The sermons of Meister Eckhart have long attracted readers with their daring ideas and brilliant use of language. In The Unspoken Word, Bruce Milem examines four sermons to show that Eckhart's distinctive way of speaking reflects his theological views, especially his commitment as a negative theologian to the absolute ineffability of God. As a preacher, Eckhart faced the challenge of talking about something that cannot be grasped in language. Instead of providing straightforward statements of doctrine or instructions about mystical experience, Eckhart's sermons use paradox, wordplay, and imagery to engage his readers dialectically and bring them to a new perspective on themselves in relation to God. This perspective treats God as being both distinct and indistinct from ordinary things, including the soul. Knowing God is a process of coming to acknowledge one's own contingency as a created thing in time, which exists only because it receives its being from God in every moment. For Eckhart, Christian practice is not intended to achieve eternal salvation or ecstatic union with the divine. Rather, it confesses and proclaims the soul's recognition of its ontological dependence on God. Eckhart expresses this perspective through complex verbal images that attempt to disclose something of God while emphasizing their own inevitable shortcomings.
The four sermons studied in this volume are among his most well known, for they display in a remarkably compressed fashion the main themes of Eckhart's thinking, and they provide leading examples of the rhetorical flair that made him famous as a preacher. From them, and Bruce Milem's illuminating commentary, readers will gain important insight into Eckhart's whole activity as a preacher and theologian.
Bruce Milem is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His essay "Meister Eckhart and the Image: Sermon 16b" was awarded the Eckhart Society Essay Prize in 1998.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
"[C]arefully argued and gracefully written.... [A]n important addition to the growing body of English literature on Meister Eckhart...."- Lorraine Attreed, Speculum
"Breathtaking.... Although Eckhart has been examined from many different perspectives, Milem's book strikes me as probably the most brilliant contribution so far written on this mystical thinker.... [Milem's] ability to reach deep into Eckhart's thoughts and to discuss them critically and in a very comprehensible manner is admirable.... The author succeeds in illuminating Eckhart's sermons as highly complex literary and theological enterprises of both philosophical and mystical intent.... [A] superb study."-- Mystics Quarterly
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