Meister Eckhart lived from 1260-1329 and was probably the greatest of the medieval Christian mystics. He was a very popular preacher in his day. We still have most of his sermons. Some of his insights anticipated discoveries in modern physics as well as the development of Process Philosophy and Theology. Like all people ahead of their time, Eckhart was looked on with suspicion by the church hierarchy of his day. In fact, that hierarchy condemned him after his death, but because of his popularity they dared not move against him while he was alive. Some of their problems with Eckhart stemmed from his support of the women and peasant movements of that era.
The quote from Eckhart I want to focus on in this article is the following:
You can never trust God too much. Why is it that some people do not bear fruit? It is because they have no trust either in God or in themselves.
Everyone expects preachers to say that we should trust God more, but few people ever hear preachers exhorting them to learn to trust themselves. But throughout Eckhart’s preaching, he encouraged his parishioners to deepen their trust not only in their God but also in their unique selves. Meister Eckhart believed that God was and is and always will be Creator—that from all eternity God is Creator and that we are a part of God’s good and beautiful Creation. (Another of my favorite quotes from Eckhart is: What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. That’s a metaphor for God that should challenge any rigid patriarchal notions of the Divine!) And since for Eckhart, God is in all things and all things are in God, we will find God throughout creation and especially in the unique self God has created each of us to be.
The problem, of course, is that it can be difficult even to find, much less to be in constant touch with ourselves at the deepest level. Too often we allow others define who we are. We become victims of culture’s pride, prejudices, and pretense as we are swept along with the crowd in maintaining our identities. We look outside ourselves rather than within to discover who we really are as unique children of God. We listen to alien voices rather than to the inner voice which knows us better than anyone else. We forget that God can be found at the core of our inner selves because God has created that uniqueness, celebrates its beauty, and nurtures its potential. And because all things are in God and God is in all things, we can meet God in a most powerful way when we take the time to discover who we are at the center of our being.
Once we discover who we really are, we are free to trust the gift of uniqueness with which God has blessed us. We can follow dreams that have been germinating in our souls from all eternity—dreams put there by God. We are free to live our own lives instead of wasting our days trying to play roles dictated by outside forces. We are free to fall in love with ourselves and to come to love God in a much more profound way than we ever could if we continued to deny our special place in God’s heart. And we are free to follow a voice far more authentic than the noisy confusion and cacophony that surrounds us in the world.
People generally have two fears associated with Eckhart’s admonition. First, they fear the personal responsibility required for this way of life. It’s much easier to let others tell us who we are than it is to trust ourselves and God at the core of our being for that answer. And of course, the powers of this world are more than happy to tell us who we are. But deep down we know that the answers given by the world do not correspond to our deepest needs and most noble desires. They may be familiar and therefore somewhat comfortable and predictable, but only in the way that an addictive habit numbs us from what is real in life.
The second problem people have with Eckhart’s perspective is that they assume it will lead to a self-centered existence. But nothing could be further from the truth. Selfishness comes only in people who do not have a clue as to who they really are as unique children of God. They are selfish because they are looking in all the wrong places for purpose, joy, and love. They think they will find what they need and want in things or in possessing other people as they manipulate them. But fulfillment always alludes them when they travel this pathetic path. Rather than realizing they are going the wrong way, they continue to look for more, hoping that eventually they will have enough to make them happy. But of course, it never happens.
But those who learn to trust their inner selves come to know God in a most powerful way. They also discover that as a part of the whole kept in the heart of God, they must be compassionate toward all others, human and nonhuman, for every part of creation is precious to God. Rather than being selfish they become giving in ways reminiscent of the self-giving love of Jesus. And once they have discovered and learned to embrace their own true selves, they enjoy a wonderful blessing—they are with someone they like and love twenty-four hours a day! By following this path, you might just become your best friend. Why not take the time to find out who that person really is deep down—at the core of your being where you will also find your God?