We’re shifting away from the Word and the Prologue, to move into a consideration of Rilke’s take on death. This won’t actually be about death and the dead alone -- as if that could ever be a topic unto itself. In spiritual matters all topics have a way of implicating each other, and everything wants to be said at once.
Rilke’s idea of death and the dead is part of his invitation to us to enter a single great life that includes the so-called living and the so-called dead.
So I’ll be sending out translations of Rilke’s poems and other writings and we’ll then formulate them as meditative themes in our group meetings.
Whatever our theme of the week, we often have included the so-called dead by briefly orienting, both pre- and post-meditation, towards a specific “dead” person we loved and who loved us. Now the issue of this life that includes all being (the living, the dead, and everything else too) will itself be our central theme. Rilke’s work offers many invitations into that greater life. He once wrote, “death … is the side of life that is turned away from us.”
As a bridge between the John Prologue and the Rilke death question, we’ll start with some of Rilke’s specific references to the Word. Here’s one:
To be silent. Whoever’s more deeply silent Schweigen. Wer inniger schwieg,
touches on the roots of speech. ruehrt an die Wurzeln der Rede.
One day every syllable he grows Einmal wird ihm dann jede
will be a victory: erwachsene Silbe zum Sieg:
over what, in the silence, isn’t silent, ueber das, was im Schweigen nicht schweigt,
over the mocking evil; ueber das hoehnische Boese;
for it to dissolve tracelessly, dass es sich spurlos loese,
the Word was shown to him. ward ihm das Wort gezeigt.
This may have sprung to Rilke’s mind straight from the beginning of John 15:
1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Here we have the effect on the individuals of the Word: they are “clean,” as if cleansed of the mocking evil. The roots and the grown syllables of the poem rhyme with the vegetative “true vine” of the gospel.
To meditate this poem, and not just leave it as literature outside us, we might ask the following in our pondering:
What is silence? Or: what is this silence?
What is “more deeply” (or “more inwardly” or “more intimately”)?
How can being more silent touch the roots of speech?
How can the practice of silence lead to victory over evil in the grown syllable?
Where do you personally experience the “mocking” (or “sneering” or “scornful”) evil?
Are you willing to have that sneer dissolve tracelessly?
When was the Word shown to you?
How could the shown Word dissolve evil?
All blessings to all,