The Mysticism of Meister Eckhart

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Community Retreat Spring 2002

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I thought of starting the conference by saying Plotinus said that there would be more truth than silence, and I'm just in silence for the rest of the time. What I want to talk about this morning is the mysticism of Meister Eckhart. I'd like to begin with a seemingly unrelated story from Rudyard Kipling. One of his short stories, a very fanciful story, is called Jim Church Flit. Jim Church was a place in England in the south, and Flit was they flew out, and they flew out with the ferries, and so the whole question of the essay, the short story, is why did the ferries leave England? That's a very important question, it really is. And actually it's the whole drift of the west in a sense that made it inhospitable for the


ferries. But it's a very amusing story. My sister says that actually when the ferries got to the south of England to the coast and got in a boat to flee to France, a wind came up and they got blown to Ireland. At any rate, they're in the south of England and I think it's Bodwyn Moor. By the way, Chaucer, the wife of Bath, talked about the fact that the friars were chasing the ferries out of the woods, and so you see they progressively went down to the south to this great big huge moor. And then as Calvinism started to take over in England, the whole movement against symbol and the imaginal and the psychic and so forth made it inhospitable for the ferries. One of the books that I've read in the last couple of years that I found very fascinating


is a book called The Domestication of Transcendence by a Protestant theologian, William Plature. And basically he's dealing with the question is why in the 20th, 21st century we've inherited a notion of God as some sort of super being out there. And he deals with Aquinas and Luther and Calvin and shows how the impact of their thought eventually led to this notion of transcendence as something out there and a superpower, the clockworker God that created the universe, but it was extremely remote. So that God is the top of kind of a metaphysical hierarchy, you know, up here and not very much related in terms of eminence and so forth. And Plature tells an amusing story that actually happened, Queen Anne in England in the early


17th century, I think it was late 16th perhaps, was supposed to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury. And the one she really wanted, she was about to appoint, but one of her advisors came to her and said, I don't think you should do it because he doesn't believe in the Trinity. He believed in God, yes, but not in the Trinity. And according to Plature, if you go to the British Museum, you can find his prayer book in which he has X'd out all of the Gloria Patris after the Psalms. So something was happening to the notion of God in the West. I recently too was reading Ronald Rolheiser's book, The Shattered Lantern, which in a way I found more interesting than his first book, which his first book, I've forgotten the title, it's very popular. What is it? Holy Longing. Holy Longing, which is kind of a restated Augustinianism, which I think is fine.


And many people refer to it as one of the best books to start beginners with for spirituality nowadays. But his second book is more on his insights into our culture. And one of the things he says is that we're a great nation of churchgoers, but for all practical purposes, we are agnostic society. That's quite a claim to make. We say we believe in God, and I think that needs to be nuanced, you know, but we say we believe in God and we even go to church, much more so statistically than other societies like France and Italy, or even England. But for all practical purposes, we're agnostic. Another thing I'd like to tell you about is that I was in a dialogue with Tibetan monks at Ithaca College about 10 years ago on a panel with Dr. Cousins, myself, and someone


else, I forget who the third person was, and three Tibetan monks, they have a little monastery in Ithaca. And when the Tibetans began talking about the Christian notion of creation, I remember our side of the panel sort of just, I could just sense a kind of discomfort. And what they were saying is how uncomfortable that they found the notion of the clockmaker God. They thought that was the Christian notion of God. And so this is evidently something they picked up in our culture as a whole or in talking to some Christians and so forth. So that I think there has been a drift in the development of Western theological understanding and religious sensibility of a putting God out there as extremely remote, you know, as the first mover, as Aristotle and Aquinas would say, but not really intimately involved


with the world. And I think we can see the results of that in the ecological crisis. Since the 18th century, our cultures have, for all practical purposes, approached nature as dead, as something that can be exploited and used, and not to be honored and reverenced and so forth. And you know that a great deal of ecological consciousness in the last 40 years has been trying to reverse that. Same with the fact that in spirituality, in the last 20 years or so, there's been a fascination with Celtic spirituality, because the Celtic spiritual tradition has a tremendous sense of the eminence of God in creation. When Father Bruno wrote up some suggestions for formation, the kind of thing that I think


