Black Elk & Meister Eckhart on the Power of Round

In yesterday’s DM, I praised Pope Francis’s recent synod for its round tables where everyone sat—pope, cardinals, bishops, archbishops, lay people, young and old. 

The Native American Medicine Wheel can have many meanings: 4 directions, 4 seasons, 4 elements, and other aspects of life. Photo by Madison Podjasek on Unsplash.

I pointed out how Sara’s Circle, not climbing ladders, is the future. Such a form renders joy and justice more possible and easier, since one can see each other’s eyes and also the smiles or suffering on one another’s faces.

Cardinal Cupich of Chicago said that the recent synod represents “a new way of being church.”* Were round to prevail in a future version of church, that would surely be the case.

Black Elk celebrates the holiness of round when he talks of the “sacred hoop” that constitutes the universe and all its many communities. Also,   

Walking the concentric circles of a Labyrinth helps bring you back to yourself (rather than making you lost!) Video by the Today show. 

Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….The sky is round, and…the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars….Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….Even the seasons form a great circle.  

The “Flower of Life” is made up of overlapping circles, all of the same diameter. The pattern can be made with an infinite number of circles. Image by Karin Henseler from Pixabay.

Meister Eckhart echoes Black Elk when he tells us that “being is a circle for God.” He calls the soul a “circle of the world,” and invites humans to be a “circle…filled with the spirit of the Lord.” He says, “heaven runs constantly in a circle,” and he connects heart and heaven, psyche and cosmos this way: 

Where should we begin? Begin with the heart, which is the noblest part of the body. It lies in the center of the body from which point it bestows life on the whole body….The spring of life is placed in the heart.

Black Elk tells us that “understanding must be of the heart and not of the head alone.” This brings “peace upon the earth, not only among people, but within them and between the whole of creation.”

* Gerard O’Connell, Cardinal Cupich on the synod, women deacons, giving bishops job reviews and why ‘LGBTQ’ was left out of the final doc. America: The Jesuit Review, October 29, 2023.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 215f. 

See also Matthew Fox, “Sexuality and Compassion: From Climbing Jacob’s Ladder to Dancing Sarah’s Circle,” in Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 36-67.

Banner Image: These concentric-circle terraces in Peru, are believed to have been used by the Inca as an agricultural research station. Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Why do you think Black Elk tells us that birds with round nests practice the same religion as Native Americans do? What questions does that raise for practicing your own religion?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality & The Transformation of Christianity

A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.
“This is a deep and forceful book….With prophetic insight, Matthew Fox reveals what has corrupted religion in the West and the therapy for its healing.” ~Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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4 thoughts on “Black Elk & Meister Eckhart on the Power of Round”

  1. Avatar

    Walking the Medicine Wheel, is the journey of life. Each cardinal direction offers you an intention to focus on. As you engage with the powerful medicine of each direction, an awareness begins to unfold from within; giving substance and form to the sacred vision of the beauty and goodness each one holds, to be opened into givenness.

    Moving around this Sacred Circle, a sacred kind of convergence takes place, between Spirit and Soul; that establishes a heart to heart relationship of Trust, through the fluid revelation of Truth.

    Through the earthly dance of introspection, one begins to intuitively cultivate the deeper lessons to be found within the darkness of suffering, enabling one to hold a more receptive and expansive point of view.

    Continuing on this circular movement, one begins to receive the vastness of sacred knowledge and wisdom beyond the limitations of one’s human understanding, clarifying one’s meaning and purpose in life.

    The essence and presence of the Light of one’s true Spirit is illuminated from within, enlightening one’s awareness as to that which one already embodies, simply awaiting to be determined and actualized into being.

    Arriving at the center, one discovers Wholeness, that lived awareness of Oneness with the all and the everything of creation; the Great Mystery, the Great Spirit incarnate within; each one a unique, authentic and diverse expression of the beauty and goodness within the Sacred Hoop of Life.

  2. Avatar

    Today’s DM reminds us that the Spirit of Divine Love~Wisdom~Peace~Creative Life… is PRESENT within the hearts of the Mystic (like Eckhart) and the Indigenous (like Black Elk) of All of Us that connects us intimately with Our beautiful Sacred Mother Earth and All Her creatures and graceful abundance, and with-in All our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS in LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar

    The mystic discovers her inherent intimacy with all that is around and within her body, mind, and soul. Perceived walls of separation and distance, the careful demarcations forged from an egoic idolatry of individuality — all of that carefully maintained ego-masonry, falls. Revealed as a precarious illusion, it is swept away when the filters and assumptions holding it in place are dropped, the curtain pulled back.

    The mystic discovers that intellectual/egoic walls are like ice, melting in the sunlight of the true-Soul’s inner Sight. The Wisdom-Spirit’s gaze will not be blocked by crystallizations of human ego-armor.

    Wisdom journeys with the mystic, soaring like an eagle to the Soul’s mountaintop, its peak, its highest possible pinnacle, to reveal the panorama of our shared deep interconnection, the sacred unity of Creation, the intimate God-Love that is forever woven into the fabric of each of us and all that is around us. Wisdom holds the mystic in a safe embrace, carried on a flight of transformation and awe.

  4. Avatar
    Barbara McGurran

    Have been wondering lately why all cosmic bodies are circular. Now I know. Life always travels in circles. The great web of life.q

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