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Religious Toleration in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age

An Anthology of Literary, Theological, and Philosophical Texts

Albrecht Classen

More than ever before do we need the critical engagement with religious tolerance. Historical perspectives allow us to gain access to the discourse on this universal, often very contested topic. Already the Middle Ages and the early modern age witnessed the emergence of significant voices addressing toleration, if not even tolerance. This anthology opens many new perspectives toward this centrally important topic, adding a cultural-historical, religious, literary, and philosophical dimension mostly unknown today.

„Albrecht Classen reminds us in this volume that, "we all know just too well that the survival of the human species and its future development depends existentially on its ability and willingness to subscribe to the fundamental ideals of at least toleration, if not tolerance." As with others of Classen's works on the full range of medieval and early modern culture, this book could not be more timely or more urgently needed, especially for its positive approach to a highly volatile topic."

Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Creighton University, Omaha, NE

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Meister Eckhart (Early Fourteenth Century): The Late Medieval Master of Negative Theology


Hardly any other medieval theologian and philosopher has formulated such enigmatic and fascinating statements about God and people’s relationship with Him as Meister Eckhart.111 The debate has raged for a long time whether he was a mystic or a philosopher, and there are good reasons to support either claim. Primarily, however, he served as a teacher and theologian and wrote many sermons in which he formulated his profound ideas about God as being entirely elusive and yet settled in one’s soul. His sermons address human life in a highly abstract, spiritual manner, and although he was, as a Dominican, entirely committed to Christianity, for which there was no alternative in the European Middle Ages, his ideas address all people of all religions, as many modern responses to his texts all over the world have indicated. Even though he was not specifically a defender of toleration or tolerance, Eckhart certainly reached insights of universal importance, urging people not to look at religion as an institution, but at the spiritual relationship between people and God.

Eckhart was born in Hochheim, a village eight miles north of Gotha, probably around 1260, and he joined the Dominicans at Erfurt in modern-day Thuringia, Germany. He studied in Cologne, and later rose to the level of prior of his monastery back in Erfurt. Subsequently, he was appointed provincial of all of Thuringia. In 1293 he was sent to Paris to lecture there and to proceed with his studies. He returned to Erfurt...

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