“If the reflection in the pond
often becomes blurred:
Know the image.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke. From the Sonnets to Orpheus (First part, IX)
Ever since I found this poem, this idea is alive in my heart. “Know the image” to me is a friendly reminder, a soft counsel, to remember what's real, what's worthy, what's royal in us. It is a poetic illustration as much as pure wisdom.
“Know the image” is something beyond mere memory, it encourages us to be faithful to our eternal and pure identity as a reflection of Love. Rilke was an avid reader of Luther’s translation of the Bible and his wording resonates with Luther's rendering of the first record of creation: “God created man in his own image …” (Genesis 1: 27). Image, the German word, is also related to art. A painting, for example, is an image.
Evidently Rilke perceived something profound about the forces at work to blurr the image. It might be because his first wife was a Christian Scientist in Northern Germany, being part of an active congregation in Bremen. Rilke knew something about the alertness needed to keep inner peace strong. To be aware that at times these forces instill mistrust where safety is ensured and speak of loneliness or darkness where usefulness and suitability are ensured. In any mental turmoil there is always the image, though, waiting to be perceived, the acceptance of the presence of good.
Being faithful to the image brings clarity of thought, stillness and quick healing. Deep inside we know that there is something more, something quiet. Something to be explored and be.
Know the image.