Taking up where we left off yesterday, we continue to examine this question of becoming wet with love.
In the citation from sermon 53 which I mentioned yesterday, Eckhart goes on; after he describes the inward flow of divine love as being like water (the inference is mine, but it is clear enough from the text) he describes the quality of the love itself as being like salt; it is what gives the experience of Being its savor.
In Eckhart's view, our ordinary state is like a kind of filth that coats our tongue and prevents us from tasting God. This idea of ordinary life as a kind of filth was amply illustrated by Hieronymus Bosch in the right-hand panel with Garden of earthly delights; and it underscores the paintings esoteric message. The divine inflow, which begins in the left-hand panel, is ultimately coated with creatures, by which we can understand things of the mind and literal, material understandings. All of this manifests as a kind of filth that coats Being and prevents it from understanding (tasting) and savoring God. The allegory of taste and foods here is important, and relates directly to Gurdjieff's understanding of impressions as food.
To further expand on why Eckhart uses the phrase wet with love, this love has the quality of dissolving what we are. When the inward flow brings a true sense of divine love, which is the creative force—the in principio of the text, the beginning of Being—all that we are, all that we think, do, and feel, is dissolved into the highest and beginning principle of love, and we cannot escape it. Everything that emanates from being under these conditions is loving; and in this love, we do not express ourselves, because this love is not of us, it is our father. That is to say, it is the active principle from which real Being, our own Being, is born. So this water of love suffuses us and takes us, embraces us and leads us effortlessly into a different state of Being in which there is no contradiction between our person and love itself.
Interestingly this idea of salt, which is dissolved in water, and brings the taste of God to us, brings us to the idea that we are dissolved in the water with the salt. Thus, as the water of love dissolves us, it brings us into intimate contact with God: we are mixed with Him, become one with Him.
Perhaps by now the reader begins to get an inkling of just how extraordinary and transformative this power of love ought to be, and how unusually profound and fraught with understanding the phrase wet with love is. Eckhart chose a metaphor here which is so subtle and magnificent that it takes some time to savor it and appreciate its full import; and even then, to appreciate it intellectually has absolutely nothing to do with the full experience, which cannot be described.
To a certainty, Eckhart could have tried to communicate what I have explained here. But he was far more interested in the actual experience than the philosophical implications, which he expected the astute audiences he exchanged with — that is to say, the other masters he worked with — to make efforts to understand on their own. By not alluding to it, he called those who he spoke to to make an effort to seek this inner experience through its mystery, not through the precise words of the intellect, which are indeed able to explain it, out to the limits of their own ability.
We have explored that here; and yet, we are brought to the verge of the great mystery, the transcendental mystery, which he wraps up the sermon with.
What is the final end ? It is the hidden darkness of the eternal Godhead, which is unknown and never has been known and never shall be known. (p. 283)
To receive the inflow of this love is to be brought to a greater understanding of this unknown, which expresses its unknown and infinite qualities principally, in the beginning and in the end, through this love which can be received in the place of the inward flow of Being.
We may feel ourselves to be very far away from this; and yet, as Eckhart points out, it is always active, always present. ...whether you are asleep or awake, God does his work.
It is our sacred duty to try and sense this force, not just by thinking about it, but by being within its active presence.