My favourite poem, which I recite to myself most days, is Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Go To The Limits of Your Longing” from The Book Of Hours (translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows):
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
(You can listen to Joanna Macy read this poem on Krista Tippett’s website – onbeing.org/programs/joanna-macy-a-wild-love-for-the-world)
Where were we before we can recall?
The whole poem is brilliant and inspirational and worth reading over and over, but today I want to focus on the fourth line:
“You, sent out beyond your recall.”
In the Enneagram world and in the Deep Living community, as well as most spiritual schools I am familiar with, there is a belief that we come from somewhere before birth and return somewhere after death.
This isn’t a credo or tenet, it’s not taught or discussed, it is more implicit and assumed. Perhaps it is only a metaphor, because after all how can we know this for sure, but somehow the sense that we come from and return to a Source is pervasive.
I am a logical rational thinker from way back with no formal religion. Part of me wants to protest many statements I hear in the world commonly known as “woo-woo”. I once heard Russ Hudson, the master Enneagram teacher, say reality does not work like “The Secret” and thank God it doesn’t. Indeed. (Excuse me for a moment while I go manifest a new BMW.)
Yet studying the Enneagram for almost 20 years has led me to sense that we do come from and return to a Source. In a sort of reverse engineering logic, I think that since we are not our personalities, something more makes up our True Nature which existed at birth, and that we are working our way back to this all our lives. This state of True Nature is a hint of where we came from and where we return.
Where we are sent
To me, the place we are “sent beyond our recall” is not just planet earth, or as Rilke says the country they call life, but the world of personality.
I often think of the Enneagram as a map of the horizontal plane of everyday reality where we live in the realm of personality. I sense a hole at the center of the Enneagram – a place and time where our birth occurs. We come in as infants essentially whole and fall into the inevitable human experience. Some wounding precedes the shame, fear or anger that underlies our type/triad, and some essential state of wholeness precedes our wounding.
Our teacher Roxanne Howe-Murphy calls this birth experience the Deep Loss. Our Enneagram Type is sensitized to a Divine quality which we lose contact with when we suffer the Deep Loss- another inkling of Source.
I love the light at the center of this image (courtesy of our sister organization DCI www.deepcoachinginstitute.com):
In three dimensions, I imagine a void below the center hole in the Enneagram. This is the space that pre-exists our birth- our place of Origin- where Rilke says “God speaks with each of us as he makes us then walks with us silently out of the night.” Above I see the realm of the Holy Ideas and an upward connection to the Divine or our Return.
This is a visual of my sense that we come from and return somewhere beyond this everyday realm:
But even more basic, for me the simple fact that there is this symbol, this patterning, this map called the Enneagram that continues to reveal itself over decades is what has slowly shown me that we are in a mystery with great meaning we may never fully understand. Looking at the Enneagram is looking at a larger truth of who we are.
We may not remember our Source but we have an inkling and, for me, the Enneagram is a glimpse.
How about you? What have you “dimly heard” and what greater truth do you sense from knowing the Enneagram?