The Other World Trek VIII

Summer '72 -


The journey through the states of being of the Other World is a journey through the depths of life that all men journey through. All men go across the Land of Mystery. They also enter the River of Consciousness where their trek is. Out ahead looms the Mountain of Care. At this point men strangely feel they nave begun to live. Beyond the Mountain men envision the Sea of Tranquillity. That Sea is the one all men hope to live on, but they usually suspect that what they will find on the Sea is more than they ever dreamed life could contain.

Along this River of Consciousness there are four major cities. These four cities are stopping places that allow men to enter the River of Consciousness and the state of Freedom. We have visited three cities already. First of all, if men do not become aware that they are related to everything that is going on, they do not finally enter Freedom. Or if they do not dare to embrace such consciousness, they are not human. That is neither here nor there. It is just the way life comes. Consciousness and freedom go together.

The second city along the river was Originality. Until men have mixed themselves with that River, they know nothing of the state of Freedom. Until they have begun to create in the midst of it, they are not free. They have rejected part of their own being. They reject the freedom that is theirs.

And then the third city is Conscience. Or as it were, they are in the midst of the River. They alone stand amidst their lives and dare to embrace whatever comes.

. . . . . .You men also enter Freedom through the fourth city, the city of Accountability. These cities are each entered through four gates. The first gate into Accountability is the place of a man's life. This is where a man is living. No man can enter Freedom finally unless he enters here. And, secondly, men do not enter Freedom unless they enter through the stance of their life. That is the second gate of the city of Accountability. The third gate is the gate that is the very Source of a man's life. Out of the deep well­springs in the depths of their own Being, comes freedom. Men are always trying to shut off this spring, thereby avoiding Freedom.

Finally, men do not enter the city of Accountability unless they enter through the Victory of their life. And I will talk awhile about each of these.

The first thing that comes to me in accountability is a question that is raised. When is it that a man is able to decide to live the life that is his? I was assigned in 1968 to a teaching trip in Asia. That trip comes to me now as an horrific event. I did not want to go in the first place. I had a lot of things that I wanted to do rather than travel around Asia, although I like to travel. And secondly, I was scared to death of going. I knew something about what 1 might be in for, about learning to teach in another context and guarding our finances. So I did not want to go. And, thirdly, it was an horrific event because we didn't want to go. And, fourthly, it was an horrific event because we did not do so well in all the places we went. My memory carries with it not a little regret. But things happened to me on that trip that grounded for me once and for all that a man has to decide to live where he is. It was grounded through spatial imagery.

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The first spatial imagery I remember was in Japan. We were visiting various churchmen, and one of them happened to be an American who had a special assignment in the Japanese churches. I don't like him even now. In fact he is wrong from my perspective. He was blocking several things that needed to happen in church renewal. But in the conversing with him, he began describing, out of his own romantic neuroses, I'm sure, the rock gardens of Japan. One thing he said to my wife and I, was that we should go to a rock garden and just sit and think, for several hours. That offended me. But I've never forgotten it. To just go and sit and think, any place, is an offense to me.

The second event when I began to be conscious of what was happening to me in Asia came when we went to Anghor Wat in Cambodia. We visited these temples that are the last remains of the great war between the Brahmans and the Buddhists. As we wandered around through one of the temples, I sat down at its outer fringe. I was sitting on a pathway that led straight back into the temple. As I sat and thought, carrying out the injunction from Japan, I could see through about ten doorways to the center of that temple. And in the center, a very offensive thing was there; it was a statue of the Buddha. It was not so offensive because it was Buddha, for I have some appreciation of Buddha. The offensive thing was that he was standing in the posture of peace­­ Peace, in Cambodia.

We had just flown in from Hong Kong across Vietnam during the height of the Thet Offensive. In fact, as we were flying over, we had looked down and seen burning fields. I found out later that was probably farmers burning off their crops, but nonetheless, we thought it was the war. To sit there and look into that temple and see at the center of it all peace or tranquillity grated against my interior being. But I suspect it is always something like that when you discover that you have the possibility of living your life exactly where you are. It always seems to be a strange place like a strange temple, a strange set of architecture you have never seen before, in a strange land. And I have been through several strange lands. But nothing was so strange as seeing the peaceful Buddha in Cambodia. It was in the midst of that strangeness that I became aware of the fact that I was at home. I don't know how to describe it, except that Asia became "home." It wasn't home. It was anything but home. Everything was totally different from anything I had experienced before. And yet I was at home.

I think what keeps that before me now is the kind of feeling `'at home' that I have every time that I see the earth. I mean the dirt. When I look at the dirt, it seems to be the same the world over. I have wandered down one street after another street in one city after another city, and when I see the dirt, I am at home. Yet this comes in a very strange way. That is, it is coming to be at home with where you are.

