Tag Archives: nature

We are bees of the invisible… Rilke from a letter to Halewicz

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“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

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/German/TheFountainOfJoy.htm

http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft8779p1x3&chunk.id=d0e1921&toc.id=d0e1494&brand=ucpress

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/rainer-maria-rilke

I became a little (more) obsessed with Rilke after reading a chapter focusing on his work in this book:
http://www.jameshollis.net/books/archetypal.htm

(edited to include more details from comments)

originally posted 2012

Jaq

The Romantic Symbolism of Trees

abbeydeadtreesCaspar David Friedrich, “Abbey among Oak Trees” (1809-10)

The Romantic Symbolism of Trees by Allison Meier

“As with the Victorian language of flowers, specific trees have their own symbolism. Reverend William Gilpin, an artist and cleric, stated it “is no exaggerated praise to call a tree the grandest, and most beautiful of all products of the earth.” In the form of the tree, artists found expressions of life, death, and the great beyond.

A Dialogue with Nature includes work both from the Morgan’s works on paper holdings, and the Courtauld Gallery in London, and emphasizes this “cult of nature.” Here are some of the meanings of trees in Romantic art that are evoked in the exhibition, as well as in the landscape tradition of the time.”

Link to the full article http://hyperallergic.com/131541/the-romantic-symbolism-of-trees/

forest sunset

Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910) Sunset in a Forest

I wish I had time to upload my folder of Trees in art.. maybe in a future post.. ~ Jaq

The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

“The god Horus is a falcon (the word for which in hieroglyphs is qhr, the falcon’s cry). In the third surviving column of text, remarkably, the falcon is marked with a triangle, the hieroglyphic designation for the star Sirius. As if it were a mathematical proof unfolding before my eyes, I saw that if the falcon marked by the triangle is Sirius, the fire is the light of dawn in which the gods—the things marked holy by the hieroglyphic prayer flags—are stars. The baboon’s penis is in actuality a familiar sight: the Sword of Orion (the three stars under Orion’s belt), which rises directly before Sirius on the path of rising stars. The hieroglyphic lines on the wall express an immediate, visual moment in the physical world: the dawn rising of Sirius signaling the rising of the Nile, the key moment of the Egyptian agricultural year. The clear, repetitive, and simple hieroglyphic lines read not as a magic spell but as a finely machined poetic riddle: The Sword of Orion opens the doors of the sky. Before the doors close the gate to the path over the fire Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark, As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire, Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark. They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path. Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius. That this was the case was borne out by the text as I translated further. Beautifully constructed verses presented one vivid astronomical reference after another: Taurus (“Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns. / Come out. Rise.”), the full moon (“the face, the head, the eye”), the North Star (“the axis at the center of the wheel”), the Dippers (“the arms of night”), the Milky Way (“the ladder to heaven”). The verses of the Pyramid Texts map the night sky as a detailed seasonal clock reliably predicting the most critical resource of all: water. Egyptian civilization came out of radical climate change—cattle herders whose grazing land was rapidly becoming desert as the water dried up in the climate shift of the Neolithic, much as is happening in Texas and around the world today.

The verses present a sequence of poetic images in which the human body is transformed back into its elements in the visible universe of the turning sky. The remnant essence of a human life rises as a star in the east: “moses” (the hieroglyphic word for infant) in “the field of rushes” (the eastern stars at dawn). The infant star is the child of “she who gave birth but did not know it” (the sky). The sky is a flood of cool darkness across which sail the stars: Sirius and its evil twin, “the detested wild dog Set,” the second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, the rising of which signals the autumn rains with their deadly flash floods and thunderstorms. Through this glittering wetland of stars wanders the golden calf, the golden crescent horns of the moon.

