If life after death is a fact, wouldn’t our favorite activities somehow unconsciously resemble it? Wouldn’t we symbolize the truth over and over again, remembering but not recognizing that we’re remembering?
We love to become motionless consciousness. Consuming experiences vicariously, like the dead observing the living, we watch movies or TV shows, feeling the tension of the story as if we were in it. We absorb information posted online by our friends, secret observers of other lives. Of course, profiles rarely reflect the reality of meeting in person, since many of us use our online personas to act out aspects of our personalities, trying out other ways of being. Some of us have lived many online incarnations.
We play video games where we become alternate personalities that learn level to level then die. Our heroes are actors who like symbolic reincarnating spirits inhabit successive identities in movies, or athletes who perform feats of speed, strength and agility that seem to defy the ordinary laws of bodies.
Consider the symbolism every time we get in a car. The inhabiting consciousness enters the rigid vehicle, inert without the driver, that allows for an extended journey through the material world. A car can be an identity, but no car lasts a lifetime, so like a spirit giving up its body there’s a trade in.
A thousand years ago when it took many months to cross continents and oceans, mystics claimed that spirits could travel around the world in seconds. Now we can send our thoughts around the world wide web in seconds. We can fly across oceans or to the moon or Mars. All the powers said to be ours in the world of the dead we are replicating as best we can. We’re working on immortality in our laboratories. We want to transfer consciousness and identity to cyborgs or somewhere out into the digital cloud. To use the terminology of the Invisibles we are trying to make our obstructed world resemble the unobstructed. But what about experiencing the unobstructed ourselves?
By popular demand here is a practical summary of the exercises and techniques taught by the Invisibles, the nickname given to a group of spirits who conducted an amazing experiment. For an overview of the extraordinary lives of Stewart Edward White and his beloved wife Elizabeth Grant, including their adventures with the Invisibles, please see The Other Betty White: A True Story of Love After Death . For a more detailed study of the events and concepts of the three classic metaphysical books The Whites published see: Attention is Existence: Instruction from the Invisibles, Across the Unknown: Advanced Instruction of the Invisibles, and The Individual is Immortal: Betty’s Messages from the Afterlife.
RELIABLE TESTS FOR ANY PATH
All spiritual paths can and should begin with skepticism. Stewart shares two tests that should be applied to any religious adventure including his own.
“Whenever there is great haste demanded or advised, be wary. Hurry! Hurry! There is just time! The stock-is-going-up-at-nine-o’clock type of exhortation is just as indicative in this matter as it is in business life. Whenever you are solemnly informed that you have been ‘specially chosen’; or that a ‘great revelation’ is in the offing which you have to give to the world, then also you may be pretty certain that you are on the sucker list, so to speak; and that ultimately you are going to get so tangled in discrepancies and falsities that you are likely to chuck the whole investigation overboard, in disgust.”
Fortunately,” Stewart wrote, “we have a 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.”
WHAT IS THE VORTEX AND HOW TO GET OUT AND STAY OUT
In a letter to an inner circle of friends written just after Betty’s death, Stewart described bumping into a friend on the sidewalk in Santa Barbara who was hoping Stewart would be heart broken by the loss of his wife and the failure of their belief system. The guy was so amazed by Stewart’s glowing certainty, and by the story he had to tell, he ran home to reread The Betty Book. But what kind of person gets a sense of satisfaction from the suffering of his friend? Who would want to see faith crushed and love extinguished? The vortex is more than a place of forgetfulness.
For a better understanding of the vortex consider these two areas of human life. First, people who make life difficult: emotional vampires, corporate zombies, self promoting betrayers, sadists of cold profit and psychopaths of malicious glee, we find them in our offices, in authority, even in our friendships, loves, and families. Second, the disasters that randomly ruin the lives of the innocent.
