Even Stones Have a Love, A Love That Seeks the Ground

Meister Eckhart? C. De B. Evans? Victor Gollancz? George William Target? Sharon Blackie? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some philosophers believe that mentality is ubiquitous in the universe. Thus, it is possible to assign volition to every entity, and even inanimate objects have a purpose. For example, an apple that falls from a tree might be seeking the ground. The following phrase has been attributed to the German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries:

A stone also possesses love, and its love seeks the ground.

This viewpoint can also be presented metaphorically and poetically with a non-literal interpretation. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1924 C. De B. Evans published English translations of works by Meister Eckhart based on manuscripts from a variety of sources including Franz Pfieffer. Sermon Thirty-Five titled “Stand in the Gate” contained the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Knowledge is the flux, for knowledge is hotter than love. But two are better than one. And this knowledge is laden with love. Love is fooled and caught by kindness: in love I hang about the gate turning a blind eye to the authentic vision. Even stones have love, a love that seeks the ground.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Meister Eckhart’s original works were written in German and Latin. The sermon containing the quotation was written in German, and here is the text from a 1958 edition published by W. Kohlhammer of Stuttgart and edited by Josef Quint: 2

Das Erkennen löst ab, denn das Erkennen ist besser als die Liebe. Aber zwei sind besser als eins, denn das Erkennen trägt die Liebe in sich. Die Liebe vernarrt sich und hängt sich fest in die Gutheit, und in der Liebe bleibe ich (denn also) ‘in der Pforte’ hängen, und die Liebe wäre blind, wenn es kein Erkennen gäbe. Ein Stein hat auch Liebe, und dessen Liebe sucht den (Erd-)Grund.

In 1956 the influential British publisher Victor Gollancz authored his own book titled “From Darkness To Light: A Confession of Faith in the Form of an Anthology” which included a section about the unity of universe. Gollancz printed these three items: 3

Each bush and oak doth know I AM.
HENRY VAUGHAN

There is a dim knowledge in plants and even in minerals.
CAMPANELLA (paraphrased by Inge)

Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.
MEISTER ECKHART

In 1978 the religious periodical “Third Way” of London published a piece about the author George William Target. An excerpt from Target’s book “The Young Lovers” was included: 4

Every creature may be called a manifestation of the Divine?
Do our hands reach up to the heavens?
Do even stones have a love? a love that seeks the ground?

An English rendition of a different work by Meister Eckhart was printed in 1981. Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn translated “The Book of ‘Benedictus’: The Book of Divine Consolation” which included a thematically related passage. Eckhart asserted that the crucial function of a stone is its propensity to fall: 5

The stone fulfills that function unceasingly, day and night. It can lie on the ground for a thousand years, but it will have the same propensity, neither less nor more, as on the first day.

In 1983 “The Oxford Book of Aphorisms” selected by John Gross printed the following entry: 6

Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.
MEISTER ECKHART (c. 1260-1327)

In 1984 a harsh review of “The Oxford Book of Aphorisms” appeared in a Kansas newspaper: 7

. . . who judges such statements as worthy of being an aphorism. “Character calls forth character” (Goethe), appears formidable at first glance, but when examined, is just puzzling. Meister Eckhart’s contribution “Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground,” is not more enlightening.

Some are so blatantly pompous they are either unreadable or unutterable.

In 1987 a different translation of Eckhart’s Sermon Thirty-Five was constructed by Maurice O’Connell Walshe: 8

Knowledge detaches, for knowledge is better than love. But two are better than one, for knowledge includes love. Love infatuates and entangles us in goodness, and in love I remain caught up in the gate, and love would be blind if knowledge were not there. A stone also possesses love, and its love seeks the ground.

In 2020 the website “Cunning Folk” published a short story by Sharon Blackie that employed the saying as an epigraph: 9

Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.
Meister Eckhart

In conclusion, Meister Eckhart deserves credit for this quotation. The 1924 and 1987 citations above present English translations of statements originally penned in German. The 1958 citation presents a German text.

Image Notes: Painting of Stonehenge by John Constable circa 1835. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Lizbeth Calvario whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Calvario told QI about the pertinent text translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn. Special thanks to twitter user ferdsen who located a German version of the text on the blog pforten-der-weisheit.com which led QI to identify the 1958 citation.)

Notes:

  1. 1956 (1924 Copyright), Meister Eckhart by Franz Pfieffer (German version), Translation into English by C. De B. Evans, (Translation with some omissions and additions), Sermon 35: Stand in the Gate, Start Page 95, Quote Page 96, John M. Watkins, London. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1958 Copyright, Title: Meister Eckhart – Die deutschen und lateinischen Werke – Herausgegeben im Auftrage der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft, (Meister Eckhart – The German and Latin Works – Published on behalf of the German Research Foundation), Subtitle: Die deutschen Werke – Herausgegeben und übersetzt von JOSEF QUINT – Erster Band – Predigten Erster Band, (The German Works – Edited and translated by JOSEF QUINT – Volume 1 – Sermons First Volume), Predigt 19 (Sermon 19), Latin epigraph: Sta in porta domus domini et loquere verbum (Stand at the gate of the house and speak a word) Start Page 502, Quote Page 502, Publisher: W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart. (Google Books Preview)
  3. 1956 Copyright, From Darkness To Light: A Confession of Faith in the Form of an Anthology by Victor Gollancz, Second Part, Chapter: Coda on Beasts, Plants and Earth in the Unity, Quote Page 197, Harper and Brothers, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1978 March 9, Third Way: Towards a Biblical World View, Volume 2, Number 5, Can fiction be true: A profile of the work of novelist George Target by Derek Williams, Start Page 7, Quote Page 9, Column 2, The Thirty Press, London. (Google Books Full View)
  5. 1981, Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, Translation into English by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, Section: Treatises, Part A: The Book of “Benedictus”: The Book of Divine Consolation, Start Page 209, Quote Page 225, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey. (Google Books Preview)
  6. 1983, The Oxford Book of Aphorisms, Chosen by John Gross, Topic: Nature, Quote Page 5, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)
  7. 1984 April 8, The Manhattan Mercury, Section: Books, Of cat food, mediocrity, pomposity by Leonard Bishop, (Review of “The Oxford Book of Aphorisms”), Quote Page D2, Column 3 and 4, Manhattan, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1987 (1979 Copyright) Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, Volume 1, Translated and Edited by M. O’C. Walshe (Maurice O’Connell Walshe), Sermon 35, Quote Page 258, Element Books, Shaftesbury, Dorset, England. (Verified with scans)
  9. Website: Cunning Folk, Article title: No Country for Old Women, Article author: Sharon Blackie, Date on website: July 28, 2020, Comment: This short story was originally published in “Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women”, Website description: Independent literary magazine; founding editor Elizabeth Kim. (Accessed cunning-folk.com on December 2, 2020) link