The Asheville Jung Center is delighted to bring you another marvelous production from the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. A rich treasure lies buried in Rainer Maria Rilke’s remarkable poetic opus, and this workshop aims to help participants (re)discover and begin to mine that treasure. In particular, we’ll attempt to deepen our understanding of crucial alchemical-psychological processes by way of close encounter with the poetic enactments of those processes inscribed in Rilke’s oeuvre.
Highlighting salient features of the poet’s biography (including his crucial relationship to the emerging field of psychology), we will endeavor to develop a picture of the overall shape of Rilke’s life, both in its inner lineaments as well as its outward form. Positing a correlation between the four major works of Rilke’s maturity (New Poems, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus), and the four basic alchemical processes often associated with the four elements (earth/coagulation; water/solution; air/sublimation; fire/calcination), we’ll look closely at select passages of the major works in conjunction with discussion of the related alchemical processes. The poetry will illuminate understanding of the relevant alchemy and vice versa as we entertain questions pertaining to the intimate relationship binding poetic language and psychology, the dynamic interaction of soul and spirit, and—finally—the nature and destiny of the soul and its (re)making in light of what Rilke calls “the task of transformation.”
Some familiarity with any or all of the Rilke texts, while not requisite, can only be helpful. Stephen Mitchell’s Rilke anthologies (The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke or Ahead of All Parting) contain selections of the relevant texts.
Daniel Polikoff, Ph.D is a poet, translator, and internationally recognized Rilke scholar. His book on Rilke and archetypal psychology In the Image of Orpheus: Rilke—A Soul History (Chiron, 2011) was recently reviewed in both Jung Journal and Spring. He has shared his knowledge of Rilke in many venues over many years; he delivered a talk on Rilke and Joseph Campbell (Die Unerhörte Mitte) as part of a conference earlier this year in Mainz, Germany. He has published two books of poetry as well as an edited translation of a dramatic version of the Grail legend, and lives with his family in Mill Valley.