Johannes Eckhart

German Dominican mystic


January 1, 1260
January 1, 1327
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Germany, Catholic Church, Early works, History, Eckhart,--Meister,--d. 1327,


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Meister Eckhart (in English, Master Eckhart; born Johannes Eckhart; also called Eckhart von Hocheim; also spelled Eckehart) was a theologian, a writer, and the greatest German mystic of the Middle Ages. His writings focused on the relationship of the individual soul to God.

Born in Hochheim, Eckhart joined the Dominicans at the age of 15 and continued his theological studies as a member of the order. He received a master's degree in theology from the University of Paris in 1302 and then served as prior at Erfurt and as Dominican vicar-general for Bohemia. He was a professor of theology in Paris in 1311, and between 1314 and 1322 he taught and preached in Strasbourg and was also a preacher in Cologne, where he was respected for both his administrative ability and his sermons.

Eckhart's theology followed that of another Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, but it also incorporated much Neoplatonic thought. His teachings on the union of the soul with God led to accusations of pantheism, a charge also made against the Rhineland mystics who followed him. In 1327 the Avignonese pope John XXII summoned Eckhart to defend himself against accusations of heresy. Eckhart recanted on some 26 articles (or propositions), but a papal bull issued in 1329 to condemn Eckhart's teaching named 28.

Modern scholars consider Eckhart's mysticism generally orthodox, although surviving sermons and tracts are usually thought to have been edited by Eckhart's friends and foes. Talks of Instruction (1300?), The Book of Divine Consolation (1308?), and a score of sermons are considered among the most authentic works.

Eckhart had a profound influence on the development of the German language, as he wrote in German as well as in Latin. The German idealists looked to Eckhart as a forerunner of their movement, and modern scholars have traced his influence in the development of Protestantism and existentialism.

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