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The philosophical relationship between John Eriugena and Nicholas of Cues, connecting directly two different thinkers through six centuries, is a fundamental moment in the history of Christian Neoplatonism. Cusanus is the most relevant interpreter of Eriugena’s thought, between Eckhart and the German Idealism. The strong influence of the Irish philosopher on Cusanus’ work is decisive. The idea of God as the infi nite One wherein all beings are contained; and the conception of the universe as a self-creation of God, elaborated by Eriugena, constitute the fulcrum of Cusanus’ metaphysical system. Eriugena and Cusanus can be seen as two successive moments in a unique historical line of thought. In the relationship between Johannes Scotus Eriugena and Nicholas of Cues, we can recognize a fundamental prosecution of a philosophical-theological perspective grounded on the concept of God as the “infi nite One” (infinita Unitas). Cusanus is an original Renaissance interpreter of a specific tradition of medieval thought, in which the divine principle is conceived as an absolute infi nite Unity, and, consequently, the human being as essentially participating in It. Th is tradition of thought was explicitly condemned by the Christian orthodoxy in 1210. During the fi fteenth century, the Cardinal and Bishop Nicholas of Cues recovered and reinterpreted this philosophical tradition as a refused sapientia. There is a specific cultural heritage of Eriugena in Cusanus’ system of thought. Th is heritage can be considered as the step along a determined philosophical path from Proclus to Dionysius, to Eriugena, to Eckhart and his school, to Cusanus. In this sense, Cusanus, like Marsilio Ficino (but in a completely different way), realized in the European Renaissance an extraordi-
the study of Duclow. in Eriugena redivivus. Processio et esplicatio La doctrine de la creation chez Jean Scot et Nicolas de Cues. Zur Wirkungsgeschichte seines Denkens im Mittelalter und im Übergang zur Neuzeit. Finally.). Cusanus. W. J. Eckhart. 131-152.. the works of Beierwaltes. pp. C. Cantòn.. „Eriugena und Cusanus“. Alvarez-Gomez (ed. considering their link as a moment of a tradition of Christian thought. the present paper intends to observe the relationship between Eriugena and Cusanus in the context of the development of Medieval Neoplatonism. regarding the metaphysical apparatus of “divine creation” in Cusanus and Eriugena. Heidelberg 1985. the fundamental research of Moran on the ontological conceptions of the two authors. 311-343. in which we can comprehend all the historical theoretical aspects of the relationship Eriugena-Cusanus.. Napoli 1983.L. Torino 1977. Riccati. Duclow. Riccati. is discussed. Beierwaltes.1 I refer to the analysis of Riccati. in which the role of Eriugena and Cusanus in the development of the idea of Deus Absconditus. Salamanca 2002. „Divine Non-Being in Eriugena and Cusanus“. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. in Cusanus’ thought we can discern a peculiar revival of a heterodox theological point of view. Lo Caminos de Pensamiento en Nicolas de Cusa. „Teofanìa y Concordia. Moran. Ashgate 2006.60 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION. pp. alternative and in many aspects opposite to Scholastic philosophy. The fundamental link between Eriugena and Cusanus was considered and examined by some penetrating and well-documented research over past decades and today we can assume it as historiographical certitude. pp. Eriugena e Cusano: due concezioni del mondo come esplicazione della natura intellettuale. 155-167. The aim of my short considerations is to open a perspective on the problematical connection between John Scotus Eriugena. that widely clarify the common frame of thought in their Christian Neoplatonism. Leyendo a Escoto Eriùgena y Nicolàs de Cues“. considering the influence of Meister Eckhart between them. A. The results of this research have determined a fi nal clarification about the fundamental relationship between Nicholas of Cues and Eriugena. nary synthesis of Neoplatonic and Christian perspectives. 2 (2002). in M. 1 See the following works: D. and the Bishop and Cardinal Nicholas of Cues. pp. to redefi ne the parameters of Christian orthodoxy by considering the rejected tradition of Neoplatonism. D. 107-134. Eriugena’s presence in Cusanus’ work can reveal the endeavor of Cusanus’ philosophy. Philoteos. C. . the study of Cantòn. 1 (1990). Kijewska. condemned as a heretical thinker in 1210. on the ideas of theophania and concordantia the study of Kijewska on the idea of divine NonBeing in the two thinkers. Masters of learned ignorance : Eriugena. In the light of the preceding scientific contributions. „Pantheism in Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa“.
