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Page 1


The Way of Transformation

by Karlfried, Graf von Durckheim

Translated by Ruth Lewinnek and P. L. Tràvers

This book was originally published in England under the title The Way of
Transformation: Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. It is here
reprinted by arrangement.


Everyday Life as Practice

Healing Power and Gesture

The Wheel of Transformation

1. Critical Awareness

2. Letting Go

3. Becoming One with the Ground

4. New-Becoming

5. Proof and Practice in Everyday Life


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Everyday Life as Practice

It is a truism that all work, all art and all professional activity require practice if they are
to succeed. This we accept, and in order that we may establish ourselves in the world, it is
obvious that we must be at pains in all our vocations, avocations and transactions to practice
and assimilate experience. We do not sufficiently realize, however, that the success of man’s
most important task-infinitely more essential than any of his arts or professions-also depends
upon practice.

The destiny of everything that lives is that it should unfold its own nature to its maximum
possibility. Man is no exception. But he cannot-as a tree or a flower does-fulfill this destiny
automatically. He is only permitted to become fully what he is intended to be when he takes
himself in hand, works on himself, and practices ceaselessly to reach perfection. Here we
must ask ourselves the question - what is man’s most important task? It is none Other than
himself, the making of himself into a “true man.”

The readers may well ask-what purpose do study, practice and the collecting and
assimilation of experience serve when one is oneself the task at hand? What steps are
necessary in order to achieve this? What kind of experiences need to be thought of as
essential and therefore to be integrated? In what does practice consist? What are the
prerequisites of success?


Let us first consider what we conceive of as a worldly task. It is evident that the
prerequisites for this to succeed are: a mind completely at the service of the work in hand, a
tenacious will, a capacity to assimilate the necessary experience, the efficient development of
relevant talents and their proper techniques and, in addition to all this, the ability to achieve a
continuous adaptation to the exterior world. As a result of such labors it is possible for man to
bring to fruition that mastery through which worldly success is assured.

However, our inner task, if it is to prosper, must be the fruit of a human being’s complete
maturity in all his aspects. And the prerequisites of maturity consist first in the breaking down
of the small “I” that is to say, the “I” that rejects pain, is full of fears and is solely concerned
with the things of the world. Then must come the perception, the acceptance and unfolding of
our inborn, transcendental Essence and, together with all this, the relinquishing of standpoints
and positions which obstruct it There must be attitude of earnest acquiescence to such
experiences as will lead to its perception, the attainment of personal posture which
corresponds to the inner essence and, throughout this difficult work, an absolute on to one’s
progress along the Inner Way. By these means a man is led towards inner mastery. An attitude
will thus have been achieved which will enable the process of inner growth and ripening to
continue. Such a life attitude is the only one by which a man may fulfill his own law and
destiny, which is to become a Person, a human being who is at once transparent to the Divine
Being within him and able to express it in his life in the world. Our inner task, unlike our
work in the world, does not revolve around external aptitudes but has as its focal point the
transformation of the being a man into an expression of Divine Being.1

If and when it happens that the inner task prospers, it must not therefore be assumed that a
man knows or possesses more than before. What happens is that he is more. A change has
taken place. Behind the worldly achievements visible to any observer there is the inwardly
transformed man who, very possibly, may be visible to nobody. But just as all valid capability

1 See Appendix

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In looking at man simply as man we should not make any distinction between his body
and his soul. If we are able to set aside this inevitable antithesis, we see through his most
direct revelation of himself is through his gesture. Indeed, his whole field of movement,
posture and facial expression provides incontrovertible evidence of his inner and outer states.
In respect to our work when we are on the Way, the manner in which our bodies move is very
significant, for it is here that we experience ourselves not outwardly but inwardly. To observe
and register what happens from a purely external standpoint is very different from inwardly
experiencing the rhythms of the breath, and the inner sensation of movement.