sort of pushed the envelope in a way. One of the things he said is that monastic life always must foster and be rooted in a sense of the apathetic. And I mention that because Eckhart is, in a sense, the most apathetic of all the mystics. And in a sense, after studying Eckhart more deeply in the last several months, I have to say that, in a real sense, he ought to be our mystic. I think there's a really important insight there. I remember back at the Susque Millennium in 1990, when I gave my talk, that's one of the things I said, is that there is in monastic life always an apathetic dimension, that we face the mystery of God even prior to the Gospel.


It's true that Christian monasticism is deeply inspired by the Gospel and rooted in it and so forth, but monastic life as a whole always is taken by that intuition into the mystery of God and the kind of unfathomable mystery of God, which Eckhart has a tremendous sense of. Fr. Joseph said the other day that I would be talking about monastic spirituality, and I really think, in a way, I am, and it may appear that my topics are very disparate, but I think they will come together more and more. So, to get more specifically to Meister Eckhart, I particularly want to talk about Bernard McGinn's new book, which came out in January, The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart. This is not an easy book to read. It's certainly the most valuable scholarly work on Eckhart now available, and so unless


you have some foundation in Eckhart already, I wouldn't say begin with this one. But if you are fairly acquainted with Eckhart, this is a wonderful resource, and it's a job to read it. It's not easy, but it's certainly a guide. The footnotes at the end are marvelous as far as other sources and current research and so forth. I might say that I think you realize how important the work of Bernard McGinn is. He's a theologian, historical theologian, at the University of Chicago, and as you know, he's written, so far, three volumes on the history of Christian mysticism. The first volume is The Foundations, and then The Growth of Mysticism, and The Flowering of Mysticism, and the fourth projected volume, I hope he gets to finish it, is The Harvest


of Mysticism. And when he was working on The Harvest of Mysticism, he had a sabbatical, and he realized that Eckhart was so unique, so important, that he decided to write a whole monograph just on Eckhart. Eckhart, the 14th century Dominican, as most of you know, I'm sure, but I'll just review some basics, stands out among all Christian mystics, as I said, the most apophatic of all mystics, and I think, in a sense, the most creative. He's more like the Christian East, and he's also more like the non-Christian East, and two important books that you might want to look at, just on that angle, Suzuki, famous D.T. Suzuki, wrote a book, compared, called Mysticism, Christian and Buddhist.


But he only concentrates on one Christian mystic, and that's Eckhart, and Rudolf Otto, the famous historian of religions, wrote a book called Mysticism, East and West, which is a comparison of Eckhart and Schoenberg, who is sometimes called the Thomas Aquinas of Hinduism, because he's so important in the greatest articulator of Advaita Vedanta. Sometimes Eckhart is called a speculative mystic, in contrast to other mystics that are more heart-centered, and so on. And I think the word speculative, I find, it's as if he were tremendously rational,


and I find the word intuitive a better way to say it. Eckhart is taken by a tremendous intuition into the mystery of God, and the depth of the mystery, and God, the abyss even behind God, and Maximus Confessor gives this definition of intuition, the immediate experience of the thing suppressing even the concept. I call intuition the participation itself in the object known. Eckhart himself doesn't talk much about his experience, only one place that I know of, so he doesn't relate his experience the way Teresa of Avila does, let's say, but it's obvious that he has a tremendous central kind of intuition into the mystery of God. He's strongly apathetic, as I said, and for him the deepest aspect of God is darkness