This extraordinary convergence of poetry, science, and religion resides not only in the writing but in the pictures within the words themselves. Osiris is a phonetic rendering of a hieroglyphic rebus: the seat of the eye, the universal corpse in which resurrection is not a religious mystery but an inevitability of nature. In the Pyramid Texts, hieroglyphic vocabulary is rich with images: The body is a tree. The snake is the life in it. The fruit of the tree is the eye. What is being expressed is the intelligence of nature itself in the ongoing process of creation: the death, decay, and rebirth of plant and animal life in the cyclical year. One familiar religious trope after another appears not as literal historical fact used to proscribe, threaten, and dictate the parameters of human life but as poetic imagery used to bring to life the awareness of our fragile and beautiful world. The richness of these images is echoed in the Book of Job: “As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold.” The Pyramid Texts are not magic spells or religious prescription any more than this. Instead, the text takes up a key question: Where shall wisdom be found?

…over the fire
Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark,

As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire,

Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark.

They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path.

Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius.

 

Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns.

Come out. Rise.

Poetry and religion arise from the same source: the perception of the mystery of life. Early Egyptian writing belongs to this eternal language. The vehicle at work is associative thinking, in which metaphors act as keys to unlock a primeval human sense of the integrated living world. The meaning may not come across on the pedantic level, but on the poetic level it is transparent.”

Source: The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

Susan Brind Morrow

Susan Brind Morrow’s translation and analysis of the Pyramid Texts, The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts, was published in 2015. She received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 2006.

Ralph Waldo Emerson | The Book of Life

“This leaves open a vital question: what is your nature once you have rid yourself of history, tradition and religion? What can be said is that it is not self-indulgence, it is not hedonism, it is not narcissism – rather it is the surrender to that force which Emerson recognised back in the Jardin des Plantes: it is obedience to nature itself.

By nature Emerson seemed to mean the natural world – plants, animals, rocks and sky – but what he really meant was God. For Emerson was a Pantheist, someone who believed that God exists in every part of creation, from the smallest grain of sand to a star – but also, crucially, that the divine spark is in each of us. In following ourselves we are not being merely fickle and selfish, but rather releasing a Divine Will that history, society and organised religion have hidden from us.

The individual, as he writes, ‘is a god in ruins’ (CW1 42); but we have it within us, by casting off all custom, to rebuild ourselves. He makes this Pantheist connection explicit in his most famous lines: Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. […] Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

Source: Ralph Waldo Emerson | The Book of Life

Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man. By George W. Allen

Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man.

By George W. Allen

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell.” -George W. Allen

 Dreifaches_Leben Threefold Life

[..] If Boehme has been called the “Teutonic Theosopher,” this is only because he endeavors to penetrate into the depth of man’s nature, and seeks for facts which are not to be found upon the surface thereof.

 

There has been, without doubt, in all ages of the world much enquiry calling itself “theosophical” which has been illicit and disastrous. Ducklings that can safely cross a river might be lost in attempting to cross the Atlantic.

Everything depends on the spirit in which the enquiry is undertaken. If in a self-sufficient pride and confidence in our own powers, or out of mere curiosity and love of the wonderful and obscure, the enquiry is illicit and likely to end in spiritual and moral disaster.

One sort of spirit alone can undertake the enquiry with safety. It must be entered on for the one and only purpose of learning what we actually are, so that by this knowledge we may be enabled to shape our life and form our personal character in accordance with the eternal Fact.

Neither must we undertake to pursue the enquiry by our own natural and unaided reason and intellect. We must seek and expect guidance; that guidance which is ever afforded to those who seek it from a true motive, which is never a mere desire to explore and talk about the recondite and profound.

So narrow is the gate that leads to the real divine truth that no self-sufficiency can ever enter in.

Only the meek and lowly of heart, who desire to be able better to serve, rather than to pose as profound thinkers, can pass it and walk in the straitened way that will be found within. Such are known at once by this: that their whole interest is centered on what can be turned to practical account in life and conduct and character; and if, as they study, they do not find themselves becoming nearer to the divine character in love and sympathy and service, they feel that something is wrong. They are never so filled with wonders discovered as to rest content with this success; for they seek not truth for its own sake, but only for the sake of its good. They watch themselves closely, and turn aside from any knowledge that does not bear fruit in a greater earnestness in service, and in a character growing ever more pure and sympathetic and set on things above.

