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The Law of Complement: You can only receive what you give.

There is an old joke where John (as we shall call him) kneels by his bed every night and prays to God; “Please, God, help me win the lottery and make me rich.” John prays with all his heart night after night, year after year and nothing happens but his faith is not dimmed and he carries on. One night while praying a light fills the room and a voice whispers, “John, John, get up.” John is ecstatic and cries out “is that you God, have you come to help me win the lottery?” The voice whispers, “John, meet me half-way, buy a ticket!”

The Invisibles, as they called themselves, a group of discarnate beings, along with Betty White, Stewart White’s wife who passed on some years before, indicated there maybe some truth in that old joke, not in the sense that “they” will help us win the lottery, but that the Law of Complement as they called it means we can only be helped to the extent we help ourselves whether alive or dead. 

MEASURE FOR MEASURE: The Law of Complement.

“As soon as you begin to live in the truth that you hold all power within
you, new worlds will open up in all directions like magic.”


THE first great laws in human functioning we have dealt with as The Law of Overflow and The Law of the Positive Ingredient. They are interdependent. We found that we obtained the dynamics of our forward evolution from the Positive Ingredient, whose great reservoir is the Invisible World, and that it is perfectly possible to make conscious contact with that reservoir. But now we encounter a third great law, and this we may call The Law of Complement. It, too, can be simply stated. ‘HELP CAN COME TO US FROM THE INVISIBLE, BUT ONLY IN COMPLEMENT TO OUR OWN EFFORT.


It is difficult to grasp the full implication of this statement. Or at least we ourselves were slow in getting to it. The Invisibles told it to us often enough, and in a sufficient variety of forms. We took their urgings to “make the dead lift,” to “make it so,” to work hard if we expected them, the Invisibles, to do anything for us, only as spurs to action. The implication to us was that the Invisibles would give or withhold their help according as we were good and deserving children. It did not dawn on us that the giving or withholding was not in their choice. Yet time after time they plainly said so, in so many words. Here is how some of it reads, as it came to us scattered over the years.

“We are not permitted to carry the growth itself. That is in your hands.” “The force we bring into the world comes from a combination of conditions created by the person himself. We can only take advantage of that combination. Once a person of his own force establishes it, we can act on it. The initial step is your work. This force is, roughly speaking, emanations from you which meet complementary forces from this side.” “The energy with which you demand of us will be the measure of what you will get. IT IS NOT SO MUCH THE ENERGY OF DEMAND AS THE SHOWING OF A FORCE THAT CALLS ITS COMPLEMENT. It is the energy of measure for measure, given and received.” And many more, similar, that pointed so exactly to what was meant that I now marvel how I was so stupid as to miss it. Some of the references were not so direct but were still sufficiently pertinent. Talking specifically of raising vibration, the Invisible said: “It is best to remind you that this control, this acquisition of raised vibration—whatever you choose to call it—is absolutely within the desire of the individual. It is a thing one builds or does not build, according to his calibre. There is no use craving what you do not put out the energy to take.” What misled us was the fact that we were then being given the technique, so we confined the application of what was being said to that particular job.

“There is,” said the Invisible, “a curious reciprocity about this. We can only take advantage of effort, and you have to supply the effort. You happen to be at a friend’s house tipping a table. There is our chance. But we might shout at you for ten years.

“We cannot do your end of it. Make a start, no matter how gropingly or blunderingly. The initiative of your objective efforts is vitally necessary for the complement of our directive efforts. We cannot direct NOTHING.

“Let us call it inspirational force for the sake of giving it a name. It comes from a COMBINATION OF CONDITIONS, CREATED BY THE PERSON HIMSELF. We only take advantage of the condition. It is very difficult to do much toward creating that condition. Once a person of his own force establishes it, we can act on it. The initial step is your work. We gather naturally around those who permit us to. It is something like digging a well to earth, only we work with peculiar forces of attraction.

We hesitate to use words like soul yearnings, for instance, because in your mind they have other significances from ours. The idea is that we cannot in any satisfactory degree work on an unreceptive person.

