Σάββατο, 4 Φεβρουαρίου 2012

Meister Eckhart Selected Writings by Oliver Davies



Meister Eckhart Selected Writings
Selected and Translated by Oliver Davies


Johannes  Eckhart, more commonly  known as Meister  Eckhart, was  born near Gotha  in eastern Germany in around 1260, He had an illustrious career  in the Dominican  Order, holding  senior  ecclesiastical  and teaching  posts  all  over Europe including Saxony, Bohemia, Paris, Strasburg and Cologne.
Eckhart is one of the great speculative mystics of Western Europe, who sought to reconcile traditional Christian belief with the transcendental metaphysics of Neoplatonism.
Although accused of heretical teaching during his own lifetime, Eckhart is widely regarded today not only as fundamentally orthodox but also as a foremost exponent of Christian mysticism and Christian philosophical theology. He died in the winter of 1327/8 in Avignon. 


                                              Sermon 22 (DW 51,W8)


Beatipauperes spiritu, quomam ipsorum est regtmm caelerum (Matt. 5:3)

Blessedness spoke to Wisdom and said: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'95 

All the angels, all the saints and everything that was ever born must be silent when the Wisdom of God speaks, for all the wisdom of the angels and all creatures is a pure nothingness before the unfathomable Wisdom of God, And this Wisdom has said that the poor are blessed. 

Now there are two kinds of poverty: external poverty, which is good and very praiseworthy in those who willingly practice it for love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, since this is what he did when he was on earth. But I do not wish to speak further of this poverty, for there is another kind of poverty, which is internal, and which is referred to by Our Lord when he says: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'.
Now, I ask you to be poor enough to understand what it is that I am saying to you, for I declare by Eternal Wisdom that if you do not yourself become the same as that Wisdom of which we wish to speak, then my words will mean nothing to you.
Some people have asked me what poverty is in itself and what it means to be a poor man or woman. 

Bishop Albrecht says that a poor person is someone who takes no pleasure in anything which God has created - and this was well said.96 But we can improve on this and offer a more profound definition of poverty by saying that a poor person is someone who desires nothing, knows nothing and possesses nothing. It is of these three things that we wish to speak, and I beseech you for the love of God to understand me if you can. But if you do not understand, then do not worry, for I shall be speaking of a particular kind of truth which only a few good people can grasp. 

In the first place we say that a poor person is someone who desires nothing. Some people do not understand this point correctly. I mean those who cling to their own egos in their penances and external devotions, which such people regard as being of great importance. God have mercy on them, for they know little of the divine truth! These people are called holy because of what they are seen to do, but inside they are asses, for they do not know the real meaning of divine truth. Although such people are happy to say that a poor person is one who desires nothing, they interpret this as meaning that we must live in such a way that we never perform our own will in anything but that we should desire rather to carry out God's most precious will These people are all right, for they mean well and that is why they deserve our praise. May God in his mercy grant them heaven! 

But I tell you by the divine truth that such people are not truly poor nor are they like those who are poor. They are greatly esteemed by people who know no better. But I tell you that they are asses, who understand nothing of God's truth. May they attain heaven because of their good intent, but of that poverty, of which we now wish to speak, they know nothing. 
If someone were now to ask me what it means to be a poor person who desires nothing, then I would say that as long as it is someone's will to carry out the most precious will of God, such a person does not have that poverty of which we wish to speak. For this person still has a will with which they wish to please God, and this is not true poverty. 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. 

When I existed in my first cause, I had no God and I was my own cause. I willed nothing and desired nothing, for I was naked being and I knew myself by the savour of truth. Then I desired myself and nothing else. What I desired, that was myself, and I was myself what I desired, and I was free both of God and of all things. But when I emerged by free choice and received my created being,9' I came into the possession of a God for, until creatures came into existence, God was not 'God', but was rather what he was. Then, when creatures emerged and received their created being, God was not 'God' in himself but in creatures.*8 
 Now we say that God, in so far as he is this 'God', is not the supreme goal of creatures, for even the least creature possesses this much in God. And if it were the case that a fly had reason and, through reason, was able to seek the eternal abyss of divine being from which it had emerged, then we would say that God, together with all that he is as 'God', could not satisfy the longing even of this fly. 

Therefore we ask God to free us from 'God' so that we may be able to grasp and eternally enjoy truth where the highest angels, the fly and the human soul are all one - in that place where 1 desired what I was and was what I desired. And so we say: if we are to be poor in will, then we must will and desire as little as we willed and desired before we came into being. It is in this way that someone is poor who wills nothing. 
Secondly, they are poor who know nothing. From time to time we have said that we should live as if we did not live, either for ourselves, for truth or for God. But now we put it differently, going further, and say that they who are to have this poverty must live in such a way that they do not know that they do not live either for themselves, for truth or for God. They must rather be free of the knowledge that they do not know, understand or sense that God lives in them. More even than this: they must be free of all the knowledge that lives in them, For when we were contained in the eternal essence of God, there was nothing other than God in us, but what was in us was ourselves. 

