Poems Of Meister Eckhart
Meister Eckhart (1260 -- 1327) was a Dominican monk and scholar who wrote in both Latin and German. His work has become influential to a wide group of people from many different religious and spiritual traditions and from many walks of life. Eckhart is a rare spiritual thinker who appeals both to the mind and the heart.
This short book, "Meister Eckhart's Book of the Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul" largely makes an appeal to the heart. It consists of short poems derived from the work of the great German mystic and does not presuppose prior familiarity with Eckhart. The poems in the book are derived from Eckhart's writings but are not literal translations. Eckhart wrote in prose but his language frequently is full of poetry and paradox. The authors of this collection are Jon Sweeney, an independent scholar and author of several popular books about religious figures and Mark Burrows, a poet and a scholar of medieval theology.
The poems in the book are short and in a variety of forms. They are for the most part effective in their own right as poetry. The book includes a short introductory text and introductory poem, "Opening the Heart's Door", a concluding poem, "Enough Now" and an Afterword, "Seeking God on the Wayless Way", a phrase which captures much of Eckhart. The poems are grouped under five headings each of which captures an important theme in Eckhart: 1. Our Soul-Life; 2. Letting Go; 3. The Inner Spark (which Eckhart often called the Funkelin) 4. Radiance and 5. Without Why. Eckhart is perhaps best-known for his famous phrase and teaching of Living without Why.
I found the poems inspiring and thought that they captured well Eckhart's teachings. Each poem has a note at the end of the book giving its source in Eckhart's writings. It is useful to reflect upon these poems both in themselves and in understanding Eckhart whose work is notoriously difficult and obscure.
A poem I especially liked is titled "Moses" and is taken from part two of the volume, "Letting Go". This work is unusual because it is derived from a Latin writing of the Meister, his commentary on the Book of Exodus which shows Eckhart's understanding of and respect for Jewish sources. Here is the poem "Moses" from the book.
"On the holy mountain
the lonely man dared
not look, and
hid his face.
On that windy outcrop
The single man was deathly
afraid even to lift his eyes
above the rocks.
Only when he, lonely and alone,
turned away from what he knew
were the hidden things of God
suddenly before him."
This poem beautifully ties in Eckhart's own spiritual themes with the work of great Jewish law-giver.
This is a good book to read when one is alone. It also would make a gift for spiritually-inclined friends. The book is not intended as a substitute for those who want to struggle with Eckhart's own words or to learn more about him. Readers wanting a recent overview of Eckhart's life, times, and thought may be interested in combining this book with Joel Harrington's study, "Dangerous Mystic: Meister Eckhart's Path to the God Within".