"When I came out from God, that is, into multiplicity, then all proclaimed, 'There is a God' (i.e., the personal God, Creator of all things). Now this cannot make me blessed, for hereby I realize myself as creature. But in the breaking through (i.e. through all limitations), I am more than all creatures, I am neither God nor creature; I am that which I was and shall remain evermore. There I receive a thrust which carries me above all angels. By this sudden touch I am become so rich that God (i.e., God as opposed to the Godhead) is not sufficient for me, so far as he is only God and in all his divine works. For in this breaking through I perceive what God and I are in common. There I am what I was. There I neither increase nor decrease. For there I am the immovable which moves all things. Here man has won again what he is eternally (i.e., in his essential being) and ever shall be. Here God (i.e., the Godhead) is received into the soul."

"No idea represents or signifies itself. It always points to something else, of which it is a symbol. And since man has no ideas, except those abstracted from external things through the sense, he cannot be blessed by an idea."

"The mind never rests but must go on expecting and preparing for what is yet known and what is still concealed. Meanwhile, man cannot know what God is, even though he be ever so well of what God is not; and an intelligent person will reject that. As long as it has no reference point, the mind can only wait as matter waits for him. And matter can never find rest except in form; so, too, the mind can never find rest except in the essential truth which is locked up in it--the truth about everything. Essence alone satisfied and God keeps on withdrawing, farther and farther away, to arouse the mind's zeal and lure it to follow and finally grasp the true good that has no cause. Thus, contented with nothing, the mind clamors for the highest good of all."

"You could not do better than to go where it is dark, that is, unconsciousness."

"To seek God by rituals is to get the ritual and lose God in the process, for he hides behind it. On the other hand, to seek God without artifice, is to take him as he is, and so doing, a person 'lives by the Son,' and is the Life itself."

"The course of heaven is outside time--and yet time comes from its movements. Nothing hinders the soul's knowledge of God as much as time and space, for time and space are fragments, whereas God is one! And therefore, if the soul is to know God, it must know him above time and outside of space; for God is neither this nor that, as are these manifold things. God is one!"

"...where the soul is informed with the primal purity, stamped with the seal of pure being, where it tastes God himself as he was before he ever took upon himself the forms of truth and knowledge, where everything that can be named is sloughed off--there the soul knows with its purest knowledge and takes on Being in its most perfect similitude."

"God does not seek his own. In all his acts, he is innocent and free and acts only out of true love. That is why the person who is united to God acts that way--he, too, will be innocent and free, whatever he does, and will act out of love and without asking why, solely for the glory of God, seeking his own advantage in nothing--for God is at work in him."

"God's being is my life, but if it is so, then what is God's must be mine and what is mine God's. God's is-ness is my is-ness, and neither more nor less. The just live eternally with God, on a par with God, neither deeper nor higher. All their work is done by God and God's by them."

"God...does not constrain the will. Rather, he sets it free, so that it may choose him, that is to say, freedom. The spirit of man may not will otherwise than what God wills, but that is no lack of freedom. It is true freedom itself."

"Man's last and highest parting occurs when, for God's sake, he takes leave of God."

"The eye by which I see God is the same as the eye by which God sees me. My eye and God's eye are one and the same--one in seeing, one is knowing, and one in loving."

"God becomes as phenomena express him."


Meister Eckhart was born circa 1260, according to Denifle, in Hockheim. After joining the Dominicans at Erfurt, Eckhart lectured and attained degrees in Paris. Returning to Erfurt in 1304, Eckhart was eventually appointed as teacher of Paris in 1311. Later in life, having ventured to Cologne to teach, Eckhart was accused of heresy by Hermann von Virneburg, the archbishop, although he was later exonerated by Nicholas of Strasburg, charge of the Dominican monasteries in Germany. Nevertheless, von Virneburg continued to press the charges of heresy against Eckhart, leading Eckhart to declare that if, indeed, his writings contained any traces of heresy, he would retract them. Several of Eckhart's writings were declared heretical, upon which Eckhart kept his word. Shortly thereafter Eckhart died circa 1328. Eckhart's work continued to live on in the work of his students, despite cautionary measures undertaken by authorities (the general chapter of the order at Toulouse) at the time. Forgotten after many years, Eckhart's writings were unearthed in the 15th century by Franz von Baader, after which Eckhart has continued to be read and enjoyed by those fortunate enough to come upon his works.


By Eckhart

    Eckhart, M. (1993). The Best of Meister Eckhart.
    Eckhart, M. (1986). Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation.
    Eckhart, M.  (1996). Meister Eckhart from Whom God Hid Nothing: Sermons, Writings, and Sayings.
    Eckhart, M. (1995). Selected Writings (Penguin Classics).
    Eckhart, M. (1987). Meister Eckhart, Vol. 1.
    Eckhart, M. (1994). Meister Eckhart.
    Eckhart, M. (1990). Breakthrough, Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality, in New Translation.
    Eckhart, M. (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, Vol. 1.
    Eckhart, M. (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, Vol. 2.
    Eckhart, M. (1983). Treatises and Sermons of Meister Eckhart.

