review by Fred Gustafson
Once again, Matthew Fox has gifted the collective soul with his book, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times. This, his third book on Eckhart, extends the influence of this great historical mystic has had through the centuries up to our present time. Why this was possible is because Eckhart’s spiritual words were and remain so deeply grounded in the soul of the earth and all the creatures that live upon it. Both Fox and Eckhart were of the Dominican life. Both men suffered the weight of judgment by the institutional Church; Fox being silenced and later excommunicated and Eckhart being put on trial twice, the second time having twenty-nine of his statements condemned. Painfully though in spite of this, such renunciations can be intriguing to anyone who looks below the surface of contemporary Christianity that has tended to be overly literalized and segregated from the earth and anyone not of its theological beliefs. It is intriguing because it is based on the notion that the best of theology should walk the edges of heresy and, at times, plunge headlong into it. Any preview of Christian history will attest to this truth beginning with Jesus himself. It seems that only then can the status quo be challenged and taken to the next step in the evolution of ideas be they philosophical, political or spiritual.
The special uniqueness of this book lies in Matthew Fox’s ability to put a host of ancient and contemporary thinkers and social activists in close mutual relationship with Meister Eckhart. His intimate knowledge of both Eckhart and these historically important individuals at times makes it read almost like a dialogue. To strengthen this mutuality further, imagine that all of these individuals Fox invited into his book are in one conference room listening to the main speaker who is, indeed, Meister Eckhart. When he has finished his presentation, all of the attendees respond with “Yes, that is exactly what I mean; that is precisely the ground of what I believe, and why I have done the things I have done, and why I live the life I live.” Though Fox makes this kind of mutuality evident throughout his book, what also needs to be recognized is the diversity of the group all agreeing on the same spiritual ground. Here you have the Jewish Rabbi Heschel in agreement with the Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin; here is Beguines Mechtild of Magdeburg on the same ground as the Sioux medicine man, Black Elk; and Thich Nhat Hanh connecting with Karl Marx, and so forth.
If ever the world needs to break the boundaries of political and religious differences, it is now in this twenty-first century. With all of the violence we hear on the daily news, one can loose heart for any sign of hope. However, with this book, Matthew Fox gives us an intimation that hope in the future is not some idle passing thought. That it is even possible to have written this book is a reminder that such spiritual searching and the worldwide diversity that accompanies it is more prevalent than one would think. That, to this writer, is the core value of this book, namely, the reminder that we are all searching spiritually for the same thing. This is true whether we know it or not, accept it or not, or deny it or not. The spiritual struggle of Meister Eckhart to keep religious perspective from growing stale and lifeless could not go away in his life and time, nor will it go away today.
TITLE: MEISTER ECKHART: A MYSTIC-WARRIOR FOR OUR TIMES
AUTHOR: MATTHEW FOX
PUBLISHER: NEW WORLD LIBRARY