Meister Eckhart on How All People are Nobles and Aristocrats

In yesterday’s DM we meditated on how the word generous in its earliest use implied “noble” and “born to nobility.”  And in the video I shared the story of how Meister Eckhart preached on how everyone is an aristocrat or noble—and this got him in considerable trouble in his day with…guess who? 

Portrait of Meister Eckhart by Andrea Bonaiuti, recently identified on a 14th-century Florentine fresco in Sta Maria Novella. Wikimedia Commons.

The archbishop of Cologne at the time had “von” before his name so we know he was of the aristocratic class.  No doubt he and his fellow “nobles” were not pleased with Eckhart’s inviting peasants and others to consider themselves as aristocrats.

Eckhart’s first trial against him was called by that archbishop and he actually won that juridic process.  But a later trial held in Avignon where the pope was then living did not end so positive for him.  He died after the trial and was condemned a week after he died. 

Sadly, his effort to preach the good news that included a democratizing of nobility was in many respects buried with him therefore.

Let us return to his teaching and listen to him anew.  In a time of rising fascism and authoritarianism it is important that we hear these messages and not only to buttress our efforts at preserving democracy.  But also because the core reason why people are attracted to might over right and control over freedom and violence over relating and anger over conversation is that some people have a very low opinion of themselves. 

How DeSantis And Other Conservatives Are Targeting LGBTQ Rights: the ACLU is tracking a record number of state-level bills limiting basic rights and freedoms for LGBTQ Americans. Insider News

So they project their greatness onto so-called “leaders” who promise to avenge their anger and self-hatred and hurt onto others.  This is the nature of fascism in its many incarnations.  Hatred of others comes from ignorance and a deep self-hatred.

Eckhart preached on this passage from Luke’s gospel (19.12): “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”  Said Eckhart: 

How nobly humans are constituted by nature, and how divine is the state to which they can come by grace….A large part of Holy Scripture is affected by these words….In us is the inward person, whom the Scriptures call the new person, the heavenly person, the young person, the friend, and the noble person.

Eckhart chose not to confront aristocracy head on, but to recreate it entirely by baptizing all into it.  Instead of putting down nobles and aristocrats, he makes the peasants into nobles.  Instead of putting down anyone, he elevates all.  

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Meister Eckhart and Karl Marx: The Mystic as Political Theologian,” in Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 165-198.

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

Banner Image: “Communion of Saints tapestry, Los Angeles Cathedral. This is part of the fresco-like Communion of Saints along the north wall of the nave. Twenty-five fresco-like tapestries depict 135 saints and blesseds from around the world, including holy men and women of North America canonized by the Church.” Photo by Barbara Hartford/James Strong on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Are you in touch with the inward, new, heavenly, young, friend and noble person within you?  What follows from that?  How do you access that?

Recommended Reading

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

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12 thoughts on “Meister Eckhart on How All People are Nobles and Aristocrats”

  1. Avatar

    Written this morning for another post but applies here as well.

    Is God’s loving embrace like that of ‘walking upon a cloud’. No, but it is. What does that mean ‘no but it is’? We cannot escape the ‘pain of the world’, but we can allow ourselves to be embraced in all awe, wonder and glory by The Trinity and that which is ‘not of this world’. Unless in the presence of some form of torturous situation, the state of being in which we reside is of our choosing and can be enjoyed and filled with ‘showers of God’s grace and God’s embrace’. We get some guidance from scripture and the Psalms in particular. We may choose to have them held tightly within and emblazoned upon our hearts.

    Psalm 84:10 NIV “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

    Psalm 27:4 NIV “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

    If we look to the Mystics, Gurus and Holy Ones, everything they do and espouse is ‘wrapped up’ within Psalm 27:4. And we can do the same and become receptive to God’s free will offering that is always extended to us. Taste it, embrace it and lovingly ‘get lost within it’. This is not an escape but our ‘true state of being’. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      This is sound information.
      I remember a man I met years ago who carried a book of the psalms in his shirt pocket.
      He explained every morning he read the psalms and when a verse “called to him” he remembered it throughout the day. He said it like this, “I chewed on that phrase all day long.”

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    We are ALL, the BELOVED of God… being greatly loved to love!

