Meister Eckhart: Counsels on Discernment 10

Peace, one and all…


In his tenth counsel, Meister Eckhart examines the nature of the just will, and how it might be used in the service of God.

Counsel 10: How the will can do all things, and how all virtues are a question of the will, if only it is just

A man should not be too afraid of anything, so long as he sees that he has good will, nor should he be depressed if he cannot accomplish his will in his deeds; but he should not consider himself deprived of virtue if he finds in himself a will that is just and good, because the virtues and everything that is good are a question of the good will.  You can want for nothing if you have a true and just will, not love for or humility or any virtue.  But what you desire with all your might and all your will, that you have, and God and all created things cannot take it away from you, if only your will is wholly just and godly and is directed toward the present.  So do not say: ‘One day I should like…,’ because that would be for the future, but ‘I want it to be so now.’  Pay good attention: If something is more than a thousand miles away and I want to have it, I really have it – more than what is lying in my lap and what I do not want.


As Meister Eckhart makes clear in this passage, the will is absolutely fundamental to any true growth.  Moreover, the will has to be good, just and oriented towards God, or else it becomes distracted.  Reading this passage in the context of my Ramadan readings of Ibn Ata’illah makes clear that the will can only be good, can only be true, when it is humble.  Without a fully grounded humility, we run the real risk of understanding our will as ‘ours’ in an absolute sense.  Seeing it as ours in this way is an unhelpful act, as it leads to the notion of a separative existence, a life somehow apart from the Real, a life somehow compartmentalised.  If we aim to unite our will with God’s will, we can’t at the same time have a misguided notion of separation.


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