SUMMER '72 JULY 3, 1972
RESEARCH ASSEMBLY LECTURE SERIES
THE RECOVERY OF THE OTHER WORLD
The most astonishing thing that has resulted from
the body of awakened people who more than half a century ago made
the great resolve to renew the Church in this century was that they stumbled
upon the Other World that is right in the midst of this world. I never
dreamed even ten years ago that such a thing could happen in my lifetime.
I suspect to the day I die there will always be a vapor of awe surrounding
my existence just because of this happening in history.
I want to try, child as I am, to talk a bit about
the Other World in the midst of this world, I suggested that it has been
a hidden world for centuries, a lost world. I am reminded of a motion picture
about the dinosaurs I saw years ago called ''The Lost World.'' The lostness
of the Other world in the midst of this world seems to me to be a much
greater lostness. To have it disclose itself afresh forces one, regardless
of his years, to experience himself all over again as a stumbling
child first learning to walk.
This Other World was not discovered by church people
or religious people; it was discovered by ordinary people in the twentieth,
Century. It was discovered a long time before it was recognized as the
Other World in the midst of this world and before it was acknowledged as
the Other World.
There is nothing, "super" about this Other
World. It is as ordinary, once one has beheld it, as any mundane activity
that you and I engage in. It has to do with the explosion of consciousness
that has taken place in our day, in and through which the radicality of
humanness became clear as never before in history. Therefore, I would anticipate
that what happens from the disclosure of this Other World to man in our
century may be more colossal than those other great moments in history,
when this same Other World made its presence powerfully known to man. But
you must be clear when you talk about the Other World, that you are dealing
with the ordinary secular world and secular consciousness of man.
The Ontology of the Other World
One way to comprehend the broad picture is to grasp
that the Other World involves an understanding of the ontological dimension
of life beyond the moral. Rut when I say "understanding," that
is not quite right. To experience the being that the Other World is in
to understand that Other World. That is the way that world is. It may help
those of you who know Nietszche to think of his "beyond good and evil."
This is the realm of the Other World. It is the realm of wild self-consciousness
beyond the superimposition of man's rational capacities upon it. That is
a rather difficult statement to make, because to even talk about the Other
World is to get your rational faculties engaged in it. But one of the remarkable
things about reason is that it points beyond itself. The Other World is
the world beyond reason that reason itself points to. As reason attempts
to understand and talk about that world, what is being said is not that
Other World itself, but is only indicative of that Other World. The Other
World is radical being or raw self-consciousness, and to make any interpretation
of it is to take one step backwards into this world which is the world
of reason that reason invents.
Another way in which you could talk about this philosophically
is to say that in our time we have succeeded in a rather admirable way
in destroying the two-story universe. We understand that we live and die
in one world, and when we are dead, we are really dead. That means the
two story universe has been smashed. A more direct way of saying this is
that we have gotten rid of metaphysics. That needs qualification, because
man never lives without metaphysics. The trouble is with the term "metaphysics."
It was related to the second-story universe, or the understanding, that
finally reason was the king of the universe.
In our day we are building a new metaphysics. Man
grasps himself as living on one plane, but he has experienced the transparency
of that plane itself. I like to think of it as holding a match underneath
a paper, and first seeing little streaks come out. Then it turns brown,
and then it breaks through and pops into flame. That goes through my mind
when I think of transparency. Or perhaps it is more like sticking your
fist through life itself.
Maybe I can illustrate it this way you and I have
lived in a time in which the uniqueness of the person was emphasized, and
this had to be so. This is what happens, I suspect, whenever a culture
collapses in telling man as an entity what it is to be man. Then you have
a new birth of existentialistic reflection. (I am not talking about abstract
philosophy, but something has happened even to that in recent years.) An
illustration of this principle is that the black man in our day, in order
to be a human being, had to embrace his blackness to the hilt. It so happens
that in doing so, he enabled some white folk, for the first time in their
lives, to embrace their whiteness. But when they embraced their uniqueness
to the hilt, black or white, they experienced transparency. It is as though
their fist went through their uniqueness. Right now we are discovering
all over again what it means to be man beyond our uniqueness -- not by
going around our uniqueness but by going through our uniqueness. That is
the experience of transparency.
