From the journal Material For Thought, issue number 9

© 1990 Far West Editions


How a Man Should Work

in the Most Practical Way


by Meister Eckhart

The following sermon has been newly translated in London from the German, the tongue in which Eckhart preached to the laity. His Latin sermons were couched in the orthodox forms of his time, but it is in German that he has expressed the profound and magic quality of his thought.

One finds many people who easily reach a certain stage, provided they wish to, where none of the things which they deal with hinder them or leave a permanent impression within them, for when the heart is filled by God the creature can neither find nor keep a place. But this is not sufficient, because we must make use of everything to the highest degree, whatever it may be, wherever we are, whatever it is we see or hear, or however strange and unbecoming it may appear. Only then are we on the right road and not before. No man will reach the end of this road, but following it unceasingly may result in true growth.

In everything he does and on every occasion a man should use his reason attentively, and at the same time be subtly aware both of him­self and his inner nature, reaching out toward God in everything as far as he is able. Man should be, as the Lord says, “like unto men who wait for their Lord at all times and sleep not.” In truth, men who wait thus are watchful and expectant for Him, for He may come from anywhere and in any guise (which may even appear very strange), so we should be consciously watchful for the coming of our Lord at all times.

This necessarily requires diligence, and one must be prepared to pay everything, namely all one’s senses and all one’s powers. Only then will a man firmly hold to God and find Him in everything and only then will it be well with him.

It is true that one kind of work is different from another; but who­ever carries out his duty impartially, for him all work is equal. Whoever understands this rightly God makes His own. For such a man God’s light will appear unveiled equally in his worldly and divine work. Listen: it is not to be understood in such a way that a man should of himself do anything worldly or unsuitable, but that what­ever is his lot to do or see or hear outwardly, this he must turn toward God. God is present in all things to him who rules and uses his reason to the utmost; only this man knows real peace and has a just place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

He who understands this rightly must do one of two things. Ei­ther he must cling to God in all his work and learn to hold Him there, or he must not work at all. But as a man in this life cannot be without activity, which belongs in its many forms to humanity, he has to learn to receive his God in everything and to remain unhin­dered by his activity everywhere.

Therefore if a man begins to travel this path in the midst of other people, let him first commit himself strongly to God and, holding Him firmly in his heart, let him unite within himself all his strivings, thoughts, wishes and powers, so that nothing else can arise in him.