Annual Conference

 

Eckhart Society Twenty Fifth Annual conference

28 - 30 September 2012

The Conference took place at HIGH LEIGH CONFERENCE CENTRE, Lord Street
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire EN11 8SG

ECKHART AND AQUINAS

Conference programme

'My flesh is real food': Eckhart and Aquinas on the Body of Christ

Michael Demkovich OP
Visiting Frofessor of Dominican Studies, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis USA and Gerald Vann Visiting Fellow for Catholic Life and Thought, Blackfriars, Oxford, UK

The papal bull In agro dominico,article 10, condemns a key concept in Eckhart's  'Eucharistic Theology' as containing  "the error or stain of heresy". On closer examination we see that the bull misrepresents Eckhart's position and diminishes the Eucharist. Eckhart has clearly grounded his position in Aquinas but has also developed it in light  of his own notion of deiformitas (gottesgeburt), our transformstion into the body of Christ

Eckhart and Aquinas. Ground of the Soul and the Sparkle of Reason.

Rupert Mayer OP
Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology, International Theological Institute,Trumau (Vienna), Austria

Most of the secondary literature on Eckhart's works identifies the ground of the soul with the sparkle of reason. A closer look a the German and Latin texts reveals their difference. The ground of the soul is the soul's essence - insofar as it is intellectual -  from which intellect and will flow, whereas the little spark of reason is a habit in the intellect called synderesis. If we compare this  description of the soul's ground and the little spark of reeason to the teaching of other medieval philosophers and theologians, Eckhart appears to be a disciple of Aquinas. Albert the Great and Dietrich of Freiberg can be excluded as sources for Eckhart's thought

Are there 0ne or two theologies? A fundamental disagreement between Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart.

Andreas Speer
Director Thomas-Institut, University of Cologne, Germany

Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart have been - as far as we know - the only two theologians in the 13th century, who explicitly studied  the famous Boethian Treatise "De Trinitate" . Of particular interest was the beginning of chapter 2, where Boethius explains his understanding of theology and its method. While Thomas Aqinas refuses the Boethian model of a unified theology, which contemplates the divine mysteries, it is exactly this model, which attracts Meister Eckhart and made him a follower of Boethius and an opponent of Thomas Aquinas' model of the twofold theology, which Thomas for the first time estasblishes as his leading methodological principal in his "Summa Contra Gentiles" shortly after having commented on the "De Trinitate". Although Meister Eckhart always refers to Thomas Aquinas in the most gentle and honourable way , his "Opus Tripartitum"  must be seen as a counter model to the famous "Summa Theologiae"

Not my will but thy will be done: Aquinas and Eckhart on willing what God wills.

Eleonore Stump
Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, USA

Both Aquinas and Eckhart emphasize the importance to the Christian life of having one's will in harmony with God's will. The language in which they describe the nature of willing in accordance with God's will makes it look as if their views are very largely the same. But, in fact, close attention to the details  shows they hold very different views, with very different implications. In this paper, I will sketch out this difference and highlight the implications.

Eckhart Society Twenty Fourth Annual Conference

23-25 September 2011

The Conference took place at HINSLEY HALL, 62 Headingly Lane, Leeds LS6 2BX

Conference Program

Mystical Language in Meister Eckhart and HisDisciples
Bernard McGinn University of Chicago

Poor Eckhart
 Freimut Loeser, University of Augsburg

'A Man was Rich' Eckhart's Sermon on "Wealth
"
Dietmar Mieth, University of Tuebingen

Clouds, Veils, and Nights in Islam and Christian Mystical Theology

Ian Netton, Uniersity of Exeter.

Joseph Milne,University of Kent led a seminar including a reading and reflection on one of Meister Eckhart's Sermons (in the Walshe Translation)

On Sarurday evening there was a concert by the Nachtanz Quartet

Eckhart Society Twenty-Third Annual Conference

1-3 October 2010

The Conference took place at All Saint Pastoral Centre, London Colney, St Albans, Hertfordshire, and the theme was: Eckhart then and Now

Conference Program                                                                           

Relating to Ourselves without a Self : Eckhart and Neuroscience
Ben Morgan: Worcester College, University of Oxford

Eckhart and the Lord's Prayer
Markus Vinzent: King's College Londion

Eckhart and the Varieties of Nothing
Duane Williams: University of Kent

Nothingness is an important element in the work of Eckhart, but what exactly does he mean by nothing? It is clear that he attributes more than one meaning to nothing, and the aim of this paper is to seek to understand the subtle difference between those meanings, their necessary relation to one another, and what this in turn says of the overall significance of nothing in the thinking of Eckhart as a whole.

