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The One becomes visible. Rainer Maria Rilke’s approach to the mystery

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At present nature is presenting itself to us in a regenerating process and thus draws the attention of humans and animals. Transformation has quite evidently set in, spring is unfolding its creative powers to a nearly boundless extent. The presence of something new is making itself felt – but what is this presence and what mysterious impulse brings this new quality about?

With some certainty it can be said: Seeing is so much more than simply perceiving with one’s eyes. Real seeing is multi-layered and is therefore so unfathomably meaningful.

This is what makes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wonder:

“Why does it ask so much of us: to see?“ [1]

“I looked;

if what I was gazing at

remained beyond my sight,

I gazed at it again, more intensely,

down on my knees I gazed,

until I gained it.“ [2]

Why is it that we perceive “diversity“, and yet everything is connected?

One thing becomes visible: Everything is connected by a common bond!

Yet this “oneness“, this kind of unity, remains invisible in the world of thingness and distinction. What we have in common cannot be seen, therefore it is diversity that appears to the eye. Deep down we realize and experience, however, that diversity is not the last word, because it would mean breaking up wholeness into pieces. What unites us can communicate itself, as an inner revelation, a kind of inner vision. As human beings we can contemplate something, and the object of our contemplation can turn towards us. As we behold things, thus we are beheld.

C. G. Jung: “Whoever has insight, says Dschuang Dsi, will use their inner vision, their inner hearing, in order to fathom things and has no need for the understanding of the intellect. This obviously refers to the absolute knowledge of the unconscious, that is: the microcosmic existence of macrocosmic incidents.“ [3]

But what is it all about?

It is about what IT does to us. It is about what effect our looking has on nature. For our gaze does not go unnoticed. There is an inherent wish in things for us to perceive them. One thing is certain: Nature has something to tell us. It signals to us and strives for our attention, no matter whether its signals are observed or not. Its whole existence, its presence calls to us: “ Hello, here I am in my fullness, my abundance!“ It almost forces itself on us … .

“Almost all things invite us to feel them“ [4]

it says in one of Rilke’s poems. A moderate existence is foreign to nature. It is boundless and wants to be experienced in all its abundance.

Behind that an intention lies hidden: Wishing to be perceived by the senses as well as by what is beyond the senses, it crosses our path. Nature makes an offer to us in a mysterious and subtle way. Basically it offers itself to us – and we human beings are welcome to accept it as a personal gift!

Nature rises up before us, so that we are unable to get past it. Unable to grasp its intention, we yield to being seized – from a distance. Such an experience requires that human beings must become empty of themselves, must open up. Yes, openness is implied. Nature meets us half-way. We can let it seize us. This means: letting it happen! Nature wants to be touched, to be fully and deeply grasped by human beings. It needs us, needs our loving attention!

This may sound unbelievable: Nature has an attitude of expectation towards humans, because human beings are capable of fulfilling nature.

“Yes, the springtimes needed you. Many a star was waiting for your eyes only.“ [5]

Man looks at the stars in the sky, and infinity can take hold of him, this one shared space. From deep inside a sense of contemplating infinity awakens in the observer. We all know that “Light in the midst of darkness“, a sense of freedom spreads within us. This contemplation has such an impact on human beings, because it is no every-day experience. It is subconscious knowledge rather than a feeling: There is SOMETHING that we do not yet grasp, a hint of something great, something that is greater than we are. We feel so small in comparison. But then it happens:

You look at the sky, and heaven opens. The heart experiences something “from afar“. Nature wants to reveal more than just itself. It serves us as a mirror: In this abundance we recognize ourselves! Nature comes to life in our soul. We are not independent from nature, we are one with it. There is no separation. We are inter-dependent.

Nature reflects and reveals to us the soulfulness through what we experience with the senses – as well as the spirit and oneness.

“In an extended sense a culture that has no healthy mythical awareness behaves in a damaging way towards the environment, without realizing it. We must feel a direct connection with nature by opening the doors of mythical awareness.“ [6]

To speak as with the author: “We must by all means see the earth with open, dreaming eyes.“ [7]

Transcendence in the human heart

Nature contains the fundamental elements which form our world. Our sensory organs are in close cognitive contact with nature. In its abundance it is always the cognitive object of humans. Cognition is derived from the Latin word cognoscere, which means to recognize or experience. A perception which involves recognition equally concerns humans and nature in their exchange, hence it is not unilateral.

Ever since mankind has seen the light of day, it has perceived itself as one with nature. Beyond all the abundance of life is the Divine, as its hidden aspect, and the oneness of all.

