Meister Eckhart

About Meister Eckhart

Who is it?: Philosopher, Theologian, Mystic
Birth Year: 1260
Birth Place: Tambach-Dietharz, German
Other names: "Meister Eckhart"
Era: Medieval philosophy
Region: Western philosophy
School: Christian mysticism Metaphysical intellectualism

Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart was born on 1260 in Tambach-Dietharz, German, is Philosopher, Theologian, Mystic. Eckhart von Hochheim, better known to the world as Meister Eckhart, was born in a German family of landowners in c.1260. He was endowed with the honorific title of “meister” (master in German) after he obtained the academic title of ‘Magister in Theologia’ from the University of Paris. A theologian, preacher, mystic, writer, able orator and a renowned philosopher of the thirteenth-fourteenth century, Meister Eckhart’s life and feat is no ordinary deed. His works, ideas and contributions have kindled and captivated the curiosity of the modern readers. He is lauded for his theistic works and his unusual views on god that is grounded on his principle conviction — “God is ‘No-thing’ – but rather the Being that undergirds all reality – and we must become no-thing to be one with God.” Despite of his dissident theological beliefs and ontological philosophies, his mysticism is still valued and respected. Although the Roman Catholic Church condemned him for his heretical theological ideas, Eckhart remained true to the teachings of the Church. Eckhart was one of the firsts to write inquisitive prose in German and introduce new terms and gradually with his work made German the language of democratic tracts.
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Famous Quotes:

We tried to have the censure lifted on Eckhart [...] and were told that there was really no need since he had never been condemned by name, just some propositions which he was supposed to have held, and so we are perfectly free to say that he is a good and orthodox theologian.



Eckhart was largely forgotten from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, barring occasional interest from thinkers such as Angelus Silesius (1627–1677). For centuries, none of Eckhart's writings were known except a number of sermons, found in the old editions of Johann Tauler's sermons, published by Kachelouen (Leipzig, 1498) and by Adam Petri (Basel, 1521 and 1522).


The first translation of Upanishads appeared in two parts in 1801 and 1802. The 19th-century Philosopher Schopenhauer was influenced by the early translations of the Upanishads, which he called "the consolation of my life". Schopenhauer compared Eckhart's views to the teachings of Indian, Christian and Islamic Mystics and ascetics:


When Franz Pfeiffer published his edition of Eckhart's works in 1857, he included seventeen vernacular treatises he considered to be written by Eckhart. Modern scholarship is much more cautious, however, and the critical edition accepts only four of Eckhart's vernacular treatises as genuine:


The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Hindu reform movements. A major proponent of this "neo-Hinduism", also called "neo-Vedanta", was Vivekananda (1863–1902) who popularised his modernised interpretation of Advaita Vedanta in the 19th and early 20th century in both India and the west, emphasising anubhava ("personal experience") over scriptural authority. Vivekanda's teachings have been compared to Eckhart's teachings.


A second important figure in the later nineteenth century for the recovery of Eckhart's works was Heinrich Seuse Denifle, who was the first to recover Eckhart's Latin works, from 1886 onwards.


In 1891, Karl Eugen Neumann, who translated large parts of the Tripitaka, found parallels between Eckhart and Buddhism, which he published in Zwei buddhistische Suttas und ein Traktat Meister Eckharts ("Two Buddhist Suttas and a treatise of Meister Eckhart"). D.T. Suzuki, who joined the Theosophical Society Adyar and was an active Theosophist, discerned parallels between Eckhart's teachings and Zen Buddhism in his Mysticism:Christian and Buddhist, drawing similarities between Eckhart's "pure nothingness" (ein bloss nicht) and sunyata. Shizuteru Ueda, a third generation Kyoto School Philosopher and scholar in medieval philosophy showed similarities between Eckhart's soteriology and Zen Buddhism in an article.


