Meister Eckhart on Poverty of Spirit

Samuel Baudinette

Abstract: The thirteenth century was a period when the notion of voluntary and spiritual poverty was adopted by a number of religious and lay peoples who desired to return to an apostolic vision of the Christian life. Groups such as the Order of Preachers, founded by St. Dominic in c. 1220s, and the Beguine spirituals of the Rhineland both contributed, in different ways, to the developing discourse of poverty during this age. This paper examines the thoughts on spiritual poverty which were expressed in radical vernacular sermons by the famed German mystic Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1329). It does so in response to an earlier paper on the Meister ’s attitude towards poverty of spirit written in 1978 by David Linge, which is based on certain works attributed to Eckhart now considered inauthentic. As such, this paper shall present an analysis of two sermons from the Meister, most likely delivered to lay women in the Rhineland, and one vernacular treatise, written for Dominican novices under Eckhart’s care, which traces the influence of Dominican and Beguine discourse about poverty on Meister Eckhart’s thought whilst nuancing Linge’s basically correct premises.

Charlotte C. Radler has recently argued that the late thirteenth century German Dominican Meister Eckhart’s mystical thought must be understood as a “praxis of detachment,” an ideal of active temporal poverty harmonised with the inner contemplative life.1 In a vernacular sermon, the Meister explains that in his preaching he is “accustomed to speak about detachment (gelâzenheit), and that man should be free of himself and of all things.”2 In another sermon, Eckhart identifies this detachment from self and images as an “inward poverty,” that is to be held distinct from the “external poverty” practiced by Christ and his apostles during their time on earth. 3 The ultimate

Charlotte C. Radler, “Living From the Divine Ground: Meister Eckhart’s Praxis of Detachment,” Spiritus, 2006, 6(1), pp. 25-47. 2 Sermon 53, in Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, Meister Eckhart, the essential sermons, commentaries, treatises, and defense, New York: Paulist Press, 1981, p. 203. (Hereafter, Essential Eckhart). 3 Sermon 52, Essential Eckhart, p. 199.

goal of detachment, then, is to become what Eckhart calls a “virginal wife,” where the Birth of the Word is brought to fruition within the inner recesses of the soul. 4 Anyone opposed to this notion of detachment is characterized by Eckhart as “those that seek something in their works or those who work because of a ‘why,’” who are best described as “servants and hired hands.”5 The Mittelhochdeutsch word which Eckhart employs for the opposite state to detachment, attachment (eigenschaft), carries the connotation of ownership or spousal relation, and is diacritically opposed to the notion of poverty.6 This paper intends to engage with the idea of detachment in Eckhart by examining a number of his vernacular works. In particular this paper demonstrates how Eckhart’s notion of spiritual poverty as detachment fits into the greater tradition of Dominican thought on the virtue of poverty. In his somewhat dated paper Mysticism, Poverty and Reason in the Thought of Meister Eckhart, originally published in 1978, David E. Linge argued that Meister Eckhart’s notion of poverty was “an integral part of a carefully worked out metaphysical scheme” and should be understood “as a theological response to the popular religious piety and the socio-economic expansion that transformed European society in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.”7 The mystical vision which Eckhart advocated is explained by Linge as “[breaking] sharply with the love- or will- centered mystical tradition represented by Augustine, Bernard and the Franciscans” and is a “direct religious
4 5

Sermon 2, Essential Eckhart, p. 177. Sermon 39,in Bernard McGinn, Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher, New York: Paulist Press, 1986 p. 296 (Hereafter, Teacher and Preacher); Amy Hollywood translates the MHG “servelings and traders” in “Suffering Transformed,” McGinn (ed.) Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics, New York: Continuum, 2001, p. 107. 6 Reiner Shürmann, Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy, Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Books, 2001, p. 13. 7 David E. Linge, “Mysticism, Poverty and Reason in the Thought of Meister Eckhart,” American Academy of Religion, 1978, 46(4), p. 465.

