I have several books by Rilke, but I think my favourite work is the Duino Elegies.
The poet was born in Prague in a German speaking community and wrote in German most of his life, then in French in his latter years in Switzerland.
So his works have been translated into English, which relies, naturally, on the sensibilities of the translator. Nevertheless, he is very much worth investigating. Few poets have suffered more for their art.
It is Rilke’s short collection, ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, which has inspired many people of all ages for around a century.
His messages to this one individual, Franz Xaver Kappus, now immortalised in print, convey the need to go deep within, to accept the human condition of loneliness and isolation and to absorb it. His most famous works included ‘The Book of Hours’, ‘The Book of Images’, ‘The Duino Elegies’ and ‘Songs to Orpheus’.
What kind of man was this? And how has such a message, seemingly contrary to the accepted ‘wisdom’ of our times, found such favour?
Dressed as a girl
Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in late 1875, a member of the German speaking ruling classes of the disparate empire of Austria-Hungary in central Europe. He was always conscious of this and never entirely happy being within it. In his latter years, he would reject it entirely whilst living in Switzerland, where he composed solely in French.
His early situation was not helped by the fact that he had an older sibling, a girl, who died a year before he was born. When he arrived, his mother appears to have wanted another girl and Rainer, or René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, as he was originally christened, was dressed in girls’ clothing during his formative years. This would have had a profound early psychological impact upon him.
Acceptance of Czech and Slavic culture
He was later sent to a military academy, which he despised, yet he looked back on it as a formative and even necessary experience. Unlike his mother, he always had a sneaking admiration for the Czech/Slavic majority culture, even though it was deemed lower class in comparison to the ruling Germanic. He had Czech girlfriends and got know an uncle of one who had visited Russia and knew Russian literature.
Then his life changed profoundly when he met Lou Andreas Salome, a married Russian aristocrat significantly older than him. Despite her marital status he accompanied her and her husband to Russia first in 1899 and again with her alone the following year, 1900. Here he met the Russian literati, including Tolstoy and Pasternak.
Mother Russia — his spiritual home, or ‘heimat’
But it was his experiences with the simple Russian and Ukrainian folk that had the deepest impact upon him; their complete involvement with the Orthodox culture, full of ancient tradition and festivities. This plus the largely unspoiled Russian countryside, the steppe and its agricultural calendar, opened his eyes to a God essentially created by Man, at least within his own existential thinking. And of course, this was the inspiration for all his later work, beginning most especially with ‘The Book of Hours’.
He would spend several years living and working with the sculptor Rodin in Paris too, another period of change which took him another step forward. In fact, he was restless, always travelling, searching outwardly, and most especially inwardly — the isolation of the individual, his self, which he cherished the most and encouraged others to learn to accept.
No pain killers
Rilke lived his philosophy to the end, too. When he knew he was dying, he was reluctant to take pain killers — they might have detracted from the profundity of the experience. So can a look at his astrological chart, as given, reveal what was going on within his psyche?
He has Virgo rising, showing an analytical and critical approach to life. The midheaven and 10th house in Gemini points towards a career involving communication and much coming and going. Both Virgo and Gemini are ruled by Mercury, who is found in Scorpio in the 3rd house of the mind, challenged by Mars in Aquarius in the 6th house. Scorpio is deep and penetrating, investigative. Here was no whimsy, but someone who dwelt upon issues, but who could also get highly irritable, agitated, to the point where it could affect his health.
A wanderer in body and mind
His Sagittarian sun of self and uniting Venus are in the 4th house of the home, family, ancestors. Sagittarius is another mutable or changeful sign, imbued with a wanderlust, particularly for longer distances. Sagittarius is noted for going far and wide. However, although this is true of Rilke, who travelled extensively in Russia, Europe and north Africa, it was always in search of something inside, his ‘heimat’, or true spiritual home. He was to find this in the much maligned old Russia prior to the revolution and was to carry this realisation always.
His 4th house Venus is supported by being trine Neptune and sextile Mars, indicating his spiritual and passionate yearning for the numinous, ultimately for God, although even with the best aspects Neptune is illusory. His attitude towards relationship (he had many) is typically idealistic, in which he sees each partner upholding the space between them, like guardians of their separate, lonely selves. So love was always going to be a very difficult thing for him, holding up such ideals, perhaps indicated by Neptune’s aspect here.
His sun ruler, Jupiter, is also in Scorpio, just like his chart ruler Mercury. So we have both planets associated with the mind in deep, penetrating Scorpio, in the house of the mind. Rilke gave a new meaning to deep, passionate thought.
Bearing his cross
Dominating his chart is a loose grand cross in fixed signs and cadent houses. This could be seen as the cross he bore throughout his life. The Moon conjunct Saturn in Aquarius in the 6th house in itself suggests a difficult, restrictive, isolated childhood with illnesses, plus a trying relationship to the mother; so much so the health is also likely to be affected. He seems to have carried this sense of loneliness with him all his life, perhaps the major astrological indication of his philosophy of solitude.
