All things

by Hadewijch

English version by Jane Hirshfield
Original Language Dutch

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast

In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated

I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide

Everything else
is too narrow

You know this well,
you who are also there

-- from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield

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/ Photo by Alice Popkorn /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This is the mystical recognition: the realization that in your Self of selves you are immense!

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast


Just read those lines again.

Everything that can be called a "thing," each item of perception and thought is just a glimmering sliver of the whole Being we inherently are. No body, no name, no job, no history can truly contain what we are. A glass of water can suggest the lake, give us a taste of it, but not contain it.

The middle section of this poem is almost erotic in its naked yielding to "the Uncreated," in the recognition of how that "touch" completely "undoes" us. That too is the mystical recognition. As we finally realize that we are not contained by the body or the social roles we play, where then is the boundary of identity? Where do you say, Here I stop and beyond is not-me? That point no longer exists. We are "In the Infinite;" our source is "the Uncreated." Those old, limited identities are undone, they fall away, and the inner core of the Self, the Heart, is spread "wider than wide."

But why bother with explanations? You already "know this well, / you who are also there."



Recommended Books: Hadewijch

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete
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All things