Rational knowledge has not the same quality as inward knowing. On the other hand, if we
are to achieve clarity in our inner awareness, a background of acquired knowledge is
essential. The importance, for the practice of the Way, of the inward knowing of the body’s
changing processes, can only be realized when we understand that this body, in its existential
sense, differs from the body comprehended analytically, i.e., as an opposition of spiritual and
physical forces. The bodily existence of a living man has no relation to the corpse he leaves
behind when he dies. In its own way the body’s manner of existence shows how far a man’s
transcendental being has been able to express itself under the conditions of space and time.
The common view, which differentiates between body and soul,, is the product of the
analytical, rational mind that cannot, by its very nature, perceive the unity of the living
person. Whenever man is looked upon as a thing - a thing, moreover, logically determined -
we lost sight of him as a Person. It follows that if we do not perceive him as a unique, living
whole, we not only cannot help him on his way to self-becoming, but we fall into the fatal
dilemma of dualism. With its rational distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects,
dualism separates man into two different entities. This logical view can so mislead us in our
practical evaluation of people that we tend to regard another person as important only in
respect to the significance of his functioning in the world and to ignore his existential
requirements. To reverse such methods of thinking is far more difficult than is generally
supposed. High-sounding platonic assumptions of the unity of body and soul are no more
useful here than our ineffective modem attempts to co-ordinate the practices of medicine and
psychology. We shall not achieve any valid understanding of a human being by adding what
we can deduce from the living corpse to our knowledge of the bodiless psyche. The concept
of the unity of body and soul is the product of discursive thinking. It fails to take into account
that vital Person who is to be met in another as a thou or experienced within ourselves as an I.
Such an attitude makes it impossible, either theoretically or practically, to come to any
understanding that could do a man justice as a living Person.3


When we meet him as a Thou, when we are able to see him in his existential relationship
to the world and to life - only then does man as Person appear. It is possible now to see him
as an element in a system of interrelated parts whose order has no relevance to the order so
dear to the rational mind. We can, indeed, never do a man justice with our rational
understanding alone: our direct participation in his life and suffering is necessary for this.
Only when he is present to us as a Thou can we feel and sense him in his personal, human
existence, where he, like ourselves, is striving for happiness, meaning and fulfillment. When
this happens we recognize in him a brother who is also on the Way, borne along, by destiny,
as we are, towards the goal of becoming a true man - which is to’ say, a Person. A doctor for
instance, will lose sight of the human being if he looks at the patient simply as a case.
3 See Hans Trub, Heilung aus der Begegnung (Healing through Encounter), Kluett-Verlag.

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At every moment in his life, man as a Person is bound by his own essential law to pursue
his transformation according to his inner destiny. It is in the context of this law that his
particular bodily form is to be understood and evaluated. By this means it is possible to
discover whether be has strayed from or remained faithful to the Way of Transformation;
whether he has moved forward or has become stuck fast at some inhibiting point. Any
incorrect bodily form, any hypertension, any cramped condition - understood existentially - is
an expression of an ingrained wrong attitude. It is an indication that a man, as Person, has
gone astray or been brought to a standstill on the Way.


The dominating tension, existentially speaking, is that which occurs between man’s
world-ego and his inner being. This corresponds to the tension between his bodily form
which has developed under the circumstances of space and time, and his essential form, as
yet unrealized, but which is nevertheless always absolute in its demand for realization. The
correct attitude necessary for the fulfillment of his life as a Person is one in which his
conditioned body has become transparent - in other words, made permeable for the revelation
of his essential being.


That which, above all else, stands in the way of the realization of the person, is the fixed
attitude-or crystallization - by means of which man attempts to establish his security and to
assert himself in the world. The physical expression of such a fixation is easily apparent in
anyone whose ego is striving to attain security. As we have already said, it is revealed
particularly in the posture, in the relationship between tension and relaxation and in

When we speak of posture, tension and breathing, it is necessary to make a distinction
between their significance as man’s personal expression and their value as data for the
rational-analytical view - as, for instance, in the practice of medicine. When we consider man
existentially we accept his demeanor and appearance as ways in which he manifests himself.
We understand that it is by these means he is able to be himself and also to be present as
himself in the world; whereas, regarded from a logical or rational standpoint we may be
aware only of some deformation of the body or of inner obstacles that inhibit his strength and
efficiency. If our concern is with self-becoming we cannot fail - for the sake of our own
understanding - to take into account the personal significance of posture, breathing and
patterns of tension. No exercitium can ignore these three elements, for the reason that man’s
physical attitude does not represent only a bodily state, but also his way of being present as a
Person. And there are, as we shall see, exercises which serve the inner development of the
Person by bringing about the correct bodily form.

