Quote: “We come from God, and we are in exile.”
– John of Ruysbroeck, medieval Flemish mystic.
First Interpretation: We are of a spiritual substance similar to, but different from, the substance of God. God is separate from “his” material creation. For some reason, apparently to test our worthiness and meddle, we have been put into material bodies. But our true home is God. We cannot return home while alive, but if we live well, we will return home upon death.
Second Interpretation: God is the eternal and we live in the temporal. In this changing world it may be possible to catch a glimpse of our true home in certain eternal truths, such as might be found in metaphysics, religion, mathematics, or science.
Third Interpretation: God is the whole, and our soul was once whole and is capable of being whole again, but it is now fragmented. Being fragmented, the soul is abstracted and alienated from its true being. By certain disciplines, the soul can regain its wholeness, and in wholeness feel at home in the world.
Fourth interpretation: We are in exile. There never was a home, there never will be. But exile has its advantages, so we might as well enjoy the only home we have.
And beyond the fourth interpretation, we may find the lucky soul, the golden soul, who has never felt a bit of cosmic alienation -- who has no clue why Ruysbroeck would speak of our being in exile.