Meister Eckhart: Counsels on Discernment 9

Peace, one and all…


In his ninth counsel, Meister Eckhart turns to discuss sin.

Counsel 9: How the inclination to sin always helps a man

You must know that when vices attack us, this is never for the just man without great profit and utility.  See carefully.  There are two men, and one of them may be disposed so that shortcomings never or seldom touch him; but it is the other man’s nature that they do.  The outward presence of things so stirs the outer man in him that he is easily moved to anger or to vain ambition or it may be to bodily lusts, whatever the circumstance may be.  But in his highest powers he always stands firm and unmoved, never willing to commit sin, because the sin is perhaps a weakenss of his nature, as many men are naturally wrathful or proud or whatever it may be, and yet he does not want to sin.  This man is far more to be praised, and his reward is much greater and his virtue is much more excellent than that of the first man, for the perfection of virtue comes from fighting, as Saint Paul says: ‘Virtue is made perfect in infirmity’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The inclination to sin is not sin, but to want to sin is sin, to want to be angry is sin.  Indeed, if a man thought rightly, and if he had the power to choose, he would not want to choose that his inclination to sin should die in him, because without it he would lack decision in everything and in all that he did he would be without care in these matters, and, too, he would lose the honour of the battle and of the victory and of the reward; for it is the assault of the force of vice that brings virtue and the reward for striving.  It is this inclination that makes a man ever more zealous to exercise himself valiantly in virtue and impels him mightily toward virtue, and it is a stern whip driving a man on to caution and virtue.  For the weaker a man finds himself, the more should he protect himself with strength and victory.  For virtue and vice too are a question of the will.


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