The door of the prison cell was
painted green and adorned with a crucifix. The walls were made out of granite
and they were covered in rusted white. There was a small rectangular window
covered by bars and faint light emanated from it.
Eckhart lay on the bed. He was
not feeling very well; he had been besieged by a bout of pneumonia. He laced
his hands and held the crucifix that lay on his chest. Someone knocked on the
door and came in.
Yes? Eckhart meekly
It was one of the cardinals who
was assessing his case. Pope John Paul XXII had ordered a tribunal of cardinals
and theologians to assess the case of Meister Eckhart, for he had been accused
Good news, Eckhart,
What is it? Eckhart
We have managed to reduce
the suspect articles in your writing from one-hundred-and-fifty to
twenty-eight. You will have to defend them in your inquisition, of course. I
have stoutly defended you. I have no doubts that your writings are orthodox. I
am sure that you are a devout believer. The problem is that the archbishop
ordered this inquisition because they are concerned about heretical movements
in Europe. They are concerned about mystical writings and unorthodoxy. You will
have to defend the twenty-eight articles which are allegedly heretical. You
know them very well, of course, and deep down know that they are orthodox. I
have defended you, but it has not been easy. I do not for a second doubt that
these are Christian and scholarly writings. True, the language can be a bit
obfuscatory, but I still believe that you are trying to understand God.
The cardinal finished speaking. His crucifix swung around his red robe. His
eyes were blood-shot and wide open. He had clearly been mulling over this for a
The cardinal resumed speaking:
I am not a theologian, but I am close to God. Some of the theologians
have questioned your idiosyncratic style, but I have tried to convince them
that it is an expression of heartfelt belief. Your scholastic reasoning is not
questioned, either. It is clearly rigorous and it resolves numerous
contradictions. After all, I am in a very senior position within the
Eckhart coughed and covered his
brow. At the age of sixty-eight, he was an elderly man. Feeling a bit
under the weather? the cardinal asked him.
Just a bit, Eckhart
Well, hopefully you will
recover. You should be able to defend the articles. They are not
Eckhart grunted and removed
some sweat from his brow. I will be able to defend them.
I am sure you will. I
have to return to the tribunal. Best of luck, Eckhart. The cardinal
stormed out of the prison cell.
Eckhart really had gone through
the most disappointing vicissitudes. He was in charge of forty-seven convents
and he had been appointed teacher at the most famous schools of the order. The
Dominican authorities had suspected him of heresy throughout his period, but
nonetheless his entire career up to this point had followed an upward
trajectory. These suspicions kept accumulating until Pope John XXII decided to
conduct an investigation into Eckharts orthodoxy.
At this very moment, Eckhart
knew that he was on the threshold of death. He knew that, although he searched
for God, that he was inside him. God, Eckhart knew, was inside all of us.
Eckhart knew that God accompanied him at this very moment and that he approved
of his philosophy.
The divine world was hidden and
it did not exist outside all of us. Eckhart thought that he had to reach it
through physical seclusion and through eliminating perfunctory thoughts. After
all, Eckhart was alone at this very moment. He was about to leave this world.
This room was bare, empty and silent. It was ripe for asceticism. Eckhart knew
that he had to eliminate all unnecessary, useless, overbearing thoughts that
clouded his mind and which diverged from the word of God. He had to still the
mind and still the body. At this very moment, in a moment of such simplicity,
he could achieve this.
The birth of the Word was about
to begin. Eckhart knew that God was within him right now and that he would join
him. After all, he had lived to a ripe old age and he would join him. He would
not defend the twenty-eight articles. He would in most likelihood be accused of
mystical heresy, but he would not be condemned to death as he was about to die
at this very moment.
Eckhart knew that he had to let
go and embrace God. He had to detach and relinquish himself so as to commune
with God. Eckhart was busy all the time and besieged by responsibilities. He
was in charge of numerous convents, he was a renowned theologian and he
occupied a senior position within the church. Eckhart knew that communing with
God required a leisurely existence, which was unlikely to materialise when he
was busy. Now he was lying in bed and he was in a bare room that was
unencumbered by distractions.
Eckhart knew that he would
truly meet God now. He would leave this world, where he was beleaguered by
accusations and defamations. He would pass away and join the heavenly world
that he had mapped out in his writings. He might become persona non grata, but
Eckhart knew that he was pious. Eckhart knew that his writings would continue
to be studied. Eckhart closed his eyes and gripped his crucifix.