion, and some have even become violent and had to be locked up. But so can one go crazy over almost anything. I had an aunt who went crazy over cats!”
Stewart describes another danger of the spiritual life: “–so many people sincerely, honestly, passionately, reaching toward expansion; ardently and arduously seeking the higher consciousness. They were wholly well-meaning. Their relationships to others, as far as they could make them so, were altruistic and selfless. Apparently here was no lack of intention nor wavering of aim. Yet somehow they had managed to miss out completely. Strange things happened to them, which they seemed not to deserve. Either they had turned weird and visionary; or joyless in a wrack of spiritual anxieties; or zealous with a certainty of self-righteousness. They either became helpless victims of spiritual wretchedness, or self-righteous proselytes of spiritual arrogance. They were both lonely and unhappy. And the search, to which they were still inexorably bound, had turned frantic and tormented.”
The revelation came after a series of exercises Stewart carefully records. He tells us not to expect our own experiences to be like his, because everyone must have their own experience of this mystery. Describing his own progress, Stewart says he knew the first step was relaxation. But exercises like telling every muscle to relax only put more attention on the body. Trying to control your thoughts is vigilance, and vigilance isn’t relaxing. The implication of all these methods seems to be an “excluding of the world” by some sort of drastic focusing of the mind. I evolved and grew into a little daily routine. I would begin by lying flat on my back–preferably on the floor, because of its more stable support. Then for a brief space I would picture to myself various relaxing things: a dog flopped asleep in the sunshine, a cat stretched out before the fire, a coat on a coat hanger, the sensation of floating in warm water or of falling comfortably through space.”
“For example, I would repeatedly divert my attention to little discontinuous noises–a bird singing, the creaking of the woodwork, the wind passing in the trees. It had occurred to me that when one looks or listens or feels with his whole mind he does not think. Sometimes I would use memory pictures as the substitute: a tiny brook murmuring contentedly among the giant sugar pines; a green meadow in the enchanted silence of the forest depths; thin, rose clouds streaking a sunset sky; the shimmer of moonlight upon the summer sea. These, and their kind, I would pursue, until the thrill and the wonder of beauty had closed gentle fingers about my consciousness.”
Stewart shares this message he received from the Invisibles: “I must now, said they, carefully, very carefully picture myself as floating unanchored in space. Various physical symbols helped. A bird high above the ground. An airplane in space, touching nothing. A balloon in the stratosphere. One picture that seemed to be particularly effective was that of smoke rising slowly and hanging under the ceiling. As long as my interest was centered in these, no bustling thoughts came to disturb me. Last of all I would carefully, very carefully, detach myself from my symbols and try to sense myself as a disembodied point of consciousness in space. Surprisingly, this wasn’t too hard to do, though at first the effect stayed with me only for an instant.”
“This insight, or “revelation” is, in its full clarity, rarely more than a flash, or a glimpse. For one fleeting instant we seem to FEEL that we know what it is all about. The moment passes; but the accompanying exaltation lingers. We begin to think it is permanent. We mistake the mood for a permanent state of being. From now on we are going through life a-tiptoe and a-tingle in vibrant exuberance. The load is lifted, the struggle banished. And the more confident of that we are, the more disconcerting, even dangerous, is going to be the reaction. For inevitably and inexorably we shall come down from tiptoe; our ecstasy is going to drain back to its earned level.”
Stewart’s description sounds like the altered state to which author Richard Maurice Bucke devoted his book Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (1901). Bucke believed that this experience once limited to artists and saints is actually a new sense the human race is evolving. Instead of using mediums as his source of information Bucke collected cosmic consciousness moments from the new testament, Socrates, from Plotinus to Pushkin, from Dante to William Blake, to the human being he considered the most enlightened who has ever lived, Walt Whitman, plus numerous anonymous contemporary accounts. Though born in England and a lifelong Canadian, Bucke’s an important figure in the history of American Metaphysical Religion, to be explored in a future chapter.
“In my own case,” Stewart continues, “I was soon made to see that this getting aside from the body was intended only as a temporary freeing from its demands in order that I might act untrammeled in another part of myself: and also, as a byproduct, that I might actually experience, by sensation, that the body is only an attribute of the spirit. Like the mind. As are the hands to the body itself.” Even his success comes with warnings: “This process is nothing desirable in itself. The body is no stepchild. In final analysis it is full partner, and neglect of it, or ignoring of it, may be as disastrous to the whole entity as subservience to it.”
