Eckhart on Democracy (and Love, Equality, Compassion, Justice)

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.

Bruce Cockburn sings of the oneness of the human race in “Us All.” Folk Roots and Blues

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.”  

PBS NewsHour covers the movie, “Loving,” on the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia couple who took their struggle for the right to interracial marriage up to the Supreme Court.

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.”

The Southern Baptist Convention, facing scandal and dropping membership, bans two ex-member churches because they have women pastors. CBS Mornings

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?

Recommended Reading

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.  


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8 thoughts on “Eckhart on Democracy (and Love, Equality, Compassion, Justice)”

  1. Avatar

    Yes I totally agree.
    I I looked up the word equal in the dictionary … “person or thing that is the same as another in status or quality”
    I looked up the word Unity.. “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole, especially in an artistic context. “

  2. Avatar

    We, yes the current 8 billion inhabitants of this world, are all on different paths and stages of ‘realization’. As such there will always be cycles of what we are seeing today and in the past. Not that we should ‘resign’ ourselves, but suffering the actions of the many cause the world its pain. We carry the pain as we move forward in our walk on ‘the path’ to recovery of who we truly are. Our ‘walk’, as we carry ourselves and others, serves as an example to all that look for love, truth and justice. As the cycle of life dictates, now is our time to bear witness not unlike Jesus, the Apostles, the Saints, Swamis, mystics like Eckhart and Jefferson. — BB.

  3. Avatar

    In answer to your first question Matthew — Yes! Yes! Yes!
    Today’s DM is another profound and beautiful spiritual meditation on God’s Divine Love and Compassion in All Creation Present and evolving in our eternal hearts/souls, in our relations with one another as sisters and brothers of our Loving Mother~Father Creator~Source, in our relation with Sacred Mother Earth and all of Her living creatures/graceful abundance, and in relation with All our Sacred physical and non-physical spiritual realms of our multidimensional-multiverse evolving Cosmos with-in our co-Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Oneness….

    I want to thank again on behalf of all fellow DM followers, not only Matthew, but the whole DM team for enhancing Matthew’s daily spiritual DM with beautiful and relevant videos…

      1. Avatar

        Thank you, Matthew, for reminding us of if the radical equality that Meister Eckhart points to. I wonder, though, if he was referring to equality ‘under the law’ or to perhaps something deeper?

        Because as we might see, law as we know it is deeply unequal. For one, we have an unequal division between those who govern and those who are governed. Furthermore, laws are created by nation-states that have borders excluding those who are considered undesirable.

        Thomas Jefferson,who you mentioned, owner slaves and committed what we would now call rape, though it was entirely legal at the time.

        It seems to me that perhaps Meister Eckhart was an anarchist in the best of the word – who saw that through the grace of God, we can truly relate to each other as equals. The systems of governance we could create as equals would be very, very different from what we currently see.

        The Zapatista systems of direct democracy, for example, offer one inspiring example of spiritual governance based on deep equality. The actions of Dorothy Day might be another. Cooperative communities are possible! But they can’t be legislated for – we have to do it ourselves if we want it to happen.

        Thank you again for sharing this thought provoking piece.

        All Love,
        Vishwam

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Damian,
      Thank you for your grateful recognition of the entire Team. Yes, these Daily Meditations are fueled and manifested by Matthew, supported, and empowered by the Team and all of you who choose to receive this incredible offering of forged Wisdom, taking it to heart – into your lives.

      This process is an example of the Four Paths working together in this Daily Meditation Practice. The wonder and awe of history’s teachers, cosmic-creation, and the beauty of all of it, ‘Doxa’ – Divine Glory! is the experience of the first path: Via Positiva(VP). Matthew has a rare gift of intellect and deep study coupled with profound curiosity. He finds tremendous beauty and wonder in it all that he works together, to capture, for us to experience.

      Here is the moment the (VN) Via Negativa steps in. All of the paths intertwine during the process. Like all good teachers, Matthew has tons of researched material to provide him the background he wants and needs, out of which he will formulate his wisdom teaching by choosing what to keep and what to let go of. That ‘letting go’ can be difficult, because he knows how each thought forms him and his thinking and he would love to give it ALL to us. He must be selective and make wise choices in encouraging us.
      Next, He creates the composites, putting all the pieces together (VC) Via Creativa. He then provides the team with the thematic name with which the technological team can work and manifest through research and the miracle of computers and Worldwide Web, another stage of (VC), which we all are privileged to witness as together something new is born.

      Then Damian, and I know you speak for us, states most profound gratefulness – the (VT) ‘Via Transformativa.’ The entire process is culminated in this moment. All Paths are present, and we can choose VT -Transformation through the process of formulating our Comments, sharing our lives/experiences and our hearts, not only here, but in our lives!

  4. Avatar

    Mystical Truth — the Truth lived by Jesus, proclaimed triumphantly in the opening declaration of the Gospel of John, and directly experienced by Eckhart, is a sacred demand of equality. There is NO compromise in its message. ANY inequality is a direct violation of Christ: whatsoever you do to another person, you do to Him. If you treat any other person as LESS, as lower than you, you treat Jesus as lower than your-self, too. Jesus walked in the mystical Truth of equality and humility. We are commanded to do the same.

    The unholy union of power and church began early, when an unknown author tacked on a passage into the Gospels about women’ s required subordination and obedience to men. Biblical scholars have long noticed that the text of that section was written by a different hand — in a less refined style and with different general wording — than the main text. In other words, a forgery. But it suited the purposes of the early male clergy to eliminate the prominent role of women in the founding of the early church. From there, it was a short step to reuniting imperial power with the church, recreating the same hierarchical power structure that Jesus denounced, and betraying Christ’s mystical Truth.
    Mystics continue to bring this message, to remind people of the Sacred Truth of Justice/equality. The need for the message never diminishes: people enjoy dominating and taking everything from those with less power.

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