According to Eckhart, there is “a common nature equally near to all people….in human nature there is nothing alien, nothing farther or nearer.” This is another way of saying that we are all equal under the law—an issue being tested today in the American judicial and political arenas.
If we are all brothers and sisters in one God, then we are all equals. Here lies the very meaning of compassion as Eckhart sees it:
You are to love, esteem, and consider all people like yourself; what happens to another, whether it be bad or good, should be for you as if it happened to you.
Empathy and compassion and works of compassion are born of this way of seeing the world—and justice too. Eckhart, working from the prophetic tradition of Israel, insists that “compassion means justice.” He also recognizes compassion as the very meaning of being human and without compassion we do not yet possess a soul.
All love demands equality, he feels. “Love will never be anything else than there where equality and unity are. Between a master and his servant there is no peace because there is no real equality.”
Peace and tranquility among peoples demand a recognition of their equality.
The same is true of marriage. “A wife and a husband are not alike, but in love they are equal.” Love only exists, and with it peace and pleasure, where persons are living equality or creating it. “Now there can be no love where love does not find equality or does not create equality.”
This principle applies to leadership roles in society as well. “People cannot accomplish things with pleasure unless they find equality with themselves in what they are accomplishing. If I were to lead people, they would never follow me with pleasure if they did not receive equality with me. For a movement or a deed is never accomplished with pleasure in the absence of equality.”
Remarkably, Eckhart’s deeply held sense of democracy precedes Thomas Jefferson by 450 years. If we are all sons and daughters of the divine King, all royal with the royal seed in us, then we indeed all share a deep equality. And we can say with Eckhart that the “common nature is equally near to all peoples.”
It follows that no one has the right to lord over us. And no people have a right to lord over other peoples.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 523f., 450-477.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “NYC Marriage Equality.” Photo by La Negra on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that equality and unity are integral to love and compassion and justice? What follows from that? How do you see history—and today’s events–wrestling with those realities?
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.