Julian of Norwich, Eckhart, Merton, Suzuki on Digging for Truth

Yesterday we meditated on the need to dig deep to get to our true self. Sometimes suffering is a gateway to truth. 

Gardening soil and souls: Author/educator/activist Theodore Richards works in the Chicago Wisdom Project food forest/community garden. Photo by the Chicago Wisdom Project, shown in TheodoreRichards.com.

Julian of Norwich acknowledges this and teaches that we cannot sit idly by while suffering happens to ourselves or others; we must dig deeper to find the treasure that lies hidden within life and within ourselves.

Julian urges us to become gardeners of the soul as well as the soil. 

There is a treasure in the earth that is a food tasty and pleasing to the Lord. Be a gardener, dig and ditch, toil and sweat, and turn the earth upside down and seek the deepness and water the plants in time. Continue this labor and make sweet floods to run and noble and abundant fruits to spring.

Here Julian returns us to the joy of working in and with nature, the outer work becomes the inner work and the inner the outer. Indeed, this work of gardening is not only a holy inner work with the soil and with the soul, but it becomes our worship as well. “Take this food and drink and carry it to God as your true worship.”

“All Good Gifts” ~ Godspell (1973) uploaded to YouTube by PatchesAndFacePaint

Divinity, as Julian sees it, turns a happy face toward us even when there is hardship. 

The blessed face that our Beloved turns toward us is a happy one—joyous and sweet. He sees us lost in love-longing, and he wants to see a smile on our souls, because our delight is his reward. 

Compassion and delight are part of the exchange with the divine.

Eckhart’s understanding of God as the “ground of being”—which was Thich Nhat Hanh’s favorite name for divinity—lends itself well to Julian’s talk of “digging and ditching.” 

Walking meditation: bare feet kiss sacred earth, communing with the ground of being. Photo by PNW Production on Pexels.

Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki teaches that the “True Self” is the formless, original mind and Merton says that Suzuki “has explicitly compared this concept to that of the Godhead in Meister Eckhart and the Rhenish mystics.”

He says Suzuki’s use of the word mind in Zen does not mean the intellectual faculty as such but rather what the Rhenish mystics [including Eckhart] called the ‘ground’ of our soul or of our being, a ‘ground’ which is . . . enlightened and aware, because it is in immediate contact with God.

Suzuki, he says, was “obviously thinking of Eckhart” when he talks of the light of Prajna penetrating “the ground nature of consciousness” and illuminating things inside and outside.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 27.  

And Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, p. 34.

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

Banner Image: “Digging up the onions.” Photo by Woodley Wonder Works on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What does God as the “ground of being” mean to you?  How do you “dig and ditch” to arrive there?

Recommended Reading

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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10 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich, Eckhart, Merton, Suzuki on Digging for Truth”

  1. Avatar

    After we “realize” unconditional love Eckart’s “ground of being” and Suzuki’s formless True Self, which is the same reality, can be “realized.” 540 is the theoretical degree of realization on the Hawkins Map of Consciousness for our heart’s unconditional loving state. 540 = unconditional love of our hearts. The upper chakras will open more after unconditional love is realized. After certain veils concealing our shared Godhead are removed the shared psychological reality of our can be known and seen in each other. We need to realize that ancient mystics were ascetics living away from the general public and others were supported within their orders. So ancient mystics did not have the material concerns of common people which “freed them” to find their True Self which is the Universal Self.

    1. Richard E Reich

      Gary, Thank you for your comment today. You speak of David R. Hawkins (1921-2012) who was the author of Power vs Force, Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender among other books. My daughter was a student of his, and so I am very familiar with his writings, since she has had me read his books too. Though I appreciate his writings, I have always been skeptical of his use of kinesiology: that is muscle testing, to arrive at his numbers. On the other hand I feel you are right on in this comment: “We need to realize that ancient mystics were ascetics living away from the general public and others were supported within their orders. So ancient mystics did not have the material concerns of common people which ‘freed them’ to find their True Self which is the Universal Self.”

  2. Avatar

    “The ground of our being” is the Life, all living things share and follow, by simply living in our Spirituality of Creation. “This is My Body and this is My Blood”, is about living grown food that supports Life. He didn’t pick up a Lamb chop. perhaps because, He is the Lamb that takes away the Sin of the world of injustice and will one day lay besides the Lion in justice, for all.

  3. Avatar

    God as the “ground of Being” to me is God’s Spirit of Divine Love~Wisdom Present within, through, among Us in All ongoing co-Creation~Incarnation~Evolution, especially in sacred beautiful Mother Nature/Earth, and in all our sacred physical and non-physical multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos of Loving Diverse Oneness….

  4. Richard E Reich

    When I think of the “ground of being” though I think of Eckhart I also think of Paul Tillich (1886-1965) the German theologian who made the term “ground of being” popular for modern theologians. For him this meant that God was not a being but was the ground of all being. He also, before Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle, spoke of “the Eternal Now.”

  5. Avatar

    I also think of Paul Tillich as one who made the ground of being popular–I was greatly impressed by his writings in college. It is a good image, and the digging and ditching, to me, are the daily practices of letting go, which can be really hard work. As Matthew and others (Jung especially) have pointed out, we must include and face our shadow selves in this work to reach our true selves. For me, the discipline of daily practices is absolutely essential, and I find the Buddhist ones of lovingkindness and forgiveness most helpful. Bless Merton and others who have opened us to the beauty of other faiths, the deep ecumenism that Matthew teaches.

  6. Avatar

    This is sort of off the subject, but thank you for the Godspell video. It brought back many happy memories.

  7. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The souls journey is one of descent… a descent of our true Spirit, descending into the realm of Matter. As Teilhard and many other mystics have revealed, through their own experience of remembering what many have forgotten… “we are spiritual beings having a human experience… which is a continuous incarnation that is always unfolding, evolving and emerging.”

    We’ve descended into Paradise, right here, right now… heaven on earth! We’re living on Holy Ground, given the gift of feeling, seeing, tasting, hearing, knowing, and intuitively sensing the Sacred, the essence and presence of the inherent beauty and blessed goodness of Spirit in the existence of all Matter, in all its diverse and infinite expressions and manifestations.

    All that exists is woven together as a beautiful tapestry, the weft and warp of Spirit and Matter. Each soul is co-creatively responsible and accountable for toiling the sacred ground of being, the soil of the Soul, the inner landscape of oneself, conscientiously and consciously… sifting, shifting and attuning oneself… in order to converge with ones resounding true nature that benefits and contributes to the whole… all the while being loved to love. We are all in the transformational process of this archelogy dig… beginning to see the unfolding, evolving emergence of convergence… a fuller measure of the Incarnation of Spirit manifesting into Matter.

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