Esotericism and Occultism in the Works of the Austrian Poet Ranier Maria Rilke. A New Reading of His Texts

Author: Magnússon, Gísli
For the first time, the true scope and relevance into the esoteric and occult aspects of Rilke’s work is made available, to his many English-speaking readers. Dr. Magnússon reveals an alternative interpretation by focusing on Rilke’s fascination with occultism, spiritualism and parapsychology as it plays out in his work, tapping into the culturally intrinsic nature of the work, in order to lead the reader to a deeper understanding of this widely read poet.


“Magnússon’s reexamination of Rilke’s relationship with the occult and spiritualist experiments compels us to recognize that the early twentieth-century cultural disorientation induced by Einstein, Freud, Bergson and others caused people to look in many directions for new accesses to meaning, including the direction of the invisible and occult…By focusing on Rilke’s wide ranging interest in and experiments with the occult, parapsychology, and spiritualism, this volume takes us on both an intellectual and spiritual journey that our technological, materialistic modern age has not yet completed.”
-Dr. Kathleen L. Komar,
Department of Comparative Literature,
University of California at Los Angeles

“The author is thoroughly familiar with spiritual literature as he is with Rilke’s life and poetry. Thus, he is able to cast new light on many passages of Rilke’s art…”
-Dr. John Mood,
Drew University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kathleen L. Komar
Research History and Method
Part I: The Young Rilke’s Reception of Occultism
1. Occult Influences in Prague
2. Flammarion’s Urania: Clairvoyance, Telepathy, and the Continuity of the Occult Epistemology in Rilke’s Work
3. The Occultist Carl du Prel as Nietzchean Eagle: Thematic Echoes in Rilke’s Book of Hours Part II: Rilke and Parapsychology
1. Maeterlinck’s ‘False curiosity’: La Mort 2. Schrenck-Notzing, Tischner and Wasielewski
Excursus: The Ideal of ‘The Whole’ in a Letter to Countess Nora and in The Life of Mary
Part III: Rilke’s Reception of Spiritualism
1. The Aesthetical Fascination of the Occult: Rilke and Princess Marie Thurn und Taxis
2. The Duino Seances and the ‘Unknown Lady’
3. The Tension between Spiritualism and Psychology
4. Rilke Acting as a Medium for the Spirit of Count C.W.
5. Spiritualistic Séances in the Early Years in Switzerland
Part IV: Spiritualistic and Occult Motives in Rilke’s Works
1. The Spiritualistic Requiems
2. Spiritualistic Elements in the First Duino Elegy
3. Scandinavian Courtesy and Spiritualistic Modernity in Ranier Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte laurids Brigge
Epilogue: Contemporary Spiritual Rilke Reception
Index of Subjects
Index of Names