Also this happens in a very, very strange way. I read a novel not too long ago by Gore Vidal. He is not one of my favorite novelists. But I happened to pick up a small novel of his ­­ the others were too large to fool with. It is called, A Search for the King. In that novel it described vividly for me what it
means to be at home with the strange one that I am. It is a story about a troubadour in the Middle Ages in Europe during the time of the Crusades. He had gone with King Richard to the Holy Land and fought numerous battles against the Saracens. The crusaders were going back across Europe in order to r turn to England. On the way they found out that King Richard had been dethroned while they ware gone. Another king was on the throne. But they wore on their way back, nonetheless. The story is mostly about the troubadour and how along the way they lost the king. They didn't exactly lose the king. He got kidnapped

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by some other kings in the neighborhood. So the troubadour began his search for the king. He searched through one forest after another forest. He fought giants and feigned off young maidens and old hags and all kinds of people, one episode after another. Finally, in one of the castles, where he happened to stay for the night, there was a Large gathering of people. He did not know anyone there. As he wandered through the corridor", he happened to hear his own name being spoken, so he wandered over since no one knew who he was and listened in on the conversation as they were describing him. The novel described him as the second greatest troubadour in all of Europe. He expected some great adulations about how great a troubadour he is. But as he listened to this conversation, every thing is quite the contrary. He was not all the great troubadour he thought he was. They did not like his songs; he sang in ways people did not like to hear. All these things sounded strange to his ears.

I think that's probably the way it comes when a man finds he can be in the place he actually is. And I think always comes as a place. Not only does it come as a strange way, a man also experiences himself strangely, I suspect. When be begins to question whether or not he is going to decide to live the life that is his he becomes a stranger to himself. And this happens time and time again.

You've had this experience when you are sitting in a room or you are driving in a car some place and you have the strange experience that you've been there before. Yet you've never been there before. It happened to me last March when some of us were talking about the Long Turn into the Long March of the next 20 years. In the midst of that conversation when we were talking about how radical the Turn is going to be in the future; suddenly in talking with my colleagues, I found that this is a place I have been before. This in fact is who we have always been. We have been the radically new people we are going to be tomorrow. It is that kind of strange experience when that happens.

I do not mean by living where you are that somehow you finally decide that you will forget your neuroses. No, that is not what it means. Life is something like this: it is always found precisely in some particular place. A man 8pends his whole life searching, searching, searching. He searches for a place where he can live; he searches for an experience which will enable him to live; he searches for the occasion or the setting or the training that will release him to live. Bat suddenly in the midst of one of those places he strangely finds that he can live 0a life exactly where he is.

I guess one of my particular neuroses is ­­ you probably have guessed it already -- that I am always moving on or wanting to move on. One of my particular bents in life is getting impatient, impatient, impatient to move on, to move on, to move on, to move on to something eras. I probably wouldn't be where I am now except by being that kind of a person. I have observed that it is a very destructive kind of neurosis. It can wipe out half of your colleagues, and half of your own druthers about life. It can destroy everything you cherish. It is like being a migrant worker who picks up from time to time and leaves 0a family. Or he picks up and goes someplace and they don't even want him there. These occasions continually happen. And yet, the peculiar thing about this neurosis is that it is my place in life. It is my place in life to be always continually moving on. It's a peculiar kind of place since it's always shifting, but that ~ my place. And what I have discovered is that when I decide to be that place, it becomes wonderfully creative, wonderfully creative in terms of moving into the morrow. And so that is the first way for me to enter into the River of Consciousness. Through being the man who moves as I enter freedom through my own accountability, if you will, before that which I basically am.  

The second gate into accountability is that in the midst of living in that place you also find the stance of your life. Or that is the place where I decide to stand in the midst of my place or the way I decide to stand. The problem is that nobody thinks I ought to stand there. Nobody thinks I have the right to stand in the place where I am. I am sure it is because their neuroses are different from mine, but they Final Accountability VIII­4

just don't think I can stand there.  In fact it's not really a glorious experience at all to find yourself standing your own particular crummy place. It is always crummy, or it is 1iKe you get something you never thought you deserved. 
        It's like you were wandering into some large auditorium someplace , and it is a strange place; you've never been there before. The people are strange.  You don't really like the way they look, and yet you go in hoping they will let you sit on the back row. And so you try to sit on the back row, but no, they won't let you sit on the back row, they urge you up to the front. And not just to the front row, they finally urge you on up to the stage.  In fact. there is a chair in the middle of the stage, and that is where they sit you down, and they put a crown on your head. Or it's as though you discover that finally you have only one thing to do with your life and that's to be the being that you are in the midst of the stage of life, and all that you ever depended upon is no longer there. All of those powers that you had greatly cherished and could rely upon are not there. Have you ever noticed that when you really decide to be who you are, all of your friends go ­­ they just go; they are not around any more. All of these standards that your friends have about who you ought to be slide off your back like water. All of those particular ways which you insist life ought to be about are not there any more for you to stand upon.

