Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World 2018043162, 9789004343016

Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Reform sheds new light on Cusanus’ relationship to early modernity by focusing on the

963 22 22MB

English Pages [536] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World
 2018043162, 9789004343016

Table of contents :
Introduction: Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Reform: Towards a Reassessment
By: Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann and Eric M. Parker
Pages: 1–46

Reformatio Generalis: Ecclesiastical Reform
Pages: 47–48

A Difficult Pope: Eugenius iv and the Men around Him
By: Thomas M. Izbicki and Luke Bancroft
Pages: 49–73

The Reform of Space for Prayer: Ecclesia primitiva in Nicholas of Cusa and Leon Battista Alberti
By: Il Kim
Pages: 74–104

“Papista Insanissima”: Papacy and Reform in Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio Generalis (1459) and the Early Martin Luther (1517–19)
By: Richard J. Serina Jr.
Pages: 105–127

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi: Copernicanism and Conciliarism in Early Modern Venice
By: Alberto Clerici
Pages: 128–150

Coincidentia Oppositorum: Theological Reform
Pages: 151–152

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites
By: Joshua Hollmann
Pages: 153–172

Ignorantia Non Docta: John Calvin and Nicholas of Cusa’s Neglected Trinitarian Legacy
By: Gary W. Jenkins
Pages: 173–198

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism in Early Modern Catholic Theology
By: Matthew T. Gaetano
Pages: 199–228

Explicatio Visionis: Reform of Perspective
Pages: 229–230

The Notion of Faith in the Works of Nicholas Cusanus and Giordano Bruno
By: Luisa Brotto
Pages: 231–256

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”: Cusanus, Lord Brooke, and Peter Sterry
By: Eric M. Parker
Pages: 257–284

Varieties of Spiritual Sense: Cusanus and John Smith
By: Derek Michaud
Pages: 285–306

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos: Nicholas of Cusa’s Anima Mundi and Henry More’s Spirit of Nature
By: Nathan R. Strunk
Pages: 307–336

Mathesis Universalis: Reform of Method
Pages: 337–338

Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform
By: Richard J. Oosterhoff
Pages: 339–366

Nicholas Cusanus and Guillaume Postel on Learning and Docta Ignorantia
By: Roberta Giubilini
Pages: 367–383

The Book Metaphor Triadized: the Layman’s Bible and God’s Books in Raymond of Sabunde, Nicholas of Cusa and Jan Amos Comenius
By: Petr Pavlas
Pages: 384–416

“Squaring the Circle”: Cusan Metaphysics and the Pansophic Vision of Jan Amos Comenius
By: Simon J.G. Burton
Pages: 417–449

Cusanus and Leibniz: Symbolic Explorations of Infinity as a Ladder to God
By: Jan Makovský
Pages: 450–484

Epilogue: Ernst Cassirer and Renaissance Cultural Studies: The Figure of Nicholas of Cusa
By: Michael Edward Moore
Pages: 485–506

Citation preview

Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World

Studies in the History of Christian Traditions Editor-​in-​Chief Robert J. Bast (Knoxville, Tennessee) Editorial Board Paul C.H. Lim (Nashville, Tennessee) Brad C. Pardue (Point Lookout, Missouri) Eric Saak (Indianapolis) Christine Shepardson (Knoxville, Tennessee) Brian Tierney (Ithaca, New York) John Van Engen (Notre Dame, Indiana) Founding Editor Heiko A. Oberman†

VOLUME 190

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/​shct

Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World Edited by

Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker

LEIDEN | BOSTON

Cover illustration: The cloisters of the St Nikolaus Hospital in Bernkastel-​Kues in 2018. Photo by Simon J.G. Burton. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Burton, Simon J. G., editor. Title: Nicholas of Cusa and the making of the early modern world / edited by Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker. Description: Boston : Brill, 2019. | Series: Studies in the history of Christian traditions, ISSN 1573-5664 ; VOLUME 190 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018043162 | ISBN 9789004343016 (alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Nicholas, of Cusa, Cardinal, 1401–1464. Classification: LCC B765.N54 N478 2018 | DDC 189/.5–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018043162

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/​brill-​typeface. ISSN 1573-​5 664 ISBN 978-​9 0-​0 4-​3 4301-​6 (hardback) ISBN 978-​9 0-​0 4-​3 8568-​9 (e-book) Copyright 2019 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-​free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Contents Acknowledgements viii List of Illustrations ix Abbreviations x Notes on Contributors xi Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer xvi Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker

Introduction: Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Reform: towards a Reassessment 1 Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker

Part 1 Reformatio Generalis: Ecclesiastical Reform 1

A Difficult Pope: Eugenius iv and the Men around Him 49 Thomas M. Izbicki and Luke Bancroft

2

The Reform of Space for Prayer: Ecclesia primitiva in Nicholas of Cusa and Leon Battista Alberti 74 Il Kim

3 “Papista Insanissima”: Papacy and Reform in Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio Generalis (1459) and the Early Martin Luther (1517–​19) 105 Richard J. Serina, Jr. 4

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi: Copernicanism and Conciliarism in Early Modern Venice 128 Alberto Clerici

Part 2 Coincidentia Oppositorum: Theological Reform 5

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites 153 Joshua Hollmann

vi Contents 6

Ignorantia Non Docta: John Calvin and Nicholas of Cusa’s Neglected Trinitarian Legacy 173 Gary W. Jenkins

7

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism in Early Modern Catholic Theology 199 Matthew T. Gaetano

Part 3 Explicatio Visionis: Reform of Perspective 8

The Notion of Faith in the Works of Nicholas Cusanus and Giordano Bruno 231 Luisa Brotto

9

“The Sacred Circle of All-​Being”: Cusanus, Lord Brooke, and Peter Sterry 257 Eric M. Parker

10

Varieties of Spiritual Sense: Cusanus and John Smith 285 Derek Michaud

11

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-​formations of the Cosmos: Nicholas of Cusa’s Anima Mundi and Henry More’s Spirit of Nature 307 Nathan R. Strunk

Part 4 Mathesis Universalis: Reform of Method 12

Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform 339 Richard J. Oosterhoff

13

Nicholas Cusanus and Guillaume Postel on Learning and Docta Ignorantia 367 Roberta Giubilini

Contents

vii

14

The Book Metaphor Triadized: the Layman’s Bible and God’s Books in Raymond of Sabunde, Nicholas of Cusa and Jan Amos Comenius 384 Petr Pavlas

15

“Squaring the Circle”: Cusan Metaphysics and the Pansophic Vision of Jan Amos Comenius 417 Simon J.G. Burton

16

Cusanus and Leibniz: Symbolic Explorations of Infinity as a Ladder to God 450 Jan Makovský



Epilogue: Ernst Cassirer and Renaissance Cultural Studies: the Figure of Nicholas of Cusa 485 Michael Edward Moore

Index 507

Acknowledgements The editors are grateful for the guidance and support of W. J. Torrance Kirby, the Centre for Research on Religion of McGill University, and the American Cusanus Society, especially David Albertson, Donald F. Duclow, and Peter J. Casarella. We also extend our thanks to the St Nikolaus-Hospital in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, for permission to use the image on the front cover. In addition, we would like to thank Brill, especially our series editor Robert J. Bast and editors Arjan van Dijk, Ivo Romein, and Anitha Rajasekaran, as well as the expert anonymous readers. Finally, we are very thankful to Marilyn E. Burton for her vital work in bringing this volume to publication.

Illustrations 12.1 Image of Unity from Lefèvre, ed., Opera Cusani (Paris: Ascensius, 1514), 49v 356 12.2 Image of Unity from Roussel, Divi Boetii Arithmetica (Paris: Colines, 1521), 29v 357 12.3 Entia, from Roussel, Boetii Arithmetica, 5v 359 12.4 Opiniones, from Roussel, Boetii Arithmetica, 8v 359 14.1 Schema of Comenius’ mature triadic system 406 14.2 The triadic schema of Johann Heinrich Alsted 408 14.3 Comenius’ schema of World, Mind, and God 408

Abbreviations h

Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22  vols. Leipzig:  Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. trans. Hopkins Nicholas of Cusa. Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa. 2 vols. Edited and translated by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2001. WA Martin Luther. Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe. Weimar, 1883–​2007. LW Martin Luther. Luther’s Works. St Louis, MO, 1955–​1986.

Notes on Contributors Luke Bancroft is a PhD student at Monash University, Australia. His doctorate focuses on the Florentine residencies of Martin v and Eugenius iv, concentrating on the religio-​cultural impact of the papacy on the city. He has spoken in the usa, Europe, and Australia on various aspects of papal history, including Eugenius’ relationship to the Holy Roman Empire, Pius ii’s use of humanist historiography, and the impact of Florentine preaching on the papal court. Luisa Brotto is an advanced doctoral candidate at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, having completed an MA at the University of Pisa in 2012. She is currently working on her dissertation, “La concezione della fides nell’opera di Giordano Bruno.” In the dissertation Brotto demonstrates that Bruno uses various sources to rethink the notion of pistis in a non-​Christian sense. For Bruno faith functions to bind men to other men, to the elements of nature, and to the divine principle that originates reality. Her Master’s Thesis on Bruno and Skepticism, was awarded the Nicoletta Tirinnanzi’s Thesis Prize for Renaissance Philosophy in 2013. She has also studied Pierre Bayle, especially his contribution to the history of Renaissance philosophy. Simon J.G. Burton received his PhD in historical theology from the University of Edinburgh in 2011. Following his PhD he took up postdoctoral fellowships at McGill University and the University of Warsaw. From 2015–​17 he was Assistant-​Professor of Early Modern Christianity at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” of the University of Warsaw. He is currently John Laing Senior Lecturer in Reformation History at the School of Divinity of the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of The Hallowing of Logic: The Trinitarian Method of Richard Baxter’s Methodus Theologiae (Leiden, 2012), as well as of a number of articles and book chapters on late medieval and Reformed scholasticism. Alberto Clerici is Associate Professor of History of political thought at the Università “Niccolò Cusano” in Rome. He was previously Adjunct Professor of History of political thought at the Università di Roma “La Sapienza” (2004–​2007), and Huygens Fellow at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (2001). He earned his doctorate in History of political thought from the Università di Roma “La Sapienza” (2004).

xii 

Notes on Contributors

He is author of Costituzionalismo, contrattualismo e diritto di resistenza nella rivolta dei Paesi Bassi 1559–​1581 (Milan, 2004) and Monarcomachi e giusnaturalisti nella Utrecht del Seicento. Willem Van der Muelen e la legittimazione olandese della “Glorious Revolution” (Milan, 2007). Matthew T. Gaetano received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught history at Hillsdale College since 2011. His research focuses on scholastic theology and philosophy in the early modern period, especially Thomism at the University of Salamanca and the University of Padua. He has published essays on Domingo de Soto, Girolamo Vielmi, Francisco Suárez, and other scholastics. Roberta Giubilini is a PhD Candidate in Intellectual History at The Warburg Institute (London) with a thesis investigating the influence of Reformed religious thought on the writings associated with academies in the Venetian Republic, as well as the way in which heresy and Protestantism were represented in this context. Roberta has been published and has attended several international conferences, notably with an interest in the concept of purgatio in Sixteenth-​Century Literature, Medicine and Religion. In November 2015 Roberta joined the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle where she has been working as Project Assistant, as a Metadata Creator on two digitization projects: the Stuart and Cumberland Papers and the Georgian Papers Programme. Joshua Hollmann received his PhD in religious studies from McGill University (2014) and his MDiv from Concordia Seminary-​St. Louis (2005). He also studied at Hangzhou University and the University of Cambridge, and is the recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Doctoral Research Fellowship. He is Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of the Theology Department at Concordia College-​New York. He has guest taught and lectured at universities and seminaries in India, Sudan, Canada, Haiti and the Philippines. He is the author of The Religious Concordance: Nicholas of Cusa and Christian-​ Muslim Dialogue (Leiden, 2017), as well as chapters and articles on Nicholas of Cusa. Thomas M. Izbicki received his PhD in medieval history from Cornell University in 1973 and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Indiana University in 1986. He is an

Notes on Contributors

xiii

emeritus Humanities Librarian at Rutgers University. His research has focused on the medieval papacy, general councils and canon law. His publications include books on Pope Pius ii, Nicholas of Cusa and Juan de Torquemada. His most recent books are The Eucharist in Medieval Canon Law (Cambridge, 2015)  and a Companion to the Council of Basel (Leiden, 2016; co-​edited with Michiel Decaluwé and Gerald Christianson). Il Kim received his BA in architecture from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, and MPhil and PhD (2010) in art/​architectural history from Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. He is an assistant professor at Auburn University’s School of Architecture, teaching both history and design. His primary works are in the field of Renaissance architecture and engineering. His current research centers on the influence of scientific knowledge and engineering techniques on the development of fifteenth-​century theology/​philosophy. He is working on a book based on his dissertation, the focus of which is the intellectual relationship between Leon Battista Alberti and Nicholas of Cusa. Gary W. Jenkins received his PhD from Rutgers University. He is the Van Gorden Professor of History at Eastern University and works on the appropriation by Renaissance and Reformation thought of classical and patristic thought. He is the editor (with Kathleen Comerford and Torrance Kirby) of From Rome to Zurich, between Ignatius and Vermigli (Leiden, 2017), and the author of Calvin’s Tormentors (Grand Rapids, 2017). Jan Makovský studies philosophy, French philology and the history of science, focusing especially on the 17th-​century intellectual milieu of France. His PhD thesis at the University Paris-​i v concerned the origin of the calculus in the works of Leibniz, Bernoulli and L’Hospital with a special focus on the development of the infinitesimal methods as a result of the interpenetration between the philosophy of nature and the metaphysics of infinity. His Fulbright stay at Loyola University Maryland was devoted to a study of the notion of the infnite in the thought of Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno. At present, Jan conducts research at the Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University Prague, examining the role of Leibniz’s “law of continuity” in 18th-​century rational mechanics. He is also interested in the translation of Latin and French works of the classical sciences.

xiv 

Notes on Contributors

Derek Michaud is a lecturer in the philosophy department at the University of Maine specializing in the philosophy of religion, ethics, critical thinking, and the history of philosophy. His research interests include Christian Platonism, especially the Cambridge Platonists and their heirs in modernity, the spiritual senses, and theological epistemology. His first book, Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation, appeared in the Studies in Philosophical Theology series from Peeters Publishers in 2017. Michael Edward Moore received his PhD from the University of Michigan and is Associate Professor of European and Medieval History at the University of Iowa. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, Senior Fellow of the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften Vienna, and Visiting Fellow of the Leibniz-​Institüt für europäische Geschichte, Mainz. He is the author of A Sacred Kingdom: Bishops and the Rise of Frankish Kingship, 300–​850 (Washington, DC, 2011), and Nicholas of Cusa and the Kairos of Modernity: Cusanus, Gadamer, Blumenberg (Brooklyn, NY, 2013). Richard J. Oosterhoff received his PhD in 2013 from the University of Notre Dame. He is a Lecturer in early modern history at the University of Edinburgh. Previously he was based at the University of Cambridge, at CRASSH and a Fellow of St Edmund’s College. He is the author of Making Mathematical Culture: University and Print in the Circle of Lefèvre d’Étaples (Oxford, 2018) and a co-author of Logodaedalus: Word Histories of ­Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe (Pittsburgh, 2018). Eric M. Parker received his PhD from the School of Religious Studies at McGill University. His dissertation focused on the moral theology of the Cambridge Platonist, Peter Sterry, noting specifically his use of Cusanus’ method of coincidence as a means of shaping human character through the ‘conversion’ of perspective. He has published articles and book chapters on the use of Neoplatonic philosophy in the Cambridge Platonists, in the thought of the Reformers, Martin Luther and Martin Bucer, and the idea of theological virtue in Thomas Aquinas and Peter Martyr Vermigli. Petr Pavlas is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech

Notes on Contributors

xv

Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic, and assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic. His research interests include late Renaissance and early modern philosophy, the history of natural theology, perfect languages and the thought of Jan Amos Comenius. Richard J. Serina, Jr. teaches religion at Concordia College-​New York. He formerly served as Guest Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Seminary-​St. Louis and Research Fellow at the Center for Reformation Studies in St. Louis. He is the author of Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform (Leiden, 2016). He has also written numerous essays and articles on Nicholas of Cusa, as well as on late medieval and Reformation ecclesiology and church reform. Nathan R. Strunk is a PhD candidate in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University specializing in topics in philosophy of religion that address the evolving relation between philosophy and theology through the transposition of key concepts in the history of Western thought. Nathan has published numerous book reviews and several translations. He is currently finishing his dissertation, “The Metamorphosis of the Transcendental: Philosophy, Theology, and the Truth of the Active Intellect,” which focuses on the retrieval of Aquinas and Eckhart by contemporary thinkers in response to Kant’s transcendental philosophy.

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker Nicholas of Cusa committed his life and career to the reform of Church and society. The following brief biography presents pivotal moments from Cusanus’ life and works as they relate to reform and the making of the early modern world.1 Cusanus’ multifaceted ecclesial career began in Germany and would eventually take him to Constantinople and Rome in his resolute endeavors to reform the Church at the genesis of modernity. Cusanus was born in 1401 in Kues (present day Bernkastel-​Kues), Germany, to a respected family of merchants on the Mosel River. His family background afforded him opportunities in the business of Church administration and governance, particularly in his early association with the powerful Manderscheid family. In 1416 Cusanus matriculated at the University of Heidelberg. From his matriculation record we know that he had already received the lowest form of clerical orders, showing his early dedication to the priesthood. At Heidelberg, Cusanus gained a basic grounding in the liberal arts and was likely exposed to the via moderna of Marsilius of Inghen, which dominated the curriculum at the time. Something of the imprint of this Nominalist philosophy is surely 1 The sources for this concise life of Cusanus the reformer are as follows: Herman Hallauer and Erich Meuthen (eds.), Acta Cusana: Quellen zur Lebensgeschichte des Nikolaus von Kues, 5 vols. (Hamburg: Meiner, 1976–​2017); Nicholas of Cusa, Opera Omnia, 22 vols. (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005); Hans Gerhard Senger, Nikolaus von Kues: Leben –​Lehre –​Wirkungsgeschichte (Heidelberg: Universitäsverlag Winter, 2017); Marco Brösch, Walter Andreas Euler, Alexandra Geissler, and Viki Ranff (eds.), Handbuch Nikolaus von Kues: Leben und Werk (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2014); Erich Meuthen, Nicholas of Cusa: A Sketch for a Biography, trans. David Crowner and Gerald Christianson (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010); Morimichi Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa:  A Companion to his Life and Times, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Burlington: Ashgate, 2011); Donald F. Duclow, “Life and Works,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, ed. Christopher M.  Bellitto, Thomas M.  Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), 25–​56; Tom Müller, Der junge Cusanus (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2013); David Albertson, Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); and Richard J. Serina Jr., Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

xvii

evident in his abiding fascination with the infinity and transcendence of God. After only a year in Heidelberg, however, Cusanus proceeded to the University of Padua to study canon law, a common route for ambitious young clergyman to take in the fifteenth century. The study of canon law at Padua was still dominated by the influence of Cardinal Zabarella, who had taught many of Cusanus’ own professors. It was here through intensive study of the decretist and decretalist traditions that Cusanus developed the tools that would allow him to articulate his Conciliarist vision of the Church. His later patron, Cardinal Giuliano Cesarani, was only a few years ahead of him at Padua, and through him he gained an important entrée into the upper echelons of the Church reform movement. Padua was also a thriving center for Italian humanism. Here Cusanus became lifelong friends with Paolo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a celebrated physician, mathematician and astronomer. The two men shared a deep interest in mathematics and mystical theology. Decades later, Cusanus was to dedicate his mathematical treatise De transmutationibus geometricis (1445) to Toscanelli and employ him as a dialogue partner in his important work on squaring the circle. Known to his friends by the humanist moniker “Nicolaus Treverensis,” he seems to have moved in circles which included such luminaries of the Italian Renaissance as Filippo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti. Through an early association with Alberti, Cusanus perhaps nurtured his interest in perspective, which was to prove so fundamental to his reform endeavors. In 1423 Cusanus received his doctorate in canon law and left Padua. Following a tour of Italy, he entered into service with the Archbishop of Trier, receiving his first benefices in the Church. While Cusanus, like many of his contemporaries, was an impenitent pluralist, he showed a deep concern for the spiritual well-​being of his flock even from the beginning of his ministry. Already on a small scale he was acting as a reformer, drawing up new statutes for the collegiate church of St Florin’s in Koblenz, where he was dean, and later seeking to impress the ideals of the devotio moderna on the church at Bernkastel, where his brother was priest. He was also swept up in the monastic reform movement in Trier pioneered by Archbishop Otto von Ziegenhain and the Carthusian Johannes Rode. Cusanus forged important links with the Carthusian Order and clearly found their mystical piety highly attractive. Later he struck up a close friendship with the celebrated mystic Denys the Carthusian, who proved an important ally in his own reform efforts. Throughout these years Cusanus continued to practice as a successful civil and canon lawyer and in 1425 he matriculated at the University of Cologne and joined the law faculty there. In 1426 he was asked, together with

xviii 

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

some of the theological and legal luminaries of his day, to submit his opinion in a high-​profile case concerning toll-​charges on the River Rhine. Such was the esteem that Cusanus was held in by his profession that he received two invitations to serve as Professor of Law at the newly-​founded University of Louvain, one in 1428 and the other in 1435, both of which the ambitious young cleric turned down. At Cologne, Cusanus befriended Heimeric de Campo, a leading Dutch Albertist philosopher and theologian. By this time, Heimeric was also immersed in the study of the fourteenth-​century Catalan mystic Ramon Lull, whose Trinitarian Art purported to offer a key to universal knowledge. As an Albertist, Heimeric was fascinated by Lull’s Neo-​Platonism and its geometrical expression, and in the 1420s began to pioneer his own mathematical approach to theology and ecclesiology. Primed by his studies at Padua, where he may even have first encountered Lullism, Cusanus was profoundly influenced by Heimeric, and excitedly annotated his works. In 1428 he travelled to the Parisian Charterhouse at Vauvert, most likely at Heimeric’s suggestion, where he spent time copying and excerpting from their rich collection of Lullist manuscripts. Cusanus was to prove a lifelong collector of Lullist manuscripts, and the influence of Lull is evident from his earliest sermon to his latest work. It is also possible that it was his interest in Lull which led him to engage with Thierry of Chartres, another figure in whom he found a rich mathematical and Trinitarian account of reality. Cusanus would soon apply the intricacies of Trinitarian thought to the complex fifteenth-​century conundrums over authority and responsibility in the Church. From 1430–​1434 Cusanus’ connection to the prominent Manderscheid family propelled him to support the stubborn Ulrich von Manderscheid’s disastrous campaign to become Archbishop of Trier. Ulrich and Cusanus appealed to the Council of Basel for support. The ensuing embroilment at the Council of Basel became inflamed by national pride, charges of Roman coercion, and strident arguments for self-​governance. After years of acrimony, the Council of Basel ruled against Ulrich and Cusanus. Cusanus’ work for the Council of Basel (1432–​1438) proved crucial for his career as a reformer. It was at Basel that Cusanus met John of Segovia and Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. John of Segovia would later correspond with Cusanus on his reform of religion and Christianity and Islam as proposed in De pace fidei (1453). Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini became Pope Pius ii, to whom Cusanus would address his clearest program for reform, Reformatio generalis (1459). In Basel Cusanus reunited with his mentor and friend from his studies in Padua, Giuliano Cesarini, who was now the president of the council. Appointed by Cesarini to compose doctrinal statements, Cusanus

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

xix

proposed peace between Rome and the Hussites by allowing them to partake of the Eucharist in both elements. Cusanus’ first major treatise, De concordantia catholica (1433), written for the Council of Basel, sets forth his plan for reform of Church and society by means of harmony between the Pope and the Council, the Church and the Empire. It is an expression of unity and diversity grounded on the Trinitarian  –​and Lullist  –​notion of concordance. Cusanus’ predilection for unitive harmony and the coincidence of opposites led to his decision to follow Cesarini in parting ways with the council of Basel with the aim of realizing concordance between the Western and Eastern Church. In this mission for ecclesial union, Cusanus befriended the prominent Greek theologian and Platonist Bessarion, who would also be named a cardinal of Rome. In order to promote and achieve union between the Western and Eastern Church, Cusanus was commissioned by the Council of Basel to visit Constantinople in 1437–​1438. Cusanus’ trip to Constantinople proved to be a significant ecumenical success. The Council of Florence, which followed the Council of Basel, would approve a celebrated, if short-​lived, union between the Latin and Greek Churches. Following his return from Constantinople, Cusanus became an avid supporter of the power and primacy of the papacy as hierarchical means of reform and unity. In addition, while on return voyage from Constantinople, Cusanus conceived of a unique theological method of reasoning on the many and the one through the perspective of learned ignorance as proposed in his most famous work, De docta ignorantia (1440), which was dedicated to Cesarini. Cusanus’ subsequent theological writings, notably De coniecturis (1441–​1442), De quaerendo Deum (1445), De venatione sapientiae (1463), and De apice theoriae (1464), creatively unfold his heuristic insight into the underlying concordance of the cosmos in and through God in Christ. Johann Wenck, professor of theology at Heidelberg, accused Cusanus of blurring the line between the infinite and finite, the Creator and his creation. Wenck labeled Cusanus with the perceived pantheism of Meister Eckhart. By this time, Cusanus was indeed an avid reader of Eckhart and had gathered an important collection of Eckhart manuscripts, including his Latin works and sermons and the records of his celebrated heresy trial at Avignon (Codex Cusanus 21). Cusanus refuted Wenck’s pantheist charge with his Apologia doctae ignorantiae (1449), in which he significantly defended Eckhart, and directly connected Pseudo-​Dionysius’ theology of unknowing and the Divine names to his own theological method of learned ignorance that ascends beyond human conjectures to the simplicity of God known in and through all things.

xx 

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

Following the directives of the papacy, Cusanus spent much of the next two decades diligently working for reform in Germany and Italy and attempting to put into practice his understanding of ecclesial concordance. Throughout this period, as recorded in the ongoing Acta Cusana, Cusanus maintained a ­whirlwind schedule of ecclesial reform. He represented the reform interests and political strategies of the pope at various electoral and imperial diets and provincial councils. Notably, in terms of reform of the populace, Cusanus delivered a catechetical sermon on the Lord’s Prayer in 1441, which was transmitted in the vernacular. Concerning specific reforms of popular piety, Cusanus prohibited veneration of the bleeding host at Wilsnack. Anticipating the catechetical reforms of the sixteenth century, Cusanus directed that pedagogical panels with the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Apostles’ Creed, and Ten Commandments be prominently displaced in churches for Christians to learn by heart. In addition to reform of the laity, Cusanus was also involved with reforming the monastic and mendicant orders. Cusanus’ De visione Dei (1453), dedicated to the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Tegernsee, remains a masterpiece of Christian mysticism. The mystical treatise deftly perceives the coincidental interplay between infinite and finite perspectives of God and humanity. For his farsighted plans of spiritual renewal and herculean labors of reform on behalf of the pope, Cusanus received his cardinal’s hat during the jubilee year of 1450 and would become a prominent voice for reform in the Roman curia. It was also in 1450 that Cusanus composed, in part under the inspiration of the Theologia naturalis of the Lullist Raymond of Sabunde, the four-​book Idiota dialogues figuring universal wisdom as ascertained by ordinary Christians. The dialogues featured Cusanus’ contributions to the impending scientific revolution, natural theology and the natural sciences through various experiments and analysis. In addition, in 1450, now as Cardinal, Cusanus began a far-​reaching, more than year long, papal legation of visitation and reform throughout Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In the same year Cusanus was appointed Prince-​Bishop of Brixen by his friend Pope Nicholas v, over the head of the favored candidate of the Duke of Austria, Sigismund von Habsburg, who also had the support of the Cathedral Chapter. The disputed election cast a cloud over Cusanus’ episcopal reign, but the real conflict began in 1452, when he took over the administration of the diocese and took up residence in the Tyrol. From the beginning, Cusanus showed himself determined to reform his diocese, which had been progressively secularizing, and to wrest it from the control of the Habsburg Duke, who had become accustomed to ruling it more or less as his private fief. With the Pope’s support he therefore set out to reclaim all

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

xxi

the mortgaged castles and lands of the Brixen church, and as early as 1453 he obtained a grant from the Emperor of all the saltworks and mines in the diocese. He also set out on a programme of tireless preaching –​167 sermons date from his time as Bishop of Brixen –​and organized frequent visitations of churches and monasteries as well as regular synods of the diocesan clergy. His principal aim, as in the Reformreise of 1450–​1, was the moral and spiritual reform of his flock. At the heart of this vision was the theme of Christiformitas, which during the Brixen years attained a new prominence in his theology. In the spirit of both the devotio moderna and the Rhineland mysticism, he fervently preached personal conformity to Christ and mystical union with the Trinity as a goal attainable by all Christians, and realized in a life of faith, hope and charity. As far as we can tell, Cusanus won considerable support from the ordinary people and many of the parish clergy of the diocese, but he faced mounting opposition from his own Chapter, as well as from the aristocratic monasteries and convents that he was seeking to reform. Cusanus’ foolish effort in 1456 to appoint his nephew to the Cathedral Chapter in Brixen alienated the Duke and left him open to the attacks of the nobility. In 1457 Cusanus retreated to the mountain fortress of Buchenstein, after what he saw as a failed attempt on his life. A year later, in 1458, his dispute with the Benedictine nuns of Sonnenburg erupted into armed conflict, apparently at the instigation of their irate Abbess Verena von Stuben, leading to the death of over fifty men. Finally, in 1459 the Duke himself captured Cusanus, after the betrayal of his captain, and forced him to sign a humilitating revocation of most of his deeds as Bishop. This led to a papal ban on the Duke and an interdict on the whole diocese, and it was only in 1464 that the miserable affair was brought to an end by Cusanus’ agreement to act as an absentee Bishop –​a defeat of all his high hopes of reform. At the same time, the Brixen dispute proved significant in the wider Church since the Austrian Duke, exhorted by his advisor Gregory Heimburg, sought to use it as an opportunity to promote a new Conciliarism, leading to Pius ii’s famous 1460 bull of Execrabilis. This bull revoked the decrees of the Council of Constance, forbade any appeal to a General Council, and reasserted papal supremacy. In the midst of the Brixen controversy, Cusanus relocated primarily to Rome, the epicenter for his last efforts of reform. In 1459 Pope Pius ii appointed Cusanus to supervise the properties and possessions of the Papal States. Arising from these practical concerns of proper church oversight, Cusanus’ greatest contribution to reform during this time was his Christocentric Reformatio generalis. In the Reformatio, Cusanus patterns reform on Christiformes. The first part of the Reformatio explicates Cusanus’ Christ-​focused foundation of

xxii 

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

reform, while the second part delineates specific rules of ecclesial visitations and initiatives for the repair and renewal of the whole Church in its head and members. In Rome, Cusanus collaborated theologically with his old friends and colleagues Cardinal Bessarion and Cardinal John Carvajal in his stalwart support of papal-​propelled reform. Cusanus wrote Cribratio Alkorani (1461) for Pope Pius ii so that Pius, following his predecessor Pope Leo the Great, would refute and reform the resurfacing ancient Christological heresy of Nestorianism now posed by Islam. In 1463 Pius ii appointed Cusanus as reformer of the diocese of Orvieto. With renewed energy, Cusanus attempted in vain to reform all aspects of church and society there just as he had tried to reform Germany more than a decade before. From the Congress of Mantua in 1459 until the end of his papacy in 1464, Pius ii, with the aid of Cusanus and the curia, organized and led efforts for a new crusade. In 1464, responding to Pope Pius’ call to arms, Cusanus died in Todi in central Italy en route to Ancona to embark on a futile crusade to retake Constantinople from the Ottomans. Pius ii died three days later in Ancona and designs for the crusade dissipated. While many of Cusanus’ reforms were never realized, his theological and philosophical writings have proven influential from the sixteenth century to today. In a work of religious dialogue ahead of its time, Cusanus’ Christocentric De pace fidei proposed that salvation is by faith alone and that religion consists in the diversity of rites, a connection to Martin Luther and John Calvin’s focus on personal belief, as well as to the religious tolerance forged by the conflagrations of the European wars of religion. Cusanus’ final testament of reform is still evident in Bernkastel-​Kues today. Employing his considerable income accumulated throughout his career and by his business acumen, Cusanus funded a hospital in his hometown for the care of thirty-​three poor older men, including both clergy and laymen in need. He oversaw the organisation of the hospice, which still serves as a residence and care home for the elderly. The hospital was completed in 1458 and its original design features architectural examples of the coincidence of opposites as seen especially in the vaulting and window traceries of the cloister. With intellectual foresight, Cusanus bequeathed his wide-​ ranging personal library to the hospital. His hospice and library have survived Napoleon and the Second World War, and continue to welcome visitors and scholars seeking to learn of Cusanus’ contributions to the church and the history of ideas. Cusanus’ library, life, and thought would influence prominent scholars of early modernity such as Ernst Cassirer and Raymond Klibansky. While Cusanus’ body was buried at St. Peter in Chains in Rome, his heart lies before the altar of the hospice’s chapel. Indeed, Cusanus’

Nicholas of Cusa: The Life of a Reformer

xxiii

influence as reformer abides chiefly in charity. The Christian conception of reform centers on the heart of God revealed in the sacrifice of Christ and realized in acts of self-​giving love. The heart of Cusanus rests in the spiritual axis of the hospital where the body of Christ is offered for the welfare of the world. Cusanus entrusted his life and future influence to the reform and renewal of church and society.

Introduction: Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Reform Towards a Reassessment

Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker

Cusanus and Modernity

Since at least the early twentieth century modern scholars have discovered in the thought of Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​64), one of the most brilliant and creative thinkers of the fifteenth century, an important key to unlocking the origins of modernity. An enigmatic and paradoxical figure straddling the divide between the Middle Ages and emergent modernity, Cusanus was in many ways an embodiment of the manifold ideals and tensions of his age. While rooted in the piety and Weltbild of Latin Christendom, he was also deeply attuned to the new humanistic and scientific spirit of his age. A consummate intellectual, he was also a man of action who made his mark on both Church and State, even as he continually struggled for their reform. Secure in the certainty of his own faith, his continual striving to bring about “the establishment of a new relationship between … the ‘empirical’ and the ‘intellectual’ ” led him to mine the riches of Europe’s classical inheritance and gave him a remarkable openness to look for truth beyond traditional boundaries.1 Indeed, his daring attempts to rethink –​and recon­figure –​the relation between the Triune God, the natural world, human society and the human individual not only anticipated some of the most important advances of modernity, but also, undoubtedly, paved the way for their development. Yet the precise nature of Cusanus’ influence on modernity remains a hotly-​ disputed topic. Broadly speaking, scholarship may be divided into three opposing camps, which bear some relation to David Albertson’s recent typology of three overlapping “waves of scholarship.” According to Albertson the first wave (c. 1890–​1960) “used seventeenth-​century science as a backdrop for a prospective reading of Cusanus as forerunner of Kant,” the second wave (1950–​present) focuses on Cusanus in the context of his own time but within clear disciplinary boundaries, while the third wave (1980–​present) views Cusanus from a more 1 Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy (New  York:  Harper & Row, 1963), 27.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 02

2

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

inter-​disciplinary perspective.2 It is clear that the first wave will have very definite things to say concerning Cusanus’ subsequent influence, but, as we shall see, both the second and third waves have also had their impact on framing reception studies. For our purposes, however, instead of three overlapping waves it will make more sense to speak of three relatively distinct paradigms: the first views Cusanus not only as anticipating but even accelerating modernity, the second views his thought as a kind of accidental modernity, in “Janus-​faced” fashion looking both backwards to the Middle Ages and forward to early modernity, and the third views Cusanus as a proponent, whether consciously or unconsciously, of a kind of alternative modernity. It is to an overview of each of these that we now turn, before considering the relation of our own project to them.

Accelerated Modernity

The view of Cusanus as the first modern philosopher was put forward most famously by Ernst Cassirer, the great German philosopher and historian of ideas, in his ground-​breaking 1927 work Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance.3 Yet Cassirer was by no means the first to link Cusanus with modernity. As Morimichi Watanabe has shown, the origins of modern Cusanus research can be found within nineteenth-​century German scholarship, especially in Neo-​Kantian circles. For philosophers seeking the medieval roots of a definitively German intellectual and cultural tradition, Cusanus seemed like an ideal candidate.4 Important historians and philosophers of this time, including Robert Zimmermann, Richard Falckenberg and Heinrich Ritter, were thus all determined, as Jasper Hopkins has put it, to find in the German Cardinal a “forerunner of Leibniz,” a “harbinger of Kant,” and a “prefigurer of Hegel.”5 Indeed, such a view clearly resonated at the time beyond Germany. In 1920, just a few years before the publication of Cassirer’s Individuum und Cosmos, Edmond Vansteenberghe’s important biography Le Cardinal Nicolas de Cues 2 David Albertson, “Mystical Philosophy in the Fifteenth Century: New Directions in Research on Nicholas of Cusa,” Religion Compass 4 (2010): 5–​6. 3 See Ernst Cassirer, Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1927). 4 Morimichi Watanabe, “The Origins of Modern Cusan Research in Germany and the Establishment of the Heidelberg Opera Omnia,” in Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Morimichi Watanabe by the American Cusanus Society, ed. Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 17–​42. 5 Jasper Hopkins, “Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​1464): First Modern Philosopher?” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 26 (2002): 13–​14.

Introduction

3

(1401–​1464): L’action –​la pensée had sought to place Cusanus not only at the origins of Italian and French Renaissance Neoplatonism but also of Hegel and German Idealism. For Vansteenberghe, Cusanus therefore had the right to be called “one of the fathers of German thought.”6 Cassirer too was steeped in this wider German tradition. His doctoral supervisor Hermann Cohen, the leader of the Marburg School of Neo-​Kantians, had himself written enthusiastically on Cusanus’ philosophy, and especially his mathematics and natural philosophy. In this he made Cusanus a key representative of his own mathematical brand of Neo-​Kantianism. Cassirer likewise shared many of these interests. His PhD dissertation, which made reference to Cusanus, was on Descartes’ mathematics, and the opening chapter of his 1906 work Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosphie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit contained important reflections on Cusanus’ mathematical and scientific works in relation to his epistemology.7 Significantly, Cassirer’s Erkenntnisproblem was published just a few years before Pierre Duhem’s famous study of Cusanus and Leonardo da Vinci,8 and later, in Individuum und Kosmos, Cassirer would cite enthusiastically Duhem’s account of Cusanus’ scientific creativity, as well as the opinion of Moritz Cantor, the German historian of mathematics, that Cusanus had one of the most gifted and creative mathematical minds of the entire fifteenth century.9 Yet Cassirer’s greatest fascination was with Cusanus’ influence on the Renaissance philosophy of mind and freedom, which he saw as directly anticipating the Kantian subjective turn in philosophy. Though he still expressed himself in the scholastic language of the day, Cassirer opined that Cusanus’ notion of coincidence brought about a completely novel intellectual perspective, wherein the empirical and the intellectual are both radically separate and yet immanently conjoined. In doing so he held that Cusanus denied the medieval connection between the realms of heaven and earth, the empirical and intellectual worlds, and so “by teaching us to see the One in the other, and the other in the One,” he came to see that this (Kantian-​like) “separation itself guarantees the possibility of true participation of the sensible in the ideal.”10 Significantly, Cassirer held that this epistemological revolution had the effect of placing the individual at the center of all reality as a kind of prototypical Kantian

6 7 8 9 10

Edmond Vansteenberghe, Le Cardinal Nicolas de Cues (1401–​1464): L’action –​la pensée (Paris, 1920; repr. Frankfurt am Main: Minerva, 1963), 282 cited from Hopkins, “Nicholas of Cusa,” 13 n. 4, 14. Watanabe, “Origins of Modern Cusan Research,” 26–​31. Pierre Duhem, Études sur Léonard de Vinci II (Paris, 1909), 97–​279. See Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos, 59. Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos, 23–​4.

4

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

subject. Moreover, in Cusanus’ twin theses of the soul’s (contracted) infinity and its intrinsic capacity for self-​movement and self-​determination, Cassirer saw an anticipation of what he provocatively called –​in terms which would make Cusanus blanch –​the “basic Faustian attitude of the Renaissance.”11 As Michael Moore has argued, Cassirer’s Cusan ressourcement was deeply influenced by the cultural and spiritual crisis of German society in the decades before the Second World War.12 Written in the very different climate of post-​War Germany, Hans-​Georg Gadamer’s celebrated Truth and Method, published in 1960, marks another important attempt at philosophical reconstruction. In this work inspired by the mid-​twentieth-​century Heideggerian turn in philosophy and by his own extensive retrieval of the Platonic tradition, Gadamer significantly gave considerable attention to Cusanus, whom he portrayed as a pioneer in the philosophy of language and a forerunner of his own attempt to reunite aesthetics with hermeneutics.13 Four years later, at an international congress in Bressanone (Brixen) with the evocative title Nicolo’ Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno –​“Nicholas Cusanus at the beginning of the modern world” –​Gadamer broadened his perspective, offering his own important reflections on Cusanus and modernity.14 While conceding that the Neo-​Kantian view of Cusanus was “one-​sided,” his own views were clearly sympathetic to Cassirer. In particular, Gadamer argued that Cusanus’ accentuation of the Platonic division between the realms of the precise and imprecise, with its revolutionary de-​centring of the Earth, upset the “dogmatic physics” of Aristotle and thus served as “spiritual preparation” for the new astronomy and physics. Likewise, while recognising, unlike Cassirer, that Cusanus’ own “Platonic mathematics” was very different in character from that of later thinkers such as Galileo, he still insisted that his mathematical reflections on infinity helped bring about the “spiritual intuition … of the continuum” crucial for modern science.15 Even more important for Gadamer, however, was Cusanus’ conjectural epistemology –​crucially also founded on the central insight of the distinction 11 12 13 14

15

Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos, 69. Michael Edward Moore, Nicholas of Cusa and the Kairos of Modernity. Cassirer, Gadamer, Blumenberg (Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books, 2013), 54–​60. See also his chapter in this volume. Hans-​Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. William Glen-​Doepel (London:  Sheed and Ward, 1979), 393–​447. Hans-​Georg Gadamer, “Nikolaus von Kues im modernen Denken,” in Nicolo’ Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno atti del Congresso internazionale in occasione del V centenario della morte di Nicolò Cusano Bressanone, 6–​10 settembre 1964, ed. Josef Gargitter (Florence: Sansoni, 1970), 39–​48. Hans-​Georg Gadamer, “Nicolaus Cusanus and the Present,” Epoché 7 (2002): 71–​9. Moore, Nicholas of Cusa, 62 n. 136 notes that this article was closely related to Gadamer’s 1964 paper at the Bressanone congress.

Introduction

5

between the precise and imprecise  –​which he saw, like Cassirer, but with a sharper critical eye, as clearly anticipating aspects of Neo-​Kantianism. In particular, he regarded Cusanus’ doctrine that the quiddity of a thing can never be attained in its purity as a fundamental departure from the classical doctrine of knowledge that had hitherto prevailed. In this he argued for the important influence of the Nominalist movement upon Cusanus, particularly in their shared insight that the conceptual order is not a pre-​established given but is created by the mind through its dynamic, combinatorial nature. At the same time, Gadamer was also insistent that in his Trinitarian metaphysics of the “creative word” (verbum creans), Cusanus managed both to transcend Nominalism and overcome the emanistic temptations of Neoplatonic Realism.16 In this, as Michael Moore points out, language gains a luminous quality, “flooding reality and making it visible.”17 Language becomes rooted in a “logic of experience,” but at the same time still reflects a real ontological order; finally breaking through the Kantian divide between the phenomenal and the noumenal.18 To cite Gadamer’s own eloquent words, here “on the threshold of modernity, from out of the pathos of a new feeling for life, an ontological truth is brought to light, which outstrips even the most extreme height of the modern age.”19 For Gadamer, Cusanus is therefore truly  –​albeit “tacitly” or “unintentionally”20 –​modern. Indeed, he belongs to that “line of great Classical figures of Western thought who, in the passing of the ages, establish for us the one and true.”21 In this sense, Gadamer, recognising in Cusanus the seeds of an alternative, Christian modernity –​and thus anticipating our third paradigm below –​goes beyond Cassirer, even as he affirms some of his most important insights.

Accidental Modernity

In his classic 1957 work From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, the summation of years of reflection on the history of astronomy and metaphysics, 16 17 1 8 19 20 21

Gadamer, Truth and Method, 393–​7 and “Cusanus and the Present,” 77–​9. Gadamer speaks of Cusanus as combining Platonic and Nominalist elements but the term transcending seems even more appropriate. Moore, Nicholas of Cusa, 62. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 394–​6. Gadamer, “Cusanus and the Present,” 78–​9. Gadamer, “Cusanus and the Present,” 73 refers to Cusanus becoming “unintentionally” modern while Moore, Nicholas of Cusa, 63 interprets this as becoming “tacitly” modern. Gadamer, “Cusanus and the Present,” 79.

6

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Alexandre Koyré offered one of the most influential accounts of Cusanus and modernity. Koyré’s portrait of Cusanus is complex, fascinating and not a little ambiguous. On the one hand he can claim that “a new spirit, the spirit of the Renaissance breathes in the work of Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa,” arguing not only that “his world is no longer the medieval cosmos” but also that his “bold assertions” go “far beyond anything that Copernicus ever dared to think of.”22 On the other hand he can also describe him as the “last great philosopher of the dying Middle Ages,” whose “deep metaphysical intuition” was “marred by scientific conceptions that were not in advance of but rather behind their time.”23 While he does not say it in so many words, there is a clear sense in which Cusanus’ thought represents for Koyré a kind of accidental modernity. Thus, one might say that for him, Cusan metaphysics becomes relevant not as an integral part of the scientific revolution –​contrary to Duhem, Cassirer and even Gadamer –​but rather as an important perspective, or vantage point, from which that revolution may be viewed –​but crucially one that remains firmly embedded in the medieval worldview.24 For Koyré it is therefore Bruno, not Cusanus, who is the true representative of the “new astronomy” and the “new metaphysics.”25 In Koyré we clearly see an important prototype for the picture of Cusanus as a “Janus-​faced maverick trapped between the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance” that has become so prevalent in our own time.26 In this he paves the way for Hans Blumenberg, whose seminal 1966 work The Legitimacy of the Modern Age was published less than a decade after Koyré’s own masterpiece. Like Koyré, Blumenberg was fascinated by Copernican cosmology and its complex relation to modernity –​indeed, one of his own later works was The Genesis of the Copernican World. However, in Legitimacy his focus is not so much on Copernicus, but rather on the “epochal threshold” of modernity, which he sees –​again in a manner reminiscent of Koyré –​as straddled by Cusanus and

22 23 24

25 26

Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, MD:  Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), 8, 23–​4. Koyré, Closed World, 6, 19–​20. In sharp contrast to Duhem and Cassirer, Koyré is insistent in Closed World, 19 that “in deep opposition to the fundamental inspiration of the founders of modern science and of the modern world-​view, who, rightly or wrongly, tried to assert the panarchy of mathematics, he [Cusanus] denies the very possibility of the mathematical treatment of nature.” See Koyré, Closed World, 35–​54 for his fascinating comparison of Cusanus with the “new metaphysics” and “new astronomy” of Bruno. Johannes Hoff, The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa (Grand Rapids, MI: Eedrmans, 2013), 69.

Introduction

7

Bruno.27 For Blumenberg, Cusanus must be viewed as standing right on the cusp of the new age, even teetering on its edge. However, he himself always remained unaware of this. Rather, his own concern, profound but again largely unconscious, was to sustain the medieval Christian synthesis, which in the fifteenth century was threatening to fall apart due to internal pressure from the rival Realist and Nominalist schools and external pressure from Neoplatonic and humanistic currents. In particular, where Nominalism had threatened the divorce of the divine transcendence from the divine immanence, Cusanus, through his innovative notion of the coincidence of opposites, sought to reunite the two. Ironically, however, Blumenberg held that in doing his best to “save the Middle Ages out of its own material,” he actually prepared the way for its final dissolution. For he did not foresee that his own daring attempt to correlate the derivative infinity of the universe and the human soul with the original infinity of the divine nature, carried within it the potential to pit rival infinities in this “metaphysical triangle” against each other –​leading to the end result of an infinite God receding infinitely from an infinite world.28 Like Gadamer in Truth and Method, which was published only a few years before Legitimacy, Blumenberg therefore gave central importance to Cusanus’ relationship to late medieval Nominalism. Yet where Gadamer saw Cusanus optimistically as a pioneer of the “creative mind” of the Renaissance and early modernity, Blumenberg was much more pessimistic. For him Cusanus’ thought is ultimately incoherent. While it prepared the way for modernity, it remains trapped in the antinomies and contradictions of the late medieval world. In particular, Blumenberg sees Cusanus as trapped between the Scylla of scholastic rationalism (i.e. Realism) and the Charybdis of Nominalism. Indeed, while at first sight Cusanus’ apparent focus on the creative power of the mind might seem to lead out of this dilemma, according to Blumenberg it actually shipwrecks on his insistence that all meaning is ultimately grounded on the inscrutable decree of the divine will. In the final analysis man is not a true creator –​as in Bruno –​but merely a quasi-​creator or imitator.29 Indeed, it is here that we see the real difference from Gadamer, which goes much deeper than the difference between optimism and pessimism. This is that for Blumenberg, 27 28

29

See Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert Wallace (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1983), 455–​596. This section iv is entitled “Aspects of the Epochal Treshold: The Cusan and the Nolan.” Blumenberg, Legitimacy, 483–​530. Blumenberg does not mention humanism explicitly here, but the humanist and Neoplatonic thesis of the “dignity of man” is clearly at the forefront of his mind, as may be seen from his comparison of Cusanus with the famous Oration of Pico della Mirandola (pp. 524–​5). Blumenberg, Legitimacy, 518–​38.

8

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Cusanus has only half-​broken through to the new epoch, and thus remains caught between the Middle Ages and modernity. For Blumenberg, Cusanus’ failure was ultimately a failure of mediation. In positing an infinite universe he ended up actually weakening the bond between the world and God, thus helping to establish the new, purely immanent sphere of secular modernity.30 In his influential Theology and the Scientific Imagination Amos Funkenstein likewise argued that key developments in late medieval metaphysics and natural philosophy –​specifically the positing of the univocity of being and the homogeneity of the universe –​led to a kind of domesticating of the divine transcendence, in which God became viewed simply as a being among beings. As he put it “the medieval sense of God’s symbolic presence in his creation, and the sense of a universe replete with transcendent meanings and hints, had to recede if not to give way totally to the postulates of univocation and homogeneity in the seventeenth century.”31 While Funkenstein does not devote anywhere near as much attention to Cusanus as Koyré or Blumenberg, it is clear that he sees him as occupying an important place in his wider narrative. In particular, he suggests that while Cusanus restored the analogical and symbolic reading of the universe characteristic of the High Middle Ages, his own provocative notion of the unbounded universe only intensified the late medieval process of its homogenization.32 While this is in fact a complete inversion of Koyré’s own thesis –​which pitted Cusanus’ traditional physics against his innovative metaphysics, and not his innovative physics against his traditional metaphysics –​for our purposes the fundamental point remains the same. Once again then, Cusanus becomes a kind of unwitting staging-​post on the road to modernity.

Alternative Modernity

Against those who view Cusanus as either a modern philosopher in medieval garb or a conflicted thinker torn between the times, scholars in the third camp 30

31 32

Blumenberg, Legitimacy, 538–​51 insightfully points to the radical difference between Cusanus’ understanding of Christ as the necessary mediating link between the infinite God, infinite world and infinite human, and Bruno’s rejection of the Incarnation due to his view that the infinite universe is in itself a sufficient embodiment of the divine. Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination: From the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 116. Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 63–​70. Funkenstein himself puts this slightly differently seeing Cusanus’ notion of the world as “explication” of God as anticipating the early modern, pantheistic, embodiment of God. However, since he sees this “re-​embodiment” of God as the origins of secular modernity, the fundamental point remains the same.

Introduction

9

have sought to consider him as above all a fifteenth-​century thinker. Frequently inspired by the scholarship of Albertson’s second and third waves, they view him “less as modern philosopher avant la lettre and more as an innovative Renaissance thinker who drew creatively upon medieval sources.”33 In doing so they not only provide a valuable critique, or at least tempering, of other narratives of Cusanus and modernity –​both the Cassiran and the Blumenbergian –​ but they also help to foster an understanding of Cusanus’ thought as a kind of “alternative modernity.” Key to this approach, as Peter Casarella points out, was Cassirer’s own colleague Raymond Klibansky, whose work gave important impetus to the Heidelberg critical edition. While Klibansky undoubtedly saw the relevance of Cusanus for modernity, he also argued strenuously for his place within the long tradition of Christian Neoplatonism. In this way he opposed the Neo-​Kantian view of him as the “first modern philosopher.”34 However, Rudolf Haubst, who significantly stands at the head of Albertson’s second wave, was the first to really formulate it explicitly. Haubst revolutionized the view of Cusanus as a theologian –​against Kurt Flasch and others who tended him to view him reductively as only a philosopher –​and was a pioneer in uncovering Cusanus’ medieval sources, but at the same time clearly saw him as the “doorkeeper of a new age” (Pförtner der neuen Zeit). In a memorable image he held that Cusanus stood at the threshold of modernity, like a coachman ready to welcome people into the new age and providing them with important ideas to help them on their way.35 Yet crucially, in contrast to other scholars, Haubst emphasized that Cusanus’ contribution to the new age was built explicitly on Trinitarian and Christological foundations.36 In this opinion, as we shall see further below, he was joined by Charles Lohr, one of the leading Renaissance scholars of his generation. As Casarella points out, Haubst’s own view on Cusanus as “doorkeeper” could at times be ambiguous.37 By comparison, Louis Dupré’s acclaimed 1993 3 3 34 35 36

37

David Albertson, “Mystical Philosophy in the Fifteenth Century,” 5–​6. Peter Casarella, “Nicholas of Cusa and the Ends of Medieval Mysticism,” in The Wiley-​ Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism, ed. Julia Lamm (Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell, 2013), 392–​3. Rudolf Haubst, Nikolaus von Kues, “Pförtner der neuen Zeit” (Trier:  Paulinus-​Verlag, 1988) cited from Casarella, “Nicholas of Cusa,” 393. See Rudolf Haubst, Das Bild des Einen und Dreieinen Gottes in der Welt nach Nikolaus von Kues (Trier:  Paulinus-​Verlag, 1952)  and Die Christologie des Nikolaus von Kues (Freiburg:  Herder, 1956); and Streifzüge in die cusanische Theologie (Münster:  Aschendorff, 1991). Casarella, “Nicholas of Cusa,” 393.

10 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

work Passage to Modernity left little room for ambiguity. Drawing on Henri de Lubac’s controversial Surnaturel, he launched a frontal attack on Blumenberg’s thesis. For Dupré the late Middle Ages and early modern period, under the pressure of Scotism and Nominalism, was a time of increasing polarisation of nature and grace. This split he held, made inevitable the modern conception of nature as an autonomous, immanent sphere so antithetical to Christian orthodoxy. According to him Cusanus’ Neoplatonic metaphysics, with its binding of immanence to transcendence and nature to grace, represented the only possible route out of this impasse. In this sense he regards his dialectical thought as the “last major alternative” to the dualist theologies of early modernity.38 Dupré’s account of Cusanus as representing an “alternative modernity” has proven extremely influential and has subsequently been taken up by other scholars and developed in new directions. One of the most important of these accounts can be found in Karsten Harries’ impressive 2001 work Infinity and Perspective. Without rejecting Blumenberg’s comparison between the Cusan and the Nolan, Harries redirects our attention to Cusanus and his contemporary Leon Battista Alberti, the famous pioneer of perspective, as founders of two very different kinds of modernity. According to Harries while Cusanus was able to hold together within the horizon of the divine infinity a multitude of individual human perspectives, Alberti’s absolute privileging of one-​point perspective led to a disruption of the participatory relation between finite and infinite, fueling the perspectivalism of Descartes and Kant and preparing the way for the nihilism of Nietzsche.39 In her Immanence of the Infinite –​a major critique of Blumenberg –​Elizabeth Brient develops the views of Harries, her former teacher, and Dupré in arguing that Cusanus alone was able to hold together the relation of immanence and transcendence. At the same time, in a manner reminiscent of Gadamer, she sees Cusanus as seeking to ground a

38

39

Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1993), 57–​61, 167–​89. Dupré does not cite de Lubac but is clearly drawing on his The Mystery of the Supernatural, trans. Rosemary Sheed (New York: Crossroad Publications, 1998). Indeed, Dupré wrote the introduction for Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology (New  York:  Crossroad Publications, 2000). For an earlier and more detailed treatment of Cusanus by Dupré see “Nature and Grace in Nicholas of Cusa’s Mystical Philosophy,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990):  153–​70. Louis Dupré and Nancy Hudson, “Nicholas of Cusa,” in A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, ed. Jorge Gracia and Timothy Noone (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 466–​74 discusses further the dialectical character of Cusanus’ thought. Karsten Harries, Infinity and Perspective (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2001), 22–​125.

Introduction

11

distinctively modern notion of the mind’s infinite capacity to transcend itself within a traditional Neoplatonic and Christological framework  –​and thus once again as reaching towards a kind of alternative, explicitly theological, modernity.40 In recent years the work of John Milbank and the Radical Orthodoxy school has taken up and developed both Dupré’s de Lubacian thesis and Harries’ perspectival thesis in new ways. For Milbank, Cusanus played a crucial role in radicalising –​and thus saving –​Aquinas’ analogical metaphysics from late medieval attacks. In doing so he sees him as explicitly representing an alternative Christian modernity, founded on analogy and open to infinite transcendence, contrasting sharply with the self-​enclosed sphere of secular modernity with its roots in Scotus’ univocity of being.41 Developing this, Johannes Hoff’s 2013 work The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa presents an ambitious synthesis, which not only combines Milbank’s focus on analogical metaphysics with Harries’ account of perspective, but also extends this into a critical comparison of Cusanus with Descartes, Leibniz, Kant and the entire tradition of German Idealism and Romanticism. Against Scotus, Alberti and all their early modern successors, Hoff clearly sees Cusanus as offering “an alternative modernity that enables us to recover the pre-​modern middle path between univocity and equivocity without losing sight of the emancipatory legacy of the modern age.”42

Reception Studies of Cusanus

For scholars seeking to trace Cusanus’ concrete influence on early modern thought, and not only to map his broader affinities with key currents of modernity, a number of problems immediately present themselves. From the evidence of three major editions of Cusanus’ Opera Omnia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and quite a number of further editions and translations of his works thereafter, it is clear that there was a definite early modern demand

40 41 42

Elizabeth Brient, The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 188–​251. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory:  Beyond Secular Reason (Oxford:  Blackwell, 2006; 2nd ed.), xxv-​xxx. Hoff, The Analogical Turn, xv. See pp. 33–​92 for the sections most relevant to early modernity, and not later Kantian debates. Here Hoff develops and refines the arguments of his earlier book Kontingenz, Berührung, Überschreitung: zur philosophischen Propädeutik christlicher Mystik nach Nikolaus von Kues (Freiburg: Alber, 2007).

12 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

for his work.43 Nevertheless, despite his considerable influence on a number of major fifteenth-​century debates, it has proved surprisingly difficult to follow the path of his influence into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the principal reasons for this, as many scholars have suggested, is that Cusanus left no school behind him to consolidate and propagate his work.44 As a result his influence was often fragmentary, and there was a tendency for rather an eclectic reception of his thought. Indeed, as Hans Gerhard Senger notes, it is this fact that misled a whole generation of nineteenth-​and early twentieth-​ century scholars into thinking that Cusanus’ actual influence on early modern thought was negligible.45 An important step towards reassessing Cusanus’ early modern influence was the 1964 Bressanone congress. From this congress we gain some insight into the status of reception studies just two years before the publication of Blumenberg’s Legitimacy of the Modern Age. As well as Gadamer’s piece, this contained important individual studies relating to Reuchlin, Luther and Bruno. However, most relevant for us was Günter Gawlick’s essay on the reception of Cusan ideas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While Gawlick significantly saw “manifold bridges” between Cusanus’ own thought and the systems of later philosophers such as Descartes, Leibniz and Hegel, his own focus was on mapping explicit citations, whether positive or negative, of Cusan ideas in the early modern period –​an enterprise he noted that, astonishingly, no one up until that moment had undertaken. His own endeavours to this end are necessarily modest in scope, and largely focused on astronomical topics,

43

44

45

According to the sixteenth-century German printer Heinrich Petri, many publishers throughout Europe were in haste to publish Cusanus’ works. See Stephan Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz des Vergessenen:  Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. Bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (Münster: Aschendorff, 1989), 6. The three main editions are the 1488 Strasbourg edition published by Martin Flach, the 1514 Paris edition prepared by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and his circle, and the 1565 Basel edition printed by Henricus Petri. For a list of further early modern editions and translations see Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz, 402–​6; on early modern English translations of Cusanus’ works see Thomas Wilson Hayes, “Nicholas of Cusa and Popular Literacy in Seventeenth-​Century England,” Studies in Philology 84:1 (1987): 80–​94. See, for example, Günter Gawlick, “Zur Nachwirkung Cusanischer Ideen im Siebzehnten und Achtzehnten Jahrhundert,” in Nicolo’ Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno, 224–​5; Hans Gerhard Senger, Ludus Sapientiae: Studien zum Werk und zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Nikolaus von Kues (Leiden:  Brill, 2002), 257–​9; and Matthias Vollet, “Einleitung,” in Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues: Debatten und Rezeptionen, ed. Tom Müller and Matthias Vollet (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013), 12. Senger, Ludus Sapientiae, 257–​67.

Introduction

13

yet they are important as providing a first hint of the richness and diversity of Cusanus’ early modern reception.46 Stephan Meier-​Oeser in his Die Präsenz des Vergessenen has written the only exclusive reception history of Cusanus, tracing Cusanus’ philosophical impact on a range of influential authors of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. For Meier-​Oeser, Cusanus’ forgotten presence is also, ironically, the presence of that which has been forgotten. That is to say, those who appropriated Cusan thought in this period often modified what they discovered there and even sometimes failed to see the coincidence of opposites as coincidence. Thus, Cusanus was often labelled as a theologian and relegated to an interpreter of Dionysian mystical theology rather than a philosopher. Others mined his mathematical conclusions for their own purposes. Mersenne, for example, used Cusa’s Koinzidenzlehre, not as a medium for a metaphysic of unity, but primarily as an aid for lending certainty to the discipline of theology and rendering it more persuasive.47 Some even attempted an abridgment of Cusanus’ idea of learned ignorance by blending it with earlier Augustinian versions of antithesis.48 Despite these conclusions regarding the presence of the forgotten Cusanus, Meier-​Oeser’s discoveries open an important “forgotten” window into Cusanus’ influence in the early modern world. Since Meier-​Oeser there have been no further attempts to offer anything like a comprehensive account of Cusanus’ early modern influence. Yet this does not mean that he should be taken to have said the last word on the topic. Rather, as Hans Gerhard Senger suggests, Meier-​Oeser’s work should be taken as an invitation for further dialogue.49 Indeed, while his impressive study remains the necessary starting point for all research in this area, and a principal inspiration for this volume, he himself was well aware of its relatively narrow focus and the need for much more in-​depth study of many of the individual thinkers presented in his volume. It is this contextual gap which has been filled by subsequent scholarship. As a result, we now have a much better picture of the various contexts in which Cusanus’ thought was received. At the same time there have been no lack of larger projects, which, although much less ambitious than Meier-​Oeser’s in scope, have undoubtedly thrown new light on Cusanus and early modernity. Following Meier-​Oeser, Karl-​Hermann Kandler offered in 1997 a brief but helpful account of Cusanus’ early modern reception in his aptly named Nikolaus von 4 6 47 48 49

Gawlick, “Zur Nachwirkung Cusanischer Ideen,” 225–​39. Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz, 106. Ibid., 342–​347. Senger, Ludus Sapientiae, 257–​9.

14 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Kues. Denker zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit. While largely derivative this does present his own important research on Cusanus’ influence on Luther and Lutheranism, highlighting Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples as an important mediating figure between Cusanus and early modernity –​a point we shall return to below.50 Even more significant is Senger’s 2002 work Ludus Sapientiae: Studien zum Werk und zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Nikolaus von Kues. Like Kandler, Senger’s account of Cusanus’ influence is also largely derivative, yet it stands out as offering a carefully reasoned, philosophical, account of what it actually means to talk about “reception history” (Wirkungsgeschichte). In particular, against rather vague or nebulous accounts of “influence,” Senger emphasises the need to establish clear channels of mediation between Cusanus and early modernity –​something that will be a primary focus of this volume.51 Since Senger a number of important companion volumes to Cusanus have appeared.52 For our purposes the most important of these is the 2012 compilation Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance edited by Peter Casarella. Casarella is profoundly influenced by Louis Dupré and, in the spirit of our third paradigm, this volume therefore seeks to offer “a detailed historical background to Cusanus’ thinking while also assaying his significance for the present.” Although it does not have a distinct early modern focus it does contain important essays by Harries on Alberti and Cusanus, Brient on mathematics, Bernard McGinn on mysticism and Wilhelm Dupré on Cusanus and “world formation” –​indisputably one of his most important early modern philosophical legacies.53 A different kind of companion volume may be seen in the plethora of works edited by Harald Schwaetzer and his research group. Of these Das europäische Erbe im Denken des Nikolaus von Kues:  Geistesgeschichte als Geistesgegenwart seeks to trace important European dimensions of Cusanus’ thought, while the Nikolaus Cusanus:  ein bewundernswerter historischer

50 51 52

53

Karl-​Hermann Kandler, Nikolaus von Kues. Denker zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995), 119–​35. Senger, Ludus Sapientiae, 257–​90. However, on pp. 291–​352 Senger does present two examples of sixteenth-​century reception of Cusanus’ thought not discussed in Meier-​Oeser. These mainly relate to Cusanus’ own fifteenth-​century context. However, Marco Brösch, Walter Andreas Euler, Alexandra Geissler and Viki Ranff (eds.), Handbuch Nikolaus von Kues: Leben und Werk (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2014), 361–​74 contains a brief section offering an overview of Cusanus reception through the ages. Peter Casarella, Cusanus:  The Legacy of Learned Ignorance (Washington, DC:  Catholic University of America Press, 2012). The quote comes from the editor’s description of the book. For Casarella’s relation to Louis Dupré see Peter Casarella and George Schner (eds.), Christian Spirituality and the Culture of Modernity:  The Thought of Louis Dupré (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

Introduction

15

Brennpunkt:  philosophische Tradition und wissenschaftliche Rezeption highlights Cusanus’ thought as a key focal-​point in the philosophical tradition.54 However, undoubtedly the most important recent work on Cusanus and modernity is the impressive, but eclectic, 2014 compilation Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues: Debatten und Rezeptionen edited by Tom Müller and Matthias Vollet. Like Schwaetzer’s compilations, this contains a number of important articles on Cusanus in the context of early modern art, especially Van Eyck, Alberti and Dürer, as well as interesting reflections on his influence on alchemy, atomism and mathematics.55 Perhaps most notable for our purposes is an essay by Fréderic Vengeon, which describes Cusanus as instrumental in the “metaphysical renewal of the human world.”56 Significantly, this is the primary theme of another even more recent work dealing with Cusanus’ modernity, the 2016 Nicolas de Cues (1401–​1464), Le tournant anthropologique de la philosophie edited by Hervé Pasqua, in which his legacy as “last of the medievals and first of the moderns” is thoroughly explored.57 While approached from a different angle, this theme of the metaphysical reform of the human world, understood in multiple dimensions, remains central to our volume.

Cusanus and Early Modern Reform

Thus while a host of eminent scholars have all recognised Cusanus as a central figure in the story of modernity, it is clear that the precise nature and character of his influence has proved much harder to pin down, and in fact remains highly contested. At the same time, it should also be clear that while very valuable work has been done in tracing Cusanus’ legacy into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there still remains much more to be done before anything like a complete picture can be given. In Meier-​Oeser’s evocative phrase Cusanus still remains something of an elusive and “forgotten presence” in the early modern world. 54

5 5 56 57

See Harald Schwaetzer and Kirstin Zeyer (eds.), Das europäische Erbe im Denken des Nikolaus von Kues: Geistesgeschichte als Geistesgegenwart (Münster: Aschendorff, 2008) and Klaus Reinhardt, Harald Schwaetzer and Oleg Dushin (eds.), Nikolaus Cusanus:  ein bewundernswerter historischer Brennpunkt:  philosophische Tradition und wissenschaftliche Rezeption (Regensburg: S. Roderer, 2008). See Müller and Vollet (eds.), Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues. Fréderic Vengeon, “L’instauration métaphysique du monde humain chez Nicolas de Cues,” in Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues, ed. Müller and Vollet, 175–​86. Hervé Pasqua (ed.), Nicolas de Cues (1401–​1464), Le tournant anthropologique de la philosophie (Paris: Vrin, 2016).

16 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Our volume Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World seeks to bring Cusanus out of the shadows. To attempt a comprehensive study of his legacy, even confining the scope to the early modern period, would require far more than a single volume –​something which itself bears ample testimony to the importance of this topic. Instead, following consciously in the footsteps of Gerhart Ladner, our volume seeks to use the potent and multi-​faceted notion of reform to shine new light on Cusanus’ relationship to early modernity. In his classic work, The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers, Gerhart Ladner focuses on the Christian concept of reformatio and renovatio ad imaginem Dei as the image and icon by which followers of Christ refocus and reformulate their individual and corporate lives in Christ through the Holy Spirit. According to Ladner, the fundamental transformative realities of “reformatio-​renovatio and imago or similitudo Dei were never lost” throughout the Middle Ages.58 Ladner concentrates especially on the idea of reform in St. Augustine of Hippo.59 In the theology and ecclesiology of Augustine, Ladner posits that Western Christian understandings of reform and renewal revolve on the axis of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, and radiate away from the earlier Greek idea of Christocentric recapitulation.60 There is a salvific shift from returning to primordial origins toward realizing the fullness of the infinite Christ in finite personal and social reality that both inhabits the flux of dissimilitude and transcends temporal notions of personhood and politics. Thus, Augustine’s Confessions navigate the personal journey of rest in God and the cosmic exitus-​reditus of all things being made new in Christ.61 In The City of God, Augustine traces the ages (aetatum) of God’s providence and the tension between the city of humanity and the city of God, as well as the subsequent capacity for moral action in the intrepid interplay of nature and grace between Christians living in, with and under both realms.62 Charles Norris Cochrane states that Augustine “bears witness to the faith of Christians that, notwithstanding all appearances, human history does not consist of a series of repetitive patterns, but marks a 58 59 60 61

62

Gerhart B. Ladner, The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004), 3. Ladner, The Idea of Reform, chapter v, 153–​283. Ladner, The Idea of Reform, 153–​154. In Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, c­ hapters  1–​9 present Augustine’s own life-​story, while c­ hapters  10–​13 frame his life within God’s cosmic plan. Augustine, Confessions, 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library, trans. William Watts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912). Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, trans. William M. Green (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), XXII.xxx (VII.383–​384).

Introduction

17

sure, if unsteady, advance to an ultimate goal.”63 Ladner concludes his discussion of Augustine’s theology of reform by stating, “Through St. Augustine’s whole life there runs the search for a perfect communal or societal way of Christian life.”64 Thus, when Cusanus writes about reform in De concordantia catholica, it is for the renewal of the Church and society within Christendom and steadying the sacred balance of heaven and earth, eternity and time as realized in the body of Christ.65 For Cusanus, the substance and shape of reform were thoroughly Christocentric.66 F. Edward Cranz observes that Cusanus applies Augustine’s Platonic-​Chrisitan philosophy-​theology of reform-​renewal universally.67 Indeed, as Cranz writes, “Nicholas sees all human society in terms of Augustine’s Christian city of God, and so he works to establish in it the concord which reflects the concord of the Trinity.”68 More recently, and attesting to the persistent influence of the ideas of personal and public reform, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age transmits Christian understandings of finding personal and cultural fullness within the immanent frame, as well as tracing the porous transmutations of spirituality in self and society over the last half millennium.69 Taylor connects late medieval and early modern ecclesial reform with early modern mass mobilizations of society and the emerging public sphere.70 Christian ideas of renewal and reform in the reformations of the sixteenth century and the early modern period inherited, inhabited and interrogated Augustine’s Christ-​centered reform both of the corporate church and of the individual believer in society, and influenced conceptualizations of being and time from Cusanus to Heidegger and beyond.71 Augustine’s search for a perfect societal way of Christian life permeated the western medieval and modern political ethos and shaped Cusanus’ own reform endeavors. Reform of church and society, for Cusanus, was grounded 63

64 65 66 67 6 8 69 70 71

Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1944), 484. Cf. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Mystery of Continuity: Time, History, Memory and Eternity in the Thought of Saint Augustine (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 140–​151. Ladner, The Idea of Reform, 282–​283. Nicholas of Cusa, De concordantia catholica, 1.1.4–​8; 3.41.580–​595 (h XIV.29–​33; 466–​473). Nicholas of Cusa, Reformatio generalis, 1–​6 (h XV.19–​30), especially 6 (h XV.28–​30). F. Edward Cranz, “Saint Augustine and Nicholas of Cusa in the Tradition of Western ­Christian Thought,” Speculum 28, no. 2 (1953): 298. Cranz, “Saint Augustine and Nicholas of Cusa,” 298. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). Taylor, A Secular Age, chapter twelve, “The Age of Mobilization,” 423–​472. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time: A Translation of Sein and Zeit, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996).

18 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

in temporal concerns. Ladner defines the idea of reform as corresponding to reality and how it is expressed in historical sources.72 For example, Augustine, according to Ladner, was able “to absorb, formulate, and act upon, transcendent truths” concerning the destruction of the western Roman Empire in his insight into the city of God and its interchange with the city of man.73 Similarly, Cusanus absorbed, formulated and acted upon the transcendent truths of Christian doctrine in his study of the body politic of Christendom in De concordantia catholica and one religion in the variety of rites and nations in De pace fidei.74 These concepts of the reform of Christendom and religion arose from practical questions and pressing needs: the sources and scope of authority vis-​ à-​vis pope and council, and the casus belli of religious violence. Thus, Cusanus, like Augustine, put into practice an idea of reform of church and society commensurate with casuistry, which eventually influenced the modern impulse to reform all aspects of ordinary life.75 While for Augustine and Cusanus the only perfect society was realized in the city of God and the heaven of reason, it was nonetheless, as expanded in later developments, inclusive of all the world as stage wherein are enacted reformations of the sacred and secular for the furtherance of human flourishing.76 Within the ongoing interplay of ideas on modernity and reform, our volume focuses on four major thematic areas –​the reform of Church, the reform of Theology, the reform of Perspective, and the reform of Method  –​which together aim to encompass the breadth and depth of Cusanus’ own reform initiatives. In particular, in examining the way in which he served as inspiration for a wide and diverse array of reform-​minded philosophers, ecclesiastics, theologians, and lay scholars in the midst of their struggle for the renewal and restoration of individual, society, and world, our volume seeks to combine a focus on Cusanus as a paradigmatic thinker with a study of his concrete influence on early modern thought. In doing so our volume embraces all three aspects of Cusanus’ heritage, seeking to view him in the kaleidoscope of accelerated, accidental and alternative modernities which together provide a comprehensive vision of early modernity.

72 73 74 75 76

Ladner, The Idea of Reform, 427. Ladner, The Idea of Reform, 467. Cusa, De concordantia catholica, 3.41.580–​595 (h XIV.466–​473); Nicholas of Cusa, De pace fidei 1.1 (h VII.3–​4). Taylor, A Secular Age, 445. Cusa, De pace fidei, 1.2 (h VII.4); Taylor, A Secular Age, 17; William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2.7, The Norton Shakespeare, 2nd Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (New York: Norton, 2008), 1647.

Introduction

19

Part 1. Reformatio Generalis: Reform of Church From his first major treatise, De concordantia catholica (1433–​34), to his Reformatio generalis (1459), penned just five years before his death, Nicholas of Cusa was an ardent reformer of the Church. Morimichi Watanabe surveys the conciliarist De concordantia catholica within the spectrum of Church reform stretching back to the middle ages and early Church.77 Watanabe also surmises that “the problem of Church reform was a central one throughout his active life.”78 Thomas Izbicki notes that the Reformatio generalis is “a substantial contribution to reform thought.”79 Throughout Cusanus’ multifaceted writings and varied Church work, as Brian Pavlac observes, “at the heart of his activities was reform of Church.”80 Scott Hendrix comments that the ecclesiology of Nicholas of Cusa can help answer the recurring question of whether the Reformation of the sixteenth century was something new or a continuation of the medieval search for reform.81 In commemoration of the five-​hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the opening section of this volume examines Cusanus’ long career as Church reformer and his enduring influence on early modern Church reform. Thomas M.  Izbicki and Luke Bancroft’s essay, “A Difficult Pope:  Eugenius iv and the Men around Him,” recounts and reviews the relationship between Cusanus and Pope Eugenius iv as it relates to Church reform. Nicholas of Cusa became known as the Hercules of the Eugenian cause, supporting Eugenius iv against the Council of Basel. Eugenius had at first been closely allied with Rome’s Orsini clan and served mostly by fellow Venetians. By the time he returned to Rome in late 1443 Eugenius had come to welcome into his circle of advisors a broad cohort whose various skills

77 78 79 80 81

Morimichi Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa:  A Companion to his Life and Times, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 26. Morimichi Watanabe, Concord and Reform:  Nicholas of Cusa and Legal and Political Thought in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (Burlington, VA: Ashgate, 2001), 187. Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas of Cusa: Writings on Church and Reform, trans. Thomas M. Izbicki (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), xv. Brian A. Pavlac, “Reform,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, ed. Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), 59. Scott H.  Hendrix, “Nicholas of Cusa’s Ecclesiology Between Reform and Reformation,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church:  Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 107.

20 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

and perspectives proved invaluable in the struggle to win back authority for a papacy that was at one time threatened on all fronts. Izbicki and Bancroft detail how Eugenius discovered during a troubled reign the need to employ Cusanus, rather than just relying on Orsini clients and natives of the Veneto. Izbicki and Bancroft also observe how Cusanus’ service to Eugenius did not prevent him from seeking, often in vain, the reform of Church and ­Curia. In “The Reform of Space for Prayer: Ecclesia primitiva in Nicholas of Cusa and Leon Battista Alberti,” Il Kim examines how Cusanus’ Reformatio generalis, a proposal for change in the entire church in 1459 on the eve of the Reformation, also shaped liturgical space. According to Kim, for Cusanus this meant the restoration of the original, primitive principles of the Apostles’ Church (ecclesia primitiva). Although the idea itself was a prevailing theme in the mid-​ fifteenth-​century curia in general, Cusanus devised a plan by which to achieve it, which included simple places for devotion. Concurrently, in his De re aedificatoria (1440s-​1472) Alberti expressed his support for reform and proposed a return to a more austere Church interior, which was in line with Cusanus’ theological approach and with the new, monochromatic interior style developed in Florence. Richard J.  Serina also examines Cusanus’ Reformatio generalis in his “ ‘Papista Insanissima’:  Papacy and Reform in Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio Generalis (1459) and the Early Martin Luther (1517–​19).” Serina compares Luther’s writings from the nascent indulgence controversy with the Reformatio generalis. While it is unquestionable that by the time of the Leipzig Debate Luther’s opinions on papal authority and the prospects for reform had taken a new, irrevocable direction, Serina assesses Luther’s earlier writings in connection with Cusanus to underscore the common ground they share in their diagnosis of problems within the Roman curia, the possibility of papal reform, and the consequences of that reform for the bene esse of the Church. In the final essay in this section on reform of Church, “Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi: Copernicanism and Conciliarism in Early Modern Venice,” Alberto Clerici argues that the main link between Sarpi and Cusanus is conciliar theory. According to Clerici, the political and intellectual debates over the Venetian Interdetto led to a European-​scale dispute between Sarpi and Cardinal Bellarmine, opposing two different ways of interpreting the need for a Catholic Reformation, and demonstrating the strong ties between late medieval conciliarism and early modern constitutionalism, thereby exbibiting the early modern expanse of Cusanus’ influence as Church reformer.

Introduction

21

Part 2. Coincidentia Oppositorum: Reform of Theology Cusanus’ conception of the concidentia oppositorum is directly related to his theological vision and method of learned ignorance.82 The structure and substance of De docta ignorantia is Christological.83 Thus, for Cusanus, the counters and content of his concept of the coincidence of opposites is ultimately Christ-​centered. Furthermore, unity in diversity, as found for Cusanus par excellence in the person of Christ, is also the motivation and mode of his reform of theology. Thus, the Reformatio generalis is not only a practical proposal for Church reform but also a profound meditation on ecclesial unity between diverse members of the mystical body of Christ.84 For Cusanus, Christ is both the body (ontological) and example (moral theology) of and for the Church, and Christ is the very “glue” (glutino Christi) that binds the Church as one.85 Furthermore, Christ, for Cusanus, is the ultimate reformer, the way by which one is led by word (Logos, Verbum) and example (Christiformes) away from sin and ignorance to the contemplation of God, the goal of theology.86 The essays in this section survey Cusanus as a Christ-​centered reformer of theology in light of the Protestant Reformation’s adherence to the foundational principle of solus Christus. These essays compare Cusanus’ Christocentric and Trinitarian theology and method of learned ignorance with the seemingly opposite Christology and Trinitarian theology of the magisterial reformers Luther and Calvin, thereby presenting novel coincidental appraisals in historical theology. They also mark the influence of Cusanus’ theocentric formula complicatio-​explicatio and the underlying unity of all things upon early modern Roman Catholic theology. In the first essay in this section, “Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites,” Joshua Hollmann examines Cusanus’ theological method of learned ignorance and the corollary Christocentric coincidence of opposites in light of Luther’s fundamental teaching on 82 83 84 85 86

Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 263–​264 (h I.163–​164). See also Birgit H. Helander, “Nicholas of Cusa as Theoretician of Unity,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, 316. Book three of De docta ignorantia, on Christ, is the synthesis of the entire treatise-​method of learned ignorance. Cusa, Reformatio generalis, 6 (h XV.28–​30). Cusa, Reformatio generalis, 6 (h XV.28). Cusa, Reformatio generalis, 5 (h XV.27): “Nos igitur, qui cunctos christianos reformare cupimus, utique aliam nullam possumus eis formam quam imitentur proponere quam Christi, a quo nomen receperunt.” Nicholas of Cusa, De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136). In the concluding paragraph of De apice theoriae, Cusanus connects Christ and Trinity in the final contemplation of God.

22 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Christian liberty and justification by faith alone through Christ alone. While theological differences remain, Hollman contends that Cusanus’ theology and theological method of Christ and the coincidence of opposites bear striking similarities to the coincidental Christology of Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian, thereby proposing a new perspective on the importance of Christology and the coincidence of opposites in Luther and pre-​Reformation thought. From Luther our volume moves to Calvin. Gary Jenkins’ “Ignorantia Non Docta: John Calvin and Nicholas of Cusa’s Neglected Trinitarian Legacy” notes how Cusanus’ 1453 treatise De visione Dei, written as an exercise in mystical theology, marks a final stage in Cusanus’ Trinitarian theology, one developed from his initial statements in De docta ignorantia. According to Jenkins, far from being based on a mere reworking of Latin Trinitarianism, Cusanus demonstrates a detailed and imaginative theology that is at once Augustinian and Dionysian. Jenkins observes that this presents a strange legacy for Cusanus in subsequent thought: since most of the Reformers rejected Dionysius’ hierarchical theology, they would blatantly disdain Cusanus’ ecclesiology in De concordantia catholica; and since they held to the medieval inheritance of God as first actus purus they could never extricate themselves from the interminable debates about relationships within the Trinity. In the final essay in this section, “Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism in Early Modern Catholic Theology,” Matthew Gaetano traces Cusanus’ influence on the Catholic/​Counter-​Reformation. Although Johann Wenck and some nineteenth-​and twentieth-​century scholars associated Nicholas of Cusa with pantheism, major Roman Catholic theologians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries embraced Cusanus’ view of the relation of the world to God. Indeed, as Gaetano examines, Théophile Raynaud, a learned Jesuit theologian, saw his doctrine of God as the complicatio or enfolding of all things as useful for opposing medieval pantheists like David of Dinant and Amalric of Bena. Gaetano’s essay argues that Johann Eck, Théophile Raynaud, and Louis Thomassin drew upon Cusanus’ teaching on God as enfolding all things and other elements of his thought in their renewal of early modern Catholic scholastic theology. Part 3. Explicatio Visionis: Reform of Perspective The chapters in the third section explore the reform of perspective between Cusanus, Giordano Bruno and the Cambridge Platonists. Cusanus’ method of learned ignorance relies, as Karsten Harries explains, on “the principle of perspective,” that is, on the recognition that human knowledge is perspectival by nature, as

Introduction

23

it always occurs within the purview of an infinite Other.87 For Cusanus, God’s self-​knowledge functions as the Measure of all being, a measure to which only God himself has direct and immediate access. Our knowledge, originating in our reflection of the divine image, is mediated, limited, and conjectural, and therefore, our access to what is ultimately real is intrinsically perspectival. Though our mind (mens) is incapable of measuring (mensurare) the infinite circle of reality by ­discursive reason alone, the very fact that we can know and speak about the reality of an infinite perspective beyond our own reveals “an intuition of the ­translinguistic.”88 To recognize the limitations of finite knowledge and its inability to satisfy our desire for an infinite Good provokes us to get behind the “wall of coincidence.” By the use of intuition or self-​reflection, we are capable of viewing the minimum and the maximum measures as a pair of united lenses, through which we can analyze and take some measure of the immeasurable. This intuitive vision of coincidence enables us to leap beyond the opposing perspectives of identity and otherness and to see ourselves and all things coinciding in the divine perspective.89 Like Copernicus’ revolutionizing of the visible world, Cusanus redefined human perspective by placing the finite universe within infinity  –​with Christ, in whom the finite and infinite perfectly coincide, at the ­center. And so, for Cusanus, any “vision of reform” requires a “reform of vision,” a new perspective with a new pair of intellectual eyeglasses.90 Cusanus put this method into practice in his proposed ecclesiastical and communal reforms, seeking peace by reducing societal differences to their highest abstraction in their underlying unity. Cusanus’ reform of perspective denotes what Cassirer terms “a totally new intellectual orientation” (veränderten geistigen Gesamtorientierung), which bears the potential for engendering radical concepts of reform.91 Giordano Bruno and the Cambridge Platonists also sought the reform of perspective, yet in ways that would push (and sometimes break) the doctrinal bounds of 87 88 89

90

91

Harries, Infinity, 42. Harries, Infinity, 52. For Cusanus, the coincidence of identity and otherness in the divine being and human perspective is based on the Trinitarian notion of God’s self-​reflective knowledge. See Werner Beierwaltes, Identität und Differenz:  Zum Prinzip cusanischen Denkens (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1977), 14. Inigo Bocken, “Visions of Reform: Lay Piety as a Form of Thinking in Nicholas of Cusa,” in Reassessing Reform:  A Historical Investigation into Church Renewal, ed. Christopher M. Bellitto and David Zachariah Flanagin (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2012), 216. Cassirer, Individuum und Kosmos, 29.

24 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Christianity. Scholarship on Bruno has long noted his indebtedness to Cusanus’ coincidence method, which provided him with the motive to radically collapse the traditional distinction between divine and human perspectives.92 Bruno radicalized Cusanus’ method by coupling it with his philosophical rejection of Trinitarianism, resulting in the conclusion that the “world” rather than the divine “Word” signifies the “absolute self-​realization of divine onmipotence,” as Blumenberg notes.93 The Cambridge Platonists –​Benjamin Whichcote, Henry More, Ralph Cudworth, John Smith, Peter Sterry, Nathanael Culverwel, and Anne Conway –​in their opposition to the perceived atheism of Hobbes, Spinoza, and others, strove to see “Reason re-​enthroned in her Majestick Seat” within religion, though not to such a radical degree as Bruno.94 Together the Cambridge Platonists upheld the heart of Trinitarian religion in the rationalistic spirit of Origen, with More and Sterry positing the preexistence of the human soul in the divine being and the ultimate salvation and restoration of all things (apokatastasis) in Christ and Cudworth seeking philosophical basis for the Christian Trinity in the Neoplatonic triads of Plotinus.95 As Cassirer notes, the Cambridge Platonists were instrumental in bringing about a “Platonic Renaissance” in England that would have important implications for the development of modern philosophy.96 Indeed, John Muirhead makes the somewhat exaggerated claim that Cudworth is the “real founder of British Idealism.”97 In more concrete terms, their influence on Newton, Locke, Leibniz, Herder, Coleridge and others has received

92

93 94

95

96 97

See, for instance, Felice Tocco, “Le fonti più recenti della filosofia del Bruno,” Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei Lincei (Rome: Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, 1892), I:538–​612; Sandro Mancini, La sfera infinita. Identità e differenza nel pensiero di Giordano Bruno (Milan: Mimesis, 2000), 245–​274. Blumenberg, Legitimacy, 564. Ralph Cudworth, A sermon preached to the honourable Society of Lincolns-​Inne (London: J. Flesher for R.  Royston, 1664), 38; Douglas Hedley, “Real Atheism and Cambridge Platonism: Men of Latitude, Polemics, and the Great Dead Philosophers,” in Platonisms: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern, ed. Kevin Corrigan and John D.  Turner (Leiden:  Brill, 2007), 155–​174. On Origen and the Cambridge Platonists see the chapters by Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton in Autonomie und Menschenwürde: Origenes in der Philosophie der Neuzeit, ed. Christian Hengstermann and Alfons Fürst (Münster:  Aschendorff, 2012); on Cudworth and the Trinity see Benjamin Carter, “The Little Commonwealth of Man”: The Trinitarian Origins of the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Ralph Cudworth (Louvain: Peeters), 2011. Ernst Cassirer, Die Platonische Renaissance in England und die Schule von Cambridge (Berlin: Teubner, 1932), esp. 110–​141. John H. Muirhead, The Platonic Tradition in Anglo-​Saxon Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1931), 27.

Introduction

25

scholarly treatment.98 Cassirer remarks on the resemblance of their thought to Cusanus, particularly in their combination of subjective and objective perspectives within religion.99 James Bryson has proven Cassirer’s supposition about Cusanus’ influence on the Platonic Renaissance in England to be true, namely, that Cusanus did exercise some influence on the Oxford predecessor of the Cambridge theologians, Thomas Jackson.100 No study of the Cambridge Platonists, however, has analyzed their thought vis-​à-​vis Cusanus in any detail. There are many notable parallels between Cusanus and the Cambridge Platonists, partly due to their deep emergence in Neoplatonic sources as well as the influence of René Descartes (himself a reader of Cusanus) on the Cambridge Platonists (Henry More and Ralph Cudworth in particular).101 Their interest in the reform of perspective manifests itself in many of their ideas: the idea that Reason is “the Spirit of Man,” which is the “Candle of the Lord” and the essential mechanism of human deification;102 an exemplarist metaphysics coupled with an autonomous ethic;103 the criticism of Aristotelian faculty psychology and the crucial role that self-​reflection plays in their philosophical notion of religion (More’s “boniform faculty,” Cudworth’s “hegemonikon,” and Peter Sterry’s “omniformity” of the soul);104 the promotion of man as the 98

99 100 101 102 103 104

On Newton see Danton B.  Sailor, “Newton’s Debt to Cudworth,” Journal of the History of Ideas 49:3 (1988):  511–​518; on Locke see G.A.J. Rogers, “Locke, Plato, and Platonism,” in Platonism at the Origins of Modernity, ed. Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), 198ff and Sarah Hutton, “Some thoughts on Ralph Cudworth,” in Studies on Locke: Sources, Contemporaries, and Legacy, ed. Sarah Hutton and G.A.J. Rogers (Dordrecht:  Springer, 2008), 143–​158; on Leibniz see Justin E.H. Smith and Pauline Phemister, “Leibniz and the Cambridge Platonists: The Debate over Plastic Natures,” in Leibniz and the English Speaking World, ed. Pauline Phemester and Stuart Brown (Dordrecht:  Springer, 2007), 95–​110; on Herder see Alexander J.B. Hampton, “An English Source of German Romanticism: Herder’s Cudworth Inspired Revision of Spinoza from ‘Plastik’ to ‘Kraft’,” The Heythrop Journal, published 14 July 2015, http://​onlinelibrary.wiley .com/​doi/​10.1111/​heyj.12272/​pdf; on Coleridge see Douglas Hedley, Coleridge, Philosophy, and Religion: Aids to Reflection and the Mirror of the Spirit (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 34–​40. Cassirer, Platonische, 22. James Bryson, The Christian Platonism of Thomas Jackson (Leuven: Peeters, 2016), 109–​155. On Cusanus and Descartes see Karsten Harries, “Problems of the Infinite: Cusanus and Descartes,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990): 89–​110. See Robert A. Greene, “Whichcote, the Candle of the Lord, and Synderesis,” Journal of the History of Ideas 52.4 (1991): 617–​44. See Stephen Darwall, The British Moralists and the Internal Ought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 23–​52, and 109–​148; and Michael Gill, The British Moralists and Human Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 7–​74. On More see Robert Crocker, “Mysticism and enthusiasm in Henry More,” in Henry More (1614–​1687): Tercentenary Studies, ed. Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht:  Kluwer Academic

26 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

“measure of all things” along with an idealistic epistemology and a theory of representative perception;105 the notion of the world-​soul as a “plastick nature” mediating between material and spiritual realities;106 and finally, their efforts to promote universal tolerance (Cudworth and Sterry played a role in Cromwell’s commission for the readmission of the Jews to England), all testify to the cosmic breadth of their notion of reform.107 Despite these similarities, Peter Sterry is the only member of the Cambridge Platonists to refer explicitly to Cusanus in his writings, as Eric Parker demonstrates in his chapter in this volume, though Ralph Cudworth owned a copy of the Basel (1565) edition of Cusanus’ Opera Omnia.108 Sterry’s acceptance and public promotion of Cusan ideas during his tenure as a chaplain to Oliver Cromwell and other Parliamentarians provides even further justification for viewing the Cambridge Platonists in light of Cusanus’ reform of perspective. Many of their ideas, as mentioned, stem from the influence of Descartes, yet, their criticism of certain key aspects of Cartesianism –​voluntarism, mechanism, and the method of doubt, etc. –​more closely align them with Cusanus.109

105

106 107

108 109

Publishers, 1990), 137–​155; on Cudworth see Darwall, Internal Ought, 109–​148; Also see Peter Sterry, A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will (London: John Starkey, 1675), 90; and Dewey D. Wallace, Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660–​1714: Variety, Persistence, and Transformation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 51–​86. See J.A. Passmore, Ralph Cudworth: An Interpretation, 1951 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 29–​39; on More see Robert Crocker, “The Role of Illuminism in the Thought of Henry More,” in The Cambridge Platonists in Philosophical Context: Politics, Metaphysics and Religion, ed. G.A.J. Rogers, Jean-​Michel Vienne, and Yves C. Zarka (Dordrecht: Springer, 1997), 129–​144; see also Eric Parker’s chapter on Sterry below. See Lutz Bergemann, Ralph Cudworth –​System aus Transformation: Zur Naturphilosophie der Cambridge Platonists und Ihrer Methode (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012); and Jasper Reid, The Metaphysics of Henry More (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012), 313–​348. See Luisa Simonutti, “Reason and Toleration: Henry More and Philip van Limborch,” in Henry More, ed. Hutton, 201–​218; David Pailin, “Reconciling Theory and Fact: The Problem of ‘Other Faiths’ in Lord Herbert and the Cambridge Platonists,” in Platonism, ed. Hedley and Hutton, 93–​111; and Louise Hickman, “ ‘Love is all and God is love’: Universalism in Peter Sterry (1613–​1672) and Jeremiah White (1630–​1707),” in ‘All shall be well’: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology from Origen to Moltmann, ed. Gregory MacDonald (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2011), 95–​115. Ralph Cudworth, Bibliotheca Cudworthiana, sive Catalogus Variorum Librorum Plurimis Facultatibus Insignium Bibliothecæ Instructissimæ Rev. Doct. Dr. Cudworth (London: Edward Millington, 1691), 1. See David Leech, The Hammer of the Cartesians: Henry More’s Philosophy of Spirit and the Origins of Modern Atheism (Leuven: Peeters, 2013); and see the chapters by John Cottingham and Marialuisa Baldi in Philosophical Context, ed. G.A.J. Rogers et alia, 145–​158, and 159–​172 respectively.

Introduction

27

The chapters in this section aim to fill a gap in scholarship on Bruno and the Cambridge Platonists by addressing “the forgotten presence” of Cusanus in their various attempts to reform human perspective of the individual and the world. Luisa Brotto’s chapter “The Notion of Faith in the Works of Nicholas Cusanus and Giordano Bruno” analyses the radical nature of Giordano Bruno’s concept of epistemological faith, in which he was influenced by Cusanus. It is well known that Giordano Bruno (1548–​1600), the famous Italian philosopher and scientist, was deeply influenced by Nicholas of Cusa. Yet scholarship so far, perhaps unsurprisingly given Bruno’s heterodoxy, has neglected the important relation between their accounts of faith. From his first works Bruno shows a deep knowledge of Cusanus’ writings, frequently using Cusan terminology and sometimes quoting entire passages from him. In the De umbris idearum Bruno states the importance of faith by almost paraphrasing the third book of the De docta ignorantia. In his Spaccio de la bestia trionfante Bruno proposes a reform of religion and moral values, and holds trust and charity as the principles of human society. As Brotto points out, Cusanus’ philosophy always remains a major source for Bruno’s epistemology and for his conception of the search for divinity. However, Bruno’s interpretation of faith is not the same as Cusanus’. For, as Meredith Ziebart has argued, Cusanus aims at merging faith intended in an epistemological sense (as a non-​rational kind of knowledge that can orientate human reasoning) and faith intended in a religious sense (as faith in God and in Christ). By contrast, Bruno omits every reference to the Christian God and to Christ when writing about faith. He conceives faith as a disposition of the soul that evaluates the activities of every faculty, thus laying the foundation of every relationship that man can establish with external objects. This kind of faith becomes a key element in Bruno’s epistemology, ethics and magic. Thus, as Brotto shows, Bruno remodels the Christian virtue of faith in a non-​Christian philosophy, but one that is inspired to some degree by Cusanus. In the second chapter “ ‘The Sacred Circle of All-​Being’:  Cusanus, Lord Brooke, and Peter Sterry,” Eric Parker reveals the dependence of the Cambridge Platonist, Peter Sterry on Cusanus’ perspectivalism. Sterry’s first employer, Robert Greville, Lord Brooke, a prominent Member of Parliament and general during the English Civil War, showed his support for universal reform in his treatise The Nature of Truth (1641). Brooke, who was among the sponsors of Jan Amos Comenius in his voyage to England, very likely wrote this highly Platonic treatise with Sterry’s aid. Brooke uses the logic of coincidence to form his central argument that all truths, even the contradiction of “Esse and Non-​Esse,” are in reality unified in the ultimate Truth that descends from God.

28 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

In his writings Sterry refers explicitly to Cusanus, making reference to De docta ignorantia and De coniecturis, as well as betraying a knowledge of De visione Dei and Idiota de mente. Like Cusanus, Sterry argues that only the “higher” kinds of intellection, such as the divine and angelic intellects, are set above the “wall of Paradise” as Cusanus describes it in De visione dei. Sterry appeals to Cusanus’ Trinitarian names (Unity, Equality, and Union) to explains his own understanding of the “arithmetical Trinity.” He promotes this “glass” of the Trinity as the proper lens for viewing all of reality. Parker shows that for Brooke and Sterry, the Cusan logic of coincidence initiates a conversion of perspective as it persuades the soul to agree, “Ne te quaesiveris extra.” Most importantly, the acceptance of coincidence provides for a broader sense of tolerance and freedom in the individual as well as society as it limits human ambition, specifically the quest for absolute certainty in matters of religion and politics. Thus, Brooke and Sterry represent two prominent and influential proponents of the idea of “coincidence” as the means to universal reform and peace in seventeenth-​ century England. In his chapter “Varieties of Spiritual Sense: Cusanus and John Smith” Derek Michaud offers a window into the theologies of Cusanus and the Cambridge Platonist John Smith (1618–​52) by illuminating their contrasting appropriations of Origen’s concept of the spiritual senses. Both early modern Neoplatonists of sorts, they evince many common concerns even while a definitive link between them remains elusive. The idea of spiritual sensation, common in mystical theology, is essential to a proper account of Christian experience not adequately addressed by the scholasticism of their times. While both Cusanus and Smith use the language of spiritual sensation throughout their extant works, their understandings thereof are markedly different. Each appropriated and reformulated the spiritual senses to meet their intellectual and religious contexts. Cusa attempted what has been called a synthesis of Aristotelian and Origenist aesthetics while Smith’s Reformed Neoplatonism led him to reject peripatetic philosophy outright. For Cusanus, spiritual sensation is a fundamentally apophatic process whereby we come to “see that we do not see” which points back to the sacramental practices and eschatological hope of the Catholic Church. For Smith, spiritual sensation is a direct and personal kataphatic process whereby we leave unfitting modes of perception behind in exchange for the divine intellect within us. For the Cardinal, ordinary sense perception, including contemplating images, is central. But this sacramental showing includes hiddenness within itself. For this reason spiritual sensation supplies a mediated “foretaste” of things only fully revealed in the eschatological future. Smith, on the other hand, allows little to no positive role for ordinary sense

Introduction

29

perception. Instead, he emphasizes that spiritual sensation is an intellectual matter more or less achievable in this life. Both sought to reform the Origenist tradition for their own situations sure that contemplation of the divine is more tasted than calculated. In the final chapter in this section “Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-​ formations of the Cosmos: Nicholas of Cusa’s Anima Mundi and Henry More’s Spirit of Nature” Nathan Strunk examines the efforts of the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More, to reform our perspective of the cosmos. In the “Parable of the Madman” Nietzsche famously describes how Copernicus’ decentering of the earth culminated in its desacralisation so that humanity having “unchained this earth from its sun … are straying as through an infinite nothing.” Yet, as Louis Dupré argues in his book by the same title, while the “passage to modernity” may have torn the theo-​cosmic synthesis of the middle ages asunder, thinkers like Cusanus “anticipated and avoided the problems a heliocentric picture would cause to the traditional religious worldview by rethinking the relationship between God and nature.” This is particularly true of Cusanus’ transposition of the traditional notion of God’s omnipresence with the help of the Platonic notion of a “world-​soul.” In book ii of De docta ignorantia, Cusanus describes how the world-​soul unfolds the divine mind by actualizing potentiality through the medium of motion. Around two hundred years after Cusanus, Henry More also sought to rethink the relationship between God and nature after Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Significantly, he does so by advancing a doctrine of the “universal soul of the world,” which he calls “the spirit of nature.” In More’s Immortality of the Soul, the “spirit of nature” names God’s immediate contact with the world for communicating motion to matter. Comparing Cusanus and More shows that as science “progressed” they accommodated it by appropriating notions as ancient as Plato’s “world-​soul.” For neither of them does the fact that the world is perpetually moving and adrift in the universe mean it is estranged from the divine. Rather, the motion of the unchained planet further instances God’s intimate, omnipresent relation with a living, interconnected world. The pursuit of docta ignorantia, and its radical change in epistemological perspective, provides a persuasive lens through which to view Cusanus’ forgotten presence in the early modern world, particularly in the thought of Bruno and the Cambridge Platonists. These essays point to differing conclusions regarding the reform of perspective among these figures, yet their rejection of the medieval hierarchical universe, their criticism of Aristotelian method and their promotion of Neoplatonism, as well as their turn to the natural principles of reason as the “Candle of the Lord,” reveal similarities with Cusanus’ radical perspectivalism.

