Meister Eckhart on how to receive God
Posted on 07 September 2011, 22:36
Meister Eckhart never ceases to enrich my life, possibly because he stretches it into shapes I never imagined possible.
Here is a further extract from my book Conversations with Meister Eckhart. The conversation itself may be imagined; but his words are all his own.
Here he reflects on those people able to receive God. Would you count yourself among them?
S.P: As I understand you, Meister, a poor person is a person who is naturally receptive to God; who can’t help but receive God, because like attracts like. So tell me more about this poor person, because they seem rather important.
M.E: A poor person is someone who desires nothing, knows nothing and possesses nothing. It is of these three things I wish to speak, and I beseech you for the love of God to understand me if you can.
I feel the passion in his eyes; he cares about these things.
S.P: I’ll do my best.
M.E: But if you do not understand then do not worry, for I shall be speaking of a particular kind of truth which only a few good people can grasp.
S.P: I’ll remember that.
M.E: In the first place, then, a poor person is someone who desires nothing.
S.P: As you’ve said.
M.E: Now, some people do not understand this point correctly. I mean those who cling to their own egos in their penances and external devotions, which such people regard as being of great importance. God have mercy on them, for they know little of the divine truth! These people are called holy because of what they are seen to do, but inside they are asses! - for they do not know the real meaning of divine truth.
S.P: That’s rather harsh.
M.E: These people are all right, for they mean well, and that is why they deserve our praise. May God in his mercy grant them heaven! But I tell you by the divine truth that such people are not truly poor, nor are they like those who are poor. They are greatly esteemed by people who know no better, of course. But I tell you that they are asses, who understand nothing of God’s truth. May they attain heaven because of their good intent, but of that poverty, of which we now speak, they know nothing.
S.P: I’ll be careful who I listen to. But tell me - what does it mean to desire nothing?
M.E: As long as it is someone’s will to carry out the most precious will of God, such a person does not have that poverty of which I wish to speak.
S.P: Why not?
M.E: For this person still has a will with which they wish to please God, and this is not true poverty. If we are to have true poverty, then we must be free of our own created will just as we were before we were created. I tell you by the eternal truth that as long as you have the will to perform God’s will, and a desire for eternity and for God - you are not yet poor! They alone are poor who will nothing and desire nothing. If we are to be poor in will, then we must will and desire as little as we willed and desired before we came into being. It is in this way that someone is poor who wills nothing.
S.P: And to know nothing?
M.E: They who are to have this particular poverty must live in such a way that they do not know that they do not live either for themselves, for truth or for God. Rather, they must be free of the knowledge that they do not know, understand or sense that God lives in them. And more even than this: they must be free of all knowledge that lives in them. For when we were contained within the eternal essence of God, there was nothing other than God in us! Therefore I say that we should be as free of self-knowledge as we were before we were created; that we should allow God to do what he will and that we should be entirely free of all things. This is why it is necessary that we should desire to know or perceive nothing of God’s works. In this way we can become poor in knowing.
S.P: And so to the third kind of poverty. You did say there were three sorts. A poverty of desiring; a poverty of knowing and -
M.E: - the third kind of poverty is the ultimate one, and this is the poverty of someone who possesses nothing. We should be so poor that we neither are, nor possess, a place in which God can act.
S.P: Well, now you’ve surprised me again. Because surely we should all have such a place; a place where God can work?
M.E: Not at all. If we still have such a place within us, then we still have multiplicity. And so it is that I ask God to make me free of ‘God’ - for my most essential being is above ‘God’, in so far as we conceive of God as the origin of creatures. And so in that essence, where God is above all existence and all multiplicity: I myself was there –
S.P: - before creation?
M.E: There I desired myself and knew myself to make this man. Therefore I am my own self cause, according to my essence, which is eternal; and not according to my becoming, which is in time. There I am unborn, and according to the manner of my unbornness, I shall never die. There I am above all creatures and am neither ‘God’ nor creature, but I am rather what I once was and what I shall remain now and forever more. God can find no place in us then, for with this poverty we attain that which we have eternally been and shall forever remain. Here God is one with our spirit, and this is poverty in its ultimate form.
S.P: So what you say is this: that though on one level we are trapped in time, on another level, we can return inwardly to our pre-existent form, when we were one with all things, and free of the multiplicity of form and image which we know now; a time when we were without even the images of God we know now. These are hard words to understand.
M.E: Whoever does not understand these words should not be troubled. For as long as someone is not in themselves akin to this truth, they will not understand my words, since this is an unconcealed truth which came directly from the heart of God.
Conversations With Meister Eckhart by Meister Eckhart and Simon Parke is available from Amazon and all good online books stores.