I (1995). 930-931. Robert Grosseteste and Hugh of Saint Victor. Maximus Confessor. see: R. 21. Vansteenberghe. legat cum intellectu Mysticam theologiam iam dictam. Cusanus mentions Eriugena’s name in his work Apologia doctae ignorantiae (1449). 6.Cesare Catà 61 Eriugena’s thought is widely developed in Cusanus’ work. 1987. “Nicholas of Cusa on Learned Ignorance and Nicholas of Cusa’s Debate with John Wenck”. in Scritti filosofici II. Hopkins. Theodoric of Chartres. 1910. It is interesting to note that the name of Eriugena appears in the fi rst work composed by Cusanus after his appointment as a Cardinal. Robertum Lincolniensem. Nicolai de Cusa. ut de caecitate ad lumen transferatur. Wissen oder Wissen des Nichtwissens. Nevertheless. II. Marii Victorini ad Candidum Arrianum. . Darmstadt. Johannes Wenck gegen Nikolaus von Kues. Unde recte admonent omnes sancti. Maximum monachum. I believe there could be a theological-historical reason to explain the paradox. quando in eis legunt eis insolita. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters. As I will assert. Nicholas of Cues refers twice to Eriugena. J. Nicholas of Cues explicitly refers to “Johannes Scottigena” in few places of his writings. E. Iohannem Scotigenam. David of Dinant. as we can immediately comprehend by considering some fundamental topics of Cusanus’ system. “Sed si se gratiam assequi sperat. Nicholas of Cues defi nes a line of Neoplatonic thinkers that are alien to Aristotelian Scholastic philosophy. along with Meister Eckhart. Flasch. De ignota litteratura”. 21 sgg. Flash. Sunt autem illis nequaquam libri sancti Dionysii. In defending of his metaphysical system. qui illos videntes sapientes putant ignorantes et errantes. Berthold of Moosburg. in: K. XXXVIII. Einführung in die Philosophie des Mittelalters. quando cognoscunt se ignorantes. Clavis physicae Theodori Iohannis Scotigenae Περιφυσεως. “Giovanni Wenck.3 “Sunt alii. abbatem Vercellensem et ceteros moderniores commentatores illius libelli. 1965. § 30. pp. K. Santinello. vol. et indubie se hactenus caecum fuisse reperiet”.2 In the Apologia docta ignorantiae. G. p. “Studien zu Nicolaus von Kues und Joannes Wenck”. VIII. Beitrage zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Teologie des Mittelalters. Heidelberg–Leipzig. Bologna. Speculum. pp. I fi nally intend to offer an interpretation of this ostensible paradox: we see simultaneously a decisive influence of Eriugena’s ideas and a minute presence of his name in Cusanus’ pages. On the relationship between Cusano and Wenck. Introduzione a Nicolo Cusano. quando reperiunt eos tunc se doctos credere. Opera Omnia. 56 (1981). Haubst. Hugonem de Sancto Victore. 1-43. et maxime. Commen- 2 3 Cf. the Apologia is the work in which he defends himself about the heresy charges expressed by the Scholastic philosopher Johannes Wenck in his De ignota litteratura(1442). Tomi David de Dynanto. 181-195. Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae. quod illis debilibus mentis oculis lux intellectualis subtrahatur. 1932.