About the first Betty said: “unfortunately many of our daily contacts must be with dragging, non-receptive, aggravating, non-comprehending and uncongenial personalities. Ordinarily, perhaps, in such cases we are inclined to take refuge in indifference that amounts to a separating gulf. If not indifferent, then we are contemptuous of them; or actively in conflict with them; or even, if we are of nervous sensitive temperaments, they drive us crazy. And usually we are ourselves more or less affected, more or less nagged into deteriorating emotions. Daily contact with such people is one of the first things we must learn to manage.”
What about the accidents that wreck so many lives, perhaps just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time? What are these intrusions of chaos or evil that cause so many to live in fear and sorrow? The Invisibles call them “runaway trains” and “derelicts” (defined not as vagrants but as neglected duties). When we don’t live up to our individual missions in life, things that only we could have accomplished go unfinished. If we duck our responsibilities the consequences are not ours alone. The apparently innocent suffer, too.
Apparently is the appropriate word because the Invisibles insist there are no accidents. When asked about those who die too young they use the metaphor of pruning. The life and identity remain, to grow again in a new way. The old way would have had difficult consequences, unforeseen results that were better left unexplored. “But just as rank growth is pruned so is weak growth.” A fresh start provides a better opportunity, and preserves the harmony of the ongoing experiment.
But what if we don’t want to get pruned? How can we avoid these runaway trains? “If you accumulate enough harmonious force, there is an automatic action. Your own impetus is strong enough to fend you off. It can be. There is something you can generate that both quickens your senses and subconsciously directs you.” That word Betty uses, impetus, has some interesting definitions: a driving force, impulse; incentive, stimulus; “the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion.” We’ve all heard stories about people who decided to follow an inexplicable feeling and so didn’t board a doomed airliner, or called in sick the day disaster struck at work.
The Invisibles give two techniques for resisting the vortex. The first is passive. When confronted with the vortex relax away from it. Observe it from a safe distance. Take a bird’s eye view. Refreshed by this retreat to the center of your being you’ll return to the challenge knowing what to do, or at least you’ll be more capable of perceiving clearly what’s most important in the situation.
The other technique for getting out and staying out of the vortex is more than just a strong sense of self. Call it confidence, enlightenment or perhaps zen. The Invisibles coined the word “foredetermination” to describe the right attitude. Betty called it “spiritual sure footedness.” “Bring your own world into the room,” she said, “like a child playing. Don’t meet the vortex on its own ground; make it meet you on yours.”
This strength can be developed. “Choose the companionship of inspiration wherever it feeds and nourishes,” advised the Invisibles, “Whether in the gift of dead poets or the sweating toil of living workers. Outside your hours of duty refresh and stimulate your thought chambers by constantly associating yourself with the aristocracy of the spirit wherever you can recognize it. There is always such a drag to the commonplace, such a vortex of it. You must continually guard yourself against it if you are going to maintain yourself above it.”
When dealing with people who drag you down, understand that the man or woman you struggle with is not a personal nemesis, just a soul of a certain level of evolution. You’ve been where they are making yourself a pain in the ass. They’ll be where you are, cringing at the lack of civility and common sense. But don’t try to be a reformer. Just be the best example of a well lived life that you can be. Betty said: “No use pointing out people’s faults and attacking them. That is silly. If you arouse their inner selves, they will take care of their own faults.”
So how do we learn to relax away and take the bird’s eye view? How do we learn to be positive? Instead of being like a hypochondriac who thinks he’s got every sickness he hears about, can we learn how to be like those people who shine, bringing steady light into other people’s lives? The answer, according to the Invisibles, is what they call spiritual contact. Spiritual contact gives us spiritual vitality, which allows us to overflow obstacles and avoid runaway trains. So how do we get spiritual contact?
The Invisibles taught that appreciation is a great force in the universe, “a radiance of the power of love.” Appreciation opens the senses, focuses awareness on the present moment, inspires feelings of joy. Eternity seems to intrude into time when beauty breaks like dawn over the mundane.