30 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Part 4. Mathesis Universalis: Reform of Method The papers in the fourth section on “Method” explore Cusanus’ impact on the early modern reform of method. Importantly, all the papers are connected by the theme of the “universal reformation,” which in recent years, through the work of scholars such as Joseph Freedman, Howard Hotson and Vladímir Urbánek, has emerged as a vital category for understanding early modernity and its connected intellectual, scientific and religious revolutions.110 Like the various types of fifteenth-​and sixteenth-​century reformatio, the notion of universal reform has the advantage of being rooted in the language and consciousness of its age –​as a hermeneutic of modernity it arises from within modernity itself. Significantly, it also embraces within itself all of the other major categories of reform surveyed in this volume. Indeed, despite their many differences, the universal reformers all shared the conviction –​well exemplified by Cusanus –​that without a fundamental reorientation of epistemological and metaphysical perspectives there could be no chance of establishing lasting social, political or ecclesial reform.111 As the term suggests, universal reformation referred to the desire for a comprehensive and complete reformation of contemporary Church and society, going beyond the partial and incomplete reformations of the previous two 110 The literature is extensive and growing rapidly but see, for example, Joseph Freedman, Philosophy and the Arts in Central Europe, 1500–​1700: Teaching and Texts at Schools and Universities (Aldershot:  Ashgate, 1999); Howard Hotson, Johann Heinrich Alsted 1588–​ 1638: Between Renaissance, Reformation and Universal Reform (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Commonplace Learning:  Ramism and its German Ramifications, 1543–​1630 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); and “The Instauration of the Image of God in Man:  Humanist Anthropology, Encyclopaedic Pedagogy, Baconianism and Universal Reform,” in The Practice of Reform in Health, Medicine and Science, 1500–​2000: Essays for Charles Webster, ed. Margaret Pelling and Scott Mandelbrote (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 1–​21. Howard Hotson and Vladímir Urbánek are the editors of the new Routledge series “Universal Reform:  Studies in Intellectual History, 1550–​1700.” The modern scholarship on universal reform has roots in the pioneering work of earlier scholars such as Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954); Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, IL:  Chicago University Press, 1966) and Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine and Reform 1626–​1660 (London: Duckworth, 1975). 111 Inigo Bocken, “Visions of Reform,” 214–​31 emphasises the foundation of Cusan reform in a “reform of vision.” The fascination of the universal reformers with the theme of light and vision can be seen above all in Jan Amos Comenius, Panaugia, or, Universal Light, trans. A.MO. Dobbie (Shipston-​on-​Stour: Drinkwater, 1987). See also Jan Rohls, “Comenius, Light Metaphysics and Educational Reform,” in Hedley and Hutton (eds.), Platonism at the Origins of Modernity, 63–​74.

Introduction

31

centuries. Universal reform was thus intended to reach broader and deeper than anything that had gone before it, towards its ultimate goal of the reform of the human spirit itself. Fundamental to this was the concept of a universal idea, or universal pattern, of reform located in the divine mind and accessible to humanity through a variety of channels.112 What all the diverse streams that make up universal reformation shared in common therefore, was some kind of dynamic convergence between epistemology, ontology and theology. In this sense, as Jan Patočka insightfully recognised, there was an important connection between universal reform and the Realism and exemplarism of Cusanus’ own age of the fifteenth century.113 Indeed, perhaps in no other age was Ladner’s “idea” of reform articulated so explicitly as in the late medieval and early modern period.114 Yet what made universal reformation particularly distinctive was the way in which the notion of method became the center of this convergence. It is for this reason that scholarship on universal reform has focused so much attention on methodological movements such as Ramism and Lullism.115 For while at first sight these may appear to be only on the periphery of the intellectual “high culture” of their age, on closer inspection their concerns turn out to register right at the very center of its consciousness. One need only think of Descartes’ 112 See the important discussion in Jan Amos Comenius, Panorthosia or Universal Reform: Chapters 1–​18 and 27, trans. A.M.O. Dobbie (Shipston-​on-​Stour: Drinkwater, 1995), 5.1–​28 (pp.  87–​98) and Panorthosia or Universal Reform:  Chapters  19–​26, trans. A.M.O. Dobbie (Shipston-​on-​Stour: Drinkwater, 1993), 23.2–​3 (pp. 58–​9). 113 Jan Patočka, “Comenius und Cusanus,” in Jan Patočka, Andere Wege in die Moderne: Studien zur europäischen Ideengeschichte von der Renaissance bis zur Romantik, ed. Ludger Hagedorn (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006), 237–​43. 114 For Ladner the “idea of reform” was simply a “provisional conceptual tool” (Idea of Reform, 35). However, in the late medieval Realist movements stemming from John Wyclif and Jan Hus we find an intimate connection between Scripture, philosophical, theological and ecclesiastical reform and the pattern of the divine ideas (cf. Ian Levy, John Wyclif: Scriptural Logic, Real Presence and the Parameters of Orthodoxy (Milwaukee, WI:  Marquette University Press, 2003); Kantik Ghosh, “Logic and Lollardy,” Medium Aevum 76:2 (2007): 251–​ 67 and Vilém Herold, “Die Philosophie des Hussitismus:  Zur Rolle der Ideenlehre Platons,” in Verdrãngter Humanismus, Verzörgete Aufklãrung. Vol. 1: Vom Konstanzer Konzil zum Auftreten Luthers, ed. Michael Benedikt (Vienna: Verlag Leben-​Kunst-​Wissenschaft, 1996), 101–​18). Fascinatingly, in both Puritan Ramism and Comenian pansophia, the divine ideas expressed in nature and Scripture also become the ground of a comprehensive philosophical and theological reform programme (cf. Miller, New England Mind, 145–​53; William Ames, Technometria, 1–​11 and Demonstratio Logicae Verae, 1–​4 in Philosophemata (Cambridge, 1646); and Jan Amos Comenius, Pansophiae Prodromus (Leiden, 1644), 23ff.). 115 See Howard Hotson, “The Ramist Roots of Comenian Pansophia,” in Ramus, Pedagogy and the Liberal Arts: Ramism in Britain and the Wider World, ed. Steven Reid and Emma Wilson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), 227–​52; Johann Heinrich Alsted; and Commonplace Learning.

32 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

epochal Discours de la méthode to understand the valence of method in the seventeenth century. Yet what is fascinating, as Paolo Rossi and others have demonstrated, is the way in which the philosophical projects of Descartes, Bacon, Leibniz and other luminaries of the seventeenth century can be seen to be motivated at the deepest level by methodological concerns first raised by the Ramists and Lullists themselves.116 In many ways the same can also be said of the new mathematical awareness of the century, in which methodological, mathematical and philosophical concerns became entwined in the all-​encompassing quest for mathesis universalis. While it is true that the links between universal reformation and mathesis universalis have not yet been adequately mapped out –​something this volume in fact hopes to address –​it is evident that in Ramus himself, as well as in Lullists such as Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and Charles de Bovelles, we see the beginnings of a new and influential alliance between mathematics, philosophy and pedagogy.117 Significantly, this carried through into the Ramist-​ Lullist encyclopaedism of the seventeenth century, which as Rossi and others have demonstrated had intimate connections with the parallel movement of mathesis universalis, especially as it was conceived in the fertile minds of Jan Amos Comenius and Leibniz himself.118

116

Walter Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 2005)  first demonstrated the central importance of Ramism to the intellectual and cultural revolutions of early modernity. Leroy Loemker, “Leibniz and the Herborn Encyclopedists,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22:3 (1961):  323–​38; Paolo Rossi, Logic and the Art of Memory:  The Quest for a Universal Language, trans. Stephen Clucas (London:  Athlone, 2000), 97ff. and Maria Rosa Antognazza, “Bisterfeld and immeatio: Origins of a Key Concept in the Early Modern Doctrine of Universal Harmony,” in Spãtrenaissance Philosophie in Deutschland 1570–​ 1650: Entwürfe zwischen Humanismus und Konfessionalisierung, okkulten Traditionen und Schulmetaphysik, ed. Martin Mulsow (Tübingen: Max Nieymeyer Verlag, 2009), 64–​81; and “Immeatio and Emperichoresis: The Theological Roots of Harmony in Bisterfeld and Leibniz,” in The Young Leibniz and his Philosophy (1646–​76), ed. Stuart Brown (London: Kluwer Academic, 1999), 41–​64 explore the influence of Ramism and/​or Lullism on key Enlightenment figures. 117 See Joseph Victor, Charles de Bovelles, 1479–​1553: An Intellectual Biography (Geneva: Droz, 1978), 57–​72, 129-​31, 150, 160; Richard Oosterhoff, “Idiotae, Mathematics, and Artisans: The Untutored Mind and the Discovery of Nature in the Fabrist Circle,” Intellectual History Review 24:3 (2014):  301–​19; Nelly Bruyère, Méthode et Dialectique dans l’oeuvre de la Ramée: Renaissance et Age Classique (Paris: J. Vrin, 1984) and Robert Goulding, Defending Hypatia:  Ramus, Savile and the Renaissance Rediscovery of Mathematical History (New York: Springer, 2000), 35–​74. 118 See, for example, Rossi, Logic, 130–​44, 176–​94. On the early modern movement of mathesis universalis and its prehistory see especially David Rabouin, Mathesis Universalis: L’Idée

Introduction

33

That one of the most important figures in this line of succession was Cusanus himself is beyond doubt. Not only was Cusanus strongly influenced by Lull and the Lullist thought of his friend and mentor Heimeric de Campo, as studies by Eusebio Colomer, Rudolf Haubst, Charles Lohr and others have all shown, but he himself was crucial in the transmission of the revolutionary new Lullist worldview to early modernity.119 For this reason Lohr places Cusanus center-stage in his breathtaking narrative of the emergence of early modern metaphysics.120 Likewise, Maria Rosa Antognazza, drawing on Thomas Leinkauf, has argued convincingly that he was a crucial mediator between Renaissance Platonism, universal reform and early modern thought. Indeed, Antognazza’s work especially has served to reconnect the philosophical and theological trajectories of universal reform, establishing this as a key “missing link” between the medieval world of Lull and Cusanus and the early modern world of Leibniz.121 More recently, the pioneering work of David Albertson has identified in Cusanus’ thought the beginnings of a fifteenth-​century Renaissance in Christian Pythagoreanism and mathematical theology, the extent and influence of which remains to be charted.122 This only reinforces the pressing need for a detailed re-​evaluation of Cusanus’ reform thought and its multi-​faceted legacy.

de “Mathématique Universelle d’Aristote á Descartes (Paris:  Presses Universitaires de France, 2009). 119 For earlier discussion of this see Rudolf Haubst, “Zum Fortleben Alberts des Grossen bei Heymeric von Kamp und Nikolaus von Kues,” Studia Albertina (1952): 420–​47; Eusebio Colomer, Nikolaus von Kues und Raimund Llull aus Handschriften der Kueser Bibliothek (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1961); and Charles Lohr, “Ramon Lull und Nikolaus von Kues. Zu einem Strukturvergleich ihres Denkens,” Theologie und Philosophie 56 (1981):  218–​31. Recently, there has been an upsurge of interest in Cusanus’ relation to Heimeric, as may be seen in publications such as Klaus Reinhardt, Harald Schwaetzer and Franz-​Bernard Stammkötter (eds.), Heymericus de Campo: Philosophie und Theologie im 15. Jahrhundert (Regensburg: S. Roderer Verlag, 2009) and Florian Hamann, Das Siegel der Ewigheit: Universalwissenschaft und Konziliarismus bei Heymericus de Campo (Münster: Aschendorff, 2006), 230–​57. 1 20 Charles Lohr, “Metaphysics,” in Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Charles Schmitt and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 537–​99. 121 Maria Rosa Antognazza, “Leibniz and the Post-​Copernican Universe:  Koyré Revisited,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34 (2003): 309–​27; “Immeatio and Emperichoresis,” 41–​64 and “Bisterfeld and immeatio,” 64–​81; cf. Thomas Leinkauf, Mundus Combinatus:  Studien zur Struktur der barocken Universalwissenschaft am Beispeil Athanasius Kirchers SJ (1602–​1680) (Berlin:  Akademie Verlag, 1993), 11–​34, 84ff. and Einheit, Natur, Geist: Beiträge zu metaphysischen Grundproblemen im Denken von Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (Berlin: Trafo, 2012), 15–​50. 122 David Albertson, Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

34 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Continuing and developing these themes the papers in this section argue for Cusanus’ place right at the heart of the early modern movements of universal reform and mathesis universalis. Significantly, the papers follow a line of historical succession which Lohr, Antognazza and others have reconstructed. For going beyond Cassirer they have been able to provide a convincing and historically-​documentable chain of influence stretching from the fourteenth century through to the end of the seventeenth century.123 This focuses on two intimately-​connected intellectual movements –​the sixteenth-​century Parisian circle around Lefèvre d’Étaples and the seventeenth-​century Herborn circle around Johann Heinrich Alsted. For, as Antognazza notes, despite the “confessional, geographical and chronological distance” separating them, these were unified by their common grounding in the thought of Lull and Cusanus. Indeed, both circles were vital in disseminating Lull’s and Cusa’s works to early modern European readers.124 Together they may therefore be seen as twin “epicenters” of universal reform, from which Cusanus’ influence radiated out all over early modern Europe, in the process crossing intellectual, theological and confessional borders. The focus of Richard Oosterhoff’s chapter “ ‘Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform” is on Antognazza’s first epicenter –​the Fabrist circle of Lefèvre d’Étaples. Drawing attention to their programme of patristic and medieval ressourcement, which saw the publication of major editions of Boethius, the Victorines, Lull and of course Cusanus himself in the celebrated Opera Omnia of 1514, he argues that at its heart was an ambitious attempt to bridge the arts and theology. In doing so the Fabrists hoped to initiate a comprehensive reform of both philosophy and theology with important implications for both the academy and the Church. The inspiration for this programme lay in Boethius, whose works provided tantalising hints of what such a mathematical theology might look like, but it was Cusanus especially who provided them with their key notion of the “mathematical Trinity.” In focusing on their reception of this notion, Oosterhoff explores the way in which the Fabrist Circle deployed Cusan mathematical theology in their ill-​fated attempts to reform the diocese of Meaux, with its far-​reaching consequences for the French evangelical movement and the French Reformation itself. 123 Lohr, “Metaphysics,” 537–​99 and Antognazza, “Bisterfeld and immeatio,” 64–​81. Cassirer was famously attacked by Eugenio Garin and others for his account of Cusa’s influence on Renaissance Italian philosophers such as Ficino and Pico. However, in his chapter in this volume Michael Moore notes the (partial) rehabilitation of Cassirer’s thesis of Cusanus’ Italian influence by Erich Meuthen and Kurt Flasch. 124 Antognazza, “Bisterfeld and immeatio,” 63–​4.

Introduction

35

Roberta Giubilini’s chapter “Nicholas Cusanus and Guillaume Postel on Learning and Docta Ignorantia,” focuses on Guillaume Postel, the visionary French reformer and prophet of “universal concordance” who has been called by Wilhelm Schmidt-​Biggemann “one of the most interesting intellectual figures” of the sixteenth century.125 Postel was influenced by the Fabrists and a number of scholars have noticed his profound affinities with Cusanus, but Giubilini’s chapter is the first to investigate their relationship in depth. While highlighting important connections in their understanding of the universal harmony of religions and cultures, their focus on the problem of mediation between God and men and their fascination with rational apologetic for the Trinity, especially in Christianity’s engagement with Islam, Giubilini focuses on their joint desire to uncover the process of human learning. In particular, she demonstrates how Postel appropriates, albeit in a very different context and for different purposes, Cusanus’ linguistic and mathematical approaches to knowledge and above all his ideal of docta ­ignorantia. Jan Amos Comenius, the focus of the third and fourth chapters in this section, is a major figure in the universal reformation. As the outstanding representative of the Herborn Circle –​Antognazza’s second epicenter –​he was an inheritor of both the Ramist and Lullist traditions. Moreover, as scholars such as Patočka, Pavel Floss, Simon Kuchlbauer and others have recognised, his pansophic project of universal reform was deeply influenced by Cusanus, whose thought he encountered at a formative stage in his intellectual development.126 Petr Pavlas’ chapter “The Book Metaphor Triadized: The Layman’s Bible and God’s Books in Raymond of Sabunde, Nicholas of Cusa and Jan Amos Comenius” explores the Lullist and Cusan influence on Comenius’ understanding of the three books of nature, Scripture and the human mind –​a central, unifying notion in his pansophia. From its roots in patristic and medieval theologians he traces the development of the understanding of the “book of nature” in the fifteenth-​century Lullist Raymond of Sabunde, whose ideas were a major influence on the Fabrist Circle, and in Cusanus himself. Sabunde’s own role as a pioneer in the development of natural theology is well known –​if only through the ironic lens of Michel de Montaigne’s famous Apologie de Raymond

125

Wilhelm Schmidt-​Biggemann, Philosophia Perennis: Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Thought (Dordrecht: Springer, 2004), 352. 126 Jan Patočka, “Centrum Securitatis und Cusanus,” in Jan Patočka, Andere Wege in die Moderne, 245–​56; “Comenius und Cusanus,” 237–​43; Pavel Floss, “Cusanus und Comenius,” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 10 (1973): 172–​90; and Simon Kuchlbauer, Johann Amos Comenius’ antisozinianische Schriften: Entwurf eines integrativen Konzepts von Aufklärung (Dresden: Thelem, 2011), 200–​21.

36 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Sebond –​but Pavlas explores the way in which Cusanus transforms the Sabundian pattern of natural theology by his influential connection of the book of nature and the book of the mind. In doing so he not only helped prepare the way for the key early modern understanding of nature as a book designed to be read by humans –​a development which proved so influential on the mathematical and scientific understanding of the time –​but he also laid the groundwork for Comenius’ own attempt to order European, and ultimately global, society according to the rule of the three books. Comenius’ pansophia and its connection to both his Trinitarian theology and his quest to develop a mathesis universalis is the principal theme of Simon Burton’s chapter “ ‘Squaring the Circle’: Cusan Metaphysics and the Pansophic Vision of Jan Amos Comenius.” Drawing on the recent scholarship of Kuchlbauer, this situates Comenius’ pansophic project squarely in the context of his anti-​Socinian writings.127 In particular, it argues that Comenius drew deeply on Cusanus’ metaphysics of enfolding and unfolding and his programmatic notion of the coincidence of opposites in order to construct an epistemology in which reason opens upwards through sense and Scripture towards the transcendent mystery of the Triune God. In this way the Cusan coincidence of opposites comes to encode for Comenius a “logic of faith” responsive to the Trinitarian and participatory structure of reality, expressing God as the transcendent and immanent ground of all creation. Burton then explores the way in which Comenius takes up this understanding, through the mathematical motif of squaring the circle, into his developing pansophia. In his later works this led him to attempt a fusion of Augustinian and Cusan methodologies in order to develop an alternative mathesis universalis –​one which affirms with Descartes and the new philosophy the mathematical structure of all reality, but always remains open to its Trinitarian and transcendent ground. In this he seeks to establish his own Christian Enlightenment, treading with Cusanus an alternative “passage to modernity.” The final chapter in this concluding section by Jan Makovský on “Cusanus and Leibniz: Symbolic Explorations of Infinity as a Ladder to God” is devoted to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a quintessential Enlightenment figure. As remarked on above, Leibniz’s connection to both the Fabrist and Herborn circles is now well established. Indeed, following the pioneering scholarship of Willy Kabitz, Leroy Loemker and Rossi, leading Leibniz scholars such as Leinkauf, Antognazza and Christia Mercer have emphasised the centrality of Renaissance Neoplatonism, Encyclopaedism and the universal reformation for 127

Kuchlbauer, Comenius’ antisozinianische Schriften, 125ff.

Introduction

37

understanding Leibniz’s philosophy and theology.128 Nevertheless, Leibniz’s relation to Cusanus remains a neglected topic, despite a widespread acknowledgement of Cusanus’ own important role in the centuries-​long refinement of geometrical ideas that eventually led to the development of the calculus.129 In light of this Makovský explores the connections between Cusanus’ mathematical theology and Leibniz’s own reflections on infinity as a ladder to God. Taking up again Cusanus’ understanding of squaring the circle, he shows how Leibniz’s famous mathematical investigations of infinity may be understood as a symbolic comprehension and rationalisation of Cusanus’ rule of learned ignorance. In doing so he argues that Leibniz’s Cusan-​inspired notion of infinity became a means for him to implement a reform of science and philosophy, transcending what he viewed as the deadening rationalism of Cartesian natural science. As with Comenius, this had important consequences for what Leibniz called the “perfect republic of spirits” –​in other words for the Church.130 In this we have come full circle, albeit now in a very different confessional context, back to the Cusanus of the De concordantia catholica and his irenic vision of the universal harmony of angels and men in the bonds of the Trinity. Part 5. Epilogue As a Christian reformer, Cusanus was well aware that reform always exists within the horizon of time and eternity. Indeed, according to Ladner’s paradigm, reform must always be perfectible since it conforms to an ultimately transcendent pattern.131 At the same time, as we may see from his early Conjectura de ultimis diebus, Cusanus’ own efforts at reform, like those of Luther, Comenius 128

Willy Kabitz, Die Philosophie des jungen Leibniz. Untersuchung zur Entwicklungsgeschichte seines Systems (Karl Winter’s Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1909); Loemker, “Leibniz and the Herborn Encyclopedists,” 323–​38; Rossi, Logic, 176–​94; Leinkauf, Einheit, Natur, Geist, 15–​50; Antognazza, “Bisterfeld and immeatio,” 64–​81; and Christia Mercer, Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 21–​59, 173–​252. Of recent scholars, however, it is Leinkauf who has given the most attention to Leibniz’s relationship to Cusanus. 129 While Ulli Roth, “Die Bestimmung der Mathematik bei Cusanus und Leibniz,” Studia Leibnitiana 29:1 (1997): 63–​80 has sought to play down affinities between Cusanus and Leibniz concerning infinitesimals, Jean-​Michel Counet, Mathématiques et Dialectique chez Nicolas de Cuse (Paris: Vrin, 2000), 258. 277 and others have clearly seen Cusanus’ thought as belonging to a trajectory leading to the calculus. 1 30 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, th. 36–​7, in Discourse on Metaphysics and the Monadology, trans. George R. Montgomery (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2005), 45. 1 31 Ladner, Idea of Reform, 35.

38 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

and the universal reformers, were driven by his apocalyptic expectations.132 Fittingly, this eschatological element of reform frames Michael Moore’s epilogue to our volume. Taking us back to the turbulent era of the Weimar Republic, under the looming shadow of its false messianism, Moore argues that the work of prominent medievalists and Renaissance scholars such as Aby Warburg, Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and above all Ernst Cassirer was motivated not only by historical interests but also by a desire to resource the intellectual and spiritual reconstruction of the contemporary German, and indeed European, ethos. While Cassirer, unlike Cusanus, was not a “Messianic thinker,” his meticulous historical research made him thoroughly attuned to the enduring vitality of cultural forms. In particular, he was deeply attracted to Cusanus’ innovative synthesis of transcendence and freedom, as well as his emphasis on the dignity of the individual human being. More than simply a key figure in the emergence of modernity, Cusanus came to represent for him the modern spirit in one of its purest and most elevated forms. As Moore reminds us, such thinking remains just as relevant to us today in our own historical moment of kairos. By raising anew the question of Cusanus and (early) modernity, our volume also reveals him as a figure of enduring relevance, whose significance far transcends the bounds of his own era, indeed, perhaps, of any era. Bibliography Albertson, David. Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Albertson, David. “Mystical Philosophy in the Fifteenth Century:  New Directions in Research on Nicholas of Cusa.” Religion Compass 4 (2010): 471–​485. Ames, William. Philosophemata. Cambridge, 1646. Antognazza, Maria Rosa. “Bisterfeld and immeatio:  Origins of a Key Concept in the Early Modern Doctrine of Universal Harmony.” In Spätrenaissance Philosophie in Deutschland 1570–​1650:  Entwürfe zwischen Humanismus und Konfessionalisierung, okkulten Traditionen und Schulmetaphysik, edited by Martin Mulsow, 64–​81. Tübingen: Max Nieymeyer Verlag, 2009.

132 Nicholas of Cusa, Conjectura de ultimis diebus, 123–​40 (h IV.91–​100). For intriguing connections between Cusa’s apocalypticism and that of the Lutheran Reformation see Robin Bruce Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis: Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988), 126–​33. For early modern apocalypticism, including Comenius, see Howard Hotson, Paradise Postponed:  Johann Heinrich Alsted and the Birth of Calvinist Millenarianism (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2000).

Introduction

39

Antognazza, Maria Rosa. “Immeatio and Emperichoresis: The Theological Roots of Harmony in Bisterfeld and Leibniz.” In The Young Leibniz and his Philosophy (1646–​76), edited by Stuart Brown, 41–​64. London: Kluwer Academic, 1999. Antognazza, Maria Rosa. “Leibniz and the Post-​Copernican Universe: Koyré Revisited.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34 (2003): 309–​27. Augustine of Hippo. The City of God. Vol. vii. Loeb Classical Library. Translated by William M. Green. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972. Augustine of Hippo. The Confessions. 2 Vols. Loeb Classical Library. Translated by William Watts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912. Barnes, Robin Bruce. Prophecy and Gnosis: Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Beierwaltes, Werner. Identität und Differenz: Zum Prinzip cusanischen Denkens. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1977. Bergemann, Lutz. Ralph Cudworth –​System aus Transformation: Zur Naturphilosophie der Cambridge Platonists und Ihrer Methode. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012. Blumenberg, Hans. The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. Translated by Robert Wallace. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1983. Bocken, Inigo. “Visions of Reform:  Lay Piety as a Form of Thinking in Nicholas of Cusa.” In Reassessing Reform: A Historical Investigation into Church Renewal, edited by Christopher M. Bellitto and David Zachariah Flanagin, 214–​231. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2012. Brient, Elizabeth. The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2002. Brösch, Marco, Walter Andreas Euler, Alexandra Geissler and Viki Ranff, eds. Handbuch Nikolaus von Kues:  Leben und Werk. Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2014. Bruyère, Nelly. Méthode et Dialectique dans l’oeuvre de la Ramée:  Renaissance et Age Classique. Paris: J. Vrin, 1984. Bryson, James. The Christian Platonism of Thomas Jackson. Leuven: Peeters, 2016. Carter, Benjamin. “The Little Commonwealth of Man”: The Trinitarian Origins of the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Ralph Cudworth. Louvain: Peeters, 2011. Casarella, Peter and George Schner, eds. Christian Spirituality and the Culture of Modernity: The Thought of Louis Dupré. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998. Casarella, Peter, ed. Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2012. Casarella, Peter. “Nicholas of Cusa and the Ends of Medieval Mysticism.” In The Wiley-​ Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism, edited by Julia Lamm, 388–​403. Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell, 2013. Cassirer, Ernst. Die Platonische Renaissance in England und die Schule von Cambridge. Berlin: Teubner, 1932.

40 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Cassirer, Ernst. The Individual and Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Cassirer, Ernst. Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1927. Cochrane, Charles Norris. Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1944. Colomer, Eusebio. Nikolaus von Kues und Raimund Llull aus Handschriften der Kueser Bibliothek. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1961. Comenius, Jan Amos. Panaugia, or, Universal Light. Translated by A.M.O. Dobbie. Shipston-​on-​Stour: Drinkwater, 1987. Comenius, Jan Amos. Panorthosia or Universal Reform: Chapters 1–​18 and 27. Translated by A.M.O. Dobbie. Shipston-​on-​Stour: Drinkwater, 1995. Comenius, Jan Amos. Pansophiae Prodromus. Leiden, 1644. Counet, Jean-​Michel. Mathématiques et Dialectique chez Nicolas de Cuse. Paris: Vrin, 2000. Cranz, F. Edward. “Saint Augustine and Nicholas of Cusa in the Tradition of Western Christian Thought,” Speculum 28, no. 2 (1953): 297–​316. Crocker, Robert. “Mysticism and Enthusiasm in Henry More.” In Henry More (1614–​ 1687): Tercentenary Studies, edited by Sarah Hutton, 137–​155. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990. Crocker, Robert. “The Role of Illuminism in the Thought of Henry More.” In The Cambridge Platonists in Philosophical Context: Politics, Metaphysics and Religion, edited by G.A.J. Rogers, Jean-​Michel Vienne, and Yves C. Zarka, 129–​144. Dordrecht: Springer, 1997. Cudworth, Ralph. Bibliotheca Cudworthiana, sive Catalogus Variorum Librorum Plurimis Facultatibus Insignium Bibliothecæ Instructissimæ Rev. Doct. Dr. Cudworth. London: Edward Millington, 1691. Cudworth, Ralph. A sermon preached to the honourable Society of Lincolns-​Inne. London: J. Flesher for R. Royston, 1664. Darwall, Stephen. The British Moralists and the Internal Ought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Duhem, Pierre. Études sur Léonard de Vinci II. Paris, 1909. Dupré, Louis and Nancy Hudson. “Nicholas of Cusa.” In A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, edited by Jorge Gracia and Timothy Noone, 466–​74. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. Dupré, Louis. “Nature and Grace in Nicholas of Cusa’s Mystical Philosophy.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990): 153–​70. Dupré, Louis. Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993. Floss, Pavel. “Cusanus und Comenius.” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 10 (1973): 172–​90.

Introduction

41

Freedman, Joseph. Philosophy and the Arts in Central Europe, 1500–​1700: Teaching and Texts at Schools and Universities. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999. Funkenstein, Amos. Theology and the Scientific Imagination: From the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986. Gadamer, Hans-​Georg. “Nicolaus Cusanus and the Present.” Epoché 7 (2002): 71–​9. Gadamer, Hans-​Georg. “Nikolaus von Kues im modernen Denken.” In Nicolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno atti del Congresso internazionale in occasione del V centenario della morte di Nicolò Cusano Bressanone, 6–​10 settembre 1964, edited by Josef Gargitter, 39–​48. Florence: Sansoni, 1970. Gadamer, Hans-​Georg. Truth and Method. Translated by William Glen-​Doepel. London: Sheed and Ward, 1979. Gawlick, Günter. “Zur Nachwirkung Cusanischer Ideen im Siebzehnten und Achtzehnten Jahrhundert.” In Nicolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno atti del Congresso internazionale in occasione del V centenario della morte di Nicolò Cusano Bressanone, 6–​10 settembre 1964, edited by Josef Gargitter, 225–​239. Florence: Sansoni, 1970. Ghosh, Kantik. “Logic and Lollardy.” Medium Aevum 76:2 (2007): 251–​67. Gill, Michael. The British Moralists and Human Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Goulding, Robert. Defending Hypatia: Ramus, Savile and the Renaissance Rediscovery of Mathematical History. New York: Springer, 2000. Greene, Robert A. “Whichcote, the Candle of the Lord, and Synderesis.” Journal of the History of Ideas 52:4 (1991): 617–​44. Hamann, Florian. Das Siegel der Ewigheit: Universalwissenschaft und Konziliarismus bei Heymericus de Campo. Münster: Aschendorff, 2006. Hampton, Alexander J.B. “An English Source of German Romanticism:  Herder’s Cudworth Inspired Revision of Spinoza from ‘Plastik’ to ‘Kraft.’ ” The Heythrop Journal. Published 14 July 2015. http://​onlinelibrary.wiley.com/​doi/​10.1111/​ heyj.12272/​pdf. Harries, Karsten. Infinity and Perspective. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2001. Harries, Karsten. “Problems of the Infinite: Cusanus and Descartes.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990): 89–​110. Haubst, Rudolf. Das Bild des Einen und Dreieinen Gottes in der Welt nach Nikolaus von Kues. Trier: Paulinus-​Verlag, 1952. Haubst, Rudolf. Die Christologie des Nikolaus von Kues. Freiburg: Herder, 1956. Haubst, Rudolf. “Zum Fortleben Alberts des Grossen bei Heymeric von Kamp und Nikolaus von Kues.” Studia Albertina (1952): 420–​47. Haubst, Rudolf. Nikolaus von Kues, “Pförtner der neuen Zeit.” Trier: Paulinus-​Verlag, 1988. Haubst, Rudolf. Streifzüge in die cusanische Theologie. Münster: Aschendorff, 1991. Hayes, Thomas Wilson. “Nicholas of Cusa and Popular Literacy in Seventeenth-​Century England.” Studies in Philology 84:1 (1987): 80–​94.

42 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Hedley, Douglas. Coleridge, Philosophy, and Religion: Aids to Reflection and the Mirror of the Spirit. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Hedley, Douglas. “Real Atheism and Cambridge Platonism: Men of Latitude, Polemics, and the Great Dead Philosophers.” In Platonisms: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern, edited by Kevin Corrigan and John D. Turner, 155–​174. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time: A Translation of Sein and Zeit. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996. Helander, Birgit H. “Nicholas of Cusa as Theoretician of Unity.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church: Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 309–​321. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Hendrix, Scott M. “Nicholas of Cusa’s Ecclesiology Between Reform and Reformation.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church: Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Socieity, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 107–​126. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Hengstermann, Christian and Alfons Fürst, eds. Autonomie und Menschenwürde: Origenes in der Philosophie der Neuzeit. Münster: Aschendorff, 2012. Herold, Vilém. “Die Philosophie des Hussitismus: Zur Rolle der Ideenlehre Platons.” In Verdrängter Humanismus, Verzörgete Aufklãrung. Vol. 1: Vom Konstanzer Konzil zum Auftreten Luthers, edited by Michael Benedikt, 101–​118. Vienna: Verlag Leben-​Kunst-​ Wissenschaft, 1996. Hickman, Louise. “ ‘Love is all and God is love’: Universalism in Peter Sterry (1613–​1672) and Jeremiah White (1630–​1707).” In “All shall be well”: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology from Origen to Moltmann, edited by Gregory MacDonald, 95–​115. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2011. Hoff, Johannes. The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013. Hoff, Johannes. Kontingenz, Berührung, Überschreitung: zur philosophischen Propädeutik christlicher Mystik nach Nikolaus von Kues. Freiburg: Alber, 2007. Hopkins, Jasper. “Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​1464): First Modern Philosopher?” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 26 (2002): 13–​29. Hotson, Howard. Commonplace Learning: Ramism and its German Ramifications, 1543–​ 1630. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Hotson, Howard. “The Instauration of the Image of God in Man: Humanist Anthropology, Encyclopaedic Pedagogy, Baconianism and Universal Reform.” In The Practice of Reform in Health, Medicine and Science, 1500–​2000: Essays for Charles Webster, edited by Margaret Pelling and Scott Mandelbrote, 1–​21. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Hotson, Howard. Johann Heinrich Alsted 1588–​1638: Between Renaissance, Reformation and Universal Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Introduction

43

Hotson, Howard. Paradise Postponed: Johann Heinrich Alsted and the Birth of Calvinist Millenarianism. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2000. Hotson, Howard. “The Ramist Roots of Comenian Pansophia.” In Ramus, Pedagogy and the Liberal Arts: Ramism in Britain and the Wider World, edited by Steven Reid and Emma Wilson, 227–​252. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011. Hutton, Sarah. “Some Thoughts on Ralph Cudworth.” In Studies on Locke: Sources, Contemporaries, and Legacy, edited by Sarah Hutton and G.A.J. Rogers, 143–​158. Dordrecht: Springer, 2008. Kabitz, Willy. Die Philosophie des jungen Leibniz. Untersuchung zur Entwicklungsgeschichte seines Systems. Karl Winter’s Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1909. Kandler, Karl-​Hermann. Nikolaus von Kues. Denker zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995. Koyré, Alexandre. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957. Kuchlbauer, Simon. Johann Amos Comenius’ antisozinianische Schriften: Entwurf eines integrativen Konzepts von Aufklärung. Dresden: Thelem, 2011. Ladner, Gerhart B. The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959; reprint 2004. Leech, David. The Hammer of the Cartesians: Henry More’s Philosophy of Spirit and the Origins of Modern Atheism. Leuven: Peeters, 2013. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. Discourse on Metaphysics and the Monadology. Translated by George R. Montgomery. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2005. Leinkauf, Thomas. Einheit, Natur, Geist: Beiträge zu metaphysischen Grundproblemen im Denken von Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Berlin: Trafo, 2012. Leinkauf, Thomas. Mundus Combinatus: Studien zur Struktur der barocken Universalwissenschaft am Beispeil Athanasius Kirchers SJ (1602–​1680). Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993. Levy, Ian. John Wyclif: Scriptural Logic, Real Presence and the Parameters of Orthodoxy. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2003. Loemker, Leroy. “Leibniz and the Herborn Encyclopedists.” Journal of the History of Ideas 22:3 (1961): 323–​38. Lohr, Charles. “Metaphysics.” In Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, edited by Charles Schmitt and Quentin Skinner, 537–​99. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Lohr, Charles. “Ramon Lull und Nikolaus von Kues. Zu einem Strukturvergleich ihres Denkens.” Theologie und Philosophie 56 (1981): 218–​31. Lubac, Henri de. The Mystery of the Supernatural. Translated by Rosemary Sheed. New York: Crossroad Publications, 1998. Mancini, Sandro. La sfera infinita. Identità e differenza nel pensiero di Giordano Bruno. Milan: Mimesis, 2000.

44 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Meier-​Oeser, Stephan. Die Präsenz des Vergessenen: Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Münster: Aschendorff, 1989. Mercer, Christia. Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Milbank, John. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954. Moore, Michael Edward. Nicholas of Cusa and the Kairos of Modernity. Cassirer, Gadamer, Blumenberg. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books, 2013. Muirhead, John H. The Platonic Tradition in Anglo-​Saxon Philosophy. London: Macmillan, 1931. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Nicholas of Cusa. Writings on Church and Reform. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Ong, Walter. Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Oosterhoff, Richard. “Idiotae, Mathematics, and Artisans:  The Untutored Mind and the Discovery of Nature in the Fabrist Circle.” Intellectual History Review 24:3 (2014): 301–​19. Pailin, David. “Reconciling Theory and Fact: The Problem of ‘Other Faiths’ in Lord Herbert and the Cambridge Platonists.” In Platonism at the Origins of Modernity, edited by Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton, 93–​111. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007. Pasqua, Hervé, ed. Nicolas de Cues (1401–​1464), Le tournant anthropologique de la philosophie. Paris: Vrin, 2016. Passmore, J.A. Ralph Cudworth: An Interpretation. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1951; reprint 2013. Patočka, Jan. “Centrum Securitatis und Cusanus.” In Jan Patočka, Andere Wege in die Moderne:  Studien zur europäischen Ideengeschichte von der Renaissance bis zur Romantik, edited by Ludger Hagedorn, 245–​56. Würzburg:  Königshausen & Neumann, 2006. Patočka, Jan. “Comenius und Cusanus.” In Jan Patočka, Andere Wege in die Moderne: Studien zur europäischen Ideengeschichte von der Renaissance bis zur Romantik, edited by Ludger Hagedorn, 237–​43. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006. Pavlac, Brian A. “Reform.” In Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, edited by Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 59–​112. New York: Paulist Press, 2004. Rabouin, David. Mathesis Universalis: L’Idée de “Mathématique Universelle d’Aristote á Descartes. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009. Reid, Jasper. The Metaphysics of Henry More. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012.

Introduction

45

Reinhardt, Klaus, Harald Schwaetzer and Oleg Dushin, eds. Nikolaus Cusanus: ein bewundernswerter historischer Brennpunkt: philosophische Tradition und wissenschaftliche Rezeption. Regensburg: S. Roderer, 2008. Reinhardt, Klaus, Harald Schwaetzer and Franz-​Bernard Stammkötter, eds. Heymericus de Campo: Philosophie und Theologie im 15. Jahrhundert. Regensburg: S. Roderer Verlag, 2009. Rogers, G.A.J., Jean-​Michel Vienne, and Yves C. Zarka, eds. The Cambridge Platonists in Philosophical Context: Politics, Metaphysics and Religion. Dordrecht: Springer, 1997. Rogers, G.A.J. “Locke, Plato, and Platonism.” In Platonism at the Origins of Modernity, edited by Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton, 193–​206. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007. Rohls, Jan. “Comenius, Light Metaphysics and Educational Reform.” In Platonism at the Origins of Modernity, edited by Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton, 63–​74. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007. Rossi, Paolo. Logic and the Art of Memory: The Quest for a Universal Language. Translated by Stephen Clucas. London: Athlone, 2000. Roth, Ulli. “Die Bestimmung der Mathematik bei Cusanus und Leibniz.” Studia Leibnitiana 29:1 (1997): 63–​80. Sailor, Danton B. “Newton’s Debt to Cudworth.” Journal of the History of Ideas 49:3 (1988): 511–​518. Schmidt-​Biggemann, Wilhelm. Philosophia Perennis:  Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Thought. Dordrecht: ­Springer, 2004. Schwaetzer, Harald and Kirstin Zeyer, eds. Das europäische Erbe im Denken des Nikolaus von Kues: Geistesgeschichte als Geistesgegenwart. Münster: Aschendorff, 2008. Senger, Hans Gerhard. Ludus Sapientiae: Studien zum Werk und zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Nikolaus von Kues. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shapkespeare. 2nd Edition. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2008. Simonutti, Luisa. “Reason and Toleration: Henry More and Philip van Limborch.” In Henry More (1614–​1687): Tercentenary Studies, edited by Sarah Hutton, 201–​18. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990. Smith, Justin E. H. and Pauline Phemister. “Leibniz and the Cambridge Platonists: The Debate over Plastic Natures.” In Leibniz and the English Speaking World, edited by Pauline Phemester and Stuart Brown, 95–​110. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007. Sterry, Peter. A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will. London: John Starkey, 1675. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. Tocco, Felice. “Le fonti più recenti della filosofia del Bruno.” Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei Lincei. Vol. 1. Rome: Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, 1892. Vansteenberghe, Edmond. Le Cardinal Nicolas de Cues (1401–​1464): L’action –​la pensée. Reprint 1920; Frankfurt am Main: Minerva, 1963.

46 

Burton, Hollmann, and Parker

Vengeon, Fréderic. “L’instauration métaphysique du monde humain chez Nicolas de Cues.” In Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues: Debatten und Rezeptionen, edited by Tom Müller and Matthias Vollet, 175–​86. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013. Victor, Joseph. Charles de Bovelles, 1479–​ 1553:  An Intellectual Biography. Geneva: Droz, 1978. Vollet, Matthias. “Einleitung.” In Die Modernitäten des Nikolaus von Kues:  Debatten und Rezeptionen, edited by Tom Müller and Matthias Vollet, 11–​22. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013. Wallace, Dewey D. Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660–​1714:  Variety, Persistence, and Transformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Watanabe, Morimichi. Nicholas of Cusa: A Companion to his Life and Times. Edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. Watanabe, Morimichi. Concord and Reform: Nicholas of Cusa and Legal and Political Thought in the Fifteenth Century. Edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson. Burlington, VA: Ashgate, 2001. Watanabe, Morimichi. “The Origins of Modern Cusan Research in Germany and the Establishment of the Heidelberg Opera Omnia.” In Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Morimichi Watanabe by the American Cusanus Society, edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 17–​42. Leiden: Brill, 1991. Webster, Charles. The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine and Reform 1626–​1660. London: Duckworth, 1975. Yates, Frances. The Art of Memory. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1966.

Pa rt 1 Reformatio Generalis: Ecclesiastical Reform



Chapter 1

A Difficult Pope: Eugenius iv and the Men around Him Thomas M. Izbicki and Luke Bancroft In 1437 Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​1464) withdrew his support for the Council of Basel (1431–​1449), backing instead its adversary, Pope Eugenius iv (1431–​47). Facing significant attacks on his authority, Eugenius was at that time resisting the council’s attempts to impose reforms on the papacy. He had been forced from Rome in June of 1434, and when Cusanus joined him in May 1437 the pope was residing in Bologna.1 Thereafter a staunch papal ally, Cusanus set himself to organizing a council with the Eastern Churches, defying Basel’s pursuit of the same goal. He left for Constantinople in July 1437 as part of a papal delegation, and by early 1438 he was back in Italy having successfully completed his mission. A council, including a Greek contingent led by Emperor John viii Palaiogolos and Joseph ii, Patriarch of Constantinople, began soon thereafter in Ferrara. The reasons for Cusanus’ defection have long divided scholars. Attributed motivations vary from self-​interest to an ideological conversion in pursuit of Christian unity.2 A  few years earlier Cusanus had penned a masterpiece of conciliarist thought, De concordantia catholica.3 Described by Hubert Jedin as, “the most original product of the conciliar theory in the period,”4 in De concordantia Cusanus constructs a somewhat contradictory defense of conciliar authority. Morimichi Watanabe observes, “while upholding this conciliar 1 An important outline of Eugenius’ life remains, Joseph Gill, Eugenius IV, Pope of Christian Union (London: Burns & Oates, 1961). For the years away from Rome, see, 39–​97. Eugenius returned to Rome on 24 September 1443, an absence of roughly nine years and three months. 2 James E. Biechler, “Nicholas of Cusa and the End of the Conciliar Movement: A Humanist Crisis of Identity,” Church History 44 (1975): 5–​21; Joachim Stieber, “The ‘Hercules of the Eugenians’ at the Crossroads: Nicholas of Cusa’s Decision for the Pope and Against the Council in 1436/​1437 –​Theological and Political Aspects,” in Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 221–​55. 3 Nicholas of Cusa, The Catholic Concordance, trans. Paul E. Sigmund (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 4 Hubert Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent, trans. Ernest Graf, 2 vols. (London: Nelson, 1957–​61), 2.22.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 03

50 

Izbicki and Bancroft

viewpoint … Nicholas never fails to emphasize the importance of a respect for, and even a defense of, the See of Rome.”5 His nuanced conciliarism sought unity in response to a persistent “fear of schism,”6 partly explaining his transfer of support. Cusanus’ skill and constancy when laboring for papal causes prompted Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius ii, to dub him the “Hercules of the Eugenians.” While Cusanus’ zeal adds to the debate over his shifting loyalty, little attention has been given to Eugenius as a factor. How did a pope whose early years were characterized by stubbornness and marred by repeated blunders manage to win the adherence of men like Cusanus, Juan de Torquemada, and Flavio Biondo? What caused him to recognize the need to expand his circle of advisors and agents? By the time he returned to Rome in 1443, Eugenius had succeeded in building a cohort of men whose skills and perspectives proved invaluable in the struggle to win back the papacy’s authority, particularly given those who traditionally were close to him proved either ineffective or unwilling to advance papal interests. We believe he moved over his reign towards a policy of employing men of talent, rather than just relying on his usual sources, namely, Orisini clients and natives of the Veneto.

Contemporary Assessments of Eugenius

Eugenius iv, the Venetian born Gabriel Condulmer, was a simple, pious man who struggled to win support, especially early in his pontificate. After just three years he was chased from Rome while confronting an effort by the Council of Basel to impose reforms on the Roman Curia. His opponents eventually attempted to depose him for resisting its claims to superior authority, naming their own pope, Felix v (1439–​49) and thereby resurrecting the specter of schism. Eugenius persisted in claiming supreme power, but his lack of nous and political missteps frequently harmed his cause.7 Despite Basel’s belligerence, 5 Morimichi Watanabe, The Political Ideas of Nicholas of Cusa with Special Reference to his De concordantia catholica (Geneva: Droz, 1963), 191. 6 The phrase is borrowed from an essay by Peter Howard, who argues that the writings of Fra Antonino Pierozzi (1389–​1459) are, “a good indicator of the general religious sensibilities of the period, including those relating to the papacy and the fear of what would arise if obedience were to be withdrawn from a legitimately reigning pope.” See, Howard, “The Fear of Schism,” in Rituals, Images, and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. F. W. Kent and Charles Zika (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), 299. 7 Most recently, Michiel Decaluwé, A Successful Defeat:  Eugene IV’s Struggle with the Council of Basel for Ultimate Authority in the Church, 1431–​1449 (Brussels:  Belgisch Instituut te Rome, 2009).

A Difficult Pope

51

Eugenius eventually regained control, presiding over a counter-​council which negotiated brief-​lived unions with the Eastern Churches.8 At the same time, he launched a counterattack on his ecclesiastical enemies just as his generals subdued Rome. Combining propaganda with concessions to their self-​interest, Eugenius called upon the princes of Europe to recognize that he too was a prince faced with rebellion. He argued in the bull Moyses vir Dei that the Council of Constance (1414–​18), the crutch on which Basel leaned, had not issued any decree harmful to Rome when ending the Great Western Schism (1378–​1417).9 Having repelled these challenges, Eugenius died in Rome as final victory over the Basel assembly drew close.10 Modern scholarship’s view of Eugenius’ pontificate is inconsistent. A  forgiving interpretation is most obvious in Joseph Gill’s biography,11 while other scholars have offered more negative opinions, such as Joachim Stieber’s analysis of Eugenius’ tactics during the conciliar crisis.12 Assessments, however, varied even in his own day. The Florentine bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci treated him as a defender of the Church to whom no blame should be attached.13 In his De varietate fortunae Poggio Bracciolini, papal secretary throughout the 1430s, viewed philosophically Eugenius’ many vicissitudes, blaming his problems on fortuna by claiming that no pope ever had been so thrown about by

8 9

10

11 12 13

See Joseph Gill, The Council of Florence (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1959) and Deno J. Geanakoplos, “The Council of Florence (1438–​9) and the Problem of Union between the Byzantine and Latin Churches,” Church History 24 (1955): 324–​36. Antony Black, Monarchy and Community: Political Ideas in the Later Conciliar Controversy 1430–​1450 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 57–​67. For Moyses, see C.M.D. Crowder, Unity, Heresy and Reform, 1378–​1460: The Conciliar Response to the Great Schism (London:  Edward Arnold, 1977), 172–​7. For the debate of Cardinal Cesarini with Juan de Torquemada, who almost certainly had a hand in crafting Moyses, see Torquemada, Oratio synodalis de primatu, ed. Emmanuel Candal (Concilium Florentinum) B, 4, fasc. 2 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1954) and Torquemada, A Disputation on the Authority of Pope and Council, trans. Thomas M. Izbicki (Oxford: Blackfriars Publications, 1988). For a contemporary account of Eugenius’ final days and the election of his successor, see Reject Aeneas, Accept Pius: Selected Letters of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, trans. Thomas M. Izbicki, Gerald Christianson and Philip Krey (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 243–​73. Gill, Eugenius IV. Joachim Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, the Council of Basel and the Secular and Ecclesiastical Authorities in the Empire:  The Conflict over Supreme Authority and Power in the Church (Leiden: Brill, 1978). Vespasiano da Bisticci, The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of Illustrious Men of the XVth Century, trans. William George and Emily Waters (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1997), 17–​31.

52 

Izbicki and Bancroft

its caprices (fortuna jactatus).14 Bracciolini, moreover, seems to have been convinced that Eugenius worked against himself, quoting Carlo Marsuppini as saying he was, “a good pope in most respects, but he deviated a little from the right way by being too indulgent to hypocrites.”15 This critique, addressed directly to Eugenius’ character, raises questions about how the men around him played on this flaw, contributing to his stormy pontificate. The disparity also begs an important question about Eugenius’ papacy, one raised as early as the fifteenth century: to what extent were his misfortunes self-​inflicted, a result of his character, curial alliances, and entourage? Aeneas, too, treated Eugenius’ problems as products of his personality rather than his ill fortune. Writing in 1447 to his employer, Frederick iii, King of the Romans, on the death of Eugenius, Aeneas focused on the flaws of Eugenius’ disposition, even more so than Poggio. His assessment of the deceased pontiff is worth repeating: He was of high heart. There was no great vice in him, except that he was without moderation and aggressive in what he wanted but could not have.16 Aeneas’ De viris illustribus lacks a life of Eugenius,17 while his Commentaries, written as pope, frequently mention his Venetian predecessor with scarce value judgments. Aeneas’ account of his reconciliation with Eugenius mentions others warning him to beware of the pope’s tendency to remember past slights.

14

15

16 17

Poggio Bracciolini, De varietate fortunae:  Edizione critica con introduzione e commento, ed. Outi Merisalo (Helsinki: Soumal Tiedeakatemiam, 1993), 152: “Nullus umquam antea pontifex tam uaria fortuna iactatus est, neque cuius tempore tot prodirent rerum motus calamitatesque.” Poggio drafted the pope’s reply to the Council of Basel’s request that he acquiesce an indulgence supporting a council of union outside Italy; see Concilium Basiliense: Studien und Quellen zur Geschichte des Concils von Basel, ed. Johannes Haller et al., 8 vols. (Basel: R. Reich, 1896–​1936; Nendeln: Kraus, 1976), 3.494. Poggio Bracciolini, Contro l’ipocrisia (I frati ipocriti), ed. Giulio Vallese (Naples: R. Pironti e Figli, 1946), 5, 81: “Et certe (posteaquam nunc verum fateri licet) bonus ille multis profecto in rebus Pontifex fuit; sed in eo, sive ad aestimsationem vulgi, sive quod bonos illos viros putebat, paulum, meo iudicio, a via deflexit, quod nimium hypocritis indulserit, adeo illis favens, ut multorum detexerit sua indulgentia cicatrices.” In a letter, Poggio said Eugenius gradually accepted his candid recommendations about affairs; see Two Renaissance Book Hunters:  The Letters of Poggio Bracciolini and Nicolaus de Niccolis, trans. Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974), 183–​4. Reject Aeneas, Accept Pius, 261–​2. Enee Silvii Piccolominei, postea Pii PP. II, De viris illustribus, ed. Adrianus van Heck (Vatican City: Bibloteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1991), vi-​vii.

A Difficult Pope

53

Aeneas says he trusted in his role as an envoy of Frederick iii, and the pontiff pardoned his sin of supporting Basel. Later in the Commentaries, Aeneas also noted how people turned against Eugenius in the darkest days of his pontificate because, “most chose to support the lucky rather than the good.”18 More interesting is a dream Aeneas reported in a letter to Cardinal Juan Carvajal. In a scene reminiscent of Dante, the author visited Ante-​Purgatory and saw souls being assigned places in Purgatory. Eugenius assisted the principal judge, his predecessor Pope Martin v (1417–​31). Neither had been good enough to enter Paradise immediately. Does Aeneas’ assessment of a notoriously difficult pope suffice? Looking at clues from Eugenius’ entourage, as well as his past as a cardinal-​nephew of Gregory xii (1406–​17), we will argue that other factors, not character alone, influenced his policies and placed him at odds with Basel. One, as Jedin notes, was his dependency “on the men around him.”19 This explanation necessarily intertwines with that of individual character, since the Venetian pontiff was often oblivious to what was in his own interest, depending excessively on his entourage.20 Only occasionally did Eugenius change policies, and it was well into his pontificate before he began recruiting from beyond his usual sources.21

Eugenius, His Cardinals and the Orsini

Late in 1406, Gabriel, a noble and an Augustinian canon at San Giorgio in Alga, was called to Rome. Angelo Correr, his maternal uncle, Pope Gregory xii in the Roman obedience, summoned Gabriel and his cousin, Antonio Correr, another canon, to join him. Both nephews received honors and appointments, ­culminating in the cardinalate, violating a promise not to appoint

18

19 20 21

Pius ii, Commentaries, ed. Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1.52–​57, 2.68–​69. Aeneas frequently put criticisms into the mouths of others; see Thomas M. Izbicki, “The Missing Antipope: The Rejection of Felix v and the Council of Basel in the Writings of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini and the Piccolomini Library,” Viator 41 (2010): 306–​07. Hubert Jedin, Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church: An Historical Outline, trans. Ernest Graf (Edinburgh: Nelson, 1960), 127. We will focus on ecclesiastics and humanists close to Eugenius. For the papal household, see Luca Boschetto, Società e cultura a Firenze al tempo del concilio: Eugenio IV tra curiali mercanti e umanisti (1434–​1443) (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2012), 262–​8. We disagree with Jedin that Eugenius was indecisive. If anything, he was decisive at wrong moments, as when he tried to depose two German archbishops just before Frederick iii made peace with Rome; see Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 276–​81, 298–​9.

54 

Izbicki and Bancroft

new cardinals.22 This led to the Council of Pisa (1409), and then Constance, where Gregory, abandoned by most of his supporters, capitulated, sending a pro forma convocation. As a cardinal, Gabriel attended the later sessions of Constance, briefly advocating that reform precede the choice of an unopposed Roman pontiff. There is a hint in a tract by Torquemada that Gabriel may never have regarded Constance as valid before his uncle convoked it.23 At any rate, Gabriel would go on to serve as a cardinal under Pope Martin, the Roman patrician Oddone Colonna, whose election ended the Schism. Unfortunately for Gabriel, his curial career stalled after failing to follow instructions while legate in Bologna.24 Martin died in February 1431 just weeks after calling the Council of Basel.25 There is little direct evidence for the conclave that elected Eugenius, leaving him to deal with the council and the Hussites. One cardinal, Alfonso Carillo, hinted that the election was invalid.26 There are reasons to suspect that Gabriel was backed by the Orsini, the foes of the Colonna. Eugenius in his early years as pontiff had consistently bad relations with his predecessor’s kin, and he, alongside other members of the College, may have reacted with vigor to Martin’s nepotism.27 The Orsini probably found a cardinal in bad odor with Pope Martin a welcome ally. Cardinal Giordano Orsini, the ecclesiastical head of the clan, acted for Eugenius when he had a stroke early in his pontificate, signing two bulls in the pope’s name on 12 November 1431.28 Orsini was also one of the first ­cardinals chosen to represent Eugenius at Basel, which opened in 22

23

24 25 26 2 7 28

Morimichi Watanabe, “Pope Eugenius IV, the Conciliar Movement and the Primacy of Rome,” in The Church, the Councils and Reform: The Legacy of the Fifteenth Century, ed. Gerald Christianson, Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher Bellitto (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008), 177–​93; Decaluwé, Successful Defeat, 61, n. 11. Thomas M. Izbicki, “Papalist Reaction to the Council of Constance: Juan de Torquemada to the Present,” Church History 55 (1986): 7–​20. For Eugenius’ opinion on his uncle’s legitimacy, see Torquemada’s Responsio in blasphemam et sacrilegam invectivam ad sanctissimum canonem iustissime condempnacionis dampnatissime congregationis Basiliensium, in J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, 53 vols. (Paris, 1901–​27), 31a, cols. 69–​75, 96–​9. Gill, Eugenius IV, 34; Peter Partner, The Lands of St Peter: The Papal States in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972), 78. Paul de Töth, Il beato cardinale Nicolò Albergati e i suoi tempi, 1375–​1444, 2 vols. (Rome: Società Tipografica Editrice “Lemurio,” 1934), 2.301. Decaluwé, Successful Defeat, 199. Decaluwé, Successful Defeat, 57–​62. Epistolae Pontificiae ad Concilium Florentinum Spectantes, ed. Georg Hofmann (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores) A, 1 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1940), 21–​2 (Quoniam alto); 22: “domino nostro Eugenio aliqualiter impedito”; 22–​4 (Postquam divina).

A Difficult Pope

55

July  1431.29 Furthermore, Giovanni Berardi, Archbishop of Taranto and an Orsini partisan, was one of the pope’s chief agents at Basel, attending on four occasions.30 While Berardi’s stiff resistance to the council’s majority may have hindered rather than helped his papal patron, Eugenius in late-​1439 made him a cardinal as a reward for loyalty, if not for success.31 Eugenius’ Orsini connections explain several circumstances from the early years of his pontificate. His refusal for several years to recognize the promotion of Domenico Capranica to the cardinalate by Martin was an attempt to limit Colonna interest in the Sacred College.32 By way of retribution, Martin’s nephew Cardinal Prospero Colonna did not witness the bulls after Eugenius’ stroke, a silent protest at a papal election inimical to his familial interests. It is no surprise, then, that Eugenius, aligned with one side of Rome’s principal feud, had difficulty dealing with its population. Ultimately driven from the city, he spent almost a decade in Florence, Bologna, Ferrara, and Siena. Cardinal Colonna eventually witnessed the bull translating Basel to Ferrara,33 as well as the bulls of union with the Greeks, Armenians, and Copts,34 suggesting that this tension dissipated as Eugenius’ pontificate progressed. Prospero’s reconciliation with Eugenius, however, was not enough to endear him to the Orsini. Following the pope’s death in 1447, they were ready for trouble if Colonna emerged from the conclave as pope-​elect. Inside the conclave, Cardinal Berardi opposed the election of another Colonna scion, while outside the Orsini prepared for armed resistance. The compromise election of Tommaso Parentucelli, a learned man from Sarzana, as Nicholas v, assuaged these heightened tensions.35 If Rome’s factional skirmishes were not difficult enough, Eugenius also inherited problems rooted in broader Italian and European politics. To the north, 29 30 31 32 33 34

35

Decaluwé, Successful Defeat, 152. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 15 n. 13. I. Walter, “Berardi, Giovanni,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 8 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1966), 758–​61, suggesting that Berardi’s Orsini ties were through his mother. On Berardi’s role at Basel, see, Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 15–​6, 20–​1, 35–​8, 377. Gill, Eugenius IV, 39. Capranica was also excluded from the conclave. Epistolae Pontificiae, 1.110–​2. Epistolae Pontificiae ad Concilium Florentinum Spectantes, ed. Georg Hofmann (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores) A, 2 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1944), 68–​79 (Laetentur coeli), 123–​138 (Exsultate Deo); Epistolae Pontificiae ad Concilium Florentinum Spectantes, ed. Georg Hofmann (Concilium Florentinum ­Documenta et Scriptores) 3 (Rome:  Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1946), 45–​58. Thomas M. Izbicki, “The Politics of a Conclave: The Papal Election of 1447,” Cristianesimo nella storia 28 (2007): 277–​284; Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 375–​7.

56 

Izbicki and Bancroft

Milan, Florence, and Venice were in a state of almost perpetual warfare. To the south, Eugenius was forced to choose between rival claimants to the kingdom of Naples, a papal fief. Attempting to ingratiate himself to King Charles vii of France, Eugenius backed René of Anjou, leaving him vulnerable to the ambitions of Alfonso the Magnanimous of Aragon, an ally of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan.36 This Aragonese-​Milanese alliance made it harder for Eugenius to reclaim his city while opening him to pressure from Basel. Small wonder that Eugenius made one of his earliest impulsive errors, quickly trying to dissolve the council or move it to Bologna.37 The repercussions of this mistake were felt throughout his pontificate. The fact that Basel also acted to reduce papal revenues, by abolishing annates and refusing to compensate Eugenius, imposing its will on the Curia, further exacerbated tensions between pope and council.38 As his hasty attempt to dissolve the council suggests, Eugenius proved stubborn and maladroit. His dealings with the council were amateurish; rash decisions were often followed by grudging concessions. Even in 1446, when victory over Basel seemed assured, the pope could not resist trying to depose the imperial archbishop-​electors of Cologne and Trier, offending their German colleagues.39 We must ask, then, in this volatile context, who was advising Eugenius as he attempted to deal with the council? The most obvious answer is the Sacred College, but the cardinals, except for his nephew, Francesco Condulmer, made cardinal chamberlain in 1431 and vice-​chancellor in 1437, were not automatically loyal or obedient. In fact, even familial ties were unreliable if the touchy relationship between Eugenius and his cousin, Cardinal Correr, is any indication.40 Other cardinals acted as free agents. Cesarini, Martin’s legate for the council and a crusade against the Hussites, is an obvious example. During his early years at Basel, Cesarini was more of an intermediary than a faithful supporter of the pope.41 Others, like Cardinals Carillo, Jean de Rochtaillée and

36 37 38 39 40 41

A.F.C. Ryder, Alfonso the Magnanimous: King of Aragon, Naples and Sicily, 1396–​1458 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 175–​251. Gill, Council of Florence, 51–​3. Gerald Christianson, “Annates and Reform at the Council of Basel,” in Reform and Renewal in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Studies in Honor of Louis Pascoe, S. J., ed. Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 193–​207. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 276–​7. The cardinal’s support of his nephew Gregorio Correr underlay their disagreements; see, Boschetto, Società e cultura, 99–​102. Gerald Christianson, Cesarini: The Conciliar Cardinal. The Basel Years, 1431–​1438 (St. Ottilien: eos Verlag, 1979)a and Joseph Gill, Personalities of the Council of Florence and Other Essays (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964), 95–​9.

A Difficult Pope

57

Louis Aleman, Cardinal of Arles, who later displaced Cesarini as leader of the council, were very independent in their actions.42 Niccolò Albergati, the influential Cardinal of Bologna is an intriguing example. Although more a free agent than loyal servant, Albergati often worked closely with Eugenius, fighting for him at Basel and opening the council in Ferrara. He was one of the cardinals  –​along with Orsini, Angelotto Fosco, and Pierre de Foix –​assigned by Eugenius to represent him at Basel.43 Once there, Albergati joined with Cardinal Juan Cervantes in discouraging precipitous actions, such as issuing an indulgence to support a council of union.44 Months later Albergati and Cervantes collaborated again, negotiating with Filippo Maria Visconti to learn his intentions.45 Both cardinals rejoined Eugenius’ court in Florence in November 1434, although Albergati was not settled for long.46 In 1435 he represented Eugenius at the Congress of Arras, collaborating reluctantly with the conciliar legate, Cardinal Hugh de Lusignan.47 The next year Albergati returned to Basel to assist Berardi, unsuccessfully, in dissuading the council from attacking papal prerogatives. Interestingly, what appears to have been their failure to arrest conciliarism almost certainly caused the realignment of Eugenius’ strategy towards the council. Stieber points out that following Albergati and Berardi’s return to the papal court in 1436 the decision was made to end the council, “at all costs.”48 Since this sweeping approach was adopted following Albergati’s and Berardi’s experiences at Basel, it is safe to conclude that both carried weight when advising the pope. Adept when acting for the pope, Albergati was equally competent mediating between Eugenius and those who sought either reconciliation or favor. In 1433 he facilitated peace between Eugenius and Capranica,49 while in 1440 42

43 44 45 46 47 48 49

Heribert Müller, Die Franzose, Frankreich und das Basler Konzil (1431–​1449), 2 vols. (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1990), 2.475–​500. Rochtaillée, the papal vice-​chancellor, temporarily filled the same office for the council; see Joseph Dephoff, Zum Urkunden-​und Kanzleiwesen des Konzils von Basel (Hildesheim: Franz Borgmeyer, 1930), 49. On Aleman, see the references in Müller, Die Franzose, Frankreich und das Basler Konzil, 1.51, 54, 129, 456; 2.515, 721, 806, 836. Töth, Il beato cardinale, 2.320. Thomas M. Izbicki, “Indulgences in Fifteenth-​Century Polemics and Canon Law” (forthcoming). Boschetto, Società e cultura, 94–​6, 98. Concetta Bianca, “I Cardinali al Concilio di Firenze,” Firenze e il Concilio del 1439: Convengno di Studi, Firenze, 29 novembre-​2 dicembre 1989, ed. Paolo Viti, 2 vols. (Florence: Olschki, 1994), 1.161. J.G. Dickinson, The Congress of Arras (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 78–​102. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 27. Elizabeth McCahill, Reviving the Eternal City: Rome and the Papal Court, 1420–​1447 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 156.

58 

Izbicki and Bancroft

he acted as intercessor between Eugenius and the Florentine signori, securing permission for the latter to process the body of Saint Andrea Corsini through the city roughly three weeks before the Florentines won the Battle of Anghiari.50 A local man had prophesized a Florentine triumph over Milan, but the Florentines needed Albergati to access Eugenius’ support.51 Eugenius’ willingness to heed Albergati was perhaps reinforced by his place among the first cardinals to join the pope after his flight from Rome. Four other cardinals were already in Florence when he and Cervantes arrived in November 1434: Juan Casanova,52 Antonio Casini, Orsini, and Lucido de’ Conti.53 The arrival of Cardinal Condulmer in December meant only seven cardinals were in attendance by Christmas.54 Five more cardinals, Capranica, Colonna, Fosco, Rochtaillée, and Branda Castiglione, joined Eugenius in 1435.55 Cardinal Correr left Basel in September 1434 but only made it to Florence in 1439.56 Cesarini joined Eugenius in 1438, Domingo Ram i Lanaja in 1440.57 Clearly the opprobrium of arriving in Florence with just one cardinal did not permanently injure Eugenius’ papacy; however, the piecemeal way they rejoined the court reveals how little a cardinal might feel a need to be with the pope. We must look, therefore, at who remained with Eugenius when most cardinals decamped for Basel, including those men employed on special missions. Few were then named cardinals, although many were rewarded for loyal service. Their identities ran along either Orsini or Venetian lines, or perhaps both. The most obvious example is Eugenius’ nephew, Francesco Condulmer. Another nephew, Pietro Barbo, the future Paul ii, was also beginning his climb up the ecclesial ladder. In 1437, aged just nineteen, Barbo was named archdeacon and apostolic protonotary,58 and by 1440 he was a cardinal. This nepotism, modest by contemporary standards, must have rubbed off on Barbo who, on becoming

50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

Töth, Il beato cardinale Nicolò Albergati. Nicholas A. Eckstein, Painted Glories: The Brancacci Chapel in Renaissance Florence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 184–​7. Alessandro Dini-​Traversari, Ambrogio Traversari e i suoi tempi:  Albero genealogico Traversari ricostruito: Hodoeporicon (Florence, 1912), 136. Bianca, “Cardinali,” 158–​9. Bianca, “Cardinali,” 162. Bianca, “Cardinali,” 164–​5. Bianca, “Cardinali,” 172. Ram was in Florence in 1440, when a dispute involving a member of his household was heard at the Merchant’s Court; see Boschetto, Società e cultura, 284–​5. Anna Modigliani, “Paolo II,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 81 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana 2014), 93.

A Difficult Pope

59

pope, named his cousin, Marco, to the College in 1467.59 Eugenius in 1440 also handed a cardinal’s hat to Ludovico Trevisan, one of the men who brought the patrimony back under papal control. Hailing from Padua in the Veneto, Trevisan was made Archbishop of Florence in 1437 and Patriarch of Aquila in 1439. Having solidified his position, he succeeded Francesco Condulmer as papal chamberlain. Two days after he led the papal-​Florentine forces at Anghiari, he was named to the College.60 A military role suited Trevisan, who won further successes in the March of Ancona in 1442.61 Berardi, among Eugenius’ most zealous representatives at Basel, eventually became a cardinal in 1439. Condulmer, Barbo and Trevisan on one hand, and Berardi on the other, represent, respectively, Eugenius’ ties to Venice and the Orsini, revealing his reliance on men he knew. Other members of Eugenius’ court were Venetians who never reached the cardinalate but served instead as abbots or bishops. Most prominent among these was Ludovico Barbo, Eugenius’ cousin, Abbot of Santa Giustina in Padua, a reformer of monasteries.62 Ludovico was dispatched to Basel in 1432 and 1434, absenting himself from a session which affirmed Haec sancta, thereby claiming supreme power for councils. He was rewarded in 1437 with the bishopric of Treviso.63 Also operating just below the College was Pietro Donato, Bishop of Padua and another of the pope’s conciliar presidents from 1434–​35. Like Berardi, he failed to advance his master’s interests.64 Cristoforo di San Marcello of Vicenza also was close to Eugenius, serving as Bishop of Cervia and later of Rimini. He, a papal referendary, was another envoy to Basel in 1432. Cristoforo’s proximity to Eugenius is confirmed by the fact that Ambrogio Traversari addressed letters to him from Basel offering advice for the pope.65 Moreover, Cristoforo, Fra Antonino Pierozzi and the Castilian canonist Juan de

59 60 61 62 63 64 65

Marco Barbo once was a serious candidate for the papacy; see, J.A.F. Thomson, Popes and Princes, 1417–​1517: Politics and Polity in the Late Medieval Church (London: Allen & Unwin, 1980), 60–​2. Kenneth M. Setton, The Papacy and the Levant, 4 vols. (Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1976–​84), 2.55. Trevisan was a rival of Giovanni Vitelleschi, whose downfall he may have engineered; see, D.S. Chambers, Popes, Cardinals and War: The Military Church in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe (London: Tauris, 2006), 42–​6. Barbo was the force behind the Congregation of Santa Giustina. This reform, begun under Martin, received real impetus under Eugenius; see, Barry Collett, Italian Benedictine Scholars: The Congregation of Santa Giustina of Padua (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), 1–​5. Luigi Pesce, Ludovico Barbo vescovo di Treviso (1437–​1443), Cura pastorale, riforma della Chiesa, spiritualità (Padua: Antenore, 1969) and Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 16 n. 17, 30. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 36. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 16 n. 17, 23, 352, 383–​4.

60 

Izbicki and Bancroft

Mella handled a case in Bologna in 1440 concerning absolution of a tailor who made fancy garments.66 Other natives of the Veneto also attained high office under Eugenius. One was Fantino Vallaresso, a papal envoy to the Greeks and an archbishop in Venetian-​controlled Crete.67 The Venetian Angelo Cavazzo, Bishop of Parenzo and then of Trau, served as substitute chamberlain near the end of Francesco Condulmer’s tenure as camerlengo,68 while Antonio Altan de San Vito, an auditor of the Rota, was rewarded with the bishopric of Urbino in 1436 for going to Basel.69 Few of these men are known for major intellectual achievements. Berardi and other envoys delivered orations in Basel, but few of Eugenius’ Venetian servants left writings.70 Only Ludovico Barbo wrote on spiritual topics.71 Cristoforo di San Marcello was the dedicatee of a polemical tract arguing for the power of pope over council. Bishop Niccolò dall’Aste of Macerata commissioned it from the jurist Antonius de Cannario, who presented it to Cristoforo, newly Bishop of Rimini.72 Piero da Monte, a Venetian who represented Eugenius in England and France, and who became Bishop of Brescia in 1442, wrote extensively on papal power during the reign of Nicholas v.73 It is hardly surprising, then, that Eugenius found it difficult to understand Basel and blundered badly in his efforts to defend papal prerogatives against its reforms.

66 67 68

69 70 71 72 73

Thomas M. Izbicki, “The Origins of the De ornatu mulierum of Antoninus of Florence,” MLN Italian Issue Supplement, 119:1 (2004): S142–​161. Fantinus Vallaresso, Libellus de ordine generalium conciliorum et unione Florentina, ed. Bernardus Schulte (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores) B, fasc. 2 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1944), xiii-​xix. Jadranka Neralić, “Central Europe and the Late Medieval Papal Chancery,” in The Long Arm of Papal Authority: Late Medieval Christian Peripheries and Their Communication with the Holy See, ed. Gerhard Jaritz, Torstein Jørgensen and Kirsi Salonen (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2005), 86. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 25, 45, 122, 136–​7. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 15, n. 14; Margaret L. King, Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 370–​1 (Pietro Donato), 440–​1 (Fantinus Vallaresso). A. Pratesi, “Barbo, Ludovico,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 6 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1964), 248. Poggio accused Barbo of benefice hunting in Contra hypocritas, see 248. Thomas Prügl, Antonio da Cannara, De potestate pape supra concilium generale contra errores Basiliensium: Einleitung, Kommentar und Edition ausgewahlter abschnitte (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1995), 8, 33, 67. Piero da Monte, ein Gelehrter und päpstlicher Beamter des 15. Jahrhunderts: seine Briefsammlung, ed. Johannes Haller (Rome: Halle, 1941) and King, Venetian Humanism, 405–​6.

A Difficult Pope



61

Eugenius Looks for Aid

As time passed, Eugenius turned to men beyond his usual sources, men who brought new skills to his struggling papacy. One of these “outsiders” was Giovanni Vitelleschi from Corneto, the first man relied upon in 1434 to reassert authority within the Papal States. Although Vitelleschi eventually fell out of favor and was removed, some say murdered by his great rival Trevisan, he was for a time Eugenius’ key military strategist. In 1437 he, too, was rewarded with a cardinal’s hat. Another important figure was the theologian and linguist Traversari, a Camaldolese monk from Forlì. Despite being a staunch advocate of papal primacy, Traversari, like the canonists Panormitanus and Mella, was more an agent than an intimate adviser. Eugenius confirmed Traversari as general of his order and in turn Traversari represented the pope in Basel just before it divided over the site of a council of union. His letters provide an insight into Basel’s history, revealing information on which Eugenius acted when promoting his council in Italy. Traversari also alerted the pontiff to two notable Dominican defenders of the papacy, Torquemada and Giovanni da Montenero.74 In 1437 Eugenius made the former his Master of the Sacred Palace, and Torquemada would later write the most important papalist tract of the fifteenth century, his Summa de ecclesia.75 Torquemada served alongside such luminaries as Bessarion of Nicaea and Isidore of Kiev in the College of Cardinals after the mass-​ promotion of December 1439.76 Other important additions to Eugenius’ court were envoys to the Empire rewarded for ending German neutrality and rectifying papal mistakes. Tommaso Parentucelli and Juan Carvajal were named cardinals in 1446, late in Eugenius’ life. Parentucelli would go on to reign as Nicholas v,77 while Carvajal

74

75

76 77

On Traversari at Basel, see Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 23–​5, 35, 43–​5, 154, 351, 383. On his career, see Charles L.  Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers:  Ambrogio Traversari (1386–​1439) and Christian Antiquity in the Italian Renaissance (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1977). Thomas M. Izbicki. Protector of the Faith: Cardinal Johannes de Turrecremata and the Defense of the Institutional Church (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1981), 75–​94. For this tract, see Thomas Kaeppeli, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum Medii Aevi, 4 vols. (Rome: Istituto storico Domincano, 1970–​93), 3.37. Eugenius created seventeen cardinals on 18 December 1439; see Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi, 7 vols. (Regensburg: Monasterii, 1913–​68), 2.7–​8. Giuseppe L. Coluccia, Niccolò V umanista: papa e riformatore: renovatio politica e morale (Venice: Marsilio, 1998) and Izbicki, “The Politics of a Conclave,” 277–​84.

62 

Izbicki and Bancroft

served frequently as a papal envoy north of the Alps.78 Among those whose trans-​Alpine efforts became crucial to the recovering pontiff was Cusanus, who, alongside Cesarini, abandoned Basel in 1437 after both became disillusioned by its hostility. Thereafter, Cusanus worked intensively for Eugenius, advocating papal primacy but never ceasing to advocate, often in vain, reform of Church and Curia.79 Many of his writings supporting the pope emerged in these years.80 His De concordantia, written before this shift, seems to contradict such ardent efforts, but this misrepresents Cusanus’ belief in ecclesiastical unity.81 After returning from Constantinople, Cusanus worked for Eugenius beyond the Alps. In 1439 he was a papal representative at an imperial diet in Mainz, prompting Eugenius’ nephew, Cardinal Condulmer, to thank Cusanus for the information he brought back to the pope.82 Thereafter Cusanus was an envoy to diets in Mainz, Frankfurt, and Nuremberg.83 This service continued after Eugenius’ death, and in mid-​1447, Cusanus was at the congress in Aschaffenburg, which led to the Concordat of Vienna, ratified in 1448.84 Alongside others who won papal esteem in these years, Cusanus would continue supporting Eugenius’ successors. The experience Cusanus gained under Eugenius led Nicholas v to confirm his cardinal’s hat, make him Bishop of Brixen, and send him on a fifteen-​month legation through Germany and the Low Countries.85 78 79

80 8 1 82 83 84 85

Lino Gómez Canedo, Un español al servicio de la Santa Sede: Don Juan de Carvajal: cardenal de Sant’Angelo legado en Alemania y Hungria, 1399?-​1469 (Madrid: Instituto Jerónimo Zurita, 1947). Morimichi Watanabe and Thomas M.  Izbicki, “Nicholas of Cusa:  A General Reform of the Church,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church:  Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M.  Izbicki (Leiden:  Brill, 1996), 175–​202. Cusanus complained bitterly that the Curia mocked his reforming zeal; see Watanabe, “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reform of the Roman Curia,” in Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, ed. John O’Malley, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 185–​203. See, Nicholas of Cusa, Writings on Church and Reform, trans. Thomas M. Izbicki (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), esp. 162–​429. Nicholas of Cusa, The Catholic Concordance, xvii. Stieber, Pope Eugenius IV, 176 n. 78. Morimichi Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa –​A Companion to his Life and his Times, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), xv. Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa, xvi and John B. Toews, “Pope Eugenius IV and the Concordat of Vienna (1448): An Interpretation,” Church History 34 (1965): 178–​94. Erich Meuthen, “Die deutsche Legationsreise des Nikolaus von Kues, 1451/​1452,” in Lebenslehren und Weltentwürfe im Übergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit:  Politik-​Bildung-​ Naturkunde-​Theologie, ed. Hartmut Boockmann, Bernd Moeller, Karl Stackmann, and

A Difficult Pope

63

Later Cusanus would act as legate in Rome while Pius ii was at the Congress of Mantua.86 Despite the breadth of his achievements, Cusanus would suffer lasting resentment for his Eugenian labors. Many former adherents of the council never forgave his change of allegiance.87 Except for Orsini, who died in 1438, all the prelates discussed above, Roman, Venetian, or otherwise, witnessed Eugenius’ successes at the Council of Florence, the goodwill from which propelled him towards victory over Basel. Trevisan, Barbo, Vallaresso, Cavazzo, Cristoforo, Mella, and Traversari undersigned the bull of union with the Greeks; Trevisan, Cristoforo, Cavazzo, and Donato the subsequent decrees of union with the Armenians and Copts.88 These men also saw Eugenius’ triumphant return to Rome where he died with victory at last in sight. Commemorating both the council and his return are the bronze doors Filarete made for the Vatican basilica.89

A Case Study: Flavio Biondo

Another constant inside Eugenius’ circle after 1433 was the humanist secretary Flavio Biondo, a man whose successes put him in the same category of achievement as Cusanus, Traversari, and Torquemada, namely, outsiders who became insiders. While Biondo would never receive higher ecclesiastical rewards due to his 1423 marriage, he achieved prominence without a Venetian pedigree or Orsini blood.90 To be sure, he had minor links to the Veneto, having been a secretary to the Venetian ambassador Francesco Barbaro, and he was probably known to Eugenius while secretary to Capranica and then Vitelleschi.91 In early-​1433 Biondo was summoned to work for the papacy directly, serving the popes almost without break until his death in 1463. Although a brief hiatus

86 87 88 89 90 91

Ludger Grenzmann (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), 421–​99 and Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa, 29–​34. Watanabe, Nicholas of Cusa, xvi. Joachim Stieber, “The ‘Hercules of the Eugenians’ at the Crossroads.” Epistolae Pontificiae, 2.68–​79 (Laetentur coeli), 123–​138 (Exsultate Deo); Epistolae Pontificiae, 3.45–​58. Catherine King, “Filarete’s Portrait Signature on the Bronze Doors of St Peter’s and the Dance of Bathykles and His Assistants,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 296–​99. Denys Hay, “Flavio Biondo and the Middle Ages,” Proceedings of the British Academy 45 (1959): 100. Chambers, Popes, Cardinals and War, 42–​5. Biondo defended Vitelleschi’s memory; see ibid, 50–​1.

64 

Izbicki and Bancroft

from 1449–​1453 greatly diminished his influence at the Curia, there is no doubt that under Eugenius he became a key arbiter of papal influence.92 His three-​ decade career spanned service to four consecutive popes and included roles as protonotary, abbreviator, and apostolic secretary. Biondo’s fame is based on his antiquarian and historical works; Roma instaurata, Italia illustrata, and Roma triumphans paved the way for the great Italian historians of the sixteenth century, although these works did not appear until the mid to late-​1440s.93 Comparatively, Biondo’s influence as a papal agent earlier on deserves closer attention.94 Beginning as a notary in the Camera Apostolica, he moved to the secretariat in 1434, a watershed moment in his curial career.95 His three missions to the Romagna and the Veneto that year won crucial diplomatic victories for Eugenius.96 In February he bargained with Guidantonio Manfredi to return certain castles near Imola to papal control,97 and also persuaded the mercenary Erasmo da Narni, owed approximately 10,000 ducats by the papacy, to enter Venetian service and cease harassing papal holdings.98 In March he forged an agreement at Calcarella with Francesco Sforza.99 This accord made significant concessions to Sforza, appointing him Marquis of the March of Ancona and commander of Church armies, thus

92

93 94 95 96 97

98 99

For a discussion of the reasons behind this period of exclusion, see, Hay, “Flavio Biondo,” 101 and Germano Gualdo, “Pietro da Noceto e l’evoluzione della Segreteria papale al tempo di Niccolò v (1447–​1455),” in Offices et Papautè (XIVe-​XVIIe siècle): Charges, Hommes, Destins, ed. Armand Jamme and Olivier Poncet (Rome: École Française de Rome, 2005), 799. Eric Cochrane, Historians and Historiography in the Italian Renaissance (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 34–​40. Hay says, “there are some grounds for … arguing that too little has been made of Biondo’s public importance after 1434.” See, Hay, “Flavio Biondo,” 101. Emil von Ottenthal, “Die Bullenregister Martin V. und Eugen IV.,” Mittheilungen des Instituts für Oesterreichische Geschichtsforschung: Ergänzungsband 1 (1885): 476. Scritti inediti e rari di Flavio Biondo, ed. Bartolomeo Nogara (Rome: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1927), lxiii n. 87. Riccardo Fubini, “Flavio Biondo,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 10 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1968), 536–​59 and Massimo Miglio, “Politica e cultura tra Roma e Romagna,” in La cultura umanistica a Forlì fra Biondo e Melozzo: Atti del Covegno di Studi, Forlì, 8–​9 novembre 1994, ed. Luisa Avellini and Lara Michelacci (Bologna: Il nove, 1997), 20. C.C. Bayley, War and Society in Renaissance Florence:  The De Militia of Leonardo Bruni (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), 132 and Giovanni Eroli, Erasmo Gattamelata da Narni: Suoi monumenti e sua famiglia (Rome: Salviucci, 1876), 264–​70. Partner, The Lands of St Peter, 408. On 25 March, Sforza was recognized in papal records; see, Gordon Griffiths, The Justification of Florentine Foreign Policy Offered by Leonardo Bruni in His Public Letters (1428–​1444) (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1999), 139–​41.

A Difficult Pope

65

securing a de facto alliance between Venice, Florence, Sforza, and the papacy, counterbalancing Milanese ambition.100 The final mission that year again took Biondo north, this time to deal with the mercenary Gasparo di Canedolo, who was threatening Imola and Bologna.101 In June 1434 Eugenius took up residence at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella.102 Whilst the months either side of the flight from Rome were the ‘nadir’ of his fortunes, his papacy was not terminally stricken and over the years leading to the Council of Ferrara-​Florence his situation incrementally improved. Having acquitted himself so well in papal service thus far, Biondo’s humanist talents were naturally put to good use. In Florence he drew up a trattato between the papacy and Sforza, transferring the latter’s services to the city.103 Biondo was named a scriptor litterarum apostolicarum in April 1436,104 and the following year he drafted a letter recognizing the Greek Emperor and Patriarch.105 Moreover, in 1438 and 1439 it was Biondo who drew up the capitulations that allowed Eugenius to host his council in Ferrara and Florence, respectively.106 It was not only Biondo’s skill with the written word that endeared him to the pope, however. His rhetorical poise was put to use twice in 1437 when he spoke in consistory in Bologna, announcing Eugenius’ success in bringing the Greeks to a council while simultaneously denouncing Basel.107 Whereas Biondo in 1434 helped to stabilize an ailing papacy, from the council onwards his efforts helped to reassert the authority of a reinvigorated one. Laetentur coeli, the Decree of Union with the Greek Church, was Biondo’s work. When it was promulgated on 19 July 1439 in the Florentine cathedral, he was honored by having his name listed among the Latin and Greek signatories.108 He drafted two subsequent bulls, Moyses vir Dei (September 1439) and Etsi non

100 101

Griffiths, The Justification of Florentine Foreign Policy, 54. Eroli, Erasmo Gattamelata da Narni, 67, 273–​91. See also Flavio Biondo, Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum libri XXXI (Basel: Froben, 1559), 480. 102 The most recent study of Eugenius’ time in Florence is, Boschetto, Società e cultura. 1 03 Documenti Diplomatici tratti dagli Archivi Milanesi, ed. Luigi Osio (Milan: Tipografia di Giuseppe Bernardoni di Giovanni, 1877), 120–​6. 104 Ottenthal, “Die Bullenregister,” 476. 105 Epistolae Pontificiae, 1.87. 106 Acta Camerae Apostolicae et civitatum Venetiarum, Ferrariae, Florentiae, Ianuae de Concilio Florentino, ed. Georg Hofmann (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores) B, 3, fasc. 1 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1950), 16–​22, 50–​4. 107 Fragmenta protocolli, diaria privata sermones, ed. Georg Hofmann (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores) B, 3, fasc. 2 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1951), 31–​2. 108 Epistolae Pontificiae, 2.68–​79. He also received twenty florins, Acta Camerae Apostolicae, 79.

66 

Izbicki and Bancroft

dubitemus (April 1441), both offensive moves against a weakening Basel.109 The bulls of union with the Armenians,110 Copts,111 and Maronites112 followed soon thereafter from the scriptores, as did a translation by “Blondus” for the Syrian legate.113 In 1442 Eugenius had Biondo draft a letter to Monte, then papal legate in France, ordering him to inform the French king of the intention to withdraw papal support as a response to the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.114 And from Ferrara in June 1443 Biondo wrote to Alfonso of Aragon with the first eight books of his Historiarum ab inclinatione romani imperii decades (1439–​53).115 Although the letter makes no mention of Eugenius, it is impossible to ignore the implications of one of the most loyal papal agents reaching out to a foreign monarch the pontiff had once shunned.116 The gesture proved effective and Alfonso commissioned Biondo to pen the Italia illustrata in 1447.117 As his proximity to the inner circle of papal influence solidified, Biondo became both a conduit to papal favor, as well as an agent of Eugenius’ well-​known zeal for reform. Leonardo Bruni turned to Biondo in 1437 when he sought to dedicate his translation of Aristotle’s Politics to Eugenius.118 In 1440 Monte, then in England, requested Biondo’s favor in a letter to Marco da Pistoia,119 while in 1443 Thomas Beckington, secretary to Henry vi, successfully called upon Biondo to

109

For Moyses, see Epistolae Pontificiae, 2.101–​6; for Etsi non dubitemus, see Epistolae Pontificiae, 3.24–​35. Thomas M. Izbicki, “Papalist Reaction to the Council of Constance: Juan de Torquemada to the Present,” Church History 55 (1986): 7–​20. Biondo was not the only humanist who drafted important papal letters in this period; for example, Poggio drafted the 1437 bull, In suprema; see Epistolae Pontificiae, 2.60–​2. 110 Epistolae Pontificiae, 2.123–​38 (Johannes de Steccatis). 111 Epistolae Pontificiae, 3.45–​65 (“Blondus” with Johannes de Steccatis). 112 Epistolae Pontificiae, 3.105–​8 (Lavezius de Costiaris). 113 Orientalium documenta minora, ed. Georg Hofmann (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1953), 62–​3. 114 R.A. Lecoy de la Marche, Le Roi René, sa vie, son administration, ses travaux artistiques et littéraires, d’après les documents inédits des Archives de France et d’Italie (Paris: Firmin-​Didot frères, fils et cie, 1875), 251 and Tyler Lange, The First French Reformation: Church Reform and the Origins of the Old Regime (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 53. 1 15 Scritti Inediti, 147–​53. 1 16 Ryder, Alfonso the Magnanimous, 175–​251. 117 Nicoletta Pellegrino, “From the Roman Empire to Christian Imperialism:  The Work of Flavio Biondo,” in Chronicling History: Chroniclers and Historians in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, ed. Sharon Dale, Alison Williams Lewin, and Duane J.  Osheim (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007), 281. 118 For Bruni’s letter, see Leonardo Bruni, Leonardo Arretini epistolarum libri VIII, ed. Lorenzo Mehus, 2 vols. (Florence: Bernardi Paperinii, 1741), 103–​6. Biondo’s response is reprinted in, Scritti inediti, 93–​4. 1 19 Piero da Monte, 177.

A Difficult Pope

67

support his nomination as Bishop of Bath and Wells.120 A reform bull drafted by Biondo in 1442 installed Lorenzo Giustiniani as inspector of the Venetian monasteries of Santa Maria della Celestia and San Matteo in Costanziaca.121 And it was to Biondo, among others, that Alberto da Sarteano turned in 1446 who was founding a house of Poor Clares in Brescia.122 Papal consent soon followed. Naturally, Biondo returned to Rome with Eugenius in September 1443. Since the papacy’s position had improved, the need for Biondo’s diplomacy had diminished; it was his skill as an historian that was most in demand. Eugenius in 1443 was confronted with the extreme dilapidation of Rome after more than a century of neglect. Biondo set about changing this with his pen. In the Roma instaurata (1444–​46), he “sought to use his knowledge of ancient Rome to strengthen and revive the Quattrocento city,” offering Eugenius, “specific historical role models … on how best to reenergize contemporary Rome.”123 The diplomatic nous that Eugenius had exploited early on in his pontificate, therefore, was in the 1440s augmented by the cultural and intellectual relevance of Biondo’s humanist talents. Ultimately, Biondo seems to have been as much a “Hercules of the Eugenians” as Cusanus. Elizabeth McCahill goes as far as to call him Eugenius’ most “loyal propagandist,”124 and it is clear from a 1458 letter that his fealty to the Venetian pope was impressively durable. This letter to Galeazzo Sforza, Francesco’s son, describes Biondo’s 1434 mission to unite the condottiere with Florence, Venice, and the papacy. In it he emphasizes that it was only through the papacy, the weakest party in the alliance, that Florence and Venice were brought into the fold, thereby delivering Sforza a great deal of wealth.125 Conclusion The advancement of Biondo, like that of Cusanus and Torquemada, reveals a shift by Eugenius over the course of his papacy. No longer relying on known friends and supporters, he transitioned to reliance on men whose allegiance 120

Memorials of the Reign of King Henry VI: Official Correspondence of Thomas Beckington, Secretary to King Henry VI. and Bishop of Bath and Wells, ed. George Williams, 2 vols. (London: Longman, 1872), 2.172. 121 I libri Commemorali della Republica di Venezia, ed. Riccardo Predelli, 8 vols. (Venice, 1876–​ 14), 4.276. 122 Agostino Zanelli, “Predicatori a Brescia nel quattrocento,” Archivio Storico Lombardo 15 (1901): 102. 1 23 McCahill, Reviving the Eternal City, 173–​4. 1 24 McCahill, Reviving the Eternal City, 173, 191. 1 25 Scritti inediti, 171.

68 

Izbicki and Bancroft

and capabilities best served papal interests. Learning from his early gaffes, Eugenius recognized merit in such men, rewarding their service with favor and promotion. Men like Cusanus and Biondo are prime examples of how this expansion furnished Eugenius’ circle with some much-​needed competence, and it is hardly surprising that this correlates with the reassertion of papal authority in Rome and abroad. Bibliography Bayley, C.C. War and Society in Renaissance Florence: The De Militia of Leonardo Bruni. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961. Bianca, Concetta. “I Cardinali al Concilio di Firenze.” In Firenze e il Concilio del 1439: Convengno di Studi, Firenze, 29 novembre-​2 dicembre 1989, edited by Paolo Viti, 1.147–​71. Florence: Olschki, 1994. Biechler, James E. “Nicholas of Cusa and the End of the Conciliar Movement: A Humanist Crisis of Identity.” Church History 44 (1975): 5–​21. Biondo, Flavio. Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum libri XXXI. Basel: Froben, 1559. Biondo, Flavio. Scritti inediti e rari di Flavio Biondo. Edited by Bartolomeo Nogara. Rome: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1927. Bisticci, Vespasiano da. The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of Illustrious Men of the XVth Century. Translated by William G. and Emily Waters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Black, Antony. Monarchy and Community: Political Ideas in the Later Conciliar Controversy 1430–​1450. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Boschetto, Luca. Società e cultura a Firenze al tempo del concilio: Eugenio IV tra curiali mercanti e umanisti (1434–​1443). Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2012. Bracciolini, Poggio. De varietate fortunae: Edizione critica con introduzione e commento. Edited by Outi Merisalo. Helsinki: Soumal Tiedeakatemiam, 1993. Bracciolini, Poggio. Contro l’ipocrisia (I frati ipocriti). Edited by Giulio Vallese. Naples: R. Pironti e Figli, 1946. Bruni, Leonardo. Leonardo Bruni Arretini epistolarum libri VIII. Edited by Lorenzo ­Mehus. 2 vols. Florence: Bernardi Paperinii, 1741. Cannara, Antonio da. De potestate pape supra concilium generale contra errores Basiliensium:  Einleitung, Kommentar und Edition ausgewahlter abschnitte. Edited by Thomas Prügl. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1996. Chambers, D.S. Popes, Cardinals and War: The Military Church in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. London: Tauris, 2006. Christianson, Gerald. Cesarini, the Conciliar Cardinal: The Basel Years, 1431–​1438. St. Ottilien: eos Verlag, 1979.

A Difficult Pope

69

Christianson, Gerald. “Annates and Reform at the Council of Basel.” In Reform and Renewal in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance:  Studies in Honor of Louis Pascoe, S.  J., edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto, 193–​207. Leiden: Brill, 2000. Cochrane, Eric. Historians and Historiography in the Italian Renaissance. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1981. Collett, Barry. Italian Benedictine Scholars: The Congregation of Santa Giustina of Padua. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985. Coluccia, Giuseppe L. Niccolò V umanista: papa e riformatore: renovatio politica e morale. Venice: Marsilio, 1998. Crowder, C.M.D. Unity, Heresy and Reform, 1378–​1460:  The Conciliar Response to the Great Schism. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. Decaluwé, Michiel. A Successful Defeat:  Eugene IV’s Struggle with the Council of Basel for Ultimate Authority in the Church, 1431–​1449. Brussels:  Belgisch Instituut te Rome, 2009. Decaluwé, Michiel, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, eds. Companion to the Council of Basel. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Dephoff, Joseph. Zum Urkunden-​und Kanzleiwesen des Konzils von Basel. Hildesheim: Franz Borgmeyer, 1930. Dickinson, J.G. The Congress of Arras, 1435. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955. Dini-​Traversari, Alessandro. Ambrogio Traversari e i suoi tempi: Albero genealogico Traversari ricostruito: Hodoeporicon. Florence, 1912. Eckstein, Nicholas A. Painted Glories:  The Brancacci Chapel in Renaissance Florence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014. Eroli, Giovanni. Erasmo Gattamelata da Narni:  Suoi monumenti e sua famiglia. Rome: Salviucci, 1876. Eubel, Conradus. Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi. 9 vols. Regensburg: Monasterii, 1913–​ 2002. Geanakoplos, Deno J. “The Council of Florence (1438–​9) and the Problem of Union between the Byzantine and Latin Churches.” Church History 24 (1955): 324–​46. Gill S.J., Joseph. The Council of Florence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959. Gill S.J., Joseph. Eugenius IV, Pope of Christian Union. London: Burns & Oates, 1961. Gill S.J., Joseph. Personalities of the Council of Florence, and other essays. Oxford: Blackwell, 1964. Gómez Canedo, O.F.M., Lino. Un español al servicio de la Santa Sede: Don Juan de Carvajal: cardenal de Sant’Angelo legado en Alemania y Hungria, 1399?-​1469. Madrid: Instituto Jerónimo Zurita, 1947. Gordan, Phyllis Walter Goodhart, ed. and trans. Two Renaissance Book Hunters: The Letters of Poggio Bracciolini and Nicolaus de Niccolis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974.

