John Scotus Eriugena
|Died||c. 877 (age c. 62)|
|Other names||Johannes Scottus Eriugena, Johannes Scotus Erigena, Johannes Scottigena|
|Free Will, Intersubjectivity, Logic, Metaphysics,|
|Four divisions of nature|
|Part of a series on|
John Scotus Eriugena,[a] also known as Johannes Scotus Erigena,[b] John the Scot, or John the Irish Born (c. 800 – c. 877) was an Irish Catholic Neoplatonist philosopher, theologian and poet of the Early Middle Ages. Bertrand Russell dubbed him "the most astonishing person of the ninth century". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states he "is the most significant Irish intellectual of the early monastic period. He is generally recognized to be both the outstanding philosopher (in terms of originality) of the Carolingian era and of the whole period of Latin philosophy stretching from Boethius to Anselm."
He wrote a number of works, but is best known today for having written De Divisione Naturae (The Division of Nature), or Periphyseon, which has been called the "final achievement" of ancient philosophy, a work which "synthesizes the philosophical accomplishments of fifteen centuries." The principal concern of De Divisione Naturae is to unfold from φύσις (physis), which John the Scot defines as "all things which are and which are not", the entire integrated structure of reality. Eriugena achieves this through a dialectical method elaborated through exitus and reditus, that interweaves the structure of the human mind and reality as produced by the λόγος (logos) of God.
Eriugena is generally classified as a Neoplatonist, though he was not influenced directly by such pagan philosophers as Plotinus or Iamblichus, Jean Trouillard stated that, although he was almost exclusively dependent on Christian theological texts and the Christian Canon, Eriugena, "reinvented the greater part of the theses of Neoplatonism."
He succeeded Alcuin of York (c. 735–804) as head of the Palace School at Aachen. He also translated and made commentaries upon the work of Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite, and was one of the few Western European philosophers of his day who knew Greek, having studied it in Ireland (see specifically Freemantle, Anne, p78) and in Byzantine Athens. A later medieval tradition recounts that Eriugena was stabbed to death by his students at Malmesbury with their pens, although this may rather be allegorical.
According to Jorge Luis Borges, John's byname may be construed as the repetitious "Irish Irish".
The form "Eriugena" is used by John Scotus to describe himself in one manuscript. It means 'Ireland (Ériu)-born'. 'Scottus' in the Middle Ages was the Latin term for "Irish or Gaelic", so his full name translates as "John, the Irish-born Gael". "Scotti" was the late Latin term for the Irish people, with Ireland itself being Scotia or in the Medieval period Scotia Major (to distinguish it from Scotia Minor, i.e. modern Scotland). The spelling 'Scottus' has the authority of the early manuscripts until perhaps the 11th century. Occasionally he is also named 'Scottigena' ("Irish-born") in the manuscripts.
He is not to be confused with the later, Scottish philosopher John Duns Scotus.
Johannes Scotus Eriugena was educated in Ireland. He moved to France (about 845) at the invitation of Carolingian King Charles the Bald. He succeeded Alcuin of York (735–804), the leading scholar of the Carolingian Renaissance, as head of the Palace School. The reputation of this school increased greatly under Eriugena's leadership, and he was treated with indulgence by the king. Whereas Alcuin was a schoolmaster rather than a philosopher, Eriugena was a noted Greek scholar, a skill which, though rare at that time in Western Europe, was used in the learning tradition of Early and Medieval Ireland, as evidenced by the use of Greek script in medieval Irish manuscripts. He remained in France for at least thirty years, and it was almost certainly during this period that he wrote his various works.
Whilst eating with King Charles the Bald John broke wind. This was acceptable in Irish society but not in Frankish. The King is then said to have said "John tell me what separates a Scottus (Irishman) from a situs (a fool)?" John replied "Oh just a table" and the king laughed. 
The latter part of his life is unclear. There is a story that in 882 he was invited to Oxford by Alfred the Great, labored there for many years, became abbot at Malmesbury, and was stabbed to death by his pupils with their styli. Whether this is to be taken literally or figuratively is not clear, and some scholars think it may refer to some other Johannes. William Turner says the tradition has no support in contemporary documents and may well have arisen from some confusion of names on the part of later historians.
He probably never left France, and the date of his death is generally given as 877. From the evidence available, it is impossible to determine whether he was a cleric or a layman; the general conditions of the time make it likely that he was a cleric and perhaps a monk.
Eriugena's work is largely based upon Origen, St. Augustine of Hippo, Dionysius the Areopagite, St. Maximus the Confessor, and the Cappadocian Fathers. Eriugena's overall view of reality, both human and divine, was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. He viewed the totality of reality as a "graded hierarchy" cosmology of gradual declensions from the Godhead, similar to Proclus, and likewise saw in all things a dual movement of procession and reversion: that every effect remains in its cause or constitutive principle, proceeds from it, and returns to it. According to Deirdre Carabine, both "ways" must be understood as intrinsically entwined and are not separate movements or processes.
"For the procession of the creatures and the return of the same are so intimately associated in the reason which considers them that they appear to be inseparable the one from the other, and it is impossible for anyone to give any worthy and valid account of either by itself without introducing the other, that is to say, of the procession without the return and collection and vice versa."
John Scotus Eriugena was also a devout Catholic. Pittenger argues that, too often, those who have written about him seem to have pictured John as one who spent his life in the endeavor to dress up his own personal Neoplatonism in a thin Christian garb, but who never quite succeeded in disguising his real tendency. "This is untrue and unfair. Anyone who has taken the trouble to read Erigena, and not merely to read about him, and more particularly one who has studied the De Divisione Naturae sympathetically, cannot question the profound Christian faith and devotion of this Irish thinker nor doubt his deep love for Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. In the middle of long and some what arid metaphysical discussions, one comes across occasional passages such as the following, surely the cry of a passionately Christian soul: O Domine Jesu, nullum aliud praemium, nullam aliam beatitudinem, nullum aliud gaudium a te postulo, nisi ut ad purum absque ullo errore fallacis theoriae verba tua, quae per tuum sanctum Spiritum inspirata sunt, intelligam (Migne ed., ioioB)." The Greek Fathers were Eriugena's favourites, especially Gregory the Theologian, and Basil the Great. Of the Latins he prized Augustine most highly. The influence of these was towards freedom and not towards restraint in theological speculation. This freedom he reconciled with his respect for the teaching authority of the Church as he understood it.
The first of the works attributed to Eriugena during this period was a pseudo-graphical treatise on the Eucharist, On the Body and Blood of the Lord, which has not survived. In it he seems to have advanced the doctrine that the Eucharist was merely symbolical or commemorative, an opinion for which Berengar of Tours was at a later date censured and condemned at the Council of Vercelli in 1050. As a part of his penance, Berengarius is said to have been compelled to publicly burn this treatise. We now know this treatise was not written by Eriugena, but written by Ratramnus of Corbie.
Eriugena was considered orthodox by his authorities and a few years later was selected by Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, to defend the doctrine of liberty of will against the extreme predestinarianism of the monk Gottschalk (Gotteschalchus), whose view of predestination pre-figured the Calvinist position. The Catholic Church opposed Gottschalk's position because it denied the inherent value of good works and condemned him at the Council of Quiersy 835. The treatise De Divina Praedestinatione composed for this occasion has been preserved, and it was probably from its content that Eriugena's orthodoxy became suspect. Eriugena argues the question of predestination entirely on speculative grounds, and starts with the bold affirmation that philosophy and religion are fundamentally one and the same. Even more significant is his handling of authority and reason. Eriugena offered a brief proof that there can be predestination only to the good, for all folk are summoned to be saints.
