Meister Eckhart: Sermon Fifty Seven

This sermon touches on a number of subjects: the renunciation of the self, loving others as oneself, and the oneness of everything in God. It is the source of several splendid Eckhart quotes.

Man’s ultimate and dearest leave-taking is if he takes leave of God for God. He gives up all that he might get from God together with every idea of God.

Now all things are equal in God and are God Himself. Here God delights so in this likeness that He pours out His whole nature and being in this equality in Himself. He rejoices in it, just as if one were to turn a horse loose in a green meadow that was completely smooth and level. And it would be the horse’s nature to let himself go with all his strength in galloping about the meadow—he would enjoy it for it is his nature.

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love.

That man who is established thus in God’s love must be dead to self and all created things, paying as little regard to himself as to one who is a thousand miles away.

A man who completely gave up self for a single instant, to him all would be given. But if a man gave up self for twenty years and then took it back for a single instant, it would be as if he had never given it up.

 

QUI AUDIT ME NON CONFUNDETUR

(ECCL. 24:30)1

The text that I have quoted in Latin is declared by the eternal wisdom of the Father and it says: “Whoever hears me is not ashamed.” If he is ashamed of anything, he is ashamed of being ashamed. “He that works in me does not sin. He that expounds me shall have eternal life”. Of these three sayings that I have quoted, each would be enough for a sermon. I will speak first of the words of the eternal wisdom: “Whoever hears me is not ashamed.”

Whoever would hear the eternal wisdom of the Father, he must be within, and at home, and must be one: then he can hear the eternal wisdom of the Father. There are three things that prevent us from hearing the eternal Word. The first is corporeality, the second is multiplicity, the third is temporality. If a man transcended these three things, he would dwell in eternity, he would dwell in the spirit, he would dwell in unity and in the desert—and there he would hear the eternal Word.

Now our Lord says: “No one hears my word or my teaching unless he has renounced self” (Luke 14:26).2 For to hear the word of God demands absolute self-surrender. The hearer is the same as the heard in the eternal Word. All that the eternal Father teaches is His being and His nature and His entire Godhead, which He divulges to us altogether in His son and teaches us that we are that same son. A man who went out of self so far that he was the only-begotten son would gain all that the only-begotten son possesses. Whatever God performs and whatever He teaches, all that He performs and teaches in His only-begotten son. God performs all His works that we may become the only-begotten son. When God sees that we are the only-begotten son, He is in such haste to get to us, and hurries as much as if His divine being would be shattered and destroyed in itself, that He may reveal to us the depth of His Godhead and the plenitude of His being and His nature. God then hastens to make it our own just as it is His own. Here God has delight and joy in abundance. That man stands in God’s awareness and in God’s love and becomes none other than what God is Himself.

If you love yourself, you love all men as yourself. As long as you love anyone less than yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself; but if you love all alike as yourself, you will love them as one person, and that person is both God and man. Thus he is a just and righteous person who, loving himself, loves all others equally.3 Now some people say, ‘I love my friend, who is good to me, better than any other man’. It is not right thus, it is imperfect; but it must be tolerated, just as some people sail across the sea with half a wind and still arrive. So it is with people who love one person better than another: it is natural. If I truly loved him as myself, then whatever happened to him for good or ill, whether it were life or death, I would be as glad for it to happen to me as to him, and that would be real friendship.

Man’s ultimate and dearest leave-taking is if he takes leave of God for God. He gives up all that he might get from God together with every idea of God. In parting with these, he parts with God for God’s sake. And yet God remains to him as God is in His own nature—not as He is conceived by anyone to be, nor yet as something yet to be attained, but more as an is-ness, as God really is. Then he neither gives to God nor receives anything from Him, for he and God are a unit—that is, pure unity. Here man is true man, for whom there can be no suffering, any more than the divine essence can suffer.

As I have said before, there is something in the soul that is so closely akin to God that it is already one with Him and need never be united to Him. It stands alone; it has nothing in common with anything, and nothing created has anything in common with it. All created things are nothing, but that something is apart from and alien to all creation. If one were wholly this he would be uncreated and unlike any creature. If any corporeal or perishable thing were taken into that unity, it, too, would be like the essence of that unity. If I should find myself in this essence, even for a moment, I should have as little regard for my self as for a dung-worm.

God gives to all things equally, and as they flow forth from God they are equal: angels, men and all creatures proceed alike from God in their first emanation. To take things in their primal emanation would be to take them all alike. If they are alike in time, then in God in eternity they are much more alike. If you could take a midge into God, it would be far nobler in God than the highest angel in himself.

