Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Creation: A Flowing Out, But Remaining Within

It is an amazing thing that something flows forth and nonetheless remains
within. Words flow forth and yet remain within-that is certainly amazing! All
creatures flow outward and nonetheless remain within-that is extremely amazing.
What God has given and what God promises to give-that is amazing, inconceivable,
and unbelievable. And that is as it should be, for if it were comprehensible and
believable things would not be right. God is in all things. The more he is in
things, the more he is outside of things. The more he is within, all the more is
he without. I have often said God is creating this entire world full and entire
in this present now. Everything God created six thousand years ago-and even
more-as he made the world, God creates now all at once.

Is Meister Eckhart of Hochheim (c. 1260-c.1329) a spiritual theologian whose time has come? The magisterium of his milieu certainly didn’t think so, as he was posthumously condemned by papal decree soon after his death, which occurred after he had traveled to Avignon to defend himself against charges of heresy, which he did vigorously. He was greatly influenced by the theology of another Dominican, Thomas Aquinas, and influenced a broad range of people from Martin Luther to Roger Fox, up to Thomas Merton and Annie Dillard today.

An interesting exchange over RMJ’s post on dualism prompted my re-examination of Eckhart. My own Creation Theology is not very well developed, and I began to wonder why. So I dug out my copy of Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart’s Creation Spirituality in New Translation, and began to look at it again. As the passage I just quoted indicates, Eckhart is "chewy," and must be mulled over a bit. Nevertheless, I was taken aback by his claim that "God is creating this entire world full and entire in this present now." I was taken aback because I rarely think of Creation Theology as anything but a one-off event, and as something to bicker about with those individuals who refuse to consider that six days and six thousand years could be anything other than a literal truth and scientific fact. Whenever I think of the continuing action of God, I think of Providence and Sanctification, not necessarily Creation. Eckhart gets even better:

God is in everything, but to the extent that God is Godly and to the extent
that he is intelligible, God is nowhere as much as he is in the soul and also,
if you wish, in the angels. He dwells in the innermost dimension of the soul and
in the highest aspect of the soul…There where time never penetrates, where no
image shines in, in the innermost and highest aspect of the soul God creates the
entire cosmos. Everything which God created six thousand years ago and
everything that will be created by God after thousands of years-if the world
lasts that long-God is creating all of that in the innermost and highest realms
of the soul. Everything which is past and everything which is future God creates
in the innermost realm of the soul.

God creates us as creative activity and God creates creation in us, in our innermost depths. Why? So we can perhaps know God in both the within and the without, and learn that these are separate places only to us, and not to God? And if Eckhart had his way, two ways of thinking (God and creature) would become one (God). We would hear creation and listen to the Creator at the same time. Dualism need not apply.
And perhaps that’s why we, as humans who can comprehend of God and participate, or not as we choose, in God’s reality, are so determined to retain a lingering sense of duality that sets ourselves apart from creation. There are many aspects of Eckhart’s theology and spirituality that I haven’t begun to address, but one thing you will never find there are barriers between creation and a divine Creator. If we can conceive of no barriers between Creation and the Divine, than how could it be possible to conceive of barriers between ourselves and the rest of Creation? We feel safer behind the barriers we erect. We feel in control behind the barriers we erect. We make an identity by throwing up a barrier and keeping others outside of it.
We don’t want to give up our barriers and our dualism, even if the result is an understanding of our own divinity, the Creator/Creation in our innermost being.
Hmmm. Scary stuff.

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