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Inner Detachment

Inner Detachment

If God is to enter into you, then human or animal nature must go out of you. Where this nature ends, God begins.

God does not desire more of you than that you should go out from yourself, insofar as you are burdened with your nature, and let God be God in you. The slightest image you have of yourself is as big as God; it holds you away from your whole God. To the extent that such an image enters you, God must yield, and to the extent that this image goes out, God enters in.

Self-love is the root and cause of all evil; it snatches away all that is good and all that is perfect. Therefore if the soul is to know God, it must also forget itself and lose itself. For as long as it sees itself, it will not see and perceive God. But when it loses itself for God's sake and leaves all things, then it finds itself again in God because God dawns for it - and only then does the soul perceive itself and all things, after having detached itself utterly from them, in God.

Anyone who lets go of things in their trivial, incidental being will possess them in their pure, eternal essence. Whoever has let go of them in their lower being, in which they are perishable, will receive them again in God, in whom they truly are.

See, your heart at times feels strangely aroused and averted from the world: this comes from the grace that lifts up the soul, for if the soul is to become godly, it must be raised up above itself.

It is an unmistakable sign of the light of grace when someone turns of his free will away from the transitory toward the highest good - God.

Such a soul should not seek outside, for in the school of the heart the Holy Spirit teaches the soul the things that pertain to its blessedness. The soul holds itself in readiness to receive the gift which God usually bestows on his very dearest friends. This soul tries to do all its works as perfectly as possible in accordance with God's dearly beloved will and strives always to have a clear conscience; it does this by having a disdain for worldly doings and a love for suffering, so that grace may increase in it and the evil desire of the flesh may decrease.

And in order that the soul may be aware that it is a child of grace of the heavenly Father, it accepts with the same courage all things from God, whether good or bad.

Nothing makes a true man but the giving up of his will. The only perfect and true will comes from entering into God's will and being without self-will. For the whole perfection of man's will means being in harmony with the divine will by willing what God wills, and the way he wills it.

At the time when the angel appeared to our dear Mary, nothing that she had done would ever have made her the mother of God; but as soon as she gave up her will, at that same hour she became mother of the Eternal Word and conceived God in that hour.

Never has God given himself nor will he ever give himself to an alien will. Only where he finds his will does he impart himself and leave himself, with all that he is.

This is the true inner detachment: In it, the spirit stands immovable in the face of everything that befalls it, whether it is good or bad, honor or disgrace or calumny, just as a broad mountain stands immovable in the face of a little breeze.

The just hunger and thirst so very much for the will of God, and it pleases them so much, that they wish for nothing else and desire nothing different from what God decrees for them.

If God's will should please you in this way, you would feel just as if you were in heaven, regardless of what happens or does not happen to you. But those who desire something different from God's will get what they deserve: they are always in misery and trouble; people do them a great deal of violence and injury, and they suffer in every way.

We deafen God day and night with our words, "Lord, thy will be done." But then when God's will does happen, we are furious and don't like it a bit. When our will becomes God's will, that is certainly good; but how much better it would be if God's will were to become our will. But as it is now, when you are sick, of course you don't want to be well against God's will, but you wish that it were God's will for you to get well. And when things are going badly for you, you wish that it were God's will for you to get along easily! But when God's will becomes your will, then if you are ill - it will be in God's name! If your friend dies - it will be in God's name!

Anyone who by God's grace unites his will purely and completely with God's will has no need other than to say in his ardent longing: "Lord, show me what is thy dearest will and give me strength to do it!" And God will do this, as truly as he lives, and to such a one he will give in great abundance and all perfection.

There is nothing a man is able to offer God that is more pleasing to him than this kind of detachment. God cares less for our watching, fasting, or praying than for this detachment. God needs nothing more from us than a quiet heart.

Every creature must grow dark so that God, the Light, may grow bright. For "the Light shines in the darkness."

If you wish to find complete comfort and joy in God, then see to it that you are free of all creatures and all their consolations. Believe me, so long as they comfort you and please you, you will never find the true comfort. But when there is nothing that can comfort you other than God, then truly he will comfort you, and with him and in him everything that is sheer bliss.

For the soul on whom God has dawned, who perceives him to some extent, all creatures have become too small and altogether nothing.

I dare to say that such people are happy in these times; for everything that happens to them is what they want. They love God in everything, and because of that their joy is in everything and about everything, at all times in the same way.

This is man's perfection: to be detached from and stripped of everything created; to conduct oneself uniformly in everything and toward everything, to be neither broken by misfortune nor puffed up by good fortune; not to feel greater joy about this than about that - neither greater joy nor greater fear.

For the one who truly loves, everything apart from God, who is the true being, becomes a nothing - nothingness itself.