One would like to talk about the youth in our age
exactly the same way; and one would like to tall; about the women in our
age in precisely the same way. As a matter of fact, the same thing is happening
in tile relating between the West and the non-West. The last time
that I went to other cultures, I experienced something I never had before,
and talked to a great many people in the non-Western world about it. After
World War II, when tile intensification of the collapse of our society
was experience across the globe, there was an emphasis upon the particular
and the unique, especially regarding parts of the world and nations. The
outburst of nationalism, in my opinion, was precisely that. But I discovered
in the East that some of your colleagues had stuck their fist through their
uniqueness and were discovering again humanness itself.
In this transparency, in which there is one world,
or one plane, the transparency of that plane- is the new metaphysics. But
what I suspect history is going to call this, in one way or another, is
phenomenology, or phenomenological thinking. The metaphysical question
of "the real" as an abstraction apart from my consciousness is
bracketed. You bracket that, and then concentrate on states of consciousness.
And the state consciousness is the Other World. Rather, it is your experience
of the Other World. I think you will soon discover that a state of being,
a state of awareness, a state of consciousness, is the most objective reality
that you have ever experienced. I want to warn you not to let the epistemology
you were trained in, in which subjectivity and objectivity are divided,
get in your way.
Now let me come at this through theology. Tillich
is a good example there. Those of you who know his systematic theology
know that he begins with the ontological situation and then moves to the
interpretation of Christ, which is the existential for Tillich. Tillich
himself made the case that when you talk about the essence of man being
the kind of essence that creates its own essence, the first use of the
word "essence" in that sentence is dealing with the ontological.
There is more to that than it sounds, for man could not even make the decision
that determines his selfhood if he did not already have a montage in his
being through which he looked at reality. (That is the ontological for
Tillich.) Therefore, those of us who have come down hard on the existential
pole, on freedom and decision, were always taking for granted an understanding
of humanness in the midst of which that decision was made. The discovery
of the Other World in terms of this transparency is the forging of a new
montage. In this case, because the revolution is global, it is going to
be a global montage that finally defines man. That is the Other World.
The movie "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" showed a man
who lived his existence from beginning to end in the Other World, and in
the midst of that made decisions that defined the concretions of his life.
Now I want to speak a little more about a state of
being. A state of being is made up of an image, an accompanying affection,
and a pre-decisional resolve. I do not know how many of you have read Golding's
Inheritors, but it was about primitive man breaking into consciousness.
One of the figures that he used over and over again was the primitive man
coming into a new situation--at least it was new from the outside. The
way he experienced it was as though chaos had suddenly taken over. That
is, the images in his mind were not capable of giving meaning to the overagainstness
that was impinging upon him. So he would have to seek for a new image,
he would have to invent a new image that would give this external situation
meaning. In the book he is pictured as pushing on his head to produce a
new image. I like that. I have seen people who were not so primitive sometimes
push on their heads to get that new image. Now I call what was going on
in him a big Think. Grasping the Other World involves a Think---I do not
want to say an image, I do not want to say an idea, I do not want to say
a construct, I do not want to say a concept. It is almost down underneath
all those. When you are dealing with a state of being, you are after the
The second thing in a state of being I call a great
Feel. I have a colleague that calls the Think impressionistic and the Feel
expressionistic, and that is not too bad. For me, the impressionist painters
were starting with what could be seen and pushed it until it bent into
the Other World. Then the expressionists went clear through it. Do you
If you call that Think a primordial Think, then you
have to call the Feel a primordial Feel. That Think and that Feel cannot
When you boil them down, to the bottom, what the
great Think fundamentally is composed of is mystery--not the kind of mystery
that may be solved tomorrow, but the mystery that never goes away. This
is what they mean when they talk about ''No-thing-ed-ness,'' when they
talk about "Nothingness " --The big Think of nothingness, I mean
absolute nothingness. That is the mystery which in that big Think, becomes
the final overagainstness of your total existence, not because you say
it is, but because you have the big Think in which it is for you. Now that
is the primordial big Think.
It has many faces and many forms.
