1. See my Meister Eckbart: Mystical Theologian (SPCK, 1991), pp. 22–95, for details of Eckhart’s life and background.
2. These two sermons are included in the Paradisus animae intelligentis collection, which originates from Erfurt and may contain sermons which Eckhart delivered during the early years of his career.
3. I first argued the following in ‘Why were Meister Eckhart’s propositions condemned?’ in New Blackfriars 71 (October 1990) and presented the same case in Meister Eckbart: Mystical Theologian (SPCK, 1991), pp. 31–45.
4. Both De intellectu et intelligibili and De visione beatifica are to be found in Dietrich von Freiberg, Opera omnia, Vol. I, ed. B. Mojsisch (Hamburg, 1977).
5. Although at one point he does in fact echo Proclus’s view that in speaking of the One, we are actually speaking of our idea of the One and not the One at all (see Sermon 28).
6. Karl Albert, Meister Eckharts These vom Sein: Untersuchungen zur Metaphysik des Opus Tripartitum (Saarbrücken, 1976), p. 152.
7. Foreword to V. Lossky, Théologie négative et connaissance de Dieu chez Maître Eckhart (Paris, 1960).
8. For references to the Latin works and further discussion on this point, see my God Within (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1988) p. 45.
9. Defence, IX, 38. A. Daniels (ed.), ‘Eine lateinische Rechtfertigungsschrift des Meister Eckharts’, in Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters (Münster, 1923), 23,5.
10. See the Commentary on Exodus, 112–18.
The Talks of Instruction
1. As mentioned in the Note on the Selection and Translation (p. xl), the term werk has different nuances in Eckhart’s writings. Sometimes it means specific devotional practices, as in the present passage, but sometimes it means actions we carry out in the world. In this second sense werk recalls the verb werken (‘to work’, ‘to do’ or even ‘to be active’) and it stands in contrast to sîn, or ‘being’.
2. The phrase ‘way of devotion’ here translates Eckhart’s wîse (‘way’) which is his shorthand for a particular devotional practice or practices. Eckhart is concerned to challenge a mentality which places too much stress on an external asceticism rather than the internal life of the spirit. See Introduction, p xxxi.
3. Augustine, Confessions X, ch. 26, n. 37 [ D W V].
4. Here I understand the word ungelâzen to have essentially the same meaning as abegescbeiden, although neither term has yet developed its full metaphysical weight at this early stage in Eckhart’s writing.
5. The saint in question might be Gregory the Great (Homilies on the Gospels, I, hom. 5, n. 2), Augustine (Commentary on the Psalms, (103, sermon 3, n. 16) or Jerome (On Matthew, 19, 27) [D W V].
6. An alternative reading of this is ‘and withdrawing from externality to a place of solitude’. This is the way Clark translates von ûzwendicheit (Clark and Skinner, p. 70), though Quint (D W V, p. 324) disagrees.
7. This word translates eigenscbaft, which in Eckhart means both ‘selfhood’ and the possession of ‘individual properties or characteristics’.
8. Or possibly ‘from the influence of the heavenly bodies’; see Quint’s note on this (D W V, pp. 33of.).
9. Walshe reads ‘for a better one of love’ here (W III, p. 24); I am following Quint at this point.
10. fâ, ie mêr wir eigen sîn, ie minner eigen. The meaning of this compact sentence is not entirely clear, and I am following Quint in his reading of it.
11. On Free Will, 3, 9 [D W V].
12. The original text wrongly attributes this quotation to St Paul.
13. The German verb I have rendered as ‘sharing’ here (and below) is sich erbilden, which escapes exact translation. It carries a greater ontological weight than ‘sharing’ and suggests a personal transformation, a ‘self-forming’ into the life and work of Jesus. The underlying notion is one of ‘participation’, in its mystical sense.
14. Walshe omits this sentence.
15.Here I am borrowing Walshe’s felicitous opposition between ‘feast’ and ‘fast’ (W III, p. 38).
16. Walshe reads sunderlîche as meaning ‘especially’ (W III, p. 41). I agree with Quint, however, that its meaning is für sich getrennt or ‘separately’ (D W V, p. 526).
