The following excerpts contain everything significant comment Meister Eckhart has made in his known sermons and other writings on the subject of nakedness.
All of the excerpts are taken from “Meister Eckhart: The Complete Mystical Works” by O’C Walsh.
When I am able to establish myself in Nothing and Nothing in myself, uprooting and casting out what is in me, then I can pass into the naked being of God, which is the naked being of the spirit. All that smacks of likeness must be ousted that I may be transplanted into God and become one with Him: one substance, one being, one nature, and the Son of God.
Man has a twofold birth: one into the world, and one out of the world, which is spiritual and into God. Do you want to know if your child is born, and if he is naked - whether you have in fact become God's son? If you grieve in your heart for anything, even on account of sin, your child is not yet born.
But to return to our argument, how Martha and all the friends of God are 'with care' but not 'in care'; there temporal work is as noble as any communing with God, for it joins us to Him as closely as the highest that can happen to us except the vision of God in His naked nature. And so he said, "You are with things and with care," meaning that she was troubled and encumbered by her lower powers, for she was not given to indulge in spiritual sweetness: she was with things and not in things. . . .
I say something else, and even harder. Whoever would exist in the nakedness of this nature, free from all mediation, must have left behind all distinction of person, so that he is as well disposed to a man who is across the sea, whom he never set eyes on, as to the man who is with him and is his close friend.As long as you favor your own person more than that man you have never seen, you are assuredly not right and you have never for a single instant looked into this simple ground. You may indeed have seen a derived image of the truth in a picture, but it was not the best! And secondly, you must be pure of heart, for that heart alone is pure that has abolished creatureliness.
In the Latin tongue there is no word so proper to God as erat. That is why John in his Gospel comes to say so frequently erat 'there was,' signifying naked essence. All things are additive, but it (erat) adds only in thought - a thought not of addition but of subtraction. Goodness and truth add, at least in thought, but naked essence with nothing added is the meaning of erat.
Whoever would name the soul according to her simplicity, purity, and nakedness, as she is in herself, he can find no name for her.
There is a power in the soul, of which I have spoken before. If the whole soul were like it, she would be uncreated and uncreatable, but this is not so. In its other part it has a regard and a dependence on time, and there it touches on creation and is created. To this power, intellect, nothing is distant or external. What is beyond the sea or a thousand miles away is as truly known present to it as this place where I am standing. This power is a virgin, and follows the lamb wherever he goes. This power seizes God naked in His essential being. It is one in unity, not like in likeness.
One master says pure knowledge, even in this life, takes such great delight in itself that the joy of all created things is a mere nothing compared to the joy that pure knowledge brings. And yet, however noble it may be, it is but contingent, and just as one little word is insignificant compared to all the world, so insignificant is all the wisdom we can acquire here, compared to the naked, pure truth. That is why Paul says it must fall away. Even if it remained, it would be like a foolish virgin and as nothing to the naked truth we shall know there. The third reason why we shall truly know there is this: the things we see here as mutable we shall know there as unchanging; we shall apprehend them there in undivided form and close together: for that which here is distant, there is near, for there all things are present.
When God sends His angel to the soul, she becomes truly knowing. It was not for nothing that God entrusted the key to Peter, for Peter denotes knowing, and knowledge has the key and opens up and breaks through and finds God naked, and then she says to her companion, will, what she has obtained, though she had the will already: for what I will, I seek. Knowledge goes before.
Now he says, "Peter," which is to say 'he who sees God.' The masters ask whether the kernel of eternal life lies more in the intellect or in the will. Will has two operations: desire and love. The intellect's work is onefold, and therefore it is better. Its work is knowing, and it never rests till it touches nakedly that which it knows. And thus it goes ahead of will and declares to it what to love. As long as one desires things, one has not got them. When we have them, we love them, then desire falls away.
One master says if there were no 'means,' we could see an ant in heaven. But another master says if there were no means, we could see nothing. They are both right. The color that is on the wall, if it is to be transmitted to my eye, must be altered and refined in the air and in the light and thus spiritually conveyed to my eye. Thus too the soul must be strained by light and by grace, in order to see God. Therefore that master was right who said if there were no means we should see nothing. But the other master is also right who said if there were no means we could see an ant in heaven. If the soul were without means, she would see God naked.
Here intellect is like the highest rank of angels, of which there are three choirs. The Thrones receive God into them and keep God among themselves, and God rests among them; the Cherubim know God and persist therein; Seraphim means 'burning fire.' Intellect is like these and keeps God in itself. With these angels the intellect receives God in His robing room, naked, as He is One without distinction.