I think that was probably the kind of state that John Kennedy was in when he happened upon the Bay of Pigs incident. I have always read John Kennedy as a man who had a great vision. At least he worked up great speeches and then was hooked on his own speeches. In this state of being you are able to conceive and vision many things. Then you finally discover that you must embody the vision that you have. Did you notice what happened in the Bay of Pigs incident? At the moment that John Kennedy said, "I take full responsibility for this event," from then on he could write his own ticket. I mean nobody could touch him from then on. For he chose to stand upon his own decision.

        Or it's as though in the midst of standing in your place, with your particular stance, you are free to go in any direction. Now, we imagine that freedom is something different from that. We usually think that freedom is being able to go in any direction we choose. But freedom basically does not come that way.  Freedom comes only in the midst of my deciding to stand in the place that I am in. When I stand there, then I am free to go in any direction whatsoever. That is quite different from license.

                There's kind of a humiliation about this freedom. There is even a kind of degradedness about it.  All these moments you feel you ought to be able to find life somewhere else than where you are. However, all of us lead a much richer life than we imagine. He live a rich, rich, rich life, full of all kinds of wondrous experiences and yet the riches pass us by. Or maybe the riches of our lives simply do finally communicate our significance to us. The riches of life become only that which is there for us to use. Actually you get freedom from the very givers, rich or poor, that you have been given. Freedom comes from those very things you are attached to.

We have used the image many times in our work that we are always spinning the plates. I suspect many people are familiar with the image since they are spinning the plates of their own life and work. You go around, getting this meeting going, that meeting going, and so forth; you feel that you can never settle down in any one of them but you just keep going and keep going. That's the guy on the stage spinning all of his plates. He has a hundred plates going around in the air, in my imagination. I don't know how you'd do that, but I feel like it is at least a hundred plates going in the air at once.

The kind of attachment you tend to get to those plates is amazing. At least I do. I find that I want to find one little plate that I can spin and spin well. What you notice about being a plate 
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spinner is that if you spin one of them well, the rest of them go to hell and the whole thing collapses. Well, that is the kind of detachment from the many, many things that take place in our life that for me taking your stance in the midst of your place always brings with it. It is knowing that life is a matter of spinning many plates. It is a matter of dealing with your family and your job and your church and your friends. All of your activities have to be kept going in some way. But in order to do them all, you finally have to decide that none of them are important. If you decide that only one of them is important, you lose the whole show. But there is a peculiar thing that happens in that. When you decide that none of them are important, everyone of them becomes important. Or, if you lose even one plate, you have lost the whole show. This is deciding in the midst of your freedom what your stance is to be is to be finally accountable and therefore totally free.

The third gate into the city of accountability is the force of your own life. The problem is that there is a spigot on our lives, and we are always turning it off. We are always cutting off the freedom that is really ours. When you stand in the midst of your stance in the midst of your place, power comes out of your life. In fact it is such a power that there is nothing that can touch you. You are spinning all those plates around and the crowd is watching. But instead of cheering you on, they are jeering at you about how stupid you are to spin that plate or you are spinning it the wrong way. This is where you are when the dogs and hyenas begin barking at you from all sides saying you are a phony.

But when you have entered freedom, nothing can touch you. It is not that you are something particularly important. In fact when you look around, everybody else is spinning his set of plates, too. And you yourself are the same kind of crummy character you have always been; you have got the same kind of warped psyche you've always had; you are always fouling up your sociological relationships in one way or another and can't even figure out tactics to get them straightened out. Or, you decide to refuse all of the existence that is yours. You see your life as nothing of merit to you or anyone else. But when you embrace your freedom, no matter how crummy you are, nothing can touch you. Nothing can stop you from spinning your particular plates in and out and in and out.

Finally it is as though you are aware of the fact in the midst of this state that the worm that you are is the one that is standing there. He used the image of the worm coughing, in a land of mystery lecture. Well, that illustration somehow gets reversed for me in this state. It is as though YOU become that worm that is eating your own flesh. You become that worm that is there chewing away at your own flesh and you decide you'll cough. You cough right back in the face of God. Nothing can touch you, not even God himself.  What you know is that your particular place and stance in history is that which is affecting all else in history, or life depends upon you and upon nothing else. It is precisely this kind of impudence that changes history in the end and thereby contributes to the ongoing of the civilizing process. In fact, when you look around you see that that is true of every man. Every man is standing there spinning his own plates and life is depending upon him. Or, Being has never yet refused one morsel of being. Even though we often disbelieve that our particular being can be received into history, it is received into the mystery. And that is freedom. I mean, that is freedom.

