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Meister Eckhart, Part II: Western Nonduality

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 1

Meister Eckhart, Part II
Thursday, July 16, 2015

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, “I pray God to rid me of God,” 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 it. [1] As Augustine said, “If you comprehend it, it is not God.” We can only come to know God as we let go of our ideas about God, and as what is not God is stripped away.

Before transformation, you pray to God. After transformation you pray through God, as official Christian prayers always 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 put it in one of his Sermons, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” [2] All we humans are doing is allowing God to “complete the circuit” within us—until we both see from the same perspective. [3] 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.” [4] 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 which I eat, is thus united with my body as my body is united with my soul. My body and my soul are united in one being . . . which signifies the great union we shall have with God in one being.” [5]

Eckhart’s analogy of a flask filled with water shows how God is in the soul and the soul is in God, together and yet without losing their uniqueness. In Eckhart’s words: “Now He [Christ] says: ‘The Father and I are One’—the soul in God and God in the soul. The water is inside of the flask, thus [we say it] contains the water within it, but the water is not truly in the flask and the flask is not truly in the water. However, the soul is definitely one with God so that the one without the other would be incomprehensible. One can understand heat even without the fire and the rays without the sun, but God is unable to understand Himself without the soul, nor the soul without God, so completely one are they.” [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”! As some have said, he was a man from whom God hid nothing.

Gateway to Silence:
“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through.” —Hafiz


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate . . . Seeing God in All Things (Center for Action and Contemplation), disc 4 (CD, DVD, MP3 download).

[2] Meister Eckhart, The Essential Sermons (Paulist Press: 1981).

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey Bass: 2013), 106.

[4] Michael Demkovich OP, Introducing Meister Eckhart (Novalis: 2005), 85.

[5] Ibid., 92.

[6] Ibid., 130.

Dervishes (photo detail) performing at Ruhaniyat Purana, Qila, 2011, by Ajaiberwarl. Wikimedia Commons.
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