No one must imagine that it is impossible to attain this, for it is God who does it. Some may say they do not have it. To this I say that I am sorry. But if you do not desire it, I am still more sorry. If you cannot have it, then do have a longing for it! And if you cannot have the longing, then at least long to have the longing!

Because of this the prophet says, "I long, O Lord, to have a longing for thy righteousness."

That we may desire God in the sense that he may be born in us - may God help us to this!

Sin and Justification

God is "the end and the goal." This means that everything is good that relates to the goal or is in accord with the direction toward the goal.

Since the soul is of heaven - that is, of God, who is a heaven of the soul - and the body is of the earth, they are opposed to each other in every way. Truly the body is a prison of the soul.

We should not believe, however, that every evil inclination comes only from nature. It also comes from the evil of habitual sinning. We need not be overcome by our enemies, as people often suppose; for although they do set on fire the evil in us, they are not the cause of it. There is in man a hidden fire, and this the devil can certainly rake up and fan into flame - but we can resist him. God has given man a free will which is not predetermined to go in one certain direction.

Inclination to sin is not sin; but the will to sin - that is sin. The inner pleasure in an evil thought - that is sin, and it generates death.

What is the essence of sin? Sin comes from turning away from blessedness and from what is morally good. The meaning of this turning away is that man turns away from the One -- that is, God -- into the "many", and in this way he himself is scattered and dissipated. "Their heart is divided; now they shall perish."

There are two sides to every sin. One is that it turns to goods that perish, such as are offered by world, flesh, and devil. And correspondingly, it turns away from the one unchangeable good. In this latter lies the core of sin and its formal definition.

Psychologically seen, every sin is sin because of the fact that it is pride and therefore transgresses God's command. Just as humility is the most genuine preparation for every grace, so arrogance is the direct opposite of grace and is therefore the root of all vice and, as it were, the shape it commonly takes.

Mortal sin, says Augustine, is a failure of nature, a dying of the soul, an unrest of the heart, a disease of the powers, a blinding of the intellect; mortal sin is misery for the emotions, death of all virtues, death of all good works, error of the spirit, fellowship with the devil, exclusion from Christianity, a hellish prison.

God created the soul, not so that it might be a part of his nature, but so that it might be a nature of godly nobility. If it were not of divine nobility, then for God to throw himself into a perishable creature would be much too base a thing.

That man alone is truly a noble man who is newly created, who is made from an unjust man into a just man in the Holy Spirit and reborn to God in real remorse.

There are three ways in which we should cleanse ourselves of sin: first, in our hearts, by remorse: "My beloved is to me a bundle of myrrh" - you must be sorry for all your sins; second, with our lips, through confession: "Confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed"; three, by our actions, in making amends: "Thou shalt travail in pain like a woman in childbirth."

I tell you that a man who is now a sinner can become a good man by nightfall. Man can come to new life even while he eats and drinks.

So strange as men's temperaments are, so strange are their ways of coming to God. God draws one man to himself through joy, another through pain and blows. Sometimes God works through the mediation of living beings, sometimes without them, sometimes through the word of a preacher - but he can also come into the heart without any mediator.

But no one can force the soul, nor does God himself wish to force a soul. God has given the soul the free disposal over itself, that is, he never wishes to do anything to it against its free will.

If God had to create a thousand heavens and earths, he would do this with his own strength and without help from any creature. But if he wishes to convert the sinner, he needs to have the sinner help him. He will not convert you without your cooperation.

Salvation is something no one can earn for himself. Grace in its purity does not come out of any previous merits of nature; not out of anything that nature is capable of; it is not based on works of righteousness, but rather - out of grace that is characteristic of God alone and matches his compassion.

A man should not be uneasy about whom God chooses or does not choose; he should regard all these things purely as a matter of God's honor and leave them to the divine almighty power, so that they are just as pleasing to him as they are to God. Then he can say, with Christ, "Father, thy will be done in all things, not my will!"

God's nature is like this: It does not seek anything outside of itself, but stays within itself. It is goodness when he imparts himself and shares himself with all living beings. It is the nature of goodness that it has to pour itself out, no matter where it is.

Thus our entire existence and life results from God imparting himself to us and giving himself completely to us.

And the benefit we have received calls for thanksgiving. What better thing can we have in our hearts, what better thing can we say, by mouth and deed and written word, than: Thanks be to God! "One cannot say anything shorter, hear anything more beneficial" (Augustine). Why? Because thanksgiving is nothing other than a kind of blessing on the good, a joy in and about the good. And that is surely an extremely natural and wonderful thing, just like the blossom or fruit of a good action.