Augustine's view of predestination prefigured the debate as such: human beings cannot will what is good without the action of divine grace. Since they are dependent upon grace, it follows that human beings cannot save themselves; that means, some people are predestined to salvation.
Eriugena's view, as he sets it out in this "rather hastily written treatise", is that because God is simple and unchangeable, there can be nothing at all that can be predestined. Eriugena explains God's predestination as God's knowledge of the primordial causes. Carabine outlines Eriugena's argument against double-predestination as follows: God cannot predestine the human will, and people are blessed or punished because of their own free will. Since the free will of human beings can be misused, sins must be the fault of individuals. Sin and evil, and the fact that some souls are damned, cannot imply a change in God or a defect in God's power; if we accept the view of Gottschalk, God is responsible for sin and evil. Eriugena's way out of this difficult position is based on the Neoplatonic idea that God as good is simply existence and, therefore, the opposite of non-being. Evil and sin are negations that do not, in fact, exist and cannot be caused by God.
"In addition to the arguments based on the dialectical understanding of being and non-being and the unity of God's nature, Eriugena also invokes the principles of negative theology in his answer to Gottschalk's heresy. Foreknowledge and predestination imply temporal notions in God, who transcends time. Since God is simple and unchanging, ideas, signs, and language cannot properly signify the divine nature."
Thus, God cannot predestine any soul to damnation; rather, human sinfulness creates its own hell. This was, in brief, the case Eriugena presented to Hincmar for scrutiny. On one hand, against Gottschalk, Eriugena had followed Augustine in that the faults of the wicked and their resulting damnation are their own responsibility. But since Eriugena had denied the possibility of the predestination of the elect to eternal bliss, he had contradicted Augustine; for this reason Hincmar ultimately rejected the treatise.
The work was warmly assailed by Drepanius Florus, canon of Lyons, and Prudentius, and was condemned by two councils: that The Council of Valence III 855, and that of Langres in 859. By the former council his arguments were described as Pultes Scotorum ("Irish porridge") and commentum diaboli ("an invention of the devil").
At some point in the centuries before Eriugena a legend had developed that Saint Denis, the first Bishop of Paris and patron saint of the important Abbey of Saint-Denis, was the same person as both the Dionysius the Areopagite mentioned in Acts 17.34, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a figure whose writings were not yet being circulated in the West in the ninth century. Accordingly, in the 820s ambassadors from the Byzantine emperor to the court of Louis the Pious donated Louis a Greek manuscript of the Dionysian corpus, which was immediately given to the Abbey of Saint Denis in the care of Abbot Hilduin. Hilduin proceeded to direct a translation of the Dionysian corpus from Greek into Latin, based on this single manuscript.
Soon after, probably by the middle of the ninth century, Eriugena made a second Latin translation of the Dionysian corpus, and much later wrote a commentary on "The Celestial Hierarchy". This constitutes the first major Latin reception of the Areopagite. It is unclear why Eriugena made a new translation so soon after Hilduin's. It has often been suggested that Hilduin's translation was deficient; though this is a possibility, it was a serviceable translation. Another possibility is that Eriugena's creative energies and his inclination toward Greek theological subjects motivated him to make a new translation.
Eriugena's next work was a Latin translation of Dionysius the Areopagite undertaken at the request of Charles the Bald. A translation of the Areopagite's writings was not likely to alter the opinion already formed as to Eriugena's orthodoxy. Pope Nicholas I was offended that the work had not been submitted for approval before being given to the world, and ordered Charles to send Eriugena to Rome, or at least to dismiss him from his court. There is no evidence, however, that this order was carried out.
At the request of the Byzantine emperor Michael III (c. 858), Eriugena undertook some translation into Latin of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius and added his own commentary. With this translation, he continued in the tradition of St. Augustine and Boethius in introducing the ideas of Neoplatonism from the Greek into the Western European intellectual tradition, where they were to have a strong influence on Christian theology.
He also translated St. Gregory of Nyssa's De hominis opificio and St. Maximus Confessor's Ambigua ad Iohannem.
Main article: De divisione naturae
Eriugena's magnum opus, De Divisione Naturae (On the Division of Nature) or Periphyseon, is arranged in five books. It has been called the "final achievement" of ancient philosophy, a work which "synthesizes the philosophical accomplishments of fifteen centuries." The form of exposition is that of a catechetical dialogue between a theologian and his pupil, and the method of reasoning is the ancient syllogistic. Nature (Natura in Latin or physis [φύσις] in Greek) is the name of the most comprehensive of all unities, that which contains within itself the most primary division of all things, that which is (being) and that which is not (nonbeing). It is presented, like Alcuin's book, as a dialogue between Master and Pupil. Eriugena anticipates St. Thomas Aquinas, who said that one cannot know and believe a thing at the same time.[clarification needed]
Eriugena explains that reason is necessary to understand and interpret revelation. "Authority is the source of knowledge, but the reason of mankind is the norm by which all authority is judged."
Sergei N. Shushkov has challenged the dominant strains of Eriugena scholarship in pointing out these key points regarding the approach to the structure, internal progression and purpose of the De Divisione Naturae:
The Latin title refers to these four divisions of nature:
The first is God as the ground or origin of all things; the second, Platonic ideas or forms as logoi, following St. Maximus and Augustinian exemplarism; the third, corporeal world of phenomena and formed matter world; and the last is God as the final end or goal of all things, and that into which the world of created things ultimately returns. The third division is the dialectical counterpart to the first, the fourth to the second. The inspiration of this division comes from Augustine's City of God, "The cause of things, therefore which makes but is not made, is God; but all other causes both make and are made." The first and fourth divisions are to be understood of God, regarded alternately as the efficient and sustaining cause of all as dependent upon Him, and the teleological end of all:
Let us then make an “analytical” or regressive collection of each of the two pairs of the four forms we have mentioned so as to bring them into a unity. The first, then, [and] fourth are one since they are understood of God [alone]. For He is the Principle of all things which have been created by Him, and the end of all things which seek Him so that in Him they may find their eternal and immutable rest. For the reason why the Cause of all things is said to create is that it is from it that the universe of those things which have been created after it (and) [by it] proceeds by a wonderful and divine multiplication into genera and species and individuals, and into differentiations and all those other features which are observed in created nature; but because it is to the same Cause that all things that proceed from it shall return when they reach their end, it is therefore called the end of all things and is said neither to create nor to be created. For once all things have returned to it nothing further will proceed from it by generation in place and time (and) genera and forms since in it all things will be at rest and will remain an indivisible and immutable One. For those things which in the processions of natures appear to be divided and partitioned into many are in the primordial causes unified and one, and to this unity they will return and in it they will eternally and immutably remain. But this fourth aspect of the universe, which, like the first also, is understood to exist in God alone, will receive a more detailed treatment in its proper place, as far as the Light of Minds shall grant (us). Now what is said of the first and fourth, that is to say, that neither the one nor the other is created since both the one and the other are One — for both are predicated of God — will not be obscure, I think, to any who use their intelligence aright. For that which has no cause either superior to or equal with itself is created by nothing. For the First Cause of all things is God, whom nothing precedes (nor) is anything understood (to be) in conjunction with Him which is not coessential with Him. Do you see, then, that the first and fourth forms of nature have been reduced to a unity?