70 

Izbicki and Bancroft

Griffiths, Gordon. The Justification of Florentine Foreign Policy Offered by Leonardo Bruni in His Public Letters (1428–​1444). Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1999. Gualdo, Germano. “Pietro da Noceto e l’evoluzione della Segreteria papale al tempo di Niccolò V (1447–​1455).” In Offices et Papautè (XIVe-​XVIIe siècle):  Charges, Hommes, Destins, edited by Armand Jamme and Olivier Poncet, 793–​804. Rome: École Française de Rome, 2005. Haller, Johannes, et al., eds. Concilium Basiliense: Studien und Quellen zur Geschichte des Concils von Basel. 8 vols. Basel: R. Reich, 1896–​1936; Nendeln: Kraus, 1976. Hay, Denys. “Flavio Biondo and the Middle Ages.” Proceedings of the British Academy 45 (1959): 97–​125. Hofmann S.J., Georg, ed. Acta camerae apostolicae et civitatum Venetiarum, Ferrariae, Florentiae, ianuae de Concilio Florentino. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1950. Hofmann S.J., Georg, ed. Epistolae Pontificiae ad Concilium Florentinum Spectantes, Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1940–​46. Hofmann S.J., Georg, ed. Fragmenta protocolli, diara privata, sermones. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1951. Hofmann S.J., Georg, ed. Orientalium documenta minora. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1953. Howard, Peter. “The Fear of Schism.” In Rituals, Images, and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by F. W. Kent and Charles Zika, 297–​323. Turnhout: Brepols, 2005. Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, ed. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. 85 vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–​2016. Izbicki, Thomas M. Protector of the Faith: Cardinal Johannes de Turrecremata and the Defense of the Institutional Church. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1981. Izbicki, Thomas M. “Papalist Reaction to the Council of Constance: Juan de Torquemada to the Present.” Church History 55 (1986): 7–​20. Izbicki, Thomas M. “The Origins of the De ornatu mulierum of Antoninus of Florence.” MLN Italian Issue Supplement 119 (2004): S142–​161. Izbicki, Thomas M. “The Politics of a Conclave: The Papal Election of 1447.” Cristianesimo nella storia 28 (2007): 277–​84. Izbicki, Thomas M. “The Missing Antipope: The Rejection of Felix V and the Council of Basel in the Writings of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini and the Piccolomini Library.” Viator 41 (2010): 301–​14. Izbicki, Thomas M. “Indulgences in Fifteenth-​Century Polemics and Canon Law” (forthcoming). Jedin, Hubert. A History of the Council of Trent. Translated by Ernest Graf. 2 vols. London: Nelson, 1957–​61.

A Difficult Pope

71

Jedin, Hubert. Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church: An Historical Outline. Translated by Ernest Graf. Edinburgh: Nelson, 1960. Kaeppeli, Thomas, ed. Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum Medii Aevi. 4 vols. Rome: Istituto storico Dominicano, 1970–​93. King, Catherine. “Filarete’s Portrait Signature on the Bronze Doors of St Peter’s and the Dance of Bathykles and His Assistants.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 296–​9. King, Margaret L. Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986. Lange, Tyler. The First French Reformation: Church Reform and the Origins of the Old Regime. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Mansi, Johannes Dominicus, ed. Sacrorum Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio. 53 vols. Paris, 1901–​27. Marche, R.A. Lecoy de la. Le Roi René, sa vie, son administration, ses travaux artistiques et littéraires, d’après les documents inédits des Archives de France et d’Italie. 2 vols. Paris: Firmin-​Didot frères, fils et cie, 1875. McCahill, Elizabeth, Reviving the Eternal City:  Rome and the Papal Court, 1420–​1447. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Meuthen, Erich. “Die deutsche Legationsreise des Nikolaus von Kues, 1451/​1452.” In Lebenslehren und Weltentwürfe im Übergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit:  Politik-​ Bildung-​Naturkunde-​Theologie, edited by Hartmut Boockmann, Bernd Moeller, Karl Stackmann and Ludger Grenzmann, 421–​99. Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989. Miglio, Massimo. “Politica e cultura tra Roma e Romagna.” In La cultura umanistica a Forlì fra Biondo e Melozzo: Atti del Covegno di Studi, Forlì, 8–​9 novembre 1994, edited by Luisa Avellini and Lara Michelacci, 17–​26. Bologna: Il nove, 1997. Monte, Piero da. Piero da Monte: ein Gelehrter und päpstlicher Beamter des 15. Jahrhunderts: seine Briefsammlung. Edited by Johannes Haller. Rome: Halle, 1941. Müller, Heribert. Die Franzose, Frankreich und das Basler Konzil (1431–​1449). 2 vols. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1990. Neralić, Jadranka. “Central Europe and the Late Medieval Papal Chancery.” In The Long Arm of Papal Authority:  Late Medieval Christian Peripheries and Their Communication with the Holy See, edited by Gerhard Jaritz, Torstein Jørgensen and Kirsi Salonen, 73–​91. Budapest; New York: Central European University Press, 2005. Nicholas of Cusa. The Catholic Concordance. Translated by Paul E. Sigmund. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Nicholas of Cusa. Writings on Church and Reform. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Osio, Luigi, ed. Documenti Diplomatici tratti dagli Archivi Milanesi. 3  vols. Milan: Tipografia di Giuseppe Bernardoni di Giovanni, 1864–​1872.

72 

Izbicki and Bancroft

Ottenthal, Emil von. “Die Bullenregister Martin V.  und Eugen IV.” Mittheilungen des Instituts für Oesterreichische Geschichtsforschung 1 (1885):401–​589. Partner, Peter. The Lands of St Peter: The Papal States in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972. Pellegrino, Nicoletta. “From the Roman Empire to Christian Imperialism: The Work of Flavio Biondo.” In Chronicling History: Chroniclers and Historians in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, edited by Sharon Dale, Alison Williams Lewin, and Duane J. Osheim, 273–​98. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007. Pesce, Luigi. Ludovico Barbo vescovo di Treviso (1437–​1443), Cura pastorale, riforma della Chiesa, spiritualità. 2 vols. Padua: Antenore, 1969. Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius ii). Commentaries. Translated by Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003–​7. Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius ii). Enee Silvii Piccolominei, postea Pii PP. II, De viris illustribus. Edited by Adrianus van Heck. Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1991. Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius ii). Reject Aeneas, Accept Pius: Selected Letters of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki, Gerald Christianson and Philip Krey. Washington, DC:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Predelli, Riccardo, ed. I libri Commemorali della Republica di Venezia. 8 vols. Venice, 1876–​1914. Ryder, A.F.C. Alfonso the Magnanimous: King of Aragon, Naples and Sicily, 1396–​1458. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990. Setton, Kenneth M. The Papacy and the Levant. 4 vols. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1976–​84. Stieber, Joachim. Pope Eugenius IV, the Council of Basel and the Secular and Ecclesiastical Authorities in the Empire: The Conflict Over Supreme Authority and Power in the Church. Leiden: Brill, 1978. Stieber, Joachim. “The ‘Hercules of the Eugenians’ at the Crossroads: Nicholas of Cusa’s Decision for the Pope and Against the Council in 1436/​1437 –​Theological and Political Aspects.” In Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 221–​55. Leiden: Brill, 1991. Stinger, Charles L. Humanism and the Church Fathers: Ambrogio Traversari (1386–​1439) and Christian Antiquity in the Italian Renaissance. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1977. Thomson, J.A.F. Popes and Princes, 1417–​1517:  Politics and Polity in the Late Medieval Church. London: Allen & Unwin, 1980. Toews, John B. “Pope Eugenius IV and the Concordat of Vienna (1448): An Interpretation.” Church History 34 (1965): 178–​94.

A Difficult Pope

73

Torquemada, Juan de. Oratio synodalis de primatu. Edited by Emmanuel Candal S. J. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1954. Torquemada, Juan de. A Disputation on the Authority of Pope and Council. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. Oxford: Blackfriars, 1988. Töth, Paolo de. Il beato Nicolò Albergati e i suoi tempi, 1375–​1444, 2 vols. Rome: Società Tipografica Editrice “Lemurio,” 1922–​34. Vallaresso, Fantinus. Libellus de ordine generalium Conciliorum et Unione Florentina. Edited by Bernardus Schultze S.I. (Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores). Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1944. Watanabe, Morimichi. The Political Ideas of Nicholas of Cusa with Special Reference to his De concordantia catholica. Geneva: Droz, 1963. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reform of the Roman Curia.” In Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, edited by John O’Malley, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 185–​ 203. Leiden: Brill, 1993. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Pope Eugenius IV, the Conciliar Movement and the Primacy of Rome.” In The Church, the Councils and Reform: The Legacy of the Fifteenth Century, edited by Gerald Christianson, Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher Bellitto, 177–​93. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008. Watanabe, Morimichi. Nicholas of Cusa –​A Companion to his Life and his Times, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. Watanabe, Morimichi and Thomas M. Izbicki. “Nicholas of Cusa: A General Reform of the Church.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church: Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 175–​202. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Williams, George, ed. Memorials of the Reign of King Henry VI: Official Correspondence of Thomas Beckington, Secretary to King Henry VI. and Bishop of Bath and Wells. 2 vols. London: Longman, 1872. Zanelli, Agostino. “Predicatori a Brescia nel quattrocento.” Archivio Storico Lombardo 15 (1901): 83–​144.

Chapter 2

The Reform of Space for Prayer: Ecclesia primitiva in Nicholas of Cusa and Leon Battista Alberti Il Kim Introduction Nicholas Cusanus (1401–​1464) and Leon Battista Alberti (1404–​1472), both of whom studied canon law, were polymaths of the mid-​fifteenth-​century Papal Curia; the former as a cardinal and author of metaphysical speculations in theology and philosophy and the latter as a papal abbreviator whose writings outside of his professional duties ranged from discussions of art and architecture to social mores. It is likely that they were introduced to each other at the Ferrara-​Florence Council by their mutual friend Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1397–​1482) with whom Cusanus had studied in Padua and to whom Alberti had dedicated an earlier version of his Intercoenales [Dinner Pieces] in 1429.1 Cusanus might have known of Alberti’s De pictura when working on De docta ignorantia (1440): he owned Alberti’s Elementa picturae (ca. 1435), a shorter treatise written soon after De pictura, which still is housed in his library in Bernkastel-​Kues (Cod. Cus. 112, fol. 68r-​73r).2 In the year 1450 when Cusanus received his cardinal’s hat (January 11) and spent his time in the Curia (certainly from the summer to December either in Fabriano or Rome), they must have 1 Later they also shared Giovanni Andrea Bussi (1417–​1475) as an important mutual friend, whom Cusanus hired as his secretary in 1458 and to whom Alberti dedicated his De statua (On Sculpture, ca. 1434) in the 1460s. For a concise account of the relationship between Cusanus and Bussi, see Morimichi Watanabe, A Companion to His life and His Times, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M.  Izbicki (Burlington, VT:  Ashgate, 2011), 89–​94; first published in American Cusanus Society Newsletter 10:1 (1993): 9–​11. For the dating of De statua as the 1430s, see Rudolf Wittkower and Margot Wittkower, Sculpture: Processes and Principles (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) and Pierluigi Panza, Leon Battista Alberti: filosofia e teoria dell’arte (Milan: Angelo Guerini, 1994), 218; for dating of De statua as the 1450s-​60s, see Anthony Grafton, Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000), 332, n. 3. 2 Karsten Harries, Infinity and Perspective (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2001) 68, 186, 340 n. 6, 354 n. 4. Harries mentions that Toscanelli brought to Florence a copy of Biagio Pelicani’s Questiones perspectivae (ca. 1390) and is believed to be the author of Della prospettiva (housed in the Medici-​Riccardi Library), which might have influenced Alberti’s De pictura (1435).

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 04

The Reform of Space for Prayer

75

met each other. There is some concrete evidence that Cusanus and Alberti read each others’ works. In his De’ ludi matematici (1440s), Alberti describes the use of lead/​plumb weights, a light-​weighted sphere, and a water-​clock to measure the depth of the ocean. Cusanus discusses the same technique in his De staticis experimentis (1450) not mentioning Alberti’s name, while making the weights crescent-​shaped and substituting the sphere with an apple.3 From Alberti, Cusanus borrowed also the technique of the measuring humidity by repeatedly weighing a piece of wool or sponge that had absorbed moisture from the air.4 And when, in the same year, Cusanus wrote a mathematical treatise entitled De circuli quadratura quadratura circuli, in turn, Alberti took many ideas in writing his own similar treatise, De lunularum quadratura.5 From within their seemingly unrelated fields, Cusanus and Alberti often discussed the same concepts and values and came to the same conclusions. Whether these parallels were the result of direct influences or communication, or simply similar reactions to the intellectual currents of the time, they often reached the same insights by very different paths. As mentioned above, even when borrowing ideas from each other, neither ever mentioned the other by name, and both always changed technical terms. Their shared interest included subjects such as perspective, mathematics, painting, and engineering techniques; topics much discussed by scholars today.6 The goal of this chapter 3 Leon Battista Alberti, De’ ludi matematici, 8, in Leon Battista Alberti: Ludi matematici, ed. Raffaele Rinaldi (Milan: Ugo Guande Editore, 1980), 43–​4; Nicolaus Cusanus, De Staticis experimentis, 181 (h. v. 233). 4 Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria, x.3, in Leon Battista Alberti: On the Art of Building, trans. Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1988), 326; Cusanus, De staticis experimentis, 179 (h v.231–​32). 5 Harries, Infinity, 69, 340 n.6. 6 For recent scholarship on meetings between Cusanus and Alberti and their intellectual relationship, see Il Kim, “The Lives of Alberti and Cusanus and Their Shared Objective: Incessant Deciphering of the Empirical World,” in Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​ Gesellschaft, Vol. xxxv (in print). For discussions centered on the relationship between the two thinkers, see Charles H. Carman, Leon Battista Alberti and Nicholas Cusanus: Towards an Epistemology of Vision for Italian Renaissance Art and Culture (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014); Harries, Infinity, 64–​83, 184–​204; Harries, “On the Power and Poverty of Perspective: Cusanus and Alberti,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Peter J. Casarella (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 105–​126; Elena Filippi, “Unitatis et alteritatis constrinctio: Il legame piú bello fra Cusano e Alberti,” in Gli Este e Alberti: tempo e misura, Société international Leon Battista Alberti, Actes du congrès international, Ferrara, 29 novembre-​3 dicembre, 2004 (Pisa/​Rome: Fabrizio Serra, 2010), 27–​35; Elena Filippi, Umanesiomo e misura viva: Dürer tra Cusano e Alberti (Verona: Arsenale, 2011); Elena Filippi, “Cusanus und die Kunst,” Das Mittelalter 19:1 (2014): 103–​124; Kurt Flasch, “Niccoló Cusano e Leon Battista Alberti,” in Leon Battista Alberti e il Quattrocento: Studi in onore di Cecil Grayson e Ernst Gombrich,

76 Kim is to reveal how both the cardinal and the papal abbreviator (and occasional architect) shared not only a similar idea of church reform in general, but specifically a return to the simplicity of the primitive Church, ecclesia primitiva, and that they reached that same conclusion by separate routes; one theological and philosophical, and the other architectural. Invited by the papal commission of Pius ii to draw up proposals for curial reform, Cusanus submitted Reformatio generalis [A General Reform of the Atti del Convegno internazionale: Mantova, 29–​31 ottobre 1998, ed. Luca Chiavoni, Gianfranco Ferlisi and Maria Vittoria Grassi (Florence: Olschki, 2001), 371–​380; Giovanni Santinello, “Niccoló Cusano e Leon Battista Alberti: Pensieri sul bello e sull’arte,” in Giovanni Santinello, Leon Battista Alberti: Una vision estetica del mondo e della vita (Florence: Sansoni, 1962), 265–​296; Graziella Vescovini, “Nicolas of Cusa, Alberti and the Architectonics of the Mind,” in Nexus II: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams (Fucecchio: Edizioni dell’Erba, 1998), 159–​ 171; and Gerhard Wolf, “Nicholas Cusanus ‘liest’ Leon Battista Alberti: Alter Deus und Narziß (1453),” in Porträt, ed. Rudolf Preimesberger, Hannah Baader and Nicola Suthor (Berlin: Reimer, 1999), 201–​209. For Cusanus’ aesthetics and his use of art/​image, see Marc-​Aeilko Aris, “ ‘Praegnans affirmatio’ Gotteserkentnis als Ästhetik des Nichtsichtbaren bei Nikolaus von Kues,” Theologische Quartalschrift 181 (2002):  97–​111; Clifton Olds, “Aspect and Perspective in Renaissance Thought: Nicholas of Cusa and Jan van Eyck,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church: Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 251–​265; Wilhelm Dupré, “The Image of the Living God: Some Remarks on the Meaning of Perfection and World Formation,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Casarella, 89–​104; Thomas Leinkauf, “Der Bild-​Begriff bei Cusanus,” in Denken mit dem Bild. Philosophische Einsätze des Bildbegriffs von Platon bis Hegel, ed. Johannes Grave and Arno Schubbach (Munich: W. Fink, 2010), 98–​129; Inigo Bocken, “Perspektiven der Theorie. Philosophie als Scientia aenigmatica bei Nicholas Cusanus,” in Spiegel und Poträt. Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Denken des Nicholas Cusanus, ed. Harald Schwaetzer and Inigo Bocken (Maastricht: Shaker Publishing, 2005), 29–​48; Inigo Bocken, “(Nicht-​)Sein und (Nicht-​) Werden. Lebendiges Bild und tote Natur,” in De vision dei: vom Sehen zum Betrachten: Nikolaus von Kues, Ekkehard Welkens:  15 Meisterseichnungen im Dialog mit Cusanus, ed. Harald Schwaetzer and Kirstin Zeyer (Regensburg: Roderer, 2007), 53–​55; Inigo Bocken, “The Viewers in the Ghent Altarpiece,” in Vision and Material: Interaction between Art and Science in Jan van Eyck’s Time, ed. Marc de Mey, Maximiliaan P. J. Martens and Cyriel Stroo (Brussel: kvab Press, 2012), 143–​157; Harald Schwaetzer, “Viva imago Dei. Überlegungen zum Ursprung eines anthropologischen Grundprinzips bei Nicholas Cusanus,” in Spiegel und Poträt, ed. Schwaetzer and Bocken (Maastricht: Shaker Publishing, 2005), 113–​132; Harald Schwaetzer, “Rogier’s St. Luke Drawing the Virgin and Cusanus’ Epistemology,” in Vision and Material, ed. De Mey, 159–​166; Wolfgang Christian Schneider, “Reflection as an Object of Vision in the Ghent Altarpiece,” in Vision and Material, ed. De Mey, 171–​181; Tilman Borsche, “Der ‘freie Spiegel’ des Cusanus oder Die Kreativität der Rezeption,” in Kann das Denken malen? Philosophie und Malerei in der Renaissance, ed. Inigo Bocken and Tilman Borsche (Munich: Paderborn, 2010), 111–​124; Jean-​Michel Counet, “Le tableau comme phénomène: De la phénoménologie du voir à la théologie mystique,” in Participation et vision de Dieu chez Nicolas de Cues, ed. Isabelle Moulin (Paris:  J. vrin, 2017), 49–​68.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

77

Church] in 1459. The proposal discussed curial reform within the context of the reform of the Church as a whole, correcting contemporary ecclesiastical practices. For him, this meant the restoration of the original, primitive principles of the apostles’ Church. Alberti, having been for most of his life a member of the College of Papal Abbreviators (a diplomatic position requiring writing and editing of papal documents), was at the center of contemporary politics. In his Intercenales [Dinner Pieces; 1430s], Della famiglia [On the Family; 1430s-​43], De re aedificatoria [On the Art of Building; late 1440s-​1472] and De iciarchia [On Ruling the Household; early 1470s], Alberti commented on ideal governance, both small and large. In his De re aedificatoria he expressed his support for Church reform as part of a larger argument for architectural reform and proposed a return to a more austere church interior. Both Cusanus and Alberti lived in a time during which knowledge and techniques in science and the arts were rapidly changing, assisted by the increased recovery of ancient texts. Fifteenth-​century humanism was Christian humanism, within the context of which some found Republican Rome the ideal while others saw Christianized Imperial Rome as an ideal society. Whether Republican or Imperial, humanists and their contemporary rulers sought to regain the glory of ancient Rome. For Cusanus, the primitive Church, the original form or condition of the Church initiated by the apostle Peter, was the ideal. His Church reform sought to attain a simple, unadorned form of communal faith leading logically to his recommendation of simple interior spaces for prayer. Alberti, meanwhile, wrote a large compendium on architecture that proposed a revised way of systematically understanding buildings and urban settings. To underpin his arguments, Alberti cited many ancient writers, including Vitruvius. When expressing his sympathy toward Church reform and when advocating simple church interiors, Alberti did so within the structure of the compendium: establishing a transformative way of conceiving and designing buildings that would contribute to the re-​establishment of the glory of ancient Christian Rome, eventually surpassing it.

Cusanus’ Program of Church Reform

In his preface to Reformatio generalis, Cusanus begins with a symbolic, theological discussion of the definition of the Church as the mystical body of Christ (corpus mysticum). As the parts of body, the head, the hands, or the feet compose the wholeness of the human body, all individuals who are to become like Christ (omnes Christiformes efficiamur) are unified with Him and with each

78 Kim other (membra de membro).7 The corpus mysticum and Christiformitas (conformity to Christ) are the two main ideas for Cusanus’ Church reform, whether in Rome or elsewhere.8 Of prime importance in the former analogy are the eyes: The diversity of members of the Church … is bound together by a certain bond of love … and diverse offices are allocated for the building up of the body. And [the holders of these offices] are members like any other, each of them content to be what he is, that is as long as he is present to the life-​giving Spirit. They are the eyes through which individual members are visited and adapted to their duties; and those eyes, if they are clear, enlighten the whole body, for they visit the body and its individual members and they do not permit any foulness or dark ugliness to adhere to [them]. … It is notable, however, that the body of the church in this age has declined greatly from the light and the day … because the eyes, which should be its light, have fallen into darkness. Since the eye which sees the stains of others does not see its own, therefore, the eye is unable to visit itself … Two things, therefore we recommend as necessary for our proposal, that is that we, who are the eyes, should submit ourselves to those having

7 Nicholas Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 3, 4, 7, in Thomas M.  Izbicki trans., Nicholas of Cusa:  Writings on Church and Reform (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2008), 555, 559. For recent discussions on Cusanus’ “Christiformitas,” see Clyde Lee Miller, “Form and Transformation:  Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusanus,” Journal of Religion (2010):  1–​ 14; Thomas M. Izbicki, “Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusa’s Roman Sermons (1459),” Asian Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities 1 (2011): 1–​16; Richard J. Serina, Jr., Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2016), 99–​117, 170–​ 187, 203–​223; Harald Schwaetzer, “La conformation au Christ d’après Nicolas de Cues,” in La predication et l’Église chez Eckhardt et Nicolas de Cues, ed. Marie-​Anne Vannier (Paris: Les Éditions de Cerf, 2008), 119–​129, particularly 121. For overviews on Cusanus’ Church reform ideas, see Brian Pavlac, “Reform,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to Renaissance Man, ed. Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki, Gerald Christianson (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 59–​112; Morimichi Watanabe, “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reform of the Roman Curia,” in Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation:  Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, ed. John O’Malley, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 185–​203, reprinted in Morimichi Watanabe, Concord and Reform: Nicholas of Cusa and Legal and Political Thought in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001), 167–​185; Morimichi Watanabe and Thomas M. Izbicki, “Nicholas of Cusa: A General Reform of the Church,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, ed. Christianson and Izbicki, 175–​202, reprinted in Watanabe, Concord and Reform, 187–​216. 8 Serina, Brixen Sermons, 19. See also Izbicki, “Introduction,” in Cusanus, Writings on Church and Reform, xv-​xvi.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

79

sound vision [i.e., “visitors who investigate church officials] … Second, that, after this, we turn clear eyes on the whole body of the church …9 If properly following Christ, the “eyes” will illuminate the whole body, the entire Church. For Cusanus, those who are “eyes” will examine the whole body of the Church, including the Curia, and the reciprocity of the “eyes” will in turn result in the self-​examination of members of the Church. Cusanus’ church reform is not simply a temporary fix of specific problems, but a perpetual maintenance of the original form of faith (ad formam primam reducere), that originates in baptism (ad formam quam induerunt in baptismate), and the ideal Church as an institution.10 In the section of “Rules for Visitations” (Regulae visitationum) Cusanus discusses fourteen practical recommendations for the “eyes” or “visitors” (visitatores) who are sent to inspect the workings of the Church (monasteries and hospitals included) and to visit the pontiff and the cardinals and their church buildings. He writes that “in these fourteen instructions visitors will find a way to make reforms in each case.”11 Some reasons for Cusanus’ emphasis on the original form of faith can be found in his letter written in 1442 to Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo (1404–​ 1470), a canon lawyer and the secretary to Juan ii of Castile and Léon and Cusanus’ future ally in establishing the authority of Pope Eugenius iv over the Council of Basel. In the letter Cusanus discusses the necessity of returning to the Apostle Peter’s Church, in which individuals “take care of the Lord’s flock” (dominici gregis curam gerunt) just as Christ did.12 What distinguishes Cusanus from his contemporaries who also connected church reform and ecclesia primitiva in their orations, a prevailing theme in fifteenth-​ century curia in general, is the fact that in his fourteen rules –​part of the Reformatio generalis –​Cusanus recommends how to execute church reform in great detail.13

9 10 11 12 13

Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 7–​8, in Writings on Church and Reform, 559–​561 (italics mine). Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 11, in Writings on Church and Reform, 563. Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 24, in Writings on Church and Reform, 575. Nicholas Cusanus, Epistola ad Rodericum de Trevino, 10, in Writings on Church and Reform, 443. Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 6–​8, in Writings on Church and Reform, 563–​565. For the connection between the urge for reform and “ecclesia primitiva” expressed in orations in the Roman Curia, see John W. O’Malley, Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450–​1521 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1979), 198–​212.

80 Kim

Ecclesia primitiva in Cusanus’ Letter to Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo (1442)

In 1442 Cusanus was in the midst of an endeavor to unify the Church by persuading German princes to discard their political neutrality (from the conciliarists residing in Basel and the papacy) and support Pope Eugenius iv. In his letter he described the enfolding of the diverse communities of the Church and its return to its origins. He notes that all caring priests should be regarded as Peter’s successors. The act of enfolding the Church in Peter (and eventually in Christ) is analogically defined as “building up the Church” (aedificatio ecclesiae), a phrase he employs repeatedly. (In Reformatio generalis he uses the same analogy.)14 It is helpful for us to hear about these concepts directly in Cusanus’ voice: … the sensible head of this Church is the pontiff, who is chosen from among men. In him this Church exists in an enfolded manner as in the first confessor of Christ. We know that Peter was the first confessor of Christ among men; and for this reason Peter, who received his name from confessing the Rock who is Christ, unfolded the Church enfolded in himself first of all through the word of doctrine. […] The unfolding of Peter … is one Church participating the same confession in a varied diversity of believers. Since, however, a multitude can participate unity only in a varied diversity, the Church cannot subsist, consequently, except in a varied participation of unity. For this reason it is necessary for there to be various members of the one body of the Church. […] The Church, therefore, exists as a unity in a varied diversity. Where, however, the prince [pope] himself commands that things be done which do not tend to the end of building up the Church [ad finem aedificationis ecclesiae] entrusted to him, the commanding does not proceed from the principate; hence it is not necessary to obey it. Note, father [Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo], how, since the primitive Church [ecclesia primitiva] was unfolded and contracted in fact from the universal power of Peter, any prelate, in accordance with his various particular superintendencies, who participates in his particularity the power of Peter in a contracted way has the same power which Peter had, except for its contraction. Therefore, because in this respect all who have care 14

For example, see Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 7, in Writings on Church and Reform, 559.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

81

of the Lord’s flock are Peter’s successors, it seemed good to the wise that the universal power of the sacred prince [pope] of the Church cannot be above any particular power except in accordance with the condition of the sacred principate, that is, building up the Church …15 The pope’s role here is only to shepherd the clergy away from diversion and toward “building up” the Church. The reformed Church, according to Cusanus, is more communal than hierarchical, and one within which all are equally judged by their degree of “conformity to Christ” (Christiformitas) and all, strengthened by the “formed faith” (fides caritate formata), hope to attain heaven together.16 In his sermon entitled “I Am the Good Shepherd,” delivered in 1457 in the Synod at Brixen, Cusanus again discusses what church officials, as shepherds protecting flocks of Christians, are expected to attain in order to please God: Behold, he alone will be saved who enters through the gate, that is, Christ, who is the way and the life. If you seek the gate of life, it is He. If you seek life, it is He. If you seek the pasture of life, it is He. Who, however, is that Christ? Surely it is He Who is the giver of spiritual life, because He is truth, and wisdom, and the light of reason, enlightening every man; and He comes so that they might live and live more abundantly. Just as the sun now comes so that trees and animals may live, and comes nearer to pour out its power, so that trees, which in winter were without fruitbearing life and yet were not entirely dead, may now live and live more abundantly, even to the point of bearing fruit –​so Christ, the sun of justice with the light of understanding and the heart of charity, in Whom is God’s strength, comes to us.17

15 16

17

Cusanus, Epistola ad Rodericum de Trevino, 10, in Writings on Church and Reform, 437, 441, 443 (italics mine). For Cusanus’ view on the pope’s position in the Church, see Thomas M. Izbicki, “An Ambivalent Papalism: Peter in the Sermons of Nicholas of Cusa,” in Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intallectual History: Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Struever, ed. Joseph Marino and Melinda W. Schlitt (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001), 49–​65. For the fides caritate forma, see Izbicki, “Christiformitas,” 2; Miller, “Form,” 2; Scott H, Hendrix, Ecclesia in via: Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata super Psalterium (1513–​1515) of Martin Luther (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 15–​74. See also Scott H. Hendrix, “In Quest of the vera ecclesia: The Crises of Late Medieval Ecclesiology,” Viator 7 (1976), 347–​378. Cusanus, Sermon 280.7, in Writings on Church and Reform, 493.

82 Kim As the sun renders trees full of life and fruit, so does Christ, the Good Shepherd (and Source of all spiritual light), lead people on their way to spiritually abundant lives. Cusanus urges the shepherd of the Church to seek to become the embodiment of Christ by imitating him, whose light eventually reflects back, reunited, with himself in more abundant splendor: The shepherd should not cease from begetting temporally, but he should always be in the process of begetting Christ by the word of his teaching, until he is formed eternally in the Resurrection. As long as we live, this must not cease. Just as God the Father begets the Son in eternity forever and does not cease to be the Father begetting the Son, so the shepherd in this world should not cease [begetting Christ] in time.18 Then Cusanus combines the imageries of sun and shepherd to explain the shepherd’s ultimate role: Just as when the sun diffuses its splendor through the air, not so that it may be converted into the darkness of the air, but so that it may convert the darkness [human condition] into itself and thus take up again the emitted splendor into itself, with increase and fruit, so the shepherd acts to illuminate and instill faith in the hearts of his subjects, faith which is the life of the just … therefore, the Father loves him, because he feeds his sheep.19 Here he is leading the reader from the concrete imagery of Christ to an abstract one of the Father as the sun that emits splendor, which returns to the Father himself with increased intensity; a symbolic image of the powerful “formed faith” (fides caritate formata) in unity. The role of the shepherd of the Church is like the sun and its splendor, yet again it is very simple: “conformity to Christ” (Christiformitas) or imitatio Christi, imitating Christ.20

The Sacrament of the Eucharist Discussed by Alberti

For Alberti also, Church reform meant a return to first principles and the simplicity of the early Church: 18 19 20

Cusanus, Sermon 280.37, in Writings on Church and Reform, 511. Cusanus, Sermon 280.46, in Writings on Church and Reform, 517. For the imitatio Christi in the Middle Ages, see Giles Constable, Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 143–​248.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

83

In ancient times, in the primitive days of our religion, it was the custom for good men to come together and share a common meal. They did not do this to fill their bodies at a feast, but to become humbler through their communication, and to fill their minds with sound instruction, so that they would return home all the more intent on virtue. Once the most sparing of portions had been tasted rather than consumed, there would be a lecture and a sermon on divine matters. Everyone would burn with concern for the common salvation and with a love of virtue. Finally they would leave an offering in the center, each according to his means, as a form of tax due to piety and a donation toward those who deserved it. This the bishop would distribute among the needy. Everything would be shared in this way, as between loving brothers. There would be a single altar, where they would meet to celebrate no more than one sacrifice [the Eucharist] each day. Like Cusanus’ view on the primitive church, Alberti stresses the non-​ hierarchical nature of the early communal Church. For Alberti it was centered on the liturgy of the Eucharist. Also, again like Cusanus who was critical of the laxity of cardinals, Alberti condemns worldly bishops: … the practice of our times, which I only wish some man of gravity would think it fit to reform. I say this with all due respect to our bishops, who, to preserve their dignity, allow the people to see them scarcely once in the year of festivals, yet so stuff everything with altars[.]‌ Here Alberti abruptly ends his condemnation and finally moves onto the importance of the Eucharist: Let me simply state that within the mortal world there is nothing to be found, or even imagined, that is more noble or holy than the sacrifice [the Eucharist]. I  would not consider anyone who wanted to devalue such great things, by making them too readily available, a person of good sense.21 The primacy of the sacrament of the Eucharist requires that all other elements of the church interior should be subordinated to it. (Cusanus’ view on this matter will be discussed immediately below) As a result, Alberti recommends even that windows of a temple/​church building should be located high on the wall 21

These three citations are from Alberti, De re aedificatoria, VII.13, in On the Art of Building, 229.

84 Kim in order not to distract celebrants from their meditation on the divine.22 When reading Alberti’s comments on images in the temple/​church interior, it is clear that his ideal space for worship is a subdued one and in accordance with that of Cusanus. It is worth noting that the ornaments Alberti cites for the religious interior are lavish but abstract, few, and simple: large candelabra, gold craters, gold and silver vases, iron caldrons, columns and reliefs (both usually monochromatic).23

The Unadorned Interior and the Eucharist for Cusanus

In addition to the reform of the clergy in Rome, the duties of Cusanus as the Vicar-​General of the Papal States (Vicarius Generalis in Temporalibus; the highest position during the pope’s absence) focused on the secular aspects of the States, including security maintenance, military operations, and the supervision of buildings.24 His comments on the physical church in the Reformatio generalis evolve from his elaborations on institutional reform and his official role. In addition to proper use, funding, and maintenance of buildings, Cusanus identifies two subjects that particularly need to be examined by the visitors: relics and decoration. Cusanus’ opposition to the general use of relics (he suspected that many of them were fake) is in tandem with his preference for simple church-​interior decoration, a space focused solely on the altar where the Eucharist is celebrated. He saw the distraction caused by people’s adoration of “relics” in much of Northern Europe during his trip (1451–​1452) as papal legate on behalf of Pope Nicholas v. Questionable relics of the Blood of Christ existed throughout Europe and attracted many pilgrims. Among them were the so-​called “bleeding hosts” at Wilsnack, which he found particularly problematic.25 In writing 22 23 24 25

Ibid., VII.2, in On the Art of Building, 223. Ibid., VII.13, in On the Art of Building, 230. See Erich Meuthen, Nicholas of Cusa:  A Sketch for a Biography, trans. David Crowner and Gerald Christianson (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 123–​125. For the “bleeding hosts” at Wilsnack in the context of Cusanus’ determination to reform the Church, see Morimichi Watanabe, “The German Church Shortly Before the Reformation: Nicholas Cusanus and the Veneration of the Bleeding Hosts at Wilsnack,” in Concord and Reform, ed. Izbicki and Christianson, 117–​131. Cusanus was in Wilsnack sometime during the period from June 22 to June 24, 1451. See Ibid., 127. For a general account of the cult at Wilsnack, see Charles Zika, “Host, Processions and Pilgrimages: Controlling the Sacred in Fifteenth-​Century Germany,” in Past and Present 118 (1988): 25–​64.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

85

Reformatio generalis, Cusanus must have had in mind the pathetic situation of the layman’s veneration of relics alongside the avaricious clerics’ encouragement of pilgrimages for the purpose of viewing these questionable artifacts. He urges the visitor: Thirteenth, we wish that the visitors, while exercising visitation over churches, sacristies, ornaments, books, chalices and the like, not neglect to examine relics and to investigate how it is known that they are true relics. And where they find the same relics in different places, since they cannot be in both places and there is doubt where the true ones are, they should show discretion about removing scandal from the people; and it would be better to prohibit their display than to permit scandal. Let them also take note that gain is not to be made either from relics or from miraculous blood coming from hosts; for gain is a reason why such things are often faked by the greedy. It suffices for a Christian people to have Christ truly in its church in the sacrament of the divine Eucharist, in which it has all it could want for salvation. True relics may be venerated, but Christ, the head of all the saints, should be venerated much more; and let it beware lest numerous persons abuse Christ and [true] relics for their temporal convenience, turning religion into gain, offering kindling for divine displeasure, if they do not correct these abuses.26

26

For theological arguments regarding the veneration of Christ’s blood remaining on Earth, see Carolyn W.  Bynum, Wonderful Blood. Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 125–​127. Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 22, in Writings on Church and Reform, 573–​575 (italics mine). For an overview of Cusanus’ discussion on sacraments, including the Eucharist, see Peter Casarella, “Sacraments,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa, ed. Bellitto, Izbicki and Christianson. It was common at the time of Cusanus that the celebrated Eucharist that was not consumed was used as a substitute for saints’ relics placed under the altar in the church and venerated by people who believed in the existence of God in individual manna; this was also a problem for Cusanus, because of the hypostatic union of God. Lay people believed in the power (virtu) emanating from the Eucharist that might cause some miracles. For the issue of the Eucharist as the “unique relic,” see Godefridus J. C. Snoek, Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 353–​380. Simplified piety for lay people was strongly recommended by Cusanus’ contemporary, Bernardino of Siena (1380–​1444), who stressed the primacy of the Word of God and even said that the sermon was more important than the Mass. He also discussed the relative value of relics. See Cynthia L. Polecritti, “In the Shop of the Lord: Bernardino of Siena and Popular Devotion,” in Beyond Florence: The Contours of Medieval and Early Modern Italy, ed. Paula Findlen, Michelle M. Fontaine and Duane J. Osheim (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 146–​159.

86 Kim The italicized sentence in the quotation reflects Cusanus’ two main ideas for Church reform: corpus mysticum and Christiformitas, discussed above.27 At the end of the Reformatio generalis, Cusanus’ discussion of visits to the pope and cardinals offers recommendations for the décor of cardinals’ palaces and churches: … with regard to the decoration of halls and chambers: all things superfluous should be removed; and [only] those things that preserve neatness and cleanliness should be allowed, with the proviso that the place of prayer and worship, where the cardinal daily should read or devoutly hear Mass, should be ornamented most devoutly for the praise of God.28 From this passage we see that Cusanus was not against all decorations of the church sanctuary, as long as they are “devout” (functioning as instruments not for excess visual stimulation but for the encouragement of quiet ­contemplation).

“Peter Is the White Stone”

Further metaphors for simplicity and purity can be found in Cusanus’ sermon entitled “Thou art Peter” (Sermo cxxvi: Tu es Petrus) delivered in 1453 at Brixen, in which he discusses types of stone. The act of Christiformitas is analogically described by Cusanus as the act of venerating a flawless white stone. He says that Peter was given a white stone by Christ, quoting Revelation 2:17: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.29 Finally, employing an architectural image, Cusanus describes Christ as the ultimate living stone: And note how Christ is the living stone connecting the walls of the house, which is built of living stones. For this is supreme theology, which the

2 7 28 29

See note 8 and Izbicki, “Christiformitas,” 2–​3. Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 32, in Writings on Church and Reform, 583. Cusanus, Sermon 126.1, in Writings on Church and Reform, 451.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

87

Father, as is apparent from the gospel, revealed to Peter –​and Peter to us –​that is, that Christ is the corner stone.30 A further attribute of the corner stone is its mirror-​like reflectivity. Because this stone is perfect, it reflects everything as would a flawless mirror. Cusanus writes: If a man should be worshipped because the operations of the divinity are reflected in him, Christ must be worshipped maximally, because they are reflected maximally in Him. For in Him divinity lived in a bodily way, that is, according to every perfection of length, breadth and depth.31 … the stone is living and is the Truth. Hence in this way a true reflection occurs in the way you approach or collide with it, just as the Truth demands. For it is a white reflecting stone, since it is a mirror without flaw, and sparkling. Hence, just as you present yourself in it, so will it respond to you –​just as if a sensible mirror were flat and sparkling, it would then reflect you back to yourself just as you presented yourself to it.32 Cusanus then considers the potencies of variegated colored stones, which must have been familiar to him from the ruins and churches in Rome as well as in Constantinople (which he visited in 1437). He, like his contemporaries, believes in the potencies of such stones and writes about them: Numerous delicious speculations, besides, arise in connection with the stone. For there are potencies in stones. One stone makes a man lovable by all; another, victorious; another preserves health; another dispels illness; another, phantasms; another, an evil spirit; another [magnet] directs sailors on the way to their destination; and there are unsayable potencies in stones. The virtues of heaven are found in stones, images of herbs, trees, men, fish, lions and other animals with wondrous virtues. Therefore, the value of precious stones infinitely exceeds the value of gold. A small diamond is worth more than gold.33

30 31 32 33

Cusanus, Sermon 126.3, in Writings on Church and Reform, 453. Cusanus, Sermon 126.5, in Writings on Church and Reform, 455. Cusanus, Sermon 126.9, in Writings on Church and Reform, 463. Cusanus, Sermon 126.10, in Writings on Church and Reform, 463. For various properties of precious and colored stones, see Claude Lecouteux, A Lapidary of Sacred Stones: Their Magical and Medical Powers Based on the Earliest Sources, trans. Jon E. Graham (Rochester, VT:  Inner Traditions, 2012); Joan Evans, Magical Jewels of the Middle Age and the

88 Kim And yet the once spurned white stone is supreme, because it embraces all the potency of the colored stones. The white stone, the ultimate stone, is an analogical image of Christ. Consider, therefore, if there were a small stone, white or clear, which had in itself in an enfolded manner all the potency of all precious stones, certainly that stone, as long as its potency were not known, would be regarded as worthless and would be spurned as a stumbling block. But if someone should believe in some great and most learned master, who displayed the stone and announced its potency, the person who believed would afterwards find it to be so. Thus he would prize that stone above all the stones in Zion. Thus Christ is said by similitude to be the stone which was rejected [and] was made the cornerstone.34 For Cusanus, the purity of the white stone, encompassing the potencies of colored stones, is also a symbol of human salvation. Therefore, worship within the purity and wholeness of the ideal church interior (without strong color and/​or excess pattern) is itself an analogical contemplation of Christ. Cusanus’ preference for the simple white stone (after discussing a range of variegated colored marbles) as an ultimate analogy for human contemplation of God was not necessarily unique among his contemporaries. Two figures are particularly significant in this regard: Geert Grote (1340–​1384), the founder of the Devotio Moderna, and Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen (1367–​1398) who was the most learned brother of the first generation of followers of Grote. The Devotio Moderna, started by Grote in the late-​fourteenth century, quickly spread in the Netherlands and Rhineland among the middle-​class laity. The followers of the movement, the Brothers and Sisters of the Common life, organized quasi-​ monastic, simple communal living, pursuing spiritual renewal and contemplation. Within this movement, the plainly-​written, soon to be widely-​read, spiritual treatise Imitatio Christi (1410s-​1420s) emerged.35

34 35

Renaissance, Particularly in England (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1922); George F. Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (London: J.B. Lippincott, 1913); George F. Kunz, The Magic of Jewels and Charms (London: J.B. Lippincott, 1915). Cusanus, Sermon 126.11, in Writings on Church and Reform, 465. It was anonymously written, but is generally accepted as the work of Thomas à Kempis (1380–​1471). For the theme of “imitation of Christ” during the Middle Ages, see Giles Constable, Three Studies, 143–​248. For the Devotio Moderna, see Nikolaus Staubach, “Cusanus und die Devotio Moderna,” in Conflict and Reconciliation: Perspectives on Nicholas of Cusa, ed. Inigo Bocken (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 29–​51; Nikolaus Staubach (ed.), Kirchenreform von unten. Gerhard Zerbolt von Zutphen und die Brüder vom gemeinsamen Leben (Frankfurt

The Reform of Space for Prayer

89

In his treatise De quattuor generibus meditabilium [On Four Classes of Subjects Suitable for Meditation, 1381–​1383] Grote discusses four types of material for meditation: Christ’s birth, life, and Passion written in the Bible; Christ’s stories retold by saints; theologians’ exegesis of Christ’s stories; images representing the life of Christ.36 Grote gives most attention to the first and the fourth types: the Bible and the images. He writes that sensible images are necessary because they stimulate the mind and that “the past only enters the mind through something present.” Yet, he cautions that pious people should not cling to the images, because the meditation must end in imageless contemplation: And just as this fourth class of objects for meditation simply disappears in the end, so also these images of sensible things are to disappear by elimination, not precipitously, not of their own will, or strength, and not suddenly; yet gradually they recede.37 Even written forms of words must evaporate, which is particularly difficult for the literate. When explaining the very end stage of contemplation, Grote uses terms such as “disappear” (recedere), “remove” (eliminare), and “empty” (evacuare).38 (Gerhard Zerbolt went further: he nowhere recommended the use of visual representation in the practice of meditation. For Zerbolt, “seeing” is always accompanied with metaphorical meaning).39 This method of meditation is very

36

37 38 39

am Main: Peter Lang, 2004); John van Engen, Sisters and Brothers of the Common life. The Devotio Moderna and the World of Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); John van Engen, Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1988); Hein Blommestijn, Charles Caspers and Rijcklof Holman (eds.), Spirituality Renewed: Studies of Significant Representatives of the Modern Devotion (Leuven: Peeters, 2003). For a concise history of the Devotio Moderna, see Watanabe, A Companion, 34–​39, 336–​339, 340–​348, 357. The four types are cited in Kees Waaijman, “Image and Imagelessness:  A Challenge to [the Modern] Devotion,” in Spirituality Renewed, ed. Blommestijn, Caspers and Holman, 31. This article and the following one in the same book are particularly helpful to better understanding of basic tenets of the Devotio Moderna: Rudolf Th.M. van Dijk, “Toward Imageless Contemplation: Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen as Guide for Lectio Divina,” 3–​28. Geert Grote, De quattuor generibus meditabilium, 116, cited in Waaijman, “Image and Imagelessness,” 33. Ibid., 33. Van Dijk, “Toward Imageless Contemplation,” 20–​21. However, at the time of Cusanus, paintings, particularly as altarpieces and miniature illustrations, had been introduced in the lives of Devotio Moderna; painters such as Hugo van der Goes (1430/​40–​1482) and Godfried van Kampen, who entered the community in 1399, and Gerand Hombolt (d. 1459) contributed to the art production for the congregations. (See Ibid., 4–​8.) It is interesting to see that Cusanus’ De visione Dei (1453), in which he extensively discussed

90 Kim close to that of Cusanus’: starting from the complex and concrete and ending with sheer metaphorical abstraction; in the case of Christ, a pure, white stone.40 It should be noted that Cusanus’ preference for purity and whiteness in the interior was in contrast to the actual appearance of ancient buildings so appreciated by his contemporary humanists in Italy. For example, Flavio Biondo (1392–​1463), a member of the Curia, systematically explored and documented (probably with Alberti) ruins and topography of Rome and in his Roma instaurata [Rome As It Once Appeared, three volumes, 1444–​1448] reimagined ancient Rome’s glory as a whole. By 1459, Flavio Biondo’s son Gaspare Bionodo was Cusanus’ familiares. The father’s two books, Roma instaurata and Italia illustrata (1448–​1458), both with Gaspare’s commentaries, were owned by Cusanus.41 Ambrogio Traversari (1386–​1439), the general abbot and reformer of the Camaldolese Order and a close ally of Cusanus in the unification of the Western and Eastern Churches at the Council of Ferrara-​Florence (1438), expressed his admiration of Byzantine splendor in the colorful interiors of ancient church buildings in Ravenna.42 In the interiors of the old churches he

40

41 4 2

representation of God, both painted and imagined, was written after his visits as a papal legate in 1451 to the communities of Devotio Moderna in Deventer, Diepenveen, and Windesheim where he must have seen both paintings and figurative language being used to encourage contemplation. De visione Dei, which is full of similitudes, shows his alliance with the daily practice of the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life. For Cusanus’ visit to Deventer, see Erich Meuthen, “Cusanus in Deventer,” in Concordia Discors: Studi su Niccolò Cusano e l’umanesimo europeo offerti a Giovanni Santinello, ed. Gregorio Piaia (Padua: Antenore, 1993), 39–​54. For the influence of Devotio Moderna on contemporary artists in the Low Countries, see Bernhard Ridderbos, “Hugo van der Goes’s ‘Death of the Virgin’ and the Modern Devotion:  An analysis of a Creative Process,” Oud-​Holland 120 (2007): 1–​30; Bernhard Ridderbos, De melancholie van de kunstenaar. Hugo van der Goes en de oudnererlandse schiderkunst (The Hague: Sdu utig. Koninginnegracht, 1991), 190–​200; Bernhard Ridderbos, Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception, and Research (Los Angeles: Getty, 2005). It should be noted that in his will (1461), Cusanus left funding to establish a student hostel without specifying where. Still, in his mind an ideal student hostel must have been like the communities run by the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life, which he was familiar with through his visits in 1451. Deventer was chosen as the recipient by other people after his death. The funding was then called “Bursa Cusana,” which helped twenty clerical students at a time. See Meuthen, A Sketch for a Biography, 12–​15; Watanabe, A Companion, 357. See Meuthen, A Sketch for a Biography, 136. Cusanus asked Traversari at the Council of Basel to translate the Mystical Theology by Dionysius the Areopagite. After Traversari’s death in 1439 Cusanus received a copy from Toscanelli (1443). See Meuthen, A Sketch for a Biography, 19. For Traversari, see Charles L.  Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers:  Ambrogio Traversari (1386–​ 1439) and Christian Antiquity in the Italian Renaissance (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1977); Gian Carlo Garfagnini ed., Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario

The Reform of Space for Prayer

91

saw altars, ciboria and columns all covered with, or made of, colorful reflective materials such as silver and variegated marbles. He commended them with the purely classical (non-​medieval Latin) vocabulary such as magnificus, candidus, discolor, insignis, lucidus, speciosus, and conspicuus.43 He wrote: I confess that the seat of the sacred [bishop’s seat] are more beautiful than I have seen; indeed, not even in Rome. Huge marble columns are in row. The interiors of the buildings are covered with marbles in the most varied colors and with porphyritic granite altars/​tables.44 Cusanus’ familiarity with both the Devotio Moderna and Italian humanists’ admiration for the splendor of ancient church interiors makes his preference for simplicity in spaces for meditation all the more conspicuous. There is a third element that needs to be taken into consideration: the austerity of contemporary Florentine church interiors which were simply composed of white stucco walls and grey-​greenish Pietra Serena stone (for structural elements such as columns, arches, and entablatures, and for window frames). Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–​1446) (to whom Alberti dedicated in ca. 1436 his Della pittura, the Italian version of De pictura) designed such interiors in Florence, including the round oratory (1435–​37) of the Camaldolese convent Santa Maria degli Angeli, the abbot of which since 1433 was no other than Traversari.45 In these interiors (which were called all’antica because of their revived ancient architectural style and proportion) there were no frescos covering the wall nor particularly colorful ornaments, and windows were generally located high on the wall –​the ideal location, as Alberti wrote, to avoid distracting

43

44

45

della nascita, Convegno internazionale di studi, Camaldoli-​Firenze, 15–​18 settembre 1986 (Florence: Olschki, 1988); Georgia Clarke, “Ambrogio Traversari: Artistic Advisor in Early Fifteenth-​Century Florence?” Renaissance Studies 11–​3 (1997): 161–​178. See Michael Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators: Humanist observers of painting in Italy and the discovery of pictorial composition 1350–​1450 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 13–​14; Patrizia Castelli, “Marmi policromi e bianchi screziati: In margine alle valutazioni extetiche del Traversari,” in Ambrogio Traversari, ed. Garfagnini, 215. See Ambrogio Traversari, Letter to Niccolò Niccoli (October 12, 1433), in Ambrogio Traversari, Latinae Epistolae, ed. Petrus Cannetus (Florence, 1739), 419–​22, cited in Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators, 152–​154: “Fateor, ne Romae quidem pulchriores sacras asdes vidi. Columnae ingentes ex marmore suo stant ordine. Interiora aedium maxime contegunt marmoris discoloris, et porphyritici lapidis tabulae.” The construction of the round building stopped in 1437 at the middle of its intended height due to the lack of funding, but it is still standing and used as classrooms of the University of Florence. For the analysis and history of the building, see Eugenio Battisti, Filippo Brunelleschi (Rome: rai Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1975), 248–​256, 362–​365.

92 Kim contemplation. It is interesting to see that while Traversari marveled at ancient Rome’s splendor, the newly commissioned oratory interior for his convent was monochromatic, subdued, and quiet. In 1459, when Cusanus wrote Reformatio generalis and Alberti was developing his De re aedificatoria, new church interiors in Florence (including those of Brunelleschi’s San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito) were still under construction, finally revealing the totality of the design by embracing a quiet atmosphere. This new Florentine style of church interiors must have made a strong impression on both Cusanus and Alberti. In fact, this period in Florence coincided with Alberti’s career as an actual designer. The only extant interior designed by him is the Cappella Rucellai (1450s), a small funeral chapel for his Florentine patron Giovanni Rucellai, in the church of San Pancazio. The original screen wall that divided the chapel from the nave has been removed, but the tomb (a unique design based on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, free-​standing at the center of the chapel), and the chapel’s entablature, pilasters and window frames (located high on the wall) are still intact.46 The design scheme is simple: a white stucco wall, architectural elements made of greenish Pietra Serena stone (following the new Florentine interior style), with the tomb itself and the floor covered with Carrara marble (white) and green marble in geometric forms and patterns. Everything is either white or green.

Alberti’s Recommendations for the Church Interior

The design of the chapel described above is echoed in Alberti’s discussion of sacred interiors. In De re aedificatoria, Book vii (“Ornament to Sacred Buildings”), Chapter 10, he states his approval of geometric patterns in the floor because they may stimulate the mind, but, like Plato and Cicero, he prefers purity for the walls of a temple/​church building. Alberti writes: I could easily believe that in their [Plato’s and Cicero’s] choice of color, as in their way of life, purity and simplicity would be most pleasing to the gods above; nor should a temple contain anything to divert the mind away from religious meditation toward sensual attraction and pleasure. 46

The columns and the entablature of the original screen wall was later incorporated on the façade of the church, and are still visible today. For the design of the Cappella Rucellai, see Riccardo Pacciani, “La cappella Rucellai a San Pancrazio,” in Leon Battista Alberti e l’architettura, ed., Massimo Bulgarelli, Arturo Calzona, Matteo Ceriana and Francesco Paolo Fiore (Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2006), 365–​379; Franco Borsi, Leon Battista Alberti. The Complete Works (New York: Electa/​Rizzoli, 1989), 75–​90; Robert Tavernor, On Alberti and the Art of Building (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 106–​119.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

93

Within the temple I favor detached painted panels rather than pictures applied directly to the walls, although I would prefer reliefs to paintings.47 For both Alberti and Cusanus, interior walls should be simple and should not distract the mind’s contemplation of the divine. Further, Alberti prefers blank walls to mural paintings. When embellishment is necessary, he suggests monochromatic reliefs giving a unified tone rather than colorful panel paintings that might lead the mind to sensual matters. Both men are thus promulgating the same character for the interior: pure, simple, and whole. In Book vii Chapter  17, Alberti introduces an interesting argument that echoes Cusanus’ thoughts on the impossibility of visualizing God. In his discussion of whether a temple/​church building should house a likeness (statue) of the god (or God) to whom the temple is dedicated Alberti writes: There are those who maintain that a temple should contain no statues. King Numa, it is said, being a follower of Pythagoras, forbade there to be any effigy in a temple. It was also for this reason that Seneca ridiculed both himself and his fellow citizens: “We pray,” he said, “with dolls like children.” Yet instructed by our elders and appealing to reason, we would argue that no one could be so misguided as to fail to realize that the gods should be visualized in the mind, and not with the eyes. Clearly no form can ever succeed in imitating or representing, in even the slightest degree, such greatness. If no object made by hand could achieve this, they thought it better that, each, according to his own powers of imagination, should fashion in his mind an impression of the principal sovereign of all, the divine intelligence. In this way the veneration of the majesty of his name would be all the more ­spontaneous.48 This iconoclastic theological comment (echoing Cusanus’) that the human vision of God should be pursued through the mind’s eye is unusual in Alberti, because he generally avoids metaphysics in his writings. Indeed, filled with theological terms, the comment is perfectly in line with the unfolding of God and enfolding toward God discussed by Cusanus. However, Alberti immediately adds an opposing view: Others think differently; they maintain that it would be sound and prudent to give the gods the image and likeness of man: if the presence of statues were to 47 48

Alberti, De re aedificatoria, vii, in On the Art of Building, 220. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, vii.17, in On the Art of Building, 241–​242 (italics mine).

94 Kim cause the ignorant to believe that as they approached, they were approaching the gods themselves, it would make it easier for them to turn their minds from the depravity of life.49 Here again Cusanus and Alberti are in agreement. They share the view of the limited human ability that can only imagine the divine as his own likeness.50 In stating these opposing views, Alberti is saying that some people understand that God is beyond human imagination, but if limited conceptualizations/​ images of God created by artists can help those of lesser capability progress toward God, incorporating human likenesses of God in the interior of the temple/​church building is worthwhile and appropriate. Like Cusanus who writes in De visione Dei that similitude is the “milk” given by God, on which we sustain ourselves until we finally can eat the “hard food,” Alberti accommodates those in need of remedial spiritual care.51 Alberti’s ideal interior for prayer is severe and almost iconoclastic, which is a reversal of his earlier enthusiasm for painting expressed in his earlier work De pictura (1436). It is the opposite of contemporary religious interiors in Rome, such as Pope Nicholas v’s chapel at the Vatican embellished with fresco cycles painted by Fra Angelico (in the late 1440s). The ideal, austere inteior for prayer Alberti recommends is reform-​oriented and shows a strong affinity with his vision of Church’s liturgy and its form of faith.

Parallel Objectives in Alberti’s De re aedificatoria and Cusanus’ Church Reform

The second half (Chapters 5–​11) of Book ix (Ornament to Private Buildings) of De re aedificatoria can be read as the summary of Alberti’s systematic thinking on architecture. In Chapter 5 he discusses the concept of beauty and the puzzling variety of its manifestations.52 He asserts that the principal components of beauty (“number, outline, and position of bodily members”) are dictated by

49 50 51 52

Alberti, De re aedificatoria, vii.17, in On the Art of Building, 242 (italics mine). Cusanus, De visione Dei, 6.21 (h vi.23). Ibid., 11.45 (h vi.40). According to Alberti, there are so many beautiful objects that look different from each other yet are appealing to the mind as graceful with equal degree. Alberti discusses a situation in which a man finds a tender and slender girl beautiful and another man thinks a plump and buxom girl beautiful, yet each man does not consider the girl chosen by the other unattractive (Alberti, De re aedificatoria, ix.5, in On the Art of Building, 302).

The Reform of Space for Prayer

95

concinnitas, which Alberti calls “the absolute and fundamental rule in Nature.” He does not give us a precise definition of concinnitas, but it can be roughly understood as “refined balance” among components. For Alberti concinnitas “runs through man’s entire life and government, [and] it molds the whole of Nature.”53 It is a precise rule, but a wide range of sets of numbers, outlines, and positions contributes to concinnitas; therefore, variety in beauty exists in Nature, as in buildings. Alberti tries to restructure the way of organizing architecture through concinnitas. For example, he writes in an earlier chapter: …just as the head, foot, and indeed any member must correspond to each other and to all the rest of the body in an animal, so in a building, and especially a temple [i.e., church building], the parts of the whole body must be so composed that they all correspond one to another, and any one, taken individually, may provide the dimensions of all the rest.54 This view of Nature and architecture is a parallel to Cusanus’ ultimate goal for the reform of the Church: Unity among a variety of people (corpus mysticum and Christiformitas), and a return of the community as a whole toward first principles (ecclesia primitiva). Thus, Alberti’s notion of reform, like that of Cusanus, is whole, comprehensive, and inclusive. Hospital Design The most striking convergence of Cusanus’ and Alberti’s thoughts on Church reform and its architectural manifestations comes with their remarkably similar approaches to the hospital both as a building type and as an ­institution.55 53

54 5 5

Alberti, De re aedificatoria, ix.5, in On the Art of Building, 302–​3. For Alberti’s concinnitas, see Robert Tavernor, “Concinnitas o la formulazione della bellezza,” in Leon Battista Alberti (catalogo della mostra: Mantova, Palazzo Te, 1994), ed. Joseph Rykwert andAnne Engel (Milan: Electa, 1994), 300–​315; Joachim Poeschke, “Zum Begriff der concinnitas bei Leon Battista Alberti,” in Intuition und Darstellung, ed. Frank Büttner and Christian Lenz (Munich: Nymphenburger, 1985), 45–​50. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, vii.5, in On the Art of Building, 199. For the construction and history of St. Nikolaus Hospital, see: Sylvie Tritz, “ … uns Schätze im Himmel zu sammeln.” Die Stifungen des Nikolaus von Kues (Mainz: Gesellschaft für Mittelrheinsche Kirchengeschichte, 2008), 99–​173; Hans Vogts, Das Hospital St. Nikolaus zu Cues (Cologne: B. Filser, 1927; Trier: Paulinus Verlag, 1958); Gottfried Kortenkamp, Die Urkunden des St. Nikolaus-​Hospitals in Bernkastel-​kues an der Mosel (Trier:  Kilomedia,

96 Kim Cusanus’ Church reform proposals coincided with the completion of the first stage of construction of St. Nikolaus Hospital that he and his siblings had commissioned. The hospital housed elderly male citizens of different classes who needed financial and physical support. The programming of the hospital, both in its architecture and its everyday rules, reflected Cusanus’ view that laymen’s ideal Christian communities should be based on monastic models (such as those of the Devotio Moderna, which Cusanus supported). There is a notable similarity between Cusanus’ and Alberti’s development of the new hospital type, a type that they both closely related to the courtyard architecture of monasteries. In the Reformatio generalis Cusanus stressed (as his eleventh agenda) that visitors (visitatores) should oversee the reform of hospitals, particularly making sure that alms are appropriately given to the poor and that accounting books are kept. (Again later in the same proposal when focusing on the visitors’ investigation of the Church in the city of Rome, Cusanus reiterated that they should not forget to inspect hospitals.)56 In the eleventh agenda Cusanus discusses the reform of hospitals even before mentioning inspections of church buildings and convents. For him, well-​run hospitals are an indispensable element of a reformed Christian community. St. Nikolaus Hospital has not only a monastic courtyard plan, but also accommodates each elderly man (who wears a habit and practices the rules and daily activities of ideal monastic life) in a private room resembling a monk’s cell. In addition, the residents, from different social strata, governed their own community. The fact that a hospital building with a monastic plan (Hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia under the patronage of Pope Sixtus iv) did not appear in Rome until the early 1470s suggests that the plan of St. Nikolaus Hospital, its precursor, was a possible model.57 Just as Cusanus connected monastic rules with the hospital as an institution, Alberti developed a similar synthesis in Chapters 7–​8 of Book v in De re aedificatoria. Although the writing style and chapter structure of De re aedificatoria derived from that of De architectura (On Architecture) written by Vitruvius (ca. 90–​20 bc), Alberti had to address certain building types and institutions that did not exist in antiquity and therefore were not dealt with

56 57

2004). For the hospital in his will (August 6, 1464), see Gottfried Kortenkamp, “Die Urkunden des St. Nikolaus-​Hospitals,” Litterae Cusanae. Informationen der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 5:1 (2005): 1–​8. For an image of the will, see Helmut Gestrich, Nikolaus von Kues 1401–​1464. Leben und Werk im Bild (Mainz: HermanSchmidt, 1990), 72, fig. 82. Cusanus, Reformatio generalis, 21, 34, in Writings on Church and Reform, 571, 585. In 1467 (three years after Cusanus’ death) on the recommendation of his close ally Bessarion, Francesco della Rovere, the future Pope Sixtus iv, was promoted cardinal of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, Cusanus’ titular church.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

97

in the earlier writing; two such examples were the monastery and the hospital.58 Immediately after discussing the monastery building and the “palestra” in which one can engage in philosophical studies (both building types with a portico around a court yard), Alberti proposed hospital buildings with monastic plans, connecting the two institutional activities. He writes that it is a duty and concern for a priest to take care of “the ill, the weak, and the destitute, and to ease their suffering.”59 Rather than endorsing contemporary hospital buildings that accommodated a number of patients in long halls with high ceilings, he recommended a new, ideal, and more cellular hospital type that should follow the plans of courtyard-​style monasteries with many small apartment cells for single occupancy –​which were, Alberti states, similar to ancient private houses: And, as in a family home, it is best to have some apartments more private than others, depending on the nature of the treatment and the inmates’ way of life … Suffice to say that every building of this type should be laid out according to the requirements of a private house.60 Since Alberti amended and added to De re aedificatoria until the end of his life (1472), it is hard to tell when he actually wrote these passages, but since the first half (Books I~V) of De re aedificatoria was to be dedicated to Pope Nicholas v in 1452, it is reasonable to think that both Cusanus and Alberti were envisioning in ca. 1450 a new type of hospital related to monastic life and/​or its building type. And similar to Cusanus’ St. Nikolaus Hospital, Alberti proposed a hospital in which the residents would create their own society, each individual making some form of contribution to it.61 Conclusion Cusanus’ goal in Reformatio Generalis was a return to the simplicity of the early church. He envisaged that church to be an ideal one, more communal and less hierarchical than the Church of his own time. A reformed Church, stripped of the accretions of history and local custom, relics and saints, would focus on the sacrament of the Eucharist. The physical result of his theological goal would 58 59 60 61

Alberti, De re aedificatoria, v.7–​8, in On the Art of Building, 127–​130. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, v.7, in On the Art of Building, 127. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, v.8, in On the Art of Building, 130. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, v.8, in On the Art of Building, 129–​130.

98 Kim be a church space pared down to the attributes of the sacrament; the altar, the vessels, and the “white stone” of perfection and transcendence. Alberti had a similar notion of a return to an idealized early Church, but it evolved from his writings on architecture. As an institution and in its context of antiquity, Alberti saw the ideal church as communal and focused primarily on the sacrament of Communion. Just as Cusanus’ idea of the reform of the instituion of the Church was an overall return to first principles, Alberti’s reform of architecture was a large scale change in the way building was conceptualized; a reorganization of the art of architecture through concinnitas. His calls for the simplicity of religious interior were motivated by his desire for a return to the first principles of the Church as well as those of the art of architercture. As humanists, Cusanus and Alberti looked to antiquity as a source for the invention and reinvigoration of contemporary institutions and the arts. Thier guides were the recovered texts and the physical remains of ancient Rome around them. Regarding the church interior, what is most remarkable is the similarity of their conclusions despite journeys from different origins and by different intellectual paths. Noteworthy as well is the fact that early in their lives both wrote extensively and positively about religious history painting only to discard that approach for the purity of the white stone in their later years. Both men were familiar with the ostentation and splendor of antiquity, and yet agreed that its variegated marbles and mosaics should be rejected for the contemporary church interior. For the greater part of their lives Cusanus and Alberti lived in the strong tide of Church reform movements; their vision of simplicity for the space of prayer surely reflected those movements. Bibliography Alberti, Leon Battista. Leon Battista Alberti: Ludi Matematici. Edited by Raffaele Rinaldi. Milan: Ugo Guanda Editore, 1980. Alberti, Leon Battista. Leon Battista Alberti:  On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Edited by Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor. Cambridge, MA:  mit Press, 1988. Aris, Marc-​Aeilko. “‘Praegnans affirmatio’ Gotteserkentnis als Ästhetik des Nichtsichtbaren bei Nikolaus von Kues.” Theologische Quartalschrift 181 (2002): 97–​111. Battisti, Eugenio. Filippo Brunelleschi. Rome: rai Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1975. Baxandall, Michael. Giotto and the Orators: Humanist observers of painting in Italy and the discovery of pictorial composition 1350–​1450. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

99

Blommestijn, Hein, Charles Caspers, and Rijcklof Holman. eds. Spirituality Renewed:  Studies of Significant Representatives of the Modern Devotion. Leuven: Peeters, 2003. Bocken, Inigo. “Perspektiven der Theorie. Philosophie als Scientia aenigmatica bei Nicolaus Cusanus.” In Spiegel und Poträt. Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Denken des Nicolaus Cusanus, edited by Harald Schwaetzer and Inigo Bocken, 29–​ 48. Maastricht: Shaker Publishing, 2005. Bocken, Inigo. “(Nicht-​)Sein und (Nicht-​) Werden. Lebendiges Bild und tote Natur.” In De vision dei: vom Sehen zum Betrachten: Nikolaus von Kues, Ekkehard Welkens: 15 Meisterseichnungen im Dialog mit Cusanus, edited by Harald Schwaetzer and Kirstin Zeyer, 53–​55. Regensburg: Roderer, 2007. Bocken, Inigo. “The Viewers in the Ghent Altarpiece.” In Vision and Material: Interaction between Art and Science in Jan van Eyck’s Time, edited by Marc De Mey, Maximiliaan P. J. Martens, and Cyriel Stroo, 143–​157. Brussel: kvab Press, 2012. Borsche, Tilman. “Der ‘freie Spiegel’ des Cusanus oder Die Kreativität der Rezeption.” In Kann das Denken malen? Philosophie und Malerei in der Renaissance, edited by Inigo Bocken and Tilman Borsche, 111–​124. Munich: Paderborn, 2010. Borsi, Franco. Leon Battista Alberti. The Complete Works. New York: Electa/​Rizzoli, 1989. Bynum, Carolyn W. Wonderful Blood. Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Carman, Charles H. Leon Battista Alberti and Nicholas Cusanus: Towards an Epistemology of Vision for Italian Renaissance Art and Culture. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. Casarella, Peter. “Sacraments.” In Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to Renaissance Man, edited by Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Castelli, Patrizia. “Marmi policromi e bianchi screziati: In margine alle valutazioni extetiche del Traversari.” In Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario della nascita, Convegno internazionale di studi, Camaldoli-​Firenze, 15–​18 settembre 1986, edited by Gian Carlo Garfagnini, 210–​224. Florence: Olschki, 1988. Clarke, Georgia. “Ambrogio Traversari: Artistic Advisor in Early Fifteenth-​Century Florence?” Renaissance Studies 11–​3 (1997): 161–​178. Constable, Giles. Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Counet, Jean-​Michel. “Le tableau comme phénomène: De la phénoménologie du voir à la théologie mystique.” In Participation et vision de Dieu chez Nicolas de Cues, edited by Isabelle Moulin, 49–​68. Paris: J. Vrin, 2017. Dupré, Wilhelm. “The Image of the Living God: Some Remarks on the Meaning of Perfection and World Formation.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by Peter J. Casarella, 89–​104. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

100 Kim Evans, Joan. Magical Jewels of the Middle Age and the Renaissance, Particularly in England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922. Filippi, Elena. “Unitatis et alteritatis constrinctio: Il legame piú bello fra Cusano e Alberti.” In Gli Este e Alberti: tempo e misura, Société international Leon Battista Alberti, Actes du congrès international, Ferrara, 29 novembre-​3 dicembre, 2004, edited by Francesco Furlan and Gianni Venturi, 27–​35. Pisa, Rome: Fabrizio Serra, 2010. Filippi, Elena. Umanesiomo e misura viva:  Dürer tra Cusano e Alberti. Verona:  Arsenale, 2011. Filippi, Elena. “Cusanus und die Kunst.” Das Mittelalter 19:1 (2014): 103–​124. Flasch, Kurt. “Niccoló Cusano e Leon Battista Alberti.” In Leon Battista Alberti e il Quattrocento: Studi in onore di Cecil Grayson e Ernst Gombrich, Atti del Convegno internazionale: Mantova, 29–​31 ottobre 1998, edited by Luca Chiavoni, Gianfranco Ferlisi and Maria Vittoria Grassi, 371–​380. Florence: Olschki, 2001. Garfagnini, Gian Carlo. ed. Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario della nascita, Convegno internazionale di studi, Camaldoli-​Firenze, 15–​18 settembre 1986. Florence: Olschki, 1988. Gestrich, Helmut. Nikolaus von Kues 1401–​1464. Leben und Werk im Bild. Mainz:  HermanSchmidt, 1990. Grafton, Anthony. Leon Battista Alberti:  Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000. Harries, Karsten. Infinity and Perspective. Cambridge, MA: The mit Press, 2001. Harries, Karsten. “On the Power and Poverty of Perspective: Cusanus and Alberti.” In Cusanus:  The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by Peter J. Casarella, 105–​126. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Hendrix, Scott H. Ecclesia in via:  Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata super Psalterium (1513–​1515) of Martin Luther. Leiden: Brill, 1974. Hendrix, Scott H. “In Quest of the vera ecclesia: The Crises of Late Medieval Ecclesiology.” Viator 7 (1976): 347–​378. Izbicki, Thomas M. “An Ambivalent Papalism: Peter in the Sermons of Nicholas of Cusanus.” In Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intallectual History: Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Struever, edited by Joseph Marino and Melinda W. Schlitt, 49–​65. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001. Izbicki, Thomas M. “Christiformitas in “Nicholas of Cusa’s Roman Sermons (1459).” Asian Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities 1 (2011): 1–​16. Kim, Il. “The Lives of Alberti and Cusanus and Their Shared Objective: Incessant Deciphering of the Empirical World.” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​ Gesellschaft Vol. xxxv. (in print). Kortenkamp, Gottfried. Die Urkunden des St. Nikolaus-​Hospitals in Bernkastel-​kues an der Mosel. Trier: Kilomedia, 2004.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

101

Kortenkamp, Gottfried. “Die Urkunden des St. Nikolaus-​Hospitals.” Litterae Cusanae. Informationen der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 5: 1 (2005): 1–​8. Kunz, George F. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. London: J.B. Lippincott, 1913. Kunz, George F. The Magic of Jewels and Charms. London: J.B. Lippincott, 1915. Lecouteux, Claude. A Lapidary of Sacred Stones:  Their Magical and Medical Powers Based on the Earliest Sources. Translated by Jon E. Graham. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2012. Leinkauf, Thomas. “Der Bild-​Begriff bei Cusanus.” In Denken mit dem Bild. Philosophische Einsätze des Bildbegriffs von Platon bis Hegel, edited by Johannes Grave and Arno Schubbach, 98–​129. Munich: W. Fink, 2010. Meuthen, Erich. “Cusanus in Deventer.” In Concordia Discors: Studi su Niccolò Cusano e l’umanesimo europeo offerti a Giovanni Santinello, edited by Gregorio Piaia, 39–​54. Padua: Antenore, 1993. Meuthen, Erlich. Nicholas of Cusa:  A Sketch for a Biography. Translated by David Crowner, Gerald Christianson. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2010. Miller, Clyde Lee. “Form and Transformation: Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusanus.” Journal of Religion (2010): 1–​14. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Nicholas of Cusa. Epistola ad Rodericum de Trevino. Nicholas of Cusa: Writings on Church Reform. Edited by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Nicholas of Cusa. Reformatio generalis. Nicholas of Cusa: Writings on Church Reform. Edited by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Nicholas of Cusa. Sermo CXXVI: Tu es Petrus. Nicholas of Cusa: Writings on Church Reform. Edited by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Olds, Clifton. “Aspect and Perspective in Renaissance Thought: Nicholas of Cusa and Jan van Eyck.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church: Essays in Memory of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 251–​265. Leiden: Brill, 1996. O’Malley, John W. Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450–​1521. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1979. Pacciani, Riccardo. “La cappella Rucellai a San Pancrazio.” In Leon Battista Alberti e l’architettura edited by Massimo Bulgarelli, Arturo Calzona, Matteo Ceriana and Francesco Paolo Fiore, 365–​379. Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2006. Panza, Pierluigi. Leon Battista Alberti: filosofia e teoria dell’arte. Milan: Angelo Guerini, 1994. Pavlac, Brian. “Reform.” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to Renaissance Man, edited by Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 59–​ 112. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004.

102 Kim Poeschke, Joachim. “Zum Begriff der concinnitas bei Leon Battista Alberti.” In Intuition und Darstellung, edited by Frank Büttner and Christian Lenz, 45–​50. Munich: Nymphenburger, 1985. Polecritti, Cynthia L. “In the Shop of the Lord: Bernardino of Siena and Popular Devotion.” In Beyond Florence: The Contours of Medieval and Early Modern Italy, edited by Paula Findlen, Michelle M. Fontaine and Duane J. Osheim, 146–​159. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003. Ridderbos, Bernhard. De melancholie van de kunstenaar. Hugo van der Goes en de oudnererlandse schiderkunst. The Hague: Sdu utig. Koninginnegracht, 1991. Ridderbos, Bernhard. Early Netherlandish Paintings:  Rediscovery, Reception, and Research. Los Angeles: Getty, 2005. Ridderbos, Bernhard. “Hugo van der Goes’s ‘Death of the Virgin’ and the Modern Devotion: an analysis of a creative process.” Oud-​Holland 120 (2007): 1–​30. Santinello, Giovanni. “Niccoló Cusano e Leon Battista Alberti:  Pensieri sul bello e sull’arte.” In Santinello, Giovanni. Leon Battista Alberti: Una vision estetica del mondo e della vita, 265–​296. Florence: Sansoni, 1962. Schneider, Wolfgang Christian. “Reflection as an Object of Vision in the Ghent Altarpiece.” In Vision and Material: Interaction between Art and Science in Jan van Eyck’s Time, edited by Marc De Mey, Maximiliaan P. J. Martens and Cyriel Stroo, 171–​181. Brussel: kvab Press, 2012. Schwaetzer, Harald. “Viva imago Dei. Überlegungen zum Ursprung eines anthropologischen Grundprinzips bei Nicolaus Cusanus.” In Spiegel und Poträt. Zur Bedeutung zweier zentraler Bilder im Denken des Nicolaus Cusanus, edited by Harald Schwaetzer and Inigo Bocken, 113–​132. Maastricht: Shaker Publishing, 2005. Schwaetzer, Harald. “La conformation au Christ d’après Nicolas de Cues.” in La predication et l’Église chez Eckhardt et Nicolas de Cues, edited by Marie-​Anne Vannier, 119–​129. Paris: Les Éditions de Cerf, 2008. Schwaetzer, Harald. “Rogier’s St. Luke Drawing the Virgin and Cusanus’ Epistemology.” In Vision and Material: Interaction between Art and Science in Jan van Eyck’s Time, edited by Marc De Mey, Maximiliaan P. J. Martens and Cyriel Stroo, 159–​166. Brussel: kvab Press, 2012. Serina, Richard J. Jr. Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2016. Snoek, Godefridus. J. C. Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Staubach, Nikolaus. “Cusanus und die Devotio Moderna.” In Conflict and Reconciliation:  Perspectives on Nicholas of Cusa, edited by Inigo Bocken, 29–​ 51. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Staubach, Nikolaus, ed. Kirchenreform von unten. Gerhard Zerbolt von Zutphen und die Brüder vom gemeinsamen Leben. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004.

The Reform of Space for Prayer

103

Stinger, Charles L. Humanism and the Church Fathers: Ambrogio Traversari (1386–​1439) and Christian Antiquity in the Italian Renaissance. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1977. Tavernor, Robert. “Concinnitas o la formulazione della bellezza.” In Leon Battista Alberti. Catalogo della mostra: Mantova, Palazzo Te, 1994, edited by Joseph Rykwert and Anne Engel, 300–​315. Milan: Electa, 1994. Tavernor, Robert. On Alberti and the Art of Building. New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1998. Tritz, Sylvie. “… uns Schätze im Himmel zu sammeln.” Die Stifungen des Nikolaus von Kues. Mainz: Gesellschaft für Mittelrheinsche Kirchengeschichte, 2008. van Dijk, Rudolf Th.M. “Toward Imageless Contemplation: Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen as Guide for Lectio Divina.” In Spirituality Renewed: Studies of Significant Representatives of the Modern Devotion, edited by Hein Blommestijn, Charles Caspers, and Rijcklof Holman, 3–​28. Leuven: Peeters, 2003. Van Engen, John. ed. Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1988. Van Engen, John. Sisters and Brothers of the Common life. The Devotio Moderna and the World of Later Middle Ages. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Vescovini, Graziella. “Nicolas of Cusa, Alberti and the Architectonics of the Mind.” In Nexus II:  Architecture and Mathematics, edited by Kim Williams, 159–​171. Fucecchio: Edizioni dell’Erba, 1998. Vogts, Hans. Das Hospital St. Nikolaus zu Cues. Cologne: B. Filser, 1927; Trier: Paulinus Verlag, 1958. Waaijman, Kees. “Image and Imagelessness: A Challenge to [the Modern] Devotion.” In Spirituality Renewed: Studies of Significant Representatives of the Modern Devotion, edited by Hein Blommestijn, Charles Caspers and Rijcklof Holman, 29–​40. Leuven: Peeters, 2003. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reform of the Roman Curia.” in Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essay in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, edited by John O’Malley, Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 185–​ 203. Leiden: Brill, 1993. Watanabe, Morimichi. “The German Church Shortly Before the Reformation:  Nicolaus Cusanus and the Veneration of the Bleeding Hosts at Wilsnack.” In Watanabe, Morimichi, Concord and Reform: Nicholas of Cusa and Legal and Political Thought in the Fifteenth Century, edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, 117–​131. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001. Watanabe, Morimichi. A Companion to His life and His Times. Edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. Watanabe, Morimichi, and Thomas M. Izbicki. “Nicholas of Cusa: A General Reform of the Church.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church:  Essays in Memory

104 Kim of Chandler McCuskey Brooks for the American Cusanus Society, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 175–​202. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Wittkower, Rudolf, and Margot Wittkower. Sculpture:  Processes and Principles. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. Wolf, Gerhard. “Nicolaus Cusanus ‘liest’ Leon Battista Alberti:  Alter Deus und Narziß (1453).” In Porträt, edited by Rudolf Preimesberger, Hannah Baader and Nicola Suthor, 201–​209. Berlin: Reimer, 1999. Zika, Charles. “Host, Processions and Pilgrimages: Controlling the Sacred in Fifteenth-​ Century Germany.” Past and Present 118 (1988): 25–​64.

Chapter 3

“Papista Insanissima”: Papacy and Reform in Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio Generalis (1459) and the Early Martin Luther (1517–​19) Richard J. Serina, Jr. Introduction Beginning with the work of Karl Holl a century ago, scholarship on Luther’s view of the Church has shifted markedly.1 The consequence has been to date the emergence of the Wittenberg theologian’s distinctively Protestant ecclesiology earlier and earlier in his career, thereby disconnecting his initial reforms from any possible medieval precursors.2 Thus, when one seeks to find an antecedent for his ecclesiology or Church reform it is necessary to look to the peripheries of the medieval Church and those identified as “proto-​ reformers”:  anti-​papal publicists such as Marsiglio of Padua and William of Ockham, anti-​papal reformers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, or even the dismissive papal caricatures by humanists found in Erasmus’ Praise of Folly or Sebastian Brandt’s Ship of Fools.3 One recent interpretation of Luther’s conciliar views has attempted to qualify this picture. Building upon studies that have emphasized the reformatory use of late medieval councils, Christopher Spehr maintains that, while he never held a strictly conciliar view of church authority, Luther nonetheless appealed 1 Karl Holl, “Die Enstehung von Luthers Kirchenbegriff,” in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte (Tübingen: Mohr, 1928), 1.245–​78. 2 For the most prominent examples, see Johannes Heckel, Lex Charitatis: A Juristic Disquisition on Law in the Theology of Martin Luther, trans. G.  Krodel (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2010; original, 1953); Scott Hendrix, Ecclesia in Via:  Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata Super Psalterium (1513–​1515) of Martin Luther (Leiden: Brill, 1974); and Christa Tecklenburg Johns, Luthers Konzilidee in ihrer Historischen Bedingtheit und ihrem Reformatorischen Neuensatz (Berlin: Verlag Alfred Töpelmann, 1966). 3 Hendrix offers a fairly convincing argument for doing so by placing Luther’s ecclesiological questioning in the context of a series of late-​medieval ‘crises’ precipitating the search for a “true church” distinct from (though not independent of) the institutional church, Scott H. Hendrix, “In Quest of the vera ecclesia: The Crises of Late Medieval Ecclesiology,” Viator 7 (1976): 347–​378. See also Scott H. Hendrix, “ ‘We are all Hussites’? Hus and Luther Revisited,” Archiv für Reformationgeschichte 65 (1974): 134–​61.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 05

106 Serina to conciliar arguments as a means of reform. Whereas previous scholarship on Luther’s view of the councils had divided along confessional lines –​Catholics believing Luther had adopted conciliarist views, Lutherans denying that he had in favor of a more novel understanding of the church –​Spehr sees a development in Luther that combines a definitively evangelical understanding of Church authority rooted in the Scriptures with a late medieval understanding of reform councils.4 Beginning with the first appeal to a council in December 1519 until at least the Diet of Worms in 1521 (if not much later with repeated calls for a “free Christian council on German soil”), Luther “increasingly took up conciliar arguments and ideas, which found their practical and ecclesiopolitical highpoint in the appeal to a council.”5 For Spehr, Luther’s support for reform through councils was well within the trajectory of late medieval calls for conciliar reform and should be interpreted along those lines.6 While a council was merely the means to regulate doctrine according to Scripture and had no authority itself to Luther’s mind, it nonetheless had a role in reforming the church according to Scripture.7 Spehr undoubtedly advances the interpretation of Luther’s conciliar views by placing them against the backdrop of late medieval conciliar reforms, but he sees that development occurring primarily in and after 1519. He also assumes the opposition of council to papacy in a way that Luther prior to this time did not.8 It is entirely plausible, however, that Luther’s hope for reform through a council in fact replaced an earlier hope for reform through the papacy after repeated disappointments with papal reform in the course of the 1518 debates. This essay will follow Spehr’s reasoning, though asking a different question and ultimately coming to a different conclusion: Luther’s understanding of papacy and reform during the early Indulgence Controversy was essentially in continuity with the normative medieval tradition of papacy and reform. In order to make this argument, it will use the noted fifteenth-​century

4 Christopher Spehr, Luther und das Konzil: Zur Entwicklung eines zentralen Themas in der Reformationszeit (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 93. 5 Spehr, Luther und das Konzil, 114. 6 Spehr, Luther und das Konzil, 182. 7 Spehr, Luther und das Konzil, 572. 8 While research on conciliar theory has largely come to abandon this false dichotomy of council and pope, that may not be the case for Reformation studies. For recent studies of this sort on conciliarism, see Giuseppe Alberigo, Chiesa Conciliare: Identità e significato del conciliarismo (Brescia: Paideia Editrice, 1981); Johannes Helmrath, “Reform als Theme der Konzilien des Spätmittelalters,” in Christian Unity: The Council of Ferrara-​Florence, 1438/​39–​1989, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1991), 75–​152; and Phillip H. Stump, The Reforms of the Council of Constance (1414‒1418) (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).

“Papista Insanissima”

107

cardinal and philosopher Nicholas of Cusa as a customary representative of medieval reform and a point of comparison for Luther.9 First, this essay will present Cusanus’ 1459 curial reform proposal, underscoring its relationship to the late medieval tradition of papal reform. Second, it will trace Luther’s views on the papacy during the early years of the Indulgence Controversy –​from the 95 Theses through his later appeals to a “better informed” pope and a future council (the last of which Spehr takes as a point of departure) –​to show how Luther compares favorably with the late medieval tradition. Finally, it will contrast Luther’s eventual anti-​papal turn with the canonist and cardinal Cusanus in a way that highlights prevalent tensions in the late medieval church, and ultimately among divided Reformation parties, and reflects criticisms and hopes that are of a piece with the late medieval reform tradition. Before proceeding, the relationship of Cusanus and Luther requires some attention. Any comparison between the two is fraught with difficulties, if only because they were so markedly different throughout much of their careers.10 Cusanus was a trained canon lawyer; Luther a theologian. Cusanus was a secular priest; Luther an Augustinian Hermit. Cusanus was heavily beneficed; Luther a mendicant friar. Cusanus was an ecclesiastic by trade the better part of his career; Luther a professor. Cusanus spent his intellectual life toiling in metaphysics and mystical theology; Luther in exegesis and ecclesiastical polemics. Cusanus’ intellectual conversion aboard a ship returning from Constantinople led him in a decidedly Neoplatonic-​Dionysian direction in his metaphysics; Luther’s breakthrough led him to a strict application of the Pauline doctrine of justification to all areas of his theology. Cusanus was elevated to the cardinalate; Luther excommunicated. Outside of being substantial German intellectuals, they shared little in common. Yet their respective ecclesiological fates offer the most suggestive contrast: whereas Cusanus was a conciliarist turned

9

10

For two of the rare attempts to compare views of Church reform in Cusanus and Luther, see Erwin Iserloh, “Reform der Kirche bei Nikolaus von Kues,” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 4 (1964): 54–​73, and Scott Hendrix, “Nicholas of Cusa’s Ecclesiology between Reform and Reformation,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), 107–​26. For the most accessible biographical studies of Cusanus, see Donald F.  Duclow, “Life and Works,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, ed. Chistopher M.  Bellitto, Thomas M.  Izbicki and Gerald Christianson (New  York:  Paulist Press, 2004), 25‒56, and Erich Meuthen, Nicholas of Cusa: A Sketch for a Biography, trans. David Crowder and Gerald Christianson (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010). There are too many to cite in Luther’s case, but the most detailed and extensive in English is Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, trans. James L. Schaff, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1985–​93).

108 Serina papalist, Luther was a papalist turned what might be crudely called a scripturalist.11 In a preface Luther penned for the publication of his early Latin writings just one year before his death, he cautions readers to overlook his initial support for the papacy: May [the sincere reader] be mindful of the fact that I was once a monk and a most enthusiastic papist (papistam insanissimum) when I began that cause. I  was so drunk, yes, submerged in the pope’s dogmas that I would have been ready to murder all, if I could have, or to co-​operate willingly with the murderers of all who would take but a syllable from obedience to the pope.12 It is not customary to think of the early Luther as a papalist, though by his own admission he was a steadfast supporter of the Roman see. While it may be tempting to doubt the sincerity with which Luther uses the term “papist” to describe his earlier career, scholars of late medieval conciliar reform count this a far more apt description of the later Cusanus.13 However, a close study of these respective periods in their careers may suggest the opposite. By taking these thinkers on their own terms rather than contrasting them with different versions of themselves –​such as the early conciliarist Cusanus or the later evangelical Luther –​Cusanus and Luther can be said to share similar criticisms of the papacy and also similar hopes for reform through the papacy.

Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio Generalis and Late Medieval Reform

In order to contextualize Cusanus’ 1459 reform proposal, some description of his evolving ecclesiological and reformatory views is necessary. Cusanus had 11 12 13

For an example of this, see Ernst Bizer, Luther und der Papst (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1958). WA 54:179; LW 34: 328. All translations from the WA are mine. Where there is an English translation available, it will be cited from the American edition (LW). For interpretations of Cusanus’ post-​conciliar papalism, see James E. Biechler, “Nicholas of Cusa and the End of the Conciliar Movement: A Humanist Crisis of Identity,” Church History 44 (1975): 5‒21; Paul E. Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 218–​303; and Joachim W. Stieber, “The ‘Hercules of the Eugenians’ at the Crossroads: Nicholas of Cusa’s Decision for the Pope and against the Council in 1436/​1437 –​Theological, Political, and Social Aspects,” in Nicholas of Cusa In Search of God and Wisdom, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas Izbicki (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991), 221‒55.

“Papista Insanissima”

109

been an advocate of conciliar theory at the Council of Basel in its early years.14 By 1434, he drafted a treatise that still represents the “synthesis and apogee” of conciliarism, his three-​book De concordantia catholica.15 There, Cusanus laid out a theory of conciliar reform through principles of representation and consent that would apply to both church and empire. In 1436, however, the young conciliarist had a change of heart, defected to the papal minority at the council, and thereafter spent the remainder of his career in service to four consecutive popes: first, he was advocate for Pope Eugenius iv to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick iii; next, he was cardinal, legate reformer, and residential bishop under popes Nicholas v and Callixtus iii; finally, he was a resident cardinal, vicar-​general of temporal affairs, and legate of the city of Rome under Pius ii.16 After Cusanus arrived in Rome to take up residence as a cardinal in 1458, Pius commissioned him with the task of reforming the principal Roman basilicas, the Roman Rota, and above all the Roman curia.17 Sometime after the spring of 1459, Cusanus composed the first draft of his Reformatio generalis –​a general reform of the Church. His proposal is divided into three parts: a theological preface detailing for the pope the rationale behind his reforms; fourteen rules for the appointed ecclesiastical visitors; and specific recommendations for the reform of pope, cardinals, and other officers within the Roman curia. Cusanus’ proposal fits firmly within the medieval tradition of a reformatio in capite et membris –​a reform in head and members, whereby reform begins with the papal head, along with the Roman curia, then proceeds throughout the rest of the church.18 Reform starts with, as he puts it, the 14

15 16 17 18

For representative treatments of conciliarism at Basel, see Antony Black, Council and Commune: The Conciliar Movement and Its Fifteenth-​Century Heritage (London: Burns & Oates, 1979); Werner Krämer, Konsens und Rezeption: Verfassungsprinzipien der Kirche im Basler Konziliarismus (Münster: Aschendorff, 1980); and Hermann Josef Sieben, Traktate und Theorien zum Konzil: Von Beginn des Grossen Schismas bis zum Vorabend der Reformation (1378–​1521) (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Josef Knecht, 1983), esp. 59–​109. Alberigo, Chiesa Conciliare, 291. The single most important account of Cusanus’ “papal turn” is Morimichi Watanabe, “Authority and Consent in Church Government: Panormitanus, Aeneas Sylvius, Cusanus,”Journal of the History of Ideas 33 (1970): 217‒36. The most extensive treatment of Cusanus’ period in Rome is Erich Meuthen, Die letzten Jahre des Nikolaus von Kues:  Biographische Untersuchungen nach neuen Quellen (Köln: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1958), 28–​52. See especially Karl Augustin Frech, Reform an Haupt und Gliedern: Untersuchen zur Entwicklung und Verwendung der Formulierung im Hoch-​und Spätmittelalter (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1992), who argues that the term reformatio in capite et membris emerged under twelfth-​and thirteenth-​century popes within a hierarchical conception of the church, not from conciliarists or publicists of the later Middle Ages. For other examples of the reformatio in capite et membris tradition, see Christopher M. Bellitto, Renewing Christianity: A

110 Serina papal “eyes” of the church: once reformed itself, the papacy might turn clear eyes to the rest of the Church and seek its reform. Cusanus makes several attempts to apply this reasoning practically to the reform of the papacy in his proposal. First, he sets out a clear standard for the reform of the papacy using a favorite image of his:  christiformitas. He frequently uses the term christiformitas as a Neoplatonic expression of the medieval imitatio Christi tradition, where the individual Christian conforms to the image of Christ as a means of deification.19 He argues that pope and curia must conform their lives to Christ so they might become christiform exemplars for the entire Church. “Therefore we who have followed in the place of the Apostles, in order that we might put the form of Christ on others, it is necessary to be christiform before the others.”20 While becoming christiform through the imitation of Christ is necessary for all, it is especially incumbent upon the papacy if it should hope to reform the church and provide the faithful an object for their imitation. “Therefore we who desire to reform all Christians can put forward no other form to them to imitate than Christ, from whom they have received their name.”21 Second, Cusanus uses another favorite image, the church as a mystical body, to bring the flaws of the papacy into the open and urge the office toward its reform. The pope, he says, is not the head of the body, but its eyes –​the head is reserved for Christ –​and as such is charged with visiting and reforming the entire Church. Taking a familiar metaphor from the Gospels, Cusanus adds that

19

20

21

History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II (New York: Paulist, 2001); Constantin Fasolt, Council and Hierarchy: The Political Thought of William Durant the Younger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and Stump, Council of Constance. For studies of christiformitas in Cusanus, chiefly from his sermons, see Thomas M. Izbicki, “Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusa’s Roman Sermons (1459),” Asian Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities 1 (2011): 1–​16; Clyde Lee Miller, “Form and Transformation: Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusa,” Journal of Religion (2010): 1–​14; and Harold Schwaetzer, “La conformation au Christ d’après Nicolas de Cues,” in La predication et l’Église chez Eckhardt et Nicolas de Cues, ed. Marie-​Anne Vannier (Paris: Les Éditions de Cerf, 2008), 119–​ 29. More generally on the medieval imitatio Christi, see Giles Constable, Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 143–​248. Reformatio Generalis 4, 1–​3 (h XV.24):  “Qui igitur in locum apostolorum successimus, ut alios nostra imitatione formam Christi induamus, utique prioriter aliis christiformes esse necesse est.” An English translation is available in Nicholas of Cusa, Writings on Church and Reform, trans. Thomas M. Izbicki (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 551–​91. Reformatio Generalis 5, 1–​3 (h XV.27): “Nos igitur, qui cunctos christianos reformare cupimus, utique aliam nullam possumus eis formam quam imitentur proponere quam Christi, a quo nomen receperunt.”

“Papista Insanissima”

111

where the eyes are dark, the entire mystical body itself will be dark and unreformed.22 In his day, moreover, the eyes of the Church have grown increasingly darkened and are in need of illumination: It is known that the body of the Church at this time has declined gravely from the light and day and is covered by obscure shadows, and greatly on account of it since the eyes, which ought to be its “light” have degenerated “into darkness.” And since the eye, which sees the blindness of others, does not see its own [blindness], because the eye cannot visit itself; but it is necessary that it submit itself to another visitor, who visits, corrects, and purifies it, that it might be fit to visit the members of the body.23 While the papacy can see and reform the ills of others, it cannot see and reform itself, but must have others to visit, correct, and purify it. He then urges Pius and the curia to do two things in this connection: first, submit themselves to those who have clear vision that they might be reformed, and second, once reformed “turn clear eyes to the rest of the body” in order to bring about its reform.24 Cusanus here lays out clearly both his standard for reform of the papacy and the consequences of that reform. The papacy can only carry out its function as eyes of the Church responsible for visiting and reforming the rest of the body after it submits to visitation and reform itself. Cusanus again brings these ideas together later in the proposal. He specifically addresses the obligation of the pope to reform himself. The present pope must bring about the edification of the church through observance of its sacred canons. On the one hand, he describes the pope as a father of the ancient fathers, a patriarch obligated to the same canons as those ancient fathers, an archbishop who must carry out his episcopal oversight with diligence, a bishop given to shepherd his own flock, a priest called to a higher standard than diocesan priests, and a servus servorum, so called by Gregory the Great.25 On 22 23

24

25

Reformatio Generalis 6, 1–​17 (h XV.28). Reformatio Generalis 6, 18–​24 (h XV.28): “Notum autem est corpus ecclesiae hoc tempor valde declinasse a luce et die et umbris obscuris involvi, ex eo maxime quia occuli, qui ‘lux’ eius esse deberent, ‘in tenebras’, degeneraverunt. Et quoniam oculus, qui aliorum maculas videt, suas non videt, ideo oculus se visitare nequit; sed oportet, ut se subiciat alteri visitatori, qui ipsum visitet, corrigat et mundet, ut sic aptus fiat ad visitandum corporis membra.” Reformatio Generalis 6, 28–​33 (h XV.30): “… quod post hoc in totum ecclesiae corpus lucidos oculos convertamus et singula membra per nos aut nostras vices gerentes sollerter visitemus tamquam deo de nostro officio credita ecclesia et animabus omnium districtam rationem reddituri, nisi omnem possibilem in hoc fecerimus diligentiam.” Reformatio Generalis 23, 19–​32 (h XV.43).

112 Serina the other hand, however, the pope must not allow his status in the Church to prohibit his own spiritual betterment. Cusanus then seeks to embolden the visitors of Rome, who have the daunting task of reforming the papacy. He demands that the papacy willingly receive its visitors and accept their judgment. The visitors, furthermore, should not shrink from their task in fear. Instead, they should bear in mind that even popes need reform. Cusanus goes on to qualify many of the above-​mentioned titles with a more sober appraisal of the papacy:  though the pope is Vicar of Christ, a father of fathers, and one with the highest and most holy dignitas, he nonetheless remains a minister to Christians, a servant of servants, and one who holds “sinfulness and infirmity in common with all men.” Since his role in the Church is edification, not domination, the pope should do whatever is in his power to change in accordance with the recommendations of the visitors so that he might edify rather than scandalize the Church.26 Cusanus’ reform proposal hardly conveys the sanguine view of the papacy so often attributed to his papalist later years, but rather offers a frank, critical reproof of the papacy and the consequences of the papacy’s reform for the status ecclesiae.27 Two important points need to be made about his approach to papacy and reform in the proposal. First, while the ex-​conciliarist cardinal affirms the jurisdictional primacy of the Roman see in the administration of the Church’s affairs, he does not see this in any way as mutually exclusive with criticism of the papacy or reform of the papacy. On the contrary, it becomes all the more exigent because of the responsibility the pope has for the bene esse of the Church. Second, and more directly pertinent to the broader question of Luther’s relationship to medieval reform, Cusanus believes the reform of the papacy will correspondingly result in the reform of the entire Church. This again fits neatly within the framework of the medieval reformatio in capite et membris. Where the papal head is reformed (or, in the case of Cusanus, the papal eyes), the rest of the body will follow in kind. Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio generalis at once seeks the reform of the papacy and affirms the role of the papacy in reforming the entire Church, both hallmarks of the medieval reform tradition.28

26 27 28

Reformatio Generalis 24 (h XV.44). On the status ecclesiae and its relationship to medieval ecclesiology and canon law, see Yves Congar, “Status Ecclesiae,” Studia Gratiana 15 (1972): 1–​31. Christopher M. Bellitto, “The Reform Context of the Great Western Schism,” in A Companion to the Great Western Schism, ed. Joëlle Rollo-​Koster and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2009), 303–​31.