Endless flux of life
This conjunction is opposite the rebellious Uranus in the 12 house of the inner life; sudden, deeper psychological issues are highlighted here, eruptions perhaps from problems stemming from his restrained childhood. Undermining Pluto is opposite Jupiter from the 9th house of travel and the higher mind, which may indicate issues like falling out completely with Rodin and the many new starts he had while abroad. This grand cross represents the continual flux he experienced in life, his difficulties and the existential challenge which he took up.
Finally, the north node of the Moon in the 8th house indicates he was born karmically with deep personal security issues. Individuals born with this tendency need to explore more deeply (8th house/Scorpio) through involvement in deeper, more profound psychological areas to do with security. Rilke appears to have instinctively understood this challenge and taken it up.
European poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) pursued a life of meaning through his writing. He studied with the greatest minds of the 20th century, from Rodin to Lou Andreas-Salomé, not only to learn how to write better, but to learn how to think, feel, and live like an artist.
Nietzsche wrote On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic, in response to a book by his former friend Paul Rée, on the origins of morality. This book is among Nietzsche’s most sustained and cohesive works. Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rating: 5 out of 5. In the first essay, titled “Good and Evil”, “Good and Bad”, Nietzsche sets […]
” A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and can not be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. ” […]
There have been rumours and several ‘conspiracy theories’ since the Second World War claiming that the Germans built a secret base in Antarctica, creating a kind of breakaway civilisation.
Now, with another story in the news about an apparently sophisticated 400 ft ship being found in an iceberg off the coast of Antarctica, these stories have resurfaced once again.
It is known that the Germans made several expeditions to Antarctica prior to the war. When by 1942 they realised they were going to lose, they apparently began to secretly transfer men and materials to a hidden base they had created in Antarctica, in a region called Neuschwabenland. Here, allegedly, they found areas free of ice, as well as areas under the ice they could inhabit safely.
Are Flying Saucers Real?
Of course, it would seem there is no way of verifying these theories and rumours, but it is definitely known that the Germans were also experimenting with some serious hi tech, in the form of flying discs. The blueprints for these craft are available and some of them were actually built and could fly.
However, it is indeed a huge leap of faith to associate these (as some do) with the flying saucer phenomenon, or UFOs, which exploded in to the news controversially in 1947 with the Roswell Incident.
How much actual truth lies behind these rumours I cannot say. As far as we know the biggest populations in Antarctica are still penguins. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to speculate.
It’s only a pigeon’s call,
three short squawks
repeated ad infinitum.
I wonder why
he has so much to say
but this is his life:
during the day he eats,
at dusk he turns to sleep
A car arrives— sounds like
the slick bass purr of a German V6,
crunching on gravel.
A door slamming marks an end,
maybe shopping unloaded:
the beginning of silence.
And then the pigeon
starts over all over again
They smile when I shut the heavy, creaking door,
from behind their neat wooden kiosks
stuffed with pamphlets and insipid books.
Smiles of recognition, a nodding
acceptance as if to say –
‘Oh, it’s you!’ Volunteer women serving Christ
better than those above them in Church.
I walk along the emphatic southern aisle under
über-Norman arches, at the far end of which
hangs a limp flag of Saint Andrew,
in honour of Mary Queen of France, Scotland
and some say of England, too.
Glancing to my left a young man kneels,
wringing hands beneath a life-size figure
of a crucified Jesus, hanging high in space.
He stares upwards, rocking gently back and forth,
as if imploring Him to be real,
to writhe, sweat, bleed, perhaps to save Himself
and then, somehow, to save him as well.
I’m here to light a candle outside
Saint Oswald’s shrine and to sit for a time
in silence inside the tidy chapel,
to pray for a poor boy in pain,
perhaps to ponder on those relics,
those bits of bodies and other things,
worshipped once and then dispersed,
despised in fractured minds,
to us now mostly objects of indifference.
Oswald’s arm must lie hereabouts,
known to someone who still believes
in its restorative power, like the monks
who consumed this place, where Domesday
came and went without event,
where the Chronicle of a people faded to grey
in an undrying ink. Still it awaits the next line.
In this fossil the dead are lucky.
They are dead but in faith, whereas I roam
restlessly among echoes and whispers,
a heartless void. I cut across through the choir
to find I’m not alone, where the true
Queen of Hearts lies. Letters of gold spell
her name to all, but for me she smiles
brighter than anyone alive,
a smile from scorched Iberian lands,
her fate to end up on this drab island
where fashioned pomegranates mark her spot,
from which she expects to rise
at some glorious hour, where, until then,
the anonymous faithful lay fresh fruit
and flowers to mark her special days.
I watch a tourist, a German tricolour sewn
onto his rucksack, as he reads
the commemorative words. A sudden,
unexpected pride washes over me
while he pauses on her ground to think –
where I was once intrigued.
