Meister Eckhart was a late-thirteenth- and early-fourteenth-century preacher and mystic, yet like Rumi and Hafiz, he remains relevant today. He speaks to so many and touches people’s hearts. In this short excerpt from his new book Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Times, bestselling author Matthew Fox shares his insights on letting go.
How do we get to that silence, to that Source of all things? Meister Eckhart calls on the story of Jacob in Genesis (28:20): “‘Jacob the patriarch came to a certain place and wanted to rest in the evening, when the sun had gone down.’...He says: ‘To a place’; he does not name it. The place is God. God has no name of His own, and is the place and position of all things and is the natural place of all creatures.” We commune with the Godhead, which is natural for us: “The Godhead alone is the place of the soul, and is nameless....‘Jacob rested in that place,’ which is nameless. By not being named, it is named. When the soul comes to the nameless place, it takes its rest. There, where all things have been God in God, the soul rests. That place of the soul which is God is nameless. I say God is unspoken.” It is in repose, at night, in silence, that God’s love burns the hottest. “In a God-loving soul it is evening. There is nothing there but repose, where a person is thoroughly penetrated and made illuminated with divine love....The soul remains in the light of God and in the silence of pure repose, and that is evening: then it is hottest in the divine love.” Darkness holds its special power and its special attraction. God likes a no-place, a no-where, and the soul wants to commune with God there as well. “As long as the soul is anywhere, it is not in the greatest of God which is nowhere.” After all, “God is nowhere....God is not here or there, neither in time or place.” Christ, too, is to be found there in a place of nothingness. “Where is Christ sitting? He is sitting nowhere. Whoever seeks him anywhere will not find him. His smallest part is everywhere, his highest part is nowhere.”
The journey is a journey inward, for that is where the human spirit is most at home and so too is God. Eckhart says, “God is a being who always lives in the innermost. Therefore the spirit is always searching within. But the will goes outward toward what it loves.”
How do we go about this journey inward to a nameless and unknown place? Eckhart says, “The Word lies hidden in the soul, unknown and unheard unless room is made for it in the ground of hearing, otherwise it is not heard. All voices and sounds must cease and there must be pure stillness within, a still silence.” To meditate is to collect ourselves. “The soul must be collected and drawn up straight and must be a spirit. There God works and there all works are pleasing to God. No work ever pleases God unless it is wrought there.” We learn to focus, for “the more the soul is collected, the narrower it is, and the narrower it is, the wider.” Great things happen in this place of silence, which is “the doorway of God’s house....In the silence and peace...there God speaks in the soul and utters Himself completely in the soul. There the Father begets His Son and has such delight in the Word and is so fond of it, that He never ceases to utter the Word all the time, that is to say beyond time.”
The journey inward into the dark and silence is a trip into simplicity, Eckhart says, a letting go of all things — all forms and images and memories — into the “essential mind of God, of which the pure and naked power is understanding, which the masters term receptive. Now mark my words! It is only above all this that the soul grasps the pure absoluteness of free being, which has no location, which neither receives nor gives: it is bare ‘beingness’ that has been stripped of all being and all beingness. There it takes hold of God as in the ground of His being, where He is beyond all being.” One lets go of all desire, which is so “far reaching” and measureless. “All that understanding can grasp, all that desire can desire, that is not God. Where understanding and desire end, there it is dark, and there God shines.” The Word of God is heard there, for “to hear this Word in the Father (where all is stillness), a person must be quite quiet and wholly free from all images and from all forms. Indeed, a person ought to be so true to God that nothing whatever can gladden or sadden him or her. She should take all things in God, just as they are there.” Then God will do the work and humans need only not resist. “If only the soul would stay within, all things would be present to it.” Solitude is tasted, for there the soul “must be alone as God is alone.”