“Papista Insanissima”



113

Luther’s Views of Papacy and Reform during the Indulgence Controversy

Turning to Luther, then, what can be said about his relationship to Cusanus and this broader medieval reform tradition? While there is no direct continuity, many of the same assumptions regarding papacy and reform are visible in his writings from the early Indulgence Controversy. It is not possible to review the entire controversy, but only to highlight some key events and writings that reveal Luther’s views. His primary contention in the infamous theses of 1517 was that indulgence preachers had been proclaiming a faulty doctrine of penance. He protested that the predominant view of penance and indulgences being proclaimed was unbiblical and based on an erroneous foundation of certain scholastic theologians and papal decretals.29 The subsequent course of the controversy took an unexpected turn. Whereas Luther saw himself addressing an open theological question on indulgences, many of his opponents saw his protest as an attack on the papacy. Consequently, they shifted their arguments to legitimating the prevailing doctrine of indulgences on the basis of papal authority. In order, Conrad Wimpina, John Tetzel, Sylvester Prierias, Cardinal Cajetan, and John Eck –​all Dominicans save for Eck, it must be said –​countered Luther’s theses against indulgences with a defense of papal authority. Wimpina, a professor of theology at Frankfurt, composed a set of 106 disputation theses in January 1518 under Tetzel’s name that charged Luther with undermining papal authority. Tetzel followed with his own set of theses, which he defended to obtain his doctorate at Leipzig, that focused again primarily upon the papal right to issue indulgences. Prierias, Magister Sacri Palatii in Rome and a noted Thomistic theologian in his own right, issued the first theological critique of Luther’s theses from the papal court with his June 1518 Dialogus de potestate papae, which demanded submission to all teachings and practices established by the papacy. Cajetan, the noted Italian cardinal and theologian, then interviewed Luther at Augsburg in 29

Very little in the actual text of the 95 Theses gives any indication of how Luther viewed the pope’s role in reforming indulgences at the time. He does indicate, however, that the indulgence preachers were acting against the intention of the pope (thesis 91), and in so doing they were calling into question the papacy and the entire Roman church (thesis 79, thesis 81). This implies that the pope has good reason to take interest in what was being preached in the dioceses of Mainz and Magdeburg, though Luther at this stage –​by his own later admission –​did not believe Leo x had knowledge of the 1515 Instructio summaria authorizing the specious practices or the ideas regarding penance contained therein. It might also be mentioned that the theses most seemingly critical of the papacy (82–​ 89) are in fact not in Luther’s voice, but rather imagined protestations of sceptical laity.

114 Serina October 1518. Cajetan himself had come to prominence not only as a commentator on Aquinas, but also as an opponent of conciliar theory espoused during the controversial Pisan schism of 1511 that led to the Fifth Lateran Council.30 Finally, John Eck, the only non-​Dominican among Luther’s first interlocutors, entered the controversy with a criticism of how Luther had portrayed papal authority in the indulgence theses. In the course of the debate between Luther and Eck, culminating with the summer 1519 disputation in Leipzig, the question of Church authority finally occluded the question of indulgence preaching and the theology behind it. As David Bagchi has argued, Luther’s earliest opponents could not agree on exactly why he was wrong about indulgences precisely because the theology of indulgences remained elusive even for its supporters.31 They could not silence Luther on the question of indulgences because there was no official dogma on the matter, so they made the tenuous connection that attacking indulgences was tantamount to attacking the pope as sponsor of indulgences, equating the Wittenberg professor with conciliarists as a default strategy.32 Between the publication of his 95 Theses in 1517 and his 1519 debate in Leipzig with John Eck over Church authority, Luther published numerous writings in an attempt to disabuse his critics. Those include an extensive point-​by-​point explanation of the theses, entitled Resolutiones (February 1518); the record of his heated interview with Cajetan in Augsburg, entitled Acta Augustana (October 1518); and a pair of appeals filed subsequent to the Cajetan interview –​one to a better informed pope (November 1518), another to a future council (December 1518). The first example of a rebuttal comes in the Resolutiones. Luther explains that, while there no doubt are tyrannous popes, such as Alexander vi or Julius ii, he believes Leo x to be one of the “good and learned pontiffs.”33 But popes are sinful human beings subject to error. Consequently, Luther claims that he listens to the pope not as a person, but as pope  –​that is, when the pope speaks in accordance with the canons he is charged with administering or when he makes a decision in accordance with a general council.34 These are the pope’s primary jurisdictional functions for Luther. While he does think it

30 31 32 33 34

On Cajetan’s role in this development, see Ulrich Horst, Zwischen Konziliarismus und Reformation: Studien zur Ekklesiologie im Dominikanerordern (Rome: Istituto Storico Domenicano, 1985), 28–​54. David V. N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–​1525 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991), 30. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents, 43. For the foregoing survey generally, see 17–​65. WA 1:573; LW 31:155. WA 1:577; LW 31:162.

“Papista Insanissima”

115

would be better for a council to rule on the disputed question of indulgences, he has no intention of impugning papal authority.35 On the contrary, he derides those who with raised voices “act arrogantly against papal authority” and he pledges “ecclesiastical obedience to the pope” as he awaits the Church’s decision.36 It is also worth mentioning the letter to Leo that Luther includes with the Resolutiones. There, he submits himself to the pope’s mercy, asking that Leo protect him. Then he adds: “Blessed Father, I offer myself prostrate at the feet of your Blessedness with all that I am and I have. Bring to life, kill, call, revoke, approve, reprove that it might be pleasing [to you]: I know your voice to be the voice of Christ presiding and speaking in you. If I should merit death, I will not refuse death.”37 The letter to the pope and the attached Resolutiones suggest that Luther –​like Cusanus and many other medieval reformers of the papacy –​had no qualms with papal authority. While he does not preclude the possibility of papal error, he is nonetheless willing to submit himself to the decision of the pope on the matter of indulgence reform, the same pope in whom Luther believes Christ to preside and speak. The second instance that provides a clear view of Luther’s thoughts on the papacy and reform can be found in the October 1518 interview with Cardinal Cajetan. Only Luther’s recounting of the Cajetan meeting from his Acta Augustana exists, but it indicates clearly where the suspected conciliarist from Wittenberg stood on the questions of papacy and reform at the time. Making a prepared statement to Cajetan, Luther insists that he is not attempting to reject established Church doctrine or a matter necessary for salvation, but rather a contested theological opinion.38 He argues that past papal decretals have been in error and subsequently revoked, and he hopes that the same will happen for the decretal founding the indulgence trade –​Clement vi’s 1343 bull Unigenitus.39 Popes, Luther says, are under the authority of Scripture, and their decretals are subject to regulation by Scripture, too.40 This, he opines, is what distinguishes theologians from canonists: whereas jurists concern themselves with legal precedent, theologians are subordinate to Scripture.41 Luther the 35 36 37

38 39 40 41

WA 1:583; LW 31:172. WA 1:719; LW 31:236. WA 1:529.22–​26: “Beatissime Pater, prostratum me pedibus tuae Beatitudinis offero cum omnibus, quae sum et habeo. Vivifica, occide, voca, revoca, approba, reproba, ut placuerit: vocem tuam vocem Christi in te praesidentis et loquentis agnoscam. Si mortem merui, mori non recusabo.” WA 2:8; LW 31:263. WA 2:10; LW 31:265. WA 2:11; LW 31:267. WA 2:22; LW 31:285.

116 Serina theologian then sees as his task the calling for reform when provisional Church law is in error, as in the case of indulgences. Yet none of this for Luther is a sign of incorrigibility or opposition to papal authority, but rather a customary approach to the reform of past Church dogma that is found amongst medieval canonists and reformers alike.42 Finally, after the interview with Cajetan Luther goes on to pen his two later appeals to a better informed pope and to a future council. In the first appeal, Luther claims that his largely Dominican interlocutors have misunderstood his intentions and should be ignored. He then protests from the “most holy lord Pope of ours not well informed” to “the most holy father in Christ and our lord, Pope Leo x, by divine providence better informed,” expressing again, as he had in his introductory letter to the Resolutiones a “desire to adhere in this protection and defense of the above mentioned most holy Pope of ours better informed.”43 After catching wind of Leo’s instruction that Cajetan not give the Wittenberg theologian a chance to defend himself, Luther lodges a second appeal –​this time from pope to future council. While the appeal to a council directly defies the bulls of Pius ii and Julius ii prohibiting such measures, Luther’s view of the papacy here is ultimately no different than it had been earlier. He says that even though a pope “bears the representation of God,” he nonetheless “is a man like us, takes from men the form around him (as the Apostle said), he is able to err, to sin, to deceive, to be vain, nor is he an exception to the general statement from the prophet: ‘Every man is a liar.’ ”44 The imagery Luther uses here is not only within the scope of his earlier arguments, but it bears 42 43

44

This is forcefully argued in Brian Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150–​1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 1972). WA 2: 32.30–​33.5: “De quo denuo protestor, sicut alias saepe protestatus fui, idcirco a praefato sanctissimo domino nostro Papa non bene informato eiusque praetensa commissione ad supradicti domini procuratoris fiscalis instantiam (ut praefatur) signata ac a praetensis iudicibus et citatione supradicta ac praetenso processu contra me forsitan instituto et instituendo et omnibus inde secutis et secuturis et quolibet ipsorum nec non a quolibet futuro gravamine, quod mihi ex eo venire poterit, ad sanctissimum dominum in Christo patrem et dominum nostrum dominum Leonem divina providentia Papam x.  melius informandum provoco et appello in his scriptis. Apostolosque primo, secundo et tertio instanter, instantius et instantissime mihi dari peto, si quis sit, qui mihi dare hos voluerit et potuerit, et praesertim avobis, domino notario, testimoniales, subiiciens me mihique adhaerentes et adhaerere volentes in his protectioni ac defensioni praefati sanctissimi domini nostri Papae melius informati.” WA 2:37.6–​12: “Si quid autem ex lubrico forsan linguae seu adversariorum potius irritamento minus recte et non ea qua debeat reverentia dictum fuerit, paratissimus sum illud emendare, sed quoniam is, qui vicem dei in terris gerit quem Papam dicimus, cum sit homo, similis nobis, ex hominibus assumptus et ipse (ut Apostolus dicit) circundatus infirmitate, potens errare, peccare, mentiri, vanus fieri, nec sit exceptus ab illa prophetae generali sententia ‘Omnis homo mendax.’ ”

“Papista Insanissima”

117

striking similarities to the language of Cusanus’ reform proposal –​a proposal drafted for the very pope, Pius ii, whose prohibition on appeals from popes to future councils Luther defies in drafting his own appeal.45 Three premises in these writings reveal some degree of commonality with Cusanus. First, like Cusanus, Luther believes the pope as a human is subject to error and correction. He cites several recent popes as “tyrannous,” claims he listens to the pope only when he speaks in accordance with his canonical obligations, and later appeals to both a better informed pope and a future council out of his belief that Leo has in fact erred in his understanding of the indulgence matter. Yet even in this latter, most conciliarist of moves, the language Luther uses to criticize the papacy is ultimately no different than that which the papalist Cusanus uses when he speaks of the papacy as the darkened eyes of the church and says that the pope holds a “sinfulness and infirmity” in common with all men. A second point is related: like Cusanus, Luther believes the papacy is capable of reform, nor does he see such reform as inconsistent with support for the papacy. Luther maintains that past papal decretals have been in error and subsequently revoked, and that in this event so too should Unigenitus. Similarly, Luther claims that Leo is poorly informed on the matter and asks him to reconsider and rule in his favor, later appealing to a future council to do the same when he becomes convinced the pope will not. Luther believes the pope is capable of correction and change, though he does not see this at odds with submission to the papacy, in much the same way that Cusanus could reprove the papacy for its ills and call for its reform, without a hint of contradiction between this and his support of the Roman see. Third, like Cusanus Luther believes the pope is in a unique position to bring about reform in the church, and he urges him to do so in the debate over indulgences. Since papal decretals are subject to change, since the decretal supporting indulgences contradicts Scripture, and since the pope is subordinate to Scripture, to Luther’s mind the most logical course of action is for Leo to issue a new papal decretal that would apply another, more biblical canon against Clement’s Unigenitus –​this time the decree De Paenitientiis et Remissionibus, originally issued by Clement v at the council of Vienne to regulate indulgence preaching and later included in the Constituiones Clementinae (1312–​17).46 45 46

On the ecclesiopolitical context of Execrabilis, including Cusanus’ relationship to it, see John A. F. Thompson, Popes and Princes, 1417–​1517: Politics and Polity in the Late Medieval Church (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1980), 3–​28. WA 1:581; LW 31:170. On the Clementine canons, see J.A. Clarence Smith, Medieval Law Teachers and Writers:  Civilian and Canonist (Ottawa:  University of Ottawa Press, 1975), 68–​69. The canon is found in Clementinae 5.9.

118 Serina Here again Luther’s rhetoric resembles Cusanus’. He sees the pope as the most expedient path to the reform of the Church, in particular by administering existing canons that will resolve the current theological dispute. Luther nonetheless submits himself to whatever decision might result, claiming that the pope, though he may be a sinful human and capable of error, though he may be in need of reform himself, though his decisions may only be provisional, nonetheless presides and speaks as the voice of Christ and deserves obedience. The implication of such comparisons should be clear: at this early stage of the controversy, Luther’s views on the papacy and reform do not differ markedly from those of Cusanus. Seen in the light of a late medieval papal reformer such as Cusanus, Luther’s writings during the Indulgence Controversy reveal that he in no way set out to impugn papal primacy or Church authority. The entire controversy was to his mind an inner-​scholastic debate over the medieval theology of penance conducted between a humanist-​influenced Augustinian and his Thomist opponents. It was those opponents, however, who shifted the topic of debate to the papacy. When mistaken judgments began emerging from curialists such as Prierias and Cajetan, Luther saw an opportunity for the pope not only to resolve the case in his favor but also to reform the theology of indulgences he was contesting, possibly with a papal decretal overturning the bull Unigenitus.

Convergences and Divergences in Cusanus and Luther

It is again tempting to attribute a degree of insincerity or even manipulation to Luther’s rhetoric regarding the papacy (as one might expect of humanist panegyrics, for instance), but that overlooks the simple fact that Luther at this stage was still working for reform within the basic medieval ecclesiastical framework –​he had no reason to think the system would fail him.47 There is little evidence of insubordination to papal authority or an abrogation of papal 47

Bäumer follows Kolde in arguing that the appeal to Leo was a “letzter Versuch der noch mit der alten Traditionen ringenden Seele,” Remigius Bäumer, Martin Luther und der Papst (Munster: Aschendorff, 1970), 34, citing Kolde from Theodor von Kolde, Luthers Stellung zu Concil und Kirche (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsman, 1876), 33. For an example of the difficulty in taking Luther at face value when addressing Leo, see Berndt Hamm, “Luther’s Freedom of a Christian and the Pope,” Lutheran Quarterly 21 (2007): 249–​67, in particular the literature cited on 253 n.19. On the relationship between humanist rhetoric and Church reform under the Renaissance papacy, see John F. D’Amico, Renaissance Humanism in Papal Rome: Humanists and Churchmen on the Eve of the Reformation (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, 1983), and John O’Malley, Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome:  Rhetoric,

“Papista Insanissima”

119

primacy in his writings through the end of 1518. Where Luther does take issue with past papal decretals, or with Leo or even past popes, he uses the same sorts of images that Cusanus himself did in his reform proposal. Both accept the primacy of the Roman see without reservation. Both see fit to criticize particular popes, to attribute sinfulness and error to them, and to lament the consequences of the papacy’s ills for the entire church. Both, however, remain optimistic that the Bishop of Rome will respond favorably to their arguments and that his response will result in needed reforms. In these respects, the Wittenberg reformer’s early views were not in any way discontinuous with the medieval reform tradition as embodied by a Cusanus. What happens in the following years to turn Luther so adamantly against the papacy? How does the borderline obsequiously papalist Luther of this period come to deny Roman primacy by divine right and allege that the pope is the Antichrist? There were numerous events precipitating this turn.48 First, shortly after the interview with Cajetan, Luther saw the papal bull forbidding Cajetan to debate with him, as well as Leo’s directive that Frederick the Wise turn his theologian over for trial, and began to have misgivings about whether or not Leo would give him a fair hearing. As a consequence, he drafted the November 1518 appeal to a future council. Second, only one month after the appeal to a future council, Leo x officially published Cum postquam, the bull on indulgences written by Cajetan that supported the doctrine of Unigenitus, based –​ at least to Luther’s mind  –​not on Scripture, church councils, or the church fathers, but strictly on papal fiat. Not only did Luther’s desired debate over the medieval theology of penance or a papal application of the Clementine canon over against Unigenitus fail to happen, but Leo in fact used the authority of his office to affirm the very doctrine Luther had protested. Third, and more significantly for the course of the ensuing controversy, Luther began immersing himself in canon law in preparation for his debate with Eck at Leipzig in June 1519. Through this intensive study of canon law, Luther came to the conclusion that the prevailing view of the papacy was a fiction of medieval canonists. He makes this clear in his thirteenth proposition for the Leipzig Debate: “The very callous decrees of the Roman pontiffs which have appeared the last four hundred years prove that the Roman Church is superior to all others. Against them stand the history of eleven hundred years, the text of divine Scripture, and the

48

Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450–​1521 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1979). On this development, there is little reason to question the reading of Scott Hendrix, Luther and the Papacy:  Stages in a Reformation Conflict (Philadelphia PA:  Fortress Press, 1981), 71–​94.

120 Serina decree of the Council of Nicaea, the most sacred of all councils.”49 Thereafter, Luther began to speak privately of the pope as Antichrist and rejected papal primacy by divine right.50 He subsequently turned in an entirely anti-​papal direction, a view that he would maintain the remainder of his career and that would prove irreconcilable with any potential political settlement of the Protestant Reformation, even one that granted primacy by human right alone.51 The course of events suggests a telling contrast between Luther and Cusanus that helps account for the sharp divergence in their remaining careers. As an Augustinian Hermit and doctor of Scripture at Wittenberg, Luther had spent precious little time involved in Cusanus’ own spheres of vocational discourse: canon law and ecclesiastical politics. Yet in the aftermath of the theses on indulgences, the beginning of legal proceedings against Luther thrusts him into the altogether foreign world of ecclesiastical jurisprudence. As a result, he found himself wading into medieval canon law in order to defend his opinions concerning indulgences and legitimate his calls for their reform.52 While Luther was prepared for the polemics of Dominican theologians, he was not similarly prepared for the “harmonious dissonance” of canon law, nor for the maze of ecclesiastical jurisdiction he would find in the appeals process.53 The

49 50

51

52

53

WA 2:161; LW 31:318. For discussion of the pope as Antichrist, see Bäumer, Martin Luther und der Papst, 54–​ 56; Lawrence P. Buck, The Roman Monster: An Icon of the Papal Antichrist in Reformation Polemics (Kirksville, MO:  Truman State University Press, 2014); Bernard McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 143–​230; David M. Whitford, “The Papal Antichrist: Martin Luther and the Underappreciated Influence of Lorenzo Valla,” Renaissance Quarterly 61 (2008): 26–​52; and more traditionally, Hans Preuss, Die Vorstellungen vom Antichrist im späteren Mittelalter:  bei Luther und in der konfessionellen Polemik (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1906). Luther expresses this in his 1537 treatise Smalcald Articles, proposed at an assembly of the Schmalkalden League as a rejoinder to Paul iii’s convocation of a council, and can be found in Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 2000), with the discussion of the papacy in SA 2.4, at 307–​310. For Luther and canon law, see Sieghard Mühlmann, Luther und das Corpus Iuris Canonici bis zum Jahre 1530 (Diss., Leipzig, 1972), but see also the shorter, bibliographic note in Sieghard Mühlmann, “Luther und das Corpus Iuris Canonici bis zum Jahre 1530: Ein forschungsgeschichtlicher Überlick,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-​Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 58 (1972): 235–​305. More recently, see Christopher Voigt-​Goy, “ ‘dicutum unius privati’: Zu Luther’s Verwendung des Kommentars der Dekretale Significasti von Nicolaus de Tudeschis,” in Orientierung für das Leben: Kirchliche Bildung und Politik in Spätmittelalter, Reformation und Neuzeit, ed. Patrik Mählung (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2010), 93‒114. Stephan Kuttner, Harmony from Dissonance: An Interpretation of Medieval Canon Law (Latrobe, PA: Archabbey Press, 1960).

“Papista Insanissima”

121

product of this unfamiliar discourse was an increasingly hostile and incredulous Luther, who began to doubt both the intentions of the sitting pope and the more recent claims of papal authority rooted in canon law. In this respect, Luther and Cusanus were two proverbial ships passing in the late medieval ecclesiological night: Luther the theologian came to reject the papacy on the basis of the same canonical sources that Cusanus the canonist had once used to support his conciliarism before rejecting Basel for the papacy. The relation of canon law to the legitimation of papal authority was of course not novel in the early sixteenth century, but law and theology had grown increasingly at odds with each other.54 By the end of the Middle Ages canonists were trained, employed, and operated largely independent of the theological concerns of the schoolmen, let alone the religious.55 The prevalent equation of canon law with divine law rather than more contingent positive law, the ecclesiastical preference for canonists over theologians for benefices, and the canonistic assumption of canon law’s superiority to the purportedly recondite speculation of theologians testify to this opposition, as do their frequently opposed ecclesiopolitical affiliations.56 This was no different by the start of the sixteenth century. At Lateran v, canonists only made recourse to 54

55

56

Canon law developed in part as a consequence of the ecclesiological disputes between papacy and empire during the Gregorian reforms and the expanding papal monarchy of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, so it stands to reason that it would be given to papal apologetics. Studies of this complicated development are vast, but the best in English are Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983); Stanley Chodorow, Christian Political Theory and Church Politics in the Mid-​Twelfth Century: The Ecclesiology of Gratian’s Decretum (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972); Brian Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1955); and John A.  Watt, The Theory of Papal Monarchy in the Thirteenth Century: The Contribution of the Canonists (New York: Fordham University Press, 1965). In this respect, civil law and canon law shared far greater similarities to one another than canon lawyers did with theologians. On this, see Constantin Fasolt, “Visions of Order in the Canonists and Civilians,” in Handbook of European History 1400–​1600:  Late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation, ed. Thomas, Brady Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 2:31–​59; for jurists and theologians, 34–​37. For studies of these dynamics, see G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes, “Exponents of Sovereignty:  Canonists as Seen by Theologians in the Late Middle Ages,” in The Church and Sovereignty, c. 590–​1918: Essays in Honor of Michael Wilks, ed. Diana Wood (Oxford:  Basil Blackwell), 299–​312; Louis B.  Pascoe, Church and Reform:  Bishops, Theologians, and Canon Lawyers in the Thought of Pierre d’Ailly, 1351–​1420 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 257–​75; and Takashi Shogimen, “The Relationship between Theology and Canon Law: Another Context of Political Thought in the Early Fourteenth Century,” Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (1999): 417–​431.

122 Serina Scripture in order to justify papal claims of authority against the Pisan schism and its supporters, directly at odds with the emphasis upon biblical quaestiones in the medieval schools.57 In the wake of the Indulgence Controversy, canon law would be among the first of the medieval practices officially jettisoned by the reformers (or, more literally, a vanity upon the bonfire in Wittenberg, where Luther and his cohorts burned the bull of excommunication against him along with the books of canon law). This growing distance between the study and influence of the canonist and the study and influence of the theologian in some small part accounts for Luther’s hostility and incredulity toward what he deemed an inert ecclesiastical hierarchy insulated against reform by layers of ecclesiastical jurisprudence. Luther did not express such pessimism or foresee such an outcome in 1518, though. On the contrary, his view of the papacy and reform remained, like Cusanus’, critical but hopeful. There is no shred of the papal caricature found in Erasmus or Valla, let alone the theological invective of Marsiglio or Ockham, Wycliffe or Hus. When viewed in comparison with Cusanus’ reform proposal, this Luther seems positively papalist and well within the general stream of medieval reform. Throughout the Indulgence Controversy, Luther ascribes to the pope a definitive role overseeing the Church, implementing its canons, and ruling on contested jurisprudential and ecclesiastical matters. He pledges to abide by papal decisions and hopes for a positive ruling in his own case. The protestations of his opponents notwithstanding, the early Luther of the Indulgence Controversy was a far cry from the publicists, and even many conciliarists, of the preceding three centuries. In fact, the early Luther was just what he claimed to be: “a most enthusiastic papist,” maybe even more enthusiastic than Cusanus himself.58 Bibliography Aland, Kurt. Die 95 Thesen Martin Luthers und die Anfänge der Reformation. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Mohn, 1983. Alberigo, Giuseppe. Chiesa Conciliare:  Identità e significato del conciliarismo. Brescia: Paideia Editrice, 1981.

57 58

For this argument, see Nelson Minnich, “The Function of Sacred Scripture in the Decrees of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–​17),” Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 18 (1986): 319–​329. For a study suggesting a less papalist later Cusanus than otherwise thought, see Thomas M. Izbicki, “An Ambivalent Papalism: Peter in the Sermons of Nicholas of Cusa,” in Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History: Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Streuver, ed. J. Marion and M.W. Schlitt (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001), 49–​65.

“Papista Insanissima”

123

Bagchi, David. Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–​1525. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991. Bagchi, David. “Luther’s Ninety-​Five Theses and the Contemporary Criticism of Indulgences.” In Promissory Notes on the Treasury of Merits: Indulgences in Late Medieval Europe, edited by R.N. Swanson, 331–​355. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Bäumer, Remigius. Martin Luther und der Papst. Munster: Aschendorff, 1970. Bellitto, Christopher M. “The Reform Context of the Great Western Schism.” In A Companion to the Great Western Schism, edited by Joëlle Rollo-​Koster and Thomas M. Izbicki, 303–​31. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Bellitto, Christopher M. Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II. New York: Paulist, 2001. Berman, Harold J. Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983. Biechler, James E. “Nicholas of Cusa and the End of the Conciliar Movement: A Humanist Crisis of Identity.” Church History 44 (1975): 5‒21. Bizer, Ernst. Luther und der Papst. Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1958. Black, Antony. Council and Commune: The Conciliar Movement and Its Fifteenth-​Century Heritage. London: Burns & Oates, 1979. Boyd, Stephen D. Reform before the Reformation: Vincenzo Quirini and the Religious Renaissance in Italy. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. 3 vols. Translated by James L. Schaff. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1985–​93. Buck, Lawrence P. The Roman Monster: An Icon of the Papal Antichrist in Reformation Polemics. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2014. Chodorow, Stanley. Christian Political Theory and Church Politics in the Mid-​Twelfth Century: The Ecclesiology of Gratian’s Decretum. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. Congar, Yves. “Status Ecclesiae.” Studia Gratiana 15 (1972): 1–​31. Constable, Giles. Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. D’Amico, John F. Renaissance Humanism in Papal Rome: Humanists and Churchmen on the Eve of the Reformation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, 1983. Duclow, Donald F. “Life and Works.” In Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, edited by Chistopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson, 25‒56. New York: Paulist Press, 2004. Fasolt, Constantin. Council and Hierarchy: The Political Thought of William Durant the Younger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Fasolt, Constantin. “Visions of Order in the Canonists and Civilians,” in Handbook of European History 1400–​1600:  Late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation, 2 vols, edited by Thomas, Brady Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, 2:31–​59. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

124 Serina Frech, Karl Augustin. Reform an Haupt und Gliedern:  Untersuchen zur Entwicklung und Verwendung der Formulierung im Hoch-​und Spätmittelalter. Frankfurt:  Peter Lang, 1992. Hamm, Berndt. “Luther’s Freedom of a Christian and the Pope.” Lutheran Quarterly 21 (2007): 249–​67. Haubst, Rudolf. “Der Reformentwurf Pius des Zweiten.” Römische Quartalschrift 49 (1954): 188–​242. Heckel, Johannes. Lex Charitatis: A Juristic Disquisition on Law in the Theology of Martin Luther. Translated by G. Krodel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. Helmrath, Johannes. “Reform als Theme der Konzilien des Spätmittelalters.” In Christian Unity: The Council of Ferrara-​Florence, 1438/​39–​1989, edited by Giuseppe Alberigo, 75–​152. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1991. Hendrix, Scott H. Ecclesia in Via:  Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata Super Psalterium (1513–​1515) of Martin Luther. Leiden: Brill, 1974. Hendrix, Scott H. “In Quest of the vera ecclesia: The Crises of Late Medieval Ecclesiology.” Viator 7 (1976): 347–​378. Hendrix, Scott H. Luther and the Papacy: Stages in a Reformation Conflict. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1981. Hendrix, Scott H. “Nicholas of Cusa’s Ecclesiology between Reform and Reformation.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 107–​26. Leiden: Brill, 1996. Hendrix, Scott H. “ ‘We are all Hussites’? Hus and Luther Revisited.” Archiv für Reformationgeschichte 65 (1974): 134–​61. Holl, Karl. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte. 2 volumes. Tübingen: Mohr, 1928. Horst, Ulrich. Zwischen Konziliarismus und Reformation: Studien zur Ekklesiologie im Dominikanerordern. Rome: Istituto Storico Domenicano, 1985. Luther, Martin. D. Martin Luthers Werke:  Kritische Gesammtausgabe. 109 vols. Weimar: H. Böhlau, 1883–​2009. Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. 56 vols. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955–​86. Iserloh, Erwin. “Reform der Kirche bei Nikolaus von Kues.” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-​Gesellschaft 4 (1964): 54–​73. Iserloh, Erwin. Luther zwischen Reform und Reformation:  Der Thesenanschlag fand nicht statt. Münster: Aschendorff, 1966. Izbicki, Thomas M. “An Ambivalent Papalism:  Peter in the Sermons of Nicholas of Cusa,” in Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History:  Essays in Honor of Nancy S. Streuver, edited by Joseph Marino and Melinda Schlitt, 49–​65. Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press, 2001. Izbicki, Thomas M. “Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusa’s Roman Sermons (1459).” Asian Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities 1 (2011): 1–​16.

“Papista Insanissima”

125

Jedin, Hubert. Studien über Domenico de’ Domenichi (1416–​1478). Wiesbaden:  Steiner Verlag, 1958. Kolde, Theodor von. Luthers Stellung zu Concil und Kirche. Gütersloh:  C. Bertelsman, 1876. Krämer, Werner. Konsens und Rezeption:  Verfassungsprinzipien der Kirche im Basler Konziliarismus. Münster: Aschendorff, 1980. Kuttner, Stephan. Harmony from Dissonance: An Interpretation of Medieval Canon Law. Latrobe, PA: Archabbey Press, 1960. McGinn, Bernard. Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Meuthen, Erich. Die letzten Jahre des Nikolaus von Kues: Biographische Untersuchungen nach neuen Quellen. Köln: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1958. Meuthen, Erich. Nicholas of Cusa:  A Sketch for a Biography. Translated by David Crowder and Gerald Christianson. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. Meyjes, G.H.M. Posthumus. “Exponents of Sovereignty: Canonists as Seen by Theologians in the Late Middle Ages.” In The Church and Sovereignty, c. 590–​1918: Essays in Honor of Michael Wilks, edited by Diana Wood, 299–​312. Oxford:  Basil Blackwell, 1997. Miller, Clyde Lee. “Form and Transformation: Christiformitas in Nicholas of Cusa.” Journal of Religion (2010): 1–​14. Minnich, Nelson. “The Function of Sacred Scripture in the Decrees of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–​17).” Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 18 (1986): 319–​329. Minnich, Nelson. “‘Incipiat Iudicium a Domo Domini:’ The Fifth Lateran Council and the Reform of Rome.” In Reform and Authority in the Medieval and Reformation Church, edited by Guy F. Lytle, 127–​42. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1981). Mühlmann, Sieghard. Luther und das Corpus Iuris Canonici bis zum Jahre 1530. Leipzig: unpublished diss., 1972. Mühlmann, Sieghard. “Luther und das Corpus Iuris Canonici bis zum Jahre 1530: Ein forschungsgeschichtlicher Überlick.” Zeitschrift der Savigny-​Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 58 (1972): 235–​305. Nicholas of Cusa. Writings on Church and Reform. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Nicolas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932‒2005. O’Malley, John. Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c.  1450–​1521. Durham:  Duke University Press, 1979. Pascoe, Louis B. Church and Reform: Bishops, Theologians, and Canon Lawyers in the Thought of Pierre d’Ailly, 1351–​1420. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

126 Serina Pellegrini, Marco. “A Turning Point in the History of the Factional System in the Sacred College: The Power of the Pope and Cardinals in the Age of Alexander VI.” In Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1493–​1700, edited by Gianvittorio Signorotto and Maria Antonietta Visceglia, 8–​30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Preuss, Hans. Die Vorstellungen vom Antichrist im späteren Mittelalter: bei Luther und in der konfessionellen Polemik. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1906. Schoeck, Richard J. “The Fifth Lateran Council: Its Partial Successes and Its Larger Failures.” In Reform and Authority in the Medieval and Reformation Church, edited by Guy Fitch Lytle, 99–​126. Washington, DC: Catholic UNiversityh of America Press, 1981. Schwaetzer, Harold. “La conformation au Christ d’après Nicolas de Cues.” In La predication et l’Église chez Eckhardt et Nicolas de Cues, edited by Marie-​Anne Vannier, 119–​29. Paris: Les Éditions de Cerf, 2008. Shogimen, Takashi. “The Relationship between Theology and Canon Law:  Another Context of Political Thought in the Early Fourteenth Century.” Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (1999): 417–​431. Sieben, Hermann Josef. Traktate und Theorien zum Konzil:  Von Beginn des Grossen Schismas bis zum Vorabend der Reformation (1378–​1521). Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Josef Knecht, 1983. Sigmund, Paul E. Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963. Smith, J.A. Clarence. Medieval Law Teachers and Writers: Civilian and Canonist. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1975. Spehr, Christopher. Luther und das Konzil: Zur Entwicklung eines zentralen Themas in der Reformationszeit. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010. Stieber, Joachim W. “The ‘Hercules of the Eugenians’ at the Crossroads:  Nicholas of Cusa’s Decision for the Pope and against the Council in 1436/​1437 –​Theological, Political, and Social Aspects.” In Nicholas of Cusa In Search of God and Wisdom, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas Izbicki, 221‒55. Leiden: Brill, 1991. Stump, Phillip H. The Reforms of the Council of Constance (1414‒1418). Leiden: Brill, 1994. Tecklenburg Johns, Christa. Luthers Konzilidee in ihrer Historischen Bedingtheit und ihrem Reformatorischen Neuensatz. Berlin: Verlag Alfred Töpelmann, 1966. Thompson, John A.F. Popes and Princes, 1417–​1517: Politics and Polity in the Late Medieval Church. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1980. Tierney, Brian. Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1955. Tierney, Brian. Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150–​1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, 1972. Voigt-​Goy, Christopher. “ ‘dicutum unius privati’:  Zu Luther’s Verwendung des Kommentars der Dekretale Significasti von Nicolaus de Tudeschis.” In Orientierung für

“Papista Insanissima”

127

das Leben: Kirchliche Bildung und Politik in Spätmittelalter, Reformation und Neuzeit, edited by Patrik Mählung, 93‒114. Münster: Lit Verlag, 2010. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Authority and Consent in Church Government: Panormitanus, Aeneas Sylvius, Cusanus.” Journal of the History of Ideas 33 (1970): 217‒36. Watt, John A. The Theory of Papal Monarchy in the Thirteenth Century: The Contribution of the Canonists. New York: Fordham University Press, 1965. Whitford, David M. “The Papal Antichrist: Martin Luther and the Underappreciated Influence of Lorenzo Valla.” Renaissance Quarterly 61 (2008): 26–​52. Witte, Jr., John. Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

chapter 4

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi: Copernicanism and Conciliarism in Early Modern Venice Alberto Clerici … they believe that the Pope is like a God, that he can do whatever he wants (…) and even square a circle Paolo Sarpi to Jacques Leschassier, December 1608

∵ Introduction It is always a difficult task to trace comparisons between authors coming from different temporal, spatial and cultural contexts. Decades ago, Quentin Skinner famously unveiled the dangers of what he called the “mythology” of intellectual “influence” of a text upon later texts, by discussing the example of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Burke.1 Indeed, as Duncan Kelly recently put it, any reconstruction of the “genealogy” of an idea should take into account the unavoidable historicity of that idea. In particular, “political and social concepts, because they are the subject of continuous conflict and debate, can never have a clear meaning outside of arguments about them. Their meaning is contingent, emerging only through conflict … Therefore, historically informed accounts of conceptual trajectories are the best way of proceeding from the present to the past and back again.”2 With this caveat in mind, I would like to draw affinities and divergences between the thought of Nicholas of Cusa and that of Paolo Sarpi (1552–​1623), the Servite monk who championed the political and religious conflict between the Holy See and the Republic of Venice, 1 Quentin Skinner, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas,” History and Theory 8:1 (1969): 25–​26. 2 Duncan Kelly, “Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought,” in A Companion to Intellectual History, ed. Richard Whatmore and Brian Young (Oxford:  Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 143.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 06

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

129

known as the Interdetto crisis (1606–​1607).3 That event, which had a European echo, was marked by the revival of conciliarist authors and ideas,4 with a clear primacy of Jean Gerson, whose works were duly reprinted and defended from detractors (above all cardinal Bellarmine) by Sarpi himself. But naturally the rediscovery of conciliar thought could not leave aside the name of Cusanus, directly referred to by the Servite friar and official consultore in iure (something like a State-​theologian) of the Venetian Senate. The intellectual link between the two figures has received hardly any attention from historiography.5 One reason could be the fact that Sarpi’s interest in Cusanus was more or less contemporary with Bruno’s, a more familiar name in the history of European culture.6 Moreover, the complex philological history of Sarpi’s writings, many 3 On Sarpi see especially Federico Chabod, La politica di Paolo Sarpi (Venice –​Rome: Istituto per la collaborazione culturale, 1962); William J. Bouwsma, Venice and the Defence of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968); Paolo Sarpi, Opere, ed. Gaetano and Luisa Cozzi (Milan: Ricciardi, 1969); Gaetano Cozzi, Paolo Sarpi tra Venezia e l’ Europa (Turin: Einaudi, 1979); David Wootton, Paolo Sarpi between Renaissance and Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); P. Branchesi and C. Pin (eds.), Fra Paolo Sarpi dei Servi di Maria. Atti del convegno di studio Venezia, 28–​29–​30 ottobre 1983 (Venice: Comune di Venezia, 1983); Vittorio Frajese, Sarpi scettico. Stato e Chiesa a Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994); Paolo Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, metafisici e matematici, ed. L. Sosio and L. Cozzi (Milan: Ricciardi, 1996); Paolo Sarpi, Consulti, vol. 1 (1606–​1609), I, I Consulti dell’Interdetto, 1606–​1607, ed. C. Pin (Pisa: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2001); Corrado Vivanti, Quattro studi su Paolo Sarpi (Naples: Bibliopolis, 2005); C. Pin (ed.), Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi nel 450° anniversario della nascita (Venice: Ateneo Veneto, 2006); M. Viallon (ed.), Paolo Sarpi: politique et religion en Europe (Paris: Garnier, 2010); Jaska Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi. A Servant of God and State (Leiden: Brill, 2014). 4 Francis Oakley, The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300–​1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 141–​181. For a detailed study of the Venetian Interdict see Bouwsma, Venice. 5 Concerning the studies on Cusanus’ fortune, alongside the classic works of Vansteenberghe and Cassirer, Sarpi is not mentioned in the contributions of Günter Gawlick, “Zur Nachwirkung Cusanischer Ideen im siebzehnten und achtzehnten Jahrhundert,” in Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno (Florence:  Sansoni, 1970), 225–​239; G.  Santinello, Introduzione a Niccolò Cusano (Bari: Laterza, 1987); Stephan Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz des Vergessenen. Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (Münster: Aschendorff, 1989); Graziella Federici Vescovini, Il pensiero di Nicola Cusano (Turin: Utet, 1998); or Kurt Flasch, Nikolaus von Kues. Geschichte einer Entwicklung (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1998), despite each containing a section on Cusa’s influence. On the other hand, brief references to Cusanus are to be found in scholarship on Sarpi: see Frajese, Sarpi scettico, and Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi. Cusanus is also not mentioned by Sarpi’s first biographer –​and close friend –​Fulgenzio Micanzio, in his Vita del padre Paolo dell’ordine de’servi e teologo della serenissima republica di Venetia (Leiden: Van der Marsce, 1646). 6 On Cusanus’ influence on Bruno see Hélene Védrine “L’influence de Nicolas de Cues sur Giordano Bruno,” in Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno, 211–​224; Hilary Gatti,

130 Clerici of which were edited in complete form only at the end of the 20th century, and hardly ever translated, could have added a further difficulty.7 And one should always face the warning expressed by Morimichi Watanabe about Cusanus: “many of the assertions of his presumed influence on later thinkers are difficult to prove clearly.”8 Today, the most useful sources for reconstructing the Sarpi-​Cusa connection are the excellent critical edition of Sarpi’s Pensieri, as far as science is concerned, and Francis Oakley’s researches on the history of conciliarism, as far as political ideas are concerned. But some further additions and a synthesis of these two aspects may be useful. My contribution will firstly highlight the tangled issue of Sarpi’s reading of Cusanus’ works, proceeding then to analyze Cusanus’ possible influence on Sarpi’s scientific ideas as expressed in his posthumously published Pensieri, and finally on his theological and political thought on the vexed question of the nature and extent of Papal power vis à vis the authority of the Ecclesia as represented by the general (and national) Council, a significant aspect of the Interdetto controversy.

A Problem of Sources

It is not easy to establish when and in what circumstances Sarpi started to read Cusanus, and which edition he used. He mentions the cardinal a few times after 1606, but always without any precise reference to his works. Apart from the general tone of conciliarist arguments, heavily used by Sarpi in his Consulti and other polemical pamphlets of 1606–​1607, in the History of the Council of Trent there is an easily traceable reference to Cusanus’ letters to the Bohemians and, as Libero Sosio has widely proved, there are also many clearly detectable allusions to De docta ignorantia in Sarpi’s sparse philosophical notes, generally known as Pensieri naturali, metafisici e matematici (Natural, Metaphysical and Mathematical Thoughts), written between 1578 and 1597 and published together only in 1996. In the list sketched by Sarpi for the Index congregation during a search for illegal books in 1600, Cusanus is absent.9 Vittorio Frajese has already warned Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science:  Broken Lives and Organizational Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 2002). 7 Corrado Pin, “Manoscritti sarpiani: autografi, idiografi e apografi,” in Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, ed. Pin, 323–​342. 8 Morimichi Watanabe, “Preface,” in Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, ed. L. Bond (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), xv. 9 Gian Ludovico Masetti Zannini, “Libri di Fra Paolo Sarpi e notizie di altre biblioteche dei Servi (1599–​1600),” Studi Storici dell’ordine dei Servi di Maria 20 (1970): 192–​201.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

131

that this inventory was an understandable case of self-​censorship, and not without irony, given the fact that the last book on the list was a copy of the Index librorum prohibitorum.10 So, it could well be that Sarpi decided to hide the most controversial books he possessed, but in any case the only condemned work by Cusanus –​that is, De concordantia catholica, mentioned in the Indexes of Parma (1580) and Rome (1590)  –​had already disappeared in the 1596 Index of Pope Clement viii,11 so it would not have caused him a problem, even though it must be remembered that precisely in 1600 an admirer of Cusa, the Italian ex-​friar and free thinker Giordano Bruno, whom Sarpi might have met,12 was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. In any case, the book catalogue of the Servite friar shows a clear interest in Neoplatonism and conciliarism, hosting the works of Ficino, Giovanni and Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, Alessandro Piccolomini, and Francesco Patrizi, as well as Plato’s Opera and two editions of Timaeus (an important source for Cusanus too),13 a copy of Copernicus’ Revolutionibus orbium coelestium,14 and Jacques Almain’s Aurea opuscula.15 Additionally, thanks to the research of Antonella Barzazi, we know that Cusanus was not an unknown author in the Venetian libraries of religious institutions at the end of the 16th century. For example, in the library of the patriarchal seminar of the Somascan Order, next to Trismegistus’ Pimander, Ficino’s De Christiana religione and Celio Curione’s Neoplatonic Aranei encomion, Sarpi would have found also Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and Tractatus varii in the

10 11

12 13 14

15

Frajese, Sarpi scettico, 70ff. Jesús Martínez de Bujanda (ed.), Index des livres interdits: T. IX, Index de Rome: 1590, 1593, 1596. Avec étude des index de Parme, 1580 et Munich, 1582 (Geneva: Droz, 1994), 159 and 390. The De concordantia catholica is also present in a list of prohibited books “added” to the Tridentine list for the local Church authorities in Turin c. 1580. See De Bujanda, Index, 766. To my knowledge, there is no available scholarly reconstruction of the documents and debates surrounding those condemnations. Sarpi was a member of the scholarly gathering of the Venetian patriciate known as ridotto Morosini, frequented by Bruno (and Galileo) in 1592. See Sosio, Paolo Sarpi, 212; Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi, 39. Andrea Fiamma, “La réception du Timée par Nicolas de Cues (De docta ignorantia II, 9),” Revue des Sciences Religieuses 1 (2017):  39–​55. This was in the 1566 edition printed in Basel by Heinrich Petri, the same publisher that just a year before had reprinted Cusanus’ Opera, as well as many editions (including the first one) of Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia. On the role of this firm in the scientific revolution see the classic study by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-​Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). Masetti Zannini, “Libri di fra’ Paolo Sarpi.”

132 Clerici 1502 and 1488 editions respectively. Even more important is the case of the extensively visited library of the Franciscan cloister of San Francesco della Vigna, “the major learning center of the Venetian province,” where “Platonism, natural philosophy, and Kabbalah were deeply-​rooted topics.” It is reasonable to assume that Sarpi used the library at the Vigna quite often, given the fact that most of the sources he quoted in his polemical writings are to be found in the inventories of the institution, including Cusanus’ Opera in the Basel Henricpetri 1565 edition, alongside works by Plotinus, Ficino, Pico, Valerianus, and Albumasar.16 Historians do not agree about the possible date of Sarpi’s first reading of Cusanus. Vittorio Frajese states that between 1583 and 1585 Sarpi undoubtedly knew De docta ignorantia, but not Bruno’s cosmological dialogues.17 By contrast, Libero Sosio believes that between 1578 and 1585 Sarpi “almost certainly” did not know Cusanus, who only afterward became for him a source of inspiration. Neither scholar offers any solid proof for either interpretation.18 As to the issues of conciliar theory and the relationship between spiritual and temporal power, these seemed not to be in Sarpi’s agenda until he was appointed, at the late age of fifty-​three, legal advisor of the Venetian senate (January 1606), just before the outburst of the Interdict crisis. In fact, there is no trace of such questions in the Pensieri, where the only quotation from Ockham is about the relationship between language and truth.19 But from 1606 on, it is possible to see a significant change in Sarpi’s existence, which could be described as a passage from spiritual life and scientific and philosophical interest to the vita activa of a public figure engaged in intellectual debates and careful historical reconstructions.20 But Nicholas of Cusa continued to be a source of inspiration for the Servite friar, who found in his early conciliarist writings a wide array of useful arguments against what Sarpi defined as papal totatus, the illegitimate

16 17 18 19 20

Antonella Barzazi, “Ordini religiosi e biblioteche a Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento,” Annali dell’Istituto storico italo-​germanico in Trento 21 (1995): 198. Frajese, Sarpi scettico, 88. Sarpi, Pensieri, 36. Sarpi, Pensieri, 385. Sarpi himself was aware of this change in his life: see his letter to Jacques Badoer dated 30 March 1609, where he confesses to have “almost abandoned the study of natural and mathematical matters” in the wake of his commitments to “political affairs” (Paolo Sarpi, Lettere a Gallicani e Protestanti, ed. G.  and L.  Cozzi (Turin:  Einaudi, 1978), 38). This shift from science and philosophy to politics and history could in a way be considered the opposite of Cusanus’ intellectual path from the early historical and political writings to the later scientific and philosophical works (but also always remaining very active in ­public life).

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

133

radicalization of the pontifical primatus.21 Undoubtedly, as any good political adviser trained in law, Sarpi carefully chose his sources and authorities, even to the point of interpreting them according to his aim, or simply hiding their most controversial aspects. So it should not surprise us that he mentions Cusanus as one of the conciliarists, but has nothing to say about his later “change of side” towards papalism. Nevertheless, as we shall see, Sarpi’s wide interest in the writings of the German prelate seems genuine, and not only restricted to political, theological and legal thinking. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, educated at the University of Padua, interested not only in Church reform and the relationship between Pope and Council, but also in mathematics and cosmology, Sarpi could not have found a better source of inspiration than Nicholas of Cusa. And both men lived in a historical context characterized by religious dissensions, heresies and wars. But despite their common commitment to a deep project of reform, of Man as of Nature, important differences and attitudes between the two figures do exist, and I will try to elucidate a few of them. A man excellently learned and honest … Notwithstanding the limited references to the name of Cusanus in Sarpi’s works, from what we have there emerges a fairly clear picture of the opinion of the Servite towards the German cardinal: a just defender of conciliarism, an open-​minded voice in the Church of Rome, and a dangerous figure for its most conservative faction. In a legal briefing (consulto) given by Sarpi to the Venetian authorities in 1606, explicitly on the possibility of appealing to a General or national Council against the papal Interdict on the Serenissima, Cusanus is listed among the “most distinguished” conciliarists, next to Ockham, Gerson, d’Ailly, and Almain.22 In the same text it is also possible to find a very peculiar

21

22

See his letter to Jacques Gillot, 15 September 1609, in Paolo Sarpi, Lettere a Gallicani e Protestanti, ed. B. Ulianich (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1961), 134: “Apostolicae Sedis Primatum, imo et Principatum, nemo gnarus antiquitatis et historiae negavit. Hic, quem modo affectant, non est Primatus, sed Totatus, si licet vocabulum effingere, ex eo quod, abrogato omni ordine, totum omnino uni tribuit.” Paolo Sarpi, Scrittura intorno all’appellatione o altro da farsi da farsi per mortificare gli atti del Pontefice, in Sarpi, Consulti, 374. Sarpi’s list of conciliarist authors is a slightly modified version (with the notable inclusion of Ockham) of that compiled by his great opponent Robert Bellarmine in his Disputationes de controuersiis Christianae fidei, aduersus huius temporis haereticos, tribus tomis comprehensae, 3 vols. (Ingolstadt: ex officina typographica Dauidis Sartorii, 1588), vol. i, Quartae Controversiae generalis, De Conciliis et Ecclesia, book ii, ch. xiv, col. 124.

134 Clerici statement, linked to the aforementioned presence of Cusa’s works inside a few lists of prohibited books circulating in the 1580s, including the Parma Index of 1580, according to which De concordantia catholica should have been “burned,”23 and the never implemented Sistine Index of 1590, which listed the book as prohibited “until emended” (donec corrigatur).24 After having complained that the papal policy forbade the works of the conciliarists, even by writers otherwise held in high esteem such as Panormitanus, Sarpi adds: They did not dare to prohibit the cardinal Cusanus, considered by them as a martyr; but they managed to suspend him, that is to say, they ordered that he never be published again.25 The line is fascinating not only because Sarpi “reveals” that at least a part of the post-​Tridentine Catholic Church regarded Cusanus as a hero, probably for his struggle against Sigismund of Tyrol, but also because Sarpi implies that the removal of the ban on De concordantia catholica from the Index of 1596 did not come without a price, namely an “unofficial” prohibition against publishing that work (and maybe others as well) again. This possibly offers an explanation for the limited number of editions of Cusanus’ works in early modern Italy.26 The cardinal from Kues appears once again in the History of the Council of Trent, mentioned during a delicate session in 1546 discussing the problem of the interpretation of Holy Scriptures. One of the main debates concerned the question of whether biblical exegesis should be left to the Church Fathers only, and focused on the literal sense, or could be subject to changes over time, according to “tradition” (traditio). The issue was crucial at the time of the Council, with the Church of Rome trying to counter the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, but was revived precisely in Sarpi’s time, in the context of the new scientific discoveries that appeared sometimes in disagreement with the Old Testament, as most famously in the attacks on, and the 1616 trial of, Galileo Galilei, when the heliocentric theory was said to contradict the literal sense of the books of Joshua, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In a passage of the History, Sarpi affirms that Cusanus, “a man excellently learned and honest,” was

23 24 25 26

De Bujanda, Index, 159, n. 399: “Nicolai Cussani decretum est per congregationem esse comburendum librum De concordantia tenet liquide Concilium super Papam et multa probare nititur contra auctoritatem Pape praecipue in illo lib. De concordantia.” De Bujanda, Index, 390, n. 158. Sarpi, Consulti, 375. Naturally, this could simply be a fake report by Sarpi, but it must be added that he was not usually inclined to blatant lies.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

135

mentioned in the discussions as the proponent of a well-​judged position on biblical interpretation, in favor of the idea that it should be left of course to the Church and not to individuals, but that the Church could and should adapt it to times and customs, which is what Sarpi understood by “tradition”: That Cardinal Cusanus, a man excellently learned and honest, said judicially, that the understanding of the Scripture must be fitted to the time, and expounded according to the current Rites: and that it is not to be marvelled at, if the Church at one time expoundeth in one fashion, at another in another. And this was the meaning of the Lateran Council, when it decreed that the Scripture should be expounded according to the Doctors of the Church, or as long use hath approved, that new Expositions should not be forbidden, but when they vary from the common sense.27 Even if Sarpi does not make his source explicit, it is possible to trace the Cusa quotation to the second and fifth letters to the Bohemians, but the context here is much more “politically” charged compared to the more theological issues at stake in Cusa’s letters, which had to deal with the Bohemians’ scriptural exegesis especially in relation to the Eucharist.28 That the topic of scriptural interpretation was still a very controversial one is confirmed both by the letter that Bellarmine –​Sarpi’s arch-​enemy –​sent to the Italian Copernican sympathizer Paolo Antonio Foscarini (1565–​1616) in 1615,29 and, more than a century 27 2 8

29

Paolo Sarpi, The History of the Council of Trent (London: J. Macock, 1676), ii, 149. Nicholas of Cusa, De usu communionis contra Bohemorum errorem, in D. Nicolai De Cusa, Cardinalis, utriusque Iuris Doctris, in omnique Philosophia incomparabilis viri Opera (Basel:  Henricpetri, 1565), 834, and especially Ad clerum et literatos Bohemiae, in Opera, 857: “Nec mirum si praxis Ecclesiae uno tempore interpretatur Scripturam uno modo, et alio tempore alio modo; nam intellectus currit cum praxi: intellectus enim qui cum praxi concurrit est Spiritus vivificans,” following (among others) John Scottus Eriugena, Periphyseon, ii. 560a: “Sacrae scripturae interpretatio infinita est.” For the historical context see Thomas Izbicki, The Eucharist in Medieval Canon Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 161–​163; It seems to me from these passages, and how Sarpi read them, that Cusanus was indeed favorable to some degree of changes in scriptural interpretation. Therefore, I disagree on this point with Jovino De Guzman Miroy, who stresses maybe too much Cusanus’ desire to go back to the Fathers, claiming that “he described the novel interpretations of the moderni as a kind of vanity.” See Jovino De Guzman Miroy, Tracing Nicholas of Cusa’s Early Development. The Relationship between De concordantia catholica and De docta ignorantia (Louvain: Peeters, 2009), 93–​94. For the English text of the letter see The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History, ed. Maurice A. Finocchiaro (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 57ff: “the Council [of Trent] prohibits interpreting Scripture against the common consensus of the Holy Fathers; and if Your Paternity wants to read not only the Holy Fathers, but also the modern

136 Clerici later, by the critical remarks on Cusa’s position made by the French theologian Pierre-​François Le Courayer (1681–​1776) in his commentary on Sarpi’s History (1736).30 Copernicanism It is now fairly established that, in his own time, Sarpi was known not only for his political role, but also as a scientist of vast erudition in many fields.31 He corresponded with Galileo,32 conducted human dissections and experiments on magnetism, made astronomical observations, was involved in the creation of the University of Padua’s famous theatrum anatomicum, and wrote a manuscript on the eye irises. Galileo himself defined Sarpi as the best mathematician in Europe,33 and another well-​known protagonist of the scientific revolution, Giovan Battista Della Porta (1535–​1616), said of him that he “devoured all kind of sciences.”34 Sarpi’s scientific thought is well condensed in his Pensieri, hundreds of small sentences written between 1578 and 1597, dealing with very different topics, from mathematics to religion, medicine, moral philosophy and cosmology. His considerations on religion in particular have been matter of historiographical controversies that I will not reconstruct here.35 Instead, I will concentrate on a small number of notes by Sarpi, mainly on cosmology, with a possible or very likely connection to the works of Cusanus. Between the two, of course, towers the figure of Copernicus, whose influence upon Sarpi has been studied at

30

31 32 33 3 4 35

commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will find all agreeing in the literal interpretation that the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the center of the world.” Paolo Sarpi, Histoire du Concile de Trente … avec des notes … par Pierre-​François Le Courayer (Amsterdam: Wetsein, 1736), i, ii, 52, n. 27, 283: “But I am not sure whether this statement by the cardinal from Cusa could be called wise (…) Certainly, I cannot say it could be called judicious.” Libero Sosio, “Paolo Sarpi, un frate nella rivoluzione scientifica,” in Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, ed. Pin, 183–​235. Cozzi, Paolo Sarpi tra Venezia e l’Europa, 135–​234. Galileo Galilei, Contro alle calunnie ed imposture di B.  Capra, in Opere, 21  vols. (Florence: Barbera, 1932), 2.549: “Paolo de’ Servi … del quale posso senza iperbole alcuna affermare che niuno l’avanza in Europa in cognizione di queste scienze (matematiche).” Giovan Battista della Porta, Della Magia Naturale (Naples: Carlino, 1611), book vii, 291. This has been done by Giuseppe Trebbi, “Paolo Sarpi in alcune recenti interpretazioni,” in Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, ed. Pin, 651–​688.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

137

length by Libero Sosio.36 To complicate the picture, while Sarpi attended the redaction of his Pensieri, Bruno made available his celebrated cosmological dialogues, possibly another source for the Servite. With Cusanus the two shared, for example, a keen interest in celestial physics, and in the nature of Sun and Moon.37 In pensiero n. 27, written between 1578 and 1584, Sarpi introduces the principle of the optical relativity of motion through the example of the Earth-​ Moon identity from the perspective of a human agent, a well-​known theme in Neoplatonic literature38: If someone were to stand on the Moon, looking at the Earth, by its monthly movement (moto menstruo) he would see on Earth everything that appears on the Moon, all figures and both eclipses.39 Optical relativity was, of course, a central feature of Copernicanism,40 and had a long history from the “ancients” (Virgil to Plutarch) to the “moderns” (Cusanus,41 Copernicus,42 Bruno),43 so there is nothing particularly new in this sketched note.44 However, it demonstrates once more the intuition of Thomas Kuhn about the importance of Nicholas of Cusa in the development of the “preconditions” of Copernicanism.45 Discussing these lines by Sarpi, Libero

36 37 38 39 40 4 1 42 43

44 45

Libero Sosio, “Il copernicanesimo del Sarpi nei Pensieri,” in Fra Paolo Sarpi, ed. Branchesi and Pin, 155–​186. On this topic see Natacha Fabbri, “Looking at an Earth-​Like Moon and Living on a Moon-​ Like Earth in Renaissance and Early Modern Thought,” in Early Modern Philosophers and the Renaissance Legacy, ed. C. Muratori and G. Paganini (Dordrecht: Springer, 2016), 135–​151. The roots are to be found in Plutarch’s De facie in orbe Lunae and in Proclus’ Commentary on Timaeus. See Natacha Fabbri, “The Moon as Another Earth: What Galileo Owes to Plutarch,” Galilaeana 9 (2012): 103–​135. Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, n. 27, 36: “Se uno fosse nella Luna e guardasse la Terra, mediante il moto mestruo vedrebbe in Terra tutte l’apparenze della Luna, tutte le figure e tutti e due gli ecclissi.” Matjas Vesel, Copernicus: Platonist Astronomer-​Philosopher: Cosmic Order, the Movement of the Earth, and the Scientific Revolution (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014). Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 2.12.162–​13.176 (h I.103–​111). Nicolaus Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Nuremberg: Petreius, 1543), i, 8. G. Bruno, De l’infinito, universo e mondi, in G. Bruno, Dialoghi italiani. Dialoghi metafisici e dialoghi morali, ed. G. Aquilecchia (Florence: Sansoni, 1972), 447. For the comparison between Earth and Moon see also G. Bruno, La Cena de le Ceneri, in Bruno, Dialoghi italiani, 33. See Sosio’s commentary to pensiero n. 27 in Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, 36–​37, where other possible sources are mentioned, such as Albert of Saxony and Pierre d’Ailly. Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Harvard:  Harvard University Press, 1957), 235. For the affinities and differences between Cusanus and Copernicus see also the

138 Clerici Sosio has supposed that Cusanus “may have exercised a relevant influence in moving Sarpi towards a Copernican horizon,” adding that this particular pensiero “remains interesting because it reveals that unique Copernican approach of mentally detaching oneself from the Earth and seeing it as just a planet suspended in space.”46 Another crucial theme in the intellectual legacy of Cusanus, again shared by Sarpi and Bruno, is that of the “philosophical hypothesis” of the infinity of the universe. The issue is approached by Sarpi in two pensieri, n. 467, dating to 1588, and n. 499, written in 1591. In the first one Sarpi affirms: If the Place [i.e. the universe] were infinite, then the Earth would not stand in the middle, but it would stand where it stands; because there does not exist a force capable of moving it from its site, nor a reason why it should go from one place to another place. It would indeed be at the center, but merely because in the infinite the center is everywhere (centrum ubique).47 In pensiero n. 499, dating from the year of his possible acquaintance with Bruno, Sarpi links this critique of Aristotelian cosmology with the so-​called theory of earthly “small movements,” again repeating the hypothesis that the Earth is not at the center of the universe: Each material body, by changing its shape, changes its center of gravity … but the Earth, with its rivers carrying sands and rocks, and its animals carrying themselves and other things, changes its shape, and consequently its center of gravity; but if this center must be the center of the universe, it follows the motion of the Earthly body … Perhaps the Earth does not

4 6 47

well-​known remarks by Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1963), 35, and Eugenio Garin, Rinascite e rivoluzioni (Rome: Laterza, 1976), 269, as well as Raymond Klibansky, “Copernic et Nicolas de Cues,” in Leonard de Vinci et l’experience scientifique au XVIe siècle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953), 223–​234; Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz des Vergessenen, 190–​212. For a recent useful overview of Cusanus’ scientific thought see Tamara Albertini, “Mathematics and Astronomy,” in Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, ed. C.M. Bellitto, T.M. Izbicki, and G. Christianson (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), 373–​406. Sosio, “Il copernicanesimo del Sarpi,” 163. Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, n. 467, 351: “Se il luogo fosse infinito, la Terra non sarebbe nel mezzo, ma sarebbe dov’è; perché ora non v’ha forza che dal suo sito possa muoverla, né ragion v’ha perché ella più in un luogo che in un altro andasse. Bensì centro ella sarebbe per ché nel infinito centrum ubique.”

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

139

stand in the middle of the infinite, but stands where it stands, resting where its center of gravity rests, nor does it happen that it would move because of a change in its center.48 It is interesting to remark here the “double” character of Sarpi’s language, swinging from the conditional mode to a more assertive tone. Indeed, there is no direct evidence of a reading of Cusanus, but the connections with the line of argument in Book ii, ­chapters 11 and 12 of De docta ignorantia (especially regarding the coincidence of the center of the Earth with its circumference) cannot be dismissed easily, starting with the expression centrum ubique, so similar to Cusa’s centrum undique.49 Again, the philosophical option of the infinite universe (and the centrum ubique expression as well) had already been discussed in the Hermetic tradition, and Sarpi could have borrowed it from Bruno as well.50 But, if we also include major names such as Galilei as well as lesser-​ known figures such as the Proclus commentator Francesco Barozzi, we can conclude that there was an undeniable interest in important aspects of Cusanus’ thought in the late 16th-​century and early 17th-​century Paduan-​Venetian scientific world,51 to be seen, at least partially, in the light of the early modern “quest for certainty” in the natural sciences.52 The (unavoidable?) “ambiguity” of Sarpi’s cosmology  –​that is to say, its position “between the Middle Ages and modernity” –​has much in common with what has been assumed about Copernicus, Bruno, and Cusanus himself.53 Both the “speculative method” 48

49 5 0 51

52 53

Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, n. 499, 366–​367: “Ogni corpo, quando mutasi di figura, muta il centro della gravità (…) ma la Terra per i fiumi, che portano arena e sassi, e per gl’animali, che se stessi ed altre cose trasportano, muta figura, dunque ancor il centro di sua gravità; ma se questo centro ha da star nel centro dell’universo, ne segue il moto del corpo terrestre (…) Forse la Terra non è in mezzo dell’infinito, e sta dov’è, stando pur dovunque sia il suo centro ancora, néaccade che, mutato centro, si muova.” Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 2.12.162 (h I.103–​104): “Unde erit machina mundi quasi habens undique centrum et nullibi circumferentiam.” See the long footnote by Sosio to pensiero, n. 467 in Sarpi, Pensieri naturali, 351–​352. For a reconstruction of the Paduan-​Venetian intellectual context during Sarpi’s times see Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi, 51ff. Védrine, L’influence de Nicolas de Cues, 221–​222, lamented our limited knowledge of Bruno’s intellectual itinerary in Italy, linking it with the early modern legacy of Cusanus. I hope this contribution about Sarpi might be useful in adding a chapter to that history. William James Bouwsma, The Waning of the Renaissance, 1550–​1640 (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2002). More than Bruno, Sarpi was in fact interested in scientific experiments and not only in philosophical speculations (even less in alchemy and occultism). For Cusanus see Regine Kather, “ ‘The Earth Is a Noble Star’: The Arguments for the Relativity of Motion in the Cosmology of Nicolaus Cusanus and Their Transformation in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. P.J. Casarella

140 Clerici and the “experimental method” are to be found in Sarpi, so it is not simple to place him either in the pre-​modern or in the modern age of science.54 A final remark on our topic: even Cusa’s mathematical considerations seem to have had some impact on Sarpi. For example, he establishes the impossibility of demonstrating that the Sun is a sphere on the premises that “polygons, as seen from a distance, appear to be circles,”55 possibly referencing Cusanus.56 And in a nice sentence in one of his polemical writings, Sarpi seems to unite Cusanus’ conciliarism with his writings on geometry, by attacking those who think “that the Pope is like a God, that he can do whatever he wants (…) and even square a circle.”57 Conciliarism Cusan influences on Sarpi grew even stronger in the “second part” of Sarpi’s life, that is, during his public commitment to the Republic of Venice, above all in the conflict with the Holy See known as the Interdetto. I will not go into the details of that important and internationally renowned diplomatic crisis, which involved many aspects of the relationship between temporal and spiritual powers, from papal jurisdiction over ecclesiastics and ecclesiastical property, to excommunication and infallibility. What matters here is that, together with the development of French Gallicanism and the English controversy over the Oath of Allegiance, the Venetian Interdict constituted an important part of the European “revival” of conciliar ideas at the beginning of the 17th century. As a matter of fact, the whole “pamphlet war” –​Sarpi called it la guerra delle scritture –​that raged between 1606 and 1607 was started by Sarpi’s desire to

54 55 5 6

57

(Washington:  Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 226–​250; Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New  York:  Columbia University Press), 87–​126. Sosio, “Paolo Sarpi, un frate nella rivoluzione scientifica,” but also Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi, 6ff. Sarpi, Pensieri, n. 30, 39: “li poligoni visti da lontano paiono cerchi.” Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 1.3.10 (h I.9): “Intellectus igitur, qui non est veritas, numquam veritatem adeo praecise comprehendit, quin per infinitum praecisius comprehendi possit, habens se ad veritatem sicut polygonia ad circulum, quae quanto inscripta plurium angulorum fuerit, tanto similior circulo, numquam tamen efficitur aequalis, etiam si angulos in infinitum multiplicaverit, nisi in identitatem cum circulo se resolvat.” Paolo Sarpi, Opere, 6 vols. (Helmstat: Jacopo Mulleri, 1761–​8), 6.45, letter to Jacques Leschassier, 23 December 1608: “Invenient papam tamquam Deum esse, omnia posse (…) et tandem etiam circulum quadrare.” The reference is naturally to Cusanus’ many works on the mathematical problem of squaring the circle.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

141

publish a new edition of two small tracts on excommunication written by the great 14th-​century conciliarist Jean Gerson (1363–​1429).58 Those tracts were written just after the Council of Constance of 1415, and were not focused on the question of the supremacy of the Council over the Pope. Nevertheless, it was precisely the fame of Gerson as a conciliarist that caused the bitter reply of cardinal Robert Bellarmine against Sarpi’s editorial enterprise, opening a theological and political debate of great interest for our topic,59 to be seen also in the light of the important legal advice (consulto) given by Sarpi to the Venetian authorities in 1606, explicitly on the possibility of appeal to a General Council.60 Sarpi’s adhesion to conciliarism is linked to his idea that the post-​Tridentine Church should have been reformed on the model of the early Catholic Church, even though he knew very well that even the early Fathers could and did err, and adapted their views and actions to the age in which they lived.61 At a political level, certainly, the conciliar theory also represented a very useful weapon for opposing the charges of the Papal See against Venice, but it should be noted that it was not unanimously accepted in the Republic. Actually, as Corrado Pin has shown, among the three “official” legal consultants of Venice in the time of the Interdict, only Sarpi resolutely held conciliarist views.62 It is true that the Venetian ambassador in France, Pietro Priuli (1568–​1613), was active in seeking the support of the Sorbonnists on the superiority of Council over Pope. He did not receive a full endorsement, but one of the Parisian professors (we do not know who exactly) gave him a list of relevant authors to be aptly used against the papal claims, including all those figures mentioned by Sarpi in his advice 58

59 60

61 62

Jean Gerson, Trattato et resolutione sopra la validità delle scommuniche, di Giovanni Gersone (Bologna: Vittorio Benacci, 1606). It is worthwhile to remember that in the same year the French theologian Edmond Richer made available his fundamental edition of Gerson’s works. Stefania Tutino, Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 88–​104. Sarpi, I Consulti, n. 10, 359–​376. For the original manuscript see Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Consultori in iure, 7, cc.1r-​6r. Sarpi returned many times to the issue of conciliarism, notably in his Apology against the reply by Bellarmine to his edition of Gerson. See the English translation Paolo Sarpi, An apology, or, apologiticall answere, made by Father Paule a Venetian, of the order of Serui, vnto the exceptions and obiections of Cardinall Bellarmine, against certaine treatises and resolutions of Iohn Gerson, concerning the force and validitie of excommunication. First published in Italian, and now translated into English (London: Okes, 1607). See Sarpi’s letter to Isaac Casaubon of 22 June 1610 (Paolo Sarpi, Lettere a Gallicani e Protestanti, 43–​44). Sarpi’s consulto n.  10 on the viability of appealing to a general Council is written in a “defensive stance” against the opposing advice of the other two consultants, Marcantonio Pellegrini and Erasmo Graziani. See Sarpi, I Consulti, 359–​360.

142 Clerici of April 1606.63 It is at this time that he probably acquired his personal copy of Almain’s Aurea opuscula. As in the previous discussion about Copernicanism and scientific conceptions, also here, on the issue of conciliarism, in the absence of direct quotations it is not easy to discern the precise influence of Cusanus on Sarpi. After all, apart from the Parisian Divines of the 15th to 16th century, he read other sources that were also relevant for Cusanus, such as Marsilius of Padua64 (a “classic in the Venetian tradition,”65 with whom Sarpi was associated by his opponents)66 and Dionysius the Areopagite, from whom the friar took his views on ecclesiastical hierarchy.67 Moreover, to affirm that Sarpi was part of the “conciliarist revival” of the first decade of the 17th century runs the risk of seeing that rich and varied tradition of political thought as a single, monolithic block, setting aside the differences and nuances that existed among its proponents. It is true that Sarpi himself treated all conciliarists as followers

63

64 65 66

67

For the list, found inside a dispatch dated 8 September 1606, see Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Senato III, Secreta, Francia 35, f. 323: “1. Johannis de Parisiis Doctoris Parisiensis Dominicani de potestate Regia et Papali, 1280; 2. Anonymi Doctoris Parisiensis de potestate Regia et Papali circa annum 1300 pro defensione Philippi le Bel Regis Galliae olim editos Lutetiae anno 1506; 3. Magistri Guilelmi Ockam Doctoris Parisiensis, Franciscani, Johannis Scoti discipuli, super potestate Summi Pontificis octo quaestionum decisiones scriptae circa annum 1320; 4. Petri de Alliaco Doctoris Parisiensis Cardinalis et Episcopi Cameracensis de Ecclesiae auctoritate anno 1425; 5. Jacobi Almaini Doctoris Parisiensis quaestio … de auctoritate Ecclesiae contra Thomam de Vio, de potestate laica et ecclesiastica anno 1512; 6. Johannis Maioris Doctoris Parisiensis de Ecclesiae auctoritate contra Thomam de Vio anno 1518; 7. Decisio Francisci Marci Jurisconsulti super bello illato Regi Galliae a Julio II Pontifice anno 1510; 8. Consilium Philippi Decij Jurisconsulti Clarissimi pro defensione Concilij Pisani; 9. Articuli propositi et deliberati in concilio Turonensi super bello Regi illato anno 1510.” On Cusanus and Marsilio see Paul Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 147–​153 and 189–​194. Frajese, Sarpi scettico, 120. Gaetano Cozzi reported an anonymous comment written in the time of the Interdict, describing Venetian aristocrats as “all old enemies of the Church, disciples and academicians of the master Paolo the Servite, of whom it has been publicly said that he has inherited the poison of Luther, the atheism of Sperone of Padua and the impiety of Marsilius of Padua.” See Gaetano Cozzi, Venezia Barocca. Conflitti di uomini e idee nella crisi del Seicento veneziano (Venezia: il Cardo, 1995), 85. For the relationship with Marsilius see Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi, 166. See also Vasileios Syros, Marsilius of Padua and the Intersection of Ancient and Modern Traditions of Political Thought (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), 74ff., with the critical remarks of Maurizio Merlo, “Il laboratorio del ‘Defensor pacis.’ Note su alcune recenti linee interpretative del pensiero di Marsilio da Padova,” Filosofia politica 2 (2014): 327–​340. On Marsilius’ reception in the early modern age see Gregorio Piaia, Marsilio da Padova nella Riforma e nella Controriforma (Padua: Antenore, 1977). Sarpi, History of the Council of Trent, book vii, 552.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

143

of one big theological-​political theory, but this was coherent with his aim of showing to Bellarmine that the question of the superiority of Council over Pope had a long and vital history, was still debated and could not be easily dismissed: … an opinion which hath the consent of as many famous scholars as may have held to the contrary, and which has the support of as many, if not a greater number, of Universities, Regions, and Kingdoms, cannot be said to be maintained without reason and authority, nor yet audaciously.68 That said, as far our theme is concerned, we can trace a reading of Cusa’s De concordantia catholica by Sarpi, especially in his aforementioned legal advice on the appeal to a General Council, written for the Republic’s authorities in April 1606. The document begins with a reply to those who rejected the suggestion to appeal to a Council against the measures taken in Rome, then proceeds to analyze from a theological and ecclesiastical point of view the relationship between Pope and Council, and finally gives a historical proof of the superiority of Council over Pope. With all its polemical tone, and a few scholarly defects, the third part of the advice bears some Cusanian traces. In fact, the historical examples chosen by Sarpi are also to be found –​in the same sequence –​in Book ii, ­chapter 20 of De concordantia catholica, with striking textual similarities. For example, the discussion of the case of the quarrel of Pope Leo with the Council of Chalcedon ends with same sentence: Sarpi, Consulti, 370 “He protested with all his strength; but still the decree of the Council prevailed and was implemented”

Cusanus, dcc, 2.20.181 “He always protested (…) but still the decree of the Council prevailed”a

(egli s’oppose con tutti li spiriti; nondimeno la determinazione del concilio prevalse e s’esequì) a  Translation from Nicholas of Cusa, The Catholic Concordance, ed. and trans. Paul E. Sigmund (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 138

68

Sarpi, An apology, 68–​69. For another late reference to Cusa on the same issue see Sarpi’s advice on prohibited books (1617) in Opere, ed. G. and L. Cozzi, 150.

144 Clerici Another likely connection regards the historical outlook on the Councils of Constance and Basel. Both Sarpi and Cusanus stressed the demand for Church reform as one of the main goals of those assemblies: Cusa defines the famous canon Frequens as a “reform decree,”69 while Sarpi affirms that the Council of Basel convened “for the reformation of the Roman Curia.”70 Finally, after having recalled the struggle between Pope Eugene and the Council at Basel, both figures, notwithstanding some differences,71 end the story in a similar manner with an appeal to the reader: Sarpi, Consulti, 372 “… I let everyone deduce from this story what has to be deduced”

Cusanus, De concordantia catholica, 2.20.184 “… then you [will] easily understand the foregoing”a

(Lascio a ciascuno il dedurre da questa istoria quello che va dedotto) a  Translation from Cusa, Catholic Concordance, ed. and trans. Sigmund, 140.

The fact that Sarpi and the early Cusanus shared a common belief in conciliar theory should not hide, however, the deep chasm that divides the two men. Their differences are perceivable in lifestyle (as for example regarding benefices), in ecclesiology (as in the case of excommunication)72 and, especially, 6 9 70 71

72

Nicholas of Cusa, De concordantia catholica, 2.20.183 (h XIV.223). Sarpi, I Consulti, 372. Once again Sarpi’s argument is far more political than theological or philosophical, given also the nature of the text here considered, which is a legal briefing to a temporal ruler. For example, all references to the presence of the Holy Spirit at Basel, frequently mentioned by Cusanus, are completely omitted by Sarpi. For the importance of theology and philosophy next to Canon and feudal Law in De concordantia catholica see Morimichi Watanabe, “Concord and Discord: Nicholas of Cusa as a Legal and Political Thinker,” in Nicholas of Cusa: A Medieval Thinker for the Modern Age, ed. K. Yamaki (New York: Routledge, 2002), 52 ff. Sarpi was a bitter critic of ecclesiastical benefices as well as of the abuses of excommunications. His works on those subjects were translated into English as Paolo Sarpi, The Rights of Sovereigns and Subjects, by Father Paul the Venetian (London. J. Graves, 1722); and Paolo Sarpi, A Treatise on Ecclesiastical Benefices and Revenues … by the Learned Father Paul (Westminster: O. Payne, 1736); On the contrary, as it is well known, Cusanus collected several benefices in his life and as bishop of Brixen made ample recourse to excommunication. See Erich Meuthen, Nicholas of Cusa: A Sketch for a Biography Washington, DC: Catholic University of A(merica Press, 2010), 21–​24; and Brian Pavlac, “The Curse of Cusanus: Excommunication in Fifteenth Century Germany,” in Nicholas of Cusa

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

145

as far as political thought is concerned. Indeed for Sarpi, contrary to Cusanus, temporal powers are of direct divine origin, and consent plays no role at all in determining the legitimacy of obedience.73 This kind of “republican absolutism,”74 locating sovereignty in the aristocratic institutions of Venice, leaves no room for the right of subjects to resist the rulers, as Sarpi summarized in his unfinished treatise On the power of the Princes (Della potestà de’Principi): But the care of the common good, this God has entrusted only to the prince together with the majesty; wherefore it pertains to him (the prince) exclusively to prescribe the ways in which to conserve and maintain this good, whether with impositions, with war, with laws or other means, and in this manner whoever it would be, a confessor or somebody else, who would like to become a judge or a censor, offends the majesty and acts against that respect and reverence –​which nature instills and God in the Holy Scriptures commands –​which every person has to show to the prince, who is His vicar and lieutenant.75 Somehow paradoxically, Cusanus’ political ideas seem then closer to those of Sarpi’s intellectual rival Bellarmine, who believed that the authority of all temporal rulers was based on consent, and thus subject to limitations and modifications.76 Also, Sarpi’s obsession with the total separation of civil and ecclesiastical functions is not easily reconciled with Cusanus’ idea of concordantia

73

74 75

76

and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality, ed. by T.. Izbicki and C. Bellitto (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 199–​213. Apart from the classic studies of Paul Sigmund and Morimichi Watanabe, a good outline of Cusanus’ political thought –​and the most relevant controversies around it –​is in the essays of Cary J. Nederman, “Empire Meets Nation: Imperial Authority and National Government in Renaissance Political Thought,” and Paul E. Sigmund, “Medieval and Modern Constitutionalism: Nicholas of Cusa and John Locke,” both in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Casarella, 178–​195 and 196–​209. For Sarpi’s absolutism see Kainulainen, Paolo Sarpi, ch. 7, who rightly sets it in the tradition of the divine right of sovereigns, more than in the legal absolutism of Jean Bodin, as claimed instead by Chabod, La politica di Paolo Sarpi, 60–​73. Paolo Sarpi, Della potestà de’Principi, ed. N. Cannizzaro (Venice: Marsilio, 2006), 392, note 98: “Ma la cura del ben commune Dio l’ha commessa al Prencipe solo con la Maestà: per il che a lui solo sta prescrivere li modi di conservare e mantenere questo bene, se con impositioni, se con guerra, se con leghe o altri mezi, et in questo chi che sia, o confessore od altro, che se ne voglia fare giudice o censore, offende la Maestà et opera contro quel rispetto e riverenza che la natura instilla e Dio nelle Sante Scritture commanda che ogni persona debba portar al Prencipe, che è suo vicario e luogotenente.” Francis Oakley, “Complexities of Context: Gerson, Bellarmine, Sarpi, Richter and the Venetian Interdict of 1606–​1607,” Catholic Historical Review 82 (1996): 369–​396.

146 Clerici and coincidentia oppositorum. If the Servite did have an “irenicist” stance as far as religion is concerned,77 at a political level there is nothing, either on Earth or in Heaven, that could set the temporal and the spiritual powers into a common unifying framework similar to that of Cusa’s De concordantia concerning the relationship between the Pope and the Emperor. Bibliography Alberigo, Giuseppe. Chiesa conciliare:  identità e significato del conciliarismo. Brescia: Paideia, 1981. Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Consultori in iure, 7. Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Senato III, Secreta, Francia 35. Barzazi, Antonella. “Ordini religiosi e biblioteche a Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento.” Annali dell’Istituto storico italo-​germanico in Trento 21 (1995): 141–​228. Bellarmine, Robert. Disputationes de controuersiis Christianae fidei, aduersus huius temporis haereticos, tribus tomis comprehensae. 3 vols. Ingolstadt: ex officina typographica Dauidis Sartorii, 1586–​93. Bellitto, Christopher M., Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson, eds. Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man. New York: Paulist Press, 2004. Bourdin, Bernard. La genèse théologico-​politique de l’Etat moderne:  la controverse de Jacques 1.d’Angleterre avec le cardinal Bellarmin. Paris:  Presses Universitaires de France, 2004. Bouwsma, William James. The Waning of the Renaissance, 1550–​1640. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. Bouwsma, William James. Venice and the Defence of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation. Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1968. Branchesi, Pacifico and Corrado Pin, eds. Fra Paolo Sarpi dei Servi di Maria. Atti del convegno di studio Venezia, 28–​29–​30 ottobre 1983. Venice: Comune di Venezia, 1983. Bruno, Giordano. Dialoghi italiani. Dialoghi metafisici e dialoghi morali. Edited by G. Aquilecchia. Florence: Sansoni, 1972. Bujanda, Jesús Martínez de, ed. Index des livres interdits: T. IX, Index de Rome: 1590, 1593, 1596. Avec étude des index de Parme, 1580 et Munich, 1582. Geneva: Droz, 1994. Cassirer, Ernst. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1963.

77

Boris Ulianich, “Paolo Sarpi ‘riformatore,’ ‘irenico’? Note sulla sua ecclesiologia, sulla sua teologia, sulla sua religione,” in Fra Paolo Sarpi, ed. Branchesi and Pin, 49–​100.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

147

Chabod, Federico. La politica di Paolo Sarpi. Venice, Rome: Istituto per la collaborazione culturale, 1962. Copernicus, Nicolaus. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Nuremberg: Petreius, 1543. Cozzi, Gaetano. Paolo Sarpi tra Venezia e l’ Europa. Turin: Einaudi, 1979. Cozzi, Gaetano. Venezia Barocca. Conflitti di uomini e idee nella crisi del Seicento veneziano. Venice: il Cardo, 1995. De Franceschi, Sylvio Hermann. Raison d’Etat et raison d’Eglise: la France et l’Interdit venitien (1606–​1607). Aspects diplomatiques et doctrinaux. Paris:  H. Champion, 2009. De Franceschi, Sylvio Hermann. “Entre antiromanisme catholique et républicanisme absolutiste. Paolo Sarpi (1552–​1623) et la défense du bien public au temps de la crise de l’Interdit vénitien (1606–​1607),” in Les clercs et les princes. Doctrines et pratiques de l’autorité ecclésiastique à l’époque moderne, edited by P. Arabeyre et B. Basdevant-​ Gaudemet, 357–​371. Paris: École des Chartes, 2013. Della Porta, Giovan Battista. Della Magia Naturale. Naples: Carlino, 1611. Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-​Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Fabbri, Natacha. “Looking at an Earth-​Like Moon and Living on a Moon-​Like Earth in Renaissance and Early Modern Thought.” In Early Modern Philosophers and the Renaissance Legacy, edited by C. Muratori and G. Paganini, 135–​154. Dordrecht: Springer, 2016. Fabbri, Natacha. “The Moon as Another Earth: What Galileo Owes to Plutarch.” Galilaeana 9 (2012): 103–​135. Federici Vescovini, Graziella. Il pensiero di Nicola Cusano. Turin: Utet, 1998. Fiamma, Andrea. “La réception du Timée par Nicolas de Cues (De docta ignorantia II, 9).” Revue des Sciences Religieuses 1 (2017): 39–​55. Finocchiaro, Maurice A., ed. The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. Flasch, Kurt. Nikolaus von Kues. Geschichte einer Entwicklung. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1998. Frajese, Vittorio. Sarpi scettico. Stato e Chiesa a Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994. Galilei, Galileo. Opere. Florence: Barbera, 1932. Garin, Eugenio. Rinascite e rivoluzioni. Rome-​Bari: Laterza, 1976. Gatti, Hilary. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 2002. Gawlick, Günter. “Zur Nachwirkung Cusanischer Ideen im siebzehnten und ­achtzehnten Jahrhundert.” In Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno, 225–​239. Florence: ­Sansoni, 1970.

148 Clerici Gerson, Jean. Trattato et resolutione sopra la validità delle scommuniche, di Giovanni Gersone. Bologna: Vittorio Benacci, 1606. Izbicki, Thomas M.. The Eucharist in Medieval Canon Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Kainulainen, Jaska. Paolo Sarpi. A Servant of God and State. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Kather, Regine. “ ‘The Earth Is a Noble Star’: The Arguments for the Relativity of Motion in the Cosmology of Nicolaus Cusanus and Their Transformation in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by P.J. Casarella, 226–​250. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Keller, Catherine. Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Kelly, Duncan. “Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought.” In A Companion to Intellectual History, edited by Richard Whatmore and Brian Young, 141–​ 154. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Klibansky, Raymond. “Copernic et Nicolas de Cues.” In Leonard de Vinci et l’experience scientifique au XVIe siècle, 223–​234. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953. Kuhn, Thomas. The Copernican Revolution. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1957. Masetti Zannini, Gian Ludovico. “Libri di Fra Paolo Sarpi e notizie di altre biblioteche dei Servi (1599–​1600).” Studi Storici dell’ordine dei Servi di Maria 20 (1970): 192–​201. Meier-​Oeser, Stephan. Die Präsenz des Vergessenen. Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Münster: Aschendorff, 1989. Merlo, Maurizio. “Il laboratorio del ‘Defensor pacis.’ Note su alcune recenti linee interpretative del pensiero di Marsilio da Padova.” Filosofia politica 2 (2014): 327–​340. Meuthen, Eric. Nicholas of Cusa: A Sketch for a Biography. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. Micanzio, Fulgenzio. Vita del padre Paolo dell’ordine de’servi e teologo della serenissima republica di Venetia. Leiden: Van der Marsce, 1646. Miroy, Jovino de Guzman. Tracing Nicholas of Cusa’s Early Development. The Relationship between De concordantia catholica and De docta ignorantia. Louvain: Peeters, 2009. Nederman, Cary J. “Empire Meets Nation:  Imperial Authority and National Government in Renaissance Political Thought.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by P.J. Casarella, 178–​195. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Nicholas of Cusa, D. Nicolai De Cusa, Cardinalis, utriusque Iuris Doctris, in omnique Philosophia incomparabilis viri Opera. Basel: Henricpetri, 1565. Nicholas of Cusa. Selected Spiritual Writings. Edited by L. Bond. New  York:  Paulist Press, 1997. Nicholas of Cusa. The Catholic Concordance. Edited and translated by Paul E. Sigmund. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Nicholas of Cusa and Paolo Sarpi

149

Oakley, Francis. “Complexities of Context: Gerson, Bellarmine, Sarpi, Richter and the Venetian Interdict of 1606–​1607.” Catholic Historical Review 82 (1996): 369–​396. Oakley, Francis. The Conciliarist Tradition:  Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300–​1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pavlac, Brian. “The Curse of Cusanus: Excommunication in Fifteenth Century Germany.” In Nicholas of Cusa and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality. Edited by T.. Izbicki and C. Bellitto. 199–​213. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Piaia, Gregorio. Marsilio da Padova nella Riforma e nella Controriforma. Padua: Antenore, 1977. Pin, Corrado. “Manoscritti sarpiani: autografi, idiografi e apografi.” In Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, edited by C. Pin, 323–​342. Venice: Ateneo Veneto, 2006. Pin, Corrado, ed. Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi nel 450° anniversario della nascita. Venice: Ateneo Veneto, 2006. Santinello, Giovanni. Introduzione a Niccolò Cusano. Bari: Laterza, 1987. Sarpi, Paolo. An apology, or, apologiticall answere, made by Father Paule a Venetian, of the order of Serui, vnto the exceptions and obiections of Cardinall Bellarmine, against certaine treatises and resolutions of Iohn Gerson, concerning the force and validitie of excommunication. First published in Italian, and now translated into English. London: Okes, 1607. Sarpi, Paolo. Consulti, vol. 1 (1606–​1609), I, I Consulti dell’Interdetto, 1606–​1607. Edited by C. Pin. Pisa: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2001. Sarpi, Paolo. Della potestà de’Principi. Edited by N. Cannizzaro. Venice: Marsilio, 2006. Sarpi, Paolo. Histoire du Concile de Trente … avec des notes … par Pierre-​François Le Courayer. Amsterdam: Wetsein, 1736. Sarpi, Paolo. Lettere a Gallicani e Protestanti. Edited by G. and L. Cozzi. Turin: Einaudi, 1978. Sarpi, Paolo. Lettere ai Gallicani. Edited by B.Ulianich. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1961. Sarpi, Paolo. Opere. 8 vols. Helmstat: Jacopo Mulleri, 1761–​68. Sarpi, Paolo. Pensieri naturali, metafisici e matematici. Edited by L. Sosio and L. Cozzi. Milan: Ricciardi, 1996. Sarpi, Paolo. The History of the Council of Trent. London: J. Macock, 1676. Sarpi, Paolo. Opere. Edited by Gaetano Cozzi and Luisa Cozzi. Milan: Ricciardi, 1969. Sarpi, Paolo. The Rights of Sovereigns and Subjects, by Father Paul the Venetian. London: J. Graves, 1722. Sarpi, Paolo. A Treatise on Ecclesiastical Benefices and Revenues … by the Learned Father Paul. Westminster: O. Payne, 1736. Sigmund, Paul E. “Medieval and Modern Constitutionalism: Nicholas of Cusa and John Locke.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by P.J. Casarella, 196–​ 209. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Sigmund, Paul. Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.

150 Clerici Skinner, Quentin. “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas.” History and Theory 8:1 (1969): 3–​53. Syros, Vasileios. Marsilius of Padua and the Intersection of Ancient and Modern Traditions of Political Thought. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012. Tutino, Stefania. Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Ulianich, Boris “Paolo Sarpi ‘riformatore,’ ‘irenico’? Note sulla sua ecclesiologia, sulla sua teologia, sulla sua religione.” In Fra Paolo Sarpi dei Servi di Maria. Atti del convegno di studio Venezia, 28–​29–​30 ottobre 1983, edited by P. Branchesi and C. Pin, 49–​100. Venice: Comune di Venezia, 1983. Védrine, Hélene. “L’influence de Nicolas de Cues sur Giordano Bruno.” In Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del mondo moderno, 211–​224. Florence: Sansoni, 1965. Vesel, Matjas. Copernicus: Platonist Astronomer-​Philosopher: Cosmic Order, the Movement of the Earth, and the Scientific Revolution. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014. Viallon, M., ed. Paolo Sarpi: politique et religion en Europe. Paris: Garnier, 2010. Vivanti, Corrado. Quattro studi su Paolo Sarpi. Naples: Bibliopolis, 2005. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Concord and Discord: Nicholas of Cusa as a Legal and Political Thinker.” In Nicholas of Cusa: A Medieval Thinker for the Modern Age, edited by K. Yamaki, 47–​59. New York: Routledge 2002. Watanabe, Morimichi. “Preface.” In Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, edited by L. Bond, xiii–​xvii. New York: Paulist Press, 1997. Wootton, David. Paolo Sarpi between Renaissance and Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Pa rt 2 Coincidentia Oppositorum: Theological Reform



chapter 5

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites Joshua Hollmann In De docta ignorantia (1440), Nicholas of Cusa centers his conception of the coincidence of opposites in the person and work of Christ. In The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther concentrates his theology on the inter-​connected dynamic of Christ and the Christian in transcendent-​immanent coincidences of opposites: freedom and servitude, saint and sinner, soul and body, infinite and finite, heaven and earth. Hitherto there have been few attempts to examine Cusanus’ theological method of learned ignorance and the corollary Christocentric coincidence of opposites in light of Luther’s fundamental teaching on Christian liberty and justification by faith alone through Christ alone.1 Building especially on the work of Knut Alfsvåg, this four-​part essay unfolds a comparative theological reading of Cusanus’ (De docta ignorantia and select ­subsequent writings) and Luther’s (The Freedom of a Christian, 1520) concentric Christologies.2 While theological differences remain, Cusanus’ theology and theological method of Christ and the coincidence of opposites bear striking similarities to the coincidental Christology and anthropology of Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian, thereby revealing a new perspective on the importance

1 Cf. Walter Andreas Euler, “Does Nicholas Cusanus Have a Theology of the Cross?” The Journal of Religion 80 (2000): 405–​420. See also Knut Alfsvåg, “Cusanus and Luther on Human Liberty,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 54:1 (2012): 66–​80; Erwin Metzke, “Nicolaus von Cues und Martin Luther,” in Coincidentia oppositorum: Gesammelte Studien zur Philosophiegeschichte (Witten:  Luther, 1961), 205–​240; Reinhold Weier, Das Thema vom verborgenen Gott von Nikolaus von Kues zu Martin Luther (Münster: Aschendorff, 1967); Karl Hermann Kandler, “Nikolaus von Kues als ‘testis veritatis’:  Beitrag eines evangelisch-​lutherischen Theologen zur Wirkungsgeschichte von De Pace Fidei,” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanusgesellschaft 17 (1986): 223–​234; F. Edward Cranz, “Cusanus, Luther, and the Mystical Tradition,” in Nicholas of Cusa and the Renaissance, ed. F. Edward Cranz and Thomas Izbicki (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 195–​203; Richard J. Serina, Jr., Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform (Leiden: Brill, 2016). 2 Kurt Alfsvåg, “The Centrality of Christology: On the Relation Between Nicholas Cusanus and Martin Luther,” Studia Theologica –​Nordic Journal of Theology 70:1 (2016), accessed 15 June 2017, http://​dx.doi.org/​10.1080/​00393338X.2016.1172256.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/9789004385689_007

154 Hollmann of Christology, coincidence and paradox in Luther, pre-​Reformation and early modern Protestant thought.3

Cusanus on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites

Nicholas of Cusa ends his famous De docta ignorantia with a beginning. In the concluding epistle to Cardinal Cesarini, Cusanus recounts how he received this new method of theological reasoning, learned ignorance, as noetic illumination directly from God. Only God, the Father of light and font of wisdom, enlightens the totality of modality through which all things, the One and the many, Divine Essence and the gradated cosmos, may be understood.4 Cusanus writes that from God he was “led to embrace incomprehensibles incomprehensibly in learned ignorance.”5 Apophatic inquiry compels Cusanus to cataphatically let loose this method of learned ignorance precisely, as he explicitly makes clear, only in the One who is the truth and the end of intellectual desires, namely, Jesus Christ.6 Christ, for Cusanus, is the ratio, center and coincidental-​ hypostatic principle through whom the three books and theological method of learned ignorance “can be compressed or expanded.”7 Cusanus concludes De docta ignorantia by stating: These profound matters should be the subject of all the effort of our human intelligence, so that it may raise itself to that simplicity where contradictories coincide. The concept of the First Book concentrates on this topic, and from this the Second Book makes a few inferences about the universe, which many find unusual for they go beyond the common pathway of philosophers [insofar as these pathways find their destination only in Christ]. And proceeding always from the same foundation 3 For a succinct summary of theological differences between Luther and Cusanus on faith, see James E. Biechler and H. Lawrence Bond, “Introduction,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Interreligious Harmony: Text, Concordance and Translation of De Pace Fidei, ed. James E. Biechler and H. Lawrence Bond (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), xlvi–​xlviii. 4 Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 1.2.5–​8 (h I.7–​8); De concordantia catholica, 1.2.9–​12 (h XIV.34–​36); Idiota de sapientia et de mente; James 1:17; Proverbs 8–​9. 5 Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris ad dominum Iulianum cardinalem” (h I.163), translation from Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, trans. H. Lawrence Bond (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), 206. 6 Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I.164); John 14:6. 7 Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I.163), translation by Bond in Selected Spiritual Writings, 206.

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

155

[method of learned ignorance in Christ], I have now, at last, completed the Third Book on the supremely blessed Jesus. And by an increase of faith the Lord Jesus has become continually magnified in my understanding and love.8 Cusanus knows learned ignorance in and through Christ. More specifically, Cusanus focuses on the name Jesus to know learned ignorance. According to Christian Scripture, Jesus is the name revealed at the beginning of the Gospel narrative by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary.9 Furthermore, according to Christian Scripture, “at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth.”10 Teleologically, the name Jesus is the final name before which the opposites of heaven and hell, indeed the entire cosmos, corporeal and incorporeal, coincide in reverent submission. All of this serves as theological prolegomena to Cusanus’ conclusion of De docta ignorantia, where he discloses it is Christ Jesus who is both the beginning of the method of learned ignorance and also the end of intellectual desires, through whom great thinkers bow down.11 Cusanus presents a more Christocentric version of Aquinas’ concept of sacred doctrine, where grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it, and philosophy serves theology as ultimately realized in the revelation and work of Jesus.12 For Cusanus, this beginning and end can be compressed in Christ in three books (De docta ignorantia), or expanded through Christ into his subsequent dialogues and treatises, wherein he further expounds the method of learned ignorance as applied to various philosophical and theological loci.13 As we have seen, in the epilogue of De docta ignorantia Cusanus professed to have received a revelation from God on the coincidence of opposites. He 8 9 1 0 11

12 1 3

Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I. 163), translation by Bond in Selected Spiritual Writings, 206. Luke 1:31. Philippians 2:10. For example, see the many different scholars, subjects and texts collected in Cusanus’s library in Kues (J. Marx, Verzeichnis der Handschriften-​Sammlung des Hospitals zu Cues bei Bernkastel a./​Mosel (Trier: Druck der Kunst-​und Verlagsanstalt Schaar & Dathe, Komm.-​ Ges. a. Akt., 1905)). Cf. Cusa, De docta ignorantia, 2.9.141–​150 (h I.89–​96). Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, 1a q. 1 a. 8. See for example Cusa, De pace fidei, 4.11 (h VII.12), which unfolds unity in plurality as centered in Christ or as the method of learned ignorance herein expanded in order to properly understand many religious rites as one religion through revelation by the Wisdom and Word of God. See also Nicholas of Cusa, Dialogus de Deo abscondito, especially 7–​10 (h IV.6–​8); Idiota de sapientia, 8 (h V.14) on the first principle of all things, namely the learned ignorance of Wisdom (hidden and revealed).

