April 17th, 2011

Writer's Block: Born to do it

I was fortunate in having the perfect job for nearly forty years, teaching sociology to undergraduates at a college/university.  I sampled several jobs as an adult: pastor, social worker, security guard, day laborer, construction worker, saw mill laborer, unsuccessfull writer.....in fact i was unsuccessful (either from my own point of view or that of my employers) at everything i did up until age 35.  At age 14, i announced to my Methodist pastor that i was going to be a preacher; he suggested i should be a teacher instead; i should have listened.  Except for the pay (which wasn't all that bad and did leave me an excellent pension) it was an ideal job for me, fitting both my strengths and weaknesses as a human being.  The only other job i could have succeeded at was sawmill worker and i did not envy most of the elderly men i saw still doing that.

Reading Meister Eckhart

So, i'm reading this sermon by Meister Eckhart on spiritual poverty Eckhart.Sermon 32.pdf (application/pdf Object)  and i'm thinking, 'where did he preach this?  To whom did he preach it?  So far. i have not found the context of any of his sermons except the general context of early 14th century German society.  He was spiritual advisor to the Beguines, and this sermon would have wowed them.  But his duty was to restrain them from going where the Church did not want them to go, not to goad them toward ever more fervent heresies.  He was also prior of a monastery and might have preached this sermon to monks who might well have been able to follow it.  I try to image this sermon being the homily in a parish church  It has been suggested (from the supposed "defensive rhetorical tone" of the sermon) that it was delivered while Eckhart was suspected of heresy, which makes its content even more interesting.  I try to imagine this homily preached in my own parish church, a church accustomed to a fairly sophisticated and liberal approach to doctrine and life.  I think this goes way beyond anything i would be likely to hear on a typical Sunday morning.

Oliver Davies (who edited and translated a collection of Eckhart's writing) warns against misunderstanding and misappropriating his words and ideas.  We are not to make Eckhart a mystic or an Asian.  But it seems to me that Eckhart is a mystic and his thought is drenched in neo-Platonism which is a solid bridge between west and east with the eastbound traveler paying the toll (or collecting it, as i see it.)

As i see it, the God of Eckhart is the Tao, the pure light of the void, Braman, the God beyond god; and  Eckhart's goal is unity through radical detachment, Lip service is given to the Trinity, but the indescribable, unnameable, Wholly Other who is also us if we only could feel it is clearly the focus of his devotion.

The spiritually poor person whom wisdom blesses wants nothing, knows nothing and has nothing.  The poverty of the spiritually poor person is absolute!  Thr mind of God is an empty mind.  It is beyond good and evil

Eckhart died in good standing with the Church, the propositions declared heretical were never attached to his name,  The declaration of
heresy was made only in Cologne.  Had it not been for the politics of the time and place, Eckhard would probably never have been suspected of heresy.

I have read two of the 120 or so sermons which were preseved.  They are beautiful, non-dualistic, gentle.