Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Andrés Quero-Sánchez presents a paper on 'Meister Eckhart’s Rede von der armuot in the Netherlands: Ruusbroec’s Critique and Geert Grote’s Sermon on Poverty'

At the very beginning of his well-known interpretation of Meister Eckhart’s Sermon on Poverty in the first volume of Lectura Eckhardi, that is to say: of his interpretation of Eckhart’s German Sermon 52 according to the numeration by JOSEF QUINT, KURT FLASCH states: ‘This sermon is a beautiful one’. Although I myself do think that this text by Eckhart – which not only Valentin Weigel (d. 1588), Pelgrim Pullen (d. 1608), Jacob Boehme (d. 1624) and Angelus Silesius (d. 1677) but also Schelling (d. 1854) and even Nietzsche (d. 1900) knew and highly valued – is to be seen as one of the most important works in the history of German philosophy – or, maybe, Theology –, I do not think that FLASCH‘s assertion is a true one. Why not? I will answer this question in a moment, but let me first raise another question – the following one: Being, as it is, a particularly radical text, including some theses which are – or, at least, seem to be – especially unorthodox, how could it be that no sentence of this sermon was discussed in the context of Eckhart’s inquisition trial? For, as KURT RUH expressed , the inquisitors ‘could not have found a better text’ for their purposes. That is surely particularly right of the sentence that – to give you a well-known example – Nietzsche quotes in The Gay Science: ‘I pray God to liberate me from God’ (sô bite ich got, daz er mich quît mache gotes). For, as Eckhart in the continuation of the passage says, if God is rightly conceived, ‘I am then the cause of myself’ (sô bin ich mîn selbes sache). Some scholars, with EDMUND COLLEDGE and JACK C. MARLER leading the way, tried to find an explanation for this problem by stating that Eckhart had given that Sermon on Poverty in the last years of his life, as his inquisition trial was already ongoing: ‘The Sermon [on Poverty] was too late for it to be used against him’. However, I think that there is another, more natural explanation for that apparently incomprehensible fact. At the beginning of the text, Eckhart actually speaks not of a ‘Sermon’ but of a ‘rede’, that is, a ‘Speech’ or ‘Lecture’, by saying: ‘Now, I beg you to be so that you can understand dise rede [i.e. this Speech or Lecture]’ (Nû bite ich iuch, daz ir alsô sît, daz ir verstât dise rede). And at the end of the text, he says in a similar manner: ‘For as long as man has not become identical with truth, he will not understand dise rede [here again, this Speech or Lecture]’ (Wan alsô lange der mensche niht glîch enist dirre wârheit, sô lange ensol er dise rede niht verstân). Of course, one can understand the expression ‘rede’ that Eckhart is using here as meaning ‘that which I am saying in this sermon’, that is, as just meaning: ‘my words’: ‘I beg you’ thus ‘to be so that you can understand my words’. But I do not see any reason impeding from thinking that Eckhart is here rather describing the literary form he is using: this text is therefore not a ‘sermon’ but, as I said, a ‘speech’ or ‘lecture’, that is, a ‘discourse’, or an ‘address’. The technical term in Latin is ‘collatio’, meaning a sort of ‘talk’ that was not thought for a general public in the church or at the university, but to be delivered in private circles, in the case of this Speech on Poverty, or Rede von der armuot, surely to be delivered by Eckhart only – precisely because of the radicalism of the used formulations – in presence of his nearest disciples. We know some other Speeches, Discourses or Talks by Eckhart, namely his so-called Erfordian Reden, or – even – Talks on Instruction. JOSEF QUINT edited them as Eckhart’s Second Treatise, but instead they represent an anthology of ‘collationes’ that were – most probably – delivered and discussed in Eckhart’s convent in Erfurt, as the title in some extant manuscripts explicitly declares. This becomes particularly clear by comparing the beginning of the Talks on Instruction with that of the Book of the divine Consolation, which was undoubtedly published by Eckhart himself as a ‘Treatise’. The Talks on Instruction is surely not a work by Eckhart himself but rather an anthology of Eckhart‘s texts – of Eckhart’s collationes – published by some anonymous editor, most probably after Eckhart’s death. This is the reason why we do not find any sentence taken from that work among the articles discussed during Eckhart’s trial, neither in Cologne nor in Avignon. And this is also the explanation why Eckhart’s Speech on Poverty did not play any role in his trial: since it is not a Sermon, it had not yet been delivered by Eckhart at that time (ca. 1326–1329) in a public form or been published in book form, but it was only known to his nearest circle of disciples, who are responsible for the publication of this radical Speech, surely after the death of their master. Eckhart’s text on poverty is – maybe – beautiful, yet not a beautiful sermon.

No comments:

Post a Comment