These divisions are not to be understood as separated and within the nature of God, but rather they are not God at all but our thought of God because we are compelled, by the very constitution of our minds, to think of a beginning and an end. The second and the third divisions, however, do not merely exist in our thought, but in things themselves and are the things in themselves, in which causes and effects are actually divided. The second division represents the primordial causes, of which the Logos is the unity and the aggregate. All that we see divided and a multiplicity in nature is one in the primal causes. The third division represents the created universe; it is all that is known in generation, in time and in space. These divisions of Nature do not mean that God is the genus of the creature, or the creature a species of God, though Gregory Nazianzen does say, pars Dei sumus, which is a metaphorical use of language, to express the truth that in God we live and move and have our being, which Eriugena himself follows. The four divisions are an example of analysis descending from the most general to the most special, and then reversing the process, and resolving individuals into species, species into genera, genera into essences, and ‘essences into the wisdom of the Deity, from where all these divisions arose and where they end.
Next in importance to the fourfold division of Nature for the understanding of Eriugena's philosophy, is his fivefold division of non-being. It is fundamental to Erigena's scheme that Nature, as the general name for all things, comprises both the things which are and the things which are not. All that is perceived by the senses or understood by the intellect is said to be (esse). The five modes of non-being are as follows:
This dimension of Eriugena's theology consists largely of his direct intellectual inheritance from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. While the same predicate may rightly be affirmed and denied of God, the affirmation is metaphorical (metaphorice) yet truly indicative, the denial is literal (proprie). This depends upon the fact that every human thought involves a contrary, and God, as the Absolute, is beyond all oppositions, for He is the reconciliation and the resolution of contraries and tensions. Therefore, for Eriugena, God may be said to be essentia, as He is conceived to be the essence of all that is, yet strictly He is not essentia (of which the contrary is nihil) because God is beyond opposition, so he is more appropriately super-essentia. Similarly He is more-than-good and more-than-goodness, more-than-eternal, and more-than-eternity. The use of phrases like these is the attempt to unite the affirmation and the negation in one statement, since the Absolute involves both the positive and the negative. But, as Eriugena sees it, every one of these attempts to express the nature of God by super- is really a negation. To say that God is superessential is not to say what He is, but what He is not. God indeed is beyond all words, and all thought, for He surpasses all intellect, and is better known by not knowing, and is more truly denied in all things than affirmed.
It is therefore one of Eriugena's fundamental tenets that it is impossible to know God as He is. We know that He is, but not what He is. He is known to be only through the things He has created, that is, He is known only by theophany, as Dionysius the Areopagite before him argued. The sense which Eriugena attaches to this phrase is not particularly clear or consistent. It seems generally to mean every manifestation of God through the medium of the creation. But it is only the devout soul that is prepared to receive the higher manifestations, and it is only to such souls that these are given. The words of Maximus are quoted as a definition of theophany in the narrower sense. "As far as the human mind ascends in love, so far the divine wisdom descends in mercy." The "creation" of the world is in reality a theophania, or showing forth of the Essence of God in the things created. Just as He reveals Himself to the mind and the soul in higher intellectual and spiritual truth, so He reveals Himself to the senses in the created world around us. Creation is, therefore, a process of unfolding of the Divine Nature. Theophany, therefore, in this more restricted sense, is, on the part of man, an ascent to God in which every good desire and deed is a step, and on the part of God, a revelation of Himself to the human spirit in such fashion as our intelligence can understand.
God is ἄναρχος, that is; without beginning, uncaused, the absolutely self-sufficient, uniquely possessing aseitas. The essence of God is incomprehensible, as is the οὐσία of all that exists. But as our human intellect, which is one and invisible in itself, yet manifests itself in words and deeds, and expresses its thought in letters, and figures, so the Divine Essence, which is far above the reach of our intellect, manifests itself in the created universe. In this sense, it may even be said to be created, in those things which are made by it and through it and in it. Eriugena is fundamentally following St. Paul the Apostle here in saying that the Divine Nature is made, where the Word of God is born in the heart. So the Divine Nature may, in this strictly qualified sense, be said to create itself inasmuch as it creates from itself the nature of things.
While God is ἄναρχος, strictly speaking Eriugena argues, only the Father is ἄναρχος, since the Son and the Spirit have a principium in the Father and are generated and cospirated respectively. While Eriugena does rely on the Greeks even more so than the Western Fathers, and at times does show sympathy to Constantinople, he is a staunch defender of the filioque clause. Eriugena argues that, as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, so the Son is born of the Father through the Holy Spirit both in the Incarnation and, in a much different sense, in baptism.
Moran refers to the communicating intelligences (i.e., the human merged with and in God) within Eriugena's theological schema as constituting an "intersubjective" domain of circular figuration which Eriugena inherits from Boethius: "Eriugena does not have a modern understanding of the self-enclosed isolated subject. Rather, he has the idea of a nous which as a 'circular' motion around God, and can come into a unity with Him." Likewise, Boethius’ description in the Consolation notes that the relation between Providence and Fate is as a set of concentric orbits around an axis, with Providence as the unmoved axis itself and Fate as occupying the outermost orbits, which must traverse ever longer distances around that center. For both Eriugena and Boethius, to the degree to which a soul can infuse itself with the Godhead, which is the omnipresent center, it can also be absorbed in its undivided, non-dual nature, and cease to experience the distension of being torn in multiple directions thus attaining beatitude.
Additionally, Moran argues that the notion of intersubjectivity is in Eriugena's philosophy, and it is "anti-hierarchical, bubble-like". Eriugena writes of a communion that occurs in the mind through intellectual penetration such that whenever the intellect knows something perfectly, it is "made in that thing and becomes one with it." Eriugena explication of his cosmological schema reveals how the traditional hierarchy of angels placed above the human is uniquely transfigured by Christian revelation and folded through the soul's proximity to the divine:
If you look more closely into the mutual relation and unity which exist between intelligible and rational natures, you will at once find that not only is the angelic nature established in the human but also the human is established in the angelic. For it is created in everything of which the pure intellect has the most perfect knowledge and becomes one with it. So closely indeed were the human and angelic natures associated, and so they would be now if the first man had not sinned, that the two would have become one. Even as it is this is beginning to happen in the case of the highest men, from whom are the firstborn among the celestial natures. Moreover the angel is made in man, through the understanding of angel which is in man, and man is in the angel through the understanding of man which is established in the angel. For, as I have said, he who has a pure understanding is created in that which he understands. So the intelligible and rational nature of the angel is created in the intelligible and rational nature of man, just as the nature of man is created in the nature of angel, through the mutual knowledge by which angel understands man and man angel.
Becoming-other through mutual embrace or absorption represents a medieval complication of the purely top-down hierarchies often representative of classical Neoplatonism. They are complicated insofar as, at one level of structure the hierarchy remains, but at another level, it is transcended and included in a wider notion of a single divine-self (i.e., network-refraction). A later medieval concordance is found with St. Thomas Aquinas, who in the thirteenth century wrote that, when a spiritual entity exists fully and completely in something, it contains that thing and is not contained by it. Gardiner notes how that is similar to Object-Orientated-Ontology, that in the relationship of knowing, a subject is brought into contact with an Other outside of the self, not in the interior of that Other, but rather in the interior of the relationship-with-that-Other-as-object.