SEX AFTER DEATH
Tulipan condoms ad by Guillermo Vega, General Creative Director at Y&R Argentina.
Stewart asks the question everyone’s been thinking: “S E W: Between those thus mated is there any form of what might be called private relationship; that is, a relationship peculiar to them as individuals, corresponding, however vaguely, to our physical relationships?” INVISIBLE: Your world is full of the ecstasy of harmonious attraction, beginning at the mere chemical affinities and proceeding upward to the sex relations. This same magnetic attraction continues, but in vastly higher and even more ecstatic form. It takes place eventually through perfect union of complementary spiritual halves. It is a little difficult to put concisely, as there are many ramifications and half-realized conditions before the perfect mating takes place. That is not very satisfactory as an explanation, but you may rest assured that the beauty of physical mating is not lost, but intensively increased in the spiritual realm.” As above so below takes on a whole new meaning.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
The secret of success is always a popular topic but the Invisibles again put a different spin on the subject. “INVISIBLE: The point toward which all this instruction trends is ultimate identification with your higher self. But first must come a vital effort to know that higher self, and a gradual training of your spiritual muscles to maintain it, once recognized. This does not mean that you should cease to interest yourselves in the multitude of activities all around you–people and books and experiences–these are hourly food. But it does mean most emphatically that your major efforts should be in the recognition and cultivation and establishment of your inner being, the eternal part of you. The gradual growth and expansion of this eternal self is the major business of each day, whatever may be the pressure of obligations in your everyday life. What we are trying to do is to indicate a method of overcoming spiritual awkwardness. To put it roughly, the contagion of youthful beauty of body, loveable, universally adored, must somehow be translated into your spiritual youth. It needs more “puppiness” on your part, more careless play with its sensations. The development of the higher perceptions brings to you sympathy and understanding and compassion, but also at first a somewhat amateurish handling of life. The only way to strengthen and be comfortable and assured in these higher faculties is secretly to romp in them, humorously to perceive that you are rather flat-footed in them. For example, however absurd in some aspects this may appear, however unaccustomed and ridiculous, try momentarily to enter the sensation, recall the childhood memories of progressing light-footedly, the skipping just above that gravitation-weight which comes later in life.”
“BETTY: I see a drab-colored duty-person wearisomely doing good, doing right; and then there’s a cheerful, comfortable selfish person doing things enthusiastically that don’t do anybody much good. He has a vital spark: the other hasn’t. That is the reason the selfish person appears to get on so well. It’s more important than we realize–this ingredient of eagerness.”
“INVISIBLE: The sensation of the inner psychic being is what we are after. In struggling to make words contain extensions of knowledge, we have to build very carefully in order not to lead astray. Within every individual is a psychic core to which he can return in case of trouble. It is his enduring center, his seed that will endure. Search in yourself for this constant within. You cannot play on your outer surfaces and pretend that they are it, because they are not. Nor will you find it in your brain. Look for it rather in the region of the heart; or more accurately, the intangible sensations which have no organic position. Warmth is the nearest we can come to describing it–a sort of central heating idea. A continuous radiation always comes from the furnace, but when it gets out to the surface it cools off. The first step in control, then, is the possession of such an inner fortress for protection and refreshment. The nature of it can be described in many ways, but the main thing to acquaint yourself with is a feeling of liberation and immersion in complete security and power and warmth and beauty of happiness. Continually practice on this ideal nucleus, enlarging it, enriching it, intensifying its atmosphere with your accumulated memories of harmonious moments of life. If you want to shut the window and be relaxed into unoxygenated irritability of lesser life, you can. It is no sin: it is just your own loss. It is just ignorance of vision, the triumph of old habits, a deliberate delaying of your progress. You can always stay in your hall bedroom of the universe and contemplate its ill-furnished stuffiness, fixing your mind firmly on your cramped condition of life! That is your prerogative. But if you do, you belong to the spiritually illiterate.”
“The secret of success with the reinforcing power of the higher consciousness,” Stewart reiterates, “is to practice with it as a recreation. Then when the time comes you can test its reality by deliberately selecting an upsetting moment, a harassed moment, and applying it purposefully. But before you can use it in serious matters, you must first use it for your own pleasure. Otherwise, it won’t hold up.”
FREEDOM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Another word that needs redefining is freedom. “INVISIBLE: One of the finest things in the world today is the desire for freedom–but in its name there is so much blind and destructive effort! Freedom is not isolation: freedom is self-generalship in harmonious action with the forces about you. And the more you ally yourself with the higher consciousness, the more you become aware of greater forces to be co-operated with in order to gain still greater freedom.”
