atheism for lent, day 17: covid edition, pt. 2
So, you know how kids and teens will run around saying a particular catchphrase whether anyone knows what it means or not? No? Yes? Am I the only one who witnessed this back in the day? Is it a pseudo-Gen-X thing?
Anyway, during my highschool years (in Germany, grades 7-13), there were several memorable ones. Karina* used to quote Monty Python one-liners daily (okay, so we all knew where that came from, but it still fits in the “repetitive catchphrase” category). Curt* always went on about a “buck’lig Männlein” (“humpback’d little man”). And Maik* repeatedly informed us that “Eckhart, die Russen kommen!” (“Eckhart, the Russians are coming!”)
25 years later, the mysteries still abound.
What got me on this is today’s Atheism for Lent reflection: a sermon by one Meister Eckhart.
Meister (Master) Eckhart, born Eckhart von Hochheim, was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic of the late 13th to early 14th century. Pope John XXII tried him as a heretic, but Eckhart died before the verdict was reached. I can’t figure out exactly what his “heresy” was, because covid is giving me brainfog and research just isn’t gonna happen right now. All I can find easily is that the “heresy” was connected to his mysticism.
Today’s text is Eckhart’s “Sermon 28,” in which he reflects on “God” as a “reality beyond being.” As Peter puts it:
“Eckhart presents the idea of a fundamental reality that we discover through a type of radical poverty. A poverty in which we no longer seek, grasp or understand. Where even the pursuit of God must be given up. It is a radical message of living ‘without why’, and in this letting go, of finding oneself in God and God in oneself.”–Dr. Peter Rollins,
Atheism for Lent 2023,
Eckhart insists that anything we say about God says more about us than about God, and since God is beyond all human comprehension, we shouldn’t even be discussing God or trying to understand God. This isn’t the “Master” trying to suppress doubt or discourage question; instead, Eckhart emphasizes that if we could understand anything about God, then God would not be God. Therefore, anything we think we have learned about God just makes us more ignorant instead of wiser.
“You should sink your ‘being-you’ into his ‘being-him’, and your ‘you’ and his ‘him’ should become a single ‘me’ so that with him you shall know in eternity his unbecome ‘isness’ and his unnameable ‘nothingness’….”–Meister Eckhart,
I feel like I understand what he’s saying here, and I feel like it resonates with me. But I don’t know that I can explain it in my current brainfogginess. This is really frustrating. And annoying. STUPID COVID.
I can say, though, I really like how theologians of the past referred to “the soul” by the pronoun “she.” Eckhart writes: “as long as your soul is mental, she will possess images. As long as she has images, she will possess intermediaries, and as long as she has intermediaries, she will not have unity or simplicity. As long as she lacks simplicity, she does not truly love God, for true love depends upon simplicity.” I love the “shes.” They fit much better than “it.”
Concerning the content of the preceding quote, I think I’d have more to say if I could actually think. But I can’t think. I don’t believe Eckhart is asking us to abandon all intellect and imagination, but I can’t tell you my reasoning. It relates to the idea? precept? notion? that not only is our human language inadequate for saying anything about God, but so are our mental capacity and any way we might conceive of God to ourselves without words. Even the wordless, formless “pictures” we hold in our minds are so far from the True Reality of God, they might as well be fiendish lies.
That’s all I can manage for today.
XOXO (through a mask, from inside quarantine)
*Names changed to protect identities, since people might not appreciate my reminiscing over their idiosyncrasies of decades past.