About Eckhart

    Colledge, E., et al. (Trans.) (1996). Everything as Divine: The Wisdom of Meister Eckhart.
    Campbell, K., et a;. (Ed.) (1991). German Mystical Writings (German Library, Vol. 5).
    Caputo, J. (1986). The Mystical Element in Heidegger's Thought.
    Chilson, R. (1996). God Awaits You: Based on the Classic Spirituality of Meister Eckhart (30 Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher).
    Clark, J. (1970). The German Mystics: Eckhart, Tauler, and Suso.
    Forman, R. (1994). Meister Eckhart: The Mystic as Theologian: An Experiment in Methodology.
    Fox, M. (1982). Meditations with Meister Eckhart.
    Fox, M. (1996). Passion for Creation: The Mysticism of Meister Eckhart (audio cassette).
    Fox, M. (1980). Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in New Translation.
    Franklin, C. (1977). Meister Eckhart on Divine Knowledge.
    Hollywood, A. (1995). The Soul as Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart (Studies in Spirituality and Theology, Vol. 1).
    McGinn, B. (1988). Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense (Classics of Western Spirituality).
    McGinn, B. (Ed.) (1997). Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Metchild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete.
    Otto, R. (1987). Mysticism East and West: A Comparative Analysis of the Nature of Mysticism.
    Pfeiffer, F. (1997). Works of Meister Eckhart.
    Simsic, W. (1998). Praying with Meister Eckhart.
    Smith, C. (1987). Way of Paradox: Spiritual Life as Taught by Meister Eckhart.
    Tobin, F. (1986). Meister Eckhart: Thought and Language (Middle Age Series).
    Woods, R. (1990). Eckhart's Way (The Way of the Christian Mystics; Vol. 2).


Eckhart, in his writings, distinguished 'God' from the 'Godhead.' 'God' as "Godhead' is that eternity from which all things spring forth -- that infinite 'Deity' which lies within and beyond all that is finite. The 'Godhead' exists as pure potentiality; that which is before all distinctions have been made. This does not mean that the 'Godhead' is in a state of becoming, but that the 'Godhead' resides in Being. It is the form which is formless, the cause which is uncaused, the no-thingness which is as no-thing -- which is the living God from which all things spring forth, yet are drawn toward eternity and unity in the 'Godhead.' The problem with describing the 'Godhead' in these terms is that we cannot name the 'Godhead," for it may only be understood as a "naught," for to distinguish the 'Godhead' is to make the 'Godhead' into a finite 'God.' It is to such a finite 'God' towards which we send our praise in worship. How then, per Eckhart, can be touch the 'Godhead' with our faith? Eckhart answers: "Because he has only God and thinks only God and everything is nothing but God to him. He discloses God in avery act, in every place..."

It was from out of Martin Heidegger's long-time fondness for Eckhart that he developed an interest in the question of Being. Similar to Eckhart, Heidegger's Being is that which cannot be grasped as a thing, but is the no-thingness from which all beings spring forth. One can also find in Eckhart similarities to Taoism. Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching also writes that "the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." The Tao is that which exists before all distinctions have been made -- before beings have become severed from their eternal unity by our naming of them.

Eckhart's contemplation of God also bears great similarity to the phenomenological method. He writes:

"...a man should shine with the divine Presence without having to work at it. He should get the essence out of things and let the things themselves alone. That requires at first attentiveness and exact impressions, as with the student and his art. So one must be permeated with the divine Presence, informed with the form of beloved God who is within him, so that he may radiate that Presence without working at it."

Of course, Eckhart's method of letting "the things themselves alone" bears great similarity to the Husserlian method of "bracketing," by which the natural attitude is set aside, so that one may attend to phenomena as they show themselves. In Heidegger's terminology, the phenomenological method is described as "letting the things show themselves from themselves in the very way in which they show themselves from themselves." To me, this again bears great similarity to the Taoist conception of Wu Wei, or "non-action," by which one effortlessly allows that which is natural to takes its course. Using an analogy, the Taoist plays the part of the tree which bends, rather than the role of the strong, rigid tree. The rigid tree is torn from its roots in the storm, which the tree that bends yields to the mighty winds, thus surviving the ordeal intact. In this sense, the Taoist 'method' is a matter of letting things be. Regarding Eastern though, Eckhart's Godhead also has striking similarities to the concept of Sunyata, or "nothingness."

Eckhart writes:

"So I say that the aristocrat is one who derives his being, his life, and his happiness from God alone, with God and in God and not at all from his knowledge, perception, or love of God, or any such thing....This much is certain: when a man is happy, happy to the core and root of beatitude, he is no longer conscious of himself or anything else. He is conscious only of God...To be conscious of knowing God is to know about God and self. As I have just been explaining, the agent of the soul which enables one to see is one thing and the agent by which one knows that he sees is another."