. when Nicholas of Cues develops Eriugena’s teaching in the path of Neoplatonism. 30. de Mottoni Faes. “Il Commento di Bertoldo di Moosburg alla Elemntatio theologica di Proclo”. p. The philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena in the Middle Ages. Imbach. Besides those references in the Apologia. the essentia essentiarum (in the work De visione Dei). Eriugena und Cusanus. 279. taria fratris Iohannis de Mossbach in Propositiones Proculi et consimiles libri ostendendi”. instead on Aristotle. p. Hence.4 The figures named by Cusanus as real interpreters of the Christian tradition – many of whom were condemned as heretical by the official orthodoxy – are commentators of Proclus and Dionysius. In fact. He explains the etymology of the term “theòs” as deriving from theo (to run) and theoro (to see). but rather Proclus.. the quidditas quidditatum (in the work De coniecturis).. God is defi ned by Nicholas of Cues as the entitas omnium. Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae. In the Apologia docta ignorantiae and in his letter. in Studi Medievali (1971) 417-461. The “shift of auctoritates” proposed by Berthold is caused by the necessity to defi ne the divine principle as the Infi nite One – a defi nition inadmissible in the metaphysical apparatus of the Aristotelian categories. Cf. Reveu de théologíe et de philosophie 110(1978) 427-448. Eriugena and Berthold of Moosburg. 5. which means a rediscovering of Proclus in a metaphysical Christian perspective. Successor of Eckhart in the School of Köln since 1335. Th is is a fundamental point of connection between Nicholas of Cues. the forma formarum (in the work De dato Patris Luminum). as defi ned by Proclus’ Theologia Platonica. According to Nicholas of Cues. it is possible to recognize the Proclus’ and Dionysus’ idea of God as the Infinita Unitas. In this letter. Proclus latin et l’écoledominicane allemande”. we cannot fi nd an explicit quotation of Eriugena’s name in Cusanus’ writings. Cusanus is indirectly asserting that the real key to approach Christianity from a philosophical point of view is not Aristotle. W. his aim consists in redefi ning the Christian orthodoxy grounded on the Aristotelian Scholasticism. Cf. in several Cusanus’ concepts in which we can recognize Eriugena as the principal source.6 There is a specific reason for the unusual focusing of a philosophical Commentarium on Proclus. 9. Eriugena is defi ned as the man “qui primo transtulit Dionysium tempore Karole magni”5. 1454). B. p. Beierwaltes. Cambridge 1989. “Le (néo)platonisme médiéval. D. Berthold’s Commentarium is focused on the concept of divine Infi nite One.62 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION. Moran. except a private epistula to Bernhard von Waging (September. R.. All those defi nitions are also present in Eriugena’s 4 5 6 Nicolai de Cusa. 313 n. § 43. Eriugena is fi rst of all the translator and interpreter of Dionysius’ Neoplatonic tradition.
Both those conceptions refer to the idea of God as the Infinita Unitas considered by Berthold in his Commentarium of Proclus’ Theologia Platonica. above all things that are and are not. divine principle cannot be known in itself. but we can say that Cusanus was Eriugena’s greatest disciple”. The Unknown God: Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition: Plato to Eriugena. Cf. Nicholas of Cues purposed such a theological-philosophical shift . Cusanus took his conception of creation as a theophany from Eriugena’s system. D. “Cusanus’ general philosophy of explicatio and implicatio. Moran. the idea of God at the centre of Eriugena’s and Cusanus’ system is a Platonic concept developed by Proclus and later by Dionysus the Areopagite in a Christian perspective. Th rough his “revival” of Eriugena’s philosophy. § 13). expresses in a different technical terminology some of the central insight of Eriugena’s system. of infi nity and fi nitude. Plato and Proclus were not considered as fundamental auctoritates by the official medieval orthodoxy. God is the quidditas of any creature and at the same time is above all being. by considering the notion of creatio described by Cusanus especially in his work De Genesi. and Cusanus clarify the essence of God as oppositio oppositionis (De visione dei. As Moran explains. Human mind attains knowledge in a comparative way. . the Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena. in order to defi ne the profi le of Christian truth. According to Nicholas of Cues. Hence. it is almost impossible to separate the Dionysian influence from what is purely Eriugenian. the creatio is not a mere creatio ex nihilo – like in the Aristotelian-Scholastic perspective. In the Peyphyseon (I.8 According to Cusanus’ philosophy. creation is a contractio. Of course. Louvain 1995. The “shift” is evident. 281. a self-manifestation. by moving from what is known to what is unknown.7 We can consider the idea of the divine principle as a “Deus Absconditus” (Hidden God). God is conceived as the “absolute Maximum”. The common background of this idea is the “apophatic theology” explained by Dionysius with a philosophical vocabulary shaped on Proclus’ terminology. Carabine. p. an internal ontological movement of the infi nite indeterminate divine principle. Th is conception is expressed in Eriugena’s expression: “divina ignorantia summa ac vera sapientia”.Cesare Catà 63 work and represent a hermeneutical translation of Dionysius’ assertions in De divinis nominibus. and shaped on Eriugena’s idea of processio. According to Dionysius. We fi nd the same conception in Eriugena’s system and in the developments of Nicholas of Cues. corresponding to Cusanus’ famous conception of “docta ignorantia”. 517 b-c) God is defi ned by Eriugena as the contrariorum contrarietas. through an analogical connection with previously established 7 8 Cf.
