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Meister Eckhart

Eckhart was a Christian mystic around the 13th century. Some people seem to think a mystic pulls rabbits out of a hat (😀) but in this context it simply means a human being who seeks to [i]experience[/i] the divine rather than just write/create theology. To [i]live[/i] truth rather than just [i]think[/i] it.

Like many Christian mystics, he sailed close to the wind as far as heresy is concerned. But that seems par for the course. We all need a dash of heresy before any attempt to swallow anyone elses "only way"......😀

Eckhart is seen as a "dharma brother" by many of the Buddhist Faith, and the "zen man" D.T.Suzuki said that certain of his utterances mirrored the prajna wisdom of zen - direct [i]seeing[/i], when concepts fall away and only the constant advance into novelty remains.

Eckhart once said that if the only prayer we ever said was "Thank You" it would be enough. I think this is so. It certainly corresponds to my own Pure Land faith, where the Nembutsu is in effect a cry of gratitude - felt in [i]all[/i] circumstances.

Again, he said:- "Love has no why". Which I find profound. Make of it what you will. We are what we understand.

Another of his phrases was "Nothing that knowledge can grasp or desire can want is God. Where knowledge and desire end, there is darkness, and there God shines."

Anyone familiar with the "anatta" (not-self) teaching of Buddhism will see why Eckhart is seen as a Dharma Brother.

Enough for now. My coffee is getting cold. Shopping to get, grandchildren to collect and cook for.
The Sermon mentioned before on "True Poverty" is Sermon 22 of Eckhart's German sermons. It is truly radical. True poverty to Eckhart is to [i]desire[/i] nothing, [i]know[/i] nothing and to [i]possess[/i] nothing.

He even goes further:-

[i]Now listen carefully! I have often said, as great masters have said, that we should be so free of all things and all works, both inner and outer, that we become the place where God can act. But now we put it differently. If it is the case that someone is free of all creatures, of God and of themselves, if God finds a place to act in them, then we say: as long as this exists in someone, they have not yet reached the ultimate poverty. For God does not intend there to be a place in someone where he can act, but if there is to be true poverty of spirit, someone must be so free of God and all his works that if God wishes to act in the soul he must himself be the place in which he can act, and this he is certainly willing to be. For if God finds us this poor, then God performs his own active work and we passively receive God in ourselves and God becomes the place of his work in us since God works within himself. In this poverty, we attain again the eternal being which we once enjoyed, which is ours now and shall be for ever.[/i]

Obviously many will balk at this. See it as the total abdication of the self, even its obliteration. Certainly it calls into question modern ideas of the individual, of what being an individual means or entails. But like many others, Eckhart recognises the difference between individualism and personalism. The individual remains alone. A person can only [i]be[/i] in relationship with [i]other[/i] persons - and God (or Reality-as-is) expresses Himself - or itself - in persons.

Thomas Merton has much to say on this, speaking of a form of consciousness that assumes a totally different kind of self-awareness from that of the Cartesian thinking-self which is its own justification and its own center. Merton speaks of the individual that is aware of themselves as a self-to-be-dissolved in self-giving, in love, in “letting-go,” in ecstasy, in God. "The self is not its own center and does not orbit around itself; it is centered on God, the one center of all, which is “everywhere and nowhere,” in whom all are encountered, from whom all proceed. Thus from the very start this consciousness is disposed to encounter “the other” with whom it is already united anyway “in God.” The metaphysical intuition of Being is an intuition of a ground of openness, indeed of a kind of ontological openness and an infinite generosity which communicates itself to everything that is."

[i]Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.[/i]

(St John's Gospel)
Nice and quiet around here, I can waffle and ramble to my hearts content....

Eckhart says in perfectly orthodox and traditional Christian terms (this assurance given by Thomas Merton, who taught theology to the novices in the monastery of Gethsemane) :-

“[i]In giving us His love God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself. We love God with His own love; awareness of it deifies us.”[/i]

D.T. Suzuki quotes this with approval, comparing it with the Prajna wisdom of Zen.

As I see it, many who see themselves as "religious" seem to value the exception. Only here! Only in this book! But surely it is the correspondences found right across the whole world of Faiths, deep truths found in diverse scriptures that relate to each other - such is what speaks of the [i]reality[/i] of any path or true way of being?

If Truth is eternal and God is omnipresent, then the Divine cannot be restricted or confined to one single religion or spiritual path.

As Thomas Merton wrote in a letter to Suzuki:-

[i]I want to speak for this Western world.................which has in past centuries broken in upon you and brought you our own confusion, our own alienation, our own decrepitude, our lack of culture, our lack of faith...........If I wept until the end of the world, I could not signify enough of what this tragedy means. If only we had thought of coming to you to learn something..............If only we had thought of coming to you and loving you for what you are in yourselves, instead of trying to make you over into our own image and likeness. For me it is clearly evident that you and I have in common and share most intimately precisely that which, in the eyes of conventional Westerners, would seem to separate us. The fact that you are a Zen Buddhist and I am a Christian monk, far from separating us, makes us most like one another. How many centuries is it going to take for people to discover this fact?[/i]
Unlike many of the Christian mystics, Eckhart was deeply influenced by many women writers, especially Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg and Marguerite of Porete. As well as this he demonstrated that fidelity to one’s own tradition need not close one off from the riches of another, having studied Jewish and Muslim writers such as Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Ibn’al-Arabi, al-Farabi and many others.

Eckhart was not elitist and gave his sermons in the vernacular German of his day. These sermons, each on a particular Biblical verse, are readily available today in many translations. One on "True Poverty", based upon the New Testament beatitude ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' I have read a number of times. Well worth seeking out.

But no, not elitist at all. Eckhart said that if someone seeks God’s will, then they need only lead an ordinary Christian life without considering doing anything special. "Any attempt to trap God with our little practices, our pet devotions, is a sort of betrayal for if indeed someone thinks that they will get more of God by meditation, by devotion, by ecstasies or by special infusion of grace than by the fireside or in the stable – that is nothing but taking God, wrapping a cloak around his head and shoving Him under a bench"

And he insisted that the demands of charity always override those of prayer. "If you are wrapped up in an ecstatic experience and hear that a hungry person is at the door, leave behind your rapture and go and prepare some soup for him!"
Eckhart on a Free Mind, from his "Talks of Instruction":-

[i]The most powerful form of prayer, and the one which can virtually gain all things and which is the worthiest work of all, is that which flows from a free mind. The freer the mind is, the more powerful and worthy, the more useful, praiseworthy and perfect the prayer and the work become. A free mind can achieve all things. But what is a free mind?

A free mind is one which is untroubled and unfettered by anything, which has not bound its best part to any particular manner of being or devotion and which does not seek its own interest in anything but is always immersed in God’s most precious will, having gone out of what is its own. There is no work which men and women can perform, however small, which does not draw from this its power and its strength.[/i]

FlowersNButterflies · 61-69, F
Love is its own reward.

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