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
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
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."