Sermons (Meister Eckhart)/True Hearing
ECCLESIASTICUS xxiv. 30.—"Whoso heareth Me shall not be confounded."
THE everlasting and paternal wisdom saith, "Whoso heareth Me is not ashamed." If he is ashamed of anything he is ashamed of being ashamed. Whoso worketh in Me sineth not. Whoso confesseth Me and feareth Me, shall have eternal life. Whoso will hear the wisdom of the Father must dwell deep, and abide at home, and be at unity with himself. Three things hinder us from hearing the everlasting Word. The first is fleshliness, the second is distraction, the third is the illusion of time. If a man could get free of these, he would dwell in eternity, and in the spirit, and in solitude, and in the desert, and there would hear the everlasting Word. Our Lord saith, "No man can hear My word nor my teaching without renouncing himself." All that the Eternal Father teaches and reveals is His being, His nature, and His Godhead, which He manifests to us in His Son, and teaches us that we are also His Son.
All that God worketh and teacheth, He worketh in His Son. All His work is directed to this end that we also may be His Son. When God sees that we are indeed His son, He yearns after us, and in the depth of His Divine Being waves of longing break forth, to reveal to us the abyss of His Godhead, and the fullness of His essence; He hastens to identify Himself with us. Herein He hath joy and gladness in full measure. God loveth men not less than He loveth Himself. If thou really lovest thyself, thou lovest all men as thyself; as long as thou lovest any one less than thyself, thou dost not really love thyself. That man is right who loves all men as himself.
Some folk say: "I love my friends, who do me kindness, more than other people." Such love is imperfect and incomplete; it is like having your sails only half-tilled with wind. When I love anyone as much as myself, I would just as soon that joy or sorrow, death or life were mine, as well as his. That would be the dictate of right reason.
St Paul felt such love when he said, "I would that I were cut off from God for my friends' sake." Now to be cut off from God is equivalent to suffering the pains of hell. Some ask whether St Paul was on the way to perfection or was perfect. I answer, he was perfect, or he would have spoken otherwise.
I wish further to elucidate this saying of St Paul that he was willing to be cut off from God. The highest act of renunciation for man is for God's sake to give up God, and that is what St Paul was willing to do; to give up all the blessings that he might receive from God. When for God's sake he gave up God, God still remained with him, since God's essence is Himself, not any impression or reception of Himself. He who does so is a true man to whom no grief may happen, any more than it happens to the Divine Being. There is a somewhat in the soul that is, as it were, a blood-relative of God. It is one, it has nothing in common with nothing, nor is it like nothingness, nothing. All that is created is nothing, all far from and foreign to the soul. Could I but find myself one instant in that sphere of pure existence, I should regard myself as little as a worm.
A question arises regarding the angels who dwell with us, serve us and protect us, whether their joys are equal to those of the angels in heaven, or whether they are diminished by the fact that they protect and serve us. No, they are certainly not; for the work of the angels is the will of God, and the will of God is the work of the angels; their service to us does not hinder their joy nor their working. If God told an angel to go to a tree and pluck caterpillars off it, the angel would be quite ready to do so, and it would be his happiness, if it were the will of God.
The man who abides in the will of God wills nothing else than what God is, and what He wills. If he were ill he would not wish to be well. If he really abides in God's will, all pain is to him a joy, all complication, simple: yea, even the pains of hell would be a joy to him. He is free and gone out from himself, and from all that he receives, he must be free. If my eye is to discern colour, it must itself be free from all colour. The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.
The man who abides in God's love must be dead to himself and all created things, and regard himself as a mere unit among a thousand million. Such a man must renounce himself and all the world. Supposing a man possessed all the world, and gave it back to God intact just as he received it, God would give him back, all the world and everlasting life to boot. And supposing there were another man who had nothing but a good will, and he thought in his heart, "Lord, were all this world mine, and two worlds more beside it, I would give them and myself also back to Thee as I received them from thee"; to that man God would give back as much as he had given away. And supposing a man had renounced himself for twenty years, if he took himself back for a moment, that man's renunciation would be as nothing. The man who has truly renounced himself and does not once cast a glance on what he has renounced, and thus remains immovable and unalterable, that man alone has really renounced self. May God and the Eternal Wisdom grant us to remain equally immovable and unalterable with Himself. Amen.