‘Whoever is seeking God by ways is finding ways and losing God, who in ways is hidden.’
In the 14th century, as in ours, every movement, every preacher, was peddling a way to God; techniques to help the search, to make God like you more – whether it was the call to fasting, to poverty, to repentance, to Mass or some other requirement.
But Eckhart had issues with the idea of a ‘way’ to God, believing that for most, the way itself becomes a distraction.
The demands themselves become the goal and God is forgotten, diminished or lost in the striving.
‘I must do better!’ God has never been found in this cry.
So when it comes to finding God, Eckhart is not keen on striving.
‘Is it better to do something toward this,’ he asks of those seeking God. ‘Or should the seeker keep still and silent in peace and quiet and let God speak and work in him, merely waiting for God to act?’
Better than striving is the liberated individual ‘who wants nothing, knows nothing and has nothing.’
There are no trade-offs with God. ‘I’ll do this for you if you do that for me.’ Eckhart calls this the ‘merchant’ spirituality – and we are to want nothing.
Here is a way rooted not in spiritual striving or the acquisition of knowledge or super-human endurance but in simple letting go of ourselves.
This is not a way, says Eckhart, ‘but is really being at home.’
Here is arrival at, and in, the Godhead, ‘where the spirit is ever at rest, united in joyous certainty.’
‘In silence we can most readily preserve our integrity’, says Eckhart – silent mind, silent heart, silent will.
The wayless way is the way of silence and subtraction.
Here, says Eckhart, we become God and God becomes us.