Meister Eckhart according to Bede



Bede Griffiths with Cardinal Basil Hume and Roland Ropers

Meister Eckhart
The great master of mystical theology, who is a model for the church today
(Bede Griffiths O.S.B., Kreuth 1st April 1992)

Meister Eckhart is coming to be recognized to-day as the most
important spiritual master of the Middle Ages. In his lifetime he
was involved in controversy, which led to the condemnation of
some of his writings, but to-day, as we see him in the wider
context of the medieval world as a whole and the spirituality
which is emerging through contact with Eastern spirituality, we
can see that he is not only fundamentally orthodox as a catholic
theologian, but is also a pioneer in opening the church to a deeper
understanding of the Christian Mystery.

Eckhart was a Dominican Prior, a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas,
and a leading figure in his order. His genius lay in his profound
insight into the deeper levels of human consciousness. He
expressed these insights not only in his Latin sermons, but in his
German sermons, preached before simple people, which were
actually an important stage in the development of the German
language. But he expressed himself with great freedom and often
in paradoxical language, which could easily lead to confusion. But
behind his paradoxes lay an extraordinary insight into the
working of the human mind.

One of these insights was his distinction between GOD and the
GODHEAD. He saw that most people in their prayer project an
image of God, which, though it may be a useful aid to prayer, falls
immeasurably short of the divine reality. This divine reality
beyond name and form, beyond word and thought, he called
GODHEAD. The Godhead is known not by the rational mind with
its concepts and judgments, but by the scintilla animae, the spark
of the soul, where the human being encounters the divine reality
in its eternal ground. Eckhart was thus able to lead the church
beyond the conceptual understanding of a personal God to a
mystical experience in which the Godhead itself is encountered in
its infinite, transcendent reality.

He thus remains the great master of mystical theology,
who is a model for the church to-day in its encounter with
the mystical traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam
and other religions of the world.”

(Used with permission from Roland Ropers)

Giving Birth to God- Fr. Cyprian’s Christmas homily

Giving Birth to God
(Part I)

(Cyprian Consiglio)

I remember back in 2012, after the massacre of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, people were wondering if it was okay to still celebrate Christmas. Fr. Raniero mentioned the other day that some folks were wondering the same thing this year, is it okay to celebrate Christmas with all the rotten things that have happened lately, including even just this week. I have this wonderful group of friends up in Santa Cruz and besides meditation and music the two biggest things we were involved in were interreligious dialogue and environmental issues, two issues whose stocks have plummeted drastically in this current cultural political atmosphere. I wrote to one friend who was a little dismayed by all this that our new mantra should be, “Now More Than Ever!” And I think the same thing about Christmas. Now more than ever is it important for us to understand the implications of this great mystery, the manifestation of God in human form, and to understand the dignity of what it means to be a human being in the light of that.

Vigils, our prayer at 5:30 AM, is a liturgy at which it can sometimes be hard to pay attention. As our Br. Bede likes to say, Vigils can be rather “prolix.” (I used to think that that word meant that it had a lot of words, but I looked it up. It actually means “lengthy and tedious”!) But every now and then a line will really pop out at me, and I’ll want to elbow the guy next to me or whisper to someone as we’re taking our robes off right afterward, “Did you hear that?!” And one morning recently one line stuck out to me. It’s from the Discourses of St. Anselm. He wrote: “All nature was created by God, and now God was born of Mary! God had created all, and Mary gave birth to God!”[i]

Now this is language that we are somewhat used to hearing, but somehow it sounded brand new and shocking to me. I saw this great cycle revolving around the word “nature”––nature created by God, and God born of Mary. If you’ll excuse me dabbling for a moment into evolutionary theory: All of nature is created by God––you might even could say it pours out from the God who is the ground of being, the womb of possibility. And nature gets set in motion, and the minerals and chemicals become life, teeming with life––single-cell creatures, organisms, then plants and fish, amphibians, birds, mammals. And then that life takes another leap and gives birth to thought and self-reflexive consciousness, and this glorious creature called the human being emerges, in God’s own image, we are told. And then in the fullness of time (as Paul says[ii]), this one particular human being––Mary, this woman, who herself is nature reaching a certain level of perfection––returns the favor, completes the cycle and gives birth to God.

