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On Inner Detachment

Meister Eckhart

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Nothing makes us true men and women but the giving up of our will. The only perfect and true will comes from entering into God’s will and being without self-will. For the perfection of our will means being in harmony with the divine will by willing what God wills, and the way he wills it.

At the time when the angel appeared to our dear Mary, nothing that she had done would ever have made her the mother of God; but as soon as she gave up her will, she became mother of the Eternal Word and conceived God in that hour.

Never has God given himself nor will he ever give himself to an alien will. Only where he finds his will does he impart himself and leave himself, with all that he is.

This is the true inner detachment: in it, the spirit stands immovable in the face of everything that befalls it, whether it is good or bad, honor or disgrace or calumny, just as a broad mountain stands immovable in the face of a little breeze.

 

If God’s will should please you in this way, you would feel just as if you were in heaven, regardless of what happens or does not happen to you. But those who desire something different from God’s will get what they deserve: they are always in misery and trouble; people do them a great deal of violence and injury, and they suffer in every way.

We deafen God day and night with our words, “Lord, thy will be done.” But then when God’s will does happen, we are furious and don’t like it a bit. When our will becomes God’s will, that is certainly good; but how much better it would be if God’s will were to become our will.

 

There is nothing a person is able to offer God that is more pleasing to him than this kind of detachment. God cares less for our watching, fasting, or praying than for this detachment. God needs nothing more from us than a quiet heart.

No one must imagine that it is impossible to attain this, for it is God himself who does it. Some may say they do not have it. To this I say that I am sorry. But if you do not desire it, I am still more sorry. If you cannot have it, then do have a longing for it! And if you cannot have the longing, then at least long to have the longing!

Because of this the prophet says, “I long, O Lord, to have a longing for thy righteousness.”

That we may desire God in the sense that he may be born in us – may God help us to this!


Selections from Meister Eckehart spricht, ed. Otto Karrer (Ars Sacra/Josef Müller, 1926), trans. Nicoline Maas.

Sheep bound on a slaughterblock Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei (detail). View full painting. Image from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
Contributed By Meister Eckhart

Famous as a mystic after his death, in life Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260–1328) was a noted scholar and active administrator, serving as a Dominican provincial and teaching at the University of Paris. Although his writings were long treated as suspect by the official church – Eckhart died while on trial for heresy – they would later influence both Luther and the Anabaptists and have been cited by recent popes.

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