. pp. See Edmund Colledge and J. pp. Marler. in her Mirror of Simple Souls is echoed throughout a number of the Meister’s most notable vernacular works. p. 1984. 465.”8 He suggests that Eckhart employs the term “poverty” to explain a direct awareness of God which is achieved when “ordinary. 14-57. 12 This now familiar recognition was only realised in the 1980s. This is particularly notable in the case of Marguerite Porete. (eds) Jan van Ruusbroec: The Sources. Poverty and Reason in the Thought of Meister Eckhart”. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. noting that “poverty of spirit” acts as one of the characteristic themes of the Meister’s thought and is employed in his vernacular sermons as an alternate description for union with God. authentic is available in “A Note on Eckhart’s Works and the Present Selections. and de Paepe. 140. Eckhart and The Mirror of Simple Souls. is its use of material ascribed to the Meister which more recent research has largely discredited as inauthentic. 10 Frank Tobin.11 Importantly. Leuven: Leuven University Press.response to the material wealth that had already begun to mesmerize the European spirit [of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries]. 465. in Mommaers. For an account of the th th development of an ideal of poverty set against the backdrop of a developing economy in the 13 and 14 centuries. P.” Essential Eckhart. p. C. however. “Mysticism. 1986. New York: Cornell University Press. indeed. 9 Linge. see Lester K. N. Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe. 11 A discussion of which works attributed to the Meister are. Little. “Mysticism. whose treatment of the spiritual experience as neither wanting. 1978. 12 The twelfth century saw the development of a new religious consciousness which “sought to realize Christianity as a religious way of life immediately binding upon every 8 Linge. knowing or willing God. mediated awareness of the world is stilled. “’Poverty of the Will’: Ruusbroec. Poverty and Reason in the Thought of Meister Eckhart”. p. Meister Eckhart: Thought and Language. Content and Sequels of his Mysticism. 62-68. 10 The major issue with Linge’s paper. Linge is not aware of (or fails to take into account) the notable influence that Beguine spirituality played in the formation of Eckhart’s attitude towards spiritual poverty.” 9 Frank Tobin concurs in a later monograph.

and Suso. two groups which emerged from this apostolic movement directly influenced not only Eckhart’s thought. New York: Russel & Russel. p.14 The Meister’s views on spiritual poverty need to be examined against the background of such ideas. 1970. founded c.”13 This was largely in response to the ecclesiastical reform of Pope Gregory VII and the concern that arose over the question whether the divine plan for salvation called for by the gospel message could truly be realised only within the established orders of the Church. “From Osma to Bologna. From the Preaching to the Preachers: the Dominican Path towards Mendicancy. The Origin. Tauler. especially the examples of the apostles. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Donald (ed. Rowan. In particular. Steven. Religious Movements in the Middle Ages. Religious Movements in the Middle Ages. Development. 14 Grundmann. trans.15 Ostensibly established as a response to heresy and false belief in southern France. which Meister Eckhart had joined at a young age. is the Order of Preachers of St. p. a new wave of religiosity came into being which sought to follow the biblical norms of Christian life. and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies. The first group. Clark. see Anthony Lappin. 1995. his vernacular sermons were likely influenced by the Beguine Marguerite Porete. 31. 7-9.Christian. 13 Herbert Grundmann. but also his manner of religious life. p. From Canons to Friars. Leiden: Brill. . the Dominican project should best be viewed as an attempt at religious reform through a focus on the practice of mendicancy and preaching. p. Dominic. 20. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.” in Prudlo. the Beguine movement. and as mentioned. In particular. 7. 1220s. by abandoning all worldly and temporal goods. who lived religious lives without binding themselves to the rule of any particular order. 17 Richard Kieckhefer. 1979. 16 For the early history of the Dominican order and the role mendicancy played in its foundation. 16 The other group. Repression of heresy in Medieval Germany. consisted of women.). 2011.58. 9.17 Eckhart’s years preaching to this group of lay religious in the Rhineland were instrumental for the development of the Meister’s concern for spiritual poverty. pp. The great German mystics: Eckhart. and some men. 15 James M.

