The Other World                                                                 Trek V
Summer '72              

Last week we went to the Land of Mystery in our visits to the Other World. There we discovered that what it means to experience depth humanness is always to encounter that "upagainstness" which never goes away and yet transforms our lives. We find ourselves in the state of being of loving that which hounds us: the state of being of adoring that from which we cannot escape. In such moments, we are filled with self­doubt. But that self­doubt is utterly crucial for the relationship to the Mystery always to remain the relationship to the Mystery. We started talking about the Other World at Base in the Winter Quarter. You would be talking in a group and inevitably they would say something about "The Other World". After awhile I began to feel very creepy about this Other World, and as I looked at my colleagues I felt I had reason to feel very creepy. I could not figure out what this Other World was about. I remember one night going home to Joe. I said to him,"Joe, our whole Order's going to go to pieces if we don't stop talking about "The Other World." And that remained my stance for awhile. It was not until I read and taught Niebuhr's paper "Toward a New Other Worldliness" that a crystal clear realization broke through: that you and I do indeed live in two worlds, and our whole life is just a manifestation of what it means to live in space that is other than the space of this world. Now the whole question of the Land of Mystery, the River of Consciousness, the Mountain of Care and the Sea of Tranquillity. I scarcely need to reiterate the first dimension with the encounter with the mystery is God. This week in the River of Consciousness, we will be dealing with that awareness that is just freedom, sheer, raw, creative freedom. Next week, we encounter the Mountain of Care, or what it means to love unto death our neighbor. And finally, the fina1 week is the Sea of Tranquillity, or what is means to possess that strange kind of peace and joy that comes when we surrender our death, and life is given back to us. But this week we are talking about the River of Consciousness. To articulate what we are doing another way, would be to say we are spelling out to ourselves what it means, that is, what it looks like, feels like, and it thinks like to be ontological style. These lectures are giving us a picture of the isness that we are when we live before and love sheer Being and, indeed, become Being itself. Now to enter the Other World. It is a river. It is a River of Consciousness. It is a river of knowing, a river of awareness. Let me read a bit from Siddhartha. You will recall the river in Siddhartha. And how Siddhartha went and stayed for weeks with the ferryman to glean from him his wisdom on what it had meant for him to be the ferryman across the River of Consciousness or the river of life, if you will. Just listen a moment: He once asked him, "Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time7" A bright smile spread over Vasudeva's face. "Yes, Siddhartha," he said. "Is this what you mean? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean, and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future?" "That is it," said Siddhartha, "and when I learned that, I reviewed my life and it was also a river, and Siddhartha the boy, and Siddhartha the mature man and Siddhartha, the old man, were only separated by shadows, not through reality. Siddhartha's previous lives were also not in the past, and his death and his return to Brahma are not in the future. Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence. Siddhartha spoke with delight. This discovery had made him very happy. Was then not all sorrow in time, all self-torment and fear in time? Were not all difficulties and evil in the world conquered as soon as one conquered time, as soon as one dispelled time? He had spoken with delight, but Vasudeva just smiled radiantly at him and nodded his agreement. He stroked Siddhartha's shoulder and returned to his work. Well, the river, the River of Consciousness, is the river that has the secrets of what it means to be a human being. And the secret which it will be yielding to you and me this morning is the secret that I am Authentic Relation. The consciousness that I am Authentic Relation is that which gives me total freedom in life. And so the first secret that is yielded by the river of life is that I am Ultimate Awareness. But that awareness comes to me and comes to you in the very particularities of life. First of all, I show up alive. Thus, it is the incredible awareness of suddenly realizing you are alive. In the morning, when you get up, you find yourself surprised that you have another day on your hands. It is the awareness of showing up in the universe. As I look around this room, I become aware of the fact that there are an awful lot of different "showed­upnesses" in this room. What I know in that moment is your showed­upness is not my showed­upness. My universe is different from anybody else's universe in this room. I mean my very givenness, my thereness, my isness is absolutely, positively, without one minus, unique. That is the awareness that is given me. Most of the time I walk through