My churchlessness and agnosticism is adored by God. Yes, God looks upon me with more favor than all those worshipful Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religious types.
For God wants to be forsaken. Happy to oblige, my friend. It’s a pleasure to comply with the divine will.
I learned about what God wants from Meister Eckhart, the German theologian and mystic. He’s got some excellent doctrinal credentials, chief among them being accused of heresy by Pope John XXII.
You know that a Catholic is pointing toward the truth when he’s branded a heretic. So we need to take seriously the advice Eckhart proffered in one of his sermons.
Of course, it sounds astonishing to say that the soul should forsake God, but I assert that it is more important for the soul to forsake God to attain perfection than it is for the soul to forsake creatures, or all will be lost.
The soul must exist in a free nothingness. That we should forsake God is altogether what God intends, for as long as the soul has God, knows God, and is aware of God, she is far from God.
Now, it isn’t easy to understand Eckhart. He recognized that himself, concluding another sermon in this fashion.
Whoever has understood this sermon, I wish them well. Had no one been here, I would still have had to preach it to this collecting-box. There are some poor folk who return home and say, “I wish to sit down, to eat my bread and to serve God.” But I say by the eternal truth that these people shall remain in error and can never attain what those others attain who follow God in poverty and in exile. Amen.
D.T. Suzuki, a teacher of Zen, explains that for Eckhart “God” and “Godhead” are “as different as earth is from heaven.” Godhead is empty of everything that can be known, perceived, understood, comprehended. So, says Suzuki, to Eckhart pure nothing “is the highest point at which God can work in us as he pleases.”
With him God is still a something as long as there is any trace of movement or work or of doing something. When we come to the Godhead, we for the first time find that it is the unmoved, a nothing where there is no path to reach. It is absolute nothingness; therefore it is the ground of being from whence all beings come.
If this isn’t unclear enough, here are some additional Meister Eckhart quotations that have the delicious effect of overturning our unduly stable metaphysical apple cart.
But I say that if someone perceives something in God and gives it a name, then that is not God. God is above names and nature.
Taking leave of God for the sake of God is the greatest act of renunciation that someone can make.
Therefore we ask God to free us from “God” so that we may be able to grasp and eternally enjoy truth where the highest angels, the fly and the human soul are all one—in that place where I desired what I was and was what I desired.
Your soul should lose all her mental nature and should be left non-mental, for if you love God as “God,” as “Spirit,” as “Person,” as “Image,” then all this should be abandoned. You must love him as he is a non-God, a non-Spirit, a non-Person, a non-Image.
You are never better placed than when you are in complete darkness and unknowing.
Ah, thank you Meister Eckhart. I’m reassured that my meditation is going just fine.
Cf. Mk 15:34: ...Jesus cried...My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [KJV]
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | October 23, 2006 at 11:27 AM
Your April 7 2006 article regarding Judas jumps to mind. It has always made sense to me that there was a forsaking of god there that was required by the entire episode. And there are practical applications to naught. The emptiness in the cup is necessary, the empty part of the wall is a window or door.
We will need to call ourselves out and declare ourselves dead. Those of us without stellae in the twelfth house seem to glance over Nietsche's pronouncement that God is dead. He wasn't really just yr average essayist.
So follow the emptiness...
What is happening in the Dylan song, "Knocking on Heaven's Door," if not the forsaking of seeming knowledge, at the appropriate time?
What is the happening in Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess," that is so content?
Eckhart is gracious enough to give the sermon to an empty room, knowing that until he gives up all hope of a living god, he will not know the godhead. Weakly, he almost doesn't want us there. Of course, as long as we sit zazen, we are between heaven and earth. (Oh, there's even a pictogram for that!)
Can I forsake myself into such poverty and exile? I will have to admit that even when I desire a war to be waged, I know that the humanity and the god involved will cause greater harm and atrocity than is warranted, a suffocation of emptiness and a choke point of nothing.
God wants not simply to sit with the dead and decaying body, but to sit IN the dead and deacaying body.
The tao is not for sissies.
Posted by: Edward | October 23, 2006 at 06:02 PM
Edward, the tao also wants to sit in the newborn's coo, the daughter's song, the husband's dance...
the tao is also not for atheists.
Posted by: benandante | October 24, 2006 at 05:59 AM
Ah, a mite morbid. I'll remember that Schubert made a quartet for strings out of "Der Tod und das Mädchen", so there's that teleology again.
My head starts running with things when I read about nothingness. Conceiving of nothing requires the a conjunction of such substance: The weight of the sheltering sky; blanket of night fog.
The profundity of god as the ur-extant, means (as in logos,) that any contrast with the godhead distorts being, making it over-large. With the Meister's excellent teaching, we now know beforehand that there is complete retreat. We also know that it is here and now as much as being is here and now. But there is nothing to actually know (or guess, or hope, or do) about nothing. Going past the intellectual bon mot, "because there is something there is also nothing," and traipsing into discussion is looking for fish tracks in the river bed.
One does not meditate on wu. There is no attitude to have vis a vis wu.
Negation starts from substantiation, a kiss of death, but once substance is leapt from...
Posted by: Edward | October 24, 2006 at 05:39 PM