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A daughter came to the Dominican cloister and asked for Meister Eckhart. The gatekeeper said, “Who should I say is asking after him?” She said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Why don’t you know?” She said, “Because I am neither a maiden, nor a woman, nor a man, nor a lady, nor a widow, nor a virgin, nor a lord, nor a servant girl, nor a servant.” The gatekeeper went to Meister Eckhart and said, “Come out and behold the most amazing creature whom I have ever heard; let me accompany you. Stick your head out and say: ‘Who calls for me?’” He did so, and she spoke to him just as she had spoken to the gatekeeper. He said, “Dear child, your words are truthful and striking. But explain to me just what you mean by them?” She said, “If I were a maiden, then I would still be in the state of original innocence; if I were a woman, then I would bear the eternal Word in my soul without cessation; if I were a man, then I would avail myself of all my physical strength to withstand all sin; if I were a lady, then I would remain true to my dear, beloved husband; if I were a widow, then I would be filed with longing for my sole beloved; if I were a virgin, then I would stand in reverent devotion; if I were a lord, then I would possess power over all godly virtues; if I were a servant girl, then I would keep an attitude of humility before God and all creatures; if I were a servant, then I would work hard and serve my lord with all my will and without any backtalk. But I am none of these things; I am a different kind of thing, and so I come to you.” The master went away and said to his brothers, “I have heard the purest human being I have ever encountered, or so it seems to me.”
–The Legend of Meister Eckhart’s Daughter (Von einer guten swester ein gutz gesprech daz sie tet zu meister Eckhart, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Codex Monacensis Cgm750.12-80v-81v, ca. 1350)(S.H. transl.)
Listen to the chorale In dulci jubilo in an arrangement by Michael Praetorius, from Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica (1619). The song text was composed by Meister Eckhart’s disciple, Heinrich Seuse (also known in English as Henry Suso), around 1330:
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”