The Unknown Region
Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
Here’s a quotation from the American poet Walt Whitman:
“Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?”
What do you say, O souls? The unknown region. This poem appears in a section of his Leaves of Grass which he titled “Whispers of Heavenly Death.” Whitman may have been thinking of the “unknown region” in those terms—but who knows what even the next moment of time holds?
It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw in the newspaper. A man is giving the blessing at dinnertime with his family: “For what we are about to receive…” And the cartoon shows a cutaway of the house, with him praying, and above the house a jet plane about to crash. You never know! You never know what the next moment will hold. “Darest thou now O soul, walk out with me toward the unknown region?”
That word “soul” is a handy one for poets because its meaning is so vague. It doesn’t speak to the mind but to the heart. In the Emissary tradition, we have often thought of the soul as being the outer composite of body, mind and spiritual expression, interwoven with the heart realm, emotions and all that, all the outer capacities. Others may see the soul as the heart, or the spiritual center, or perhaps the core essence of an individual. In any case, what Whitman seems to be saying here is that that soul, whatever it may be, needs to come along with me—if you dare!
David Karchere last week was speaking of turning over the conglomerate of experience in our outer world to the One who can handle it. Not hiding it away, not pretending it doesn’t exist—all these challenges, all these problems, all these wonderful abilities that we possess—all that, turn it over to the One who can handle it. And we recognize, at least intellectually, that that one is the one I am. A bit of a conundrum there. I’m going to turn all this that I am experiencing over to the one I am. And the mind gets tripped up there. “Okay, I’ll handle it, I’ll get out there and do what’s necessary. I’m sure I can. Somewhere, yes, in a book somewhere, I read how to handle this situation.” That’s not what’s being suggested. Turn it over to the One I Am, if you dare. And let’s see what the unknown region then will hold.
In one of the latter chapters of Matthew, there’s a statement attributed to the Master, Jesus. He had been saying some things about the end of the world, whatever that might mean—the end of the world collectively or, I suppose, death for each one of us is the end of the world individually. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” And a little further on in this poem of Whitman, the “I” who has said, “Darest thou now O soul, walk out with me,” goes on to say: “I know it not O soul, / Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us.”
“Not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” If somehow I could get that through my thick skull, all worries about the future would vanish. No need to be concerned. There is One who knows. And I know, in this moment, exactly what that is and how best to associate myself, my soul, with that inner knowing and to allow it to become outer knowing now. I don’t know for one millisecond from now. How could I?
I’m not even particularly sure of one millisecond in the past. I have a history. I think I have a history. I think something happened a minute or two ago. I’m not quite sure what it was. I know it was something gorgeous. It had to do with Previn Hudetz’s energetic, youthful enthusiasm at the pianoforte. It had to do with Keith Hancock on the bowl and that beautiful intoning, and Joyce Karchere’s gorgeous voice, allowing some of the essences of reality to be made sound for us. And I suppose it had to do with some words I spoke a few minutes ago, and with your hearing of them and understanding agreement with…not the words themselves but with what we might call the soul of them, the core of a sensing of something actually going on, something actually happening.
We’ve been trained, most of us, to interpret what is actually happening in terms of history—in terms of what we read in the newspaper or see on the TV, for many people. “Oh, now I understand—I saw it on TV.” We laugh at that and say we’re not influenced by those things, but I wonder. A lot of what swirls around in consciousness is the sometimes intelligent, sometimes pretty ridiculous drama that goes on on TV, or that somebody tells us, or that we read in a book somewhere and call it the history of my life, or the history of the life of humanity. It doesn’t mean very much, except that we have a glimmering idea of a past self that is no more.
Rich Kenny—in the paper that went out this week—spoke about going through doors and continually experiencing something new. We balk at some of the doors but if we’re willing to dare to actually go through into the unknown region beyond the next door, we do keep moving. And we look back and say, “My goodness, I’ve changed. I’m not the person I was…” I think Rich said, “…six months ago.” Well, I don’t think I’m the person I was six minutes ago! How many doors have we gone through in the last six minutes? If we’re willing to just keep on moving, we do have a sense that there is a lot of change going on. Wonderful!
And if you look back on what you were a few years ago, you may shudder a bit, but I don’t think you now carry a great deal of self-condemnation for it. You say, “Well, that’s where I was then—I’m glad I’m out of that one! I’m glad I’m where I am now.” So there is a self that can somehow look back and, in a way, encourage that self back there that was struggling along. “It’s okay. Come on through.” That’s a bit of imagination perhaps, but it might help to imagine that there’s a self a few minutes or a few months or a few years ahead that is looking back at this self and saying, “It’s okay. Keep coming, brother.” Who knows? There are a lot of things we do not know about time and space.
But what we do know in this moment is that there is an essence to life that we can touch, that we are touching, and that commands us to keep moving, to keep experiencing whatever it is that arrives. Whatever arrives on our plate, whatever comes to us, give thanks, as David Karchere was saying last week, and put your best into it. I have been thinking of the image of a tennis match. A tennis player wouldn’t be able to stay in the game very long if he or she didn’t accept the ball that was coming and put his or her best into the return. Everyone who has played any tennis knows that’s the game: You receive what’s coming and you give it your best shot. Now I’ve seen many an otherwise excellent tennis player ruin their game by criticizing what they put into it. “Oh, drat! I did that shot wrong.” I don’t think many good tennis players would say, “Oh, drat! You gave me the wrong shot!” They receive, generally, what comes. But part of the receiving and part of the putting our best into it is also to say, “This is my best. And it’s really good, what I’m doing now, because I’m doing it in agreement with somebody. I’ve turned it over and I’m acting in agreement with somebody.”
Again, this relates to what Jesus called “the angels of heaven.” Earlier, he had said, referring to children that had been brought to him—but I think it has application to children of all ages: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones”—don’t despise yourself even—“for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Uranda, back along the way, gave some instruction regarding the alignment, the attunement of the outer form—body, mind, heart—with the reality of divine identity. He said not to try to respond to your own God-being, your own angel. Respond to the One that Jesus spoke of as “my Father.” If you respond in that direction, you know that your angel, your reality, is already responding in that direction, so the two aspects of your being are then in alignment.
Now, a person may say, “Well, how do I respond in that direction? I’m not sure where that Father is.” Well, if you’re not sure, find somebody who is sure, and agree with them. No problem. Back along the way, I was fortunate to find someone, in the person of Martin Cecil, who I came to be quite certain was facing in the direction of the One the Master called “my Father.” So no trick, just agree with him. Find somebody! Find somebody that you’re pretty darn sure is responding in the right direction, and agree with them. And then no problem about continually moving into whatever that unknown region may be, and discovering that you know it, and discovering also that a moment later you forget about it because there’s a new unknown region to explore.
February 17th, 2008