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SERMON SIX (Pf 6, Q 1, QT 1)
INTRAVIT JESUS IN TEMPLUM DEL ET EJICIEBAT
OMNES VENDENTES ET EMENTES (Matthew 21:12)
We read in the holy Gospel that our Lord went into the Temple and cast out those that bought and sold and said to them that sold doves and the like, “Take these things hence! Take these things away! ”
Why did Jesus cast out those that bought and sold and bid those that sold doves take them hence?
His intention was none other than to have the Temple cleared, just as if he had said, I have a right to this temple and I want it to myself to be lord therein.
What is the meaning of this?
This temple, in which God would rule with authority, according to His will, is man’s soul, which He has made exactly like Himself, just as we read that the Lord said, “Let us make man in our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
And this He did.
So, like Himself has God made man’s soul that nothing else in heaven or on earth, of all the splendid creatures that God has so joyously created, resembles God so much as the human soul. For this reason, God wants this temple cleared, that He may be there all alone.
This is because this temple is so agreeable to Him, because it is so like Him, and He is so comfortable in this temple when He is alone there.
Now then, consider, who were they who bought and sold there, and who are they still?
Take proper note: I will speak now in this sermon of none but good people.
Yet even so, I will now point out who the merchants were -and still are – that thus bought and sold, whom our Lord struck and cast out.
He still does so to those who buy and sell in this temple: he would not leave a single one of them therein.
See, those are all merchants who, while avoiding mortal sin and wishing to be virtuous, do-good works to the glory of God, such as fasts, vigils, prayers, and the rest, all kinds of good works, but they do them in order that our Lord may give them something in return, or that God may do something they wish for – all these are merchants.
That is plain to see, for they want to give one thing in exchange for another, and so to barter with our Lord.
But they are mistaken in the bargain, for if they gave all that they have and have the power to do, for God’s sake, and exhausted themselves purely for God’s sake, God would not have to give them anything or do anything for them, unless He did it freely and for nothing.
For what they are, they are from God, and what they have, they get from God and not from themselves.
And so God is in no way bound to requite them for their acts or gifts, unless He freely does so of His grace, and not for what they do or give; for they give not of their own, nor do they act of themselves; as Christ himself says, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
They are very foolish folk who would bargain thus with our Lord; they know little or nothing of the truth.
That is why God cast them out of the Temple and drove them away. Light and darkness cannot exist together.
God is the truth; He is the light in Himself.
When God enters the Temple, He drives out ignorance, which is darkness, and reveals Himself in light and in truth.
The merchants must go when truth is revealed, for truth needs no merchandising.
God seeks not His own: He is perfectly free in His acts, which He does out of true love.
So does that man who is at one with God: he is perfectly free in all his deeds, he does them for love, without ‘why?’1 – solely to glorify God and not seeking his own therein, and God works in him.
I say further: as long as a man, in all his doings, desires anything at all that God can or will give, still he ranks with these merchants.
If you would be free of any taint of trading, so that God may let you enter this temple, then you must do all that you can in all your works, solely to God’s glory, and be as free of it as Naught is free, which is neither here nor there.2
You should ask nothing whatever in return.
Whenever you act thus, your works are spiritual and godly, and the merchants are driven right out of the temple, and God is in there alone, for one is thinking only of God.
See, that is how your temple is cleared of merchants!
The man who considers neither himself nor anything else but God alone and God’s glory, he is truly free from all taint of commerce in his deeds, and seeks naught of his own just as
God is entirely free in all His works and seeks not His own.
I have also told how our Lord said to those that sold doves, “Take this away! Take this hence! ”
He did not drive these people out or rebuke them harshly, but said quite mildly, “take this away! ”
As though to say it is not wrong, but it is a hindrance to the pure truth.
These are all good people; they work purely for God’s sake, not for themselves, but they work with attachment,3 according to time and tide,4 before and after.
These activities hinder them from attaining the highest truth, from being absolutely free and unhindered as our Lord Jesus
Christ is absolutely free and unhindered and conceives himself ever anew without pause and out of time from his heavenly Father, and in that same Now is perpetually born back with praise and thanksgiving, perfect, into the Father’s majesty with an equal glory.
Thus, to be receptive to the highest truth, and to live therein, a man must be without before and after, untrammeled by all his acts or by any images he ever perceived, empty and free, receiving the divine gift in the eternal Now, and bearing it back unhindered in the light of the same with praise and thanksgiving in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then the ‘doves’ would be gone, that is the hindrance and the attachment to works, good in themselves, in which a man seeks anything of his own. Therefore, our Lord said kindly, “Take this, hence, take this away!
“as if to say, ‘It is good, yet it stands in the way.’
When the temple is thus free of obstructions (that is attachment and ignorance), then it glistens with beauty, shining out bright and fair above the whole of God’s creation, and through all God’s creation, so that none can equal its brilliance but the uncreated God alone.
In very truth, there is none like this temple but the uncreated God Himself.
Nothing below the angels is the equal of this temple.
The very highest angels are like this temple of the noble soul in many ways, but not in all.
Their partial likeness to the soul lies in knowledge and in love.
But there is a limit set them which they cannot pass.
The soul can go further.
If a soul, that of a man now living in time, were equal to the highest angel -still that man would have the potential freedom to soar infinitely far above that angel, ever anew, in every Now without number, and that means without mode: above the angelic mode and every created intelligence.
God alone is free and uncreated, and thus He alone is like the soul in freedom, though not in uncreatedness, for she is created.
And when she emerges into the unmixed light, she falls into her Nothingness5 and in that Nothingness so far from the created Something, that of her own power she cannot return to her created Something.