In Eriugena's De Divisione Naturae, the most excellent part of our nature as moving is nous, and as essence it is οὐσία. All emanation or "division," and all return or "analysis" begins and ends in οὐσία. It is known only in this exitus-reditus process; immediately it is knowable neither generically nor in particulars. According to Wayne J. Hankey, the ambiguity that was in Boethius is absent from Eriugena, who is far more confident in his trinitarianism: οὐσία names the One, the Godhead shared between persons. The Divine "nothingness by excellence" is "beyond all things which are and which are not". By plunging into this divine nature, which is said not to be, "because of its ineffable excellence and incomprehensible infinity”, Eriugena follows Pseudo-Dionysius's apophaticism into its extremes towards "the ineffable and incomprehensible and inaccessible brilliance of the divine goodness, unknown to any intellect", and so beyond the activity of intellect. The mystical attainment of this ascent to God is through a learning of ignorance; a trained effort towards going beyond discursive thought. According to Trouillard, learned ignorance is essential to human dignity and its cosmic role:
God does not know himself. And the reason for this ignorance, is that God is nothing… God… remains… inaccessible to all thought and is communicable only as motion. Therefore we distinguish in God, so to speak, two levels: that of the Deity, which is an irremediably obscure centre, and that of God the Creator, who, by the rays which he projects, makes himself known through his creatures… Our spirit is in itself a silent spontaneity and, nonetheless, manifests itself to the outside and to itself by signs and figures… Because it is in the image of God our mind is nothingness, and this is why it expresses the totality of the universe. Becoming the meanings which it emits, it creates itself in them, and nevertheless however refuses to define itself by its own creations.
God is intimately woven to the human as the human is to Divinity. Eriugena came to understand human nature as more than being, "that in which all things could be found," but rather became; “that in which all things are created.” The human is the workshop of creation; as the imago Dei, the human is the image of the creator. It is the medium in which God knows and creates himself out of his own unknowing nothingness, precisely because, uniquely among beings, the human possesses all the forms of knowing and ignorance, including sensation. Donald Duclow explains the indissoluble marriage between the two:
Eriugena places the human being among the primordial causes within the divine Word. He further describes humanity as created in God's image and likeness, with two basic features: (1) a self-ignorance whereby humanity knows only that it is, not what it is; and (2) a self-knowledge that embraces all creation, visible and invisible. In the first, the human being reflects God's unknowable transcendence. In the second, the human being becomes — in Maximus's phrase — “the workshop of all things, officina omnium,” and faithfully mirrors God's creative Wisdom. Simultaneously transcending and embracing the whole created order, humanity thus becomes a precise image of its divine exemplar.
This is why Eriugena, while being a master of the dialectic of a Greek Rationalist flavour, is able to paradoxically "praise ignorance more than knowledge". It is precisely this kicking away of discursive multiplicity which can only gesture towards but never fully capture God that accords better to God:
For the human mind does know itself, and again does not know itself. For it knows that it is, but does not know what it is. And as we have taught in the earlier books it is this which reveals most clearly the Image of God to be in man. For just as God is comprehensible in the sense that it can be deduced from His creation that he is, and incomprehensible because it cannot be comprehended by any intellect whether human or angelic nor even by Himself what He is, seeing that He is not a thing but is superessential: so to the human mind it is given to know one thing only, that it is — but as to what it is, no sort of notion is permitted; and, a fact which is stranger still and, to those who study God and man, more fair to contemplate, the human mind is more honoured in its ignorance than in its knowledge; for the ignorance in it of what it is is more praiseworthy than the knowledge that it is, just as the negation of God accords better with the praise of His Nature than the affirmation, and it shows greater wisdom not to know than to know that Nature of Which ignorance is the true wisdom and Which is known all the better for not being known. Therefore the Divine Likeness in the human mind is most clearly discerned when it is only known that it is, and not known what it is; and, if I may so put it, what it is, is denied in it, and only that it is, is affirmed. Nor is this unreasonable. For if it were known to be something, then at once it would be limited by some definition, and thereby would cease to be a complete expression of the Image of its Creator, Who is absolutely unlimited and contained within no definition, because He is infinite, beyond all that may be said or comprehended, superessential.
De Divisione Naturae was condemned by a council at Sens by Honorius III (1225), for appearing to promote the identity of God and creation, and by Gregory XIII in 1585. According to Max Bernhard Weinstein, Eriugena argued on behalf of something like a panentheistic definition of nature. Lutheran theologian Otto Kirn severely criticised Weinstein, claiming sweeping generalisations and shallow assertions pertaining to Eriugena and other such Neoplatonic theologians. Eriugena maintained that for one to return to God, he must first go forth from Him and so Eriugena himself denied that he was a pantheist. Étienne Gilson also argued that Eriugena's alleged pantheism derived from a misunderstanding of the nature of "division" in the Periphyseon. Gilson writes that when we read Eriugena, "nature" is not meant as a totality of which God and creatures are parts; or as a genus of which God and creatures would be species. God is not all things, nor are all things God and Eriugena explicitly tells us that such a conception is a monstrosity. The division of nature signifies the act by which God expresses himself in hierarchical declension, and making himself known in a hierarchy of beings which are other than, and inferior to, him by being lesser grades of reality; "yet, in point of fact, Erigena only means that each and every creature is essentially a manifestation, under the form of being, of what is above being. The esse of a being is but a light radiated by the superesse, which is God."
Historian of philosophy Frederick Copleston summarized the matter thus:
If one takes a particular set of isolated statements of John Scotus one would have to say that he was either a pantheist or a theist. For example, the statement that the distinction between the second and third stages of Nature is due only to the forms of human reasoning is in itself clearly pantheistic, while the statement that the substantial distinction between God and creatures is always preserved is clearly theistic. It might seem that we should opt for one or the other set in an unqualified manner, and it is this attitude which has given rise to the notion that John Scotus was a conscious pantheist who made verbal concessions to orthodoxy with his tongue in his cheek. But if one realises that he was a sincere Christian, who yet attempted to reconcile Christian teaching with a predominantly neo-Platonic philosophy or rather to express the Christian wisdom in the only framework of thought which was then at hand, which happened to be predominantly neo-Platonic one should also be able to realise that, in spite of the tensions involved and the tendency to rationalise Christian dogma, as far as the subjective standpoint of the philosopher [i.e., of John Scotus] was concerned a satisfactory reconciliation was effected.
Eriugena is believed to have held to a form of apocatastasis or universal reconciliation, which maintains that the universe will eventually be restored under God's dominion. His form of apocatastasis however is fairly unique. It is not Christian Universalism, but rather part of a broader Neoplatonic eschatology. As the cosmos for Eriugena gradually unfolds the grades of reality from the Godhead, so too will the various grades enfold into each other in a cosmic return to God, of which the Incarnation of Christ is a necessary tool for such a reversion. After the resurrection, the division between the sexes shall be abolished and elevated man will be as the fall had never happened for the elect. The body of each person will return to the soul from which it was separated such that, "life will become sense; sense will become reason and reason will become pure thought. A fourth stage will return the human soul to its primary cause or Idea and, together with the soul, the body it has reabsorbed...The fifth and last moment of this universal "analysis" will bring the terrestrial sphere back to Paradise. As this movement will propagate itself from sphere to sphere, nature and all its causes will let themselves be progressively permeated by God as air is by light. From that time and on, there will be nought else but God."
However for Eriugena, this deification does not result in annihilation, because he believes that things are more real in their primordial causes than in themselves, and as such he evades the Origenistic apocatastasis whereby the lower grades of reality are annihilated. So, while everything has indeed returned to God in Eriugena's account, material hell is a "pagan superstition", eternal punishment remains as "the supernatural distinction between the chosen and the condemned will remain whole and will persist eternally, but each one will be beatified or punished in his own conscience."
