The C.G. Jung Society of Queensland
Jan - March 2010, No 62
“What are poets for?”
Jungians and other seekers are attracted to the poetry and letters of Rainer Maria Rilke for their spiritual yearning, inwardness, complexity, ambiguity and surprising insight.
Born in 1875, the same year as C.G. Jung, German- speaking like Jung (Rilke was born in Prague into a German-speaking family), he was, like Jung, influenced by the spirit and events of his time. Although Jung claimed to be “merely” an empiricist and a healer, and Rilke was purely a poet, they were both seekers, penetrating into realms that required the development of a language to express ideas outside the mundane.
Apollo – Greek god of poetry ... and other things
Eva-Maria Simms, in her chapter on Rilke in the book Pathways into the Jungian World1, notes that “our times do not have a language anymore for expressing the invisible as it approaches us through experiences of the numinous in love, art and religion”. (Brooke, p. 63)
It is the task of the poet to find the soul’s language.
Like Jung, says Simms, Rilke took religious symbolism out of the sphere of theology: “Jung examined religious imagery and experience in psychological terms: the figure of Christ for example is seen as an archetype of the self...” while Rilke “takes the image out of the religious realm and moves it into the sphere of poetic experimentation, where it evokes and alludes to the numinous without fixing it in a religious system.” (p. 55)
Another interesting parallel that has occurred to me, simply because of the proximity in time of the writing of this letter and our lecture in November 2009 on Jung‟s Seven Sermons to the Dead, is that both men had the experience of being inspired to write an imaginative work by hearing the first line from an uncanny voice. Jung was moved to write the Seven Sermons on a night when the house seemed filled with ghostly entities and he heard the cry: “We have come from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought”. Rilke “received” the first
Brooke, Roger, Ed. Pathways into the Jungian World. Routledge, 2000.