156 Hollmann would later reflect this in his vision of a single religion in the coincidence of opposites of a variety of rites in De pace fidei.14 Cusanus states in the Apologia doctae ignorantiae that he received a method or “via” of theological discourse in the form of the coincidence of opposites.15 In the Apologia he even suggests that the framework for De pace fidei concerning specific rites being confused with religion itself is owing to confusion wrought by long standing custom.16 According to Cusanus, God makes known a method and way of true theology and peace which originates in visions and contemplation and cannot ultimately be transcribed.17 Moreover, the conclusion of De docta ignorantia proved to be a new dialectical beginning of sorts for Cusanus.18 Over the next nearly twenty-​five years he would reveal and apply the hidden and visionary principles of learned ignorance in various dialogues, treatises and sermons. Christ, the Word of God, as God and man, infinite and finite, reveals and perfects this method of knowing the unknown through the Holy Spirit.19 The coincidence of opposites and its connection to Christology are found in De pace fidei, but also in his mystical treatise, De visione Dei, written in the same year  –​1453  –​as De pace fidei. Cusanus envisions that in and through Christ, finite and infinite, human and divine coincide. In De pace fidei, the religious rites of the various religions of the world coincide in the Word and Wisdom of God, namely Christ. For Cusanus divine wisdom is fully known in the face of Christ, which sees all and encompasses all faces.20 This all-​seeing, omniscient face of Christ reflects the faces of all humanity and shows the way to 14 15 16

17

18 19 20

Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I. 163), “credo superno dono a patre luminum, a quo omne datum optimum”; De pace fidei, 1.1 (h VII.3), “visio quaedam eidem zeloso manifestaretur.” The Latin quotations are from the Heidelberg edition of Cusanus’ works. Cusa, Apologia doctae ignorantiae, 7 (h II.6): “oppositorum coincidentiam...via”; De docta ignorantia, “Prologus” (h I. 2): “ratiocinandi modum.” Cusa, Apologia doctae ignorantiae, 7 (h II.6), “Nam tanta est vis longaevae observantiae, quod citius vita multorum evellitur quam consuetudo, –​uti experimur in persecutione Iudaeorum, Sarracenorum et aliorum pertinacium haereticorum, qui opinionem usu temporis firmatam legem asserunt, quam vitae praeponunt.” Cf. Cusa, De pace fidei, 1.1 (h VII.3): “persecutionem, quae ob diversum ritum religionum”; De pace fidei, 1.4 (h VII.6): “Habet autem hoc humana terrena condicio quod longa consuetudo, quae in naturam transisse accipitur, pro veritate defenditur.” Cusa, Apologia doctae ignorantiae, 5 (h II.4), “theologiam veram non posse litteris commendari ... Est enim theologia de regno Dei; et hoc magister noster Christus occultatum in abscondito thesauro declaravit.” On peace as the goal of this method, see Cusa, Apologia doctae ignorantiae, 54 (h II.35). Cusa, De coniecturis, “Epistola”; “Prologus” (h III.3–​6). Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I.163–​164); Apologia doctae ignorantiae, 54 (h II.35); De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136). Cusa, De pace fidei, 13 (h VII.13).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

157

religious concordance and one religion in the variety of religious rites. De pace fidei and De visione Dei convey Cusanus’ unique mystical conceptualization of the Word of God as face and icon of understanding humanity and religious peace. In De visione Dei, Cusanus employs the late-​medieval cultural artifact of the all-​seeing icon of the face of Jesus.21 The same image is cited and abstracted in De pace fidei. Jesus, the Word-​Icon of God, is the mode of seeing, object of understanding and the mediator of Cusanus’ complex concept of the deep interrelatedness of the world’s religious rites as one religion. The Word of God as icon reflects the face of all humanity (De pace fidei) and enlightens seekers of learned ignorance to find therein the end of intellectual desire where maximum and minimum, religion and rites, God and cosmos, indeed all faces coincide in one face: the all-​seeing face of Christ. In their introduction to the English translation of De pace fidei, James E.  Biechler and H.  Lawrence Bond infer several interesting connections on the coincidence of fides quae creditur and fides qua creditur as relating to Cusanus’ conception of Christ and peace. For Cusanus, the peace of faith, or that which is believed through the Word of God, namely Christ, becomes realized actively in the life of the believer through the Augustinian assessment of virtue grounded solely in grace. Since post-​lapsarian humanity is now non posse non peccare, or only able to produce good gone awry in the ignorance of sin, the path of the peace of faith is formed by acts of love. Yet, as Biechler and Bond demonstrate, this fides caritate formata is never far from one’s experience of the reality of God. “All theology at heart is experiential if not autobiographical.”22 To put this in terms of Friedrich von Hügel, theology at its heart is experiential, or, more contemporarily, in the immanent frame of Charles Taylor, theology is contextualized as authenticity of the self in the social imaginary.23 Cusanus himself recounts two visions of personal encounter with the reality of God that affect his view of self and society: De pace fidei, his dialogue of religious diversity and concordance, and De docta ignorantia, his method of theological reasoning, whereby he was able, by God’s illumination alone, to comprehend the incomprehensible union of one religion in the variety of rites, and the maximum and the minimum in Christ, the end of intellectual desires. Intellect and will conjoin to coincide with God in Christ through the Spirit, or nexus of charity, wherein the coincidence of opposites 21 22 23

Cusa, De visione Dei, “Praefatio” (h VI.3–​7). Biechler and Bond, “Introduction,” in Cusa on Interreligious Harmony, xlvi–​xlvii. Friedrich von Hügel, The Mystical Element of Religion as Studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her Friends (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927) and Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2007), especially chapters thirteen and fifteen.

158 Hollmann of grace and nature are perfected, not abolished, and realized in lasting religious harmony and unity in plurality.

Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites in The Freedom of a Christian

Luther and Cusanus do not initially appear to coincide. Indeed, in medieval theology, philosophy and history, Cusanus may be seen as an end, rather than a beginning. Nicholas of Cusa’s importance in late medieval and 15th-​ century theology and thought is well known and continues to be studied in various fields and disciplines. While Cusanus’ Neoplatonic and Christian philosophy, mathematical queries and scientific investigations are perennial loci in Renaissance and Medieval studies, his theological and ecclesiological influence on 16th-​century Protestant thought has yet to be fully examined. We turn now to examine the dialectical dynamic of Cusanus’ theology and reform-​centered ecclesiology in conversation with Luther’s famous treatise, The Freedom of a Christian. Here we seek to synthetically compare Cusanus’ conception of the coincidence of opposites as centered in Christ as found par excellence in De docta ignorantia with Luther’s dialectical understanding of the sinner and saint, servant and Lord coinciding as one person in Christ. Cusanus’ method of learned ignorance and the coincidence of opposites shed new light on Luther’s Christocentric conception of the great exchange and Christian liberty. Luther quite famously favored the concept of rhetorical antithesis, and his doctrine of justification with its juxtaposition of simul iustus et peccator, that is, the idea that believers in Christ are both righteous and sinful, presents a coincidence of opposites in a manner quite in line with Cusanus’ Christology. Furthermore, Cusanus and Luther share a similar diagnosis of problems within the Roman curia, the method and possibility of papal reform, and the consequences of Christ-​centered reform for the bene esse of the church.24 Luther begins and ends The Freedom of a Christian with God’s Word. Christ is the ratio and center.25 Yet, Luther connects the believer to Christ in a direct way. Where Cusanus must be led to find Christ, for Luther Christ is given for you. For Luther this was not something new but something old, timeless and found in Scripture. It had been obscured, nearly lost. Luther did not attempt 24 25

Cusa, Reformatio generalis (h XV.19–​58); Martin Luther, Ninety-​five Theses (WA, 1.233–​238; LW, 31.25–​33), etc. Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.49; LW, 31.344).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

159

to replace the church, but reform it. And he reformed mysticism. He does this by citing the Song of Songs in the Freedom of a Christian: “My beloved is mine and I am his.”26 Here the marriage metaphor of Christ and the church, lover and beloved, a metaphor so cherished by mystics since at least as far back as Origen, appears in the context of the alien righteousness of the great or happy marital exchange:  all that I  have Christ takes, all that Christ has I  receive.27 For Luther, Christ and the soul become one flesh.28 The action on the part of the beloved is passive.29 Luther writes: “Just as the heated iron glows like fire because of the union of fire with it, so the Word imparts its qualities to the soul.”30 She is loved. She receives. She enjoys. She loves being loved. She marvels at her lover’s gift. In Luther we have mystical theology turned outward, instead of turned inward and upward –​turned outward to Christ and turned outward to our neighbor. To transmit the language of De docta ignorantia, they are compressed in Christ, expanded in others.31 Luther writes: “the good things we have from God should flow from one to the other and be common to all, so that everyone should ‘put on’ his neighbor and so conduct himself toward him as if he himself were in the other’s place.”32 Essentially for Luther the world becomes the monastery; so too, the cell of the monk is now transformed into the kitchen and living room and blacksmith’s shop and town hall and public square.33 Mysticism now embraces living in the world in Christ for others. This is faith turned not inward, but outward. It is not confined to the monastery –​instead the world was the monastery and the family central.34 Luther’s immensely popular and enduring Small Catechism puts this into vivid practice,

26

27 28 29 30 31 32 3 3 34

Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.55; LW, 31.352); Song of Songs 2:16. Cf. Johann Gerhard’s (1582–​1637) Sacred Meditations (1606), “Meditation Thirteen on the Spiritual Marriage of Christ and the Soul,” in Seventeenth Century Lutheran Meditations and Hymns, ed., trans., Eric Lund (New York: Paulist Press, 2011), 74: “those [the soul and Christ] who live together in marriage are no longer two but one flesh (Matthew 19:6), so anyone who clings to the Lord through faith is one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17), because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:7).” Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.54–​55; LW, 31.351–​352). Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.54; LW, 31.351); Ephesians 5:31–​32. Cf. Martin Luther, Sermon on the Two Kinds of Righteousness (1519) (WA, 2.145–​152; LW, 31.297–​306). Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.53; LW, 31.349). Cusa, De docta ignornatia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I.163); Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.66; LW, 31.367). Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.69; LW, 31.371). See, for example, the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg: from Augustinian monastery to Luther’s family home. Cf. Luther’s famous homespun Table Talks (LW, 54).

160 Hollmann as the head of his house teaches the faith to his household and serves within the church and greater community.35 With all this talk of freedom, it is not surprising, then, that the Spanish Inquisition thought that Luther taught a new incantation of the so-​called old heresy of the free spirit. Teresa of Avila writes the Interior Castle against what she deems the heresy of Lutheranism.36 Yet what Teresa actually knew about Luther and his writings is questionable. This stereotype that Luther’s teachings had something to due with freedom has a tinge of truth. Yet for Luther this freedom does not annihilate, but rather affirms life. This freedom is all encompassing and rooted in Christ and neighbor. It is not hedonistic and excessive, but liberating in its very nitty-​gritty servitude. Thus it is a creative freedom and servitude: Lord of all and servant of all in Christ who is both Lord of all and servant of all for you.37 It is a coincidence of opposites: I and thou, Christ and the believer, the believer and neighbor in one life: one union of what it means to be Christian. It is Luther’s feliticious exchange: Christ takes all that we have: sin, death and the devil, and gives us what he has: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.38 Herein endures a wonderful description of the very real existential and imputed-​alien reality. Not infused little by little. Not by degree or steps, but given all at once in a great dumping of grace and mercy and peace. Mysticism, then, for Luther according to The Freedom of a Christian, is living from this gift, in this gift, with this gift, by this gift, through this gift, to this gift. Thus, for Luther mysticism is union with God in Christ: a union not to be attained, but received, not acquired by the will, but willed only by God and divinely given freely. And yet in this one gift coincide saint and sinner, Lord and servant in one person, just as in Christ, in one person, coincide hypostatically God and man. Christ for you. Christ in you. Faith coupled with its object, Christ. Union given, not achieved. An example of this is found in Christian liturgical iconography: the place of the patron in sacred space. In late medieval religious paintings and altarpieces the patron is usually depicted outside of the main scene: a 35 36 37 3 8

Martin Luther, “Daily Prayers”; “Table of Duties,” in The Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1986), 30–​38. St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), 196. Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.49; LW, 31.344). According to Luther scholar Oswald Bayer, for Luther, the happy exchange is the union of Word and soul by faith and is also deemed a “happy transaction” in the economy of God’s salvation in Christ in unio personalis (Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 229–​ 230); Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.54–​55; LW, 31.351).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

161

saint ushers him or her into the inner sanctum of Christ on the cross or Virgin and Child; thus the saint approaches the Holy only by hierarchy and degree or infused and quantitative holiness, as is the case with the famous altarpiece in the Cusanusstift.39 Yet in Lutheran art the patron shares the same scene with Christ. He is one with Christ. He is there at the foot of the cross in the same sacred space.40 Imputed righteousness, not by degree, not quantitative, but holistic: the whole person, the whole scene, one with the whole Christ (anti-​ Nestorian), the lover with the beloved. Christ is the active lover, the believer the passive beloved. And yet, this is not faith turned inward, but faith turned outward: to God in Christ, to the cross, to Christ in the neighbor. While in the medieval Western church contemplation and mystical union were always understood at least theoretically as passive, the line was often blurred between preparation and reception.41 For Luther there can be no such confusion. The entire Church stands or falls with getting this doctrine precisely right. Salvation, then, can only precisely be God’s gift pure and simple. Pure in its power. Simple in its wholeness. Gift pure and simple for you.

Comparative Theology: Cusanus and Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites

Christ, for both Cusanus and Luther, marks the beginning and end of theology and vocation. For Cusanus, seekers of wisdom know Christ in the coincidence of opposites inherent in the universe and revealed in sacred scripture and the hierarchy of the church.42 For Luther, one knows and trusts Christ through a coincidence of opposites: in the modality of sinner and saint as also revealed in Scripture (rightly divided into Law and Gospel) and mediated through the hierarchy of the Church as subservient to the Word. For Cusanus, God is beyond the coincidence of opposites, but God is in Christ and you are in Christ (quantitatively) as proportioned by the will in relation to the intellect. For Luther, one must not peer into the hidden God (Bondage of the Will), but take 39 40 41 42

For a discussion of the altarpiece, see Helmut Gestrich, Nikolaus von Kues 1401–​1464: Leben und Werk im Bild (Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt, 2006), 80. Lucas Cranach the Younger,The Crucifixion (Allegory of the Redemption), 1555 in the Stadtkirche of Saints Peter and Paul, Weimar, Germany. Cf. Theresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, 195; Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, The Mind’s Road to God, trans. George Boas (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1953). See Christ as theological and hierarchical-​dialectical locus at the conclusion of two of Cusanus’ writings that bookend his theological career: Cusa, De concordantia catholica, 3.41.567–​598 (h XIV.460–​474); De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136).

162 Hollmann refuge in Christ, the Word of God, as sure foundation of theological investigation. Furthermore, for Luther, the believer is qualitatively in Christ and Christ is in the believer: to quote the Apostle Paul, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.43 Cusanus’ method of learned ignorance inspires in him a new beginning of theological speculation with​Christ as center of all things. For Luther, The Freedom of a Christian marks a new beginning or method of approaching all of life as gift in the tension of liberty and servitude as centered in Christ who is God (free –​infinite) and man (bound to the finite). Living in this spiritual-​material tension leads to embracing all of life as sacred for the sake of Christ who is both transcendent and immanent. Indeed, faith, for Luther, clings to Christ and transforms the believer to be one with Christ in the great exchange of heaven and earth. For Cusanus, Christ reveals dialectic coincidence of opposites: maximum and minimum, God and man, religion and rites. One approaches this through the desire of the will and the good of the intellect turned toward God in Jesus by means of the Spirit. For Luther, Christ reveals the coincidence of opposites: God and man, the kingdom of the left and the kingdom of the right, active and passive righteousness. One receives this knowledge through faith alone in Christ alone in the Word of God alone by grace alone. For Cusanus and for Luther, there are neither two Christs nor two objects of faith (contra Nestorius), nor two subjects (soul or mind apart from the will of the heart), but one, one Christ and one contemplative and active life lived out in opposites that coincide outside the self (in Christ, for Luther in neighbor), and yet find their rest inside the self in the infused advance of desire or the imputed exchange of grace. In surveying Christology in the Middle Ages one might reasonably examine Anselm of Canterbury, Bonaventure, Julian of Norwich, and Cusanus and Luther.44 Cusanus’ concept of learned ignorance and the corollary coincidence of opposites is well known, and yet, scholars often fail to see the necessary connection therein to Christ, which makes all the difference in letting Cusanus speak for himself. Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith also stands foundational in the study of theology and the history of ideas, and yet, faith, for Luther, without reference to its object, Christ, and its subject (Christ in the

4 3 44

Galatians 2:20; Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.65; LW, 31.366). Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo in Anselm of Canterbury, The Major Works, edited by Brian Davies and G.R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 97–​202; Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, The Mind’s Road to God; Julian of Norwich, Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

163

believer and the believer in Christ) misses and obscures the Lutheran tension between saint and sinner, freedom and servitude and the paradoxical vantage point of living the not yet of heaven in the now of earth. Such myopic interpretations sans the hypostatic and coincidental optics of Christ lead to fideism or rationalism. For Luther and for Cusanus, the coincidence of opposites ultimately is centered in Christ. How they exhibit and elucidate Christ and the coincidence of opposites varies by way of quantity or quality, progression or plenitude. Perhaps in reading Cusanus and Luther we might interpret the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of reformation through the coincidence of finding Christ as the end and beginning of both intellectual desire and faith active in love.

Cusanus and Luther on Christological Content and Theological Method

The dialectic of content and method presents a final heuristic optic into viewing Nicholas of Cusa’s hypostatic ideas on God and Christ, and their relation to Luther’s theology and the early confessional Lutheran movement on Christ and vocation. First, on this proverbial eye exam, where seeing is much more than letters, and questions pertaining to what, we will investigate Cusanus’ very why for his speculative and discursive career, as both theologian and cardinal, specifically, his De apice theoriae and De docta ignorantia. For Cusanus, in Christ, there are not two careers or persons, one speculative and the other discursive, but one who is both contemplative and active. In Christ, there is also wisdom wherever it is found (universal), and the specific incarnate Word as definite sign pointing beyond to Posse, which is beyond all signs: thus, there is natural and revealed light.45 Through these two rays of light we then survey a panorama of Lutheran insights from select writings of Luther and early confessional Lutheran theology. Finally, if the eye examination has proven successful, we begin to see, from the summit and plain, albeit different perspectives, a providential synthesis forming on the horizon

45

Cusa, De apice theoriae, 5; 8 (h XII.120, 122–​123); cf. Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Teaching (De doctrina Christiana), trans. R.P.H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 9. H. Lawrence Bond defines Posse as designating God as “Can-​Is” or the “Can-​That-​Is,” and Posse ipsum as “Can-​Itself” which is present in all that is (Selected Spiritual Writings, 339–​ 340). Cf. F. Edward Cranz, “The Late Works of Nicholas of Cusa,” in Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 141–​160.

164 Hollmann of early modern religion, where content and method, contemplation and action converge and extend in Christ, the Wisdom and Word of God. In our investigation of these synthetic and doctrinal similarities, content and method are envisioned as lenses for understanding Cusanus’ obscure oblation to God, De apice theoriae, and how we may discover what for Cusanus is the hypostatic insight of being and knowing, and intellect and will. For Cusanus, content and method may thus be more accurately rendered as seeing God as sure ground of being and concept, and, borrowing from Augustine, the mode of remembering, understanding and willing, as centralized in Jesus Christ.46 Christ is the way by word and example to the contemplation of God. Christ leads by being both the pre-incarnate and incarnate word and wisdom of God. Christ is the method and means for the intellect and will to contemplate and love God.47 The psalmist prays, in thy light, we see light.48 Cusanus wrote De apice theoriae in the light of Jesus. The short treatise concludes with Christ “leading us by word and example” as “God’s most perfect appearance” to the clear contemplation of Posse itself.49 The work is probably his last, composed in 1464, the same year as Cusanus’ death. The raw data of content as shaped by context is helpful here: the treatise is set within the paschal days, or the Easter season, which in the early church was the time of the mystagogy.50 Catechesis occurred in Lent; in holy week and Easter one experienced the mysteries of God and salvation; the Easter Vigil catechumens were baptized, and then partook of the Eucharist; and in the Easter liturgical season, one adored and contemplated the mysteries of Augustine’s eighth age, beyond the Sabbath rest into the new creation, where everything in Christ as both means to and end in and of God is the ultimate Posse.51 In De apice theoriae Cusanus has nearly reached the Easter of his life, where in faith and hope the end becomes the beginning. The work has a ring of finality, mystery and the numinous, much like the traditional liturgies of holy week and Easter, which Cusanus would have celebrated. Cusanus writes to his long time friend Peter of Aachen (in dialogue form), who has just been ordained as 46 47 48 49 50 51

Cusa, De apice theoria, 9 (h XII.123); cf. Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity, trans. Edmund Hill OP, in The Complete Works of St Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. J.E. Rotelle (New York: New City Press, 1991), 10.11; 15.7. Cusa, De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136). Psalm 36:9. Cusa, De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136), translation by Bond in Selected Spiritual Writings, 303. Cusa, De apice theoriae, 2 (h XII.117–​118). Augustine of Hippo, City of God (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 22.30.

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

165

priest; Cusanus calls this, in language echoing the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of Dionysius, which Cusanus knew well, “the status of the most sacred priesthood through God’s gift and my ministry.”52 The hierarch, Cusanus, transmits by sacred rite and dialogue the path to contemplate Posse, through the illumination of Jesus, who is the ultimate hierarch extending by gradation unto the hierarchy of the church catholic. Accordingly, it is like the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, where following the rite performed by the hierarch, which flows from the celestial and angelic hierarchy, one contemplates, and, for Cusanus, sees clearly, Posse, through Jesus. Cusanus also, at the beginning of the De apice theoriae, mentions fourteen years as the amount of time he has known and discussed matters of straining to understand the incomprehensible.53 This language of comprehending the incomprehensible is a direct allusion to the vision Cusanus believed he received some twenty-​four years prior, namely, the illumination of the method of learned ignorance which he received from God, the Father of light.54 Cusanus’ method of learned ignorance finds its content in the Wisdom and Word of God, both in his subsequent works on wisdom and the laymen or ignorant (De apice theoriae, Idiota de sapientia), and as concluded with the synthesis of maximum and minimum, the coincidence of opposites, Christ, in the decisive and concluding book three of De docta ignorantia. In De coniecturis, after endless human affirmations or surmises, God is even beyond the coincidence of opposites, yet the way is Christ, to whom and from whom flows wisdom unto wisdom, and in whom there is always more to see.55 The path, for Cusanus, of content and method as centered in and beyond Christ, from De apice theoriae and back to De docta ignorantia, is circuitous or spiraling upward to ever higher heights of conceiving God, in this final case, as Posse itself. The Christological method is spiral and dialectical –​a dialogue, between two who have received chrism of ordination. Yet the content is found everywhere, by a kind of providential light that parallels and may be penetrated by revealed light, light from light (Nicene Creed), even by the ignorant (laymen and wisdom). Cusanus concludes De apice theoriae with this: “there can be no other substantial or quidditive principle, either formal or material, 52 53 54 55

Cusa, De apice theoriae, 1 (h XII.117). Cusa, De apice theoriae, 2 (h XII.117–​118). Cusa, De docta ignorantia, “Epistola auctoris” (h I.163). “Although for many years I had seen that it [Posse] had to be sought beyond all power of knowing and prior to every diversity and opposition” (Cusa, De apice theoriae, 4, h XII.119–​ 120). Cf. Cusa, De visione Dei, 1.5–​6 (h VI.10–​11) and De apice theoriae, 2 (h XII.117–​118). See also Gregory of Nyssa’s doctrine of eternal progress in Life of Moses, 21, in From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, ed. Jean Daniélou and trans. Herbert Musurollo (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 142–​148.

166 Hollmann than Posse itself. And those who have spoken of various forms and formalities, of various ideas and species, did not look to Posse Itself, how it discloses itself at will.”56 Cusanus goes on to center his discussion of Posse in Trinity and Christ: “By ‘Posse itself’ is signified the three and one God...with whom all things are possible and nothing impossible” and “God’s most perfect appearance, than which none can be more perfect, is Christ leading us by word and example to the clear contemplation of Posse Itself” (the beatific vision, Easter without end).57 Cusanus’ De apice theoriae focuses on the mind, yet its context is action. Here we see contemplation and action, illuminative tradition, along with the theurgic and Neoplatonic infused occidental liturgy. Cusanus ascends the summit of contemplation during the paschal feast, Easter, much like Dante’s upward journey at the conclusion of Purgatorio to the earthly paradise atop Mount Purgatory during Easter week, which enables both to see how freedom and providence, intellect and will (of human beings and God), as too in book five of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, come together in the vantage of grace imparted vision. The Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan, following David Hume, describes his intent in his masterwork, Insight, as storming the citadel of the human mind to capture the very essence of insight, which is strikingly similar to Cusanus’ De apice theoriae, wherein transcendent and immanent knowledge and self-​appropriation, as well as common sense and action, the intellect and will, are entrapped and encompassed by Posse.58 Capture of this one insight, what Cusanus first received in De docta ignorantia, leads to a subsequent clearing and mopping up of the countryside of the mind, in all its complexities. Cusanus spends the remainder of his active and contemplative life mopping up, if you will, this insight from God, as beyond all surmises and Posse. This Posse appears most clearly where there is hypostasis as found most fully in Christ. This hypostatic view is strikingly similar to his uniquely Christocentric vision of the method of learned ignorance.59 Cusanus achieves a synthesis of content and method, contemplation and action in and through the person and work of Christ. This enlightens him, in his own words, to see Posse, maximum

56 57 58 59

Cusa, De apice theoriae, 27 (h XII.136), translation by Bond in Selected Spiritual Writings, 303. Cusa, De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136), translation by Bond in Selected Spiritual Writings, 303. Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), xxx; David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature (Whithorn: Anodos Books, 2017), “Introduction” (p. 2). Cusa, De apice theoriae, 27 (h XII.135–​136).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

167

and minimum, both beyond and enigmatically in the coincidence of opposites in and through the appearance of the incarnate and sacramental Christ and Word and Wisdom of God. How, then, does any of this relate to the Christology of Luther? At first, it would seem, from the vantage of nature and grace, that Luther and Cusanus share nothing in common. Yet there appear conjectural parallels between Cusanus and Luther on the connection to Christ hidden and revealed, known and unknown and as center in the coincidence of opposites of infinite and finite, Divine and human natures, God and believer, believer and neighbor. What follows is a final brief foray into comparative theology, which attempts to see cohesion on Christocentricly seeing the world and God in the context of early modern religion where the grounds of content and method become increasingly unmoored from the old medieval systematic structure of faith and reason. Luther’s great insight is found in the righteousness from God apart from ourselves, which transforms us into a new person of faith active in love. Christ is the one who redeems condemned and lost creatures, who cannot by their own reason or strength believe in him or receive his gifts. Thus, Christ binds the strong man, takes the citadel of sin, death and the devil, in order that we would receive this gift by faith connected to the Word of God. The mopping up or execution of the strategy of faith alone by grace alone in the Word of God alone is lived out in the secular made sacred, the Lutheran understanding of vocation, as seen, for example in his three kinds of the good life, where the world itself is seen as the temple of God and the context of rightly dividing ceremonies and Christian liberty, law and gospel, good works and calling upon Christ in the reception of true faith.60 The light of natural law remains as good for human society, be it Christian or non-​Christian. For Luther, Christ’s binding of the strong man, sin, death and the devil, leads to the flourishing of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, in the great exchange or marital-​personal union as described in The Freedom of a Christian, where one is Lord of all, and servant of all, in one mystical and personal hypostatic communication of attributes, Christ for and in the believer, and the believer in Christ and serving his neighbor (the contemplative and active lives as one in Christ).61 From this insight and life well lived in God in Christ and for neighbor flow the distinctions of the kinds of righteousness, two kingdoms, law and Gospel, finite and infinite, knower and known, issues of ontology and epistemology all of which revolve around and radiate from Christ, who is both the center and circumference of the Christian life. 60 61

Luther, Sermon on the Three Kinds of Good Life for the Instruction of Consciences (1521) (WA, 7.795–​802; LW, 44.235–​242). Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.49, 55; LW, 31.344, 352).

168 Hollmann For Luther, any conception of Posse or what-​can-​be as concept of God without Christ would unleash the hidden and horrifying God of the Bondage of the Will, yet the revealed God, for Luther, is centered in the ubiquitous person and unique work of Jesus Christ, the visible and spoken Word of God. As we have seen, according to Luther in The Freedom of a Christian there is a hypostatic exchange of properties, the content of Christ’s divine nature, the very substance of heaven, with the method or way of knowing on earth as warped inward by sin, and unfolded outward by union with the Word of God, Christ. This exchange fuses holistically into a new person of grace, where clear conceptions of the summit of life’s experiences as seen in the Lutheran teaching of vocation and later clarified in the Formula of Concord’s argument for the ubiquity of Christ find creative fusion, in the Eucharistic meal, where contemplation and action intersect, and where the via moderna (nominalism) or the plain linguistics of “this is my body,” pushes, for Luther, the via antiqua or visible Word of the sacrament down to earth (as the same Body of Christ is both in heaven and also on earth) and out into society.62 For Luther, this life is heuristic in vocation, as we discover new ways to love and serve our neighbor or see what God has prepared in advance.63 The Christian receives the contemplation and action of Posse itself, and can be and is able to see all of God in Jesus, with the activated potential to serve God and neighbor. Thus the Christian is free in heaven, as experienced now in faith, and yet, servant in society, as lives are hidden and revealed as centered in Christ, who is both God and man, hidden to Pontius Pilate, but known to the thief on the cross.64 The summit becomes a plain, where we walk freely, as transformed in intellect and will, not under the shadow of death, but in the light of the sun of righteousness, Christ. Yet, even in Lutheran confessional theology, the light of natural reason, while obscured to the point of damnation, still sees cause and effect, and may trace hints of Divine wisdom, and know that God is the one who governs the cosmos.65 Yet,

62

6 3 64 65

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (eds.), The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), Formula of Concord (1577), Solid Declaration, Article VIII, Concerning the Person of Christ (pp. 616–​634); Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24; The Marburg Colloquy (1529) (WA, 30.3.110–​159; LW, 38.15–​36). See also Lutheran down-​to-​earth devotion to the bodily and bloodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the sixteenth century, especially Meditations Eighteen-​Nineteen on salutary participation in the body and blood of Christ and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper in Johann Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations (Seventeenth Century Lutheran Meditations and Hymns, 85–​89). Ephesians 2:8–​10; Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.68–​69; LW, 31.370–​1). Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.49, 69; LW, 31.344, 371). Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration I, 3.

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

169

for Luther, faith alone is superior to knowledge. Reception of and trust in the Divine favor of Christ renews the intellect. At the end of the Middle Ages, and on the verge of the Lutheran reformation, we see Cusanus’ Christocentric vision of knowing and the knower, of intellect and will, in the Posse of Christ, who is mediator and consideration, the method and content of Christian contemplation and the possibility of the coinciding of infinite and finite, God and humanity.66 Cusanus never tired, even through his final years as plans for reforming the church show, of attempting to conform the church, in head and members, to the person and work of Christ.67 What Cusanus provides early modern religion, as seen in the Christocentric De concordantia catholica and Cribratio Alkorani, as well as the Christ-​formed reform of the Reformatio generalis, and the Christ focused format of the De docta ingnorantia, is a thoroughly Christocentric way of thinking through matters as diverse as ecumenism, religious dialogue, and faith and reason.68 For Luther, this coincidental and paradoxical Christ-​centeredness resonates as theological content and method; indeed, unlike some of his protestant contemporaries, for him the Word (Christ) is more than just spoken; it is visible in bread and wine, ubiquitous in Word and sacrament, and in the lives of believers. For Luther and the Lutheran Reformers, the summit of contemplation is leveled to the active plain of vocation in the coinciding of the infinite and the finite. Christoformes now conquered by Christus victor.69 Christ who descends so viators might ascend in faith and who providentially levels the summit of possibility 66 67 68

69

Cusa, De apice theoriae, 28 (h XII.136). Cusa, Reformatio generalis, 6 (h XV.28–​30); Cf. the Christocentric formulary for ecclesial reform within the context of Christendom unfolding at the start of his career in De concordantia catholica, 1.1.4–​8 (h XIV.29–​33). Cusa, De concordantia catholica, 1.1.4–​8 (h XIV.29–​33); Cribratio Alkorani, “Alius prologus,” 11–​16 (h VIII.11–​17); Reformatio generalis, “Praefatio”; 1–​9 (h XV.19–​33); De docta ignorantia, 1.2.7; “Prologus” lib. 3 (h I.7–​8, 117). On Cusanus’ Christocentric approach to Islam, see also Joshua Hollmann, The Religious Concordance:  Nicholas of Cusa and Christian-​Muslim Dialogue (Leiden:  Brill, 2017). For the classic study on Christology in the theology of Cusanus, see Rudolf Haubst, Die Christologie des Nikolaus von Kues (Freiburg: Herder, 1956). According to Luther in the Freedom of a Christian, the believer is formed or married by Christ through the coinciding of Christ and the soul by faith alone as two (Christ and the soul) become one. Christ betrothes, the soul receives and revels in this personal union of Divinely imparted eternal righteousness, life and salvation (Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.52–​53, 55; LW, 31.348–​349, 352). Cf. Luther’s definition of the second article of the Apostles’ Creed in The Small Catechism with Explanation, 14. On the classic study of Luther and Christus Victor, see Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, translated by A.G. Hebert (Eugene: Wipf&Stock, 2003), 101–​122.

170 Hollmann for ordinary Christian expressions of charity and makes the rough synergistic places plain for both sinners and saints in the fortituous coinciding of Christ and believer, Christ and neighbor.70 Bibliography Alfsvåg, Knut. “The Centrality of Christology: On the Relation Between Nicholas Cusanus and Martin Luther.” Studia Theologica –​Nordic Journal of Theology 70 (2016): 22–38. Accessed 15 June 2017. http://​dx.doi.org/​10.1080/​00393338X.2016.1172256. Alfsvåg, Knut. “Cusanus and Luther on Human Liberty.” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 54 (2012): 66–​80. Anselm of Canterbury. The Major Works. Edited by Brian Davies and G.R. Evans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiæ, Volume 1 (1a., 1). Reprint (Blackfriars Edition); Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Augustine, Saint. On Christian Teaching (De Doctrina Christiana). Translated by R.P.H. Green. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Augustine, Saint. The Trinity. Translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. The Complete Works of St. Augustine:  A Translation for the 21st Century. Edited by J.E. Rotelle. Vol. 1.5. New York: New City Press, 1991. Augustine, Saint. City of God. 7 Volumes. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957. Aulén. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement. Translated by A. G. Hebert. Eugene: Wipf&Stock, 2003. Bayer, Oswald. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. Biechler, James E. and H. Lawrence Bond, eds. Nicholas of Cusa on Interreligious Harmony: Text, Concordance and Translation of De Pace Fidei. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990. 70

For Luther’s attack on monastic ascetism and advocation of active Christian service as flowing from passive Christian righteousness in both the government of the left (secular realm of the law) and the government of the right (sacred realm of the Gospel proper) in one life of Christian liberty see Martin Luther, Ordinance of a Common Chest (WA, 12.11–​ 30; LW, 45.169–​194:); The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.59–​61; LW, 31.358–​61) –​especially, “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works,” The Freedom of a Christian (WA, 7.61; LW, 31.361) –​the Christocentric coupling of the doctrine of the two governments or kingdoms and passive and active righteousness; Sermon on the Two Kinds of Righteousness (WA, 2.145–​152; LW, 31.297–​306); Secular Authority: To What Extent it Should be Obeyed (WA, 11.245–​280; LW, 45.75–​129).

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ

171

Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. The Mind’s Road to God, translated by George Boas. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1953. Christianson, Gerald, and Thomas M. Izbicki, eds. Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom. Leiden: Brill, 1991. Cranz, F. Edward. Nicholas of Cusa and the Renaissance. Edited by F. Edward Cranz and Thomas Izbicki. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. Euler, Walter Andreas. “Does Nicholas Cusanus Have a Theology of the Cross?” The Journal of Religion 80 (2000): 405–​420. Gestrich, Helmut. Nikolaus von Kues 1401–​1464: Leben und Werk im Bild. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt, 2006. Gregory of Nyssa. From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings. Edited by Jean Daniélou. Translated by Herbert Musurollo. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961. Haubst, Rudolf. Die Christologie des Nikolaus von Kues. Freiburg: Herder, 1956. Hollmann, Joshua. The Religious Concordance: Nicholas of Cusa and Christian-​Muslim Dialogue. Leiden: Brill, 2017. Hügel, Friedrich von. The Mystical Element of Religion as Studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her Friends. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927. Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Whithorn: Anodos Books, 2017. Julian of Norwich. Showings. Translated by Edmund Colledge. Mahwah, NJ:  Paulist Press, 1978. Kandler, Karl Hermann. “Nikolaus von Kues als ‘testis veritatis’:  Beitrag eines evangelisch-​lutherischen Theologen zur Wirkungsgeschichte von De Pace Fidei.” Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanusgesellschaft 17 (1986): 223–​234. Kolb, Robert and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000. Lonergan, Bernard. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. New York: Philosophical Library, 1957. Lund, Eric. Seventeenth-​Century Lutheran Meditations and Hymns. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2011. Luther, Martin. The Small Catechism with Explanation. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1986. Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. American Edition (LW AE), Volume 45. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann and James Atkinson. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1962. Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. American Edition (LW AE), Volume 44. Edited by James Atkinson. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1966. Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. American Edition (LW AE). Volume 31. Edited by Harold J. Grimm. Philadelphia, PA: Muhlenberg Press, 1957. Marx, J. Verzeichnis der Handschriften-​Sammlung des Hospitals zu Cues bei Bernkastel a./​Mosel. Trier: Druck der Kunst-​und Verlagsanstalt Schaar & Dathe, Komm.-​Ges. a. Akt., 1905.

172 Hollmann Metzke, Erwin. Coincidentia oppositorum:  Gesammelte Studien zur Philosophiegeschichte. Witten: Luther, 1961. Nicholas of Cusa. Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia iussu et auctoritate academiae litterarum heildelbergensis ad codicum fidem edita. 22 Volumes. Leipzig-​Hamburg:  Felix Meiner, 1932–​2012. Nicholas of Cusa. Writings on Church and Reform. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. The I Tatti Renaissance Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. Nicholas of Cusa. Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings. Translated by H. Lawrence Bond. New York: Paulist Press, 1997. Serina, Richard J., Jr. Nicholas of Cusa’s Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church ­Reform. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2007. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979. Weier, Reinhold. Das Thema vom verborgenen Gott von Nikolaus von Kues zu Martin Luther. Münster: Aschendorff, 1967.

Chapter 6

Ignorantia Non Docta: John Calvin and Nicholas of Cusa’s Neglected Trinitarian Legacy Gary W. Jenkins Since both the Antitrinitarians and Calvin neglected certain fourth-​century axioms in their quests for a repristinated theology and pursuits after an uncontaminated faith, it should be no shock that the most debated topic of the fourth century should reemerge in the sixteenth. While an argument could be made that in the Greek East trinitarian theology had largely been settled by the end of the fourth century, this hardly exhausts the Byzantine theological mind on the question of the Trinity, let alone Theology proper. But if Orthodox Theology was calmed in this particular instance by its oft-​imputed conservatism,1 Latin trinitarian theology in the latter Middle Ages found itself vexed in trying to explain the Trinity in light of absolute divine simplicity,2 being beset by the “Dominicans” on one hand, and the “Franciscans” on the other. The former saw the Trinity and its persons in an opposition of relations, and the latter saw the persons of the Trinity distinguished with respect to mode of origin (emanation).3 Both explanations drew from Aristotelian terminology: the Dominican

1 Aristeides Papadakis, Crisis in Byzantium. The Filioque Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus (1283–​1289) (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983), cf. 79–​101; A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 133–​172. 2 “We firmly believe and openly confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immense, omnipotent, unchangeable, incomprehensible, and ineffable, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons indeed but one essence, substance, or nature absolutely simple.” Canon 1 in H.J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937), 236. A place to start on the vast literature on absolute divine simplicity is Jay Wesley Richards, The Untamed God: A  Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity and Immutability (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003); Michel René Barnes, The Power of God: Δὐναμις in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 2001); and Christopher Hughes, On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990). 3 I take these terms from Russell L. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 5–​49, who points out that not all Franciscans were emanationists, nor all Dominicans relationalists.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 08

174 Jenkins using the category of relation in order to free the divine substance of composition, for the relation (i.e. person) stood in opposition to the other relation (e.g., father of a son) but not to the substance; the Franciscan theology rested upon action and will, seeing the logical necessity of the Father as unemanated, the active emanator, and the Son the passively emanated. But what if one had rejected the peculiar use the Latin scholastics had made of “the Philosopher,” and (flowing from him) certain axioms built on God as actus purus, and on absolute divine simplicity?4 This proved the case for Nicholas of Cusa. But what insight might this give for understanding the anti-​Trinitarians of the sixteenth century, and also Calvin? Where they fell in relation to Nicaean orthodoxy admits of real difference from Cusanus, who stood as an heir of the apophaticism which animated fourth-​century theology, a legacy left him by Dionysus the pseudo-​Areopagite. Consequently, divining Cusanus’ trinitarianism can aid us in seeing why some sixteenth-​century thought took the turn it did. Nicholas Cusanus, with his fundamental assumption that “nulla proportio inter finitum et infinitum est,” and with his idiomatic doctrine of the coincidence of opposites, stood athwart the regnant nominalism of the fifteenth century, but also questioned the scholastic Thomist/​Aristotelian canon that still dominated many in his day.5 His idiomatic doctrines and assumptions, hardly static, endured several peripeties over the course of his life, and acquired new features and expanded characteristics as Cusanus pushed his thought further along the trajectory first laid out for him by the Areopagite. Well known for his defense of conciliarism in De Concordantia Catholica, Cusanus subsequently abandoned both the council of Basel and conciliarism. In regard to the question of meeting with the Greeks, by May of 1437 two opinions had formed at the council of Basel: the majority wanted to meet with them, but not south of the Alps for fear that this would play into the hands –​in their minds –​of

4 Thomas Aquinas begins his whole discussion of God not with his attributes, but, after God’s existence, with the question of God’s simplicity and perfection. Summa Theologiae, I. q.3., in Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum (Rome, 1888), online edition ed. Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón, accessed 4 May 2017, http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth1003.html. 5 In the words of H. Lawrence Bond, “[the] analogy of being or of proportional relationships starts from the wrong epistemological premise: it fails to grasp the incomprehensibility of the Infinite and the radical gulf between divine wisdom and the finite ways of knowing. Dialectic utilized by discursive logic is empty and distorting. (Cf. Apologia 18,32),” in Ibid., “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reconstruction of Theology: the Centrality of Christology in the Coincidence of Opposites,” in Contemporary Reflection on the Medieval Christian Tradition: Essays in Honor of Ray C. Petry, ed. George H. Shriver. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1974), 81–​94; see also H. Lawrence Bond and Gerald Christianson, Reform, Representation and Theology in Nicholas of Cusa and his Age (Farnham, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 230.

Ignorantia Non Docta

175

the cowed Eugenius iv. The minority also wanted to meet with the Greeks, but maintained that any deliberations must include the Pope. Following the wishes of the Greeks, most of the minority headed south to Rome, Cusanus with them.6 Consequently, Cusanus found himself a part of the papal party sent to Constantinople in 1437, where he sacked Constantinople for manuscripts to bring back to Italy. On his return, accompanied by the Imperial and Orthodox contingent, all on their way to the proposed council via Venice, Cusanus experienced a vision which he reported some three years later in the closing epistle of De docta ignorantia, addressed to his former teacher at Padua, cardinal Cesarini. Therein Cusanus confessed to his mentor that by this heavenly vision he was allowed “ut incomprehensibilia incomprehensibiliter amplecterer in docta ignorantia.” Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle has maintained that where this vision occurred clarifies Cusanus’ subsequent thought: Cusanus was “at sea” intellectually, an Odysseus adrift on the Platonic oceans of ideals, and images.7 But the sea rather seems the locus in that Cusanus havered between theological worlds, Constantinople and the Greek East on the one hand, and the Latin West on the other. Here Cusanus stood on the verge of abandoning the Western reading of the pseudo-​Areopagite –​following Albert the Great’s translation of hyperousia in The Divine Names, Aquinas had cast his thoughts on God’s being as superessentia8 –​for one dependent on that of the Greek east for whom God was beyond any predication, even of absolute simplicity or actus purus.9 For Cusanus, learned ignorance, at least in 1440, was a state wherein reason came to the admitted end or frustration of its own powers, to what Cusanus called the coincidence of opposites or contradictions. Cusanus saw God in De docta ignorantia, despite his transcendence beyond human reason, as nonetheless a being inhabiting the realm of the coincidence of contradictions where the law of non-​contradiction is impotent, and where, by the simplicity of God, all the divine attributes coalesce: “Every effort of our human mind ought to be in these depths, so that it may raise itself to the simplicity

6 H. Lawrence Bond, “Nicholas of Cusa from Constantinople to ‘Learned Ignorance’: The Historical Matrix for the Formation of the De docta ignorantia,” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, ed. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 91–​103. 7 Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, “Cusanus at Sea: The Topicality of Illuminative Discourse,” Journal of Religion 71 (1991): 180–​201. 8 John D. Jones, “An Absolutely Simple God? Frameworks for Reading Pseudo-​Dionysius Areopagite,” The Thomist 69 (2005): 392–​393. 9 For the Greek Fathers and this point, see Andrew Radde-​Gallwitz, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

176 Jenkins where contradictories coincide.”10 For Cusanus, to use Paul Tillich’s phrase, the simplicity of God has become the abyss of everything specific.11 The being of God is beyond comprehension, and even beyond naming, but still being: “Wherefore, although it is evident through the aforesaid that the name “being” (or any other name) is not a precise name for the Maximum (which is beyond every name), nevertheless it is necessary that being befit it maximally (but in a way not nameable by the name “maximum”) and above all nameable being.”12 Cusanus here echoes Augustine’s thought, amplified by Anselm. ­Augustine, in positing how one should think about the divine essence and its attributes asserted that the attributes of God are coterminous with the divine existence:  “So also the Trinity itself is as great as each several person therein. For where truth itself is magnitude, that is not more great which is not more true: since in regard to the essence of truth, to be true is the same as to be, and to be is the same as to be great; therefore to be great is the same as to be true.”13 And, “since in the Divine simplicity, to be wise is nothing else than to be, therefore wisdom is there the same as essence.”14 Anselm in his Monologium had asserted that the mind’s movement to God through the proofs he had used still failed to approach the eternal God; and in the Prologium, he had gone further in maintaining that God is beyond thought and is inconceivable, so that, as Jasper Hopkins puts it, Cusanus could see in Anselm’s thought that God is “nameable only symbolically.”15 That this is not Anselm’s point –​Hopkins notes this as well –​can be seen in section eight of the Answer to Gaunilo, namely, that predications of God are also by way of comparison, that is by analogy, and thus there is at least logically an analogy between our ideas of God and how God actually exists. Cusanus’ thought in 1440, while seeing the residence of the divine attributes within the coincidence of opposites as foils to the mind’s powers, still sees both God and his attributes as inhabiting the realm of being, and in this his thought remained consonant with Augustine and Anselm. Yet when he wrote the De visione Dei in 1453, Cusanus’ thought had departed from both his medieval predecessors’ and his own previous thought, set out in De docta

10 11 12 13 14 15

Nicholas Cusanus, De docta ignorantia, epist. 264 (h I.163, lin. 13–​16). Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), 51. Cusanus, De docta ignorantia, 1.6.17 (h I.14; trans. Hopkins, 12). Augustine of Hippo, De Trinitate 8.1.2, in PL 42 col. 947. De Trinitate 7.1.2, in PL 42 col. 33–​934. Jasper Hopkins, “Nicholas of Cusa’s Intellectual Relationship to Anselm of Canterbury,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Peter Casarella (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 58.

Ignorantia Non Docta

177

ignorantia, for the coincidence of opposites that had superseded hierarchy had been superseded by a vision that is not a vision, a change that directly affected his trinitarian thought. Cusanus wrote De visione Dei in 1453 for the Benedictine monks of the Bavarian abbey of Tegernsee as an exercise in mystical contemplation. The treatise forms part of a larger correspondence with the Abbot and prior of Tegernsee, Kaspar Ayndorffer and Bernhard von Waging respectively. The fathers and brothers of the Benedictine abbey had read Hugo Palmis’ De via triplici, a treatise on union with God, and had written to the cardinal bishop asking whether the soul was joined to God via the intellect or love.16 The correspondence with the great abbey spanned two years, and in 1453 as part of the exchange Cusanus included both an icon and his treatise De visione Dei. In this work Cusanus walks the brothers through an exercise employing an omnivoyant icon to demonstrate the properties to be understood (or not at all understood) of God. The eyes of the icon behold all at once, analogous to God’s sight which is none other than His pity, mercy, and action: “For with you having mercy is no different than seeing. Your mercy follows after every person as long as one lives and wherever one may go … moreover, your seeing is your moving. Therefore you are moved with me and never cease from moving so long as I am moved.”17 As the reader progresses, the divine existence, echoing Augustine, begins to absorb distinction: “Your face, Lord, has beauty and this having is its being.”18 Cusanus continues: I stand before the image of your face, my God, and while I look upon it with my sensate eyes, I try with my interior eyes to see the truth figured in this picture, and it seems to me, Lord, that your gaze speaks. For with you speech and sight are one, since in reality they have no distinction in you who are very absolute simplicity. Thus I prove clearly that you see at once each and every thing. Indeed, God’s very thoughts are the content of his acts:  “You conceive the heaven, and it exists as you conceive it.”19 In these identities, all aspects of the

16 17 18 19

See E. Vansteenberghe, Autour de La docte ignorance: une controverse sur la théologie mystique au XVe siècle (Munster en Westphalie: Imprimerie Ascendorff, 1936), 110–​135, and for Ayndorffer’s question, see 110. Cusanus, De visione Dei, 5.16–​17 (h VI.17–​18). Cusanus, De visione Dei, 6.20 (h VI.22): “Tua autem facies, domine, habet pulchritudinem, et hoc habere est esse.” Cusanus, De visione, 10.41 (h VI.37).

178 Jenkins coincidence of contradictions or coincidence of opposites, Cusanus affirms his essential axiom “nulla proportio inter finitum et infinitum est”: He who moves closer to see your face, as long as he forms any concept of it, is [indeed] far removed from your face. For all thought of a face falls short, Lord, of your face, and all beauty which can be thought is less than the beauty of your face; every face has beauty, but none is beauty itself; but your face has beauty, and since this beauty is being, it is thus absolute beauty itself.20 With this Cusanus comes to the metaphor of the Wall of Paradise. For you have shown me that you cannot be seen other than where impossibility confronts and obstructs me. O Lord, you, the food of the mature, have given me courage to do violence to myself, for impossibility coincides with necessity, and I have discovered that the place where you are found unveiled is girded about with the coincidence of contradictories. This is the wall of paradise, and there in paradise you reside. The wall’s gate is guarded by the highest spirit of reason, and unless overpowered, the way in will not lie open. Thus it is on the other side of the coincidence of contradictories that you will be able to be seen and nowhere on this side.21 To this point in his treatise Cusanus had been treating the divine attributes, still maintaining the notion that something is greater than the conceptions of the mind (such as face and beauty); but now that he comes to the Wall of Paradise, he has come to the end of all activities of the intellect, and slips into his Dionysian unknowing. Having seen God (that is, Christ) in the doorway of the Wall of Paradise Cusanus confesses “I know that I do not know what I see, and never can know. And I do not know how to name you because I do not know what you are. And if any were to tell me that you were called by this or that name, by this very naming I know that it was not your name.”22

20 21 22

Cusanus, De visione, 6.20 (h VI.22). Cusanus, De visione, 6.37 (h VI.34–​5). De visione Cap. 13.51 (h VI.44). When Cusanus says that the way to the Wall of Paradise is guarded by the spirit of highest reason, he of course means that reason bars us from entrance in that we cannot comprehend the coincidence of opposites. Later he states that the only way through the Wall is by Christ, the door who opens up the mystery beyond.

Ignorantia Non Docta

179

This ineffable wall, however, in which is the coincidence of opposites, the contradictions of all reason, this end of rationality, is not the Divine: Since therefore I  assert finitude’s end, I  confess darkness light, ignorance knowledge, and the impossible necessary. Since we admit the end of the infinite, we must admit the infinite … or the end without limit. Now we have to admit the existence of finite beings, wherefore we cannot but admit the infinite. Thus we admit the coincidence of contradictories, beyond which is the infinite.23 For Cusanus metaphors and analogies fail, for no analogies can approach God, no matter how employed, for they only bring us to the Wall of Paradise, and to learned ignorance and the end of both being and the tools of comprehending being, including the law of non-contradiction.24 For Aristotle, the law of non-contradiction, while certainly a law of thought, is first of all a law of existence, and by extension of logic.25 Arguments of proportion, used by Anselm in the Monologium, have no weight, for they also reach their frustration at the wall of Paradise, the barrier separating proportionality from infinity. Thus Cusanus comes to the limit of his Latin predecessors and their understanding of God as simple being, as actus purus. Even Anselm’s notion of God as “that Being than which nothing greater can be conceived” falls into the abyss of Cusanus’ negative category, for Anselm then spends the greater part of the Proslogion describing the God whose attributes are identified with his essence.26 The dialectic that had been a staple of Western scholasticism, in which the attributes had become coterminous with essence, Cusanus denounces: “No name can comprehend infinity, for every name can have its contrary, but nothing can

23

24 25 26

De visione Dei, 13.53 (h VI.45–​46). In the first sentence I have followed Heinrich Petri’s edition of Cusanus’ opera, Nicolai de Cusa Cardinalis … Opera (Basel: Henricus Petri, 1565), 193. This reading is followed by the older translation of Emma Gurney Salter, reprinted in John Patrick Dolan, ed., Unity and Reform (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1962), 154; The Heidelberg Academy followed the shorter reading, and this was done as well by H.  Lawrence Bond, trans. and ed., Nicholas of Cusa. Selected Spiritual Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), 258–​59, and cf. Bond’s endnote 1, 322–​23. For the textual questions surrounding De Visione Dei see Jasper Hopkins’ Nicholas of Cusa’s Dialectical Mysticism: Text, Translation, and Interpretive Study of De visione Dei (Minneapolis: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 1996), especially 101–​105. Cusanus, De visione Dei, 11.45–​46 (h VI.40). Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. Gamma. Cf. Donald F. Duclow, “Anselm’s Proslogion and Nicholas of Cusa’s Wall of Paradise” The Downside Review 100:338 (1982): 22–​30.

180 Jenkins be contrary to infinity, which is unnameable.”27 Cusanus’ language if not his very thought echoes and reduplicates that of the pseudo-​Dionysus, for whom God dwelt not only beyond being, but beyond even a dialectic of being and non-​being.28 Cusanus has, as it were, burned a number (though certainly not all) of his Latin scholastic and trinitarian bridges behind him, for he has placed the Persons of the Trinity, along with the one essence, in a realm untouchable by human thought, where knowing is not knowing, and where the personal attributes of each member of the Triad can only be ineffably expressed. He has replaced divine simplicity as the beginning of the discussion of Theology proper with ineffability, with the incomprehensible God, whose simplicity does not lead to his incomprehensibility, but now truly the other way round. The place that the divine properties had assumed in the Augustinian theological order remain on the “human” side of the Wall of Paradise. The ineffable Trinity remains, however, on the divine side. Infinity now takes on the apophatic function Dionysus had given it: a definition without definition and a word as applicable to the three Persons of the triad as to the divine nature. Theology is no longer a science in the medieval sense, for reason, dealing with being, can no longer appropriate from philosophy (theology’s handmaid) the tools with which it makes itself intelligible. Intelligibility is not merely frustrated at the Wall of Paradise, but is now unattainable. Thus theology, though addressed to the intellect, comes to the soul via love, and not intellection. The knowledge of the Trinity and the divine persons, the Christian God, transcends the arguments of the “Franciscans” and “Dominicans” since relation and origin can only be categories of being, subject to the law of contradiction, which Cusanus has placed God wholly beyond. In De docta Ignorantia Cusanus did not sharply distinguish reason and intellect, but this changed by his 1449 Apologia doctae ignorantiae, in which reason is the realm of the discursive, the domain of the law of non-​contradiction, whereas intellect inhabits the realm of the coincidence of opposites, a sense beyond reason and the sensuous. In De coniecturis Cusanus says that his earlier thought was captive to an intellectual speaking of God: he thought that God could be known through the intellect (in the sense of ratio) through the joining of contradictions. But now he must speak what may be said of God divinely, for the coincidence of opposites belongs not to the realm of reason, whose powers 27 28

Cusanus, De visione Dei, 13.55 (h VI.47). Pseudo-​Dionysus the Areopagite, The Divine Names, 2.5, in Corpus Dionysiacum I. Pseudo-​ Dionysius Areopagita, De divinis nominibus, ed. Beate Regina Suchla (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1990). Cf. Radde-​Gallwitz, Basil of Caesarea, 232.

Ignorantia Non Docta

181

wither before approaching it, but to the realm of intellect,29 and God, as we have seen in De visione Dei, is beyond even this realm.30 Beginning with De docta ignorantia, Cusanus became increasingly indebted to pseudo-​Dionysus and to the belief that the approach to God was through darkness, a metaphor he used at the beginning of De visione Dei. For Dionysus, all predicates of God must be discerned apophatically. The three-​step scheme that the Areopagite followed in The Divine Names –​that what may be said of God must then by theologians be denied, and then finally be restated again beyond the superlative –​Cusanus here asserts in De visione Dei. Western Latin theology had not denied the incomprehensibility of God, nor had it granted powers to the human intellect to (somehow) obtain the ineffable, but the divine attributes were known both by reason and revelation; and since faith could be explored by (though could never be subject to) reason, not only was positive or kataphatic knowledge of God available, but through the analogia entis the human intellect had been provided the means necessary for apprehension. Following the divine Dionysius, Cusanus asserts that all human thought in relation to God only shows what we do not know, neither God’s face, nor sight, nor Name: “qui ascendit ad Deum infinitum potius videtur ad nihil accedere quam ad aliquid, ut etiam divinus dicit Dionysius.”31 The dialectic as regards the divine persons that Augustine had used to explain the Trinity becomes a useless tool for Cusanus’ vision of the Trinity, for only after he had passed the wall of Paradise does he at last come to the Trinity. The attributes which St. Augustine attached to the essence of the Deity really tell us nothing about Him; nor through the simplicity of essence are they binding to the Persons. This does not mean that Cusanus abandons Augustine’s language for the relations within the Trinity, for he still speaks of the Trinity in terms of “a lover, one loveable, and the union of both”; and “Those, then, which appear to me to be three, the lover, the loveable, and the union of the two, are that absolute and most simple essence itself. Therefore they are not three, but one.”32 Yet for all this, God, as asserted by pseudo-​Dionysus, is “neither a single number, nor plural, but above all plurality or singularity, one in three and three in one. I perceive then that within the Wall of Paradise plurality is one with singularity, and that your dwelling is removed far from them.”33 Thus while Cusanus uses Augustine’s language, he actually places 29 30 31 32 33

Cusanus appears to be using the term “intellect” equivocally, both synonymous with reason (ratio), but also here in a more transcendental sense. Edward F. Cranz, “Development in Cusanus,” in Nicholas of Cusa and the Renaissance (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2000), 7. Cusanus, De theologicis complementis, 12 (h X/​2a.62). De visione Dei, 17.72 (h VI.59). De visione Dei, 17.73 (h VI.60).

182 Jenkins the Trinity into a realm beyond which both Augustine’s and Anselm’s language and theology could obtain, for the persons of the Trinity are now beyond even the limits and limitations that the language of coincidentia oppositorum posited, and thus the triad of persons, while still referred to in Augustine’s language, remain beyond human intellection.34 Cusanus’ thought that the essence or being of God is not only beyond all thought and thus being, but beyond even the dialectic of being and non-​being, means that so too are the Trinitarian persons as subjects of economy and revelation. Clearly the theology of pseudo-​Dionysus prompts Cusanus in this direction,35 but one can find this theology as well in one of Dionysus’ earliest commentators, Maximus the Confessor, who says, “Since God is absolute existence, absolute goodness and absolute wisdom, or rather, to put it more exactly, since God is beyond all such things, there is nothing whatsoever that is opposite to Him.”36 Cusanus expressly mentions Dionysius and Maximus as influencing his thought, and behind them stood the Cappadocians. For, as Gregory of Nazianzus says: The Divine Nature then is boundless and hard to understand; and all that we can comprehend of Him is His boundlessness; even though one may conceive that because He is of a simple nature He is therefore either wholly incomprehensible, or perfectly comprehensible. For let us further enquire what is implied by “is of a simple nature.” For it is quite certain that this simplicity is not itself its nature, just as composition is not by itself the essence of compound beings.37 Compare this with Basil of Caesarea’s epistle 239: When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence? And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and 34

35 36 37

Augustine at the beginning of De Trinitate asked his readers to enter into this dialogue with him and to correct him where he needed to be corrected. Further, St. Anselm also, once he had finished his Proslogion, commented that he was not sure of the end of his quest. Dionysus, Divine Names, 5.1. Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries on Love, 3.27 in G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (eds. and trans.), The Philokalia, The Complete Text: Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Markarios of Corinth (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), 2:87. St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 38, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (eds.), Nicene and Post-​Nicene Fathers, Second Series, trans. Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow (Reprint 1895; Edinburgh and New York: T&T Clark, 1994–​1998), 7:424.

Ignorantia Non Docta

183

His loving-​kindness, His justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence? In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful. These we confess that we know. If they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity. For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated. The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.38 Latent in his earliest sermons,39 and given wider application in De docta ignorantia, Cusanus’ trinitarianism stands in opposition to that constructed by the medieval scholastics in that it answers neither to their epistemology nor to their metaphysics, but is redolent of the Greek Patristic inheritance, setting created and uncreated neither at odds, nor on a continuum, but in supplementary alignment, with the created intellect searching for its proper telos not through ratio but through love. Thus Cusanus, as he ends De visione Dei, confesses that Christ is the “immultiplicable likeness” of God found only in contemplation, and not in intellection, something attained through the love of God and that of the humble soul. This theology of Cusanus illuminates the trinitarian controversies of the sixteenth century, and in particular those that touched the Genevan Reformer John Calvin, at least tangentially if not directly: Calvin’s conflict with Pierre Caroli, the infamous disputes with Michael Servetus, and his extended engagement with the rationalists and dissidents within the Genevan Italian congregation who seemed to arise in Servetus’ train, and who took their own peculiar doctrines with them to trouble the Reformed church in Poland. Calvin structured the Institutes of 1536 around the Apostle’s Creed to defend the evangelicals of France from the accusation of Anabaptism. The genesis of the Institutes can be found in Calvin’s association with Louis du Tillet,

38 39

Basil of Caesarea, Epistola ccxxxiv to Amphilochius, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-​ Nicene Fathers, Second Series, trans. Blomfield Jackson (Edinburgh and New York: T&T Clark, 1994–​1998), 8:274. Cf. Bond, “From Constantinople to ‘learned ignorance.’ ”

184 Jenkins a friend and Catholic priest who had served as the curé of Claix at least since 1533, a small parish outside his family’s patrimony in Angoulême. Calvin had resided with du Tillet at least from late 1533, and had taught his friend Greek. Calvin’s mentoring of Père Louis found enormous and ample repayment in the library at Louis’ familial estate, where he worked tirelessly on his first theological treatise, the Psychopannichia, but also began his readings for what would be the Institutes.40 The du Tillet family had been ennobled in the previous century, and his elder brothers were all in the employ of the French monarchy. Two of his older brothers, Jean and Jean, had amassed an impressive library, by any day’s standards, but even more so at that time, numbering some 3,000 volumes, along with uncounted manuscripts  –​it should be remembered that at this time single volumes would often hold a scholar’s complete corpus. The elder Jean is remembered as the Greffier, that is, the secretary to the Parlement of Paris, and later the royal archivist who found employment with the faction of the Guise. The other Jean, in 1533 a canon of Angoulême, would become first bishop of Saint-​Bieuc (1553), and later of Meaux (1559). Both Jeans were devoted antiquarians. Ironically, one of the tools that Calvin would employ against Catholic veneration of images was the latter Jean’s edition of the Libri Carolini. Whether the du Tillet library possessed a copy of Cusanus’ oeuvre is not known, but Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples in 1514 had published it in three volumes, and it included De visione Dei. Lefèvre’s debt to Cusanus touched their mutual love and use of Platonism. Whether the cardinal’s works were in Angoulême or not, Calvin certainly admired Lefèvre, and in the spring of 1534 traveled to visit Lefèvre at his home in Nérac, staying it would seem several days. Whatever impression the old humanist had on Calvin can only be left to conjecture, as Calvin largely neglected him in his works. Nevertheless, in Lefèvre, Calvin certainly was exposed to the Platonizing elements of humanist reform, but all with little visible effect. In the Institutes Calvin avoided the language and vocabulary of Nicaea, and in particular any use of the word consubstantialis in speaking of the divinity of the Son, even though he did not formally deny this article of the creed. The Institutes were followed by the first Genevan catechism and 40

Florimond de Raemond, L’Histoire de la Naissance, Progrez, et Decadence de l’Heresie do Ce Siecle (Paris, 1610), 884. Most of what we know about Calvin and his time at Claix/​Angoumois is from Florimond, one of the great antiquarians and historians of his day, and an ardent Catholic apologist. Cf. Barbara Sher Tinsley, History and Polemics in the French Reformation: Florimond de Raemond, Defender of the Church (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1992).

Ignorantia Non Docta

185

confession, which also avoided patristic terminology. Pierre Caroli, a Sorbonne doctor of Theology who, because of his associations with the Circle of Meaux had found it necessary to leave France even before Calvin had, picked up on this omission. In 1537 Pierre Viret, a friend to Calvin and the junior pastor in Lausanne, serving under Caroli, complained to Calvin and Farel that Caroli still practiced prayers for the dead.41 Called to task, Caroli responded by declaring the “Farellisticoi” guilty of Arianism and spreading the doctrines of Servetus.42 He demanded that they subscribe to the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian formula. Calvin, to justify his omission of Nicene language, asserted that the Church does not have power to bind men’s consciences. At a synod in Lausanne, Calvin gave written voice to his peculiar doctrine that the Son was divine “a se ipso,” in and of himself. He must have already been criticized for this by Caroli, for in his 1537 statement on the question to the synod he notes his view. And while Berne (which oversaw Lausanne) exonerated Calvin, Farel, and Viret, questions about their orthodoxy persisted, even after Caroli took flight. He eventually, after living a vagabond existence, returned to the fold of Rome.43 Calvin had responded to Caroli in Lausanne with the aforementioned apologia of the Genevan confession.44 Therein he asserted that the Son as autothean possessed aseity, that is self-subsistence, and that while as Son he is begotten of the Father, all the same, he possesses “life in himself.” Calvin, to counter the accusation of novelty, asserted that Cyril of Alexandria had taught the same thing in the third dialogue on the Trinity, and in the tenth chapter of his Thesaurus de sancta et consubstantiali Trinitate. In 1545 Calvin and Caroli again clashed, this time owing to the attempt by the Schmalkaldic League to bring Metz into its orbit, the League championing Farel to be the city’s chief minister. Caroli, then living in the area of Metz, went on the attack, and produced his Refutatio. He rehearses his initial charges that arose from Calvin’s identification of the Son with Jehovah in the Old Testament –​by this identification Calvin granted aseity to the Son, the basis of 41 4 2 43 44

“Pierre Caroli: etc,” in Gary W. Jenkins, Calvin’s Tormentors: Understanding the Conflicts that Shaped the Reformer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018). Servetus had published his De Trinitatis erroribus in 1531. See James K. Farge, Biographical Register of Paris Doctors of Theology, 1500–​1536 (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1980), 70; and also Caroli’s Refutatio blasphemiae Farellistarum in Sacrosantem Trinitatem (Metz: Ioannis Pelier, 1545). Reproduced in John Calvin, Confessio de Trinitate propter Calumnias P.  Caroli in Edouard Baum Cunitz, et  alia (eds.), Joannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia (Brunsvigae:  C. A.  Schwetschke et Filium, 1863)  (Corpus Reformatorum vols. xxix–​ lxxxvii), 9:col. 703–​710.

186 Jenkins his autothean theology.45 Initially Caroli saw this as a species of Arianism, the Son being another god, with life independent of the Father’s, that is, a life in which he was his own principle, a conclusion based on Calvin’s doctrine of the Son as Jehovah. But by 1545 Caroli had come to a subtler critique, that Calvin’s thought had multiple roots, not just in Arianism, but also in Adoptionism and even Sabellianism. Caroli elicited a rather full-​throated response from Calvin later in 1545.46 The tract ostensibly was written by Calvin’s secretary, Nicolas des Gallars, but Calvin obviously stood somewhere behind it. Caroli held forth on multiple fronts that the Son, instead of drawing his essence from the Father, was the product of that which made him and the Father independent, namely, either aseity or existence itself (ens reipsa) – and thus, the property of aseity becomes the divine nature and the producer of the divinity of both the Father and the Son –​or that there were two distinct natures in the Godhead, one of the Son and another of the Father (that the Son was divine in himself separate from his being begotten).47 Caroli’s Refutatio gives a running account of what happened in his first confrontation with Farel, Viret, and Calvin, and one should wonder how much his mind rightly remembers, as much as it struck at the old target after eight years of reflection. Regardless, both Caroli’s Refutatio and Calvin’s Pro G. Farello show the basic contours that both men worked under in mishandling their Patristic sources. On Caroli’s side, the Church fathers had identified Christ with the Jehovah of the Old Testament: Athanasius wrote that Moses worshiped Christ in the burning bush,48 and Irenaeus that He who enslaved Israel at Sinai set them free in the Gospel.49 In both Irenaeus and Athanasius this was not to predicate aseity of the Son, but to show that the Father always spoke through his Word. With Calvin’s use of Cyril the question becomes more fraught. Calvin gives no specifics about his citations from either the Dialogues or the Thesaurus, and pinning him down by his use of a few Latin words makes for a difficult task. Though he used Oecolampadius’ translation of Cyril,50 and the letter of the Genevan pastors to Zurich on the matter 45 46 47 48 49 50

On this point in Calvin’s theology, see Brannon Ellis, Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), ­chapter 3, “The Autothean Controversies: Calvin’s Complex Solidarity with Classical Trinitarianism,” 64–​102. John Calvin, Pro G. Farello et Collegis eisu Adversus Petri Caroli Calumnias Defensio (Geneva: Nicolai Gallasii, 1545) in Opera vol. 3, col. 300–​340. Caroli, Refutatio, ff. 16, ff. 27. Athanasius, Oratio Contra Arianos I.11.38, in PG 26 col. 90–​91. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haeresios iv.13, in PG 7 col. 1006. In Secundus Tomus habet, Cyrilli Archiepiscopi Alexandrinii in Opera, tres partita Tomus (Basel: in Aegedibus Andreae Cratandri, 1528).

Ignorantia Non Docta

187

(August 1537) gives more information touching Calvin’s use of Cyril, none of Calvin’s citations is from the Greek. Cyril for his part was at pains to keep the Father as the principle of the Son’s divinity throughout, and the most telling passage from the Dialogues in the Basel edition that would seem to support Calvin has no color of reality in the Greek.51 The more pertinent question is, what brought Calvin to this? Obviously he had no formal training in scholastic theology, and his work had largely been that of a humanist jurist. Ignorant of the great debates that had taken place among the scholastics, he failed to see the distinctions even between Cyril and the Cappadocians as regards their trinitarianism,52 let alone the debates among the scholastics. Was this a response to Servetus? Calvin had already corresponded with him in 1536, as he was supposed to meet him in Paris, but Servetus never showed. What becomes obvious is that Calvin had postulated a necessary category posterior to the hypostasis of the Word that made him equal to the Father apart from the Father’s generation of the Son, a seeming direct rebuttal of Servetus. The fundamental problem is that no one prior to Calvin had cast aseity as a property, but rather as the manner, or more aptly, a mode of the divine life, and this is true of the Cappadocians, pseudo-​Dionysus, and especially of Thomas Aquinas.53 John T.  Slotemaker attempts to place Calvin within the conversation in Western scholastic thought described by Friedman.54 Slotemaker follows Friedman’s reading of the late scholastics and maintains the distinctions that Friedman identifies within the two schools touching personal origins within the Trinity (i.e., origins that arise from relation as opposed to persons as constituted from origin). Slotemaker argues that Calvin would have followed the Franciscan model and would have obtained his knowledge of these distinctions from the Scottish theologian John Major, who had taught at Calvin’s

51

52

53 54

Cf. PG 75 col. 120–​122 (for Thesaurus), and col. 804 (for Dialogues). My thanks to my colleague Dr. Timothy Becker for his help with Cyril’s Greek. For the letter of the Genevan pastors, cf. Christoph Burger et al. (eds.), Ioannis Calvini Epistolae, volumen I (1530 –​ sep. 1538) (Geneva: Libraire Droz, 2005), 249–​257. Compare Cyril on agennetos with Gregory of Nazianzus in his third theological oration. Cf. Marie Odile-​Boulnois, “The Mystery of the Trinity according to Cyril of Alexandria: The Deployment of the Triad and its Recapitulation into the Unity of Divinity,” in The Theology of Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation, ed. Thomas Weinandy (Bloomsbury: T & T Clark, 2003), 75–​112. Richards, Untamed God, 215–​216. Slotemaker, “John Calvin’s Trinitarian Theology in the 1536 Institutes: the Distinction of Person as a Key to his Theological Sources,” in Philosophy and Theology in the Middle Ages: A Tribute to Stephen F. Brown, ed. Kent Emery Jr. et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 781–​810.

188 Jenkins college, the Collège de Montaigu. Yet this direct association with Major has been opposed by many, including Cottret who sees themes from Major present in Calvin, but notes that the same were present in others as well, people never associated with the Collège de Montaigu.55 Alister McGrath posits a general schola Augustiniana moderna which would have comprehended the teachings of those such as Major, and which have a place in Calvin’s arguments, particularly against Laelius Socinus on the question of merit in Institutes ii.xvii.1–​6.56 That this is the case gives credence to Slotemaker’s argument that Calvin could have picked up his trinitarianism from the theological milieu of Paris. But Calvin was not a theology student in Paris. He seems first to have considered theological issues during his time at Orleans and Bourges, and then only the ones that were the questions of the day. When he returned to Paris in the early 1530s his time was spent not as a theology student but attempting to get himself noticed with the publication of his Seneca commentary. Slotemaker’s assertion though has the larger problem, which arises from his reading of the Fathers, that somehow St. Augustine stood for a relational model of the Trinity. This is not to say that this is not found in St. Augustine, but it is difficult to say this model ruled his thought. One should only recall how St. Augustine proceeds through his analogies and descriptions in De Trinitate, and then how he ends De Trinitate by settling on the model of the Trinity as found in the soul.57 Slotemaker also asserts that the Greeks held to a relational notion of the divine persons as regards origin, and even says that Gregory Nazianzen used “God” as equivalent of essence and that it was the absolute term.58 But in the third theological oration Gregory Nazianzen explicitly denies this, asserting that this was the doctrine of the Arians, and that God is a relative term, and “Unbegotten” the absolute term –​God is God of everyone and everything, but the Unbegotten is begotten of no one.59 Problematic as well is Slotemaker’s dismissal of Paul Helm’s observation that Calvin

55 56 57

5 8 59

Bernard Cottret, Calvin: A Biography, trans. M.  Wallace MacDonald (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), 60. Alister McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 104. McGrath is here noting not Trinitarian thought, but rather the presence of the voluntarist tradition pertaining to the divine will. Slotemaker cites Lewis Ayres’ Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), but may well have been ignorant of Ayres’ Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), as it came to press, as Ayres develops the arguments in De Trinitate concerning persons as relations, 211–​217. Slotemaker, “Calvin’s Trinitarian Theology,” 805, and see note 87. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio xxix.12, in Arthur James Mason, ed., The Five Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899), 90–​91.

Ignorantia Non Docta

189

disdained patristic terms. Calvin of course did employ the terms “essentia,” “substantia,” and the Greek “hypostasis,” but only by way of comment that this was how the “veteris orthodoxi” spoke. Calvin does not define his own position by any use of these terms, either in 1536 or in the first confession of Geneva, but only in the confession he and Farel gave to the city of Bern in response to Caroli’s first invective in 1537. Lastly, Slotemaker’s argument falls apart because Calvin himself does not appeal to the scholastics against Caroli, and he does not claim that his teaching was consistent with what was taught in Paris, or that what he had asserted had been held by Scotus et al. Richard Muller points out Calvin’s increasing dependency on the medieval Scholastics –​his barbs at scholasticism really aimed at the Doctors of the Sorbonne –​but that his theology was picked up in a piecemeal way, on occassion, as he sought help in constructing his sermons and writing his commentaries, but all of this really only after 1536.60 Arguably the most well known trinitarian controversy, one in which Calvin played a central role, pitted both Catholics and Reformers against Michael Servetus. The incidentals of this feud, for feud it was, can be found in almost any biography of Calvin, and the particulars, both of praise and blame, are not of the moment61 but instead what Servetus taught with respect to the divine persons. In 1531 while in Strasbourg Servetus, not quite twenty, produced his first work on the Trinity, De Trinitatis Erroribus. Servetus distinguished between the Word of God, which is the eternal logic or manifest Wisdom of God, and the Son, the man Jesus, who though Word previously, becomes the Son at the Incarnation. Servetus did take from the antitrinitarians of late antiquity, though he may also have drawn from the Jews and the Moors of his native Spain.62 For him, there is but one Person within the godhead, namely the Father. These basic tenets he maintains throughout his life, his later refinements coming from the Renaissance Neoplatonism he acquired in Lyons, not from a change in his fundamental theology. For Servetus, Christ first and foremost was known as a human, one who could not be God in the same way that the Father was, though he was divine in some way. Humans too are called to be god, but how humans are, and how

60 61 62

Richard Muller, “Calvin and Scholasticism: Relation and Disjunction,” in Calvinus Cincerioris Religionis Vindex, ed. Wilhelm H. Neuser and Brian G. Armstrong (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1997), 252, 264. See Cottret, Calvin, 213–​227; and Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 217–​232. Roland H. Bainton, Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511–​1553 (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1960); see especially chapter one, “Dog of a Marrano.”

190 Jenkins Christ was, differed. Christ was God the Father’s natural Son in that he perfectly expressed the logic and reason (logos) of the Father. The man Jesus, as the Son, is the Word personified. With the Incarnation, the Word ceased to be the Word, and was now the deified man, Jesus. The Word as mediator created all things, and while distinct from the Father, was still divine. Servetus asserted that this was present in the Old Testament in the distinctions between Jehovah and Elohim, to him substantially different entities. Based on his reading of Tertullian, Servetus claimed that the Son was only a distinct person in the Incarnation, and that prior to this, as the Word, there was no real separate existence from the Father, except only as a manifestation of the Father: “Tertullian also says that the term Christ is a word belonging to human nature. And although he makes careful inquiry concerning the word Christ, he makes no mention of that being which some make Christ out to be.”63 His highly dubious reading of Tertullian aside –​Oecolampadius told him “You accord more honor to Tertullian than you do the whole church”64 –​Servetus had constructed his own doctrine of the Trinity based on the primacy of Jehovah, though certainly not construed so in the way Arius had. For Servetus all theology begins formally with the content of revelation, and for him the most obvious fact of revelation is that Jesus Christ is human. Any discussion of the Trinity should start with the man. That Yahshua, surnamed Christ, was not a hypostasis but a human being is taught both by the early Fathers and in the Scriptures, taken in their literal sense, and is indicated by the miracles that he wrought. He, and not the Word is also the miraculously born Son of Yahweh in fleshly form, as the Scriptures teach –​not a hypostasis, but an actual Son. He is an elohim, sharing Yahweh’s divinity in full; and the theory of a communicatio idiomatum is a confusing sophistical quibble.65 In this regard, Servetus’ theology seems at first a Christological error that impacted explicitly the doctrine of the Trinity. For Servetus, the Word had no distinction from the Father; indeed, God as Father did not exist until the

63

64 65

Michael Servetus, The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, On the Errors of the Trinity, etc.; Dialogues on the Trinity, Two books; On the Righteousness of Christ’s Kingdom, four chapters, AD MDXXXII, trans. Earl Morse Wilbur (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1932), 5. Quoted in George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1962), 199. Servetus, Two Treatises, 3.

Ignorantia Non Docta

191

Incarnation. The Word’s equality with God stemmed from it being that by which God did all things. This, then, is the equality which he had while existing in the form of Yahweh:  he had in himself an equal power with Yahweh by reason of the authority that was given him in equal measure with Yahweh. Because he was found to be an elohim by his power, just as he was man by his flesh. And all things that the Father hath are his; and through him all things are done that are performed by the Word of Yahweh, since he himself is the Word of Yahweh.66 Thus, as for Arius, God is Father by dint of a creative action, and is not in se Father. Consequently, Servetus can only see the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as something of an oratorical legerdemain, sleights of linguistic hand which make ultimately not a trinity, but a quaternity: Indeed, you cherish a Quaternity in your mind, though you deny it in words. For you have four ideas, and the fourth is a mental image with respect to an Essence, because it is necessary in understanding the Essence to observe the mental images; and when you have seen these, you will comprehend clearly what I shall say elsewhere as to the formation of the notion. And even now, if you give heed, you can realize that your Trinity is nothing else than a kind of moving of forms in your imagination, which holds you deluded.67 Servetus thus functionally falls to Sabellianism or modalism, for having taken away any hypostatic status from the Word or Spirit, he leaves them as nothing other than properties of the one God. And Peter in the Clementine recognitions speaks not of three equal beings, but of a threefold invocation of the divine name. Because there are three wonderful dispositions of God, in each of which his divinity shines forth; and from this you might very well understand a Trinity. For the Father is the whole substance and the one God from whom these degrees and personations proceed. And they are three, not by virtue of some distinction of beings in God, but through an οἰκονομία of God in various forms of Deity.68 66 67 68

Servetus, Two Treatises, 25. Servetus, Two Treatises, 35. Servetus, Two Treatises, 45.

192 Jenkins Servetus’ theology in many ways perished with him in 1553, though not in the mind of Calvin, who saw him as the source for those who followed. Yet while Matteo Gribaldi and Giorgio Biandrata would invoke Servetus’ name (Gribaldi used Servetus as his nom de plume), their theology was not predicated on the same assumptions, nor did they come to the Spaniard’s conclusions. All the same, contemporaries saw Servetus as the source of later heresy:  “Girolamo Varro testified that at Geneva it was said that the Devil had begotten Servetus, and Servetus Farges (Gribaldi), and Farges Giorgio (Biandrata), and Girogio Paul (Alciati), and Paul several more.”69 Calvin told Peter Martyr Vermigli that not Servetus but Gribaldi was the wellspring of problems in the Italian congregation, even though he saw Gribaldi as teaching Servetus.70 But more than just troubling Geneva with the specter of Servetus, Gribaldi becomes the source of that very thing that Servetus sought to avoid, namely Tritheism. Gribaldi asserted that the triad of persons were self-​subsisting existences, even though both the Son and the Spirit are less in dignity, less in power than the Father. This created three distinct divine beings to whom worship is owed, all of which can be seen in both his Apologia for Servetus and his Declarationis Jesu Christi Filii Dei Authore Michaele Serveto.71 A more pronounced occurrence of Tritheism, however, sprang from the controversy surrounding Francisco Stancaro in Poland, a land that had turned toward the Reformation in the 1520s.72 By the 1540s Poland had turned Reformed. Jan Laski, who had ministered in Emden before spending time in England, returned to his native Poland in 1556 only to see the Reformed church crumble in the face of the theological onslaught of Francisco Stancaro. Stancaro had both in Königsberg and Frankfurt argued against Osiander and Musculus successively, that Christ was a mediator only in his human nature, since a mediator is necessarily inferior in the presence of the one to whom he mediates, and thus Christ must only exercise this office as a human. Stancaro, having been chased from Königsberg and Frankfurt, next turned up in Pinczów. Peter (Statorius) 69 70

71 72

Quoted in Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and its Antecedents (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1946), 214. Calvini Opera, xvii, col. 176: “His diebus in ecclesia Italica aliquid fuit turbarum. Gribaldus semina quaedam suorum errorum sparserat, quorum summa huc redit: unicum Deum esse, qui pater est Christi: ut monarchia sit penes solum patrem. Christus vero secundarius et quasi primogenitus inter multos deos”; Cf. Ellis, Calvin, 54. Matteo Gribaldi, Declaratio: Michael Servetus’s Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Other Antitrinitarian Works by Matteo Gribaldi (Providence, RI: Blackstone Editions, 2010), especially his De vera Dei et Filii eius cognitione sermo, 214–​227. Howard Louthain, “A Model for Christendom? Erasmus, Poland, and the Reformation,” Church History 83.1 (2014): 18–​37.

Ignorantia Non Docta

193

de Thionville in a letter to Calvin, accused Stancaro of reviving Nestorianism. De Thionville wished Calvin to act to help calm the situation and answer Stancaro, who had imputed Arianism to the Polish Church.73 But Calvin, far more concerned about Biandrata, warned against him while slighting the concerns about Stancaro. Many of the Polish Reformed had followed Biandrata’s answer to Stancaro, but he had used Stancaro’s theology as a way to introduce his own brand of Tritheism, viz., that Christ was indeed divine as mediator, and Stancaro correctly pointed out the Son’s inferiority as mediator. Biandrata thus in the name of fighting Stancaro smuggled tritheism into Poland. Valentine Gentili, who had fled Geneva after a public humiliation and subscribing to the trinitarian doctrine of Geneva, further aided Biandrata.74 Biandrata’s strategy asserted the primacy of the Apostle’s Creed, and sought thereby to disarm Stancaro of his skill in rhetoric and theology. Warned by Calvin, the Poles demanded more precision from Biandrata, who argued that the Nicene Creed and Athanasian formula opposed the more primitive Apostle’s Creed. By 1562 the majority of Poland had either gone over to antitrinitarianism, or were willing to countenance it.75 These episodes reveal several underlying variations in sixteenth-​century trinitarian thought that distinguish it from Cusanus and his patristic antecedents. The first, delineated by Caroli in the controversy at Metz, shows something that Cusanus himself avoided in Augustine’s initial thoughts in De Trinitate, wherein positing the Spirit as the substantial love between the Father and Son had reduced the Spirit to a divine attribute. Augustine ultimately eschews this language, and opts for the psychological model that is found in the latter sections of De Trinitate. Cusanus, while employing the language, escaped the error by placing the persons of the Trinity beyond the Wall of Paradise, that is beyond the realm of predication and attribution, meaning that God is not bound by his attributes. Such language is doxological and at once apophatically limited. In Calvin, aseity or the so-​called property of self-​existence had become that which stood logically prior to the persons. When Calvin made the personal property of the Father, agennetos or aseity, also the property of the Son, one can see why Caroli would indict him for Sabellianism.

7 3 74 75

Pierre de Thionville to Calvin in Calvini Opera, xvii, col. 601. Valentini Gentilis, Confessio, in Irene Dingel, ed., Antitrinitarische Streitigkeiten: Die Tritheistische Phase (1560–​1568), Controversia et Confessio (Göttingen: Vandehoeck & Rupprecht, 2013), 9:107–​116; See Wilbur, Unitarianism, 232–​234. For more on the tritheists in Poland, see Jenkins, Calvin’s Tormentors, ­chapter  10; see also James Miller, “The Origins of Polish Arianism,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 16:2 (1985): 239.

194 Jenkins As telling is Calvin’s debt to an aspect of both Nestorianism and Arianism, that distinct properties denote distinct natures, that natures give rise to persons, and that personal properties get confounded and confused with deity. Thus for Servetus as the Word was no distinct person in the deity, there was no distinct second nature of deity. Calvin’s own insistence on the Word as Jehovah as a reply to Servetus makes the Word’s aseity and self-​subsistence logically anterior to his begottenness, and thus makes the property logically anterior as well to persons. Like Nestorius, who posited two persons in the Incarnation united in the fiction of the prosopon of union, since each nature had produced its own distinct person, Calvin’s aseity principle produced the first two divine persons. Arius, who confounded the paternal quality of begetting with deity, saw deity as the absolute term, and could not see begotten also as deity. Thus for Servetus, different terms also spoke of relative divinity, and this is why he saw the orthodox doctrine as producing a quaternity, a nature that stood distinct from the distinctions of person. Cusanus, who had apophaticized the persons of the Trinity posited no such links as causality arising from nature, but from person. Ironically, Calvin confusedly reads the ancient Christological texts, asserting that “the hypostatic union is said by the ancients as what constitutes one person out of two natures (quae personam unam constituit ex naturis duabus),” actually giving a Nestorian read to Chalcedon.76 Cusanus had sought no priority for either nature or person in his explication of the Trinity, seeing the locus of ineffability first in the persons, and thus granting them that one sine qua non of deity that Pseudo-​Dionysus had asserted, namely infinity, that is, incomprehensibility as a mode of existence and not just as an attribute that spoke of human limitation. The tritheism that one sees in Gentili, Biandrata, and Gribaldi Cusanus also proleptically addressed, in that deity is seen as beyond number, transcending the seeming problems inherent in the opposition of multiplicity and unity, which is really what the tritheists were unable to get past. Thus Cusanus’ theology looks back to the aseity of the Father, placing God in se, God in the mode of his life (that is, as trinitarian life) beyond all categories, not only of being, but of the dichotomy of being and nothingness, or being and non-​being. While still using Augustinian language to describe relations within the Trinity, he also took pains to show that such language fails, as all language must, to speak of God. For Cusanus God is known to us only through the economy, only in the dispensation of creation and redemption, but not only as the actor of creation/​redemption, for God still gives revelation of his internal life; 76

Calvini Opera ii:357.

Ignorantia Non Docta

195

yet even this revelation is of an unknown and incomprehensible mode of existing. The Persons of the Trinity thus are themselves ineffable, inconceivable, and incomprehensible, and following the Fathers, even in their origins are seen so to be. Thus while Cusanus would have strong affinities with the “Franciscan” triadology of the late Middle Ages, he had actually forged a path, via Pseudo-​ Dionysus, back to Patristic sources and thought, sources seemingly neglected by at least some sixteenth-​century trinitarian thought. Since Cusanus in De visione dei did not start with divine simplicity and the coterminous existence within it of the divine attributes as that point from which we may approach God, he could address the revealed Trinity in apophatic terms, and thus the questions that plagued the sixteenth century have no place in his thought. Bibliography Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. In Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum. Online edition edited by Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón. Rome, 1888. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth1003.html. Athanasius. Oratio Contra Arianos. In Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, edited by Jacques-​Paul Migne, vol. 26. 161 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857. Augustine of Hippo. De Trinitate. In Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Latina, edited by Jacques-​Paul Migne, vol. 42. 221 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1865. Ayres, Lewis. Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford: O ­ xford University Press, 2004. Ayres, Lewis. Augustine and the Trinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Bainton, Roland. Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511–​1553. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1960. Barnes, Michel René. The Power of God: Δὐναμις in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 2001. Basil of Caesarea. Epistola CCXXXIV to Amphilochius. In Nicene and Post-​Nicene Fathers. Second Series. Edited by Philip Schaff. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. Vol. 8. Edinburgh and New York: T&T Clark, 1994–​1998. Bond, Lawrence H. “Nicholas of Cusa and the Reconstruction of Theology: The Centrality of Christology in the Coincidence of Opposites.” In Contemporary Reflection on the Medieval Christian Tradition: Essays in Honor of Ray C. Petry, edited by George H. Shriver, 81–​94. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1974. Bond, Lawrence H. “Nicholas of Cusa from Constantinople to ‘Learned Ignorance’: The Historical Matrix for the Formation of the De docta ignorantia.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church, edited by Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. Izbicki, 135–​163. Leiden: Brill, 1996.

196 Jenkins Bond, Lawrence H. and Gerald Christianson, eds. Reform, Representation and Theology in Nicholas of Cusa and his Age. Farnham, VT: Ashgate, 2011. Boulnois, Marie-​Odile. “The Mystery of the Trinity according to Cyril of Alexandria: The Deployment of the Triad and its Recapitulation into the Unity of Divinity.” In The Theology of Cyril of Alexandria:  A Critical Appreciation, edited by Thomas Weinandy, 75–​111. Bloomsbury: T & T Clark, 2003. Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. “Cusanus at Sea: The Topicality of Illuminative Discourse.” Journal of Religion 71 (1991): 180–​201. Calvin, John. Calvini Opera. Edited by Edouard Cunitz, Johann-​Wilhelm Baum, and Eduard Wilhelm Eugen Reuss. Brunsvigae: C.A. Schwetschke, 1863. Caroli, Pierre. Refutatio blasphemiae Farellistarum in Sacrosantem Trinitatem. Metz: Ioannis Pelier, 1545. Cottret, Bernard. Calvin: A Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. Cyril of Alexandria. Dialogues. In Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, edited by Jacques-​Paul Migne, vol. 75. 161 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1863. Cyril of Alexandria. Secundus Tomus habet, Cyrilli Archiepiscopi Alexandrinii in Opera, tres partita Tomus. Translated by Johannes Oecolampadius. Basel: in Aegedibus Andreae Cratandri, 1528. Cyril of Alexandria. Thesaurus. In Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, edited by Jacques-​Paul Migne, vol. 75. 161 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1863. Dingel, Irene, ed. Antitrinitarische Streitigkeiten:  Die Tritheistische Phase (1560–​1568). Controversia et Confessio. Band 9. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013. Duclow, Donald F. “Anselm’s Proslogion and Nicholas of Cusa’s Wall of paradise.” The Downside Review 100:338 (1982): 22–​30. Ellis, Brannon. Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Farge, James K. Biographical Register of Paris Doctors of Theology, 1500–​1536. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1980. Friedman, Russell L. Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Gordon, Bruce. Calvin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Gribaldi, Matteo. Declaratio: Michael Servetus’s Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Other Antitrinitarian Works by Matteo Gribaldi. Providence, RI: Blackstone Editions, 2010. Gregory of Nazianzus. Oration 38. In Nicene and Post-​Nicene Fathers, Second Series. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow. Vol. 7. Edinburgh and New York: T&T Clark, 1994–​1998. Gregory of Nazianzus. Oratio 29. In The Five Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus. Edited by Arthur James Maso. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899.

Ignorantia Non Docta

197

Hopkins, Jasper. “Nicholas of Cusa’s Intellectual Relationship to Anselm of Canterbury.” In Cusanus. The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by Peter Caserella, 54–​73. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Hughes, Christopher. On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990. Irenaeus of Lyons. Adversus Haeresios. In Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca. Edited by Jacques-​Paul Migne, vol. 7. 161 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857. Jenkins, Gary W. Calvin’s Tormentors: Understanding the Conflicts that Shaped the Reformer. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018. Jones, John D. “An Absolutely Simple God? Frameworks for Reading Pseudo-​Dionysius Areopagite.” The Thomist 69 (2005): 371–​406. Louthan, Howard. “A Model for Christendom? Erasmus, Poland, and the Reformation.” Church History 83:1 (2014): 18–​37. Maximus the Confessor. Four Centuries on Love. In The Philokalia, The Complete Text:  Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Markarios of Corinth. Edited and Translated by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware. Vol. 2. London: Faber and Faber, 1981. McGrath, Alister. The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation. Reprint 1987; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Printing, 1995. Miller, James. “The Origins of Polish Arianism.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 16:2 (1985): 229–​256. Muller, Richard. “Calvin and Scholasticism:  Relation and Disjunction.” In Calvinus Sincerioris Religionis Vindex, edited by Wilhelm H. Neuser and Brian G. Armstrong, 247–​265. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1997. Nicholas of Cusa, Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa. 2 vols. Edited and translated by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2001. Nicholas of Cusa. Nicolai de Cusa Cardinalis … Opera. Basel: Henricus Petri, 1565. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Papadakis, Aristeides. Crisis in Byzantium. The Filioque Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus (1283–​1289). New York: Fordham University Press, 1983. Pseudo-​Dionysius. The Divine Names. In Corpus Dionysiacum I. Pseudo-​Dionysius Areopagita, De divinis nominibus. Edited by Beate Regina Suchla. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1990. Radde-​Gallwitz, Andrew. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Richards, Jay Wesley. The Untamed God. A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity and Immutability. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Schroeder, H.J. Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary. St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937.

198 Jenkins Servetus, Michael. The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, On the Errors of the Trinity, etc.; Dialogues on the Trinity, Two books; On the Righteousness of Christ’s Kingdom, four chapters, AD MDXXXII. Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932. Siecienski, A. Edward. The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Slotemaker, John T. “John Calvin’s Trinitarian Theology in the 1536 Institutes: The Distinction of Person as a Key to his Theological Sources.” In Philosophy and Theology in the Middle Ages: A Tribute to Stephen F. Brown, edited by Kent Emery Jr. et  al., 781–​810. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian Thought. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968. Vansteenberghe, Edmond. Autour de La docte ignorance: une controverse sur la théologie mystique au XVe siècle. Munster en Westphalie: Imprimerie Ascendorff, 1936. Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1946. Williams, George H. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia, PA:  The Westminster Press, 1962.

Chapter 7

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism in Early Modern Catholic Theology Matthew T. Gaetano Nicholas of Cusa’s teaching on God as the complicatio or enfolding of the world led to accusations of pantheism in his own day and in a nineteenth-​ century scholarly tradition that is still being challenged in contemporary scholarship.1 But the early modern dimension of this story has not received substantial attention. While it might appear that worries about Cusanus’ view of the relation of the world to God were continuous from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, several early modern Roman Catholic theologians not only saw Cusanus’ views of God and world as orthodox but even thought of him as an ally against pantheism. The interpretive shift that led to Cusanus’ association with pantheism was based upon a development in seventeenth-​ century Lutheran historiography of philosophy. Jakob Thomasius (1622–​1684) argued that the identification of God and creation in the mystical tradition had foundations in paganism and in the Platonic “enthusiasm” introduced into Christianity by Pseudo-​Dionysius. While Cusanus’ reputation seems to have remained untouched by this historiographical tradition in the seventeenth century and for most of the eighteenth century, it did set the stage for debates about Cusanus’ pantheism that began around 1800. But this essay focuses on three Roman Catholic theologians:  Johann Eck (1486–​1543), Théophile Raynaud (1583–​1663), and Louis Thomassin (1619–​1695).2 All three 1 For a sharp criticism of the identification of Cusanus as a pantheist, see Jasper Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa’s Metaphysic of Contraction (Minneapolis: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 1983), 4–​5; see Dermot Moran, “Pantheism in Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 44.1 (1990): 131–​152; and Louis Dupré, “The Question of Pantheism from Eckhart to Cusanus,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Peter J. Casarella (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 74–​88; for a recent identification of Cusanus as a panentheist, see John W. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 56–​57. 2 See Stephan Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz des Vergessenen:  Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (Münster, 1989), which deals with Eck at some length but which seems to addresses Raynaud very briefly and Thomassin not at all. See esp. ibid., 14–​15, 36, 70–​85, 301.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 09

200 Gaetano saw Cusanus’ thought as an element in the renewal of Catholic theology and philosophy. None of them rejected scholasticism, but they thought that theology and philosophy suffered when they lacked the presence of Christian Platonism. They believed that Cusanus’ way of thinking about the relationship of God and creation was free from theological error and could enrich Catholic theology. While the terms “pantheist” or “pantheism” did not emerge until the years around the turn of the eighteenth century, Church authorities condemned teachings that they judged to confuse God with creation many times before then.3 In the Condemnation of 1210, ecclesiastical authorities in Paris condemned the works of Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant. Amalric had died before the condemnation, but his followers were condemned for teaching that “all things are one because whatever exists is God.”4 The work of the ninth-​ century theologian John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon, was deemed to be an influence on Amalric and, in 1225, Pope Honorius iii condemned it as “swarming with the worms of heretical depravity.”5 In 1317, the bishop of Strasbourg, John of Dürbheim, accused the Beghards of teaching that “God is formally all that is” and that “they are God by nature without distinction.”6 On 27 March 1329, Pope John xxii’s bull, In agro dominico, condemned the following proposition ascribed to the Dominican Meister Eckhart as “suspect of heresy”: “All creatures 3 Many sources ascribe the origin of the words pantheism and pantheist to John Toland (1670–​ 1722), but Stephen H. Daniel shows that Joseph Raphson’s 1697 De spatio reali used “pantheismus.” See “Toland’s Semantic Pantheism,” in John Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious: Text, Associated Works, and Critical Essays, ed. Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison, and Richard Kearney (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1997), 306. 4 Heinrich Deniflie and Émile Chatelain (eds.), Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis (Paris: Ex typis fratrum Delalain, 1889), 1: 70–​72. 5 Ibid., 1: 106–​107. For a discussion of these condemnations, see Dermot Moran, The Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the Middle Ages (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 86–​88; Gabriel Théry, Autour du décret de 1210, vol. 1, David de Dinant: étude sur son panthéisme matérialiste (Kain: Le Saulchoir, 1925); Catherine Capelle, Autour du décret de 1210, vol. 3, Amaury de Bène: étude sur son panthéisme formel (Paris:  J. J. Vrin, 1932); but see Enzo Maccagnolo, “David of Dinant and the Beginnings of Aristotelianism in Paris,” in A History of Twelfth-​Century Western Philosophy, ed. Peter Dronke (New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1988), 429–​442; and especially Tristan Dagron, “David de Dinant:  sur le fragment des Quaternuli,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale (2003): 419–​436. 6 Wilhelm Wiegand, ed., Urkundenbuch der Stadt Strassburg, vol. 2, Politische Urkunden von 1266 bis 1332 (Strassburg: Verlag von Karl J. Trübner, 1886), 310; in his debate with Cusanus, Johann Wenck invoked the actions of John of Dürbheim against the Beghards. See John Wenck, De ignota litteratura, in Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa, trans. Jasper Hopkins (Minneapolis, MN: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 2001), 431.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

201

are one pure nothing.”7 The Council of Constance condemned the following articles drawn from John Wyclif’s works: “Every person is God,” “Every creature is God,” “Every being is everywhere, since every being is God.”8 Despite the variety of these teachings, Church officials saw all of them as failing to distinguish God and creation. These condemnations were clearly in the background of the accusations of Johann Wenck (c. 1390–​1460) against Nicholas of Cusa. A  prominent professor of theology at the University of Heidelberg, Wenck wrote the De ignota litteratura, which invoked the Psalm which taught that one must “be still and see that I am God,” observing that the “I” in this verse “singularizes and openly excludes every creature from the Divine Nature –​distinguishing God from every creature, since God is Creator, not creature.”9 And Wenck thought that Cusanus failed to distinguish God and His creation appropriately. He then connected Cusanus with other groups who used religion to deceive those “not yet having trained senses”:  Waldensians, Eckhartians, and Wycliffites.10 He also linked Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia to the Beghards.11 Wenck ascribed the following claims to Cusanus in an effort to charge him with the error of pantheism: “all things coincide with God,” “nothing is opposed to Him,” and –​in the words of Hermes Trismegistus favorably quoted by Cusa –​“God is the totality of things.”12 Wenck cited Cusanus’ language of God as the enfolding or complicatio multiple times. In reply to the Cusan claim that “the contracted maximum, which enfolds in itself the entire perfection of that contraction’s nature, adds nothing to Absolute Maximality … because Absolute Maximality is not other or different, since it is all things,” Wenck wrote, “this corollary makes the creature equal to the Creator.”13 Cusanus’ reply to Wenck in the Apologia doctae ignorantiae took up these accusations of pantheism. While Cusanus’ interlocutor in the dialogue called Wenck “imprudent” and “extremely arrogant,” unworthy of the title of “master

7 8 9 10 11 12 13

The bull is printed in Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, trans. Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981), 77–​81, esp. 80. Session 15 of the Council of Constance (6 July 1415). See Norman P. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, Nicaea I to Lateran V (Washington, DC: Sheed and Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990), 426. Wenck, De ignota litteratura, 426. Ibid. See also ibid., 430–​31. Ibid., 431, 435; for more of the context of Wenck’s opposition to Cusa, see K. Meredith Ziebart, Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 53–​136, esp. 56–​63. Wenck, De ignota litteratura, 430. Ibid., 444.

