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The best way of learning about any thinker, even the most difficult, is by starting at the beginning and reading. This is particularly true of the writings of the philosopher and mystic, Meister Eckhart (1260- 1327), a Dominican theologian. There is a great deal written about Eckhart from widely varying perspectives from Christian to Buddhist, existentialist, idealist and many more. Rather than begin with introductions which are difficult in their own right, I suggest starting with Eckhart's own teachings and trying to respond directly to them. Eckhart wrote scholastic treatises in Latin and a variety of writings in his vernacular language, German. The latter writings are far more accessible and are included in the volume under review.

A spiritual treasure, this book, "The Complete Mystical Writings of Meister Eckhart", is the most comprehensive single volume in English available of Eckhart's German writings. Initially published in three volumes in the 1979 and 1987, the translations are by Maurice O'C Walshe (1911 - 1998). Walshe was a professor of Medieval Germanic Languages and Literature in England. In 1951, Walshe became a Theravada Buddhist and was active in Buddhism for the remainder of his life. He is probably best-known for his translation of an important and lengthy Buddhist Scripture, the "Long Discourses of the Buddha." The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya (Teachings of the Buddha) Walshe's translation of Eckhart's sermons is marked by the same simplicity that characterizes his translation of the Buddhist suttas. The writing is clear and unstilted. Footnotes are short and kept to a minimum. The book has been reprinted and published in a beautiful edition of 600 pages by Crossroad Publishing Company of Herder & Herder.

Most of the book consists of sermons. The texts of the sermons are transcriptions made during Eckhart's delivery by a member of his audience. The transcriptions may have been subsequently reviewed and edited by Eckhart. The Meister's audience most often consisted of nuns or other women in the religious life. Each sermon begins with a Scriptural text which Eckhart expounds freely and allegorically rather than literally In studying the sermons, it is important to remember that Eckhart delivered them orally and that his audience tended to be women religious.

The book includes 98 Eckhart sermons. At the time of Walshe's translations, this was the complete group of sermons that had been deemed authentic in the definitive German edition prepared by a great Eckhart scholar, Joseph Quint (1898 - 1976). After Quint's death, other scholars determined that additional sermons also were Eckhart's and added them to the canon. The fluidity in the works determined to be authentic should not concern the reader as there is much in this book to be absorbed. In addition to the sermons, the book includes translations of Eckhart treatises, "The Talks of Instruction", the famous "Book of Divine Comfort", "The Nobleman" and, another famous treatise, "On Detachment". A final section of the book includes short legends about Eckhart and a brief document purporting to capture the Meister's final words to his disciples. Walshe's own lucidly written prefaces to the initial volumes are included, and there is a short Foreword by the noted Eckhart scholar Bernard McGinn. The volume also includes a list of 29 teachings of Eckhart that were deemed heretical in a Bull of Pope John XXII dated March 27, 1329. By that time, Eckhart had already died.

Many readers find parallels between Eckhart's thought and Buddhism. But a brief introductory review of the book, or an initial reading of the text, is not the place to press any particular interpretation. The sermons can appear to be dizzyingly abstract, perhaps especially because Eckhart's language is often highly concrete. His style is often aphoristic and quotable. It is also deliberately difficult and full of paradox. Eckhart wanted to jar his hearers out of common paths of thinking to allow them to understand anew and for themselves. Eckhart also wanted to show the poverty of language in attaining religious insight. Most readers find a nondualistic character in Eckhart's thought. He wanted to lead those attending to his sermons away from a dualism between a Transcendent God and an immanent world. Instead, Eckhart suggests that God is in the heart of every person and being. The Divine nature overflows and is all-encompassing. It requires receptiveness and the pushing away of the bounds of sense perception to see the unity between divine nature and the human spirit or "soul". Eckhart tends to use an approach that starts with God and the divine and works down, so to speak, rather than starting with individual persons and the efforts of man to try to understand God or transcendence from the outside. His teachings emphasize egolessness, immediacy, and detachment, which are sometimes summed up in the phrase "living without a why." Readers of Eckhart will find their own way with the texts before beginning with commentaries and interpretations.

The sermons and other writings explore many of the same themes throughout, but they each put them in different ways. For those with little prior familiarity with Eckhart, it is best to work through the text in its entirety. The text should be read slowly and carefully with only a little at each sitting. It should not be forced.

Eckhart's sermons have proved to be a gift to me and to many other readers. I am grateful to Crossroads Press for allowing me to review this volume. Crossroads Press has likewise given a gift to those readers wanting to engage with Eckhart in these translations by Maurice Walshe.

