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Goethe in Marienbad

Christopher Bamford

As in nature, so in poet, who is nature too (with something “more” as she is likewise.) In his Divan, Goethe writes a poem called “Reunion”:

Can it be? Star of stars,
Do I press you to my heart again?
Then the night of separation:
What abyss, what pain!
Yes, it is you, my friend,
Sweet, beloved counterpart:
I recall past sufferings,
I shudder before the present.

When the world lay in deepest depths
In God’s eternal bosom,
He ordained the first hour
With sublime creative desire
And spoke the word: Let it become!
Then a painful cry rang out,
As the All in a gesture of power
Shattered into separate realities.

Light opened; shyly
Darkness separated from it,
And straightway the elements,
Dividing, flew asunder.
Swiftly, then, in wild chaotic dreams,
Each pushed to the distances,
Becoming rigid in unmeasured spaces,
Without longing, without tone.

All was mute, still, and empty:
For the first time, God was lonely!
So he created the dawn,
Who took pity on the torment of separation,
And developed through the gloom
A sounding play of color,
So that what had fallen apart
Could now love again.

Then with hasty striving
Those belonging to each other sought each other,
And feeling and gaze
Returned to immeasurable life.
Let each one seize and even snatch the other
If they can but grasp and hold!
Allah needs create no more:
For we are now creating his world.

Thus, with wings of dawn,
I was drawn to your lips.
Star-bright night with its thousand seals
Now empowers our union.
Exemplary are we two on Earth
In joy and pain:
No second “Let it become”
Will separate us a second time.

Goethe, here, is amazingly prescient. Whoever the Dawn is, she is clearly an intermediary, and a figure of Sophia or Wisdom. It matters little whether we call the two terms she mediates heaven and earth, spirit and matter, God and humanity, or God and creation. She is in-between, a veil that conceals and reveals, both the medium of theophany or revelation and sheer human creativity itself.

There is a hadith or saying that the Prophet Mohammed attributes to the Creator: “I was a hidden treasure and yearned to be known. Therefore I produced creatures, in order to be known in them.”

Perhaps Goethe knew this and knew how the Sufis, interpreting that saying, told the story of how the Creator suffered the solitude and sadness of not being known; and how his sadness and anguish at being unknown because unnamed, unseen, un-embodied—his desire to be known, which is the secret of his creativity—unfolded in a Sophianic “sigh of existentiating compassion,” an all-surrounding cloud that receives and gives beings their form. Henry Corbin calls this being, “the absolute unconditioned Imagination,” the creative, active Imagination.

She is certainly that. But above all, she is Sophia, Divine Feminine Wisdom, the sole path to wholeness who, as Solomon writes:

…Rises from the power of God like a fine mist,
A clear effluence from the glory of the Almighty;
…She is the radiance that streams from everlasting light,
The flawless mirror of the active power of God…
She is but one yet can do all things,
Herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
Age after age she enters into holy souls,
And makes them friends of God and prophets,
For nothing is acceptable to God
But the person who makes his home with Wisdom.

Dawn, Nature, Wisdom, the Feminine Divine: Goethe above all made his home with these.

As for “Eros,” he was certainly her servant, ultimately teaching devotion to her alone:

He does not fail to come! He plunges down from heaven
Whither he flew from the ancient void,
To hover upon us on airy wings
Round our brow and breast the whole spring through,
Now seeming to flee, now returning from his flight,
Mixing anguish in our wellbeing, sweetness and anxiety—
The heart wanders lost in the many
But the noblest devotes itself to one alone.

17 April 2012

Tagged Under
love, Sufism, wisdom, divine, poetry, Islam, alchemy, green hermeticism, divine feminine, Rumi, Goethe, Divan, Hafiz,
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