202 Gaetano in theology,” Cusanus acknowledged that his own words could be misconstrued by the “unlearned.”14 He was in good company because great teachers like Hermes Trismegistus, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Christ himself warned about the dangers of certain teachings for those who lacked understanding; indeed, one should not throw pearls before swine.15 Cusanus indicated that Wenck’s failure to see had its roots in his traditionalism as a member of the “Aristotelian sect,” which “regards as heresy the coincidence of opposites,” which is “the beginning of the ascent unto mystical theology.”16 In reply to Wenck’s use of the “singularized I” in “be still and see that I am God” to distinguish God from every creature, Cusanus pointed out that “no one was ever so foolish as to maintain that God, who forms all things, is anything other than that than which a greater cannot be conceived.”17 God is not the form of material things; God is not “any given form” but rather the “Form of every form,” the “Bestower of being upon all things”; God alone is the “uncontracted and absolute Form.”18 According to Cusa, God is infinite, simple, and perfect. God is not a singular entity –​this thing or that thing like the sky or the earth –​nor is He a genus or universal. God is “beyond the coincidence of the singular and the universal.”19 Cusanus draws upon Dionysius and Thomas Aquinas to address the charge of pantheism. He does so in the context of a statement about how to read ­properly: For whoever examines the mind of someone writing on some point ought to read carefully all his writings and ought to resolve [his statements on this point] into one concordant meaning. For from truncated writings it is easy to find something which by itself seems dissonant but which when compared with the whole corpus is [seen to be] concordant.20 It is when the parts are related to the whole that they are found to have their beauty and their goodness. Even though Wenck has been called a “Neo-​ Aristotelian Thomist,” Cusanus is the one who quotes Thomas Aquinas in this debate, pointing to a passage in the Summa contra gentiles where Aquinas 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Nicholas of Cusa, Apologia doctae ignorantia, 1 (h II.1, 5; trans. Hopkins, 459, 462). Though I have cited Hopkins’ translation throughout the discussion of the Apologia that follows, I have made a number of adjustments. Apologia, 7 (h II.5; trans. Hopkins, 462). Apologia, 7 (h II.6; trans. Hopkins, 463). Apologia, 11 (h II.8; trans. Hopkins, 464). Apologia, 11 (h II.8; trans. Hopkins, 464–​465). Apologia, 11 (h II.9; trans. Hopkins, 465). Apologia, 24 (h II.17; trans. Hopkins, 471).

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

203

observes that some men were led by Dionysius to say that “God is all things.”21 In the Celestial Hierarchy, Dionysius teaches that “God is the Being of all things.”22 But, following Aquinas, Cusanus points readers of The Celestial Hierarchy to The Divine Names. Cusanus highlights the passage where Dionysius is clear that “God is the Being of all things in such way that He is not any of these things, since what is caused can never be raised unto equality with its cause.”23 Taking up the other elements of Wenck’s charge of pantheism against him leads Cusanus to address Wenck’s suggestion of a connection between De docta ignorantia and Meister Eckhart. Before turning to Eckhart, Cusanus denies Wenck’s charge that De docta ignorantia taught that all things coincide with God. Rather, all divine attributes coincide because of the doctrine of divine simplicity.24 The interlocutor in Cusanus’ dialogue asks him whether he “had learned anything from Eckhart.”25 In response, Cusanus indicates that Eckhart’s critics had not understood the Dominican mystic. He states that “he had never read that Eckhart thought the creation to be the Creator.”26 Thus, Cusanus defends Eckhart by denying the charge of pantheism. Cusanus points out that Eckhart used his view that “God is Being itself” (esse ipsum) not to destroy but rather to establish the “subsistences of things in their own proper being.”27 Nonetheless, he acknowledges that Eckhart’s books should “be removed from public places” because “the people are not suited for [the statements] which Eckhart often intersperses, contrary to the custom of the other teachers.”28 Although Cusanus defends Eckhart, he does not vindicate all of those charged with teaching pantheism. In the Apology, he never mentions the Waldensians and Wycliffites with whom Wenck associates his teachings. He does not challenge Wenck’s negative characterization of the Beghards. 21

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Apologia, 24 (h II.17; trans. Hopkins, 471); for the reference to Wenck’s allegiances, see Dermot Moran, “Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​1464): Platonism at the Dawn of Modernity,” in Platonism at the Origins of Modernity: Studies on Platonism and Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht: Springer, 2008), 27; on Wenck’s Thomistic commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, see Denis R. Janz, Luther and Late Medieval Thomism: A Study in Theological Anthropology (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983), 93. Apologia, 24 (h II.17; trans. Hopkins, 471). Apologia, 24 (h II.17; trans. Hopkins, 471). Cusanus was referring to Aquinas’ Summa contra gentiles, 1.26. Apologia, 33 (h II.23; trans. Hopkins, 475–​476). Apologia, 36 (h II.24; trans. Hopkins, 477). Apologia, 37 (h II.25; trans. Hopkins, 478). Apologia, 37 (h II.25; trans. Hopkins, 478). Apologia, 36 (h II.25; trans. Hopkins, 477).

204 Gaetano If the Beghards asserted that they were God, then “they were rightfully condemned.”29 Cusanus then adds other thinkers who were charged with pantheism to Wenck’s list. Amalric of Bena fell into error because he did not understand that God is all things by way of enfolding or complicatio. Indeed, Amalric sought these higher truths without learned ignorance. On the other hand, some writers –​like Wenck –​condemn thinkers as “ignorant and erring” who in fact had “wisdom and sight.” Such accusers were unfamiliar with certain forms of writing. Wenck accuses Cusanus and Eckhart before him of deceiving those with untrained senses; Cusanus replies that “all the saints rightly admonish that intellectual light be withdrawn from those with weak mental eyes.”30 Potentially dangerous –​but nonetheless wise –​books include the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, Marius Victorinus’ Ad Candidum Arrianum, Theodorus’ Clavis Physicae, and John of Mossbach’s commentaries on Proclus.31 But Cusanus’ Apologia raises new questions about pantheism without any prompting from Wenck. In his De ignota litteratura, Wenck does not mention the thinkers and texts condemned by Parisian ecclesiastical leaders in 1210 and 1225 like David of Dinant and Amalric of Bena. Nor does he mention John Scotus Eriugena’s Periphyseon, which was caught up in this condemnation about 350 years after it was written. Thus, from Wenck’s perspective, Cusanus would have exposed himself when he elaborated further on books filled with “intellectual light” that need to be “withdrawn from those with weak mental eyes.” In this context, he cites Eriugena’s Periphyseon and, even more boldly, the works of David of Dinant.32 Because Dinant was accused of teaching that God is prime matter, his works were condemned at Paris in 1210 –​along with the libri naturales of Aristotle. Hostility to Dinant’s views persisted in the second half of the thirteenth century. Defenders of the incorporation of the Peripatetic 29 30 31

32

Apologia, 43 (h II.28–​29; trans. Hopkins, 480). Apologia, 43 (h II.29; trans. Hopkins, 480). Apologia, 43 (h II.29–​30; trans. Hopkins, 480). Cusanus’ Theodorus was actually Honorius Augustodunensis, whose Clavis physicae summarized Eriugena’s Periphyseon. See Markus Führer and Stephen Gersh, “Dietrich of Freiberg and Berthold of Moosburg,” in Interpreting Proclus: From Antiquity to the Renaissance, ed. Stephen Gersh (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 307; John of Mossbach was Berthold of Moosburg. See ibid., 306. Apologia, 43 (h II.28–​29; trans. Hopkins, 480); see ibid., 474, for a recommendation of “John the Scot”; see also De non aliud, chap. 17 (h XIII.42–​43), where Cusanus’ interlocutor, Ferdinand, defends David of Dinant’s reference to God as matter. But Ferdinand eventually concludes, with the help of Dionysius, that, if David of Dinant saw that God is matter, he did not see God but something else. For more on Cusanus’ appropriation of Eriugena, see Cesare Catà, “Cusanus’ Revival of Eriugena as a Renaissance Redefinition of Christian Orthodoxy?” in Eriugena –​ Cusanus, ed. Agnieszka Kijewska, Roman Majeran, and Harald Schwaetzer (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Kul, 2011), 59–​72.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

205

tradition within the schools of Christendom sought to show that Aristotle would not lead people astray, as was ostensibly the case for David of Dinant. Albertus Magnus described Dinant’s teaching on God and prime matter as “the worst error,” inimical to the Christian faith, reason, and philosophy.33 Albert’s student, Thomas Aquinas, used some of the harshest language in his immense corpus when he described the view of Dinant as “extremely foolish” at the end of his quaestio on divine simplicity.34 In the Summa contra gentiles –​just a few chapters before the section on Dionysius quoted by Cusanus in the Apologia –​ Aquinas called the pantheistic identification of God and prime matter an example of “insanity.”35 Cusanus’ defense of Eriugena and David of Dinant –​despite his criticism of Amalric of Bena and the Beghards –​would be employed in modern discussions of Cusanus’ supposed pantheism.36 Nonetheless, in the centuries after Wenck’s attack on Cusanus for confusing God and creation, several Catholic theologians drew upon Cusanus’ writings and revealed no concern about a pantheistic tendency in the fifteenth-​century cardinal. Indeed, his works were even used against other writers accused of pantheism. Johann Eck, professor of theology at Ingolstadt who is best known for his opposition to Martin Luther, published a commentary on The Mystical Theology of Dionysius in 1519 and saw Cusanus as a key figure in the reform of theology and the renewal of the mystical tradition. Eck thinks that the “mode of philosophizing” of Dionysius had been neglected for many years. He has no intention of condemning the Parisian mode of commenting on the Sentences of Peter Lombard.37 But he sees Nicholas of Cusa, the “most learned of the

33 34 35 36 37

Albertus Magnus, Summa theologiae II, tr. 1, q. 4, m. 3, in Opera Omnia, vol. 32, ed. Auguste Borgnet (Paris: Vivès, 1895), 110. Summa theologiae, 1a, q. 3. a. 8., in Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum (Rome, 1888), online edition ed. Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón, accessed 4 May 2017, http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth1003.html. Summa contra gentiles, 1.17., in Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum (Rome, 1888), online edition ed. Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón, accessed 4 May 2017, http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​scg1014.html. See Maurice de Wulf, Histoire de la philosophie médiévale (Louvain: Institut supérieur de philosophie, 1900), 389; see also Maurice de Wulf, History of Medieval Philosophy, trans. P. Coffey (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1909), 458. Johann Eck, D. Dionysii Areopagitae De mystica theologia … Joan. Eckius Commentarios adiecit pro theologia negativa (Augsburg: Johann Miller, 1519), sig. A2r (hereafter cited as Pro theologia negativa); Eck contrasts students (scholastici), who missed the divine office for study, with Thomas Aquinas, who “accomplished more by prayer than by reading” (ibid., sig. B1v). Eck is deeply engaged with Renaissance currents of thought, employing the translations of Ambrogio Traversari and Marsilio Ficino alongside John Sarrazin’s twelfth-​century version, and referring to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola somewhat

206 Gaetano Germans,” as the one to bring about this renewal in theology.38 “What had disappeared for so many years,” Eck says, “now was set forth as the head.”39 Like Cusanus himself, Eck worries that mystical theology could cause scandal for the ignorant. He points to the thirteenth-​century canon lawyers who condemned Eriugena’s work for pantheism –​for teaching, they said, that “all things are God.”40 Eck cites Gerson’s discussion of Eriugena in his Anagogicum de verbo et hymno gloriae where Gerson points out that the early medieval thinker and other mystics failed to warn about their “ways of speaking” and were therefore misunderstood as denying the eminence of God over every creature.41 While Eck indicates that a failure of communication led Erugena –​“a good and great man” –​ into trouble, he refers to Amalric, whom Cusanus also criticizes in the Apologia, as “profane.” Not his critics but Amalric himself had a poor understanding of theosis, “the transformation spoken about by Dionysius along with Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, Theodorus and others.”42 According to Eck, Amalric was wrong to think that created things lost their own being and “received divine being by which they are attracted to their idea” in God’s mind and were finally “absorbed” in Him.43 While both Eriugena and Amalric failed to communicate clearly, Eck believes that Eriugena was misunderstood while Amalric taught erroneous doctrine. Though mystical theology could be dangerous for its readers and writers, Eck does not have much sympathy for future opponents of his own commentary or for Wenck, the critic of his German predecessor in the mystical

38 39 40 41

42 43

frequently (ibid., sig. A4v, sig. A5v, sig. A6r, sig. B1v, and so on); he is aware of the humanistic challenges to the traditional history of Dionysius the Areopagite in Lorenzo Valla and Desiderius Erasmus but rejects their arguments (ibid., sig. A5rv). For the care taken by Eck in the preparation of this volume, see his 26 October 1517 letter to Wolfgang Capito and Johannes Fabri in Erika Rummel, ed., The Correspondence of Wolfgang Capito, vol. 2, 1524–​1531 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), xxi–​xxii; see also Karlfried Froehlich, “Pseudo-​Dionysius and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century,” in Pseudo-​ Dionysius:  The Complete Works, ed. Paul Rorem, and trans. Colm Luibheid (New  York, NY: Paulist Press, 1987), 38, 41–​42. Pro theologia negativa, sig. A2r. For other descriptions of Cusanus, see ibid., sig. A4r, sig. C6r, and sig. D2v. Ibid., sig. A2r. Ibid., sig. C1v. Ibid. See Jean Gerson, Anagogicum de verbo et hymno gloriae, in Opera Omnia, vol. 5, ed. Louis Ellies du Pin (Antwerp: Sumptibus Societatis, 1706), col. 550. Eck also draws from Gerson’s more detailed discussion of this controversy in De Concordia metaphysicae cum logica (ibid., col. 826). Pro theologia negativa, sig. C1v. Ibid.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

207

tradition. He describes his potential critics as “envious.”44 They would rise up against this commentary on Dionysius before understanding it. In this context, Eck points to Cusanus’ conflict with Wenck. He deems the work of Wenck to be a calumny against the “most erudite” Cusanus.45 The ignorance was not on the side of the writer, as in the case of Amalric. Eck does not criticize Cusanus’ failure to warn his readers, as he does with John Scotus Eriugena. In Eck’s view, Wenck’s De ignota litteratura is simply a work of ignorance. Eck does not merely defend Cusanus but sees him as supporting his opposition to pantheistic readings of mystical theology. When discussing God as the “most perfect and most absolute form,” Eck asserts that God is the form of forms and the form of being.46 God is not a form that informs matter or anything else; God does not function as a form in a hylemorphic, composite substance. Rather, God is the form of forms inasmuch as He forms all things, causes all things, and makes all subsistent things. God’s infinity contains and surrounds all being as an efficient, final, and exemplary cause. At this point, Eck invokes Cusanus’ image of lines radiating from the center of a circle to its circumference. Although the lines “flow in multiple ways,” they all originate from the center which is “the principle of them all” and all the lines “do not cease to be in the center according to a uniform ratio.”47 Likewise, creatures flow in a variety of ways from God but subsist in God in an eternal, immutable, and primordial ratio. Eck uses the adverbs “uniter” and “complicite” to describe how God is all things, contrasting this notion with the “crass and rude understanding” where God is that very rock used by a stonemason.48 Rather, for Eck, God is the quiddity of all quiddities and, as the Church sings, the life of all living things. In this context, Eck invokes the Cusan language of explicatio and complicatio. “The world,” Eck says, “is not more perfect on account of the created perfections which God eternally has been. For just as these are, as it were, now unfolded (explicatae) in the nature of things, so have they been eternally enfolded (complicite) in God.”49 Eck contrasts this understanding of creation as the explication or unfolding of God’s perfections with Amalric and the Beguines. They, he says, “have fallen from the faith.”50 By contrast, according

44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Ibid. Ibid., sig. C2r. Ibid., sig. C2v. Ibid., sig. C3r. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

208 Gaetano to Eck, Cusanus rightly follows Meister Eckhart in showing that, in negative theology, while God is all in all, nonetheless, the substances of things in their proper “formed forms” are not destroyed by this doctrine. In the creation, Eck says, “even if matter seizes being from form inasmuch as form forms and penetratively actualizes matter and constitutes it as whole,” matter “remains in its own proper quiddity and existence.” Eck thinks that Cusanus draws a firm line between authentic mystical theology and the pantheism of Amalric of Bena because Cusanus shows that God is the form of forms and that the proper, contracted forms of things remain.51 A century after Eck, the Jesuit theologian Théophile Raynaud drew upon Nicholas of Cusa’s writings at critical points in his work on natural theology. While late scholastics did not use Cusanus very often, Raynaud shows a deep appreciation for Cusanus and quotes him alongside scholastics like Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Francisco Suárez, and others. Raynaud was a teacher of the studia humanitatis in Avignon and philosophy and theology in Lyons and produced ninety-​two works that address the full range of theological topics.52 Though Raynaud is little-​known today, he was considered one of the most erudite theologians of his day by many, being called upon for guidance by Cardinal Richelieu and the Roman Curia. Raynaud’s Theologia naturalis, first published in Lyons in 1622, deals with immaterial entities on the basis of reason alone. He sees it as the “fatal evil of this age” that philosophers cling too long to things far below the divine.53 Indeed, Raynaud makes the claim that the divine 51

52

53

It is worth noting that Eck disagrees with Cusanus’ way of talking about the coincidence of what is contradictory (coincidentia contradictoriorum) in negative theology. But he is not concerned about pantheism but instead about human understanding and language. See ibid., sig. C3v–​sig. C4r. See J.G. Bischoff, “Raynaud, Théophile,” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 11 (New  York, NY:  Gale, 2003), 938–​39, and the sources cited in the entry’s bibliography. Accounts of his life and thought refer to Raynaud’s vigor, even harshness, in theological polemic and his classical, though verbose, style. A noteworthy example of such harshness and of his significance in the seventeenth century may be found in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s reference to Raynaud in his Theodicy. In his discussion of different parties in the longstanding debates about divine causality and free choice, such as the Reformed, the Jansenists, the Jesuits, and so on, he mentions Raynaud’s book with the title Calvinismus, bestiarum religio. Leibniz deems Raynaud’s work to be aimed not entirely at the Reformed tradition but also at the Dominicans who defended a rigorous Augustinian view of divine causality and opposed the Jesuit Luis Molina. See Essais de theodice sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l’homme, et l’origine du mal (Amsterdam: Isaac Troyel, 1714), 568. Théophile Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, sive entis increati et creati intra supremam abstractionem ex naturae lumine investigatio (Lyons: Claude Landry, 1622), sig. e1r (hereafter cited as Theologia naturalis). The work can be found in vol. 5 of Raynaud’s Opera Omnia (Lyons: Boissat and Remeus, 1665). For a discussion of the novel character of this work in

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

209

is scarcely, if ever, treated by philosophers in an appropriate manner. Philosophers wrongly leave the rational treatment of God and separate substances to the theologians. Consequently, the theologians “devolve into philosophers.”54 When they deal with divine realities in a philosophical mode, they become “unequal to the fruitfulness of divine revelation.”55 Raynaud, therefore, takes a wide-​ranging approach to the philosophical tradition to show how philosophers could reach the divine “from the light of nature.”56 In his Natural Theology, Raynaud seeks to renew the philosophy of the early seventeenth century. He does not attempt to enrich philosophy with divine revelation but to reinvigorate reflection on divine things in a philosophical context. In this effort, Raynaud draws upon Christian and non-​Christian Platonists with great frequency. While some other seventeenth-​century scholars held that Aristotle, “no less than Plato,” merited the name “divine,” Raynaud thinks that his contemporaries have exaggerated Aristotle’s authority, particularly in divine matters.57 He concludes his discussion of Peripatetic theology with William of Auvergne’s statement that “Aristotle should be believed about those things which exist under the circle of the moon, not about superior things that he did not completely investigate.”58 By contrast, Raynaud sees the Platonists as much more fruitful interlocutors in his attempt to discuss God and immaterial intelligences on the basis of the light of nature. Augustine and other Church Fathers commended Plato and Platonic philosophy.59 They believed that Platonists were drawn to the Christian faith more easily than the Aristotelians because of the greater agreement between Platonism and Christianity. Raynaud observes that Dionysius the Areopagite did not merely appreciate or draw upon Platonism but was numbered among the Platonists by Thomas Aquinas. Raynaud quotes Cusanus’ statement in the Apology that “St. Dionysius so imitated Plato that he is quite frequently found to have cited Plato’s words in order.”60 Indeed, Dionysius is for Raynaud the “Prince of Platonic Christians.”61

54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61

Catholic scholastic philosophy, see Paul Richard Blum, Studies on Early Modern Aristotelianism (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 260–​263. Theologia naturalis, sig. e1v. Ibid. Ibid., 35. Ibid., 33, 35. Ibid., 35. Ibid., 31. Ibid. Ibid., 785. For Raynaud, Dionysius is a source not only for Platonic Christians but also for non-​Christian Platonists. Because Raynaud still holds that Dionysius was a disciple of Paul, he can also argue that Dionysius had a substantial impact on non-​Christian

210 Gaetano Nicholas of Cusa provides Raynaud with more than guidance to the work of Dionysius and to Christian Platonism; he also helps him address some of the challenges for natural theology, particularly a natural theology substantially influenced by the Platonic tradition. Naming God on the basis of natural reason always leaves the human thinker with ‘a confused and imperfect concept.’62 Raynaud, however, rejects the idea that God cannot be given a name. He also rejects the claim that Plato or Plotinus supported such restrictions on human speech. While discussing fitting names that ‘exhibit the essence of God,’ he refers to Gregory of Nazianzus’ favoring of ‘being’ (ens) or ‘the one who is’ (qui est). Though this name evokes the Tetragrammaton of the Hebrews, Raynaud argues that not only Greeks and Latins but also Egyptians, Persians, Etruscans, Arabs, and Barbarians employ this name. For Nazianzus, this name shows that God is not defined or limited by any other thing. This name, Raynaud says, expresses ‘the essence of God as much as it can be expressed, if it be taken without any contraction and imitation to a certain time or to a certain perfection.’63 He says this exposition of the divine name ‘being’ is elaborated at much greater length in Cusanus’ De possest. In that dialogue, Cusanus writes, ‘And so, when God willed to first reveal knowledge of Himself, He said, ‘I am God Almighty.’ … And elsewhere [He said]: ‘I am who I am,’ since He is He-​who-​is. … The Greek has ‘I am Being (entitas) itself,’ where we [have], ‘I am I-​who-​am.’ For He is the Form of being, or the Form of every formable form. … God alone exists perfectly and completely.’64 But naming God “being” raises the question about how God as being is distinct from the being of creatures. Raynaud is well aware of the fact that Church Fathers and later writers like Giovanni Pico della Mirandola denied that God is being (ens). On the other hand, there were some like Origen, Maximus the Confessor, Alcuin of York, and Bernard of Clairvaux who stated that God alone is being (ens) and that creatures are not beings.65 Raynaud also associates Plato, Plotinus, and other Platonists with the latter position. He believes that the two sides do not truly disagree with each other or with the truth. Rather, both sides teach the eminence of the divine being. God, he continues, “vindicates the prerogative of being for Himself.” And God certainly does not exist in the

62 63 64 65

Platonists like Iamblichus and Proclus, though Raynaud believes Proclus had “contaminated” the legacy of Dionysius’ ideas in a number of ways (ibid., 139–​140). Ibid., 553. Ibid., 555. Nicholas of Cusa, Trialogus de possest, 14 (h XI/​2.18; trans. Hopkins, 921). As above, I made slight changes to Hopkins’ translation. Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 560–​561.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

211

way that human beings exist, that is, “mutably and variably.”66 Being thus can only be said analogically. Invoking analogical predication of “being” to God and creatures leaves unresolved whether a theologian should predicate terms like “substance” or “form” of God. Raynaud quickly sets aside any notion of God as a material form like the forms of inorganic substances, plants, or animals. Material forms are dependent on matter and are thus incomplete and imperfect. Moreover, Raynaud denies that God is the immaterial form or the soul of the world. He insists that the Platonists and Aristotle are wrongly associated with this position –​ explicitly rejecting Clement of Alexandria’s connection of this position with Aristotelianism –​and draws upon chapter thirteen of Cusanus’ Idiota de mente to support his argument. In that dialogue, the idiota says, “Plato called world-​ soul that which Aristotle called nature. But I surmise that neither the world-​ soul nor nature is anything other than God, who in all things works all things, and whom we call the Spirit of all things.”67 Raynaud argues that the Platonists merely talked about divine animation of the world as a way of talking about God’s influx or causal influence. The key for Raynaud is whether a thinker understands God to be the soul of the world as an “extrinsic” spiritual activity rather than understanding it on the basis of the analogy of the soul as the form of a body.68 Raynaud depends on God’s simple, pure actuality for rejecting the position that God is an immaterial form and, even more, that God is prime matter. The way in which a soul informs a body, even as an immaterial form, involves great imperfection and potentiality and is thus incompatible with God as pure act. Form has the character of a part; it is incomplete. But God is absolutely perfect. Indeed, God is not even a whole. Raynaud cites Origen’s Contra Celsum to argue that both part and whole indicate “imperfection” because a “part is something of another while a whole is something that coalesces from others.”69 This line of argumentation leads Raynaud to bring up the “insane error of David of Dinant,” who made the pantheistic claim that God is prime matter. The Jesuit believes the position more worthy of complete omission than a sustained discussion. Nonetheless, he does address Dinant’s pantheistic identification of God and matter, arguing that “no one before him raved” in this way.70 Despite the fact that Tertullian said that the Stoic school of Zeno 66 67 68 69 70

Ibid., 561. Nicholas of Cusa, Idiota de mente, 13 (h V.198; trans. Hopkins, 580). Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 562. Ibid., 563. Ibid.

212 Gaetano equated matter with God, Raynaud attempts to save Stoicism from error on this point. The French Jesuit asserts that the Stoics separated (secerno) God from matter.71 Since none of the pagans ever uttered such an extreme view, Raynaud thinks Dinant to be a “disgrace to the Christian name.”72 The only one before him who might have come close to Dinant was his teacher Amalric of Bena –​even though Aquinas distinguished their teachings by saying that David of Dinant identified God with matter, while Amalric of Bena identified Him with form.73 Raynaud draws upon Cusanus in his rejection of Dinant’s pantheism. While Cusanus says in the Apologia that those with strong “mental eyes” can benefit from reading Dinant, Raynaud sees Cusanus’ words in De docta ignorantia as a basis for setting aside his “insane” teaching. Cusanus writes, “the infinity of matter is contrary to the infinity of God” because it is “on account of a lack,” while God is infinite “on account of an abundance.”74 Matter is infinite privatively; God is infinite negatively. Cusanus’ way of separating the infinity of God from the infinity of matter is reflected in Raynaud’s other sources. Porphyry says that nothing is more evident than the extent to which divine perfection is removed (absum) from matter. Proclus and Marsilio Ficino, however, acknowledge that, despite the stark contrast between the light of God and the shadow of matter, it “must be confessed that matter is similar to God through a certain dissimilar similitude.”75 God and matter are formless, unknown, and infinite. Nonetheless, Proclus “rightly warns” –​and his warning has such merit because Proclus was the “crown” and “chief” (coryphaeus) of those pagans who disputed about divine matters –​that God is such “according to what is better” and matter is such “according to what is worse.”76 “Matter,” Proclus says, “is formless because it includes no substantial physical act from itself and thus directly pertains to no class of things.”77 Matter can be fashioned into this or that. On the other hand, God is formless inasmuch as He is not formable or changeable.

71 72 73 74 75 76 77

Raynaud, however, is willing to criticize the Stoics for their theological views. See ibid., 566, 674, 951–​953. Ibid., 563. Raynaud refers to a more extensive discussion on whether God is prime matter in the work of his fellow Jesuit, Benet Perera (d. 1610). See De communibus omnium rerum naturalium principiis et affectionibus, 5.12 (Paris: Michel Sonnius, 1579), 303–​305. Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 564; he is citing De docta ignorantia, 2.8.135 (h I.87). Raynaud says that the fourteenth-​century Dominican scholastic Durandus of Saint-​Pourçain made the same sort of argument in his commentary on the Sentences II, d. 3, q. 4, n. 9. Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 564. Ibid. Ibid.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

213

Matter is unknown because of its darkness and thinness (exilitas) or poverty, while God is unknown because of the excessive light and the infinity of entity; He is impervious to the bleary intellects of creatures. The infinity of matter is based upon the potency of suffering or receiving, but God’s infinity is an infinite power (virtus) of acting. Raynaud also uses Cusanus to oppose another early thirteenth-​century pantheist, Amalric of Bena. For Raynaud, God is the one who is (id quod est) and is being itself (ipsum esse). Raynaud states that God is unlimited and without determination to any particular perfection.78 Indeed, Gregory of Nazianzus and Maximus the Confessor call God “all things” in a way that resonated with the ancient teaching of Parmenides that “all things are one.” Raynaud follows Plotinus, Simplicius, and Cusanus who argue that the Parmenidean One is God. As Cusanus puts it in his work De principio, “When we consider necessary being, we see that Parmenides spoke the truth  –​viz., that there is only the One –​even as Christ, too, said that [only] One Thing is Necessary. Therefore, unless in the many we see the One, then in the many we see only divisiveness and unordered infinity and indeterminateness.”79 Later in the work, Cusanus associates Parmenides with his doctrine of complicatio: “For the Incomprehensible is approached by way of this knowledge of one’s ignorance. Parmenides, noting the foregoing matters and looking unto the One that is exalted, said that there is One Being. For He saw that all multitude is enfolded in One Being.”80 Cusanus’ interpretation helps Raynaud to avoid a pantheistic reading of Parmenides. And Cusanus provides guidance for thinking clearly about one of God’s names: “id quod est.” According to Raynaud, Cusanus’ dialogue De possest discusses “id quod est” in a way that shows that “in God potency and act are the same and that God is all that can be in act.”81 Raynaud recommends the extensive discussion of the point in De possest but briefly sums up that, in saying God is “all that can be,” it should nonetheless be clear that God is not a part of a composite whole. Raynaud reads Hermes Trismegistus’ teaching that “God is all things and nothing is outside of Him” alongside the Thomistic teaching that God is “common” by the “community of an exemplary form” because every being is “a certain similitude of Him.”82 Hermes was teaching that God is

78 79 80 81 82

Ibid., 592–​593. Nicholas of Cusa, De principio, 7 (h X/​2b.6–​7; trans. Hopkins, 881–​882). See Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 594. Cusa, De principio, 29–​30 (h X/​2b.42; trans. Hopkins, 892). See also ibid. (h X2b.36; trans. Hopkins, 890). Raynaud, Theologia naturalis, 592. Ibid., 594.

214 Gaetano a universal cause; He gives being to all things.83 The Platonic, Hermetic, and early Christian tradition all used the language of God as all things, in Raynaud’s view, to talk about this universal causality and dependence. For Raynaud, this broad consensus renders Amalric’s claim that God is the formal being of things even more absurd. He knows that theologians like Denys the Carthusian (d. 1471) had affixed this error to Hermes Trismegistus but were wrong to do so. The positions of pantheists like Amalric and David of Dinant are outliers in the history of Western thought. Raynaud believes that Amalric’s position was evidently “false and fatuous.” Indeed, the position “must be judged not so much heretical as insane.”84 Raynaud thus pits Plato, Aristotle, the Neoplatonists, Dionysius, Cusanus, and even the Stoics against David of Dinant and Amalric of Bena. In his debate with Wenck, Cusanus criticizes Amalric alongside the Beguines but leaves the door open for a fruitful use of Dinant. By contrast, Raynaud sets Amalric and Dinant on one side and most of the Western philosophical and theological tradition on the other. And Cusanus’ works play a critical role in drawing a line between the truths about God’s relationship to the world in Parmenides, Dionysius, and others and the erroneous teachings of the medieval pantheists. Louis Thomassin draws upon Nicholas of Cusa’s notions of complicatio and explicatio as part of his effort to develop a Christology enriched by the Patristic scholarship of the past few decades. Thomassin joined the Oratorians at thirteen and taught literature and theology in various French colleges and seminaries. A profoundly erudite Church historian, Thomassin also distinguished himself as a theologian. Like Eck’s effort to renew mystical theology and Raynaud’s desire for philosophers to discuss divine realities, Thomassin’s multivolume work, the Dogmata theologica, demonstrates his conviction that a change in the discipline of theology was necessary. The preface of De incarnatione Verbi, a part of his Dogmata theologica first published from 1680 to 1689, praises Denis Pétau (1583–​1652) of the Jesuit Order for being the “restorer of Patristic theology” (restaurator patritiae huius theologiae).85 Moreover, Thomassin 83 84 85

Ibid. Elsewhere, Raynaud cites Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia to defend the Hermetic tradition’s way of addressing divine immensity: “God is a circle whose center is everywhere, His circumference nowhere” (ibid., 697). Ibid., 595. Louis Thomassin, Dogmata theologica, vol. 3, De incarnatione Verbi Dei, ed. Pierre-​Félix Écalle (Paris:  Vivès, 1866)  (hereafter cited as Thomassin, De incarnatione); Thomassin criticizes some of Pétau’s conclusions. See Ulrich L. Lehner and William P. O’Brien, “Mysticism and Reform in Catholic Theology between 1600 and 1800,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600–​1800, ed. Ulrich L.  Lehner, Richard A.  Muller and A.G. Roeber (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 66; it is also worth noting that

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

215

explains his deep interest in the Platonic tradition by associating the Church Fathers with Plato in contrast to the doctors of the previous five hundred years who began their studies “in the school of Aristotle.”86 In De incarnatione Verbi Dei, Thomassin uses Cusanus to explain Patristic theology. Cusanus’ way of talking about God’s relationship to creation helps Thomassin to elucidate the hypostatic union. In his discussion of the claim that only God –​not even the greatest archangel –​could assume human nature, Thomassin asserts that one of Cusanus’ sermons provides the “palmary reason” why this is so.87 Between the Word and God, no nature mediates. Likewise, between truth and intellect, no nature can mediate. Because God is truth and truth is seized in the intellect, “God alone … flows into the intellectual nature.”88 Only because God is truth can God be united without mediation to the human intellect of Jesus; a created nature, even an archangel, merely has truth and could not be hypostatically united to another nature. Cusanus continues, “The life of truth possesses the intellectual soul through this flowing.”89 As Thomassin extends this line of argument, he points his readers to Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia where he argues that, in Jesus, “the humanity is supposited in the divinity because, otherwise, it could not be maximal in its own fullness.”90 God being in all things is critical to the claim that the humanity of Jesus could not be “maximal” except in union with the suppositum or person of the Word: “For since the intellect of Jesus is most perfect and exists in complete actuality, it can be personally supposited only in the divine intellect, which alone is actually all things (actu omnia).”91 The sentence from De docta ignorantia that follows the passage quoted by Thomassin clarifies the point and also invokes God being in all things: “For in all human beings the intellect is potentially all things; it gradually progresses from potentiality to actuality. … But the maximum intellect, since it is the limit of the potentiality of every intellectual nature and exists

86 87 88 89 90 91

Pétau criticizes Cusanus for how he speaks about divine naming but recognizes him as a learned man. See Denis Pétau, Dogmata theologica, vol. 1, In quo de Deo Deique proprietatibus agitur (Paris: Vivès, 1865), 671–​672; in fact, Pétau defends Cusanus’ teaching on a related issue from a criticism of his confrere, Théophile Raynaud (ibid., 265). Louis Thomassin, Dogmata theologica, vol. 1, De Deo, Deique proprietatibus, ed. Pierre-​ Félix Écalle (Paris: Vivès, 1864), v. Thomassin, De incarnatione, 394; he cites the sermon in Nicholas Cusanus, Opera (Basel: Henricus Petri, 1565), 474; this is Sermo cxxi in the modern critical edition (h Bibl. An.607). Thomassin, De incarnatione, 394. Ibid. Ibid., 398; see also De docta ignorantia 3.4.205 (h I.131–​132; trans. Hopkins, 121–​124, esp. 123). As above, I made some changes to Hopkins’ translation. Ibid., 398; see also De docta ignorantia 3.4.206 (h I.131–​132; trans. Hopkins, 123).

216 Gaetano in complete actuality, cannot at all exist without being intellect in such way that it is also God, who is all in all.”92 God as the actuality and truth of all things makes possible the hypostatic union, and only union with God who is actually all things can grant maximal fullness to the humanity of Jesus. Thomassin embraces the language of enfolding and unfolding or complicatio and explicatio for explaining Christ’s union with other human beings in their salvation. According to Thomassin, Christ is the humanity of all human beings, not as in the case of a universal concept in the intellect but as “the most absolute summit (vertex) of a nature.”93 Thomassin once again quotes from De docta ignorantia, where Cusanus says that, by mortifying sins in His human body, He purged them “so that all human beings of the same humanity with Him would find in Him the complete purgation of their sins.”94 The union with Christ in which human beings find purgation is based on the maximality of Christ’s humanity that results from the hypostatic union. Thomassin cites the following words of Cusa: “The maximality of His human nature acts in such way that, in any man adhering to Him through formed faith, Christ is that very man by a most perfect union –​the numerical distinctness of each being preserved.” Cusanus continues, “Whatever Christ Jesus merited by His passion, those who are one with Him merit –​with the difference of the degrees of merit preserved, according to the difference of the degrees of union with Him through faith formed by charity.”95 Those united with Christ by this intimate union are circumcised, baptized, dead, resurrected, and united and glorified in God Himself. In Thomassin’s gloss on this passage, he chooses to use the Cusan notion of complicatio: “Christ is the supreme apex of human nature and the extreme limit of perfection and, for this reason, He enfolds (complicet) all men in Himself much more truly than the universal or specific nature does.”96 Thomassin is especially impressed with Cusanus’ treatment of Christ’s omniscience, an issue where God as the complicatio of all things also features prominently. He dedicates the last chapter of his book on the knowledge of Christ to Cusanus’ teaching on this matter because, in Thomassin’s view, “no one had looked into its foundations more deeply than Cusanus.”97 Drawing on a number of Cusanus’ sermons, Thomassin argues that “humanity in Christ

9 2 93 94 95 96 97

Ibid., 3.4 (h I.132; trans. Hopkins, 123). Thomassin, De incarnatione, 627. Ibid. See also De docta ignorantia 3.6.218 (h I.137; trans. Hopkins, 128). Thomassin, De incarnatione, 632. Ibid. Louis Thomassin, Dogmata theologica, vol. 4, De incarnatione Verbi Dei (continuatio), ed. Pierre-​Félix Écalle (Paris: Vivès, 1868), 58.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

217

is not supposited contractedly but remains in its supreme height.”98 Cusanus was drawing out the Chalcedonian doctrine that Christ is a divine person with two natures. If Christ was a human person, having a human hypostasis or suppositum, He would be determined and limited by it. He did not have this determination; therefore, Christ’s humanity realized the fullness of the idea or exemplar of humanity as it exists in the divine Word. As Cusanus puts it, “the purest humanity inheres in the truth of its essence, which is the Word of God,” the Second Person of the Trinity.99 Thomassin quotes Cusanus saying that “divinity or wisdom dwells” in Christ’s soul, “not participatively but in its plenitude. Therefore, science in Christ is a science of omnipotence because it is not contracted (incontracta) and absolved from every defect and termination.”100 Thomassin quotes a sermon where Cusanus says, Human beings can know languages and one more than another, but Christ is the living sermon or the Word of God. Human beings can be learned (docti); Christ is living wisdom. Human beings can live by rational life; Christ is rational life itself. … Christ is every perfection in act. And you know that no [human being] is so perfect that one could not be more perfect, and, for this reason, the perfection of all human beings –​ since one receives more and less –​is not proportional to the perfection of Christ since it is the highest than which none can be greater or higher.101 Christ is not a contracted human person; he is not merely a more perfect realization of human capacities. With respect to knowledge, Christ is omniscient because His suppositum is infinite; the person of Christ is the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. Thomassin continues his quotation of the same sermon of Cusa:  “The maximum, than which there cannot be greater, is all things in act because, in its maximality, it enfolds (complicat) in act all things which are possible.”102 In these sections of his immense oeuvre, Thomassin does not address the medieval figures accused of pantheism. But he drew on the very concepts in 98 99 100 101 102

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. For the sermon, see the Basel Opera, 682–​683; see also Sermo ccxcii (h Bibl. An.674) or “Iam autem Die Festo Mediante,” in Nicholas of Cusa’s Last Sermons (1457–​1463), trans. Jasper Hopkins (Jasper Hopkins, 2011), 366–​375, esp. 366–​367. De incarnatione Verbi Dei (continuatio), 58; a couple of decades earlier, the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–​1680) discussed Cusanus’ “learned” discussion of the “absolute maximum.” See Arithmologia, sive de abditis numerorum mysteriis (Rome: Ex Typographia Varesii, 1665), 243–​247.

218 Gaetano Cusanus’ writings that troubled Wenck centuries earlier to enrich his own theological project. According to the learned Oratorian, no one had examined the basis of Christ’s omniscience as deeply as Nicholas of Cusa. And Cusanus made this major contribution to Christology because of his way of thinking about God as the complicatio or enfolding of the world. These three Roman Catholic theologians had no major concerns with Nicholas of Cusa’s view of God and creation. Concerns about pantheism in Cusanus were not continuous from Johann Wenck to the nineteenth century. The nineteenth-​century concerns about Cusanus’ supposed tendencies towards pantheism had their roots in the German historiography of philosophy in the seventeenth century.103 While seventeenth-​century (and eighteenth-​century) German historians of philosophy did not accuse Cusanus of confusing God and creation, they did begin to see pantheism in some of his sources: Dionysius the Areopagite and John Scotus Eriugena. The source of this development is Jakob Thomasius (1622–​1684), Gottfried Leibniz’s teacher in Leipzig, who wrote his main historical works in the 1660s and 1670s, decades after Raynaud’s Theologia naturalis and in the years before Thomassin’s Dogmata theologica. Scholars have referred to Thomasius as one of the first “anti-​apologists” writing on the history of philosophy.104 Rather than defending Christianity by showing its harmony with pre-​Christian wisdom, Thomasius’ narrative focused on how ancient philosophy corrupted Christian doctrine.105 103 Before this development, Giordano Bruno (1548–​1600) drew upon Cusanus’ doctrines of explicatio, complicatio, and the coincidentia oppositorum, and he was accused of pantheism. He also praised the thought of the medieval pantheist David of Dinant. See, e.g., Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle and Unity and Essays on Magic, trans. and ed. Richard J.  Blackwell and Robert de Lucca (New  York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1998), 7, 83–​86, 96–​97, 173; the shift in the approach to Cusanus, however, appears to have had its foundations in hostility towards pantheism rather than in Bruno’s project. For a helpful discussion of the important differences between Cusanus and Bruno, despite Bruno’s positive appropriation of him, and for an argument that Bruno should not be considered a pantheist, see Paul Richard Blum, Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), 43–​54, esp. 51. 104 See Wouter J.  Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy:  Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (New  York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 2012), 101–​107, esp.  103; of course, Lorenzo Valla, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, and others could be considered forerunners of this approach. Hanegraaff discusses Pico (ibid., 81); see also Giovanni Santinello, et al. (eds.), Models of the History of Philosophy: From Its Origins in the Renaissance to the ‘Historia Philosophica,’ trans., C.W.T. Blackwell and Philip Weller (Dordrecht: Springer, 1993), 409–​441. 105 Thomasius also argues that the effort of reconciliation corrupted the effort to present accurate histories of philosophy. See Jakob Thomasius, Exercitatio de stoica mundi exustione (Leipzig: Sumptibus Haeredum Friderici Lanckisii, 1676), 22.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

219

In this “anti-​apologist” narrative, Thomasius argues for a link between Christian Platonism and pantheism. Unlike Eck and Raynaud, who saw Dionysius as among the greatest Christian theologians and David of Dinant as among the worst of heretics, Thomasius sees a deep –​and dangerous –​connection between the two. Indeed, Thomasius’ anti-​apologist scholarship frequently directs itself against defenses of Platonic reflections upon the divine in the work of Théophile Raynaud.106 While Raynaud embraced Christian Platonism and generally defended non-​Christian Platonism, Aristotelianism, and even Stoicism, Thomasius sees all these schools as having their remote foundation in the paganism of Zoroaster, who taught that there is a good god and a bad god.107 The best of the Greek philosophers attempted to tame this teaching, but Zoroaster’s dualism remained in the opposition between God and matter in their philosophies.108 Only the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo could have saved them from their errors.109 Simon Magus then brought the corruption of Greek thought into Christianity, giving rise to Gnostic dualism, the “syncretism of the pagan and the Christian religion.”110 The Church Fathers battled the Gnostics, but some of the Greek Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, had too much love for the philosophies of Plato and Pythagoras, which again allowed paganism to influence Christianity.111 Thomasius argues that, in the Platonism of Clement and his successors, there was an overreaction to Gnostic lust which led to “enthusiasm” and the excesses of monasticism.112 But Christian Platonism would eventually have more dangerous consequences. After Clement of Alexandria, Pseudo-​Dionysius created mystical theology.113 Thomasius follows some of the Renaissance humanists and Protestant theologians and argues that Dionysius was not a disciple of Paul. Pseudo-​Dionysius was even more devoted to Plato than Clement; in support of the claim, Thomasius cites Raynaud’s quotation of Cusanus’ Apologia which says that “St. Dionysius imitated Plato.”114 Even though

106 For references to Raynaud in Thomasius’ work, see Jakob Thomasius, Schediasma Historicum (Leipzig: Sumptibus Philippi Furhmanni, 1665), 5, 12, 68; and Exercitatio, 25–​26, 28, 38, 41, 46–​48, 176, 199–​201, 211. 107 Schediasma, 23, 33; see also Exercitatio, 205. 108 Schediasma, 28–​29; see also Ibid., 13. In Exercitatio, 29, Thomasius says that, despite their important differences, “All the sects agreed that there are two eternal [principles]: God and matter. Neither is the procreative cause of the other.” 109 See Exercitatio, 169, 202–​207. 110 Schediasma, 17–​28, esp. 28; see also Ibid., 33. 111 Schediasma, 46. 112 Schediasma, 46–​48. 113 Schediasma, 52. 114 Exercitatio, 201.

220 Gaetano they were rejecting the pagan corruption of Gnosticism, these Christian writers nonetheless became “semi-​pagans.”115 Thomasius attempts to show that the pantheistic tendencies of mysticism and enthusiasm infected Latin thought by drawing a straight line from Plato to Pseudo-​Dionysius and finally to Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant. While Albert the Great saw Dinant as influenced by a development of Epicurean materialism represented by a certain Alexander, Thomasius argues that his source was not materialism but mysticism, particularly the work of Eriugena, the one who “first delivered the mystical theology of Dionysius to the Latins.”116 Alexander’s materialism and Dinant’s pantheism did have something in common, Thomasius thinks, because both were attempting to overcome the dualism of ancient thought. But Alexander was saying that “prime matter is God,” while Dinant was saying that “God is prime matter.”117 Alexander was the supreme atheist; Dinant was the ultimate Platonic enthusiast. In reply to Aquinas’ argument that Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant taught contrary errors, with Amalric viewing God as the form of all things and David thinking of God as the prime matter of all things, Thomasius says that they both had the same pantheistic teaching; Amalric simply did not state the conclusion as clearly as David of Dinant.118 Platonic philosophy and Dionysian mysticism thus become medieval pantheism: “These semi-​pagans fell into this insanity” of believing that God is essentially all things “from an excessive love of Plato.”119 In subsequent decades, Thomasius’ narrative became focused on the Deus sive natura of Baruch Spinoza in addition to mysticism. Johann Franz Buddeus (1667–​1729) refers to the teaching of Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant as Spinozism. Though Buddeus wants to distance them from Plato and associate these medieval pantheists with Aristotle, he is willing to retain their connection with Pseudo-​Dionysius and Eriugena.120 Johann Jakob Brucker (1696–​1770)

115

Schediasma, 47; see his remarks on the semi-​Christianity of Hermes Trismegistus (ibid., 38). 116 Schediasma, 61; see also Exercitatio, 201. 117 Exercitatio, 201. 118 Exercitatio, 205; see also Ibid., 200. 119 Exercitatio, 208; see also Ibid., 208; and Schediasma, 59. 120 Johann Franz Buddeus, Dissertatio philosophica de Spinozismo ante Spiniozam (Halle: Christian Henckel, 1701), 13–​18; see Ibid., 18, where he says, “no sect from the ancients recedes more from Spinozism than the Platonic sect.” In another work, Buddeus seems to have clarified that Thomasius’ narrative connecting Dionysius to Amalric could retain its usefulness as long as the importance of Aristotle’s thought is properly emphasized. See Buddeus, Isagoge historico-​theologica ad theologiam universam (Leipzig: Thomas Fritsch, 1730), 606.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

221

argues that Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant did not make their claims in the “Eleatic, Stoic, or Spinozist sense” but in the “Alexandrian” or Neoplatonic sense found in the works of Pseudo-​Dionysius, Eriugena, and others.121 Nevertheless, while some adjustments were made to Thomasius’ account, major historians of philosophy continued to posit a strong connection between the works of Pseudo-​Dionysius and the condemned teachings of Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant. At first, Nicholas of Cusa’s works were not implicated in this narrative of the development of pantheism.122 But eventually Cusanus’ associations with Dionysius and Eriugena drew him into the story. The Kantian historian of philosophy Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann (1761–​1819), for example, says that Cusanus derived his ideas from the “enthusiasm” of Pseudo-​Dionysius and indicates that, despite his role as the first exponent of Neoplatonism after the Middle Ages, Cusanus set forth a “system of pantheism and theism.”123 When some of the Neo-​Scholastics around the turn of the twentieth century attempted to bring Cusanus into their narratives, they found him associated with the pantheism that they were seeking to challenge with the purity of Thomism.124 The Neo-​Scholastics did not advance a unified narrative. Though Maurice de Wulf’s Histoire de la philosophie médiévale states that Pseudo-​Dionysius’ philosophy 121

Jakob Brucker, Historia critica philosophiae, vol. 3, A Christo nato ad repurgatas usque literas (Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1743), 688–​692; he challenges Buddeus’ argument which attempted to distance the medieval pantheists from Platonism by separating Plato from “Alexandrian Platonism,” which changed the “dualistic system” of Plato into a system based upon emanation (ibid., 690). 122 See the brief discussion in Brucker, which did little more than provide the details of Cusanus’ life and a list of his works. He does not associate him with “Alexandrian Platonism” but highlights that Cusanus “humbles the powers of the human intellect.” See Historia critica philosophiae, vol. 4, part 1, A tempore resuscitatarum in occidente literarum ad nostra tempora (Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1743), 29–​30. 1 23 Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann, Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. 9 (Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1814), 133; Tennemann, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, ed. Amadeus Wendt (Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1820), 235; Johann Gottlieb Gerhard Buhle, Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, vol. 2 (Göttingen: Johann Georg Rosenbusch’s Witwe, 1800), 342, 347, associates Cusanus with pantheism but sees him as an “original writer” who was trained in Aristotelian philosophy. See Gregorio Piaia and Giovanni Santinello (eds.), Models of the History of Philosophy, vol. 3, The Second Enlightenment and the Kantian Age (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015), 815, 891. 124 Douglas Hedley, “Theology and the Revolt against the Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 8, World Christianities, c. 1815–​c. 1914, ed. Sheridan Gilley and Brian Stanley (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 31, 40–​41; John Inglis, Spheres of Philosophical Inquiry and the Historiography of Medieval Philosophy (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 78, 98, 113–​114, 190.

222 Gaetano “is theistic, not pantheistic,” he asks whether Cusanus was “a pantheist, like Scotus Eriugena, whose terminology he adopts, or like David of Dinant, for whom he does not conceal his sympathies.”125 In reply to the question, de Wulf acknowledges Cusanus’ effort to defend himself in the Apologia but concluded, “we may say of him as of Eckhart, that he preserved his orthodoxy only at the expense of his logic, and that it was only by a deliberate effort he repressed the natural conclusions from his premisses.”126 In 1909, the American Catholic Encyclopedia described Eriugena as deceived by Pseudo-​Dionysius whose writings set forth a “loosely articulated system of thought in which Christian teachings were mingled with the tenets of a subtle but profoundly anti-​Christian pantheism.”127 But Cusanus’ writings are described as “strictly Christian,” despite the fact that “his concept of God has been much disputed, and has even been called pantheistic.”128 Though de Wulf and the Catholic Encyclopedia disagree about the pantheism of Cusanus and Pseudo-​Dionysius, they inherited from the German historiographical tradition the idea that Neoplatonism and mysticism often tended in that direction. The early modern Roman Catholic reception of Cusanus, however, has often been overlooked. While Cusanus’ thought did not have a major role in the great tradition of Thomistic commentaries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Eck, Raynaud, and Thomassin were important theologians in their own time and saw themselves as faithful theologians in the Catholic tradition. Though each thought that the scholasticism of his time could be enriched by Christian and even non-​Christian Platonism, they were not renegade thinkers. Each of them sought to maintain orthodox views on God’s distinction from 125 See de Wulf, History, 458; de Wulf, Histoire, 389. 126 Ibid. See also Albert Stöckl, Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, vol. 3, Periode der Bekämpfung der Scholastik (Mainz: F. Kirchheim, 1866), 65–​66. 127 William Turner, “John Scotus Eriugena,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 5 (New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1909), 520; but see the article on “Dionysius the Pseudo-​ Areopagite” by Joseph Stiglmayr, which separates Dionysius from pantheism because he does not “assert a necessary emanation of things from God” but “admits a free creative act on the part of God” (ibid., 14). 128 J.G. Hagen, “Nicholas of Cusa,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 11 (New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), 61; Hagen cites the work of Franz Anton Scharpff, who called Cusanus’ theology “a Thomas à Kempis in philosophical language.” See Scharpff, Der Cardinal und Bischof Nicolaus von Cusa als Reformator in Kirche, Reich und Philosophie des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts (Tübingen: H. Laupp’sche Buchhandlung, 1871), 358, for his direct challenge to the interpretations of Tennemann and Buhle; it is noteworthy that William Turner, who associates Pseudo-​Dionysius so strongly with pantheism, describes Cusanus as occupying “a position intermediate between Aristotelian and modern thought.” See his History of Philosophy (Boston, MA: Ginn & Company, 1903), 432.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

223

His creation. Eck saw Amalric of Bena as having fallen from the faith. Raynaud regarded the pantheism of Amalric and David of Dinant as worse than heresy –​as unworthy of refutation. He believed that Cusanus, Dionysius, Plato, and even the Stoics avoided such “insane” teachings. Eck and Raynaud thought that Cusanus’ doctrine of God as the complicatio of all things could be used to reject pantheism. None of these theologians thought that Cusanus’ writings were pantheistic. On the contrary, these three theologians believed that Nicholas of Cusa’s vision of God and creation could help to renew early modern Catholic theology and philosophy. Bibliography Albertus Magnus. Summa theologiae. In Opera Omnia. Vol. 32. Edited by Auguste Borgnet. Paris: Vivès, 1895. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa contra Gentiles. In Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum. Online edition edited by Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón. Rome, 1888. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​scg1014.html. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. In Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum. Online edition edited by Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón. Rome, 1888. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth1003.html. Bischoff, J.G. “Raynaud, Théophile.” In New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, 11. 938–​939. New York: Gale, 2003. Blum, Paul Richard. Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance. Burlington, VT: ­Ashgate, 2010. Blum, Paul Richard. Studies on Early Modern Aristotelianism. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Brucker, Jakob. Historia critica philosophiae. Vol. 3, A Christo nato ad repurgatas usque literas. Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1743. Brucker, Jakob. Historia critica philosophiae. Vol. 4, part 1, A tempore resuscitatarum in occidente literarum ad nostra tempora. Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1743. Bruno, Giordano. Cause, Principle and Unity and Essays on Magic. Translated and edited by Richard J. Blackwell and Robert de Lucca. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Buddeus, Johann Franz. Dissertatio philosophica de Spinozismo ante Spiniozam. Halle: Christian Henckel, 1701. Buddeus, Johann Franz. Isagoge historico-​ theologica ad theologiam universam. Leipzig: Thomas Fritsch, 1730. Buhle, Johann Gottlieb Gerhard. Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften. Vol. 2. Göttingen: Johann Georg Rosenbusch’s Witwe, 1800.

224 Gaetano Capelle, Catherine. Autour du décret de 1210. Vol. 3, Amaury de Bène: étude sur son panthéisme formel. Paris: J.J. Vrin, 1932. Catà, Cesare. “Cusanus’ Revival of Eriugena as a Renaissance Redefinition of Christian Orthodoxy?” In Eriugena –​ Cusanus, edited by Agnieszka Kijewska, Roman Majeran and Harald Schwaetzer. Lublin: Wydawnictwo Kul, 2011. Cooper, John W. Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006. Dagron, Tristan. “David de Dinant: sur le fragment des Quaternuli.” Revue de métaphysique et de morale (2003): 419–​436. Daniel, Stephen H. “Toland’s Semantic Pantheism.” In John Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious: Text, Associated Works, and Critical Essays, edited by Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison and Richard Kearney, 303–​312. Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1997. Denifle, Heinrich, and Émile Chatelain, eds. Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis. Vol. 1, Ab anno MCC usque ad annum MCCLXXXVI. Paris: Ex typis fratrum Delalain, 1889. Dupré, Louis. “The Question of Pantheism from Eckhart to Cusanus.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by Peter J. Casarella, 74–​88. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Eck, Johann. D. Dionysii Areopagitae De mystica theologia … Joan. Eckius Commentarios adiecit pro theologia negativa. Augsburg: Johann Miller, 1519. Froehlich, Karlfried. “Pseudo-​Dionysius and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.” In Pseudo-​Dionysius: The Complete Works, edited by Paul Rorem and translated by Colm Luibheid. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1987. Führer, Markus, and Stephen Gersh. “Dietrich of Freiberg and Berthold of Moosburg.” In Interpreting Proclus: From Antiquity to the Renaissance, edited by Stephen Gersh, 299–​317. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Gerson, Jean. Opera Omnia. Vol. 5. Edited by Louis Ellies du Pin. Antwerp: Sumptibus Societatis, 1706. Hagen, J.G. “Nicholas of Cusa.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, 11.60–​62. New  York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. Hanegraaff, Wouter J. Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Hedley, Douglas. “Theology and the Revolt against the Enlightenment.” In The Cambridge History of Christianity. Vol. 8, World Christianities, c.  1815–​c.1914, edited by Sheridan Gilley and Brian Stanley, 30–​52. New  York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 2006. Hopkins, Jasper. Nicholas of Cusa’s Debate with John Wenck: A Translation and an Appraisal of De Ignota Litteratura and Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae. Minneapolis, MN: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 1981. Hopkins, Jasper. Nicholas of Cusa’s Metaphysic of Contraction. Minneapolis, MN: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 1983.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

225

Inglis, John. Spheres of Philosophical Inquiry and the Historiography of Medieval Philosophy. Leiden: Brill, 1998. Janz, Denis R. Luther and Late Medieval Thomism: A Study in Theological Anthropology. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983. Kircher, Athanasius. Arithmologia, sive de abditis numerorum mysteriis. Rome: Ex Typographia Varesii, 1665. Lehner, Ulrich L., and William P. O’Brien. “Mysticism and Reform in Catholic Theology between 1600 and 1800.” In The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600–​1800, edited by Ulrich L. Lehner, Richard A. Muller, and A.G. Roeber, 63–​74. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. Essais de theodice sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l’homme, et l’origine du mal. Amsterdam: Isaac Troyel, 1714. Maccagnolo, Enzo. “David of Dinant and the Beginnings of Aristotelianism in Paris.” In A History of Twelfth-​Century Western Philosophy, edited by Peter Dronke, 429–​442. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Meister Eckhart,  The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense. Translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn. Mahwah, NJ:  Paulist Press, 1981. Meier-​Oeser, Stephan. Die Präsenz des Vergessenen: Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Münster:  Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1989. Moran, Dermot. “Nicholas of Cusa (1401–​1464):  Platonism at the Dawn of Modernity.” In Platonism at the Origins of Modernity: Studies on Platonism and Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Douglas Hedley and Sarah Hutton, 9–​29. Dordrecht: Springer, 2008. Moran, Dermot. “Pantheism in Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1990): 131–​152. Moran, Dermot. The Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the Middle Ages. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera. Basel: Henricus Petri, 1565. Nicholas of Cusa. Nicholas of Cusa’s Last Sermons (1457–​1463). Translated by Jasper Hopkins. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​www.jasper-​hopkins.info/​LastSermonsIntroduction.pdf. Perera, Benet. De communibus omnium rerum naturalium principiis et affectionibus. Paris: Michel Sonnius, 1579. Pétau, Denis. Dogmata theologica. Vol. 1, In quo de Deo Deique proprietatibus agitur. Paris: Vivès, 1865. Piaia, Gregorio, and Giovanni Santinello, eds. Models of the History of Philosophy. Vol. 3, The Second Enlightenment and the Kantian Age. Dordrecht: Springer, 2015.

226 Gaetano Raynaud, Théophile. Theologia naturalis, sive entis increati et creati intra supremam abstractionem ex naturae lumine investigatio. Lyons: Claude Landry, 1622. Raynaud, Théophile. Opera Omnia. Vol. 5. Lyons: Boissat and Remeus, 1665. Rummel, Erika, ed. The Correspondence of Wolfgang Capito. Vol. 2, 1524–​1531. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Santinello, Giovanni et al., eds. Models of the History of Philosophy: From Its Origins in the Renaissance to the “Historia Philosophica.” Translated by C.W.T. Blackwell and Philip Weller. Dordrecht: Springer, 1993. Scharpff, Franz Anton. Der Cardinal und Bischof Nicolaus von Cusa als Reformator in Kirche, Reich und Philosophie des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts. Tübingen: H. Laupp’sche Buchhandlung, 1871. Stiglmayr, Joseph. “Dionysius the Pseudo-​Areopagite.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5, 13–​18. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Stöckl, Albert. Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters. Vol. 3, Periode der Bekämpfung der Scholastik. Mainz: F. Kirchheim, 1866. Tanner, Norman P., ed. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 1, Nicaea I to Lateran V. Washington, D.C.: Sheed and Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990. Tennemann, Wilhelm Gottlieb. Geschichte der Philosophie. Vol. 9. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1814. Tennemann, Wilhelm Gottlieb. Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Edited by Amadeus Wendt. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1820. Théry, Gabriel. Autour du décret de 1210. Vol. 1, David de Dinant: étude sur son panthéisme matérialiste. Kain: Le Saulchoir, 1925. Thomassin, Louis. Dogmata theologica. Vol. 1, De Deo, Deique proprietatibus. Edited by Pierre-​Félix Écalle. Paris: Vivès, 1864. Thomassin, Louis. Dogmata theologica. Vol. 3, De incarnatione Verbi Dei. Edited by Pierre-​Félix Écalle. Paris: Vivès, 1866. Thomassin, Louis. Dogmata theologica. Vol. 4, De incarnatione Verbi Dei (continuatio). Edited by Pierre-​Félix Écalle. Paris: Vivès, 1868. Thomasius, Jakob. Exercitatio de stoica mundi exustione. Leipzig: Sumptibus Haeredum Friderici Lanckisii, 1676. Thomasius, Jakob. Schediasma historicum. Leipzig:  Sumptibus Philippi Furhmanni, 1665. Turner, William. History of Philosophy. Boston, MA: Ginn & Company, 1903. Turner, William. “John Scotus Eriugena.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, 5.519–​522. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Wiegand, Wilhelm, ed. Urkundenbuch der Stadt Strassburg. Vol. 2, Politische Urkunden von 1266 bis 1332. Strassburg: Verlag von Karl J. Trübner, 1886. Wulf, Maurice de. Histoire de la philosophie médiévale. Louvain: Institut supérieur de philosophie, 1900.

Nicholas of Cusa and Pantheism

227

Wulf, Maurice de. History of Medieval Philosophy. Translated by P. Coffey. London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1909. Ziebart, K. Meredith. Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​ Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy. Leiden: Brill, 2014.

Pa rt 3 Explicatio Visionis: Reform of Perspective



Chapter 8

The Notion of Faith in the Works of Nicholas Cusanus and Giordano Bruno Luisa Brotto The main similarities and differences between Cusanus’ thought and Bruno’s philosophy have already been examined by many different scholars. Franz Jacob Clemens was the first to compare their philosophical perspectives in his Giordano Bruno and Nicholas von Cusa (1847).1 In Clemens’ opinion, Bruno preferred pantheism to a philosophical system built on the Trinity and the incarnation of Christ, thus initiating the decline of the modern age. Fifty years later, Felice Tocco focused on both the conceptual and textual similarities between Cusanus’ and Bruno’s works, showing implicit references to De docta ignorantia and De Possest in De la causa, principio et uno and De l’infinito, universo et mondi.2 He argued that Bruno had more completely and more coherently developed a kind of pantheism that had remained somewhat implicit, although unresolved, in Cusanus’ works. In 1966, Hans Blumenberg highlighted the importance of Christ in Cusanus’ thought, and saw incarnation (namely the fusion of divine and human nature) as the means that allowed Cusanus to overcome the late Medieval problem of the relationship between the divine potentia absoluta and creation.3 According to Bruno, the divine potentia can be expressed completely by the universe it has produced (which, of course, is infinite and subject to an endless process of alteration); divinity and the universe are therefore equipotent. Cusanus, on the other hand, conceived of the universe as ontologically inferior to God. More recently, Hélène Védrine, Paul Richard Blum, Rita Sturlese and Tristan Dagron have independently investigated the influence of Cusanus on Bruno’s thought, considering how these two authors interpreted the Platonic tradition

1 Franz Jacob Clemens, Giordano Bruno e Nicholas von Cusa. Eine philosophische Abhandlung (Bonn: I. Wittmann, 1847). 2 Felice Tocco, “Le fonti piu recenti della filosofia del Bruno,” Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei Lincei (Rome: Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, 1892), 503–​621. 3 In his “Aspekte der Epochenschwelle: Cusaner and Nolaner,” in Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1966).

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 10

232 Brotto and examining how Bruno utilized some Cusanian terms and concepts in his own writing.4 In 2006, Pietro Secchi devoted a volume to examining the philosophical connections between Bruno and Cusanus. Secchi provided an overview of the lexical terms used by Cusanus that are also found in Bruno’s work and focused on how Bruno re-​elaborates Cusanian notions like coniectura, lex, nexus and amor.5 According to Secchi, the main difference between the two metaphysical perspectives resides in their differing approaches to theology and divergent opinions about Christianity: Cusanus never disavows the Catholic faith, whereas Bruno condemns it.6 Furthermore, Cusanus’ influence on Bruno’s philosophy was the subject of two different entries in encyclopedic volumes.7 Both Nicholas Cusanus and Giordano Bruno considered themselves to be “reformers” in terms of philosophy and religion, since they were perfectly aware that their conception of human identity, knowledge and morals was 4 Hélène Védrine, “L’influence de Nicolas de Cues sur Giordano Bruno,” in Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del pensiero moderno (Florence: Sansoni, 1970), 211–​223; Paul Richard Blum, “Saper trar il contrario dopo aver trovato il punto de l’unione: Bruno, Cusano e il platonismo,” in Letture Bruniane I-​II, ed. E. Canone (Pisa-​Rome: iepi), 33–​47; Rita Sturlese, “Niccolò Cusano e gli inizi della speculazione del Bruno,” in Historia philosophiae Medii Aevi: Studien zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, hrsg. von B. Mojsisch –​O. Pluta (Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner, 1991), ii, 953–​966; Ead., “Coincidenza degli opposti e quadratura del cerchio: il Cusano nello Spaccio,” in Sogni, favole, storie. Seminario su Giordano Bruno, ed. D. Pirillo e O. Catanorchi (Pisa:  Edizioni della Normale, 2007), 103–​40; Tristan Dagron, “Coïncidence et contrariété chez Bruno et Nicolas de Cues, in Fureurs, héroïsme et métamorphoses,” éd. par Magnard (Louvain-​Paris-​Dudley: Éditions de l’institut supérieur de Philosophie Louvain-​La-​Neuve /​ Éditions Peeters, 2007), 23–​36; See also Ibid, Unité de l’être et dialectique. L’idée de philosophie naturelle chez Giordano Bruno (Paris:  Vrin, 1999), 323–​46; Comparisons between Cusanus’ and Bruno’s philosophy have also been made in works that are not entirely devoted to these two philosophers. See for instance Antonio Corsano, Il pensiero di Giordano Bruno nel suo svolgimento storico (Florence: Sansoni, 1940); Thomas Leinkauf, Nicholas Cusanus. Eine Einführung in sein Denken (Münster, Aschendorff, 2006), and Mundus combinatus. Studien zur Struktur der barocken Universalwissenschaft am Beispiel Athanasius Kirchers SJ (1602–​1680) (Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1993); Anne Eusterschulte, Analogia entis seu mentis. Analogie als erkenntnistheoretisches Prinzip in der Philosophie Giordano Brunos (Würzburg, Königshausen und Neumann Verlag, 1997); and Salvatore Carannante in Giordano Bruno e la caccia divina (Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2013). 5 Pietro Secchi, “Del mar più che del cielo amante”: Bruno e Cusano (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2006). 6 See, for instance, Michele Ciliberto, “Umbra profunda.” Studi su Giordano Bruno (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1999), 155–​192. 7 Pietro Secchi, “Niccolò Cusano,” in Enciclopedia bruniana e campanelliana (Pisa-​Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2006), i:17–​26; Salvatore Carannante, “Niccolò Cusano,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, ed. Michele Ciliberto (Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014), ii:1312–​21.

Notion of Faith

233

quite new, as they considered these themes through new terms and new concepts. Both lived in a time and context in which religion seemed to lead to disputes and wars (Cusanus wrote De pace fidei after the Fall of Costantinople, whereas Bruno published his Spaccio de la bestia trionfante in Elizabethan England), and they shared the idea that religion can and should be transformed into the keystone of a peaceful public and political life. But, this shared conviction led them to radically different conceptions of religious reformation, which were based on opposing ways of judging and interpreting Christianity. In this chapter, I aim to compare the perspectives of Cusanus and Bruno by focusing on the notion of fides (a concept which is particularly rich in religious, epistemological, and ethical implications). By considering the way these two authors understand faith, I intend to examine some similarities and differences between their ideas of “reform” in philosophy and religion. Neither Bruno nor Cusanus wrote a systematic analysis of fides. Both of them, however, state its relevance several times. It is therefore important to examine these passages and to trace how their arguments change over time. I will try to show that Bruno’s conception of faith is influenced by Cusanian concepts and notions. However, Bruno remodels these ideas in an original perspective, assigning a whole new meaning to them.

Cusanus’ Conception of Faith in De docta ignorantia

Cusa’s conception of faith is known to be difficult to explain, although it clearly plays a very important role in his philosophy and theology. Cusanus conceives of faith as bound to the intellect and to Christ. Also, he thinks that faith is essential to his idea of virtue. Cusanus’ statements on these topics can be found in many of his works and sermons, in which he employs very different terms and expressions, but he does not have a complete and specific treatment dedicated to the subject. As a result, some scholars have argued that Cusanus’ doctrine on faith is inconsistent.8 Among those who do find it coherent, scholars have focused on different issues and given different interpretations of the relationship between faith and reason in his thought. According to Jasper Hopkins, for example, Cusanus is a “moderate rationalist,” since reason precedes faith –​as a matter of fact, it is reason that realizes the importance of faith, which is why it precedes it. Gergely Bakos observes that Cusa’s conception of faith comes from 8 For an overview of these authors, see Jasper Hopkins, “Prolegomena to Nicholas of Cusa’s Conception of the Relationship of Faith to Reason,” 1–​22, accessed 4 May 2017, http://​jasper-​ hopkins.info/​cusafaith_​reason-​engl.pdf.

234 Brotto a Medieval idea of faith as a kind of “existential engagement” that makes man aware of his position within the world as its most important creature, and also points out his complete reliance on God.9 Meredith Ziebart distinguishes two senses of faith in Cusanus’ works, epistemological and religious, and illustrates his attempt to merge them together into an organic process, both cognitive and religious, through which man can get closer to God.10 Cusanus’ philosophy must be understood in light of his own conception of coniectura. His many statements on faith are not obscure and inconsistent. Instead, he progressively refashions the same key subjects in different contexts, as he attempts to gradually (and indefinitely) perfect his ideas. I will therefore consider his assertions to be profoundly coherent. Here I merely intend to recall some of the main specifications of Cusanus’ conception of faith in order to clarify how it is connected to his idea of philosophical and theological reform. I have chosen to focus on the aspects that inspired Bruno in his re-​thinking of the notion of faith (although, as I show below, Bruno’s ideas also differ considerably from those of Cusanus on a few relevant matters). I will insist on how Cusanus conceives faith as singular, even though it has different tasks. I will also show that Cusanus continually states the relevance of human responsibility for actions and knowledge, while also asserting the importance of faith. It has rightly been pointed out that many of Cusanus’ discussions of faith can be found in his religious writings, primarily in his sermons.11 However, I intend to focus mostly on De docta ignorantia, De concordantia and De pace fidei, since these are the works that Bruno most likely would have had in mind. It is well known that Cusanus deals at length with the notion of faith in the third book of De docta ignorantia, in which faith is both a subject of inquiry and an element in action. After presenting the profoundly innovative terms of his metaphysics by focusing on the absolute maximum (i.e., God himself) and the contracted maximum, namely the universe, Cusanus writes about a third kind of maximum that is both absolute and contracted, complicated and explicated, infinite and finite. On the one hand, Cusanus employs reason to suggest that if such a maximum existed it would be man and God at the same time, since man is the highest creature. On the other hand, this argument is grounded in and confirmed by the Scriptures, because the Apostles have represented 9 10 11

Gergely Tibor Bakos, On Faith, Rationality and the Other in the Late Middle Ages: A Study of Nicholas of Cusa’s Manuductive Approach to Islam (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011), 25ff. K.M. Ziebart, Nicholas Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect. A Case Study in 15th-​Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 24 and 33. Ibid., 24.

Notion of Faith

235

Christ precisely as both human and divine. Thus, we can conclude that Christ is the third maximum. Rational analysis and faith in biblical revelation thus appear to correspond and to strengthen each other on this point. In chapter xi, dedicated to the mysteria fidei, Cusanus writes extensively about faith. Surprisingly (if we consider the subject of the chapter) he starts by focusing on the human cognitive process. Cusanus asserts that human knowledge is allowed by faith in some prima principia that are found in every faculty of the soul (in omni facultate) and set in motion. These principles are not grasped by reason and are instead objects of faith. Faith is then required in order for man to know anything at all: reality can be explored only if he first assents to some fundamental truths.12 Cusanus is reminiscent of a long philosophical tradition that had assimilated notions from Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy within Christian ideas, for instance by conceiving of pistis [πίστις, i.e., fides] as an important component in human knowledge.13 For instance, in his Alanytica posteriora (i, 2) Aristotle had defined pistis as the assent given by the soul to notions that are held to be certain. Man can trust two kinds of principles: those which have already been demonstrated, and those which cannot be demonstrated but appear to be evidently true. Because we cannot go back infinitely in demonstrating, there must be some principles that cannot be demonstrated and yet are trusted to be true. Faith (conceived in a completely epistemic, non-​religious sense) thus plays an important role in the process of logical demonstration and human thinking in general, because faith actually enables these processes by accepting some conditions that give their own shape to our thoughts. On faith, Ramon Lull is probably a very important source for Cusanus. In his Liber de praedicatione Lull defined faith as a disposition (habitus) to grasp principles that the intellect cannot understand on its own. In his sermon Fides autem catholica, Cusanus defines faith the same way.14 In De docta ignorantia faith appears to be the condition of possibility for knowledge: it opens the door both for investigation of the natural world and the quest for divinity. Faith cannot fully compensate for the innate finitude

12 1 3 14

From here on, if not indicated otherwise, I will refer to Nicholas Cusanus, De docta ignorantia, 3.11 (h I.151ff.). English translations in this article are my own. See, once again, Bakos, On Faith, 25ff. See Ramon Lull, Raimundi Lulli Opera Latina, ed. F.  Stegmüller (Palma de Majorca: Maioricensis Schola Lullistica, 1961), 243; see Ziebart, Nicholas Cusanus, 26; see also ­Eusebio ­Colomer, Nicholas von Kues und Raimund Llull (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1961), 74–​5; on ­Cusanus’ Lullism see also Charles Lohr, “Nicholas Cusanus and Ramon Lull: A Comparison of Three Texts on Human Knowledge,” Traditio 59 (2004): 229–​315.

236 Brotto and imperfection of human beings. However, it does permit us to acquire knowledge through our limited means. It allows us to explore what is around us. Instead of getting stuck in a regressus ad infinitum of ignorance, faith provides us with a foothold so that positive (though always limited) knowledge can be acquired. In chapter xi, Cusanus describes the existence of a special bond between faith and the intellect. The intellect, he says, explicates what faith already holds in a complicated form. The relation between faith and the intellect seems to reproduce within the human mind the complicatio-​explicatio process through which God originated the universe. Faith is a non-​rational way of possessing knowledge, as it is “complicans in se omne intelligibile.” In time, the intellect gradually translates some of these intelligibilia into contents that we can ­understand. Faith appears to grasp the truth and convey it to the cognitive faculties, so that the intellect appears to be led by faith to a certain extent. Cusanus adds that this influence is somehow mutual. Although faith is in fact initium intellectus, namely the starting point of all knowledge, once the cognitive process has started faith and the intellect influence and regulate each other. They get to a point where they depend on each other, so that the relationship between the two appears balanced. At this point, it becomes important for every person to be sure they are employing faith and the intellect the right way: without a sana fides, Cusanus states, there can be no understanding. Thus, faith is not just a disposition that originates knowledge –​something so fundamental that it cannot be brought into question –​but faith is also an important part of the cognitive process, and as such it must be conceived and developed in the right way. Despite what we have seen so far, Cusanus’ considerations regarding faith do not just pertain to epistemology. Through these considerations he intends to deal with mysteria fidei. After stating that people cannot raise themselves without believing, he quotes the words of Isaiah 7:9, “If you do not believe, then you will not understand.” Cusanus firmly establishes that Christ is the most perfect truth and the supreme matter of faith, a faith now described as an illumination and a gift from God. The Gospel of John appears to be the perfect product of such faith. In fact, John narrates the actions of Christ on the basis of his own faith in Christ, so that the intellect can be illuminated by faith. The result of such an illumination will be a stronger faith, and the absolute certainty that Christ is the Son of God. Not only is John’s work a subject of faith, it also represents a spiritual itinerary every man should engage in so as to get from an initial faith, through intellectual illumination, to a higher kind of faith.

Notion of Faith

237

Shortly after, Cusanus explicitly connects faith in Christ with the doctrine of docta ignorantia by referring to the ascent of Paul (2 Corinthians, 17:2). As he gets closer to God, Paul perceives his own ignorance, and the sense of his distance from God is in itself a kind of knowledge of divinity. Similarly, according to Cusanus, Christ cannot be fully known by people as long as they are a part of the natural world. The believer is led towards Him initially by faith, then by one’s own learned ignorance. Thus we cannot attain Christ in his purity, since we can only hear God’s voice “through a less dense mist” as we can see divine traces “in his holy means, in the signs of the prophets and of the saints.”15 Meredith Ziebart observes that, in De docta ignorantia, Cusanus does not fully distinguish or completely merge epistemological faith (i.e., faith as a component of the human cognitive processes) and dogmatic faith (i.e., faith in divine revelation).16 In this essay, I merely point out that (however difficult this union may result in theory) Cusanus conceives of faith as a singular power of the soul, even though it acts differently when interacting with the various faculties and also with different objects, such as the natural world, Christ, and the Scriptures. The epistemic and dogmatic values of faith appear to Cusanus as homogeneous and convergent. Whether faith is epistemological or dogmatic, it is able to connect the human soul with reality, thus beginning and (together with the intellect) directing his quest for the divine truth. Faith is thus a disposition that allows people to develop their cognitive and spiritual life. Cusanus seems to hold that faith operates in a specific way. When people confront both the world and the Scriptures, they begin to understand in light of an initial faith. On this basis they can then raise themselves in understanding and in believing, thus reaching a higher level of faith itself. Since the supreme object of faith is Christ, He then appears to be the ideal terminus of an itinerary that is cognitive and religious at the same time. However, the persons who are guided towards Christ by faith and learned ignorance are not meant to reach their goal; instead, they learn the importance of searching for traces of divinity within creation and revelation. The effort to get closer to Christ instead leads them to realize that they are expected to focus on this world, by exploring it, inquiring about it, and operating in it. The human attempt of elevation thus evolves into a recognition of the importance of concrete human existence. In his De coniecturis, Cusanus states that the human mind is an image of God, since it has a creative power. This power is expressed by human actions

15 16

De docta ignorantia, 3.11.246 (h I.153). Ziebart, Nicholas Cusanus, 24.

238 Brotto within the world and above all by knowledge, since exploring and representing the natural is a kind of creation itself. As people produce knowledge and operate, they can live in harmony –​and in analogy –​with Christ.17 Thus, from the human perspective Christ is not just a remote goal located beyond experience and understanding. He is above all a model of sapientia and virtue to emulate in everyday life. The imitation of Christ in present life appears then to be the maximum form of closeness to God that people can acquire. We see now that Cusanian theology holds the physical world and present human life to have the highest value. Cusanus’ considerations on the importance of faith thus turn out to be the foundation of a philosophy that holds humanity to be responsible both in morals and in knowledge. In fact, people can choose whether to imitate Christ at his fullest. We can try to be similar to God or we can choose to be idle instead. In this context, an idle form of ignorance (different than learned ignorance) is equivalent to moral sin, and we have to choose between sin and virtue. In the final pages of chapter xi (book iii) of De docta ignorantia, Cusanus develops his conception of faith with regard to practical existence. Here he states that people must try to unite themselves with Christ by increasing in both faith and charity. That is, we must have our faith “formed” by charity. In fact, he says, faith without charity is dead. Cusanus had begun chapter xi by analyzing the bond between faith and the intellect. In the end, he adds that faith must be connected with charity and hope, namely the other theological virtues. Even if it is tied to the intellect, faith also involves affection, since it requires love in order to be understood at its fullest. As the bond between faith and charity becomes tighter, man progressively becomes more similar (and thus closer) to Christ. Cusanus holds that, since everyone is different from everyone else (everyone is a unique result of the process of explication of the divine Unity into the universe), each person develops their own kind of faith and charity, according to their specific, individual nature (numerus). Thus, one human being’s way of practicing virtue will never be the same as another’s way of doing so. To get closer to Christ, however, everyone must try and do their best, each one according to his or her particular means. In this context, faith in not just a fundamental disposition that sets the soul in motion. It also appears to be a dynamic virtue, formed by charity. We must learn to master faith, so that we can conceive of it and cultivate it like God intended us to. In contrast to true faith, Cusanus notes, magicians exemplify a bad use of faith, since they trust in 17

Cusanus, De coniecturis, 1.1.5 (h III.7).

Notion of Faith

239

wicked spirits rather than in Christ. By invoking such spirits, in the attempt to satisfy their immoral desires, these individuals bring upon themselves the very demons that will one day punish them in hell. Cusanus draws the notion of fides formata from the Medieval theological tradition. In his Summa theologica, Thomas Aquinas defines it as faith “vivified by charity.”18 This notion is further developed by Cusanus in De pace fidei, in which the character of Paul discusses the importance of faith and human works in regard to salvation. Paul states that salvation is only gained through faith, which appears to be sufficient for a person to be saved. In support of his argument, he recalls the biblical story of Abraham, whose blind faith merited divine mercy. However, Paul also admits that “faith has to be formed, for without works it is dead.”19 Thus, the Pauline thesis that faith is the only source of salvation is joined together with the excerpt from the Epistle of James about the importance of works. The attempt to bring together the primacy of faith and the relevance of works shows how firmly Cusanus declares the importance of human industriousness and free will.20 As he reflects upon the relevance of faith, Cusanus comes to some important conclusions that define his originality as a philosopher and a theologian, since they distinguish him significantly from the previous tradition. Although he conceives of the human person as a small, imperfect and limited creature in an infinitely large universe, Cusanus believes that each person has a profound dignity. Not only do we replicate within our minds the divine passage from complicatus to explicatus, as faith is progressively explicated by the intellect; but also, our intellectual and practical life are a form of creative production that makes us an image of God. The insistence on the notion of faith leads Cusanus to point out that every person is responsible for their own actions (i.e., knowledge and morals). In this perspective, the present life acquires the highest relevance, since every person must prove themselves within it. The search for Christ eventually consists of specific ethical principles that must be employed in scientific inquiry and in social life. If one considers how Cusanus insists on the bond among faith, love and human works, it then becomes clear that faith also lays the foundation for public life. As I will demonstrate below (in comparison with Bruno), Cusanus

18 19 20

See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae q. 4 a. 3–​4, in Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum (Rome, 1888), online edition ed. Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón, accessed 4 May 2017, http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth3001.html. Cusanus, De pace fidei, 16.55 (h VII.51–​2). See also Cusanus, De visione Dei, 4.10–​11 (h VI.15–​6).

240 Brotto had been working on this subject since his early writings, first of all in De concordantia catholica.

Remodeling a Traditional Notion: Giordano Bruno’s Conception of Faith

It is hard to ascertain exactly how and when Bruno came into contact with Cusanus’ philosophy. The library of the Convent of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples, where he spent his youth and completed a significant part of his education, possesses a copy of the 1565 Basel edition of Cusanus’ Opera. Bruno could also have read the French edition edited by Lefèvre d’Étaples (1514).21 Bruno was clearly influenced by Cusanus’ thought before composing his De umbris idearum (1582). Just as Cusanus did before him, Bruno refers to Neoplatonic sources and employs a metaphysical model that describes the passage from Unity to the physical world as an explication. In his De umbris, Bruno introduces the metaphysical concept of “shadow,” which includes the realm of nature as well as that of human knowledge. Every creature is the manifestation of a first, divine principle that transcends reality, which is pure light, truth itself in its purity. Reality instead is the explication of this purity in an infinite variety of beings. As it produces the realm of nature, light meets darkness and generates shadow. The natural universe then distinguishes itself through its variety and multiplicity, but it also bears traces of God, in the form of light hidden in the shadow. Since he is just a part, a small portion of the “shadow,” every person is finite and imperfect. Thus, people cannot grasp the light of truth in its purity but can only see some of its traces. The incompleteness and the imperfection of the cognitive faculties do not even allow people to know nature perfectly, for they can only explore small portions of reality, and always vaguely. Although human means are quite limited, Bruno observes that human reason needs to perform a specific task in the realm of nature: it has to produce “novas atque noviter in infinitum species.”22 Nature perpetually generates new objects, but it operates according to rules and models that never change. People can improve the productive work of nature by introducing new patterns 2 1 22

See Pietro Secchi, Bruno e Cusano, 218–​9. Giordano Bruno, De umbris idearum, in Giordano Bruno, Opera latine conscripta, publicis sumptibus edita, recensebat F. Fiorentino [F. Tocco, H. Vitelli, V. Imbriani, C. M. Tallarigo], Naples: apud Dom. Morano [Florentiae, typis successorum Le Monnier], mdccclxxix-​ xci (this work will be referred to hereafter as olc), ii.1, 45–​6.

Notion of Faith

241

into it. Their role in the universe is therefore unique and relevant, and consists both of an imitation and an innovation of the natural process of production. Like Cusanus, Bruno affirms both human imperfection and human dignity. Despite their finitude, people can perfect themselves if they develop their creative power in harmony with nature. For this very reason, Bruno employs and also tries to improve Lull’s art of memory, making it more efficient. Bruno suggests organizing all personal knowledge and experience according to the mnemonic techniques of “loci.” Intellectual contents can be transformed in an imaginary itinerary in imaginary buildings, whose rooms represent concepts, or even entire books. However, Bruno goes far beyond the classical use of such techniques. For him, all human knowledge can be transfigured into a symbolic form and structured in a series of buildings or even entire towns, inhabited by people, animals and objects, each one of whose stands for something one wants to remember. While exploring the world, people can recreate another world in their mind made of representations, a sort of inner universe that expands as life progresses, so that no experience can ever be forgotten and is also transfigured into something new.23 Both Bruno and Cusanus succeed in reconciling the fact that people are ignorant with the idea that they can nevertheless somehow attain the truth. However, a difference must be observed:  Bruno never states that ignorance is docta. Ignorance simply divides people from the truth and from the divine Unity. That is why it has to be constantly fought, even though it cannot be defeated. Bruno conceives of knowledge as the constant attempt to challenge human and individual boundaries. In De umbris idearum, before describing in detail the mnemonic techniques and their purpose, Bruno states the importance of faith in what appears to be a re-​writing of a passage from De docta ignorantia.24 In fact, both Cusanus and Bruno seem to have in mind Ramon Lull’s conception of faith as habitus and as ability to seize true principles, unknown to the intellect alone. Like Lull and Cusanus, Bruno reports the quotation from Isaiah 7:9 and intends to show the 23

24

The influence of Lull on Bruno’s philosophy has been extensively examined by Marco Matteoli. See for instance Marco Matteoli, “L’arte della memoria nei primi scritti mnemotecnici di Bruno,” Rinascimento 2:40 (2000):  75–​122, and Ibid., “Immaginazione, conoscenza e filosofia:  l’arte della memoria di Giordano Bruno,” in Bruno nel XXI secolo. Interpretazioni e ricerche, Atti delle giornate di studio (Pisa, 15–​16 ottobre 2009), ed. S. Bassi (Florence: Olschki, 2012), 17–​38. On the correspondence between these two passages, see Giordano Bruno, Opere mnemotecniche, ed. Marco Matteoli, Rita Sturlese, and Nicoletta Tirinnanzi, ed. Michele Ciliberto (Milan: Adelphi, 2004), i:66–​7; Pietro Secchi, Bruno e Cusano, 243.

242 Brotto continuity of this biblical passage with the results of a long philosophical tradition. While Cusanus mentions “maiores nostri” in De docta ignorantia, Bruno instead refers to Platonists, Peripatetics, and Pythagoras.25 Bruno asserts that the previous philosophers and theologians agreed that knowledge of the world can be acquired only if we accepts some fundamental principles. Since our faculties are ruled by those principles, we cannot prove their truth; we have to trust them blindly. Bruno also conceives of faith as the intuitive precognition of every object one can ever experience. Thus, he sees the transition from faith to a more determined knowledge as a passage from complicatio to explicatio, just like Cusanus before him. He holds that the first form of human knowledge is the intuition of “involutas species,” which are progressively explicated into something that is coherent to the human mind. By doing this, he observes, the human mind emulates the way nature operates since it develops fully formed notions from unarticulated intuitions. This kind of faith is not the opposite of reason. Only through faith can people acquire knowledge and interact with objects other than themselves. Faith appears to partially compensate for the finitude and imperfection of the human mind. According to Bruno (and according to Cusanus as well) every person is immersed in a reality that surpasses their understanding. Faith provides a foundation on top of which knowledge can be built. It seems to be a sort of innate openness, a human predisposition to accept principles and conditions, so that people can orient themselves within the world.26 A major difference between Bruno and Cusanus can now be noted. The way faith is presented in De umbris idearum (indirectly) shows how far removed Bruno was from a Christian perspective. Unlike Cusanus, Bruno does not identify epistemological faith with faith in God and Christ. The reference to the Book of Isaiah is just the starting point of an argument that focuses on knowledge and on the relationship between man and nature. In light of Bruno’s considerations, the biblical passage becomes a sort of motto, whose meaning must be understood as completely philosophical. In the theoretical context of De umbris, if people are given the opportunity to communicate with the divine, it can only happen through the exploration of the natural world, in search of traces of light in the shadows. 25 26

Cusanus, De docta ignorantia 3.11.244 (h I.151–​2); Bruno, De umbris idearum, in olc, ii:1, 30–​1. Bruno, Ars Memoriae, Olc, ii.1, 56; Alfonso Ingegno has compared Bruno’s idea of faith to a root that permits human contact with the world. See Alfonso Ingegno, La sommersa nave della religione (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1984), 59.

Notion of Faith

243

Bruno vigorously condemns Christ and questions the very possibility of his existence. For him, between the absolute divine Unity and an explicated object there can be no synthesis, since Unity, in its purity, always remains transcendent. Thus, according to Bruno, Christ cannot be the son of God. He is just a man who pretended to have divine origins. The Gospels thus celebrate the fictitious miracles of an impostor.27 In his Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, published in London in 1585, Bruno mocks Christ by comparing him to Chiron the centaur, since for him both are fantastic creatures composed of two natures.28 For Bruno, Christ clearly is not a model that can be looked to by humanity. As we will see, in his most controversial and radical text, Cabala del cavallo pegaseo, Bruno criticizes the entire Christian tradition as immoral. This condemnation of Christ and Christianity leads to an important consequence: for Bruno, the human person is not the imago Dei, and people are not the noblest part of creation. They do not have any special connection with God. There is no hierarchy in the realm of nature. Every single being (be it man or animal, or even an inanimate object) is a product of the divine explicatio. And this explicatio is not providential, since it is just the gradual expression of every ontological possibility. Thus, for Bruno, the human quest for divinity is harder and even less achievable than it is for Cusanus.29 To further show that Bruno conceives of faith in a completely non-​Christian sense, it is useful to examine the way Bruno analyzes it in Theses in de magia.30 In Thesis LIII Bruno defines faith as “The effect and act of the cogitative faculty,” namely a faculty that was considered to be a sort of medium between the senses and higher faculties.31 According to Bruno, the cogitative faculty has a function of self-​awareness and self-​control that allows the human soul to evaluate its own activity.32 Thus understood, faith contributes to the evaluation of every representation provided by the senses and to the formation of all human

27 28 29 30

31 32

On Bruno’s critique of Christ, see Michele Ciliberto, Giordano Bruno. Il teatro della vita (Milan: Mondadori, 2006), 13–​57; and Elisabetta Scapparone, “Cristo,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, i, 433–​7. Giordano Bruno, Dialoghi filosofici italiani, ed. Nicoletta Tirinnanzi (Milan: Mondadori, 2000), 664, hereafter referred to as dfi. See Salvatore Carannante, Giordano Bruno e la caccia divina, 68–​72, on the differences between Cusanus’ De venatione sapientiae on Bruno’s Furori. Bruno’s works on magic were not published by Bruno himself and were passed on to us as manuscripts. An overview of the different codices that contain versions of these writings was provided in Giordano Bruno, Opere magiche, ed. Michele Ciliberto, Simonetta Bassi, Elisabetta Scapparone, Nicoletta Tirinnanzi (Milan: Adelphi, 2000), 35–​125. Bruno, olc iii, 489. Bruno, Theses de magia, olc iii, 482.

244 Brotto reasoning. It helps to determine whether or not human knowledge is plausible. Faith follows and examines every step of knowledge, and thus becomes a useful instrument both for sense experience and for philosophical speculation. In the Thesis LI Bruno distinguishes between a fides sensitiva, which involves sense perceptions, namely the faculties inferior to the cogitative, and a fides rationalis, which begins with the cogitative and involves all the faculties above it.33 These two aspects of faith, he states, regulate and control each other. They constitute each other’s criteria. It should be noted that this achievement implies two main consequences. First, we must admit that faith has its own criteria. Therefore, it provides us with rules of action that are not revealed from above. Instead, its patterns are inferred from experience and are thus completely empirical. Faith thus appears to be shifting and dynamic. It examines personal experience, but at the same time it is defined and caused by it. Moreover, if fides sensitiva and fides rationalis regulate each other, it must be acknowledged that faith therefore depends on the human body. In Thesis LI Bruno states that faith is only effective if the senses are clear and the spiritus is free –​in Renaissance medical and philosophical tradition spiritus is a kind of subtle matter, which is ethereal but still remains a physical entity. In order for faith to fulfill its task, the body must be in good health. Bruno writes about a faith that does not come from God, but rather relies on human physiology. Although Cusanus states in De docta ignorantia that faith operates “in omni facultate,” he then focuses primarily on the relation between faith and the intellect. Bruno instead explicitly states that faith is determined by the body and its conditions. Because it provides men with a completely empirical criterion, faith enables them to acquire truthful and coherent knowledge. For Bruno, like Cusanus, faith is the starting point of all human experience, so that it connects man to external objects and other men. In addition to this, faith also plays an important role in the cognitive processes. Thus, not only does it set our faculties in motion, but it can also be affected by representations and ideas. In other words, we can use faith to live productively inside the realm of nature, but we can also misuse it. In his Sigillus sigillorum (London, 1583)  Bruno had already opposed the notion of credulitas (a completely passive faith) in favor of regulata fides, a dynamic, active and thus effective type of faith.34 People have to be able to master faith. The initial faith that connects him to the world then has to evolve

33 34

Ibid., 487. Bruno, Sigillus sigillorum, olc, ii.2, 198.

Notion of Faith

245

into the habit of wisely evaluating each and every phenomenon. In fact, faith can enable us to understand the world and can lead to morality, but it can also become a threat and a snare. It can move us to trust our enemies or cause us to commit ourselves to the wrong causes. The effort made by Bruno to discipline faith becomes evident in his works about magic. Bruno does not conceive of magic in a traditional way. For instance, he gives very little consideration to demons and spirits, and he does not focus at all on how to attract them. Instead, he understands magic as a discipline devoted to analyzing and showing us how to manage every relationship we can establish in the most fruitful and careful way, above all, relationships with our fellow humans. In his De magia naturali, for instance, Bruno states that every magical operation, whether successful or unsuccessful, depends on the ability of the one who performs the act to gain the assent of those the magician wants to put under a spell. If we engage in magic (that is, interact with other people), it is important to know how to gain other people’s trust. If we become subjected to magic, our faith permits us to choose freely whether or not to submit ourself to the magician’s power.35 Bruno holds that, if it is carefully used and controlled, faith allows humans to conduct relationships according to their intentions and purposes in order to bring about the desired results. For Bruno, magic (if understood in a non-​traditional, non-​demonic, purely human way) can help us master faith, so that we can recognize ourselves as part of the realm of nature and can live in harmony with it. We can cooperate with nature by making good deeds and good laws.36 35

36

Bruno, olc, iii, 453–​4; In Bruno’s works on magic the influence of Cusanus and Lull in conceiving of faith –​which, as we have seen, clearly emerged in De umbris idearum –​ merges with the influence of a literary tradition about magic, which recognizes the importance of fides in order for a spell to be effective. Delfina Giovannozzi states the importance of Cornelius Agrippa as a source for Bruno’s conception of faith, in Delfina Giovannozzi, “Fides e credulitas come termini chiave della scienza magica in Agrippa e Bruno,” in Letture Bruniane I-​II del Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, 1996–​1997, ed. Eugenio Canone (Instituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2002), 143–​4; Just like the notion of faith, the notion of love too is employed and revised by Bruno in the De vinculis in genere (olc iii, 684): “[…] vincula omnia tum ad amoris vinculum referantur, tum ab amoris vinculo pendeant, tum in amoris vinculo consistant.” And just like faith, love is not intended by Bruno as something totally positive nor divine. Love is the structure itself of every relationship one can entertain with natural objects. Man has to restore love in its better sense –​as pietas and charitas, for instance –​by operating in the world. On Bruno’s conception of magic see Simonetta Bassi, “Magia,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, ii, 1136–​41; See also Elisabetta Scapparone, “Tempus vinciendi. Filosofia dell’amore e civile conversazione nel De vinculis,” in La filosofia di Giordano Bruno. Problemi ermeneutici e storiografici. Convegno internazionale (Roma, 23–​24 ottobre 1998)

246 Brotto Christianity by contrast, is a model of the misuse of faith par excellence, for Bruno. In his Cabala del cavallo pegaseo (London, 1585)  Bruno carries out a ferocious attack on Christian fideism and especially on the principle of iustitia sola fide, the Pauline and then Lutheran principle according to which “dignity […] cannot be acquired by science and deeds, no matter how good they are: instead, it is acquired by faith. Damnation is not caused by ignorance and misdeeds […], but by incredulity.”37 Bruno’s main polemical target is the Protestant Reformation, which he believes to be the climax of a long process of decadence. The Protestants believe that faith in God is the only thing needed for salvation. For Bruno, this means that they hold human life and human behavior to have no value. To Bruno, the Protestant conception of faith leads people to believe that they can live their lives in laziness and cruelty since no one will ever judge them for it. The kind of society these principles give birth to is strictly divided into rulers and subjects, since it is created by struggle and violence, and therefore by animal instincts. Protestantism, then, encourages immorality, and faith in God is just a pretext to justify violence. However, Bruno states that this immoral outlook has plagued (if only in a slightly lesser form) the Judeo-​Christian tradition since its origins. The very fact that the principle of iustitia sola fide was expressed by Paul the Apostle appears to constitute proof. The tendency to arbitrarily trust in revelation generates a kind of person who relies on others and does not truly try to understand the world for oneself. In Bruno’s opinion, those who refuse to acquire knowledge gives up their own identity. To be their most human, people should be curious and eager to learn as well as to invent new things. For Bruno, Christianity then leads to a complete decadence and brutalization of mankind. He describes Christian fideism as a ferine metamorphosis that transforms people into donkeys by defining it as an “asininity.”38 According to Bruno, no moral behavior can come from accepting that faith is the only source of salvation. Salvation itself has no value in Bruno’s philosophy. In Cabala del cavallo pegaseo, instead of presenting an afterlife divided

37

38

(Florence: Olschki, 2003), 343–​365; and Elisabetta Scapparone, “Magia, politica e filosofia dell’amore nel De vinculis,” in Autobiografia e filosofia. L’esperienza di Giordano Bruno. Atti del convegno (Trento, 18–​20 maggio 2000), ed. Nestore Pirillo (Florence: Olschki, 2003), 53–​68. Bruno, dfi, 695. It has been shown that the whole text is rich in ironic references to Paul the Apostle, in whose religious conception Bruno sees the very beginning of the Protestant Reformation. See Fabrizio Meroi, Cabala parva: la filosofia di Giordano Bruno fra tradizione cristiana e pensiero moderno (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2006). Bruno, dfi, 711.

