back to House of the Sun
Johannes Eckhart (1260-1328) was one of the greatest
of Christian mystics. He was born at Hochheim in Thringen, Germany, in 1260,
and entered the Dominican order when he was 15. Later he occupied several
high posts in the order in Germany. Eckhart also taught theology at the
Universities of Paris and Cologne. By the standards of medieval Christianity,
Eckhart was considered a heretic and got in trouble with the Catholic Church.
He stressed the unity of God and the capacity of the individual soul to
become one with God during life. He taught that the divine is present in
each of us and that we can become one with God. His descriptions of God
or the Divine are striking similar to those in Buddhism, Taoism and other
spiritual teachings. It is obvious that Eckhart was talking from experience,
having attained union with the Divine himself.
People should not worry as much about what they
do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then
their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also
be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but
rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we
who sanctify our works.
It is a fair trade and an equal exchange: to the
extent that you depart from things, thus far, no more and no less, God enters
into you with all that is his, as far as you have stripped yourself of yourself
in all things. It is here that you should begin, whatever the cost, for
it is here that you will find true peace, and nowhere else.
A person should not be satisfied with the thought
of God, for when the thought passes, God passes as well. Rather one should
have a God as essential being who is far more sublime than the thoughts
of humans and other creatures. Such a God does not vanish, unless a person
deliberately turns away from Him.
To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least, for no one can know God who has not first known himself. Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place of the Most High, to the roots, to the heights; for all that God can do is focused there.
Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from
the world, by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going
apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or
with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God
All creatures are a pure nothing. I do not say that they are worthless or even that they are something at all. They are a pure nothing. That which has no being is nothing. All creatures have no being, for their being depends on the presence of God. If God were to turn away from all creatures even for an instant, they would vanish.
The man who has submitted his will and purposes
entirely to God, carries God with him in all his works and in all circumstances.
Therein can no man hinder him, for he neither aims at nor enjoys anything
else, save God. God is united with Him in all his purposes and designs.
Even as no manifoldness can dissipate God, so nothing can dissipate such
a man, or destroy his unity. Man, therefore, should take God with him in
all things; God should be always present to his mind and will and affections.
The same disposition that thou hast in church or in thy cell, thou should
keep and maintain in a crowd, and amid the unrest and manifoldness of the
Some people pride themselves on their detachment from mankind, and are glad to be alone or in church; and therein lies their peace. But he who is truly in the right state, is so in all circumstances, and among all persons; he who is not in a good state, it is not right with him in all places and among all persons. He who is as he should be has God with him in truth, in all places and among all persons, in the street as well as in the church; and then no man can hinder him.
It is the peculiar characteristic of this birth
that it always brings new light. It constantly introduces a strong light
into the soul since it is the nature of goodness to pour itself forth wherever
it may be. In this birth God pours himself into the soul with light so much
that the light gathers in the being and ground of the soul and spills over
into the faculties and the outer self. This happened to Paul too when God
bathed him in his light as he journeyed, and spoke to him. A likeness of
the light in the ground of the soul flows over into the body, which is then
filled with radiance. But sinners can receive nothing of this, nor are they
worthy to do so, since they are filled with sin and evil, which are called "darkness".
Therefore it is said: "The darkness shall neither receive nor comprehend
the light" (cf. John 1:5). The problem is that the paths which this
light should take are blocked with falsehood and darkness. After all, light
and darkness cannot coexist any more than God and creatures can. If God
is to enter, then the creatures must leave.
You should know (God) without image, unmediated and without likeness. But if I am to know God without mediation in such a way, then "I" must become "he", and "he" must become "I". More precisely I say: God must become me and I must become God, so entirely one that "he" and this "I" become one "is" and act in this "isness" as one, for this "he" and this "I", that is God and the soul, are very fruitful.