May 17 2017

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)

Published by at 8:30 am under Poetry

Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

English version by Peter Salm

Ha! A rush of bliss
flows suddenly through all my senses!
I feel a glow, a holy joy of life
which sets my veins and flesh afire.
Was it a god that drew these signs
which soothe my inward raging
and fill my wretched heart with joy,
and with mysterious strength
reveal about me Nature’s pulse?
Am I a god? The light pervades me so!
In these pure ciphers I can see
living Nature spread out before my soul.
At last I understand the sage’s words:
“The world of spirits is not closed:
your mind is shut, your heart is dead!
Pupil, stand up and unafraid
bathe your earthly breast in morning light!”

How things are weaving one in one;
each lives and works within the other.
Heaven’s angels dip and soar
and hold their golden pails aloft;
with fragrant blessings on their wings,
they penetrate the earthly realm from Heaven
and all make all resound in harmony.

— from Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe / Translated by Peter Salm

/ Image by Shahram Sharif /

This section of Goethe’s Faust is worth deep contemplation. Goethe had a complex and evolving relationship to the religion and ideas of his day. He was a critic of Christian theology and institutions, though he appears to have been inwardly devout, embracing and exploring aspects of inner Christianity, western esotericism, and even Jewish mysticism.

These lines are a delightfully breathless description of the experiences of mystical union:

The bliss experienced through the senses.

Being pervaded by light.

An inner heat or sense of fire.

The quieting of the mind and emotions, the soothing of “inward raging.”

The heart being filled with an indescribable joy.

The “pure ciphers,” the awareness of essential emptiness or no-thing-ness, yet utter fulfillment in the experience of the radiant whole.

The transcendent awareness of Nature and the interconnectedness of things, “How things are weaving into one, / each lives and works within the other.”

The full vessel or cup holding a heavenly liquid, the “golden pails.”

A sublimely delightful fragrance or perfume.

The sense that everything is humming or vibrating in a symphonic harmony.

As Goethe says in a subsequent passage, “What pageantry!”

Yet, to one not securely seated in the transcendent awareness, it can rise and then recede. Not yet possessing complete familiarity with the interior psychic terrain, how do you find your way back to that realm? It can suddenly seem all too ephemeral, intangible. Where is it? What is there to grab hold of?

The mystic must not merely stumble into the heavenly realm, but learn its pathways intimately, to return again and again until that bliss is recognized as one’s true home.

Have a blissful day!

Recommended Books: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Germany (1749 – 1832) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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