Iohannis Scotti seu Eriugenae Periphyseon. Firenze 1997. A fundamental consequence of the idea of the “Deus absconditus” in Cusanus and Eriugena.. reciprocally.10 According to Eriugena’s perspective. Cusanus and Eriugena were both great philosophical interpreters of Holy Scripture.12 Nicholas of Cues composed 293 Sermons on theological 9 10 11 12 Cusanus. Liber primus. Human mind is able to understand only quia est. Eriugena clearly utilizes the Dionysian distinction between “cataphatic” and “apophatic” theology. in a shared cultural background of sources.11 Human being makes affi rmations regarding divinity. Docta ignorantia. is the progressive awareness concerning the structural limits of human mind. Ó’Neill. Eriugena wrote a thoughtful commentary on the Gospel by St. is the conception of the essential harmony and reciprocity between fides (faith) and ratio (raison). Jeauneau. Opera omnia. The absolute cannot be comprehended in a comparative relation.9 Th is central idea of Cusanus’ system of thought is fundamentally expressed in Eriugena’s philosophy. without an acceptance and a desire of the inconceivable and mystic Mystery of reality. one should approach intellectually the divine principle. Holy Scripture and speculation. . In Cusanus’ idea of docta ignorantia is expressed the same conception of a reciprocity and a complementary between faith and reason. We fi nd the same philosophical doctrine in Eriugena and Cusanus. Hence. Cf. I. Eriugena’s commentary on the Dionysian Celestial hierarchy. John J. there is no reason. Eriugena widely explains that human mind cannot grasp the essence of reality. 443C. 63. ed. Contreni. knowledge. Significantly.. never quid est the essence. 5. Because of its infi nity. Heildelberg–Leipzig 1932. E. in the light of the infi nite nature of divine principle. p. Toronto 2005. the harmony of human reason and holy authority. There is no faith without a rational investigation and comprehension. P. because of the infi nity of Divine principle. Turnholti 1999. The attributes cannot defi ne God and the essence of reality. p. 487AB. p. Eriugena’s philosophy is construed on the principles of “dialectical reasoning”. Glossae divinae historiae: The Biblical Glosses of John Scottus Eriugena. Learned ignorance. applying to the Creator the attributes of created things. P.64 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION. Cf. or docta ignorantia. vo. thereby conserving its “inconceivable” truth. I. § 1-3. theology and philosophy. whereby “true philosophy and true religion are identical”. Real and deep human knowledge of divine principle consists in knowing that he does not know. John. Eriugena declared in many passages of his work the fundamental unity of true philosophy and true religion. p. with respectful silence. Maximum cannot be grasped through the comparative process from the known to the unknown. certainly known by Cusanus. divine principle can be never encompassed by human mind. Rorem. In the fi rst book of Periphyseon.
. contrariorum contrarietas”. Liber quartus. by commenting upon the Holy Scripture. human mind is prior to all the created things.14 Human being is the “intermediary” (medietas) between created universe and Creator. Another common topic of Eriugena and Cusanus is the conception of “human being” as a potentially divine creature.16According to Cusanus. . Th is anthropological vision grounds itself on a peculiar metaphysical conception of God. Human being is able to transcend all that is animal nature. p. p. especially considering the words of St. Eriugenae Periphyseon 517B-C. “Coincidentia autem illa est contradictio sine contradictione. Et tu mihi dicis.Cesare Catà 65 topics. can be considered as a reinterpretation of Eriugena’s idea of theosis. quod sicut alteritas in unitate et sine alteritate. through the power of docta ignorantia. Cf. 236-238. through his intellectual strength (theosis). Moran. oppositorum oppositio. The philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena. human being desires to realize his own divine nature.]. Like the divine mind. 768B. Eriugenae Periphyseon IV. D. 44. sic contradictio sine alteratione non est [. Cusanus’ famous theological conception of “coincidentia oppositorum” is originally expressed by Eriugena: God “est enim ipse similium similitudo et dissimilitudo dissimilium. In Cusanus’ philosophy. Jeauneau. That is because they developed a large part of their philosophical works. Domine. p. 771B. E. p.13 According to Eriugena’s philosophy. Cusanus’ conceptions regarding the relationship between human and God expressed in his work De filiatione Dei. wrote Eriugena. Oppositio oppositorum est oppositio sine oppositione. In Eriugena’s conception is perfectly developed the principle of “homo imago dei”: human being is considered as an image of God’s Nature. quia unitas. “The substance of the whole man is nothing else but the concept of him in the Mind of his Artificer”15. God created the universe by creating man as a rational human being. John. ed. Eriugena and Cusanus do not make a real distinction between Holy Scripture and speculative researching. And Cusanus considered the “mens” (human mind) as the specific “point of connection” between human and divine. God is conceived as the “opposite of the opposites”.. sicut fi nis fi nitorum est fi nis sine 13 14 15 16 Iohannis Scotti seu Eriugenae Periphyseon. Turnholti 2000. Eriugena and Nicholas of Cues considered the mind as the essence of man. by using his mind (filiatio Dei). 103. Th is same conception is developed in Cusanus’ thought in the typical Renaissance image of human being as a “microcosms”. sicut fi nis sine fi ne. 40. In the light of the conception of reciprocity between faith and reason.
