Meister Eckhart - Selected writings - The eradication of self
Type of Spiritual Experience
Background'Thy will be done'
A description of the experience
Meister Eckhart selected writings – edited and translated by Oliver Davies
When we go out of ourselves through obedience and strip ourselves of what is ours, then [our Higher Spirit] must enter into us; for when someone wills nothing for themselves, the [Higher Spirit] must will on their behalf just as he does for himself. Whenever I have taken leave of my own will, putting it in the hands of my superior and no longer will anything for myself, then [the Higher spirit] must will on my behalf and if he neglects me in this respect, then he neglects himself.
And so in all things in which I do not will for myself, [the Higher spirit] wills on my behalf. Now take note!
What does he will for me, if I will nothing for myself? When I shed my own self, then he must of necessity will for me everything that he wills for himself, no more and no less, and in the very same way that he wills for himself. And if [our Higher spirit] did not do this, then by the truth which the Higher spirit is, he would not be just nor would he be the Higher spirit [which of course he is by his nature]
‘Nothing’ says St Gregory ‘gives more power than does lowliness’………….
The answer is that there is one work which is right and proper for us to do, and that is the eradication of self. But however great this eradication and reduction of the self may be, it remains insufficient if [our Higher spirit] does not complete it in us. For our humility is only perfect when [our Higher spirit] humbles us through ourselves. Only then are they and the virtue perfected, and not before.
But how can [our Higher spirit] destroy somebody through themselves? Does it not seem as if this destruction of the person is at the same time their elevation .., for the Gospel says: 'He that humbles himself shall be exalted'(Matt. 23:12)?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. That person must 'humble' themselves, which cannot happen adequately unless [our Higher spirit] does it. …. the highest point of the elevation lies in the deep ground of humility. For the deeper and lower the ground, the higher and more immeasurable is the elevation and the height. The deeper the well, the higher it is, for the height and the depth are one. Thus whoever can humble themselves the more, the greater is their exaltation. This is why our Lord says:
'He who desires to be the greatest, let him be the least among you' (Mark 9:34)
Whoever wishes to be the former must become the latter, for this being is found only in that becoming. Whoever becomes the least, is in truth the greatest, while whoever has become the least, is already the greatest one of all. And thus the word of the Gospel is fulfilled: 'whoever humbles themselves will be lifted up’ (Matt 23:12). For our entire being is founded purely on a process of becoming nothingness.