|by Richard Lang
The following quotations are all from the mediaeval German mystic, Meister
When all things are reduced to naught in you then you shall see God.
The desert of the Godhead where no one is at home.
Into the soul's essence no speck can ever fall.
If the soul would but stay within, she would have everything.
It is its nature to be natureless.
Become pure till you neither are nor have this or that; then you are omnipresent and, being neither this nor that, are all things.
God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being and let God be God in you.
Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1328) was born near Erfurt in Thuringia, Germany, and in his distinguished career became a Parisian Professor of Theology, also taught in Cologne, and took a leading pastoral and organisational role in the Dominican Order. He delivered his sermons to the people in German, not Latin, and had a significant influence on other contemporary mystics - Suso, Tauler and Ruysbroek. Towards the end of his life he fell into disgrace. A number of propositions extracted from his writings were condemned as heretical by the Church. Today, however, he is revered by many as one of the greatest Seers of mediaeval Europe - perhaps one of the greatest Christian Seers of all time.
As with any true Seer, Eckhart speaks from his own first hand experience, not simply from what he has read or been told to believe. Somehow he awoke to his own true nature, to his innermost Self - the 'desert' that is void of all characteristics, empty of all thingness. (Other words he uses are Aybss, Nothingness) This 'desert of the Godhead' is also Thomas Traherne' 'Capacity' (see last newsletter), Buddhism's Void or Buddha Nature, and Zen's Original Face. It is the Sufi's Beloved, and the Self of Ramana Maharshi and the Indian Advaita tradition.
When we look into the desert of our true nature, into our very centre, we find there is no-one at home. One's 'self' is absent. This is not an achievement born out of virtue or discipline - it is simply the way things are. At centre there is nobody home - except the Godhead. (As Eckhart puts it so simply, "God's in, I'm out.") Look in the right place (right where you are), in the right way (open-mindedly), and you will see the void that is filled by the world, from your own hands and feet to the furthest star. The desert of our true nature blossoms forth as the living universe.
To find ourselves absent like this, clear out of the picture, is a profound relief. A huge burden lifts from our shoulders. This relief and healing, this peace and freedom is everybody's birthright.
The 'soul's essence' is clear like water, like air - no speck of dust can alight here. And nothing and no one can stain it - no matter what we have done, or thought, or felt. Eckhart invites us to wake to this Clear Light, to enjoy the Godhead, to drink from this fountain that never runs dry. It will refresh us. It will also give us eternal life - for this is its nature, which is our nature. In the very midst of our time-bound lives, in our very hearts, abides a timeless place, the mysterious core of us all.
Abiding in our essential 'no-thingness', all things are added. We are capacity for the world. In fact, all the world is born out of this nothingness - out of who we really are. Identifying with 'this' or 'that', we separate ourselves from the universe and are but a product of it. But awakening to our fundamental emptiness, we find we are the source of all. Out of Silence come sounds and words, out of No-mind come thoughts and feelings, out of this Abyss are born the stars above, the earth below, the people we meet, one's own body.
Because who we really are is no-thing, we are everywhere, we are everything. To be limited to one's appearance, to one single human identity - unique and precious as each of us is - is to be here and not there, now and not then. This of course is an obvious truth. What is also obvious, but less widely recognised, is the other side of the coin - one's omnipresence as the source.
Where does this awakening lead? It leads to letting God live our lives. The simplest and profoundest of truths, that our innermost being is God, leads on to accepting and indeed surrendering to God. It means letting God be God in us.
All Seers are awake to the truth of their deepest identity, and actively practise surrender to this truth - to the way things really are. When, however, a Christian declares that he or she is God, the Church becomes worried. There is good reason for this. The claim is potenially a crazy one. If the claim relates merely to one's human self, then this is the worst form of pride, and is indeed a profound madness. Surrender then implies surrendering to a human being - another or oneself. But when the claim - and the surrender - relates to one's deepest identity, below and beyond one's humanity, then the claim - and the surrender - are sane. Then our everyday over-identification with our human self, with the face we see in the mirror, with our body and mind, is recognised to be the eccentric, off-beam perspective that it really is. Such over-identification blots out awareness of our true self, diverting attention from our nothingness/everythingness, from the no-face that takes on every face in the world as its own.
Spiritual awakening involves a profound and far-reaching change in our lives - from living from the mistake that we are only human to living from the truth of who we really are.
Eckhart calls out from across more than six and a half centuries, encouraging us to awaken and surrender to that which is most intimate and vital in us all. May each of us discover and value this most wonderful treasure within.