Compassion, Eckhart, and Humanity’s Future

I am genuinely excited about a new class I am teaching with Shift Network beginning tomorrow, called “Cultivating Compassion in Spirituality: What Meister Eckhart & Other World Mystics Can Teach Us about Navigating Collective Turmoil.”   

Detail of a statue of Meister Eckhart in Bad Wörishofen, Germany. Translation: “The most important hour is always the present. The most important person is in front of you right now. The necessary direction is always love.” (“Stewer” = steering, like the helmsman on a ship.) Photo by Lothar Spurzem. Wikimedia Commons.

Why am I so excited? Because when we are dealing with compassion, we are dealing with the best humanity has to offer—and Meister Eckhart is a genius on compassion. 

And who is Eckhart? Many consider him the greatest mystic of the West. It has been my privilege to have studied, taught and written about him ever since he appeared to me in a dream 46 years ago. We have been traveling together ever since, both in the three books I wrote on him, and through teaching numerous classes on him over the years.

Why journey with a person like Eckhart? Carl Jung says, “it’s to the mystics we owe what is best in humanity.” Why not study what is best in humanity? Isn’t compassion the best humanity has to offer? 

“Ground of the Soul:” The Simple Oneness of Meister Eckhart. Video by Theodore Nottingham.

In our current times, many are feeling sadness and despair. T. S. Elliot put it this way: “The mystics. Or else despair.”

There is joy and there is creativity in the mysticism of Eckhart and the work of compassion—toward self and others. “Compassion begins at home with one’s own body and one’s own soul,” he says. But compassion is also our imitation of Divinity, a sign of our divine nature. 

So much news today is anything but reflective of the divine nature that we all share, and all can make shine. I’m excited because this class can bring that alive.

The 14th Dalai Lama greets Uzra Zeya, India’s Undersecretary of State, in 2023. Photo by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons.

While Eckhart’s teachings on compassion and how to get there will be the main focus of this class, we will also bring in teachings from poets and feminists, the Dalai Lama, and other guides, for compassion is recognized in all the world religions as a divine power we all have within us. Today’s science too is laying a groundwork for more compassion in our lives, and thus the future survival of our species. 

To study compassion is to study the future—the next leap of humankind is a leap into compassion. I look forward to exploring what this actually means, how to get there, and how to carve out a future worthy of us and the beauty of this planet.

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

And Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 415-545.

And Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, pp. 89-131. And Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Times, pp. 10-13, 51-56, 58-61, 71-96, 221-250, 273-282.

And Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 377-403.

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

Banner Image: A “Compassion” bench near Trophy Point on the campus of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash.

Join Matthew Fox in a new, live, 7-week video course hosted by the Shift Network, Cultivating Compassion in Spirituality: What Meister Eckhart & Other World Mystics Can Teach Us About Navigating Collective Turmoil. Tuesdays, May 7 – June 25, 5:00pm – 6:30pm PT. Register HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that compassion constitutes the future of humanity (if there is to be a future)? Should we be studying it and practicing it more deeply therefore?

Recommended Reading

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

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.  

Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book

A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.  

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

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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6 thoughts on “Compassion, Eckhart, and Humanity’s Future”

  1. Avatar

    What is the ‘sum total’ of one’s experience and existence? It is surely more than the stories of a handful of mystics. Our own ‘mystic’ lies within. We are the ‘living story’ and others have their own story but may not realize it yet. How do we get over the ‘yet’? Is that not what compassion does? — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Eckhart’s words, “Seek the ground of one’s soul” speaks to me. These words are reminiscent of Theresa of Avila’s mystical journey of the interior castle. Hildegard too, traversed this landscape of the soul. What I see in these mystics is a kind of radical self-acceptance; of that which makes up the ground of one’s soul and bearing witness to this, through the eyes of compassion and love.

    What I also see in these mystics, seeking the ground of one’s soul, is an engagement with the gifts given each soul in order to traverse this inner landscape, that of visionary insight through intuition, imagination and creativity; especially when encountering both the via negativa and the via positiva, both the dark and the light, both the unknown and the known, both the human and divine within oneself.

    What I also see in common to this seeking the ground of one’s soul, is the language of imagery, symbols and metaphors as a way that the Spirit speaks to one’s soul; that one bears witness to, which is then responded to through the gifts of our intuition, imagination and creativity.

    There is an inner transformation that unfolds, evolves and emerges throughout this process that is rooted in radical self-acceptance, love, compassion and mercy that then expands beyond oneself into that of ONENESS and WHOLENESS with other, as thyself.

  3. Avatar

    Yes! COMPASSION~DIVINE LOVE constitutes not only the future of humanity – the evolution of our Souls – but also simultaneously realizing/becoming aware of the PRESENCE of this DIVINE NATURE within Us as the mystics like Meister Eckhart remind Us — We’re All Unique Divine Sparks of the Divine Flow and Web of LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  4. Avatar

    For me, compassion arises from following the great commandment to love God, self, and neighbor. If we love our neighbor, we can have compassion, suffer along with our neighbor, and act to relieve the suffering. I agree that compassion is not a sentimental feeling or a feeling that the neighbor is somehow “less than” and thus deserving of pity, but rather it is a stance from which we can act for the good of all.

  5. Avatar

    Mystics are reminders to humanity that we, each one of us, have the innate capability of being and living from within “a MORE”, that we are ALWAYS, at a deepest level, LIVING IN A BIGGER REALITY, LIVING IN A LOVING NON-DUALISTIC ONENESS/GOD
    We are ALWAYS interconnected,
    with each other,
    with the world/nature,
    IN GOD.
    Our responsibility, now that we know about this deep connection, becomes all the more crucial.
    Regardless of whether we are mystics who KNOW from our personal core,


    — No one is ENTITLED to “MORE THAN” — just because they’re white, male, rich, famous, able, and/or employed in a socially valued job.

    This is the Mystical code within the Judaic code of compassion, the Mystical Code of Moses and Jesus, the code of Meister Eckhart. This is the gift from mystics to humanity. And the challenge.

  6. Avatar

    “Compassion means Justice… structural justice”; this resonates within me. When faced with one’s neighbor whose plight is more anguished than our own, we connect with our own moments of anguish. Do we not need simply to understand another’s anguish, and to see the cause of their anguish, and then we are prompted to help remove the cause? In this dark time of society, when we cannot solve all the injustice we see, is it perhaps enough to solve what we can see, around us? By God’s grace, may this effort add to the Light working in our world.

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