(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

This treatise by Meister Eckhart marks the climax of his German writing. It is the last of four treatises describing four stages of the union between the human soul and God. The first of these stages is dissimilarity, and it is discussed in Reden der Untensweisung (c. 1300, The Talks of Instruction, 1941) in which Eckhart declared that all creatures are pure nothingness until they receive their being from God. They can receive that being only though the Son of God. To receive it, a person must be aware of the nothingness. The second stage, similarity, is described in Das Buch der göttlichen Tröstung (c. 1307-1320; The Book of Divine Consolation, 1941). Once people recognize that their being is from God, they also recognize themselves as images of God. The third stage is identity. Von dem edlen Menschen (c. 1307-1320; The Nobleman, 1941; also known as The Aristocrat) describes this stage as identity with God in operation, not identity in substance. The human soul is uncreated and beyond time and space, and it operates as a part of God. The final stage is breakthrough, in which a person goes beyond God the Creator into the Godhead, the origin of all things. On Detachment describes how this can be done. Detachment is the driving force behind the entire process of union with God, and it is accomplished through the Cross of Jesus Christ. The three previous treatises also discuss detachment.