Eckhart and Chu Xi (The Eckhart of the Confucian Tradition)
Shu Hong, University of Birmingham

Eckhart Society Twenty-Second Annual Conference: 
11-13 September  2009

The Conference was held at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney, St Albans, Hertfordshire, and the theme was: Meister Eckhart and Creation

Conference Program                                                                           

An Amateur Tiptoes in our Garden of Evolutionary and Environmental Redemption
Dom Thomas Cullinan OSB

Science and Mysticism in the Middle Ages
Robert Dobie

Meister Eckhart's Spirituality of Creation as Nothing
Edward Howells

All things in the Mind of God and the Mind of God in all Things
Joseph Milne

On the afternoon of Saturday 12 September there was Lectio Divina, a Meditative Walk  and a celebration of the Jyotiniketan Liturgy. In the evening there was a concert.
The conference will end Sunday afternoon.

Twenty First Annual Conference
Meister Eckhart and Modern Thought

Took place on October 10 - 12  2008 at  All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney, near St Albans.
The following papers were given

Meister among the Moderns: Hegel, Rosenberg, Bloch & Cage
Stephen Bullivant, Christ Church, Oxford

 Eckhart's influence on many currents of modern thought and culture has been
considerable. Those inspired by him include not only (as one might expect)
philosophers and theologians, but also composers, poets, politicians,
novelists, spiritual writers and artists. This is, in itself, a remarkable
fact. Even more remarkable, however, are the diverse ways in which Eckhart's
thought has been understood and appropriated. For better or (more often)
worse, this medieval friar seems truly to be all things to all men. As such,
the purpose of this paper is to introduce the theme of this year's conference:
Eckhart's nineteenth- and twentieth-century 'reception'. In order to
illustrate the varied nature of this subject, I will be focusing particularly
on four of the Meister's most diverse interpreters: the Idealist philosopher
G. W. F. Hegel; the Marxist intellectual Ernst Bloch; the Nazi theorist Alfred
Rosenborg; and the avant-garde composer John Cage.

 

Dorothee Soelle and Meister Eckhart: Learning to Live Without a Why
Professor Nancy Hawkins IHM, St Bernard’s School of Theology & Ministry, Rochester, NY

 This presentation, entitled “Dorothee Soelle and Meister Eckhart: Learning to Live Without a Why,” will explore not only the important life and work of Soelle, the political theologian, but the significant impact that Meister Eckhart’s mysticism has upon all her theology. Soelle loved Eckhart’s mystical idea of sunder warumbe, “living without a why.” It impacted her understanding of Christian activism and guided her belief in theological resistance. Soelle and Eckhart, who were in continual “conversation” are true soul-friends. This presentation will bring this to light, and highlight its importance for contemporary theology.

 

The Art of Detachment: A Contemporary Reading of Meister Eckhart
Professor Markus Vinzent, University of Birmingham

 

The art of detachment does not only describe one of the many elements of Eckhart's systematic thinking, it is one of his constant reference points, a fascination, almost obsession, which he cannot avoid finding  and highlighting whatever he reads,quotes, interprets, sees  and comments on. Detachmnt describes the divine nature itself and at the same time tries to overcome any description of the essential character of the divine nature as self-referential and self-explicatory, self-revelatory  and self-forgetful. THe art of detachment encompasses both, the art of the divine  and of the human side, not as with the example of a medal with head or tail, but rather like a text and its inter-space, Where the one element is the pre-condition for conveying the message of the other. Detachment is the direct complement to the divine nature's "indistinctness" that characterises its relation to anything distinct, or defines essence as relation to be, and the rational creature's reaction to liberate itself from any mediation and to be simply open and free for God. If this sounds cryptical at this moment - it hopefully becomes clearer by listening to or reading the paper.