This is freedom from everything. It is even freedom from those plates. The plates are all your covenants that you are bound to and live out of: the covenant with your nation, the covenant with your family, the covenant with your wife, the covenant with your children, the covenant with your job and your vocation. All of those are there but none of them can confine your being. None of them can limit your being one iota. You are not bound by any particular covenant, while at the same time you are free to fulfill every covenant.

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When you dare to stand where you are and live out of the source of your own life because life depends upon you and no duty confines your being, then nobody can finally tell you want to do. That is your freedom. People are always coming around complaining of this problem and that problem and this problem and that problem. Actually they are tempting you not to stand in the place where you are standing. But, if you choose to stand there, you have to say something back to all those momentous problems that everybody has, including yourself: I DON'T CARE. I DO NOT CARE. I do not care. It is then that you dare to live out of the source of your own being.

It is a bit impudent to dare to stand in this place. But when you stand there and live out of that kind of a source of being, then you have all of the power you need. All the power you need, to move in and deal with life, ready to do anything, ready to take any assignment, ready to go any place and do any deed.

For you see there's no status in all this. Even though you're standing in your particular place and doing your particular deed, living out of the source of your life, there's no status in that whatsoever. If you're looking for statue, it will drag you down in one way or another. But that is where you are.

Finally you see that this is the victory of your life when you enter final accountability through the resources of your own life. Freedom is not going to be found when we get the New Social Vehicle in being. It is not going to be found some time in the future when things change. Finally the victory of your life is found precisely where you are. This itself is a gate into freedom. When you stand there and see that that is the victory of your life, you know that you don't own a thing. Nothing is yours to hold on to and possess and say, this is mine. No, we all have our own peculiar kind of attachments. We are attached to this value or that value, or this experience or that experience, or this intellectual idea or another intellectual idea. But when you are finally accountable you know that you own nothing. You own nothing ­­ even those attachments you have are not yours, if you will.

Another of my attachments is that I insist that life should not be too enthusiastic. In fact I INSIST life should not be enthusiastic. Life should not be enthusiastic because of who I am, but I finally do not own that kind of insistence about life.
For I also know not only that I do not own anything, but I finally know that I will achieve nothing. I will achieve nothing. Finally my life will go into history and it will make its effect on history, but for me to sit around and wait for the laurels to come in, that will not happen. For I achieve nothing in history.

I recall once when failing an exam was a great success. It was an important exam, one of those destinal kinds. You could tell it was no ordinary exam because before they set out the grades they sent professors around to question us personally. They would catch us in the halls and ask us questions like, "How do you think you did?" When they asked me, I wanted to be modest so I said, "Well, I don't think I did as well as I might have done." The professor responded, "That is probably not good enough," I knew right then I had failed.  But that failure was a success. I mean I wouldn't be here if I had passed. And I certainly wouldn't be a revolutionary. What I am trying to say is, bad always wins. Therefore, the victory of my life is not my achievements; it is a gift.  Through that gift I enter final accountability.

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In other words, you enter final accountability when you submit to the way it is. The movie, Raisin in the Sun, is a dramatic portrayal of this state of being. The hero of the movie ­is a black African. He has come to the States, done well in his studies, has several job offers and has the possibility of marrying an American girl. But he decided to return to Africa to help build Africa. His friends question his decision, "What do you think you alone can do in Africa? Look at all you can do here." His response is: "I don't know. But that's what I am going to do. I will live my answer." It is amazing when you live the victory given to you in your life. It is as though submission to the way life is removes every problem. It is as though then it is God's problem what to do with your being.

Final accountability is a trek in which you discover the state of being destinally accountable. When you be your being, history is changed and therefore history decides whether your deeds are finally affirmed or negated. I once received an assignment to pastor a church for a month in a city where there were a group of colleagues. As I think back on it now, it was a crummy experience. I was going to be a pastor for a whole month. It was a great opportunity to preach all of my favorite sermons. However, I was met at the airport with the sermon outlines for a month. The city was also just like my home town. The people thought the way people think back home. It was a crummy experience. What's more, in the church they sang Cornish hymns. They are impossible to sing, at least for me. And I as the pastor had to lead the singing. However, in the midst of this crummy experience as the worm that I am I made a decision. Other people made decisions. But I made a unique historical decision. I like to think that as a result of my decision three pastors from that city are now religious house priors. Now they made momentous decisions also. In fact neither they nor I know the final effect of our decisions. It may become disastrous for the long sweep of history. More likely, it may never even be noticed by anyone. My accountability is not my evaluations or anyone else's evaluation. History will decide.

Read: Isaiah 41: 1­20 (New English)
Begin ­ "You, Israel my Servant. . ."
David McCleskey