to study Meister Eckhart?
I am student of medieval Philosophy in Tehran University (Human Sciences & Cultural Studies Institute) at the level of M. A. Now I am working on my thesis named : An Introduction to Christian Mysticism With regard to Meister Eckhart & Jacob Boehme's thought. My thesis process is as below:
Preface / Introduction / What is mysticism & Christianity? / Background
Meister Eckhart / Life / Works / View of God / Trinitarian Process / God in creation / Relation of the soul to god / Sin & redemption / Place of Christ / Ethics
Jacob boehme / Life / Works / Occult Sciences
I will be absolutely glad if I use of your help as an expert in this matter:
1- What is your idea about my work?
2- What is the best translation of Eckhart's work in English?
3- Is there any valuable about his work in the internet (whether first hand or second hand works), please guide me.
4- Where can I find the manuscript version of ALGK from?
5- I am searching for a English translation of a book named Meister Eckhart und Seine
Junger, by Frantz Jostes
6- I will be enthusiastic to receive your other recommendation about it.
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First of all let me state that I am
not an expert on this matter, as you say. This is not an expression of
modesty, but just the truth. A truth that should be the starting point of any
attempt on writing a book on mysticism, whether Christian or Buddhist or
Muslim or whatever sort of mysticism. Even when I will have read all of
Meister Eckhart's works and all the relevant sources and all the secondary
literature - even then I will not have become an expert. Why?
The word "mysticism",
"mystic" and the like comes from the Greek verb myein (closing one's
and mouth), from which comes mysterion (mystery) and the like. Mysticism,
then, is not some kind of "secretism", of refusing to reveal a
truth, but a way of knowing something, in which way one does not know
what he knows and can not tell adequately what he knows.
There is a lot of discussion among
the scholars about Plato's so called "secret doctrine". Plato
himself, in his 7th
epistle, writes about a kind of knowledge, about which no one can speak or
"Yet this much I
know-that if the things were written or put into words, it would be done best
by me, and that, if they were written badly, I should be the person most
pained. Again, if they had appeared to me to admit adequately of writing and
exposition, what task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to
write what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things
into the light for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing for men that
there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this topic-except for some
few, who are able with a little teaching to find it out for themselves. As for
the rest, it would fill some of them quite illogically with a mistaken feeling
of contempt, and others with lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though
they had learnt something high and mighty."
In the Bible there is a commandment
that fits perfectly to our current discussion: "Give not that which is
holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample
them under their feet, and turn again and rend you". Think also of the
Zen masters that welcomed their students by hitting them or saying some insult
to them. This was not to humiliate them. It was just the first lesson: there
is nothing to learn here, there is nothing to be taught, you are a fool, who
seek the truth like if truth were in whatever place or person or book outside
yourself and your place and your book.
An expert is someone that knows
perfectly or better than anyone else a specific topic. A mystic is not and can
not become an expert and a writer on mysticism can not become an expert,
because mystical knowledge can never be perfect and can not be taught to
people that don't have it already! It is not "out there" to be
found, it is not "out there" to be taught, it is inside and it will
remain thus, with the only possibility of offering some hints to persons that you see they can find it out for themselves and in themselves.
Now, before we see your study plan
we have first to ask some questions.
What are you thinking for? What do
you want? Whom are you talking to?
If you write this dissertation in
order to become a professor in a university, go on. Read a lot of books,
produce an infinity of footnotes, and your goal is achieved provided that you
don't have the IQ of a stone. But if you want this dissertation as a personal
exersice in order to understand what mysticism can be in your life, then you
don't need a complete bibliography, you don't even need to read all of Meister
Eckhart's works, but you do need the IQ of a stone!
You can write a small book, or you
can write a large book - Borges wrote a library! - but in any case, in all
your pages you need to have just one word, and this is already too much: a
deviation, a mistake and a sin! A second or a third word are gates and your
town will be conquered, sooner or later, and the swine will trample the holy
under their feet. God will forgive your sin, if it is a one-word sin, if your
town is an invitation for the conquerors to smash their teeth on it.
Your study plan is a plan that is
normally used by conquerors. If you see it fit, go on, but I wouldn't
recommend it. It is like defending a town by building stairways. To defend a
town you don't need stairways, you need walls - or, rather, you need walls
that can be stairways under certain conditions. Best of all is to use walls
that would be stairways to you and your friends and that will seem to be
stairways to anyone else, so that, you will not only protect your town now,
but you will make the swine believe they've conquered it, this way preventing
future attacks! Plato, who was a great teacher and lover, built a lot of
stairways. They all lead outside the walls, so that the swine would remain
calm eating whatever and he could reach his hand to the friends that would
also arrive. It's not the same with Meister Eckhart. He was careless and his
face is wounded. The swine have eaten large portions of it, so that you will
not be able to see him until you heal the wounds. The cause of the wounds is
mainly scholasticism and talkativeness.
If I were your tutor, first of all
and without second thought, I would erase from your study plan the trinitarian
theology and christology. You can not have in your book chapters on these
matters. Maybe, and if it is absolutely important in order to clarify other
issues, and if you devote lengthy and intense study and prayer and if you fear
God, you can attempt one or two theological hints and nothing more. I would
also erase the chapters "What is mysticism & Christianity?" and
"View of God", or, rather, I would suggest a completely new study
plan, or, even better, a possible way for you to build a better study plan
Take some of Meister Eckhart's
works, forget your studies and study plans, make yourself a cup of coffee or
tea or whatever. Think of a question of yours, a problem that you face in your
life, like, e.g., "how can I help my friend who feels his life
empty", etc. A real problem, an open question that you do have right now.
Then read a sermon or a treatise of Meister Eckhart trying to find something
useful for you, something that would help you think on your real and present
problem. If you won't find anything, then forget about Meister Eckhart. Maybe
some other time you will have the chance to use him. If you will find
something, then build your study plan around whatever you found.
If Meister Eckhart couldn't help
you in your life, how can your study on him be of any use to our life? If you
won't work like this, you will write a useless book - useless both to you and
to us - and you will make Meister Eckhart seem an absolutely useless person.
His German sermons and treatises,
so far as I know, are translated in English, in a good although not ideal
translation, by M.O'C. Walshe. At "Meister Eckhart: The essential
sermons, commentaries, treatises, and defense", by Edmund Colledge and
Bernard McGinn, you will find a carefully compiled anthology of German and
Latin works fairly translated in English. You will find the "Parisian
questions and prologues" translated by Armand Maurer.
These translations represent only a
fifth (or less) of Eckhart's works, which are available at Kohlhammer's
critical edition in German and Latin. However, I believe they are enough for
you to work and write something useful. You will need access to the prototype
in order to clarify crucial terms. This means that you need some knowledge of
Middle High German and Latin and relevant dictionaries.
"Meister Eckhart und seine jünger",
so far as I know, is not translated in English. From secondary bibliography I
would recommend maybe Robert Forman's book "Meister Eckhart: mystic as theologian".
You will find some useful material
on the internet too. Start from the
Meister Eckhart Site.
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Meister Eckhart Site
Condemnation of Meister Eckhart
Mysticism in various traditions