Peace, one and all…
The main theme of our first Evrad-i Serif offering is, perhaps, devotion: devotion to God, as the Source of Peace and the Sustainer of All, is the essential first element in any spiritual growth. Within the Abrahamic family of faiths, this means striving to come into a close and loving relationship with the One Reality, with God. There is something deep within us that is only activated when we devote ourselves to that loving relationship. This is often expressed in terms of obedience (though it isn’t the only form by any means). It is, therefore, not surprising that in his first offering from the Counsels on Discernment Meister Eckhart explores the nature of true obedience.
Counsel 1: First, about true obedience
True and perfect obedience is a virtue above all virtues, and no work is so great that it can be achieved or done without this virtue; and however little and however humble a work may be, it is done to greater profit in true obedience, be it saying Mass, hearing it, praying, contemplating or whatever else you can think of. But take as humble a work as you like, whatever it may be, true obedience makes it finer and better for you. Obedience always produces the best of everything in everything. Truly, obedience never perturbs, never fails, whatever one is doing, in anything that comes from true obedience, for obedience neglects nothing that is good. Obedience need never be troubled, for it lacks no good thing.
When a man in obedience goes out of himself and renounces what he possesses, God must necessarily respond by going in there, for if anyone does not want something for himself, God must want it as if for Himself. If I deny my own will, putting it in the hands of my superior, and want nothing for myself, then God must want it for me, and if he fails me in this matter, he will be failing Himself. So in all things, when I do not want something for myself, God wants it for me. Now pay good heed. What is it that God wants for me that I do not want for myself? When I empty myself of self, He must necessarily want everything for me that He wants for Himself. And if He were not to do this, by that truth which is God, He would not be just, nor would he be the God that it is His nature to be.
In true obedience there should be no trace of ‘I want it so, or so,’ or ‘I want this or that,’ but there should be a pure going out from what is yours. And therefore in the best of all prayers that a man can pray, there should not be ‘Give me this virtue, or that way of life,’ but ‘Lord, give me nothing but what you will, and do, Lord, whatever and however you will in every way.’ That is superior to the first way of praying as the heavens are above the earth. And when one has concluded that prayer, one has prayed well, for then one has in true obedience wholly entered into God. And just as true obedience should have no ‘I want it so,’ so also one should not hear from obedience ‘I do not want,’ because ‘I do not want’ is a sure poison of all obedience. That is what Saint Augustine says: ‘God’s faithful servant has no desire for people to say or to give to him, or what he likes to hear or see, for his first and his greatest aim is to hear what is most pleasing to God’