Meister Eckhart on “The Nobility Inside”

[FROM THE ARCHIVE: 5/30/2019]

Scripture has plenty to say about the “royal person” and the “nobility inside.”  After all, Meister Eckhart’s approach to the topic, as we saw yesterday, is based on a gospel story that he develops.  We consider Scriptures’ teaching on royalty and nobility in this DM.

We have been speaking of the forgotten “nobility inside” of men in our time and of women as well, though the phrase comes from a Native American chaplain working in a men’s prison. 

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

The great prophet and mystic of the middle ages, Meister Eckhart (1260-1329), devotes an entire treatise to the “Noble” or “Aristocrat” that resides in each of us.  Following are some observations he offers on the nobility we carry within us.

Our Lord says in the Gospel: ‘A man of royal birth went to a distant country to be appointed king, and afterward he returned’ (Lk. 19:12).  Our Lord teaches us in these words how royal people have been created in their nature; how divine is the state to which they can rise through grace; and, in addition, how people are to reach that point.  In addition, a large part of the Holy Scripture touches upon these words.

We all have within us an outer person or a false self as well as an inner person or true self. This person, who is hidden within us, is the inner person.  Scripture calls this person a new person, a heavenly person, a young person, a friend, and a royal person.

Eckhart plays with the German words for eagle (Adler) and for “noble” (Edler) in the following observation:

What our Lord calls a royal person is named by the prophet (Ezk. 17:3-4) a large eagle.  Who then is more royal than one who was born, on the one hand, from the highest and best that a creature possesses and, on the other hand, from the most intimate depths of the divine nature and its wilderness?  

Matthew Fox reflects on the image of the royal person described by Meister Eckhart and based in the early Jewish scriptures

The royal person is one who bears good fruit, indeed who bears Divinity itself for The seed of God is in us….Now the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree, a hazel seed into a hazel tree, the seed of God into God (cf. Jn. 3:9). 

Eckhart’s entire spirituality can be seen as a spirituality of the emergence of the royal person in us.  A noble person is responsible for preserving the gift of creation and such a person is committed to fighting for justice.  Justice being the ultimate test of the goodness of the king or royal person and therefore of what it means to be in touch with the “nobility inside.”

Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 510-530.

Banner Image: Golden eagle soaring over the mountains. Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

In prayerful meditation, sit with the following questions: what are the insights that they open within you?

  • Do you feel you are born “from the most intimate depths of the divine nature and its wilderness?”
  • How does that feel to you? 
  • What does it mean about relationships with others?
  • How do you wrestle with finding your true self as distinct from your false (or external) self?

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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4 thoughts on “Meister Eckhart on “The Nobility Inside””

  1. Avatar

    “We ‘Are’ What the Omnipresent and Omnipotent Says and Does”

    It is not what we necessarily say or do, but who we are. We, like God, are multifaceted. Wisdom garners a joyful heart, a merciful heart, a peaceful heart, a charitable heart, a ceaseless giving heart, an enduring heart, a prayerful, meditative and contemplative heart. To say that one facet of God exceeds the other is like saying that there are favourites and a ranking order within the Trinity, within the Mystery. Prayer directed at ‘the God within and without’ in our own specific and peculiar way can be considered as a ‘devotion’ that keeps us pointed steadfastly towards who we really are.

    We all exist in an experiential state of being and that is how we will perceive the depth of the world, the depth of who we are, at any given point in endless time. — BB.

    We are what the Omnipresent and Omnipotent says and does, hears and sees, and worships the holiness in which it and all exists. There is no reality that can offer us more. We exist within the Alpha and Omega and not the short worldly lifespan in which we are so ‘narrowly focused and consumed by’. Of what trivial desire of the flesh causes us remorse when The Omnipresent and Omnipotent carries us on its ‘wings’? Will we walk the path of who we are (unknowing & transforming) or opt for who we have led ourselves to believe we are (confirming and limiting)? — BB 09 28 22.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    How I find ALL aspects of self is through a relationship of befriending. How this relationship of befriending unfolds is through first and foremost a willingness to meet with these different aspects of soul/self in order to know, understand and give voice and expression to Who I AM.

    There are many pathways that lead to this relationship of befriending, of Being With all aspects of oneself in a reflective and expressive way. The communication that unfolds within this relationship of befriending is not limited to words, bit rather includes our 5 senses along with our intuition, imagination and creativity. Often this language is experienced through imagery, symbols, color and sound, which each aspect of soul/self uses as well to reveal and communicate the WHOLENESS and ONENESS of Who I AM.

    This relationship of befriending is a pathway of learning to give witness and testimony to… without judgement, criticism or condemnation… to this reality of these diverse aspects of soul/self that make up all that I AM… through acceptance, compassionate understanding, and merciful responses that lead to unconditional love for all parts of the whole.

    Scripture speaks of this pathway of nobility… ” I AM WHO I AM. I WILL BE THAT WHICH I AM. BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM.”

  3. Avatar

    As I mentioned in my comment yesterday, the mystics and Carl Jung, the modern depth psychologist and mystic, have intuitively inspired my ongoing spiritual journey and Faith since young adulthood, including my past career as a clinical social worker…. especially their mystical experiences and teachings of our Sacred True Heart Selves within Us Who heals and transforms our human nature towards awareness/consciousness of Wholeness~Oneness with-in Us, compassionately with our sisters and brothers, with our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth & All Her living creatures, and LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS with-in All Our physical and spiritual Creative/Evolving COSMOS~OMNIVERSE… COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS….

  4. Avatar

    Just a note:
    “FALSE self” vs. TRUE self” is somewhat misleading because it’s dualistic terminology. The “false self” is the ego-creation/intellectualized” version of “self,” with its “world-“, “God-“-and “other people-” concepts all shaped by its intellecual, dualistic, “this vs. that” and “you vs. me” framework. Transforming from thinking and living within that narrow, harmful set of preconceptions, to the deeper, LIVED (NOT just “Neoplatonic thought”), loving, non-dualistic (Mystical) Path-trained New Person, does NOT mean that the false self (“sinner” in judgemental Christian terms) is severed from its “sinful” matter/old self,” either during the Mystical Revelation or afterward.
    It means that the ego-self “turns away” from its old, small, dualistic worldview that causes hate, pride, selfishness, confusion, and separation from God and other people, to a new view of its deeply-intuitively recognized “authentic Whole-Self” from and within God/the One/Christ, our shared, Loving Source and teacher of Spirit-Wisdom.

    Yes, I Know I’m born of those depths. I speak from that Knowing.

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