p. Early Dominicans. 87-88. It freed the friars for the ministry which was their primary calling instead of providing the means for achieving personal holiness. The Origin. the notion that poverty was introduced as an “apostolic gimmick” also deserves some scrutiny as it is plausible that the adoption of a life of poverty was “calculated to appeal precisely to those people who were impress ed by the heretics” and their own ascetic ideals. pp.18 The Dominicans. according to an account written by Gerard de Frachet in his Vitae Fratrum (Lives of the Brothers). and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies. since its foundation in the early thirteenth century. aspect of poverty. . 11. trans. trans. As Berthold Altaner reports.19 It is related by Pierre de Vaux Cernai in his Historia Albigensis (History of the Albigensian Crusade) that the heretics often “raised against [the papal legates sent to preach against them] the objection of the appalling lives of the clergy.”20 Dominic. Development. then. emphasised the pragmatic. Tugwell. pp. “Poverty in the Order of Preachers. 404417.” Theologie und Glaube. 16. argued therefore that “the heretics are to be convinced by an example of humility and other virtues far more readily than by any external display or verbal battles. often stresses how the example of humility in a preacher aids 18 Berthold Altaner. “Der Armutsgedanke beim hl. had cultivated its own particular notion of poverty. Early Dominicans.86. 31.58. was an instrument of the apostolate. 1982. 21 Vitae Fratrum II: 2. Anthony Lappin. 436-453. a life of poverty supported by alms.The Order of Preachers. Dominikus. For Simon Tugwell. or instrumental. the fifth Master of the Order. “The Dominican Path Towards Mendicancy. Early Dominicans. The Catholic Historical Review. See also William A. So let us arm ourselves with devout prayers and set off showing signs of genuine humility and barefooted to combat Goliath. New York: Paulist Press. p. In his Liber de eruditione praedicatorum (Treatise on Preaching) Humbert of Romans. 1919.” 21 This humility was linked closely to the notion of mendicancy. poverty. 20 Historia Albigensis 20-21. pp. 19 Simon Tugwell.” in Prudlo (ed. pp. Tugwell. 45(4). for Dominic. Hinnebusch.). 1960.

“If you would be perfect.). sell all that you have and give to the poor.”25 In this way. “blunts” the notion of spiritual poverty in his writings. 1984.. pp. 1954. 157-195. The Religious State. Walter M. Andrew Travers “The Forging of an Intellectual Defense o f Mendicancy in the Medieval University. Edward Brett. Bernard. Thomas Aquinas. go. 19. see D. which is the primary role of the preacher and the most perfect iteration of the religious life. Medieval Religious Mendicancies. Thomas writes. stresses that the renunciation of earthly possessions is simply the first step on the path to spiritual perfection. Treatise on Preaching translated by the Dominican Students of the Province of St. 25 Proctor (trans. the Episcopate. relinquish himself. is the renunciation of one’s will. that a man seeking the perfect religious state “must also. Torronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.22 Much of the Dominican thought on poverty is structured around a discussion of the standard religious virtues of poverty. 1955. Joseph. L. in a certain sense. 1902. the receptivity of his message and in the salvation of souls. in his Liber de perfectione spiritualis vitae (Treatise on the Perfection of the Spiritual Life). however. . Thomas. 24 J.). xix. to a certain extent. 41. and come. London: Blackfriars Publications.” in Prudlo.”24 More important than poverty. p. Our Lord counselled us to relinquish them when He said. the religious may be filled only by the will of God.) in The Religious State. and the Priestly Office . He rejects “the absolutist interpretation of evangelical poverty and [holds] out for the communal possession of 22 Cf. written at the height of the debate between the mendicant orders and the secular masters of Paris in 1256-1259. London: Sands & Co. 21). London: Blackfriars Publications. Humbert of Romans: His Life and Views of Thirteenth-Century Society. Proctor (trans. For example. Conlon (ed. following Pseudo-Dionysius. St. p. 23 For a summary. The Conflict Between the Seculars and the Mendicants at the University of Paris in the Thirteenth Century. a familiar spiritual ideal recognisable from the time of St. follow me” (Matt. and you shall have treasure in Heaven. chastity and obedience. 23 Thomas argues that “the first among the material possessions to be renounced are those extrinsic goods that we call riches.

the Counsels of Discernment. 28 Proctor (trans. [God] must necessarily want everything for me that he wants himself. delivered to novices of the Dominican Order. “Mysticism. 48. 29 Couns.”30 What is true obedience for the Meister? Like Thomas Aquinas. Poverty and Reason in the Thought of Meister Eckhart”.”31 Eckhart believes that there is no better form of the religious life than the denial of the self. 247. putting it in the hands of my superior. is a virtue that has the least significance for Thomas in his scheme of spiritual perfection. though a necessary doctrine of his own Order. 23. p..goods. chastity and obedience. and is one that is not even fully necessary as “Our Lord….. the relinquishing of self.). “[and] true obedience makes it finer and better for you. Thomas stresses that it is only the member of the religious order.” says Eckhart. with their vows of poverty. The Religious State. it consists in the abnegation of one’s own will. p. p.28 In his earliest known work. by [his] counsel. or cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 247. and want nothing for myself. did not mean.” Eckhart explains.”26 which is actually a characteristic of the Dominican Order at large.).. then God must want it for me. 470. Essential Eckhart. Essential Eckhart. who may properly expect to reach the perfect spiritual life. Essential Eckhart. 248. Meister Eckhart frames his discussion of detachment upon the same religious virtues as his predecessor Thomas. 29 “Take as humble a work as you like. “Obedience always produces the best of everything in everything. . p. that is. p. “when I empty myself of self.any form of popular apostolic poverty amongst the laity should be viewed as dangerous. Proctor (trans.” he continues. The Religious State. Imitating Christ’s poverty. p. poverty. but He meant that they cannot do so easily. and explains this is why Jesus said 26 27 Linge.”27 Finally. 31 Couns. 30 Couns. that rich men cannot be perfect. “If I deny my own will.

