In his book Shah-Kazemi (2006) talks about Eckhart’s emphasis on and apophatic elements in statements about God. The deep nature of the absolute cannot be grasped by mere verbal expressions. Therefore, Eckhart stated that only what comes from deep within can be put into words. He also claims that this also needs to be moved by a form that takes in on the inside. He emphasizes that it can only come from within and must not come from the outside. Therefore, the notion is etched in innermost aspects of the soul (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). According to Eckhart, the word must only be expressed from within an object. Therefore, plastering a concept on any given word means that this word is not fully realized and, therefore, bears no verbal formulation. This is regardless of whether it is accurate in certain technical aspects or its ability to convey the question in mind. This means that realization has to come first. In case a person communicates through words about a certain issue, there should be full realization for both speaker and listener.
Eckhart stresses that understanding of God by human beings has been defined and limited to simple outward expressions of Him. These expressions, including whether God is just, good, or wise, project something regarding person’s understanding of attributes given to whom transcend every limitative attributions (Eckhart, 2006). Given that this is limited to mental understanding, Eckhart questions how the absolute is fully understood. Eckhart further adds that crucial precondition for absolute realization is indeed the absence in terms of limiting conceptions for the need of proper receptivity on divine influx (Eckhart, 2006).
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These notions do not mean that one has absent themselves from every idea or concept about God. For Eckhart, ignorance on this becomes methodically precipitated upon a basis of clearly understood reasons to fill spiritual necessity as well as a certain essential knowledge about fundamental doctrines concerning religion. These concepts only hinder human beings from true knowledge about God via mystical unions.
Basic knowledge that one possesses about God becomes a starting point in the journey culminating in union. After one moves much deeper to subsequent levels in the journey, then they have to be in a mental frame of unknowing or forgetting. Kazemi adds that union with source of revelation presupposes emptiness of every conception, even the ones derived from revelations themselves (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). Additionally, according to Eckhart, three deities of God’s trinity and its theology are understood as an expression of Godhead, meaning one. For Eckhart, anyone capable of grasping distinctions without numbers and quantity, even a hundred could still be one. If there were hundreds of persons in Godhead, a person, who would distinguish without numbers and quantity could still perceive all as single God (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). For instance, people see a single book in a number of different dimensions and manifestations, and this is without numbers and quantity. The book still remains one. Expressions may be numerous, The single essence in God is that He dwells inside the citadel of the soul. God does not look in it ever because He exists in modes and properties of His persons (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). God is solitary and stays quietly behind a wall in the citadel. God, therefore, resides in what is called innermost essence or citadel in the soul and surpasses the levels of being. This means the plane, which is presupposed by modes, His properties, or names (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). Therefore, Eckhart makes clear distinction between God qua Trinity and God qua Godhead. God qua Trinity is described as outward expressions in His revelation, and God qua Godhead becomes the essence of God hidden beyond these expressions of beings. Godhead thus transcends God’s persons. Theological statements about God and the Godhead can, therefore, be expressed in ontological distinctions between being and beyond being. Eckhart further adds that God and the Godhead become as different as heaven is different from the earth. God becomes just as God unbecomes. While God is working, the Godhead never works because nothing can be done by the Godhead, hence no activity for it. It peeped at work at no time (Shah-Kazemi, 2006).
According to Eckhart, God only works within perfect souls or good men. This is because one is not disciplined through life are comprehensively remote from or become totally ignorant of the said birth. These natural virtues enhance realization of this divine union. It becomes a prerequisite for the union. Additionally, after experiencing the union formed at source with the ultimate virtue, people will rise to higher degree of perfection. Additionally, pure motives also relate to the virtuous life. A man, therefore, seems to be in the center of two poles.
Eckhart adds that “For a greater delight of outward things then the harder it becomes to abandon them, and the stronger is the love, then the sharper is the pain” (Shah-Kazemi, 2006 p.143). The pain involved in the process of unification with God results from the fact that man desires other things from outside of himself. Eckhart goes further by claiming that self-interest is also a hindrance to union with God (Eckhart, 2009).
Man must do his part in the process of this unification, which becomes complete detachment. God does not wait for a man in a passive way. He bestows grace to reach human souls. It can also be explained that pure emptiness created by spiritual detachment is inner receptivity to influx of this grace. God perpetually seeks a creature, whose part has become unreceptive to Him by reasons of his preoccupations and hence fullness of himself or of the world (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). At Birth, Eckhart derives scriptural principles that state no one knows of the Father but son from Matthew 11:27. His argument is that for one to know God, they have to both like the Son, but also bear the Son himself (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). In terms of unitive concentration, it is a similar concept to detachment (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). The stage that follows is called raptus or enstasy. Should it be in body one cannot tell and the same applies if it is out of the body (Shah-Kazemi, 2006).
According to Eckhart, there are only two lights for human soul. The first is that of intellect, the second is that of grace. The principle function of intellect of human being is making a distinction between themselves, consciousness as well as that of conscious meaning outward or inward things (Shah-Kazemi, 2006 ). Upon attainment the union, saints become able to feel God and bring His presence anywhere. There are several ways to do this. First, having been sanctified, Eckhart believes that after one has been united with an Absolute, the eventual holiness which they gain from the union then impacts everything that they do (Shah-Kazemi, 2006). Do saints who have once experienced this birth suffer? Why is a man who has perpetual awareness of God, and who should, therefore, experience his blessedness? Eckhart noted that this must happen, but on an emotional level only. The soul, its inner part, remains impassible (Pfeiffer, 2006).
As for poverty, Eckhart found the explanation in his theology on Jesus’ statement that “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 3:5, New Testament). For Eckhart, this text must be taken in its metaphysical union and frame of reference. If a man has poor spirit then he wants nothing and knows nothing just as he has nothing. He remains at a total loss in terms of his will and knowledge as well as possessions. The result is the total loss because the individual has surrendered himself to God and not himself (Pfeiffer, 2006).
Eckhart says that only a man who has finally realized the essential source of himself and his own being can be in commune with God. This individual will be able to go past laid down notions of God and go further to understand God and Godhead. Upon such knowledge will they be able to comprehensively deal with the issues of virtue and how the same can help them transcend basic issues that bedevil humanity in its attempt to reach out to God. Upon doing so they will be able to carry God in their soul and take him with them everywhere they go. Finding union with God is a painful process. It requires work on the part of the human being, but the fruits are enormous and benefit the individual generously (Eckhart, 2009).