and unknowing. And for those of you, perhaps, who are just beginning to understand the apathetic tradition, I'd like to say that there's two aspects to apathetism. You know, that apathetic is the contrast to cataphatic, cataphatic meaning we can name God, we can use all sorts of attributes to name God, and the names from scripture and so forth tell us about God, but the apathetic is the intuition that all of these names and all of these attributes are finite, and they never capture the mystery. I think one of the ways that this is best expressed is in Nicholas of Cusa, who says that God is like an infinite mystery represented by a circle, and our language and our concepts


are attempts to sort of try to reach that circumference, but they never do, and so that we're sort of inscribing inside of this mystery, but we never reach the fullness of the mystery. So that's one level of apathetism, is that the mind is finite, that we cannot circumscribe the mystery of God. But there's another level of apathetism, and that is that God is darkness, mystery, depth, abyss, and so on, desert, stillness, the silence out of which every word emerges, all right.


Of course, the great source of this in the Western tradition is Sue Dionysius, the Areopagite, who was perhaps a 7th century monk who was very Hellenistic. I'd like to say more about the Sue Dionysius, but I won't take time right now. It's very amusing that back in the 70s, I remember Matthew Fox was writing a series in National Catholic Reporter for Lent, and one of the essays was on Meister Eckhart, and he talked about the genius of Eckhart, and he began the essay by, little essay, it was about six paragraphs, by saying one of the problems in the history of Christian spirituality has been Neoplatonism,


and because of that we've denied the body and neglected creation and so forth and so forth. Then he talks about all the wonderful things about Eckhart, and I remember talking to Dr. Cousins about it, and he said there's no mystic who's more Neoplatonic than Meister Eckhart. I think as Father Bruno has pointed out in some of his talks and so forth, Neoplatonism does have a shadow side, and I think that's what Eckhart was pointing at. Yet there's a tremendous intuition in Neoplatonism, and Neoplatonism developed in the Christian tradition from the early centuries, 2nd century, through Pseudo-Dionysius, and even some of the critics of the Pseudo-Dionysius said his Christology was weak. It was kind of rounded out by Maximus the Confessor and so forth, so it developed through


the tradition. Probably Bonaventure is the best integration of Augustinian Christian Neoplatonism that there is, I feel. I went to the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul back in the late 50s, early 60s, and we had four years of Dominicans teaching philosophy and theology. We really got the party line in those days. I remember meeting my teacher of metaphysics, a sister of St. Joseph, probably 25 years after that, and I met her and said, Sister Mary, I'm no longer Aristotelian Thomist, I'm a Bonaventurian Christian Neoplatonic, Augustinian Christian Neoplatonic Bonaventure. She seriously said to me, that's bad, that's bad.


But in Bonaventure, I think you have the Christology rooted in the Incarnation, to make the marriage of Christian Neoplatonism with a full Christology and integration that saves the phenomenal world, so to speak. Eckhart studied Thomism when he was sent to Paris, but he was not just an imitator of Thomas, nor an improver of Thomas. He departed in a very creative way from Thomas, and the line in McGinn's book which really leapt out at me, and I thought, ah, was a line in which he says, Eckhart turns Aquinas on his head. He turns him upside down, and that's an extremely important


insight, because he departs from Thomas' basic fundamental theme that being is the name of God, and Eckhart breaks with that. Eckhart had studied under Albert the Great, and from Albert the Great, he got a very rich background in Christian Neoplatonism. Now, obviously, Thomas did too, because Thomas studied under Albert the Great, but Thomas very much went to the Aristotelian position, whereas Eckhart seemed very much taken by the Christian Neoplatonic. You know that Eckhart was under the suspicion of heresy. It used to be said that the Franciscans


did a man, reported him. That's not quite true. Some of the old books said that, that there was rivalry and jealousy. It's now evident from more recent scholarship that the Franciscans were not just Franciscans, but it was also even some of the Dominican brethren who were suspicious of his ideas. At any rate, he was called before the Inquisition at Avignon, and even before he went, he said he was ready to recant everything, and that if he was a heretic, he wasn't a material heretic. He didn't intend it, that his will was right, and he always supported the church, which is the thing to say, I guess. At any rate, he died, I believe, before getting to Avignon to defend himself, and Pope John XXII did condemn some of the propositions. They were actually


