Eckhart: We stammer to name the spark and depths of our souls

We are following Eckhart as he attempts to name the ineffable depths and actions of our souls. 

Sparks of the Divine:  “Infinity” Photo by benjgibbs on Flickr.

Indeed, he warns us that no one can name what the soul is, just as we cannot name what God is.  God is without name—he has no name—is ineffable, and the soul in its ground is likewise ineffable: just as ineffable as God is.  

We are warned that “he who wants to name the soul such as it is in itself in its simplicity, in its clarity, and in its nakedness, will find no name to fit.” 

Words do not tell us what either God or the soul means.  “When we speak of divine things, we have to stammer, because we have to express them in words.” 

In the spark of the soul lies the inness of our being in God  Here we are most God-like and God is most imaged in us:  “In this spark, as the higher part of the spirit, is located the image of God that the mind is.”  In the soul, Eckhart maintains there is “something like a spark of divine nature, a divine light, a ray, an imprinted picture of the divine nature.”  This spark of divine nature is something that we all carry within us.

We might understand it as our intuition and the root of our creativity, our creative fire.  

“Reflection of the Cosmic Moment” window by Doyle Chappell, inspired by The Coming of the Cosmic Christ at aChurch4Me, Metropolitan Community Church, Chicago. Published with permission of the artist.

Eckhart also calls this power the “ground of freedom” which “apprehends God naked as he is.” Here is where humans are, at our root, divine.

Here we become Christ-like and words of God as Christ was.  But to make contact with this divine spark we must empty ourselves and learn to let go.  

Then you will be the same in the eternal Word as human nature is in him.  For your human nature and that of the divine word are no different—it’s one and the same….So if you want to be this same Christ and God, empty yourself….

God is a fire and we have within us, in our core, sparks of that fire.  This spark is so closely related to God that it is a unique indivisible unity, and bears within itself the images of all creatures, image without image, and image above image.   “God is in the ground of the soul with all his divinity.” Indeed, “here, God’s ground is my ground, and my ground is God’s ground.”   


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Spiritual Warrior for Our Times, pp. 192f.  

And Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 108-110.

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

Banner Image: “Divine Light” Photo by Crusty Da Klown on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

Have you experienced God’s ground and your ground as one ground?  And the spark of divine nature manifesting in you and your work when your work derives from your ground?


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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20 thoughts on “Eckhart: We stammer to name the spark and depths of our souls”

  1. Avatar

    An Open Table wrestles with the meaning of Soul in relation to our daily lives.SOUL
    ETERNALLY EMBODIED IN EACH PLACE
    ‘Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place,’
    said Rumi, touching a nerve while further exploring
    a great key secret behind our human yearning.
    ‘The soul is not in the body, the body is in the soul.’
    ‘My’ soul or ‘Yours’ is an anachronism and conceit,
    obscuring the finest focus for the cosmos entire,
    the ceaseless creativity we narrowly call, ‘God’.

    ‘I AM’ is one God, unbelittled by human interpretations,
    soul extant in perpetual motion, bestowing free gifts
    of vibrant life and love to galaxies, genomes and girls;
    to boys, boulders, bedrooms; even to Benidorm.
    Such interpretation of soul allows every embodiment
    to have boundless potential, always an element of cosmic
    integrity flowing on through eternity,
    each freely making unique contributions
    to and for universal good or ill.

    A group of elders in the UK

  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Good morning, and thank you for our Queries for Contemplation today: “Have you experienced God’s ground and your ground as one ground?” Yes, indeed, he warns us that no one can name what the soul is, just as we cannot name what God is. God is without name, and is ineffable, and the soul in its ground is likewise ineffable. It is “When we speak of divine things, we have to stammer, because we have to express them in words.” In the soul, Eckhart maintains there is “something like a spark of divine nature, a divine light, a ray, an imprinted picture of the divine nature.” Eckhart also calls this power the “ground of freedom” which “apprehends God naked as he is.” Here is where humans are, at our root, divine. “And the spark of divine nature manifesting in you and your work when your work derives from your ground?” And finally, Eckhart says, “For your human nature and that of the divine word are no different—it’s one and the same….So if you want to be this same Christ and God, empty yourself….”

  3. Avatar

    Matthew, this video is helpful. I wish I could send you a photo that I saved from Facebook. To me at least, it is an illustration-a profound, heartbreaking illustration-of “the spark of the soul”. It made me weep.

    I was so pleased to meet you in person last Sunday, at Transfiguration. I attended partly because covid was running through my parish: St. Luke in the Fields. And I thought I could finally meet dear John David, and my Facebook friend, Peter Carey. But then to meet you too? A joy.