Dodds. Th is idea is taken from Eriugena ad verbum. Die Metaphysik des Einen bei Nikolaus von Kues. . the created universe exists essentially through a participation in the divine nature. Elements of Theology. In Eriugena and Cusanus we fi nd the identical ideas of creation.. By creating the universe. In Fifteenth century. De visione Dei § 53-54. § 3. VI. as a Christian hermeneutics of Proclus.. Flasch. Cusanus adopted Proclus’ metaphysics. 102. Eriugena asserts that “there is no visible or corporeal thing which is not the symbol of something incorporeal and intelligible”. every created thing comes from the One and returns to It. Problemgeschichtliche Stellung und systematische Bedeutung. R. Nicholas of Cues follows this tradition of thought.66 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION.19 The ontological status of a creature metaphysically depends on the being it receives from God. Eriugenae Periphyseon I. p. and is founded on Eriugena’s conception of divine infi nity (infinitas). Proclus. De docta ignorantia. Nicolai de Cusa. defi ned as an “infi nite vision”. in order to read the cyclical process of processio and reditus in a historical and holy sense.21 Eriugena’s conception of processio and reditus as the essential aspects of created universe is clearly indebted to Proclus’ philosophy. Th is tradition of Neoplatonic thought in which Cusa17 18 19 20 21 Nicolai de Cusa.17 Cusanus defi ned God as the “oppositio oppositorum sine oppositione”. E. the relationship between Cusanus and Eriugena can be considered as the sharing of a Christian Neoplatonic background grounded on Proclus’ idea of “infi nite One”.18 The “oppositions” present in the the created universe are an ontological consequence of divine “explicatio” (Cusanus) or “processio” (Eriugena). are nothing. The Irish monk develops the idea of reality as a procession from the divine One to multiplicity. propositions 33-4. Any determined opposition is cancelled in the infi nity of divine principle. In a Neo-Platonic background derived from Proclus’ philosophy. Like Eriugena.20 Eriugena elaborated his philosophical system. 516C. 69-70. Liber quintus 866a. 10. Cf. Opera omnia. p. fi ne. considered in their specific nature. p. ed. Es igitur tu Deus oppositio oppositorum. Turnholti 2003. Jeauneau. vol. According to Eriugena. and the eschatological perspective of the return of being into the original Unity. quia est infi nitus. or a “perfect beauty”. p. 63 Cf. The development of divine nature in its division and unification is interpreted in Christian terms as “creation” and “redemption”. Creatures. 36-39. Oxford University Press 1963. K. Eriugenae Periphyseon. II. God is the Unity without differences. According to Cusanus. God was creating himself (theophania). Finally. with which he became acquainted also through Dionysius. p. Heidelberg–Hamburg 2000. Et quia est infi nitus est ipsa infi nitas”. as the annihilation and overcoming of fi nitude. Leiden 1973. translated by E.