Here Eckhart foreshadows the phenomenological understanding (i.e. Merleau-Ponty) that our lived world is lived in a pre-reflective manner (what Husserl called the "natural attitude). And this pre-reflective or implicit understanding is different from the "knowing" which is reflective understanding. For Eckhart, these two modes of engagement with the world are mutually exclusive.

Further, Eckhart has a profound understanding of the human being as a being-in-the-world. Faith cannot be something which points toward something other than the world. The human being, after all, lives, and he can know nothing other than life as a being-in-the-world -- or, as Merleau-Ponty would say, that finite horizon in which I find myself as I move through the world. Eckhart's faith is not the faith which Nietzsche denounces. Eckhart does not urge the faithful to be life-denying nor to follow the church like pathetic sheep. Eckhart writes:

"For if Life were questioned a thousand years and asked: 'Why live?' and if there were an answer, it could be no more than this: 'I live only to live!' And that is because Life is its own reason for being, springs from its own Source, and goes on and on, without ever asking why - just because it is life. Thus, if you ask a genuine person, that is, one who acts (uncalculatingly) from his heart: 'Why are you doing that?' - he will reply in the only possible way: 'I do it because I do it!'"

Eckhart, like Kierkegaard would assert centuries later, distrusted the artifice of ritual and church dogma (thus, his charge of heresy). He writes:

"To seek God by rituals is to get the ritual and lose God in the process, for he hides behind it. On the other hand, to seek God without artifice, is to take him as he is, and so doing, a person 'lives by the Son,' and is the Life itself."

Eckhart's approach to theology is known as negative theology, since it is an attempt to negate what is not the Godhead, since such ideas are necessary limiting and finite; thus, Eckhart asserts that "for God's sake," we must "take leave of God." Eckhart's mysticism, in this sense, is again similar, though not identical with Heidegger's ontological phenomenology. Of this mystical element in Heidegger, Zimmerman writes that Heidegger's concept of "inauthenticity is an intensification of everyday egoism; authenticity is a dimunition of it." More centrally, however, is the similarity of Heidegger's 'ontological difference" between Being and beings: "Being is not the product of thinking; it is more likely that essential thinking is an event (Ereignis) of Being."

While the similarities and differences between Eckhart's negative theology and ontological phenomenology are still very much under debate, it is clear that Eckhart's mysticism is, without a doubt, a valuable contribution to contemporary thinking.


The Meister Eckhart Home Page
The Eckhart Society
Meister Eckhart at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Meister Eckhart at The Catholic Encyclopedia
Eckhart at
Eckhart at Infoplease
Meister Eckhart
Eckhart at Claves Regni
Meister Eckhart Sayings
Meister Eckhart Tractates
Prayer of Meister Eckhart
Eckhart quotes
Meister Eckhart: Quotes to Inspire and Motivate You
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Meister Eckhart & Medieval Mysticism Compiled by Fr. William Harmless, S.J.
Life in Abundance: Meister Eckhart & the German Dominican Mystics of the 14th Century  by Gundolf M. Gieraths
"The Equanimous Eckhart" by Brian J. Pierce, OP
"An Exposition of the Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart" by Timothy Scott
"Meister Eckhart: Friend of God" by I. M. Oderberg
"The Aphorisms of the Twelve Masters--The Prayer" by Wolfgang Wackernagel
"Meister Eckhart on the Soul's Journey to the Godhead" by Georg Feuerstein
"Dead Words, Living Words, and Healing Words: The Disseminations of Dogen and Eckhart" by David R. Loy
"God in a World of Gods" by Peter L. Berger
"Kenosis: The Other Within" by John A. Mills
"The God Beyond God" by Daniel C. Matt
"The Apocalypse of the Self" by Ralph Metzner
"Meister Eckhart and the Image" by Bruce Milem
"Paramaartha and Modern Constructivists on Mysticism" by Robert K. C. Forman
Is Objectivity Faith? A Reconciliation of Science and Religion by Bill McKee
Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age by Rudolf Steiner
Dominican Spirituality in the Rhineland
Western Philosophical Concepts of God (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Review of Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake's Natural Grace by Jack Foley
The Medieval Worldview vs The Modern Worldview

Recommended Books for Purchase:

Meister Eckhart : A Modern Translation
by Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart from Whom God Hid Nothing : Sermons, Writings, and Sayings
by Meister Eckhart, David O'Neal (Editor)

The Best of Meister Eckhart
by Meister Eckhart, Halcyon Backhouse (Editor)

Eckhart (Philosophers of the Spirit)
by Robert Van De Weyer (Editor)

Meditations With Meister Eckhart
by Matthew Fox, Candy Tucci (Illustrator)

Meister Eckhart : The Mystic As Theologian : An Experiment in Methodology
by Robert K. C. Forman

Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics
by Bernard McGinn (Editor)

The Mystical Element in Heidegger's Thought
by John D. Caputo


Copyright, 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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