Last modified on 13 July 2014, at 22:49

Angelus Silesius

Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem — but all in vain until He is born in me

Angelus Silesius (25 December 16249 July 1677), born Johann Scheffler, also known as the Prophet of the Ineffable, was a German mystic of the Catholic Church, as well as a poet, priest and physician. He adopted the name Angelus (Latin for "messenger") and the surname Silesius (from the Latin for "Silesian") on converting to Catholicism in 1653. He took holy orders under the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1661. His poetry explores themes of mysticism, contemplative prayer, and panentheism within the Christian context.

QuotesEdit

The rose is without 'why'; it blooms simply because it blooms.
Where is my final goal, toward which I should ascend? It is beyond all place. What should my quest then be? I must, transcending God into the desert flee.
  • 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, Sämtliche Poetische Werke, vol. I
  • How fleeting is this world
    yet it survives.
    It is ourselves that fade from it
    and our ephemeral lives.
    • From Messenger Of The Heart: The Book Of Angelus Silesius, With Observations By Frederick Franck, p36
  • Where is my dwelling place? Where I can never stand. Where is my final goal, toward which I should ascend?
    It is beyond all place. What should my quest then be? I must, transcending God, into the desert flee
    • Quoted in For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics by Roger Housden, p78
  • Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.
    • From' 'Messenger Of The Heart: The Book Of Angelus Silesius, With Observations By Frederick Franck
  • O Man, as long as you exist, know, have, and cherish,
    You have not been delivered, believe me, of your burden.
    • Quoted in German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others, Edited by Karen J. Campbell

The Cherubinic WandererEdit

God: One and Alone Is He. To know Him, Knower must be one with Known.
Translation by J. E. Crawford Flitch (1932)
God is an utter Nothingness, beyond the touch of Time and Place.
Ah, were men's voices like the wood-birds' melody— Each happy note distinct, but all in harmony.
All heaven's glory is within and so is hell's fierce burning. You must yourself decide in which direction you are turning.
Two eyes our souls possess: while one is turned on time, the other seeth things eternal and sublime.
The nearest way to God leads through love's open door; the path of knowledge is too slow for evermore.
I know God couldn't live a moment without me;
if I should disappear, He would die, destitute
In waste God hides the gold, accept what He may send: the great within the small, though we don't comprehend
If you know how to launch your ship into God's sea, Oh, what a blessed fate submerged in it to be
No man has known perfect felicity, until his otherness is drowned in unity
The Spirit is like new wine, see the disciples all, like men inebriate, swept away and enthralled by both its heat and strength; thus it remains true still that the disciples had of sweetest wine their fill
The Thought and Deed of Deity are of such richness and extent that It remaineth to Itself
An Undiscovered Continent
  • The Thought and Deed of Deity
    Are of such richness and extent
    That It remaineth to Itself
    An Undiscovered Continent.
  • A Loaf holds many grains of corn
    And many myriad drops the Sea:
    So is God's Oneness Multitude
    And that great Multitude are we.
  • The All proceedeth from the One,
    And into One must All regress
    :
    If otherwise, the All remains
    Asunder-riven manyness
    .
  • God is an utter Nothingness,
    Beyond the touch of Time and Place:
    The more thou graspest after Him,
    The more he fleeth thy embrace.
  • Naught ever can be known in God: One and Alone Is He.
    To know Him, Knower must be one with Known.
  • Ah, were men's voices like the wood-birds' melody— Each happy note distinct, but all in harmony!
  • All Heaven is within thee, Man,
    And all of Hell within thy heart:
    What thou dost choose and will to have,
    That hast thou wheresoe'er thou art.
  • Travel within thyself!
    The Stone Philosophers with wisest arts Have vainly sought,
    cannot be found By travelling in foreign parts.
  • Though Jesus Christ in Bethlehem
    A thousand times his Mother bore,
    Is he not born again in thee
    Then art thou lost for evermore.
  • The Wise Man is that which he hath.
    The precious Pearl of Paradise Wouldst thou not lose,
    then must thou be Thyself that Pearl of greatest price.
  • The World doth not imprison thee.
    Thou art thyself the World, and there, Within thyself,
    thou hold'st thyself Thy self-imprisoned Prisoner.
  • Though Christ a thousand times
    in Bethleham be born
    And not within thyself,
    Thy soul will be forlorn
  • The Cross on Golgotha
    Thou lookest to in vain,
    Unless within thine heart
    It be set up again
  • If thou dost love a Something, Man,
    Thou lovest naught that doth abide.
    God is not This nor That—do thou
    Leave Somethings utterly aside
From, "Messenger Of The Heart: The Book Of Angelus Silesius By Frederick Franck"
  • He has not lived in vain
    who learns to be unruffled
    by loss, by gain,
    by, joy, by pain.
  • How short our span!
    If you once realized how brief,
    you would refrain
    from causing any beast or man
    the smallest grief, the slightest pain.
  • Christ was born a man for me,
    for me he died -
    Unless I become God
    through Him,
    His birth is mocked
    His death denied
  • True prayer requires no word, no chant
    no gesture, no sound.
    It is communion, calm and still
    with our own godly Ground
  • God far exceeds all words that we can here express
    In silence He is heard, in silence worshiped best
  • No thought for the hereafter have the wise,
    for on this very earth they live in paradise
  • All heaven's glory is within and so is hell's fierce burning.
    You must yourself decide in which direction you are turning
  • Unless you find paradise at your own center,
    there is not the smallest chance
    That you may enter
  • Saints do not die. It is their lot,
    To die while on this earth to all that God is not.
  • The vengeful God of wrath and punishment
    is a mere fairytale. It simply is the Me
    That makes me fail.
  • No ray of Light can shine
    if severed from its source.
    Without my inner Light
    I lose my course.


