The Rainer Maria Rilke Archive

Poetry, Quotations, & Writings

On Religion and Faith

“Religion is something infinitely simple, ingenuous. It is not knowledge, not content of feeling (for all content is admitted from the start, where a man comes to terms with life), it is not duty and not renunciation, it is not restriction: but in the infinite extent of the universe it is a direction of the heart.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke


“In its essential soundness, the soul knows no effort toward God; the love of God is the quietly predominant bent of our nature.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“When I saw others straining toward God, I did not understand it, for though I may have had him less than they did, there was no one blocking the way between him and me, and I could reach his heart easily. It is up to him, after all, to have us, our part consists of almost solely in letting him grasp us.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“In a world which tries to resolve the divine into a kind of anonymity, that humanitarian overestimation must come into effect which expects of human aid what it cannot give.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke


“I reproach all modern religions for having presented to their faithful the consolations and extenuations of death, instead of giving their souls the means of getting along with death and coming to an understanding of death, with its complete and unmasked cruelty.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke


“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.”

-Book of Hours


“I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world, I am circling around God, around ancient towers and i have been circling for a thousand years. And I still dont know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.”

-Book of Hours


“You, God, who live next door–

If at times, through the long night, I trouble you
with my urgent knocking–
this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.
I know you’re all alone in that room.
If you should be thirsty, there’s no one
to get you a glass of water.
I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!
I’m right here…

-Book of Hours

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