God gives birth to nature, nature gives birth to Mary, and, by giving birth to Jesus, Mary gives birth to God.

One of the things that is interesting about this is that––did you ever notice?––we normally don’t refer to Jesus as “God” in the Christian tradition. Normally we say Jesus is “Lord” but not “Jesus is God.” It’s almost as if we’re embarrassed to say it. Fr. Bede Griffiths wrote about a rare instance in the Syriac tradition where Jesus is actually referred to as “God,” but the exception proves the rule. We usually reserve the word “God” for the transcendent godhead that we, following Jesus, traditionally have called the Father. God is the name we give to “the absolute, eternal, infinite, transcendent Being”; God is the one who is above all thought and word; God is “the Holy Mystery beyond human conception.” Jesus, on the other hand, is the manifestation of that absolute, eternal, infinite, transcendent Being, above thought and word. If God is an incomprehensible mystery, then Jesus is “the manifestation of [that] incomprehensible mystery, the self-revelation of this incomprehensible mystery.” [iii] Paul writes several times in his epistles, Jesus is the “mystery hidden for ages,”[iv] as if God is saying, “This is what I meant all along.” Jesus is the human being “who makes known what this ineffable God is like.” In other words you might say that we don’t usually say, “Jesus is God” because it’s not enough to call Jesus God; Jesus is not simply God. Jesus is God-In-A-Human-Being; God is the Human-Person-in-God. Jesus is God-the-Word-Made-Flesh. That’s what we celebrate in marking Jesus’ birth.

For Christians this is the completion of revelation, in Jesus revelation is brought to perfection, and so to see Jesus is to see the Mystery of God as far as it can be seen. But to see Jesus is also to see humanity, humanity brought to its perfection. As Thomas Aquinas taught, Gratia perfecit natura––“Grace perfects nature,” grace brings nature to its perfection. That’s why Jesus is referred to as the “Second Adam.” As Adam, the first human being, was the archetype of humanity, so this child is the blueprint for a new humanity. But just as it’s not enough to call Jesus “God,” it’s also not enough to just call Jesus a human being: Jesus is the Human-Being-Totally-Open-to-God; Jesus is the Human-Person-Totally-Transparent-to-the-Divine-Reality, which the rest of us, unfortunately, are not––at least not yet. In order to understand the mystery of Jesus, in order to understand the majesty of the Incarnation, we have to hold this tension together. It’s not enough to call Jesus God––he is always God-made-flesh. It’s not also enough to call Jesus a human being: he is never not also always divine.

God gave birth to nature. And Mother Nature, with God’s inspiration (literally), gave birth to humanity. And now humanity completes the cycle in Mary and gives birth to God. What I’m trying to say is that maybe this is supposed to be the norm now. If Jesus is the final revelation of what God is like, then from now on we should always think of God as God-With-Us, as God-Made-Manifest. We’re never supposed to think of the Divine One, we’re never supposed to think of God, without thinking of God-the Word-Made-Flesh. And we’re never supposed to think of humanity without assuming that it is and we are meant for perfection in divinity. We’re supposed to assume from now on that there is no breach between heaven and earth, or between God and creation, no gap between the Creator and the Created, except in our own mistaken skewed clouded view of Reality––the breach, the gap, has been overcome by God’s own initiative, by God’s own incarnation. But, you see, that was the plan all along, and this is its fulfillment, if only we have the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the mystery––the shock, the scandal, the majesty––of this God-the Word-Made Flesh.