Nicholas of Cues became the interpreter of a tradition of thought. refused by Aristotle. Eriugenae Periphyseon I. 33. in order to defi ne and comprehend the divine principle. In Eriugena’s philosophy.23 The conception of One (En) expressed by Proclus corresponds to the idea of divina Unitas defi ned by Eriugena.Cesare Catà 67 nus and Eriugena encountered is a philosophical way. but also as the starting point for a Christian Neoplatonic conception of God behind the Aristotelian categories. 463C. It is a conception fundamentally alternative to Thomistic Scholasticism thesis of God as a personal and determinate principle. the ineffability of God is founded on the metaphysical reviewing of the ten Aristotelian categories. between esse and facere. Hence. The fundamental Hellenic auctoritas is Proclus. started with Eriugena: with his philosophy and his complete translation and exegesis of the works of the Areopagite. Cf. according to Dionysus. Th is tradition. 22 23 Cf. whose aim was to refuse an Aristotelian interpretation of divine things. and to the notion of Non-Aliud described by Cusanus. Scholasticism interpreted divine universe as a potentia ordinata (ordinate power). In fact. La Croce e l’Inconcepibile. depending on the potentia absoluta (absolute power) of God. divine power is completely expressed in created universe. Th is translation would serve for centuries not only as the standard version of Dionysian work. The main theme of the philosophical link between Cusanus and Eriugena is the idea of God as the infi nite One. p. That is because Aristotelian categories cannot be assumed.22 It is the denial of any unexpressed potentiality of reality. in God. there is no distinction. through the defi nition of God as a “posse ipsum”. In the context of Renaissance diatribes between Aristotle’s and Plato’s great scholars. Macerata 2009. all Cusanus’ philosophy is a progressive clarification of divine power in an anti-Aristotelian sense. Th is conception can be seen as a Christian original interpretation of Neoplatonic metaphysics. Th is tradition of spiritual thought consists in a Christian Neoplatonism philosophically alternative to Thomistic Scholasticism. Catà. there is a fundamental rejection of Aristotle’s theological conceptions. According to Aristotle. we can say. According to Cusanus. In this tradition of thought. Cusanus’ fi nal theological defi nition of God as the “power itself ” (posse ipsum) is nothing else than an assertion of the conception. . asserting that their capability to comprehend is “wholly extinguished” in respect to the divine principle. of Deus as the “actus infinitus”. alternative to Thomistic Scholasticism. Il pensiero di Nicola Cusano tra filosofia e predicazione. Nicholas of Cues refused this theological-philosophical conception. C.
.. Cf. pp. in many cases Cusanus refers to Dionysius some Eriugena’s original expressions. while the fundaments of the official orthodoxy were founded on the Scholastic theological principles? Why did Cusanus connect his philosophy with the Christian tradition of Neoplatonic thought.25 In the light of another document.27 As I noted. Heidelberg 1941. Cusanus indicates Dionysius. as we saw. pp. The explicit Cusanus’ quotation of Eriugena in the Apologia doctae ignorantiae should corroborate my thesis. We have to remind the political-religious roles developed by Cusanus during his life (official Pope’s ambassador. Cusanus knew perfectly Eriugena’s translations from Dionysius.24 In the light of the document of the “Codex Additivus 11035”. J. 1963. Mitteilungen und Forschungen der Cusanus-Gesellschaft. Eriugena and Eckhart as a unique system of thought. at least the fi rst Book. Firenze. p. 3. conserved in the British Museum. In other cases. he was aware to connect his ideas with a “heretical”. Cf. 77-103. Lat. Cf. Bishop. officially condemned. L. Baur. P. Lucentini. we know that Cusanus encountered indirectly a large part of Eriugena’s Periphyseon. Cusanus. Cardinal) and the condemnation of heresy received by the Irish monk in 1210 (like Eckhart in 1329). . 1979. through his reading of Honorius’ Clavis Physicae. 86-100. describes a line of “savior thinkers”. When Cusanus refers to Dionysius he cannot distinguish between him and Eriugena. 830. whose philosophy was centred on the concepts of human knowledge as a docta ignorantia and God as the infinita Unitas. in order to defend his philosophy from the charge of “heresy” moved by Johannes Wenck. while it is present in Eriugena’s writings. alternative to Scholasticism? 24 25 26 27 Nicolai de Cusa. the “Cod. Platonismo Medievale. Koch. Considering his structural philosophical relation with Eriugena. Nicholas of Cues is conscious to be a modern interpreter of a unitary philosophical-spiritual tradition. conserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris.68 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION. it is known that Cusanus studied Eriugena’s Periphyseon. The Renaissance bishop and cardinal Nicholas of Cues developed the instrument of Eriugena’s work as a key for a redefi nition of Christian orthodoxy. philosophical tradition. as the source of the philosophical conception of God as the “oppositorum oppositio”. “Nicolaus Cusanus und Dionysius im Lichte der Zitate und Rand-bemerkungen des Cusanus”. Apologia doctae ignorantiae. it is intriguing to ask: why a high member of the Church of his time was following in the footsteps of a heretical Irish monk. For instance. Certainly. the same phenomenon appears with Meister Eckhart.26 Finally. Cusanus seems often to consider Dionysius. 6734”. But this expression is never present in Dionysian works ad litteram. Cusanus-Texte III.
