Eckhart on Justice, the Yang Dimension to Compassion

We have been meditating on Eckhart’s profound teachings on the Yin dimension to Compassion, the mystical expression.  Now let us consider his teachings of the Yang side of Compassion, the prophetic side of justice-making.

Print of a revolutionary Mary, inspired by the Magnificat, by lithographer Ben Wildflower.

For Eckhart, all our work leads to justice (and therefore compassion)—or fails to do so.  Furthermore, as we do our work we are birthing nothing less than Divinity itself.  We are being “mothers of God.”  Indeed, to birth justice is to birth Christ all over again:

The Father gives birth to his Son as the Just One and the Just One as his Son; for all virtue of the just and very work of the just which are born from the virtue of the just person are nothing other than the event of the Son being born from the Father.

Eckhart teaches that

a just person is one who is conformed and transformed into justice. The just person lives in God and God in him. Thus God will be born in this just person and the just person is born in God; and therefore God will be born through every virtue of the just person. 

International lawyer and ecocide activist Polly Higgins speaks on How to Persuade the UN to Declare Ecocide an International Crime. Uploaded to YouTube by LifeArtsMedia.

When humans make justice happen, joy and rejoicing occur in the Godhead! Indeed, we “tickle God through and through” by our works of justice. 

[God] will rejoice through every virtue of the just person. And not only at every virtue will God rejoice but especially at every work of the just person, however small it is. When this work is done through justice and results in justice, God will rejoice in it, indeed, God will rejoice through and through; for nothing remains in his ground which does not tickle him through and through out of joy. Ignorant people have to believe this, but enlightened ones should know it.

Putting their bodies on the line for the trees: “Berkeley Tree Sitters – UC Berkeley Memorial Oak Grove.” Photo by Ingrid Taylar on Wikimedia Commons.

A sign that love and justice are at work through us is our working “without a why.”  For

the just person does not seek anything with his work, for every single person who seeks anything or even something with his other works is working for a why and is a servant and a mercenary. Therefore if you wish to be conformed and transformed into justice, do not intend anything in your work and strive for no why, either in time or in eternity. Do not aim at reward or blessedness, neither this nor that. For such works are truly fully dead.

Dead works are those we do for an outside reward.  Real work comes from our depths and our inside, not from outside.  

“Justice Denied” Black Lives Matter protest, Sheffield UK. Photo by Tim Dennell on Flickr.

Therefore, enter into your own ground and work there and these works which you work there will all be living. And therefore the wise person says: “The just person lives.”  (Wis: 5:16)  For because he is just, he works and his works live.

Furthermore, the just person is like God, since God is justice. And therefore whoever is in justice is in God.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 464-466.

Also see Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice.

Banner Image: “Social Justice Day.” Art by Fanny Didou, Johnny Azprendiz, and Isabelle Malleze. Photo by GEN Europe on Flickr.

Do you enter into your own ground when you do your work?  Are your works living?  And you too?

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5 thoughts on “Eckhart on Justice, the Yang Dimension to Compassion”

  1. Avatar

    i am quite concerned the word ‘justice’ in its modern context is being bantered about as an end to an act of which many do not understand & that this practice comes from withIN – i question the validity of the blm movement, its marxist theories & liberal/socialist political rhetoric & violent path it has taken w/o a complete understanding of history & what both marxism & socialism have done to degrade & not justify the human element wherever it has taken root –

    1. Avatar
      Bertina M Povenmire

      There is nothing wrong with marxist, socialist, capitalist, liberal theories–theories don’t “do” anything. It’s the people who act unethically, immorally, and illegally who degrade their fellow humans. The slave owners were not marxists or socialists, they were capitalists who degraded other human beings into “property” in order to enrich themselves.

      Today again, it is the capitalists who take advantage of labor in order to fill their own coffers, paying just enough to keep them barely alive, while pocketing millions for themselves.

      When marxists or socialists call for decent wages for our workers and health insurance for everyone, as well as equal justice for everyone in our court system, is that what you call “degrading the human element”? In contrast with non-human element? In fact, what exactly do you mean by “human element”? Do you mean “humans”?

      The fact that marxists and socialists AND CAPITALISTS are degrading and have degraded humans, does not invalidate the theories.
      Does the fact that Christians used to torture and kill non-believers and alleged witches invalidate Christianity?

      Labeling people who are calling for social justice, universal health care, etc. as socialists or marxists is one way the rich and powerful use propaganda and inflammatory slogans to stay rich and in power.

      Conside Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, he calls for health care for everyone–seems to me, he is trying to upgrade the “human element” to where it should already be. Note that all senators and representatives get health insurance for life for themselves and their families–even if they quit after a first term.

      I suggest studying the individual theories as they were developed by their originators and then blaming the individuals who actually are doing the “degrading” for the wrongs that are committed.

      1. Avatar

        And read the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s letters to discover the ways that early Christians lived–today it would be called communism , socialism, marxism, and so on . This labeling is a way to “other” and is divisive, in my opinion. I agree with Bertina–very well put.

    2. Richard E Reich

      Your concerns are legitimate in view of the violence that has broke out in some of our cities over injustice done to African Americans in our country. As a matter of fact, we have a history of injustice in regard to these people. BUT excesses of violence do not invalidate the need for true prophetic voices that speak out against injustice and who exercise their Constitutional right to peacefully protest. Listen to what Bertina has shared with you below…

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