p. Munich: C. p. 199. Washington. 5: 3 is directly concerned. 2002. Essential Eckhart. and knows nothing.” 32 33 Couns. Essential Eckhart. “is good and is greatly esteemed in a man who voluntarily practices it for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”32 Eckhart’s Sermon 52 on Mt.” by explaining that the truly poor man “wants nothing. Bruce Milem. Prediger. p.” Eckhart preaches. p. 1985.“blessed are the poor in spirit. 248. D. 199.” Eckhart instead takes poverty “in a higher sense. who wishes to address “a different poverty. external poverty. H. Beck. p.33 It is also the text which demonstrates the greatest ties to the mystical thought of Marguerite Porete and the Beguine spirituals. Essential Eckhart. See also Kurt Ruh.C. and has nothing. 34 Eckhart begins his sermon by noting that there exist two kinds of poverty. 158. 38 Sermon 52. . quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum (“blessed are the poor in spirit. 37 Sermon 52.” “Whenever you find yourself. who had described the poor man as “one who does not find satisfaction in all the things God created. The first kind. deny yourself.” with which the verse from Mt. p. The Unspoken Word: Negative Theology in Meister Eckhart’s German Sermons . 199. focuses almost exclusively on the idea of spiritual poverty. which has been described as “a spirited reply to the accusations of heresy made against [Eckhart]” in his last embattled days preaching in Cologne. 37 Disregarding the words of his mentor Albert the Great. 5: 3 Beati pauperes spiritu. “[and] that is the best of all.” says Eckhart.: The Catholic University of America Press. 36 Sermon 52.. p. 34 <insert Amy Hollywood citation here> 35 Sermon 52. Meister Eckhart: Theologe. 22. an inward poverty.36 “Various people have asked me what poverty may be in itself and what a poor man may be.”38 “We might paraphrase this tripartite definition. Essential Eckhart.”35 Yet this first kind of poverty does not interest the Meister. Mystiker. 199. for the kingdom of heaven is theirs”). Essential Eckhart.

(my emphasis) Sermon 52. and is not the true state of blessedness. p. rather. Essential Eckhart. 43 Sermon 52.”43 As Bruce Milem has argued. Eckhart concedes. p. 141.” but hold divine truth in such low esteem that. p. on the other hand. The poverty which Eckhart wants to address does not consist in wanting to fulfil God’s will. Outward poverty. These people. “by calling poverty of spirit poverty of will. 199. Essential Eckhart. p. Eckhart complains. 199. is no more than owning few or no material possessions. the “poor man as one who wants nothing. Essential Eckhart. Eckhart begins his instruction on spiritual poverty by turning to the first part of his definition. and of being.”39 Poverty of spirit. even if it is a condition often embraced by the religious who desire to imitate Christ and live an apostolic life.”42 The behaviour of such people is commendable. inward poverty. p. Thought and Language. 42 Sermon 52. whilst they “present an outward picture that gives them the name of saints. which is to structure the rest of the Meister’s sermon. but that he ought to comport himself so that he may fulfil God’s dearest will. 41 Sermon 52. Essential Eckhart.Tobin remarks. interpreting the principle of wanting nothing by saying “that a man ought to live s o that he never fulfils his own will in anything. but is instead a condition “distinct from the kind of will that we usually understand a creature to 39 40 Tobin.” in actuality they are “donkeys. The man who is poor. 200. this does not make “nothing” a new object of desire for the will to pursue for Eckhart. “has a will and longing for nothing. and even advocated by Meister Eckhart in his early Counsels. should be understood by this three-fold definition. of intellect.”41 This is the view held by Thomas. but they should not be understood as truly poor men. “attach themselves to their own penances and external exercises. 199. . Eckhart believes many have misunderstood the notion of poverty of will.”40 This is poverty of will.

