This identity, out of the one and into the one and with the one, is the source and fountainhead and breaking forth of glowing love. – Meister Eckhart
To love as God loves, one must be dead to self and all created things, and have as little regard for self as for one who is a thousand miles away. His life is an identity and a unity and there is no distinction in him. This person must have denied himself and the whole world. If anyone owned the whole world and gave it up as freely as he received it, God would give it back to him and eternal life to boot. (Blakney, p. 106)
The nobler things are, the greater and the more universal. Love is noble because it is universal. It seems hard to do as our Lord commands and love our fellow Christians as ourselves. The common run of men generally say we should love them for the good [in them] for which we love ourselves. Not so. We should love them exactly the same as ourselves, and that is not difficult. Properly considered, love is more a reward than a commandment. The commandment seems hard, but the reward is desirable. Whoever loves God as he ought and must (whether or would or not), and as all creatures love Him, he must love his fellow man as himself, rejoicing in his joys as his own joys, and desiring his honour as much as his own honour, and loving a stranger as one of his own. This way a man is always joyful, honoured and advantaged, just as if he were in heaven, and so he has more joy than if he rejoiced only in his own good. And you should know in truth that if you take more pleasure in your own honour than in that of another, that is wrong.
Sermon Forty Three
Note the words, God loves. This is a great reward for me, and indeed too great if, as I have said before, I should wish for God to love me. What does God love? God loves nothing but Himself and what is like Himself, and He finds it in me and me in Him. In the Book of Wisdom* it says: God loves none but him that dwells in wisdom (Sap. 7:28). There is another text in scripture which is better still: God loves those who pursue justice in wisdom (Prov. 15:9). The text says: who pursue justice and wisdom, and therefore He loves those who pursue Him, for He loves us only because he finds us in Him.
* Also known as the Wisdom of Solomon, one of the seven Sapiential Books. Neither Judaism nor Christianity include Wisdom and Sirach in their biblical canon; nevertheless, the authorities make them available.
There is a big difference between God’s love and our love. We only love because we find God in what we love. Even if I had sworn it, I could not love anything but goodness. But God loves because He is good (not that He could find anything in man to love but His own goodness), and because we are in Him and His love. That is His gift, that is the gift of His love, that we are in Him and dwell in wisdom.
What is God’s love? His nature and His being: that is His love. If God were deprived of loving us, that would deprive Him of His being and His Godhead, for His being depends on His loving me.
Again, God loves for its own sake, acts for its own sake: that means that he loves for the sake of love and acts for the sake of action. . . . Thus God created the world so that he might keep on creating. The past and future are both far from God and alien to his way. (Blakney p. 62)
Sermon Seventy Seven
In this country we read in the epistle for today that St John says: God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Now I say: God is love, and he who dwells in love is in God, and He in him. And when I say God is love, I do so in order that we may remain with the One. Now observe: when we say God is love, the question might arise as to which kind of love it is, for there are more kinds of love than one—and in those other kinds we should be departing from the One. Therefore, so that we may remain with the One, I say God is love, and this for four reasons.
The first reason is that God pursues all creatures with His love, that they may desire to love God. If I were asked what God is, I would now answer: God is a good that pursues all creatures with love so that they may pursue Him in turn—so great is the joy God feels in being pursued by creatures.
Secondly, all creatures pursue God with their love, for no man is so evil as to commit sin for the sake of evil: he does so rather out of a desire for something he loves. If a man slays another, he does so not in order to do evil; rather he thinks that as long as the other lives he will not be at peace with himself. Accordingly he will seek his desire for peace, for peace is something we love. So, all creatures pursue God with love, for God is love and all creatures desire love. If a stone had reason, it would have to pursue God with love. If you were to ask a tree why it bore fruit, if it had reason, it would say: I renew myself in the fruit in order to approach my origin in the renewal, for it is lovely to be near the origin. God is the origin and is love. Therefore the soul can never be satisfied but with love, for love is God. St Augustine says: Lord, if thou wert to give me all thou canst, I would not be satisfied unless thou gavest me thyself. St Augustine also says: O man, love what you can obtain with love, and hold to what satisfies your soul.
Thirdly, I say God is love for God has scattered His love among all creatures and yet is One in Himself. Since there is something lovable in all creatures, in every one, therefore every creature, as far as it is endowed with reason, loves something in another that is like itself. Accordingly, women sometimes desire something red because they seek satisfaction of their desire, and if that does not satisfy them, then another time they demand something green, and still their desire cannot be satisfied. And the reason is this: they do not take the simple desire, but they take the cloth as well, which bears the colour that appears desirable. Now since something desirable appears in every creature, therefore people love now this and now that. Now put aside this and that, and what remains is nothing but God.
If a man paints an image on the wall, the wall is the support of the image; so, if anybody loves the image on the wall, he loves the wall as well. If you took the wall away, the image would be removed as well. But if you can remove the wall in such a way that the image remains, then the image is its own support. If anyone should then love the image, he would love pure image. So, you should love all that is lovable and not that thing on which it appears lovable, and then you will love nothing but God: that is an undoubted truth.
St. Dionysius says: “God has become as nothing to the soul”; that means He is unknown to her. Because we do not know God, we therefore love in creatures what is good, and since we confuse things with goodness, that is a cause of sin.
The angels are innumerable; no one can imagine their number, and for each one there is a heaven, one above the other. If the lowest angel dropped a splinter—as if one were to cut a splinter off a piece of wood—and if that were to fall down in time on to this earth complete with the nobility it has of its true nature, all things on earth would blossom and become fruitful. You can imagine, then, now noble the highest angel is. Now if we were to combine the nobility of all the angels which they possess by nature, and the nobility of all creatures which they have by nature, together with the nobility of the whole world, and if we wanted to bring all this into comparison with God, we would not find God that way, for before God it is worthless. It is all worthless, utterly worthless and less than worthless, for it is pure nothing. God is not to be found that way, but only in the One.
