13th century German theologian, philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart is a rather unknown and obscure spiritual master in this neck of the woods that is South East Asia, and for several reasons. Apart from the fact that not many people actually read the works of mystics and philosophers in general, their being alive so long ago makes them even more obscure. As a student of philosophy in the seminary, I only heard of him being referred to vaguely in passing, but in my own readings of some current-day mystics and spiritual writers, I have experienced renewed interest by how deeply true some of his thoughts were, and how, because they speak of an abiding truth, are just as applicable now as they were more than a thousand years ago.
One of those truisms is that the deepest part of us is God. When I read that Eckhart was always concerned with the spiritual transformation of his flock, it was as if I had met a kindred soul. I believe strongly that this is what I too am most concerned with – that those I minister to will somehow be just as concerned with their spiritual transformation.
But what does it really mean to be ‘spiritually transformed’? At the heart of a spiritual transformed soul is the deep and real awareness that one exists and lives because God abides in and is the reason for his or her being. It really is as simple and as difficult as that. Every mystery is also both simple and difficult as well, be it the mystery of the incarnation, the mystery of redemption and the mystery of the Trinity. On one level, it is so simple, and on another, the truth it imparts is so deep and its response asked of us has such far-reaching implications, having staggering effects on so many areas of our lives.
To be spiritually transformed necessarily means that one lives very differently once one encounters the transformative truth. So, to know that one’s deepest part of one is God has to be something that changes everything. These days, the phrase ‘game changer’ is far too loosely used. Some of the things that this phrase has been applied to are life hacks like business plans and new ideas. But they are changers only on one level, and usually the level of enterprises in the field of economics. But they do not often, if at all, change things on the level of one’s existence. True game changers have to affect us deeply, and they have to affect us at our core. Otherwise, they are only superficial game changers. Spiritual transformative changes not only augment our thoughts but shift our consciousness altogether.
Religion alone doesn’t often do this. It certainly hopes to, but if it is only ritual-based, it will not. The human mind is far too complex and sophisticated to be led to an existential change just by an outward ritual alone, more so for the modern mind that resists reflection on the deeper implications of ritualistic actions. But when religion and its rituals are accompanied by sound explanations and one is brought to the doorway of an experience of the divine in and through the rite, it is there that the consciousness can be awakened – a consciousness that often had been largely existing in a hitherto somnambulistic state.
When one’s consciousness is shifted in a positive way, one becomes truly free and fearless. Freedom is now not seen in merely the ability do anything one wants. That’s not freedom in a mature definition. It’s a freedom that sees you not wanting to try, do, see and taste things in life that are detrimental to your soul, and you see the wisdom in living with these restraints. That’s a freedom that is brought about by a shifted consciousness.
There is also a fearlessness that accompanies it – a fearlessness that allows you to be calm and with your senses intact despite anything earth shattering that life presents to you, and it can come in any form that ranges from a cancer prognosis to a tsunami that literally sweeps your entire life away. You can still come out of it and say ‘it’s ok’. Only true game changers can give one this kind of freedom and absolute fearlessness.
Apparently, Meister Eckhart’s orthodoxy was held in question during his lifetime by the authorities. Eckhart died before the conclusion of the case against him and his teachings. However, when Pope John XXII issued the papal bull almost a year after his death, it was found that Eckhart had recanted everything that he was accused of falsely teaching and he was not condemned as being heretical.
Mystics have long been known to suffer for their beliefs. Like prophets, mystics are often not appreciated in their own home, and in their own time. But if their truths have stood the test of time, it often vindicates them.
I strongly believe that Eckhart’s teaching that God is at our deepest being is something that we all need to contemplate regularly if we truly want to change our lives and live not for ourselves but for a greater cause. And there is no greater cause than God.
Posted by Fr Luke Fong