Eriugena's work is distinguished by the freedom of his speculation, and the boldness with which he works out his logical or dialectical system of the universe. He marks a stage of transition from ancient philosophy to the later scholasticism. For him philosophy is not in the service of theology. His assertion that philosophy and religion are fundamentally one and the same is repeated almost word for word by many of the later scholastic writers, but its significance depends upon the selection of one or other term of the identity as fundamental or primary. For Eriugena, philosophy or reason is first or primitive; authority or religion is secondary, derived. Eriugena's influence was greater with mystics, especially Benedictines, than with logicians, but he was responsible for a revival of philosophical thought which had remained largely dormant in western Europe after the death of Boethius.
Eriugena is generally classified as a neoplatonist, though was not influenced directly by such philosophers as Plotinus or Iamblichus. Jean Trouillard stated that, although he was almost exclusively dependent on Christian theological texts and the Christian Canon, Eriugena, "reinvented the greater part of the theses of Neoplatonism."
Main article: Bernard of Clairvaux
Within the twelfth-century Cistercian Order, alongside William of Saint-Thierry, St. Bernard of Clairvaux's mystical theology was greatly influenced by the work of Eriugena. His influence came to Bernard through two principal texts;
From both St. Maximus and Eriugena he borrows the Dionysian concept of excessus and a milder version of Eriugena's Neoplatonic reversion and procession but blending it further with the Johannine account of God as Love. "All things move towards God as towards the motionless Sovereign Good. The end of their movement, which is also their own proper good, is to attain this motionless Good. Natural things tend to Him in virtue of their very nature; intelligent beings by way of knowledge and love. Hence the ecstatic movement which bears them on towards Him... the effect of this excessus is to make him who loves fiat totum in toto amato (op. cit., 1 202 A), in such a way that there now remains nothing for him to will of his own will. Circumscribed by God on all sides, he is as air flooded with light, or as iron liquefied in the fire." And like Eriugena, the liquefaction and fusion of the soul in ecstasy does not involve its annihilation, but rather keeps the soul's essence perfectly intact and perfects it further.
Main article: Hildegard of Bingen
St. Hildegard's Ordo Viritutum and Scivias express much of an influence from Eriugena. Following in the Irish theologian's footsteps, Hildegard boldly admits the possibility of an individual who is raised above the angel, implying an intersubjective contact within the Godhead. In this unique medieval interpretation of the ontological scale, the Platonic mean serves not as a lower reflection but as a type of interface linking divine and sublunary worlds within the mind of its user. A common theme which she borrows from him also is the notion of cosmological, top-down hierarchies that both contain, and are transcended by, the human as Imago Dei. Hildegard also follows Eriugena on his account of intersubjectivity as well as his view of the soul's return through the cosmos to God. "The networked centricities in the Ordo allow distant tonalities to be drawn close, collapsing linear progressions into folded, synoptic structures. In this way, Eriugena's intersubjective proximity through spherical absorption... becomes one of the organizing principles of the Ordo Virtutum as a whole, and its expression of what we might today call the phenomenological aspects of a spiritual pilgrimage, the soul's navigatio through the chaos of the world, its re-ordering, and return to the One, i.e., the celestial city Ordo Virtutum 86 (celestem Ierusalem)."
Main article: Nicholas of Cusa
As Catà argues, the philosophical relationship between John Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa, connecting directly two different thinkers through six centuries, is a fundamental moment in the history of Christian Neoplatonism. Cusanus is the most significant 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 infinite 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."
On the whole, one might be surprised that even in the seventeenth century pantheism did not gain a complete victory over theism; for the most original, finest, and most thorough European expositions of it (none of them, of course, will bear comparison with the Upanishads of the Vedas) all came to light at that period, namely through Bruno, Malebranche, Spinoza, and Scotus Erigena. After Scotus Erigena had been lost and forgotten for many centuries, he was again discovered at Oxford and in 1681, thus four years after Spinoza's death, his work first saw the light in print. This seems to prove that the insight of individuals cannot make itself felt so long as the spirit of the age is not ripe to receive it. On the other hand, in our day (1851) pantheism, although presented only in Schelling's eclectic and confused revival thereof, has become the dominant mode of thought of scholars and even of educated people. This is because Kant had preceded it with his overthrow of theistic dogmatism and had cleared the way for it, whereby the spirit of the age was ready for it, just as a ploughed field is ready for the seed.
Leszek Kołakowski, a Polish Marx scholar, has mentioned Eriugena as one of the primary influences on Hegel's, and therefore Marx's, dialectical form. In particular, he called De Divisione Naturae a prototype of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Eriugena's systematic earned the reputation as the "Hegel of the ninth century," among German Hegelian scholars.
Eriugena gives his name to the John Scottus School in Dublin. John Scotus also appeared on the Series B £5 note, in use between 1976 and 1992.
Bertrand Russell called him "the most astonishing person of the ninth century". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states he "is the most significant Irish intellectual of the early monastic period. He is generally recognized to be both the outstanding philosopher (in terms of originality) of the Carolingian era and of the whole period of Latin philosophy stretching from Boethius to Anselm".
William of Malmesbury's humorous anecdote illustrates both the character of Eriugena and the position he occupied at the French court. The king having asked, Quid distat inter sottum et Scottum? (What separates a sot [drunkard] from an Irishman?), Eriugena replied, Tabula tantum (Only a Table).
William of Malmesbury is not considered a reliable source on John Scotus Eriugena by modern scholars. For example, his reports that Eriugena is buried at Malmesbury is doubted by scholars who say that William confused John Eriugena with a different monk named John. William's report on the manner of Eriugena's death, killed by the pens of his students, also appears to be a legend. "It seems certain that this is due to confusion with another John and that the manner of John's death is borrowed from the Acts of St. Cassian of Imola. Feast: (at Malmesbury), 28 January."
The latin reads [quoting the full prayer]: "O Lord Jesus, I ask of Thee no other reward, no other blessedness, no other joy than this: to understand in all purity, and without being led astray by faulty contemplation, Thy Words which are inspired by the Holy Spirit. For this is the crown of my happiness, this the consummation of perfect contemplation: the rational and purified mind shall find nothing beyond this, For beyond it there is nothing. For as there is no place in which it is more proper to seek Thee than in Thy words, so is there no place where Thou art more clearly discovered than in Thy words. For therein Thou abidest, and thither Thou leadest all who seek and love Thee. Therein Thou preparest for Thine elect the spiritual banquet of true knowledge, and passing you minister to them. And what is the path along which Thou leadest them O Lord, but an ascent through the innumerable steps of Thy contemplation? And ever dost Thou open that way in the understandings of those who seek and find Thee. Ever art Thou sought by them and ever art Thou found, — and yet ever art Thou not found: Thou art found in Thy Theophanies in which Thou appearest in the minds of those who understand Thee after a manifold mode, as in a number of mirrors, in the way in which Thou permittest to be known not what Thou art, but what Thou art not: not what Thou art, but that Thou art: Thou art not found in Thy superessential nature, in which Thou transcendest and exceedest every understanding that desires to comprehend Thee, and to ascend unto Thee. Thou grantest unto Thine own Thy Presence by a mysterious manifestation of Thyself: Thou eludest them by the infinite and incomprehensible transcendance of Thine essence." [P.V, p.701, 1010C-1010D]
((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
Who is neither spoken nor understood, for Whom there is neither name nor word. But not unreasonably, as we have often said, all things that are, from the highest to the lowest, can be spoken of Him by a kind of similitude or dissimilitude or by contrariety or by opposition, since He is the Source of all things which can be predicated of Him. For He created not only things similar to Himself but also things dissimilar, since He Himself is the Like and the Unlike, and the Cause of contraries. For right reason shows that by virtue of the things that are truly created by Him [even] those which seem to be their contraries and which through privation of essence do not exist are contained (in Him).