life unaware of my uniqueness. I am just like Charles or Terry here, unaware of that unrepeatable uniqueness that is me. But there are times (and it always happens in just the little things of life) when something happens. It is always a shock. It is like putting my hand in an electric plug and being shocked. Something happens which jolts me into the awareness of the fact that I am unique; I am unrepeatable; I am just a thereness; an "isness." Take, for example, this garb. I really did not wear it today to illustrate the point, but I thought that you would like to see one rendition of what the garb might look like. It really is quite religious looking, I feel very much like a deaconucss in it. Joe brought this home from his last trip to the East. And I noticed, he was somewhat put out that I did not fall into a heap of appreciation over it The heart of the matter was not the garb so much in itself but the fact that he brought me a dress that was about four inches too small all over. You see the sleeves? And all of a sudden I found that fact a little threatening. I found I wanted to be a "me­ness" that is not me. I found it a little disconcerting that after thirty years Joe did not know what size to get me. I was shocked into awareness of my body. My body is different from anybody else's in this room. Or take my feelings. You know, most people speak of Lyn Mathews as the gracious person and that is a style which I have self­consciously adopted, but believe you me, you have no idea of the seething, tormented, angry, bubbling-over feelings that are down inside me. I tend to keep a cap on those. I know my feelings are different from anybody else's in this room, and they incessantly shock me. I am mysterious even unto myself. This thereness that is me is just a mystery even unto myself, but nonetheless there are those moments when I am shocked and thrown out from myself and I look at me out there. I had an incredible experience about three weeks ago. I was walking toward some glass doors and I was sort of out on cloud nine, not thinking (I was probably totalling up the Religious House finances or something like that)­­being the practical woman that I am. But I was walking toward those two doors and caught the reflection of a woman. (And if you will forgive me for being immodest, I will let you men in on the secret that women look at women's legs). I said to myself, "My, that woman has good­looking legs," and all of a sudden, I realized it was me. I mean, you know, they are not Marlene Dietrich's; and I was really sure that there was something that made me look like this, because my legs are really not that good. But that is the kind of little moment when I am thrown out. It is as though I am out here and Lyn is over there in a fishbowl, and I am looking at myself with all of my infinite relationships in life, and I see that there is that unique unrepeatable me­ness. So the first gift -or the first of awareness -that comes in the River of Consciousness is that of being just a unique and unrepeatable thereness. And it comes, when that awareness breaks in, just like a lightning bolt. I mean, my God. I am different. I am different. And that difference is just knowing that I know that I am different. It gives me a sense of freedom, just knowing that I know that I am unrepeatable and unique gives me a sense of my freedom. And with that kind of awareness comes a fear and a delight. I am sort of fearful of myself and I get a delight at the same time in the thereness that is me. I experience a kind of passion once I know or am conscious that I am this unique unrepeatable human being. I experience a passion to be that kind of human being: to be that unrepeatable one. So, once I see I am that unrepeatable uniqueness, there is no reason at all to struggle to be other than that uniqueness. And that is the beginning of a sense of incredible freedom. Now as I move further down the river, it whispers up into my consciousness another secret about life: that I am Eternal Relation. I have many relationships. I am related to Joe; I am related to our three boys; I am related to our community; and we all know how I could go on. It is as though each of those relationships keeps summoning me out to be who it, in particular, demands me to be. My mother, for example, has always summoned me to be the bourgeois suburban housewife, and is terribly affronted that I have not assumed that posture. But she has always been summoning me out. My boys are always summoning me out to be that mother who falls into all of the conventional patterns. And that was a strong summons, some years back, four years of my life were spent as a Cub Scout den mother. Even now, as grown up boys, they summon me to be the kind of mother who writes every week. They summon me to give a particular form to my uniqueness. All the order summons me. I mean, the Order is always summoning me to take my uniqueness and make it synonymous with that Order. And The Movement summons me to come out and be synonymous with the Movement. But the awareness, the consciousness that finally breaks in is that my mother does not make my decisions; my boys do not define me; the Order does not constitute who I am; and even the Movement is not synonymous with the me­ness that is me. I become aware