    There is no longer any distinction between us… for ALL is ONED WITH this all encompassing, all embracing LOVE of God… all being held in the great heart of this LOVE.

    All of creation too… is the BELOVED of God!

    How beautiful and good is this original blessing of nobility bestowed upon all… as BELOVED… ALL LOVED INTO BEING.

  3. Avatar

    Rev. Martin Luther King summed it up when he called us to judge people by the content of their character. Such is the telling of at least a gentleman, if not an aristocrat. Chivalry is largely lost though, as a Brit, it is telling that during that lost Age, the motto of the Prince of Wales and thereby heir to the throne, is “Ich Dien”, (I Serve). It should be the very essence of an aristocrat above all else.

  4. Avatar

    Matthew, your recommended book, “Wrestling With the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life” seems to be another excellent book on Creation Spirituality relevant to our modern times with its’ continued personal and social problems/confusion related to lack of genuine spirituality in our inner and outer lives with one another and sacred/beautiful Mother Earth. We’ve already discussed that one of the prevalent roots of these human problems/confusion/suffering and lack of growth by many in genuine spirituality has been the historically negative psychological influences of patriarchal toxic, destructive, unbalanced beliefs/values/actions by many in our personal lives and societal institutions. You’ve also written about these institutional and systemic evils with their destructive influences on our humanity with one another and all life on sacred Mother Earth. The compassionate spiritual responsibilities of many of us on our eternal spiritual journeys of our daily human lives remain essential in the evolution of our personal and collective souls with-in the Sacred Presence in our hearts of our co-Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Evolving Oneness….

    1. Avatar

      Eckhart riffed on Bible verses, offering various Truthful (bigger, mystical /sacred Truth) meanings. One of them said a “nobleman” was someone in whom God’s “image of the divine nature and the divine being that is the Son of God will appear…God’s image, God’s Son, is in the ground of the soul as a fount of living water (Jn 4:14). Another meaning was that “a nobleman went out, because man must go out of every image and out of himself and out of everything, he must go far off indeed…if he wishes to and shall receive the Son, and become son in the bosom and heart of the Father.”

      So one sense of “nobleman” was of living and acting from the same mystical Path, the divine flow of Truth, Love and unceasing Goodness that mystics directly accessed within the Son/Logos, and another was of attaining that direct, nondualistic mystical consciousness.
      Eckhart was totally dedicated to teaching the mystical Path, both lessons from mystical awareness and how to attain it. “Nobility” was earned by dedicated, focused striving to live from mystical Truth, and was possible for every person.

  5. Avatar
    Cheryl M Burton

    The LGBTQ Community here in Massachusetts has for the most part participated and continues to participate in extreme oppression and violation of the rights of the labeled mentally ill. They have a dualistic judgement from the United States Court System that says that they are not mentally ill but those who are not LGBTQ still have the mythical disorders that are labeled as mental illness. That helps legitimize their group even moreso against the mentally ill who have been stripped of all their rights. The LGBTQ participates in a personal malicious prosecution of me seperate from others labeled mentally ill and stemmed from Politics. They make themselves hypocrites to participate when they know and it is said that it was politics that first put homosexuals in the Psychiatric DSM Manual, and it was politics that finally removed them from it. The DSM is often compared to the witch hunting manual, the “Malleus Malleficarum”. I heard yesterday that a WWll engineer responsible for the designs of radar/alarm systems etc that helped win the war for England, was later forced by the govt there to undergo insulin and electroshock treatments to cure him of homosexuality, and you could say it did because it killed him. I mean his body literally died!!!

  6. Avatar

    Thank you. Here is a good lecture on American foreign policy and its failure to make peace in the world through its lack of generosity. Jeffery Sachs talks about JFK and his statesmanship and speech trying to bring peace to the world.

  7. Avatar

    With the political situation here in Florida, with increasing oppression and hatred here and elsewhere, with the braying of an ex-president who believes he’s above the law and a system that has yet to disabuse him of that belief, I very much appreciate the DM’s that remind us of who we really are. Consequently, I take heart and continue to do everything in my power to witness to the divinity of all, speaking the truth to power in peaceable ways.

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