The manner in which he is physically present and the degree of his permeability reveal
the point at which a man has arrived on his way to maturity - which is to say towards
integration with his essential being. He may perhaps be physically ill and yet, as a Person,
present in the right way ‘because of his permeability to the demands of his essential being. In
contrast to this, a thoroughly healthy athlete may well be present in the wrong way if his
inward growth is obstructed by arrogance or self-love, either of which will bar him from
essential being.


A man’s correct attitude is never static; it is not something that is achieved once and for

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Divine Being is beyond all opposites. It is undoubtedly present within us, but it cannot
flourish in this life of ours if, ignoring the multiform and conflicting aspect of the world, we
remove ourselves from the market place and dwell in a place apart. Man can only grow from
the root of Essential Being when he 1 allows even those things that are repugnant to approach
him. He must without reservation confront the powers of the world just as they are, neither
avoiding the dark, nor lingering in the light. It is only by freely and repeatedly choosing new
encounters, by marching on and, when necessary, yielding up that which has been most
dearly bought, that the skin, so to speak, of the inner man (which is necessary for his survival
in the world) can develop and grow strong, and the instructions needed for the building of a
new, more valid structure be tempered and given a cutting edge.


In contrast to the hard and impermeable shell of the little ego (or the personality), the living
skin of the inner man that is comformable to Essential Being and at the same time adapted to
the world must become transparent, i.e., as well as being permeable to Essential Being it must
also be so to the repeated deaths of the ego. This inner coating is the means by which a man
increases in strength and form and is able to contain within himself the plentitude and
unifying power that comes from Divine Being. It should be remembered, however, that this
“living skin” remains alive only when, both in thought and in action, man repeatedly risks the
form that has arisen during some precious moment of release from the ego and inward union
with the Ground. At such times, the temptation to draw apart into some ideal state of
quiescence is very great. But by succumbing to this temptation a man inevitably relapses into
his former condition.

It is impossible for Essential Being, thus enshrined and, as it were, protected from the
world, to give light to or become creative in the world. Only when the personality has
become transparent is Essential Being able to pursue its redemptive processes and pierce with
its rays the shell of the world-ego. Therefore, he who has woken to Essential Being fulfils his
service to Divine Being by the way in which he does “the one thing necessary”: that is to say,
by manifesting the Divine in the midst of the world in all his striving, all his creativity and all
his love.

Page 55



It should be understood for the purposes of this book that we distinguish between the
conditioned world of manifestation, i.e., the reality of time and space, and that which is
wholly unconditioned - the reality of Divine Being. This unconditioned reality is, in effect,
the essence of all that exists. The manifestation of any living thing is inevitably the result of
the integration of two poles, the one representing that which is conditioned by time and
space, and the other Divine Being.

Essential being, again for the purposes of this book, is the term used in respect to the manner
in which Divine Being is present in, say, a flower, an animal or a man. It is the individual
form that Divine Being takes in any particular manifestation of life. In man, once he becomes
aware of its presence, it is experienced as an inner image and at the same time as an inner
path for him to follow. This essential being of man, representing as it does the presence of
Divine Being which continually strives to manifest itself in and through him - is at one and
the same time partly hidden and partly revealed by what we call the world-ego. It is man’s
destiny so to transform himself that his essential being and, as a corollary, Divine Being is
able to manifest itself in its entirety in the world. In so far as such transformation is achieved
a man becomes .a Person, which means to say a living form through which Divine Being
may sound (personare). Personality here indicates that aspect of man which enables him to
measure up to the requirements of the world in a way that accords with the world’s traditions
and values. The concept of the Persona can be referred back to C. G. Jung. It represents the
façade which, to a greater or lesser degree, corresponds to that image of himself which a man
fashions in order to represent the particular role he would like to play in the world. In his
efforts toward this it invariably happens that he suppresses and thrusts into the unconscious
everything that appears to be antagonistic to this image. Thus the Shadow is created.

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