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Meister Eckhart, Part II: The Reality of Godliness

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mysticism: Week 1

Meister Eckhart, Part II
Friday, September 29, 2017

What is life? God’s being is my life. —Meister Eckhart [1]

Meister Eckhart illustrates the height of western non-dualism. This is why he is largely impossible to understand with our usual dualistic mind. When Eckhart says, “Let us pray to God that we may be free of God,” [2] our logical mind would see this as nonsense! It takes unitive consciousness to discover what Eckhart means. There is no concept of God that can contain God. Your present notion of God is never God. As Augustine said, “If you comprehend it, it is not God.” [3] We can only come to know God as we let go of our ideas about God, and what is not God, is slowly stripped away.

Before transformation, you pray to God. After transformation you pray through God, as official Christian prayers say: “Through Christ our Lord. Amen!” Before radical conversion, you pray to God as if God were over there, an object like all other objects. After conversion (con-vertere, to turn around or to turn with), you look out from God with eyes other than your own. As Meister Eckhart stated it in one of his sermons, “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love.” [4] All we humans are doing is allowing God to “complete the circuit” within us—until we see from the same perspective. This is the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which will be experienced as a “spiritual revolution” in thinking (Ephesians 4:22).

Michael Demkovich, a Dominican priest and scholar, explains: “It is through our coming to know the truest self that we are transformed into something divine. Eckhart’s notion of deiformity, a person’s conformity to this underlying reality of Godliness, is critical in his understanding . . . of the soul.” [5] Eckhart did not see the soul as dualistically opposed to the body, but as a guide to the body’s experience. Because God took on a human body in Christ and is present within humanity, the body is sacred. In his preaching, Eckhart uses a verbal illustration, exemplum, of eating to illustrate the body-soul relationship: “The food that I eat is united with my body just as my body is with my soul. My body and my soul are united in one being . . . and this typifies that great union we are destined to have with God, in one being.” [6]

You can see why much of the dualistic church was just not ready for dear Meister Eckhart, and thus he was never canonized a saint. But he is still a “Meister”! When copying one of Eckhart’s most famous sermons, an anonymous scribe praised him as “one from whom God hid nothing.” [7]

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

[1] Meister Eckhart, Justi Autem, Sermon on Wisdom 5:16. See The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe (Crossroad: 2009), 330.
[2] Meister Eckhart, Beati Pauperes Spiritu, Sermon on Matthew 5:3. See Walshe, 422.
[3] Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 38.10.
[4] Meister Eckhart, Qui Audit Me, Sermon on Sirach 24:30. See Walshe, 298.
[5] Michael Demkovich, Introducing Meister Eckhart (Novalis: 2005), 85.
[6] Meister Eckhart, Populi Eius, Sermon on Hosea 14:4. See Walshe, 367.
[7] Meister Eckhart, Dum Medium Silentium, Sermon on Wisdom 18:14-15. See Meister Eckhart, From Whom God Hid Nothing: Sermons, Writings, and Sayings, ed. David O’Neal (Shambhala: 2005), xxi, 45.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate . . . Seeing God in All Things, disc 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation), CD, DVD, MP3 download; and
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey Bass: 2013), 106.

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