17. Eckhart’s meaning is that perfect faith is unchanging and is independent of the world and our experience of it. Thus, being always glîch (‘equal’, ‘the same’), it allows us to accept all things equally, both the good and the bad, which is the sign for Eckhart of true detachment. The ‘external’ criteria are those of the world (rather than those of true, inner, essential and invisible being), and they are thus fluctuating and suspect.
18. Cf. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 35.
19. Some, though not all, of the manuscripts include the following passage at this point ‘For the just person, whose will is wholly good, no time can be too short. For whenever the will is such that it wills all that it can – not just now but, should that person live for a thousand years, then they would wish to do all that they could – such a will achieves as much as could be achieved in a thousand years through works: in God’s eyes it has all been done.’ This seems to represent a hiatus with its abrupt reference to time, and I cannot agree with Quint that it is ‘wholly meaningful’ in its position at the end of Chapter 21, given the ‘loose sequence of ideas in the Talks of Instruction’ (D W V, p. 330). I have chosen to omit it from the text therefore, following the practice of a number of earlier translators, and would surmise that its original position must have been in Chapter 10 of the work.
20. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 1, a. 1 and 2.
21. Cf. Pseudo-Denys, The Mystical Theology, ch. 1, para. 1.
22. I am following Walshe (p. 54) rather than Quint (p. 372) by supplying a suppressed mir to the phrase Nie enwart nihtes sô eigen.
23. This reference must be to Diogenes, the founder of the Cynic sect.
The Book of Divine Consolation
1. This is a summary of Eckhart’s system of analogy in particular as he develops it in the opening sections of his Commentary on John, where the inner-Trinitarian distinction between the Father and the Son serves also to distinguish the created from the uncreated order. See Introduction, pp. xxii – xxvi.
2. Commentary on the Psalms, 36, Sermon 1, n. 3 [D W V].
3. I am following Walshe in moving between the personal and impersonal possessive adjective with ‘the just’. The German form, which is untranslatable, is that of a singular personal substantival adjective (den gerehten), which Eckhart sometimes uses to mean an individual who is just and sometimes to mean the justice that exists in an individual in such a way as to make them just.
4. Literally, ‘impressing it upon themselves and themselves upon it’.
5. Augustine, Confessions, X, ch. 41, n. 66 [D W V].
6. Cf. Augustine, Sermon 105, n. 3, 4 and Sermon 53, 6, 6 [D W V].
7. Cf. Aristotle, Physics, IV, ch. 1, 208a, 27ff. [D W V].
8. Augustine, On the Quantity of the Soul, ch. 5, n. 9 [D W V].
9. Seneca, Natural Questions, III, para. 12 [D W V].
10. Seneca, Letter to Lucilius, 107, 11 (inaccurately quoted by Augustine in The City of God, V, ch. 8 [D W V].
11. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I q. 12, a. 9 [D W V].
12. Eckhart’s point is that we should have a ‘God’s eye’ view of our own sin. He is anxious that we should not dwell on what has been done but should rather become united with God in such a way that we are no longer capable of willing what is contrary to his will. Underlying this passage is also the idea that sin or evil is essentially nothingness, and so through becoming united with God and his goodness, all evil necessarily drops away.
13. Eckhart is advocating the value of renunciation when we suffer a loss or a lack. This, he says, is founded upon our acceptance that God does not will us to have the thing concerned. This acceptance is in turn founded upon a conforming of our will to his, and thus a union with him, which is far more enriching than what we lack could ever be.
14. Cf. Augustine, On the Trinity, b. 8, ch. 3, n. 4 [D W V].
15. Commentary on the Psalms, 30, Sermon 3, n. 11 [D W V].
16. Cf. Aristotle, On the Soul, II, t. 71 [D W V].
17. ‘Likeness’ (in the sense of ‘identity’) translates the German glîchnisse, which is itself a rendering of the Latin aequalitas, which is the quality that describes the relationship between the Father and the Son. It is therefore the principle of ‘being the same as’. It is of great importance in Eckhart’s mystical theology in that it is in so far as we are the same as God that we are united with him.
18. Eckhart is of course using a medieval scheme of the universe here according to which the earth is surrounded by rings of fire. See note 7 above.
