ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

411. Philosophical Teaching. -- Eckhart propounded an equivocal sort of mysticism which it is not easy to absolve from the charge of pantheism. Before attempting an outline of it, let us glance at the metaphysical system which permeates it and supports it on all sides. Eckhart is thoroughly imbued with the doctrines of scholasticism, save on the one question of essence and existence; and here we get a full view of the characteristic -- and fundamental -- error of his whole philosophy. God alone, the Actus Purus, is His own being. In the creature, on the contrary, the essence or quiddity is distinct from the existence (288). Yet, an intimate bond attaches the creature to God, for God is the existence of the creature; the latter has no being (existence) other than God in Whom it subsists (Esse est Deus). God, therefore, constitutes the actuality of the world (Deus est primus actus formalis in omni opere artis et naturae); He is to the contingent essence or quiddity what act is to potency, what form is to matter, what unity is to number. Since the created essence is held to be distinct from God (esse rerum extra, in rerum natura) and has corresponding to it, as such, an idea in the Divine Mind of the Creator (omnis creatura habet esse unum in causis suis originalibus, scilicet in verbo Dei), Eckhart's is not a system of pantheistic emanation wherein all things would be reduced to mere phenomena or moments of the Divine Life. But still, the identity of existence which envelops Creator and creature, and in which Eckhart finds a proof of the Divine Ubiquity and of the eternity of Creation (quod enim est in quantum hujusmodi, non fit, nec fieri potest), seems to compromise the distinction between finite and Infinite: Eckhart, to say the least of him, borders perilously on pantheism. But let us add that he himself did not consider his theory as leading to those serious consequences. Cum dicitur Deum in omnibus nosse et amare solum esse et seipsum, quod est esse, hoc inquam dicentes non destruimus esse rerum, sed constituimus.{1} Let us remember, too, that the German Dominican built on the basis of tradition, that he took from scholasticism his ideas, his terminology, and even his faults of method, and we will agree that Eckhart was not a renegade, but a scholastic of enlightened though unusual tendencies, who failed to free himself from an unfortunate confusion and misapplication of ideas.

This confusion is perceptible in his psychology also. The human soul is the being of God; in loving man, God loves Himself; He could not do without man, any more than man could do without Him. We must aim at freeing ourselves from ourselves and at being swallowed up in the abyss of the Deity; in this "deification" we shall find perfect happiness.

{1} DENIFLE, op. cit. (n. 420), pp. 494 sqq. To vindicate his "scholasticity" Eckhart submits the word esse to a series of distinctions some of which look like mere puns.

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