of a gap between my knowing and my "is­ness. " That gap is the only real thing there is, and my acknowledgment or consciousness of that gap and my responding to it are what finally relate me to Mystery itself. I am finally related to that which transcends and moves beyond all of my relationships, or I am finally related to nothing, That fact is not something that comes mildly, because I want to be related to some ground that is secure When the consciousness breaks in, that I am related to no­thing or the Mystery itself, I have more freedom on my hands than I want. There is just raw freedom in the consciousness which the river of life renders up, and with it comes a sense of being groundless. Becket went through the struggle to relate himself beyond any human relationship when he finally had to make the decision to excommunicate King Henry IV, He had no ground under him His relating to that no­groundness is his is­ness. When he related himself to the mystery, or finally, to that which is God, he became an authentic self. The mystery intrudes and demands that we acknowledge that intrusion into the gap between my me­ness and the awareness of my me­ness. And with that comes a sense of incredible precariousness, It is not a secure situation. I experienced that kind of precariousness once a long time ago when I walked over a chasm down in Tennessee. It was a deep chasm with one of those rope bridges that swings; that was scary. That was precarious. Or it is a sense of getting into one of those cable cars that are on a mere cable moving up a mountain; you look down and you get the vertigo, looking down at the bottomlessness that is down there. It is just that sense of being in an incredibly precarious position. But strangely, along with that sense of having no ground under me there somehow is a sense of having came home. It is as though you have been Rip Van Winkle for fifteen years or so and finally have awakened and are back home. I remember my college e roommate Julie, a Mexican girl with a brother who she herself had to commit to a mental institution. That was a very difficult decision for her to make, because the family said "No," and the doctor said it was not necessary; but she felt in the deeps of her being it was the decision she had to make. I saw her move through the painful struggle of finally going down and taking her younger brother to the mental institution. When she came back she was empty. It was as though she was so empty she could never be filled up again. To live before the Mystery, or to relate finally to God, is to sense yourself as being empty, and at the same time, at home. When I see that my relationship is finally to the Mystery, or nothingness itself, then at that point, no external situation can ever distress me again. I am given the freedom of knowing that I am in an authentic relationship with that which grounds my is-ness. No external situation can ever distress me again. Well, the river flows on, and there is another consciousness: another secret about life that is rendered up: that not only am I in relationship to Mystery itself, but I alone decide what that relationship is. No one else decides that relationship to the Mystery. Conscious that I am related finally to the Mystery, I alone decide what that relationship is going to look like. I have unlimited freedom in deciding who I am and what I do. You are pushed over against the horrifying freedom Bonhoeffer speaks of: a freedom that is grounded in the nothingness of life itself. You and I not only do not want it, but we even run from it. I alone am always deciding what that relationship is going to be, and in doing that forever explode myself. I sense I explode myself into the "not­yet­ness" of the future. At that point there comes the sense that this freedom is boundless. When I stood, some 30 years ago now, ready to walk down that aisle to one who was going to be a part of my future, I sensed very strongly I was creating a new "me." From that moment on a new "me." What was so disturbing about this experience was the consciousness that I could have created a thousand "me's." And yet I decided to create that "me" in that particular moment. And so the "me" I create today out over 40 fathoms of nothing is the "me" that I show up with tomorrow. My past becomes a path that is part of the me-ness that I catapult into the future. I bring all of my past inventions; I invent myself and no one else invents me. While am inventing myself, all of my past inventions are here at this moment, catapulting me into the future. They are a part of that future. Joe goes away quite a bit as you know, and usually after three weeks or so, I begin to anticipate his coming home. In my imagination I invent the meeting that is going to be there at the homecoming. And the homecoming happens, and it seems to me, every time, only about three minutes of this invention of my imagination (which is very nice indeed) turns out. Then what I invent in that moment is a bitch; I invent a castrator; I invent a shrike. Now, that is not my intention at all, but that is what I invent. That invention of the coming of a shrike becomes a part of this unique "me." It is as though that invention, at that moment, is out there in the future, and I meet myself coming back. You know