We always have to think of divinity and humanity together. Our most ancient mystics and writers understood this. I was so astonished the first time I read what Saint Basil wrote, that, like Jesus, “through the Spirit … we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations––we become God”![v] But that’s just to affirm what Saint Augustine taught: that God became a human being so that human beings might become God.[vi] And as soon as we wrap our heads around that we have to hold on to another seeming contradiction, because Irenaeus of Lyons also chides us, in case we think we’re gonna escape this whole messy thing called humanity: but “how could you be God,” he says, “when you have not yet become human?” Christmas is all about gratia perfecit natura––grace bringing nature to its perfection.

From now on, this is the norm. The birth of Jesus, the Word-Made Flesh, the Manifestation of the Mystery of God in this tiny child means God is with us, God became one of us, so that humanity can share in divinity.

That’s why Mary is not simply called the mother of Jesus, but the Mother of God. Maybe we need to be more specific there too: the Mother of the God-Made-Flesh in the Word-Made-Flesh.

One more step: Augustine wrote, “Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ?” and “shall I not dare to call you his mother?”[vii] God is born in us through revelation, through the Word sown in the garden of the deepest part of our inmost being. Well, then, shall we not go all the way and say that we are called to be mothers of God, to give birth to God in the world? I understood that first of all when I heard the German mystic Meister Eckhart’s famous aphorisms that speak of the “eternal birth of God in the soul.” But somehow it’s not enough for God to be born in us; we have to give birth to God, too!

And, remember, this is now the norm: God is always God-with-us, God manifest, Word-Made-Flesh. So that doesn’t mean that we become totally spiritual; it means that our flesh becomes totally divinized. God is born in us, and we give birth to God. How do we give birth to God? By being God-like, by reflecting the image of God in whose image we are made. May as well bring the last person of the Trinity in here too. How do we give birth to God: by manifesting the fruits of the Spirit, which Paul lists in the Letter to the Galatians: every time we manifest love, joy, peace, or patience, God is not just born in us, but we are bearing God to the world. Every time we are kind, generous, faithful and gentle, self-controlled, God is not only born in us, but we are giving birth to God.

[i] From the Discourses of St. Anselm, BDP, 1690.
[ii] Gal 4:4.
[iii] Quoted in Wayne Teasdale “In What Sense is Jesus Called God?”, 12.
iv] Eph 3:9; Col 1:26.
[v] “Treatise on the Holy Spirit,” Cap. 9, Office of Readings, 632.
[vi] Sermo 13, Office of Readings, 125.
[vii] Sermo 25; Office of Readings for Feast of the Presentation, 1641.

Radical Love- Eucharist

RADICAL LOVE – EUCHARIST: THE LOVE OF GOD extract taken from THE FOUR O’CLOCK TALKS Discussions with JOHN MARTIN SAHAJANANDA compiled by Carrie Lock (pg. 171)

by Brother Martin

‘How can we understand the Eucharist?’

The most important symbol that Christ left is the Eucharist. He said, ‘Do this in memory of me’. The Eucharist explains Jesus Christ and it explains Christianity. The essential teaching of the Eucharist is the radical love of God and the radical love of neighbor. Through the Eucharistic celebration, the human grows into the Divine and the Divine becomes human. The bread and wine of the Eucharist is the sign of Jesus who died to himself and then ascended to God and became one with God, the body and blood of God. Jesus has to descend again in the form of love of neighbor: “’Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took the cup gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you …’”(Matt.26: 26-27). The Eucharist is about giving and receiving and that is the essence of Christianity. We have to grow into God radically through 100% love of God and 100% love of neighbor. Jesus is the archetype of that radical love of God and neighbor, and this is what we see in the Eucharist.

