Angelus Silesius – Theopoetics (Part 1)

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Public Domain

Angelus Silesius (Johann Scheffler) was a 17th Century German Mystic. The poems of his Cherubinischer Wandersmann probe the paradoxes of mystical experience – the time-bound eternal; the immediate accessibility of God’s inaccessibility; the external within; the need to talk at length about that which cannot be named. The subtitle of the book – “whimsical poems leading toward divine tranquility” (geistreiche Sinn und Schluss-Reime, zur göttlichen Beschaulichkeit anleitend) – leads me to translate the title as The Puckish Pilgrim

After reading John Caputo, I would call these whimsical poems works of theo-poetics. In a few posts I want to explore some of the theo-poetics revealed in The Puckish Pilgrim.

Perhaps the best place to start is where Silesius ends:

De profundis,
my heart cries out
to the divine Abyss.
Which of the two
the deeper is? (p. 138)

Now I must end,
If you would read more,
look deep into your heart:
all Scriptures’ root and core. (p. 139)

(translation by Frederick Franck,
Messenger Of The Heart:
The Book of Angelus Silesius,
1910, Kindle Edition)

One of the paradoxes of mysticism is that God (the Divine, Mystery, Spirit, the Other, Thou) is a chasm whose depth cannot be plumbed. And yet, that “divine Abyss” is accessible within ourselves, within our own depth. Logical? No. Theo-logical? For the Mystic, assuredly Yes!

So, Silesius ends his Puckish Pilgrimage with the suggestion that the Mystic can only tell you so much about her/his experience. If you want to go further, you become the author of your own experience. You are the Scriptures (die Schrift, in the original) that carry the sacred message. So go forth and write your own scriptural story.

“You could tell of a classic bondage and the great liberation, a promised land, sacred songs, a messiah — that kind of thing. Ought to be more interesting than just reading someone else’s Bible. And you might learn more.”
Theophane the Monk, Tales of a Magic Monastery (1988), page 43.

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