People nowadays first and foremost recognize what can be experienced by the senses. This is the foundation for us. From sensory experience we can proceed to that of the super-sensory. What is beyond measure also reaches beyond the world that can be perceived by the senses. Super-sensory experience is inner awareness, which begins in the heart.

The perception of the heart is phenomenal in this context: Nature supports us, closely urges us in the direction of such a perception of the heart.

What happens then?

Let’s approach the phenomenon step by step … .

Krishnamurti says: “The transformation of what is only happens when there is no separation, no time between the observer and the observed. Love knows no distance.“  [8]

We all know that: The heart is so completely full that we cannot process its contents.

What happens?

Something speaks to our heart. However:

What is speaking?

What is calling?

IT is speaking loudly to those that have been “chosen“.

Is it the call of nature?

Is IT calling?

What is happening?

Is it elevation to “spheres“?

Nature is transient and needs us in the context of this transience. It works its way into us and through us. We in turn work through it. Nature can be redeemed when we “sanctify“ it through what the Buddhists call renouncing the ego, what the Rosicrucians call working with the soul.

What is a matter of fact is: Nature sets us a task.

What task? 

What do all things expect of human beings?

Rilke was a great admirer of the abundance of Creation. The poet of nature has made a fascinating discovery: He has understood the task given to us by nature and has expressed it as follows:

“And these things

that keep alive on departure know that you praise them; transient,

they look to us, the most transient, to be their rescue.

They want us to change them completely, in our invisible hearts,

into – O endlessly – us! Whoever, finally, we may be.

Earth, isn’t that what you want: to arise

in us invisibly? Isn’t it your dream

to be invisible someday? Earth! Invisible!“ [9]

Although we humans, as part of creation, are just as transient, the creatures of nature believe that we are capable of being their “saviours“. In human beings they can be elevated.

There is something which everything wants.

And what is it?

Humans are to transform all things in their heart, in their inner being.

This is a mystery.

“Whoever, finally, we may be.“

Ultimately we are “Being“.

Who is WE?

Every thing – human beings – or both? 

What does “ultimately“ mean?

It is assumed that the earth, Creation, wants something, that it wants to be elevated into the invisible. The earth, as we perceive it, becomes invisible within us, for we have integrated it into our being.

The soul functions as a sensory organ. In the soul the visible form of the earth can be dissolved, can be transformed, led to salvation.

The earth is dreaming. And there speaks the human who knows what it is to dream. Rilke ascribes to the earth the human quality of dreaming.

“Isn’t it your dream

to be invisible someday? Earth! Invisible!“

What else is there, what greater thing than transformation? It is a basic trait of our experience. Creation has a “horizontal experience“ of transformation, because it is change, visible through the activities of the tides and the senses. Transformation is a sensual process. But there is another kind of transformation: into what is not visible. Both processes of transformation coexist.

For, see, there is a limit to beholding.

And the world beyond beholding

wants to flourish in love.

 

The work of the face is done,

now let the heart do its work

with the images captured inside you; for,

having overpowered them, now you no longer know them.“ [10

 

“Has love been found inside me? […]

Images, signs, gathered with urgency,

has being inside me filled you with regret?“ [11]

 

Here the borderline of sensory perception is crossed: Vision opens the heart. To invite IT into our heart and let it work its effects is a way of expressing love. Here the transition from outer to inner vision takes place, for all things want to be experienced within us.

They are inside us,

… where they have been captured?

The force of their intellect has made humans go beyond, pass things by, so that they lost the connection with them. Yet:

Aren’t there always signs and points of contact?

IT is always present, within us. Creation speaks to us, and vice versa.

“Has being inside me filled you with regret?“, Creation asks humans and humans ask Creation.

And both together: „Has love been found inside me?“

Very often it is like this:

“Our eyes only see the haze behind which is hidden the essential, that which we should really perceive; and our ears only hear the roaring that drowns out all that we should really understand with our hearts.“ [12]

We can each ask ourselves: “Is IT inside me, does IT find love in me?“

And the answer, possibly, will reveal itself – at that very moment.


[1] from: Improvisations from Caprese Winter

[2] from: Forest pond, soft, turned inward

[3] from: C. G. Jung, Synchronizität, Akausalität und Okkultismus (Synchronicity, Acausality and Occultism)

[4] from: Almost all things invite us to feel them

[5] from: Duino Elegies: The First Elegy

[6] from: Paul Devereux, Die Seele der Erde entdecken (Discovering the Soul of the Earth), Munich 2001

[7] Ibd.

[8] Krishnamurti, Vollkommene Freiheit (Total Freedom), 5th edition, Frankfurt am Main 2006, p. 253

[9] Duino Elegies: The Ninth Elegy

[10] from: Turning-point

[11] from: Forest pond, soft, turning inward

[12] Khalil Gibran

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