I remember a short story I read in school which contained a very powerful symbol and which can assist us to understand the Eucharist. It has stayed with me my whole life. The story is about a father who was about to die. He had four children. He called his children to him and he said ‘Go and collect a stick each and bring them back to me’. When the children returned, the father told them to each break the stick they had collected. They broke the sticks and then the father told them to each bring one more stick. This time he told them to tie all the sticks together in a bundle and then to break the bundle, but they were unable to do so. Then the father said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ I’m adding that last bit; he didn’t really say that in the story. Then the father died. Suppose every morning these four collect a stick, break it, and then go and collect another stick and tie the sticks into a bundle and try to break the sticks again. What message would this bring? What was the message of the father to his children? Yes, where there is unity there is strength. He was telling them, ‘be united’. If you are divided, you can be broken very easily but if you are united, nobody can break you. Do this in memory of me.

In the same way, Jesus knew that he was about to die and he wanted to say something to his disciples, something very important about how he lived his life. He was worried that they would forget his message so he showed them through a symbol, a ritual. He took the bread and said ‘Take and eat’, and then he took the wine, ‘Take and drink.’ He then said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ What does it mean? For me this image has two aspects: the ascending and the descending aspect. To understand this, we need to go deeply into the relationship between God and creation. Every scripture, every great person and every ritual reveals one important message that we have to discover: who we are and how we have to live our life. To understand what the Eucharist is telling us about who we are and how we are to live our life, let us consider the nature of God and creation.

In the Hindu tradition, it is said that creation is the manifestation of God. Creation comes into being by the performance of a sacrifice: maha yagna. This sacrifice is the infinite becoming finite, one becoming many, the unlimited becoming limited. This sacrifice is not a painful act; it is the abundance of God’s love. In Hinduism, they say creation is the divine manifestation of God.

In the life of Jesus, we can say that creation is the body and blood of God; it is the manifestation of God, but creation is not aware of the origin. In order to discover that origin, what do we have to do? We have to perform a sacrifice We have to do yagna. And what is that yagna? It is sacrificing the lower so that we discover the higher. We have to sacrifice our limited identity for the sake of the infinite identity, for the sake of the Divine.

The way to God is to know our true self and to renounce or expand our ego. One aspect of the Eucharist is this aspect of renouncing. The bread and the wine, the finite, are elevated to the level of the Divine so that they become the body and blood of God, the infinite. This is possible through sacrifice. Sacrifice means renouncing oneself so that the lower becomes the higher, humanity becomes the Divine. This is the ascending aspect. But of course, as long as we live in this world, we need other identities also in order to relate to one another, and for that reason we have to come down again and that is the descending aspect of the Eucharist. That is the second yagna, the second sacrifice that we need to make in order to relate, to give and receive: ‘This is my body, take and eat. This is my blood, take and drink’. It is only in giving and receiving that we are fully alive.

The true self needs to use the limited self as the door through which to go out to others through relationships. Without the body, God cannot manifest. The body, the finite, is the door of the infinite. We need both the finite and the infinite; without one, we cannot have the other. God is both. The two sacrifices we have to make are to sacrifice the higher for the sake of the lower and to sacrifice the lower for the sake of the higher. This is really the meaning of the Eucharist.

Spiritual transformation, yoga and the body

Spiritual Transformation, Yoga, the Rainbow Body and Resurrection 

Dr. Andreas Reimers)

When, in 1974 on my pilgrimage to India, I came to meet Fr. Bede in Shantivanam, it was a unique experience that formed my further life. The natural surrounding, the simplicity of the huts, the Sanskrit mantras sung in the liturgy, the waving of the light at the end of the prayer and the yoga classes created an atmosphere of stillness, peace and serenity. Fr. Bede radiated a kind of love, peace and a natural humility that touched my heart and made me feel at home in a deep spiritual sense. I felt myself being blessed with a vision of how the „new creation“ could be. This experience I carried with me till I got the chance to take oblation in 2014.

All the years the question behind my search was, how we can follow our destination to find GOD and bring this experience into our daily life. Looking at all the conflicts in the world and in our mind I found that many attempts to find solutions on a practical level don´t have good results. What is needed, is a spiritual transformation that includes the mind, soul and body as well as our social relations and the way we live in our environment. As long as we don´t open ourselves for this transformation, the attempt of changing our surrounding will create new troubles. What does spiritual transformation mean, and what are the ways to undergo it?