And let us conclude with this brief example: it is Essence, affirmation: it is Non-essence, negation: it is superessential, affirmation and negation together — for superficially it lacks the negation, but is fully negative in meaning. For that which says: “ It is superessential”, says not what it is but what it is not ; for it says that it is not essence but more than essence, but what that is which is more than essence it does not reveal. For it says that God is not one of the things that are but that He is more than the things that are, but what that “is” is, it in no way defines.
For since, according to Aristotle, there are ten genera of things, which are called categories, that is, predicaments — and we find that none of the Greeks or the Latins oppose this division of things into genera — we see that all first essences, which the Greeks call ούσίαι — rightly, because they are by themselves, and do not require anything in order that they may be ; for so they have been established by the Creator, like a kind of immutable foundations — are included under a single genus, and they subsist in their wonderful and unchanging trinity in the likeness of the principal Cause of all things, that is, as has often been said before, in essence, power, operation, while the other nine genera are said to be accidents — and not without reason ; for they subsist not by themselves but in the aforesaid essential trinity. For the name which the Greeks give to place and time, ών άνευ, that is, without which the other things cannot exist, is not to be understood as meaning that the substantial trinity we have mentioned is to be counted among the things which cannot subsist without place and time; for it does not require the aid of place and time to subsist since it exists by itself by the excellence of its own creation before and above place and time. But the nine genera which are allotted to accidents alone are so divided by our authorities that these accidents which are originally seen in essences soon change into substances because they act as substance towards other accidents. For the first division of all things is into substances and accidents, the second is of accidents into substances, and this division can be carried almost to infinity because that which is at the moment an accident of what is prior to it is soon made into the substance of what follows it. But of this we must speak elsewhere, while for the present, if you agree, let us continue with the subject we set ourselves.
Enough surely but we must make a rapid recapitulation. By saying these things we are not refuting the interpretation of those who think that it was from the nothing by which is meant that privation of all possession that God made all things, and not from the Nothing by which is meant by the theologians the Superessentiality and Supernaturality of the Divine Goodness. For according to the rules of theology the power of negation is stronger than that of affirmation for investigating the sublimity and incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature ; and anyone who looks into it closely will not be surprised that often in the Scriptures God Himself is called by that name of Nothing.
I should believe that by that name [Nothing] is signified the ineffable and incomprehensible and inaccessible brilliance of the Divine Goodness which is unknown to all intellects whether human or angelic — for it is superessential and supernatural —, which while it is contemplated in itself neither is nor was nor shall be, for it is understood to be in none of the things that exist because it surpasses all things, but when, by a certain ineffable descent into the things that are, it is beheld by the mind's eye, it alone is found to be in all things, and it is and was and shall be. Therefore so long as it is understood to be incomprehensible by reason of its transcendence it is not unreasonably called “Nothing”, but when it begins to appear in its theophanies it is said to proceed, as it were, out of nothing into something, and that which is properly thought of as beyond all essence is also properly known in all essence, and therefore every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany, that is, a divine apparition. For every order of natures from the highest to the lowest, that is, from the celestial essences to the last bodies of this visible world, the more secretly it is understood, the closer it is seen to approach the divine brilliance.
For it is not only the divine essence that is indicated by the word “God”, but also that mode by which God reveals Himself in a certain way to the intellectual and rational creature, according to the capacity of each, is often called “God” in Holy Scripture. This mode the Greeks are accustomed to call theophany, that is, self-manifestation of God. An example of it is: “I saw the Lord sitting”, and other similar expressions, since it is not His Essence that (the prophet) saw, but something created by Him.
We find that Maximus [the monk, a godly philosopher,] has treated of this theophany most profoundly and subtly in his commentary on the Homilies of Gregory the Theologian. For he says that theophany is effected from no other (cause) but God, but that it happens as a result of the condescension of the Divine Word, that is, of the only begotten Son Who is the Wisdom of the Father, downwards, as it were, upon human nature which was created and purified by Him, and of the exaltation upwards of human nature to the aforesaid Word by divine love. [By condescension I mean here not that which has already taken place through the Incarnation but that which is brought about by theosis, that is to say, the deification, of the creature.] So from this condescension of the Wisdom of God upon human nature through grace, and the exaltation of the same nature to that same Wisdom through choice, theophany is brought about. With this interpretation the holy father Augustine seems to agree in his exposition of that passage from the Apostle, “He Who is made unto us righteousness and wisdom” ; for he expounds it as follows : “The Father's Wisdom, in which and through which all things were made, which is not created but creating, comes into being in our souls by some ineffable condescension of compassion and attaches to itself our intellect so that in some ineffable manner a kind of composite wisdom, as it were, is formed out of its descending upon us and dwelling in us, and out of our understanding which through love is raised up by it to itself and is formed in it.” In the same way, concerning righteousness and the other virtues he teaches that they derive from no other source than a certain wondrous and ineffable conformation of the Divine Wisdom and our own understanding. For, as Maximus says, as far as the human intellect ascends through charity, so far does the Divine Wisdom descend through compassion, and it is this that is the cause and the substance of all the virtues. Therefore every theophany, that is, every virtue, both in this life [in] which it is still only beginning to take shape [in those] who are worthy to be formed, and in the future life (in those who) shall receive the perfection of the divine beatitude, is effected not externally but internally out of God and out of themselves.
But what is thought of as a beginning is different from what is thought of as an end, and therefore these two meanings are spoken of, as it were, as two different things although they refer to the One Beginning and End of all things; as for instance if someone were to say : “From what is understood as the beginning to what is understood as the end in God.” Then consider that everything which lacks a beginning and an end necessarily lacks all motion also. But God is anarchos, that is, without beginning, because nothing precedes Him or makes Him to be; nor does He have an end because He is infinite : for it is understood that there is nothing after Him since He is the Limit of all things beyond which nothing proceeds. Therefore He does not admit any motion. For He has nowhere to move Himself, since He is the Fullness and the Place and the Perfection and the Station and the Whole of all things, or rather, He is More-than-fullness-and-perfection, More-than-place-and-station, More-than-whole-of-all-things. For He is more than that which is said or understood of Him, in whatever way anything is either said of Him or understood.
How is variety found in the simple, or unity in variety? But to know the solution of these things of which there is question I have recourse to the very words of God Himself. For He says: “Let Us make man in Our image and likeness.” So long as the image does not lack any of those things which are discerned in the Primal Exemplar, it is a proper image: but if in anything it departs from conformity to the primal Exemplar, there it is no longer an image. Is it not therefore necessary because incomprehensibility of essence is among the things which are predicated of the Divine Nature, that he to whom the Image has been apportioned shall imitate wholly the Primal Exemplar? For if the nature of the Image were to comprehend the Primal Exemplar, it will itself be beyond comprehension. If contrariety is found in those things that are predicated (of the Divine Nature), which must happen in this case, the fault is attributed to the image. But since the very nature of our mind, which is made in the image of its Creator, escapes knowledge, it possesses an exact likeness to that which is placed above it by the fact that in itself it is unknowable, showing the characteristic of an incomprehensible nature.”