The term which Eckhart employs.”49 The will in this instance. . Essential Eckhart. As the Meister makes clear. Eckhart explains. 200. and so I stood. the will is directed to a desire for itself. 48 Sermon 52. empty of God and of everything. The Unspoken Word. Essential Eckhart. he ought to be as free (ledic) of his own created will as he was when he was not.’ 44 45 Milem. unencumbered. the self had no God as it was identifiable with God. “it was myself I wanted and nothing else. Thought and Language. freedom. 27.” 46 This notion is a highly complex one. 200. There was yet to be any distinction between God and the self. p. Therefore. “when I went out from my free will and received my created being. p. 46 Sermon 52. The Unspoken Word. does not operate in the manner of creatures who only desire what is not theirs or what they are not. ledic. As Tobin puts it “one must surrender the capacity to will.”45 Thus Eckhart says. I longed for nothing. Tobin. p. Because of this. and then I was my own cause. Eckhart explains that “when I stood in my first cause.”44 Union with God’s will is not enough. p. even unmarried. 200. a desire fulfilled by the very manner of the self’s being. 141. p. Describing this state of freedom. 47 Milem. I wanted nothing. It is a freedom from any desire for God and any created thing as. p. Essential Eckhart. one only wants what one is. and requires close examination. ledic should be understood as the opposite of eigenschaft (ownership). then. This is what Eckhart takes freedom from the created will to express. at this moment. 25. 49 Sermon 52.possess. then I had a ‘God. refers to an unattached. I then had no ‘God’. Instead. for I was an empty being. “if a person wants really to have poverty. What I wanted I was.47 Thus.”48 In this pre-eternal moment the self was the cause of its own being. and what I was I wanted.

”51 “God. must become free from all representations. p. Essential Eckhart. only then did God become “‘God’ in creatures. p. See Milem. The key to achieving this state is detachment.”55 The person who wishes to receive Jesus. Rainer Schürmann explains. 55 Shürmann. so far as he is ‘God. n.’” Eckhart concludes.” Eckhart intends to describe a person who has no need to attach themselves to “the knowledge of sensible things by representations drawn from the sensible. Eseential Eckhart.for before there were any creatures. God was not ‘God’. 10. n. p.” rather than “‘God’ in himself. 28-9 53 Sermon 2.”53 Here the person who is free is described as a “virgin… a person who is free of all alien images.56 Thus. Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum… (“Jesus entered a certain village…”). 17.” as they are already free from all images. Wandering Joy.” Thus. The Unspoken Word. 10: 38. as logos. pp. provided that one avoids clinging to these images with attachment. Essential Eckhart. “is not the perfect end of created beings. Essential Eckhart. p. and those that are present in God himself. Sermon 52. 200.’ so as to reach the state of freedom from created will and become divine being. 50 51 Sermon 52. 200. The Unspoken Word. then. 17. 28-9 52 Sermon 52. pp. p. Eseential Eckhart. 177. 54 Sermon 2. Even should one comprehend every image “that all men had ever received. By describing this state as being “as free as he was when he was not. p. 177.” the Meister explains. one who desires to attain poverty of spirit must want nothing and “pray to God that we be free of ‘God. 56 Ibid. See Milem. the Meister further expounds upon the concept of being “as free as he was when he was not. 200.”54 This pithy statement from Eckhart.” 50 When creatures received their created being. calls for a philosophical interpretation as it “contains an allusion to the theory of the imprint which a representation places upon the intellect.52 In his earlier sermon on Lk. they are truly open and receptive to Jesus. but he was what he was. .

