“Were it the case that a fly had reason and could rationally seek out the eternal abyss of divine being, from which it came forth, we say that God, insofar as he is God, could not fulfill or satisfy the fly. Therefore pray God that we may be free of God.”
– Meister Eckhart (1)
Quotes like these leave me with more questions than answers, and this is why I am starting this blog. I am a student of many things: spirituality, psychology, theology, social work, religion, geography, humanity. Whenever my inquiry takes me deeper into something, I often find both clarity and incomprehension at the same time. My questions are met by more questions and more questions. In the face of these questions, I often ground myself in practice.
And hence the title of this blog: Scholar Monk. There are traditions among world religions in which the stewards of the knowledge of a tradition are also dedicated practitioners (more on this in a later blog). They are both scholars and monks, intellectuals and priests, researching and studying their belief systems while ministering to others. I have long been attracted to the idea of the scholar monk, and, not surprisingly, have sort of become one.
I find for myself that knowledge and practice must go together. Too much knowledge and I become detached from reality, stuck in my head, intellectualizing everything. Too much practice and I lose touch with the world of space and time, a world in which egos often interact with each other, rather than souls. This is the world in which we live and work. In losing touch with this world, I lose my capacity to engage with it.
And so I will do my best to follow in the footsteps of scholar monks of old, engaging in the world of egos while remaining grounded in my knowledge and practice, and doing my best to serve truth along the way. As I undertake this life, I continue to find more and more questions along the way, questions that I will wonder at together, with you, through this blog. Questions that I don’t expect to find answers to, and yet I find value in the inquiry iteself.
In closing, Meister Eckhart seems to be a fitting person with whom to begin this dialogue, since, as Etienne Gilson put it, “One never feels safe in talking about Meister Eckhart. He seldom speaks twice un identically the same way, and the problem always is to know whether he is saying the same thing in a different way or if he is saying different things” (2). An appropriate guide, I think, for exploring the paradoxes of the world and wandering through questions upon questions. I ask that you join me in this space of inquiry, seeking understanding and a way to be in the world.
(1) As translated by Michael A. Sells in his Mystical Languages of Unsaying (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 1.
(2) Etienne Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers, 2nd ed. (Toronto, Ontario: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1952), 38.