Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Meister Eckhart
Dominican Preacher, Theologian and Mystic
(and possible heretic)


The Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. "Meister Eckhart"

Tractate XII

When a man delights to read or hear tell about God, that comes of divine grace and is lordly entertainment for the soul. To entertain God in one's thoughts is sweeter than honey, but to be sensible of God is teeming consolation to the noble soul, and union with God in love is everlasting joy which we relish here as we are fitted for it.

They are all too few who are fully ripe for gazing in God's magic mirror. Precious few succeed in living the contemplative life at all here upon earth. Many begin, but fail to consummate it. Because they have not rightly lived the life of Martha. As the eagle spurns its young that cannot gaze at the sun, even so fares it with the spiritual child.
He who would build high must lay firm and strong foundations. The true foundation is the very way and pattern of our Lord Jesus Christ, who himself declared: 'I am the way, the truth and the life.'

Dionysius says, 'The soul shall follow God into the desert of his Godhead so far as here the body follows Christ in outward willing poverty.' -- 'But that soul is idle.' To which St Bernard answers: 'Waiting upon God is not idleness but work which beats all other work to one unskilled in it.' In order to find God, we must seek him in his Godhead. Christ says, 'If the father and mother or anything else be a hindrance, quit them for good and serve God unhindered.' The philosopher says, 'The soul which is moved by the power of the Prime Cause need seek no counsel from any human vision; he is obeying what transcends wisdom, for he is moved by the latent primitive truth.'

Though we meditate upon the blessed works of our Lord's poverty and his humility, yet coveting them not ourselves, the thoughts are useless. And to covet them is useless too, unless we diligently seek how we may acquire them.
We would fain be humble: but not despised. To be despised and rejected is the heritage of virtue. We would be poor too, but without privation. And doubtless we are patient, except with hardships and disagreeables. And so with all the virtues.

The willing poor, unsolaced by corruptibles, descend into the valley of humility. They are pursued by insult and adversity, the best school of self-knowledge. And self-knowledge gets God-knowledge.
My children, ye who suffer much insult, if the world reject you, do ye therewith likewise assail yourselves, helping to reject yourselves. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, 'The servant is not greater than his lord. If the world hate you, know ye it hated me before it hated you.'

We ought to recompense our Lord for all that he has done. They are plenty to follow our Lord half-way, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends, and honours, but it touched them too closely to disown themselves.
Some there be, neither wanting nor looking for honours, yet, chancing to come their way, honours affect them.
St Bernard says: 'When a soul comes to wanting what few desire: to be nameless, outcast and disgraced, and makes all welcome equally, then she attains to peace and the true freedom needed for real vision in the mirror of divinity.'
Perfect rest is absolute freedom from motion. Our Lord says, 'Continue in my word and the truth shall make you free.' Freedom of soul consists in this: in finding in herself no sin; in tolerating in herself no spiritual imperfection. She is more free lacking all hold on what possesses name and it on her. Freest of all when she transcends her selfhood and flows with all she is into the bottomless abyss of her primordial mould, into God himself.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ exhorts us to renounce all things that we may be less hindered. St Bernard declares: 'All the time thou occupiest not with God is accounted unto thee for lost.' And again,' The most subtle temptation that can beset us is to occupy ourselves too much in outward works.' Further he says, 'The best preparation I know for heaven is having no home among externals.'

    Our least interior act is higher and nobler than our grandest outward one, and yet our loftiest interior act halts in God's unveiled presence in the soul.

    The very best work that we can do is to prepare for union with the present God and wait for this with fixed intention.

    St Paul says, Optimum esse unire deo: Best of all is to be one with God. In this union the soul is dead, not only to all outward but also to all inward ghostly acts. God operates unhindered, and the soul bears his godly operation to which she yields obediently enough for God to bring to birth his only Son in her no less than in himself. This is the atonement wherein, in the twinkling of an eye, the soul is made more one with God than by her doing any act, bodily or ghostly. The oftener this birth happens in the soul the closer grows her union with God.
God is born in the empty soul by discovering himself to her in a new guise without guise, without light in divine light.
St Augustine says, 'The soul being aflame with divine love, God is born in the soul, the Holy Ghost being the enkindler of love.'

