THE DYNAMIC OF PERSON IN ECKHART'S MYSTICISM AND ITS RELATION TO THE 'SUNYATA' DOCTRINE

JONAS VLADAS BARCIAUSKAS, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation attempts to respond to two related issues in Eckhart scholarship. The first is the issue of the place of person in Eckhart's thought. At certain points in his writings, it appears that the Dominican mystic subordinates all personal distinctions, human and divine, to an ultimate and indistinct nothingness, frequently characterized as the desert of the Godhead. The question thus arises of whether or not in such formulations Eckhart moves beyond the personalism of the Christian tradition.^ The second issue appears within the context of the Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Buddhist philosophers have argued that the West has overlooked the significance of negative ontology. Frequently they point to the negative theologians within the Christian tradition, and Eckhart in particular, as expressing a view of reality closer to their own. The question here is whether Eckhart has been adequately understood by the Buddhist interpreters of the sunyata doctrine, a traditionally impersonal term, or whether his thought has been abstracted from the personal context of his tradition.^ Recent analyses of Eckhart's work have offered a number of valuable insights into these terms. The presence of a dialectic in the Meister's thought between the personal and the impersonal, the distinct and the indistinct, the birth of the Son in the soul and the desert of the Godhead, is one such insight offered by several scholars. The author attempts to build on this and other contributions by focussing on the place of person in the Meister's mysticism. If person can be discerned as a significant theme in the Meister's mystical theology, then students of his thought would be in a better position to respond to the issues raised above.^ In developing his argument, the author contends that person in Eckhart must be viewed as a dynamic rather than a static category, and that as a dynamic it is descriptive of a spiritual, transformative process which begins with the human person and culminates in divine Personhood without negating the value of one's humanity. Moreover, it is necessary to see that Eckhart devises strategies and employs particular modes of thought, all for the purpose of helping his listener/reader enter into the dynamic and achieve the goal of spiritual transformation. Finally, person must be recognized as dialectically related to the impersonal One; the personal nature of Eckhart's dialectic becomes clearer within the context of a dialogic encounter between Eckhart and Nagarjuna, the foremost Buddhist interpreter of the sunyata dialectic. ^

Subject Area

Religion, History of

Recommended Citation

BARCIAUSKAS, JONAS VLADAS, "THE DYNAMIC OF PERSON IN ECKHART'S MYSTICISM AND ITS RELATION TO THE 'SUNYATA' DOCTRINE" (1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8506316.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506316

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