 

Eckhart and Jean Sulivan: From Individual to Universal
Dr Máire Aine Ní Mhainnín, National University of Ireland, Galway

 When I enter the ground, the bottom, the river and fount of the Godhead, none will ask me whence I came or where I have been. No one misse me, for there God unbecomes. (Eckhart, Sermon 56)

 "The eye (I) with which I see God is the same eye (I) with which God sees me; my eye (I) and God's eye (I) are one eye (I), one seeing, one knowing and one love." Meister Eckhart maintains that creatures do not have a substantial existence or "I" apart from God. This ontological dependence on God means that for Eckhart and Jean Sullivan, the "I" or self can never solely constitute reality. The heart of Eckhart's mystical philosophy is that "Esse est Deus" - God is being. "  Where I am, there God is; and then I am in God and where God is I am" (Eckhart Sermon 5).  Eckhart states:  "If I were not, God would not be God"  (Sermon 87). In Jean Sulivan's works we find a deep and constant attachment to the mystical philosophy of Eckhart.  Many of Sulivan's books have Eckhartian titles; Joie errante (Wandering Joy), Dieu au-dela de Dieu (God beyond God) and Morning Light ( translation of Matinales I).  L'Exode by Sulivan has also been profoundly influenced by Eckhart's commentary on the book of Exodus

 

Twentieth Annual Conference
Meister Eckhart and the Mystical Imagination

 Took place on 24-26 August 2007 at St Hilda's College, Oxford

The following papers were given

 Hymie Wyse
The Sensuous Imagination: Embodying Meister Eckhart

One of the interesting aspects of any Eckhart Conference is to listen to how each of the speakers reads the text. Over the past twenty years philosophers have told us of the necessity of knowing something about that perspective, theologians have argued for a clear and intelligible theology. As yet no one has focussed on what Meister Eckhart says about the body (and he does say a great deal)
Hymie, a craniosacral therapist, will conduct us in this area. For over thirty five years he has been working both as an Analyst and Body therapist and finds in Eckhart a wonderful guide.

Joseph Milne
The Linguistic Imagination: Meister Eckhart's Poetic and Speculative  Use of Scripture


John O'Donohue
The Epistemological Imagination of Meister Eckhart


Donald Duclow
Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa: Eucharist and Mysticsal Transformation

Among Eckhart's condemned teachings was his linking of two transformations: bread into Christ's body,and ourselves into God. Eckhart clarifies the issues at stake in his comments on the Eucharist, eating and hunger, and union with God. Nicholas of Cusa (1401 - 1464) read Eckhart closely and defended his orthodoxy. Intriguingly, he also followed Eckhart's dangerous lead when he too used the Eucharist to discuss humanity's mystical transformation. For both Eckhart and Nicholas, as we receive the sacrament we become one with the divine Son - in an unending cycle of feeding eating and hungering. Between them, Eckhart and Nicholas offer a "spiritual" account of the Eucharist and its reception that runs counter to much later medieval theology, but that remains provocative and vital to-day
Saturday evening: concert was performed by Ensemble Telemania who played seventeenth and eighteenth century music

Nineteenth Annual Conference
Defending Eckhart

Took place on 25-27 August 2006 at St Hildas College, Oxford, England

 

The following papers were given

Prof. Loris Sturlese
A New Interpretation of Eckhart's Defence of 1326

The talk presents a new interpretation of the main document on which our knowledge of Eckhart's trial by the Inquisition in Cologne in 1326-27 depends, namely the Manuscript Soest 33. This document consists of two parchment quires conserved in the archive of Soest in Westphalia, which are commonly considered to be an official copy of the minutes of Eckhart's hearing in front of his Inquisitors on September 26th 1326. A reconsideration of the of the manuscript leads to the conclusion that Meister Eckhart composed the original of this document himself before the proceedings began and published it immediately after the first hearing, making it available to his friends and supporters. By such a hazardous move against the Inquisitors and the Archbishop of Cologne Eckhart aimed to reach an important goal; to provoke an intervention of the Papal Court in Avignon.In fact from 1327 onwards the process is removed to the higher court of Avignon and it takes a new form. Eckhart is no longer charged with heresy but with doctrinal errors. The condemnation of 1329 condemns, therefore, certain of his statements but not his person.

