©2018 by Donata Schoeller


In my Ph.D. I explored the notion of humility in medieval philosophy, in the renaissance and in modern times. I demonstrate that this notion conceives of a highly dynamic understanding of self. Humility, according to Meister Eckhart, does not mean a humble position in comparison to a superior power. Humility means to be able to internalize the fact that humans do not create their being. Humility is the manifestation of understanding that human beingness depends on the givenness of one’s being. By internalizing this insight, the humble person cultivates a receptive-attitude realizing at the same time her inseparability from being. Therefore the truly humble one paradoxically becomes identical with God. Because according to Meister Eckhart “esse est deus” (beingness is God). The truly humble person “knows” that without God one would be nothing.

For Jakob Boehme humility is the disposition in which a quality of ego-centered, anxiety driven natural state of mind surrenders. It dies in a virtual way by not engaging anymore in an ego-enhancing state of mind. A new kind of quality thus emerges, in which the unity with all other living beings is finally experienced as the center of one’s own being. The humble feels interconnected with all living beings. This sense of unity spells out the meaning of love, which is the number one quality in which God, according to Boehme, becomes manifest as God. Also in Boehme’s work one can find humility as a highly dynamic virtue, in which a loss of ego flips into a more vibrant sense of life, an embodied interconnectedness.

Nietzsche, finally, criticizes the notion of Demut in radical ways. At the same time he attributes to Zarathustra that nothing is deeper than ‘humility’. Inquiring into the dynamic of Nietzsche’s Superhuman discloses the central figure of humility once again. But the overcoming of self, which Zarathustra practices, is connected with a humility that is directed towards oneself alone. Receptivity as the core of humility is lost in Nietzsche’s understanding of this virtue in its superhuman form.

These days, I explore the creative potential of humility. Humility, as understood bei Eckhart und Boehme, allows for ‘creatio continua’ to happen within the human soul. Humility as a condition for a fruitful ‘state of mind’ can be understood today in terms of conditions of a creative process, studied by Classical American Pragmatism and contemporary Microphenomenology.



  • Enthöhter Gott – vertiefter Mensch: zur Bedeutung der Demut, ausgehend von Meister Eckhart und Jakob Böhme. Freiburg/Br.: Alber 1999. (2nd edition 2009)

  • “Die Demut Zarathustras: ein Versuch zu Nietzsche mit Meister Eckhart.” Nietzsche-Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Nietzsche Forschung 27 (1998): 420–439.

  • “Jakob Böhmes Gottes Qual.” In Der leidende Gott: Eine philosophische und theologische Kritik, edited by Peter Koslowski and Friedrich Hermanni, 89–114. München: Fink, 2001.

  • “Worüber man nicht sprechen kann, darüber kann man sprechen lernen: ein Vergleich zwischen Jacob Böhme und Gene Gendlin.” In Mystik und Schriftkommentierung, edited by Günther Bonheim und Petra Kattner, 71–97. Berlin: Weißensee, 2007. [Böhme-Studien; 1]

  • “Demut.” In Nietzsche-Lexikon, edited by Christian Niemeyer. Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchgesellschaft, 2009.

  • “Transformative Creativity: Meister Eckhart and Classical Pragmatism.” In Commitments to Medieval Mysticism within Contemporary Contexts, edited by Patrick Cooper and Satoshi Kikuchi, 57–75. Leuven: Peeters, 2017. [Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium; 290]