The Invisibles ask us to keep in mind that we are doing this opening up, this deliberate relaxation and appreciation, with the intent, the eager desire, of knowledge of our spiritual faculties and dimensions. With our thoughts and bodies quiet, as we enjoy a panoramic view or a delicate flower, we are ready to receive. That doesn’t mean becoming a medium, or hearing the voice of a dead person in your head, it means nourishing your soulful qualities, enriching your emotions, drawing down inspiration.
“Take it on faith for a moment,” Stewart asked, “that from the world of the spiritual that is part of us, and should be a balanced part of us, comes an instant almost automatic response to any genuine contact.”
STEWART’S RELAXATION EXERCISE
Stewart admits relaxation isn’t as easy as it sounds. “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.”
Instead, Stewart “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 would then “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.”
The intent of Stewart’s technique is to allow us to “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.”
“The secret of success with the reinforcing power of the higher consciousness,” Stewart wrote, “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.”
NEW WAYS TO PRAY
The Invisibles dismiss our most common ideas about prayer. “Please discard from your mind all stilted conventional meaning it may have for you now. It has become largely, and to many, a childhood ceremony almost abandoned as life engulfs us; to others an unconvincing act; a petition for favors from an overlord; a ritual; a paean of personal praise. Forget all that. Start over again without preconception. Next, as the first contribution to its meaning, assemble under it all that you have come to understand as the process of seeking spiritual contact and permeation. This process constitutes the first step in all constructive prayer.”
But to whom should we address our prayers? “To consciousness,” replied Betty, in two words reducing most religions to idolatry. However we visualize deity, isn’t what we’re really after, a greater consciousness? A consciousness that sees what we can’t see, that does what we can’t do, more wise than we, more loving, more beautiful, good and true.
But how should we pray? Betty’s response to that questions was: “As though I were drowning in a great sea, and there was a shipful of people, any or all of whom could help me.”
To pray is to seek wholeness. Prayer uncovers what we lack, allowing us to naturally attract what we need to harmonize with life. Prayer plumbs our depths, and reaches to our heights. Prayer is spiritual companionship.
“You pray for us: we pray for you,” the Invisibles said. “You can be, in a sense, our guardian angels, as we are yours.” This is similar to the Tibetan Buddhist belief that the powa meditation can benefit the living, the dead, and even the reincarnated.
Betty has this poetic comment about prayer: “It’s a beautiful form, a grand rhythm. In utter obliviousness of everything else I fling myself, abandon myself to one collective thought, the beauty of a physical world. I sweep it whole right into my heart, everything, the little Alpine flowers on Kearsage, the undersea gardens, the desert bloom, the frost crystals, the world of the magnifying glass, the stars-all the physical universe. The manifestation of overpowering love and intelligence, I gather them all in my own great rush of worship. It’s an offering, a concentration of my life’s experience returning to its source. Once spent, I lie still and quietly life recharged filters back to me, recharged with vitality, strength and eagerness to take my part, to be victorious with humility, conscious of the immensity of the scheme. When the renewed life flows back into me my great effort is to retain it, to contain it all in all, for the force of the renewed life must be converted into world activity.”
If you’re a DragonballZ fan you can compare this to Goku’s spirit bomb technique of gathering energy from all living things in the galaxy. But Betty’s spirit bomb isn’t a weapon, it’s spiritual contact.
SPIRITUAL SURE FOOTEDNESS
Betty said about spiritual contact: “Keep in touch, keep it near us all the time. It works when we are not thinking of it if we will only think of it once in a while.” Development depends on spiritual contact. “The single thing I can get hold of today,” Betty said, “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.”
The Invisibles added: “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.”
“The point toward which all this instruction trends,” the Invisibles declared, “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. Take up more and wider interests. Grasp the joy of living. Mingle more with people. Proportion is key. In our society the physical dominates and the spiritual atrophies, but societies where the spiritual dominated the physical were equally harmful to human happiness and progress. 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.”