Translation by Maria Shardy, Classics of Western Spirituality


  • So high above all things that be.
    Is God uplifted, man can dare.
    No utterance: he prayeth best.
    When Silence is his sum of prayer
  • Even before I was me, I was God in God;
    And I can be once again, as soon as I am dead to myself
  • Time is eternity and eternity is time, just as long as you yourself don't make them different
  • I know God couldn't live a moment without me; if I should disappear, He would die, destitute
  • In waste God hides the gold, accept what He may send,
    The great within the small, though we don't comprehend.
  • No man has known perfect felicity,
    Until his otherness is drowned in unity
  • Love is alike to death, annihilates the senses,
    My heart it breaks as well, the spirit's drawn from hence
  • The Spirit is like new wine, see the disciples all,
    Like men inebriate, swept away and enthralled
    By both its heat and strength; thus it remains true still
    That the disciples had of sweetest wine their fill
  • If you know how to launch your ship into God's sea
    Oh, what a blessed fate, submerged in it to be


Translation by Paul Carus in ANGELUS SILESIUS, THE OPEN COURT (1908)


  • Two eyes our souls possess:
    While one is turned on time,
    The other seeth things
    Eternal and sublime
  • Who would expect it so?
    From darkness light is brought,
    Life rises out of Death,
    And Something comes from Naught.
  • I say it speeds thee not
    That Christ rose from the grave,
    So long as thou art still
    To death and sin a slave.
  • The resurrection is
    In spirit done in thee,
    As soon as thou from all
    Thy sins hast set thee free.
  • If neither love nor pain
    Will ever touch thy heart,
    Then only God's in thee,
    And then in God thou art
  • The nearest way to God
    Leads through love's open door;
    The path of knowledge is
    Too slow for evermore


"Cherubinischer Wandersmann of Angelus Silesius" by Julia Bilger (1944)


  • Here I still flow in God as a small stream of time,
    There I shall be a sea of blessedness sublime
  • Thou laughest that a child cries o'er its broken doll;—
    The things o'er which thou mournest—are they not playthings all?
  • Three days: Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday, I know,
    Yet if the past were cancelled within the here and now
    And then the future hidden, I could regain that Day
    Which I, before I was, had lived in God's own way.
  • Never in endless time will ring a sound as sweetly
    As when a human heart in God is tuned completely.
  • God, being a great abyss, to men his depth reveals
    Who climb the highest peak of the eternal hills
  • In schools throughout the world God's but described to you.
    Within the spirit's school one sees and loves him too.
  • A spark without its fire, a drop without its sea,
    Without rebirth what more, pray, wouldst thou be?
  • God is a flowing well which constantly may pour
    Into his whole Creation, and yet be as before.

