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Meister Eckhart and the birth of God in us

Posted on 21 August 2011, 1:28

(This extract is taken from my Conversations with Meister Eckhart published by White crow Books. The conversation is imagined but Eckhart’s words are not; they are all his own.)

S.P: Perhaps we’re ready now to consider detachment.
M.E: It is the highest virtue.
S.P: So you say. So if detachment -

M.E: - or disinterest.

Eckhart was not shy of interrupting if he wanted to clarify something.

S.P: If these things, detachment or disinterest, are the highest virtue, that must mean you put them above love?

M.E. He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing: detachment.

S.P: That’s a striking claim. What do you mean by it?

ME: Human perfection consists in becoming distant from creatures and free from them; to respond in the same way to all things, not to be broken by adversity nor carried away by prosperity, not to rejoice more in one thing than another, not to be frightened or grieved by one thing more than another. You could not do better than to go where it is dark; that is, unconsciousness.

S.P: This is a radical detachment. Shouldn’t we at least attach ourselves to some kind of holy knowledge?

M.E: We must sink into oblivion and ignorance. In this silence, this quiet, the Word is heard. There is no better method of approaching this Word than in silence, in quiet: we hear it and know it aright in unknowing. To one who knows nothing it is clearly revealed. Now you will object!

S.P: I must object, yes! For aren’t you saying that human salvation lies in ignorance? Yet ignorance makes fools or brutes of us, surely?

M.E: This is transformed knowledge; not ignorance which comes from lack of knowing; it is by knowing that we get to this unknowing.

S.P: So we use our knowing to take us to unknowing?

M.E: The pupils of St Dionysius asked him why Timothy outstripped them in perfection? Dionysius said, ‘Timothy is a God-receptive man. He who is expert at this outstrippeth all men.’ In this sense, your unknowing is not a defect but your greatest perfection and suffering your highest activity. Kill your activities and still your faculties if you would realise the birth of God in you.

S.P: Interesting. So is this the unknowing of innocence, perhaps? A return to some former time that we have now lost; a time before we existed even?

M.E: Let us be eternally as poor as we were when we eternally were not.  Abiding in him in our essence we shall be what we are.  We shall know God without any sort of likeness; love without matter, and enjoy without possession.  We shall conceive all things in perfection.

The poor in spirit take leave of themselves and of all creatures: they are nothing, they have nothing, they do nothing; and these poor are not - save that by grace they are God with God: which they are not aware of.

I am aware how dangerous these words are. Margaret Porite, who was executed, had said something almost exactly the same; that the soul ‘knows only one thing: that she knows nothing, and wills only one thing: that she does not will anything.’ I keep this to myself however, as Eckhart continues: 

I said once that whoever possesses the world least, actually possesses it the most. No one owns the world as much as they who have given the whole world up.

Conversations With Meister Eckhart by Meister Eckhart and Simon Parke is available from Amazon and all good online books stores.



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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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