Eckart or Eckhardt

Eckart or Eckhardt (called Master Eckart), a Dominican monk, one of the most profound thinkers of the Middle Ages. Of the time or place of his birth we have no record. He is first mentioned as a teacher at the College of St. James, at Paris. Having gone to Rome, where he received the degree of D.D., he was appointed provincial of Saxony, the appointment being confirmed by a chapter of his order held at Toulouse in 1304. In 1307 he was appointed vicar-general of Bohemia, with power to reform the Dominican convents. We afterwards find him again in Strasburg, preaching in the nunneries, and making acquaintances among the "Brethren of the Free Spirit." Having preached in Cologne, where archbishop Heinrich had already, in 1322, condemned the Beghards, Eckart, who inclined to them, brought upon himself the displeasure of the Church. Cited before the Inquisition in January, 1327, Eckart disclaimed heretical doctrines and professed his willingness to recant any such that could be found in his teachings. A total recantation, however, being demanded of him, he refused, and in consequence was condemned as a heretic. He appealed to the pope, who, out of 28 points acknowledged by Eckart, condemned 17 as heretical and the remainder as suspicious. Notwithstanding this condemnation, Henry Suso's autobiography, published in 1360, calls him "the holy Master Eckert," and praises his "sweet doctrine." He died in 1329. Copies of his sermons were preserved in numerous monasteries. Eckart has been claimed both by speculative philosophers and orthodox theologians; both by Protestants and Romanists. He is perhaps properly to be considered as the father of the modern mystical pantheism. He upheld the doctrines of the Brethren of the Free Spirit, but yet was free from their practical aberrations, as also from their opposition to the rites of the Church and to moral law. His writings have latterly been collected by Pfeiffer (Deutsche Mystiker des 14ten Jahrh. 1857, 2d volume); they consist of 110 sermons, 18 treatises, 70 theses, and the Liber positionum. Before this, some of his sermons and short treatises, appended to Tauler's collection, Basle, 1521, were the only ones of his writings which were generally accessible.

See Schmid, in Theol. Stud. u. Kritik. (1839); Mimoires de l'Acad. des Sciences mor, et polit. (Schmid's Etbud. sur le snysticisme alless. an xivme siecle, Paris, 1847); Martensen, Meister Eckart (Hamburg, 1842); Schmid, in Herzog's Real-Encyklopadie, 3:638. All the writers here cited charge Eckart with pantheistic views. But Preger, in Zeitschriftf. d. hist. Theol. 1864, page 163 sq., and 1866, page 453 sq., publishes a new tract of Eckart's, not found in Pfeiffer's collection, and vindicates Eckart from the charge of pantheism. So also does Bach, in Meister Eckhart, d. Vater d. deutschen Speculations (Wien, 1864), noticed in Jahrb. f deutsche Theologie, 1867, page 363.

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