Eckhart attests to learning the “spark of the soul” from Muslim philosopher Avicenna who lived 300 years before his time. Rumi too, great mystic and Sufi that he was, and who lived on the earth when Eckhart did, sings of this same spark in the following powerful poem that summarizes, it seems to me, the entire archetype:
Ah, one spark flew
and burned the house of my heart.
Smoke filled the sky.
The flames grew fierce in the wind.
The fire of the heart is not easily lit.
So don’t cry out: ‘O Lord, rescue me
From the burning flames!
Spare me from the army of thoughts
That is marching through my mind!’
O Heart of Pure Consciousness,
You are the ruler of all hearts.
After countless ages
You brought my soul
All it ever wished for.
The purpose of honoring the divine spark in us all is to serve more generously and more consistently according to the Sufi tradition. Writes Ana Matt:
To be a dervish (sufi) is to serve and to help others, not just to sit and pray. To be a real dervish is to lift up those who have fallen, to wipe the tears of the suffering, to caress the friendless and the orphaned.
Muhammad was told about a man who spent all his time in the mosque praying. He asked, ‘Who feeds him?” “His brother,” was the reply. “Then his brother is better than he,” said Muhammad.
Compassion is an important byproduct of the spark of the soul. Compassionate service.
Hafiz, also a contemporary of Eckhart, writes:
I have made the journey into Nothing.
I have become that flame that needs
Now what need is there to ever
Call for Hafiz?
For if you did,
I would just step out
We become the flame born of the spark and thereby serve one another.
In his book called Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Main offers six principles of Islam that bear on environmental sustainability: Understanding the oneness of God and His creation (tawhid); seeing signs (ayat) of God everywhere; being a steward (khalifah) of the Earth; honoring the trust (aman) we share with God while protecting the planet; moving toward justice (adl); and living in balance with nature (mizan).
Together they constitute an “environmental ethos of Islam.” Service indeed.
All this wisdom deriving from Christian, Jewish and Muslim mysticism on the “spark of the soul” renders us strong in standing up against the folly of an unsupreme court that has denuded the EPA and thereby contributes heavily to killing the planet.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 196-198.
See also Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Herb Garden at the Sufi retreat center Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, NY. Photo by SOI Toronto Centres on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
What does your heart learn from listening to Sufis speak of the spark of the soul and the spark of compassion and service that is struck there? How does that make you a stronger warrior to stand up to judicial folly that leads to the killing of Mother Earth?
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
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit