Beaten By Bigger And Bigger Angels

Jacob wrestling the angel by Edward Knippers. Beaten by bigger and bigger angels.

I consider unfulfilled expectations to be part of the experience of following a spiritual path. Steps to Knowledge is the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. Each of its 365 steps contain instructions for practice.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels

Sometimes I follow the directions, and beautiful things happen. I get some kind of experience related to the step. I get some kind of insight, a thought I hadn’t thought before. But there are other times when I follow the directions and nothing happens. The heavens are as brass, and the earth is as iron. But maybe that’s part of the plan. Maybe it cultivates emotional intelligence to not get what we want right away.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the poem “The Man Watching” (“Der Schauende”) sometime between 1899 and 1902. It was one of the poems in The Book of Images. I consider Rilke to be one of my companions in my Steps to Knowledge journey. He takes poetic licence with the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32. This is Robert Bly’s translation.

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels. That might not be so bad.

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