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Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing: Sermons, Writings, and Sayings

Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing: Sermons, Writings, and Sayings

by Eckhart, David Steindl-Rast, David O'Neal

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This introduction to the writing and preaching of the greatest medieval European mystic contains selections from his sermons, treatises, and sayings, as well as Table Talk, the records of his informal advice to his spiritual children.


This introduction to the writing and preaching of the greatest medieval European mystic contains selections from his sermons, treatises, and sayings, as well as Table Talk, the records of his informal advice to his spiritual children.

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What is truth? Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep to the truth and let God go.


Meister Eckhart said that no person in this life may reach the point at which he can be excused from out­ward service. Even if he is given to a life of contem­plation, still he cannot refrain from going out and taking an active part in life. Even as a person who has nothing at all may still be generous for his will to give, another may have great wealth and not be gener­ous because he gives nothing; so no man may have virtues without using them as time and occasion re­quire. Thus, those who are given to the life of con­templation and avoid activities deceive themselves and are on the wrong track. I say that the contempla­tive person should indeed avoid even the thought of deeds to be done during the period of his contempla­tion but afterwards he should get busy, for no one can or should engage in contemplation all the time, for active life is to be a respite from contemplation.


Meister Eckhart asked why people are so reluctant to seek God in earnest. Then he made this comment: When one is looking for something and sees no sign that it is where he is searching, he will keep on look­ing there only with painful reluctance. If, however, he begins to find traces of it, then he will hunt gladly, gaily, and in earnest. The man who wants fire is cheered by feeling warmth and then joyously looks for the blaze. It is like that with people who ought to be seeking God: if they get no taste of the divine sweetness, they drag; but if a man lies in wait until he does catch the taste of the divine, ever afterward he is a glad seeker of God.


Earth cannot get away from heaven: let the earth drop downward or rise upward, heaven still penetrates it, im­buing it with strength and making it fruitful, whether it will or no. That is how God treats man: when he thinks to escape God, he runs into God’s bosom, for every hideout is open to him. God begets his Son in you whether you like it or not, whether you sleep or wake—still God is at work. That man is not aware of it is the fault of his [spiritual] tongue, which is smeared with the scum of creatures, in which there is none of the salt of God’s love. If we had God’s love in us, we could taste God in all his works and we would accept anything as from God and finish his work along with him. In sameness [of intent] we are his only begotten Son.


Meister Eckhart, the preacher, also said this: There never was a struggle or a battle which required greater valor than that in which a man forgets or de­nies himself.


I have often said that a person who wishes to begin a good life should be like a man who draws a circle. Let him get the center in the right place and keep it so and the circumference will be good. In other words, let a man first learn to fix his heart on God and then his good deeds will have virtue; but if a man’s heart is unsteady, even the great things he does will be of small advantage.


Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow and to love him as they love their cow—they love their cow for the milk and cheese and profit it makes them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward com­fort. They do not rightly love God when they love him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have on your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost truth.


The just man loves God for nothing, neither for this nor for that, and if God gave him wisdom or anything else he had to give, except himself, the just man would not look at it, nor would it be to his taste; for he wants nothing, seeks nothing, and has no reason for doing anything. As God, having no motives, acts without them, so the just man acts without motives. As life lives on for its own sake, needing no reason for being, so the just man has no reason for doing what he does.


Meister Eckhart says: He who is always alone is wor­thy of God, and to him who is always at home is God present, and in him who stands always in the present does God the Father bear his Son unceasingly.


Meister Eckhart said: I never ask God to give himself to me, I beg him to purify, to empty me. If I am empty, God of his very nature is obliged to give him­self to me to fill me.

How to be pure? By steadfast longing for the one good, God. How to acquire this longing? By self-denial and dislike of creatures. Self-knowledge is the way, for creatures are all nothing, they come to noth­ing with lamentation and bitterness.

God being in himself pure good can dwell no­where except in the pure soul. He overflows into her. Whole, he flows into her. What does emptiness mean? It means a turning from creatures: the heart uplifted to the perfect good so that creatures are no comfort, nor is there any need of them except in that God, the perfect good, is to be grasped in them. The clear eye tolerates the mote no more than does the pure soul anything that clouds, that comes between. Creatures, as she enjoys them, are all pure, for she enjoys creatures in God and God in creatures. She is so clear she sees through herself; nor is God far to seek: she finds him in herself when in her natural pu­rity she flows into the supernatural pure Godhead, where she is in God and God in her, and what she does, she does in God and God does it in her.

Meet the Author

Meister Eckhart (1260–1327) was a German Dominican theologian and popular preacher who believed that God is best approached through paradox and mystery rather than through reason or logic. His works have rung true with seekers for more than eight hundred years.

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