 

Michael Demkovich OP
In Defence of Meister Eckhart, using Suso and Tauler

 

Eckhart's defence ought to be understood as part of a theological process wherein he sought clarity and correction concerning the tribunal's allegations. As such his reply to the September 26, 1326 inquisition set forth a line of defence that argued for the orthodoxy of his ideas and sought a proper correction of errors. Such a defence was meant to be theological in character and not intended by Eckhart to be a defence of any heresy. This paper will examine how Eckhart's Cologne response established his line of defence. I will then explore this line of defence in two of Eckhart's better known disciples, Henry Suso and John Tauler. Finally I will offer some comments on the implications this has for defending Meister Eckhart today


Rebecca Stephens
In Defence of Plain Speaking


If there is a quality in Eckhartwhich causes both profound wonder and profound irritation, it is his inability to be pinned down, his unwillingness to simplify, his playful manipulation of meaning - in short, his poeticism. Eckhart if read poetically, is a deeply exciting, even shocking, mystic. If read pedantically, as by his Inquisitors and other detractors, then he is worryingly unspecific. Or too specific - all that talk, in German, to ordinary people, removing the gloss and the mystery fom the 'business' of the church, praising ordinary life and the revelation to be found in a blade of grass if only you look at it from the perspective of eternity. All that 'humour', above all; the mockery; the jokes... There is both too much, and too little, plain speaking in Eckhart for his readers comfort - but there is much to be said in its defence.

Prof. Bernard McGinn
The Dynamic Trinity in Bonaventure and Eckhart

Both Bonaventure and Meister Eckhart were heirs to a long tradition in patristic and medieval thought that made use of Neoplatonic philosophical themes to help express the mystery of the dynamic inner life of the three persons in one God and the way in which believers come to participate in this life. This paper will explore the considerable convergence between the trinitarian mysticism of these two great thinkers, while also highlighting their differences, especially with regard to Eckhart's teaching on the 'grunt'.

Saturday evening concert was performed by the Kelly Duo

Eighteenth Annual Conference
Eckhart and Other Religious Traditions

Took place on 26-28 August 2005 at St Hilda's College, Oxford, England

The following papers were given

Prof. David Blamires
Eckhart and Quaker Tradition

Fr Don Goergen OP
Atman, Grunt, and Spirit:An Unfinished Reflection

 

My ground and God's ground are the same ground maintains Eckhart. Atman is Brahman, according to the Upanishads. Each at the deepest level is pure spirit. How are Hinduism's deepest conviction and experience similar to that of Eckhart's? How does each relate to the classical Christian tradition's understanding of God and the soul?

 

Fr John Orme Mills OP
After Eckhart


Fr Brian Pierce OP
Empty Fullness in the Eternal Now: Eckhart and the Buddhists

 Buddhist master, D.T. Suzuki, defines Buddhist philosophy as, “the philosophy of Emptiness”…This emptiness, however, is not exactly empty; “it is a void of inexhaustible contents.” Eckhart, in his own way, insists time and time again that there is a divine Nothingness which flows quietly through all of creation. It is there, he insists, in the Silent Desert, where the mystical birth takes place. The advice he gave to his disciples seven centuries ago is still valid, “Stand still and do not waver from your emptiness…All things [will] become simply God to you…” Both masters point to a fullness which manifests itself in emptiness, a void which gives way to presence. What can we glean today from this common ground, this common path of dialogue where Eckhart and the Buddhists journey together as soul-mates?

Saturday afternoo: AGM and Workshops
Saturday evening: Concert performed by Charivari Agréable, the Oxford-based early music ensemble.

Seventeenth Annual Conference
Eckhart and Suffering

Took place on 27-29 August 2004 at Plater College, Oxford , England.

The following papers were given

 

Professor Donald Duclow
                   Theologies of Suffering: Eckhart, Henry Suso and Ursula Fleming
The fourteenth century was marked by intense devotion to Christ's passion. Few took the devotion further than Eckhart's student, Henry Suso, who for twenty two years imitated Jesus' suffering with extreme practices, such as fastening a wooden cross to his back with nails. In contrast and
much more recently, Ursula Fleming wrote, 'Most of what I know and teach about pain control comes from the study of Eckhart.'  This paper asks two questions: What is Eckhart's theology of pain and suffering? And how could Suso and Fleming respond so differently to his teachings? The answers will focus on Eckhart's accounts of the Incarnation, 'taking up one's cross' (Mt 16.24),and detachment. Suso and Fleming understood - and practiced - these themes in strikingly different ways.