as we saw. the Periphyseon is rejected as a heretical work. Johannes Wenck in his De ignota literatura develops the charges of pantheism against Nicholas of Cues. The idea of God as infi nite One corresponds to Cusanus’ conception of God as Non-aliud. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae. In 1225 condemnation of Eriugena. expressed in the theory of the deificatio. Those ideas. c) the conception of the fi nal reditus ad Unum of all created beings. Those philosophical topics are widely affi rmed in all Cusanus’ work. and is explicitly associated with the 1210 pronunciation of Peter Coberlius. . in Eriugena’s condemnation. the human possibility to “becoming God” is described and argued by the Bishop of Brixen in a specific essay. Washington 2007. De filiatione Dei28. b) the human possibility of “becoming God”. 3-8. 80. Thomas Aquinas would offer a theoretical strong background for the rejection of David’s and Amaury’s philosophies. against the quaternuli of David of Dinant and the writings of natural philosophy of Amaury. that is an indirect denial of hell (and a possible consideration of the conception of “apokatastasis”). Wenck maintains the association between Eriugena and David of Dinant and Amaury of Bène originally expressed in his condemnation of 1210/1225. That is because Wenck’s judgement and the charges against Eriugena present an identical theological profi le. I. Eriugenae Periphyseon I. Summa contra Gentiles. Becoming God: The Doctrine of Theosis in Nicholas of Cusa. forma formarum. by observing this link Amaury and David. like in the later case of Eckhart. infinita Unitas. I intend to underline the theoretical correspondence between the charges against Cusanus expressed by Johannes Wenck in his De ignota literatura and the charge of pantheism pronounced against Eriugena for his condemnation as heretical.29 Aquinas intends to refute Amaury’s principle of God as the principium formale omnium rerum and the David’s conception of Deum esse materiam primam. the idea of the fi nal reditus of all created being in the primeval Unity is implicit in Cusanus’ conception of the created universe as a contractio Dei. He individuates a “formal pantheism” in Amaury and a “material pantheism” in David of Dinant. N. archibishop of Sens. are associated with the principle expressed in the Periphyseon of God as the essentia omnium. In his De ignota literatura. Hudson.Cesare Catà 69 The philosophical condemnation of Eriugena’s philosophy. 500A. 30 By pursuing an identical methodology. Cf. p. 28 29 30 Cf. or posse ipsum. I. In both the cases. Cf. an Aristotelian Scholastic perspective is considering the heterodox conception of a Christian Neo-Platonic vision. Cusanus’ philosophy is included in this categorization. was centered on some decisive theological questions: a) the idea of God as an in impersonal principle.
