The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

Aldous Huxley

The unknown is encountered in the midst of the known. It manifests within what is usual and familiar, and hides there.

The unknown is the serpent in paradise.

That there were other worlds, invisible, unknown, beyond imagination even, was a revelation.

Kim Edwards

That summer was magical.

Can you remember it? An ethereal beauty veiled the world. Each moment was suspended in time that dripped like dark, sweet molasses. You swam naked in a black lake under a golden moon, whispering secrets only the wind will ever know. Sparkling stardust fell from the sky, and like a beam of light your laughter traveled to the end of the universe and back again. Love had come like a glittering gift bestowed upon you by some benevolent god.

Beneath the fancy wrapping, the box was empty.

The unknown is met in the familiar, but lives in the surreal. You slipped through a hidden portal to a parallel universe. It was a Hall of Mirrors reflecting the distorted reality of a tangled mind.

You never suspected that behind his saintly smile, your love was as mad as a hatter.

The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.

George R.R. Martin

Once his spell was cast, the devious magician went to work. On the last day of summer the moon’s golden glow turned to silver, cold and sharp as the blade of a knife. Snow fell instead of stardust and melted on your shivering skin. At the stroke of midnight you changed from princess to ragged kitchen wench, frantically tending a dying fire. Your glass slippers cracked and drew blood with each step, but you tried in vain to keep dancing.

The unknown was making itself known. Like a ghost, it had no substance. If you had reached out and touched it, your hand would have passed right through. You didn’t dare. What once seemed solid became a shaky facade held together by spit and string. You held your breath so it wouldn’t topple.

When it did, it turned to dust and blew away.

Reality became an illusion, no more real than a rabbit pulled from an empty hat or a quarter plucked from behind your ear. Now you see it, now you don’t. For his grand finale the magician cut you in two, and did not bother to put you back together.

The dark dangerous forest is still there, my friends. Beyond the space of the astronauts and the astronomers… far, far beyond the mad, beat, half-hysterical laughter… the utterly unknown still is and the eerie and ghostly lurk, as much wrapped in mystery as ever.

Fritz Leiber

You became a spiritual wanderer in the strange landscape of your own life.

In solitude you stood above your bones, picked clean and bleached by a sun that gave no warmth. You journeyed alone, without compass or candle, through an abyss darker than a moonless night.

You thought you lost your way, but a distant memory of compassion called to you and you followed, searching for its source. It was you — that faint sound had come from your own soul.

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.

Patrick Overton

It was unexpected, this thing you didn’t know. It came without warning, without ever having been a possibility. The unknown slipped by you, unnoticed, shrouded in the mundane. It looked like you and spoke your language, and fooled you into thinking you knew what it is. There was no way you could have known.

There are things we know we know. There are things we know we don’t know. There are things we don’t know that we don’t know, the unknown unknowns. There is no warning for those, no way to prepare.

And then there is the unknowable. This is the true serpent in paradise.

We didn’t think about the possibility of a psychopath coming into our lives because it was unknown… and because it was unknowable.


  1. incapable of being known or understood
  2. beyond human understanding

Right there. That’s what made it possible.

Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word understanding.

Werner Heisenberg

 © Adelyn Birch 2015

30 thoughts on “The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable”

  1. Tara

    This is exactly how it infolded in the summer of 2014 and I will never be the same.

    1. Admin

      Devious magicians, all of them.

      1. Linda

        This post has made me cry. Even given the healing I have achieved to date, this has the power to rip the scab off the wound for a moment. That’s a good thing – wounds heal from the inside out, and need to air now and then. But this is one of the most chilling pages I have read to date, second only to the very first thing I read on the day I told him goodbye. Yes, this is how it felt. Thank you for articulating what I could not find the words for. And these tears help. They are welcome!

