Meister Eckhart (c. 1260 - 1327/8) is one of the great
Christian mystics. He was born near Erfurt in Thuringia
and in his distinguished career became a Parisian Professor
of Theology and took a leading pastoral and organisational
role in the Dominican Order.
In the language of the Christian tradition Eckhart
expounds the eternal mysteries in a style that is fresh
and original in the best sense. Through the vividness
of his use of imagery (alluding to the mysteries of
the spark of the soul, the Abyss, the desert, the birth
of the Word in the heart, etc.) Eckhart paradoxically
directs us to that which lies beyond image.
The depth and universality of Eckhart's teaching has
drawn seekers of truth Christian and non-Christian alike.
His radical and penetrating insight makes him a natural
point of reference for a genuinely ecumenical understanding.
Despite Meister Eckhart's distinction and popularity,
indeed partly because of it, in the political and ecclesiastical
turbulence of the fourteenth century, the Meister found
himself accused of heresy. Some passages of his work
were posthumously condemned as heretical or dangerous
and a shadow was cast over his reputation. His works
were influential in late medieval spirituality but later
were almost forgotten. With the growing interest in
Eckhart today, both inside and outside the Church, it
needs to be made clear whether he is acceptable to the
Church as a Christian theologian and spiritual master.
Since 1980 steps have been taken by the Dominican Order,
supported by lay people and friends, to seek an official
declaration from the Pope in order to acknowledge "the
exemplary character of Eckhart's activity and preaching
and to recommend his writings (particularly the spiritual
works, treatises and sermons) as an expression of authentic
Christian mysticism and as trustworthy guides to the
Christian life according to the spirit of the gospel".
In 1985 the Master of the Dominican Order set up a
Commission to examine the orthodoxy of Eckhart's teaching,
and one of the initial aims of the Eckhart Society was
to support the work of that Commission, whose report
has now been submitted.
Some sayings of Meister Eckhart:
"Whoever possesses God in their being, has him
in a divine manner, and he shines out to them in all
things; for them all things taste of God and in all
things it is God's image that they see."
"People should not worry as much about what they
do but rather about what they are. If they and their
ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you
are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous.
We should not think that holiness is based on what we
do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works
which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works."
"It is a fair trade and an equal exchange: to
the extent that you depart from things, thus far, no
more and no less, God enters into you with all that
is his, as far as you have stripped yourself of yourself
in all things. It is here that you should begin, whatever
the cost, for it is here that you will find true peace,
and nowhere else." Talks of Instruction
In 1985 the Pope, John Paul II, said: "Did not
Eckhart teach his disciples: 'All that God asks you
most pressingly is to go out of yourself - and let God
be God in you'? One could think that, in separating
himself from creatures, the mystic leaves his brothers,
humanity, behind. The same Eckhart affirms that, on
the contrary, the mystic is marvelously present to them
on the only level where he can truly reach them, that
is in God."