If I am caught up in goodness, in the first effusion, taking Him where He is good, then I seize the gate, but I shall not seize God. Therefore knowledge is better, for it leads love. But love seeks desire, intention. Knowledge does not add a single thought, but rather detaches and strips off and runs ahead, touches God naked and grasps Him in His essence.
He thus teaches us to enter into the ground of true humility and true nakedness, to cast off everything that we do not have by nature (which is sin and defect), and also whatever we have by nature that is born of attachment. For whoever would enter God's ground, His inmost part, must first enter his own ground, his inmost part, for none can know God who does not first know himself. He must enter into his lowest and into God's inmost part, and must enter into his first and his highest, for there everything comes together that God can perform. Whatever is highest in the soul is in the lowest, for it is the innermost, just as if one were to squeeze some round object, so that the highest became the lowest.
...it indicates the bare purity of the divine being, which is bare of any ad mixture. For goodness and wisdom and whatever may be attributed to God are all admixtures to God's naked essence: for all admixture causes alienation from essence. And so the word 'I' denotes God's purity of essence, which is bare in itself, free of alien elements that make it strange and distant.
But I once thought on my way, that a man should be so wholly detached in his intention that he had nobody and nothing in view but the Godhead in itself - neither salvation nor this or that, but just God as God, and the Godhead in itself. For whatever else you concern yourself with is an admixture to the Godhead. And so shed all admixtures to the Godhead, and seize it naked as it is in itself.
Whoever had gone out of himself like that would be given back to himself in a truer sense; and all things, just as he had fully abandoned them in multiplicity, will be entirely returned to him in simplicity, for he finds himself and all things in the present 'now' of unity. And the man who went forth thus would return much nobler than when he departed. This man now dwells in unhampered freedom and pure nakedness, for he needs undertake and take on nothing small or great — for whatever belongs to God belongs to him.
Now attend carefully to what Aristotle says about the detached spirits in the book called Metaphysics. The highest of the masters who ever dealt with natural science speaks of these detached spirits, and says that they are not the form of anything, and that they derive their being by immediate outpouring from God, and then they ow back in and receive the outpouring immediately from God, above the angels, and they gaze on the naked being of God without distinction. This pure naked being is called by Aristotle a 'something.' That is the highest that Aristotle ever declared concerning natural science, and no master can say greater things unless prompted by the Holy Ghost.
Some teachers hold that the spirit finds its beatitude in love. Some make him find it in beholding God. But I say he does not find it in love, or in gnosis, or in vision. But, it may be asked, has the spirit in eternal life no vision of God? Yes and no. Once born, he neither sees nor pays heed to God: but at the moment of birth, then he has a vision of God. The spirit is in bliss then because it has been born, and not at being born, for then it lives as the Father lives, that is in the simple and naked essence. Therefore turn away from all things and realize yourself in your naked essence, for whatever is outside of essence is accident and the accidental makes for why.
That we may live in the eternal, may God help us. Amen.
Therefore I say, if a man turns away from self and from all created things, then - to the extent that you do this - you will attain to oneness and blessedness in your soul's spark, which time and place never touched. This spark is opposed to all creatures: it wants nothing but God, naked, just as He is. It is not satisfied with the Father or the Son or the Holy Ghost, or all three Persons so far as they preserve their several properties. I declare in truth, this light would not be satisfied with the unity of the whole fertility of the divine nature. In fact I will say still more, which sounds even stranger: I declare in all truth... that this light is not content with the simple changeless divine being which neither gives nor takes: rather it seeks to know whence this being comes, it wants to get into its simple ground, into the silent desert into which no distinction ever peeped, of Father, Son or Holy Ghost. In the inmost part, where none is at home, there that light finds satisfaction, and there it is more one than it is in itself: for this ground is an impartible stillness, motionless in itself, and by this immobility all things are moved, and all those receive life that live of themselves, being endowed with reason.
That we may thus live rationally, may the eternal truth of which I have spoken help us. Amen.
Thirdly, he must take God not as being good or just, but he must apprehend Him in the pure and naked substance where He is nakedly apprehending Himself. For goodness and justice are God's garment which covers Him. Therefore, strip God of all His clothing - seize Him naked in his robing room, where He is uncovered and bare in Himself. Then you will "abide in Him."
How can a man be always being born in God? Take note: As this image is revealed in a man, so that man grows in likeness to God, for in that image the man is like the image of God as He is according to His naked essence. And the more a man lays himself bare, the more like he becomes to God, and the more like he becomes to God, the more he is made one with Him. Thus a man's being ever born in God is to be understood to mean that that man is refulgent with his image in God's image, which is God in his bare essence, with which that man is one.
