Visiting the Soul, Reflections on Spiritual Growth, Based on a Poem by Antonio Machado

Visiting the Soul,

Reflections on Spiritual Growth,

Based on a Poem by Antonio


From the door sill of a
dream they called my name…

It was the good voice,
the voice I loved so much.

“—Listen: will you go
with me to visit the soul?…”

A soft stroke reached
up to my heart.

“With you always”…And
in my dream I walked

Down a long and
solitary corridor,

Aware of the touching
of the pure robe,

And the soft beating of
blood in the hand that loved me.


Antonio Machado, translated by Robert
Bly, from the book

Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado (Wesleyan Poetry in Translation)


I love this
poem.  It is beautiful, simple, and filled
with mysterious contradictions. It is also filled with hope. The line “with you
always” brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  Let this poem sink in a little, let it break
open for you, into you, through you.  Learn
it by heart and treasure its many surprising assurances.

What mysterious
contradictions am I speaking about? Notice the poem says “voices,” in the first
line and yet the next line says, “It was the good voice, the voice I loved so
much.”  That contradiction of plural and singular
used to bother me and I often wondered if “voices” was a typo.  Today I sense something behind the plural and
singular that breathes the first breath of magic of the poem for me:  When we heed the voices of a community of safe
people (and for most of my life I didn’t—I isolated due to shame and arrogance,
insecurities and fear), they become one voice—the voice of the Beloved—the “good
voice,” “the voice we love so much.”  The
many voices of friends who love us, become the one voice of the Divine, just as
the many words of this poem or any other sacred text become one meaning (unique
to each reader, of course).  But we must
take steps into deep listening when we are with others so that when it speaks
we hear it and we take action.

Another mystery
of this poem is where it takes place. The voices call us “from the door sill of
a dream.”  From which side of the door
are we on?  Are we inside and the voices
coming from outside?  Or are we outside
with the voices inviting us in?  My
mentor is fond of saying, “The door to the sick mind opens from the inside,”
and I think that fits here. We are on the inside of a dream and the voices that
become One Voice are outside of us, calling us to step into a reality that is,
paradoxically, within. 

(I am
reminded that Rudolf Steiner once said, “If you want to learn about the world,
go within and if you want to learn about yourself go without into the world.”)

And what
does the voice say? It asks a question.  The answer to our many dilemmas in life are all
one question:

will you go with me to visit the soul?…” 

It is an
invitation that one has to listen for. 
It is an invitation to go within. 
And the Guest anticipates we might be afraid when asked this holy
question.  So the next line affirms: “With
you always.”  The Guest knows this
journey, contrary to all saccharine presentations of the spiritual life, means
pain, as much as it does healing.  It
means struggle as much as it does freedom. 
It means stumbling as much as it does dancing.  It means work as much as play. And the Guest
knows this and assures us that we will never travel this journey alone. 

Ah, but then
comes the next mysterious contradiction: we begin walking with the Guest and
the road is solitary, it is long, and it is a corridor.  It is like a womb and we must be born again
alone in that secret place within and yet we are born again with a Guest
holding our hand.  So it all starts with community.  We must take little steps out of ourselves
into the lives of others and suddenly we find ourselves, we find the Beloved.  And even though we can stick close to friends
and loved ones, the actual journey within is solitary.  We are the only ones who can move our feet.  God won’t even do that for us.  We are free to stand or move. 

So where are
we going?  We are going to visit the
soul.  We are going to be born again with
the Beloved.  It is a sacred
visitation.  We do not stay there.  If we stay too much within we lose touch with
the world around us, and vice-a-versa.

And this
brings us to the part of the poem that, should its meaning blossom into our
hearts, we will experience a sense of comfort that touches eternity.

The Beloved
is close.  And the more we walk with others and within, the
more the Beloved becomes a reality to us.  The Beloved is suddenly so close, so close we
touch.  We feel the Beloved’s robe
brushing against as we walk–such sweet, comforting, soft nearness.  We hold hands with the Beloved.  We feel the blood pulsing in the Beloved’s
hand—and this is such an important detail, this feeling of the pulse, this
remarkable, luminous intimacy. When we walk hand in hand with the Beloved we
feel alive.  The connection between us is real—it pulses.  It’s passionate and vibrant.  It is filled with adventure. 

And who is
the Beloved?  
Notice where
the Beloved’s “soft stroke” reaches from: it “reaches
up to our hearts.” And this is because it comes from a Child, a Child
reaching up to stroke our hearts.  The
Beloved Companion is the Holy Child.  We
must begin a journey towards the soul and when we do, we go, at first, with and
as, a Child.  And it all starts with the
Holy Child calling
us, being born
within us, and then uniting Itself with us so that we might raise that Child up
so that one day It can give birth to us again. 

And even
though it’s “a dream”—in the sense that it feels so unbelievable, it is
real.  The Holy Child is Real.  And when we go towards the soul, towards our
ultimate reality, towards living our Heart’s Desire we do not go alone.  We take Innocence, Joy, Wonder, Truth, and a
glorious, never ending sense of discovery.

Tell me Dear Readers, what does this poem mean to you?



Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

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