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One concept of Eckhart that both confuses and fascinates me is his belief in the birth of the Word in the soul, and how we as human beings become the Only-begotten Son via our transcendence of the three obstacles that hinder our hearing of the Eternal Word. Eckhart tells us in Sermon 12 that “Whoever shall hear the eternal Wisdom of the Father must be within, must be at home, and must be one. Then he can hear the eternal Wisdom of the Father.”[1] Hearing the eternal Word is very important within the thought of the Meister, and it is often a difficult thing for us poor fallen humans to hear this word due to a few factors that hinder us. These three things are the following: Corporeality, multiplicity, and temporality.[2] Corporeality hinders us because we have to deal with our bodily existence and the attachment to external things that often come with that. Multiplicity hinders us because it blinds us to the truth of the One by causing us to constantly think about the universe in terms of “thisness” or “thatness,” and the attention of our will is on divided things. For example, let’s consider love.  God loves without distinction, and he does so with a perfect love. We, however, love with a distinct type of love that favors one person over another, and so that is not the ideal form of love that God exhibits. Temporality also hinders us by trapping us in this view of time and space that God is not subject to. Place and time are both foreign to God, alien to him in fact. God is not in time or in a certain place. God is both everywhere and nowhere at once. Now, Eckhart tells us that if a person could pass beyond these things, he would “live in eternity, in the spirit, in oneness, and in the vast solitude; and there he would hear the eternal Word.”[3]

Eckhart goes on to tell us that if we want to hear the Word of God, we must become totally detached, and he alludes to a teaching of Jesus to support him: “No one hears my words nor my teaching unless he has forsaken himself.”[4] This is a reference to Luke 14:26, where Jesus tells his disciples that they must forsake all to be his disciples. Eckhart tells us that everything that the Father teaches to us is his being, nature, and his total divinity. All of this he reveals to us completely via his only-begotten Son, and he teaches us that we are this same Son. “A man who had so passed beyond [these three things] that he was the only-begotten Son would have everything that belongs to the only-begotten Son.”[5] That sounds a little radical at first, the idea that we are the Son, but Eckhart is doing something here that is not so heretical as it would appear, perhaps. He further tells us that “When God sees that we are the only-begotten Son, he is very quick to pursue us and acts as though his divine being were going to burst and completely vanish, so that he might reveal to us the utter abyss of his divinity and the fullness of his being and his nature.”[6] Finally, he says that “Such a person stands in God’s knowing and in God’s love and becomes nothing other than what God is himself.”[7]

In saying all that, what Eckhart is trying to say here, I believe, is that once we have emptied ourselves of these three things (corporality, multiplicity, and temporality) that hinder us from truly hearing the eternal Word, and that once we have obtained that pure detachment, God then comes to fill us up with himself so that nothing remains but himself, and thus he births within us the Word or Son within our souls. It is not that we are literally Jesus Christ, but that we have become so identified with him as to be part of him. I may not be reading him correctly here, but I have a feeling that maybe this is what he is trying to get across to his listeners.

[1] Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart, Teacher and Preacher, ed. Bernard McGinn (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), 267.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 268.

[7] Ibid.