He Was Describing The Mysticism Of Meister Eckhart

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In The Language Of The “Eternal Now,” We Are Speaking Of God As Simultaneously Immanent In Creatures, As He Is Also Transcendent To Them

Sitting Around The Campfire Discussing Meister Eckhart

July 29, ‘82

The weather has been super, and so has the traffic. I’ve waited a long time for that kind of luck. Until this trip, I had been under the illusion that, yes, biking is a tough-it-out experience. It doesn’t have to be that way, and this trip proves it. I’m sitting on the back steeps of a hardware store in Sheet Harbor, Nova Scotia. Bill has gone to dinner, so I have time to write. Bill has been an excellent partner. I almost forgot how enthusiastic he could be. When he’s up, he’s just like a little kid in a candy store, and he’s been up the whole time.

Two days ago we biked along freshwater lakes and rivers, while yesterday we enjoyed the even more beautiful scenery of ocean inlets and off shore islands. Last night we camped in a picnic area. Bill was still bubbling over with spirit, the kind that Nova Scotia draws out of a person. Sitting around the campfire, we got to talking about the “good life.” When the conversation turned to God, I did most of the talking, but judging from Bill’s questions, he had an uncanny understanding of what I was trying to say. I certainly didn’t expect that form him; religion was not his bag. By the end of the evening I began to understand better. He was describing the mysticism of Meister Eckhart, but he could have been talking about my own belief system.

Bill had just finished taking a class at CMU. The students were given a marketing paper to write. The product, or the idea that they had to sell, was drawn from a hat. Bill picked the name Meister Eckhart. The Meister was a 13th century Christian mystic, but when Bill read the name he thought the guy was the founder of Meister Brau, the first brewery to market can draft beer. Maybe he was joking when he told me that. I’m still not sure. Anyway, he took the assignment seriously and came away from the project with a basic understanding of Eckhart’s religion, philosophy, mysticism??? By the end of the evening, I was surprised to find a lot of “Eckhart” in my own religious views.

Meister Eckhart sermonized during the “age of knighthood,” or the time when armor-clad roustabouts respected chivalry and honor more than they did the heads they lopped off during a joust. When I asked Bill, “How could that be, how could a catholic theologian, a foot soldier in the Pope’s army, reject God and get away with it?” He said, “he didn’t; Eckhart was put on trial for heresy in 1326, and he died during the proceedings.” The rest of the conversation went something like this:

“That figures,” I said, “Anyone who dared turn the Christian view of creation into an argument for continuous creativity had to be a threat to the church. What I don’t understand, though, is how he reconciled his belief in the Trinity with continuous creation, and where did the double negatives fit in?”

“Yes, that was a problem,” Bill responded, “but only if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are conceived as separate from God. Of course, the Persons of the Trinity are both separate from, and one with God. That is the Christian paradox isn’t it! Eckhart’s ‘eternal now’ concept solved that problem. In the ‘eternal now,’ the Persons of the Trinity became one with the creative process as they affirmed God. They became a necessary and integral part of transcendent God as they permitted God’s immanence in the ‘here and now.’ For the Meister, the Son and the Holy Spirit made possible both creation and creativity.”

“They substituted for the double negative aspect of God then?” I said.

“If I understand you correctly,” replied Bill, “yes. From a functional perspective, your double negative and Eckhart’s Trinity are interchangeable concepts. Were it not for the Trinity there wouldn’t be a God and, according to Eckhart, we wouldn’t be having this conversation! The Godhead, which is the affirmative ground of God, is indescribable, but creation—past, present, and future—is the manifestation of the Persons of the Trinity. In the language of the ‘eternal now,’ we are speaking of God as simultaneously immanent in creatures, as He is also transcendent to them.”

“Without the Persons of the Trinity,” I said, “there wouldn’t be a ‘now,’ eternal or otherwise?”

“You bet,” said Bill, “for Eckhart, the Trinity and God are the same thing. And because of that, he sometimes referred to God as pure intellect or understanding.”

“God is limited by reason then?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that,” Bill replied. “The divine addresses what is; it does not limit possibility.”

“But what about miracles?” I said. “What about Jesus? He was, at least according to scripture, immaculately conceived.”

“The Bible tells us that God’s Son was made flesh,” Bill replied. “What the church understands as flesh and blood might, given some of Eckhart’s statements, be better understood as a symbolic representation for all Sons and Daughters of God—the human race.

To be continued…..


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