An interview with author and theologian Matthew Fox on the radical medieval mystic Meister Eckhart and his encouraging message for us today.
Why did you decide to write this book, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Times?
It’s my third book on Meister Eckhart, but my first one in over 30 years, and in those 30 years, I have learned from teaching Meister Eckhart to thousands of adults how transformative he is, how profoundly he touches people’s hearts and minds. I wanted to explore more deeply why that is so, why he is so relevant to today. And as I put out in the book, I think part of it is that he is so interfaith, that is to say that Buddhists call him a Buddhist and Hindus call him a Hindu, and Sufis call him a Sufi. But in fact he was a Christian but he went so deeply into his experience, his own soul, his own lineage that he went to that place of commonality, of universality, between traditions, and I think we are recognizing that today. With our global village and our rubbing of elbows with Buddhists and Hindus and Christians and Jews and Muslims and more, we have to start thinking more universally and less in sectarian terms. I don’t know anyone that has that kind of voice like Eckhart, living or dead, it’s just uncanny how he is able to speak to people of many traditions over the years.
Yet many people in the mainstream Christian world are not familiar with his teachings, are they?
No they aren’t, because he was condemned a week after he died by the Pope. He died in 1329. And so his work kind of went underground and mainstream Christianity has not taken note of it. He speaks from the depth of experience which is, of course, what mysticism is about, it’s about tasting and experiencing, and he is unique in that regard, in that he is so articulate about the spiritual experience. But you’re right, he has not been hailed by the mainstream. But he has influenced so many people on the edges, who have been powerful, for example Carl Jung. Carl Jung quotes Eckhart over 30 times and says Eckhart gave him the key to the unconscious. Dag Hammerskjold, the Secretary General of the United Nations in the 1950s, who was a great mystic and was Scandanavian, drew heavily from Meister Eckhart. And Larry Dossey, the medical doctor, told me personally that in his library at home he has a whole section on Eckhart and that Eckhart is so important to him. Karl Marx was even influenced by Eckhart according to great Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch. And in my book I have two chapters on Eckhart and women: Eckhart and the divine feminine. Eckhart was very close to the Beguines, the medieval women’s movement of his time. He is both broad and deep, and that makes him very special and very needed today.