“The sensation of the inner psychic being is what we are after,” the Invisibles explained. “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.”
Remember the idea of relaxing away from the vortex? “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.”
If we do not practice spiritual hygiene the consequences are compared by the Invisibles to the famous statue Laocoön and His Sons. The preoccupations of the lower self paralyze and slowly strangle us. But as spirit absorbs experience, it dissolves obstructions. “This wonderful transmuting, absorbing substance is what you set in action by spiritual contact. Once set in action, you cannot stop it. It is bound to act, to consume. The more faith you have in it, the more powerful it is.”
“Even in my utmost moments of height and expansion,” Betty said, “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.”
“It is the greatest of all sensations,” the Invisibles added, “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. Anything normally functioning produces an emotion of pleasure; the pleasure is of a type and intensity according to the breadth and depth and cosmic significance of the function. The pleasure is legitimately enjoyed to its thrill of rapture so long as it is a concomitant of function, and does not become an end to itself.”
Healing is one of the benefits promised by this alignment. “Resting easily in this state,” the Invisibles instructed, “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.”
“All sickness in your obstructed universe existence is nothing but a maladjustment of frequencies.” A doctor among the Invisibles gave the example of prescribing drugs, which are combinations of frequencies, to change frequencies in a patient’s body. The idea that a strong spirit makes a strong body has been with us since prehistory. Betty uses the metaphor of oil making paper translucent to describe the way spirit permeates body, allowing the soul to fill all the being, the body “becomes just a thin clothing for the spirit.”
But spiritual contact can have its pitfalls. As Yeats famously lamented the most soulful among us seem to lack the vigor, and success, of the beasts slouching to their Bethlehems. No amount of enlightenment can compare to sheer animal spirits when it comes to making things happen in the material world. In fact, spirituality can exasperate the problem, especially in the first stages of spiritual experience, when beginners are most susceptible to spiritual anemia. Perhaps the greatest challenge to spiritual development is the physical denial so many religions have taught. According to the Invisibles, extensive fasting, austere disciplines, rigid denial are not only unnecessary but potentially harmful.
“Always in the earlier years of spiritual development,” the Invisibles explained, “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.”
This is a normal stage in spiritual development, a turning inward that can diminish outer qualities. As the Invisibles said: “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. “It is this passive attitude which has made people think that using the higher consciousness is an impractical way of working at things,” the Invisibles pointed out. “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
Another danger of the spiritual path is over sensitivity. Some follow their spiritual preoccupations into realms of specialization and isolation that all but remove them from society. “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.”
“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.”
“I want to look at him again,” Betty mentioned. “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.”
“He’s got to learn to take his sensitiveness out of the way or he can’t be put to work,” the Invisibles explained. “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.”
“The tiniest little bit of an effort really to accomplish,” Betty added, “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.”
THE SPIRITUAL SENSE
Remembering his wife, Stewart told the story of a visit to the zoo. A listless, miserable lion woke up to stare at Betty when she arrived. The lion never took his eyes off her. When Betty walked away the lion stood up to watch her until she disappeared. Stewart asked Betty: “What did you do to the lion?” Betty told him she felt sorry for the poor cat so she sent him pictures of the Serengeti. Thoughts are things, the Invisibles said, chiming in with many others of like belief in the wide tent of American Metaphysical Religion. Most thoughts they compared to skyrockets that quickly sputter and fall. But thoughts dwelled on, or otherwise energized, can have more force. While Betty thought we do more to influence success in our lives by our daily demeanor, thoughts create a kind of weather in which we operate. If storm or drought are the only conditions, not only success but life itself become problematic.
But thought is not the highest faculty. The Invisibles want us to work on developing what they call the spiritual sense. “You are in this world and you cannot tell the greatest good from the present expediency,” Betty explained, “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. 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.’
“The attempt to describe this faculty,” the Invisibles continued, “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.’