later boiled down to about 23 propositions, and the Pope did condemn some of the theses of Eckhart, but he himself was never condemned. However, it cast a pall upon him for ages, and actually in 1990, the Dominicans' general chapter tried to get his reputation cleared up, and to get that pall of heresy, condemnation, taken away, and the Vatican wouldn't do it, but it took them 400 years to catch up with Galileo, so it may take them 1400 years to catch up with Eckhart. So, no one seriously thinks anymore that Eckhart was a heretic. So, there were two themes in McGinn's book that I found very engaging. One is the way in which


Eckhart departed from Aquinas, and secondly, the question of the union of the soul with God. Always a question, I think, when you try to put a Christian mystic in the context of world religious mysticism, and I think that that's the one point in which I would have some debate with McGinn, because when he talks about the union of the soul with God, he uses the expression fusion identity, that there's a fusion identity that results, and I don't find that satisfactory, because fusion implies the unity of two, and, you know, from a probably strictly doctrinal sense, because we believe in creation, and that creation is contingent upon God,


we can never, well, it's a question I'll try to talk about more tomorrow, and that is the question of, do we talk about identity with God even prior to mystical union, or difference? And it's not as if there's an either or there, but the Christian tradition has tended to emphasize the difference, the distinction, and that's certainly what McGinn is trying to do, I think, is preserve that orthodox stand there of saying that it's a fusion, okay, but it kind of leaves, he kind of bypasses the question of talking about the nature of that union, the nature of that union. You see, St. Bernard would say that the union, there's always two, you know, the two remain, but consciousness may go, so that it's a kind of raptus, the


rapture, you know, and you're not conscious of the union. Ontologically, is there still two? Well, yes, there probably is, but you can still talk about a deeper union, and so that's the one point at which I would have loved to talk to McGinn at a greater length, and I thought about actually emailing him or talking to him by phone, and I just didn't have the courage to do it, you know, after someone does so much immense work. I didn't want to seem petty and, you know, sort of wanting to scrap with him or anything like that, but it's a question, you know, and it really, he doesn't deal with it in length, he just uses that as a way to talk about the union of the soul with God. Now, to get to that question of what way in which does Eckhart differ from Aquinas, that would take a semester, but I'll say this,


I did talk to Professor Donald Duclos down at Gwinnett Mercy College near Philadelphia, and he's one of sort of the readers behind McGinn's book and quoted a lot in the footnotes and so forth, certainly one of the greatest experts on Christian neoplatonism, and I asked him the question, how would you say Eckhart turns Aquinas on end, and he couldn't answer it. Well, it's, you know, in 10 words or less, it's kind of hard to answer it, but he did say, you get some grasp of it if I send you an essay that I wrote, it's titled, Whose Image Is This? In Eckhart's Sermons, Eckhart's notion of the image of God in us, and he compares in this essay, and I'll leave it for you because it's in Studia Mystica,


I don't know if you get Studia Mystica here, do you? No, anyhow, that's why I brought a copy, I'll leave a copy for you, because he compares the way Aquinas answers the question, whose image is this, and the way Eckhart does, and, you know, they both wrote sermons, and we usually think of Aquinas' writing, the Summa, which was very abstract, systematic theology, and we neglect the fact that Thomas wrote sermons, which are much more in the traditional style. There's a wonderful book over in your bookstore called The Doctrine of Spiritual Perfection by Anselm Stoltz of Benedictine, who taught at San Anselmo, and he was a fanatic for Aquinas. He taught Thomism at San Anselmo, and Michael Marks from Collegeville told me that one summer,


