Johannes Eckhart

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Eckhart, Johannes

 

Born circa 1260 in Hochheim, near Gotha; died late 1327 or early 1328 in Avignon. German thinker; leading philosophical mystic of the late Middle Ages in Western Europe. Dominican monk.

Eckhart studied and taught at the University of Paris, and later in Strasbourg and Cologne; J. Tauler and H. Suso were his students. In 1329 a papal bull declared 28 articles of Eckhart’s doctrine to be false.

The sermons and treatises that Eckhart wrote in German, most of which have come down to us in his students’ notes, deviate significantly from the norms of Scholasticism in both form and philosophical content. He elaborated and refined the Christian Neo-platonism of Dionysius the Areopagite. Eckhart’s main theme is the godhead (Gotheit)—the impersonal and featureless absolute beyond the tripartite god—as the totality of qualities and creative source of the world process. Man is able to know god because of the existence in man himself of a divine “spark” that is consubstantial with god. Renouncing its selfhood and becoming one with divine nothingness, the human soul becomes an instrument of god’s endless self-perpetuation.

Eckhart’s conception, which was unacceptable to orthodox Christianity, was open to interpretation in the spirit of pantheism. His doctrine gave impetus to the tradition of German mysticism, which frequently acquired the overtones of popular heretical beliefs. His teachings anticipated the idealist dialectics, developed by F. von Schelling and G. Hegel, of the oneness and divine nature of the world process. Eckhart and his followers played an important role in the development of German literary language.

WORKs

Die deutschen und lateinischen Werke. Stuttgart, 1936–48.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. propovedi. Moscow, 1912.

REFERENCES

Kopper, J. Die Metaphysik Meister Eckharts. Saarbrücken, 1955.
Oltmanns, K. Meister Eckhart, 2nd ed. Frankfurt am Main, 1957.
Degenhardt, J. Studien zum Wandel des Eckhartsbildes. Leiden, 1967.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

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