Around twenty years ago, I completed an astrology correspondence course. I had long been fascinated with the subject and this school stood out for me because of its distinctive approach, combining astrology with psychology, with a very holistic way of looking at individual birth charts.
Now, of course, astrology to most people is merely the sun sign nonsense we consume every day in papers, magazines, on TV and online. This too was my understanding of it until my grandmother died. I remember some of her magazines came to our house, and in the astrology section at the back of one, the astrologer discussed the position of other planets and in particular, the Moon, which, among others things, was considered to be a major significator of the mother in an individual’s chart. From this point I was hooked, and read all I could despite the derision from those who thought they were more logical than me.
Maybe for this reason, it wasn’t until I was well into my thirties that I decided to study the subject more seriously. Once my decision of school and which Diploma to study was taken, I became aware of their different stance in regard to the mother significator. They believed that Saturn and not the Moon was important in regard to the mother. The Moon was in fact the child, Saturn the mother and the Sun, perhaps logically, was the father.
At first, I was a little perplexed. The Moon, with its associations with the menstrual cycle and its ever changing nature, is perhaps more obviously feminine and thereby ‘motherly’. And then Saturn (Greek Chronos), who according to mythology was the lame god who devoured his own children! Yet, when I fully digested what was said, I saw the ‘logic’ of this stance, because it was all about the mother’s traditional and perceived role in our upbringing and not necessarily to do with gender at all.
Saturn, we must remember, until the late 18th century with the discovery of Uranus, was the farthest known planet and represented, to the ancient and medieval mind, a boundary, a necessary restriction of our universe and therefore our psyche, hence its often very grave and baleful astrological reputation, as the English composer Gustav Holst’s take on the planet elucidates. The ancients’ saying ‘as above, so below’ typifies this belief that outer events mirror our inner worlds.
If we think of the mother’s traditional role, she (or this function she performs) is the fundamental teacher, our first contact with the world, as well as nourisher and provider. She makes us see and feel – experience – a version of reality. So, if we forget the gender of myth, which after all, has a lot to do with astrology in its grand summation of all the world’s mythology, we can equate the understood Saturnian role with the mother.
I realised that this so-called ‘gender bending’ wasn’t exclusive to astrology. The German language, for instance, sees the Sun as feminine (die Sonne), the Mother as masculine (der Mond). And we should also remember that Old English (Anglo-saxon) being a germanic language, also reflected this in regard to the Sun and Moon until the three genders melded into one in Middle English. Incidentally, quite what this might mean for the ‘collective psyche’ of the English and German nations, I’m not sure.
Unfortunately, Sun sign astrology has only cheapened what is a very old (the oldest!) science based art. A planet, let’s say Saturn and its association with the mother, must be understood by sign, house position, quadrant of the chart and its aspects. Nothing can be taken out of context with the interpretation.
One extreme example I thought of, using this methodology, would be Saturn in Cancer, said to be in its ‘fall’ because it would be opposite the sign it rules, Capricorn. Wherever Saturn appears in a chart by sign, house and aspect, we might impute that’s where there is a sense of lacking, restriction or difficulty. In Cancer, one interpretation might be that there is a problem dealing with emotion or maybe the family.
If Saturn was also found high up in the chart, not considered too helpful as it is a grounding, formative principle, then this person might feel very exposed and insecure through his life. If Saturn was also unaspected, that is, it had no relationships by degrees with other planets in the chart, then this would only compound the sense of isolation and vulnerability.
Now this would be where the good psychologically attuned astrologer would come in. If we accept that Saturn stands for the mother, then he/she could tentatively ask question about the his/her relationship to the mother, and thereby, a relationship of understanding and exploration could be formed between the astrologer and client. They could explore avenues, looking at the birth chart as a whole, ways of compensating perhaps, if indeed the experience of the mother was difficult for the individual. It might well be found, that this person did indeed have a very difficult (perhaps wholly absent) experience of the mother and that this led him/her onto high achievements through much hard work as compensation for this feeling of something missing.
This is the key, taking the chart as a whole, and not as a guessing parlour game. To create an individualised birth chart, an astrologer needs the exact (if known) time, date and place of birth, so it is a commitment from the client.
So, in the final analysis, do I believe that Saturn represents the mother more closely than the Moon? Perhaps. Of course, there are many who’d say that it’s all nonsense. To be honest, after completing the course, I have only occasionally delved into astrology. It’s a matter of frustration for me. The media have a lot to answer for, leading the ‘public’ to wrong expectations. ‘Tell me what I’m like, what is going to happen?’ – this was what I found most of the time and I don’t believe astrology can predict the future with any certainty. I firmly believe it does have a role to play in helping people as an aid to their mentality. Even the great Carl Jung thought it might have a role in this regard and others since have thought so, too.
*In my next piece, I shall attempt to self-analyse, astrologically, my artistic tendencies.