Kahlil Gibran, Rainer Maria Rilke, Aleister Crowley, and alchemy, the great work
excerpted from THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, by Jack Haas
“...let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line. For self is a sea boundless and measureless.”
Recalling Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetic passages in earlier chapters, we may now read some of his later poems with more clarity on the esoteric process of Alchemy, which he was so sublimely documenting.
Excerpts from his poem, Imaginary Career, express the idea of the progression from childhood wonder, to profane entrapment, to god-wonder. He wrote:
“At first a childhood, limitless and free
of any goals. Ah sweet unconsciousness.
Then sudden terror, schoolrooms, slavery,
The plunge into temptation and deep loss.
Defiance. The child bent becomes the bender,
Inflicts on others what he once went through.
Loved, feared, rescuer, wrestler, victor,
He takes his vengeance, blow by blow.
And now in vast, cold, empty space, alone.
Yet hidden deep within the grown-up heart,
A longing for the first world, The ancient one¼
Then, from His place of ambush, God leapt out.”
Rilke is poetically suggesting that at the end of all the confusion, losses, and madness, that which was dis-solved (our false self) is coagulated back into our true ‘I AM’, our god-self.
This event- of God leaping out from his or her hiding place within us- is the culmination of The Great Work of Alchemy, which is again synopsized beautifully in one of Rilke’s last poems, As once the winged energy of delight:
“As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build that great
arch of unimagined bridges.
Wonders happen if we can succeed
In passing through the harshest danger;
But only in a bright and purely granted
Achievement can we realize the wonder.
To work with Things in the indescribable
Relationship is not too hard for us;
The pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
And being swept along is not enough.
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
Until they span the chasm between two
Contradictions¼ For the god wants to know himself in you.”
There it is. The gross made spirit, the lead made gold, the profane made divine, the mortal immortalized, the self made Self, the little ‘I’ become All, the reasonable returned to mystery.
This goal- that the individual awakens to his or her mysterious godself- was acknowledged by Aleister Crowley, arguably one of the master alchemists of recent times. He offers: “Every man and woman is not only a part of God, but the Ultimate God. ‘The Centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.’ The old definition of God takes new meaning for us. Each of us is the One God. ...Each simple elemental Self is supreme, Very God of Very God... [And] man has veiled himself too long from his own glory... But Truth shall make him free. ...The Great Work is to make these veils transparent.”
We must slow down, be calm, remain innocent, and simply accept and enjoy our intimacy with, and as, the entire field of the Mystery of Being. After all, we are God. We must accept our mysteriousness.
by Jack Haas