Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Meister Eckhart on time, # 2

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

As Paul says, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4 : 1 3 ) ; in Him I can do not merely this or that but all things in undivided unity. You must know, then, that the images of these acts are not yours. Neither are they from nature: they belong to the author of nature, in which He has implanted act and image. So do not lay claim to it, for it is His, not yours. Though conceived by you in time, it is begotten and given by God beyond time, in eternity beyond all images.

The Complete Mystical Works, sermon 3, p. 50

 This passage perhaps reminds us of Gurdjieff’s contention that man cannot do.

Paul's comment indicates that he understands he can do only from within God, that is, from the perspective in which there is an inner unity that derives from a higher level. The action is not his own; it is inwardly formed by the birth of a higher consciousness that comes from beyond time, and beyond all images.

The comment separates nature from God; and we may recall that in spiritual naturalism and various flavors of paganism, animism, and shamanism, God is a part of nature; in fact, that nature is God. Eckhart distinguishes clearly here, assigning nature and all of its actions to God, as their author. Although nature and all of its actions, including our own actions, belong to time — he uses the phrase conceived by you in time, indicating once again the generative nature of action, being and consciousness — the author of all action lies beyond time. Nature, in its entirety, is a medium in which act and image are implanted. 

This offers us an interesting new perspective on creation itself as a vehicle that receives. What it receives lies within time; but all of its origins lie outside time. This last is, once again, consonant with our vision of the universe as informed by modern physics.

 There is, however, a more important inward nature revealed here. Our inward nature, Swedenborg would explain, is inherently formed by the divine, and its origins of us outside time, just as God does. Mister Eckhart has a very similar vision of the soul; and Ibn al 'Arabi would have pitched it the same way. Modern physics deals with the mechanical substance of the universe, but this substance emanates from a location that lies beyond the realm of physics and its mechanical understandings.

In the same way, the whole of our lives emanates from a location that lies beyond the realm of the natural, which is a point that Swedenborg made again and again in his writings. It's interesting to note that this man, who was a hard-core scientist with, for his time, a truly superior understanding of the natural and the mechanical, would be so insistent on its inferiority to a higher order which cannot be seen except through the receiving of the divine inflow.

Matter, in the Swedenborgian universe, serves as a receptacle for the divine. Once again, the Sufis, including the inestimable al 'Arabi, saw it much the same way — and Meister Eckhart supported this view as well.

I would encourage readers to consider that our organic nature itself is just such a receptacle; and a direct experience of our nature in this regard is not so far away, if we come into a fundamental, rooted relationship with the divine inner energy that creates and supports our Being itself.


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