March 18, 2011

The Interior Castle

by Pierre Choumoff

Nowhere, Beloved, will the world exist but within us.
Our lives are constant transformations. The external
grows ever smaller. Where a solid house once stood,
now a mental image takes its place,
almost as if it were all in the imagination.
Our era has created vast reservoirs of power,
as formless as the currents of energy they transmit.
Temples are no longer known. In our hearts
these can be secretly saved. Where one survives—
a Thing once prayed to, worshipped, knelt before—
its true nature seems already to have passed
into the Invisible. Many no longer take it for real,
and do not seize the chance to build it
inwardly, and yet more vividly, with all its pillars and statues.

From the Seventh Duino Elegy


  1. Oh, the vast reservoirs of power. Rilke shows how they have annihilated something essential, or at least they try to. I feel it so keenly too, maybe more than anything in these days of turmoil. Building the interior castle means reconciling the dark realities of the world into a harmony of the soul. This interior building is the only hope, I feel.

  2. Somehow we have done ourselves a disservice. We have convinced ourselves that the external takes precedence over the internal, especially inside of this consumerist society. We forget the value of idea, of belief, of myth, of love. We throw these intangibles down as if they were less valid than a table.

    Last night I referred to Robert's and my love as a created mythology. He threw that notion down as though it might be less as such than what he envisioned it to be. But it is no table. (Even the table itself is no table without myth. Thank you for referring me to MindWalk.) Our love mythology exists in silent minds, in windswept days, in rides and quiet reflection. It exists in passionate roils of the lonely sea too. But once the ever-present table takes root, life, bills, work, social interchanges and responsibilities, the myth wanes, it feels pressure, it temporarily ceases to exist. It takes great belief to push the table at bay and give myth room to root. After some conversation and squishing of heads he agreed, love is myth, but sacred myth, holy myth. Myth does not make it less. Living in the mind/heart makes it more.

    It is in our hearts and minds that temples of love, idea, belief and myth exist. If we accept this, groom it, then it is the table that shrinks, Where a solid house once stood,
    now a mental image takes its place,
    almost as if it were all in the imagination.

    I smile. I like Rilke.


  3. So wonderful, erin. I feel the power of created myth, YES, in your words that so well, very well, fill up the feeling of that pull between the outer and inner. Our passion creates the myth! And what else do we need, what else drives us through this dark and broken world? We only die without it. With it, everything can live. Thank you.

  4. Interior castle, mine is alive and well. Where ever these gates of hell they are not current.
    Interesting concept. Thanks.

  5. Yes, yes, Ruth, Erin. Rilke is such a hermenaut of the inward ocean ... Interesting to me here, that he compares the problems of the physical love relationship -- how desperately difficult it is to keep the heart's reactor core from melting down in such proximity -- to a wider, more cultural difficulty, where the modern world of Things is obliterating the mind- and soul-scape with its white noise, making it increasingly difficult to have an interior relation. Body of the Beloved, ever-heavier hammers of industrialized society: They're paired here, perhaps the latter as a consequence of a the development of the former, Beatrice become the Dynamo, obsessional Energies which have all but destroyed the temple within.

    It was true in the early 20th century -- Rilke's despair over that cultural sea-change was seconded by David Jones in his long poem "In Parenthesis," which grieved how the First World War had shattered our cultural connection to the past, heritage become a bloody shit-filled neural network of trenches ... Eliot surely caught the vibe too in "The Wasteland"… and Wallace Stevens picked it up in his essay "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words," where he claimed that the exterior world was a violence which threatened to extinguish the individual mind with ever more encroaching Presence.

    Erin tries to create white space around Love with myth -- as Rilke suggests -- but for me, it's something different. My 16-year marriage is mostly about how to pay bills, working incessantly without much forward progress, dealing with disease and death in the family, feeding way too many cats (and taking heat for not caring for them in the way my wife prefers), etc. ad nauseum ad infinitum.

    No mythology there: but perhaps the pressure of the real is what causes us to press back so mythically, as Stevens said, striving to resist reality ALMOST successfully (for to win that battle would to become wholly silent, which wouldn't be much fun ...) A Japanese folk adage says love and happiness is rooted in piss and shit. The actual temples Rilke misses here have disappeared from contemporary life, finding refuge on the islands and mountaintops and sidhe-hills of the human imagination. Hounded out of existence by banality and reality – those heaviest o hammers – Rilke manages to transmute their essence into inward holiness, finding words to praise especially what’s become most difficult. Fast-forward those words to our cyber wasteland (where we now live and breathe), and we have to ask ourselves if even the interior temples have any relic Presence inside ... Brendan

  6. Great stuff, Brendan. Such riches.

    I see the created myth a bit differently. I don't create it. It is already there in an eternal place, there before I knew it. I am just peeling back layers to find it. Yes, the bills and dishes and toilet seat are where we live. But the myth, the true reality, is what we find that gives us meaning. Maybe we don't differ in our thoughts of this, but our expressions do? And as for cyber spaces where we now live, I have only found my own interior temples building built more since finding my way around here. Again, maybe we don't differ, and I am feeling it differently at the moment.

  7. My comment could seem to minimize what you say, Brendan, and I don't mean to one bit. Yours is magnificent. And I appreciate its breadth a lot. Just quickly sending this before a student comes in .....


  8. No, I gotcha, and you're right -- the myths were always there for us to discover. They just become more so after they've been in our creative sandboxes for a while, articulating them, discovering all the angles, depths, angelic reaches, fins and horns and trumpets. - B.

  9. Yay!

    And Izzy . . . ! Your interior castle is alive and well!! I rejoice!

  10. i think perhaps there is more than one thing at work. perhaps myth exists on its own. and perhaps we create it as well. i think something that holds us back from absolute understanding is linear time and spatial relation. i laugh. it is the very structure of what we live through, the very thing that grants us delight, that is the very thing that holds us at bay. we are like children being fed a dessert but yet a hand holds it at a very real distance.

    i laugh and am light. we all bring so much and yet we confuse too with our distinct points of view. it is a good thing, isn't it?


  11. erin, yes, it's so good. Sometimes I get bites of your dessert!

    This is Rumi today. I just have to share it in this flood of words we are finding today:

    When I see you and how you are,
    I close my eyes to the other.
    For your Solomon's seal I become wax
    throughout my body. I wait to be light.
    I give up opinions on all matters.
    I become the reed flute for your breath.

    You were inside my hand.
    I kept reaching around for something.
    I was inside your hand, but I kept asking questions
    of those who know very little.

    I must have been incredibly simple or drunk or insane
    to sneak into my own house and steal money,
    to climb over my own fence and take my own vegetables.
    But no more. I have gotten free of that ignorant fist
    that was pinching and twisting my secret self.

    The universe and the light of the stars come through me.
    I am the crescent moon put up
    over the gate to the festival.

  12. Thanks for the Rumi; it's like giving thanks for clear water. If I read him straight, there's an evolution toward living the myth from the heart, from blindly stumbling about in it as through a darkened room. "I have gotten free of that ignorant fist / that was pinching and twisting my secret self." That was no external hand, I think, but one's own ignorance. And Erin, yep, myth has two sides, like a coin, one face collective, the other personal, both summing into something that can't be named until we've lived a while on both sides, done some work of articulating it (or, as you say, creating it). Myths are like bicycles; not much damn use until we learn how to ride 'em, until we surrender our ignorance and take the trouble to learn the constellations without and within. Then, as Rumi sez, "The universe and the light of the stars come through me."

    I also think the myth works on us equally well in reverse as forward; that Rumi couldn't have gotten to the final stanza without first exhausting the penultimate one. - Brendan


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!