Perhaps the only real consensus among students of Eckhart is that he is not an easy author to read. The widely divergent, frequently erroneous uses to which he has been put spring almost as much from the manner of his presentation as they do from the profundity of what he has to say. Not all of this can be blamed on the Meister himself. The condition of the text of his surviving works is partly at fault. The Latin works exist in only a few manuscripts and comprise a fragment of what Eckhart intended to write. The German treatises and sermons come down to us in over two hundred manuscripts, but with texts so faulty and problems of authenticity so serious that over a century of scholarship has still not solved all the issues. Nevertheless, the excellent critical edition of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, now well past its fortieth year, provides a solid starting point both for the translations found here and for penetration of Eckhart's meaning.
Meister Eckhart was not only a highly trained philosopher and theologian, but also a preacher, a poet, and a punster who deliberately cultivated rhetorical effects, bold paradoxes, and unusual metaphors, neologisms, and wordplay to stir his readers and hearers from their intellectual and moral slumber. If even the technical Latin of his scholastic works at times displays these characteristics, how much more true this is for the vernacular texts. Generations of scholars have admired the Meister as one of the crucial figures in the development of German, especially with regard to its speculative vocabulary, and have praised him as a master of German prose. 1 While Eckhart's creative handling of language is one of the major attractions of his style, it often does not make the task of understanding him any easier. Nevertheless, the Meister's style is both attractive and difficult primarily because of