"Daniel Polikoff has written a profound book that opens a new horizon in our understanding of Rilke. The splendid style of the writing, the breadth of cultural erudition, the coherence of the biographical narrative all contribute to the achievement, but these reflect something of larger import. By focusing the powerful lens of Jungian depth psychology, particularly Hillman's archetypal psychology, on Rilke's life and work, In the Image of Orpheus carries us deeper into the interior of the poet's imaginative landscape than ever before. It is difficult to conceive of a study that might bring greater psychological subtlety and spiritual insight to the evolution of this complex, deep-souled poet. One ends with new appreciation of both the power of art in forging a soul, and the centrality of the soul in the creation of great art."—Richard Tarnas, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies, author of The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche
"The presumption of a deep link between Rilke's art and the fount of psychology can draw upon biographical—as well as theoretical and textual—evidence. Rilke's life and work were, from the beginning, ineluctably entwined with intellectual historical developments that signaled the surfacing of psyche, the (re)emerging of the soul to consciousness. Born in the same year (1875) as the great Godfather of archetypal psychology, Carl Jung, Rilke's own formative years coincided with those of the professional field of psychology itself. In 1897, when he met Lou Salomé (who was later to become a colleague and confidante of Freud), Rilke encountered, through her, ideas about psychology, religion, and art that revolutionized his thinking." (from the Introduction)
Taking James Hillman's notion of "soul history" to heart, Rilke, A Soul History
tells the inner story of Rilke's literary career, tracing, step-by-step, the mythopoetic journey inscribed in the interweaving lines of the poet's life and art.
Artfully blending biography with in-depth analyses of Rilke's poetry and prose (from his little-known Visions of Christ
through the Duino Elegies
and Sonnets to Orpheus
), the lively and engaging narrative draws upon not only Hillman's archetypal psychology but also Plato and Petrarch, Apuleius and Augustine, Ibn 'Arabi and Lou Andreas-Salomé, as it unfolds the poet-seer's compelling vision of the nature and destiny of the human soul—a vision as timely as it is timeless.