Art & Spirituality, Coomaraswamy & Eckhart: Deep Ecumenism continued

Coomaraswamy recognizes in Eckhart a trait which he says is common to all true artists: “What is remarkable in him is  …a great energy or will that allows him to resume and concentrate in one consistent demonstration the spiritual being of Europe at its highest tension.”  He cites Eckhart how “what a painter gives out is in me…as the gift of God.”  

Piece entitled, “Childlike and Playful” by Richard Reich-Kuykendall who is an artist, author, and graduate of Matthew Fox’s University of Creation Spirituality.

Coomaraswamy feels that Buddhists and Hindus can understand Eckhart more readily than can Protestants or Western philosophers. “The real analogy between Eckhart’s modes of thought and those which have long been current in India should make it easy for the Vedantist or Mahayana Buddhist to understand him, which would require a much greater effort on the part of a Protestant Christian or modern philosopher.”  Why is this?  Because modern Western consciousness has left behind the sense of the whole, the mystical experience, and intuition. 

Coomaraswamy recognizes that Eckhart considers our lives to be works of art, and Eckhart uses aesthetic ideas and terms to convey theology and the Divine. (This is also true among indigenous peoples, who very often have no word for “art” but only for “beauty.”) 

Coomaraswamyconcludes his essay this way: Eckhart’s whole conception of human life in operation and attainment is aesthetic: it runs through all his thought that man is an artist in the analog of the ‘exalted workman,’ and his idea of ‘sovran good’ and ‘immutable delight’ is that of a perfected art. Art is religion, religion art, not related, but the same. No one can study theology without perceiving this….Eckhart is writing… sermons on the art of knowing God. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 159-161.

Banner Image: Artwork by M. C. Richards entitled, “Mother and Child”. Used with permission.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

Are you eager to know: “the art of knowing God”?  Isn’t that what true spirituality is about?  And authentic religion ought to be about?  What does it mean to you to hear that Easterners can grasp Eckhart more fully than Westerners?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality & The Transformation of Christianity

A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.
“This is a deep and forceful book….With prophetic insight, Matthew Fox reveals what has corrupted religion in the West and the therapy for its healing.” ~Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

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7 thoughts on “Art & Spirituality, Coomaraswamy & Eckhart: Deep Ecumenism continued”

  1. Avatar

    I was a professional photographer for 20 years. Photography, for me personally was and still is a form of spirituality. Through this art form I became aware of the interplay of light and dark. I also discovered a way of knowing God, by becoming really observant of the beauty all around me. I learnt how to co-create with all of this. I remember my first experience in the dark room, and the wonder and awe of the whole creative process, which has been greatly expanded upon with the advancement of digitization. The art of photography as a spiritual path is also about connections and relationships, in so many diverse and unique ways.

    Christine Valters Paintner has written several wonderful books, that invites oneself to discover and develop the creative art of photography as a spiritual path of prayer, reflection and contemplation. She calls this Visual Divina, which is much like Lectio Divina. She draws on the insights and practices of Benedictine spirituality as well as the art of photography,
    Midrash writing and journaling; inviting others to explore the interplay between contemplation and creativity. I highly recommend her books, if you desire to explore the art of photography as a spiritual pathway into the art of knowing God.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I am among other things a painter. In fact one of my paintings is featured in today’s meditation. The painting that appears at the beginning of the meditation is by M. C. Richards who is the author of CENTERING: IN POTTERY, POETRY, AND THE PERSON–and though probably she, and for sure I, had never made a connection between Lectio Divina and “Visual Dvina”–I bet she would have loved it, and I know I do, and will use the term myself. Painting is a form of spirituality to me, and so thank you for giving me these words, “Visual Divina!” Also, on this, if you haven’t read Matthew’s book, CREATIVITY, it’s a must!

    2. Avatar

      We offered a course on “photography as meditation” for years at both ICCS and UCS, so I very much appreciate your thoughts here. I was also reminded of the teachings of Mary Oliver, about how “paying attention” is devotion, is prayer. And surely photography teachings paying attention, as you note. Of course, all art forms require that–consider painting for example and many more.

  2. Avatar

    My husband had a massive stroke two years ago that wiped out a lot of his left brain. Before that he was almost classically left-brain addicted to modern philosophic positions (he had a masters in philosophy from Cambridge). He worked in the labour movement, also wrote military history, and was a founding member the Atheist/ Agnostic branch of AA.
    So then the stroke. Reading and writing were taken from him. His right brain had to come on line. There wasn’t any choice. Then my husband began to discover nature, started walking along the Ottawa River every morning for an hour or so listening for birds and taking in the kilometer-wide expanse of moving water. A couple of months ago I ran one of your morning meditations past him and could see he was deeply moved. He started listening in with me every day. He started asking for you. He’s changed. This morning I overheard him in a Zoom meeting with his language therapist telling her how he’s been learning about all these medieval theologians that he’d never studied. ‘We heard about them. But we never studied them. It was as if they weren’t important enough so you just ignore them. And meanwhile they were talking about really important things. For me the whole thing has been a revelation. Or revolution? (Aphasia was kicking because it was a big word). Revelation. Revolution. Revelation. All of that.”
    Thankyou, Matthew, for a soul beginning to grow large..

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jo Anne, Thank you for sharing about the difference Matthew’s meditations have been in helping your husband. I had a major stroke eight years ago that left me paralyzed on the left side. I however, not only went to weekly occupational therapy, but I practiced my exercises every day from morning till bedtime, and ended up regaining my left side. I wish the best for your husband, and the mystics are a good way to be reintroduced to spirituality, rather than religion. He should especially enjoy Eckhart!

  3. Avatar

    Learning to Joyfully gLive in the Present Moment with-in God’s Spirit of Loving~Living~Creativity can be considered the ultimate Artistic Flow of Oneness (the Tao and other cultural/religious traditional names)….

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