is knowing nothing. The Unspoken Word. the Meister further states that the poor man must be “as free of his own 57 58 Sermon 2. Not surprisingly. it is implied that there exists a duality between the poor person and God. 33. Poverty of intellect and poverty of will are closely aligned in Eckhart’s thought.” 59 Yet the essential strategy employed earlier by the Meister remains the same. Sermon 52.”58 This description of knowing nothing repeats many of the same features as wanting nothing. 60 Sermon 52. 201. to be “as free as he was when he was not. as discussed above.”60 The poor man. p. . 177.” is a state of wanting nothing. Essential Eckhart. Eckhart says. This is poverty of intellect. 61 Sermon 52. “When man was established in God’s everlasting being. in much the same way that being free of wanting was not apathy. p. according to Milem.” declares Eckhart. Eckhart’s “distinction between God and divine being falls away. p. “should be so free of all knowing that he does not know or experience or grasp that God lives in him. Being free of knowledge is not ignorance.”61 If one does otherwise. p. Eckhart explains in Sermon 52 “that a man who would possess this poverty ought to live as if he does not even know that he is not in any way living for himself or for the truth or for God. 201. Essential Eckhart.standing “free and empty according to God’s precious will… then truly [one] should be a virgin. p. Eseential Eckhart. “there was no different life in him. The second aspect of spiritual poverty. Essential Eckhart. Here. 201. according to Meister Eckhart. Eckhart’s discussion about poverty of intellect centres upon God’s oneness with the soul. and being free of created images. 59 Milem.”57 Thus.

that some authorities believe that blessedness “consists in knowing.”62 The actions most proper to man. which acts as the source of creation. p. pp. others… that it consists in loving. “but that there is that in the soul from which knowing and loving flow. For the debate with Gonsalvo see Armand A. not 62 63 Sermon 52. the Meister remarks. “Predigt Nr. p. 52: ‘Beati pauperes spiritu. 67 Sermon 52. 201. referring to a debate he had in Paris with the Franciscan Gonsalvo of Spain. are knowing and loving. “it is itself the very thing that rejoices in itself as God does in himself. Sermon 52. for it can neither gain nor lose. 201. Essential Eckhart. 63 “But I say that it does not consist in either knowing or loving. Essential Eckhart. 55-67. 1974. Essential Eckhart. Loris (eds). the source] has neither before nor after. and it is not waiting for anything that is to come. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. p. and let man be free (ledic). 1998. p. Essential Eckhart. Lectura Eckhardi: Predigten Meister Eckharts von Fachgelehrten gelesen und gedeutet . he explains. pp.65 For example. 201. “A man ought to be established. 64 Sermon 52.” 68 To be as “free of knowledge as one was when he was not” is thus to abandon creaturely knowledge so that it is only God who knows. free and empty. both are eternal.”66 The source is also entirely self-sufficient. p. 201. 66 Sermon 52. 65 See Kurt Flasch. p. . 201. “that something [ie.” whilst others have argued that it consists in the two. Maurer.”67 Because of this. Thought and Language. Eckhart says.”64 The source of the soul’s power of knowing and loving resembles the divine being itself.” This something. 191-94. Stuttgart: W.’” in Steer.knowing as he was when he was not.” says the Meister. 68 Tobin. Georg & Sturlese. Master Eckhart: Parisian Questions and Prologues. Essential Eckhart. As Eckhart notes.” and that we must “let God perform what he will. Tobin has argued that “the only true knowledge and the only real act of knowing are purely divine. 143. “does not know or love as do the powers of the soul. Kohlhammer.

Essential Eckhart. 74 Tobin.” the Meister argues. Essential Eckhart. this aspect of spiritual poverty emphasises the need for the soul to rid itself of all that distinguishes it from God.”70 This is poverty of being. p. Essential Eckhart. Sermon 52.” Eckhart concludes. is to overcome the duality of being. The final dimension of poverty of spirit that Eckhart discusses in Sermon 52 “is when a man has nothing. he himself is the place in which he wants to work. Essentially. 201. “Make me free of ‘God. p. 77 Sermon 52.knowing or perceiving that God is acting in him. Thought and Language. 39.76 “Thus. “implies a duality and a condition of imperfection. Essential Eckhart. This belief. 143. p. p. Eckhart argues that a truly poor man is one who is kept “so free of God and of all his works that if God wishes to work in the soul. . so that the soul may “put off its own nature and take on God’s. p. 72 Sermon 52.”71 “It is not God’s intention in his works that man should have in himself a place for God to work in. p.” 77 This leads the Meister once more to pray for a release from God.72 Rather.”75 To overcome this duality of place and the distinction between creature and divinity. Essential Eckhart. 69 In this way may man further possess poverty of spirit. 143.’” Eckhart 69 70 Sermon 52. he clings to distinction. p. 202. 202. and that he will gladly do.” the Meister explains.” 73 This view stands in direct contrast to the view of those who desire union with God by emptying the soul in order to create a place where God may work. 76 Tobin. Essential Eckhart. p. 73 Sermon 52. 202. 75 Sermon 52. Thought and Language. 202.”74 As the Meister says. 202. where God works in himself in the poor man’s soul. The Unspoken Word. 71 Milem. “in this poverty man pursues that everlasting being which he was and which he is now and which he will evermore remain. “when man clings to place. p. as Tobin has argued.