19. ‘Mode of being’ (literally, ‘way’ or wîse) always refers to specific mode of being in Eckhart, that is to particular and local existence as distinct from universal, undifferentiated and divine existence.
20. Untypically, Walshe mistranslates enfangen wird der sun in uns (D W V, p. 41, 12) as ‘the spirit is begotten in us’ (W III, p. 8) rather than ‘the Son’. It is through the birth of the Son in us that we become the ‘sons of God’ who are the theme of this passage.
21. In this difficult passage, Eckhart brings a number of metaphysical themes together. He applies to a theology of works his own metaphysics of being, whereby the ‘inner work’ is the superior, invisible essence and the ‘outer work’ is the visible, differentiated and inferior form. He speaks then of the integration of the human person into the Trinity through adoptive Sonship, as we ascend away from the domain of the individual instance (the ‘outer work’) to the inner and unified realm of essence (the ‘inner work’). Finally, he invokes the concept of the One as the original unity of the Trinity. Although Eckhart here identifies the One with the Father, elsewhere he can speak of the One as being prior to the Father.
22. This may indeed be the influential Glossa ordinaria, as Walshe suggests (W I, p. 103, n. 45), but the principle expressed here is one which is fundamental to patristic and medieval exegesis.
23. Eckhart continually stresses that God creates the world from eternity. God himself, being eternal, acts outside time and his acts cannot therefore be thought of as temporal. But in his defence Eckhart is careful to point out that he does not believe in the eternal existence of the world, which would contradict the Christian teaching on ‘creation from nothing’. His inquisitors failed to understand the subtlety of this point.
24. See below, pp. 97–108.
25. The German verb ûfheben means both ‘to take up’ and ‘to cancel or remove’.
26. Eckhart is playing here on the theme of oneness: our sonship is to be united (one) with the Son who is himself united (one) with God, whose highest property is transcendent oneness or unicity.
27. Lives of the Fathers, I, ch. 9 [ D W V].
28. Augustine, Letter 138, ch. 3, n. 12 [D W V].
29. Cf. Augustine, Sermon 105, n. 3, 4 [D W V].
30. The source for this quotation is unclear, but compare Augustine’s Confessions, XIII, ch. 8 [D W V].
31. Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Psalms, sermon 17, n. 4 [D W V].
32. See note 7 above.
33. Cf. Jerome, Letter 120, ch. 10 [D W V].
34. Lives of the Fathers, III [D W V].
35. Cf. Platonis Timaeus interprete Chakidio, ed. J. Wrobel (Leipzig, 1876), p. 210, 26 ff. [D W V].
36. Here Eckhart is speaking from experience; we can imagine too that he frequently kept the company of merchants when, as Provincial of the Dominican province of Saxonia, he himself constantly journeyed across Europe.
37. This is one of the earliest indications of accusations levelled against the orthodoxy of Eckhart’s teaching. The fact that he goes on to quote Augustine (whose orthodoxy is beyond question) on the eternal character of God’s act of creation may mean that Eckhart is seeking to defend himself against the charge that he has taught the eternal existence of the consequence of that act, namely the world. The Augustine reference is to his Confessions, I, ch. 6, n. 10 [D W V].
38. Confessions, X, ch. 23, n. 34 [D W V].
39. Confessions, XI, ch. 8, n. 10, and XI, ch. 11, n. 13 [D W V].
40. Letters, 71, 24 [D W V].
On the Noble Man
1. Isaac Israeli, The Book of Definitions [D W V].
2. Eckhart follows medieval patriarchal tradition when he describes the higher mental powers as the ‘man’ (= ‘male’) in the soul. It is this linkage of masculinity with the higher powers of the soul which makes it particularly difficult to translate this text according to the requirements of inclusive language.
3. Cicero, Tusculan Questions, III, ch. 1, n. 2; Seneca, Letters, 73, 16 [D W V].
4. Origen, Sermons on Genesis, 13, n. 4 [D W V].
5. Augustine, On True Religion, ch. 26, n. 49 [D W V].
6. See note 4 above.
7. On the Trinity, XII, ch. 7, n. 10 [D W V].
8. There is a play on words here, for the German ein is both the indefinite article (‘a’, as in ‘a dog’) and the word for ‘one’.
