Rilke on Earth Descent

Perhaps to comfort myself in the midst of a lot of turmoil in my practice community, Dharma Ocean, (more on that in a later post) I have been taking a lovely half hour each morning to read Rainer Maria Rilke. The time seems right for me to finally lower my soma into the world of the Duino Elegies, so I’ve been reading an Elegy a morning. 

Despite his intricate German (and in translation, English) style. I sense that he is pointing to spiritual experiences that resonate a lot with my somatic practice in the last 10 years or so. In Stephen Mitchell’s  notes, I came across a quote from one of Rilke’s letters, which wonderfully articulates the somatic experience of Earth Descent Sitting Up for me. 

This is a practice where we drop our awareness (different, oh so different from our thinking mind) down into the Earth below us. Opening down like the flanks of a pyramid or mountain descending down into the vaster, steadier depths of the Not-I. Rilke speaks to this as a youthful intuition that he has lived by. The ‘inviolable presence and simultaneity of everything’ can be experienced in the depths of the pyramid in this way as ‘an event’ rather than the coming and going of ‘entropy’ that we experience at the apex: 

Extensive as the”external” world is, with all its sidereal distances it hardly bears comparison with the dimensions, the depth-dimensions, of our inner being, which does not even need the spaciousness of the universe to be, in itself,  almost unlimited… it seems to me more and more as though our ordinary consciousness inhabited the apex of the pyramid whose base in us (and, as it were, beneath us) broadens out to such extent that the farther we are able to let ourselves down into it, the more completely do we appear to be included in the realities of earthly and, in the widest sense, worldly, existence, which are not dependent upon time and space.  From my earliest youth I have felt the intuition (and have also, as far as I could, lived by it) that at some deeper cross-section of this pyramid of consciousness, mere being could become an event, the invioable presence and simultaneity of everything that we, on the upper,”normal”, apex of self-consciousness, are permitted to experience only as entropy. 

(To Nora Purtscher-Wydenbruck, August 11, 1924)

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1 Comment

  • Tricia Davidson says:

    Thank you for this Alistair. As always, your gentleness and wisdom come through, especially needed right now. How would I even begin my day otherwise?

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