Anselm Stoltz decided to read all of Thomas Aquinas, beginning to end, and he had never read the sermons, and when he read the sermons, he began to discover aspects in Thomas he had never seen, and out of that he wrote the book The Doctrine of Spiritual Perfection, which is an exceedingly important book, because it talks about the wider, older, deeper sense of Christian mysticism in contrast to the more modern, let's say, from the 16th century on, and if you've ever read The Graces of Interior Prayer by Father Poulin, a Jesuit, you know, that was kind of a standard manual on mysticism before Vatican II. You contrast that with Stoltz, and you see quite a difference in the notion of mysticism. At any rate, I just told one of your oblates who lives in San Francisco to go to Stoltz to try to understand mysticism, and she found it very helpful. At any rate, Thomas wrote sermons,


and in his early work, Eckhart had talked about doing a systematic theology, but never did, thank God, and maybe he wouldn't have been able to do it considering the intuition he had. But at any rate, they both wrote a sermon in answer to the passage in the Synoptics where the Pharisees asked Jesus about the coin, you know, with Caesar's image on it, and who do you worship? And whose image is this? And so it gives Thomas' answer and Eckhart's answer, and there's a key difference there between the way they see it. For Thomas sees it in terms of efficient causality, that God is the maker and stamps the image, and it's sort of static. And for Eckhart, the reality of God, in a sense, is in the image, and it has a dynamism to return to the archetype. And that is one way in which you can


get a sense of the difference. For Eckhart, he simply, you know, put aside all Aristotelianism in terms of efficient causality. And for him, what matters is formal causality, and the return of the image back to the archetype. And there's a tremendous way, there's a dynamism in the sense of image in Eckhart that there isn't in Thomas. I remember one of the quotes from one of Eckhart's sermons is that an acorn grows into a tree, and a mustard seed grows into a mustard tree, and grains grow into wheat, and God's seed grows into God. And so that's why the Eastern Orthodox have found a link with Eckhart. He's got this sense of


the development, the deification. Lasky wrote a wonderful book, but it's unfortunately only in French, on the theology, negative theology of Meister Eckhart. I think there are two reasons why we, you know, I always say that when you talk about something, you have to be able to talk about the significance for the audience you're talking to. And I think there's a very important reason why Eckhart is important for us, and I alluded to it already, and that is that Eckhart operates out of this tremendous intuition of God as an abyss of mystery, as the desert, the silence, and so forth. Which the monastic life, that's the house we live in, so to speak. That's just, you know, our sensibility. And it's the reason that


monks can be on the forefront of inter-religious dialogue, because all religions, in a sense, have that intuition of the absolute, or God, and so forth. So he, in a sense, I think, is the most fitting mystic for monastics. But there's another reason I think that Eckhart is important for us. And that is that he might be the patron saint of inter-religious dialogue, or I don't really like the word patron saint very well. Inspiring muse is the way I would put it. And one of Newark Cousins graduate students at Fordham wrote a dissertation, which I'll leave here for you to look at if you'd like, that God had as theological foundation of inter-religious dialogue,


drawn from the writings of Meister Eckhart and Raimundo Panicar. And it's precisely the sense that Eckhart's intuition and expression of the desert of God is a very important horizon for all religions in our day and age. The author is Beverly Lanzada, and she says, all traditions must enter into themselves deep light for religious dialogue to happen in our day and age. She says, the desert is neither a place nor a thing, nor a substance that can be owned, possessed, determined, or set up as a limit. It therefore can be found both as the base or depth


of each religious tradition, and as the juncture where all spiritualities meet. I think that's the intuition that the Vatican office for dialogue with non-Christians had back in the early 70s, when they addressed the Abbot General of the Cistercians and the head of the Benedictines and said, we would like monks to take the forefront in dialogue with other religions, because we share that intuition into the mystery of God. Beverly Lanzada says, what is demanded in the Second Axial Age? I'm sure you're acquainted with that term that Cousins has popularized. And that is that all religions have to enter deeply into themselves. And she says, to truly take the incarnation seriously is to dispense with dichotomies, individualistic