The big Feel that always accompanies that big Think
is awe. I mean awe. And awe too has many faces, but it is awe. Awe, as
Otto pointed out so clearly in his book The Idea of the Holy, is
always dread and fascination at the same time. When you deal with that
big Think, you are splitting reason, you are breaking through reason, dealing
always with that which is just beyond reason. And in the awareness of your
overagainstness to that mystery, you are shattered with terror. I like
to think that mankind came into existence through awe, that many stabs
toward consciousness of consciousness that could have produced the human
race failed because that un-man was rocked by the terror he experiences,
of the sheer mystery which consciousness about consciousness is, and pulled
out. (You want to use the word "God" here? you do not need to
use the word "God," but when you talk about God, the God who
is God, you are not talking about the moral delineation of some
metaphysical principles. You are talking about One who sends cyclones and
the gentle rain to grow the wheat; who rocks the ocean with mighty storms,
and simmers there like a mirror itself. You are talking about the One who
pulls you from a woman's womb and stamps you, like a cow, back into the
earth. You are talking about the one who makes you sixty years old, and
you do not have any choice about it.)
And yet, with this terror is fascination. Oh, that
is harder to describe than terror. It is a compulsion over which you grasp
you have no control whatsoever, which pulls you on, in the midst of and
through the terror. And these two are there at one and the same time. I
remember not so long ago, I thought I was caught; I thought people were
on to me. Yes, that is what I mean. And before I knew it, I ended up over
a toilet with my hands on each side, vomiting. But in the midst of that
terror, I perceived a fascination. Oh, at this time you do not say this
is the leading of Providence. When you are finally able to get back up
on your feet, you know this was the hand of the One who, through the grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to call your God and your Father.
He does not look like your God and your Father when he beats you, but he
is. I am a proud man to have lived in the twentieth century, in which this
has become clearer than it ever was, I believe, in all of history. But
its roots are back there from the foundation and the dawn of consciousness
itself. Ohhh, in our time, how this Other World has broken in upon us,
Perhaps you have thought of the area of psychology.
In a recent book, Joseph Campbell deals with schizophrenia. I am not sure
he says it, but if he did not he ought to, that the difference between
a spirit man in the Other World and the schizophrenic is that the spirit
man swimming and the schizophrenic is drowning. Here I make a prophecy.
Before twenty years are up, you are going to see the psychiatric profession
turned upon its ear. It has to meet the times in which it is in, for the
times which bore it are gone. And new times have come.
Or, I mention to you mythology. You have been taught
to believe that mythology is kind of a fairy story that mankind has outgrown.
No, not by any Means. Mythology is the frame whereby man has held his experience
of the Other World. The mythologies of the past are gone. They no longer
communicate to us. You could not call them fairy stories. Therefore, probably
the biggest contradiction in our time is the absence of an adequate mythology
whereby a man has a roadmap over and through the terrain, the topography,
of the Other World. Ant perhaps, if you seriously intend to renew society,
one of the major jobs that is going to rest upon your shoulder is
to create the mythology which feeds into the top triangle of the social
Process, Inclusive Myths, the top of the whole system built in Summer '71.
Maybe this is the little capsule that will flow out through the whole society.
The Poetic Topography of the Other World
In our time the world has become slowly conscious
of the Other World in four areas. I have mentioned one. To use a
little poetry, we have called it ''The Land of Mystery.'' In our lifetime,
man has rediscovered this mystery. As a matter of fact, the natural sciences
have discovered it; the psychological sciences have discovered it; the
biological sciences have discovered it; the mathematical sciences have
discovered it. And I need not reiterate that the whole existentialistic
thrust in the twentieth century unveiled for man his overagainstness of
that which is No Thing or nothing. This is the first breakthrough of a
fantastic arena in the Other World.
The second breakthrough has been the area of freedom.
We call it "The River of Consciousness." This is Jean Paul Sartre's
poetry of the en soi and the pour soi or Kierkegaard's understanding
of the self as a relationship which relates itself to itself, and when
it goes about its proper business of being a relationship which relates
itself to itself, it grounds itself transparently in the power that constituted
it But these are only two of the hundreds of people who have broken through
in this area. I need not mention again the area of psychology.
