Category Archives: Master Eckhart

The pathway

The hardness and smell of oakwood began to speak more distinctly of the slowness and constancy in the tree’s growth. The oak itself spoke: Only in such growth is grounded what lasts and fructifies. Growing means this: to open oneself up to the breadth of heaven and at the same time to sink roots into the darkness of earth. Whatever is genuine thrives only if man does justice to both—ready for the appeal of highest heaven, and cared for in the protection of sustaining earth.

Again and again the oak says this to the pathway passing securely by. The pathway collects whatever has its being along the way; to all who pass this way it gives what is theirs. The same fields and meadows accompany the pathway through each season with an ever-changing nearness. Whether the Alps above the forests are sinking away into the evening twilight, whether there where the pathway swings over the rolling hill the lark climbs into the summer morning, whether the East-wind approaches in storm from over where mother’s home lies, whether a woodsman as night nears drags his bundle of brushwood to the hearth, whether a harvesting wagon sways homeward in the pathway’s tracks, whether children are gathering the first flowers at meadow’s edge, whether fog for days moves its gloom and burden over the fields—always and everywhere the message of the same rests on the pathway:

The Simple preserves the puzzle of what remains and what is great. Spontaneously it enters men and needs a lengthy growth. With the unpretentiousness of the ever-same it hides its blessing. The breadth of all growing things which rest along the pathway bestows world. In what remains unsaid in their speech is—as Eckhardt, the old master of letter and life, says—God, only God.

But the message of the pathway speaks just so long as there are men (born in its breeze) who can hear it. They are hearers of their origin, not servants of their production. In vain does man try with his plans to bring order to his globe if he does not order himself to the message of the pathway. The danger looms that today’s men are hard of hearing towards its language. They have ears only for the noise of media, which they consider to be almost the voice of God. So man becomes distracted and path-less. The Simple seems monotonous to the distracted. The monotonous brings weariness. The annoyed find only the uniform. The Simple has fled. Its quiet power is exhausted. Certainly the number of those who still recognize the Simple as their hard-earned possession is quickly diminishing.

[…]

In the pathway’s seasonally changing breeze this knowing serenity (whose mien often seems melancholy) thrives. This serene knowing is ‘das Kuinzige’. No one wins it who does not have it. Those who have it, have it from the pathway. Along its path winter’s storm encounters harvest’s day, the agile excitation of Spring and the detached dying of Autumn meet, the child’s game and the elder’s wisdom gaze at each other. And in a unique harmony, whose echo the pathway carries with it silently here and there, everything is sparked serene.

This knowing serenity is a gate to the eternal. Its door turns on hinges once forged out of the puzzles of human existence by a skilled smith.

From Ehnried the way turns back to the park gate. Over a final hill its narrow ribbon runs through moorland until it reaches the town wall. It shines dimly in the starlight. Behind the Schloss the tower of Saint Martin’s church rises. Slowly, almost hesitatingly, eleven strokes of the hour sound in the night. The old bell, on whose ropes boys’ hands have been rubbed hot, shakes under the blows of the hour’s hammer whose dark-droll face no one forgets.

With the last stroke the stillness becomes yet more still. It reaches out even to those who have been sacrificed before time in two world wars. The Simple has become simpler. The ever-same surprises and frees. The message of the pathway is now quite clear. Is the soul speaking? Is the world speaking? Is God speaking?

Everything speaks abandonment unto the same. Abandonment does not take. Abandonment gives. It gives the inexhaustible power of the Simple. The message makes us at home after a long origin here.

— Heidegger, ‘The Pathway’, 1949 (trans. O’Meara)

God is without name, for no one can say or understand anything of him… Hence if I say: ‘God is good’, this is not true. I am good, but God is not good… If I say further: ‘God is wise’, this is not true, I am wiser than he. If I say also: ‘God is a being’, this is not true; he is a being above being and a superessential negation. A master says: If I had a God whom I could know, I would not think him to be God…

– Master Eckhart

VII

Become as a child,
become deaf, become blind!
Your very something
must become nothing,
drive all something, all nothing away!
Leave place, leave time,
and images as well!
Go without way
on the narrow path,
thus you will come to the desert trace.

VIII

O my soul,
get out, god in!
all my something sink
into god’s nothing,
sink into the bottomless swell!
If I flee from you,
you come to me.
If I lose myself,
I find you,
O goodness beyond being!

– Master Eckhart, from Granum sinapis de divinitate pulcherrima (tr. W. Franke)

The higher circle

The higher circle, to which K. would like to gain access, where indeed he would like to take up residence, since he has ‘come here to stay’, is certainly not the home of the good, as benevolent interpreters say, nor is it the home of evil, as malevolent interpreters say; rather, it is the site where good and evil arrange themselves into shapes that can’t be recognised or distinguished by those who have encountered them only in other circles. The ancient Chinese would not be surprised by this; they would say that they are the two elements united in the Holy Place. But who nowadays is able to reason like the ancient Chinese?

— Roberto Calasso, K. (tr. G. Brock)

God is without name, for no one can say or understand anything of him… Hence if I say: ‘God is good’, this is not true. I am good, but God is not good… If I say further: ‘God is wise’, this is not true, I am wiser than he. If I say also: ‘God is a being’, this is not true; he is a being above being and a superessential negation. A master says: If I had a God whom I could know, I would not think him to be God.

– Master Eckhart

The desert trace

Your very something
must become nothing,
drive all something, all nothing away!
Leave place, leave time,
and images as well!
Go without way
On the narrow path,
Thus you will come to the desert trace.

— Master Eckhart (tr. W. Franke)

Fire

It is the same as when the fire wants to draw the wood into itself and, again, itself into the wood; then it finds first that the wood is unlike itself. Hence it needs time. First it makes the wood warm and hot, and then the latter smokes and cracks because it is unlike the fire. Now the hotter the wood grows the quieter and calmer it becomes, and the more like the fire it is, the more peaceful it is, until it is itself wholly fire.

— Master Eckhart

The God without a name

The God who is without a name is inexpressible, and the soul in its ground is equally inexpressible, as he is inexpressible.

— Master Eckhart