Divine Needs, Divine Illusions: Preliminary Remarks Toward a Comparative Study of Meister Eckhart and Ibn AľArabi
Almond, Ian (Bosphorus University, Istanbul)
Medieval Philosophy and Theology 10 (2001)
A surprising number of Western studies or translations of the Sufi thinker and mystic Ibn Al’Arabi (1165–1240) make some kind of reference to the German preacher Meister Eckhart (1260–1327). The strength and conviction behind such references vary—while some simply mention Eckhart in passing, others (such as R. W. Austin) speak of “striking resemblances,” while Richard Netton, in his 1989 work Allah Transcendent, goes so far as to call Ibn ‘Arabi “the Meister Eckhart of the Islamic Tradition.”
There is certainly something exotic in bringing together two figures such as Eckhart and Ibn Al’Arabi; ecumenical agendas rightly find something reassuring in locating similarities between such diverse spiritual vocabularies as those of a Dominican preacher and a Sufi saint. However, the perfectly laudable desire to discern common elements among disparities is no justification in itself; however forcefully certain resemblances might strike us, it still remains to be seen whether such resemblances escape the superficial and point the way toward a deeper core of common thought.