Angelus Silesius – The Rose

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I conclude this series on Silesius’ theopoetics (The Puckish Pilgrim) with the most famous of his poems:

Die Ros ist ohn warum;
sie blühet weil sie blühet,
Sie acht nicht ihrer selbst,
fragt nicht, ob man sie siehet.

The rose is without ‘why’;
it blooms simply because it blooms.
It pays no attention to itself,
nor does it ask whether anyone sees it.

Cherubinischer Wandersmann

Martin Heidegger used this poem to help undergird his idea that truth is discovered in the living of it, as opposed to the idea that there is some eternal Truth that must be sought separate from existence. But the idea of “without why” was not original to Angelus Silesius. He simply reflected in poetic imagery an idea that was present in Meister Eckhart, who died 300 years before Silesius was born.

Eckhart was reacting against Aquinas’ ethics as being too mercantile – that is, trading ethical behavior for a divine favor – the Beatific Vision. Instead, Echkart suggested that, “”[The just person] wants and seeks nothing, for he knows no why. He acts without a why just in the same way as God does; and just as life lives for its own sake and seeks no why for the sake of which it lives, so too the just person knows no why for the sake of which he would do something.” (quoted in John M. Connolly)  Ethical (justice-based) action for Eckhart was simply doing justice for justice’s sake – thus acting divinely, at one with God, the source of true bliss.

This is quite different from the basic idea of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Drive LifePerhaps a modern version of Eckhart / Silesius’s rose is caught up in the poster that simply declares: “Bloom where you are planted!”

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