        1. Admin

          I’m sorry for making you cry, Linda. I tried to capture my experience as best I could, and to explain how we were duped by the unknown, and it is chilling. It makes me sad when I re-read it now. It feels haunting. This was a real departure from my usual style, one which I thought would reach a lot of people, but there was a strange silence on this post. I’m glad it helped with feelings you couldn’t find the words for. That’s exactly what it was meant to do. It’s probably a good thing I’m not this serious all the time, though :-)

          1. Linda

            Its a perfect counterpoint to your usual pages, and powerful! “The unknown is always encountered in the midst of the known. It manifests within what is usual and familiar, and tries to hide there.” That line pierced my heart. As a poet, it sang to me; as a survivor of the Unknown, it spoke very clearly of the shock of seeing something evil rising from a field of wildflowers.

            1. Admin

              Thank you, Linda. If you have a poem you would like published here, let me know! If so, you can email it to me. The address is on the copyright page.

              1. Linda

                I do have one – a short one that I wrote after I had ended the relationship. (Some people keep journals – I keep poems) that I think sums it up very well. I have many – that one might resonate with some other folks on here. But: I cannot find the email address Admin – I looked all over the Copyright page… ?

              2. Admin

                Oh good, I’m glad you have one! Please send it here: pathsandlove at gmail dot com

  2. Nearlybel

    Oh admin, I’m here shaking, tears streaming.
    What a truely magnificent post.
    You are just soooo wonderful.
    I have recently acquired a bible, my late fathers, fathers ‘Active Service’ Testament 1914 given to him by Lord Roberts on
    25th August 1914
    It has the names hand written in pencil of friends or comrades that died and the dates they were killed during WW1
    I am reading it, I haven’t read since I attended Sunday school.
    What I am reading from it, is it’s warning us of these inhuman beings. And
    It’s a book that is manipulated so much by so many!
    I have only started reading, this is only the beginning.
    Here’s to a Easter, a time for growth, renewal and regeneration xxx

    1. Admin

      Thank you, Nearlybel.

      How wonderful that you have your grandfather’s bible, especially with his handwriting in it.

      A reader left this verse from the bible in the comments on my “quotes” page:

      “They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. 5They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. 6Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. 7Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. 8The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.” Isiah 59:4-8

      What amazes me is that they have been known for so long, yet they are still such a mystery that their very existence is denied by many, and none of us had any warning. But as I said at the end of the post, I really believe it’s because they are unknowable. It doesn’t matter how much someone hears or reads or studies — knowing in your head is not enough. Before I met the psychopath, I’d read “Without Conscience,” and “the sociopath next door,” and other books like it. I was still completely blindsided.

      1. Deborah

        Beautifully expressed – your article and your comments.

        You said, “What amazes me is that they have been known for so long, yet they are still such a mystery that their very existence is denied by many and none of us had any warning.”

        So very true.

        I so wish I had intersected with someone credible to warn me when I was young. And so, I function as that person for others.

        It does pain me that Hervey Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity was written in the 1940s (describing them), and Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery was written in 1992 (describing the aftermath of being targeted by one of them), and yet these works, while still published and in every brick and mortar book store, are also unknown until it’s too late.

        There’s beginning to be age appropriate education (starting in Kindergarten even) about how to recognize the grooming process of child sexual abusers (who by definition are also low empathy and low remorse), so I have hope the next generations will have a better grasp on recognizing them early.

        Education is a key to saving one’s life.

        1. Admin

          Thank you, Deborah.

          Education is all we can do, and those who have this knowledge must find a way. Even so, I must admit that I have some doubts about how effective it would be. It seems that people who haven’t experienced it can’t truly “get it.” At first, I thought I could warn everyone I knew and easily teach them about the threat. But even people I gave my first book to could not grasp it or believe it. Some thought I was imagining it as a way of explaining why the relationship went wrong. Even those who knew about psychopaths and accepted they made up 1-2% of the population didn’t think it was possible that I, or anyone, could date one of them. They were unable to explain their incredulity. For some reason, it was just too unbelievable. The word “psychopath” is a loaded one, carrying with it all manner of myths and misconceptions. Even some mental health professionals don’t get it. Psychopathy was lumped in with ASPD in the DSM, because it was felt that it’s too hard to identify them unless they’re criminals. That doesn’t help things. It might be hard to identify one in a 50 minute hour, but it’s possible when you’re with someone day after day if you know what to look for. Their true nature will make itself known.