And yet we do not need to thank God for the fact that he loves us. For he must love; he cannot do other than love, whether he wants to or not; it is an essential part of his being, and therefore he gives his love, not as the result of having reflected about himself, but just the way the sun shines - that is the way he loves. But I must thank him for being so good that he cannot do otherwise than love; that he cannot let go of his goodness, and simply must love me; and I want to ask him to make me worthy to receive, and I want to praise him because his nature and essence is such that he must give.

There are four principal reasons why we should serve God. The first is the moral or ethical beauty of this service: "Beauty without stain is the work of his hands." The second is the gratification that is part of such service: "Bliss is in thy right hand." The third is usefulness: "Devoutness is useful in every way." Everything that is good is attributed to these three. Yet if service to God were not easy as well, it would be generally neglected; so the fourth thing for servants of God is that it is easy: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

"Good is learned by toil," says Seneca; "evil is learned even without a teacher." Nothing in fact is so sweet and easy as going to ruin - nothing so bitter as being ruined. And on the other hand, nothing causes so much pain as to become good - nothing causes so much happiness as to be good.

There are two reasons why men are right in fearing the Lord. First, because he is all-knowing, and so no guilt can be hidden from him, not only of transgression, but also of omission: "Everything lies bare and open to his eyes." Second, because he is the all-just, and so nothing goes unpunished by him: "Do not fear those who kill the body; rather fear him who is able to fling both body and soul into hell!" True fear, then, is the fear of losing God.

It is essential to have remorse for one's sins. There are two kinds of remorse. One is earthly or physical, the other divine and supernatural. Earthly repentance sinks down deeper and deeper into pain and puts the person in such misery that he is close to despair. The pain persists, and the remorse does not move forward and therefore remains fruitless. Divine remorse, however, is quite different. Just as soon as the person finds his sin displeasing, he immediately raises himself to God and begins eagerly turning away from all sin to a decisive will; he then forms a firm trust in God and gains great confidence. And from this comes an inner joy that uplifts the soul out of all pain and distress and strengthens it in God.

To have sinned is not a sin, provided we are sorry for it. Man should be unwilling to commit a sin for anything in time and eternity, neither a mortal sin nor a pardonable sin nor any sin whatsoever. But anyone who understands God's ways should always keep it in mind that God, the faithful, in his love took man out of a life of sin and brought him to a life in God, turning his enemy into a friend - and that means more than creating a new earth.

When a man really leaves his sins behind and turns away from them, then for God, the faithful, it is just as if the man had never fallen into sin, and he will not for a moment let him pay for all his sins.

And with that man God wishes to have all the close communion that he has ever had with creatures. If only he finds him ready now, he does not take into consideration what he was before.

Only go to Christ - he has fully atoned for all guilt! In him you may offer the worthy sacrifice to the heavenly Father for all your guilt.

Because of this, man with all his sins and crimes should place himself in the wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ and should consider himself unworthy and commend himself to the worthy Mother of our Lord and should offer himself up to the heavenly Father and his Son; the heavenly Father must love either both or neither.

The truly loving person loves God in everything and finds God in everything. He takes everything as willed by God, and God's will is sweet to the one who loves. His will is so very great; for he is in every single thing, in this as well as that, in the smallest as well as the biggest, in one as well as all, in bad as well as good, in adversity as well as pleasant things: "He has poured it out over all his works."

True and perfect divine love can be tested by whether one has great hope and confidence in God. For there is no better measure by which to tell whether one has great love than that of great trust.

All those who have soared up to boundless trust in him - these he has not let go of again. He has done great things with them; of such people he knows well that this trust arises out of love.

The loving soul shall enjoy the freedom of casting all its heart's cares upon him. For it would be great mistrust on the part of a person who subjects himself to God if he were to be afraid of going to destruction, instead of trusting God, who is so overwhelmingly kind and generous that he is more ready to give than we are to receive.

God does not abandon his children, who even bear his image. Just as he does not forsake the flowers and other insensible creatures, which he nourishes with dew and clothes with color - even the fish in the sea and the animals in the woods and the birds in the air he does not forsake - so how could he leave his children, to whom he wants to give his everlasting joy, and even himself?


The place to which the soul with its faculties and senses is not able to penetrate - to that place faith carries it. If I am to be brought near to God, who is the central point of all being, equally distant and equally close to everything that is created - if I am to be brought close to Him, then my natural understanding must be raised up above itself by a light that is higher than it.

We believe those things that are unknown to our natural senses; of these things the good man has a certainty by virtue of his faith. The less you perceive and the more firmly you believe, the more your faith is worth and the more deserving it is of respect and praise. "By faith we live," and "Whoever wishes to approach must believe."

He who loves God denies himself and lets go of the whole world. It is therefore entirely fitting that man is presented with the mystery, incomprehensible as it is, so that he may thereby learn to deny himself and to believe God with his whole soul and to give himself completely to God and not to anything else. For it is love that "believes all."

