Joseph von Eichendorff
Eichendorff (1788-1857) came from an impoverished noble family and there was no longer any family capital to live on. He earned his living with simple civil servants. To escape the gray everyday reality, Eichendorff wrote romantic poems that often have nature and sometimes faith as their subject. He looked for ways to express his faith as purely as possible. Then he could sometimes rise above himself and come up with beautiful verses, especially if they were also supported by a composer who set them to music. The poem ‘Morgengebet’ has been beautifully transformed into a four-part choral song by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. The original German text is as follows:
O wunderbares tiefes Schweigen,
Wie einsam ist’s noch auf der Welt!
Die Wälder nur sich leise neigen,
Als ging’ der Herr durch’s stille Feld.
Ich fühle mich wie neugeschaffen,
Wo ist die Sorge und die Not?
Was gestern noch mich wollt’ erschlaffen,
Dess schäm’ ich mich im Morgenrot.
Die Welt mit ihrem Gram und Glücke,
Will ich, ein Pilger, froh bereit
Betreten nur als eine Brücke
Zu dir, Herr, über’m Strom der Zeit.
Translated into English, it reads:
O deep and wonderful stillness,
how lonely it is everywhere!
The forests that gently bend
as if the lord was passing by in the silent field.
I feel as re-awakened,
where are the worries and the distress?
What made me powerless yesterday
finds me ashamed in the red of dawn.
The world with its joy and resentment
I want, as a pilgrim, completely prepared
yet only tread upon a bridge
to thee, lord, over stream of time
He or she who seeks for the silence deep within, will be filled with the divine, with the supra-natural light and power, thus making him, her, a re-born one who is filled with new powers. Such a re-born one has become a pilgrim who leads and guides others, and only lives from the desire to serve others in love, as a bridge between the here and the new life. With these few words, the essence of the path within a gnostic spiritual school is expressed.
You will find beautiful performances of this choral work by Mendelssohn on YouTube, for example by the Kammerchor Stuttgart. Pay special attention to the third verse. There Mendelssohn uses different harmonies at a certain point, as if to say: pay attention, something special is happening here! There, in that third verse, the transition takes place between the inner work and the outer work – for the benefit of the world and humanity.
The poem ‘When going to sleep’ was written by Hermann Hesse, born in 1877 in Calw, a city in the south of Germany. His entire work speaks of how he was seeking for truth. In his book “Journey towards the Morning Land” he describes how a person who is striving for the higher, can only reach this as soon as he, she, stops striving. The intense ‘letting go’ is a main theme in Hesse’s work and life. This is also expressed in his poem: “When going to sleep”:
Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun,
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.
Translated into English, it reads:
Now that the day has left me weary
my most fiery desire should be
to gladly welcome the starry night
like a tired child.
Hands, let go of all doing,
head, forget all the thinking
Now all my senses want to
sink into slumber.
And the Soul, now free and unguarded
will soar on unhindered wings
to deeply and thousand-fold live
within the magic circle of the night.
We can discover three layers:
- The sleep of the body
- The death of the body
- The I-mortification
At first sight this poem is about falling asleep, giving the soul the opportunity to enter into its own region through letting go of all earthly activities. It is of course known to many that sleeping is more than a temporary inactivity of acting and thinking. In the mystery schools of all times, it is moreover stated that the way in which one falls asleep is decisive for what is happening to the developing soul being. In his book The Egyptian Arch Gnosis J. van Rijckenborgh elaborately writes about this. A short quotation from chapter XVII :
Every soul-born man, after having completed his daily tasks, should place his life completely in the sphere of the soul and, consequently, before going to sleep not be preoccupied with the aspects of dialectics. In this way the sleep of the body becomes the soberness of the soul. He who goes to sleep soul-directed awakens it, makes it conscious. The vibration of the astral self, when going to sleep, determines the nocturnal life and the ensuing day-life.
Whoever is therefore able, according to the words of Hermann Hesse, to deny all acting and thinking in the right way, can ‘in the nocturnal magic hour deeply and thousand-fold live’.
The School of the Golden Rosycross also offers the opportunity by means of its gnostic-astral field.
Secondly, we know that the death of our physical body is only one step further than the sleep. In Greek mythology Hypnos and Thanatos, sleep and death, are each other’s brother.
They are very closely related to one another. Death is not a temporary but a final separation of our lower and higher bodies and as such not in principle but gradually different from sleep. When that hour has come, Herman Hesse so to speak encourages us to forever and always decline all thinking, willing and acting; after having declined to still desire expressing ourselves in matter in any way whatsoever, so that the journey of the soul to the fatherland definitely can begin and eventually will reach its good ending.
Then, thirdly, there is the daily dying as to the I of the seeking person, within a gnostic spiritual school. We then speak of a path of transfiguration; we can also speak of an alchemical dying. This alchemic death can be seen as the highest goal in life of a transfiguristic candidate.
He or she who wants to lose their life for my sake, will find the higher life,
says Jesus, who brought us the Christ. Or, as Catharose de Petri writes in the book The Living Word :
Whatever awakens out of the Gnosis can manifest itself only when all that was, has first been crucified, has died, has been buried, and can never be brought to life again.
By walking this path in serene stillness and self-surrender, we can, even before the physical death, ‘deep and thousand-fold live’! What does that mean? That is a life – pay attention to the number 1000 – in unity and a threefold connection with eternity.
In 1948 Richard Strauss most beautifully set Hesse’s poem to music for soprano and orchestra, as part of the ‘Four last Songs’. By that time Strauss was already old himself, reaching the end of his life. These late-romantic ‘Four last Songs’ radiate a feeling of calmness and acceptance. The voice of the soprano is serenely accompanied by a large orchestra. On YouTube you can hear a wonderful performance of these songs, for instance sung by Jessye Norman.
The above poem is the third part of the complete cycle of songs.