“We are bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the invisible, to store it in the great golden hives of the invisible.”
Rilke often refers to the invisible, especially in his Duino Elegies, which he wrote during a particularly mystical period of his life. In a letter to his Polish translator Witold Hulewicz in November 1925, he wrote: ‘We of the present are never satisfied by the world of time…transience everywhere plunges into the depths of being…it is our task to print this temporal, perishable earth so painfully, passionately and deeply into ourselves, that its essence is resurrected again, invisibly, within us…the Elegies show this, the work of endlessly converting the visible, tangible world we love into the invisible vibrations and tremors of our own nature…’
He was quite passionate about the “Temple within” and the interior life, whereas he saw the outside world as transitory and fragile.
In another letter, written in 1925, commenting on his Elegies, he wrote: “‘…the Angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we perform, appears already complete.’ [..] ‘that being who attests to the recognition of a higher level of reality in the invisible – Terrifying, therefore, to us because we, its lovers and transformers, still cling to the visible’.
Here are some good links on Rilke’s work and his letters
I became a little (more) obsessed with Rilke after reading a chapter focusing on his work in this book:
(edited to include more details from comments)
originally posted 2012