In many ways, Meister Eckhart has had to wait seven centuries to be heard. Born in 13th century Germany, much of his life was spent in a monastery.
‘Meister’ means ‘master’, and is an academic title from the University of Paris. An admired member of the Dominican Order, he was often sent to reform ailing priories. He was known as a spiritual counsellor, a safe haven for many who sought God in their life but found themselves troubled by the state of the institutional church.
He was best known, however, as a preacher, and he used his native German language to startling effect. Eckhart preached a spiritual vision which distrusted both ritual and church dogma. Instead, he aimed at nothing less than the spiritual and psychological transformation of those given to his care. To this end, Eckhart made the disposition of the human heart the key to all things.
Conversations with Meister Eckhart is an imagined conversation with this 13th century mystic, around such themes as detachment (which he famously placed above love), spirituality, God, the soul and suffering. But while the conversation is imagined, Eckhart’s words are not; they are authentically his own.
One of his controversial claims was that God cannot be described. Indeed, in one sermon, he went so far as to say ‘We must take leave of God.’
‘The church became very hostile towards him, accusing him of heresy,’ says Simon Parke, the editor of the book. ‘He spent his last days on trial before the pope. They also tried to ensure he’d be forgotten when he died, and nearly succeeded. But he’s more popular now than ever.’
Eckhart’s teaching is an adventure, not a system; a call, not a creed. The depth and universality of his work means it can be contained by no established religion, but draws to itself seekers of truth from all backgrounds. Says Simon Parke: ‘Here we have a teaching open to all, but possessed by none, and therefore free like a butterfly in the garden of the soul. Its perhaps my most challenging and rewarding conversation.’
About the author
Simon Parke was a priest in the Church of England for 20 years and is now a freelance writer. His most recent books are The One-Minute Mystic, Shelf Life, and The Enneagram: A Private Session with the World’s Greatest Psychologist. He is also the author of The Beautiful Life. Simon runs, leads retreats, meets with people looking for a new way in their life, and follows the beautiful game.
Simon Parke talks about his experience of meeting and talking with Meister Eckhart. ‘I don’t know everything about him,’ he says, ‘but I know what inspired him in the “making room” of his soul – a phrase he would understand. In many ways, and this is perhaps worrying, I know him better than I know myself.’
Read When Simon Met Eckhart here.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published January 2010
Duration: 3h 6m