New World Library, 2014, 352 pp
Reviewed by Ian Mowll
This is a book about Meister Eckhart, the 13th/14th century mystic who was born near Gotha in what was the Holy Roman Empire and is now in Germany. But the book is about much more than Meister Eckhart himself. Matthew Fox picks out key thinkers, philosophers, social and eco activists from modern times and shows how they have been influenced by, or resonate with, Meister Eckhart.
Just some of these names are Rabbi Heschel, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh, Julian of Norwich, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, Bede Griffiths, Rum, Hafiz, Black Elk, Dorothy Stang, David Korten and Anita Roddick. This makes the book refreshingly relevant. Whilst Meister Eckhart wrote a great deal, as ever with spirituality, it needs to be re-interpreted for modern times.
There are so many treasures in the book, here a just a few thoughts.
Matthew Fox draws from Thomas Berry and Teilhard de Chardin and links them with Meister Eckhart through the idea that …all beings are sacred and all life on the planet is sacred. And he further develops the idea with this quote from Berry: In the realm of living beings there is an absolute interdependence. No living being nourishes itself.
What is heartening is that Eckhart says, All paths lead to God for God is on them all evenly. But as Bede Griffiths observes: Each religion has its own particular insight and its own particular limitations. We have to learn to detect the insight and to recognize the limitations. This is why it is good to read about many different perspectives in the book – to get a wider picture and to see how they all contribute to a holistic spirituality.
One of the activists Matthew Fox writes about is Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop. Anita says, There is a spiritual dimension to life that, for me, is the real bottom line. It underpins everything. Readers may be interested to know that Anita was a supporter of GreenSpirit (then known as ‘Creation Spirituality’) in the early days of the organisation.
And what about Eckhart himself? I learnt that he did not speak from a safe and comfortable position of tenure in an academic ivory tower. In fact, he abandoned academia in Paris to work among the people in Germany and elsewhere.
So, in reading this book, I hear Eckhart’s ideas echoing down through the centuries. This book is Meister Eckhart bought to life for today’s world.