Notion of Faith

247

into heaven and hell, Bruno mentions an endless cycle of reincarnations where every life is somehow determined by the soul’s behavior during the previous one. Those who die, then, have life itself as an afterlife. In this context, bliss cannot be attained once and for all. Every person has to earn their reincarnation into something more articulated by performing moral deeds. Even though Bruno seems to be outside the realm of Christian religion, he sometimes writes about a kind of theological faith. In his Lampas triginta statuarum Bruno recognizes a distinction between fides theologica and fides philosophica. The first type of faith concerns “unknown things, that however become certain because they are revealed by a higher light, those of the gods.” The second type of faith, instead, concerns “things that are manifest and known for themselves, through our lights (i.e., our intellective faculties).”39 In his Summa terminorum metaphysicorum Bruno states that theological faith “leads, by supernatural principles, to a supernatural goal.”40 He thus appears to consider the possibility of a divine manifestation. In Degli eroici furori (1585) Bruno had already observed that people who seek a higher truth and want to reach the divine cannot simply rely on their own means. Once they have oriented their intellect and will towards the divine, they must wait for the divine to offer itself to them.41 Although he does not believe that there can be a mediator between the physical world and the Absolute Unity, in Degli eroici furori Bruno still makes an additional effort to grasp the divine principle in its purity. However, the proximity to the divine, for the few who get to experience it, is just a brief, finite moment in an otherwise shadowy life. In De docta ignorantia, Cusanus held magic to be an example of insana fides. For him, to master faith a person must become similar to Christ. Bruno instead condemns Christ and Christianity while reformulating a new conception of magic. Although their opinions on magic and Christianity appear to be in opposition, their conceptions of knowledge and ethics have clear similarities. Also, both Bruno and Cusanus believe that faith plays an important role in social life.

Faith, Religion, Social Life: Two Different Ideas of Reform

In their works, Cusanus and Bruno formulate two different ideas of moral reform. They both share the idea that faith and religion, when properly 39 40 41

Bruno, olc, iii, 143. Bruno, olc, i.4, 100. Bruno, dfi, 894–​5.

248 Brotto understood, can lay the foundation for a peaceful public life. An early formulation of the principle of fides formata can be found in Cusanus’ De concordantia catholica. Cusanus states that faith alone allows anyone to become part of the Church. He asserts that the Church is catholica, that is universal, open to all humanity. Every person is offered the chance to embrace faith. However, if this faith does not turn into deeds and works, it makes people “withered members” of the body of the Church.42 Even if faith is all it takes to be a Catholic, Cusanus suggests that faith and religion can be experienced and expressed in different ways, passively or passionately. Once again, faith is intended by Cusa as a disposition that God has given to every person, thus giving everyone the chance to explore the world. However, every single person must receive the invitation their own way, remaining free to decide. The possession of faith appears to define every member of the Church, thus being the criterion that determines those who belong to the Church itself. Potentially, all humanity belongs to the Ecclesia, as everyone is given faith as a gift of God; in fact, only those who believe through love can be an active part of the Church. According to Cusanus, concordantia defines the coexistence of individual peculiarities and attributes in every creature, proper to its species. Concordantia consists of unity and diversity. In the case of humanity, this means that all people share some features, a sort of basic structure to which specific differences are added. Because of this concordantia, people are essentially similar. They can communicate and live together.43 Since they are all alike, they can understand each other, and since they are different, unanimity of opinions must never be taken for granted. In the final chapters of the De coniecturis, Cusanus writes about the differences between individuals. He encourages the reader to consider how people are different from each other because of their bodies, their temperaments and the strength of their faculties.44 As we have already observed, Cusanus recognizes the value of diversity for metaphysical reasons. God expresses his absolute unity by producing a series of beings, each one of which is different, original in its own nature. Within the universe, everything is somehow irreplaceable and its originality bears a specific trace of divinity. Differences among things, and among humans in particular, are not to be suppressed; they must be coordinated instead. Since everyone different, they all express different points of view. It then becomes necessary to resolve conflicts and seek 42 43 44

Nicholas Cusanus, De concordantia catholica, 1.4.25, (h XIV.46). Cusanus, De concordantia catholica, 1.1.6 (h XIV.31–​2). Cusanus, De coniecturis, 2.15.149–​50 (h III.148–​9); He even considers the way climate affects the nature of entire peoples. See Ibid., 2.15.150 (h III.151–​2).

Notion of Faith

249

agreements. Thus, Cusanus underscores the importance of the notion of consensus, or approval by the majority, both in religion and politics. Consensus is made possible because, in light of some fundamental similarities, the various concordantes can reach an agreement, and so they can cooperate even if (or indeed precisely because) they are different.45 How does the definition of concordantia apply to the Church? In the Ecclesia catholica, the existence of profound difference in the way each person interprets religion is paralleled by the universal possession of faith. Within the universal community conceived by Cusanus, faith lays the foundation of every possible agreement between different parties. We see here that faith makes a fruitful communication and confrontation possible. In the light of faith, man can persuade others and thus live peacefully instead of fighting. Faith is therefore the keystone of mutual trust in public life. On this basis Cusanus can conceive the idea of De pace fidei, in which he displays an imaginary divine council dedicated to encouraging dialogue between all religions, by indicating some common contents of faith that might be shared by Christian, Muslim and Jewish people. Because everyone believes in God (that is, faith is shared by everyone), it then becomes possible to justify the existence of different religious rites and usages. Since for Cusanus, Christ and the Trinity are among the fundamental truths in which every religion might share, he believes the Christian religion is more valuable than the others, somehow closer to the divine truth. However, he also appears to think that different religions are all expressions of God’s providence. This being the case, it therefore becomes important to safeguard their existence. Their members should not convert to Christianity. Instead, they should conceive their religion in light of the fundamental truths, so that they all can live peacefully. In De pace fidei, Cusanus dedicates an important paragraph to the importance of love. Having faith in God means loving God, and yet love for God lays the foundation for love of fellow men. “If you believe in God, then you shall obey the Commandments. How can you believe that God is God, if you do not try to accomplish what he commands?”46 According to Cusanus, the

45

46

It has been noted that Cusanus gets the term concordantia from Ramon Lull. See Paul Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), 123; Antony Black, Council and Commune. The Conciliar Movement and the Fifteenth Century Heritage (London: Burns and Oates, 1979), 52; On the influence of Lull on Cusanus’ political thought, see Theodore Pindle-​Büchel, “The Relationships between the Epistemologies of Ramon Lull and Nicholas of Cusa,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990): 73–​87. Cusanus, De pace fidei 16.59 (h VII.55).

250 Brotto real divine commandments are not the many laws and rites that cause different creeds to fight. The Commandments are “very few, well-​known to all and shared by all people,” since “the inner light that reveals them is created altogether with reason”47 The same light that induces us to love God also leads us to love our neighbor. In the end, this universal invitation to love appears to be the only true divine Commandment. Faith lays the foundation of mutual love and respect among people. By pointing out the bond between faith and love, Cusanus develops a conception of the Church as a universal community whose main law is tolerance, a law of divine origin that is worth more than any disagreement in terms of religion. For Cusanus, peaceful coexistence among people is possible because faith in Christ, when correctly understood, leads everyone to devote themselves to knowledge and virtue. Thus, they sincerely try to understand their fellow man and respect their diversity. Like Cusanus, Bruno also writes about a divine council in his Spaccio de la bestia trionfante. It is significant, however, that Bruno portrays Latin deities instead of the Apostles. In his work, the gods meet to replace the traditional constellations with new symbols. Their purpose is to make the sky a kind of moral tapestry that can exhort every man to virtue. As people look up to the sky, they usually see traces of many immoral actions committed by their gods, and are inspired by them. A celestial reform is meant to give humanity new values. Bruno’s particular conception of religion must be clarified here. He means “religion” as a source of social unity and stability and as one of the foundations of public life. Religion’s main purpose is to bring people together, not to encourage them to seek God individually. To Bruno, a religion is only good if it can connect people with one another. Moreover, Bruno states that religion must help people understand the laws of nature and invite them to perceive their lives as part of a universal life. In this text Bruno praises the religion of the ancient Romans, which made their public life more pacific, and exalts above all the religion of the ancient Egyptians, which is understood as a form of communication with nature. This kind of religion does not trust in the Scriptures or in Christian revelation, but rather in the laws of nature through which the divine principle manifests itself. Everyone has to understand these laws in

47

Ibid. Considering the bond between faith and love, Cusanus might have had in mind, once again, Ramon Lull’s ideas on faith and tolerance, expressed in his Liber de gentili et de tribus sapientibus. See Raymond Klibansky and Hildebrand Bascour, Praefatio editorum, in Cusanus, De pace fidei (h VII, xxxvi-​xxxix).

Notion of Faith

251

order to seek harmony in nature and to fulfill their productive task to the best of their ability. For these very reasons, in his reform Bruno admits to a kind of religious faith, which he includes in the constellation of the Altar.48 Bruno opposes the Lutheran creed.49 In his reform, a “senseless Faith,” which belongs to the constellation of Cepheus together with “Sophism” and “Ignorance,” is banished from the sky. Jupiter replaces this insensitive faith with “Sophia” and “Prudence,” which must be employed when considering divinity, nature and morals.50 This dangerous kind of faith is that of Paul and Luther. A passive fideism, wherein one has the tendency to give one’s assent arbitrarily, is the exact opposite of wisely participating in the world. A Protestant, Bruno thinks, is more likely to be ignorant and violent, for his conception of faith isolates him from present life. A positive and productive kind of faith, on the other hand, is placed within the constellation of the Triangle, together with Constance, Love and S­ incerity.51 Bruno now understands faith as loyalty and trust, and as having great relevance. According to Bruno, every kind of relationship among men should be built on mutual trust. In his opinion, the decadence of the present age comes from the habit of not trusting one’s fellow man. Bruno’s Minerva states that life is troubled by the mistrust that informs every human interaction. Everyone appears to believe that politics should be ruled by fraud and deception. Not only do people tend not to trust their neighbours, even when they do trust someone else they still remain suspicious. They are always ready to take back their trust when the slightest misunderstanding or sign of incompatibility arises.52 Here Bruno proposes faith to mean an entirely selfless trust. According to him, only this type of trust allows people to deeply communicate with each other, as it induces them to accept and treasure each other’s differences.53 Along with Cusanus and Lull, Bruno is cognizant of a long tradition of literature on politics,

48 49 50 51 52 53

Bruno, dfi, 478–​9. See Michele Ciliberto, La ruota del tempo. Interpretazione di Giordano Bruno (Rome: Editori Riuniti), 1986, 154ff; and Diego Pirillo, “Lutero, Martin” and “Machiavelli, Niccolò,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, II, 1122–​5 and 1128–​30. Bruno, dfi, 471. Ibid., dfi, 474. Ibid., dfi, 619–​20. On Bruno’s use of the term “tolerance,” see Simonetta Bassi, “Toleranza,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, ii, 1944–​7, and Ibid., “Giordano Bruno e il concetto di tolleranza,” Humanitas 4 (2014): 870–​82. Bassi points out that Bruno must not be considered as a philosopher who states the importance of religious tolerance, considering how he condemns Protestantism. Instead, he conceives of tolerance in a more universal and completely human sense, as mutual understanding.

252 Brotto society and religion (above all Erasmus and Machiavelli). However, it is worth observing some of his similarities to Cusanus’ political thought. According to both Cusanus and Bruno, diversity in itself has the highest philosophical relevance. They both hold that every person and every creature is unique because of its own specific nature. Since the process of explicatio, by which the divine unity produces the universe, does not include repetition, everything is completely original in its own way. As a divine manifestation, even the smallest object bears an unrepeatable trace of divinity. By exploring the world and acquiring knowledge, people are naturally meant to recollect and enhance details and particulars and to cherish them in their minds.54 In this context, epistemological faith and social trust appear to share the same purpose. Faith allows people to be open to diversity so that different individuals can coexist within humanity. Even if we consider the significant differences between Bruno’s and Cusanus’ religious perspectives, we can say they both conceive religion and faith as sources that can allow people to meet and communicate in a deep and sincere manner.55 Conclusion As they conceive of knowledge and social life, both Cusanus and Bruno try to restore fruitful communication among persons, nature and society. They both hold that, since people have to fulfill a specific task inside the realm of nature (that is producing new things and knowledge), religion should encourage them to participate in the world and in human society. They both state that public life should preserve the differences that make every person unique. Therefore, according to both Cusanus and Bruno, mutual tolerance and interaction can allow humanity to exist in harmony. Cusanus highlights the importance of fides formata, a kind of faith that involves passions and reason, and shows people how to explore the world and act morally. He holds that the Christian God, the Scriptures, and above all the example offered by Christ to all humanity, indicate clearly how people should behave. 54 See Michele Ciliberto, Pensare per contrari. Disincanto e utopia nel Rinascimento (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005), 530. 55 See Elisabetta Scapparone, “Religione,” in Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, ii, 1643–​8. Scapparone defines Bruno’s religion as “peaceable and altruistic.” To him, the notion of charitas holds an important position, thus showing that in his own, non-​Christian way, Bruno rethinks the morality of the Gospel in a non-​evangelical perspective.

Notion of Faith

253

The importance of faith in Bruno’s perspective is determined by strictly philosophical motivations. People living in an infinite universe, need to orient themselves in the realm of nature so that they can make sense of what they experience. Because their faculties are imperfect and finite, they need to possess some kind of precognition of the universe and its laws. In various works throughout his career, Bruno states both the epistemological and the moral relevance of faith. Faith appears to be the keystone of knowledge, of the search for divinity, of a healthy social life. Bruno seems to gradually recognize that faith is the condition of possibility of every relationship that man entertains. This kind of faith, however, has nothing to do with Christian creed. When Bruno, in his Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, states the importance of religion, he always conceives of it in a non-​Christian way. Bibliography Aquinas, Thomas. Summa theologiaex In Opera Omnia Textum Leoninum. Online edition edited by Roberto Busa and Enrique Alarcón. Rome, 1888. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​www.corpusthomisticum.org/​sth3001.html. Bakos, Gergely Tibor. On Faith, Rationality and the Other in the Late Middle Age. A Study of Nicholas of Cusa’s Manuductive Approach to Islam. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011. Bassi, Simonetta. “Magia.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, ii.1136–​41. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Bassi, Simonetta. “Toleranza.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, ii. 1944–​7. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Black, Antony. Council and Commune. The Conciliar Movement and the Fifteenth Century Heritage. London: Burns and Oates, 1979. Blum, Paul Richard. “Saper trar il contrario dopo aver trovato il punto de l’unione: Bruno, Cusano e il platonismo.” In Letture Bruniane I-​II, edited by E. Canone, 33–​47. Pisa-​Rome: IEPI. Blumenberg, Hans. Die Legitimität der Neuzeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1966. Bruno, Giordano. Opera latine conscripta, publicis sumptibus edita, recensebat F.Fiorentino. Edited by F. Tocco, H. Vitelli, V. Imbriani, C. M. Tallarigo. Naples: apud Dom. Morano [Florentiae, typis successorum Le Monnier], 1879–​1886. Bruno, Giordano. Dialoghi filosofici italiani. Edited by Nicoletta Tirinnanzi. Milan: Mondadori, 2000. Bruno, Giordano. Opere magiche. Edited by Michele Ciliberto, Simonetta Bassi, Elisabetta Scapparone, and Nicoletta Tirinnanzi. Milan: Adelphi, 2000.

254 Brotto Bruno, Giordano. Opere mnemotecniche. Vol. i. Edited by Michele Ciliberto, Marco Matteoli, Rita Sturlese and Nicoletta Tirinnanzi. Milan: Adelphi, 2004. Carannante, Salvatore. Giordano Bruno e la caccia divina. Pisa:  Edizioni della Normale, 2013. Carannante, Salvatore. “Niccolò Cusano.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, Edited by Michele Ciliberto. ii.1312–​21. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Ciliberto, Michele. La ruota del tempo. Interpretazione di Giordano Bruno. Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1986. Ciliberto, Michele. “Umbra profunda.” Studi su Giordano Bruno. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1999. Ciliberto, Michele. Pensare per contrari. Disincanto e utopia nel Rinascimento. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005. Ciliberto, Michele. Giordano Bruno. Il teatro della vita. Milan: Mondadori, 2006. Clemens. Franz Jacob. Giordano Bruno e Nicolaus von Cusa. Eine philosophische Abhandlung. Bonn: I. Wittmann, 1847. Corsano, Antonio. Il pensiero di Giordano Bruno nel suo svolgimento storico. Florence: Sansoni, 1940. Colomer, Eusebio. Nicolaus von Kues und Raimund Llull. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1961. Dagron, Tristan. “Coïncidence et contrariété chez Bruno et Nicolas de Cues.” In Fureurs, héroïsme etmétamorphoses, edited by P. Magnard, and Louvain-​Paris-​Dudley, 23–​36. Éditions de l’institut supérieur de Philosophie Louvain-​La-​Neuve/​Éditions Peeters, 2007. Dagron, Tristan. Unité de l’être et dialectique. L’idée de philosophie naturelle chez Giordano Bruno. Paris: Vrin, 1999. Eusterschulte, Anne. Analogia entis seu mentis. Analogie als erkenntnistheoretisches Prinzip in der Philosophie Giordano Brunos. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann Vlg, 1997. Giovannozzi, Delfina. “Fides e credulitas come termini chiave della scienza magica in Agrippa e Bruno.” In Letture bruniane I-​II del Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, 1996–​ 1997, edited by Eugenio Canone, 127–​50. Pisa-​Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2002. Giovannozzi, Delfina. “Fede.” In Enciclopedia bruniana e campanelliana, edited by Eugenio Canone and Germana Ernst, Vol. 2. col. 35–​47. Pisa-​Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2006–​10. Hopkins, Jasper. “Prolegomena to Nicholas of Cusa’s Conception of the Relationship of Faith to Reason,” 1–​22. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://​jasper-​hopkins.info/​ cusafaith_​reason-​engl.pdf. Ingegno, Alfonso. La sommersa nave della religione. Naples: Bibliopolis, 1984. Leinkauf, Thomas. Nicolaus Cusanus. Eine Einführung in sein Denken. Münster, Aschendorff, 2006.

Notion of Faith

255

Leinkauf, Thomas. Mundus combinatus. Studien zur Struktur der barocken Universalwissenschaft am Beispiel Athanasius Kirchers SJ (1602–​1680). Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1993. Lohr, Charles. “Nicolaus Cusanus and Ramon Lull: A Comparison of Three Texts on Human Knowledge.” Traditio 59 (2004): 229–​315. Lull, Ramon. Raimundi Lulli Opera Latina. Edited by F. Stegmüller. Palma de Majorca, 1961. Matteoli, Marco. “L’arte della memoria nei primi scritti mnemotecnici di Bruno.” Rinascimento 2:40 (2000): 75–​122. Matteoli, Marco. “Immaginazione, conoscenza e filosofia:  l’arte della memoria di Giordano Bruno.” In Bruno nel XXI secolo. Interpretazioni e ricerche, Atti delle giornate di studio (Pisa, 15–​16 ottobre 2009), edited by S. Bassi, 17–​38. Florence: Olschki, 2012. Meroi, Fabrizio. Cabala parva: la filosofia di Giordano Bruno fra tradizione cristiana e pensiero moderno. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2006. Meroi, Fabrizio. “Tra magia e religione. Sull’idea di fides in Giordano Bruno.” In La magia nell’Europa moderna. Tra antica sapienza e filosofia naturale, Atti del Convegno (Firenze, 2–​4 ottobre 2003), edited by Fabrizio Meroi and Elisabetta Scapparone. Vol. 2, 445–​66. Florence: Olschki, 2007. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Pindle-​Büchel, Theodore. “The Relationships between the Epistemologies of Ramon Lull and Nicholas of Cusa.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 64:1 (1990): 73–​87. Pirillo, Diego. “Lutero, Martin.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, ii.1122–​5. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Pirillo, Diego. “Machiavelli, Niccolò.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, ii.1128–​30. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Scapparone, Elisabetta. “Tempus vinciendi. Filosofia dell’amore e civile conversazione nel De vinculis.” In La filosofia di Giordano Bruno. Problemi ermeneutici e storiografici. Convegno internazionale (Roma, 23–​24 ottobre 1998), edited by Eugenio Canone, 343–​365. Florence: Olschki, 2003. Scapparone, Elisabetta. “Magia, politica e filosofia dell’amore nel De vinculis.” In Autobiografia e filosofia. L’esperienza di Giordano Bruno. Atti del convegno (Trento, 18–​20 maggio 2000), edited by Nestore Pirillo, 53–​68. Florence: Olschki, 2003. Scapparone, Elisabetta. “Cristo.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, i.433–​7. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Scapparone, Elisabetta. “Fede.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, i.706–​9. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014. Scapparone, Elisabetta. “Religione.” In Giordano Bruno. Parole, concetti, immagini, edited by Michele Ciliberto, ii.1643–​8. 3 vols. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2014.

256 Brotto Secchi, Pietro, “Del mar più che del cielo amante”: Bruno e Cusano.” Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2006. Secchi, Pietro. “Niccolò Cusano.” In Enciclopedia bruniana e campanelliana, edited by Eugenio Canone, i.17–​26. 3 vols. Pisa-​Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2006. Sigmund, Paul. Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963. Sturlese, Rita. “Niccolò Cusano e gli inizi della speculazione del Bruno.” In Historia philosophiae Medii Aevi: Studien zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, edited by B. Mojsisch and O. Pluta, Vol. ii, 953–​966. Amsterdam: B. R Grüner, 1991. Sturlese, Rita. “Coincidenza degli opposti e quadratura del cerchio:  il Cusano nello Spaccio.” In Sogni, favole, storie. Seminario su Giordano Bruno, edited by D. Pirillo and O. Catanorchi, 103–​40. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2007. Tocco, Felice. “Le fonti piu recenti della filosofia del Bruno.” Rendiconti della Real Accademia dei Lincei. Classe di scienze morali, stor. e. filol., 1/​7–​8, 1892. Védrine, Hélène. “L’influence de Nicolas de Cues sur Giordano Bruno.” In Niccolò Cusano agli inizi del pensiero moderno, edited by Maurice de Gandillac, 211–​223. Florence: Sansoni, 1970. Ziebart, K. Meredith. Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect. A Case Study in 15th-​ Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy. Leiden-​Boston: Brill, 2014.

Chapter 9

“The Sacred Circle of All-​Being”: Cusanus, Lord Brooke, and Peter Sterry Eric M. Parker Peter Sterry is usually regarded as a marginal figure within the group of theologians known as the Cambridge Platonists.1 Though he published very little in his lifetime, his lifelong career as a chaplain to various members of Parliament, including Oliver Cromwell, granted him a more direct role to play in the political arena than his fellow Cambridge companions. It is within this role as a preacher at St. Margaret’s and Whitehall and a private chaplain and teacher that we find Sterry propounding a notion of reform deeply indebted to the thought of Nicholas Cusanus. And, though Richard Baxter mocked him for the “sterility” of his pen, it appears that Sterry influenced and even authored some portions of Lord Brooke’s treatise The Nature of Truth, published in 1641, in which Brooke uses the logic of coincidence to argue for universal reform and peace.2 Brooke’s treatise precedes any other publication by the Cambridge Platonists. If he was indeed influenced by Cusanus, then we have compelling evidence for Ernst Cassirer’s assertion that the “Platonic Renaissance in England” initiated by the Cambridge Platonists was of Cusan provenance.3 The fact that Sterry’s indebtedness to Cusanus manifests itself explicitly in several key places within his writings makes this influence all the more probable.

1 Sterry is excluded from many of the influential treatments of the Cambridge Platonists, such as John Tulloch, The Cambridge Platonists (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1872); John H. Muirhead, The Platonic Tradition of Anglo-​Saxon Philosophy: Studies in the History of Idealism in England and America (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931); and C.A. Patrides, “The High and Aiery Hills of Platonisme: An Introduction to the Cambridge Platonists,” in The Cambridge Platonists, ed. C.A. Patrides (London: Edward Arnold, 1969); though he is included in the more recent, Cambridge Platonist Spirituality, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Alison J. Teply (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004). 2 Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, Or, Mr. Richard Baxters Narrative of the Most Memorable Passages of His Life and Times (London: Printed for T. Parkhurst, J. Robinson, F. Lawrence and F. Dunton, 1696), I:75. 3 Ernst Cassirer, Die Platonische Renaissance in England und die Schule von Cambridge (Berlin: Teubner, 1932), 22.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/9789004385689_011

258 Parker We know that Sterry kept a copy of Cusanus’ works (most likely the Basel edition of his Opera Omnia) in Chelsea which he apparently used to teach his small circle of students there.4 Sterry refers to “Cusanus” directly on two occasions in his extant writings. The location of these citations within Sterry’s discourse reveals Cusanus as a key source of Sterry’s basic principles of reform. For, Sterry very often returns to the logic of the Trinity, rather than Aristotle’s analytical method, as the lens through which to see all of reality. Like Cusanus, Sterry’s metaphysics begins with God as the exemplar cause of all things and the material world as a shadowy “contraction” of the divine being. Sterry also speaks of Christ as maximum and minimum; he refers to God using the geometric metaphor of an infinite circle, and he places Christ at its center; he explains existence in terms of the reciprocal folding of various levels of reality; he sees the mind as a “measure” of its knowledge, he adopts the notion of representative perception, and he sees all of these concepts as inherently mathematical. Indeed, the parallels between Cusanus and Sterry are too numerous to unfold in a brief essay such as this. In what follows I present a new reading of Peter Sterry’s thought based on the perspectivalism of Nicholas of Cusa, focusing specifically on Sterry’s Trinitarian reform of perspective and its implications for his notion of universal peace.

Lord Brooke and the Coincidence of Opposites

According to Cusanus the fundamental principles of reality are not reducible to act and potency (or form and matter) as Aristotle argues.5 Rather, as he argues in De beryllo, all things have a “triune beginning (principium unitrinum),” that is, act and potency alone do not constitute the nature of beings but act and potency in union do.6 Thus, Aristotle’s method is flawed in that it does not account for the union, or coincidence of opposites itself as the first principle of being. Cusanus’ “triune beginning,” as a fundamental reform of perspective, 4 See Sterry’s list of books in Peter Sterry: Selected Writings, ed. Nabil Matar (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), 95; Sterry refers generally to “Cusanus” in his notebook, so it is unclear to which work this note refers. Yet, as Stephan Meier-​Oeser reveals, the only available printings of De docta ignorantia, from which Sterry quotes, were in the various Opera, the most prominent being the Paris (1514) edition of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and the Basel (1565) edition from Henricus Petri. See Meier-​Oeser, Die Präsenz des Vergessenen: zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (Münster: Aschendorff, 1989), 402–​406. 5 Aristotle, Metaphysics, IX. 6 Nicholas of Cusa, De beryllo 40, 60 (h XI/​1, 46, 68); see Jasper Hopkins, “Introduction” in Nicholas of Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge (Minneapolis: A.J. Banning, 1996), 24ff.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

259

requires that we see all opposition between finite and infinite being, identity and otherness, from the perspective of the essential union that constitutes their “trine” act of existence. It also means that we are not able to overcome opposition in our knowledge of reality. What we know of our world and ourselves is conjectural because it is finite and perspectival.7 So, Cusanus conceives of peace and tolerance between individuals and religions, not by abandoning Christainity but by looking through the Trinity as “a symbol for the abandonment of all absolute claims to the truth.”8 By abstracting all truths into their ultimate Truth in the divine unity, Cusanus outlines a specifically Christian, yet universal, method of peace.9 A very similar Trinitarian method appears in a treatise by Robert Greville, Lord Brooke, The Nature of Truth.10 Peter Sterry, who was acting as Brooke’s chaplain at the time of its publication, very likely co-​authored the book. Brooke does not name Sterry specifically, though he confesses that a certain “Friend” acted as his co-​author.11 Vivian de Sola Pinto identifies Sterry as the “Friend,” noting that “their style and matter are not unlike those of Sterry’s own writings.”12 The fact that Sterry utilizes the logic of coincidence in his other writings at a time when few others in England were doing so makes his candidacy as Brooke’s co-​author even more probable. In a strident critique of scholastic philosophy, Brooke argues in this treatise that one should not permit one’s mind to divide between internal and external truths, or between truths in the various faculties of the soul, or even truths of reason and faith. Rather, all truth is one Truth in various degrees of being, like the sunlight reflected on various media. He criticizes Aristotle for dividing reality into form and matter, noting that when a man sees these two principles, “he is yet to seek for the Rock and Pit, out of which matter and form are digged and hewed.”13 By looking at the unity of Truth as it descends from God, Brooke 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Nicholas of Cusa, De coniecturis, I, prologue (h III. 4–​6). Jos Decorte, “Tolerance and Trinity,” in Conflict and Resolution: Perspectives on Nicholas of Cusa, ed. Inigo Bocken (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 117. See William Howe, “The Idea of Truth as the Basis for Religious Tolerance According to Nicholas of Cusa with Comparisons to Thomas Aquinas,” in Conflict, ed. Bocken, 161–​176. Robert Greville, Lord Brooke, The Nature of Truth, Its Union and Unity with the Soule: Which Is One in Its Essence, Faculties, Acts, One with Truth (London: Printed by R. Bishop for Samuel Cartwright, 1641). See Nature of Truth, 173, 174. Pinto, Peter Sterry Platonist and Puritan, 1613–​1672: A Biographical and Critical Study with Passages Selected from His Writings (Reprint 1934; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 12. Nature of Truth, 140, 141; On Brooke and his treatise see Robert E. L. Strider, “Lord Brooke and ‘The nature of truth’: A Biography and Critical Edition” (Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University, 1950).

260 Parker says, “we raise from our Microcosme a passable Hieroglyphick of the Trinity.”14 Truth in the human soul forms a unity modeled on God’s simplicity, as it remains one in its intellectual essence (Patrem intelligentem), descends from above in the intellect (Filium intellectum), and enjoys and reflects upon itself (Spiritum dilectum) in the will. Thus, the hieroglyphic of self-​reflective Truth within the human soul (in essence, intellect, and will) is the key to unlocking the unity of all things. According to Brooke, not even the contradictions found in the material world present an obstacle to the unity of divine truth. He admits that as long as one looks through the “glasses of flesh” one cannot comprehend the union of the persons of the Trinity because “these are aenigmata.”15 For, Brooke says, “Let the soule be raised to its supreme height of power, and it will cleerely see, that all the actings of reason which seeme severall (bee they, as we think, distinguished by time and place) are but one, a fixt entire unity.”16 Once reason forfeits its bearings in “place” and “time” it is able to ascend beyond the appearance of opposites. Brooke confirms: I fully conclude with Aristotle’s Adversaries Anaxagoras, Democritus, &c, That Contradictions may be simul & semel in the same Subject, same Instant, same Notion [...] For, Non ens is nothing; and so, the Being which it hath, may subsist with that which contradicts it.17 For Brooke, one discovers the unity that lies behind the contradictions of a finite perspective by reflecting on the unity of contrary actions. If one attempts to reconcile contradictions in a middle term (per Aristotle) then one will either be forced to conclude that everything is God (complete being) or that everything is nothing (pure non-​entity).18 So, “we see Good and Evill may co-​exist in severall, in particular Actions; Why then not so, if all Acts should bee but one entire Act, undistinguisht by Time or Place?” The unity of Truth is also the one method for uniting all of the sciences. Brooke, who was one of Jan Amos Comenius’ sponsors in his trip to England, concludes, “that learned, that mighty man Comenius doth happily and rationally endeavor to reduce all into one. Why doe wee make Philosophy and 14 15 16 17 18

Ibid., 24, 25. Ibid., 38. Ibid., 106, 107. Ibid., 100; italics in original. “This Contradiction (of Entity, Non-​Entity) must be in the selfe-​same Act (and not in two distinct Acts:), else the Act is perfect...and so is onely the Creator, or else it is...no Entity, and so no Action.” Nature of Truth, 102.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

261

Divinity two Sciences? What is True Philosophy but Divinity? and if it be not True, it is not Philosophy.”19 Rather than divide one science from another, Brooke advises, we should put on our Trinitarian eyeglasses: If you follow this rule, and see all things in the glasse of Unity, you will not lose all Arts and Sciences in the Wood of Divisions and Subdivisions in infinitum; you shall be more substantiall, than to make Substance and Accidents Two; neither will it ever happen, that you maintaine transubstantiation, by affirming that Accidents can haerere in nullo subjecto. You shall not make to your selfe a God of contradiction, dividing the will and power of God. Both which in God, is God; and so but one.20 Equipped with his Trinitarian method, Brooke concludes, we will be more inclined to follow St. Paul’s advice to “Noli altum sapere,” and to only improve upon what we know rather than confusing or dividing the divine nature of truth. Ironically Brooke believes that his method reveals the truth of Protestantism (because of its simplicity), even Puritanism, though it is strikingly similar to the thought of Cusanus, who used the same method in his defense of the papacy. Another Cambridge Platonist, Nathanael Culverwel, criticizes Brooke. When Culverwel reads in Brooke’s treatise “that absolute contradictions may meet together in the same respect Esse & non esse,” he exclaims, “O rare and compendious Synopsis of all Sceptism! O the quintessence of Sextus Empiricus[!]‌”21 Were it not for his untimely death at the hands of the Royalists, Brooke would have undoubtedly replied to Culverwel that the scholastic proclivity to make distinctions fails to locate the source of the unity of things, and so tends more toward skepticism than the method of coincidence. Sterry attempts to avoid the charge of skepticism in his appeal to the certitude of mathematical principles, and it is in this respect that we find Sterry drawing particularly from Cusanus’ mathematical theology.

Peter Sterry and the Coincidence of Opposites

One of the references to Cusanus in Sterry’s oeuvre occurs in his Discourse of the Freedom of the Will (1675) where he discusses the nature of the soul’s union with 19 20 21

Ibid., 124. Ibid., 164. Nathanael Culverwel, An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature, ed. Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2001), 142.

262 Parker God. Sterry says that God is transcendently one with the Soul in the same way that he is all things by the “transcendency of his Unity.”22 God incomprehensibly contains all things within himself as the Universal Cause. God is “the Unity of every Unity, the Being of Beings, the Essence of every Essence, not formally but transcendently, not after a finite, but an infinite manner.” This is a paraphrase from De docta ignorantia 1.16 where Cusanus argues that the maximum is the measure of all things just as an infinite line contains all lines. In this regard, Cusanus says, “this Essence is the most simple of all [essences]” and it is “in each essence in such way that it is all of them together and none of them in particular.”23 After this paraphrase, Sterry refers to Cusanus explicitly to note, “Cusanus saith, God is the Sun in the Sun, not formally, finitely, but after a transcendent, infinite manner. He is so the Sun in the Sun, that he is all things with the fulness of the Divine Nature and eternity in that form.” This is a reference to De docta ignorantia 2.4, where Cusanus argues that the universe is a “contracted quiddity” of the divine being. Here his argument is worded a bit differently than what Sterry recounts, yet he accurately represents Cusanus’ intent in this quote, that God is not in the sun formally but in an infinite and incomprehensible manner.24 This citation reveals that Sterry is familiar with how the logic of coincidence functions to unify and distinguish finite and infinite being. Sterry frequently describes God’s presence in creation as the “greatest” within the “least,” as the sunlight piercing through “contracted shades.”25 So, he says, “[God] is Minimus in Maximis, Least, and Lowest in the most Glorious Creatures. He can shine forth in Stones, raise them to a Participation of the Divine Nature ... So he is Maximus in Minimis, with all his Greatness in the Least and Meanest Things.”26 In one of his remaining notebooks Sterry uses Cusanus’ phrase again to argue that Christ, the perfect Image of the Father, is “ye True Sun in ye Sun” as he is transcendently present in all things according to their own mode of being.27 Sterry explains the rationale behind the coincidence of opposites in his A Discourse of the Knowledge of God. Like Cusanus, Sterry sees human knowledge as vastly limited by our finitude, which renders us unable to see finite and 22 23 24 25 26 27

Peter Sterry, Discourse on the Freedom of the Will (London: John Starkey, 1675), 77. De docta ignorantia 1.16.45 (h I.32; trans. Hopkins, I:26). In De docta ignorantia 2.4.115 (h I.74; trans. Hopkins, I:70) Cusanus says, “it is not the case that God is in the sun sun and in the moon moon; rather [in them] He is that which is sun and moon without plurality and difference.” Discourse, 29. Peter Sterry, The Appearance of God to Man in the Gospel: And the Gospel Change. Together with Several Other Discourses from Scripture to Which Is Added an Explication of the Trinity and a Short Catechism (London, 1710), 121. Emmanuel College MS 289, 168–​172.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

263

infinite perspectives simultaneously. The data presented to the imagination by the senses does not give us an accurate picture of divine being, and reason only knows things by the “thin Images” of intellectual species.28 Reason understands “by intervening Arguments, and a Chain of Discourse,” Sterry says. That is, reason knows things insofar as they are mediated through the images of discursive thought, not immediately. God is above all resemblances, and so all inward or outward images of God in the mind are mere idols. A person cannot even know the essence of creatures because “they all have unconstant Beings still flowing up and down ... which are full of waving and trembling.”29 Angels, for example, are mutable and capable of falling into non-​being. Thus, human knowledge of their being is only a representation of “fleeting Appearances” in comparison to God, who is “the same Yesterday, to Day, and Forever.” Echoing Cusanus’ argument from De coniecturis, Sterry distinguishes between two types of knowledge of God: conjectural and personal. Conjectural knowledge of God consists of those truths that the mind is able to discover by means of the light of nature. Personal knowledge on the other hand is something that transcends the natural light and is received from God alone. Sterry divides conjectural knowledge of God into three “pathways” that he delineates with a triad of terms: comprehension, contrariety, and comparison. The knowledge of God by way of comprehension ascends by stages through the various spheres of human existence: material (imagination), human (rational), angelic (intellective) and divine (unity). It ascends by “enfolding” lower realities into higher, that is, by gathering sense perception into the imagination, imagination into reason and uniting rational discourse with intuitive knowledge in the intellectual spirit. Though comprehensive knowledge gives us a sense of God’s fullness by which he contains the “particular fullness of each Creature,” it is ultimately a mere “Guess of God” and is “as if you should paint a Soul with dead Colours.”30 The knowledge of God by way of contrariety proceeds by denying the imperfection in created things. Contrariety is a “ridling knowledge of God” because it says “that which all Creatures have, and have not, this is God.” Knowledge of God by way of comparison is the “fullest way of comparing God with Creatures” because it acknowledges that there is no comparison between them. We are only able to compare things by way of some measure that is common to both. “By what [means] then will ye compare [God]?” Sterry asks. In order to know God and all things as they stand within his being, Sterry concludes, “You must loose [sic] all the Creatures, your own knowledge, 28 29 30

Appearance, 184. Ibid., 185. Ibid., 195.

264 Parker yourself, in an infiniteness that drinks all into itself as the Sun Beams [drink] the Dew, if you will know God. That is that which by Divines is call’d Docta Ignorantia; a profound and deep learn’d ignorance.”31 Nature leads us to a loss, Sterry argues, by leading us to the boundary between nature and grace. Just as Christ was taken up into a cloud, so conjectural knowledge must pass over into the personal knowledge of Jesus in the Gospel within the cloud. Thus, the true knowledge of God, for Sterry, flows from the divine sunlight of Christ’s face. “As the Flower of Light, the Sun-​shine immediately falls from the Face of the Sun itself: So the Light of Glory, in which God is seen, falls directly from the Person of God shining forth thro’ Christ; as the Divine Air or Spirit in the Soul of Man.” Sterry explains that reason is not capable of arriving at this unmediated union with Christ because it is bound by the law of non-​contradiction as “the Philosopher” (i.e., Aristotle) attests. But, he notes, the “Angelical Part of the Soul,” which bears a likeness to the angels that dwell nearest to the divine unity in the region of paradise, is “set above this Law of Contradictions” and so is able to take in “All Forms of Things with an Immortal Brightness and Sweetness...By the Golden Band, and Sacred Charms of a most High and Heavenly Harmony.”32 Sterry draws from Proclus to say that in the angelic regions there is no defect “ἐν τοῖς ὅλοις” where the whole meets in each part as the angels process, revert, and abide in each form.33 His notion of seeing the “whole” in every “part” is based, as I explain below, on the Pythagorean notion of the triad containing the monad and the dyad within itself. When we arrive at the wholeness of vision or the vision of the whole, says Sterry: [We come] where all Forms, Diversities, Contrarieties, Contradictions, Light and Darkness, Love and Hatred, Pain and Pleasure, Life and Death, are reconcil’d and gather’d up into one Divine Beauty, into one Divine Melody, into one Divine Agreeableness, which filleth, which charmeth, which ravisheth and chaineth to itself all Senses, all Souls, which come within the Force of it. Now you are come to the Pearly Walls of Paradise, or the Heavenly Jerusalem. Those who enter into the city beyond the walls, Sterry affirms, lose themselves, their understanding and their language. For, here we ascend beyond concepts 31 32 33

Ibid., 196. Ibid., 390. Proclus, Theologie Platonicienne, ed. H.D. Saffrey and Leendert G. Westerink (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1968), I.18, 85.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

265

and images to speak only the “Words of the Heavenly Paradise” and “the Words here are the Eternal Ideas” contained “in the Paradise of Divine Unity.”34 Of course, this does not mean that all distinctions of identity and otherness are lost when we cross beyond the wall of Paradise. On the contrary, Sterry affirms, all distinctions stand here “in a perfect Unity,” for “the Darkness is not Darkness here; but it is Darkness and Light; no Light, and yet Light.”35 For, all things meet in the unity of the intellectual soul, as the monad and dyad are united together in the triad. Even contradictions meet in the senses and in the “Discoursive Faculty” when they “infold each with most amiable Embraces...in the Intuitive and Divine Part of the Soul, in the Angelical Natures and Universal Forms above, which are no more than finite Images of the Divine Unity.” Thus, the human soul is characterized by the coincidence of its reciprocal folding, which enables us to intuit the divine unity in our own finite unity. For both Sterry and Cusanus, knowledge is founded on the union of the human monad with its exemplar and principle in the Trinity. However, there is a subtle but important difference between the way that they conceive intellectual vision. As Garth Green has pointed out with regard to Cusanus, and as Derek Michaud explains with reference to John Smith, Cusanus’ explanation of the spiritual senses is emphatically apophatic, whereas for Smith spiritual perception is more kataphatic.36 In De visione Dei Cusanus affirms, “Revelatio autem gustum non attingit.”37 The “ears of faith” that receive divine revelation, Cusanus says, do not attain to the “sweetness” of the divine nature just as the sweetness of an unknown fruit cannot be tasted in an image or picture of it. For Cusanus, it seems, the vision of faith has a certain conjectural quality, though it apparently transcends conjecture. As Green notes, “Vision is the most exalted sense for Cusa insofar as it can attest not only to revelation as a re-​vealing, but also and equally as a re-​veiling.”38 This “re-​veiling” and hiddenness of faith motivates Cusanus to seek a rapturous vision like St. Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven. For Sterry, on the other hand, faith provides a personal knowledge and a “vision” of God that completely surpasses conjectural knowledge because “God is known by no Shadow. No Image of God, besides that

34 35 36 37 38

Appearance, 391. Ibid., 392. Garth W.  Green, “Nicholas of Cusa,” in The Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving God in Western Christianity, ed. Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 210–​223; On Smith, see Derek Michaud’s chapter below. De visione Dei, 17.79 (h VI.62). Green, Spiritual Senses, 221.

266 Parker which is God, can make him known to us.”39 Rather, faith unites the soul directly to Christ, who is “the Essential Image [of the Father],” and in this way the “Supream Truth ... is known by being seen, felt and tasted in our Spirits.” So, for Sterry, faith normalizes the rapturous vision and tasting of God that Cusanus seeks, as it actualizes the spiritual senses in a vision unmediated by any image, whether an icon, a concept, or even the self. Though it is obscure knowledge, Sterry believes that faith provides a vision of “the Supream and Universal Principle.”40 Thus, for those who possess the divine life through faith, “the Beatifical Vision is begun already.”41 When discussing the power of reason Sterry appears to confine the method of coincidence to the realm of negative theology, giving way to the personal knowledge of Christ. Yet, when he discusses the Trinity, particularly in its mathematical nature, docta ignorantia becomes a positive lens through which to view God’s presence in all of reality.

Sterry and the Arithmetical Trinity

According to David Albertson, Cusanus develops his own “mathematical theology” based on the Pythagorean elements in Augustine, Boethius, and Thierry of Chartres. He is especially dependent on the latter for his notion of the “arithmetical Trinity,” which names the Trinity by the mathematical terms unity, equality, and their connection.42 In De docta ignorantia, Cusanus argues that we can only approach God’s absolute being through symbols, and mathematical symbols are most appropriate because they possess an “incorruptible certitude.”43 Cusanus, however, attempts to make fuller sense of Thierry’s proposed relationship between the “necessary enfolding” (necessitas complexionis) of finite numbers and God’s absolute necessity (Necessitas absoluta). In Idiota de mente, Cusanus distinguishes between “unfolding” and “image,” arguing that the human mind is not an unfolding of absolute necessity but a reflection of it.44 He thereby combines Thierry’s notion of “necessary enfolding” with the 39 40 41 42 43 44

Appearance, 185. Appearance, 186. Appearance, 193. David Albertson, Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 253–​275. De docta ignorantia, 1.11.33 (h I.24). Cusanus, Idiota de mente, 4.74 (h V.113): “Attende aliam esse imaginem, aliam explicationem. Nam aequalitas est unitatis imago.... Et non est aequalitas unitatis explicatio, sed pluralitas. Complicationis igitur unitatis aequalitas est imago, non explicatio.”

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

267

traditional notion of the imago Dei, thus mathematizing human reflection of the Trinity. And so, in the mental act of measuring things by unfolding and enfolding their natures within the mind we reflect God’s unity, the equality of all things with the unity, and their connection. Echoing Cusanus, Sterry affirms that the divine ideas, which form the language of the heavenly Paradise, are the exemplars of human numbers.45 Also like Cusanus, Sterry asserts that we find certainty in the “Divine Art of Numeration” both (a) because numbers are the mental figures most abstracted from material limitations, and (b) because our concept of form is dependent on proportion, which is determined by number.46 Number is also the means by which we measure things and the means by which God, the divine musician, transcendentally contains the Measure of all measures. Sterry explains God’s measuring of reality by commenting on Boethius’ Consolatio Philosophiæ, which Sterry says is “drawn forth from the inmost Treasuries of the Platonical, Pythagorean, Mosaical, Christian Philosophy and Divinity.”47 In the portion of the Consolatio that Sterry translates (3.9), Boethius refers to the “Father of all things” who governs the universe by means of his mind (Mundum mente) and brings about motion and life by causing a similitude and image of his beauty in all things. God’s wisdom limits the elementary principles of the physical world by means of numbers. “By potent Charms of sacred numbers bound /​The waving Elements keep their set round.”48 The four elements are bound by the “sacred number” of the divine unity that guides them. “Number,” Sterry says, “hath been reputed the first seat and measure of proportion, Harmony, Musick, and Beauty in every kind.”49 Numbers belong primarily to intellectual beings as their “proper operations and objects.” The numbers by which God numbers things are enfolded within the sacred number of his own essence. In his An Explication of the Trinity in Three Sections, Sterry expounds his concept of the arithmetical Trinity. Here he proposes an “Explication of this unsearchable Mystery [of the Trinity], by the Hieroglyphicks of these three Characters, the Unity, Variety and Union.”50 Sterry arrives 45 46 47 48 49 50

Sterry says, “The Ideas or eternal Images of things in God so seem to shine forth most clearly, with the sweetest and fullest beauties, in abstracted numbers” (Discourse, 27). See Cusanus, De Coniecturis, 1.2, 9 (h III.14). Discourse, 27; see Cusanus on the simplicity of numbers in De beryllo, 52–​54 (h XI/​1.58–​ 62); and see Cusanus on number as the measure of proportion in Idiota de mente, 6.91 (h V.135, 136). Discourse, 84. Ibid., 86. Ibid., 27. Appearance, 439.

268 Parker at these three hieroglyphs from the Pythagorean notion of monad, dyad, and triad that he finds in Proclus (via Plato’s Philebus) and from Cusanus’ arithmetical Trinitarian names. According to Sterry, God is the first principle of all things, and because he is the first, he is a perfect unity. Because duality presupposes unity, “All Numbers lie originally in an Unity: From this they flow, being compos’d by the Unity from this Plenitude or Fulness.”51 Elsewhere he defines number as “Unity diffusing itself,” by going outside of itself in the form of all numbers and returning to itself again.52 A  perfect unity must possess all of its diversities (or those aspects that are removed from the center of its being) perfectly within itself. Here Sterry raises an objection to himself: if God is an infinite unity containing all numbers within himself, then why is he a trinity, and not a quaternity or a centenary? He answers that a perfect unity comprehends itself in its own “Self-​Image” and all things within this image. God’s self-​reflection creates a trinity through the abiding, proceeding, and self-​reverting activities of God’s “Mysterious and Divine Circle.”53 Furthermore, Sterry argues, a trinity “is the most Essential Form of every Number,” since every number is composed of a unity and variety adhering to one another in an essential union. Thus, the number three is the “Seat and Fountain of all Numbers,” the “Original and Universal Number,” and this being the case, it is preeminent above them all.54 Because of the simplicity of unqualified number and the power of the number three to enfold all numbers, Sterry concludes that the highest and most certain divine names are those of unity, variety, and union. Sterry reduces the Augustinian divine names, Power, Wisdom, and Love, to these mathematical terms –​he is also drawing on Tomasso Campanella’s “primalities of being” here.55 The name “Power” is not as perfect a name as “Unity,” Sterry argues, since “Power” can be reduced to the unqualified “One.” Sterry borrows Proclus’ definition of “Power” from his Platonic Theology, noting that Proclus defines it to be “an Unity like a Fountain, comprehending variety of Forms in itself, and sending them forth, from itself.”56 Wisdom should be reduced to the name “Variety” because, as Proclus says, it is “a variety of Things in Order,” which is nothing more than “an Unity bringing forth itself into a 51 52 53 54 55 56

Ibid., 423. Discourse, 83. Appearance, 425, 438. Ibid., 438. On Campanella’s primalities see Bernardino M.  Bonansea, Tommaso Campanella:  Renaissance Pioneer of Modern Thought (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1969), 150–​163. Appearance, 438; Proclus, Theologie Platonicienne, I.22.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

269

Variety, according to the Laws of Unity, which is the Band and Measure of all Order; so comprehending the Variety thus brought forth in itself.”57 Love is the union of unity and unity-​in-​variety, the activity of self-​enjoyment between the original Good and its beautiful Image in “the Form of the Good.” So, the names unity, variety, and union according to Sterry denote the infinite being of God and all things as he reflects upon them within himself. These names enfold the whole of reality because they contain the mathematical possibilities of all being in God, whose self-​measuring number is the source of all number, proportion, and order in the world. Sterry recognizes that the 17th-century reader may feel uncomfortable with his use of Proclus’ divine names to describe the Christian Trinity. In his defense, he argues that he uses Proclus’ words because they clearly agree with both the light of reason and revelation and they “enlighten our minds with the clearest Evidence of this Mystery.”58 Yet, Sterry does not merely leave his reader to be persuaded by reason but appeals directly to the authority of a respected theologian, namely, Nicholas Cusanus. Sterry affirms, “Neither am I in this sense, altogether without Authority of the most Learned Interpreters of Nature and this Light. Cusanus, in the first Book, as I remember, of Learned Ignorance, establishes and unfoldeth the Nature of this Divine Trinity, by these three Terms, Unity, Equality, and Union; which he affirmeth to have been deriv’d from Pythagoras.” This confirms not only that Sterry read Cusanus but also that he considered him a theological authority, as well as a trustworthy guide for interpreting nature, specifically the nature of the Trinity. Here, Sterry reveals that his reading of Proclus is informed by a tandem reading of Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia. That is to say, when Sterry uses the names “Power,” “Wisdom,” and “Love” he is reading those terms not only through the lens of Proclus’ Platonic Theology but in light of Cusanus’ arithmetical trinity of unity, equality, and connection. Sterry’s dependence upon Cusanus clearly appears in his concern to correct Cusanus’ Trinitarian names. Referring to Cusanus’ term “equality” Sterry notes, “Equality is in Logick defin’d the Union of two Subjects, or Substances in the same Quantity: As Similitude is the Union of two distinct Subjects in the same Quality. Equality therefore appearing to me coincident with Union, in that respect, hath been chang’d by me, into the Term of Variety, which seems much more proper, clear and complete in that Place.” The term “equality” appears too similar to “union,” Sterry says, but his choice of the term “variety” as its replacement is based on Cusanus as well. For, Sterry frequently stresses the equality of the variety with the unity of God. Though 57 58

Proclus, Theologie Platonicienne, I.23. Appearance, 439.

270 Parker the variety is an equal image of unity, for Sterry this equality properly lies within the union of unity and variety, rather than in variety itself. Sterry prefers the term “variety” to “equality” also because of how he understands and uses the Pythagorean terms limit, infinity, and mixture. For, he says, the terms “πέρας, ἄπειρος, μικτός (terminus, infinitum, mixtum)” –​ these are derivatives of monad, dyad, and triad –​are perfectly denoted by the names unity, variety, and union.59 The term “variety” (from the Pythagorean “dyad”), Sterry seems to think, relates to the term “unity” more fittingly as it preserves the underlying numerical connection of the trinitarian relations, that is, the unfolding of unity into duality. And, the dyad behind “infinitum” more exactly communicates that the divine variety “in its Formality is Boundless and Infinite”; thus it demonstrates that God is not a solitary unity but is a unity “richly Replinish’d, and Eternally entertained, with a Variety ... true and boundless.”60 Like Cusanus, Sterry grounds the logic of coincidence in the triune shape of reality, which he describes using both mathematical and geometrical symbols. Sterry sees the mathematical terms limit, infinity, and mixture as the basic structure of reality. As Sterry says in his Discourse, absolute being descends from its “unlimited fulness,” limiting itself in particular modes of being, and ascending within them back into itself.61 In this way act (limit) and potency (infinity) are united in every being because “[being] it self remaineth potentially, and undividedly in each of these parts.”62 The divine unity, in its descent and ascent, “divideth it self into many Unities” and then “by its own unconfined power” combines several unities into one “common Unity.” The union of unity and variety, being the basic elements of all proportion, “joyntly constitute and compose all essences and forms of things.”63 Sterry uses the symbol of the infinite circle to illustrate this triadic structure of reality: The Unity of God is his Infiniteness. By the Purity and Perfection of this Unity, he is in All, thro’ All, on every Side, beneath, above, beyond All, every where the same equally entire, equally undivided, equally unconfin’d, full of himself, encompassed with himself, that Sacred Circle of All-​Being, of Infiniteness, of Eternity, whose Center is every where, in the smallest Point of Things, whose Circumference, is no where Bounded, spreads 59 60 61 62 63

Ibid. Sterry lists these terms as ὁρος, ἀπέρατον, and μικτὸν, which are different from those in the modern text of Proclus’ Platonic Theology. Appearance, 439, 433. Discourse, 29. Ibid., 29. Ibid., 11.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

271

beyond all Bound or Measure; which yet with its whole Circumference, in its full Amplitude, lies every where compleat in its Center, altogether undivided in the lowest, the least, the last Division of Things.64 For Sterry, the “Sacred Circle of All-​Being” is the perfect representation of God as the triadic measure of things. As the infinite circle, God circles through the infinite variety of things while maintaining his perfect unity by enfolding the multiplicity of things into the center of his own unity. The circular nature of the divine intellect is a picture very likely inspired by Cusanus’ use of the metaphor of the infinite circle, as well as his description of God as “limit” and the “center, circumference, and bond of all things,” from De docta ignorantia 3.1.65 Sterry also appears to rely on Cusanus’ other works for his Pythagorean-​ inspired notion of the arithmetical Trinity. According to the eighteenth-​ century editor of his works, Sterry left behind an unpublished treatise entitled “Number’s the first Image of all Things,” which unfortunately is no longer extant.66 The title of this treatise is very likely Sterry’s translation of the heading from Cusanus’ De coniecturis, chapter two, entitled, “Symbolicum exemplar rerum numerum esse.”67 It is Sterry’s usual habit to render philosophical language into ordinary English. So, his rendering of symbolicum exemplar as “first Image” is likely a loose simplification of Cusanus’ idea, especially considering Cusanus’ argument in this chapter that number is a principium –​this can be rendered “beginning” or “first” –​and a symbolum and similitudo of reason –​which may be translated “image.” If this is indeed Sterry’s simplification of Cusanus, it shows the extent to which Sterry’s use of mathematical symbols is dependent upon Cusanus’ larger corpus of writings.

Sterry and the Imago Dei

Sterry argues that all things participate in God’s infinite circle as circular monads. In his Discourse, Sterry describes the imago Dei in human beings with 64 65 66 67

Appearance, 388; For Cusanus’ use of this metaphor see De docta ignorantia, 1.21.63 (h I.42). Cusanus, De docta ignorantia, 3.1.185 (h I.120): “Non est igitur nisi unus terminus aut specierum aut generum aut universi, qui est centrum, circumferentia atque connexio omnium.” On Cusanus’ use of these terms, see Albertson, Mathematical Theologies, 196–​197. Appearance, fol. 4r. This title is listed in Appearance by the editor as an item contained within Sterry’s remaining notebooks, yet when I searched through Sterry’s notebooks at Emmanuel College Library I discovered no such treatise. De coniecturis, 2.7 (h 3.11).

272 Parker the triad, essence (monad/​limit), understanding (dyad/​infinity), and will (triad/​mixture) –​this is also the same as Brooke’s triadic imago Dei mentioned above.68 Like God, our soul is a “self-​moving” number because it unfolds the realities of all created things as they lie enfolded within itself.69 Sterry is very likely drawing from Cusanus’ Idiota de mente (7) for this terminology.70 At this point in his dialogue Cusanus describes the “philosopher” as requesting an explanation of “how it is that the soul is self-​moving number.” Cusanus answers that the human mind assimilates itself to all things by measuring them within itself, as the image of divine unity, by its “intuitio veritatis absolutae.”71 In a similar manner Sterry says, “So doth the Soul after the manner of number, which is the measure of all proportion and order from its supream and universal Unity, descend and re-​ascend through all particular Forms, in the most just order, and most exact proportions.”72 Sterry agrees with Protagoras that “man is the measure of all things.”73 The soul, like its fundamental numeric principle, “diffuses itself” through all of the variety of things within itself and binds them up again into its own unity by means of self-​reflection. “[T]‌he Soul,” says Sterry, “by the Unity of its Essence subsists, and contemplates it self within it self, in all forms of things from the highest to the lowest, according to their several Angelical Diversities...This is the soul, a Divine Circle, a compleat Paradise.”74 Since the soul is composed of number, or unity, it is able to measure the proportions of all finite things, even the nature of angels, by means of reflecting upon itself in what Sterry calls its “omniformity.”75 The act of using its own unity as the measure of reality reveals that the human soul is above the coincidence of opposites, containing in itself a potential infinity or the “potentiality of knowing all things.”76 The soul’s potential omniscience is its ability to measure all things, which it does in its essential act of circling around its divine idea within itself. Sterry draws from Proclus to show that the soul’s omniformity is not a pure potency, but an active potency. The human soul is pure act, “having alwayes in it self the judgment of all things, in the potentiality or power of it.”77 All things 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77

Nature of Truth, 24, 25. Discourse, 91. Idiota de mente 7.98 (h V.148). Ibid., 7.106 (h V.158). Discourse, 91. Ibid., 91–​98. Ibid., 82. Ibid., 83. Ibid., 73. Ibid.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

273

are present in the soul ψυχικῶς (via Proclus), that is, according to its particular soul-​like mode of being.78 God is present in the human soul as well, both “secundum modum Creaturæ” and “secundum modum Dei.”79 In the soul’s divine part, the apex mentis or the “flower of the soul” (another term borrowed from Proclus), the soul is “capable of Commerce with the Divinity it self, and of enjoying in it self the Divine presence.”80 The divine part of the soul is its unity with its own image or idea in the mind of God. For Sterry, the mind of God is Jesus Christ, who is the “Original spring and measure of all understandings and expression ... the first, the most universal proportion and harmony.”81 Sterry affirms that all angels and other creatures have their existence through their own idea in the divine mind. “But God himself in his own essential Image, in the Person of the Son, the Idea of Ideas, is the Idea of Man.”82 Christ is the idea of the human soul around which the soul circles in its essential act of existence. God’s idea of himself is non-​participatory, however, in the sense that it does not divide itself by going outside of itself. Yet, we are able to get “touches” and “glimpses” of the infiniteness of God’s self-​Idea by reflecting upon the union between God’s idea and our own self-​idea insofar as this union of Idea/​idea constitutes the center of our being as God’s image.83 Sterry says, “This is that seed of Infiniteness and Eternity, which by an irresistable instinct inclines the Soul so evidently, so forcibly in all its Desires, in all its Operations to immortality, and to an unbounded good.”84 Our soul does not exist within the center of its own circle but it “circleth round this Deep of the Divine Mind, not after a Corporeal, or Local manner, but as one Spirit encompasseth another without Circumscription extension or distance.”85 And by circling around the divine mind in perfect union with it, the soul views “all things in 78 79 80

81 82 83 84 85

Ibid., 74; Proclus, Elements of Theology, ed. and trans. E.R. Dodds (Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press, 1963), prop. 197, p. 97. Discourse, 75. Discourse, 74; On Sterry’s use of Proclus’ ἄνθος τοῦ νοῦ, see Peter Sterry, The Rise, Race, and Royalty of the Kingdom of God in the Soul of Man: Opened in Several Sermons Upon Matthew 18.3 (London: Printed for Thomas Cockerill, 1683), 197; Proclus, In Alcibiades, ed. L.G. Westerink, trans. William O’Neill (Dilton Marsh, UK: The Prometheus Trust, 2011), 248.2; see also Radek Chlup, Proclus: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 165. Discourse, 26. Ibid., 81. According to Cusanus (in De beryllo 7 [h XI/​1, 9–​10]): “Habet [homo] autem visum subtilissimum, per quem videt aenigma esse veritatis aenigma, ut sciat hanc esse veritatem, quae non est figurabilis in aliquo aenigmate.” Discourse, 109. Ibid., 93.

274 Parker their universal Forms, under the Property or Character of that universal Form,” that is, it sees the diversity of things as the contractions of the divine unity.86 In Sterry’s epistemology we can see the radical nature of his perspectivalism. For, in the soul’s triune act of measuring all things by enfolding them within its own image of the Trinity it also participates in the creation of the sensible world, that is, in creating its mental concepts. In his Discourse Sterry weds the Kabbalist notion of “Adam Kadmon” (the preexistence of Adam’s “celestial humanity”) to the Platonic notion of the World Soul in the person of Jesus Christ.87 For Sterry, the World Soul is the created (and preexistent) soul of Jesus Christ and the soul of his bride united to him; his bride is the rest of humanity but primarily the faithful whose intellectual souls circle around Christ’s divine person as their ideal existence and center.88 For this reason our intellectual soul is “the Act of this Universe of Sense, the whole Corporeal World”; and furthermore, the “Intellectual Soul is all this World.”89 Sterry says that the whole celestial and elementary world are acted and subsist in the “pure Act” of the intellectual soul’s unity, having “no ground of substance in themselves.” This “world” is what we perceive by its representative images and concepts in the intellect, images which descend into our minds from God the Son by way of the created soul of Jesus Christ, not by way of the senses.90 In the intellectual soul, Sterry says, corporeal figures “are that which they are; As Mathematical figures in the mind, the Soul it self alone, filling those figures, being all the Essence, Substance, Power, Virtue, and Form in them.” Christ, the first and “God-​like Soul,” always has his face turned to the face of God and “without thought, care, or trouble ... casts this Corporeal World from it self,” as a shadow “[where] there is no ground for it to fall upon, besides the Soul it self.” This creative act of the intellect is not only true of the World Soul. For, Sterry says, “All Souls, as they flow in their Order, and successions from this first Soul, by virtue of the first production, bring forth to themselves the 86 87 88 89 90

Ibid., 83. Discourse, 78. Sterry explains the preexistence of Christ’s soul as the World Soul in “Of the Nature of a Spirit,” Emmanuel College MS 291, 67–​79. Discourse, 97. Italics in original. “[O]‌ur lord jesus in his godhead, as he is the only true god ... casts all these images upon this looking-​glasse, first upon the created spirit of christ, and from him upon all other inferiour spirits” (Sterry, Emmanuel College MS 291, 73). By limiting the idea of Adam Kadman to the created soul of Christ, rather than Christ’s divine person, Sterry avoids subordinationism, unlike Anne Conway. See Sarah Hutton, “Platonism and the Trinity: Anne Conway, Henry More and Christoph Sand,” in Socinianism and Arminianism: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-​Century Europe, ed. Martin Mulsow and Jan Rohls (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 209–​224.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

275

whole World in its fairest and fullest measure.” The soul is not a purely autonomous agent in its activity of measuring and forming intelligible species, however. Rather, we measure things by participating in God’s act of measuring and illuminating the soul through his image therein.91 Thus, our activity measuring all things (infinity) by means of God’s own self-​measure (limit) –​the coincidence of measuring and being measured –​constitutes the essential act of the imago Dei. A person even takes some measure of God by means of one’s own triune self-​numbering. Yet, the soul remains a finite symbol, as it is composed of contrarieties. God, on the other hand, is above the coincidence of opposites. Sterry refers the reader to a “great and learned Divine,” very likely Cusanus, to say that there is a great distance between human, angelic, and divine numbers.92 Human numbers “divide, break, and lessen the subject,” whereas the divine number, “transcending all divisibility and diversity joyneth in one, the simplest Unity, with the amplest and most distinct Variety.”93 The divine number, in other words, is not like the “contracted, obscur’d Unities below” but is perfectly one.94 Yet, to know an image as an image is to see beyond it. This is the highest mode of knowing, to see all things in the symbolic unity of identity and otherness, of measuring and being measured. When one ascends to this vision of coincidence, Sterry says, one beholds all things with “solar eyes,” and “wee see all things in Godlike formes, as an Assembly of Gods...Here God is all in all.”95

Sterry and Universal Peace

Knowing how Sterry utilizes the arithmetical Trinity paradigm enables us to look at his most well-​known work –​the preface to his Discourse –​from a new perspective. In his opening discourse Sterry issues a call to tolerance to his readers. He offers them a new method, not merely for reading and comprehending his argument on the nature of freewill but a new method and a new perspective for viewing the world. He urges his reader to begin by contemplating the divine love. Sterry believes “love” in God is convertible with “unity.”96

91 92 93 94 95 96

Ibid., 101. This is very likely a reference to ­chapters 5–​8 of De coniecturis. Discourse, 27. Appearance, 443. Matar, Sterry, 135. He refers elsewhere to “unity” as “the ground of Love” and its origin. See Rise, Race, and Royalty, 308.

276 Parker For, “That love is the bond of perfection ... which runs through the whole work of God, which frames, informs, unites all into one masterpiece of divine love.”97 The reader, therefore, should reduce all of the divine attributes to “love,” as this term denotes the purity, simplicity, and infiniteness of each aspect of the divine being. According to Sterry, a person should also see God’s providential works as “so many modes and dresses” of the divine love. All second causes are “Causa prima modificata,” he says (quoting Campanella), and so the diversities in things are mere appearances.98 Whether form and matter or differences of being or operation, all second causes are activities of the first cause (i.e., God), and so are reducible to “love.” Sterry urges his readers, therefore, not to let any principles, practices or opinions divide them from one another, because these divisions are merely contracted reflections of the divine love. He uses Aristotle’s principle that there is “the same reason of Contrarieties” to argue that all parties in a dispute have both good and evil motivations, principles, or practices; yet, both parties only discern the evil in each other, looking upon the other through “the same disturbed and coloured Medium.”99 When the two parties limit themselves to this binary of good and evil, then they both “heighten themselves by self-​justifications” and render themselves incapable of looking upon the good, not only in each other, but in the whole work of God in creation. As in Sterry’s metaphysics the divine monad (unity) fills up all of the diversity (dyad) of things with its form (triad), so in this more popular introductory treatise Sterry argues, the divine love “is the fulness that fills all persons, and all parts upon the stage of time or eternity.”100 Sterry uses Cusanus’ principle of una religio in rituum varietate (one religion in a variety of rites) to explain how universal peace can be realized among warring parties. Sterry says, “Christ died to this end, that Men, differing in the outward Notions and Forms of things, might be united in one Spirit.”101 The body is composed of contrary qualities (hot/​cold, moist/​dry, etc.) yet the composition of these qualities make up one body. Likewise, some Christians have “zealous Affections” and others are cold and dry with a “wise Fixtness,” but these variations “shall give a Temper one to another” in one and the same spirit. So, “Christian Religion is a Feast serv’d up in several Notions, and outward Rites, like several Dishes, at a Table. They that sit down to it, are of several Diets and Palates,” but through Christ the variety of rites makes “a Feast, not 97 98 99 100 101

Discourse, fol. 1r. Tomasso Campanella, De Sensu Rerum [...] (Frankfurt, 1620), 145. Discourse, fol. 3r; Aristotle, Physics, 188b21. Discourse, fol. 1v. AGM, 291.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

277

a Battle.”102 Though Sterry does not explicitly mention other religions as Cusanus does in De pace fidei, he believes the dialectical principle of Cusanus’ formula is the same principle used by Christ, and so it is capable of reconciling “Jews and Gentiles.”103 These are the most contrary Points in the whole Compass of Spirits. The most Pious and most Profane. The most Superstitious, and most Sacrilegious. The most in Bondage to external Forms, the most at liberty from them. Jesus Christ crucifying the Flesh ... which is the Stuff of all outward Forms ... broke down the Wall of Enmity, the Flesh, with all its various Pictures and Images in it, that so he might make these two one Spirit.104 In light of this, Sterry asks his audience if they are still able to discern any substantial difference between Englishman and Scotsman, Presbyterian and Independent. Even if these two were “Jews and Heathen ... Christ reconcil’d those; and so he can do these.”105 Christ is able to reconcile Protestant and Roman Catholic as well if only both parties were to “give up [themselves] to be carry’d on in the Power of the spirit, which is Truth and Love.”106 Sterry is elsewhere highly critical of Presbyterians and Roman Catholics for attaching so much weight to “Ceremonious Observations of outward Rites,”107 yet he believes that these rites would be tuned to their proper order and use if “[we] all meet in Christ, in being Christians, and so agree, putting off all other Names and Forms of Differences, to put on this of Unity.”108 In order to discover universal peace, Sterry urges his reader, one must look beyond rational principles and contradictions to the heart of the person beside them, to take pleasure in the whole work of God therein, rather than its part or its defect. Evil is a privation of the good. If the evil of one’s neighbor is a true privation, that is, not a matter of indifference to the good, one should hate only the privation of good itself, not their person. But even a person’s wrath toward the evil of one’s neighbor should be charming and persuasive, not like the fire of hell but like the fire of the altar, mingled with a sweet incense, “with the rich Odours and Perfumes of a Divine Love.”109 102 1 03 104 105 106 107 108 109

AGM, 292. AGM, 292. AGM, 292. AGM, 292. AGM, 286. EDN, 19. AGM, 292. Ibid., fol. 6r.

278 Parker One is capable of quite literally charming one’s neighbors, Sterry believes, the more lovely that one becomes in oneself. And, one becomes more ­lovely the more that one reflects the divine love within oneself, in its triune shape. That is, if each person is converted to the same “spiritual flame” as the divine love, then he will be able to look upon all “otherness” as coincident with “identity,” all pieces as one with the whole, the whole of the divine love fully present within each part of its work in our world. One becomes charming to one’s neighbors when one properly measures their goodness. Sterry quotes from the Gospel of Matthew 7:2 to say “The measure which thou measurest to others, shall be measured to thee again.” When a person discovers the divine love within himself by “conversion” or self-​reflection, then he discovers “the highest and sweetest of all Ideas.”110 The divine love is the “perfect Idea” because it unites “the Ideas of all Perfections” into one bond of unity, and so when one discovers it within oneself, then one discovers the “proper Habitation and Palace, set up for thee in thine own person, in every Creature, in every Created or Uncreated form of things, to dwell in both, here and above.” When all things, even ourselves, appear to us in the divine light of love, then one sees oneself as “the beloved Object of all divine things, and divinely beloved by all things.” Possessing this new perspective, one can see beyond the coincidence of “self” and “other” within the perfect idea of absolute love. Seeing oneself as fully present within the whole of God’s universal love, one can truly see one’s neighbor as partaking of the same wholeness, the same perfect Idea. When one sees them from this triune perspective, that is, in the union of “whole” and “part,” they become “as thy self to thy self; the Object of an heavenly and incorruptible Love.”111 Measuring oneself and all persons by means of the perfect idea of love, one begins to reflect that idea as well. One takes up the sacred harp of love and, like king David, disarms every weapon of evil and “chase[s] away every evil Spirit from every breast.”112 Sterry appeals to the Neoplatonic notion of sympathies, that “like is attracted to like,” to explain how one’s reflection of the divine love acts as a charm.113 He says, when one possesses the likeness (similitude) of the divine love as one’s “proper Root” then everything, even heavenly spirits and the divine love itself, “discloseth it self to, shineth forth upon, and in all forms of things circleth in this person, this heart, being attracted by it, drawn to it, 110 111 112 113

Ibid., fol. 9r. Ibid., fol. 3r. Ibid., fol. 8v. See Plotinus, Enneads, trans. A.H. Armstrong, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966–​1988), VI.9.11.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

279

as its proper Centre.”114 So, when one measures others by means of the divine love, then one attracts God’s love to oneself and so, by participation, becomes the beautiful object of divine love for one’s neighbors and for all created beings. Sterry urges his reader to see all things “in a beautiful circle” of love, as love itself diffusing itself through the opposites of time and eternity, “through finiteness and infiniteness it self,” thus seeing the divine love reflected in the union of one’s essence, intellect and will as the same love in various postures, in presence or absence, in doubt at the difficulty of attaining one’s goal and in the assurance of one’s facility of attaining it. As one is converted by the divine love, the measure of all being, so one is able to convert all of the pieces of the divine plan and work into the whole of the divine unity. Sterry says: As thou has looked upon [all things], so shall they all, in all seasons and states, appear to thee in a Divine Light [...] As Bees extract the virtue out of the commonest Herbs, and convert it to Honey in themselves: So do thou believe every thing here to be intended in the best sense, of which it is capable: Draw forth this sense from it, and improve it in thy self with the utmost advantage, to the sweetest satisfaction, and the richest treasure in thy own mind.115 As the Bee converts the flower into honey, so Sterry says, each person also converts every negative appearance into its best possible sense by means of his reflection of the divine love. The divine love contains the reasons that “subject all other reason to themselves,” and “keepeth the Unity of the eternal Workman ... in the golden band of an universal Peace.”116 One finds peace within oneself and one’s neighbors in the divine love that “comprehendeth all things with strictest tenderest imbraces in it self, as one self with it self” by comprehending them “in their Divine Root.”117 This love conforms to the Trinitarian pattern, as the divine love in the soul sustains one’s innate unity while one “rove[s]‌through all the fields of Goodness and Beauty ... in their richest and most unbounded Varieties, as freely, as through [our] own proper Essence and Being.”118

114 115 116 117 118

Discourse, fol. 8v. Ibid., fol. 9v. Ibid., fol. 6v. Ibid., fol. 7r. Ibid., fol. 11r.

280 Parker One’s task of discovering universal peace, then, begins and ends in the circle of divine love. When one sees one’s neighbor in their divine root as it is reflected in oneself, they are embraced as another self to oneself. If one looks at one’s neighbor in this way then one is enabled to unite oneself with them in a good that is mutually embraced. Then the two share the task of eradicating the evil within each other. And, in so doing the two will “meet as two halves of each other, filling up the circle of each others Being, Beauties, Joys, and be now compleated in one.”119 If one is willing to see others from the divine perspective, to meet them as an other-​self, then one will find in the “universal Spirit” a universal peace for our shared “Lives and Persons,” our “native Country, the Christian World, the face of the whole Earth.”120 As in his epistemology, Sterry utilizes the method of the arithmetical Trinity in his understanding of tolerance and peace. His call for a renewed vision of universal peace is founded on the “omniform” capacity of the soul to enfold and unfold the measures of all things as it “circles” around its divine idea in God the Son. To see both “self” and “other” united in the light of the divine love (or unity) is the same as to see all things as mathematical forms enfolded within the numerical union of the monad and the dyad in the triad. According to Sterry, we find our true self in the divine love both “above” and “below” as the Holy Spirit, the essential union between the Father and the Son in the Godhead, brings about the union of our souls and our society. The nature of the Holy Spirit, denominated as it is by the name “love,” is where the coincidence of opposites finds its greatest realization.121 For, Sterry defines “union” in the Godhead to be “a concurrence of Distinction and Unity, where two as two are one, retaining their distinction in their Unity.”122 Sterry bids his readers to model their relationships after this “enfolding” union of distinction and unity in the Trinity, which is the essence of love itself and the model of universal peace. If each person looks at his relations as various modes of divine love, Sterry believes, he will see that our rational principles often lead us to into division rather than away from it. In the unity of the spirit of love, however, a person will discover that he is more perfectly human when he possesses his “self” as a “self” that is simultaneously “other,” rather than being self-​enclosed monads with no orientation to the world outside. 119 Ibid., fol. 3v. 120 Ibid., fol. 4r. 121 Sterry also refers to Augustine, Lombard, and Aquinas on the nature of love. See ibid. fol. 7v, and 10r. 122 Ibid., fol. 7r.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

281

Conclusion In modern readings of the Cambridge Platonists, Peter Sterry is often classified as a Puritan, a Calvinist, and a mystic. Because of these labels, his contribution to the “Platonic Renaissance” at Cambridge in the 17th century has often been called into question, if not completely ignored. His apparent “mystical denunciations of reason” in his sermons certainly seem to place him at odds with the rationalistic tendencies of the Cambridge “school” as well as Cusanus.123 Yet, Cusanus is more prone to speak of a sharp distinction between faith and reason in his early sermons.124 In his treatises, however, Cusanus fully integrates reason into the spiritual life. We can also see this difference between Sterry’s language in his sermons and the more philosophical language in his treatises. As demonstrated above, Sterry develops his own mathematical theology based on the coincidence method of Cusanus and the Neoplatonic philosophy of Proclus. Using the method of the arithmetical Trinity, Sterry gives a prominent role to the intellect in faith, pairing the “personal knowledge” of Jesus within the soul with the idea of the soul’s “omniformity” as it dwells in union with its “perfect Idea” in Christ. He clearly sees Cusanus’ method as a tool for destroying the idols of the mind, which is for Sterry both a Puritan and a Baconian ideal.125 This iconoclasm perhaps creates a tension in Sterry’s thought, between what Ziebart terms “epistemological” and “religious” faiths.126 Though Sterry views philosophy as a preparation for faith, he appears to see mathematical symbols as icons to be passed beyond rather than through as conjectural knowledge gives way to the personal knowledge of Christ within the cloud of unknowing. Nevertheless, his general intent is to bring all human modes of thought into union, to view them all from the divine perspective as “so many pure Suns in the world of Sun.”127 Brooke and Sterry believe that the method of coincidence can bring the many warring parties in the church and society together in a state of universal harmony and peace, as it establishes the principles coined by Cusanus of 123 See Robert A. Greene, “Whichcote, the Candle of the Lord, and Synderesis,” Journal of the History of Ideas 52:4 (1991): 617–​644. 124 For example, Cusanus says, “faith must forcibly ‘conquer’ reason, and ... the latter must ‘perish,’” as Meredith Ziebart points out in Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 11, 12. 125 On Sterry’s use of Bacon, see Nabil Matar, “Peter Sterry and the Comenian Circle: Education and Eschatology in Restoration Nonconformity,” The Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society 5:4 (1994): 183–​192. 126 Ziebart, Cusanus on Faith, 24. 127 Matar, Sterry, 135.

282 Parker “one religion in a variety of rites.” Their Trinitarian method, like mathematical and Trinitarian “eyeglasses,” brings about a radical conversion of perspective, as it reveals the soul’s potential infinity and omniformity, enabling it to see all distinctions enfolded within the divine unity within Christ, who is both the maximum and the minimum, the Infinity of God and the World Soul. Seeing one’s own soul enfolded within the soul of Christ and his divine Person permits one to see all things enfolded within the soul. This Pythagorean-​inspired vision and method grants one the ability to change the appearances of evil (the dyad) to the good of the whole (the monad), and to love each of one’s neighbors as contracted images of the divine love (the triad). Another Cambridge Platonist, Nathanael Culverwel, did not see the coincidence method employed by Brooke and Sterry as conducive to universal peace. Rather, upon reading The Nature of Truth, Culverwel proclaimed it a “rare and compendious Synopsis of all Scepticism” due to its rejection of the Aristotelian method. Culverwel’s disagreement with the method of coincidence raises the question of Cusanus’ influence on the Cambridge Platonists as a whole. Yet, it is difficult to discern if Culverwel criticizes Brooke from a position of ignorance or knowledge. Did Culverwel learn about this alternative method at Cambridge and reject it soon after, or was it absent from the halls of Emmanuel College, and did Brooke and Sterry only discover it elsewhere, perhaps from Comenius? The answer to these questions, if it is even possible to answer them definitively, will have to await further research. What the evidence presented in this chapter shows, however, is that Cusanus’ “forgotten presence” appears prominently at one of the earliest stages of the Cambridge Platonist movement, through the writings and public influence of Lord Brooke and Peter Sterry. Bibliography Albertson, David. Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Aristotle, Works. Translated and edited by J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965. Baxter, Richard, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, Or, Mr. Richard Baxters Narrative of the Most Memorable Passages of His Life and Times. London: Printed for T. Parkhurst, J. Robinson, F. Lawrence and F. Dunton, 1696. Bonansea, Bernardino M. Tommaso Campanella:  Renaissance Pioneer of Modern Thought. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1969. Campanella, Tomasso. De Sensu Rerum [...]. Frankfurt, 1620.

“The Sacred Circle of All-Being”

283

Cassirer, Ernst. Die Platonische Renaissance in England und die Schule von Cambridge. Berlin: Teubner, 1932. Chlup, Radek. Proclus: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Culverwel, Nathanael. An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature. Edited by Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2001. Decorte, Jos. “Tolerance and Trinity.” In Conflict and Resolution: Perspectives on Nicholas of Cusa, edited by Inigo Bocken, 107–​118. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Greene, Robert A. “Whichcote, the Candle of the Lord, and Synderesis.” Journal of the History of Ideas 52:4 (1991): 617–​644. Greville, Robert, 2nd Baron Brooke, The Nature of Truth, Its Union and Unity with the Soule: Which Is One in Its Essence, Faculties, Acts, One with Truth. London: Printed by R. Bishop for Samuel Cartwright, 1641. Hopkins, Jasper. “Introduction.” In Nicholas of Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge. Minneapolis, MN: A.J. Banning, 1996. Howe, William. “The Idea of Truth as the Basis for Religious Tolerance According to Nicholas of Cusa with Comparisons to Thomas Aquinas.” In Conflict and Resolution:  Perspectives on Nicholas of Cusa, edited by Inigo Bocken, 161–​176. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Hutton, Sarah. “Platonism and the Trinity: Anne Conway, Henry More and Christoph Sand.” In Socinianism and Arminianism:  Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-​Century Europe, edited by Martin Mulsow and Jan Rohls, 209–​224. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Meier-​Oeser, Stephan. Die Präsenz des Vergessenen: zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Münster: Aschendorff, 1989. Muirhead, John H. The Platonic Tradition of Anglo-​Saxon Philosophy: Studies in the History of Idealism in England and America. London: Allen & Unwin, 1931. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Nicholas of Cusa. Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa. 2 vols. Edited and translated by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2001. Patrides, C.A. “The High and Aiery Hills of Platonisme: An Introduction to the Cambridge Platonists.” In The Cambridge Platonists, edited by C.A. Patrides, 1–41. London: Edward Arnold, 1969. Pinto, Vivian de Sola. Peter Sterry Platonist and Puritan, 1613–​1672: A Biographical and Critical Study with Passages Selected from His Writings. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Plotinus. Enneads. Translated by A.H. Armstrong. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966–​1988. Proclus. Elements of Theology. Edited and translated by E.R. Dodds. Oxford:  Oxford Clarendon Press, 1963.

284 Parker Proclus. In Alcibiades. Edited by L.G. Westerink. Translated by William O’Neill. Dilton Marsh, UK: The Prometheus Trust, 2011. Proclus. Theologie Platonicienne. Edited and translated by H.D. Saffrey and Leendert G. Westerink. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1968. Sterry, Peter. The Appearance of God to Man in the Gospel: And the Gospel Change. Together with Several Other Discourses from Scripture to Which Is Added an Explication of the Trinity and a Short Catechism. London, 1710. Sterry, Peter. Discourse on the Freedom of the Will. London: John Starkey, 1675. Sterry, Peter. “Of ye Sun.” Emmanuel College MS 289, 168–​172. Sterry, Peter. “Of the Nature of a Spirit.” Emmanuel College MS 291, 67–​79. Sterry, Peter. The Rise, Race, and Royalty of the Kingdom of God in the Soul of Man: Opened in Several Sermons Upon Matthew 18.3. London: Printed for Thomas Cockerill, 1683. Sterry, Peter. Peter Sterry:  Selected Writings. Edited by Nabil Matar. New  York:  Peter Lang, 1994. Strider, Robert E.L. “Lord Brooke and ‘The nature of truth’: A Biography and Critical Edition.” Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University, 1950. Taliaferro, Charles, and Alison J. Teply, eds. Cambridge Platonist Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. Tulloch, John. The Cambridge Platonists. Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1872. Ziebart, K.M. Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy. Leiden: Brill, 2014.

Chapter 10

Varieties of Spiritual Sense: Cusanus and John Smith Derek Michaud In recent years there has been a resurgence of academic interest in the Christian tradition of the spiritual senses of the soul.1 Among the consequences of this renewed attention is a better understanding of theological aesthetics of Nicholas of Cusa and the Cambridge Platonist, John Smith (1618–​52). Both the late medieval Cardinal and the early modern don developed theories of “spiritual sensation” that transcend the stale precision of the scholastics. Each urges a mystical path of knowledge by acquaintance via “spiritual sense.” They differ profoundly, however, on just how sense is imbued with spiritual significance. For the Reformed Smith, one spiritually senses God directly; while for the Catholic Cusa, sense reveals the pattern necessary for contemplation of the Divine. These similarities-​cum-​differences notwithstanding, there is no clear, direct textual connection between Cusanus and Smith. Cusa’s works are not among the books Smith donated to Queens’ College Library in 1652.2 Smith’s lone publication, the posthumous Select Discourses (1660), contains no reference to Nicholas of Cusa. While other “Cambridge Platonists,” including Peter Sterry and Ralph Cudworth, were familiar with Cusa, I am unaware of any clear connection between the don and the Cardinal.3 My comparison of the two thinkers is thus conceptual and not genealogical. 1 The most significant recent publication representing this trend is The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, ed. Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 2 Anonymous, “Queens’ College Donation List (17th century),” Queens’ College, Cambridge, MS 47. Digital facsimile available at http://​issuu.com/​03776/​docs/​qunsdonors. There may have been a copy of Cusa’s works available at Queens’ College library during Smith’s tenure there in the 1565 edition published in Basel. See Thomas Hartwell Horne, A Catalogue of the Library of the College of St. Margaret and St. Bernard Commonly Called Queen’s College in the University of Cambridge (London: Samuel and Richard Bentley, 1827), I.134. 3 Intriguingly, it is possible that Cudworth and Sterry taught Smith. On this possibility see my “Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation” (PhD Diss., Boston University, 2015), 127–​31. On Cusanus’ influence on Sterry, see Eric Parker’s chapter in this volume.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 12

286 Michaud

The Spiritual Senses

The Christian tradition of the spiritual senses arose out of early Patristic interpretations of passages in the Scriptures that appear to speak of the perception of divine things.4 Faced with the paradox of reports (or predictions) of seeing that which cannot be seen, some of the Fathers interpreted these texts to mean that there is a kind of spiritually attuned perception. Above all, this is rightly associated with Origen.5 While the “spiritual senses” is best understood as an “umbrella term” for a wide variety of distinct expressions uniting “sense,” either in general or a particular modality, with “spirit,” “heart,” “soul,” “mind or intellect,” “inner [person],” or “faith,” it is with the Latin translation of Origen that the expression “spiritual senses” entered the medieval West.6 For this reason, as much as the specifics of their own varieties of sensus spirituales, it is this original Origenist understanding that will form the basis for our discussion of Cusa and Smith’s places within the broader tradition.7 Our authors both seek to accommodate Origen’s spiritual senses to their milieus. The Origenist theological aesthetic posits a two-​fold sensorium, one external engaged through the five physical senses, and one internal engaged by the spiritual senses.8 Origen affirms the existence of a set of five spiritual senses analogous to the physical senses located in the mind or soul, what he calls the “inner man,” which is distinct from the physical body and thus also from the

4 Compare, for example, Exodus 33:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:12. 5 Karl Rahner, “The ‘Spiritual Senses’ According to Origen,” in Theological Investigations, XVI: Experience of the Spirit: Source of Theology, trans. David Moreland (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 89–​103; Augustine, too, set off a long line of speculation on “spiritual vision,” through many medieval monastic and scholastic authors. See Veerle Fraeters, “Visio/​Vision,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, ed. Amy Hollywood and Patricia Z. Beckman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 178–​88; and Matthew R. Lootens, “Augustine,” in Spiritual Senses, 56–​70. 6 Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, “Introduction,” in Spiritual Senses, 2. 7 Both Cusanus and Smith have more nearly contemporary influences as well. However, our focus here is limited to their appropriation (and modification) of Origen. For a full treatment of the spiritual senses in Smith see my Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2017). A complete assessment of the theme in Nicholas of Cusa has yet to be written. The analysis offered here is thus a report on the state of research with regard to both authors. 8 Garth W.  Green, “Nicholas of Cusa,” in Spiritual Senses, 213–​4, 223; Also Mark J.  McInroy, “Origen of Alexandria,” in Spiritual Senses, 20–​35. While not all of the Fathers who have something important to say about spiritual perception accept this dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual sensoria, Origen’s approach was to form a classic model taken up throughout the medieval period.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

287

physical senses.9 For Origen the spiritual or allegorical reading of scripture suggests that references to sensing the divine are not simply literal accounts.10 At the same time, however, Origen is convinced that references to spiritual senses are not without some kind of literal meaning. That is, rather than reading these passages as mere metaphorical references to knowledge, or comprehension, Origen takes a sudden and unexpected turn by suggesting such passages refer to literally “spiritual senses.” There were important variations and modifications of this basic scheme by later Patristic and Medieval theologians, but the spiritual senses remained a living option well into the early modern period.11 Both Cusa and Smith took up this tradition of theological aesthetics in their own ways but it is with the late medieval Cusanus that we see a reformation of this tradition, while the early modern Smith looks back more directly to the example of Origen.12

Cusa’s Theological Aesthetic

Cusa’s theological aesthetic takes up the Origenist inheritance only in the broadest possible sense. Like the Alexandrian, Cusanus places significant importance on sensibility, employing sense and sensibility often throughout his corpus and making especially prominent use in one of his best known treatises, De visione Dei.13 Likewise, Cusa employs sensibility in a pattern of ascent from everyday observations to the contemplation, and thus understanding, of

9 10

11 12

13

The outer/​inner human being motif is Pauline (e.g., 2 Corinthians 4:7, etc.). The consensus is that Origen speaks of five spiritual senses analogous to the physical senses. See Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition From Plato to Denys (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 66–​7; John M. Dillon, “Aisthêsis Noêtê: A Doctrine of the Spiritual Senses in Origen and in Plotinus,” in Hellenica et Judaica, ed. A. Caquot, et al. (Leuven: Peeters, 1986), 443–​55; and Gordon Rudy, Mystical Language of Sensation in the Later Middle Ages (New York: Routledge, 2002), 17–​35. See, for example, William J. Wainwright, “Jonathan Edwards and his Puritan Predecessors,” and Mark T. Mealey, “John Wesley,” in Spiritual Senses, 224–​40 and 241–​56. While there are precedents for key aspects of Cusa’s spiritual senses in figures such as Pseudo-​Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, and others, the intensity of his apophasis sets Cusa apart from the mainstream of the tradition, especially in the Latin West. See Paul L.  Gavrilyuk, “Pseudo-​Dionysius the Areopagite,” in Spiritual Senses, 86–​103; Frederick D. Aquino, “Maximus the Confessor,” in Spiritual Senses, 104–​20; Boyd Taylor Coolman, “Alexander of Hales,” in Spiritual Senses, 121–​39; “Thomas Gallus” in Spiritual Senses, 140–​ 58; and Gregory F. LaNave, “Bonaventure” in Spiritual Senses, 159–​73. Cf. Rudy, Mystical Language, 35–​43. Nicholas of Cusa, De visione Dei (h VI.3–​90; trans. Hopkins, II.679–​743).

288 Michaud God. Beyond these general features the Cardinal’s aesthetic bears little substantive resemblance to that of the church father. While the theme of vision in Cusa has received no shortage of treatment14 there is only one analysis that expressly situates him in the Christian tradition of the spiritual senses.15 As Garth Green has shown, it is Origen’s intent rather than his doctrine that Cusa takes up. In this, Cusanus is following a long line of Catholic theologians who did just the same by reconciling this aesthetic intention with the latest in epistemic fashion. As was the case for many scholastic authors before him the epistemological state-​of-​the-​art for Cusa was a variety of Aristotelianism. Whereas in its first classic expression the spiritual senses were conceived of as a separate set of perceptual faculties, Cusanus is unable to employ this dualistic aesthetic because of his (qualified) acceptance of Aristotelian epistemology. Nevertheless, Cusa finds in sensibility, especially vision, a topic of deep spiritual and theological significance. However, on the principles of the Aristotelian ordo cognoscendi Origen’s aesthesis pneumatike is impossible. While committed by orthodoxy to the visio Dei and by orthopraxy to the contemplatio (theoria) of the Divine, Cusa was also faithful (albeit with reservations)16 to an essentially Aristotelian epistemology that made these commitments paradoxical at best. Cusa’s solution to this incongruity is to wed the spirit of the spiritual senses tradition (i.e., immediate perceptual encounter with the Divine) to his epistemology by exploiting the structure of sensibility itself. Cusanus is committed as a faithful Christian to a visio Dei but as a philosopher cannot give a reasonable account of such a vision. In order to appreciate Cusa’s predicament here it is important to remember that, although he is not alone in discussing the visio Dei during our earthly existence, this vision is far more commonly reserved for the final goal of human life in the eschaton. However, there is also a long tradition, especially associated with Christian mystics, which holds “that some kind of seeing of God is possible in this life as preparation for and foretaste of what is to come.”17 Cusa’s approach, although 14

15 16 17

See, for example, Hugh Lawrence Bond, “The ‘Icon’ and the ‘Iconic’ Text of Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei I-​XVII,” in Nicholas of Cusa and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality, ed. Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellito (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 177–​95 and Michel de Certeau, “The Gaze –​Nicholas of Cusa,” Diacritics 17:3 (1987): 2–​38. Green, “Cusa,” 210–​23. See, for example, Cusa’s critiques of the Peripatetics in Apologia doctae ignorantiae 6 (h II.4–​5; trans. Hopkins, I.462–​3) and Aristotle himself in De docta ignorantia 2.9.148 (h I.94; trans. Hopkins, I.85). Bernard McGinn, “Seeing and Not Seeing: Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei in the History of Western Mysticism,” in Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, ed. Peter J. Casarella (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 27.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

289

deeply informed by later developments (especially [Pseudo-​] Dionysius and medieval Aristotelianism) takes up themes already employed by Clement of Alexandria in the second century. Specifically, both the Patristic Catechist and the Renaissance Cardinal wrestle with the “fundamental aporia” of how “the utterly invisible God” can “become visible in a divinizing vision.” Moreover, both employ the same basic strategies in addressing their topic; they seek to understand the “vision of God in terms of Platonic theoria,” each connects the visio Dei to divinization or theosis, and both use “categories taken from Hellenistic philosophy to express biblical teaching about God’s invisibility and unknowability.”18 The problem, as Cusa seeks to understand what he believes, is essentially as follows. If one accepts, as Cusa does, the Aristotelian account of the ordo cognoscendi, sensibility bears a directionality that precludes the sensing of spiritual realities. The key concept here is the sensus communis, or “common sense.”19 For Aristotle, and his scholastic followers, the order of cognition begins in the receptive process of the individual sense faculties which take as their objects the domains appropriate to each. For example, the object of sight is the visible. In this way, what is seen is not heard or smelled and vice versa. However, “Each particular sense functions within a single sensible horizon, established by the ‘common sensibles’ (movement, rest, number, figure, magnitude). These, Aristotle continues, ‘are not peculiar to any one sense, but are common to all,’ as those characteristics by means of which individual senses discern their respective properties and objects.”20 It is thus via the common sense that one perceives the measured movement and exquisite sound of a virtuoso musical performance as a single experience.21 Notice however that the common sense is situated in an order of cognition. As Green puts it, “Only upon the reception of sensible data by the five external senses does the common sense possess material for synthesis, and only as synthesized by the common sense can such data be determined by, for example, imagination and intellection.”22 The directionality is clear; from the external world, to the special senses, to the common sense, to imagination, and intellection. There can be no sensation of the color blue without the activity of sight, but “this blue thing that I  am seeing now” does not arise without the 1 8 19 20 21 22

McGinn, “Seeing and Not Seeing,” 30. See, above all, De anima III. 1, 425a 27; De memoria et reminiscentia I, 450a 10; and De partibus animalium, IV.10, 686a 31. Aristotle, De anima II.6, 418a 18, quoted by Green, “Cusa,” 211. This is why live music is more enjoyable than prerecorded music. Green, “Cusa,” 212. Emphasis added.

