Meister Eckhart: Love

He becomes a monk in all the different creeds of the world
so that thereby he may free others from delusion
and save them from falling into erroneous beliefs. – Vimalakirti Sutra

False duality of soul and God; God does not love: God is Love; Creatures love that which is good but pursue it through their desires; Because we do not know God, we love in creatures what is good; all of creation is pure nothing; God loves me with the love with which He loves Himself; I am not blessed by God’s love but by loving God; Since God is everywhere the soul is likewise everywhere; A master benefits beings by remaining in the unity.

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 love it was, for there are more kinds of love than one — and in that way 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: 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 loving desire. 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 in 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. ‘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 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 a picture on the wall, the wall is the support of the picture; so, if anybody loves the picture on the wall, he loves the wall as well. If you took the wall away, the picture would be removed as well. But if you can remove the wall in such a way that the picture remains, then the picture is its own support. If anyone should then love the picture, he would love pure picture. So, you should love all that is lovable and not that 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, so we 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 that they possess by nature, and the nobility of all creatures that 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 than 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 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 wood and throw it in the middle of the water, still the wood is only united and not one. It is different with the soul: she becomes one with God and not united, 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 (St. Thomas, quoting St. Augustine), saying 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 up 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 term ‘united’ 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 could be that God were 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 pray you for God’s sake, I beg you to do this for my sake and carefully mark my words. All those who are thus in unity as I have described it must not suppose that because they are free from ‘forms’, such forms would be better for them than not departing from unity. To do so 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 them (their sake), in unity. May we abide in unity, so help us God. Amen.

[Alternate interpretation: Regarding those who are thus in unity as I have described it, you must not suppose that because they are free from ‘forms’, it would be better for such forms [if they remained among them] than if they did not depart from unity. To do so [i.e. to depart from unity for the sake of forms] 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 unity. – The Editor]

M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises Volume II. UK, Element Books Limited.

One thought on “Meister Eckhart: Love

  1. Pingback: What is love?

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