9. Macrobius, The Dream of Scipio, I, ch. 6, nn. 7–10 [D W V].
10. See note 8 above.
11. Augustine, Literal Commentary on Genesis, IV, ch. 23, n. 40. The section concerning morning and evening knowledge is reproduced by Henry Suso in his Little Book of Truth, ed. Bihlmeyer, pp. 346f. [D W V].
12. For example, Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, c. 71 [D W V].
13. This passage on blessedness is again substantially taken over by Henry Suso in his Little Book of Truth, ed. Bihlmeyer, p. 346, 8–16 [D W V].
14. In order to make his point, Eckhart is in fact inverting his usual position here by prioritizing the individual instance of ‘being white’ above the universal principle of ‘whiteness’ itself.
Selected German Sermons
1. The volitional, rational and irascible parts of the human person belong to scholastic anthropology. According to Eckhart, the action of grace produces in these the ‘divine’ (or ‘theological’, as they are more generally known) virtues, which is to say faith, hope and love.
2. Eckhart may owe this parallel to the work of Hildegard of Bingen, who made an explicit link between the action of divine grace as the animating force within nature and the sanctifying action of grace which enlivens the human soul. See Davies, Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian, pp. 51–9, for a discussion of Eckhart and Hildegard.
3. Quint suggests the Tractatus de statu virtutum, pars tertia: De timore et charitate, n. 37, PL 184, 810 by Pseudo-Bernard as a possible source [D W II].
4. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 72, n. 16 [D W II].
5. There is an untranslatable word-play in the German here between rîche (‘rich’), rîche (’kingdom’) and rîchtuom (‘wealth’).
6. Cf Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 50, a. 3, ad 1.
7. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 50, a. 4, ad 4.
8. Cf. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, ch. 5, n. 10 [D W II].
9. That is to say, a daughter. It was assumed in medieval culture that procreation occurred through the father with no direct contribution by the mother, who served merely as a vessel for the father’s seed. It was also believed that the male was the norm, and hence the birth of a female child was the result of some kind of malfunction.
10. On the Epistle of John to the Parthians, tr. 2, n. 14 [D W II].
11. Here Eckhart begins a passage which is an interpretation of the opening lines of the prayer of the rosary: ‘Hail Mary (Ave Maria) [full of grace], the Lord is with you’. Elsewhere he derives ave from sine vae, meaning ‘without pain’.
12. Walshe has ‘God be with you’ at this point, which deviates from the traditional form of the prayer of the rosary.
13. It is unclear which book Eckhart is referring to here.
14. See note 6 above.
15. Eckhart is perhaps following Cassiodorus in referring to Plato as ‘a great priest’ [D W II].
16. Eckhart is referring to the doctrine of exemplarism here, whereby the ‘ideas’ of creatures are first created within the Word and are therefore divine and eternal. Material creation occurs at a later point but is based upon these concepts.
17. This is Eckhart’s alternative rendering of fiat voluntas tua.
18. Augustine, Confessions, IV, ch. 12, n. 18 [D W II].
19. Cf. Augustine, Sermon 117, ch. 5, n. 7 [D W II].
20. Walshe changes Quint’s ‘physical creatures’ here to Pfeiffer’s ‘physical things’ (W I, p. 180, n. 1). I agree with Quint’s reading in that Eckhart’s point is to make a distinction between rational creatures, which is to say human kind who possess the spark of the soul or intellect, and non-rational creatures, both animate and inanimate, which do not Since it is the spark⁄intellect which alone is the site of God’s reproductive birth, Eckhart wishes to make a rational⁄non-rational distinction rather than an animate⁄inanimate one.
21. Natural Questions, l, praef. 5 [D W II].
22. Chrysostom, Incomplete Commentary on Matthew, sermon XIV [D W II].
23. Pseudo-Denys, Divine Names, V, 2 [D W II].
24. Here Eckhart is following a neoplatonic metaphysics according to which the being of the spiritual is prior to or ‘higher’ than the physical and can be said to contain it. This is a hierarchical system based upon degrees of emanation from an ultimate source.
25. Augustine, Confessions, X, ch. 26, n. 37 [D W II].
26. Celestial Hierarchy, ch. 3, para. 2 [D W II].
27. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, II, q. 29, a. 1 [D W II], although the general principle that like attracts like was a universally held tenet of medieval philosophy.
28. Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, II, ch. 27; Aristotle, On Heaven and Earth, passim [D W II].
29. Augustine, Confessions, XII, ch. 9, n. 9 [D W II].
30. The language of this section with its trinitarian imagery of ‘flowing’ and interpenetration seems remarkably close to Mechthild von Magdeburg’s The Flowing Light of the Godhead, which text Eckhart must surely have known (see Davies, Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian, pp. 59–65).
31. The two saints concerned are the martyrs Cosmas and Damian, whose feast day fell on 27 September (now 26 September). They are remembered as doctors who were renowned for healing people at no cost, which well accords with Eckhart’s theme in this sermon of acting without premeditated reasons.
32. See Jerome, On the Book of Jeremiah, 6, for this quotation [D W II].
33. The possible meaning of this difficult sentence is that if we have entirely become love, and are assumed into God, then the forms of intersubjective knowing break down. Walshe suggests: ‘One who is thus in love and is all love, will think God loves him alone, and he knows of none who loved, or was loved by any but Him alone’ (W II, p. 100).
34. The Aristotelian term ‘accidence’ is used here in opposition to ‘essence’ or ‘being’.
35. These texts are provided in Pfeiffer and are the texts for the feast of St Vitalis.
36. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 30, a. 3 ad 2 [D W II]. The point is that the Trinity embodies the principle of multiplicity but not number, since that would mean that the three Persons are distinct beings.
37. This passage is a key to understanding Eckhart’s rhetorical technique, which always concentrates upon our likeness to God and not our difference from him.
38. Augustine, On the Epistle of John to the Parthians, tr. 2, n. 14 [D W II].
39. Literally, ‘God does not seek his own’.
40. Quint points out that the word understât, which means ‘to stand under’, is an exact equivalent of the Latin substare, which means ‘to be substantial’ (D W I, pp. 14f.). Eckhart is playing with paradoxical metaphysical concepts in order to convey the transformation of a soul in union with God which passes from (its own) somethingness to nothingness to (God’s) somethingness again.
41. Walshe points out both that there is no mention of a virgin in the Latin text and that the German word enpfangen means ‘to conceive’ as well as ‘to receive’ (W I, pp. 77f.).
42. That is, ‘before I emerged into existence from the mind of God’.
43. This is the will, while the former is the intellect, which, together with the will, forms the basis of medieval psychology.
44. Walshe notes that according to the Basel print of Tauler’s works this is a sermon for the feast of SS. John and Paul on 26 June [W II, p. 247 ].
45. Aristotle, On Generation and Corruption, A, ch. 6 [D W I].
46. Another of Eckhart’s sermons (Latin sermon XLVII, n. 486) reveals that the reference is to Gregory’s gloss on Exodus 33 [D W I].
47. Cf. Albert the Great, On Generation and Corruption, I, tr. 1, ch. 25 [D W I].
48. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologien, I, q. 4, a. 2, ad 3 [D W I].
49. Or, alternatively, ‘all creatures are a single being’. If the latter is intended (as Quint and Walshe suppose), then the meaning is that being is univocal: it is a unified property which is common to all existents. But it seems that Eckhart intends no more here than to remind us that the being of creatures serves to align them with God.
50. Cf. The Book of Causes, prop. 3. In order to understand the preceding passage it is worth considering the scholastic philosophy of forms, which maintained a distinction between ‘being’ as such, which might be the potential being of creatures in the mind of God or the actual being of creatures, and ‘living’, which is brought about by the activation of the being of one creature by another. ‘Being’ therefore is always the gift of God, while ‘living’ (that is ‘activated being’) is caused by the action of one creature on another.
51. That is, of God, according to Quint [D W I]. Alternatively, this phrase might mean that being is the first creature.
52. Walshe translates this wrongly as ‘So far as our life is one being …’ (W II, p.245).
53. Augustine, Literal Commentary on Genesis,1. 4, ch. 23, n. 40; ch. 24, n. 41, and Thomas Aquinas, Summa tbeologica, I, q. 58, a. 6, ad 2 [D W I].
