Life and times of the 14th century German spiritual leader Meister Eckhart, whose theory of a personal path to the divine inspired thinkers from Jean Paul Sartre to Thomas Merton, and most recently, Eckhart Tolle
Meister Eckhart was a medieval Christian mystic whose wisdom powerfully appeals to seekers seven centuries after his death. In the modern era, Eckhart's writings have struck a chord with thinkers as diverse as Heidegger, Merton, Sartre, John Paul II, and the current Dalai Lama. He is the inspiration for the bestselling New Age author Eckhart Tolle's pen name, and his fourteenth-century quotes have become an online sensation. Today a variety of Christians, as well as many Zen Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Jewish Cabbalists, and various spiritual seekers, all claim Eckhart as their own. Meister Eckhart preached a personal, internal path to God at a time when the Church could not have been more hierarchical and ritualistic. Then and now, Eckhart’s revolutionary method of direct access to ultimate reality offers a profoundly subjective approach that is at once intuitive and pragmatic, philosophical yet non-rational, and, above all, universally accessible. This “dangerous mystic’s” teachings challenge the very nature of religion, yet the man himself never directly challenged the Church.
Eckhart was one of the most learned theologians of his day, but he was also a man of the world who had worked as an administrator for his religious order and taught for years at the University of Paris. His personal path from conventional friar to professor to lay preacher culminated in a spiritual philosophy that combined the teachings of an array of pagan and Christian writers, as well as Muslim and Jewish philosophers. His revolutionary decision to take his approach to the common people garnered him many enthusiastic followers as well as powerful enemies. After Eckhart’s death and papal censure, many religious women and clerical supporters, known as the Friends of God, kept his legacy alive through the centuries, albeit underground until the master’s dramatic rediscovery by modern Protestants and Catholics.
Dangerous Mystic grounds Meister Eckhart in a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien. In the midst of this medieval society, a few decades before the Black Death, Eckhart boldly preached to captivated crowds a timeless method, a “wayless way,” of directly experiencing the divine.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Joel F. Harrington is Centennial Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author or editor of six books on the social and religious history of pre-modern Germany, including The Faithful Executioner, which has been translated into twelve languages. He lives with his family in Nashville.
Table of Contents
Key Names and Terms xv
Part I Letting Go of the World: The Friar
1 The Noble Heart: Young Eckhart absorbs the chivalric ideal of higher love 15
2 Heroic Christianity: Young Eckhart seeks a pure spirituality within the world of late medieval religion 39
3 The Dominican Way: Eckhart enters the Order of Preachers at Erfurt 63
4 The Right State: The prior Eckhart teaches young friars the interior nature of true religion 89
Part II Letting Go of God: The Scholastic
5 The Science of God: Eckhart begins graduate study of theology at the University of Paris 109
6 Master of Learning: Eckhart becomes adept as a scholastic theologian 135
7 Knowing the Unknowable God: Eckhart embraces negative theology and intuitive knowledge 157
Part III Letting Go of the Self: The Preacher
8 Pernicious Females: Eckhart encounters the nuns and beguines of Strasbourg 181
9 Master of Living: Eckhart adapts his scholastic teachings for a popular audience 209
10 The Wayless Way: Eckhart preaches on achieving divine union 229
11 Living Without A Why: Eckhart preaches on life and ethics after divine union 247
Part IV Holding On to Religion: The Spiritual Icon
12 Devil's Seed: Eckhart struggles with inquisitors in Strasbourg and Avignon 269
13 The Man from Whom God HID Nothing: Eckhart's reputation and legacy up to the present day 293
Recommended Reading 327
Illustration Credits 363
This wise and well-written book is a good introduction to the life and thinking of Meister Eckhart, but it is also something more. It uses Eckhart as a platform for discussing the wider culture of thirteenth century Christianity, taking up topics such as theological education, heroic epics, mendicant orders, church politics, and the quest for authentic spirituality in a culture of growing materialism. Anyone interested in the history of the Middle Ages and of Western mysticism will enjoy it. I took off one star only because the various parts didn't always hang together well.