Logos and Revelation
Ibn 'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Mystical Hermeneutics
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This book had its genesis some fifteen years ago as a dissertation for Fordham University on the doctrine of the transcendentals in Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas. For his wisdom, insight, and patience in shepherding an often wandering graduate student, I thank my dissertation mentor, Fr. Joseph Koterski, S.J. I also have to thank Fr. W. Norris Clarke, S.J., now deceased, who read my dissertation with great in...
Abbreviations and Note on Translations
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What Is the “Mystical” in the Middle Ages? If one looks closely at the works and thought of at least two very prominent and influential mystical writers in Islam and Christianity, Muhyaddin Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart, one does not find “mysticism” understood as a noun, i.e., a system of thought or practice separate from or parallel to the religious traditions to which it belongs, but instead one finds...
Part I. Revelation
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For medieval mystical writers, Christian or Muslim, the authority of the sacred text was unquestioned. Meister Eckhart and Ibn ‘Arabi were no exception. But if we read the writings of these two with care, we find that their obedience to the authority of a revealed text did not at all stifle free inquiry. Both Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart held...
1. “His Character Was the Qu’ran”: Ibn ‘Arabi, Analogical Imagination, and Revelation
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The thought of Ibn ‘Arabi is inseparable from the Qur’an. Indeed, we can view his thought, no matter how speculative it might appear, as nothing but an extended commentary on the letter and spirit of that holy book (as well as on the āh.ādīth [sing., h.adīth] of the Prophet—sayings of Muhammad gathered in the first two or so centuries after his death into...
2. “Revelatio proprie est apud intellectum”: Meister Eckhart and the Birth of the Word in the Soul
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All of Meister Eckhart’s works, including his famous vernacular sermons, are commentaries of some type on the text of Scripture. For Eckhart, genuine thought cannot be otherwise, seeing that all real human thought is nothing but a response to the primal Word or Logos that speaks to us, to be sure, in all creation, but most directly in the revealed text of Scripture. According to Eckhart, therefore, in Scripture...
Part II. Existence
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We have all had experience of what the Hungarian chemist and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi called “tacit knowledge”: a practical knowledge of “how to go about things” that we, however, cannot describe or explain in words. Saint Augustine gives an example of this sort of knowledge when he talks, in book 11 of his Confessions, about time. He...
3. “You Are He and You Are Not He”: The Dialectic of Transcendence and Immanence in Ibn ‘Arabi
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In his Futūh.āt al-makkīyya, Ibn ‘Arabi asserts the following about the power of human reasoning and its relation to prophetic revelation: Know that, before his prophecy, no prophet ever knew God through rational consideration, and it is not proper for any prophet to do so. In the same way, the chosen friend of God has no prior knowledge of God through rational consideration. Any friend of God who has prior knowledge of God in respect of reflective....
4. “Unum est indistinctum”: Meister Eckhart’s Dialectical Theology
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Eckhart combined seamlessly in himself two roles which we have come to think of as entirely antithetical: on the one hand, he was a spiritual master or “mystic”; on the other, he was an academic theologian, teaching at the best universities of his day. It is often the case, therefore, that his existential insights rest on a very elaborate and subtle scholastic...
Part III. Intellect
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The Sufi saint, according to Ibn ‘Arabi, is someone who understands how his own limited created nature shapes and, in fact, distorts his reception of God’s gift of existence and his gift of intellectual illumination. But because he has this realization, the Sufi saint is also able to rise above this limitation. Through the exercise of the analogical imagination, he is...
5. Ibn ‘Arabi and the Mirror of the Intellect
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While I shall be pointing out the philosophical implications of Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought, it bears repeating that Ibn ‘Arabi never saw himself as a philosopher or what he was doing as philosophy, falsafa, as understood by the Arabs. His aim was not a rational understanding of the world or even of God. Rather, he sought the unveiling of the divine Reality (al-h.aqq) in and through a unitative intellection that he sometimes...
6. “Deus est intelligere”: Detachment, Intellect, and the Emanation of the Word
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In one of his sermons, Meister Eckhart makes the remarkable claim that “the same knowledge in which God knows himself is the knowledge of every detached spirit and nothing else. The soul receives its being immediately from God. For this reason God is nearer to the soul than it is to itself, and God is in the ground of the soul with all of his divinity...
Part IV. The Noble or Universal Man
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The ideals of the Universal or Perfect Man in Ibn ‘Arabi and of the Nobleman in Eckhart represent the culmination of the “mystical” thought of both men. In each, these terms signify a believer who has realized the divinity in such a way that God is no longer the object of his or her knowledge, but rather the ground of his or her knowing, loving, and...
7. The Universal Man in Ibn ‘Arabi
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As Ibn ‘Arabi asserts in his Futuhat, all knowledge of God, the Reality (al-h.aqq), is rooted in knowledge of the self: The root of existence of knowledge of God is knowledge of self. So knowledge of God has the property of knowledge of self, which is the root. In the view of those who know the self, the self is an ocean without a shore, so knowledge of it has no end. Such is the property of knowledge of the self. Hence, knowledge...
8. The Nobleman in Meister Eckhart
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There is no need to dwell on the centrality of the notion of the Logos to Christian thought. From the very beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus is understood as the Logos or Ratio of all creation made flesh among humanity. This central assertion of the Christian tradition is also the linchpin...
Conclusion: The Unity and Diversity of the Mystical Path
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Throughout all four parts of this book, I have tried to show that the mystical thought and practice of Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart cannot be understood without reference to a revelation and a hermeneutics of that revelation that seeks the inner meaning of all revealed texts: the inner union of the soul with God. This mystical hermeneutic is what...
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Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012