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Meister Eckhart, Part I

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mysticism: Week 1

Meister Eckhart: Part I
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), a German friar, priest, mystic, and renowned preacher, was also an administrator—prior, vicar, and provincial—for his Dominican Order. James Finley suggests Eckhart’s engagement in the “ways of the world” makes his teachings more accessible to us all, since there’s no requirement that we live as hermits or go into the silence of the cloister in order to open ourselves to the experience of God’s oneness with us. [1] Busy people can be mystics, too.

As a professor and theologian, Meister Eckhart had a deep understanding of scripture and his own Christian tradition. He was a true meister or spiritual master. I’ll introduce a few of Eckhart’s principal themes today and tomorrow, and I hope you’ll take the time to explore more of his rich and still accessible work. In many ways, Eckhart is the mystic’s mystic. He speaks with such full nondual consciousness that many do not know what he is talking about! He often clarifies an abstruse passage with a brilliant one-liner like “What we plant in the soil of contemplation we shall reap in the harvest of action.” [2]

One Franciscan Archbishop accused Eckhart of teaching pantheism, but as Eckhart said, the Archbishop simply didn’t understand his teaching, which requires a nondual approach. Eckhart said, “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” [3] Building on a basic awareness of God’s participation and revelation in nature, Eckhart believed humans have a special role in celebrating this gift of creation and adding to its beauty and diversity.

Eckhart taught the simple power of letting go and letting be. To let go is no easy task. But in any loving relationship, as we see in the Trinity, such a surrendering of unneeded boundaries is the source of joy. Eckhart puts it this way:

. . . the Father laughs
and gives birth to the Son.
The Son laughs back at the Father
and gives birth to the Spirit.
The whole Trinity laughs
and gives birth to us. [4]

Matthew Fox writes that “laughter may well be the ultimate act of letting go and letting be: the music of the divine cosmos. For in the core of the Trinity laughing and birthing go on all day long.” [5] For Eckhart, heaven is now. We are invited to participate in the eternal flow of Trinity here, in this lifetime. The only thing keeping us from God and heaven is the ultimate and damning lie that we have ever been separate from God.

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

[1] James Finley, Meister Eckhart’s Living Wisdom: Indestructible Joy and the Path of Letting Go (Sounds True: 2014), CD.
[2] Meister Eckhart, In His Quae Patris, Sermon on Luke 2:49. See Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation, trans. Raymond Bernard Blakney (Harper and Brothers: 1941), 111.
[3] Meister Eckhart, Consideravit Semitas, Sermon on Proverbs 31:27. See The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe (Crossroad: 2009), 275.
[4] Meister Eckhart, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed. Matthew Fox (Bear and Company: 1983), 129.
[5] Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart (Inner Traditions: 1980, 2000), 48.

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