“By that brute force you accomplish the first dead lift. It is just determination and faith that helps that first sheer lift. That manifestation with yourself you must get before you get any response.

That is what people do not realize. They don’t put any strength into it, and when it won’t work at once, they go the other way. You must get the strength yourself.” But, had we noticed it, the same principle was many times applied to other of our activities than the mere technique of the teaching. For instance, one day inspiration was the subject under consideration.

“Inspiration,” said they, “is purely a complementary force. That means that it is only placed as a decorative capital on a column you have already built. That is absolutely so. Inspiration comes only in attraction to some definite output, some definite production. It cannot come unless it has a container. Inspiration fills only what is prepared for it. It is like electricity, it has to be brought into a mechanism made ready for it.

“Your progress is in your own hands. We can do little but watch you gain necessary strength before we can help you further. THAT IS THE LAW. WE CAN ACT ONLY AS THE COMPLEMENT TO THE ACT.”


Now in that last statement is one word on which the real understanding of the law of complement depends. It is the word can.

Note what the Invisible says: “We can act only as the complement to the act.” Not “we will act” or “we shall act.” “We can act.” “That is the law.” The phrasing means exactly what it says. What we loosely call the spiritual forces are UNABLE, under the law, to act directly on the obstructed universe. They must have something to complement, something to spark them, to set them in motion.

So when we fail to get the response, or the help, or the communion we desire, either from the Invisibles or the higher spiritual forces, the refusal is not whim, or an arbitrary judgment of our deserts. And yet at times it seems just that. The Invisibles are able to help us, for again and again they have done so, at times almost “miraculously” it seems. But at other times, in predicaments when it would seem that the most misanthropic would in sheer charity lend a hand, they pay us no attention at all. There is no sense to it—if they are indeed our friends and wish us well. We do not like to think them that kind of people.
However, if we accept this Law as binding, we can understand. The Invisibles are always there, always ready. But they can act only when we ourselves offer something strong and worthy of complement. They are ever eager to give and to help, but they are constrained by the law to “measure for measure, given and received.”


Like all general laws, this one acts universally, depending for its effects on the medium in which it operates. It explains many things. For instance, the usual experience of “sitters for communication” or psychic phenomena. Sometimes they get good results, sometimes very poor results, sometimes utterly misleading results, or none at all. They use great ingenuity in explaining these discrepancies. Some times the explanations become almost fantastic. As a matter of fact, under this law of complement, a “good” sitting results when the sitters have enough sincerity, honesty and, above all, selfless purpose or aim to bring to the seance sufficient material for the Invisible operators to work with.

A “poor” sitting is of course the reverse. And when, as often happens, the Invisibles terminate any session of any kind with the statement that “power wanes” or “the juice is giving out,” that does not mean, though we usually interpret it so, that they, the Invisibles, have come to the meeting on a certain tankful of gas, but rather that we, the sitters, have come to the end of our contribution for the occasion.

The same principle carries into the more spiritual content of prayer. The subject will be later treated, but it is enough to say that if we get response it must be in supplement to that which we offer from our hearts.

And without that offering there shall be only silence.

A wider application is evident in the processes of evolution. If human consciousness itself, mankind as a whole, gets its power to advance only in complement to its own constructive contribution, then we can understand why the first stages of evolution were so slow, and why at present the pace accelerates. Primeval conditions were torpid. Primeval man had a pretty meagre equipment of either insight or what we call the moral forces. He was, perforce, immersed in the seething egoism necessary for mere survival. He had not the slightest idea of benefiting anybody but himself. His purpose was to save his skin or make his leisure and comfort. Only occasionally, but neither largely nor often, did self-interest extend into wider construction. The aggregate positive contribution of the whole earth make-up, physical and human, was very slight. Evolution had to do the best it could in complement. With this scant seeding to plant and reap and plant again, how could progress be anything but slow? But in the long sequence of harvests, each more abundant than the last, is it not evident why in the latter days of our evolution in consciousness we seem to be fairly bursting forth into the clear of understanding—though we have still a long way to go! For the first time the process is groping its way out of the automatic.