“Remember this especially whenever you go astray or suffer from diminishments and bafflements,” said the Invisibles. “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.”
HAND OVER THE BAGGAGE
Another technique addresses the rubble in our way: our traumas, failures, disappointments, blame and shame, and the other sorrows of the past that overshadow the present. Such experiences are food for the soul.
“We ingest experience,” the Invisibles explained, “as the sustaining nutriment of life. That nutriment is assimilated as the body assimilates food. By means of it we are empowered to fill out one level of consciousness so that we may rise to the next.”
Betty used the image of herself standing with a comical amount of baggage, so much luggage dragged with her everywhere she goes, but now she can hand it all over. Not only will she be liberated but her soul, that superior yet subtle centerless center of herself, will be the better for the nourishment. Surrender memories of suffering, but not in a cavalier fashion, rather in the faith that your own greater wisdom will process your experiences while you go on living in the present instead of the past.
The Invisibles talk about two neanderthal superstitions that inhibit human life. The first is the belief that youth, physical beauty and strength trump everything else. The second is that aging enfeebles the mind and soul. 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.” This new and bright apparatus is your own soul that you are developing by nourishing it on experiences.
The ripened soul is the seed that survives the withered pod that was once a flower. As the soul develops whatever limitations the body faces should not restrict the full flight of the awakening self. But we are constantly bombarded with messages about the suffering we should expect as we grow older. Betty puts it this way: “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.
“All this is to show us the way we are constantly preparing or neglecting our future building materials,” Betty explained. “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.”
DON’T BE JELLO
Betty in the unobstructed saw people in a different way than we do. She saw character, or the lack of it. Those who lacked honor, stamina and the other virtues of character she described as “gelatinous.” They’re unable to pull together a form, or a coherent identity. Like being lost in a dream they don’t know they’re creating they are simply pulled and pushed by whatever attracts their attention, or whatever attention they attract.
Of course, a gelatinous afterlife must be the result of a gelatinous life, where we lose ourselves, never fulfilling our mission. “The practical application of this in everyday life,” the Invisibles explained, “is to watch carefully, guard your thought chambers. Allow full scope in all directions until they begin to create undesirable, dragging or belittling things. Then destroy these misbegotten things without looking at them by flooding them, overwhelming them with the raw material for a new and better structure. Repeat this operation continuously whenever barnacles collect.”
These “misbegotten things” are also called “blood sucking little things.” We’re told that everything we pay attention to takes a little time from us, a little energy. Betty compares it to a tax. Lives are wasted, given away in bits and pieces, an emotionally traumatic relationship here, a bad job experience there, the TV series we can’t miss, a few hours online every day, and the miscellaneous details of daily living, can vampire all our energy, until nothing is left. Never having developed the spiritual sense, with no identity, only the habit of reacting, forgetfulness can infect the soul.
“You remember the experimental dying,” the Invisibles asked Betty, “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,” the Invisibles continued, “previously developed through his having constructed his own firm conditions of maintenance elsewhere; without the eternal truth 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 of 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.”
THE AFTER LIFE
Repeatedly the Invisibles warned that the obstructed mind, even such a unique and well-trained one as Betty, can not really comprehend the unobstructed. Only a glimpse of the border is possible.
“Today I’m playing such a curious beautiful game,” Betty reported when she visited the unobstructed before her death. “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. It would be terrible to come over without any intensities to build on.”
Betty reports that life in the unobstructed is much more vibrant than life as we know it. We are the dead, they the living. They enjoy a freedom that we can’t grasp. Betty almost writes poetry as she attempts to describe this greater freedom. “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. “It’s just like magic!” Betty said. “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.”
According to the Invisibles reincarnation is a fact. But they warn that while the seed of individuality remains the same, the circumstances of incarnation create distinct personalities that in most cases would be unrecognizable as related identities. As C.L Tripathi wrote about the philosophy of Plotinus: “So long as we do not attain the highest wisdom we are bound to successive rebirths, which are like one dream after another or sleep in different beds.”
