Tag Archives: Letters

Mark Twain Writes a Rapturous Letter to Walt Whitman on the Poet’s 70th Birthday 1889 – Open Culture | Open Culture

Hartford, May 24/89

To Walt Whitman:You have lived just the seventy years which are greatest in the world’s history & richest in benefit & advancement to its peoples. These seventy years have done much more to widen the interval between man & the other animals than was accomplished by any five centuries which preceded them.What great births you have witnessed! The steam press, the steamship, the steel ship, the railroad, the perfected cotton-gin, the telegraph, the phonograph, the photograph, photo-gravure, the electrotype, the gaslight, the electric light, the sewing machine, & the amazing, infinitely varied & innumerable products of coal tar, those latest & strangest marvels of a marvelous age.

And you have seen even greater births than these; for you have seen the application of anesthesia to surgery-practice, whereby the ancient dominion of pain, which began with the first created life, came to an end in this earth forever; you have seen the slave set free, you have seen the monarchy banished from France, & reduced in England to a machine which makes an imposing show of diligence & attention to business, but isn’t connected with the works. Yes, you have indeed seen much — but tarry yet a while, for the greatest is yet to come. Wait thirty years, & then look out over the earth! You shall see marvels upon marvels added to these whose nativity you have witnessed; & conspicuous above them you shall see their formidable Result — Man at almost his full stature at last! — & still growing, visibly growing while you look. In that day, who that hath a throne, or a gilded privilege not attainable by his neighbor, let him procure his slippers & get ready to dance, for there is going to be music. Abide, & see these things!

Thirty of us who honor & love you, offer the opportunity. We have among us 600 years, good & sound, left in the bank of life. Take 30 of them — the richest birth-day gift ever offered to poet in this world — & sit down & wait. Wait till you see that great figure appear, & catch the far glint of the sun upon his banner; then you may depart satisfied, as knowing you have seen him for whom the earth was made, & that he will proclaim that human wheat is worth more than human tares, & proceed to organize human values on that basis.

Mark Twain

via Mark Twain Writes a Rapturous Letter to Walt Whitman on the Poet’s 70th Birthday 1889 – Open Culture | Open Culture.

Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Solome

Rainer Maria Rilke

To Lou Andreas-Salome

I held myself too open, I forgot
that outside not just things exist and animals
fully at ease in themselves, whose eyes
reach from their lives’ roundedness no differently
than portraits do from frames; forgot that I
with all I did incessantly crammed
looks into myself; looks, opinion, curiosity.
Who knows: perhaps eyes form in space
and look on everywhere. Ah, only plunged toward you
does my face cease being on display, grows
into you and twines on darkly, endlessly,
into your sheltered heart.

As one puts a handkerchief before pent-in-breath-
no: as one presses it against a wound
out of which the whole of life, in a single gush,
wants to stream, I held you to me: I saw you
turn red from me. How could anyone express
what took place between us? We made up for everything
there was never time for. I matured strangely
in every impulse of unperformed youth,
and you, love, had wildest childhood over my heart.

Memory won’t suffice here: from those moments
there must be layers of pure existence
on my being’s floor, a precipitate
from that immensely overfilled solution.

For I don’t think back; all that I am
stirs me because of you. I don’t invent you
at sadly cooled-off places from which
you’ve gone away; even your not being there
is warm with you and more real and more
than a privation. Longing leads out too often
into vagueness. Why should I cast myself, when,
for all I know, your influence falls on me,
gently, like moonlight on a window seat.


Rilke with Lou Andreas-Salomé (1897) On the balcony of the summer house of the family Andreas near Munich. Left to right: Professor Andreas, August Endell, Rilke, and Lou Andreas-Salomé.

The relationship, which began when 21-year-old Rilke met the 36-year-old and married Salomé, commenced with the all-too-familiar pattern of one besotted lover, Rilke, flooding the resistant object of his desire with romantic revelations, only to be faced with repeated, composed rejection as Salomé claimed to wish she could make him “go completely away.” But Rilke’s love didn’t flinch and the two eventually developed a passionate bond which, over the thirty-five-year course of their correspondence that followed, we see change shape and morph from friends to mentor and protégé to lovers to literary allies — a kaleidoscope of love that irradiates across the romantic, the platonic, the creative, the spiritual, the intellectual, and just about everything in between.”

rilke-in-russiaRilke with Lou Andreas-Salomé in Russia
with the poet Spiridon Drozin



Walking in Two Worlds – a letter from Carl G Jung to Edward Thornton

20th July 1958

Dear Edward,

The question you asked me is -I’m afraid- beyond my competence. It is a question of fate in which you should not be influenced by any outer arbitrary influence. As a rule I am all for walking in two worlds at once since we are gifted with two legs, remembering that spirit is pneuma which means “moving air”. It is a wind that all too easily can lift you up from the solid earth and carry you away on uncertain waves. It is good therefore, as a rule, to keep at least one foot upon terra firma. We are still in the body and thus under the rule of heavy matter. Also it is equally true that matter not moved by the spirit is dead and empty.

