Oct 16 2013
So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains
by Angelus Silesius
English version by Gabriel Rosenstock
So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains;
So too of our multiplicity, nothing but God remains.
— from Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing, by Gabriel Rosenstock
/ Photo by alexandre-deschaumes /
Short poem, short commentary: Many <-> One
Angelus Silesius is the monastic name of Johannes Scheffler. Johannes Scheffler was born into a noble Polish Lutheran family. He received a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Padua and became a physician.
As a young man he was drawn to the writings of the German mystic Jacob Boehme. Scheffler’s growing mysticism didn’t sit well with the dogmatic forms of German Lutheranism of the time and, in 1653, he converted to Catholicism. He took the name Angelus, adding the surname Silesius, meaning “from Silesia.”
During this time, Selisius was briefly named physician to Emperor Ferdinand III, but he soon renounced his profession and, in 1661, he was ordained a priest and retired to monastic life in Breslau. He gave his family fortune away to charities.
He published two books of poetry: The Soul’s Spiritual Delight and The Cherubic Pilgrim. Several of his poems are today used as religious hymns in both Catholic and Protestant churches.
Angelus Silesius was often engaged in public controversy with both the Lutheran Church he had left and also with his adopted Catholic faith. His poetry hinted at a quietest mysticism which asserts that the soul, when it attains deep quiet, can experience God directly — a notion neither institution has been too fond of.