The third way in which men in our time have broken
into the Other World is with the concept of engagement. It seems to me
that the next two areas have been broken loose more by social upheavals
than by any intellectual schools head on, although the intellectual schools
have dealt with it. I think of the youth culture in our time. This was
a sociological manifestation, it seems to me, of a search for a dimension
of existence that this present world was not capable of providing. One
of the crucial insights they saw and held before the world was authentic
engagement in life itself. They are the ones who, however sickly, began
to recover the word "love" in any serious meaning whatsoever.
In the midst of their lostness--and no one could blame them for it--they
began to grasp what it meant to be genuinely concerned with that which
was unsynonymous with oneself. Their revolt against vocations, and their
revolt against money for the sake of money itself, were indicative of
this kind of awareness of another realm, in which love--if you please,
agape--was giving yourself to the journey of mankind and not giving yourself
to yourself. This area we call "The Mountain of Care." The Other
World, which is tile realm of the aweful mystery and the realm of radical
consciousness, la also the world of taking upon your back responsibility
for the whole journey of man, for the whole globe.
Before I go on to the last one, I pause a moment
to remind you that because the Other World is beyond the realm of good
and evil, it is in the ontological and not in the moral--that whatever
you say about the Other World, if you are talking about the Other World,
is always in the indicative and never in the imperative. The Other World
knows nothing whatsoever about imperatives. That is in this world, and
a crucial part of this world, and without it, you would not have this world.
In the Other World there is only the indicative. When you talk about the
Mountain of Care, or picking up the burden of all mankind, you are not
talking about something that says you ought to do it. The indicative is
that the man who lives in the Other World has the world on his shoulders.
When you live before the mystery, the world is yours.
The last arena we call "The Sea of Tranquillity."
I rather like that. It dawned on me when the astronauts were walking on
the moon, that when you stand on the moon the earth is "up there."
I always knew "heaven" was "up there." But when you
are on the moon, "up there" points exactly to this life here,
where the Other World is. I want to go there one of these days and see,
just to be sure, that the Other World is right here.
The Sea of Tranquillity is the recovery of that weird
kind of peace right where there is no peace. There is no sentiment here,
for the Other World is right in the midst of this world, and there was
never been any peace in this world for a man who has the world on his shoulders.
I just heard a few moments ago on the television a conversation in which
they used the words "peace" and "tranquillity." I pricked
up my cars, and as they began to spin it, they were suggesting that they
see signs of a new, fresh concern, however warped it may be. They said
that they were remaking, that old movie, "Lost Horizon."
Remember the kind of romanticism it had? It came back in 1937 or so--some
of you were not even alive then. I would like to see if you could detect
in that movie why they remade it right now--whether it is just another
escapist attempt, of whether they are sensing after some kind of present
I never dreamed that this awareness would break loose
in my lifetime. We who worked for the renewal of the church had to fight
with a broadsword every second any nonsense about peace or joy in this
world. Do you understand that? You would never have had the renewed church
if you had not slain that sentimental misunderstanding of what authentic
peace and joy are. I never dreamed that in my lifetime there would be a
possibility that we could use those words authentically. I have understandings
inside myself in this arena that I never dreamed could be. Yes, and it
came out of our time.
I have never been kindly disposed towards the hippies,
but I have known for a long time they were pointing to something. And I
have hated sensitivity training like Satan itself. My, what that has done
to scar men and women in the spirit dimension for the rest of their lives
you could not begin to articulate if you had a thousand years. And yet,
many of the most weird warpings that you find in history are trying to
point to something, and I will give them that credit.
Actually, in the Other World there is only one state
of being, not four. For where consciousness is, there is the mystery, there
is the world on your back, and there is the peace that passes reason's
capacity to grasp it as peace. There is no sentiment here I tell you, this
world, in which the Other World is, is a tragic world. Unamuno is quite
right when he talks about the tragedy of the world, in the sense that existence
is itself tragic. If the whole journey of man is not your specific
vocation, you would never have the slightest idea what you mean when you
talk about the joy unspeakable and full of glory. They are woven together.
When you dare to live your life before the mystery, there is peace and
joy. If you have authentic peace and joy, you can be sure you are living
your life before the mystery. The charts which we have developed on the
Other World are the superimposition of the rational capacity of man upon
that which is beyond the rational capacity of man.
