Then shall I leap into love

by Mechthild of Magdeburg

English version by Frank J. Tobin
Original Language German

I cannot dance, Lord, unless you lead me.
If you want me to leap with abandon,
You must intone the song.
Then I shall leap into love,
From love into knowledge,
From knowledge into enjoyment,
And from enjoyment beyond all human sensations.
There I want to remain, yet want also to circle higher still.

-- from Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Mechthild of Magdeburg / Translated by Frank J. Tobin

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This brief poem dances with us into deeper and deeper communion. It begins with us in a state of total surrender to the Divine ("I cannot dance, Lord, unless you lead me"). The Divine Beloved sings, and we leap with abandon, we dance upon each rung as we ascend a heavenly ladder:

Then I shall leap into love,
From love into knowledge,
From knowledge into enjoyment,
And from enjoyment beyond all human sensations.


I'll say that these translated lines should be juicier, tastier. I might have rendered it as a journey from from "love" into "wisdom," from "wisdom" into "rapture" or "bliss." And what is she trying to suggest when we step from bliss into something that is "beyond all human sensations"? She is talking about something much bigger than the words of this translation evoke. This last rung steps into the open Mystery, in its immense spaciousness and life and immediacy. Doing so, the little sense of self, the embodied self that perceives reality through the senses fades away. Mechthild is not saying something about overcoming sensuality; instead, she is describing how we enter the wide-open field of awareness, unfiltered by the mundane mind and mundane sense of self.

And just when we think there is nowhere else to go, when we "want to remain" in that expansive unity, Mechthild hits us with an explosion of new and incomprehensible aspiration "to circle higher still."

Our journey with Mechthild carries us from the passive to the fiercely active. Ironically, it is when we yield that we leap and dance and ascend, and it is in our wildest yearning that we are most complete and content and quiet.

Relax, leap into love... and then see where you end up.



Recommended Books: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Classics of Western Spirituality)
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Then shall I leap