Dr Rebecca Stephens
                   How We Should Suffer
Though we know that as a pastoral teacher Eckhart was compassionate for our baffled, fallible attempts at union with the divine, he was also an intellectual delighting in theological debate and argument, word games and paradoxes.  For Eckhart, the question of suffering is best addressed in a state of detachment.  His doctrine of detachment is beautiful in its logical symmetry - if we are perturbed by outward mishaps, he says, then it is right that God has permitted us to suffer, for we then realise how far we are from peace, when even little things still have the power to shake us.This is indeed logical, if somewhat coldly indifferent. What comfort then can detachment offer us?
These are the questions I will be examining with you.
Dr Joseph Milne
                 Eckhart Suffering and Freedom
Eckhart's radical approach to the problem of suffering challenges our modern sense of identity and individualism at its roots. This talk will explore some of the theological and philosophical implications of Eckhart's understanding of suffering and our sense of human identity, and will illustrate how Eckhart's thought is rooted in a theological anthropology extending back to classical Greece but lost completely in the rationalist Enlightenment in which human nature becomes completely divorced from God
Richard Woods O.P.
                    Eckhart, Suffering and Healing
In an era of global epidemics, new diseases, and declining health care, Meister Eckhart's revolutionary teaching on the place and value of pain and suffering challenges the modern world intellectually, spiritually, and practically.  By revisioning suffering not as a threat to be avoided, but as a gift to be embraced as God's very presence, does Eckhart's doctrine run the risk of fatalism or passivity in the face of preventable evil?  Or does it open a way to deeper healing and radical health on a global scale?
Saturday Afternoon: George Wilson - Inner Silence and Awakening: A Lection  Divina Session

Saturday Evening Concert: The Solaris String Quartet



Sixteenth Annual Conference:
Eckhart and Incarnation

Took place on 22 - 24 August 2003 at Plater College, Oxford, England.

The following papers were given
Dr Ben Morgan
               Eckhart and the Incarnation: Some practical details
Eckhart uses the Incarnation to describe the relationship between man and the divine. Not only does God let his Son be born continuously in my soul, I am born continously as his Son.  Indeed I become his Son in a way which annihilates any difference or distance between God and myself (for instance in the sermon Iusti vivent in aeternum). These and similar formulations were condemned as either suspect or actually heretical in the bull of 1329.  This conflict can be approached theoretically. But it can also be read as evidence of a practical conflict, that is to say a conflict about attitudes and ways of behaving towards oneself and to the divine - which the heresy proceedings and the bull were an attempt to police. Broadly speaking, the conflict was between the impulses behind the apostolic life and attempts by ecclesiastical authorities to regulate them. A careful reading of Eckhart's texts allows one to reconstruct something of the behaviour and attitudes that were the cause of contention.  Such a reconstruction is not only of historical interest. It offers an alternative model of individual identity which helps one to reasses and to transcend guiding assumptions inherited from the Cartesian and Kantian tradition as to what is valuable about modern Western forms of identity (consciousness, self control, individual agency).
Dr Niklaus Largier
               Interpreting Eckhart's Incarnation Theology: the sermon collection 'Paradisus  anime intelligentis'
The 14th century collection 'Paradisus anime intelligentis' - 'Paradise of the intelligent soul'- offers a unique and fascinating possibility to see how contemporary readers understood Meister Eckhart's preaching.  The collection contains 32 sermons written by Eckhart, and 32 from other, mainly Dominican, authors.  In a most compelling way the unknown editor of the collection organised the selected sermons along some of the main lines of Eckhart's theology, connecting his teaching with other theologians of his time. The concepts of the incarnation and of the birth of God in the soul are at the centre of the interest of the collected texts.  This is not surprising.  However it is quite interesting to look at the ways in which the collection organises and contextualises Eckhart's sermons.  Thus, special emphasis is given to the eschatological character of Eckhart's incarnation theology and his teaching about the birth of God in the soul.   At the same time the author of the collection seems to have brought together a number of sermons that support a mainly pseudo-dionysian reading of Eckhart's concept of the birth of God in the soul. The unknown editor seems to suggest that Eckhart's theology of incarnation should be read and understood both in terms of Augustin's concept of the fullness of time and in terms of Pseudo-Denys' mystical union of the soul with God.  In my lecture I will try to depict the specific aspects of this reading of Eckhart's sermons and point to the significance of the Dyonsian emphasis in 14th century mystical theology
.
Dr Wolfgang Wackernagel
               From Detachment to Incarnation: A Study on Spiritual Advice in Eckhart's Early Teaching
An early collection of basic spiritual ground-rules known as the "Talks of Instruction" (Rede der underscheidunge) is the inspiring prism of this paper.  Probably put together by Brother (not yet Master ) Eckhart himself, they present various themes, such as: I. The value of detachment and the meaning of true obedience (chapters 1-8.  II. The inclination to sin and its benefit in regard to temporal and divine repentance (chapters 9-16). III. Many other themes, ranging from self-annihilation  to the blossoming of new life (chapters 17-23/24). That is: allegiance ,complaint, confession, differentiation, forgiveness, freedom, God, good and evil, grace, inward and outward works, humility, imitation, joy, nature, peace, poverty, prayer,sacrament, singularity, suffering, temptation, transcending images, union, virtue and wealth. After analysing the structure of these talks and discussing the major themes, we shall end up by considering the topic of this year's conference.  As such "incarnation" is not explicitly mentioned in these early teachings.  Implicitly however, we may find some interesting passages, which can be considered in relation to this topic, espacially if we reflect on "incarnation" in an anthropological sense.
Michael Demkovich OP
            Explanatory Shards of the Incarnation in Eckhart's Parisian Questions