          Now I direct my efforts at people who’ve already been through the experience, although I’m sure my books and website reach some who haven’t. Maybe a little seed will take root, and one day it will be there if needed. I really think that even if I had known about psychopaths in personal relationships, I still would never have suspected the truth and would have believed he was the best thing that ever happened to me, although I can’t be certain of that. I hope you’re right in saying education can make a difference. I know teaching young children about sexual predators does, so maybe there is hope.

    2. Lucy Medina

      Inhuman yes,ive experienced such an entity.tje price I learned was at my childs li fee e.

      1. Admin

        Lucy, I’m so very sorry for your tragic loss. My heart breaks for you, and for your child. May you one day find peace and healing in your heart. xoxoxo

      2. Cathy

        Me also, my child is parilized and my step son killed him self, my gift for trusting and loveing a sociopath

        1. Adelyn Birch

          Cathy, I’m terribly sorry xo

  3. Depressedempath

    So well said Admin! That is it! Just when we thought that we were in the best relationship ever, we jumped in further into the darkness of the unknown world of the psychopath. Yes, we will never be the same, but we can learn from our experience and be better people. I am a better person now after experiencing the dark unknown. Life is good in the real known world. I refuse to ever go back to the unknown depths of despair.

    1. Admin

      When you are in that world of awe, you don’t question it — you just give thanks for your good fortune, and never imagine it is really the worst luck ever.

      After we emerge from that dark unknown, we see again but in a new way. We saw ourselves reflected in the eyes of the “other,” and we learned that we were more than we thought ourselves to be. I agree, one trip into that darkness is enough. Never again.

      1. Lucy Medina

        Im just now realizing what has happened im in shock

        1. Admin

          I’m sorry. This is not something to deal with by yourself; please seek the help and support you need!

  4. Shani

    Some days ago I had a macnificent experience, I would love to share.
    Just spilling some feelings…

    Anna, a beautiful young lady assisted me with an assignment. She acted unsuspectedly wise and respectful, real dignity to life for her age. Not knowing her and not realising that she had information about me, she dropped the penny.

    She said: ” Mam, I have seen your husband before over a long period of time in the neighbourhood, he looks and is just like my dad. They share the same name I don’t want to say with my lips. (She cringed). My dad mistreated my mom badly. I have a hearing problem because he slapped my on my ear when I was 14. I noticed how you became quieter since seeing you around and I am so grateful to be able to be with you today and surprise to learn from you.”

    The words… were only the top of the iceberg she communicated to me. I was stunned.

    In a rush I had to turn the complex observation around in my conscious, dump it in my unconscious and reading this bloc, I consciously found my treasure, the young Anna experience, again…
    Most of our shared moments, those between the talking, are still hidden in the unknown for both of us. Through studying psychopathandlove I could make many of her unconscious perceptions conscious. Waw, to live is to be slowly born.

    I felt the wonderful blessing to know I know some sliver little bits of thīs iceberg.
    I felt the warm embrace of a young sister being thankful for consciously understand sliver little bits that bothers her unconscious. She has no means to access even general information, let alone info on psychopaths.

    Next time we will share the swoothing feeling of accepting, crossing the path of the psychopath is unknowable.
    Can’t wait for that feeling of acknowledgement.

    1. Admin

      I’ll bet you were stunned — this is quite a revelation. I’m glad my post helped you find your treasure! I never know what effect my writing will have; I always hope it’s a good one as I send it out there. It sounds like you still have so much to discover. Anna sounds like a wonderful young lady who has come into your life for an important reason. I wish you all the best as you dig beneath the tip of that iceberg.

      1. Depressedempath

        Yes, I strongly believe that we cross paths with people and find ourselves in situations for a reason. I needed to experience a psychopathic relationship, yes I did. Because it snapped me into reality, to readjust my values, rethink what is so important. What the psychopath starved me of: trust, respect, empathy, indepedance and autonomy. Without which ,I will wilt and die. And I learnt who my true friends are, that peopke OUTSIDE the psychopathic bond can see what’s going on. But I t’s a true friend that tells you, warts and all, what depths of we stooped down to.

