Eckhart’s Teachings on Economics and Spirituality, continued

We are meditating on how the coronavirus and climate emergencies that are upending so much of our world may be demanding that we apply greater imagination to reinvigorating what passes for economics in our culture. 

Small businesses line South Main Street, Canandaigua, NY. Photo by Daniel Case on Wikimedia Commons

It seems to me this system was already profoundly discredited by the debacle of the 2008 crash that was brought about by Wall Street raping Main Street.  As we all know, Main Street  bailed out Main Street and no Wall Street crooks went to jail.  Nor did any economists—99% of whom did not have a clue that the crash was coming—lose their professorial appointments or jobs as far as I know.

We are learning that in the latest bailout by tax-paying citizens upwards of $500 billion designed to assist small businesses was taken off the top swiftly by corporations who lined up first at the biggest banks for handouts.  Time for a new economics?

Cars line up to receive food at Second Harvest of Orange County’s Pop-up Drive Thru Food Distribution at the Anaheim Honda Center. Photographer unknown; from the Second Harvest website.

Yesterday we considered Meister Eckhart’s teachings on the need to share bread and not hoard it.  That teaching is found in his commentary on the Our Father and he elaborates further:

He who does not give to another what belongs to another does not eat his own bread but another’s… When we eat bread acquired justly, we eat our bread; but when bread is acquired by evil means and sinfully, we are eating not our own but another’s.  For nothing that we have acquired unjustly is ours.

Eckhart, one of the greatest mystics of the world, declares that “the person who understands what I say about justice and the just person understands everything I have to say.” 

“Virus War Casualty” Photo by Russ Allison Loar on Flickr

It is rare to find mystics speak out so bluntly about the relationship of justice and love.  Most people prefer to hear love-talk than justice-talk.  But the truth is that you can’t separate them for “compassion means justice” as Eckhart puts it, working from the prophetic tradition of Israel. 

A true mystic is both a lover and a lover of justice for there can be no compassion without justice or as Eckhart put it, “there can be no love between master and slave because there is no equality.”  Therefore “we must be busy making equality happen.”

Cologne Cathedral. Photo by Isriya Paireepairit
on Flickr

Preaching in the cathedral of Cologne, which was the trade capital for all of Eastern Europe in his day, Eckhart reminds us how Jesus drove money lenders from the Temple. The Temple, he says, is our soul.  Challenging the rich and powerful, he declared that the disease of a “merchant mentality” was stealing the souls of people. 

A merchant mentality is about quid pro quo thinking; it is always acting for one’s own gain.  Instead, we ought to learn to work “without a why” or for the sake of working, loving and living.

Psychologist Erich Fromm has said that Eckhart critiqued the “having neurosis” better than anyone who ever wrote.  An unchecked capitalism is all about elevating the having neurosis.

See Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 450-509, 417-439. 

Banner Image: “Income Inequality: Below a guided storefront selling luxury handbags a homeless man is trying to find his resting place to weather the cold Tokyo night.” Photo by ilirjan rrumbullaku on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

What outrage do you feel when you meditate on the news that small business owners are being shoved aside by the legions of corporate lawyers and accountants ready to pounce first on funds earmarked for them?  How does that anger fire your work to give birth to a more equitable economic/political system in the near future?

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4 thoughts on “Eckhart’s Teachings on Economics and Spirituality, continued”

  1. Avatar
    David Joseph Jackson

    Oscar Romero, Echoing Helder Camara: “When I give bread to the poor, they call me a Saint, When I ask why the poor have no bread, they call me a Communist.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Such a stunning quotation!!! Communism said that “Religion is the opiate of the people.” But it has been religion too that has provided bread for the people.

  2. Avatar

    I am continually in a state of outrage about how the bills intended for ordinary people have been “raped” by “big business”, and it gives me energy to continue to contact those responsible. It is amazing how the message from Eckhart and others down through the ages has been ignored. One of the reasons I love Matthew Fox and his friend Richard Rohr is that they always join contemplation/prayer with action. One is no good without the other. I recently heard a very well know expert in centering prayer answer a question that basically asked was it okay to ignore requests to be part of her church’s outreach efforts, such as calling people, in order to concentrate on the inner work of prayer, etc.–I was shocked to hear that the answer was yes! As if one could not do both, as so many people, including myself, do.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      We too are outraged by the treatment of ordinary people by big business. And you’re right, Eckhart’s message rings true today just as it did hundreds of years ago. Matthew always tries to strike a balance between the contemplative and action–and that is the place where we all need to be. We neeed to work hard for the cause of Christ while periodically taking time to “come apart and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

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