what I mean? I invent myself as a shrike and move into the future, and here is this shrike coming at me. And the invention of myself always seems that way. The state that goes along with the consciousness of my freedom to invent myself and the particular inventions that I show up with is one of Ceaseless Bewilderment. Just that. I am constantly bewildered by the inventions, the creating of myself that I do. But once I am aware that I invent myself, I have no need to justify myself. My invention of this thereness, this unique unrepeatableness is the justification. The River of Consciousness also renders up its last secret: I am never fixed in my situation This is a part of the horrifying freedom. If I were finally related to my mother, there would be a fixedness about that, but when my final relationship, which is the only authentic relationship, is to no­thingness, then what I invent is never frozen. I am constantly creating myself. The consciousness comes that I am perpetually becoming. It is as though I become a great big swirl of becoming, knowing the thereness that is me is constantly changing. The only I that is I is a changing "I". I am in a state of Perpetual Becoming. And that changing "I" is the only isness I know when I live before and in relationship to the Mystery. The fear of the consciousness that I am perpetually becoming and not frozen­inevitably comes because, in my temporality, I want security. And yet, at the same time, there is fascination there, the fascination of knowing I am always relating myself as perpetually becoming. The experience of that state is that at the same time I am empty, and thirsting for that becoming which is me. I quench my thirst on that becoming. Well, once my consciousness (and I am my consciousness) is that I am always in a state of inventing and perpetually becoming in relation to no­thing, then there is no need to strive for perfection. My perfection is that I am open to change tomorrow. That is my perfection. So what do we come back to from that awareness the River renders up? The consciousness that I am just a thereness. The consciousness that I am finally in relation to the Mystery. The consciousness that I alone decide that relationship, and in doing that I invent me-ness. And the consciousness that that me-ness is never frozen, but is perpetually becoming. That is the gift that is pure freedom. What the River renders up in giving you and me that consciousness is our freedom. So when I come back from that trek on the River, I am aware that I am an unrepeatable isness. This is my first souvenir: that I am an unrepeatable isness. And history would be deprived if that isness were not in its midst. The second thing that I come back with is the awareness I am freedom. I am the sheer raw freedom that is given in the awareness that I live before the nothing of life, and circumstances will never dictate my response. Thirdly, I come back knowing I am in charge of the future. I have been wondering these last two weeks who was in charge around here. Well, I am in charge. I am in charge in that situation on the West side. When I have the consciousness of being in charge of the future, it has practical manifestations. I have not decided to be in charge in that situation but the gift is that I am in charge of the future. And, fourthly, I am always in the process of becoming. am always open to change. One of our favorite stories in our family involves lining up the boys after a misdemeanor; the capstone line at the end was "Can a little boy change?" Well, the River of Consciousness hears the secret of life that says I am open to change. I am never fixed. I am always in the process of becoming. Now these are indicatives given to me on the first trek. I take them as indicatives and make them the primal imperatives on my life. Those indicatives become the paramount imperatives on my life. They are not superimposed by anybody, nor by any society, nor by any temporal relationship. They are the indicative of the Other World which I make my paramount imperatives, and therefore my morality. My freedom is the dictate of those great indicatives, resolved out of the awareness that I am consciousness. What do you suppose it will look like when we begin to live the self-consciousness style of The Other World? This is not abstraction; it is amazing, I bear witness to it in preparing for the Assembly. You can see what a mammoth operation it was. I remember that preparing for Summer '71 last year was sheer chaos; everyone was frenzied. This year it was sheer chaos, but there was a calmness, a confidence ­ a pureness that emerged. It was partly our consciousness that we could invent our situation, and I speak of that on an individual level. I do not know what we will look like after we begin to embody the ontological style of being one with Being itself. We already are a strange breed of people. I rather suspect we will be even stranger. But that is the Lord's demand in our time: we are to be those people whose space is not in this world, but whose space, whose home, is in the Other World. We sense ourselves in this world, with all of its relationships which want to fix us, as those who are always on the move, who shake the dust off their feet for the sake of what is demanded. Lyn Mathews