        1. Admin

          I am amazed at how much I learned, and changed, from the experience. Looking back, I’d been going along in a sort of general malaise (psychologically speaking) for no real or good reason. I was dissatisfied, putting off contentment until I had certain things I felt I needed or should have, and my self-esteem wasn’t good. I accepted it all as just the way things were, as justifiable. I’ve done a 180, and I’ve also realized how completely unnecessary it was to feel like that in the first place.

          One of the changes that’s startling, though, is to see other people much more clearly. It’s fascinating the way people play games with themselves and others (sometimes on purpose, sometimes not), and how hard some try to ‘look good’ by attempting to deny or hide their (obvious) fears, insecurities, and difficulties. Is it just me, or have others noticed the same thing? Before all of this happened, I had a friend I considered strong, confident and honest, but now I know the opposite is true.

          I’ve become more open and honest, in part because I don’t care what others think of me. I’m actually more willing to take the risk to be vulnerable, but then I gauge the response carefully. Relationships exist on many levels, and I’ve learned that both people involved have to be on the same level. It just makes sense. Not everyone has to be your best friend or closest confidant — maybe you just have fun doing things together. A true friend is willing to be vulnerable. No emotional intimacy or real trust can be established without it.

          Interestingly, I don’t automatically believe everything I think anymore. I’ll have a thought, and then say wow, that’s ridiculous! In the past I tried meditation and cognitive therapy to be able to look at my thoughts more objectively, and nothing worked. Somehow, this worked.

          1. Robin

            I feel I learned something valuable from my relationship with the sociopath. My self-esteem was very low and is probably why he zeroed in on me. I have come to love myself now and appreciate all that I am.

            That last part you wrote is funny because I was just reading the very same thing and have made it my mantra. . . “don’t believe everything you think”. ;-)

            1. Adelyn Birch

              I’m so glad you got something valuable out of it. These relationships are traumatic enough to become the catalyst for real personal growth.

              “Don’t believe everything you think” makes a great mantra!

  5. janes

    i am shocked
    how did i miss this post?
    i never miss a post from you.
    u are very gifted in articulating emotions.
    i learn so much from your writtings.
    Thank U!

    1. Admin

      I’m sorry you missed it Janes, but glad you found it now. Better late than never! This is one of my favorite posts, and I’m happy you liked it too. Thank you.

  6. Robin

    For three years I was in an on again, off again relationship with a married sociopath. I had no idea what he was for most of those years until one day there was a blog on Facebook telling of the signs that you are dating a sociopath. All at once everything just “clicked”. It all made sense now. I read The Sociopath Next Door and a couple of other books also. He was a text book case in every way and I fell for it all. Euphoria to devastation. The “silent treatment” is what killed me the most. It had been 8 months since I had heard from him. He had never contacted me first, it was always me reaching back to him, but he did this time. I didn’t answer his text for a week. I almost did. During that week I read your book “202 Ways to Spot a Sociopath”. I got to me in a way that the other books had not. Right to the point and the heart of the matter. I started remembering every horrific thing he ever did to me and it was like having ice water thrown on my face. I put my shoulders back with pride and love for myself (finally) and decided to never talk to him again. He sent another text. I sent one final message back to him saying “I have spent this past week remembering all the horrible things you ever did to me and I want no part of it again. Right now I am emotionally disconnected from you and that is how I want it to stay. I am happy for the first time in a very long time.”

    I found your book by chance as I was looking for more info on sociopaths. Thank you so much for all the information you share. I love your blog – you mentioned it at the end of your book. I want to find your story and read about it. You said there is 1 sociopath in every 100 people. I have read in other books that it is 1 in 25. The numbers are rising. We all need to read your books and stay “armed”.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Robin, I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that my book enabled you to walk away from him! You took your power back, big-time! Good for you! I applaud you. A standing ovation, as a matter of fact.

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