All this Boehme is careful to say again and again.

 

Understood in this sense, and fenced about by these safeguards, theosophy loses all its dangers, and the man who loves God, and is dissatisfied with the mere notional apprehension of Him with which most are content; who feels that he himself is more than he as yet knows, and would understand for what he was created, and to what end he is meant to arrive; who regards this life as needing to be interpreted rather than no more than it seems; who wishes so to live here that, after death, he may not find himself in a new and “other” world with every fiber of habit, every longing and liking, of a nature which, in that world, is impossible and must prove a torment—such an one need not despair.

 

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell. If, of human writers, Kant is the man of philosophical first principles, Boehme is equally certainly the man of theosophical first principles. And if there appear signs (as surely is the case) that our Christian religion is not producing that national righteousness which its aim is to produce, and we suspect that we have not got our first principles right, there is no author (outside Holy Scripture) to whom it will be more profitable to go back.

 

It will be impossible in a brief introduction to enter on a full explication of Boehme’s marvelous system, for this would require a volume to itself. All that can be attempted is to indicate the general lines of that system, and to give some clue to the reader, whereby first difficulties may be surmounted, and the secret of Boehme indicated.

George W. Allen

Link to pdf. (can be read online) The Threefold Life of Man written by Jacob Boehme, 1620
http://www.jacobboehmeonline.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Threefold_Life_of_Man.87135427.pdf

THE THREEFOLD LIFE OF MAN
ACCORDING TO THE
THREE PRINCIPLES
BY JACOB BOEHME GORLITZ 1620
TRANSLATED BY JOHN SPARROW 1650
TRANSCRIBED BY WAYNE KRAUS 2013

Conciatore: Primordial Matter

I feel that the more perfect the art the most simple it is; so the authors [of alchemy] most unanimously agree that the ‘primordial material’ [prima materia] of the [philosopher’s] stone is something vile [base] and not bought with money, but easy to find. Moreover, the manner of work must imitate nature, which in order to produce gold makes use of the singular or simple material, which is the seed of gold, of a single vessel, which is the ‘womb of the earth’ [seno della terra] and of a single natural and vital fire, which is the sun.

via Conciatore: Primordial Matter.

with thanks to

The Fables of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, inventor, engineer and scientist, but he also found time to write little fables for himself. In the margins of his notes he would pen short tales of how pride and envy would bring down a moth, tree or even a stone.

wolf-and-eagle-650x374The Wolf and the Eagle

Ever since Aesop’s Fables was written in ancient Greece, people have been sharing these short stories that illustrate a moral truth. They were popular in medieval times as well, with many writers explaining how misfortune stuck men, animals, insects and even plants and rocks.

These fables are found in Leonardo’s notebooks from the years 1487 to 1494, when he was working in the service of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.  They were written in the margins, perhaps as little notes to amuse or remind himself while he worked on bigger projects. Leonardo seems to have been interested in nature and finding examples of how various creatures would cause their own doom. –  via Medievalists.net

For examples of these fables, more images and link to all of Leonardo da Vinci’s fables, and those of other Italian writers in Renaissance Fables, translated by David Birch – see http://www.medievalists.net/2014/03/30/fables-leonardo-da-vinci/

and  Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

 

The Vessels of Hermes – an Alchemical Album (ca.1700)

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The contents of Box 14 from the Manly Palmer Hall Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts, a huge collection of esoteric works amassed by Manly Palmer Hall, a Canadian-born author and mystic, perhaps most famous for his The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Most of the material in the collection was acquired from Sotheby’s auctioneers on a trip he made in the 1930s to England and France – bought very cheaply due to the economic conditions of the time. The material in Hall’s collection dates from 1500 to 1825, and includes works from the likes of Jakob Böhme, Sigismond Bacstrom, Alessandro Cagliostro, George Ripley and Michael Maier. The creator of these particular watercolours featured below is unknown. A typewritten note in the back, in French, translates as follows:

ALCHEMICAL ALBUM – The Vessels of Hermes – quarto atlas containing five beautiful colour plates very artistically executed and with explanatory caption. Vol. half vellum.