54. Elsewhere Eckhart refers this same point to Aristotle’s On the Soul, I [D WI].
55. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 77, a. 8 [D W I].
56. This text is taken from the old Dominican Missal for the Feast of St Germanus, who is probably the ‘holy confessor’ to which Eckhart refers in the following line [D W I].
57. As Quint points out, Eckhart translates the Latin inventus (meaning ‘found’) as ‘found within’ in order that it should suit what he has to say [D WI].
58. The more likely source for this quotation is not Commentary on the Psalms, 74, n. 9, as Théry asserts (followed by Quint and Walshe), but Confessions, III, ch. 3, n.6.
59. This passage reflects Augustinian epistemology, whereby human cognition depends upon the reception of a divine light of truth. Quint refers to a number of parallel passages in Thomas Aquinas, namely Summa theologica, I, q. 77, a. 8, and I, II, q. 67, a. 1, ad 3 [D W I].
60. Aristotle, Metaphysics, I, 1 (W II, p. 147).
61. Augustine, On the Gospel of John, tr. 13, n. 3 [D W I].
62. This is broadly the teaching of Peter Lombard, Sentences, I, d. 17 [D WI].
63. Since God is one, we too must be one where we are conformed to his nature. Preference and distinction, however, belong to the world of multiplicity and are therefore opposed to God. This is the central principle of Eckhart’s ethical thinking.
64. The word glîch actually means both ‘equal’ and ‘alike’. For an understanding of the following passage it is important to note that ‘likeness’ for Eckhart is ‘oneness’, which is the specific quality of God and of all things as they exist in God.
65. There is perhaps an echo here of Eckhart’s reverie upon the moment of creation which we find in his Commentary on Exodus, n. 16:‘It shows also a kind of self-reflection of being upon itself, a D Welling or settling within itself, it shows even a rising up, or self-generation – being seething within itself, flooding and simmering in and upon itself…’ (L WII, 21f.).
66. Quint rightly suggests that this word must be ‘is’ [D W I].
67. Cf. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, III, 9 [D W I].
68. What seems to underlie this statement is the general Dominican position that love cannot unite to the extent that knowledge can. See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, 2, q. 3, a. 4.
69. Here Eckhart is equating the Father with oneness; elsewhere he includes the Father with the other divine Persons as being contrary to oneness.
70. The phrase ‘negation of negation’ also occurs in Thomas Aquinas, Quodlibet, X, q. 1, a. 1, ad 3 [D W I], but it originates in William of Moerbeke’s Latin translation of Proclus’s commentary on the Parmenides.
71. I have followed Walshe in placing this line here rather than in the following paragraph.
72. Thomas Aquinas, Summa tbeologica, I, q. 112, a. 1, c [D W I].
73. ibid., I, q. 54, a. 5, c [D W I].
74. Clark suggests that Aristotle’s Metaphysics, XI, 7, may underlie this statement.
75. Cf. Aristotle, On the Soul, III, ch. 8, 431 b [D W I].
76. Quint points out that the first ‘power’ in this sentence is desire, while ‘the other power in the soul’ refers back to the transcendent ‘something’, which is the soul’s ‘spark’ [D W II].
77. That is to say, closer to her original source in God.
78. ‘Being’ here signifies limited and temporal existence.
79. Walshe unaccountably renders this as ‘What is it that God “tells” us?’.
80. The mark of spiritual progress for Eckhart is the lessening of the sense of individual self as we grow into universal human nature, in which there can be no distinctions and no self-interest. Jesus Christ assumed universal human nature, and thus to make universal human nature our own is to become united with Christ. See also note 63 above.
81. On the Epistle of John, tr. II, n. 14 [D W I].
82. Quint suggests that the text is corrupt here, and I am following Walshe’s translation (W I, p. III).
83. The conclusion seems to be missing from this particular sermon, since it does not end with the usual formula.
84. See the remarks on this sermon in the Introduction, p. xxvi.
85. In his defence Eckhart distances himself from the line ‘I myself am this image’ on the grounds that no creature can be this image (A. Daniels, ‘Eine lateinische Rechtfertigungsschrift des Meister Eckhart’ in Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters (Münster, 1923), p. 18. This apparent inconsistency only serves to underline the rhetorical character of much in the German sermons.