What can we know about this greater freedom? “INVISIBLE: Look for a moment at the usual misapplication of the higher consciousness. A little nugget of spiritual substance is captured by some mind and hoarded. Separated from its own source of life, sealed up in human selfishness, it begins at once to deteriorate. And that is the important thing to realize: this unified consciousness cannot be imprisoned and shackled. Every glimpse of it you get must be felt in its life movement. It must be held lightly and loaned to others, passed freely and lavishly. One’s function is to help conduct a flow–not to steal a cupful of something and run away with it. The action of the earth consciousness is constantly toward closing channels after they have been opened. You get hurt some time, and then you seal off that avenue. You don’t succeed somewhere, and you stop trying in that direction. You pretend you do not like and do not want something you cannot have. Thus commonplace living becomes a progressive sealing off of channels that should be free-flowing. The effect is similar to that of closing bodily pores or stopping bodily circulation. It is the pursuit of this course that has thrown the world into its present diseased condition.” But this is no mere requirement for well being: “INVISIBLE: It is the greatest of all sensations, this alignment with what might be called the Great Doing–this alignment of oneself with it, not merely to feel, passively, the flow, but to try out one’s allotment of it, actively and enthusiastically.”
Healing is one of the benefits promised by this alightment. “INVISIBLE: “Resting easily in this state, you will first direct your attention to the universal life force. Think of it as a river connected with the blood stream in your body: a constant vital current flowing all through you, not fast, but in the rhythm of a river. You do not think into existence the process of the vital flow by any applied effort of the imaginative will. It is more as though you simply noted the fact.”
“BETTY: Even in my utmost moments of height and expansion I never realized what a limitless participation you could attain by aligning yourself this way. It is the most beautiful feeling imaginable: like being imbedded in an infinite life of warm, pulsating, desirable human qualities, immeasurably greater and more powerful than your own. That is the nearest I can come to describing it. If you can hold onto it, you can work down through its lower manifestations and all the dragging, ignorant resistances to it, and remain quite undamaged by them because you are not vibrating to that level. But if you let go hands on either side of you, you break the greater current and contain only your little waning bit, for your allotment of power is absolutely dependent on your integrity of alignment.”
Betty almost writes poetry as she attempts to describe this greater freedom. “BETTY: It would take a poet or an angel to express it, because we do not know how to partake of this superhappiness. I get just a breath of it when I lie down next the earth and sniff it; and I get just a taste of it when I come in on the waves and the salt is on my lips; and I get just a whisper of it when I stay still in the woods and listen; and I get the most of it when I love something, even my dog or my garden. Don’t you see; I want so much to sink deep, dive, be absorbed in this intense reciprocity, this thing I can’t even name. It must be experienced and entered completely in order to have practical understanding and sympathy and accomplishment in the material world. It gives an endless vista.”
But this limitless consciousness can also explore any limitation. “BETTY: It’s just like magic! With this control I could instantly dematerialize myself so as to be sensitive only to the most delicate vibrations of spirit. And then at a moment’s notice I could shift right back to something absolutely external and objective, like a game of tennis. It’s just as simple as changing the focus of a microscope to different levels in its depth of field. With this magician’s power one could partake of every life that exists–It is really just a matter of withdrawing your attention from one thing and giving it full strength to another. A moment ago, for instance, I withdrew all attention from my body–left it in the corner and walked off in my spiritual body. It was just as simple as that.”
But words fail her. “BETTY: My one great regret is always that, in bringing these things to consciousness, to a sharp focus of attention, I tend to make them pedantic. That is the price I pay in the pain of inadequate translation. I take life out of circulation and put it in a museum case. But I try to look on it as a gardener should: the blossom is over, but I have the seed, and it is that I am giving you.”
BORES AND FANATICS
We’ve all met them. The newly enlightened with their urgent revelations. A few have gone on to found enormous organizations of bores and fanatics. “INVISIBLE: There is a fashion element here, which is a good safeguard. Social usages are quite right in forbidding our boring each other with heavy topics or indecent exposure of one’s inner life. The first rule should be never to go around indecently, sloppily baring your innermost self to people.”
