I know they say this tent is waterproof but I’ve pitched it at sea.

On the meaning of the teaching of Origen of Alexandria, from his Of Tents and Wells1.

And so, contemplating in the Spirit these progressions, he calls them the “tents of Israel.” And true it is, when we make some progress in knowledge and gain some experience in such things, we know that when we have come to a certain insight and recognition of the spiritual mysteries, the soul rests there, in a certain sense, as in a “tent.” But when it begins to make fresh sense again of what it finds there and move on to other insights, it pushes on with folded tent, so to speak, to a higher place and sets itself up there, pegged down by strong conclusions; and again the soul finds in the place another spiritual meaning, for which the conclusions from earlier insights have doubtless prepared the way, and so the soul seems always to be pulled on toward the goal that lies ahead (cf. Phil 3:14) moving on, so to speak, in “tents.” For once the soul has been struck by the fiery arrow of knowledge, it can never again sink into leisure and take its rest, but it will always be called onward from a good to the better and from the better to the higher.

I know they say this tent is
But I’ve pitched it at sea.

Will my tent float, then?
Be a boat, then?
Be pulled along on tide and swell?

I don’t see an inch of ground for pegs
or for legs;
No way to progress or higher place to rest.

But still lifting over crest, glimpsing meaning in trough,
the fresh spray of Spirit
rewards a moment’s contemplation.

Before the tent is moved upon, and the soul moved along
Across the circle of the sea
Called by the moon to the next high tide.


  1. von Balthasar, H.U. Origen: Spirit and Fire, A Thematic Anthology of His Writings. The Catholic University of America Press: Washington, D.C. (1984). p.25.

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