A. Was not this the task we set ourselves : to try our best to find out on what grounds those who treat of the Divine Nature say that the same (Nature) creates and is created? For that it creates all things no one of sound intellect is in doubt; but how it is said to be created is not, we thought, a question to be cursorily passed over. N. Just so. But, as I think, in what has already been said considerable headway has been made towards the solution of this question. For we agreed that the motion of the Divine Nature is to be understood as nothing else but the purpose of the Divine Will to establish the things that are to be made. Therefore it is said that in all things the Divine Nature is being made, which is nothing else than the Divine Will. For in that Nature being is not different from willing, but willing and being are one and the same in the establishment of all things that are to be made. For example, one might say: this is the end to which the motion of the Divine Will is directed: that the things that are may be. Therefore it creates all things which it leads forth out of nothing so that they may be, from not-being into being ; but it is (also) created because nothing except itself exists as an essence since itself is the essence of all things. For as there is nothing that is good by its nature, except (the divine nature) itself, but everything which is said to be good is so by participation in the One Supreme Good, so everything which is said to exist exists not in itself but by participation in the Nature which truly exists. Not only, therefore, as was mentioned earlier in our discussion, is the Divine Nature said to be made when in those who are reformed by faith and hope and charity and the other virtues the Word of God in a miraculous and ineffable manner is born — as the Apostle says, speaking of Christ, “Who from God is made in us wisdom and justification and sanctification and redemption” ; but also, because 454B that which is invisible in itself becomes manifest in all things that are, it is not inappropriately said to be made. For our intellect also, before it enters upon thought and memory, is not unreasonably said <not> to be. For in itself it is invisible and known only to God and ourselves ; but when it enters upon thoughts and takes shape in certain phantasies it is not inappropriately said to come into being. For it does so in the memory when it receives certain forms [of things and sounds and colours and <other> sensibles] — for it had no form before it entered into the memory —; then it receives, as it were, a second formation when it takes the form of certain signs of <forms and> sounds — I mean the letters which are the signs of sounds, and the figures which are the signs of mathematical forms — or other perceptible indicators by which it can be communicated to the senses of sentient beings. By this analogy, far removed as it is from the Divine Nature, I think it can be shown all the same how that Nature, although it creates all things and cannot be created by anything, is in an admirable manner created in all things which take their being from it ; so that, as the intelligence of the mind or its purpose or its intention or however this first and innermost motion of ours may be called, having, as we said, entered upon thought and received the forms of certain phantasies, and having then proceeded into the symbols of sounds or the signs of sensible motions, is not inappropriately said to become — for, being in itself without any sensible form, it becomes formed in fantasies —, so the Divine Essence which when it subsists by itself surpasses every intellect is correctly said to be created in those things which are made by itself and through itself and in itself [and for itself], so that in them either by the intellect, if they are only intelligible, or by the sense, if they are sensible, it comes to be known by those who investigate it in the right spirit.
These words of the Father may be interpreted as meaning that creatures possess not so much eternity as late arrival. For if, he seems to be saying, I should assert, what I most certainly know, that God is from all eternity both Creator and Lord of his creation, and that therefore there could not have been at any time lacking a creature for Him to be Lord over, for if the creature had not been from all eternity subject to the Lord, it would follow that neither would the Creator from all eternity have been Lord over His creation. But He was always Creator and Lord: therefore it must follow that the creature over which He is Lord was always a created being. For it is not an accident in the Creator of all things to have created what He has created, but if He is antecedent to His creation, and extends beyond it, it is only because of the perpetuity: I am afraid [he is speaking ironically] I should perhaps give the impression of affirming what I do not know instead of teaching what I do know. For of this I am sure : that the creature and its Creator, the Lord and that over which He is Lord, could not be separated one from another. But I do not mean by that that the creature is coeternal with its Creator, or that that over which He is Lord is co-eternal with the Lord ; for the Creator is prior to the creature, and the Lord to that over which He is Lord, by eternity — though not in time, but because the Creator and Lord is the Principle of the creature and of that over which He is Lord, and the Creator and Lord is Himself ἄναρχος, that is, without principle. But we declare our Creator and Lord to be the one and only God, that is, the most high and holy Trinity, one Essence in Three Substances: and in this Trinity, if considered in Itself, the Father only is regarded as ἄναρχος ; the Son and the Holy Spirit are not altogether ἄναρχοι, for they have a Principle, namely the Father. For the Son is begotten of Him, and the Holy Spirit proceedeth from Him.
And perhaps the reason why it is declared by the Nicene Synod that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone is to prevent public discussion of such a subject. For if a careful student of the holy word of God hears that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son his studies in divinity will soon prompt him to ask: “If, then, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, why is it not equally true that the Son is born of the Father through the Spirit? But if the Son is not born of the Father through the Spirit, why should it be said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son? For why should that which as Catholics we believe of the Holy Spirit not be < believed likewise > of the Son ?” < — unless, perhaps, bearing in mind the force of the analogies from nature which were mentioned above, one should say: “We see that the brightness proceeds from the fire through the ray, but not that the ray is born of the fire through the brightness. Similarly the natural order of contemplation teaches that the interior sense is sent forth from the mind through the 612B reason, but not that the reason is begotten by the mind through that sense.” But it may be that examples from nature do not supply adequate doctrine and affirmation concerning the generation and procession of the Divine Substances —> . And for this reason that which is recited in the Creed according to the Greeks is entirely unaffected by this problem and unconnected with it. For it says that the Son is έκ του πατρός γεννηθέντα, that is, “begotten of the Father”, but that the Spirit is έκ τοϋ πατρός πορευόμενον, that is, “proceeding from the Father”.
But should one-consult the Holy Fathers who in the Latin Creed have added concerning the Spirit : “Qui ex patre filioque procedit”, they would give a reasonable reply, as I believe, and would not be silent concerning the cause of that addition. And perhaps they have been consulted and have given their reply, but their opinion on the matter has not yet come into our hands, and therefore we make no rash definition about this kind of question, unless perhaps someone should say : “Not without reason was this addition made, for it is supported by many passages of Holy Scripture. For the Lord Himself says: ‘Whom the Father sends in My Name.’ For it is apparent that whom the Father sends in the Son's Name the Son sends. And the Son Himself also calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. The Truth, however, is the Son, as He Himself testifies : T am the Way and the Truth and the Life.’ If then the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, it follows that He is the Spirit of the Son. [Also when He is healing the α'ιμορροοϋσα, that is, the woman afflicted with an issue of blood, He says: I perceived power go out of Me; ’and that which we quoted a little earlier: If I go away I shall send Him to you.’] Also the Apostle (says): ‘God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, in Whom we cry Abba Father.’ Also the Psalmist (says): ‘By the Word of God the heavens were established, and all the virtue of them by the Spirit of His mouth.’ Who among Catholics would not be able to prove from these and similar evidences that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son ?”
