Mysticism in an Age of Calamity: Summer School 2022

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Dickens of the period of the French Revolution. “It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” These words would equally well describe “the calamitous fourteenth century” (Tuchman) in Europe – the period of the Rhineland mystics – and perhaps our times too. If our age is now able to understand what these mystics were saying, the main reason may be that we have now been shaken out of our slumbers by a world going to pieces. The brilliant light that shone through the darkness of the 14th century is able to illuminate our path too.

If Eckhart is sometimes difficult to understand, it is mainly because he is expressing intense experience rather than ready-made opinions. When you read “Now I will say something I have never said before,” you know that what you are going to read is white hot, “straight from the heart of God,” as he once put it. It is exhilarating to realise that we can understand him across the centuries.

A great part of the difficulty of reading these writers is that they lived so long ago, lived in a different intellectual world from ours, and spoke a different language. Donagh O'Shea OP has picked out passages where these obstacles are less daunting; then the meaning seems to come straight from their hearts, and perhaps straight from the heart of God.

Each session will concentrate on three or four of these passages. The texts, one by one, each matched with a picture, will appear on your screen, so that you can go back to them at any time. There will be a spoken commentary in the background, drawing out the meaning of each passage, relating it to our own spiritual experience today. By absorbing these passages in a contemplative way, we may find in “the Winter of despair” (to use Dickens’s words), “the Spring of hope.”

Donagh O'Shea OP


Related Video Resources

Presentation 1: Meister Eckhart

Presentation 2: Meister Eckhart

Presentation 3: Meister Eckhart

Presentation 4: Meister Eckhart

Presentation 5: John Tauler

Presentation 6: John Tauler

Presentation 7: Henry Suso

Presentation 8: Henry Suso

Related PDF Resources


Meister Eckhart - Talks of Instruction - Walshe

One of the more accessible of Meister Eckhart's works is his "Talks of Instruction", a series of talks given to young Dominicans at the start of their formation - thus the emphasis on obedience in the first chapter. You might like to read to a few of the talks before spending time on this work.