From Eckhart to Ruusbroec

From Eckhart to Ruusbroec: A Critical Inheritance of Mystical Themes in the Fourteenth Century

Satoshi KIKUCHI
Volume: 44
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt14jxst1
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  • Book Info
    From Eckhart to Ruusbroec
    Book Description:

    The mystical relationship between Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruusbroec. In this thorough textual, historical, and doctrinal study the author seeks to clarify the relationship between two prominent mystics of the fourteenth century: Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican, and Jan van Ruusbroec, the Brabantine Augustinian. Special attention is paid to Ruusbroec’s criticism of mystical tenets circulating in Brabant at that time which were both textually and doctrinally related to Eckhart’s condemned propositions in the papal bull In agro dominico. This fact implies that Ruusbroec was confronted with the impact of the condemnation of Eckhart’s doctrines on the people in Brabant. Situating Ruusbroec’s life and works within the aftermath of Eckhart’s arrival, the author elucidates Ruusbroec’s position regarding the relevant mystical themes in the later Middle Ages, and follows a process of critical inheritance of mystical tradition from Eckhart to Ruusbroec.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-164-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. 9-10)
    Satoshi Kikuchi
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 11-14)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 15-22)

    For the scholarship of the medieval mystical traditions in Germany and the Low Countries, the relation between the two most prominent mystics in both traditions, the Dominican Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1328) and the Brabantine priest Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381), has been an intriguing topic to discuss.¹ Given Eckhart died about ten years before the beginning of Ruusbroec’s active period as an author, it is unthinkable that Eckhart knew about Ruusbroec, while it is quite plausible that the Brabantine mystic had some knowledge of the disputed German Dominican whose doctrines were condemned in the papal bullIn agro dominico in 1329....

  6. PART ONE ECKHART AND RUUSBROEC WITHIN THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT

    • CHAPTER ONE TOWARD THE CONDEMNATION OF ECKHART’S DOCTRINES
      (pp. 25-48)

      The task of the first chapter is to make an overview of the development of the mystical tradition among contemplative monasteries and female mystical authors, which overlaps with the heretical movements of the Free Spirits, Beguines and Beghards among laypeople. While the mystics within the ecclesiastical settings expressed their narrative of direct encounter with Christ, the heretical groups claimed the radical identification with God, which was seen as contradictory to the Church’s dogma and harmful to the institution of the Church as the mediator between God and Christians. Our purpose is to see how this enthusiasm for the direct relationship...

    • CHAPTER TWO THE IMPACT OF THE CONDEMNATION OF ECKHART’S DOCTRINES IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY BRABANT
      (pp. 49-70)

      A number of studies dedicated to the issue of Eckhart’s reception in the fourteenth century in Germany and the Low Countries have clarified that even after the condemnation of his doctrines by the papal bullIn agro dominicoin 1329, Eckhart’s influence on the tradition of mysticism did not cease in these regions.¹ Nevertheless, the fact that his doctrines were condemned must have had some serious effect on the course of the circulation of his legacy. We can assume that Eckhart’s name was inseparably accompanied by the disgraceful title “condemned,” which must have created a certain view of the Dominican...

    • CHAPTER THREE RUUSBROEC’S CRITICISM OF MYSTICAL HERESIES
      (pp. 71-98)

      This chapter will explore Ruusbroec’s criticism of heretical doctrines in which we find not only textual linkages with Eckhart’s statements, but also thematic overlaps with Eckhart’s doctrines that were condemned in the papal bull as well as what Jan van Leeuwen termed “Eckhart’s doctrine.” Although we do not know the degree to which Ruusbroec was acquainted with the actual links between the heretics he targeted and Eckhart himself, his criticism was surely related textually as well as doctrinally to the German Dominican’s heritage. It is also noteworthy that, as we will see in Part Three, the issues Ruusbroec discusses in...

    • SUMMARY OF PART ONE AND CONNECTION TO PART TWO
      (pp. 99-102)

      Part One was dedicated to making an overview of the mystical tradition and the heterodox movements in the later Middle Ages before and after the condemnation of Eckhart’s doctrines. This aimed to situate Eckhart and Ruusbroec within the historical continuity.

      Chapter One outlined the mystical tradition from the dawn of the religious enthusiasm in the twelfth century to the condemnation of Eckhart’s doctrines in the bullIn agro dominicoissued in 1329. While the mystical authors within the ecclesiastical settings expressed their narrative of direct encounter with Christ, the unorthodox mystical movements among the laity, such as the heresies of...

  7. PART TWO MYSTICAL THEMES IN ECKHART’S THEOLOGY

    • CHAPTER FOUR ECKHART’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRAXIS OF ECCLESIASTICAL LIFE
      (pp. 105-128)

      Our exploration into Eckhart’s thought begins with his understanding of the praxis of ecclesiastical life, which is taken issue of in the first group (according to our division) of his condemned articles inIn agro dominico. We analyze relevant texts in his writings with the following focuses: (1) the issues of sin and penitence (which appear in condemned articles 4, 5, 6, 14, and 15); (2) the issues of the depreciation of prayer and the wish for something from God (which appear in the articles 7, 8, and 9). The concept of ledec in relation with the doctrine of “spiritual...

