Beguines say I err...

by Marguerite Porete

English version by Ellen L. Babinsky

O my Lover, what will Beguines say
and religious types,
When they hear the excellence
of your divine song?
Beguines say I err,
priests, clerics, and Preachers,
Augustinians, Carmelites,
and the Friars Minor,
Because I wrote about the being
of the one purified by Love.
I do not make Reason safe for them,
who makes them say this to me....

I have said that I will love Him.
I lie, for I am not.
It is He alone who loves me:
He is, and I am not;
And nothing more is necessary to me
Than what He wills,
And that He is worthy.
He is fullness,
And by this I am impregnated,
This is the divine seed and Loyal Love.

-- from Marguerite Porete: Mirror of Simple Souls (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Ellen Babinsky

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Marguerite Porete is sometimes thought to have been a Beguine herself -- the semi-reclusive women's societies of northern France, the Low Countries, and Germany. While some of Marguerite Porete's mysticism seems to parallel the language and imagery of the Beguines, this poem suggests that even they were critical of her passionately ecstatic pronouncements.

When she speaks about being "purified by Love," and says that she does "not make Reason safe for them [her critics]," she is following a theme in much of her writing: how divine love, when it truly comes upon you, completely overwhelms everything, even the faculty of reason. But, by reason, she doesn't simply mean logic, she is speaking more broadly of all mental chatter, including those things that emerge from that busyness of the mind, such as religious dogma. Marguerite Porete is reminding us that the radical experience of divine love is immediate and all-consuming, it cannot be contained within limited notions of ideology or orthodoxy.

In truth, that love that comes upon us is so all-consuming that even the individual does not remain as a separate identity. This is what she means when she says, "I have said that I will love Him. / I lie, for I am not ..."

This is a universal experience, the sense of nothingness of the personal identity, accompanied by such complete fulfillment that "nothing more is necessary to me," for "He [God, Christ, the Divine Beloved] is fullness."


Recommended Books: Marguerite Porete

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Marguerite Porete: Mirror of Simple Souls (Classics of Western Spirituality) Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages The Soul as Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart
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Beguines say I err