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4

For more images and full article, see The Public Domain Review: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-vessels-of-hermes-an-alchemical-album-ca-1700/

The use of Nature imagery in the works of Federico Garcia Lorca

lorcaFederico Garcia Lorca

In his Ode to Walt Whitman, Lorca asks “Whose perfect voice will sing the truths of wheat?”

Throughout the poem, he is lamenting the absence of men of the calibre of the “lovely Walt Whitman”. The truths of wheat…  Federico Garcia Lorca uses symbolic, nature imagery throughout his work.

Whilst addressing sexuality in his Ode to Walt Whitman – he and Whitman were both homosexual – Lorca is here also addressing the hypocrisy of what is considered natural and unnatural.

He writes of the world of industry:

“Ninety thousand miners taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing stairs and perspectives.
But none of them could sleep,
none of them wanted to be the river,
none of them loved the huge leaves
or the shoreline’s blue tongue”

It is a theme he explored often; human sexuality, morality, and how people either deny themselves, or indulge themselves – those whom he refers to as “Sleepless enemies of the love that bestows crowns of joy.”

I recently came across a wonderful article written by Robert Lima, entitled “Toward the Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma“. Lorca wrote Yerma (barren in Spanish) about a childless woman living in rural Spain. As Lima puts it, Lorca introduces “natural factors that are in obvious opposition to the unnatural state of affairs in Yerma’s relationship with each of the three men in her life”.

It has been suggested that Yerma is the work of Lorca’s most directly associated with his assassination in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. It most openly challenges the institution of Catholicism and the strict sexual morality of Spanish society.

 “The four elements begin to appear in the very first scene of Yerma, either singly or in combinations, and continue to be a major frame of reference in the rest of the play. Through the elements, Lorca is able to create a symbolic pattern that is both ironic (in that it is Yerma who most frequently and intuitively refers to the pagan elements yet cannot assimilate them, and portentuous (in that they build towards the full manifestation of the Dionysiac in the final scene of the play)” – Robert Lima from Toward the Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma

(Link to full text below)

https://journals.ku.edu/index.php/jdtc/article/viewFile/1742/1706..

“Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs pure as Apollo’s,
nor your voice like a column of ash,
old man, beautiful as the mist”

from Ode to Walt Whitman, F.G. Lorca

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/ode-to-walt-whitman/

WWWalt Whitman

from 52 FLOWERS: 32 Box by Charlotte Du Cann

“Our bodies know things our minds do not because, like the mountains, they are ancient. They were formed thousands of years ago, and they resonate to the wind, to the winter, to the world of the box tree. They are archaic and they love the archaic world because they were built for it. Our feet love to walk the icy path, our ears respond to the sound of the wild pigs, our hands instinctively seek out firewood, our tongues lap mountain water. When we quiet our modern minds, and we listen with our bodies, our archaic bodies that come alive in the wild places, we can touch the mystery of time, the mystery that is held in this earth.

In the wilderness, where the ancient wind blows through the gold-glinted leaves of the box tree, where the green river roars, where the mountains in their mineral fastness face you, time is held in a different way, in a deep way you cannot ever know in the city or in your safe room at night. If you keep still, are quiet in these wild places, not afraid, let your body instruct you, you can contact the archaic knowledge of this world. You can find it in this place and you can find it in yourself. You can know you are connected to life in ways you cannot speak of and do not need to because in that moment you have become part of life’s extraordinary measure, its strategic move. You can know that the faun-like man is as you are, sitting in a certain way by a box tree, and you are meeting across the vast spaces of time.”
(Charlotte Du Cann)
Mountains France 2001 2.2
For the full article (recommended) see link below