Over against this general truth one has to be flexible enough to admit all sorts of exceptions, as they are the unavoidable accompaniments of all rules. The spirit has no merit in itself and it has a peculiarly irrealizing effect if not counterbalanced by its material opposite. Thus think again, and if you feel enough solid under your feet, follow the call of the spirit.

My best wishes.

Yours cordially,

C.G. Jung

Synesius – A letter to Hypatia: On Dreams

In a letter to Hypatia of Alexandria, of whom he was a student, Synesius of Cyrene wrote that his essay, or as he called it “book” was:

“[…] set up as a thank-offering to the imaginative faculties. It contains an inquiry into the whole imaginative soul, and into some other points which have not yet been handled by any Greek philosopher. But why should one dilate on this? This work was completed, the whole of it, in a single night, or rather, at the end of a night, one which also brought the vision enjoining me to write it. There are two or three passages in the book in which it seemed to me that I was some other person, and that I was one listening to myself amongst others who were present.

Even now this work, as often as I go over it, produces a marvelous effect upon me, and a certain divine voice envelops me as in poetry. Whether this my experience is not unique, or may happen to another, on all this you will enlighten me, for after myself you will be the first of the Greeks to have access to the work.”

An extract from On Dreams:

“[…] divinations are amongst the best vocations of man; and if all things are signs appearing through all things, inasmuch as they are brothers in a single living creature, the cosmos, so also they are written in characters of every kind, just as those in a book some are Phoenician, some Egyptian, and others Assyrian.[1]

The scholar reads these, and he is a scholar who learns by his natural bent. One reads some of them and another reads others, one reads more and another less. In the same way one reads them by syllables, another reads the complete phrase, another the whole story. In like manner do the learned see the future, some understanding stars, and of these, one the fixed stars, another those flames which shoot across the sky. Again, there are those who read it from the entrails, and from the cries of birds, and from their perches and flights. To others also what are termed omens are manifest, written indications these of things to be, and again voices and encounters otherwise intended, for all things have their significance for every one. [1285] In the same way, if birds had had wisdom, they would have compiled an art of divining the future from men, just as we have from them; for we are to them, just as they are to us, alike young and old, very old and very fortunate. It must needs be, I think, the parts of this great whole, since it all shares one feeling and one breath, belong to each other. They are, in fact, limbs of one entire body, and may not the spells of the magicians be even such as these? Obviously, for charms are cast from one part of it to another, as signals are given, and he is a sage who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe. One thing he attracts to himself through the agency of another thing, for he has present with him pledges of things which are for the most part far away, to wit, voices, substances, figures. And as when the bowel is in pain, another part suffers also with it, so a pain in the finger settles in the groin,[2] although there be many organs between these parts which feel nothing.

This is because they are both portions of one living organism, and there is that which binds them one to the other more than to other things. Even to some god, of those who dwell within the universe, a stone from hence and a herb is a befitting offering; for in sympathizing with these he is yielding to nature and is bewitched. Thus the harp-player who has sounded the highest note does not sound the sesquioctavus next, but rather strikes the epitrite and the nete, a heritage today from a more ancient state of harmony.

But there is in the cosmos, even as in human relationship, a certain discord also; for the universe is not one homogeneous thing but a unity formed of many. There are parts of it which agree and yet battle with other parts, and the struggle of these only contributes to a harmonious unity of the whole, just as the lyre is a system of responsive and harmonious notes.[3] The unity resulting from the opposites is the harmony of both the lyre and the cosmos. Archimedes the Sicilian asked for a point of support outside of the earth wherefrom he might prop himself against the whole earth, for he said that as long as he was himself upon the earth he had no power over it. But the man, howso great his knowledge of the nature of the universe may be, once placed outside of it, could no longer make any use of his wisdom. He uses the universe against itself; accordingly his touch with it once lost, he will watch it in vain, and the lifeless symbols only would then be recorded. And small wonder, for whatever of the divine elements is outside the cosmos can in no wise be moved by sorcery.

He sits apart and careth not. nor taketh any thought thereof.[4]

It is the nature of pure reason not to be deflected; it is only the emotional element which may be cajoled. Wherefore the multitude of things in the universe and their relationship furnish the bulk of the subject-matter in the initiations and prophecies. There is a multitude of the discordant elements, but a relationship is the unity of things existing. Now, as to initiations, let not our law-abiding discourse noise them abroad; there is no offense, however, in explaining divination.”

Letters of Synesius of Cyrene to Hypatia of Alexandria http://www.livius.org/su-sz/synesius/synesius_letter_154.html



Full text of Synesius On Dreams http://www.livius.org/su-sz/synesius/synesius_dreams_02.html