“In dealing with the higher consciousness,” Stewart observes, “the time comes when we feel the urge to pass it on to others. We have discovered what to us is new country; we have grained possession of something fresh and exciting. We are convinced of its value. We are wildly enthusiastic about it. Our natural impulse, then, is to share it with our friends. It is more than an impulse, more than a desire. It is an obligation, a serious obligation, a solemn duty to Do Good in the World. Let’s set about it! At once!” And yet: “That is a danger spot. That is how bores and nuisances, zealots, fanatical reformers come into being. Those are not pleasant or welcome persons. Even when they are right, they are wrong; for their very overenthusiastic persistence fills the average man with a perverse desire to go the other way. I suppose this is one of the most perilous spots of country one has to cross in his excursion toward the unknown.”
A RELIABLE TEST FOR ANY PATH
Fortunately,” Stewart reminds us, “we have one simple and reliable test of our position to which at any time we can refer ourselves. That is our state of mind. By and large, leaving aside the small mosquito-annoyances, if we are not having a peaceful, carefree, normal time on our way, count on it, we are headed for the swamp. Nervousness and depression and depletion, or exaltation and elation and extravagance: these should alike be recognized as danger signals. First aid is to take off the pressure.
THE DEAD COMMUNICATE WITH THE LIVING
“Every writer worth his salt,” Stewart tell us, “is familiar with the fact that he, as a deliberately planning person, has but a minor part in his work. Most of it, and the best of it, is done “instinctively,” “subconsciously,” with “inspiration,” the choice of the word depending upon his bias of belief. So well publicized is this phenomenon as to writers that there is small utility in laboring the point here. But that it obtains as to all other men in all other callings is not so well acknowledged. Nevertheless that is the way all the worthwhile forward-moving work of the world is accomplished. And, pinned down to honesty, any business man, professional man, statesman, will admit it. “Follow your hunch,” as a phrase, has become part of the language. And as practical advice it needs little addition. “Welcome your hunch, and examine it,” perhaps. Then, nine times in ten, you will follow it.
INVISIBLE: “Very often even the ordinary thoughts you have are not strictly “your own.” For instance, you’ll have what you think are random thoughts: where do you suppose they come from? It’s funny to spend half a day yelling in a fellow’s ears, and then hear him say, “I just had a nice little funny thought.” Later the invisible explains that introduction of precise thoughts into an incarnate mind are rare. Perspective, the stream of until now unseen possibilities, describes it a little better.
BETTY: They are showing me a very advanced method of reaching us. A special kind of adjustment is involved: the sort of thing the specialists over here use to look at us. It shows our world very dark–black. Here and there are spots of glow or phosphorescence from the more developed among us. The glow comes, not so much from any light of our own, as from the decay or passing off of the lower parts of us, the undeveloped parts. Now I am taking the point of view of a very highly developed person on this side, one of the really great Radiant Ones. If I were such a one, and wanted to help someone with the phosphorescent glow in the darkness, how would I go about it? Why, I think I would just come close and contemplate him, and so bring the effect of my radiation on him. And what would be the result of that? First of all it would burn away or melt away the external dull crust, exposing the core of his reality. And that core would then reflect the light of my radiation, thus becoming visible to the man. It would not glow of itself, but it could now reflect light from me; and that would show that man to himself–make himself visible to him. Do you see? It was all dark to him before, but now he can see himself because of this reflected light, and can perceive his needs and lacks and all that. And then while the glow is on him–and only then–he can write to himself about it, or talk to himself about it, in detail, just what he needs. But all I have done is to bring my radiation to him.” Unfortunate word, radiation, these days, keep in mind that when Across the Unknown was written no one knew in a few short years two nuclear bombs would be detonated over cities.
HOW TO KNOW WHAT TO DO
“BETTY: –You are in this world and you cannot tell the greatest good from the present expediency: you can’t distinguish the right thing to do. Instead of trying to fight through with your intellect, you retire to the higher consciousness and begin your inner generation. This produces a shaft of power and light which you can turn on your problem. Then you see clearly, and easily find your solution. (pause) I keep talking of seeing, but that doesn’t really express this higher sensing process at all. It is more as if my whole body were a kind of sight. Feeling and sensation come nearer to it: I perceive with my sensation. I see with my mind and feelings quite distinctly, in a kind of direct absorption of the realities around me. It is hard to make sense of it in words, but the main thing is that you are not at all dependent on any one little channel of information.