The reason we do not find God is that we can't get past parables or comparisons; for we are seeking Him who has no comparisons.

Bondage and Freedom

Here is the perfect man: senses are thoroughly subjected to the spirit; fear is transformed into love, and all unrest in the soul is laid to rest. If he were at liberty to do evil, he would have no pleasure in it and would not be able to sin. This is why it is written: "Live always in my presence and be perfect."

So if you want to know whether what you do, either inwardly or outwardly, is from God or not, and whether it is God who does it in you, then take notice of whether God is the goal of your thinking; if so, then your actions are good.

The soul does not rest until it destroys everything that is not God and finds divine freedom.

That person is free who clings to nothing and to whom nothing clings. That soul is completely free that has risen above everything that is not God, because this soul with its desire clings neither to created beings nor to itself.

In this life we can never be empty of every kind of fault. If a man were willing to accept this for God's sake - that is, to the extent that it is God's will that human nature has defects (this is true in particular as a consequence of the sin of the first man, but also even if that were not so) - and if he wished to submit to this for God's sake, then he would feel completely right about this in his mind, and he would surely be comforted in his distress.

Humility is man's way to God; compassion is God's way of going to meet humility.

It is true humility when a man is constantly aware of what he is by nature: a something created out of nothing, and he therefore does not ascribe or appropriate to himself whatever good God does in him, any more than he was able to when he did not yet exist. True humility therefore means subjecting oneself to God, and to him alone.

Now there are some people who say, "If I have God and God's love, I can do everything I want to." They do not understand the words rightly. As long as you demand something that is against God and against his command, then you do not have God's love. You may be deceiving the world into thinking you have it. The man who lives in God's will and in God's light enjoys doing everything that is pleasing to God and not doing all the things that are against God.

Abhorrence of evil and separation from sin - this above all belongs to the spirit of sonship; and with that goes conquest of the passions, "to rule over them," in other words to subdue them or root them out.

Some good people speak as if what we must do is to become so perfect that no love of any kind can move us and that we cannot be touched by either good or bad! They are being unfair to themselves. I don't believe any saint is so great that he could not be moved. You think that because words can still move you to joy or sorrow, you are therefore imperfect? This is not so! Christ himself did not have that; this is shown by his lament: "My heart is ready to break with grief." Christ was so deeply hurt by words - and this even came from his innate nobility and from the holy union in him of divine and human nature - that if the pain of all creatures were to fall upon one creature, it would not be such a great pain as the pain Christ had.

For this reason I say: There never has been a saint - and this will remain true - who is not hurt by pain and comforted by joy.

Oh, these good people who want to go so far that the manifest presence of things simply ceases to exist for them! They won't manage it! I shall never come to a point where a hideous din is just as pleasant to my ears as sweet music of strings! One should, however, by all means attain to this: that an upright will that is formed by God should rid itself of all natural pleasure; and should wise caution detect an occasion when the will must be told to about-face, the will should say, "I will gladly do this."

The perfecting of virtue is not possible without a fight. It is easy to demonstrate and describe virtues; but truly to have them is very rare indeed.

Whether one has perfect virtue can be tested by whether one finds himself inclined toward the good above all else and whether he does the works of good without a special decision of the will and without holding up before himself a special purpose, a large moral goal. The habit of good comes about and is made to count through frequent repetition of individual deeds. Virtue thus comes into being more by itself and out of love for the good, without a why; and only in this way, not before, will one have perfect virtue.

Meantime one must grow and progress at all times, without ceasing - and one will never come to the end of that.

Never shall we be satisfied with what we have attained, never must we stand still. In this life there is no standing still. Anyone who wants to overcome the devil and to do wonders without delusion must persevere in daily battle against every sin by which the devil might defeat us, and have patience in adversities.

Some people are not so much afflicted by weaknesses or failings, others more so. Through contact with the world of things, the outer man is stirred, possibly tempted to anger or to vanity or to sensuality, depending on the circumstances. This is very often a sheer weakness of nature; for instance, many a person is naturally disposed to be easily angered or to be arrogant, and so on, and yet he does not want to do the sin. Such a one then deserves much more praise and his reward is much greater and his virtue much nobler than in the other case.

Therefore let a man only direct his will to God in everything he does and have God alone before his eyes. Then he may go his way quietly and have no fears and no misgivings about whether he is on the right way or is doing anything wrong. If a person who wanted to walk a certain distance were to consider first how he should put his foot down, he would never arrive at the goal.

One should therefore simply follow the direction. In this way one arrives there, and that is good.

From the booklet Meister Eckhart spricht (Munich, 1925).

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