The Incarnation is a profound mystery, requiring theological and philosophical thought even  to scratch the surface of its meaning.  Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century Dominican, teacher, preacher and mystic, offers us no less a challenge in his understanding of how God enters the human condition. From the broad scope of his writings, one confronts a philosophically gifted thinker and an artfully eloquent preacher.  In order to do justice to his thought, this paper will examine his fundamental concepts that allow for his profound theological insight. These explanatory 'shards', as I call them, are drawn from his disputations that he delivered while a master theologian at the university of Paris in the early thirteen hundreds, known as the Questiones Parisienses.   These 'shards' can give us insight into Eckhart's life and thought.  By locating the 'shards' in the context of the controversial attacks on Aquinas, and the Dominican Order's deliberate defence of Thomas's thought, we glimpse their richer significance.  Eckhart loyally defended his Dominican brother, but at the same time he will build on his maligned confrere's work. By salvaging these 'shards' we better appreciate the theological project of Eckhart as part of a new theology of his day.
Given this awareness, we are better able to grasp the underlying concerns at work in Eckhart's theology of the Incarnation.  I show this by treating the Meister's understanding of the Incarnation found in his Commentary on John's Gospel (Exspositio sancti Enangelii secundem Iohannem)
In particular I limit this to his reflections on Chapter 1 verse 14: 'Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis'.  In his comments , we see Eckhart the teacher and preacher, Master at Paris and Mystic of the Rhine, employ fundamental explanatory concepts drawn from Thomas Aquinas and defended in his Parisian Questions. They are such telltale concepts that their lineage to Aquinas is without doubt. The uniqueness of God's essence and existence over against created existence and essence, is but one explanatory 'shard,' and also the notions of actualization and the unicity of substantial form.These are all key issues defended by the Order and Eckhart. But Eckhart puts these to further use, developing a twofold sense of the Incarnation in Christ and in us. His explanatory framework, which is fundamentally in agreement with Aquinas and the Order, creatively expands to allow for a more perfect order of reality.  The Incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ is perfect and complete but the same Incarnation is being actualized in each one of us, here and now,  as we manifest justice and godliness.  It is with these explanatory 'shards',  picked out of his Parisian Questions, that we can imagine their relationship to his overall theological project. In their suggestive presence we see how they allow Eckhart to develop his theology of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh dwelling in us.
Saturday afternoon: George Wilson - Living with Eckhart's Thought

Saturday eveningconcert: The Solaris String Quartet
Fifteenth Annual Conference:
Eckhart and Image

Took place on 23 - 25 August 2002 at Plater College, Oxford, England.
The following papers were given
Dr John O'Donohue,
              The Absent Threshold :The Paradox of Divine Knowing in Meister Eckhart

Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi
             The Eye and the Wood: An Image in Eckhart that explains"all that I have ever preached about"
I will base myself on the image that Eckhart says sums up all his teaching: the vision by the eye of a piece of wood: and explain how this image can sum up his teachings only if we fully grasp the import of his assertion: the creature is a pure nothing.  This "no-thingness"of the creature is the ontological premise of realization of the Absolute, brought about through a "vision " which so unites the viewer to the object viewed (the "eye-wood") that there is really nothing left of the viewer/creature: the Absolute stands alone.  Thus, the creatureis realized in one-pointed concentration as a pure nothing; this is the concomitant of the positive realization of the Absolute
Edward Robinson
              Ciphers of Transcendence:
Some reflections on the work of Kasimir Malevich, the apophatic theology of Meister Eckhart and Karl Jaspers' concept of the Cipher.
Richard Woods OP
                  Eckhart's Imageless Image
Art, Spirituality and the Apophatic Way
Emma Murphy and Lynda Sayce gave a recital of  Early Music


