From ‘Foreword’, by David Appelbaum, in “Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy” by Reiner Schürmann


“The mind not yet emptied by Gelassenheit or “releasement” (as Schürmann, following Heidegger, translates) is prone to literal interpretation, doctrine, and dogma.

[… ]

Metanoia, the repentance that is also a radical “change of mind”, requires being in the wilderness, where the God beyond God alone dwells. Only that place is safe from the threat of nothingness, since it is already empty. The already-empty is the Godhead, whose absence reminds us that even (or especially) God must be emptied, because of his opposition to the created world and its creatures. Only when the final dualism is shattered does a human being fulfill his or her destiny. Human destiny lies in becoming empty, for emptiness is the womb in which the word-seed becomes the Word, and the only Son is thereby born. God loves nothing better than the desert, where the seeker goes to give birth to God and participate in the joy of birth, the joy or preexilic birth. There he himself must bring to an end the dualism between creature and Creator and be born in humankind, in nous. By that act, God becomes nothing, as empty as the desert, and, dissolved, only the God beyond God remains.

This is the core of Eckhart’s teaching, but it is not to be comprehended all at once or once and for all. […] Eckhart was of the intentional ‘coding’ that is part and parcel of the inscribing of an ancient way. Eckhart repeats time and again that the teaching can only be understood by a person of “perfect releasement”. To arrive there, the student must rearrange what is out of order, fill in missing places, interpret puns, decipher names, and constantly mindful of checking directions against his or her own experience.


One comes alive, “living without why”, when the mind turns intensely noetic and focuses on its own action – that of awakening. […] Awakened consciousness then share with being in a single nature – releasement.


Echkart’s thought speaks of an impossible alliance between creature and Creator, that of self-anihilation. For the uncreated Godhead, the niht (in Middle German) or nothingness, promises to disrupt all forms, including that of God. In that promise (which may appear as a threat) lies the human chance to regain our original freedom. As Eckhart says, “All things have been drawn from nothingness; that is why their true nature is nothingness”.
Let us look more carefully at the mind’s growing discernment of its divine likeness. For Eckhart, the initial phase of awakening to the Awakening is detachment. By this, he refers to the Stoic practice, taken over by early Christian practitioners, of apatheia: a refusal to be taken by feeling, thought, or impulse. Far from blunting sensitivity, the exercise of detachment suggests that mastery of a life experience lies in following wherever that experience leads, while watching over its expression with impartiality.


The insight is a difficult one because the untrained mind expresses it itself in incessant importuning. Needless enquiry constantly asks “why?” in a mood of defiance. […] Detachment is the neutering of importunity, which proceeds from an untrained mind’s grasping or disquiet. Detachment reveals an acquired dynamism of thought, avoidance. To “a-void” is ultimately to refuse to be mindful of one’s own void or nothingness.


To search, but to search without a why: a person who does this is provided with the preliminary knowledge of detachment.”


The secret [of Gelassenheit] lies in relation with indeterminacy, for it involves the ongoing modification of form by a transforming force. That no-thing comes as it will and demands a receptivity to energize one’s search.


Sophia’s wisdom consists of desert knowledge, knowledge of the desert that no thought can enter [cf. The Thought of the Outside, M. Foucault]. Thus releasement’s secret lies in how an unthinkable subject provides food for wakefulness.”

From ‘Foreword’, by David Appelbaum, in “Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy” by Reiner Schürmann

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