    Dorothy Carey

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    What keeps bubbling to the surface is…. words found in scripture… which now seem to have so much more depth, width, height and breadth to them, than they ever have before…

    Take off your sandles… for You are standing on Holy ground…
    I AM THAT I AM… I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE…
    Be still… and know… that I AM
    Be still… and know… that I
    Be still… and know… that
    Be still… and know…
    Be still… and
    Be still…
    Be
    Be
    Be
    I AM… THAT I AM…
    I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE

    You are the Holy Grail… drink deeply the new wine… poured into your soul… the infilling, the outpouring… of the Holy Spirit… ALL THAT I AM… ALL THAT I WILL BE… Let not this cup pass you by… come sit at the table… there is a place made ready for you… taste and see…

  5. Avatar

    Merton called this spark, or divine ground, “le point vierge” (the virgin point). That hidden point is spiritually chaste, meaning that it’s free of all thoughts and names, and bare of all forms. Its that point in human consciousness where divine presence and human presence, vine and branch, are experienced as one in organic (mystical) unity. This is true of all genuine love making (as opposed to sex) where the act of intimate congress (union) renders all that preceded it preliminary, mere foreplay without full spiritual union, consummation, or realization. As sexual foreplay is not true sexual union, but the experience of arousal in the direction of deep union (climax), such are the spiritual disciplines to the experience of rapt intimacy with Spirit in the holy hush of naked union. The deep soul is ever chaste (virginal), expectant and in waiting only and always for private interludes with her true Suitor in the “secret place of the Most High” (Ps. 91:1). “The king
    has led me into his chambers” (Canticles 1:4). Salvation is by grace, a divine, spiritually erotic drawing (“seduction”) into Presence.

  6. Avatar

    The deeper I sink into the depth the greater the vastness and a knowing grows like reserve of light. Maybe this the “original outbreak of all goodness” Eckhart speaks about. It does feel good and sustains in a way like no other food, water, thoughts can touch. Going to the great well or diving into the depths is like the ocean in it’s vastness and mystery which has increased my craving for more depth and makes living in the linear so small and yes “desert like”. Maybe we are like onions in our physicality, peeling away layers to see Love.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Bill, Thank you for your question. The death of Margueritte Porette was definitely a tragedy–to burn a woman at the stake who only wrote of her experience and love for the God she knew. As to why did Eckhart not protest this, I think there were a number of reasons. First, he may not have known–I don’t know who is on death row in Folsom prison, which is not far from my home–and we have all kinds of means of communication that did not even exist in Eckhart’s day. Second, if he did know, he would not have had any pull with the bishops and Inquisitors, of which it was totally THEIR decision. And third, he probably knew that he himself was on shaky ground with the church–in fact he too was condemned, though after he had died.

  7. Avatar
    Juliana Howard

    After reading Richard Rohr’s reflection for today, I wrote this haiku:
    Cloud of Unknowing
    Here and there and everywhere
    Vast and merciful

    THEN I read your Daily Meditation, which resulted in ANOTHER haiku:
    O spark of the soul
    Unexpected paradox
    Sneaking up on us

    Tricky Holy Spirit, yes!…., I DO hear you now!

  8. Avatar

    On my contemplative spiritual journey I feel that my awareness/consciousness of the ineffable sacredness of the Present Moment, the Spark of the Soul, is gracefully growing within as the Ground of All Being~Creation… In my daily human life of activities, I try to be humbly open, silent, and prayerfully aware of this Loving Creative Presence with-in the Divine Uniqueness of All Creation… I occasionally reflect and summarize this personal spiritual faith, understanding and journey with these prayerful mantra words — Divine Love~Loving Diverse Oneness~Loving co-Creative/Evolutionary Eternal Presence~Cosmic Christ Consciousness… Thus, my eternal Soul hopefully flows naturally with the Sacredness, Beauty, Joy, Sadness, Creativity, Compassion, Oneness of all my daily human activities with others, nature, all living things (physical and spiritual), and All Living Creation~Cosmos….
    ?❤️?

  9. Avatar
    Juliana Howard

    After listening to Richard Rohr’s reflection today, I wrote this haiku:
    Cloud of Unknowing
    Here and there and everywhere
    Vast and merciful

    Then I read and listened to Matthew’s Daily Meditation and wrote this haiku:
    O Spark if the Soul
    Unexpected paradox
    Sneaking up on us

    Here and there and everywhere!!!

    I most enjoyed the comments. Thank you from St. joseph, MN.

  10. Avatar

    I have always respected and admired the refusal by Jews to name God or to make any images, because it seems to me a sign that the divine cannot be captured in words or mages. We cannot corral or box in the divine spark with words, we can only experience it.

    Have I experienced unity with the divine ground? Certainly not in any dramatic way but possibly in ordinary moments of paying attention and being present to whoever or whatever is in front of me–and being grateful.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, Interestingly enough, when I read your words, “… the divine cannot be captured in words or images. We cannot corral or box in the divine spark with words, we can only experience it”–it reminded me of two songs by the late 60s, early 70s band, Jethro Tull. Their album, “Aqualung” that had a song titled, “My God” which criticized the Church of England’s view of God–the God that one can only meet in the Church, and the other song is titled, “Wind Up” which has the line, “He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.” The God that the Church projects in words and images, the God that you meet in church on Sundays–the wind up God who lives in the church building itself…

  11. Avatar

    The spark of the soul, the spark of divine nature – the “light of humanity” as described in John’s gospel prologue – an original blessing indeed. The Roman Centurion participating in the execution of Jesus, whose heart was turned, provides a powerful example. The spark of compassion awakened in his soul, the “fire in his core”, by what he was witnessing.

    So often it takes the depth of suffering to awaken compassion. It is especially helpful in these daily meditations that credence is also given to the power of art, nature, silence, humor, music and all the transcendent powers of awakening..

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