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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":



3- The State of Detachment

As a result of the process of letting go, one approaches increasingly a state of awareness which Eckhart calls Abegescheidenheit -detachment. This term is a composite of the prefix ab, designating a separation, and the verb scheiden or gescheiden, to isolate, separate, or depart. Put together, abegescheiden means 'cut off from' or 'away from.' The modern German Abegescheidenheit denotes 'the departed' in the sense of the deceased. Eckhart used his Middle High German term to designate, in an abstract sense, that which is removed from materiality and its limitations. Thus Eckhart's most frequent usage of Abegescheidenheit is a vague "detached from things" or "pure detachment . . . unable to stoop to anything." Such ambiguous usages, however, are deceptively simple. For being "detached from things" has great ethical, mystical, and spiritual connotations.

In the new "detached" way of relating to the world, a person can "love God as much in poverty as in riches." Even after giving all one has to the poor, one no longer "prizes" the goods and possessions one has given up. Eckhart's emphasis is not on the giving away of things but on the ease one feels in so doing, that is, one's emotional relationship with the things given up.

"For such a man it would be as easy to give up everything as a pea or a lentil or as nothing--indeed upon my soul to that man all things would be as nothing."

"A man who loves God could give up the whole world as easily as an egg."

As a result of such detaching, objects can take on a life and purpose of their own--i.e., they exist for their own sake. No longer concerned with an object's usefulness for ourselves, we may begin to think of someone or something in terms of its usefulness to itself. This stage of the transformative process has been described as "the attitude of a human who no longer regards objects and events according to their usefulness, but who accepts them in their autonomy. This attitude makes him renounce influences, and it produces equanimity." This equanimity is a symptom of nonattachment. Without personal attachment to things one is no longer governed by one's emotions. Hence one can confront the world calmly. Motivated now by an inner quiet, such a changed Soul will maintain inner peace and satisfaction while immersed in the most hectic outer situations.

"I call that mental satisfaction when the summit of the soul is not brought so low by any joys as to be drowned in pleasure, but rises resolutely above them. Man enjoys mental satisfaction only when creaturely joys and sorrows are powerless to drag down the topmost summit of the soul."

"To the just man -the fully-transformed man- nothing gives more pain or distress than when, counter to justice, he loses his equanimity in all things. How so? If one thing can cheer you and another depress, you are not just: if you are happy at one time you should be happy at all times. If you are happier at one moment than another, that is not just."

In this new mode of living, "detached fully from my own," a person's own needs, incentives, and even his or her very individuality will be forgotten. The man will have "no will at all." Rid of his personal in-vestment in possessions, fame, and the self, he will be able to act in the world, doing what is necessary and appropriate, while remaining free of any personal motivations for his actions. Eckhart encourages his listeners to transform not what they do but their relationship to their actions. The "perfected" man can play any necessary and appropriate role in his life while remaining emotionally and mentally detached from the drama. He just does it as part of the natural flow of life.

"And so, if you were to ask a genuine man . . . 'Why do you act,' if he were to answer properly he would simply say, 'I act because I act.' "

". . . nor should one work for any 'Why,' neither for God nor one's honor nor for anything at all that is outside of oneself, but only for that which is one's own life within oneself."

"The just man does not love 'this and that' in God . . . he wants nothing and seeks nothing: for he has no why for which he does anything, just as God acts without why and has no why. In the same way as God acts, so the just man acts without why; and just as life lives for its own sake and asks for no why for which to live, so the just man has no why for which to act."

"Some people want to have their own way in all things--that is bad, there is fault in that. Those others are a little better who truly want what God wants and don't want anything against His will, but if they should fall sick they would wish it were God's will that they should be better. These people, then, would rather that God willed according to their will than that they should will according to His. This may be condoned, but it is not right. The just have no will at all: whatever God wills, it is all one to them, however great the hardship."

"The lucky man who is attachment-free and therefore content with whatever befalls him--sickness or health, weal or woe--must be very comfortable indeed. For the will that things should be otherwise simply does not arise. Abegescheidenheit denotes such an easy restfulness: it represents the affective sense of being uninvested in external and conditioned things. It denotes one's 'detachment' from personal aggrandizement and the insidious will to better oneself."

It has been said, from the standpoint of psychology, that:

"The central task of the mystic is that of achieving an unusually strong ego within an unusually well-integrated personality. This implies maximal ego-autonomy and neutralization of drives, and it implies minimal conflict, anxiety and defense."

--Source Unknown

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