Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings, trans. by Oliver Davies (London: Penguin, 1994).
Meister Eckhart was a 13-14th Century German Dominican scholar and mystic, tried for heresy in his own time, though perhaps more due to “the political machinations of the age” (xvii) than Eckhart’s teaching itself. However, though I have found much that is beautiful and insightful, my Barthian background makes me especially wary of Eckhart’s theology of the soul and some modalist tendencies throughout these works.
Nonetheless, here are some devotional goodies:
“When we go out of ourselves through obedience and strip ourselves of what is ours, then God must enter into us; for when someone wills nothing for themselves, then God must will on their behalf just as he does for himself” (3).
“If someone were to go entirely out of themselves with all that is theirs, then truly they would be so rooted in God that if anyone were to touch them, they would first have to touch God” (20).
“It can be very destructive if we regard God as being distant from us since, whether we are far from or near to him, he is never far from us and is always close at hand. If he cannot remain within, then he goes no further than the door” (28). This is probably my favourite one.
“All gifts which he has ever granted us in heaven or on earth were made solely in order to be able to give us the one gift, which is himself” (40).
“I am so content with what God might do to me, give me or withhold from me that I would not pay a penny for the best possible life which I could conceive for myself” (50).
“Now our Lord says: “Whoever renounces anything for me and for my name’s sake shall receive a hundredfold and eternal life’ (cf. Matt. 19:29). But if you give it up for the sake of the hundredfold and of eternal life, then you have renounced nothing” (120).
“For someone who loves God, it would be just as easy to give up the whole world as it would be to give up an egg” (126).
“[Y]ou should not confine yourself to just one manner of devotion, since God is to be found in no particular way [i.e., a specific devotional activity], neither this one nor that. That is why they do him wrong who take God just in one particular way. They take the way rather than God” (191).
“If we are to have true poverty, then we must be so free of our own created will 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” (204). Eckhart is here underscoring the absolute passivity that characterises doing God’s will.
“[I]f I say that ‘God is good’, this is not true. I am good, but God is not good! In fact, I would rather say that I am better than God, for what is good can become better and what can become better can become the best! Now God is not good, and so he cannot become better. Since he cannot become better, he cannot become the best. These three are far from God: ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’, for he is wholly transcendent” (236). Obviously Eckhart stated it like this to prick some ears. What he means is that God is so infinitely beyond us that to call God “good,” even “best,” is to define God by our own categories and thus posit something in place of God.
“If you could ever have enough of God, so that you were contented with him, then God would not be God” (237).
“All that God does and all that he teaches, he does and teaches in his Son. When God sees that we are his only begotten Son, then God presses so urgently upon us and hastens towards us and acts as if his divine being were about to collapse and become nothing in itself so that he can reveal to us the whole abyss of his Godhead, the abundance of his being and his nature. God urgently desires that this should become ours just as it is his. Such a person is established in God’s knowledge and in God’s love and is nothing other than what God is” (176).
Initially I was quite captivated by the theology of deification running through Eckhart’s writings, but it must be said that I remain hesitant about the intended goal of this, which is to become absolutely one with God in such a way that all distinctions disappear, that is, we no longer distinguish ourselves from God, and neither do we distinguish Father from Son from Spirit, a kind of eschatological pan-monotheism. While there is some biblical precedent for this (e.g. 1 Cor 15:28), other more prominent (?) eschatological images such as banquets, cities, vineyards, etc, seem to affirm multiplicity. Moreover, to receive (and become) “the whole abyss of his Godhead,” God behind God, although positively underscoring God’s infinity and transcendence, I think does not adequately affirm the necessity of Christ and the Spirit to the essence of God (this interpretation is based on other selections of Eckhart’s writings where there is an absolute oneness prior to/above the multiplicity that is Father, Son, and Spirit).