Franciscan Mystic and Poet
Johann Scheffler (his given name), was born to Protestant parents in Breslau, the capital of Silesia. After earning a doctorate in medicine, he served as court physician to Count Sylvia Nimrod, an ardent Lutheran. Over time, his public questioning of Lutheran doctrine and his increasingly mystical leanings caused him to be viewed with suspicion. In 1653, he resigned from his position, converted to Catholicism, and took the name Angelus Silesius. After joining the Franciscans, he was ordained a priest.
Silesius is best remembered for his two volumes of mystical poetry, The Soul’s Spiritual Delight and The Cherubic Pilgrim. Most of his poems consist of epigrammatic rhyming couplets － many later adapted by both Catholic and Protestant hymnists. Silesius was fascinated by the relation between God and creation, the divine and the soul:
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.
His ability to detect God’s presence in all things caused some to accuse him of pantheism. But he did not worship nature. Instead, he saw in all creation the out flowing of divine love and energy and believed that the same energy and love was drawing all things toward final reunion with God.
The All proceedeth from the One,
And into One must All regress:
If otherwise, the All remains
Silesius died on July 9, 1677.
All heaven’s glory is within and so is hell’s fierce burning. You must yourself decide in which direction you are turning.
ー Angelus Silesius
(From “The Franciscan Saints” by Robert Ellsberg)