The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance by Dorothee Soelle

First impressions matter. And so I thought for more than a minute about which should be the first book that I would write about here. I asked myself, the classic: if I were going to be stranded on an island and could have only one book, which would it be? Hmm … too hard. If I could have only a very few books, which would be first in the pile? Still hard, but I’m pretty sure, it would be Dorothee Soelle’s “The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance”

This is not an easy reading book. But, I would say it is definitely worth the effort of learning a few new words, and it is absolutely worth the time to pause and ponder some new/different ideas. When I was in college I had a dear friend – Joe Gosse – who told me that the books that were the most important in his life, he would read only a few lines (at the most a page) a day. He said that gave him the time and space to really think about and to digest what the book has to say to him. Maybe “The Silent Cry” is that kind of book.

Dorothee Soelle (1929 – 2003) was a German liberation theologian.  In a biography of Soelle, Renate Wind describes her as a religious provocateur. I like that descriptor – a religious provocateur! In reading her books, I experience her as a feminist and maybe as a spiritual guide. She certainly was quite brilliant, and her words, thoughts and ideas in “Silent Cry” light a path to a more socially just world.

The opening epigram is a poem fragment, a question, from Rumi: Why, when God’s world is so big, did you fall asleep in a prison of all places?

Ah, yes. Why indeed. In this book, Soelle does her best to wake us up to the love, to the mysticism that can – and should – found religion and that can inspire work for social justice.  Mystics, she tells us, proclaim a message about compassion and justice – a message about the meaning, purpose and place of love in creation and in relationship.

The Greek word for reading means to have renewed cognition, to re-cognize!

As I read this book, I found myself inspired to write

Listen in the thundering silence

Hear the silent cry

The wind sweeps across my being

Echoing in the aching vacuum

You once filled with your grace

The grace of your light.

It’s just that kind of book!

Soelle asserts that we are all mystics. She talks about ecstasy and invites us all along on the journey as she explores the places of mystical experience: nature, eroticism, suffering, community, and joy! She carefully and evocatively explores mysticism as resistance considering aspects of life as if we lived in a liberated world; ego and ego-lessness; possession and possessionlessness; violence and nonviolence; concluding with reflections on a mysticism of liberation.

A few of my favorite words & ideas from the book: revolutionary patience; attentiveness; the conduct of life as a sacrament; compassion; panerotic power; stages of the journey: be amazed, let go, resist; to live sunder warumbe – without a why or a wherefore. Sunder warumbe! That is a phrase that has resonated with me since I first read the book. It reminds me of the zen ‘wu wei – doing without doing, natural action. So many of the ideas within this book are evocative, they evoke other thoughts and ideas as you read. This book is a luxurious invitation to love and liberation. Ah – this is a book I am going to re-read! Today.

Mysticism, activism and social justice? what’s your experience? how much of the same cloth do you find them to be?

Dorothee Soelle. 2001. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Augsburg Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN


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