Master Eckhart’s Final Words
Appendix B to Part Two
THE MASTER’S FINAL WORDS1 (Pf pp. 6 85-86)
Meister Eckhart was besought by his good friends, ‘Give us something to remember, since you are going to leave us.’
He said, ‘I will give you a rule, which is the keystone2 of all that
I have ever said, which comprises3 all truth that can be spoken of or lived.
‘It often happens that what seems trivial to us is greater in God’s sight than what looms large in our eyes.
Therefore we should accept all things equally from God, not ever looking and wondering which is greater, or higher, or better.
We should just follow where God points out for us, that is, what we are inclined to and to which we are most often directed, and where our bent is.
If a man were to follow that path, God would give him the most in the least, and would not fail him.
‘It often happens that people spurn the least, and thus they prevent themselves from getting the most in the least, which is wrong.
God is in all modes, and equal in all modes, for him who can take Him equally.4
People often wonder whether their inclinations come from God or not, and this is how to find out: if a man finds it within
himself to be willing above all things to obey God’s will in all things, provided he knew or recognized it, then he may know that whatever he is inclined to, or is most frequently directed to, is indeed from God.
‘Some people want to find God as He shines before them, or as He tastes to them.
They find the light and the taste, but they do not find God.
A scripture declares that God shines in the darkness, where we sometimes least recognize Him.5
Where God shines least for us is often where He shines the most.
Therefore we should accept God equally in all ways and in all things.
‘Now someone might say,” I would take God equally in all ways
and in all things, but my mind will not abide in this way or that, so much as in another.”
To that I say he is wrong.
God is in all ways and equal in all ways, for anyone who can take Him so.
If you get more of God in one way than in another, that is fine, but it is not the best. God is in all ways and equal in all ways, for anyone who can take Him so.
If you take one way, such and such, that is not God.
If you take this and that, you are not taking God, for God is in all ways and equal in all ways, for anyone who can take Him so.
‘Now someone might say, “But if I do take God equally in all ways and in all things, do I not still need some special way?” Now see.
In whatever way you find God most, and you are most often aware of Him, that is the way you should follow.
But if another way presents itself, quite contrary to the first, and if, having abandoned the first way, you find God as much in the new way as in the one that you have left, then that is right.
But the noblest and best thing would be this, if a man were come to such equality, with such calm and certainty that he could find God and enjoy Him in any way and in all things, without having to wait for anything or chase after anything: that would delight me!6
For this, and to this end all works are done, and every work helps toward this.
If anything does not help toward this, you should let it go.
‘We thank thee, heavenly Father, that thou hast given us thine only begotten Son, in whom thou givest thyself and all things. We pray thee, heavenly Father, for the sake of thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom thou neither wilt nor canst deny anything to anyone – hear us in him, and make us free and bare of all our manifold faults, and unite us, in him, with thee.
Amen. Page 588-580
- My title. This piece is included, as if by an afterthought, on the final two pages of Pfeiffer. Quint 1932 treats it as ‘sermon 111 ‘ and introduces some emendations, which I have adopted. Nor included in Q or QT bur translated by Miss Evans and, badly, by Blakney. Whereas the four pieces translated in Parr I of this Appendix can only be classed as entirely apocryphal, however spiritually profound or poetic we may find them, there is some possibility that this reflects, however indistinctly, a genuine tradition of what the Master may have said to his disciples before leaving for Avignon. It is after all entirely probable that he would have been asked for a ‘last word,’ and that his parting message would have been lovingly preserved.
- The word is sloz which, like modern German Schloss, can mean both ‘castle’ and ‘lock,’ but in Middle High German it can also mean ‘keystone.’
- The verb used is beslozzen ‘enclosed,’ which links it with sloz. The play on words (as in Sermon 66 and note 14 there) cannot be reproduced in English.
- This is repeated again and again in what follows with the hammer-blow effect of a Buddhist sutra. In many a sermon Eckhart has described the birth of the Word in the human soul and other mysteries. Here, in his final exhortation (if such it really is), he is insisting on what his disciples ought to do. It is above all the essence of his practical teaching. This, I think, lends weight to the argument in favor of the
authenticity of this text.
- This seems to be a paraphrase of John 1:5.
- Blakney mistranslates (and italicizes): ‘this has been my joy! ‘ But Eckhart’s daz behagete mir is subjunctive. Miss Evans’s version is different but no better: ‘a boon accorded to me.’ Blakney is also wrong in declaring that the ‘chief message’ of this text was forbidden on the basis of two quotations (which seem to me of dubious relevance) from the defense documents. Since in any case the passages quoted were nor condemned in the bull of 1329, their sense cannot be said to have been ‘forbidden.’