Apr 11 2019

Goethe – Something Like the Sun

Published by at 8:25 am under Poetry

Something Like the Sun
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

English version by John White

The eye must be something like the sun,
Otherwise no sunlight could be seen;
God’s own power must be inside us,
How else could Godly things delight us?

— from Art & Wonder: An Illustrated Anthology of Visionary Poetry, Edited by Kate Farrell


/ Image by CasheeFoo /

We might react to a casual reading of this selection by Goethe with the thought that it’s poetically inspiring, but is the poet doing anything more that just playing with pretty ideas? The answer, when we really contemplate these lines is, yes, there is something of deep insight being conveyed in these lines.

We only ever perceive what is already inside of us.

The eye must be something like the sun,
Otherwise no sunlight could be seen

In a literal, material sense, we don’t have a massive stellar object burning within each of us. (Or, well… I’ll avoid the many tangents I could go off on here…) Anyone with biologically functional eyes can see the sun and sunlight on a spring day. But we see that brilliant object in the sky as “sun” because we carry an idea of the sun within ourselves. The physical object is just a brightness in the sky that we could be indifferent to, but we have an intensely personal relationship with the sun. In the light and warmth and daily rhythms of the sun, we see our own potential for clarity, hope, comfort, love, life, strength, and steadiness. The object may be physically outside of our bodies, but the “sun” is really inside ourselves.

Ultimately, whatever we perceive outside of ourselves is actually an archetypal presence within us reflecting back to us.

Every relationship and interaction, everything we perceive, when we really pay attention, is actually mirroring back to us something we are trying to see within ourselves. Every person we love, every thing we desire, is really telling us about something we want to bring forth within ourselves. And everything we hate or reject also tells us about something within ourselves we fear or are afraid to discover.

Every perception and every aspiration is a conversation between spirit and material existence to deepen self-awareness and inspire greater wholeness. It’s not really the experiences “out there” we want. They just tell us what we are uncovering and integrating within ourselves. One way to understand the complexity of material existence is as a dialog of self-awareness within consciousness.

This is true even of God, or our ideas about God.

God’s own power must be inside us,
How else could Godly things delight us?

God is not some person or thing out there to be found. Divinity is found within, as well. The fact that we seek something eternal and true, the fact that we are elevated by kindness, compassion, creativity, beauty, purity, truth, these tell us not only that they already exist, but that they reside within ourselves. We don’t need to tenuously hope to one day uncover them. Whatever we feel and perceive or even imagine already has full existence within us. We just need to recognize and embrace them, then allow them to lead us deeper within to their brilliant source at our own core.


Recommended Books: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World 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

The cultural significance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is immense, comparable to Shakespeare, Cervantes, or Dante. He was a poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, and artist.

Goethe was born to an upper middle class family in Frankfurt. Of the seven children born to his parents, only he and his sister survived into adulthood. He was educated at home until the age of 16, when he attended Leipzig University to study law, and continued his studies at Strasbourg.

At university, Goethe experienced a life-threatening illness, possibly tuberculosis. Shaken by this brush with death, he rejected his early freethinking world-view for one that uniquely combined evangelical Christianity and alchemy. As his interests continued to expand, so too did his philosophy, as he eventually abandoned his rigid ideas of Christianity.

His poetry and plays took on a maturity at this time. He began to connect with the German literary scene, particularly the Sturm und Drang movement, an esthetic reaction to the constraining rationalism of the Enlightenment, laying foundations for the subsequent Romantic movement in European art and literature.

While still in his 20s, Goethe attained literary fame for his short novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther.

He eventually settled in Weimar at the invitation of the Duke Karl August, where Goethe became the Duke’s friend and advisor. In addition to his literary and political activity, Goethe engaged in scientific research, studying botany, geology, anatomy, and optics.

During the late 1780s, Goethe traveled through Italy, becoming deeply enamored with classical art, architecture, and ideas, forming the basis for his Italian Journey

His early romantic life was troubled, with recurring patterns of heartbreak, fear of commitment, and abandonment. These were also regular themes in his writing, including Faust, in which a woman is abandoned by her lover and suffers for it. Goethe did not marry until his 50s, when he wed his longtime mistress, with whom he had already had several children.

Goethe lived long enough to witness and participate in the major political and social changes taking place in Europe, having a profound impact on subsequent generations of writers, artists, philosophers, and seekers.

More poetry by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Goethe – Something Like the Sun”

  1. Ebrahimon 11 Apr 2019 at 9:20 am

    Oh yes, there is a sun, a real sun within us! I have been fortunate to experience it and behold it. But I could only bear it for a while, so fierce and fiery it was. It was not unlike the sun we know, though obviously not a material one which is but a copy of it.

  2. Ebrahimon 11 Apr 2019 at 12:51 pm

    “O thou copy of the script divine!
    O thou mirror of the royal beauty!
    Naught in the world lies outside of thee.
    Ask of thyself thine every desire, Thou art it.”

  3. Ebrahim.on 11 Apr 2019 at 12:52 pm

    “O thou copy of the script divine!
    O thou mirror of the royal beauty!
    Naught in the world lies outside of thee.
    Ask of thyself thine every desire, Thou art it.”

  4. Krison 11 Apr 2019 at 5:15 pm

    This simple understanding expressed by Goethe is so profound. It occurred to me when I was quite young- I loved going to church and singing the hymns but one of the categories in the hymn book was ‘His life teaching and example’ It occurred to me that His example must mean that we were also capable of that and of course I later realised we were That. I feel so fortunate to have this understanding so deeply embedded in me. Wishing you a heartful day.

  5. Carol Burnson 12 Apr 2019 at 3:27 am

    Thank You Ivan for this poem by Goethe. Some time ago I happened upon a small
    copper plaque with a quote by Goethe – Nothing is worth more than this day. That
    changed my outlook and I have been thankful ever since. Loved your commentary.

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