Further Thoughts from Eckhart on Soul & Compassion

What if Eckhart is right, and the very meaning of “soul” is compassion?  Soul then becomes a verb, a deed, more than a noun or a thing.

“Clasped hands.” Photo by skeeze from Pixabay

In speaking of soul as being “where God works compassion,” Eckhart is also telling us subtly how God-like we are.  We hold the divine nature in us because we are capable of divine compassion.  

Rabbi Heschel taught something parallel when he taught that humans are meant to be the hands of God working compassion in the world. This is why “God needs man,” meaning humans, as he wrote in a book by that same title. 

Eckhart repeats his conviction that God is compassion. His sermon is based on the prophet Hosea, who, in Eckhart’s translation of the Bible, said, “Lord, have compassion on the people who are in you” (Ho.14:4), and who in a current translation says: “You are the one in whom orphans find compassion.”

Seeking Kindness. Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

In both translations the word in plays a prominent role and Eckhart develops his theology of compassion from his theology of “in-ness” or panentheism.  Not only is compassion in us at our very core, where God energizes us and divinizes us into co-creators ourselves, but we are in compassion.

This is the very meaning of panentheism—things in God and God in things–God is not only in us but we are in God. If God is Compassion, then our journeying into compassion is necessarily our journeying into God and vice versa.

Floating in the waters of compassion. Photo by tyler-raye on Unsplash.

Eckhart gropes, searching and stretching his own imagination, for images of the panentheistic existence of being in God and in compassion that he finds in John’s Gospel and in the prophet Hosea.

The picture of God setting the soul in an ocean of compassion conjures up images of swimming and floating—yes, even skinny-dipping—in compassion.   We are suspended, Eckhart is saying, in a sea of divine grace called compassion. We breathe compassion in and breathe compassion out daily if we are awake and aware.

The deeper we go into God, the deeper we go into compassion, and the deeper compassion enters into us.

He turns to John’s imagery of our panentheistic swimming in compassion:

Volunteer giving water to an elder in the street, Pakistan. Photo by Sarwer e Kainat Welfare from Pexels

Anyone who lives in love, lives in God,and God lives in him. Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgment without fear, because even in this world we have become as he is. (1 John 4:16-17)

Clearly, for Eckhart, a consciousness of our “in-ness” in God is a consciousness of our “in-ness” in compassion. If Compassion is God’s name and we have become as he is, then we have become compassion. A son or daughter of God is a son or daughter of compassion.  If God is compassionate, so can we be compassionate.

Compassion is the witness to our divinization, to our “becoming as he/she is.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: Meister Eckhart’s Earth-Honoring Spirituality, pp. 442-445.

See also: Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness With Social Justice

Banner Image: “Monk” Photo by Dean Moriarty on Pixabay

Do you think of being “in God” as being in the womb of the universe or the womb of the Divine Mother?  Is this one deep implication of the understanding of Mother Earth and of creation as a Mother?  What follows from that sense of in-ness, you in compassion and compassion in you?

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5 thoughts on “Further Thoughts from Eckhart on Soul & Compassion”

  1. Avatar

    Spirituality is sometimes defined as an “attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creation, and to God who is both within and beyond this totality.” In practice, spirituality will often “cultivate tranquility, mindfulness and insight, leading to virtues of wisdom and compassion.”

    1. Richard E Reich

      Ron, you have a good definition of spirituality for it includes not only sensitivity to ourselves and others but to non-human creatures as well–and I would add to creation as a whole. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Avatar

    In the Bhagavad Gita “ch 10 v 20
    I am the soul ,Prince victorious,Which dwells in the heart of all things.
    I am the beginning,the middle, and the end of all that lives.

    “ I am the self ,established in the heart all all beings “
    Take anything, a grain Of sand and analyse it into molecules and atoms, protons and electrons, at the end one comes to the source of being.
    The lord ,Brahman, god, atman ,spirit, self , the father, Allah ,energy , etc
    Is at the centre of every being / creature ,
    The one lord
    Pervades the whole creation .
    In Christian terms the holy trinity is present is present in every grain of sand
    “ I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all “
    in the revelation of St. John where Jesus says , “ I am the alpha and the omega , the first and the last ( rev . 1 v 8 )
    Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
    The lord comprehends all speech , all language , all meaning in himself
    Stay safe dear friends

    1. Avatar

      Billy, let me add quotes from mystics of Buddhism and Judaism:
      “Every grain of matter, every appearance is one with Eternal and Immutable Reality! Wherever your foot may fall, you are still within the Sanctuary for Enlightenment, though it is nothing perceptible.” Huang-po B
      “God is unified oneness-one without two; inestimable. Genuine divine existence engenders the existence of all creation. The sublime, inner essences secretly constitute a chain linking everything from the highest to the lowest to the edge of the universe.” Moses de Leon J

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