“INVISIBLE: The attempt to describe this faculty inevitably gives the impression of something vague and indeterminate. Actually it is nothing of the sort. Nor is the acquisition of knowledge by its aid a hit-or-miss affair–a mere unregulated absorption of indiscriminate impressions. In practice you are magnetically attracted toward whatever you are in need of at the moment–
Stewart adds: “Generate power by association with the higher consciousness. From the vantage in this association clearly envision the end in view. Concentrate on that. Do not search for details of the means of accomplishing the end. That merely confuses, and is unnecessary. They will automatically present themselves if the aim is held long enough and steadily enough for clarification; and may then be seized and utilized by the ordinary faculties. Last of all, when the thing is made, take it once more to the power house, the higher consciousness, for judgment.
“INVISIBLE: All things in the universe constantly flow through you, awaiting only your choice and arrestment. Music, for instance, is all around you, like electricity, needing for its manifestation only the apparatus for trapping it. The room you sit in is filled with music, though you are deaf to it. But anybody with the proper equipment can pick it out of the air, just as you pick electricity out of the air. There is very little difference: in either case one works to co-operate with unseen forces. Only with the music, in place of metals and vacuums and dynamos, one utilizes intention, nerve relaxation, expansion of mind–the spiritual tuning which puts into operation the magnetic attraction of music. I do not want to complicate the picture with further details, but the same principle applies equally to every other creative field. Of course, if he so desires, any human being can remain unaware of these forces which are constantly passing through him and in which he is immersed. But also, in greater or less degree, it is perfectly possible for anyone voluntarily to attune himself with them. Fortunately mankind in general does this, to an extent, without understanding it. It is the unrecognized commonplace of all successful achievement. But conscious, voluntary tuning, to catch the harmonies of inspiration, should be a matter for intensive education. Only in that way will you become really effective filters for the higher consciousness.
“INVISIBLE: Remember this especially whenever you go astray or suffer from diminishments and bafflements. Uncertainty resides on the surface of life; surety lives at its core. Consequently when things go wrong, abandon all contemplation of your problem in detail and recall your activities to the center of your being.
A NEW WAY TO AVOID THE VORTEX
In the Betty Book we were told about the vortex, that downward spiral of nihilism so much of society seems set up to perpetuate. “INVISIBLE: In seeking to apply the higher consciousness to daily life, the first thing we must learn is to take for granted the usual resistances and obstacles encountered in any paths except those established and much traveled. When we are very young we foolishly expect gangway for ourselves anywhere, and we thrash around in fine style when we are jostled by others possessing exactly this same idea. But with more experience in life and heightened vision, we accept the obstructions as part of the game of living. With difficult and destructive personalities it should be exactly the same. Take, for instance, somebody who is cock-sure of his own little universe–who is intellectually mind-proud of the content of human knowledge. Or, hardest of all to resist, the rollicking, amused, raconteur type: the loveable, charming stand-patters who are supplying the needed uneffortful vacationing atmosphere. Their function is perfectly good: We all need it. But one guards one’s aspirations for the stars from them. One enjoys them as one does puppies or babies and such things, and guards one’s self against them. Now, your insulation can be of two kinds: negative and positive, characterized by the drawing-back person and the going-out person. In the past we have instructed you only as to the negative aspect–the retirement to your inner fortress. That conception was the best we could convey with the force of illumination it was possible to use on you at that time. And it still holds good–but only to point the way to that other insulation which makes of yourself a sphere of influence stronger than the ones around you. That is a positive insulation–one in which you take the initiative; not a withdrawal.”
“BETTY: I’m beginning to understand it now. It looks something like keeping a natural, healthy manner in a sick room. You just maintain vigor in each directed thought.”
“INVISIBLE: The waterfall sweeps clean the mind contemplating it: its refreshing, misty spray claims the beholder in a temporary waterfall-companionship. Likewise the sun expands and evaporates the contractions and isolations of the body. In just this way the power of the higher consciousness extends its influence. It controls by blanketing the opposition with its own quality. You see, one of the most fundamental things about all the obstructive refuse you have to contend with, is that it has released its relationship with the ultimate source of life, and is cooling off and dying of decomposition. Once you realize and understand this, thoroughly, you will never be tempted to lose hope and give in. The great trouble with novices in the use of spiritual substance is that expanded consciousness tends to set up a reflex of awkwardness in their treatment of half-formed, imperfect things. Their usual procedure is to wrinkle their brows, tense their minds, and grow harsh-mannered demanding perfection. Now, one of the most important attributes of the skilled worker and true artisan is that he cherishes the character of the materials he works with–even to the point of utilizing a knot-hole for a decoration. Therefore rule one is always to accept your material’s limitations and imperfections–especially in human beings. Never waste time on their faults. A fault commented on with coldness, even if the element of irritation is controlled, is but chilled and set and deprived of the warm, life-giving quality which would make it susceptible to being overcome and transmuted. Your attention on it is of no help. It merely increases the disjunction of the consciousness you are trying to integrate.