For a full account of the Meister’s “metaphysics of flow” see Bernard McGinn. Essential Eckhart. “for my real being is above God if we take ‘God’ to be the beginning of created things.79 “When I flowed out from God. all things said: ‘God is. This is “breaking through. 202. p. 80 Sermon 52. p. p. Essential Eckhart.”78 The conclusion of the sermon takes the three aspects of poverty of spirit. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company. This is the “flowing-out” (ûzvliezen) from the Godhead. 83 Sermon 52. intellect and being are three different ways to describe the stripping away of creatureliness and recognising the soul’s identity with God. 2001.” It is described by the Meister as a state where one comes “to be free of will of myself and of God’s will and of all his works and of God himself. 202.” the Meister concludes. Creature’s separate existence from divinity is described by Eckhart by utilizing the Neoplatonic concept of emanation. Essential Eckhart. 71-113.’” the Meister explains. p. “and this cannot make me blessed. Essential Eckhart. now and eternally. and having nothing. for with this I acknowledge that I am a creature. 203. and unites them into a single term: the breaking-through (durchbrechen). Poverty of will. 203.” where one is “above all created things.” 82 “In this breaking-through I receive that God and I are one.” and is “neither God nor creature. wanting nothing. The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: the Man from whom God hid Nothing.”81 Echoing Ex. pp. Eckhart asserts that in this state “I am what I was and what I shall remain. knowing nothing. Essential Eckhart. 3: 14.”80 The state of “flowing-out” thus stands in direct opposition to the spiritual poverty that Eckhart has spent the entire sermon explaining. “and that is the most intimate poverty one can find. p. .requests. 82 Sermon 52. 81 Sermon 52. 203.”83 78 79 Sermon 52.

“Living From the Divine Ground.”89 Yet.’”85 Such behaviour. 249. Couns.” p. Essential Eckhart. It is what you are in these things that cause the trouble. Essential Eckhart. Eckhart argues. and that would be a more godly thing for you to do than for you to receive the Body of our Lord.only “the ground on which the works are built” matter. Eckhart warned against those who complained that “‘I should like to be poor. Eckhart stresses that one should not entirely abandon works for a life of contemplation. the Meister stresses. therefore.”87 Holy works cannot make one holy. 88 Couns. one reaches the perfection of the spiritual life. Essential Eckhart. 86 Couns.” he says. p.Poverty of spirit. 251. 250. ‘things will never go right for me till I am in this place or that.. in his Counsels. p. One “ought to force himself to do something. p. By doing so. and penance. “that a man ought to shun one thing or pursue another. or till I act one way or another. we ought to build it upon a way of being.”86 Therefore. Essential Eckhart. is simply self-will. 34. “we ought not to think of building holiness upon action. 89 Couns.88 One must practice spiritual poverty for “with such an attitude you could tread upon a stone.. whether it be an interior or exterior work. sexual abstinence. p. But it must be stressed that this is not a state which can be reached through obsessive attention to active religious pursuits such as fasts.” but it has to be realised that “such ways of life or such matters are not what impedes you.. Essential Eckhart... 87 Couns. by detaching oneself from self and recognising the identification between the self and divinity. 249.’ or else. stresses the abandonment of the self. 251. . because he should not allow himself to become self- 84 85 Radler.84 In his Counsels. “We can think what we like. p. bodily mortification.

history. 280.including the community with its mores. what man is. . and his disciples the Blessed Henry Suso and Johannes Tauler. 92 Radler. Hinnebusch. soul and intellect protected from ‘exterior’ influences and devoid of ability to change the ‘outer’ world.” p. In fact. brought about a movement in Dominican thought far more concerned with spiritual. 1973. like the anonymous Buch von geistlichen Armut (Book of Spiritual Poverty) which had falsely been attributed to Tauler advocated detachment “as the road to true liberty. she believes. the Meister. “Living From the Divine Ground. 41. Couns. economics. p. traditions.”93 Eckhart’s spiritual and mystical message had a significant impact upon the lives of his contempories in the Rhineland. New York: Alba House. poverty. so that he can train himself to act in freedom. as far as the human mind can do so.”94 Several works of the period..”91 This freedom is the state of spiritual poverty Eckhart preached later in sermon 52. 90 91 Couns.on the mystical life.” p. 321. “they sought to determine. Essential Eckhart.. acts as a critique of those figures who viewed spirituality as an “inner affair of the heart. who God is.”90 What is required is that man should “transform inwardness into an activity and bring his activities into his inwardness. What is perhaps most remarkable about the Meister. however. 94 William A. and politics.”92 Eckhart’s practice of detachment and spiritual poverty. p. what life is. is the extent to which his thought shaped the intellectual life of the German Dominicans of the fourteenth century. The History of the Dominican Order: Intellectual and Cultural Life to 1500 . As Hinnebusch notes. 93 Radler. Radler argues that the Meister holds such a position because he “appreciates the influence of the activities and situations of everyday life.complacent in anything. p. “Living From the Divine Ground. 26. Essential Eckhart. how he reaches out toward union with God. rather than temporal. 280.

