1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Angelus Silesius

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ANGELUS SILESIUS (1624-1677), German religious poet, was born in 1624 at Breslau. His family name was Johann Scheffler, but he is generally known by the pseudonym Angelus Silesius, under which he published his poems and which marks the country of his birth. Brought up a Lutheran, and at first physician to the duke of Württemberg-Oels, he joined in 1652 the Roman Catholic Church, in 1661 took orders as a priest, and became coadjutor to the prince bishop of Breslau. He died at Breslau on the 9th of July 1677. In 1657 Silesius published under the title Heilige Seelenlust, oder geistliche Hirtenlieder der in ihren Jesum verliebten Psyche (1657), a collection of 205 hymns, the most beautiful of which, such as, Liebe, die du mich zum Bilde deiner Gottheit hast gemacht and Mir nach, spricht Christus, unser Held, have been adopted in the German Protestant hymnal. More remarkable, however, is his Geistreiche Sinn-und Schluss-reime (1657), afterwards called Cherubinischer Wandersmann (1674). This is a collection of "Reimsprüche" or rhymed distichs embodying a strange mystical pantheism drawn mainly from the writings of Jakob Böhme and his followers. Silesius delighted specially in the subtle paradoxes of mysticism. The essence of God, for instance, he held to be love; God, he said, can love nothing inferior to himself; but he cannot be an object of love to himself without going out, so to speak, of himself, without manifesting his infinity in a finite form; in other words, by becoming man. God and man are therefore essentially one.

A complete edition of Scheffler's works (Sämtliche poetische Werke) was published by D. A. Rosenthal, 2 vols. (Regensburg, 1862). Both the Cherubinischer Wandersmann and Heilige Seelenlust have been republished by G. Ellinger (1895 and 1901); a selection from the former work by O. E. Hartleben (1896). For further notices of Silesius' life and work, see Hoffmann von Fallersleben in Weimarisches Jahrbuch I. (Hanover, 1854); A. Kahlert, Angelus Silesius (1853); C. Seltmann, Angelus Silesius und seine Mystik (1896), and a biog. by H. Mahn (Dresden, 1896).