Fourteenth Annual Conference
Took place on 24 - 26 August 2001
The following papers were given
Richard Woods  O.P.
             Ecology, Spirituality and Eckhart: On Loving the World
Accepting as fact that the environmental crisis confronting this and the following generations is real, extremely serious, and in large measure the result of human selfishness, greed ,and short-sightedness, I suggest that despite Eckhart's negative approach to matter, time ,and multiplicity, major elements of his spiritual doctrine regarding the holiness of creation, the possibility of redemptive suffering, and the development of true detachment can help this and coming generations to work actively in achieving global justice.
Dr Oliver Davies
                On Reading Meister Eckhart
In this paper I ask questions about why the writings of Eckhart should be so meaningful to-day. In the first place I survey the place of "intellect" in Aristotle, focussing on Book II, Chapter 19 of the Posterior Analytics, and in Thomas Aquinas.Here the emphasis is upon the capacity of the human mind to penetrate with certainty into the nature of the real and thus to found secure knowledge. It is against this background that I read Eckhart's prioritisation of the "intellect"as that which can take God 'as he is in his unity and his desert'
Kant set the mark of the modern by showing the limits of reason with respect to religion, thus undermining traditional metaphysics. It was no longer possible to say that we have knowledge of God based upon the use of the faculty through which we know things in the world. For Thomas the formal object of the intellect was 'common being' (ens communes) which bore the marks of the creator.  It is in the immediate aftermath of Kant's ground breaking work that we see the evolution of a distinctively modern approach to reason and God. In the work of Jacobi and Schleiermacher we see the development of the view that some mental faculty within us can penetrate to the divine world and that this faculty is radically distinct from the way in which we normally perceive objects. Schleiermacher called it 'intuition' and Jacobi called it 'reason'.
It is Eckhart's dramatic and powerful use of the theme intellect as that which is specifically ordered to the divine which corresponds to our modern sense of 'spiritual mind' - even if the original background to this idea in Eckhart may have been very different from any that we know to-day.
Joan O'Donovan O.P.
            The Way of Meister Eckhart
The purpose of this paper is to describe how the teachings of Meister Eckhart have
influenced the vision and praxis of a centre in Dublin, Ireland, called Eckhart House. Founded twenty years ago by Miceal O'Reagan, a Dominican priest and psychologist, this centre was called after Meister Eckhart because it was envisaged as an experiment in human living where the needs of body, feelings, mind and soul were to be cared for so that the Divine might be more visible in our world, individual, social and environmental.
The approach to Eckhart's teaching is explained, namely that of exploring his understanding of, and  vision for, the human person using the insights of modern psychology, in particular psychosynthesis, and of trasnspersonal theory, in order to clarify the different levels of self experience, and to facilitate the transformation of consciousness involved in becoming who we are in God.
It is suggested that this approach to Eckhart's Way of Detachment can become a practice of awareness or the awakening of the Observing Self.  The methodology involved in this practice is explicated.  It is presented as a meditative attitude to life that encourages the gradual letting go of the achievement energy of the ego and learning the more receptive attitude taught by Meiaster Eckhart, that of 'surrender' or 'letting go' of the Deep Inner Life

Dr Joseph Milne
               Eckhart and the Word
This talk explores the underlying theological and philosophical understanding of the Word as presented in the works of Meister Eckhart. Particular attention is given to the Medieval philosophy of language as inherited from Greek philosophy, and how this differs radically from our modern theories of language. The talk will try to illustrate the primary ontological status of the Word as pre-existent to thought or conception, and how this has profound implications for the theory of knowledge or epistemology
Through a detailed interpretation of some key passages in Eckhart it will be shown that there is a relation between mystical knowledge of God and the knowledge of the essence of created
beings, and that this has far reaching implications for any modern theories of the nature of reality, language and knowledge.
The main purpose of the talk is to try to overcome some of the modern presuppositions we are likely to bring to our reading of Eckhart by situating ourselves within the philospophical and theological tradition to which Eckhart's thought belongs.