“Here is the point, then, in a nutshell,” Stewart adds, “the aim of these or any other worth-while teachings is the acquisition, not of psychic powers, but of a manner of living. Toward this ultimate all our searching and efforts, all our expedients and experiments and “exercises,” must be directed. A method of life, that is what we are to learn. That in the process we do make acquisition of ease and serenity and health; that we do gain new insight, new comfort and happiness–and even, incidentally, certain definite new powers; we can accept thankfully. But ordinarily these should be automatically accompanying rewards, and not ends in themselves. And, if we do go after them as ends in themselves, if we do attempt this excursion into higher consciousness with any predominant idea of getting more vitality, or “psychic power,” or personal happiness,–or even with so apparently laudable an ambition as conscientious preparation for eternity–we are almost certain to miss out. These things may be added unto us; but as a rule, only in corollary.”
Stewart’s summary is not so different from, to pull one example from many, the Daoist practices of the Quanzhen School as summed up by Stephen Eskildsen: “The ultimate goal of this is to gain immortality through the recovery of the Radiant Spirit or Real Nature that exists without beginning and without end. One who progresses in this endeavor is thought to gain health, longevity, and inner tranquility. Although physical death eventually occurs, the Radiant Spirit is thought to survive in an eternal life unbound by the strife of samsara,” Are Betty’s benevolent Invisibles all that different from the 12th Century Quanzhen masters, immortals “who can be prayed to for aid and guidance, or even encountered in meditative trances or dreams”? Are these different ways of looking at the same thing, two attempts, separated by seven hundred years, to describe the same mystery?
A METAPHYSICAL LOVE STORY
Sadly, seldom in the history of metaphysics do you find a love story. If you do it’s usually tragic, like the story of the respected Welsh philosopher, alchemist and alleged Rosicrucian Thomas Vaughn. While Rebecca, his sorer, his sister in the great work, lay dying, Vaughn neurotically raced after his alchemical goal. His jotted notes show he was not trying to achieve the great medicine so he could cure her, otherwise he would have lamented her passing before his success. In Vaughn’s notes, first published by A.E. Waite, the alchemist claims success on the day his wife dies. Over time he scribbled down the depth of sorrow and the tragedy of denial he felt keenly. He had allowed abstraction to draw him into an escapist grand effort, and he missed his beloved’s real moment of transformation, a moment that haunted him the rest of his melancholy life. His notes end with bereft confessions of his yearning for her, his regrets, and a detailed, heartbreakingly fond list of every possession of hers left in their house.
Stewart had come a long way. “Yet in my own recollection,” he wrote, “and experience California was still a frontier. There were no paved highways. The main roads were sketchy wagon tracks. Secondary highways did not exist. In their stead were trails on which we rode horseback. The Sierra, now speckled with resorts, searched through by wide ranger-made trails, crisscrossed with arterials, were to be explored only by pack train over the rough ways-through “monumented” for their own convenience by the sheep-and-cattle-men. And you did it yourself. Such a thing as a professional guide did not exist. And when you started, you stocked up for the duration, even to such things as horseshoes. There were no wayside stores.”
He had grown up to become Teddy Roosevelt’s friend, a best selling novelist, and he crowned his happy marriage and creative life by exploring with his wife the mysteries of human consciousness. Is this his melancholy observation at the idea that no frontiers remained? “In the course of time Betty’s method seems to have arrived at a kind of equilibrium. What the future has in store, of course, cannot be foreseen.”
Did Betty know what was about to happen? Her words seem strangely prophetic: “–the pain of taking shape, the anguish of particularization. I feel almost agonizingly sensitized in my perceptions, and I know what the years ahead have in store for me in the strain of taking shape. I have no right to take more expansion. It would be like overfeeding, or massed wealth–something damaging to me. I’ve had my share of the raw material of eternal existence. I have been allowed for years to experience the rhapsody of higher life, but now I come willingly to suffer the pain of shaping one little verse from the great rhapsody.”
