Monday, July 16, 2012

Meister Johannes Eckhart (1260 - 1328 )

Eckhart a German theologian, philosipher and mystic, sided with the marginalized of his day and became regarded as a great teacher and speaker. He was probably born in the village of Tambach, around 1260.He was born to a noble family of landowners, but little is known about his family and early life except that he attended the University of Paris.

Eckhart joined the Dominicans, studied in Paris till 1306, and  was eventually appointed  vicar-general for Bohemia with a mandate  to set the demoralized monasteries  in order.  His evangelical activities among the undisciplined were deemed suspect, and his election (1309) to be provincial of the German province was not confirmed.  In 1311, Eckhart was appointed by the general chapter of Naples as teacher at Paris. Then followed a long period of which little is known, only that he spent part of the time at Strasbourg.

Eckhart communicated in various ways his burning sense of God's nearness to humanity. Exhorting the Dominicans, he wrote scholarly tracts, addressed the Book of Divine Comfort to the queen of Hungary, and preached everywhere to the humble and ignorant, using practical sermons on spiritual  transformation. urging people to seek the divine spark.

 Eckhart gives the following summary of his message:
When I preach, I usually speak of detachment and say that a man should be empty of self and all things; and secondly, that he should be reconstructed in the simple good that God is; and thirdly, that he should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul, such that by means of it man may wonderfully attain to God; and fourthly, of the purity of the divine nature.                                                                                                                                    
 Toward the end of his life he was wrongly accused of connection with the Beghards and charged with heresy. Nicholas of Strasbourg, to whom the pope had given the temporary charge of the Dominican monasteries in Germany, promptly exonerated him and he was upheld by his order, but the charge was pressed. by archbishop, Hermann Von Vininburg, Eckhart appealed to Rome. Eckhart delivered his protest in person before the Inquisition in Venice on 24 Jan 1327. On 13 Feb he made his public Declaration of orthodoxy in the Domincan church at Cologne.
  He died between 1327, when his appeal was denied, and 1329, when John XXII issued a bull condemning 17 of Eckhart's propositions as heretical. His disciples tried vainly to have this decree set aside.

From Eckhart's influence the Friends of God, a popular mystical movement under the leadership of such priests as John Tauler and Henry Suso, sprung up in 14th-century Germany,
 It has also been suspected that his practical communication of the mystical path is behind the influential 14th century. "anonymous" Theologica Germanica which was disseminated after his disappearance.

graphic: top, wood cut of Eckhart teaching
            bottom, painting of Eckhart

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