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MEISTER ECKHART AND THE NEOPLATONIC HERITAGE: THE THINKER'S WAY TO GOD RICHARD Wooos, O.P. Loyola University of Ohioago Ohicago, Illinois IN BOTH HIS LIFE rand preaching, Meister Eokrhart's " way" was pre-eminently .a spirituality of the mind. The srpeoulat:ive inqui.rires .and p:roibings thaJt animate his iSChD'l-·arly woliks 1also f!:>iervrude his sermons ·and treatisies, while a pastoral, homiletic inrberrtion iieciproca:1ly permeates the scholarly .worrks, particularly in regard to .the Meister'1s fascination with rthe Woil1d. Heinrich Deni:fle, 1who disonviered and first commented upon Eckhart's Laitin writings in the 1880s, concluded that the Meister faclmd the clarity of conception and precision of expression characteristic of the great scholastic figmes who preoeded him, partiou1ady Albert the Grea:t 1and 'lihomas Aquinrus.1 B:ut more reoent Eckhart scholars have increasingly •argued that Denifle's oonoern to :ve£ute uncritically inflated characteriz,ations of Eckhart's philosophloa:l genius, notrubly that of Wilhelm Preger, .led him to undel'V'alue and indeed misrepvesen:t •the Meister's ireal goal a;nd bme achievement . Indeed, tto the modern critical eye, aided :by a oontury 1 "Eckhart ein unklarer Denker war, der sich der Consequenzen seiner Lehrer resp. seiner ausdruckweise nicht bewusst war. Gerade bei den schwierigen Lehrpunkten, wo Klarheit und Scharfe der Begriffe und des Ausdrucks mehr als je geboten ist, tritt dies zu Tage. Gerade in den entscheidenden Momenten verlasst ihn die Klarheit.... Eckhart besass aber nicht die geistige Begabung iiber die Scholastik hinauszugeben und doch innerhalb der Granzen der Wahrheit zu bleiben." "Meister Eckharts lateinische Schriften, und die Grundanschauung seiner Lehre," in A.rahiv fii,r Literatur unCl Kirchengeschichte Cles Mittelalters, ed. H. Denifie and Franz Ehrle (Graz: Akademische Druck u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956), vol. 2, pp. 482, 521. 609 610 RICHARD WOODS, O.P. of ]urbher di:s:cioverieis 1rund study, " the scholastic Eckhart is an original .and spooulaxbivie til:rintker, 1and not only a spirit's itineriary fa~om .aJJJd ha:ck to its eternail. Sourioe-4hie Ohristian NoopLatonic schema Eckhart im.heri'bed room St. Albert tb!e Greait rund, 1behind him, Hugh and Richa;rid of St. Victo:r, Thomas Ga1lus, John Sarraoenus , John Soottus Eriugena, Diornysiius the Areop1aigibe, P!l.'odus , and, penultimrutely, Pilotinus !himself. For thls gre:art theoa Meister Eckhart: Die deutschen und lateinischen Werke: Herausgegeben im Auftrage der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft, 11 Vols. to date (Stuttgart and Berlin: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1958-). German sermons will be identified hereafter by their number in the Deutsche Werke and, for English translation, by the corresponding page number in the Walshe edition. 9 " Eine Koiner Handscrift mit lateinischen Eckhart-Exzerpten," Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 31 (1961) : 204-12. In volume three of his edition, Walshe includes a translation of a fragment of one of Eckhart's sermons discovered by Prof. Kurt Ruh in 1967 and published in the Zeitschrift fii,r deutohes Aitertum 111 (1982) : 219-25. See ed. cit., pp. 131-35. ECKHART AND NEOPLATONISM 618 ~ogical tradition, liecently examined in some detail iby John Macquarrie alllld Andrew Louth, stretches hack evoo £artlier to tbie Oappadocian Fraithe'I"s, Origien, Philo, :and at the source, Smee the 1app1e1amance of Eoklhamt'1s more aoadiemic Laltin wiorrks, op;inion has heen divided as 1 00 their importance :velative ibo the more familiar German sermons iand tT1eatises for understarndmg the Meister~s authentic tooching. Some recent commenibato 'l.1s 1 sti1l 1:Jend to favor the lattier aJ.moot enti'11ely, even wihile acknOW11edging t:hie impo'11tooce of the forn11er; some favor the Latin.11 Critical opinion :seems 'bo have turned in the direction of remphrusizing the importalllice of both .the Latin and the German :works in 01der 1bo unders:tand the whole Eckhartthe teacher and the p:veacheT.12 But to understand to what extent Ed.mart ias ,a tlheologian, philosopher, arrd mystic was indebted to Obrisltian Nooplatmrism it is raliso n:ecess1acy to see him in the oonteJct of his ,w;orks, his method, and his scholarly and apostolic career. The Scholar and His Temper While Echltart had ra ik!een phi1osorphica1 temperament, he did not 1rus ,a rule compose racrudemic 1weatises. Ratiher, he scatltJeTed...


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