Meister Eckhart

From Academic Kids

Johannes Eckhart von Hochheim, better and also known as Meister Eckhart (1260-1327/8) was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born near Erfurt, in Thuringia. Eckhart is also spelled Eckard, Eccard, and Meister is German for "Master", referring to academic title he obtained in Paris.

He was one of the most influential Christian Neoplatonists, and although technically a faithful Thomist (as a prominent member of the Dominican Order), Eckhart wrote on metaphysics and spiritual psychology drawing extensively on mythic imagery. Not surprisingly, major German philosophers, from Hegel to Heidegger have been influenced by Eckhart's work.

Other notable Christian speculative mystics influenced by Neoplatonism include John of Ruysbroeck, Heinrich Suso, Johann Tauler and Angelus Silesius.


Eckhart's Style

He wrote both in learned Latin for the clergy in his tractates, and more famously in the German vernacular (at that time Middle High German) in his sermons. His thoughts reach heights and depths that seem uniquely his. His manner of expression is at once simple yet abstract and bold enough to prompt him to be tried for heresy in his last years. He died before a verdict was reached, but considered himself a submissive child of the Church till the end.

Central Doctrines

Novel concepts Eckhart had introduced into Christian metaphysics clearly deviate from pedestrian scholastic canon: in Eckhart's vision, God is primarily fertile. Out of overabundance of love the fertile God gives birth to the Son, Logos Christ. Clearly (aside from a rather striking metaphor of "fertility"), this is rooted in Neoplatonic notion of "overflow" of the One that cannot hold back its abundance of Being. Just, as a Christian, Eckhart had imagined the creation not as a "compulsory" overflowing (a metaphor based on a common hydrodynamic picture), but as the free act of will of Trinitary God. Another bold assertion is Eckhart's distinction between God and Godhead (Gottheit in German). True, these notions had been present in the Pseudo-Dionysius's writings and John the Scot's De divisione naturae, but it was Eckhart who, with characteristic vigor and audacity, had reshaped the germinal metaphors into profound and disturbing images of polarity between the Unmanisfest and Manifest Absolute.

Eckhart's psychology and pneumatology are even more original and seminal: he distinguished (as did early Gnostics like Valentinus) between psyche and spiritual element in human being. Valentinian "spiritual seed" is equivalent to Eckhart's "fuenklein", "scintilla animae", ground of the soul or "soul-spark", which he identifies with "Imago Dei" from the Bible. This indestructible and divine element in human being is for Eckhart (and for the major Christian mystical theology, including Eastern Orthodox concept of "synteresis") only a potentiality, a latent function that needs to be nourished by vituous living and spiritual vigilance in order to grow and expand - unlike perfect Buddha nature from Mahayana Buddhism or Atman from Hindu Vedanta. The "Imago Dei" is sometimes compared to fallen Adam, exiled from Paradise, and the New Adam, or Christ Logos, is potentially the final destination of soul-spark if it, through classic Christian spiritual stages of purificative, contemplative and illuminative life comes to the unitive life where soul-spark is self-transformed into Christ Logos. Hence the great Eckhart's saying:" God gives every Good man everything He has given to His Son".

Eckhart Today

Eckhart's status in the contemporary church is uncertain. The Dominican order has pressed in the last decade of the 20th century for his full rehabilitation and confirmation of his theological orthodoxy; the late Pope John Paul II voiced favorable opinion on this initiative, but the affair is still confined to the corridors of the Vatican.

In the 20th century Eckhart's thoughts have been compared to Eastern mystics by both Rudolf Otto and D.T. Suzuki, among other scholars.

External links

Template:Wikiquote Template:Wikisource author

fr:Matre Eckhart ja:マイスター・エックハルト pl:Johannes Eckhart fi:Mestari Eckhart sv:Johannes Eckehart


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