Meister Eckhart & Chasing the Merchants from the Temple

For Meister Eckhart, one who is spiritually poor “has nothing.”  Chasing the merchants from the temple is an allegory for opening one’s soul to God.

I. Meister Eckhart and the mystical union with God

Initially, I establish a general outline for discussion.  The “most inward and real” aspect of the spiritual poverty described by Meister Eckhart is that of “having nothing.”  Meister Eckhart is here talking about an experience that does not lend itself to conceptual explanation.

Like the other forms of spiritual poverty, this refers to an inner state or disposition.  Moreover, this inner state or disposition is really made possible by the first two states. (N.B.: see Episode 016 and Episode 017 for details.) It is really descriptive of a mystical union with God.

To help with an understanding of this experience, which is difficult to describe in words, we might first refer to Alan Watts’ description of satori. (Description begins at 4:53, ends at 9:12)

II. Conclusion to Meister Eckhart’s “Blessed are the Poor” Sermon

We see the end state of spiritual poverty is, for Meister Eckhart, a mystical union with God. The mystical experience, then, is one that transcends the subject-object way of relating to God/Being.

Similarly to what Watts has said, this experience is not one of becoming God. Nor to believe oneself to be God, to have the powers of a god, etc.  Rather, it is to experience a oneness that bursts forward, thus giving one the experience of surpassing the mental construct of God. This comes in the form of a feeling and knowing that goes beyond the limits of one’s normal conceptual realm. Therefore, this is more a sense of oneness as in the connectivity with something greater than one’s ‘normal’ sense of self.

The “Blessed are the Poor” sermon ends by acknowledging that this is only possible to understand from direct experience.

III. When Jesus Chased the Merchants from the Temple

Fortunately for us, Meister Eckhart expands on this idea elsewhere.  He does so in his sermon, “Jesus went into the temple.” (See Evans’ translation, page 28, which you can find linked in the show notes for Episode 017.)  This sermon refers to Matthew 21:12-17.

The temple is an allegory for one’s inner spiritual life.  Chasing the merchants from the temple is to remove concepts of gaining from spiritual practice.  One properly “has nothing” only when one removes the ideas of profiting from one’s spiritual practice.  I take a look at how the “merchants” for Meister Eckhart are similar to “Zen experts” for Shunryū Suzuki in the Soto Zen tradition.

We will continue and conclude this discussion next week.



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