THE MEANING OF LIFE
Three sentences stand out in the metaphysical works of the Whites.
1. Consciousness is everything.
2. Attention is existence.
3. The individual is immortal.
Meditate on those for awhile.
“The obstructed universe,” Betty explained, “is for the purpose of birth, of the individualization of consciousness. All matter is born in your universe. Nothing is lost. Individuality is not lost; though in its lower forms matter can be burned, turned into gas, or what have you. Yet it is all kept. It is the highest form, the soul, that goes on undivided. Your scientists have accepted the law of the indestructibility of matter; but I say to you that this law is only a corollary of the indestructibility of consciousness.”
Consciousness has both quality and quantity. The quality of consciousness manifests specific types or species. The tree quality of consciousness makes trees. The antelope quality of consciousness makes antelopes. “In the unobstructed universe quality is in evolution, and therefore in degrees. In the obstructed universe it is of fixed potential in its given degree.” So you can be the best man or woman that you can, but you can’t change your quality into that of an eagle.
Quantity of consciousness can be developed “by the individual, in evolution, and therefore in degrees.” When we have absorbed all the quantity of consciousness our degree allows we evolve to the next.
Imagine a light that emits a beautiful sound and irresistible magnetism, where ever it goes it spontaneously attracts around it the chaos of formless bits of matter, lighting them up from within, organizing them into elegant functions, like an orchestra, transforming separate elements into an overwhelming unity. When the light moves away chaos resumes and all the once mutually dependent pieces fall back again into disorganization. But each of those individual bits carries within it the experience of cooperation in a higher consciousness, and the urge to itself become such an individualized center of creation. That can be accomplished only by developing quantity of consciousness at each degree of quality of consciousness all the way up the evolutionary scale.
But why do we do all this? What is the purpose of incarnation? Why do we exist at all? If it’s not some kind of cosmic accident then what’s the point? The answer seems to be that being is a great experiment in art, imagination, and creation. We’re all in this purposeful community or diy festival together. In the ultimate multiplayer video game we contribute to the ongoing creation of the game itself. Consciousness plays out all possibilities, collectively and individually. We are bringing harmony out of chaos, light out of gloom, clarity out of obscurity. “This is the great strong instinct that carries on the spiritual world,” the Invisibles explained. “You must get something to put in the void beneath you. It is the first big urge: get busy! Fix this mess you see under you; and when you realize how useless and futile you are, you try hard and experiment until you acquire something with which to work.”
In the unobstructed the way you get people to help you out is by coming up with a great idea to make life better in the obstructed. But that’s not how it works here. Wall Street and corporate culture come to mind when reading Stewart’s description of the typical obstructed businessman: “A man who has no spiritual alliance, no source of vitality renewal, whose existence is concentration on business details, gets business adhesions. He either overreaches himself by establishing a haggling standard of business, or he bankrupts his own soul. The other man keeps himself replenished and his vision raised above his work. He creates a different order of business. I grant you he’s not always as successful by the same standards; but he doesn’t want to be. He’s of a higher type of development. His business has a life-giving quality instead of a blood-sucking quality.”
What would the Invisibles say about the one percent? We must be bountiful, they taught, because otherwise we stagnate, and we fail to hold up our part of the collective bargain that could make this a better world. This is the law of circulation and it operates on every level.
“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.”
But inspiration alone isn’t enough. There’s a rhythm to everything, including creativity. “Accept the recession into the quiet hollows,” the Invisibles taught, “into the slow sucking trough, as part of the great rhythm – without which there would be stagnation. Learn to take it as the repose period, the gathering period, the period in which the mighty forces that lift the wave upward, are quietly powerfully coming in- If you could only once feel this, visualize it, never again could you be uneasy, depressed, low spirited, discouraged merely because of the natural, inevitable, necessary ebb after the flow. Never again would you worry because in this or that your powers of today are not your powers of yesterday, that your wings are folded, that a darkness seems to have closed you about. Accept the quietude, accept the ebb – enjoy it – as all harmonious things should be enjoyed. Rest in confidence with your folded wings, knowing that it is the law; that soon beneath your breast the stir of gathering forces must be felt; sure that in the progress that the law ordains you must once more be swept upward by the glittering crests whence all horizons are far, and the whistling winds of eternity tempt again your outspread wings.”