consciousness, paradigmatic of the First Axial Period, and set about a deep and intimate confrontation with the sufferings and joys of the earth. So she spells out a kind of beginning of a Christology in terms of that also. So at any rate, I think that Eckhart is certainly extremely important for us to know something about. And if you've never read Pseudo-Dionysius, the Mystical Theology, I think that would be a place to begin. It's only about 30 pages long. And if you read it deeply and meditatively, it's not just an idea about God. It really is an experience. It leads you to that experience. There's a Buddhist author that gives you the same kind of experience called Nagarjuna. It has the same ability to not just write about it,


but to use language itself to kind of midwife you into the experience. Okay, any discussion or questions? I had a question about being. Why the difference between Eckhart saying, God is not being, and Thomas says... I knew that's the first question I'd get. Is that the definition of being? Right. Well, being is that which exists, and there is a distinction in Aquinas between being and existence. Things that exist, and then God as the being which holds them into existence. But the ultimate name of God for Aquinas is being. The source of existence. The first cause of all that exists.


It's clear in French, I think. French talks about the bird, and the thought which is that which exists. Maybe Fr. Joseph could help on that. I didn't just finish that. Well, let's not finish it. The only thing that exists is being, which is God. And then everything else are emanations of being. So it's all being. In the Buddhist sense, it's a non-duality. Eckhart says it's uno or contribuum, but he says even that's inadequate. So the difference with Eckhart is beyond being? Well, if you read Pseudo-Dionysius, Pseudo-Dionysius says the ultimate definition of word for God is the good. The good which overflows. The source. And that's exactly what Bonhoeffer says.


That the ultimate is the good. And that differs from Aquinas who says that the ultimate is being. But Eckhart is trying to say something that is even beyond that. Bruno, do you want to try? No, I don't. Because Eckhart tends to, between the good and knowledge, he comes down on the side of knowledge. In other words, for him, knowing is more important than loving. The other thing, I think maybe he's being so apathetic he wants to reject every equation of a name of God or being. People will say that God is beyond being. So maybe he's just throwing that apathetic leap beyond any term. Yeah, if you go to the non-conceptual, the person's in that state, they don't even know what's nervous. That's the only thing I can think of.


Some people say like I am, that you can't have anything if you don't have existence. So existence is the ultimate, because otherwise there's nothing. That's what Dionysius would say, you've got to go past everything. And so probably everybody does the same thing. Yeah, because then you don't know. What came to my mind when you talked about God as this overflowing source is, many, many writers who talk about the fruits of their contemplative experience will say that this is, for that to be authentic, it's never something that just stays within us. This is good for me, and I raise some sort of union or something with God. But it always overflows in some way. Somehow, when we have that experience, it has to come out of us. It simply can't remain with us. So in a way, it's like if we do that, then we become part of this overflowing process too. Yes, the way that Eckhart talks about that is to say that the soul is virgin


in the sense of a depth which is ultimately pure and untouched and so forth. The apophatic depth of the soul. But at the same time, it's also wife. And the virgin-wife paradox. And there's a book on that over in the bookstore which I haven't read by Amy Hollywood. Interesting name. Amy Hollywood has a book called Virgin Wife in the mysticism of Meister Eckhart. But you see, Bonaventure says that the Father is the source. The font of plenitude. The font of plenitude. The good overflowing. But Eckhart would say, yeah, you can look at the overflowing, but you can also look into the depth of the abyss. And Eckhart says there's something even beyond Trinity. And that's the oneness of God.


The oneness of God which is, you know, it's not one in contrast to three. He has a forthcoming book on mystical numbers in the Trinity. Transcendental numbers. It's very confusing for us to say God is one of three. But that's because ours has numbers. But he says that even beyond the mystery of God expressed in three-ness, there's the depth of the Godhead. And that's why he sometimes calls it Godhead, which I think is misleading. Because then there's a danger that you hypothesize it and make it into a fourth, which certainly would be unorthodox, heretical. But he also later avoids calling it Godhead. He simply calls it abyss, depth, desert.


