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Meister Eckhart

The Process of Self-Transformation

or Spiritual Regeneration

Eckhart describes three states or phases of entanglement or lack of it in the transformation process leading to God-consciousness or "God intoxication":

2- The Release or Letting Go of Attachments

This letting go or withdrawal is not to be a renunciation of the world and its activities, but a breaking up of the attachment to these. "Even if someone is given to a life of contemplation, still he cannot refrain from going out and taking an active part in life."

"Whatever state we find ourselves in, whether in strength or in weak-ness, in joy or in sorrow, whatever we find ourselves attached to, we must abandon. . . . You must give up yourself, altogether give up self, and then you have really given up. . . . By renouncing yourself first, you then have renounced all things."

"It is necessary that you should make no distinction in the family of men, not being closer to yourself than to another. You must love all men equally, and whatever happens to another, whether good or bad, must be the same as if it happened to you. . . . That man who is established thus in God's love must be dead to self and all created things, paying as little regard to himself as to one who is a thousand miles away."

The initial effort always comes out of a religious experience--the aspirant must "prepare himself." This change of attitude initially demands strife and pain, for it is difficult. "The coming of the fire is accompanied with strife, with pain and unrest. . . ." The Soul must be in "labor" to give birth to this new way of being. But with practice and patience, the process of abandoning becomes progressively more natural and easy. The deliberate spiritual resolve accomplishes only the initial releasing. The rest comes seemingly from above, automatically, effortlessly. What began as hard and as a "labor" ends up "a pleasant burden."

"There is still one work that remains proper and the adept's own, and that is the annihilation of self. Yet this annihilation and diminution of the self, however great a work it may be, will remain uncompleted unless it is God who completes it in the self. Humility becomes perfected only when God humbles man with man's cooperation."

Eckhart advises caution as regards penitential practices--"fasting, watching, praying, kneeling, being disciplined, wearing hair shirts, lying on hard surfaces or whatever it may be." These can help in the initial transformation process, but they are only preparatory. They are often "harsh" and brutal, and can themselves easily become attachments. One too easily becomes attached to the practice itself, "getting the way and missing God." Following such practices is a mistake; the "mantle of love" is the best way.

"Pay attention. Penitential exercises, among other things, were instituted for a particular purpose: whether it be fasting, watching, praying, kneeling, being disciplined, wearing hair shirts, lying hard or whatever it may be, the reason for that is because body and flesh are always opposed to spirit. The body is often too strong for the spirit, and there is a real fight between them, an unceasing struggle. . . . And so, in order to succour the spirit in this alien realm, and to impede the flesh somewhat in this strife lest it should conquer the spirit, we put on it the bridle of penitential practices, thus curbing it so that the spirit can resist it. All this is done to bring it under control; but if you would capture and curb it in a thousand times better fashion, then put on it the bridle of love! With love you overcome it most surely, with love you load it most heavily. . . . He who has taken up this sweet burden fares further and makes more progress than by all the harsh prac-tices any men use."

The process of lāzen, then, will result in the letting go of attachments to the "required" work and therefore will involve the discovery of a new freedom of possible choices. This process denotes a process of surrendering. A person surrenders both the emotional attachments to things, people, and work, and surrenders the sense of himself or herself vis-a-vis attachments. As a description of the goal, Eckhart uses the term gelāzenheit--or "self-abandonment." In abandoning the self, one surrenders all attachments.

--Source Unknown


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