    God has vouchsafed divine light to the soul that he may blithely work in his own image.

    Now no creature can do what is not in its power. Hence the soul cannot act above herself, not even with the bridal gift that God has given her in the shape of her most exalted faculty. This light, albeit divine, is still created. The creator is one and the light another. So God comes to the soul in love, purposing that love shall raise her to a higher power, to a function superior to her own. But love fails to tell unless she meets or makes her match. As far as God finds his likeness in the soul, so far is God operation. If her love is boundless, God acts as boundless love.
A man might live a thousand years and go on growing all the time in love, just as fire will burn so long as there is wood. The bigger the fire and the stronger the wind, the more fiercely it burns. Now put love for the fire and the Holy Ghost for the wind: the greater the love and the stronger the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in grace, the quicker the work of perfection is achieved. Yet not suddenly, but by the gradual growth of the soul. It would not be well for the whole man to be consumed at once.

    The soul becomes so one with God that grace confines her; she is not satisfied with grace, for grace is creaturely. The soul is so curiously glamoured, she does not realise that she exists: she fancies herself God, so utterly she has escaped from self. But be she never so far gone from self, she goes on being creature. Pouring a drop of water into a vat of wine does not destroy it. Seeing herself the soul sees spirit; seeing the angels she again sees spirit; but God is such pure spirit that soul and angel are nigh bodily compared with him. A portrait of the highest seraph limned in black would be a better likeness far than God portrayed as highest seraph: that were a pre-eminent unlikeness.
Now in the contemplative state we are consumed by fiery love in the Holy Ghost. Sooner than knowingly commit a sin, venial or mortal, we shall prefer to suffer every imaginable martyrdom. If by one venial sin we were enabled to release from hell souls without number, we would not ransom them. Such love to God must a man have to be familiar with him in contemplation. Moreover, he must have a mind at ease; and in preparing for it, an undisturbed retired spot is necessary. The body should be rested from bodily labour, not only of the hands but of the tongue as well and all five senses. The soul keeps clear best in the quiet, but in jaded body is often overpowered by inertia. Then by strenuous effort we travail in divine love for intellectual vision till, clearing a way through recollected senses, we rise past our own mind to the wonderful wisdom of God, though this is quite beyond the grasp of any creature. We rise to divine heights. David says: Accedat homa ad cor altum et exaltabitur deus, that is, Man rising to the summit of his mind is exalted God. From this divine eminence we see the lowness and insignificance of creatures. We feel an inkling of the perfection and stability of eternity, for there is neither time nor space, neither before nor after, but everything present in one new, fresh-springing now where millenniums last no longer than the twinkling of an eye. And we win participation in the manifold delights of the heavenly host. So great and joy of Mary Queen in heaven, that having but a thousandth part of it, each member of he heavenly company would taste far more than ever they have earned. There every spirit rejoices in the joy of every other, relishing it each in his degree. Every celestial habitant is, knows and loves in God, in his own self and in every other spirit whether soul or angel. And the distinctive consciousness of one God in three Persons and the Three one God gives such ineffable, amazing satisfaction that at all their passionate longing is fulfilled. And just what they are full of they crave unceasingly, and what they crave is all their own in new, fresh-springing joyful ecstasy, theirs to enjoy in all security from everlasting unto everlasting.

    Thereafter we press on into the truth, into the simplicity God is himself not seeking what is his. So we fall into peculiar wonder. In this wonder let us remain for human wit is powerless to fathom it. Plumbing the deeps of divine wonder but stirs facile doubt.


Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudienem nostram (Gen 1:26). 