Their greatest challenge and most drastic adventure was about to begin. Across the Universe ends with “I Bear Witness,” a chapter Stewart added just before publication. His loyal readers, many of whom had grown up with his adventure novels, must have been shocked to read of Betty’s painful illness and death. World War 2 began a few weeks later. Stewart did his best to reassure them that the work of the Whites had not been in vain. Here is the chapter in its entirety, aside from its central importance to the story of the Whites, it is a remarkable document of love.
“I BEAR WITNESS”
Four months ago the manuscript of this book was put in final form and sent to the publishers. And so was completed another full turn in the spiral of Betty’s work. But not, apparently, the work itself. According to the Invisibles something of this yet remained to be accomplished–something they refused to define, except that it was different from what had gone before.
“Like a blossom,” said they.
“A blossom?” Betty asked.
“Something that occurs at the end of effort, as a demonstration to others. It is a natural attribute of your accomplishment. Of course you could go on living as you are, but then you couldn’t have the demonstration at the top of your endeavor.”
At that time the true meaning of this escaped me altogether. My interpretation was that Betty was about to begin another spiral of instruction, with the difference they mentioned appearing largely in the treatment. Accordingly, when she was overtaken only two weeks later by a serious and rackingly painful illness, I was convinced that the success of the job demanded her recovery. It seemed to me defeat at this point would mean that everything we had built up through all these years, and that so many people had taken from us and believed, would crumble into disrepute. And so I fought with every means at my command to hold her back from the Great Adventure.
Another strong incentive to battle, of course, was our natural dread of separation. I shall not dwell on this, but it is necessary to touch upon it sufficiently. We had been married for thirty-five years. In that time we had been apart for but three periods of any length: twice during my explorations into unknown parts of Central Africa; and once during my service in the World War. We had met together the adventures of life, and they had been varied: years of pack horse travel in the Rockies and Sierra; the cattle ranges of Arizona before the movies came; fourteen months in Africa; sixteen seasons in Alaska–here, there, and everywhere in the wild and tame corners of the earth. And adventures also among people, and ideas, and for twenty years the pioneering in these strange dim regions of the higher consciousness.
In the course of this last exploration we had finally arrived at the settled conviction that permanent separation is impossible. Nevertheless it is only human to dread the temporary parting: to contemplate such an interim as something dismal to be endured. I feel sure that this was a stronger consideration with me than with her. There is always a difference between any conviction, however profound, which is arrived at by study and inference; and the understanding belief which comes of experiencing directly the thing itself. For years Betty had been running back and forth to the other consciousness as easily and naturally as a cat in and out of a house–remember her various essays at experimental dying–whereas I had stayed on the inside only looking out. That she should face her final transition to this consciousness with serenity, then, was only to be expected. And it was equally inevitable that, in spite of any amount of philosophizing, there remained in the depths of my being, essentially unmodified, the primitive fear of death and separation.
Accordingly, I now realize definitely, Betty’s strongest incentive in her fight was myself. This was not clear to me then, or my own attitude might have been different. She could not foresee how I would take her going, and she was reluctant to bum her bridges. For over two months it was just this that held her, in spite of the greatest pain and in face of what must have been almost overwhelming temptation.
“I could go so easily!” she told me, “at any minute. I have to fight against it in the night.” She asked me a little wistfully, “If it came about that way, you wouldn’t mind too much letting me go, would you?”
And I, in my ignorance, replied emphatically: “I most certainly would!”
Two months passed and she became weaker and weaker, until finally the physical frame was worn to the point where only her fighting spirit held her. By now she could only whisper a word at a time, gathering strength for each effort. In the evening the doctor came to the house. I took him to see her, but was not myself looking toward her, when I heard him exclaim: “My God! The woman still smiles!”
Then for the first time I allowed myself to entertain a doubt as to the wisdom of our persistence. What job could there be that was worth such suffering? A little later Betty closed her eyes. We were not sure whether she was conscious or in coma. I went into another room, sat in an easy chair, and “projected” in her direction as strongly as I could these words:
“You are now where you can decide whether or not the job requires you to stay here and endure this. As far, as I am concerned, I release you gladly. I will take you by the hand, go with you just as far as I can, and place it in the hand of the one who is waiting.”
A minute or so later the doctor came to tell me it was over: that suddenly Betty had spoken up, as clearly and gaily as had always been her habit.
“It’s all right,” said she. “I’ve had a talk with my boy. You can take me now.”