Robin Friedman
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There are other excellent reviews of this book, so I'll keep this short.

The lion's share of the book is the translation of all his Middle High German sermons, organized and labelled in such a way that you can find them regardless of which of the seven different methods for numbering that have been used over the years, about 450 pages. Ninety pages are devoted to five short treatises. The treatises deal primarily with the Medieval style of monastic discipline. There is no New Age rainbows and Celtic knots here. This volume is a bit pricy, but the introduction by Bernard McGinn, and expert on Eckhart and the medieval in general contributes much to the value of the book. For those to whom this is important, it is also very nicely designed, with a spffy dust jacket.

For those who are new to Eckhart, you may be surprised at the briskness and brevity of the sermons. After spending a fair amount of time reading sermons by John Donne and Jonathan Edwards, I'm amazed at these little gems. But for all their brevity, they were often written for an audience of clerics and theology students. Therefore, the thought behind the text tends to be quite deep. There is remarkably little of what you might expect from a modern homily. Eckhart was primarily a university professor, so his sermons may come off sounding like lectures. But, Eckhart does currently rank among the top late medieval Christian scholars, a distinction which is relatively new. This is why out of his 10 volumes of Latin and German works, not much more than one volume is available in English.

Highly recommended, especially when compared to other collections.
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on May 11, 2011
Eckhart's style, depth and inspiration are phenomenal. As a teacher of Faith, he is the true successor of Plotinus, Augustine and Saadya Gaon, and is only approached in value in the 18th century by Jacob Emden and the Testimonies of M.A.L.. His grasp and scholarship are universal and immense, his style compelling. His exposition is as inspiring and helpful to the Zen Buddhist, Sufi, Jew, or JW, as it is to the Christian. His mind and scholarship are unconfined by dogmatic bounds, and he quotes the Pagan greats as well and the Jewish adepts often, and reveals the brotherhood of Truth.

I've read the various English translations, and greatly admire Walsh's erudition and competence. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance (yet) to read the Latin and German originals, but sense that Walsh is truly adept in those languages, certainly as they were in the Meister's time. I am sure that the HS embraces both of them tightly, as will every true seeker. I recommend that you start with Volume 3, and then go on to the 70+ sermons. Imagine the dynamics when Dominic met Francis, of blessing memories. Imagine when Eckhart joined their Circle. Imagine the joy of the Word at his every pen-stroke and sermon.
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on April 16, 2010
A beautiful book. Well worth the price. I had heard that different translators have numbered Meister Eckhart's sermons and other works differently. This "complete" book solves that problem and is, indeed, complete. Many small chapters that make daily reading a real spiritual pleasure. Eckhart Tolle's name sake. Adyashanti sometimes reads from Meister Eckhart around the Christmas holidays. An inspiration to people of all faiths and those seeking only pure spirituality without religion. A real shiner!
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on December 22, 2014
For those wishing to practice Christianity, this is as essential as Saint Augustine's autobiography or St. Thomas Aquinas. This book which constitutes one half of the teachings and sermons given by Meister Eckhart are so deep and so forthcoming in their truthfulness as to be staggering. One should feel oneself lucky one can read one paragraph without feeling completely overwhelmed and as if one had eaten entire rich meal. For those lucky to have this book, it becomes a permanent place of pride Christian epic. I can think of no other single Christian writing that warrant such praise. This is a no-brainer and a no remorse purchase. the only problem might be trying to think you could read it all in a year, when it should take 2 decades. Astonishing.
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on September 25, 2015
This book is so spiritually uplifting that it would be hard to give it less that a five star rating; however, the theology of Meister Eckhart is not easy and can be very perplexing. Meister Eckhart states that all creatures, including man, gain their being from "God" and without that spark from "God" man would be non existent and would be described as "nothing". Meister Eckhart also remarks that part of the human soul is uncreated and that, although "God" is in all things, the human soul is the natural image of "God". I would highly recommend this inspirational but challenging.
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on April 7, 2014
I have found this book to be a great introduction to the essential German sermons and works of Meister Eckhard. The quality of scholarship is superb, both in the translations themselves, as well as the introductory essays.
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on June 24, 2013
It is highly recommended for those who are not satisfied with their spiritual life and are still looking for a closer relationship with God
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on June 18, 2014
I liked reading this book, however, it was a bit difficult to understand. I wonder if there is a book explaining it, or a commentary on it.
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on May 13, 2016
Worth every penny.
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