Containing the Infinite

Last night, while browsing the latest issue of Shift, the magazine for the Institute of Noetic Sciences, I came across this piece by Hadewijch, an early 13th century Flemish Beguine.

Beguines were lay women who dedicated themselves to living out their spirituality without entering a convent - a very radical notion for its day. They espoused to return to a pure living of the Gospel message through the expression of deep devotion.

Hadewijch conveyed her intimate and emotional - yet visionary mysticism - in her poetic musings. Her spirituality is characterized by a type of "love mysticism" - which affirmed that union with God could be lived out as a love relationship on earth.

Here is the piece I came across last night. As I read it, I was struck by its Tantric perspective:

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

Around 27 years ago, I read Hadewijch for the first time and was deeply touched by her passionate love for the Divine. Reading this beautiful piece prompted me to revisit a collection of her works in my library. As I flipped through the book, I found I had marked this one piece in the book, which apparently had lots to say to me then. (The original male pronouns have been substituted):

She who wishes to conquer Love
Must not neglect
To give herself continually to Love.
And she must suffer
For what her heart has chosen,
And surrender herself in pain
Or in defamation,
In sorrow or in joy,
In Love's chains:
Thus shall she come to know
The noblest Being in the depths of Love.


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