Life in Abundance:
Meister Eckhart & the German
Dominican Mystics of the 14th Century

by Gundolf M. Gieraths, O.P.

Autumn 1986 Vol. 38 Supplement

1. Life in Abundance
2. The Elements of German Dominican Mysticism
3. The Importance of Dominican Sisters in German Mysticism
4. Fifteenth-Century Dominican Spirituality
5. Mystical Writers: Meister Eckhart
6. Mystical Writers: John Tauler
7. Mystical Writers: Blessed Henry Suso & John of Sterngassen


Critical studies of the works of Meister Eckhart, Johann Tauler and Heinrich Suso have advanced notably since 1956, when Fr. Gieraths book first appeared in Germany. (1) (A select bibliography of recent works in English on Eckhart and his disciples is appended to this Introduction.) As a result, significant theological opinion has shifted in support of the orthodoxy of Eckhart's teachings, including the sentences taken out of the full context of his writings in the papal condemnation of 1329. A favorable response from the Vatican to a petition of the Dominican Order to reopen the proceedings against the Meister is presently awaited.

In light of these events, Gieraths' hesitation regarding Eckhart's orthodoxy must itself be viewed with reserve. Similarly, his bias against the Neoplatonic influence on St. Albert the Great and his students, especially Eckhart, must be reconsidered in view of the brilliant work of Alain de Libera and others, which argues cogently for the integral Christian interpretation of this alternative philosophical tradition by Albert's "Cologne School."(2) The Christian Neoplatonism of these "Albertines," tempered and in many respects transformed by a profound reliance on Scripture and Christian tradition, provided the hospitable structure for interpreting mysticism (they would have called it "contemplation") that the works of Aristotle lacked.

But even with these developments in the current upsurge of study and interest in the Rhineland mystics, no single work has addressed the phenomenon of the Dominican spiritual revolution of the late Middle Ages so thoroughly, deeply and impartially as Fr. Gieraths' little book. It was remarkably prophetic in almost every area of treatment. Of particular interest is his discussion of the spirituality of the Dominican nuns of this period and the contribution to German mysticism of John of Sterngassen. Unfortunately, very little of the relevant German literature on these subjects has been translated into English, including the important critical texts of the Rhineland convent chronicles.

Thus, as a general introduction to the Dominican Rhineland mystics of the fourteenth century, Life in Abundance remains unsurpassed. For this reason, Spirituality Today presents Fr. Gieraths' work in this single edition as a special supplement to the regular autumn issue. In order to preserve the integrity of the original series, excerpts from the sermons and writings of Eckhart, Tauler, Suso and John of Sterngassen, translated with Gieraths' text for the Cross and Crown series by Dr. Edward Schuster and Sr. Mary of the Immaculate Heart, O.P., have been left intact in this reprinting. Newer, fuller and, because of continuing critical studies, sometimes more accurate texts and translations have appeared, however, within the last few years. M. O'C. Walshe's translation of the complete sermons and treatises of Eckhart, and the Paulist Press translations of Eckhart by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, and of Tauler by Maria Schrady (see bibliography) should be consulted especially for further reading and appreciation of what Rufus Jones happily called "the flowering of mysticism in the fourteenth century."

-- Richard Woods, O.P., Editor



James M. Clark, trans., Henry Suso: Little Book of Eternal Wisdom and Little Book of Truth, London: Faber, 1953.

James Midgely Clark, Meister Eckhart: An Introduction to the Study of His Works with an Anthology of His Sermons, Edinburgh: Nelson, 1957.

James M. Clark and John V. Skinner, eds. and trans., Treatises and Sermons of Meister Eckhart, New York: Octagon Books, 1983.

Edmund Colledge, O.S.A. and Bernard McGinn, trans. and eds., Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense, New York: Paulist Press, 1981.

Eric Colledge and Mary Jane Colledge, trans., John Tauler: Conferences, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1979.

Matthew Fox, O.P., ed., Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in New Translation, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.

Maria Shrady, trans., Johannes Tauler: Sermons, New York: Paulist Press, 1985.

M. O'C. Walshe, Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, 3 vols., London: Watkins, 1979, 1981 and 1986 (anticipated).


Jeanne Ancelet-Hustache, Master Eckhart, New York and London: Harper and Row/Longmans, 1957.

James M. Clark, The Great German Mystics, New York: Russell and Russell, 1970 (reprint of Basil Blackwell edition, Oxford: 1949).

William A. Hinnebusch, O.P., The History of the Dominican Order, Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 2 vols., 1966 and 1973.

Richard Woods, O.P., Eckhart's Way, Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1986.

Benedict Ashley, O.P., Three Strands in the Thought of Eckhart, the Scholastic Theologian," The Thomist, 42 (No. 2, April 1978), pp. 226-239.

Edmund Colledge, O.S.A., "Meister Eckhart: His Times and His Writings," The Thomist, ed. cit., pp. 240-58.

Karl Kertz, S.J., "Meister Eckhart's Teaching on the Birth of the Divine Word in the Soul," Traditio 15 (1959), pp. 327-363.

Richard Kieckhefer, "John Tauler," An Introduction to the Medieval Mystics of Europe, ed. by Paul E. Szarmach, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.

Richard Kieckhefer, "Meister Eckhart's Conception of Union with God," Harvard Theological Review 71 (1978), pp. 203-25.

Bernard McGinn. "Meister Eckhart: An Introduction," An Introduction to the Medieval Mystics of Europe, ed. cit., pp. 237-57.

Bernard McGinn, "Meister Eckhart on God as Absolute Unity," Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. by Dominic J. O'Meara, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982, pp. 128-39.

Bernard McGinn, "The God beyond God," Journal of Religion 61 (1981), pp. 1-19.

Bernard McGinn, "Meister Eckhart's Condemnation Reconsidered," Thomist (1980), pp. 390-414.

Sr. Margaret R. Miles, "The Mystical Method of Meister Eckhart," Studia Mystica, 4, 4 (Winter, 198 1), pp. 57-7 1.

Frank Tobin, "Recent Work in English on Meister Eckhart," Thought: A Review of Culture and Idea, 55 (1980), pp. 206-19.


1 Gundolf Gieraths, O.P., Reichtum des Lebens. Die Deutsche Dorninikanermystik des 14. Jahrhunderts, Düsseldorf: Albertus Magnus-Verlag, 1956. English translation by Edward Schuster and Sister Mary of the Immaculate Heart, O.P., "Spiritual Riches," Cross and Crown, 14 (1962): 160-72, 311-32, 338-48, 456-67; and 15 (1963): 78-89, 186-97, 444-62.

2 See Alain de Libera, Introduction à la Mystique Rhénane d'Albert le Grand à Maître Eckhart, Paris: O.E.I.L., 1984. See also John Macquarrie, In Search of Deity, New York: Crossroad, 1984.