In many ways, Meister Eckhart has had to wait seven centuries to be heard. Born in 13th century Germany, much of his life was spent in a monastery; though not all. The 'Meister' in his name means 'Master', and is an academic title from the University of Paris. An admired member of the Dominican Order, he was often sent to reform ailing priories. He was known also as a spiritual counsellor; a safe haven for many who sought God in their life, but found themselves troubled by the dire state of the institutional church. And in a century of flowering female spirituality, he was a supportive figure for many Dominican nuns and women in the burgeoning lay communities which arose. He was best known, however, as a preacher - an original preacher who used his native German language to startling effect. Eckhart preached a spiritual vision which distrusted the artifice of both ritual and church dogma. Instead, he aimed at nothing less than the spiritual and psychological transformation of those given to his care. To this end, Eckhart made the disposition of the human heart the key to all things. 'Conversations with Meister Eckhart' is an imagined conversation with this 13th century mystic, around such themes as detachment, which he famously placed above love; spirituality, God, the soul and suffering. But while the conversation is imagined, Eckhart's words are not; they are authentically his own. One of his controversial claims was that God cannot be described. Indeed, in one sermon, he went so far as to say 'We must take leave of God.' 'The church became very hostile towards him,' says Simon Parke, 'accusing him of heresy; and he spent his last days on trial before the pope. They also tried to ensure he'd be forgotten when he died, and nearly succeeded. But he's more popular now than ever.' Eckhart's teaching is an adventure, not a system; a call, not a creed. The depth and universality of his work means it can be contained by no established religion, but draws to itself seekers of truth from all backgrounds. 'Here we have a teaching open to all, but possessed by none,' says Parke. 'And therefore free like a butterfly, in the garden of the soul. Its perhaps my most challenging and rewarding conversation.'
THE NEW YORKER August 30th 2010 SIMON PARKE SPEAKS WITH THE DEAD Book trailers-the low-budget previews modelled on those used by the film industry-have quickly grown tiresome. They're never very interesting, often overly impressionistic and pretentious, and rarely rise above the level of those silly historical reA"nactments you see on cable. They might get better over time, or die out; either is preferable to their current state. An exception, though, are the finely wrought previews for Simon Parke's Conversations with - A" biographies, published by White Crow Books. In this series, Parke bypasses the more quotidian aspects of historical biography by conducting interviewsA" with his subjects-Jesus, Meister Eckhart, Arthur Conan Doyle, Vincent van Gogh, and Leo Tolstoy-with the answers coming from their published writings. The trailers are stagey-with Parke and the actor playing his subject shown in the recording studio while a musical score soars behind their voices-yet the interviews nonetheless feel natural. Much of this feeling owes to the straightforward and unadorned nature of the exchanges, as when Parke asks Vincent van Gogh why he drinks, and the master answers, If the storm gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself.A" The shot cuts to At Eternity's Gate,A" van Gogh's portrait of a man with his head in his hands, but you can imagine the whorls and swirls of the artist's favored darkened skies as well. Here, Parke conducts his interview with Tolstoy in the assured and chatty style of a British talk-show host: http://whitecrowbooks.com/conversations/page/conversations_with_leo_tolstoy This gambit may be viewed as simply a clever gimmick, but there is something compelling about Parke's style, which in a way that is always promised but rarely delivered, does, in fact, bring his subjects to life. Parke's role as the good-natured interlocutor seems to be an essential component of the project, a disposition on display in this cheeky description of his imagined time spent with Tolstoy: He also proved an appalling husband, hated Shakespeare, never came to terms with his sexual appetite and yet had a profound influence on the non-violence of the young Gandhi. My time at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's country estate, was never dull; and sometimes, surprisingly comic. Soon after I left the great man, at the age of 82, he ran away from home. by Ian Crouch Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.
Series: Conversations with...
Number Of Pages: 128
Published: 1st April 2010
Publisher: White Crow Books
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 14.0 x 21.6 x 1.1
Weight (kg): 0.3