The sacred space of ‘unknowing’

Photo of Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi,

The more I grow, the less I know. When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot more than I do now. Life disturbs you in this way – teaches you what you do not know. It is very much a holy and humbling disturbance.

Before I set out to find answers for my baffling longings, I was dying a slow death. The longings were my silent noise – a penetrating ache in my soul, groaning from the depths crying out for attention. Louder and louder, until I knew if I did not pay attention, I would have to accept my life as it was. And that felt like I was being smothered, that life was being sucked from me.

Author Sue Monk-Kidd describes her longings as “orphaned voices”. A whole chorus of orphaned voices that seemed to speak for all the unlived parts her.

“They came with a force and dazzle that I couldn’t contain. They seemed to explode the boundaries of my existence. I know now that they were the clamor of a new self-struggling to be born.”

My heart still does flip flops when I read her words as they gave my inner groanings a vital and valid space.

So much of my journey thus far has been a dismantling process. Only recently did I see I was, in fact, unknowing everything that was my reality.  Pulling apart old spiritual perceptions, delving into my psychological shadows. Ripping to pieces the old faded decorations of child, woman, mother, worker, feminist, and wife to uncover the true self.

Photo of Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi,
Pondering and wandering the banks of the Ohinemuri River. – Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi, NZ

I did not, however, fully understand, or honour, the ‘divine’ part of the process at first. Thankfully, God embraced the agony in my heart and not my cavalier attitude towards, what I see now, is a holy and transformative journey. A journey of the heart space, not the headspace. A journey into the unknown. We lose sight of the fact our soul beckons us. That the soul has a voice.

In his essay “Stages of Life,” C. G. Jung divided life into two phases, ‘morning’ and ‘afternoon’. The first stage, the morning, is taken up with relating to, and adapting to, the outer world. We do this by developing the ego. The second stage, the afternoon phase, happens around 35 -40 years of age and is for adapting to the inner world by developing the full and true self. Shedding the ego as we move through the first stage of life. Unknowing everything.

“But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”

Imagine you are standing on top of the universe. You dive off, not knowing where you will land, or if you will land. You cannot see what is in front of you. There are no recognisable landmarks. No promise of safety, no assurance of a happy ever after. You take nothing with you, and no-one notices you are gone. All you have is a fragile trust in the one who calls you. You take the risk and dive off; it’s a reluctant choice of last resort, but you do it anyway.  Nothing but silence and … nothingness. This is what unknowing feels like.

Slowly, ever so slowly, my true self is emerging …. I think.  But just when I feel sure of my new ‘knowing’, I am reminded again of the place of ‘unknowing’. A place is not found in the past or future, but in the present beyond the thundering glut of what life is throwing at us. 

Mystic poet Rumi describes where the place of unknowing is, as the gap between our ideas of “rightdoing” and “wrongdoing”.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about”.

When I first launched myself off my symbolic universe, it was with eyes tightly shut. I saw myself going down, down, down. These days I trust in the arms that beckon. This is Divine territory, in the gap between rightdoing and wrongdoing, where true self and love seek each other out.

The inner movement from knowing to unknowing is a life lesson and a divine truth. Always ongoing. The place of unknowing beckons us all because, the only true wisdom, says Greek philosopher Socrates, is in knowing you know nothing.  

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