    God said, 'Let us make man in our image.' What is God's speaking? The Father observing himself with impartible perception perceives the impartible purity of his own essence. There he sees the image of creatures as a whole, there he speaks himself. His Word is his clear perception and that is his Son. God's speaking is his begetting.

    God said, 'Let us make.' Theologians ask: Why did not God us, 'Let us do,' or 'Let us work?' Doing is an outward act beseeming not the inward man. Work comes from the outward man and from the inward man, but the innermost man takes no part in it. In making a thing the very innermost self of a man comes into outwardness.

    When God made man the innermost heart of the Godhead was concerned in his making. A heathen philosopher says, God made all things with wisdom. The Doctor says, 'The Son is the wisdom or love of the Father wherewith he made all things.'

    God said, 'Let us make man.' Why did not God say, 'Let us make manhood,' for it was manhood that Christ took? Man and manhood differ. Talking of man we mean a person; talking of manhood we mean human nature. Philosophers define what nature is. It is the thing that essence can receive. Hence God assumed manhood and not man. It is written in the book of Moses, Adam was the first man that God ever made. And I say that Christ was the first man God made. How so? The philosopher says, what is the first in intention is the last in execution. When a carpenter builds a house his first intention is the roof and that is the finish of the house.

God said, 'Let us make man.' Whereby he gave it to be understood that he is more than one: three in Persons, one in essence. St Augustine relates that when he was looking for the image in the soul he sought it in the outward man, and there he found four likenesses and three links and two face. He found nothing of the image. Then he hunted for it in the inner man, and there he found one thing which answered to the simple essence in its simplicity and to the various Persons in its trinity of powers. He found two faces to it. One working downwards and the other upwards. With the lower face she knows herself and outward things. The upper face has two activities; with one she knows God and his goodness and his emanation; with this she loves and knows him to-day and not to-morrow. Now the image will not lie in her three powers, by reason of their instability. Another power is in the highest face, which is concealed; in this concealment lies the image.

The image has five properties. First, it is made by another. Secondly, it answers to the same. Thirdly, it has emanated from it; not that it is the divine nature but it is a substance subsisting in itself; it is the pure light that emanates from God and only differs from him in understanding God. Fifthly, it tends towards what it came from. Two things adorn this image. One is, it is according to him; the other, there is somewhat of eternity therein. The soul has three powers: the image does not lie in them; but she has one power: the actual (or active) intellect.
Now St Augustine and the New Philosophers declare that in this lies impartible memory, intellect and will, and these three are inseparate, i.e., the hidden image answers to God's essence. The divine being (God) is shining straight into this image, and the image shines straight into God with nothing between.

May God come into us and we into him and be united with him, So help us God. Amen.

Prayer Attributed to Meister Eckhart


    O high abundance of divine nature, show me Thy way that in Thy wisdom Thou hast ordained and open to me the precious treasure chest to which Thou hast invited me:
(namely to be able) to understand with intelligence above all creatures,
to love with the angels and to be familiar with Thy true born Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
and to inherit from Thee and to receive Thee according to Thy eternal wisdom.
And with Thy help, to keep away from all evil.

    Because Thou hast elevated me above all creatures     
and Thou hast imprinted on me the insignia of Thy eternal image,
and Thou hast rendered my soul inconceivable to all other creatures
and Thou hast made nothing more like Thee than the human being in its soul,
so teach me (to live in such a way) that I am never more without Thee
and that in the flow of Thy loving work in me Thou shalt never more be hindered
and that I may never be exposed to desire except for Thee
and never occupy my thoughts with any creature but only with Thee.

    Thou art a spirit that is inconceivable to all creatures.
Therefore Thou hast made the soul spiritual and ranked it as spiritual above all creatures
so that due to Thy eternal wisdom it may, according to Thy divine will,
become self-sufficient and by Thy grace be freed
from all the unworthy images it absorbed into itself.

    For Thou hast appropriated the soul and disposed it according to Thy nature.
Keep it, therefore, so that nothing else may stay in it
but only THEE.


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