Well, God is always beyond any definition, expression. But these relate to him in some way. Being or depth or whatever. You never know. No. Right. Right. And I think, for example, I don't mean to dismiss Thomas Aquinas completely. I mean, there's an internal coherence. And if you look at God as being, you know, that whole system can make sense. I mean, it would have never lasted so long and been endorsed by the church if it didn't say something. And even something like Merton, when he was thinking about converting and looking into Catholicism, he picked up Etienne Jolson's book on medieval philosophy and was captivated by that insight. So there's a truth there. Isn't there one way to see it?


Is the manifest and the unmanifest? Yes. And the unmanifest is the absolute. Yeah. It's related to that of Nirguna Brahma and Sarvabhauma. About the God as being, I think Eckhart still has two basic definitions or descriptions of God. And one is God as being. Or even being is God. And another is God as knowing, as Bruno pointed out. And which is more primary for him, we can discuss. Probably he moves gradually to the understanding of God as knowing. God as being, God as knowing.


But still, I think that's still very optimistic. Because St. Thomas Aquinas would say that being and knowing is the ontological unity between being and knowing. So that might be just the emphasis. Eckhart might emphasize more the aspect of knowing. But even in Thomas Aquinas, he understands the unity between being and knowing. It means the content of a being is really its index of a being is the degree of its knowing. The more a being is knowing, the more it has the content of being. That's the content of being is knowing. So knowing a being, like a material being, the index of a being is very low.


It's the lowest because they don't have that power of reflecting and coming back to themselves. It's only when we arrive at a spiritual being, then we have that real content of being, which can know itself. But of course, Thomas Aquinas doesn't deny that a material being is a real being. Because their content, compared to the spiritual being, is relatively poor. Because being a Dominican, I'm trained by Harlequin Rage Thomas Aquinas, as a senior, we can say that he departed from Thomas by opening to the more Greek tradition mediated through Dionysius.


It's hard to say that a total break from Thomas Aquinas from Thomas on the Dominican school. He's basically still in the Dominican school, but opening more to the Greek tradition. He certainly doesn't bother debating with the plants. No, he doesn't. No, there's nothing like that. You don't see that. But there's something about his stepping aside from the whole Aristotelian thing. He certainly does step aside from it. And he also is very much into John Caputo, who is a philosopher who teaches at Villanova,


has a book on Heidegger and Aquinas. And Heidegger's original inspiration, well, he, as a young man, was a seminarian and broke away from his Catholic sort of confining philosophy, as he felt. But he was very much inspired by Eckhart. And, let me take another talk. There's something in Eckhart about negating, always negating. It's very much like Nagarjuna, the Buddhist. And so that Caputo has an article on nothingness of intellect in Eckhart. So that, even in a way, intellect, mind, is transcendent, in the ultimate. Well, I guess the experiential in so much of it.


If you don't experience it, and you don't see it, it means nothing. It's very interesting what you said about Eckhart's monasticism, because I think he does kind of give you the distillation of monasticism in a universal sense. Okay, with his sense of the ultimate, that we have to put an end to it, and we're not doing anything. And the mystery is that monasticism is declining at that point, being replaced by the clerics, who are moving into the world. It's very curious. The monks never seem to have gotten out of it, for one thing. It's almost as if the last end is there, and the last is later. And nobody picks it up at this point. In monasticism, which is that. But he's like a blossoming on a tree of monasticism, which then has no future, has no succession. Very strange. It's very interesting that, of course,


monks didn't climb aboard with the scholastic movement. Well, of course, Anselm was a scholastic, and so forth, but they didn't get into 13th century scholasticism, and the way that the Mendicants did. And so I taught a course on monastic spiritual theology at a college there once, just a two-week course. But if you try to name a major monastic theologian after the 12th century, it's hard to find one. Yeah. And they didn't pick up that answer very quickly. And they might have been able to, because they were, to some extent, in tune with the Neoplatonic and that side. Especially, I think, something like William of St. Curie might have been able to do. Are you going to return to the idea