In different traditions there are various descriptions of the way and the implications of the spiritual transformation. As Fr. Bede (Meditation, Perth, 1985) mentions, there is a worldwide spiritual awakening where more and more people want to find their real self, their own identity leading to a deeper experience of God. People are seeking for practical methods of prayer and meditation to find their inner centre. Fr. Bede made Shantivanam a place where the interreligious dialogue is lived and the Christian spirituality is open to Hindu and Buddhist ways and methods of meditation and self-realization.

In the traditional yoga practice attention is given to the functions of the mind, breathing and the body. Strengthening and relaxation of the body (asana), control and observation of the breath (pranayama) and concentration and meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana) are main aspects to open oneself for the transcendence and reach samadhi or nirvana/sunyata.

Mindfulness meditation without judging and suppressing our thoughts, emotions and feelings leads to the experience of pure awareness. This experience that is beyond all sensual experiences has a great transformative potential. It is this potential that makes mindfulness meditation an important method in modern psychotherapy. More than a thousand studies were made on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR by Jon Kabat-Zinn) showing that by regular practice even the structure of the brain and different parameters of the body are changed, influencing mental, emotional and behavioural disorders in a positive way.

In Christian tradition meditation is the reflection on a religious text and putting it in relation to one’s own life. Meditation can pass over into contemplation that can be described as the experience of the divine love in the depths of the heart. Thus contemplation can lead us to our deepest centre, awaking a deep unconditioned love that enables a new relation to God, the others and the whole creation. When we begin to recognize the divine spirit everywhere, then the whole creation becomes sacred for us and we don´t abuse it as done so often in our time. In this process Jesus himself can be our model: totally open to the Father and totally surrendered. He gave his life for the world, overcoming death in his resurrection.

As described by Christian saints and Hindu and Buddhist yogis the meditative experience and contemplation has the capacity to transform the way of thinking and feeling and the subtle and gross body.

In the Hindu and Buddhist Tantra the subtle inner energy (kundalini, lung) is essential for the transformation and integration of the emotional level and the physical body. Different centres (Chakras) and channels (nadis) connect the mind with the body. By the yoga practices (posture, breathing, imagination…) the energy is activated and directed to integrate the different levels of the human being. In the course of this transformational process often occur inner and outer conflicts, pain and sickness. Fr. Bede (Contemplative Prayer, Osage Monastery, 1991) says in accordance to the tantric tradition that by the flow of the energy from the base of the spine through all chakras the feminine energy (kundalini / Shakti) and the pure consciousness (Shiva) are united and every aspect of our being is integrated.

In the Dzogchen tradition (The Great Perfection) the attainment of the rainbow body is the highest realization. The realization of the rainbow body is the expression of the complete transformation and control over the elements of matter, energy and mind. It is said that accomplished yogis dissolve their body at the end of their actual life in pure light accompanied by the appearance of rainbows. There are quite a few descriptions of this phenomenon, also in our time. Francis Tiso, a Catholic priest and former Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did extensive research on the rainbow body and compared it with the resurrection of Christ (Rainbow Body and Resurrection, Berkeley, 2016).

In the Christian view the spiritual way is a transformation by the grace of GOD. By meditation and inner prayer we purify and open ourselves for the Holy Spirit to penetrate all levels of our being. As Theresa of Avila says, that even involved in activities, she was blessed with the presence of the Holy Trinity. At the end we have to go beyond all images and concepts, receiving the uncreated light, as seen by the apostles on Mount Tabor. For Christian saints changes of the body like levitations, emitting light, stigmatisations and an uncorrupted corpse after death were described. All these changes can be seen as the expression of the inner transformation and a deeper union with GOD and the creation.

Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Andreas Reimers
FA f. Neurologie und Psychiatrie
FA f. Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
Hansell 19, 48341  Altenberge