86. In the old Dominican missal this is the text for the feast of the Assumption. It is reasonable to suppose that this is a relatively late sermon, dating from Eckhart’s last years in Strasburg or Cologne, since it contains both a reference to an individual who is accused of heresy (who may well be Eckhart himself) and numerous strictures against precisely those pantheistic and immoral ways of misinterpreting Eckhart’s teachings which formed a central part of the accusations against Eckhart himself.
87. It is customary in patristic literature to use the Martha—Mary story to exemplify the priority of the contemplative life (Mary) over the active one (Martha). Eckhart is consciously inverting this structure in order to state his belief in the ultimate unity of being and ethics.
88. Walshe renders nâch den nidem sinnen as ‘in their inner senses’, rather than ‘lower senses’. But ‘inner’ always signifies the ‘higher’ or ‘more essential’ in Eckhart, and he is clearly referring here to the bodily senses.
89. The meaning here appears to be that the value of experience is greater even than that of internal revelation. In the eternal light we see all things as one, while at the level of creation (life) distinctions are visible.
90. Quint notes that he cannot find any trace of this quotation in Isidore [D W III].
91. The words sorge and sorcsam sustain meanings that are not easily reproduced in English (e.g. ‘care’, ‘concern’, ‘oppression’ or even ‘prudence’). Eckhart is evidently seeking to interpret Christ’s remark to Martha in a positive sense, as meaning that she is intellectually detached and circumspect.
92. Walshe wisely suggests that the passage omitted at this point is corrupt.
93. An account of this legend is given in the Legenda aurea by Eckhart’s fellow Dominican, Jacobus a Voragine [D W III].
94. Since the manuscript tradition does not support the possibility of the transposition of the names of Mary and Martha at this point, the likely meaning is that Martha too once sat at the feet of Christ just as Mary now does. See Quint [D W III, pp. 502–3, n. 50 ].
95. There is something defensive in the rhetorical élan of this sermon which supports the opinion of Edmund Colledge that it may have been delivered during the process against Eckhart at a point when the Meister felt that he was unlikely to win the day. It is certainly one of the most rhetorical of any of Eckhart’s surviving sermons. The key to its imagery is Eckhart’s belief that we should progress from the first level of our existence as ordinary, contingent beings in time and space to the second, more essential level of our existence, which is that which we enjoy from eternity, in the mind of God.
96. Albeit the Great, Commentary on Matthew, V, 3 [D W II].
97. Walshe renders this difficult phrase: ‘But when I left my free will behind …’ (W II, p. 271), but it seems to me Eckhart’s meaning is that God’s free will (through which the Creation came about) was my free will since, prior to the Creation, I was in God and was one with God.
98. Eckhart is distinguishing here between God in himself and the ‘God’ who exists as a name and concept in the minds of his creatures. Eckhart is constantly concerned that we should abandon our restricting ideas about God and come to perceive him in his true transcendence.
99. Literally, ‘that the accidental in him was perfected into essence’.
100. It seems to me that Quint is wrong to insert the epithet ‘eternal’ before ‘birth’ at this point and that Eckhart is specifically referring to ‘birth in time’ (D W II, p. 730).
101. The key to this difficult passage is that Eckhart is enjoining his listeners to conceive of an absolute unity with God by reflecting back to a point before their own creation as creatures separate from God. In such a unity, God’s knowledge becomes their knowledge and God’s action their action. Again, this is a rhetorical device pursued for spiritual effect.
102. This reading is for the third Sunday after Easter.
103. Aristotle, On the Soul, B, 7, 419a. But elsewhere Eckhart refers the first quotation to Democritus [D W III].
104. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, I, 7 [D W III].
105. The following lines suggest that Eckhart is talking here about the identity between the Son, who is the ‘image’ of God in the Trinity, and the intellect, which is the ‘image’ of God in the human soul.
106. The word ‘vestige’ translates fouzstapfe (literally, ‘footprint’). Eckhart must be referring here to Bonaventure’s understanding of the created order as the vestigia of God (Latin: ‘footprints’ or ‘vestiges’; e.g. The Journey of the Mind into God, I, 11; II, 7).