You could have drawn the road map a million other
different ways with different poetry. We have delineated four areas which
we think broke loose in our century, and then we divided each one of those
into four of what we call treks, which makes a total of sixteen treks.
When we divided those treks into four states of being. That means that
on the charts sixty-four states of being are delineated. But remember
they are all one. ~ would like to read you an illustration of some poetry
in the language of a state of being. What I will do is weave together four
states of being into one state of being in a paragraph that represents
You understand there is nothing new at all in what
we are doing. What is actually going on is a translation from one language
to another. When you deal with the Other World, you are translating from
the language of the intellectual dimension of life into the language of
the state-of-being dimension of life. It is a poetic language.
"One day a man is driven by whatsoever vicissitudes
of life into the consciousness that he himself must die. It is like being
in a state of shock. A strange force intrudes. Suddenly he is submerged
in awe, he feels it hovering all about him; he feels its penetration into
the deepest corners of his innermost being. In quiet terror, and with an
inexplicable fascination, he knows the fragility of his total existence;
he feels his contingency, and beholds the passingness of all things. It
is like unto a mortal wound from which he knows he will never recover.
As the absurdity, the irrationality of it all seeps deep within, a burning,
objectless anger rises and rages until futility itself turns into a heavy
numbness and everything becomes disoriented; all is nothingness; there
is no place any more to stand, Just terrifying mystery. And hanging
helplessly, swirling in emptiness, engulfed in awe, it dawns at
long last, like the rising of a black sun, that exactly here is the finally
real before which he is fated and invited to live and die his life. This
is the great encounter with the aweful mystery."
The Basic Significance of the Other World
In conclusion, the fact that in dealing with the
Other World which is right in the midst of this world, you are dealing
with what it means to be a human being. Thirty years ago our whole world
was hanging on with its fingernails on a cliff, as its world wars going
to pieces, raising the question, "'What is life all about?" Now
we have come out of the trough and are moving on the crest of the wave.
Once again in history, man has found the answer, his answer. This does
not mean that there will not be many crests in the future. But in our time,
it is here. Now when someone begins to ask you what life is all about,
you have something to bear witness to.
Outside of the fact that that is humanness, I have
said one thing. The Other World may be the most crucial key there is for
actually turning on the processes that will snowball the arrival of a new
web of relationships that define society. Very likely also, within the
poetry of the Other World chart--or if not that poetry, the poetry that
you build--is the secret to the new mythology that will enable mankind
to find his way to swim, if you please, in the rivers of radical consciousness
and become man. It has been a long time since man with any sense of genuineness
could speak of what fulfillment meant, of what happiness meant. I mean
And then, you know as well as I know, that moralities
rise out of new definitions of man, of new experiences of what it is to
be human. As you delineate the topography of the Other World, you are building
the basis for the new morality that every sensitive person is screaming
for--not only the youth, but old men and old women. It has been long time
since within the church we have known what we meant when we talked about
a "Christian Man," or a "Christian Woman." You beginning
to define again what you mean when you talk about a man of faith, a man
of spirit in the world.
In working on the Other World, you are also building,
the tool for the new evangelism. I do not mean by "Evangelism"
anything that you have been previously programmed to mean by that word.
I mean the means whereby you can elicit out of other people the decision
that renders it possible for them to decide to live an authentic life.
Years ago when I was teaching in seminary, one of the problems people
screamed about is that they had no way for the new theology to really get
down into the pews. It was not that the clergy could not articulate it.
They could. But lives are not changed by inte1lectual ideas. The work on
the Other World is the beginning of the creation of an instrument that
will enable people to have self-consciousness about the states of being,
that define them.
We have talked frequently about popular preaching. You are going, to see that in the world. It is the kind of spin you do with somebody sitting next to you on a commuter train and they do not know until ten years later because you do not use any language that sounds religious or anything like that, that new possibilities and new life flooded into their veins. I suspect that if you had 200,000 people located according to a rational grid across the world, you could design a popular preaching curriculum, so that on April 28, in 1982, 200,000 people would be spinning on "Box 36." If the church is going, to build a-new society, this kind of tactical work will have to go on.