In yesterday’s poem, composed from his hospital bed, Merton addresses “Eckhart’s castle.”
Eckhart’s talk about the soul as a “castle” relates to the Biblical phrase, “the kingdom of God.” Kingdoms in Eckhart’s day boasted castles and Eckhart invokes the castle as an archetype for the soul and the deepest part of the soul where our divinization occurs. “God glows and burns with all his wealth and all his bliss” in this castle.
Jesus enters into this castle “in his being rather than in his acting, giving graciously to the mind the divine and deiform being. This regards the essence of being according to the words: ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’”
This castle however “is free of all names and bare of all forms, totally free and void just as God is void and free in himself. It is totally one and simple just as God is one and simple, so that we can in no manner gaze into it.”
Indeed, it is the “place” where “the Father begets his only begotten Son as truly as in himself [and] with this part of itself the soul is equal to God and nothing else.” The castle for Eckhart is the place/space where the Divine marries the human.
Eckhart and Merton name nothingness and the void. Sister Lentfoehr points out that “Merton takes the Zen and Eckhartian approach that of kenosis variously described as “emptiness,’ ‘dark night,’ ‘perfect freedom,’ ‘poverty.’
Merton’s poem is explicitly based on Eckhart’s Sermon on the poverty of spirit, which speaks of God as “identical with the spirit and that is the most intimate poverty discoverable.” Merton says:
It is when we lose the ‘self,’ according to Eckhart, ‘the persona that is the subject of virtues as well as visions, that perfects itself by good works, that advances in the practice of piety—that Christ is finally born in us in the highest sense.’ This is the pure, the perfect poverty, when one is no longer a ‘self,’ a concept that touches the ‘point of nowhereness, a point of nothingness in the midst of being.’
Eckhart said “everything which is created, in itself is nothing” and explains what he means:
The color of the wall depends on the wall and so the existence of creatures depends on the love of God. Separate the color from the wall and it would case to be. So all creation would cease to exist if separated from the love that God is.
Notice that our existence and God’s love are the same thing for Eckhart.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 75f.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “El Greco’s landscape of Toledo depicts the priory [from which St. John of the Cross escaped in his Dark Night], just below the old alcázar (fort) and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs.” Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
How do Merton and Eckhart assist you to understand Nothingness more deeply?
A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.” — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.