107. This story is told of Archimedes (DP, pp. 526f.).
108. This is reminiscent of Gregory of Nyssa’s understanding of epektasis (as infinite progression into God) which he discusses in particular in his Life of Moses.
109. This sermon was probably preached on the 24th Sunday after Trinity [D W III].
110. Cf. Augustine, Literal Commentary on Genesis, VII, ch. 21 [D W III].
111. God cannot unite himself with the soul where she is different from him but only where she is his equal, that is where she already exists within him.
112. Cf. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 69, n. 6 [D W III].
113. By arguing that we ‘spiritualize’ objects through allowing them to penetrate our consciousness, Eckhart appears to be anticipating the redemptive view of consciousness that we find in a modern poet such as Rainer Maria Rilke.
114. Ratio is a term from medieval philosophy which in this case means the intelligible reality of a thing.
115. According to the old Dominican missal, this text belongs to the 19th Sunday after Trinity [D W III].
116. Proclus, The Book of Causes, prop. 6 [D W III].
117. Actually Pseudo-Denys, Mystical Theology, ch. 1, para. 1 [D W III].
118. Augustine, sermon 117, ch. 3, n. 5 [D W III],
119. Eckhart actually uses the term geistlich here, which refers to geist or ‘spirit’ in the sense of ‘mind’.
120. This final phrase might also read ‘from nothing into nothing’, which Walshe prefers, but see also Sermon 12, particularly p. 156.
121. The second part of this line seems obscure. I have inserted the subject ‘Word’ in order to convey the sense of a reciprocal gazing which seems to be indicated by the following section.
122. This sentence must refer to the paradigm of divine immanence and transcendence which characterizes the status of the created world and which Eckhart explores more generally in his theory of analogy.
123. Cf. Pseudo-Denys, Celestial Hierarchy, III, 2.
124. Eia, in gezogenheit bechenne di cher dein selbs … (J, p. 49, 1. 24f.).
125. I have not translated the first half of this sermon which is in the main a technical discussion of trinitarian theology.
126. This appears to echo the line from the twenty-seventh sermon by Leo the Great which reads, ‘Awake, O man, and recognize the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in the image of God’ (PL 54, 220).
127. That is in the Son, or Second Person of the Trinity.
128. There must be a pun here on the Latin virtus, which means both ‘virtue’ and ‘power’ (‘efficacy’).
129. Eckhart usually quotes Augustine on this point. See note 10 above.
130. See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, q. 3, a. 4.
131. Literally, ‘perceives herself’ In this passage Eckhart is postulating the absolute identity of the soul with God at a point in the future.
132. For example, Sermon 342 (PL 39, 1534).
133. This refers back to an earlier distinction (J, p. 85) between the first kingdom of God which is in God’s unity, and the second kingdom which is in the soul.
Selected Latin Sermons
1. Cf Commentary on the Psalms, 103, Sermon 4, n. 9 [L W IV].
2. On the Orthodox Faith, III, ch. 24 [L W IV].
3. Koch suggests that the reference here is to the outer ring of the heavens which, according to medieval cosmology, makes a complete circle every twenty-four hours and hence imitates God in its desire to be everywhere present at the same time [L W IV].
4. Cf. Augustine, On the Immortality of the Soul, ch. 1, n. 1 [L W IV].
5. English translations of this sermon can be found in Clark and Skinner,Meister Eckhart: Selected Treatises and Sermons, pp. 208–12, and McGinn, Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher, pp. 223–7.
6. This is the so-called ontological argument for the existence of God which Anselm gives in the Proslogion, ch. 2.
7. Actually ch. 7, n. 7 [L W IV].
8. ibid. [L W IV].
9. Ch.7, n.15 [L W IV].
10. I, praef. 13 [L W IV].
11. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, V, t. 20, which Thomas Aquinas quotes in Summa theologica, I, q. 93, a. 9 [L W IV].
12. The Book of Causes, prop. 4.
13. Actually ch. 30, n. 55 [L W IV].
14. Ch. 24. n. 35 [L W IV].
15. According to medieval biology, the male is the reproductive agent.
16. Augustine, On the Trinity, XIV, ch. 8, n. 11 [L W IV].
17. Here Eckhart is thinking of the formal prayers of the Church.