From Meister Eckhart:
“A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there. God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being made and let God be God in you. Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure. God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.”
Caution: we shouldn’t assume we know what Meister Eckhart meant by ‘God’ – John Caputo evokes this in referring to God as ‘the event’; but all language about God, we must assume, is inadequate. So, at the risk of editing Meister Eckhart for my own purposes, let me say that I’m not sure what he meant either, but I’m pretty sure he’s right when he says that we have wandered from where things work better. And I know I have several skins that need to be shed.
Someone with a long history of courageous spiritual activism, mystical presence, and religious discipline once said to me that ‘the spiritual journey with Jesus is a motherf*****’. She’s a person who knows. Shedding the skins that cover who I really am, or really want to be (and bearing in mind that sometimes my interpretation of who I really want to be is pretty well hidden under one of my many skins), is a battle not unlike the pain of growing teeth for the first time. Moving into a new space means leaving an old one behind; opening oneself to the possibility of change for the sake of becoming more human isn’t a walk in the park. The spiritual walk with anyone is a motherf*****.
I’ve got to head out in a couple of minutes and am trying to find a way to end this post – I’m in two minds about even putting it up, but something in me tells me I should. The need for caveats and clarifications has the potential to overwhelm the desire to write something meaningful – gotta explain what I mean by ‘God’, or what I mean by ‘skin’, or what I mean by ‘motherf*****’… And I can’t. I’m not sure how much good it would do if I could – because anyone reading is going to bring their own interpretation to all of this anyway. So let me just say this: whatever you think about God’s Being or otherwise, the notion that Meister Eckhart advanced that we should ‘do what we do if we were most secure in love’ probably isn’t a bad lens through which to view your life today. I’m in LA right now; and so am about to step out the door into a city of busy traffic, rampant commercialism, and some of the most oppressive opportunities to compare oneself unfavourably to everyone you meet. I’m not feeling particularly secure. But in my imagination, something else is possible.