 

Stromenti gave a recital of unusual and beautiful  baroque music played on period instruments

Thirteenth Annnual Conference
Took place on 25-27 August 2000

The following papers were given

Father Bill Kirkpatrick - Working in London
              The Spiritual Aspects of Detachment

Dr. Amy Hollywood - Dartmouth College U.S.A.
              Eckhart's Apophatic Ethics

The paper uses Foucault's understanding of ethics to help demonstrate that there is an Eckhartian ethics and to clarify the relationship between apophasis (unsaying the names of the divine), detachment (as an ascetic and ethical practice parallel to that linguistic one), and the formation or un-formation of the self (what Foucault calls an ethics or an ascetics).  The author aims to show that Foucault's association of ethics an ascetics can help us understand the nature of Eckhart's ethics of detachment and its relaionship to the ascetic ethical culture of the religious women among whom he lived and to whom he so often preached.
Prof Denys Turner - University of Cambridge
              How Should I Love God?  Eckhart, Duns Scotus & Thomas Aquinas on How to Rumble Idolatries

Fr John Orme Mills O.P.- Prior of Blackfriars Newcastle on Tyne
              The Affective Eckhart
The initial purpose of this paper given at the Eckhart Society Oxford Conference of 2000 by Father John Orme Mills O.P. (the Dominican known to the Eckhart Society's members primarily as the founder and until 1999 the Editor of the Eckhart Review) was to examine what grounds there are for thinking that Eckhart was in any sense "affective", in other words a man of feeling. This is not how he has normally been seen.
The speaker considered the nature of his dialectic and also the way he "frequently leaves his sayings open (like a poet) for us to dialogue with the 'otherness' of them, to take off from them". He argued that Eckhart "was what we would call an imaginative person, or maybe a creative person", and, drawing on later theory of the imagination, stated: "If Eckhart was an imaginative person, then he was a person of sensitivity, an affective person." He tested this particularly by considering Eckhart's reflections on suffering.
He argued that Eckhart's affective side not only contributes significantly to the vitality of his text - something particularly important for newcomers to Eckhart - but also contributes substantially to what Schuermann called Eckhart's "this-worldliness".  In this context the speaker discussed aspects of sermon 86 (on Martha and Mary) and recent scholarly work on it
This led him in the paper's closing section to quote the Sell's statement "Eckhart suggests a Christian theology built upon the vulnerability of the divine and its interrelation and interdependence with humanity" and to propose that Eckhart's affectivity partly accounts for this understanding of God and God's relationship with us. He thought giving more attention to the "affective" side of Eckhart might deepen our understanding of his "mystical" side.
Dr Brian Lancaster - University of Manchester
              Eckhart, Kabbalah and the Limits of Psychological Inquiry
Eckhart's Mysticism is compared with that of the 13th century Jewish mystic, Abraham Abulafia.  Abulafia was a major exponent of the language of mysticism which is central to much Jewish mysticism, and encouraged the use of a variety of distinctive practices involving complex ways of working with Hebrew and especially its letters. Despite this substantial contrast with Eckhart, who eschewed any special; spiritual practices, the two thinkers are comparable to the extent that they both tried to understand mystical states in terms of Aristotelian categories  An example concerns their respective messianic ways of thinking about the highest level of the Intellect, which becomes the agent for a mystical encounter with the divine.
Further to my comparison of their approaches to intellectual mysticism, I raise the question of the extent to which systems of explanation current in modern psychology may play a role similar to that of the Aristotelian system of their day in furthering the challenge to understand the human mind's relation to the transcendent sphere. Abdulafia's emphasis on deconstruction of language suggests a model in which the normally automatic structuring of meaning via language is attenuated whilst the more polyvalent and dynamic flux of meaning characterising preconscious processing is fostered. At the same time, a further characteristic of his method-whereby deconstructed language elements are continually connected to the letters of the divine Name-suggests a shift in the indexing of memories.
A central feasture in memory is thought to be an index enabling associative recall, in which language plays a major role. Normally a key focus for this index is provided  by the representation of ' I '. It is argued here that Abulafian mysticism displaces this ' I 'focus in the index with what amounts to a 'God-focus'. The implications of such a model of mystical states are considered and the model's applicability to Eckhart's intellectual mysticism is discussed.  I argue that this modelling approach has more value in psychological terms than do those approaches which emphasise the supposed experience of 'pure consciouness' in Eckhartian mysticism.

 

Lucie Skeaping  and Members of Burning Bush:  Gave a recital of Sephardi and Ashkenazi songs and musicfrom the old Jewish world on the Saturday evening

LOOKING FORWARD

Find out more about upcoming Eckhart Society events.

READ MORE