In all ages a few of the illuminated have understood what it is all about, but they have been so very few that we have set them in a class apart—saints, holy men, saviors. Now men as a race are fairly on the verge of taking conscious and personal charge. In the not-too-remote future no longer will they act only from that native instinct for creative inventive building which distinguishes mankind from the purely instinctive animal. Nor will the motive be preponderantly self-interest.

Then, it is reasonable to infer, as the opportunity for complement is more abundantly offered, the pace of evolution will correspondingly hasten.


Fortunately the automatic has a wider meaning, or we might still be back with the cave men. As, for instance, what an Invisible pointed out to us in the course of a talk an esthetics.

“Each honest and vital effort, whether conscious or unconscious, toward beauty or that overflow that makes for beauty, is a constructive power.

And the sum total of those efforts, whether in a humble crocheted lamp mat, or in an attempt at stage effects in the theatre, or in an honest though pathetic attempt at decorating a hotel lobby, or a flower over the flower girl’s ear—all make in the aggregate a formidable onward-pushing construction which, even though scattered and comparatively unmarked, goes far to overbalance the spectacular, disheartening destructions that get in the newspaper headlines and worry everybody with the idea that the country is going to the dogs. It’s the aggregate. The Recording Angel idea is not far off—with his debits and credits.” Nor, the Invisible rather ironically observed, need we too seriously indulge our egoistic complex that we are, as the saying goes, the only pebbles on the beach. Evolution could get along without us! In the larger view of evolution as a whole we must not overlook the fact that the very processes of nature, as far as they are harmonious, add their quota to that which may be complemented.

There is no occasion, the Invisible underscored this point, to deny its spiritual complement to the bird song at dawn, or the smooth, exact, beautiful interplay of the natural forces that keep the rhythm of the tides or the rains. Possibly, in the very torpid beginnings of evolution, that may have been the only tiny power that, by ever so little, tipped the wheel off center! Volitional action had its innings only eons later!

Certainly man’s consciousness was not then involved: man was not there.

In a manner of speaking he is still “not there.” But he is getting there, and like all other evolution the pace is accelerating. One further step and he will have arrived at least at the point of taking charge consciously. He must come fully to realize that, by this law, each act of his life, no matter how trivial, does offer a force to meet its complement. He already appreciates that action has consequence in the physical world, and therefore he puts thought and will into his efforts.

Only now is he beginning dimly to sense that there are also other effects, in the invisible or spiritual. When he does so fully, he will direct just as much conscious thought to bringing about these effects as he does to the obvious of the physical. He will realize that in planting a seed, or tightening a nut on the assembly line, raking up the leaves, or washing the dishes, he is not only producing a flower or a part of a motor car or a tidy household, but he is offering a chance for spiritual complement. The satisfaction he gets from the material accomplishment must thereby be enhanced. And the sense of drudgery must dissolve in the perception that what he must do releases the possibility of a higher accomplishment.

No matter what our estate, great or small, or how straightly we seem to be bound by triviality, if consciously we realize—give thought—that here in our hands is the choice, to offer or to withhold a chance for particularization and complement of that which comes from the Source, then will the occasion overflow.

So there is the act, and the realization we put into it. The latter is what gives it its ultimate value; not the mere external result. Therefrom comes our sense of its importance, and its meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. If we have to the full that feeling of CONTRIBUTION, we shall savor one of the greater meanings of the words in the Bible: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.” But note that you must ASK, SEEK, KNOCK before you will be given or will find or have it opened. They are the complements to your own act—and impossible without it.

An Extract from With Folded Wings by Stewart Edward White.

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The Orpheus Motif in North America: The Comanche tradition – To give the reader a general idea of the form taken by the Orpheus tradition in North America, I reproduce the version of the Comanche Indians, here published for the first time. It was communicated to me orally by the late Dr Ralph Linton, who noted it down in the course of his field-studies among the Comanche (1933). Particular interest attaches to the Comanche narrative, for it is the first recorded Orpheus tradition from the more easterly Shoshonean groups. No account is given of it in Wallace and Hoebel’s Comanche monograph, which is otherwise a valuable source for the religion and folklore of this tribe. Read here
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