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    photograph of Bridal Veil Falls by Britta Wareham

    Detachment Is Active

    Nowhere other than in God will a person be content, just as water must keep flowing until it returns to the sea.

    By Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt

    August 24, 2022
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    The following reading is from a booklet published in 1523 by Andreas Carlstadt, a leader in the Radical Reformation. It is excerpted from The Essential Carlstadt.


    The Nature of a Detached Person

    One who lets go of or leaves something is a detached person. And although one who has been abandoned may be called a detached person, what is important in this usage is the fact that one has to leave and turn away from what one wishes to be detached from. Hence, in the statement “a detached person,” the term is active, i.e., it is real and in the doing mode. In that context it means something other than “abandoned.” Let me explain: When I write that one is an abandoned person, you would assume that someone has been forsaken; it is passive, means suffering, and is in a suffering mode. Of course, I do not deny that the term “detached” also means “abandoned,” i.e., it is passive and means that one who is forsaken has been left. If you wish a Latin term for this, I can think of no better one to give you than the word of Christ, who said, “Whoever leaves father and mother, etc.” The Latins use relinquo and we laypeople say, I give up or abandon. As we wrote, “A man shall leave father and mother on account of his wife and cling to his wife” (Matt. 19:5).

    photograph of Bridal Veil Falls by Britta Wareham

    Bridal Veil Falls Photograph by Britta Wareham

    However, we may also circumscribe the term “detached” or “abandoned” by numerous Latin words such as deserere, renunciare, dimittere, and the like. Note at once how the love of a wife surpasses and cuts out the love of father and mother. Likewise, the love of God ought to supersede all love and delight (which we have toward creatures). Nowhere other than in God ought a person be content. Yes, we must leave all creatures if we want to have God as our protector and indweller or Lord.

    What We Must Let Go

    Note, then, that I am not in any way to seek my own or to think that I can please God. The word “mine” includes my honor, my advantage, my hurt, my desire, my displeasure, my reward, suffering, life, death, sadness, joy, and everything that might affect a person – be it in external goods, or in things that affect the body or the inner being, such as intellect, willpower, and desires. Everything to which ego and I-ness [icheit] may cling must leave me and fall off, if I am to be detached. For detachment penetrates and flows over every created thing and comes into its uncreated nothing – for it is uncreated and has no being. In other words, it returns to its origin and creator. Wherefore, when you were nothing, you stood wholly in the knowledge and will of God, and there was nothing at all in heaven and on earth which you could rightfully have adopted as your own.

    We must all continue in these to this day. I must not want to know or find out anything about myself and my own, which I might then hanker after, and I must be so fully immersed in God’s will as to have truly died to self. It would be worse still to have sensed and experienced severe bitterness yet carry about my desires which I know within me.

    I should wish therefore to be nailed to a cruel, shameful cross and to have a holy dread of myself and to become wholly ashamed of my thoughts, desires, and works as of a horrible vice which I would avoid as one avoids a yellow, pussy boil. To see nothing else in my soul and powers but my inability to do the good and, on the other hand, my capacity for and inclination toward everything evil, punishable, dissolute, and shameful. None of this I would want to accept, but much rather deny as an evil misdeed. Yet, whatever is good and praiseworthy, I ought to carry to its origin, attributing it freely and wholly to the one alone who created and gave it.

    The New Life in Christ

    To yield ego or I-ness is to despise myself and surrender and grant that everything good belongs to the one who gave it to me. For all rivulets must flow and return to their source if they intend to return properly. This ego or self is usefully yielded when self-will is surrendered and when self-will melts away and when God’s will does its work in the creature and nothing else is willed except that which and how God wills. At that moment ego and self-will surrender, and everything that follows the created will, or springs forth from it, is altogether truly yielded.

    Whether or not we have thus yielded ego or self can be determined and decided when nothing pleases us except what pleases God and when we desire nothing of any creature except what God wills. Then we are detached because we no longer love what we will but only that which God wills, and we desire all creature to will what God wills. In this, in God’s will, our love, desire, joy, glory, life, and salvation are rooted. We therefore pray sincerely, Lord, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Let your will work mightily in all earthly creatures.

    Contributed By illustration of Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt

    The life and thought of Radical Reformer Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt (1486–1541), also known as Karlstadt for the town of his birth, had a strong influence on the Anabaptist movement.

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