Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart (formerly: Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart’s Creation Spirituality in New Translation)
By Steven B. Herrmann, PhD, MFT
Matthew Fox has done a wonderful job bringing out the earthiness of Eckhart’s spirituality into his translations and commentaries. I do not think, moreover, that Fox could have achieved what he did without a deep feeling for the shamanic influences in indigenous America. There is something about panentheism, in the beginning of his book, that speaks to this correlation. When one reads of the panentheism inherent in Eckhart’s writings, one gets a sense of the presence of Thoreau, Whitman, Jeffers, or Muir, in that kind of mysticism; something of the shaman’s presence shines through in Fox’s commentaries on Eckhart’s writings that is uniquely American.
In my interviews with the poet-shaman William Everson, who was himself an ex-Dominican monk, I told him that I thought Christianity appeared to be undergoing a transformation. I was looking at it at that time in terms of assimilation. When the settlers came to this continent, there was an assimilation by the Native Americans of European dress and lifestyle. Now, I told Everson after reading Fox’s book, it seems that the opposite is taking place; where everything that had been formerly built up by the Puritanization of America was undergoing an assimilation to a more primal level in order for a regeneration of our culture to take place. In my mind Fox stood out as a representative of this development in western religion. It appeared to me then that one way to approach the problem of what is lacking in Christianity was to look at how the vocational archetypes are constituents of the Godhead Eckhart spoke of in his Sermons. “Indeed,” wrote Matthew Fox, “there are hints in Eckhart as when he talks of God as a ‘great underground river’ of the chthonic and more matriarchal period of consciousness when spiritual experiences were bound to the soil and were localized there with ‘deities dwelling in the interior of the earth’” (31). Even in his early writing Fox made vocation the center of his creation-centered spirituality. As Fox points out, in the first of the four sections of his book, Creation Spirituality is steeped in panentheism. The whole concept of the “Ground,” the “soil,” the “riverbed” of the Godhead: all of these metaphors that point to panentheism are a way to describe what the Godhead is to America’s greatest poet-shamans, and Eckhart is the link to this tradition in Europe. Fox has done a superb job bringing out some key elements in Eckhart’s writings that were missed by many of the theologians who attempted to understand him in the last century and I relied heavily on Fox’s book to aid me in the writing of my thesis on Eckhart and Jung. Any person who is interested in Eckhart would be naive to overlook this important text which is sure to stand out, over time, as one of the best treatments of this mystical preacher yet, a mystic who is sure to win any person over with his theology of “letting go,” of creative “birthing,” and “joy” and “compassion/justice.”
Steven B. Herrmann, PhD, MFT
Author of “William Everson: The Shaman’s Call”