The Neoplatonic condemned ideas of Eriugena’s heritage can be seen.70 CUSANUS’ REVIVAL OF ERIUGENA AS A RENAISSANCE REDEFINITION. David of Dinant. like in the sermons Verbum caro factus est (December. 27. My hermeneutical anlysis would be corroborated by an analytic observation of Cusanus’ Sermons. 1440). Nicholas of Cues was draft ing a new profi le of Christian orthodoxy. by considering the cultural backgrounds of those disputationes: in both the cases. Nicholas of Cues – in the framework of his powerful theological-political appointment – purpose a real redefi nition of the parameters of Christian orthodoxy. as the material through which the Renaissance philosopher Nicholas of Cues shaped a peculiar and daring idea of Christian vision. Th is cultural endeavor must be understood. 1456). We can recognize in Cusanus’ preaching several explicit references to Eriugena’s comment on the Gospel of John. 1453). in which ancient traditions drove to new defi nitions of God and human being. the Neoplatonic philosopher Ni- . Amaury of Bène. like in the case of Marsilio Ficino. It is important to note that the beginning of the Apologia doctae ignorantiae declares his appointment: this a formal imprimatur for the daring thesis that he will defend in his writing. He defends openly the concept of God as forma omnium that was at the centre of Eriugena’s condemnation.. 1456). as Johannes Wenck noted. The presence of Eriugena’s philosophical heritage in Cusanus’ Sermones reveals the relevance of the Neoplatonic background in the re-defi nition of Christian orthodoxy pursued by Nicholas of Cues. 25. Nicholas of Cues is conscious of the theological substance of the question. Here. We can fi nally understand why the presence of Eriugena and his tradition is at same time profuse and hidden in Cusanus’ work. until he would be appointed as a Cardinal. in the historical context of the Renaissance Humanism. 7. Th ierry of Chartres and Robert Grosseteste: in all those philosophers we fi nd a defi nition of the concept of God as forma omnium. In fact. the presence of Eriugena is particularly evident. in the context of an intellectual “renovatio” of Western culture. there is a rejection of a Neo-platonic conception of Christianity. By following Eriugena and his tradition. grounded on the principles that will be codified by Thomas Aquinas. We can explain this correspondence between Johannes Wenck’s opusculum and the condemnation of Eriugena. The Sermones of Nicholas of Cues represent an extremely precious source. We can conclude that in the heart of Renaissance age. he did not answer the charges of Wenck. and it would be necessary to offer a specific study on this question. Ubi est qui natus est Rex Iudaeorum (January. 8. In fact. Tota Pulchra (September.. Dies Sanctificatus (December. The preaching was in all the Middle Ages the principal instrument of expression for heterodox ideas in European culture (like in the case of Meister Eckhart). Cusanus named Eriugena along with Meister Eckhart. With his philosophy.
in order to redefi ne the aspects of Christian identity established by Scholastic orthodoxy. Nicholas of Cues received Eriugena’s philosophical heritage. The structural historical-philosophical link between Cusanus and Eriugena. On one hand. If we consider Cusanus by comparing his philosophy with Marsilio Ficino’s work. by realizing a genial synthesis between a Neoplatonic background and a Christian perspective.Cesare Catà 71 cholas of Cues reconnected with the ancient tradition of thought represented by Eriugena’s work. we can comprehend the similarity and the difference of those thinkers. . and the cult of the pure holy beauty. He looked at the works of Proclus. In this way. besides Ficino. in order to shape an original. In Fifteenth century. on the other hand. the methodologies and the sources developed by Ficino and Cusanus are completely different. through Eriugena’s philosophy and his tradition (Eckhart and the German Mystics). Nicholas of Cues rediscovered in a rejected tradition of thought the possibility for a radical redefi nition of Christian orthodoxy. Cusanus realized an extraordinary synthesis of Platonic sources and Christian conceptions. Saint Augustine and Dionysius the Aeropagite. Th rough Cusanus. the harmony between reason and faith. the divinization of man. Th is tradition. We can comprehend the historical-theological reason for which a Renaissance bishop and cardinal followed in the footsteps of an ancient heretical Irish monk. The idea of infinita Unitas as the inconceivable essence of divine principle is the fundamental aspect of this tradition of thought. alternative to Thomistic Scholasticism. Meister Eckhart. Cusanus elaborated philosophically some typical Renaissance topics in the light of Eriugena’s philosophy: such as the conception of an ontological link between human and divine. The structural relationship between Eriugena and Nicholas of Cues reveals a fundamental moment of the history of the idea of God as the infi nite One. was handed down to Cusanus. in the context of the Humanistic debates between Platonic and Aristotelian disciples during Renaissance. powerful and brilliant philosophical-mystical work. can be seen as a reconnection with the tradition of thought of Christian Neoplatonism. and developed it in the culture of European Renaissance. Nicholas of Cues received and interpreted the Platonic message. Cusanus is the other main root. Marsilio Ficino pursued a philological work of translation and exegesis of the original Greek texts. Eriugena’s philosophy influenced and characterized some fundamental topics of Renaissance culture. of Renaissance Neoplatonism. Cusanus is a modern interpreter of Eriugena’s tradition of thought. Like Ficino. Eriugena elaborated this fundamental concept. by a line of thinkers in which we can indicate Th ierry of Chartres. Berthold of Moosburg.
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