A. Whether, as we believe, following the Creed in the Roman version, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, so we could profess that the Son is born of the Father through the Spirit, although we do not find this written in the Creed itself either according to the Greeks or according to the Latins, nor openly taught in Divine Scripture, as I think. N. The Catholic Faith instructs us to confess that in the ineffable and supernatural profusion of the Divine Goodness, by which the Son is born and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the heart, that is, from the secret recesses, of God the Father, the same Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or from the Father through the Son. But that the Son is born of the Father through the Spirit I have found neither in that Creed in either language nor in any other scripture ; and why this (is so) I have never [until now] asked myself, nor read anyone who asked or answered it. But when Holy Scripture and the Creed (which was) delivered by the Holy Synod of Nicaea, the city of Bithynia, and safeguarded against all heresies, are consulted concerning the taking of human nature by God the Son, that is, concerning the Incarnation of the Word, it is most openly revealed to us and taught without any ambiguity that the Word was conceived from the Holy Spirit. Also the angel says to Mary : “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the Power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” And to Joseph the same (angel) says : “Joseph, son of David, do not put away thy wife. For that which is born in her is from the Holy Spirit.” From these and similar evidences are we not given to believe and understand that the Son was conceived and born in the flesh from the Holy Spirit? Therefore we do not doubt that in the divine profusion the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, but in the taking on of flesh the Son was conceived and born from the Holy Spirit.
But you will find that according to another theory too the Son is conceived and born from the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit. For when each of the faithful submits to the sacrament of baptism, what else is there performed but the conception and birth of the Word of God in their hearts from the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit? Daily then is Christ conceived, born, and nourished in the womb of Faith as in the womb of a most chaste mother.
‘Everything, therefore, which comes under Fate, is also subject to Providence, to which Fate itself is subject, but certain things which come under Providence are above the chain of Fate. These are things which rise above the order of change ruled over by Fate in virtue of the stability of their position close to the supreme Godhead. Imagine a set of revolving concentric circles. The inmost one comes closest to the simplicity of the centre, while forming itself a kind of centre for those set outside it to revolve round. The circle furthest out rotates through a wider orbit and the greater its distance from the indivisible centre point, the greater the space it spreads through. Anything that joins itself to the middle circle is brought close to simplicity, and no longer spreads out widely. In the same way whatever moves any distance from the primary intelligence becomes enmeshed in ever stronger chains of Fate, and everything is the freer from Fate the closer it seeks the centre of things. And if it cleaves to the steadfast mind of God, it is free from movement and so escapes the necessity imposed by Fate. The relationship between the ever-changing course of Fate and the stable simplicity of Providence is like that between reasoning and understanding, between that which is coming into being and that which is, between time and eternity, or between the moving circle and the still point in the middle.'
Reply to Objection 3. If a spiritual thing exist perfectly in something, it contains it and is not contained by it. But, in a sacrament, grace has a passing and incomplete mode of being: and consequently it is not unfitting to say that the sacraments contain grace.
’Αναλυτική come from the verb αναλύω which means “I resolve” or “I return” ; for άνα- stands for “re-”, λύω for “solve”. Thence comes also the noun ανάλυσις, which is similarly rendered “resolution” or “return”. But ανάλυσις is properly used in connection with the solution of set problems, while αναλυτική is used in connection with the return of the division of the forms to the origin of that division. For every division, which is called by the Greeks μερισμός, seems (to be) a kind of descent from some finite unity down into an infinite number of individuals, that is to say, from the most general to the most specific, while every recollection, which is like a return back, starting from the most specific and ascending to the most general, <is called> αναλυτική. Thus it is the return and resolution of individuals into forms, of forms into genera, of genera into οὐσίαι, of οὐσίαι into the Wisdom and Providence with which every division begins and in which every division ends.
For every order of natures from the highest to the lowest, that is, from the celestial essences to the last bodies of this visible world, the more secretly it is understood, the closer it is seen to approach the divine brilliance. Hence the inaccessible brilliance of the celestial powers is often called by theology darkness. Nor is this surprising when even the most high Wisdom itself, which is what they approach, is very often signified by the word “Darkness”. Hear the Psalmist: “As His darkness so also is His light”, as though he were saying openly; so great is the splendour of the Divine Goodness that, not unreasonably for those who desire to contemplate it and cannot, it shall be turned into darkness. For He alone, as the Apostle says “possesseth the inaccessible light”. But the further the order of things descends downwards, the more manifestly does it reveal itself to the eyes of those who contemplate it, and therefore the forms and species of sensible things receive the name of “manifest theophanies”. Therefore the Divine Goodness which is called “Nothing” for the reason that, beyond all things that are and that are not, it is found in no essence, descends from the negation of all essences into the affirmation of the essence of the whole universe; from itself into itself, as though from nothing into something, from non-essentiality into essentiality, from formlessness into innumerable forms and species. For its first progression into the primordial causes in which it is made is spoken of by Scripture as formless matter: matter because it is the beginning of the essence of things; formless because it comes nearest to the formlessness of the Divine Wisdom. Now the Divine Wisdom is rightly called formless because it does not turn to any form above itself for its formation. For it is of all forms the undefined exemplar, and while it descends into the various forms of things visible and invisible it looks back to itself as to its formation. Therefore, the Divine Goodness, regarded as above all things, is said not to be, and to be absolutely nothing, but in all things it both is and is said to be, because it is the Essence of the whole universe and its substance and its genus and its species and its quantity and its quality and the bond between all things and its position and habit and place and time and action and passion and everything whatsoever that can be understood by whatever sort of intellect in every creature and about every creature. And whosoever shall look carefully into the words of St. Dionysius will find that this is their meaning; and it does not seem inappropriate to introduce a few of them here, and we consider that it is necessary to repeat again the teaching we took from him in the earlier stages of our discourse.
A. But when I hear or say that the Divine Goodness created all things out of nothing I do not understand what is signified by that name, “Nothing”, whether the privation of all essence or substance or accident, or the excellence of the divine superessentiality. N. I would not easily concede that the divine superessentiality was nothing [or could be called by so privative a name]. For although it is said by the theologians not to be, they do not mean that it is nothing but that it is more than being. For how could the Cause of all things that are, be understood to be no essence, when all things that are show that it truly is — although by no demonstration of the things that are is it understood what it is? Therefore, if it is on account of its ineffable excellence and incomprehensible infinity that the Divine Nature is said not to be, does it follow that it is nothing at all, when not-being is predicated of the superessential for no other reason than that true reason does not allow it to be numbered among the things that are because it is understood to be beyond all things that are and that are not?
"What is left but to declare what particularly worries me, namely, how all things are eternal and made, how those things which are without beginning and end are limited by beginning and end. For these are in mutual conflict, and how they should be reconciled I do not know if you do not tell me ; for I thought that only God is άναρχος, that is, without beginning — for He is the Beginning and the End which arises out of no beginning and concludes in no end — whereas all other things begin and tend each to its proper end, and therefore are not eternal but made. And incomparably more profound and wonderful than all this seems to me the assertion you made on the authority of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, namely, that God Himself is both the Maker of all things and is made in all things; for this was never heard or known before either by me or by many, or by nearly all. For if this is the case, who will not at once break out and exclaim in these words: God is all things and all things God? But this will be considered monstrous even by those who are regarded as wise when the manifold variety of things visible and invisible is considered — for God is one —, and unless you support these arguments by illustrations from things which the mind can comprehend there is no alternative but either to pass over subjects which have been merely raised without being discussed — which could not be done without my mind regretting it; for those who, being plunged in thickest darkness, hope for the rising of the light to come are not completely overwhelmed by sorrow ; but if the light they hope for is taken away from them they will sit not only in darkness but in great torment, for the good which they had hoped for is taken away from them —, or everything that you have said about these things is to be judged by those of limited understanding to be altogether false, and for them to relapse into their former opinions, which they were already abandoning only with reluctance, as being true, and rejecting these. [P.III, 650C-651A]
((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)