    • CHAPTER FIVE ECKHART’S UNDERSTANDING OF GOD AND CREATION
      (pp. 129-156)

      In this chapter we investigate Eckhart’s theological understanding of God and creation with regard to the second group (according to our division) of his condemned articles. We focus on the particular points which are comparable with, on the one hand, the positions of the mystical heretics before and after Eckhart, and on the other hand the position of Ruusbroec. In analyzing relevant texts in Eckhart’s writings, especially the contexts of the condemned statements, we discuss the following two issues: (1) how Eckhart explains the relation of the divine Persons and finds its compatibility with his unity-oriented theology (this issue is...

    • CHAPTER SIX ECKHART’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE MYSTICAL UNION
      (pp. 157-186)

      This chapter is dedicated to an investigation of Eckhart’s understanding of the mystical union between God and the human being and its attendant Christology. We try to fathom how far Eckhart goes with the heterodox tenets in the understanding of these central issues in the mystical current. Keeping an eye on the backgrounds to the condemned statements in his writings, we discuss the following three points: (1) Eckhart’s understanding of the union between God and human in the divine essence (the original context of the condemned article 10 will be examined); (2) his understanding of the sonship of Christ (likewise,...

    • SUMMARY OF PART TWO AND CONNECTION TO PART THREE
      (pp. 187-190)

      Part Two reconstructed Eckhart’s mystical theology in his own writings as the starting point for tracing the development of mystical theology from Eckhart to Ruusbroec. The three categories of the themes which appeared in the condemned articles inIn agro dominicowere used as a framework for this investigation.

      Chapter Four examined Eckhart’s understanding of the praxis of ecclesiastical life according to the three subcategories in the first group of condemned articles.

      The first subcategory was the issue of sin and penitence. Eckhart’s explanation about his condemned ideas of the praise of God by sin was that God’s glory is...

  8. PART THREE THE CRITICAL INHERITANCE OF MYSTICAL THEMES IN RUUSBROEC’S THEOLOGY

    • CHAPTER SEVEN RUUSBROEC’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRAXIS OF ECCLESIASTICAL LIFE
      (pp. 193-214)

      In keeping with the order in our exploration of Eckhart’s writings in Part Two, we start our exploration of Ruusbroec’s writings in Part Three from his understanding of the praxis of the ecclesiastical life. We will focus on the relevant issues that appear in his criticism of the mystical heretics, and in the condemned doctrines of Eckhart. In addition, in this chapter, we will bring a wider perspective to our investigation than in Chapter Three (in which we examined his criticism) in order to clarify his proper position beyond the context of his criticism. The issues at hand are: (1)...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT RUUSBROEC’S UNDERSTANDING OF GOD AND CREATION
      (pp. 215-240)

      In this chapter we discuss the same theological issues that we discussed in Chapter Five regarding the ontological status of God and creatures, albeit from Ruusbroec’s angle. We have witnessed his reproach of strikingly harsh words—“These are not to be given the holy sacrament, living nor dying, nor are they to be buried with Christian people, but they should rightly be burned up at the stake”¹—against the mystical heretics who denied the multiplicity in God and even denied the very existence of God, all creatures and even themselves. By no means does the Brabantine author acknowledge as Christians...

    • CHAPTER NINE RUUSBROEC’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE MYSTICAL UNION
      (pp. 241-268)

      In dealing with the other mystical-theological themes, we have already come across some aspects of Ruusbroec’s understanding of the mystical union between God and human. Ruusbroec was consistently describing the union with God as a conforming to and an actual involvement in the bipolar structure of the Trinity. The human person who is contemplative and active at the same time was said to stay in the inactive essence of God, while remaining active with the divine Persons. Ruusbroec also repeatedly underlined the impossibility of the human person’s becoming identical with the divine essence. At the end of our investigation, it...

    • SUMMARY OF PART THREE
      (pp. 269-272)

      Part Three reconstructed Ruusbroec’s mystical theology according to the themes which appear in Eckhart’s condemned doctrines and in the tenets of the other mystical heretics. In order to clarify whether Ruusbroec’s proper thought shows a trail of development from Eckhart in the course of the medieval mystical tradition, this part explored Ruusbroec’s thought not only in the immediate contexts of his criticism against the mystical heretics, but also in broader contexts in which the Brabantine mystic manifested his discourse on those relevant issues.

      Chapter Seven was dedicated to examining Ruusbroec’s understanding of the ecclesiastical life which is related to his...

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 273-278)

    To detect the influence of Meister Eckhart on Jan van Ruusbroec, we explored the continuity of major mystical themes from the former to the latter. It goes without saying that many elements of Ruusbroec’s thought must have been conceived without the influence of Eckhart in a distinct context.¹ Nevertheless, it is also factual that there was a line—a textual, doctrinal and historical line—from Eckhart to Ruusbroec intermediated by the condemnation of the former’s doctrines and its pervasive aftershock. Furthermore, this line indicates also an aspect of the development of mystical theology in the later Middle Ages. It looks...

  10. LIST OF TEXTUAL LINKAGES TO ECKHART IN RUUSBROEC’S WRITINGS
    (pp. 279-284)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 285-298)
  12. INDEX OF NAMES
    (pp. 299-302)
  13. INDEX OF SUBJECTS
    (pp. 303-310)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-312)