In the fourth place I say God is Love because He must needs love all creatures with His love, whether they know it or not. Accordingly I will say something I last said on Friday: I will never pray to God for His gifts, nor will I ever ask Him for His gifts, for if I were worthy to receive His gifts He would have to give them to me whether He would or not. Therefore I will not pray to Him for His gifts, since He must give: but I will surely pray to Him to make me worthy to receive His gifts, and I will thank Him for being such that He has to give. Therefore I say God is Love for He loves me with the love with which He loves Himself, and if anyone deprived Him of that, they would deprive Him of His entire Godhead. Though it is true that He loves me with His love, yet I cannot become blessed through that: but I would be blessed by loving Him and be blessed in His love.
Now I say: He who dwells in love is in God, and He is in him. If I were asked where God is, I should reply: He is everywhere. If I were asked where the soul is that dwells in love, I should reply: She is everywhere. For God loves, and the soul that dwells in love is in God and God is in her. And since God is everywhere and she is in God, she is not half in and half out of God. And since God is in her, the soul must needs be everywhere, for He who is everywhere is in her. God is everywhere in the soul, and she is everywhere in Him. Thus God is one All without all things, and she is with Him one All without all things. This is a sermon for All Saints. Now it is over. Now everyone remain seated: I want to keep you longer. I am going to preach you another sermon. God preserve us from peril!
Sermon Seventy Eight
The soul is one with God and not united. Here is a simile: if we fill a wooden tub with water, the water in the tub is united but not one with it, for where there is water there is no wood, and where there is wood there is no water. Now take the tub and throw it into a lake: still the wood is only united with the water and not one. It is different with the soul: she becomes one with God and not united to God, for where God is, there the soul is and where the soul is, there God is.
Scripture says: Moses saw God face to face (Ex. 33:11). The masters deny this, saying that where two faces appear God is not seen, for God is one and not two; for whoever sees God sees nothing but one.
Now I will take the text I used in my first sermon: God is Love, and he who dwells in love is in God, and He in him (1 John 4:16). To him who is thus in love I address the words of St Matthew: Enter, true and faithful servant, into the joy of your Lord (25:21), and I will add the words of our Lord: Enter, faithful servant, I will place you over all my goods (Matt. 25:27). This is to be understood in three ways. First: I will set you over all my goods. As my goods are scattered among creatures, over this dividedness, I will set you above them, in one. Secondly, inasmuch as they are all summed up in one, I will set you over this summation, in unity, as all good is a unity. Thirdly, I will set you into the source of unity, where the very word, unite, disappears. There God is to the soul as if the reason for His being God were that He might be the soul’s. For if it were possible for God to withhold from the soul so much as a hair’s-breadth of His being or His essence, whereby He belongs to Himself, then He would not be God—so absolutely one does the soul become with God. I take a saying of our Lord from the Gospel: I pray thee Father, as I and thou are one, that they may thus become one with us (John 17:21). And I take another text from the Gospel, where our Lord said: Where I am, there too my servant shall be (John 12:26). So truly will the soul become one being, which is God and no less, and that is as true as that God is God.
Dear children, I beg you to note one thing: I ask you for God’s sake, I beg you to do this for my sake and carefully mark my words. Regarding those who are thus in the unity as I have described it, you must not suppose that because a master is free from forms, that it would be better for his students if he departed from the unity and remained among them [i.e., among forms]. For him to depart from the unity for the sake of his students would be wrong and might even be called heresy; for you should know that there, in the unity, there is neither Conrad nor Henry. I will tell you how I think of people: I try to forget myself and everyone and merge myself, for their sake, in the unity. May we abide in unity, so help us God. Amen.
From The Talks of Instruction
When one takes God as he is divine, having the reality of God within him, God sheds light on everything. Everything will taste like God and reflect him. God will shine in him all the time. He will have the [equanimity], renunciation, and spiritual vision of his beloved, ever-present Lord. He will be like one thirsty with a real thirst; he cannot help drinking even though he thinks of other things. Wherever he is, with whomsoever he may be, whatever his purpose or thoughts or occupation—the idea of the Drink will not depart as long as the thirst endures; and the greater the thirst the more lively, deep-seated, present, and steady the idea of the Drink will be. Or suppose one loves something with all that is in him, so that nothing else can move him or give pleasure, and he cares for that alone, looking for nothing more; then, wherever he is or with whomsoever he may be, whatever he tries or does, that Something he loves will not be extinguished from his mind. He will see it everywhere, and the stronger his love grows for it the more vivid it will be. A person like this never thinks of resting because he is never tired.
The more he regards everything as divine—more divine than it is of itself—the more God will be pleased with him. To be sure, this requires effort and love, a careful cultivation of the spiritual life, and a watchful, honest, active oversight of all one’s mental attitudes toward things and people. It is not to be learned by fleeing from the world, running away from things, turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, one must learn an inner solitude, wherever or with whomever he may be. He must learn to penetrate things and find God there, to get a strong impression of God firmly fixed in his mind.
Blakney, Raymond B. (1941). Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation. New York: Harper & Row. (https://archive.org/stream/MeisterEckhartEckhartMeister1260Ca.1329/Meister%20Eckhart%20-%20Eckhart%2C%20Meister%2C%201260-ca.%201329_djvu.txt)
M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises Vol. I & II. UK: Element Books Limited.
One thought on “Meister Eckhart on Love”