“Over and over a pitcher and a bowl,” Betty added, “over and over a pitcher and a bowl. You fill the pitcher to your measure, and you empty it into the world, the bowl. There’s a rhythm over and over again, filling and emptying, filling and emptying, a rhythm like a great pulse.”
The Invisibles provided a phrase that would be a good motto for 21st century businesses: “a hunger for service, a thirst for harmony.”
According to Plotinus at the furthest border of our understanding we encounter the the good, the true and the beautiful. But what is beauty? Why do we find it so hypnotic? Why has it for so long been a symbol of spirituality, but also of temptation? Stewart wrote: “Anything in the world consists of two things”, the principle was stated, “in spite of the underlying unity. We have the life force of a thing, and the material manifestation of that life force. Now, very simply, beauty is an exuberance of that life thing beyond the mere mechanical need of producing a manifestation.
“When this subtle, outspringing, basic quality is so abundant, so overflowing, so vital, so over-sufficient, that it not only models and molds and shapes its material into the forms of itself, but has to spare, so to speak – we have beauty. When the life force is not proportioned to the stubbornness of the material through which it pushes the pattern of itself – when it is so lacking in vitality that it barely suffices to shadow itself forth in form – then we have ugliness. That applies through all that we call esthetics. It applies to material things of this world as we look about and see them; it applies also to the productions of men. If a man has spiritual capital enough, he can afford, and he delights in, the ornamentation of his structure. If he is straitened for funds, he creates a shed to contain merely his utilities.”
According to the Invisibles beauty is an important force in our world. “Each honest and vital effort,” Stewart explained, “whether conscious or unconscious, toward beauty or that overflow that makes for beauty, is a constructive power. And the sumtotal of those efforts, whether in a humble crocheted lamp-mat: or in an attempt at stage effects in the theater: or in an honest though pathetic effort at decorating a hotel lobby, or a flower over the flower girl’s ear; all make in the aggregate a formidable force of onward-pushing construction, which, even though scattered and comparatively unmarked, go far to over-balance the spectacular disheartening destructions that get into the newspaper headlines and worry everybody with the idea that the country is going to the dogs.”
This is a subtle and gentle way of life. No one is to be forced or argued into believing anything. Each individual has his or her own path. Sharing enligthenment is not a crusade or a business. “Why are you being given light? To distribute so quietly and unobtrusively that it will arouse no resentment or resistance.”
For further information a good place to begin is The Gaelic Manuscripts . Originally circulated in mimeographed copies of which there were only two hundred, or perhaps as few as one hundred and twenty, The Gaelic Manuscripts were used by The Whites and their friends in study groups. The Whites refused to create an organization around the teachings of the Invisibles. Stewart never copyrighted The Gaelic Manuscripts. The study groups were simply friends helping friends understand the material. If you are interested in participating in a study group, or if you would like to attend my workshop on the unobstructed universe, please email: email@example.com.
Influence of Indian Philosophy on Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism and Indian Thought
Harris, R. Baine, ed.
State University of New York Press, 1982
Across the Unknown
White, Stewart Edward
Anchors to Windward
White, Stewart Edward
The Betty Book
White, Stewart Edward
The Gaelic Manuscripts
White, Stewart Edward
The Job of Living
White, Stewart Edward
The Road I Know
White, Stewart Edward
The Stars are Still There
White, Stewart Edward
White, Stewart Edward
With Folded Wings
White, Stewart Edward
ARTICLE 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.