God with His uncreatedness upholds6 her Nothingness and preserves her in His Something.
The soul has dared to become nothing and so cannot of herself return to herself, for she has departed so far from herself before God comes to the rescue.
That must be so, for, as I said, Jesus went into the Temple and cast out those who were buying and selling, and said to the others, “Take this hence! ”
See, now I have come to the text: “Jesus went i n and began saying, ‘Take this hence.”
Observe that there was no one there but Jesus when he began to speak in the Temple.
Be sure of this: if anyone else would speak in the temple (which is the soul) but Jesus, Jesus is silent, as if he were not at home – and he is not at home in the soul, for she has strange guests to talk to.
But if Jesus is to speak in the soul, she must be all alone, and she has to be quiet herself to hear what he says.
Well then, in he comes and starts speaking.
What does the Lord Jesus say? He says what he is.? What is he, then?
He is a Word8 of the Father.
In this same Word the Father speaks Himself, all the divine nature and all that God is, just as He knows it, and He knows it as it is.
And, being perfect in knowledge and power, so too He is perfect in speech.
In speaking the Word, He utters the Word and all things in another Person to whom He gives the same nature that He has himself.
And he utters all rational spirits in that Word as equal to that Word according to their image as it dwells within (Him).
Yet each image as it radiates forth, existing by itself, is not
the same in all respects as the Word. Rather, they have received the power to attain to likeness by the grace of the same Word;9 and this Word as it is in itself was spoken by the Father – the Word, and all that is in that Word.
Since this is spoken by the Father, then what is Jesus saying in the soul?
As I have said, the Father speaks the Word; He speaks in this
Word and not otherwise, and Jesus speaks in the soul.
His manner of speaking is to reveal himself and what the Father said in him, according to the manner in which the spirit is able to receive it.
He reveals the Father’s authority in the spirit in an equal, immeasurable power.
Receiving this power in the Son and through the Son, the spirit waxes mighty in everything it undertakes, so that it becomes equal and mighty in all virtues and in perfect purity, so that neither joy nor sorrow, nor anything God has created in time, can destroy that man, but he stands mightily there as if with divine power, in face of which all things are puny and futile.
Secondly, Jesus reveals himself in the soul in infinite wisdom, which is himself; in that Wisdom the Father knows Himself with all His paternal authority, and that same Word, which is Wisdom itself, and all that is therein, just as it is One.
When this Wisdom is united with the soul, all doubt, all error, and all darkness are entirely removed; she is set in a bright pure light which is God Himself, as the prophet says, ” Lord, in Thy light shall we know the light” (Ps. 36:9).
Then God is known by God in the soul; with this Wisdom, she knows herself and all things, and this same Wisdom knows her with itself; and with the same Wisdom she knows the power of the Father in fruitful travail, and essential self-identity in simple unity void of all distinctions.
Jesus reveals himself, too, in infinite sweetness and richness, welling up and overflowing and pouring in from the power of the Holy Ghost, with superabundant richness and sweetness into all receptive hearts.
When Jesus reveals himself with this richness and this sweetness and is united with the soul; the soul flows with this richness and this sweetness into herself and beyond all things, by grace and with power, without means10 back into her primal source.
Then the outer man will be obedient to his inner man until death and will be at all times at peace in the service of God forever.
And that Jesus may come into us and clear out and cast away all hindrances of body and soul and make us one, as he is one with
the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, that we may become and remain eternally one with Him, so help us God.
Amen. ~Meister Eckhart, Complete Works of Meister Eckhart, Page 64-71
- Following Pfeiffer’s text. Cf. in a Latin sermon (LW IV, note 21): ‘Deus et per consequens homo divinus non agit propter cur aut quare’ (God, and consequently the divine man, does not act on account of why or wherefore). See Sermon 43, and
- Ueda, p. 155.
- This is the more difficult (and therefore probably authentic) reading adopted by Quint (als daz niht ledic ist, daz noch hie noch dat enist). Miss Evans, following Pfeiffer, has ‘as though thou wert not.’ See note 5.
- Eckhart’s word is eigenschaft, which, a s Quint (QT 470) notes, is difficult to render, though perhaps more so into modern German than into English. Literally something like ‘own-ness,’ it is not apparently used by Eckhart in the modern sense of ‘quality, characteristic,’ but rather in that of ‘possessiveness.’ The idea is, I think, that of appropriating what is not really one’s own.
- Lit. ‘time and number’ (mit zit und mit zal). I have adopted Clark’s rendering, using an equivalent phrase that keeps the alliteration.
- Middle High German niht (pronounced like modern German nicht)’ nothing,’ intensified nihtes niht. The positive form iht=’something.’ The soul both ‘is’ and ‘is not.’ Quint explains that ‘Nothing’ here is not absolute nullity, but ‘not being the soul,’ i.e., the negation of existence as soul.
- understat- Latin substat: in scholastic terms, ‘gives substance to’ (Q).
- Clark renders, ‘He says that He is,’ and refers to Exodus 3: 14. This is grammatically possible but is less likely in the context. I follow Evans and Quint.
- This is of course the Logos (John 1:1), i.e., the Son in the Trinity.
- The Logos or Word is of one nature with the Father. Insofar as the ‘images’ (or Platonic ideas) of all rational beings are in God, they are one with the Word. In being ‘radiated forth’ – in the Creation -they are differentiated, but by grace they may regain the likeness with the Word (Q).
- ane mite/ (modern German ohne Mitte/) =’im-mediately,’ with no mediation