Eckhart on the Marriage of Contemplation/Repose and Action

While Eckhart extols our powers of contemplation and repose, he does not do so at the expense of creative and prophetic action.  Rather, he sees the via negativa feeding the via creativa and via transformativa, our creativity and our works of justice and compassion. 

The ocean in stillness under a full moon. Photo by Conrad Ziebland on Unsplash

Eckhart believes that “nothing resembles God so much as repose (or stillness or silence).”  In repose, “the greatest of all blessings” is bestowed, namely the divine nature itself.  Even the divine repose is shared, since that is the divine nature.

The rest promised the soul is the rest of being in God and of God being in it.  It is the rest, therefore, of panentheism—a panentheistic repose. 

The soul would never come to rest unless God brought himself into the soul and the soul into God. 

Those should rest in God we are told.  This is not done by multiplying tactical ecstasies but by learning to let go and let be and thus creating a “wilderness” or place of emptiness that God can fill. 

Mother and daughter in repose. Photo by Anastasia Vityukova on Unsplash

Mindfulness presupposes mind-emptiness. 

People “never open or shut their eyes without seeking repose” says Eckhart. 

There is a dual dynamic to all living–open/shut, in/out—and people do all their deeds for the sake of these two things, pleasure and repose, open and shut, in and out. 

People will either cast something away for them that hinders them or they will draw something to themselves in which they will rest.

A dynamic repose: “Balancing Rock, Arches National Park, United States.” Photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash

When we throw a hindrance off, it is for the sake of repose; and when we draw something lovable near, it too is for the sake or repose.  The via positiva and the via negativa are both paths of repose. 

This is the law of all creatures, it is a dialectical law of pleasure.  Everything creatures do is for the sake of pleasure, which is repose.  Even the law of gravity is a law of pleasure and repose. 

A stone will never be deprived of its drive to fall constantly to the earth so long as it is not right on the earth.  Fire acts in the same way, it strives to rise, and every creature seeks its own place according to its nature.

Spiritual maturity is about finding repose and space even when confronted with grief, anger, annoyance.  Indeed, until our repose can endure such troubles, even in the midst of activity, we have not yet matured spiritually speaking.  We are still fetuses clinging to the womb. 

The repose that Eckhart speaks of is not a repose in competition with activity, nor is it a flight from activity.  It is a repose in the midst of activity and, indeed, in the midst of the most strenuous activity—our creativity and our struggle for justice making. 

The more in touch with our origins we are, the more powerful our deeds will be.  These powerful deeds of creativity imitate the divine deeds.  We shall do the works of the Father/Mother God.

From Matthew Fox, “Sermon 27: How all creatures experience the divine repose,” in Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 385-387.

Banner Image: Dynamic repose between dark and light: “Sunrise Yoga.” Photo by Dave Contreras on Unsplash

Can you agree with Eckhart that “nothing in all creation is so like God as silence?”  When do you experience such silence?  And that the deep silence leads to a union between the divine and the human that in turn leads to creative and prophetic action?

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2 thoughts on “Eckhart on the Marriage of Contemplation/Repose and Action”

  1. Avatar

    Don’t you just love the little 21 century Buddhism mystic Thich Nhat Hanh
    Perhaps he/she is the incarnation of StFrancis of Assisi
    Silence ,that wonderful teacher

    Is not to be learned
    By flight from the world,
    Bye running away from things or by turning solitary and going apart from the world.
    We must learn an inner solitude
    Wherever or whomsoever We may be.
    We must learn to penetrate things
    And find god there.’
    Rev Matthew fox
    Meditation with meister eckhart
    Take care

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