of the Godhead beyond the Trinity? Will you return to that idea? Or no? I'm going to it away tomorrow, and I'm going to do it from a kind of broader view. And I don't know if I can put it in language. But anyhow. You know, if we think of this, this blossom that wasn't at the time able to be fertilized in some way to give new fruit. Right. What's happening now, do you think, that has allowed for this sort of interest? What's pollinated this seemingly sterile blossom to allow some new things to happen? Well, that's a very good question. One is, of course, that the party line broke down in the church. And that,


you know, Council and Trent made Aristotelian homism the theology and philosophy of the church. And then it was ratified again by Louis XIII in the 1890s. And so that was almost the only point of view taught. And that people were also very suspicious of anything that was, you know, had a cast of heresy about it. And he was sort of buried. You know, his texts were buried. And I think Black Mesa English translations started coming out only in 1950s or so. So he wasn't that available. But then also there's this wider interest in mysticism as a whole in our society. As secularism finds its bottom and is looking for some spiritual insight and so forth.


So it's partly just that mysticism became popular. So he was one of the mystics. But it's interesting that also there is, you know, Caputo calls Eckhart the father of deconstruction. That's very interesting. And that's why the academic world began to look at Eckhart. And John Caputo at Villanova has a conference every two years on deconstruction. And he tries to bring people like, well at least the voices of people like Derrida, Chuck Derrida, in conversation with Eckhart and others. So it's very interesting that there's something that's just, for example,


the reason that Heidegger found Eckhart so fascinating. There's a creativity there that appeals to people. Also, for some of us, Eckhart became a bridge back from the East. He represented this very clear way, very clear concept, the abyss of the Godhead, the God beyond the God, that was appealing for people who felt it was safe again to commit to spirituality because there wasn't such a static definition of God. So having come from experience of yoga or Zen Buddhism to find this, this is like a very smooth bridge back, you know, to be able to start there at the abyss of the Godhead and build from there the images. So, I think


you know, somebody like Matthew Fox stuck onto that and became much a part of his, and then he reapproached Aquinas later. Matthew Fox did. I'm wondering how much effect that would be interesting to see what he would do with Aquinas because it would be his work in that context. Yes, it would be interesting. Although I remember reading reviews so far of the book that Fox had done on Aquinas and many of the totalists thought it was kind of miserable. That it was more Matthew Fox than it was Aquinas. Well, it's interesting you link that as small as that Bede loved it and wrote the introduction to it. And Bede was rather a repentant totalist himself and he kept trying to justify totalism to the end so it's funny to look at. Well, totalism has to be taken seriously. One of my teachers my teacher for Neoplatonism


for Aquinas at Florida was Norris Clark who is a convinced totalist and you know very articulate and of course my real advisor for him was both Thomas Berry and Huard Cousins and Huard Cousins is very Neoplatonic one of the Curians and so forth and Cousins told me that he said frequent you know dialogues with Norris Clark about Aquinas and they just you know, let the sense go on. Just one final more question. It's not like Bonaventure Eckhart Bonaventure um re-justified Neoplatonism it was actually easier to go the Neoplatonic line. The revolution was Aquinas baptizing Aristotle, wasn't it? So so it's almost as if Eckhart was


even more in line with the traditional thinking and didn't try to tell us it's revolution it would seem to me except that he was a Dominican and you know he was originally educated up in Germany but then sent to Paris and became a magister himself but his originality and the way he broke away is quite astounding you know for example if you take a look at the apophatism of Aquinas it's there but it's primarily that first type of apophatism about the finiteness of the mind and Aquinas quotes Pseudo Dionysius 900 sometimes but it's a divine name he quotes and not the mystical theology so in a way um um Aquinas didn't quite get to the depth of the apophatic insight he's very much


wrapped up in his attempt to create this new marriage as you said between you know Christianity and the new Vespucillian stuff that was coming in through the eras you know okay thank you [...] you.