Therefore we say that we should be as free of self-knowledge as we were before we were created, that we should allow God to do what he will and that we should be entirely free of all things. 

Everything which ever emerged from God is programmed to act. Loving and knowing are the two forms of activity which belong to humanity. Now there is a debate as to which of these is the place where blessedness is to be found. Some masters have taught that it lies in knowledge, others that it lies in love, while others still consider that it lies in both knowledge and love. These are closer to the truth. But we say that it lies neither in knowledge nor in love, but rather there is a something in the soul which is the source of both knowledge and love, although it does not itself know or love, as do the soul's faculties. Whoever comes to know this discovers where blessedness lies. 

It has neither a past nor a future, and it is not something to which anything can be added, for it cannot become larger or smaller. Therefore it does not possess any knowledge of the fact that God acts in it, rather it is itself that which delights in itself just as God delights in himself. We too should be so solitary and unencumbered that we do not know that it is God who acts in us. 

Thus we will have poverty. The masters say that God is being, rational being, who knows all things. But we say that God is neither being, nor rational being, nor does he know either this or that. Therefore God is free of all things, which is why he is all things. Now they who wish to be poor in spirit, must be poor in all their knowing so that they have no knowledge of anything, neither of God, nor of creature, nor of themselves. This is why it is necessary that we should desire to know or perceive nothing of God's works. In this way we can become poor in knowing. 
Thirdly, a poor person is someone who possesses nothing. Many have said that not possessing the material thing of the earth is perfection, and this is certainly true when it is voluntary. But this is not the sense that I have in mind. 

I said before that a poor person is someone who does not even will to perform God's will, but who lives in such a way that he or she is as free both of their own will and of God's will as they were before they were created. Of this we say that it is the highest poverty. Further, we have stated that a poor person is someone who knows nothing of the action of God within them. 
And this again is the purest poverty when someone is so free of knowledge and perception. But the third kind of poverty of which I shall now speak is the ultimate one, and this is the poverty of someone who possesses nothing. 
 Now listen carefully! I have often said, as great masters have said, that we should be so free of all things and all works, both inner and outer, that we become the place where God can act But now we put it differently. If it is the case that someone is free of all creatures, of God and of themselves, if God finds a place to act in them, then we say: as long as this exists in someone, they have not yet reached the ultimate poverty. 

For God does not intend there to be a place in someone where he can act, but if there is to be true poverty of spirit, someone must be so free of God and all his works that if God wishes to act in the soul he must himself be the place in which he can act, and this he is certainly willing to be. For if God finds us this poor, then God performs his own active work and we passively receive God in ourselves and God becomes the place of his work in us since God works within himself. In this poverty, we attain again the eternal being which we once enjoyed, which is ours now and shall be for ever. 

There is a passage in St Paul which says: 'All that I am I am by the grace of God' (i Cor. ipo). But now my words seem to be above grace, above being, above knowledge and will, above all desire, and so how can St Paul's words be true? It was necessary that God's grace should be in him, since it was this that made perfect in him what was imperfect." When the grace came to an end and completed its work, then Paul remained what he was. 

And so we say that we should be so poor that we neither are nor possess a place in which God can act. If we still have such a place within us, then we still have multiplicity. Therefore I ask God to make me free of 'God', for my most essential being is above 'God' in so far as we conceive of God as the origin of creatures. And so in that essence, where God is above all existence
and all multiplicity: I myself was there, there I desired myself and knew myself to make this man. Therefore I am my own self cause according to my essence, which is eternal, and not according to my becoming, which is in time. There I am unborn, and according to the manner of my unbornness, shall never die. According to the manner of my unborn nature, I have been eternal, as I am now and ever shall be. But what I am according to my nature which was born into the world, that shall die and turn to nothing, for it is mortal. 

Therefore it must decay with time. In my birth,100 all things were born, and I was the cause of my own self and of all things. Had I wished that I should not exist, then neither would anything else have existed. And if I did not exist, then neither would God have existed as 'God'. I am the cause of God's existence as 'God'. But it is not necessary for you to know this.101 

One great master says  that breaking through is  better than flowing out, and this is true. When I flowed forth from God, all things said: God is. 
But this cannot make me blessed, for I know myself as creature in this. 
But in the breakthrough, where I am free of my own will and of  God's will and of all his  works  and am  free of God  himself, there  I am above all creatures and am neither 'God' nor creature, but I am rather what I once was and what I shall remain now and for evermore.

There I receive an impulse which shall raise me above the angels. In this flight I receive such great wealth that God, with all that he has as 'God' and with all his divine works, cannot satisfy me, for the consequence of this breakthrough is that God and I become one. Then I am what I have once been, and I neither increase nor decrease, but am an immovable cause which moves all things. God can find no place in us then, for with this poverty we attain that which we have eternally been and shall for ever remain. Here God is one with our spirit, and this is poverty in its ultimate form.

Whoever does not understand these words, should not be troubled. For as long as someone is not themselves akin to this truth, they will not understand my words, since this is an unconcealed truth which has come directly from the heart of God. That we may live in such a way that we have eternal knowledge of this, so help us God. Amen.

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