The critical edition of Eckhart's works traditionally accepted 86 sermons as genuine, based on the research done by its Editor Josef Quint (1898-1976) during the 20th century. Of these, Sermons 1–16b are proved authentic by direct citation in the Defense. Sermons 17–24 have such close textual affinities with Latin sermons recognised as genuine that they are accepted. Sermons 25–86 are harder to verify, and judgements have been made on the basis of style and content. Georg Steer took over the editorship in 1983. Between 2003 and 2016, the critical edition under Georg Steer added another 30 vernacular sermons (Nos. 87 to 117) in volumes 4.1 and 4.2. Because six sermons exist in an A and B version (5a-b, 13-13a, 16a-b, 20a-b, 36a-b und 54a-b) the final total of vernacular sermons is 123 (numbered consecutively from 1 to 117).


In 1923, Eckhart's Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense (also known as the Rechtsfertigung, or Vindicatory Document) was re-published. The Defense recorded Eckhart's responses against two of the Inquisitional proceedings brought against him at Cologne, and details of the circumstances of Eckhart's trial. The excerpts in the Defense from vernacular sermons and treatises described by Eckhart as his own, served to authenticate a number of the vernacular works. Although questions remain about the authenticity of some vernacular works, there is no dispute about the genuine character of the Latin texts presented in the critical edition.


The publication of the modern critical edition of Eckhart's German and Latin works began in 1936, and is nearly complete.


Matthew Fox (born 1940) is an American theologian. Formerly a priest and a member of the Dominican Order within the Roman Catholic Church, Fox was an early and influential exponent of a movement that came to be known as Creation Spirituality. The movement draws inspiration from the wisdom traditions of Christian scriptures, and the philosophies of such medieval Catholic visionaries as Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Dante Alighieri, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, and others. Fox has written a number of articles on Eckhart, and a book titled "Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in New Translation."


Since the 1960s debate has been going on in Germany whether Eckhart should be called a "mystic". The Philosopher Karl Albert had already argued that Eckhart had to be placed in the tradition of philosophical mysticism of Parmenides, Plato, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus and other neo-Platonistic thinkers. Heribert Fischer argued in the 1960s that Eckhart was a mediaeval theologian.


The third movement of John Adams's Harmonielehre symphony (1985) is titled 'Meister Eckhart and Quackie', which imagines the mystic floating through space with the composer's daughter Emily (nicknamed Quackie) on his back whispering secrets of grace in his ear.


Eckhart's status in the contemporary Catholic Church has been uncertain. The Dominican Order pressed in the last decade of the 20th century for his full rehabilitation and confirmation of his theological orthodoxy. Pope John Paul II voiced favorable opinion on this initiative, even going as far as quoting from Eckhart's writings, but the affair is still confined to the corridors of the Vatican. In the spring of 2010, it was revealed that there was finally a response from the Vatican in a letter dated 1992. Timothy Radcliffe, then Master of the Dominicans and recipient of the letter, summarized the contents as follows:


Josiah Royce, an objective idealist, saw Eckhart as a representative Example of 13th and 14th century Catholic Mystics "on the verge of pronounced heresy" but without original philosophical opinions. Royce attributes Eckhart's reputation for originality to the fact that he translated scholastic philosophy from Latin into German, and that Eckhart wrote about his speculations in German instead of Latin. Eckhart generally followed Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of the Trinity, but Eckhart exaggerated the scholastic distinction between the Divine essence and the Divine persons. The very heart of Eckhart's speculative mysticism, according to Royce, is that if, through what is called in Christian terminology the procession of the Son, the Divine omniscience gets a complete expression in eternal terms, still there is even at the centre of this omniscience the necessary mystery of the Divine essence itself, which neither generates nor is generated, and which is yet the source and fountain of all the Divine. The Trinity is, for Eckhart, the revealed God and the mysterious origin of the Trinity is the Godhead, the absolute God.


It has been suspected that his practical communication of the mystical path is behind the influential 14th-century "anonymous" Theologia Germanica, which was disseminated after his disappearance. According to the medieval introduction of the document, its author was an unnamed member of the Teutonic Order of Knights living in Frankfurt.


John Orme Mills notes that Eckhart did not "leave us a guide to the spiritual life like St Bonaventure’s Itinerarium – the Journey of the Soul," but that his ideas on this have to be condensed from his "couple of very short books on suffering and detachment" and sermons. According to Mills, Eckhart's comments on prayer are only about contemplative prayer "detachment."

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