I’m your man

A friend recently posted this snippet of Leonard Cohen:
“The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning.”

And I was reminded of no one so much as Hildegard of Bingen. Cohen often reminds me of the tradition of Christian religious writers. Some of his poems/lyrics remind me of St. Teresa of Avila, also seared by love. Cohen seems to be along the line of ecstatic poets whose poems could be read, with no background on the poet, either as paeans to spiritual ecstasy or the very earthly kind, or in keeping with some kind of Tantric merger of the two, the many shades of ecstasy, as it were. Which leads me to think also of John Donne too. There is a long history of ecstatic religious poetry in both the Western and Eastern traditions. Does Judaism have such a tradition? It must. It seems to be a part of the varieties of religious experience.

St. Teresa: “…one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it — even a considerable share.”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.


One thought on “I’m your man

  1. Hallelujah, indeed!
    I really appreciate, and agree with, your categorization of Cohen as an ecstatic poet.
    Have never read St. Teresa, but now I think I’m headed in that direction. . .
    Mystical, ecstatic tradition in Judaism? Would that be Kabbalah? I hope you get an answer to that one. I’m curious, as well.
    Thanks. Intriguing post!


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