Now all things are equal in God and are God Himself. Here God delights so in this likeness that He pours out His whole nature and being in this equality in Himself. He rejoices in it, just as if one were to turn a horse loose in a green meadow that was completely smooth and level. And it would be the horse’s nature to let himself go with all his strength in galloping about the meadow—he would enjoy it for it is his nature. In just the same way God finds joy and satisfaction when He finds likeness. He rejoices, pouring out all His nature and His being into His likeness, for He is Himself this likeness.

A question arises about the angels. Do those angels who dwell here with us to serve and guard us suffer a diminution of their joys in comparison with those that abide in eternity? Is it in any sense a drawback to them to be engaged in serving and protecting us? I reply, No, not at all. Their joy is no less, and so too their equality, for the angel’s work is God’s will and God’s will is the angel’s work, and accordingly such an angel is not hindered in his joy, his likeness or his work. If God should tell an angel to fly to a tree and pick off the caterpillars, the angel would be ready to pick them off; being God’s will it would be his happiness.

A man who is established thus in God’s will wants nothing but what is God’s will and what is God. If he were sick he would not want to be well. To him all pain is pleasure, all multiplicity is bare simplicity, if he is truly established in the will of God. Even though it meant the pains of hell it would be joy and happiness to him. He is free and has left self behind, and must be free of whatever is to come in to him. If my eye is to perceive colour, it must be free of all colour. If I see a blue or white colour, the sight of my eye which sees the colour, the very thing that sees, is the same as that which is seen by the eye. The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love.

That man who is established thus in God’s love must be dead to self and all created things, paying as little regard to himself as to one who is a thousand miles away. That man abides in likeness and abides in unity in full equality, and no unlikeness enters into him. This man must have given up self and all this world. If there were a man who possessed all the world, and he gave it up as freely as he received it for God’s sake, then our Lord would give him back all this world and eternal life as well. And if there were another man who possessed nothing but good will, and he thought: “Lord, were this whole world mine, and if I had another world and yet another” (or as many more as you please); if he were to pray: “Lord, I will give up these and myself as freely as I received them from you,” then God would give that man just as much as if he had given it away with his own hand. Still another man who had nothing physical or spiritual to renounce or give up, he it is who would give up the most. A man who completely gave up self for a single instant, to him all would be given. But if a man gave up self for twenty years and then took it back for a single instant, it would be as if he had never given it up. One who has given up self and keeps giving up self, and never casts a glance at what he has given up but remains firm, unmoved in himself and unchangeable, he alone has left self behind.

That we may thus remain firm and unchangeable as the eternal Father, so help us God and eternal wisdom. Amen.

1. Ecclesiasticus Biblia Sacra Vulgata (VULGATE)

30 qui audit me non confundetur, et qui operantur in me non peccabunt
31 qui elucidant me vitam aeternam habebunt

30 He that hearkens to me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin.
31 They that expound me shall have life everlasting (Douay Rheims)

2. “If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, KJ)

3. By “just” Eckhart meant the state of equanimity: perceiving everything as the same, as perfect, as one.

The just man has such need of justice that he cannot love anything but justice. If God were not just, as I have said before, he would care nothing for God. Wisdom and justice are one in God, and he who loves wisdom also loves justice. If the devil were just, he would love him in so far as he was just and not a hair’s breadth more.

The just man does not love ‘this and that’ in God. If God were to give him all His wisdom and all that He can perform outside of Himself, that man would not care for it or have any taste for it, because he wants nothing and seeks nothing. For he has no reason for which he does anything, just as God acts without reason and has no reason. In the same way as God acts, so the just man acts without reason; and just as life lives for its own sake and asks for no reason for which to live, so the just man has no reason for which to act. (Walshe, Vol. II, Sermon Forty Three, p. 2)

No iniquity or injustice, nothing made or created can grieve the just, for everything created is as far beneath him as it is beneath God; it makes no impression or influence on the just, and is not begotten in him whose father is God alone. Therefore a man should strive earnestly to rid himself of his image of himself and of all creatures, and know no father but God alone. Then nothing will be able to afflict or sadden him, neither God nor creature, created nor uncreated, and all his being, life, knowledge, wisdom and love will be from God and in God, and be God. (Walshe, 2009, “Book of Divine Comfort,” p. 527)

Blakney, Raymond B. (1941). Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation. New York: Harper & Row (pp. 203-206). (download)

M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises Volume II. UK: Element Books Limited (pp.83-88)

Walshe, Maurice O’C. (2009). The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company. download

“Aperture! Stop!” by Mandelenda

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