We are still with Rilke, and still with feeling. We want this sensing, feeling, knowing beyond words, beyond the normal senses, to bring us into more immediate contact with worlds and beings.
Here’s an account that Rilke labeled simply “An Experience” – and experience is immediacy. He puts it in the 3rd person, but we know from letters and journal entries that it happened to him personally. Next week on Tuesday, we’ll try to evoke this kind of experience, or at least a sense of what that could be.
By the way, “sense” originally means “pathway” (think of the French sentier). It is an experience, an immediacy, that might be the pathway to further experiences:
"It could have been little more than a year ago that, in the castle garden which sloped down quite steeply to the sea, something strange happened to him. Walking back and forth with a book, as was his custom, he had happened to recline into the more or less shoulder-high fork of a shrub like tree, and in this position he immediately felt himself so pleasurably supported and so deeply soothed that he remained as he was, without reading, completely absorbed into Nature, in a nearly unconscious contemplation.
Little by little his attention awakened to a feeling he had never known before: it was as if almost unnoticeable pulsations were passing into him from the inside of the tree; he explained this to himself quite easily by supposing that an otherwise invisible wind, perhaps blowing down the slope close to the ground, was making itself felt in the wood, though he had to acknowledge that the trunk seemed too thick to be moved so forcibly by such a mild breeze.
What concerned him, however, was not to pass any kind of judgment; rather, he was more and more surprised, indeed astonished, by the effect of this pulsation which kept ceaselessly passing over into him; it seemed to him that he had never been filled by more delicate movements; his body was being treated, so to speak, like a soul, and made capable of absorbing a degree of influence which, in the usual distinctness of physical conditions, wouldn't really have been sensed at all.
Nor could he correctly determine, during the first few moments, which of his senses it was through which he was receiving so delicate and extended a communication; moreover, the condition it had created in him was so perfect and continuous, different from all others, but so impossible to describe by the intensification of anything experienced before, that for all its exquisiteness he couldn't think of calling it a pleasure.
Nevertheless, concerned as he always was to account for precisely the subtlest impressions, he asked himself insistently what was happening to him, and almost immediately found an expression that satisfied him as he said it aloud: he had passed over to the other side of Nature. As happens sometimes in a dream, this phrase now gave him joy, and he considered it almost completely apt. Everywhere and more and more regularly filled with this impulse which kept recurring in strangely interior intervals, his body became indescribably touching to him and of no further use than to be purely and cautiously present in, just as a ghost, already dwelling elsewhere, sadly enters what was tenderly laid aside, in order to belong once again, even if inattentively, to this once so indispensable world.
Slowly looking around himself, without otherwise shifting his position, he recognized everything, remembered it, smiled at it with a kind of distant affection, let it be, as if it were something which had once, in circumstances long since vanished, taken part in his life. A bird flew through his gaze, a shadow engrossed him, the very path, the way it continued and was lost, filled him with a contemplative insight, which seemed to him all the more pure in that he knew he was independent of it.
Where his usual dwelling place was he couldn't have conceived, but that he was only returning to all this here, that he was standing in this body as if in the recess of an abandoned window, looking out: - of this he was for a few seconds so thoroughly convinced that the sudden apparition of one of his friends from the house would have shocked him in the most excruciating way; whereas he truly, deep inside himself, was prepared to see Polyxène or Raimondine or some other long-dead inhabitant of the house step forth from the path's turn.
He understood the quiet superabundance of these Things; he was allowed, intimately, to see these ephemeral earthly forms used in such an absolute way that their harmony drove out of him everything else he had learned; he was sure that if he were to move in their midst he wouldn't seem strange to them. A periwinkle that stood near him and whose blue gaze he had already met a number of times, touched him now from a more spiritual distance, but with so inexhaustible a meaning that it seemed as if there were nothing more that could be concealed.
Altogether, he was able to observe how all objects yielded themselves to him more distantly and, at the same time, somehow more truly; this might have been due to his own vision, which was no longer directed forward and diluted in empty space; he was looking, as if over his shoulder, backward at Things, and their now completed existence took on a bold, sweet aftertaste, as though everything had been spiced with a trace of the blossom of parting. - Saying to himself from time to time that this couldn't last, he nevertheless wasn't afraid that the extraordinary condition would suddenly break off, as if he could only expect from it, as from music, a conclusion that would be in infinite conformity to its own law.
All at once his position began to be uncomfortable, he could feel the trunk, the fatigue of the book in his hand, and emerged. An obvious wind was blowing now in the leaves, it came from the sea, the bushes up the slope were tossing together. "
all blessings to all,