role that poverty played in the religious life. The Following of Christ by Johannes Tauler. knowing nothing. tells of the Dominican’s conversion by the Meister from the path of bodily mortification and excessive ascetic practice to a life of detachment. In particular. The History of the Dominican Order.imitation of Christ. This poverty of will.). p. Clark (trans.”96 The biographical Life of the Servant. Eckhart advocated a doctrine of spiritual poverty centred upon the notions of wanting nothing. p. 322.). which recounts the spiritual and mystical experiences of Suso. 1910. fashioned part of a Dominican response to the notion of spiritual poverty. The Life of the Servant by Henry Suso. formed in a Beguine milieu. in 1978.”95 At the very beginning. and union with God. 1. the book teaches that “poverty is a state of Being detached from all creatures” and that “poverty is a likeness to God. . p. Eckhart’s thoughts. 98 Hinnebusch. and having nothing.98 In conclusion. was correct to stress that Meister Eckhart’s thoughts on poverty were raised in opposition to will-centred mystical approaches. Morell (trans. it must be remarked that though Linge. These lessons are particularly observable in the Meister’s Sermon 52 and his 95 96 Hinnebusch. The History of the Dominican Order. intellect and being. Fisher Unwin. Yet whereas earlier Dominicans had stressed the instrumental. there is much more that needs to be said. London: T. stressed the identity of the self with God and argued that the most perfect form of the religious life was a practical ideal of detachment that sought to harmonise the inner and outer experiences of the spiritual life. R. which he had adopted from the spiritual climate of his time. 97 Eckhart’s spirituality also significantly influenced both the Theologia Deutsch and the Devotio Moderna. 1952. 322. or pragmatic. 30. which heavily emphasised the active dimension of the Meister’s teaching. J. 97 James M. Eckhart instead held that poverty was the core spiritual virtue that allowed for union with the divine. London: Camelot Press. p.

James M. 1998. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 1984. Tugwell.). Georg and Sturlese. 1910. Brett. Stuttgart: W. 404-417. Conlon. Early Dominicans. 1981. . Humbert of Romans: His Life and Views of Thirteenth-Century Society. Steer. London: Sands & Co. The Life of the Servant by Henry Suso. Bernard. pp. the essential sermons. Fisher Unwin. pp. and the Priestly Office. New York: Paulist Press. New York: Paulist Press. 191-94. Armand A.Counsels on Discernment. 1982. Walter M. and would go on to influence a number of spiritual texts from the Rhineland during the fourteenth century. 1974. R. Georg & Sturlese. 1986. Lectura Eckhardi. Maurer. Proctor. J. London: T. commentaries. (trans. Bibliography Primary Literature: Clark.). “Predigt Nr. Berthold. Torronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Meister Eckhart. 52: ‘Beati pauperes spiritu. The Following of Christ by Johannes Tauler. Bernard. Edmund and McGinn. Edward. “Der Armutsgedanke beim hl. The Religious State. Joseph.). Lectura Eckhardi: Predigten Meister Eckharts von Fachgelehrten gelesen und gedeutet.. (trans.” Theologie und Glaube. Simon. Colledge. London: Blackfriars Publications. Kohlhammer. Treatise on Preaching translated by the Dominican Students of the Province of St. 1919. Flasch. Dominikus. 1955. Loris (eds). Morell. and defense. Kurt. Loris (eds). 11. McGinn. J. 1902. treatises.. 1952. Secondary Literature: Altaner.).’” Steer. the Episcopate. (ed. (trans. Master Eckhart: Parisian Questions and Prologues. London: Camelot Press. Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher. New York: Paulist Press.

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