Eckhart on the Equality of Being

We are meditating on a Return to the Source and Creation and yesterday I wrote of Eckhart’s sermon on “The equality of all beings,” a teaching that echoes that of aboriginal spirituality.  Eckhart has a lot more to say about this important topic that cuts through our species narcissism and anthropocentrism so fiercely.

“Mural of St. Francis of Assisi and the Wolf of Gubbio at the St. Francis Inn in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pa.” Photo by Jim McIntosh on Flickr.

Eckhart does not rest content in urging us to a consciousness of equality with all people.  He insists that our equality is not with humans alone but with all animals and indeed all beings.  He urges us to a cosmic consciousness and a cosmic love. 

This outward orientation of Eckhart’s toward all of creation bathed in God’s grace is especially noteworthy since it is set in the context of a scriptural passage that many Christians might interpret as a kind of individualistic tete a tete with God—but Eckhart will tolerate no such sentimentalism.  Instead, he interprets the following passage in light of a cosmically reaching, creation centered spirituality.

The PBS educational video “Living With Sumatran Elephants” describes a partnership between farmers, local trainers, and their elephants to live peacefully alongside wild elephants while preventing potential harm to the elephants, humans, or crops.

The scriptural passage that formed the basis of Eckhart’s sermon was this:

My little children, I shall not be with you much longer.  You will look for me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going, you cannot come.  I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.  By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.  (Jn 13:33-39)

Eckhart concludes that Jesus’ love is a cosmic love that extends equally to all creatures.  Says Eckhart:

A hiker and her dog. Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Though we talk about human beings, we are speaking at the same time of all creatures, for Christ himself said to his disciples: ‘Go forth and preach the gospel to all creatures.’

It is because of an equality of being that we share with all creatures that we can learn from all beings instead of lording over them.  He recalls how many lessons dogs have to teach us about how to love one another.  Animals do not love half-heartedly, he observes.  He advises that if one was alone in a desert and feeling afraid, it would be good to

...take an animal—perhaps a dog—to help them.  The life within the animal will give them strength. For equality gives strength in all things.

For Eckhart, all of creation partakes of divine equality. “Creatures were able to receive equality with God—indeed, as much equality as if he had emptied himself.” 

Whale biologist Nan Hauser dedicated her life to protecting whales…and was saved from a tiger shark by a humpback whale. Video from TheDodo.Research and Conservation International.

He tells us:

“…the first intention of Nature is the preservation of the universe” and that all beings are striving for that goal.  Indeed, “God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being.  And we should lovingly meet all creatures in the same way.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 97-101.

Banner image: A biologist assists endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs into a new, high-altititude habitat. Severely fragmented populations were caught, treated for fungal disease, and released into uncontaminated ponds, in an effort to save the species. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest, on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Since God is loving all creatures equally and filing them with the divine being, are we all “lovingly meeting all creatures the same way” as Eckhart proposes we do?  How does that manifest through our actions and life styles in this time of eco crisis?

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