Quotes about AngelusEdit

  • Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme and Angelus Silesius describe their spiritual vision of the sublime and ultimate reality of God, as well as their participation therein, by a dramatic use of the power of imagery of the German language which, although rooted in time and space, seems to be free from the constraints of these elements. Time and space alone are incapable of grasping eternity; only when struck by a shaft of eternal light can they reflect its splendor. Such a reflection of the eternal is present in the language of Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme and Angelus Silesius. It is, more-over, the light of eternity that makes it at all possible to see the teachings of these great metaphysicians and mystics as a unity, in spite of their having lived at different times and belonged to differing Christian confessions. The uniformity of their spiritual vision arises from the inner unity of Divine Reality itself. Human language becomes inadequate when confronted with this mystery of the inner unity of the Godhead; “the most beautiful statement about God of which man is capable is his silence in the face of his inner riches.”...Angelus Silesius summarized his spiritual vision in rhymes whose beauty is filled with an inner certainty that derives directly from the knowledge of the divine being. This direct knowledge of God is founded on the identity of essence between God and the soul, which occurs when the soul once more corresponds to its original state of being created in the image of God.
    • Roland Pietsch, Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 13, Nos. 3 & 4 (Summer-Autumn, 1979)[1]
  • Although the influence of Boehme was to be felt far and wide, ranging from French and German theosophers and esoterists to Russian contemplatives, perhaps the most artistically powerful expression of purely sapiential teachings deeply influenced by him are to be found in the hymns of Christian gnosis which comprise the Cherubic Wanderer of Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) which are also among the most remarkable works of German literature. This collection, so close in both form and content to Sufi poetry, is based upon the central theme of return to God...it is the al-ma'rifah of Islam or the jnana of Hinduism and very much in accord with works of such nature whether they be in Arabic and Persian or Sanskrit.
  • Many years ago in lovely Lindau on the Bodensee, I happened upon a thin volume of Angelus Silesius' couplets which startled, amused and greatly interested me. Although it was in 1657 the world had first received them it seemed to me that they had lost little of their significance in 300 years. Their pithy comments upon human frailty, their wholesome attempt to direct a way toward peace of mind, their often half concealed humor, have modern application.
    • Julia Bilger, in "Cherubinischer Wandersmann of Angelus Silesius", Foreword (1944)
  • To comment upon the residue of truth or wisdom enshrined in the utterances of Angelus Silesius does not lie within my scope. For mystics the heart is always the supreme court of appeal and within their community, though so widely extended in space and time, there has always been a remarkable unanimity in its findings...They are those who can say with Angelus Silesius: Turn whereso'er I will, I find no evidence Of End, Beginning, Centre or Circumference. There are perhaps few to-day who will find the language of Angelus Silesius adequate in every respect to the expression of their deepest intuitions. He spoke in the dialect of a venerable creed, but the experience of which he spoke is immemorial. And it appears to be unchanging. Those who are in possession of the code will readily decipher the message
    • J. E. Crawford Flitch, in "Selections from The Cherubinic Wanderer", Preface (1932)
  • One of the most prominent and interesting mystics of Germany, Johannes Scheffler, or as he is better known by his adopted name, Angelus Silesius...was born of Protestant parents at Breslau, the capital of Silesia, in 1624...Scheffler's mystic inclinations had long before alienated him from the dogmatic and anti-artistic spirit of the religion of his birth which during the middle of the seventeenth century was more severe and bigoted than ever before or afterwards. At the same time there was a religious revival in the Roman Catholic world which proved attractive to him, and so it was but natural that finally in 1653 he severed his old affiliations, and joined the Church that by the mystical glamor of its historical traditions was most sympathetic to him
    • Paul Carus, in ANGELUS SILESIUS, THE OPEN COURT (1908)
  • I will end with a great line by the poet who, in the seventeenth century, took the strangely real and poetic name of Angelus Silesius. It is the summary of all I have said tonight — except that I have said it by means of reasoning and simulated reasoning. I will say it first in Spanish and then in German: La rosa es sin porqué; florece porque florece. Die Rose ist ohne warum; sie blühet weil sie blühet

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