Now comes the part I almost despair of setting down adequately. But it is the big thing, and I must try. My first momentary reaction was of relief that she need no longer go through such agonies. The next was a faint but growing surprise that the apprehension of death as a dark veil, an impenetrable barrier, a sharp division was whisked away. It became as thin as a mist. Instead of being a big portentous thing, it was really a comparatively unimportant and trivial detail, after all. Then, as the minutes passed, I became literally astounded that all the things I had been dreading, and bracing myself for, simply weren’t there. For it was becoming increasingly, most gloriously, evident to me that the only serious threat of death did not exist.
This next is very difficult to convey. Let me see if I can give an inkling.
You know the cozy, intimate feeling of companionship you get sometimes when you are in the same room; perhaps each reading a book; not speaking; not even looking at one another. It is tenuous, an evanescent thing–one that we too often fail to savor and appreciate. Sometimes, in fact, it takes an evening or two of empty solitude to make us realize how substantial and important it really is.
Then, on the other hand, you know how you draw closer by means of things you do together. And still more through talk and such mental interchanges. And most of all, perhaps, in the various physical relationships of love and marriage.
Now when you stop to think of it, all these latter material contacts, right through the whole of life, are at root and in essence aimed at really just one thing: that rare inner feeling of companionship suggested feebly in the sitting-by-the-fire idea. That is what we really are groping for in all friendly and loving human relations, hampered by the fact that we are different people more or less muffled from each other by the barriers of encasement in the body.
Well, within a very few minutes that companionship flooded through my whole being from Betty, but in an intensity and purity of which I had previously had no conception. It was the same thing, but a hundred, a thousand times stronger. And I realized that it more than compensated for the little fact that she had stepped across, because it was the thing that all our physical activities together had striven for, but–compared with this–had gained only dimly and in part. Why not? Actually it was doing perfectly what all these other things had only groped for. So what use the other things? and why should I miss them?
Does this sound fantastic? Maybe; but it is as real and solid as the chair I am sitting on. So much so that I have never in my life been so filled with pure happiness. No despair; no devastation; just a deeper happiness than I have experienced with her ever before, save in the brief moments when everything harmonized in fulfillment.
And furthermore it has lasted, and is with me always.
This, I now believe, is the “great blossom” of which the Invisibles spoke; the final significance to which all of Betty’s twenty years of work was to lead. Here is her concrete proof of one reward that can come to those who follow in her footsteps, her final evidence that her instrument of twenty years’ forging is strong enough to withstand the supreme test:
Of course I do not delude myself that those who pursue Betty’s teachings to this culmination are going to be able, all of them, to gain this point of view in face of loss. Not all of them, nor completely. But it is a demonstration that it can be done; and it is forerunner of what will, one day, be the universal experience of those who follow the trail she has blazed across the unknown.” So ends their last living collaboration. But Stewart was wrong. The “great blossom” had not yet come. Betty was only half finished with her experiment. And she was far from finished with Stewt, as she liked to call him.
Stewart Edward White provides what could be the definition of American Metaphysical Religion in this paragraph: “The peculiar characteristic of the present age in contrast to that which has developed past mystics is the jovial, healthful naturalness which it is to demonstrate. Spiritual consciousness is to be, not a laboratory experiment under conditions painfully devised, but a worldwide possession thrust into the life of a new and vital race of people. There is no longer any need to accept the conditions under which former contemplations were obliged to function. It is to be the free swing of the athlete, and not the labored tread of the weary monk.” It’s the same message Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered almost exactly a hundred years earlier in his at the time shocking commencement speech at Harvard Divinity School: “I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon. A snow storm was falling around us. The snow storm was real; the preacher merely spectral; and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it.”
To read about the extraordinary life story of Stewart Edward White and his wife Betty see The Other Betty White: A True Story of Love Beyond Death. For an introduction to the instructions of the invisibles in the first metaphysical book published by the Whites see Attention is Existence: Instructions of the Invisibles.
Written by Ronnie Pontiac
Newtopia staff writer RONNIE PONTIAC is a founding member and primary guitarist of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War, Exile Nation, and the award winning animated short Cohen on the Bridge. He associate produced The Gits documentary, and was art editor, then poet in residence for Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation . He’s a published author of works on obscure topics such as ancient Greek religion and the history of alchemy. Follow him on Twitter @AmerMysteries.
Across the Universe
White, Steward Edward and White, Harwood
The Roots of Prophecy
The Teachings and Practices of the Early Quanzhen Taoist Masters