The power of the soul we call 'man' is the soul's highest power, wherein God is a naked light: for nothing other than God enters into this power, and this power is always in God.
Truly, where the soul is in God, just as the Persons are suspended in being, there work and being are one, in that place where the soul grasps the Persons in the very indwelling of being from which they never emerged, where there is a pure essential image. This is the essential mind of God, of which the pure and naked power is intellect, which the masters term receptive. Now mark my words! It is only above all this that the soul grasps the pure absoluteness of free being, which has no location, which neither receives nor gives: it is bare 'self-identity' which is deprived of all being and all self-identity. There she grasps God nakedly as in the ground, where He is above all being. Were there still being there, she would take being in being; but nothing else but one ground is there. This is the highest perfection of the spirit to which man can attain spiritually in this life.
There is one power in the soul that is not only power but being, and it is not only being but it frees from being: it is so pure, so high and so noble in itself that no creature can enter it - only God dwells in there. In very truth, God Himself cannot enter there as long as He has any mode: neither as being wise? nor as being good nor as being rich. God cannot enter there in any mode: He can only enter there in the nakedness of the divine nature.
Now again, if we take being naked and pure, as it is in itself, then being is loftier than knowledge or life, for in that it has being it has knowledge and life. They have lost life and found being. A master says there is nothing so like God as being: insofar as it has being it is like God.
When I flowed forth from God, all creatures declared, 'There is a God'; but this cannot make me blessed, for with this I acknowledge myself as a creature. But in my breaking through, where I stand free of my own will, of God's will, of all His works, and of God himself, then I am above all creatures and am neither God nor creature, but I am that which I was and shall remain for evermore. There I shall receive an imprint that will raise me above all the angels.
By this imprint I shall gain such wealth that I shall not be content with God inasmuch as He is God, or with all His divine works: for this breaking-through guarantees to me that I and God are one. Then I am what I was, then I neither wax nor wane, for then I am an unmoved cause that moves all things. Here, God finds no place in man, for man by his poverty wins for himself what he has eternally been and shall eternally remain. Here, God is one with the spirit, and that is the strictest poverty one can find.
If anyone cannot understand this sermon, he need not worry. For so long as a man is not equal to this truth, he cannot understand my words, for this is a naked truth which has come direct from the heart of God.
Now if, with this power, the soul sees anything imaged, whether she sees the image of an angel or her own image, it is an imperfection in her. If she sees God as He is God, or as He is an image, or as He is three, it is an imperfection in her. But when all images are detached from the soul and she sees nothing but the one alone, then the naked essence of the soul finds the naked, formless essence of divine unity, which is super-essential being, passive, reposing in itself. Oh wonder of wonders, what noble suffering that is, that the essence of the soul can suffer nothing but the bare unity of God!
One master says that all creatures which have differentiation are unworthy that God Himself should work in them. The soul in herself, as she is above the body, is so pure and delicate that she receives nothing but pure naked Godhead. And yet God cannot enter there unless He has been stripped of all additions.
It is true that one piece of work differs from another, but if a man were to do all things with an equal mind, then indeed his works would all be equal, and for a man in a right state, who should thus possess God, God would shine forth as nakedly in the most worldly things as in the most godly.
All that I have said of the good man and goodness applies equally to the true man and truth, to the just man and justice, to the wise man and wisdom, to God's Son and God the Father, to every Godbegotten thing that has no father on earth, in which, too, nothing is born that is created which is not God, in which there is no image but God alone, naked and pure.
Therefore our Lord says so truly, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3), that is, those who have nothing of their own, human spirit, and come naked to God. And St. Paul says, "God has revealed it to us in His spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10).
Thus, whatever of the soul turns downward receives a covering, a kerchief, from what it turns to; but that in the soul which turns upward, that is God's bare image, God's birth, bare and naked in the naked soul. In the noble man, just as in God's image, God's son, the seed of divine nature can never be destroyed in us though it may be covered up.
There is still another way of explaining what our Lord terms a noble man. You should know that those who know God naked, also know creatures with Him: for knowledge is a light of the soul; all men desire knowledge, for even the knowledge of evil things is good.
Though it is true that the soul cannot be happy without that, yet felicity does not depend on it; for the first condition of felicity is that the soul sees God naked. From that she derives all her being and her life, and draws all that she is, from the ground of God, knowing nothing of knowledge, nor of love, nor of anything at all.
Excerpts taken from the complete mystical works, Meister Eckhart.