290 Michaud common sense providing the “horizon” within which such a sensation takes place and the cognitive faculties by which we remember and judge any “this” to be a “that.” It is only through this process (highly abbreviated here) that the “material object outside us is transmuted in distinct stages into an immaterial idea.”23 The Cardinal was thus aware, as Thomas Aquinas put it, only “material and sensible things” can “form our proper natural objects” of cognition.24 There is no room here for the separate, non-​physical, fivefold sensorium suggested (or assumed) by Origen. If all that can be perceived must be sensed by the five physical senses, and if what can be thought can only be given to imagination and intellection by the common sense that receives its input from those special senses, then Origen’s “spiritual senses” are simply impossible. There is, on this view, nowhere for such faculties to operate. Such talk must be metaphorical, referring to one or another of the non-​sensory faculties with which understanding of spiritual realities are had.25 Thus, to the extent that Cusa is an Aristotelian he cannot accept Origen’s spiritual senses.26 The Cardinal’s solution to this impasse, since he clearly wants to employ sensibility in theologically significant ways, even as he recognizes the obstacles to this employment, is at once brilliant, modern in its emphasis, and ancient in its inspiration. Rather than reject either Origen or Aristotle (or Thomas for that matter), Cusa modifies and synthesizes them both to “discover a hidden theological significance within the shadows of the physical sensorium.”27 23 24

25 26

27

Green, “Cusa,” 213. Summa Theologiae 1a q 87.1 ad., 1, quoted by Green, “Cusa,” 214. See also Summa contra Gentiles IV.1:  “The human intellect, to which it is connatural to derive its knowledge from sensible things, is not able through itself to reach the vision of the divine substance in itself, which is above all sensible things and, indeed, improportionately above all other things” (Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, trans. Charles J. O’Neil [University of Notre Dame Press, 1975], 35). See Cusa’s claim that “the infinite, qua infinite, is unknown; for it escapes all comparative relation,” in De docta ignorante 1.1.3 (h I.6; trans. Hopkins, I.5). Green, “Cusa,” 213–​4. See also Richard Cross, “Thomas Aquinas,” in Spiritual Senses, 174–​89. Green is careful to distinguish the Platonic Cusa from a purported Aristotelian Cusa (219 n.51). I would argue, with Gerson, that such a distinction is overdrawn, for Aristotle is himself a sort of Platonist. See Lloyd Gerson, From Plato to Platonism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013), 3–​33, 97–​129; and Lloyd Gerson, Aristotle and Other Platonists (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). This is not to deny the Renaissance era controversies over such labels but it is to suggest that those conflicts were more historically rooted than conceptually necessary. Green, “Cusa,” 214.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

291

Although he abandons the Origenist spiritual sensorium per se “Cusa employs the language of the spiritual senses throughout his corpus.”28 While the Cardinal makes analogical use of taste, smell, touch, and hearing, it is vision above all that forms the “distinctive feature of Cusa’s theological aesthetics.”29 In addition to the traditional goal of human life in the visio Dei, and the preference for vision in Western thought generally,30 Cusa has an etymological argument for the priority of vision in theological reflection. In explicating Paul’s sermon to the Athenians on the Areopagus in Acts 17, an event still connected to the Corpus Dionysiacum for Cusanus despite his doubts about its authorship,31 the Cardinal observes that human thought can bear no likeness to God.32 It is on this basis that the Apostle correlates the “Unknown God” of the Athenians with the unknowable God of Israel and Jesus Christ (Acts 17:23). However, while Paul acknowledges the unknowability of God, he also, “names him God –​or Theos in Greek.”33 Thus, the Apostle both names and un-​names God at once. The resolution of this curiosity is, for Cusanus, that this name, Theos, is not the name of God beyond all concepts. Instead, Theos is itself a concept and only “the name of God insofar as God is sought” by human beings.34 Theos is thus a conceptual tool for our seeking and finding the God yet unnamed and only eschatologically known. For, “Theos is derived from theoro, which means both ‘I see’ and ‘I hasten’.”35 Thus, the name used by Paul reveals a “pathway” by which one may seek the “Unknown God.”36 This “pathway” takes three successive forms, matching the familiar pattern of mystical theology. First, by calling attention to “sensible vision.” Second, by analyzing “intellectual vision.” And third, after these sensible, 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35 36

Ibid., 215. Vision far exceeds other senses in frequency and importance for Cusa. Compare, for example, De visio Dei 20.91 (h VI.71; trans. Hopkins, II.722–​3) on smell, 16.71 (h VI.58–​9; trans. Hopkins, II.712) on taste, and near constantly throughout on sight. Green, “Cusa,” 216. The “superiority” of sight goes back at least to Aristotle (De anima III.3 429a). See Robert Jütte, A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace (Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 2005), especially 61–​71 on the “Christian appropriation of the ‘Aristotelian’ hierarchy” of the senses. William Franke, On What cannot be Said: Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature, and the Arts (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), I.158. De quaerendo Deum 1.17 (h IV.13–​4; trans. Hopkins, I.314) and Acts 17:22–​31. De quaerendo Deum 1.17 (h IV.13–​4; trans. Hopkins, I.314). De quaerendo Deum 1.19 (h IV.14–​5; trans. Hopkins, I.315), quoted by Green, “Cusa,” 217. Ibid. See also Cusa, “On Seeking God,” in Nicholas of Cusa:  Selected Spiritual Writings, trans. and intr. Hugh Lawrence Bond with a preface by Morimichi Watanabe (New York Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997), 320 n.11. Green, “Cusa,” 217.

292 Michaud and symbolic moments, speculatively attaining a visio Dei.37 The mystical path here exploits the fundamental structure of vision at each stage. This is most obvious at the level of sensible vision. The act of vision stands above, and apart from, the objects of sight. What is seen is color. But the seeing thereof is not colored. Indeed, sight itself is unseen, precisely because it is by means of sight that we see the objects appropriate to that sensory modality. Vision is the principle, the thing seen is principled. What is especially significant is that Cusa identifies an absence of sight (the unseen vision that allows for our seeing) in the very act of seeing. The invisible is already ingredient in the employment of our sensible faculties. Vision includes “that which sees and is not seen,” an image for the Unknown God who sees but remains unseen by us. Likewise, the sensus communis, which “contains within itself ‘the form of the sensible world’,” sits above sight (and the rest of the external senses). Sight however is “uniquely capable of evincing the basic figures of Christian self-​understanding” at “each of the three levels of mystical ascent.”38 So, the pathway opened up by an examination of vision continues to guide Cusa even as he proceeds from the external to the inner senses. Moreover, this path continues beyond even the realm of sensibility. Just as vision is the principle for the objects of sight, so too the intellect for Cusa is the principle for rational things. As he notes in Idiota de mente and elsewhere, the “mind is that from which derive the boundary and the measurement of every [respective] thing. Indeed … mind [mens] takes its name from measuring [mensurare].”39 Thus, the mind is not to be found in the realm of the rational objects, since it is by means of the intellect that these are determined. To look for the mind among the rational is to look for the measure among the measured. So, in keeping with the pattern thus far established, “the mind, too, cannot understand [‘see’] itself except by means of the relative position between an invisible origin and a visible image or manifestation thereof.”40 So, the path is clearly laid out for the seeker. Consideration of the seen leads to the unseen origin of vision. Consideration of the known leads to the unknown origin in the intellect. Each attempt to figure points beyond itself to 37 38 39

40

Ibid. See also Cusa, De docta ignorantia 2.1.93 (h I.62; trans. Hopkins, I.59); De visione Dei 24.105–​10 (h VI.81–​4); De beryllo 5 (h XI/​1.7–​8; trans. Hopkins, II.793); and Trialogus de posset 62 (h XI/​2.73–​4; trans. Hopkins, II.947). Green, “Cusa,” 218–​9. Nicholas of Cusa, Idiota de mente, 1.57 (h V.90–​1; trans. Hopkins, I.535–​6). Additionally see Clyde Lee Miller, “Cusanus, Nicholas [Nicholas of Cusa],” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, published 10 July 2009, revised 26 March 2013, http://​plato.stanford.edu/​archives/​ sum2013/​entries/​cusanus/​, §2.2. Green, “Cusa,” 219–​20.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

293

an invisible ground. So too at the stage of speculation it is by means of our limitations that we are given a glimpse of God. For Cusa takes the injunction of the Psalmist to “be still and know that I  am God”41 as a call to continue this pathway or pattern of seeing and unseeing, knowing and unknowing. For a proper visio Dei cannot “remain in a mere cognitive seeing, which puffs us up.”42 No, a proper vision of the invisible God must be the realization that we do not see. “The frustration of visio is propaedeutic to the frustration of ratio, and to a theological vision of the limits of physical and philosophical vision.”43 By following the pathway revealed by the ordo cognoscendi Cusa guides his reader to (through) an ascent that “does not yield a new visibility, but rather yields necessarily limits thereto.” In this way our visio Dei lies in our seeing “that we do not see,” and our realizing that we do not know.44 Thus, the vision of God is, for Cusa, something that “is not, and cannot be, brought fully to sensible presence.” Sensibility is spiritually significant primarily as a figure involving both presence and absence (seen and unseen). Green hypothesizes that this accounts for Cusa’s insistence that “revelation falls short of savoring.”45 The mystical path leads to a “re-​vealing, but also and equally … a re-​veiling.”46 The Origenist intension is thus only partly satisfied by a glimmer set within a larger darkness. The Cusan visio anticipates the vision “face to face” but remains unconsummated and an enigma in this life.

Smith’s Spiritual Sensation47

As I have argued elsewhere, for Smith spiritual sensation takes several distinct forms and answers to distinct theological problems.48 He employs varieties of 41 42

43 44 45 46 47 48

Psalm 46:10 (Vulgate 45:11). Importantly for the history of the spiritual senses, the Hebrew (ūḏə’ū) and Greek (LXX; gnote) here is ‘know’ while the Vulgate has ‘see’ (videte). All three terms carry connotations of ‘knowing’ and/​or ‘seeing’ however. Green, “Cusa,” 220, n.62. The image of knowledge “puffing up” comes from 1 Corinthians 8:1. Smith too employs this image to distinguish between understanding that rectifies and knowledge that does not lead to improvement of the spirit. See John Smith, Select Discourses (London: F. Flesher, 1660), 7, 19, 324. Green, “Cusa,” 221. Ibid. Learning that we do not know, or achieving what Cusa famously calls “learned ignorance.” De visione Dei 17.80 [17.79] (h VI.62; trans. Hopkins, II.717), quoted by Green, “Cusa,” 221. Green, “Cusa,” 221. Some portions of this section appear in much more expansive form in my Reason Turned into Sense, 100, 102–​5, 107–​13. Used here by permission of Peeters Publishers. Michaud, “Reason Turned into Sense,” 192–​365.

294 Michaud spiritual sense to account for the reception of prophetic revelation, the appropriation of theological truth by non-​prophets, and the justification for those truths in light of external critique. In order to address these necessary functions Smith conceives of spiritual sensation as (1) a form of intellectual intuition following the examples of figures such as Plotinus and Origen, (2) imaginative inspiration especially in the case of prophecy revealed to the imagination sans external object, and often (3) a combination of the two.49 In keeping with Cusa’s concern to provide an account of the contemplation of the object of faith, our discussion of Smith’s spiritual sense will be limited to his programmatic first discourse “Of the True Way or Method of Attaining to Divine Knowledge.”50 As we will see, in this “Method” Smith argues, on the basis of a direct inheritance from Origen, for spiritual sense that is free from the compromise necessitated by adherence to Aristotelian epistemology we have seen in Cusa. For Smith, the principle for the intelligibility of theology lies in a “Spiritual Sensation” which unites the will, intellect, and the affections. This is the basis of his theological method. Smith’s intent is to establish a firm foundation upon which all his later work can stand. In this, his deep admiration for Descartes shines through.51 Moreover, whereas Cusa recommends a spiritual practice of contemplation Smith has already embraced the turn toward methodology that came to prominence in the modern period. Nevertheless, much of what Smith has to say about this method echoes Origen. While Karl Rahner is certainly correct about the exegetical provenance of Origen’s doctrine, his claim that it is a conclusion based solely on scripture wholly fails to convince.52 It is far more probable, as Dillon has suggested, that Origen is drawing on previous and contemporaneous speculation about “a noetic correlate of sense-​perception” found in Plato, Philo and Plotinus among others.53 For only if the spiritual senses have an initial air of plausibility can the move to read biblical passages allegorically, but not totally so, be justified. 49

50 51

5 2 53

Smith does not maintain strict distinctions between imagination and intellection. In this, he is following earlier Platonic examples (including Origen) and anticipating the later Romantics. The unity of Smith’s theology stems in large part from his consistent appeal to aesthetics as such, not to his affirmation of a single aesthetic faculty or modality. Smith, Select Discourses, 1–​21. On the relationship between Smith and Descartes, see John E. Saveson, “Descartes’ Influence on John Smith, Cambridge Platonist,” Journal of the History of Ideas 20 (1959): 258–​62 and “Differing Reactions to Descartes among the Cambridge Platonists,” Journal of the History of Ideas 31 (1960): 560–​7. Rahner, “ ‘Spiritual Senses,’ ” 83. Dillon, “Aisthêsis Noêtê,” 455.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

295

In the same manner, Smith appeals directly to scripture and the Neoplatonism of Plotinus as his “evidence” for the spiritual sensation upon which an individual’s theological understanding rests. Spiritual concepts are understood by being perceived. For both Smith and Origen the spiritual senses are capacities of mind that are both conceptual and perceptual. Perceptual in the sense that it is by means of these senses that purely noetic (spiritual) objects are brought to awareness, and conceptual in the sense that they have to do with realities that are by their very nature concepts or ideas not physically sensible things. Thus, in both authors we find that the spiritual senses involve intellectual intuition. Smith combines Plotinus’ affirmation that, “Every thing is best known by that which bears a just resemblance and analogie with it” with the biblical principle that a good life is the prolepsis for coming to an understanding of divine things.54 Additionally, Smith introduces the sixth Beatitude (Matthew 5:8) with a reference to Plotinus. “Divinity is indeed a true enflux from that eternal light” but this light does not merely enlighten, but enlivens also. While the framework here is borrowed from the light mysticism common to Plotinus and Origen (and others),55 the real authority for Smith’s point lies with Christ, who connects “purity of heart with the beatific vision.” What is essential in theology is a practical, existential, and spiritually sensitive approach and not the study or composition of dry treatises.56 Here Smith is taking aim at the scholasticism that still formed the official curriculum at Cambridge and other Universities throughout Europe.57 In so doing Smith is taking up a critique that as we have seen was already well underway in the time of Cusanus. Smith turns again to Plotinus and light mysticism for the idea that just “as the eye cannot behold the sun … unless it hath the form and resemblance of the sun drawn in it” so too for the soul to “behold God … unless it be Godlike.” This Neoplatonic (and Aristotelian) commonplace leads back to scripture immediately; “the apostle St. Paul, when he would lay open the right way of attaining to divine truth, saith, that ‘knowledge puffeth up,’ but it is ‘love that edifieth.’ ”58 For Smith, emotion and the will (especially love) play a central role in the directedness of our attention. When we direct our wills toward inner 54 55 5 6 57 58

Smith, Select Discourses, 2. Smith’s sources are Plotinus, Ennead I.8.1 and Proverbs 9:10 (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”). See Louth, Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition, 35–​72. Smith, Select Discourses, 2. For a discussion of Smith’s complex relationship with the scholasticism of his day, and his ultimate rejection thereof, see Michaud, “Reason Turned into Sense,” 125–​59, 192–​3, 227, 230–​1, 288, 342, and 368–​9. Smith, Selected Discourses, 3. The Pauline reference is to I Corinthians 8:1. The reference to Plotinus appears to be Ennead I.6.9. On the perfection of divine knowledge in love

296 Michaud spiritual things, love plays a positive role in spiritual sensation. The spiritual senses are partly activated by, and partly cause and deepen, love of God made possible through God’s grace in creation and salvation. As an early, and in some respects uncritical, admirer of Descartes, Smith seeks to offer foundations for his theological work in ways that Origen does not, but Smith finds his foundations not in modernity, but in Origen’s era. In short, Smith was urged by his present to recover a past within the tradition of (patristic) Christian Platonism. While he follows the example of Origen’s creative combination of platonic plausibility and allegorical scriptural exegesis, Smith’s specific indebtedness to Origen is best seen when one considers the way in which Origen acts not only as a model but also as a source. From the outset Smith is eager to show that theology has a kind of demonstration that is different from ratiocination or the presentation of doctrines and proofs. He assures us that, “We must not think we have attained to the right knowledge of Truth, when we have broke through the outward shell of words & phrases that house it up; or when by a Logical Analysis we have found out the dependencies and coherences of them with one another.”59 Smith is here framing his presentation of the “True Way” in apologetic terms against a merely logical or intellectual approach to philosophy and theology, especially scholastic Christian Aristotelians. It is in the midst of his apology that Smith makes direct appeal to Origen. “It is but a thin, aiery knowledge that is got by meer Speculation, which is usher’d in by Syllogisms and Demonstrations; but that which springs forth from true Goodness, is θειότερόν τι πασης άποδείξεως, as Origen speaks, it brings such a Divine Light into the Soul, as is more clear and convincing than any Demonstration.”60 Examination of Origen’s works, and the editions of Origen known to have been available to Smith, reveals that the “quote” here is most likely a paraphrase taken from Contra Celsum I.2. That Smith intends this passage specifically is indicated by Origen’s usage but most strongly by the parallel intensions at work in both texts. In Contra Celsum I.2, Celsus is criticized for trying to apply the criterion of a “Greek proof” to Christianity. Origen says “that the gospel has a proof which is particular to itself, and which is more divine than a Greek proof based on dialectical argument. This more divine demonstration the apostle calls a ‘demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ …”61 Immediately

59 60 61

in Smith and others see Susan James, Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-​ Century Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 234–​42. Smith, Selected Discourses, 8. Smith, Selected Discourses, 4. Origen, Contra Celsum, I.2 (trans. Chadwick), emphasis added.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

297

after his reference to Origen, Smith continues his attack on the “thin speculations” of logicians (both believers and non-​believers). While it is clear from these considerations that the spiritual senses are not merely metaphorical for Origen, it remains to be seen if they are rightly understood to be five in number or if they are merely so many ways of speaking of a single spiritual capacity or “intellectual sense” as Smith puts it.62 In Contra Celsum I.48 Origen suggests, in the midst of a discussion of the demonstration of the Spirit in prophecy and its connection to the five spiritual senses, that there is a single “general divine perception” but notes that this single spiritual sensibility takes many forms. These Origen gives as the five spiritual senses. Smith is in basic agreement on this point. However, unlike Origen, Smith does not put forward a clear theory of five distinct spiritual senses. But he does consistently speak of the spiritual senses as more than simply one. Divinity is best known through a spiritual sensation for Smith that may take a form analogous to any of the physical senses, in keeping with Origen’s statement in Contra Celsum I.48.63 It seems probable therefore that Smith has in mind an arrangement very much like the one suggested by Origen where a “general divine perception” takes many different forms in order that the plentitude of the divine nature may be more fully expressed.64 This would help account for the ease with which Smith can go from speaking of a single noetic sense, using sensory language as a metaphor for knowledge (i.e., intellectual intuition), to multiple senses akin to the physical senses with different sensory objects within the spiritual realm (i.e., spiritual sight, taste, touch, of etc.). As we have seen, for Smith we come to an understanding of divine things via the activation of our capacity for spiritual sensation. This power is noetic and functions as an intuition of Divine truth. Moreover, this ability is affective and captured best by employing the language of sense.65 Smith intends here both intellectual intuition and something more along the lines of the five spiritual senses of Origen. However, there is a problem with understanding how Smith’s “spiritual sense” can be simultaneously intellectual and sensible. At least one commentator has tried to get around this issue by interpreting Smith’s discussion in the “True Way” discourse as entirely concerned with intellectual intuition simpliciter. 62 63 6 4 65

Smith, Selected Discourses, 3. Smith speaks of spiritual sight, touch, and taste already on the third page of the Select Discourses. See Michaud, “Reason Turned into Sense,” 226–​74. On Platonic affective cognition see James, Passion and Action, 225–​52.

298 Michaud William Wainwright has argued that spiritual sensation for Smith is a matter of “affect-​laden intellectual insight or intuition.”66 Drawing on many of the same passages discussed above he rightly concludes that the spiritual senses are a matter of intellectual intuition with a strong “affective dimension.”67 However, Wainwright misses the subtle way in which Smith speaks of the spiritual senses as both unitary, as a figure for intellection, and diverse, on analogy with the five physical senses. He is correct that “Platonists think that reason itself has an affective dimension”68 but the emotional response to the intuition of Divine things is also perceptual for Smith. It is perceived through a “living sense” in and through a truly spiritual life. Wainwright argues that other “analogies are at least as apt” and he mentions as an example “our immediate acquaintance with numbers.”69 However, Smith thinks that the “true Perfection, Sweetness, Energie, and Loveliness” of the purified soul reflecting Divine truth “is ούτε ρητού ουτε γραπτον [neither explicit nor written] … [and] can no more be known by a naked Demonstration, then Colours can be perceived of a blinde man by any Definition or Description which he can hear of them.”70 But what does it mean to have an “immediate acquaintance” with numbers if not to be brought to a proper cognition of them by a demonstration, definition, or description? There is, therefore, more “sensibility” here than Wainwright has allowed. For, our intellectual intuition of divine things must remain in this life “but here in its Infancy.” Even the understanding of the “true Metaphysical and Contemplative man” must still contend with the “Imaginative Powers” that will be “breathing a grosse dew upon the pure Glasse of our Understandings” so that at best we intellectually intuit “in a glass darkly.”71 That is, the sensible images of our imaginations remain with us while we live. The eschatological goal remains pure “affect-​laden intellectual … intuition” but this is a goal we are, here on Earth, only ever approaching. For all the intellectualism in the “True Way,” the imagination is not, cannot be, completely surpassed. To do so would be to take the “life” out of Smith’s proposed method. Moreover, as one sees in Smith’s theory of prophecy, the imagination, no less than the intellect, plays a key role in the reception of the saving truths of revelation.72 6 6 67 68 69 70 71 72

Wainwright, “Jonathan Edwards,” 229. Ibid., 231. Ibid. Ibid. Smith, Selected Discourses, 15. Ibid., 20, 21. Also, 1 Corinthians 13:12. Mario Micheletti, Il pensiero religioso di John Smith platonico di Cambridge (Padua: La Garangola, 1976), 360–​85.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

299

Interpretations As we have seen, both Cusa and Smith find Aristotelian epistemology lacking for theological reflection. In this, their understandings of “spiritual sense” represent two moments in the Renaissance/​early modern critique of scholasticism.73 Cusa, however, follows earlier medieval, and specifically Thomist precedent by using the tradition of Aristotelian rationalism to lead (and ultimately yield) to theology. In his exploitation of the limits of Aristotelian epistemology Cusa opens space for his transcendental apophasis. Like Thomas, Cusanus brings together philosophy and theology by uniting them at the breaking point of reason. While neither saw philosophy and theology in opposition, both make explicit use of the distinction thereof. Smith, on the other hand, simply builds a theological perspective employing concepts adopted from the Bible and the Neoplatonic tradition. Cusa’s (Aristotelian) philosophy leads to (mystical) theology. Smith’s Reformed philosophy is always, already, theological, and vice versa. Thus, with Cusa we see the beginning of the internal critique of the scholastic consensus and in Smith we see one fully willing (if not yet fully able) to move beyond the schoolmen. Both Cusa and Smith are Christian Platonists, but this takes on distinctly different forms in their respective theories of spiritual sensation. Smith’s spiritual senses are decidedly kataphatic.74 Cusa, on the other hand brings Pseudo-​ Dionysian doctrines to the fore, bringing out an overwhelmingly apophatic significance for sensibility. For Cusa, God is ultimately mystery, source, and Unity. For Smith, God is ultimately the Good. Cusa’s God reveals most fully in 73

74

The literature here is large and growing in quality. For an accessible overview see Luca Bianchi, “Continuity and Change in the Aristotelian Tradition,” and Christopher S. Celenza, “The Revival of Platonic Philosophy,” both in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. James Hankins (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2007), 49–​71 and 72–​96. On developments in Smith’s milieu see Michaud, “Reason Turned into Sense,” 125–​59. On Cusa’s place in this transition see Maurice de Gandillac, “Platonisme et Aristotelisme chez Nicolas de Cues,” in Platon et Aristote à la Renaissance (Paris: J. Vrin, 1976), 7–​ 23; “Neoplatonism and Christian Thought in the Fifteenth Century: Nicholas of Cusa and Marsilio Ficino,” in Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. Dominic J. O’Meara (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1982), 143–​68; and K. Meredith Ziebart, Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Smith’s kataphatic preference is broadly in keeping with Origen but less so his other significant ancient source in this area, Plotinus. However, while elements of negative theology do abound in the Enneads, there is also a strong element of Smith’s type of purified kataphasis too. For example, see Ennead VI.9.7.

300 Michaud and through re-​veiling, Smith’s in and through the revelation that transforms and purifies. The Cardinal and Cambridge Platonist each adopt their distinctive emphases from a common Neoplatonic inheritance, but they do so in very different immediate contexts. Cusa, in a late medieval world still thoroughly sacramental guards against idolatry with his negative theology. Smith, on the other hand, on the far side of the Reformations and during the birth of early modern secular philosophy, guards against the possibility that God might not be contemplated at all (atheism) and the temptation to think that knowledge of the Divine might be all-​too-​easy (enthusiasm/​fideism). Where Cusa can rest secure in the certain eschatological fulfillment of his mysticism Smith’s focus is in the here-​and-​now. Both think of the “spiritual senses” as a foretaste of the Beatific Vision. But where Cusa’s apophasis emphasizes futurity, Smith’s kataphasis is aimed at the practical, moral transformation of the individual. Smith’s Protestant world is already, by Cusa’s standards, de-​sacramentalized. Thus, the need to “make present” the Divine Goodness in the purified icon of the soul. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the contrast between Cusa’s aversion to the more intimate language of touch and Smith’s wholehearted embrace of that language. The Cardinal thinks of touch (and taste) of God as too consummated for this earthly existence.75 Smith, on the other hand, freely speaks of our “intellectual” or “inner” touch of the Divine in this life.76 Cusanus and Smith represent important moments in the development of Christian thinking on the spiritual senses. Both are more concerned with using this language to capture a key aspect of the mystical path, or religious experience. They are not worried about the medieval preoccupations of the exact nature and number of these “senses” and their precise relation to various doctrines in systematic theology, nor are they particularly interested in explaining the spiritual senses themselves. Instead, they are concerned with using these figures to inform the spiritual life.77 Cusa offers a transcendental argument to direct our contemplation beyond the limits of sense and reason into the illuminous darkness of Dionysian 75

76 77

McGinn, “Seeing and Not Seeing,” 29–​38, 42–​4, 49–​50. See also Dorothy Koenigsberger, Renaissance Man and Creative Thinking: A History of Concepts of Harmony, 1400–​1700 (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979), 132, and Cusa, Idiota de sapientia 1.18 (trans. Hopkins, I.503–​4), cited by Green, “Cusa,” 216. Smith, Selected Discourses, 3, 52, 148, 360, 371–​2, 377, and 391. Smith contrasts this “intellectual” touch, proper to theology, with corporeal touch which inhibits our understanding of God. See Michaud, “Reason Turned into Sense,” 26–​103 and Green, “Cusa,” 215 n.23.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

301

negative theology. At each stage along the way something unseen, yet ingredient in the very act of seeing, is intimated, pushing reflection beyond the immediate object of contemplation. Seeing has as its transcendental source the power of sight. Thinking, the transcendental power of thought. The human mind, the transcendental power of God. In this, Cusa does anticipate Kant’s famous use of transcendental reasoning, albeit to apparently different ends.78 Cusa exposes the limits of our vision in order that they be transcended, opening up space for what he takes to be the heights of mystical ascent. Smith’s kataphatism leads him to critique the misuse of human faculties from a predominately moral perspective. Through purification of the will and intellect one becomes capable of intuiting the Good and thus having a proper relationship with God. Both Cusa and Smith present their teaching on “spiritual sense” in the context of educating others. Cusanus offers a guide to contemplation for a religious elite primarily while Smith’s aim is catechetical. Smith’s original audience were students at Queens’ College Cambridge. While many of them were destined for clerical careers, formation in the Christian faith was an essential part of the edification even of the laity too. Here we see one of the effects of the reformations standing between our authors. Smith demonstrates a clear concern for the personal appropriation of religious truth by firsthand experience that characterizes much of Protestant piety; a democratized version of late medieval monastic piety.79 Smith speaks implicitly as one who has “seen” that of which he speaks for himself. In contrast, Cusa’s claim to never have had a mystical experience himself is illustrative here.80 For the Cardinal’s advice is to embrace reason until it breaks and to locate theological insight in this failure. Smith, on the other 78

79

80

“Apparently” because the practical difference between Kant’s “postulate of practical reason” and Cusa’s unseen God is not immediately obvious. Everything depends, of course, on one’s reading of both authors. On this see Don Cupitt, “Kant and Negative Theology,” in Is Nothing Sacred? (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), 3–​17 and Sergei Bulgakov, “Kant and Negative Theology,” in Unfading Light: Contemplations and Speculations, trans. Thomas Allan Smith (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012), 150–​2. Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–​1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980), 73–​134, 245–​89. See also Marvin B. Becker, “Aspects of Lay Piety in Early Renaissance Florence,” in The Pursuit of Holiness, ed. Charles Edward Trinkaus and Heiko Augustinus Oberman (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 177–​99. F. Edward Cranz’s, “Cusanus, Luther and the Mystical Tradition,” in Pursuit of Holiness, 93–​102 is of interest as well. Nicholas of Cusa to Gaspard Aindorffer, 22 September 1452, in Edmond Vansteenberghe, Autor de la Docte Ignorance: Une controverse sur la theologie mystique au XVe siècle (Münster: Aschendorff, 1915), 113, cited by Certeau, “The Gaze,” 25.

302 Michaud hand, speaks of reason that is always already theological. The negative moment of unsaying (i.e., withdrawing one’s gaze from the external and corporeal) is purifying for Smith, not the culmination of the spiritual life. Smith feels entitled to this because he is unapologetically dualist. For him the outer man is wholly inadequate to the theological task but the purified, inner man is already a spiritual being, at home with the Divine Author of all. This may lead to problems that Cusa avoids simply through ignoring them but it makes the Cambridge Platonist far more obviously “modern” than the Cardinal if by that one means a predilection for Cartesianism. It is precisely these theological and philosophical issues raised by mind/​body dualism that the importance of Cusa’s monistic anthropology becomes clear. By bringing external sense, and thus the body, into theological significance, Cusa opens conceptual space for an appreciation of embodiment, incarnation, and sacramentality largely absent in Smith and many other Protestant theologians.81 Bibliography Anonymous. “Queens’ College Donation List (17th century).” Queens’ College, Cambridge, MS 47. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa contra Gentiles, Book IV: Salvation. Translated by Charles J. O’Neil. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975. Aquinas, Thomas. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. 2nd revised edition. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Edited by Kevin Knight. Accessed 9 March 2017. http://​home.newadvent.org/​summa. Aquino, Frederick D. “Maximus the Confessor.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 104–​20. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Aristotle. The Complete Works of Aristotle. The Revised Oxford Translation. One-​ Volume Digital Edition. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

81

That said, both Cusa and Smith are fond of the incarnational imagery of the birth of the divine Son in the human soul, an important theme for Meister Eckhart too. See Cusa, De filiatione Dei (h IV.39–​64; trans. Hopkins, I.341–​69) and De visione Dei 20.88 (h VI.69–​70; trans. Hopkins, II.721). Smith discusses the Christian life as “nothing else but God’s own breath within him, and an Infant Christ (if I may use the expression) formed in his Soul” (Selected Discourses, 21). For Eckhart, see for example, his German Sermon #22 on Luke 1:28, trans. Edmund Colledge, in Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, ed. Bernard McGinn and Edmund Colledge (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981), 192–​6.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

303

Becker, Marvin B. “Aspects of Lay Piety in Early Renaissance Florence.” In The Pursuit of Holiness, edited by Charles Edward Trinkaus and Heiko Augustinus Oberman, 177–​99. Leiden: Brill, 1974. Bianchi, Luca. “Continuity and Change in the Aristotelian Tradition.” In The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, edited by James Hankins, 49–​71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Bond, Hugh Lawrence. “The ‘Icon’ and the ‘Iconic’ Text of Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei I-​XVII.” In Nicholas of Cusa and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality, edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellito, 177–​95. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Brient, E. “How Can the Infinite be the Measure of the Finite? Three Mathematical Metaphors from De docta ignorantia.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by P. J. Casarella, 210–​25. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Bulgakov, Sergei. “Kant and Negative Theology.” In Unfading Light: Contemplations and Speculations, 150–​2. Translated by Thomas Allan Smith. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012. Celenza, Christopher S. “The Revival of Platonic Philosophy.” In The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, edited by James Hankins, 72–​96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Certeau, Michel de. “The Gaze –​Nicholas of Cusa.” Diacritics 17:3 (1987): 2–​38. Coolman, Boyd Taylor. “Alexander of Hales.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 121–​39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Coolman, Boyd Taylor. “Thomas Gallus.” In The Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 140–​58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Cranz, F. Edward. “Cusanus, Luther and the Mystical Tradition.” In The Pursuit of Holiness, edited by Charles Edward Trinkaus and Heiko Augustinus Oberman, 93–​102. Leiden: Brill, 1974. Cross, Richard. “Thomas Aquinas.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 174–​89. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Cupitt, Don. “Kant and Negative Theology.” In Don Cupitt, Is Nothing Sacred?: The Non-Realist Philosophy of Religion: Selected Essays, 3–​17. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002. Dillon, John M. “Aisthêsis Noêtê:  A Doctrine of the Spiritual Senses in Origen and in Plotinus.” In Hellenica et Judaica, edited by A. Caquot, et  al., 443–​55. Leuven: Peeters, 1986. Fraeters, Veerle. “Visio/​Vision.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, edited by Amy Hollywood and Patricia Z. Beckman, 178–​88. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

304 Michaud Franke, William, ed. On What cannot be Said: Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature, and the Arts, Volume 1, Classic Formulations. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007. Gandillac, Maurice de. “Neoplatonism and Christian Thought in the Fifteenth Century: Nicholas of Cusa and Marsilio Ficino.” In Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, edited by Dominic J. O’Meara, 143–​68. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1982. Gandillac, Maurice de. “Platonisme et Aristotelisme chez Nicolas de Cues.” In Platon et Aristote à la Renaissance, 7–​23. Paris: J. Vrin, 1976. Gavrilyuk, Paul L. “Pseudo-​Dionysius the Areopagite.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 86–​ 103. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Gavrilyuk, Paul L. and Sarah Coakley. “Introduction.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 1–​19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Gerson, Lloyd. Aristotle and Other Platonists. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005. Gerson, Lloyd. From Plato to Platonism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. Green, Garth W. “Nicholas of Cusa.” In The Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 210–​23. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Horne, Thomas Hartwell. A Catalogue of the Library of the College of St. Margaret and St. Bernard Commonly Called Queen’s College in the University of Cambridge. 2 vols. London: Samuel and Richard Bentley, 1827. James, Susan. Passion and Action:  The Emotions in Seventeenth-​Century Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Jütte, Robert. A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 2005. Koenigsberger, Dorothy. Renaissance Man and Creative Thinking: A History of Concepts of Harmony, 1400–​1700. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979. LaNave, Gregory F. “Bonaventure.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 159–​73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Lootens, Matthew R. “Augustine.” In The Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 56–​70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Louth, Andrew. The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition from Plato to Denys. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. McGinn, Bernard. “Seeing and Not Seeing:  Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei in the History of Western Mysticism.” In Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, edited by Peter J. Casarella, 26–​53. Washington DC:  Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

Varieties of Spiritual Sense

305

McInroy, Mark J. “Origen of Alexandria.” In The Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 20–​35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Mealey, Mark T. “John Wesley.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 241–​56. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2012. Meister Eckhart. “Sermon 22: Ave, gratia plena (Lk. I:28). In Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, 192–​6. Translated and Introduced by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn with a preface by Huston Smith. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981. Michaud, Derek A. “The Patristic Roots of John Smith’s ‘True Way or Method of Attaining to Divine Knowledge’.” In Perceiving the Divine through the Human Body: Mystical Sensuality, edited by T. Cattoi and J. McDaniel, 141–​58. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Michaud, Derek A. “Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation.” Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Boston University, 2015. Michaud, Derek A. Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation. Studies in Philosophical Theology, 62. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2017. Micheletti, Mario. Il pensiero religioso di John Smith platonico di Cambridge. Padova: La Garangola, 1976. Miller, Clyde Lee. “Cusanus, Nicholas [Nicholas of Cusa].” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Published 10 July 2009. Revised 26 March 2013. http://​plato.stanford.edu/​ archives/​sum2013/​entries/​cusanus/​. Nicholas Cusanus. “On Seeking God.” In Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, translated and introduced by Hugh Lawrence Bond with a preface by Morimichi Watanabe, 215–​31, 319–​22. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997. Origen. Contra Celsum. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953. Ozment, Steven. The Age of Reform, 1250–​1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980. Plotinus. The Enneads. Greek text with English translation by A.H. Armstrong. 7 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968–​88. Rahner, Karl. “The ‘Spiritual Senses’ According to Origen.” In Theological Investigations, XVI: Experience of the Spirit: Source of Theology. Translated by David Moreland, 89–​ 103. New York: Seabury Press, 1979. Rudy, Gordon. Mystical Language of Sensation in the Later Middle Ages. New York: Routledge, 2002. Saveson, John E. “Descartes’ Influence on John Smith, Cambridge Platonist.” Journal of the History of Ideas 20 (1959): 258–​62. Saveson, John E. “Differing Reactions to Descartes among the Cambridge Platonists.” Journal of the History of Ideas 31 (1960): 560–​7.

306 Michaud Smith, John. Select Discourses. London: F. Flesher, 1660. Wainwright, William J. “Jonathan Edwards and his Puritan Predecessors.” In The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, edited by Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley, 224–​40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Ziebart, K. Meredith. Nicolaus Cusanus on Faith and the Intellect: A Case Study in 15th-​ Century Fides-​Ratio Controversy. Leiden: Brill, 2014.

Chapter 11

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-​formations of the Cosmos: Nicholas of Cusa’s Anima Mundi and Henry More’s Spirit of Nature Nathan R. Strunk In the early modern period theologians reformulated the relation between God and the cosmos to accommodate dramatic shifts in understanding the nature of motion and space precipitated by developments in early modern science. An instance of such reform can already be found in Nicholas of Cusa (c. 1401–​64), who was one of the first to respond to the replacement of a stable, geocentric universe with an incessantly-​moving, decentered one. Interestingly, he discovers an opportunity for accommodating these developments and for reformulating the God-​world relation in the ancient Platonic doctrine of world soul (anima mundi). In Book ii of De docta ignorantia, Cusanus transposes the Platonic notion of anima mundi into a doctrine of divine omnipresence now understood as the moving, living interrelationship of all things. Cusanus variously defines “world-​soul” as life-​giving form, a connecting necessity, an animating principle, and a holism holding the world together. With each of these definitions, Cusanus upholds that the living dynamism of divine presence in the world remains consistent with a physical universe in unceasing motion. Two hundred years after Cusanus and long after geocentricism had been debunked, Henry More (1614–​87) likewise sought to reformulate the relationship between God and the cosmos by advancing a doctrine of divine omnipresence that he calls the “universal soul of the world” or the “Spirit of nature” in order to address developments in philosophy and science in the seventeenth century. With his doctrine of the “Spirit of nature,” Henry More challenges Descartes’ conception of space (res extensa) and counters Hobbes’ closed, mechanical, and materialistic conception of the world. For More, Spirit (like space) is extended through the whole cosmos as the principle of its motion, form, and inter-​connection –​a divine extension mediating the living, vital presence of God within the cosmos, much as the soul does the body. In their own ways, Cusanus and More both transpose the Platonic conception of world-​soul in order to reformulate cosmologies that can accommodate and respond to changes in understanding the world like the ubiquity of motion and homogenization of space made normative by early modern science. The following chapter  contends

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 13

308 Strunk that whereas some found in the beginnings of early modern science an occasion to separate God from the world, Cusanus and More saw an opportunity to re-​form the cosmos and thereby reaffirm the divine living interconnection holding together the cosmic frame.1

Introduction: Motion, Space, and the Implication of Early Modern Science

The genesis of early modern science has often been associated with a name, Copernicus, and so consequential were his findings that they have been called revolutionary, that is, a dramatic “rolling back” of previous norms for something new. The story is well known: new conceptions of motion and space associated with the Copernican shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric system made the Ptolemic system no longer feasible. “Copernicus changed our vision of the world so radically that this change confronts us everywhere and in everything.”2 One world had passed and an entirely new world had emerged, born from new conceptions of motion and space. To put it all too simply for the sake of brevity: with respect to motion, no longer was the motion of the cosmos confined to motives inherent in each thing’s nature, but rather it ubiquitously affected everything regardless of its nature. With respect to space, no longer was space divided between a passing sub-​lunar sphere and varying strata of an immutable superlunar realm, but it was uniform and homogeneous, subject in its entirety to the aforementioned ubiquity of motion. With these two new conceptions, then, early modern science recreated the world, removing and displacing what had come before. Aristotle famously defined motion in his Physics as the “fulfillment of what is potentially, as such.”3 To do justice to this definition would require delving into the details of Aristotle’s notions of act, potency, and being determinative of his concepts of energeia and entelecheia.4 For the purposes of 1 E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1925), 142. 2 Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the Copernican World, trans. Robert M.  Wallace (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2000), 126. 3 Ibid., 343 [3.1, 201a]. 4 Remi Brague, “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion and Its Ontological Implications,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 13:2 (1990): 5; see also Leo Aryeh Kosman, “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion,” Phronesis xiv (1969): 40–​62; highlighting Aristotle’s ontological terminology, Brague translates his definition of motion as the “actuality of the potentially existing qua existing potentially” (Ibid., 1).

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

309

this chapter, it is sufficient to note that with this definition Aristotle understood motion according to how it is directed toward a determinate end in accordance with a thing’s nature, that is, a processional account of motion aimed at a final result so that “motion is nothing but the process which leads to, and receives its meaning from, a final, stable state.”5 This conception of motion tended to prioritize rest and stability  –​a priority that was conducive to a hierarchical structuring of the cosmos in which the motions of the world were ultimately a testament to the stratification of the cosmos and the privileged stability of the earth. Koyré explains how the ideal of Greek and medieval astronomy –​of which the Aristotelian conception of motion played an integral part –​confirmed the stability of the medieval hierarchical cosmology by “the reduction of celestial motions to a system of interlocking uniform circular ones which would ‘save’ the phenomena by revealing the permanent stability of the real behind the seeming irregularity of the apparent.”6 With a new conception of motion, early modern science no longer felt bound to preserving phenomena by fitting them within a broader framework. Quite the contrary, early modern science reversed the order so that phenomena like motion were no longer explicated as apparatuses within the cosmological frame. Blumenberg explains, “After Copernicus the majority of the cosmic motions  –​in particular, the appearances of the daily rotation of the heaven of the fixed stars and of the Sun’s annual cycle –​were to be brought about not from outside to inside, from above to below, but the reverse, beginning in the system’s interior, that is (in Aristotelian language), ‘from below to above.’ ”7 Along with the advent of new conceptions of motion came a predilection to view phenomena as independent. No longer was motion formatted within an overall schema of stabilization, but, quite the opposite, motion’s ubiquity became the starting point for considering the order, or lack thereof, of the cosmos. As a consequence, preserving the world’s ubiquitous motion corresponded with its dislocation. In his Physics, Aristotle considered the consequence of an infinite universe, inveighing against it in favor of a teleological conception of motion and space based on the inherent nature of each thing, which he calls “natural locomotion.” He contrasts a conception of motion as natural locomotion compatible with an understanding of space as orderly and differentiated to a ubiquitous,

5 Brague, “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion,” 7. 6 Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins, 1957), 16. 7 Blumenberg, Copernican World, 139.

310 Strunk compulsory conception of motion occurring in disordered and undifferentiated space: All movement is either compulsory or according to nature, and if there is compulsory movement there must also be natural … but how can there be natural movement if there is no difference throughout the void or the infinite? For in so far as it is infinite, there will be no up or down or middle, and in so far as it is a void, up differs no whit from down; for as there is no difference in what is nothing, there is none in the void … but natural locomotion seems to be differentiated, so that the things that exist by nature must be differentiated. Either, then, nothing has a natural locomotion, or else there is no void. …8 For Aristotle, everything has its proper place and the exercise of a thing’s proper nature is motion. The force of Aristotle’s argument relies on the alternative, the infinite void of space, being unimaginable, for it would mean that motion and space are undifferentiated and without an end. What makes the alternative unimaginable is that it seems to contradict the phenomena of everyday experience. After all, experience confirms fire inclines upwards and soil gravitates downwards. Can a compulsory conception of motion consistent with a notion of space as an infinite void –​which by definition is bodiless and without difference –​account for these natural motions? In Aristotle, the notion of space is closer to the notion of place. Rather than an abstract, infinite, or void dimension of reality, Aristotle defined space locally according to the ordering and orientation of things. Brague succinctly summarizes: “In the Aristotelian universe, the term ‘place’ (topos) has a different meaning from the one it has in classical physics. The ‘place’ in accordance with which the phora [locomotion] occurs is not a neutral space, but an oriented universe, stretched between absolute upper and lower parts (respectively, the periphery and the center of the sphere of the stars), to which bodies strive after returning, according as they are light or heavy.”9 This division of space according to how things are oriented to their perceived natural order structured medieval cosmology. It was within this structure that things derived value and meaning vis-​à-​vis their position relative to other things in accordance with their natures. The introduction of a conception of space divorced from 8 Aristotle, Physics, trans. R.P. Hardie and R.K. Gaye. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1984), 365 [4.8, 215a]. 9 Brague, “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion,” 5.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

311

place upset this ordering and the corresponding valuation that accompanied it. Koyré summarizes the consequences of the collapse of the medieval framework as a de-​presencing of the divine that corresponds with a devaluation and devalorization of the world: The scientific and philosophical revolution … can be described roughly as bringing forth the destruction of the Cosmos, that is, the disappearance, from philosophically and scientifically valid concepts, of the conception of the world as a finite, closed, and hierarchically ordered whole (a whole in which the hierarchy of value determined the hierarchy and structure of being, rising from the dark, heavy and imperfect earth to the higher and higher perfection of the stars and heavenly spheres), and its replacement by an indefinite and even infinite universe which is bound together by the identity of its fundamental components and laws, and in which all these components are placed on the same level of being. This, in turn, implies the discarding by scientific thought of all considerations based upon value-​concepts, such as perfection, harmony, meaning and aim, and finally the utter devalorization of being, the divorce of the world of value and the world of facts.10 With new concepts of motion and space, the Copernican revolution reordered the cosmos, reversing and revaluating the world while eliding God from its equation. Nietzsche’s madman dramatically proffers a cosmology that follows from the collapse of geocentricism. “Where is God?,” Nietzsche’s madman inquires before answering with an indictment, “We have killed him –​you and I! We are all his murderers,” an audaciously absurd act made possible by repositioning the world into a radically atheological cosmos. “But how did we do this?” asks the madman, and answers with a host of rhetorical questions, “Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving now? Where are we going to? Away from all suns? Are we continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing?”11 With this query Nietzsche proffers a sketch of what has since been called a cosmology of European nihilism for 10 11

Koyré, Closed World, 2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, ed. Bernard Williams and trans. Josefine Nauckhoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); see also Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce

312 Strunk which the shift from geocentricism to heliocentricism proves decisive. Unchained from the sun the earth bobbles about like a bouncing ball in a purposeless universe thrown together by the colossal ebb and flow of perpetual chaos, coming from nothing and going nowhere; distant, detached, valueless, meaningless –​ a saeculum in the minimal sense of the word, pure and simple, and not a sacra mundi. Here the advent of heliocentricism initiated a devastating collapse of a theological cosmology in which the earth had been centered and stationed in a meaningful, ordered universe. Stated otherwise, the stability of a geocentric, hierarchical cosmos had been upset by “unchaining” and “de-​ centering” the earth and subjecting it to the ubiquitous whims of motion. John Donne in 1611 concluded in despair, “The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit/​Can well direct him where to looke for it … Tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone; All just supply, and all Relation.”12 Conceptually, however, nothing about displacing the earth or its perpetual motion necessarily demands Nietzsche’s nihilistic conclusion. Thus, long before Nietzsche’s conclusion, there had already been another alternative to the collapse of the geocentric, hierarchical cosmology –​a theological cosmology ready to accommodate the rise of early modern science and the primacy of motion that accompanied it. In fact, the collapse of a hierarchical cosmology occasioned the reforming of a new theological cosmology, a new way of conceiving God’s presence in the world, a new sacra mundi. In their own time, Cusanus and More understood the desacralizing consequences of a ubiquitous conception of motion and de-​hierarchicalization of space so that it became incumbent upon them to reform the relation between God and creation, reformulating theological cosmologies that could rejoin what early modern science appeared to tear asunder. The following essay contends that in their own ways, Cusanus and More transpose the Platonic conception of world-​soul in order to reformulate theological cosmologies that can accommodate and respond to changes in understanding the world initiated by early modern science. Retrieving the Platonic doctrine of world-​soul to help conceive God’s divine immanence in the world, they reformulated the God-​world relation even as the world was being remade by new conceptions of motion and space.

12

Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New  York:  Vintage Books, 1989), 155: “Since Copernicus, man seems to have got himself on an inclined plane –​now he is slipping faster and faster away from the center into –​what? into nothingness? into a penetrating sense of his own nothingness?” John Donne, “An Anatomie of the World” quoted in Koyré, Closed World, 29.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos



313

Nicholas of Cusa: Divine Omnipresence as Anima Mundi

In his book by the same title, Louis Dupré explains how, though the “passage to modernity” tore the theocosmic synthesis of the Middle Ages asunder, thinkers like Cusanus “anticipated and avoided the problems a heliocentric picture would cause to the traditional religious worldview by rethinking the relationship between God and nature.”13 A hierarchically structured cosmos is only one aspect of what Dupré regards as the traditional, theocosmic worldview, but it was decisive and on it hinged the medieval conception of motion and space according to an order of causal mediation. Dupré explains, “In Aristotelian cosmology causality descended from above (sursum est unde motus) [“above is where motion comes from”] and reached the world via a chain of mediations.”14 In such a system, motion is best explained in terms of the highest, originating source –​“from above” rather than “from below.” Inversely, each link in the hierarchical chain serves the purpose of mediation, communicating divine initiative to those things lower on the chain. Derived from a First Mover, motion thus confirmed a hierarchical cosmology in which the earth and humanity occupied a privileged place in the order between the divine life and the animal kingdom. If Cusanus anticipated the problems consequent upon a radical reordering of the cosmos, he did so, at least in part, as one who understood the implications of nominalism, especially its separation of nature and the supernatural. Both Dupré and Hans Blumenberg agree that the separation of nature and the supernatural that defines the modern era can be attributed to convictions derived from nominalist theologies, though they emphasize different aspects that precipitated this division. For his part, Dupré argues that division between the natural and the supernatural actually originates from a division between primary and secondary causality born from the nominalist theological separation between God’s potentia absoluta (God’s sovereign power over creation) and God’s potentia ordinata (God’s actual exercise of God’s absolute power). Dupré explains nominalism’s reinterpretation of the distinction, “late nominalist theology separated the potentia absoluta from the potentia ordinata, as if they were two independent and successive moments in God’s power, rather than two distinct aspects of the one divine sovereignty. According to this interpretation, God at a first time possesses absolute power, which he, in the second, entrusts to secondary causes.”15 This sequential ordering of the divine 13 1 4 15

Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay on the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 185–​86. Ibid., 58 [brackets mine]. Ibid., 176–​177.

314 Strunk power renders secondary causes as independent and reliable without any further recourse to God’s absolute power and, ultimately, without any recourse to God. Blumenberg perceives a similar consequence in nominalism’s conception of God as deus absconditus. In The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Blumenberg argues that the nominalist conception of God as deus absconditus, while successfully secreting God’s omnipotent will beyond reproach against the indictments of theodicy (How can God permit evil? Could not God create the world otherwise?), also exiled God to the supernatural and was thereby made irrelevant for the investigation of nature. Blumenberg explains, “The modern age began, not indeed as the epoch of the death of God, but as the epoch of the hidden God, the deus absconditus –​and a hidden God is pragmatically as good as dead. The nominalist theology induces a human relation to the world whose implicit content could have been formulated in the postulate that man had to behave as though God were dead. This induces a restless taking stock of the world, which can be designated as the motive power of the age of science.”16 It is within this context that Cusanus’ thought emerges. The disintegration of a hierarchical theo-​cosmology introduced a separation between God and the world, which pressed theologians to reconceive the relation between them. For instance, some sought to reconceive the traditional doctrine of divine omnipresence in terms of nature’s interconnectedness. Such a route had been taken by early Renaissance thinkers, who Dupré calls “divine immanentists,” who believed that “the more one stressed God’s immanence in the cosmos, the more reasonable it appeared that all parts of this cosmos influenced one another.”17 On the basis of this conviction, near contemporaries of Cusanus recovered the Neoplatonic doctrine of the world soul to simultaneously explain both God’s divine immanence and the harmonic unity of the world, thereby reformulating the integral relation between them as the theocosmic hierarchical structure of the cosmos unraveled. Dupré argues that Cusanus’ rejection of the Neoplatonic doctrine of world-​ soul is the precise point where Cusanus departs from other divine immanentists. He writes, “The idea of God’s total presence in the universe, however, did not simply reinstate a pre-​Christian cosmology. The difference between Cusanus’ divine immanence and the one in which Neoplatonic philosophy had articulated God’s cosmic presence appears clearly in the cardinal’s rejection of

16 17

Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert M.  Wallace (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1983), 346. Ibid., 55. Dupré identifies three “divine immanentists”: Marsilo Ficino (1433–​99), Pico della Mirandola (1463–​94), and Giordano Bruno (1548–​1600).

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

315

the world-​soul.”18 For Dupré, Cusanus’ rejection of the doctrine of world-​soul indicates to what extent Cusanus recognized that the collapse of the hierarchical order made redundant the world-​soul’s mediatory role between the One and the many. No longer was there a need for an intermediate divine presence in nature communicating the incommunicable, unified Idea to the diverse manifold of creation. Dupré writes, “Cusanus had no use for such a mediation, however, because, for him, God is directly immanent in each and every part of the cosmos … Cusanus, then, rejects the world soul not because it makes God immanent in the world but because it does not sufficiently do so.”19 For Dupré, Cusanus rejects the doctrine of world-​soul in order to affirm God’s immediate (i.e., unmediated) immanence. Lending support to Dupré’s interpretation, in De docta ignorantia Cusanus critiques the mediatory function and ontological status of the Neoplatonic doctrine of world-​soul as well as its adoption by Christian thinkers. However, it is interesting that Dupré thinks that Cusanus’ conception of divine immanence motivates his rejection of the doctrine of world soul. For, on the contrary, it will be argued that Cusanus retains an aspect of the doctrine insofar as it articulates a conception of divine immanence as the living and harmonic interconnectedness of nature. Thus, even as Cusanus rejects the Neoplatonic conception of world-​soul as mediator, he preserves and incorporates aspects of it insofar as it informs his theological cosmology in which God’s immanent omnipresence is understood as living, animate spirit and the unifying relation of all things. Book ii of De docta ignorantia begins with the problem of how “the one, infinite Form is participated in in different ways by different created things.”20 In keeping with a hierarchical cosmology, the Platonists conceived the One as the utmost Form (pure actuality) and matter or hyle as mere formlessness (pure

18 19

20

Ibid., 59. Ibid., 60. Similarly, Elizabeth Brient concludes that Cusanus “categorically rejects” the doctrine of world-​soul. See Brient, The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 150: “Cusanus, in contrast to Eckhart, holds that the divine infinite is present in each created thing through the mediation of the universe. By this he does not have in mind the existence of a type of Platonic ‘world soul’, a notion which he categorically rejects.” Nicholas Cusanus, De docta ignorantia, 2.2.103 (h I.67; trans. Hopkins, i:63). Cusanus raises the problem of the One and the many with a question:  “Who is he, then, who can understand how it is that the one, infinite Form is participated in in different ways by different created things?”; also, later in the text (2.3.109), Cusanus asks, “How, then, can you understand there to be a plurality whose being comes from the One without [there occurring] any multiplication of the One?” (h I.71; trans. Hopkins, i:66–​67); see also 2.3.111.

316 Strunk potentiality). For the Platonists, the problem of the One and the many was a problem of how to introduce form (actuality) into formlessness (potentiality) without compromising the integrity of the One. What is required in this model is a mediator between the two. For this very purpose the Platonists conceived “world-​soul” as accommodating the formless condition of matter to communicate the actuality of the One. Cusanus explains: For the world-​soul is united to matter in accordance with formlessness, which they called “the basic power of life,” so that when the world-​soul is mingled with possibility, the formless power of life is actually brought to the life-​giving soul –​brought (a) from a motion descending from the world-​soul and (b) from the changeableness of possibility, or of power-​ of-​life. Hence, they maintained that formlessness is the matter (so to speak) of forms –​which matter is informed through sensitive, rational, and intellectual [form], so that it exists actually.21 The Platonic doctrine of world-​soul performs the function of communicating the self-​subsisting unity and intelligence of the One to the many, and in doing so the world-​soul functions within a hierarchical structure in some ways reminiscent of the Aristotelian cosmology in which the gradient from greatest to least requires mediation. The Platonists had many different names for world-​soul for describing varying aspects of its mediating role. Some called this “excellent [actualizing] nature” (quod possibilitatem actu esse … excelsam naturam), “mind” (mentem); others called it intelligence (intelligentiam), and still others called it “fate substantified” (fatum in substantia) or a “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis).22 Each of these names emphasizes a different dimension of the Platonic doctrine of “world-​soul,” but Cusanus seems to prefer the term “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis) when describing the function of the doctrine in the Platonic cosmology: However, [the following view] was acceptable to the Platonists: that such a distinct plurality of exemplars in the connecting necessity (necessitatem complexionis) is –​in a natural order –​from one infinite Essence, in which all things are one. Nevertheless, they did not believe that the exemplars were created by this [one infinite Essence] but that they descended from

2 1 22

Ibid., 2.8.133 (h I.86; trans. Hopkins, i:79). Ibid., 2.9.142 (h I.90; trans. Hopkins, i:82).

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

317

it in such way that the statement “God exists” is never true without the statement “The world-​soul (anima mundi) exists” also being true. And they affirmed that the world-​soul is the unfolding of the Divine Mind, so that all things –​which in God are one Exemplar –​are, in the world-​soul, many distinct [exemplars]. They added that God naturally precedes this connecting necessity, that the world-​soul naturally precedes motion, and that motion qua instrument [precedes] the temporal unfolding of things, so that those things which exist truly in the [world]-​soul and exist in matter as possibilities are temporally unfolded through motion.23 What is interesting here is not only that motion serves as the instrument for realizing the form of each thing or that the true intelligible forms reside beyond their instantiation in matter, but for our purposes that world-​soul as “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis) serves as the mediating instrument to actualize these true intelligible forms found singularly in the “Divine Mind” to form their likenesses from the possibility of matter. World-​soul plays the role of medium and, in doing so, earns an ontological status on par with the divine essence. Both exist and exist necessarily, hence the name of world-​soul as a “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis). It was, however, the role of mediation that also prompted Christian theologians to adopt it. As Cusanus states, “Many Christians consented to this Platonistic approach.”24 Like the Platonists, they found in the doctrine of world-​soul a feasible way to solve the problem of the One and the many.25 However, in contrast to the Platonists, Christians were careful not to credit world-​soul with an ontological status distinct from God. Cusanus follows suit and is quite clear about this difference: “Hence, the connecting necessity is not, as the Platonists maintained, a mind which is inferior to the Begetting Mind; rather, it is the divine Word and Son, equal with the Father. And it is called ‘Logos’ or ‘Essence,’ since it is the Essence of all things.”26 This critique of the ontological status of world-​soul coincides with Cusanus discarding its mediatory role. It is worth quoting at length Cusanus’ rejection of 2 3 24 25

26

Ibid., 2.9.143 (h I.91; trans. Hopkins, i:82). Ibid., 2.9.146 (h I.93; trans. Hopkins, i:84). “Especially since the essence of stone is distinct from the essence of man and in God there is neither differentiation nor otherness, they thought it necessary that these distinct essences (in accordance with which, things are distinct) be subsequent to God but prior to things (for the essence precedes the thing); and [they thought] this [too] with regard to intelligence, the mistress of the orbits. Furthermore, [they believed] that such distinct essences as these are the indestructible notions-​of things in the world-​soul” (Ibid). Ibid., 2.9.149 (h I.95; trans. Hopkins, i:86).

318 Strunk the Platonic conception of world-​soul as an intermediary between God and the world: Therefore, it is necessary to understand clearly the following matters: since [a Platonistic-​type] world-​soul must be regarded as a certain universal form which enfolds in itself all forms but which has actual existence only contractedly in things and which in each thing is the contracted form of this thing, as was said earlier regarding the universe: then [not such a world-​soul but] God –​who in one Word creates all things, regardless of how different from one another they are –​is the efficient, the formal, and the final Cause of all things; and there can be no created thing which is not diminished from contraction and does not fall infinitely short of the divine work. God alone is absolute; all other things are contracted. Nor is there a medium between the Absolute and the contracted as those imagined who thought that the world-​soul is mind existing subsequently to God but prior to the world’s contraction. For only God is “world-​soul” and “world-​mind” –​in a manner whereby “soul” is regarded as something absolute in which all the forms of things exist actually. Indeed, the philosophers were not adequately instructed regarding the Divine Word and Absolute Maximum. And so, they envisioned mind and soul and necessity as present uncontractedly in a certain unfolding of Absolute Necessity.27 In this passage, Cusanus critiques the Platonic cosmology that requires world-​ soul to mediate between the Absolute and the world’s contraction. Absent this hierarchical cosmology and believing in the Christian doctrine of the Divine Word, whose ontological status is “one with the Father,” the Platonic doctrine of world-​soul is redundant. Given these incisive criticisms, what can Cusanus possibly derive from the doctrine of world-​soul? In order to appreciate what Cusanus retains of the doctrine and why, we must first consider how Cusanus resolves the problem of the One and the many since it is definitely a legitimate problem for him, even if the Platonic theocosmic hierarchy collapses. It is crucial to understand that Cusanus seeks to resolve the problem of the One and the many through an understanding of God’s omnipresence in all things as the interconnectedness among each and every thing. It is along these lines that Cusanus finds several similarities between his position and the ancient doctrine of world-​soul. 27

Ibid., 2.9.150 (h I.95; trans. Hopkins, i:86); see also Cusanus’ critiques along similar lines in Ibid., 2.4.116 and 2.9.148.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

319

It will be remembered that at the beginning of Book ii of De docta ignorantia Cusanus considers how the many derive and participate in the One. In the process of answering this problem, Cusanus compares this relation with the way many finite things are integrated within one universe. In teasing out this analogy, Cusanus distinguishes between two aspects that can be gleaned from the analogy: “Therefore, God, who is one, is in the one universe. But the universe is contractedly in all things. And so, we can understand the following: (1) how it is that God, who is most simple Oneness and exists in the one universe, is in all things as if subsequently and through the mediation of the universe, and (2) [how it is that] through the mediation of the one universe the plurality of things is in God.”28 Importantly, Cusanus finds aspects in both of these points that resonate with the Platonic conception of world-​soul. Cusanus thinks the first point intimates the Platonic conception of world-​soul insofar as the doctrine expresses the interconnectedness of all things. The second point, “through mediation of the one universe the plurality of things is in God,” transposes the interconnectedness of the universe into a doctrine of divine omnipresence –​a theological transposition that Cusanus finds intimated in the doctrine of world-​soul. We will handle these both in turn. Regarding the first, Cusanus explains how it is that God as simple Oneness and the “Absolute Quiddity” or “Absolute Essence or Whatness” of everything is in all things as a whole is to its parts. He states, “it is not the case that God is in the sun sun and in the moon moon; rather, [in them] He is that which is sun and moon without plurality and difference. Universe bespeaks universality –​i.e., a oneness of many things. Accordingly, just as humanity is neither Socrates nor Plato but in Socrates is Socrates and in Plato is Plato, so is the universe in relation to all things.”29 This is a striking description of God’s divine immanence in terms of how all things share in divine oneness by virtue of sharing in the universality in which all things participate, so as to constitute a universe, that is to say, a “uni-​verse,” the oneness in which all things participate to form a whole. Thus, Cusanus defines God’s omnipresence as the “oneness of many things” with the understanding that God’s unity is present to each thing through the contracted unity of the universe. Even though critical of the mediatory role of the Platonic notion of world-​soul, Cusanus explains that the 28

29

Ibid., 2.4.116 (h I.75; trans. Hopkins i:70). See also Ibid., 2.6.123, which summarizes this section: “In the foregoing we found, beyond all understanding, that the world, or universe, is one. Its oneness is contracted by plurality, so that it is oneness in plurality. And because Absolute Oneness is first and the oneness of the universe is derived from it, the oneness of the universe will be a second oneness, consisting of a plurality” (trans. Hopkins i:73). Ibid., 2.4.115 (h I.74; trans. Hopkins i:70).

320 Strunk Platonic conception of world-​soul also followed the principle of a whole to its parts while remaining whole. “The Platonists thought that all motion derives from this world-​soul, which they said to be present as a whole in the whole world and as a whole in each part of the world … Therefore, because of the world-​soul’s distinctness and order, the Platonists called it “self-​moving number” (numerum se moventem) and asserted that it is from sameness and difference.”30 Even though the Platonic notion of world-​soul operated as mediator in a cosmology where it introduced motion into the spheres of the cosmos and into all the world, it also served to describe how the unity of the universe is in each thing. It is the latter that Cusanus elaborates further by reflecting on the universe’s interrelatedness. For Cusanus, the interrelatedness of each thing bespeaks a prior unity inherent in each thing that brings it into realization. If things are ordered in their interrelation toward one another to form the universe, then this ordering unity precedes each thing so that any one thing’s coming into being is brought about within the scope and relation of all things. Cusanus explains the world’s interrelatedness: “For in each created thing the universe is this created thing; and each thing receives all things in such a way that in a given thing all things are, contractedly, this thing. Since each thing is contracted, it is not the case that it can be actually all things; hence, it contracts all things, so that [in it] they are it … Therefore, it is not the case that many things are in each thing actually; rather, [in each thing] all things are, without plurality, this respective thing.”31 On the basis of this interrelatedness, Cusanus recognizes that “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis) is one of the four universal modes of being, between “Absolute Necessity” and Determined and Absolute Possibility.32 Cusanus concludes by elaborating how this mode of being, “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis), intimates the interrelatedness of all things according to how each thing is ordered to every other, “Another mode [of being] is according as things exist in the connecting necessity; in this necessity, just as in a mind, the forms-​of-​things, true in themselves, exist with a distinction, and an order, of nature.”33 This interrelatedness of all things informs Cusanus’ theological cosmology in which God is omnipresent in the universe. 3 0 31 32

33

Ibid., 2.9.145 (h I.92; trans. Hopkins i:83). Ibid., 2.5.117 (h I.76; trans. Hopkins i:71). Ibid., 2.7.131 (h I.84; trans. Hopkins i:78); David Albertson convincingly traces Cusanus’ description of the “connecting necessity” (necessitatem complexionis) as one of four modes to Thierry of Chartres and the Fundamentum. See his Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 127–​ 139; 186–​198. Ibid., 2.7.130 (h I.83, 84; trans. Hopkins, i:77).

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

321

Regarding the second point, “by the mediation of the one universe the plurality of things is in God,” Cusanus finds this idea already intimated in the pre-​Socratic philosopher Anaxagoras (510–​428 BC), who was the first to conceive “Mind” (Nous) as an ordering force of the cosmos and therefore in a sense the forefather of the doctrine of world-​soul. Cusanus refers to Anaxagoras’ principle, “Each thing is in each thing,” and concludes, “… to say that each thing is in each thing is not other than [to say] that through all things God is in all things and that through all things all things are in God.”34 He arrives at this transposition of Anaxagoras’ axiom into the Christian doctrine of divine omnipresence by considering how each thing by virtue of being its own thing stands ready to be part of a cosmos, a universe. This readiness is only possible insofar as all things participate in a preceding actualizing Oneness or Unity. Thus, the mediation of the universe in an interconnected unity manifests how many things in one universe are in God or, better yet, how God is immanent to each thing. Cusanus states quite eloquently, “Consider more closely and you will see that each actually existing thing is tranquil because of the fact that in it all things are it and that in God it is God. You see that there is a marvelous oneness of things, an admirable equality, and a most wonderful union, so that all things are in all things.”35 With this transposition of the interconnectedness of all things with the doctrine of divine omnipresence in place, Cusanus’ adaptation of the doctrine of world-​soul becomes even more daring as he associates the divine presence in the world with the economy of the Spirit.

34

35

Ibid., 2.5.118 (h I.76; trans. Hopkins, i:71); see also Ibid., 2.5.117: “God is in all things through the mediation of the universe, as it were. Hence, it is evident that all is in all and each in each” (trans. Hopkins i:71). Commenting on the implications of Cusa’s reference to Anaxagoras in De docta ignorantia, Ernst Cassirer writes, “Thus, with one blow, the whole difference in value between the lower sub-​lunar world and the higher celestial world is eliminated. Instead of the stepladder of elements that Peripatetic physics had accepted, we have Anaxagoras’ proposition that in corporeal nature, ‘everything is in every thing.’ ” Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, trans. Mario Domandi (New York: Dover Press, 1963), 26. Ibid., 2.5.120 (h I.77; trans. Hopkins i:72); see also Ibid., 2.5.118: “Now, the universe is in things only contractedly; and every actually existing thing contracts all things, so that they are, actually, that which it is. But everything which exists actually, exists in God, since He is the actuality of all things. Now, actuality is the perfection and the end of possibility. Hence, since the universe is contracted in each actually existing thing: it is evident that God, who is in the universe, is in each thing and that each actually existing thing is immediately in God, as is also the universe. … God is, without difference, in all things because each thing is in each thing and that all things are in God because all things are in all things” (trans. Hopkins, 71).

322 Strunk It will be recalled that in a Platonic cosmology the unity of the One was communicated to the many by the world-​soul, but certain thinkers further specified the mediatory function of the world-​soul by identifying one of its functions with the spirit of motion responsible for unfolding the exemplars or forms. Cusanus paraphrases their beliefs: “And they said that this motion pervades all things, just as does the world-​soul … They said that this uniting spirit proceeds from both possibility and the world-​soul … This motion is the medium-​of-​union of possibility and actuality, since from movable possibility and a formal mover, moving arises as a medium.”36 Like the notion of world-​ soul, Cusanus critiques the ontological status of motion and its mediatory function so that only “God, who is spirit, is the one from whom all motion descends” so that “all other motions and operations” are an extension and contraction of the divine breath or Spirit.37 If this conception of the spirit of motion is a description “from above,” it is Cusanus’ description of the created spirit “from below” that resonates deeply with his aforementioned reflections on the interconnectedness of the world, which then occasions his most direct acceptance of this aspect of the doctrine of world-​soul. From below, Cusanus describes “spirit” as motion that unites all things together. He writes, “Now, through this spirit, which fills the whole world, the entire world and all things in it are naturally and conjointly that which they are, so that by means of this spirit possibility is present in actuality and actuality is present in possibility. And this [spirit] is the motion of the loving union of all things and oneness, so that there is one universe of all things. For although all things are moved individually so as to be, in the best manner, that which they are and so that none will exist exactly as another, nevertheless each thing in its own way either mediately or immediately contracts, and participates in, the motion of each other thing.”38 Cusanus sees examples of this 3 6 37 38

Ibid., 2.9.151–​152 (h I.97; trans. Hopkins i:87–​88). Ibid., 2.10.153 (h I.98; trans. Hopkins i:88); see also Ibid., 2.10.155: “… all uniting motion and all uniting proportion and harmony exist in the divine Spirit’s Absolute Union, so that God is the one Beginning of all things” (trans. Hopkins i:89). Ibid., 2.10.154 (h I.98; trans. Hopkins, i:88). This description of motion sounds similar to Cusanus’ earlier description of world-​soul in 2.7.130:  “Next, there is the union of what is contractible and what causes contracting –​i.e., [the union] of matter and form, or of possibility and connecting necessity [necessitate complexionis]. This union is actually effected as if by a spirit of love –​[a love] which unites the two by means of a certain motion. Certain individuals were accustomed to call this union ‘determined possibility’. For the possibility-​to-​be is determined toward actually being this or that –​[determined] by means of the union of the determining form and the determinable matter. But, clearly, this union descends from the Holy Spirit, who is Infinite Union” (trans. Hopkins, i:77), [brackets mine].

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

323

all around him; macrocosmically, in the interrelationship of the sun, moon, earth, and stars or, microcosmically, in the interrelationship of organs like the heart in the human body.39 In contrast to the theocosmic hierarchy of the Platonists that believed that motion mediated between the fixity of the One to the manifold of the many on earth, Cusanus sees in the ubiquity of motion throughout the cosmos a basis for an inherent interrelation of each thing that bespeaks God’s immanent presence. This living interconnectedness of all things inspires Cusanus to some of his most daring statements acknowledging the Platonic doctrine of anima mundi. Careful not to accredit to world-​soul an unacceptable ontological status on par with the One, Cusanus revisits and revises Plato’s doctrine of world-​soul, now articulated within Cusanus’ conception of divine immanence. He writes, “For Plato referred to the world as an animal. If you take God to be its [the world’s] soul, without intermingling, then many of the points I have been making will be clear to you.”40 Shortly after this assertion, Cusanus continues, “Moreover, He [God as Eternal Wisdom] combined the elements with one another in such a relationship that, necessarily, the one element is present in the other. With regard to this combination, the earth is an animal, so to speak, according to Plato.”41 Although Cusanus’ criticisms of world-​soul are pointed and explicit, he salvages what he can in the doctrine, making it the basis not only for describing how the incessant motion of the universe does not detract from the unity of the One but, quite startlingly, amplifies and manifests it insofar as the interrelationship of each thing is only possible because of the immanent unity of the divine One. Koyré aptly summarized Book ii of Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia, “In the infinitely rich and infinitely diversified and organically linked-​together universe of Cusa, there is no center of perfection in respect to which the rest of the universe would play a subservient part.”42 To this one can add that with the passing of a hierarchical theo-​cosmology, this “organically linked-​together universe” in which “each thing is each thing” makes manifest the divine presence equally throughout creation, reflecting thereby some aspects of the Platonic doctrine of anima mundi.

39 4 0 41 42

Ibid., 2.10.154 (h I.98; trans. Hopkins i:88–​89): “… just as the elements of the things composed of elemental principles [contract and participate in] the motion of the sky and just as all members [of the body contract and participate in] the motion of the heart.” Ibid., 2.12.166 (h I.106; trans. Hopkins i:94–​95). Ibid., 2.13.176 (h I.111; trans. Hopkins i:99). Koyré, Closed World, 21.

324 Strunk

Henry More: Divine Omnipresence as the Spirit of Nature

Two hundred years after Copernicus the hierarchical cosmology that structured the medieval cosmos may have collapsed but the search for an adequate substitute continued especially as early modern science evolved. Kepler (1571–​ 1630), Galileo (1564–​1642), Descartes (1596–​1650), and Newton (1643–​1727), added considerable momentum and nuance to the Copernican revolution. Much had changed since Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia but some of the challenges that occasioned that work, like the separation of God and the world, remained. With heliocentricism and the advances of early modern science, Henry More (1614–​87) inherited a radically different milieu from Cusanus’ early Renaissance. Even though Cusanus anticipated (albeit on the basis of metaphysical speculation) some discoveries by early modern science like the ubiquity of motion and the decentering of the earth, by the time of Henry More these discoveries and others occasioned further, deeper reflection on the nature of motion and space.43 The philosophical landscape had also changed significantly since the early Renaissance. One could say that what Cusanus had anticipated with the passing of the hierarchical world –​the separation of God and the world to the dislocation, or, worse yet, alienation, of the former –​had become by the time of More an increasing realization as is evident in Rene Descartes (1596–​1650) and Thomas Hobbes (1588–​1679). To my knowledge, Henry More had not read Nicholas of Cusanus even as he inherited, like Cusanus, the Platonism translated and commented on by Marsilio Ficino. There is, then, a common ancestry in their reception of Plato, which cannot be explored here. Even so, both Cusanus and More retrieve the doctrine of world soul to advance theological cosmologies that address the separation of God and the world brought about by new conceptions of motion as ubiquitous and space as homogenous. Whereas Cusanus grappled with these new conceptions speculatively, by the time of More they were empirical truths underlying a rigid demarcation between matter and spirit.

43

Koyré (Ibid.) interprets Cusanus as anticipating changes in cosmology according to how the consequences of scientific findings will become normative in Copernicus and subsequent thinkers. He argues that Cusanus anticipates these changes through his speculative metaphysics and not empirical arguments like thinkers after Copernicus. Admittedly, this makes Copernicus and subsequent findings normative for situating Cusanus in a way that follows a conceptual continuity rather than chronological progression. However, there is justification for interpreting Cusanus this way since, first, there is evident conceptual continuity and, second, Cusanus is “Janus-​like,” standing simultaneously between two eras as the first modern and the last medieval thinker.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

325

In Descartes, nature is bifurcated into matter and spirit so that the domain of one is excluded from the domain of the other. In his later works, More perceived in Descartes’ demarcation between res extensa and res cogitans a division without any place for spirit in the world. Koyré explains, “Descartes … by his denial both of void space and of spiritual extension … practically excludes spirits, souls, and even God, for the world; he simply leaves no place for them in it. To the question ‘where?,’ the fundamental question which can be raised concerning any and every real being –​souls, spirits, God –​and to which Henry More believes he can give definite answers (here, elsewhere, or for God, everywhere), Descartes is obliged by his principles, to answer: nowhere, nullibi. Thus … Descartes, by his teaching, leads to materialism and, by his exclusion of God from the world, to atheism. From now on, Descartes and the Cartesians … bear the derisive nickname of nullibists.”44 Much the same can be said for Hobbes, who in delimiting nature to matter alone dismisses spirit as nonsensical and outside the realm of experience. Hobbes contends that the notion of substance by its very definition excludes the possibility of incorporeal substance since “substance” and “body” are ultimately synonymous.45 Since for Hobbes “there is nothing but matter in the world”46 it stands to reason “Whatsoever is real, must have some place: But Spirits can have no place.”47 Not surprisingly, this logic earned him the title, “the confident Exploder of Immaterial Substances out of the World.”48 Thus, for both Descartes and Hobbes, the conception of space figures decisively in their understanding of matter and nature since, having separated matter from spirit, they have concluded there is no “place” for the divine in the space of the cosmos and, even if there were, no way for spirit to move matter. In response to Descartes and Hobbes, Henry More develops his doctrine of world-​soul or what he prefers to call “the spirit of nature” in an attempt to highlight the activity of the spiritual upon the material. Just as Cusanus’ recovering of the doctrine of world-​soul put forward a conception of “divine 44 45

4 6 47 48

Koyré, Closed World, 138. Henry More, The Immortality of the Soul, ed. Alexander Jacob (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987), 50 [Book i, Chapter ix, para. 3]; More quotes Hobbes’ Leviathan, “The word Body in the most general acceptation signifies that which filleth or occupieth some certain room or imagined place; and dependeth not on the Imagination, but is a real part of that we call the Universe … The same also … is called Substance … Substance and Body signifie the same thing; and therefore Substance Incorporeal are words which when they are joyned together destroy one another, as if a man should say an Incorporeal body.” Ibid., 11 [“Preface,” § 5]. Ibid., 57 [i.x, § 8]. Ibid., 53. [i.x, § 1]; Also see p. 261 [iii.xiii, § 5].

326 Strunk immanentism” as a response to the implications of the ubiquity of motion and the de-​stratifying of space, so More turns to the doctrine of world-​soul to advance a doctrine of divine omnipresence against any strict demarcation between God and world, spirit and matter, proposed by Cartesian dualism or, more dogmatically, Hobbesian materialism. For More, Descartes and Hobbes are “quite out of the story” for they have left the spirit of nature and ultimately the divine from the plot of the cosmos.49 Their materialism has “emboldened them too rashly to venture on mechanical solutions … confident there were no other solution to be had but those of this kinde.”50 But, as a matter of fact, another explanation for the phenomena of nature is possible and, indeed, necessary; namely, “the Spirit of Nature, which is the Vicarious power of God upon the Matter, and the first step to the abstrusest Mysteries in Natural Theologie.”51 Unlike Cusa whose doctrine of world-​soul comes by way of his critique of the Platonists’ cosmology and, therefore, has been questioned by interpreters like Dupré, More unquestionably has a doctrine of world-​soul. Whereas Cusa first had to labor to differentiate the ontological status of world-​soul from the divine before retrieving some aspects of the ancient doctrine, More works in the opposite direction, conceiving the doctrine of world-​soul as evidence of the divine presence in a world increasingly closed to the divine. While More, like Cusa, is careful to differentiate the divine essence from world-​soul, it is the onus of the doctrine to affirm God’s living and immanent presence throughout nature. A. Rupert Hall identifies three conceptions of spirit or immaterial substance in More: “the Spirit of God, everywhere ruling the universe; the Spirit of Nature, akin to what the ancients had called the anima mundi, the soul of the world, or Nature personified; and the Spirit or soul of Humanity.”52 In the following, it will be evident why distinguishing between the first and second conceptions of spirit –​divine omnipresence and the spirit of nature –​should not be over-​determined and that, rather, the spirit of nature further conveys God’s omnipresence. As mentioned earlier, if More prefers “the spirit of nature” to “world-​soul” –​ though he uses them interchangeably  –​it is because his concept of “spirit”

4 9 50 51 52

Ibid., 19 [“Preface,” § 11]. Ibid., 20 [“Preface,” § 13]. Ibid. [“Preface,” § 14]. A. Rupert Hall, Henry More and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 6–​7; see also More, “We have shewn that the Notion of a Spirit in general is not at all incongruous nor impossible: And it is as congruous, consistent and intelligible in the sundry kinds thereof; as for example that of God, of Angels, of the souls Men of and Brutes, and of the λόγοι σπερματικοὶ or Seminal Forms of things” (Ibid., 31–​32. [i.iv, § 1]).

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

327

furthers his polemical ends against materialism.53 Early in the Immortality of the Soul, More defines spirit as “a substance penetrable and indiscerpible.”54 Building on the definition of spirit, More defines the spirit of nature as, “A Substance incorporeal but without sense or animadversion, pervading the whole matter of the Universe, and exercising a plastic power therein, according to the sundry predispositions and occasions of the part it works upon, raising such Phenomena in the world, by directing the parts of the matter, and their motion, as cannot be resolved into mere mechanical power.”55 The primary implication of this definition is to affirm the capacity of spirit to act upon matter by granting it characteristics that remove any possible antagonism between them. If Descartes and Hobbes prohibit spirit influencing matter by delimiting conceptions of motion and space strictly to the latter, then it is incumbent on More to argue that the spirit of nature (i) is distinct from matter; (ii) it is evidenced in phenomena by the way things hold together; (iii) it is not reducible to the mechanisms of matter; and (iv) its irreducibility, as it would now be called, testifies to God’s presence in the world.56 More begins his argument for the existence of the spirit in nature by arguing that spirit, by definition, is a power that penetrates and acts upon matter.57 Unlike Descartes and Hobbes who had circumscribed the power of spirit and enclosed matter to its own mechanisms, More contends that the notion of spirit as an active incorporeal substance penetrating and informing the whole of matter is essential for understanding the imperceptible, invisible forces structuring and binding the world together. There is nothing inherently incongruous with asserting that spirit influences and determines nature though it 53 54 55

56

57

For a detailed account of how More’s concept of spirit responds critically to Descartes and Hobbes, see David Leech, The Hammer of the Cartesians: Henry More’s Philosophy of Spirit and the Origins of Modern Atheism (Leuven: Peeters, 2013). Ibid., 29–​30 [i.iii, § 1]. Ibid., 253–​254 [iii.xii, § 1]; see also the definition in Ibid., 34 [i.v, § 1]: “We may therefore define This kind of Spirit [finite Spirit] we speak of, to be a substance Indiscerpible, that can move it self, that can penetrate, contract, and dilate it self, and can also penetrate, move, and alter the Matter.” It should be noted that More makes both macrocosmic and microcosmic arguments for the existence of the “spirit of nature.” His arguments for the immortality and existence of the soul and their relevance for his understanding of the “spirit of nature” cannot be pursued here. Ibid., 44 [i.vii, § 5]: “But a Spirit can find no resistance any where, the closest Matter being easily penetrable and pervious to an Incorporeal Substance … For if we could but once imagine an Union betwixt Matter and a Spirit, the activity then of the Spirit would certainly have influence upon Matter, either for begetting, or increasing, or directing the motion thereof.”

328 Strunk remains necessary to prove the existence of such a spirit influencing nature. To accomplish this, More proves the existence of the spirit of nature, negatively, insofar as the world would devolve into chaos if matter were without spirit in the world, and, positively, since the world functions fittingly as a unified whole.58 These are two sides of a single argument; namely, the spirit of nature effuses all matter and holds it together. Moreover, each can be demonstrated from phenomena in nature. More offers a quasi-​empirical  –​Boylan calls it “paraphysical” and Greene “supra-​mechanical” –​account of world-​soul as the spirit of nature that corresponds, on the one hand, with the nature of gravity and, intriguingly, with design in nature, whether in the form of regeneration or instinctive animal activities like nest-​building by birds.59 At first glance, these two empirical proofs for a world-​soul seem unrelated. However, for More each of these instances a rationality greater than what is possible by mechanical description alone, by indicating a kind of holding-​together of the whole that matter could not accomplish without assistance from a higher principle like the spirit of nature or world-​soul. More argues that the spirit of nature helps explain the descent of heavy bodies. “There must be some immaterial cause, such as we call The Spirit of Nature or Inferior Soul of the World, that must direct the motions of the Aethereal particles to act upon these grosser Bodies to drive them towards the Earth.”60 More critiques what he regards as the unacceptable consequences of Descartes’ and Hobbes’ purely mechanical account of gravity, which he perceives as undermining common experience. For the purposes of this paper, it is enough to appreciate that More’s appeal to a spirit of nature ingredient in the activity of gravity follows from a broad appeal to the complementarity of the whole. Purely mechanical explanations are the “results from the wild jumblings and knockings of one part [of matter] thereof against another, without any purpose, counsel or direction.”61 For example, without some sort of

58

59 6 0 61

Koyré, Closed World, 134: “Indeed, without the action of a non-​mechanical principle all matter in the universe would divide and disperse; there would not even be bodies, because there would be nothing to hold together the ultimate particles composing them. And, of course, there would be no trace of that purposeful organization which manifests itself not only in plants, animals, and so on, but even in the very arrangement of our solar system. All that is the world of the spirit of nature, which acts as an instrument, itself unconscious, of the divine will.” Michael Boylan, “Henry More’s Space and the Spirit of Nature,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 18:4 (1980): 395–​405; Robert Greene, “Henry More and Robert Boyle: On the Spirit of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (1962): 461. Ibid., 258 [iii.xiii, § 1]. Ibid., 66 [i.xii, § 5].

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

329

ordering a bullet fired straight into the air would never return to earth. More credits the spirit of nature with guiding motion in the universe as an ordering principle and power of unity. “Whereby is manifested not only the marvelous power of unity in indiscerpibility in the spirit of nature but that there is a peremptory and even forcible Execution of an all-​comprehensive and eternal Council for the ordering and the guiding of the motion of Matter in the Universe to what is the best. And this phenomenon of gravity is of so good and necessary consequence, that there could be neither Earth nor inhabitants without it, in this state that things are.”62 Put more poetically in the Platonic Song of the Soul, “The prop and stay of things is God’s benignity.”63 It is this ordering and guiding of nature that More also perceives in the generation and instincts of animals. In Book iii of The Immortality of the Soul, More transitions quickly from asserting that the spirit of nature is required for a proper understanding of gravity to the need for a conception of the spirit of nature for understanding animal reproduction and instinctive activities. On the one hand, More’s argument proceeds from his polemic against purely mechanical explanations of matter. On the other hand, there is a subtle link between the role of the spirit of nature with gravity as an ordering and governing principle holding things together, keeping things from chaotically going adrift, and the role of the spirit of nature as a coalescing principle unifying the animal kingdom into a great complementary whole. Drawing upon the Platonic understanding of world-​ soul as λόγος σπερματικός, More contends that the spirit of nature is active in the “nascency” and “coalescency” of things.64 For evidence of this ordering principle in nature, More appeals to the architectural design of a martins “framing little mansions of mudd” as well as the “combes of bees, the webs of spiders, and the bags of silkworms” that “set up shop and fall to their trade of weaving without any Teacher or Instructor.”65 For More, each of these shows that a rational principle pervades nature that is evident not only in their design 62 63 64

65

Henry More, Antidote Against Atheism, 3rd ed. (London: J. Flesher, 1655), 43; quoted in Koyré, Closed World, 134. Henry More, A Platonic Song of the Soul, ed. and intr. Alexander Jacob (London: Associated University Presses, 1998), 390 [Part ii, Canto 4, Stanza 1]. Immortality of the Soul, 263 [iii.xiii, §  7]:  “For there is one Soul ready every where to pursue the advantages of prepared Matter. Which is the common and onely λόγος σπερμα τικῆς of all Platal appearances, or of whatever other other Phaenomena there be, greater or smaller, that exceed the pure Mechanical powers of Matter … it [the spirit of nature] being a principle that is of so great influence and activity in the Nascency, as I may so call it, and Coalescency of things …” Ibid., 265 [iii.xiii, § 9].

330 Strunk but, even more evident, in their coalescing toward a whole. On this point, it is worth quoting More at length: For if there be any Impulse from an Extrinsecal [extrinsic] Principle upon any particular Animal, it is most sure to be then, when that Animal is transported from the pursuance of its own particular accommodation to serve a more public end. For from whence can this motion be so well as from that which is not a particular Being, but such as in whose Essence the scope and purpose of the general good of the World and of all the Species therein is vitally compriz’d, and therefore binds all Particulars together by that common Essential Law, which is it self, occasionally impelling them to such actions and services (either above their Knowledge or against their particular Interests) as is most conducing to the Conservation of the Whole? And this is that which we have styled the Spirit of Nature, which goes through and assists all corporeal Beings, and is the Vicarious Power of God (who is that Νόμος ἰσοκλινὴς as the Philosopher calls him) upon the Universal Matter of the World.66 In this passage, the spirit of nature is that power whereby things are “transported” beyond their own particular interests to “serve a more public end” and the “general good of the world and of all the species therein.” The spirit of nature conserves each particular thing by coalescing and interconnecting it to a greater whole. In this way, it evidences a divine spirit working in the material world. More’s descriptions of the spirit of nature emphasize it as a “Vicarious Power of God” evident in gravity’s motion to ordering the world and the coalescence of the animal kingdom. Although pervading and informing the entirety of nature, this conception of world-​soul as “vicarious” leaves open the question of how it relates to God’s omnipresence –​a question that can only be answered by considering another aspect of More’s thought, namely, his identification of God’s divine omnipresence with space. Whereas Descartes limited space to a feature of corporeal bodies alone, More  countered the Cartesian conception of space by attributing it both to ­corporeal and incorporeal things, applying the characteristic of extension to corporeal and incorporeal substances. Undoubtedly, attributing space to the divine had to correspond with a robust doctrine of divine omnipresence. Jasper Reid frames it best: “As far as More was concerned, we could be understood to “live, and move, and have our being” in God locally, to the extent that the various 66

Ibid., 267 [iii.xiii, § 9] [brackets mine].

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

331

regions of His own amplitude were what constituted the internal places of His creatures.”67 With this immanent conception of God’s omnipresence there is no need for mediation as the full range of divine attributes are incorporated in More’s conception of divine amplitude or extension. “The divine essence is everywhere present with all those adorable attributes of infinite and absolutely perfect goodness, knowledge, and power … Which ubiquity or omnipresence of God is every whit as intelligible as the overspreading of matter into all places.”68 However, by immanently associating God and space a question arises, “Why would God need a spirit of nature, if he were space itself and in immediate contact with all substances?”69 Stated otherwise, if God is space then what purpose remains for the spirit of nature for affirming God’s presence in the world? The answer to this question is complicated by the ambiguous role of the spirit of nature in nature’s mechanics. The spirit of nature implicates God’s divine presence within the mechanisms of the world while at the same time not implicating God’s perfection in nature’s aberrations (like birth defects) since the spirit of nature remains still mediatory as God’s “vicarious Power” in nature. This positions the spirit of nature, perhaps uncomfortably, between two roles as a mechanical or “paramechanical” force evident in regular processes like gravity and nest-​builiding as well as an extra-​mechanical or even anti-​mechanical spiritual influence closer to the divine causes of miracles. Either way, the instrumental role of the spirit of nature makes God present in the world in a manner differing from the way in which God is present as absolute space.70 Ultimately, however, More’s spirit of nature serves the same polemical agenda as his notion of divine extension; namely, to counter the purely materialist conceptions of the world proposed by Descartes and Hobbes. With the spirit of nature, this response consists of emphasizing the mechanical processes themselves rather than the broader conception of space. “The purely mechanical explanation becomes insufficient to explain the world. God must be invoked as working through an anima mundi. The aspect of God emphasized is the Divine as immanent in the corporeal world. It is therefore appropriate that most of the arguments for the presence of the spirit of nature are made through appeals to empirical data read off as evidence of regulation or of intervention.”71 If More’s conception of divine 67 68 69 70 71

Jasper Reid, “The Evolution of Henry More’s Theory of Divine Absolute Space,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 45:1 (2007): 79. Immortality of the Soul, 34–​35 [i.iv, § 2–​3]. Boylan, “Henry More’s Space,” 399. Ibid., 404. Ibid., 405.

332 Strunk space conceived omnipresence generally according to God’s life and power to sustain the spatial conditions for the world to exist, the presence of the divine associated with the spirit of nature is demonstrative of God’s specific agency implicated in the immanent mechanisms of the causal world. For More, the spirit of nature as anima mundi is God’s living presence in the dynamic mechanisms of the world. Insofar as “the spirit of nature is present every where”72 it can be said that the spirit of nature is the immanent expression of God’s divine omnipresence in an empirical, mechanical process, which is especially evident when these processes incline toward a whole, when they form, as it were, a cosmos. Conclusion The renowned Nicholas of Cusa scholar Raymond Klibansky saw anticipations of the work of Henry More in Renaissance humanists like Cusanus insofar as they both sought “to harmonize the Platonic and Mosaic narratives and to interpret the Biblical account in Genesis by means of the Greek scientific categories and concepts which had become part of Western thought, mainly by way of the Latin Timaeus and its commentators.”73 While the foregoing does not attempt to capture the scope of Klibansky’s assertion, it does collaborate his assertion insofar as both Nicholas of Cusa and Henry More harmonize, on some level, the Platonic doctrine of world-​soul with the Christian doctrine of divine omnipresence. What is more, they did so for a common reason, namely, to address the growing separation between God and the world introduced by new conceptions of motion and space. As early modern science developed, thinkers like Cusanus and More attempted to re-​form the cosmos in a way that acknowledged these developments while not conceding to the consequence asserted by some, of separating God from the world. In this way, they shared a common purpose. They also generally shared a similar approach insofar as they found resources for reforming an immanent relation between God and the world in the Platonic doctrine of world soul.

72 73

Immortality of the Soul, 226 [iii.vi, § 8]. Raymond Klibansky, The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition in the Middle Ages (London: The Warburg Institute, 1939), 28, quoted in A. Rupert Hall, Henry More and the Scientific Revolution, 23. To my knowledge, Henry More had not read Nicholas of Cusanus even as he inherited, like Cusanus, the Platonism translated and commented on by Marsilio Ficino. There is, then, a common ancestry in their reception of Plato, which cannot be explored here.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

333

Ernst Cassirer broadly perceives this when he considers Henry More’s response to materialism: “Once more the original attitude towards nature of the Renaissance, its vitalism and dynamism, now are revived in full force in opposition to the materialism and mechanism of Hobbes’ philosophy of nature.”74 Cusanus’ and More’s integration of anima mundi into their theological cosmologies only reinforces their efforts to inscribe the divine presence within the living interconnectedness of nature. And yet, while they share a common doctrine (the doctrine of world-​soul) and for a common end (maintaining God’s presence in the world), there are significant differences between them. Perhaps on no other point are Cusanus and More closer than in their interpretation of the world-​soul as nature’s inherent proclivity toward a unity or wholeness –​a wholeness apparent in its mutual compatibility and interconnectedness. Even here, however, Cusanus and More arrive differently at this aspect of the doctrine of world-​soul. Cusanus arrives at the interconnectedness of each thing through metaphysical speculation on Anaxagoras’ principle “each thing is in each thing.” By reflecting on this principle Cusanus considers how the unity of each thing contributes to the constitution of a uni-​verse that speaks of the divine unity. Only after these metaphysical speculations does Cusanus present examples from experience like the interrelationship of the sun, moon, earth, and stars to form a cosmos or the interrelationship of organs to comprise a whole living body. Because More needs to respond to Descartes and Hobbes by proving that spirit is integral to nature’s mechanisms, he arrives at this aspect of world-​soul by reflecting on the intricate mechanics involved in martins building nests, bees constructing honeycombs, spiders spinning webs, and silkworms weaving cocoons. Since each of these evidence a holism not reducible to the matter by which they are made, it follows that something greater, something spiritual, must be operative in their creation. In modern terms, one might say that More’s spirit of nature is the instrument generating nature’s symbiotic complexity. Thus, More’s empirical examples are not only intended to provide pedagogical instances of his metaphysical speculations, but the spirit of nature is implicated in his empirical descriptions of the actual mechanisms of nature like gravity and the building of a martin’s nest. Even as there are significant differences between Cusanus and More, of which the foregoing is only one, it is notable that they each retrieved the Platonic doctrine of world-​soul in order to form theological cosmologies

74

Ernst Cassirer, The Platonic Renaissance in England and the Cambridge School, trans. James P. Pettegrove (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953), 139–​140.

334 Strunk capable of affirming God’s immanent, living presence in the world. They arrived at, interpreted, and applied the notion of world-​soul in varying ways, but both found in this doctrine an articulation of God’s immanent divine presence as the dynamic interconnectedness of nature to form a cosmos. They found in this doctrine a resource for reformulating a theological cosmology adapting to changes in understanding the motion and space of the world. While some concluded from the discoveries of early modern science that “all cohaerence is gone,” as John Donne poetically put it, Cusanus and More found that even in the ubiquity of motion and the infinitude of space an interconnectedness remains that makes a world, a universe, comprehensible and, more than that, divine. Bibliography Albertson, David. Mathematical Theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Aristotle. Physics. Translated by R.P. Hardie and R.K. Gaye. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984. Blumenberg, Hans. The Genesis of the Copernican World. Translated by Robert M. Wallace. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2000. Blumenberg, Hans. The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. Translated by Robert M. Wallace. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1983. Boylan, Michael. “Henry More’s Space and the Spirit of Nature.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 18:4 (Oct 1980): 395–​405. Brague, Rémi. “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion and Its Ontological Implications.” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 13:2 (1990): 1–​20. Brient, Elizabeth. The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2002. Burtt, E.A. The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1925. Cassirer, Ernst. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. Translated by Mario Domandi. New York: Dover Press, 1963. Cassirer, Ernst. The Platonic Renaissance in England and the Cambridge School. Translated by James P. Pettegrove. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953. Dupré, Louis. Passage to Modernity: An Essay on the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. Greene, Robert. “Henry More and Robert Boyle: On the Spirit of Nature.” Journal of the History of Ideas 23 (1962): 451–​74.

Motion, Space, and Early Modern Re-formations of the Cosmos

335

Hall, A. Rupert. Henry More and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Harries, Karsten. Infinity and Perspective. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2001. Hopkins, Jasper. Nicholas of Cusa on Learned Ignorance: A Translation and an Appraisal of De Docta Ignorantia. 2nd edition. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1985. Klibansky, Raymond. The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition in the Middle Ages. London: The Warburg Institute, 1939. Kosman, Leo Aryeh. “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion.” Phronesis 14 (1969): 40–​62. Koyré, Alexandre. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins, 1957. Leech, David. The Hammer of the Cartesians: Henry More’s Philosophy of Spirit and the Origins of Modern Atheism. Leuven: Peeters, 2013. More, Henry. The Immortality of the Soul. Edited by Alexander Jacob. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987. More, Henry. Antidote Against Atheism. 3rd edition. London: J. Flesher, 1655. More, Henry. A Platonic Song of the Soul. Edited and Introduction by Alexander Jacob. London: Associated University Presses, 1998. Nicholas of Cusa. Opera Omnia. 22 vols. Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1932–​2005. Nicholas of Cusa. Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa. 2 vols. Edited and translated by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2001. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. Edited by Bernard Williams and translated by Josefine Nauckhoff. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Reid, Jasper. “The Evolution of Henry More’s Theory of Divine Absolute Space.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 45:1 (2007): 79–​102.

Pa rt 4 Mathesis Universalis: Reform of Method



Chapter 12

Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform Richard J. Oosterhoff Introduction The portrait of Nicholas of Cusa introducing the Opera omnia of 1514 is sharply focused. The Paris humanist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (c. 1455–​1536) began with the panegyric of Giovanni Andrea dei Bussi, which unfurled a panorama on Cusanus as a model of erudition who had mastered all forms of history, mathematics, civil and church law, Aristotelian philosophy, and Christian theology.1 Bussi, who had once been Cusanus’ secretary, especially praised his powerful eloquence:  “he possessed such a bounty of all learning that whatever he happened to say extemporaneously, he always ordered it with such copiousness that one would think he had studied, such was his facility –​he was eloquent and latinate beyond belief.”2 Lefèvre swiftly refined this focus on Ciceronian oratory to something more austere. Cusanus “was to be praised as eloquent and Latinate, above all. I believe this, but it was an eloquence not so much legal as Christian, which is never affected, never hasty, never proud and never offering insolent speech … his speech is catholic rather than oratorical, befitting a holy theologian and a heavenly philosopher rather than a worldly man given to mundane, theatrical splendor.”3 In the remaining paragraphs, Lefèvre narrows attention to the accomplishments of Cusanus in only two domains: mathematics and theology. As mathematician, Cusanus uses a mathesis of “handy helps, uplifting exercises, and divine comparisons” (manuductiones, assurrectiones, et divina paradigmata) as a “method of rising to divine matters” 1 Nicholas of Cusa, Haec Accurata recognitio trium voluminum, Operum clariss. P. Nicolai Cusae Card., ed. Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (Paris:  Badius Ascensius, 1514), aa2r–​aa3r. Transcribed in Eugene F.  Rice, ed., The Prefatory Epistles of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and Related Texts (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), 342–​348. When possible, I have cited these transcriptions in lieu of my own, with the abbreviation PE. Bussi’s panegyric was included in the Strasbourg edition of Cusanus’ works (1488). 2 PE 347. The Strasbourg edition was based on a dedicatory letter in Apuleius, Metamorphoseos liber: ac nonnulla alia opuscula eiusdem (Rome, 1469), 4r–​v. 3 PE 347.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019 | DOI:10.1163/​9 789004385689_​0 14

340 Oosterhoff (modus ad divina surgendi). As a theologian, Lefèvre continues, Cusanus uses these tools to navigate a three-​fold philosophy, beginning in the “imagination” of the limited senses; rising to reason, which analyses the causes of things; and finally to intellect, which transcends the oppositions of reason.4 The profile emerges of Cusanus the mathematical theologian. By 1514, when he published Cusanus’ Opera, Lefèvre had already enjoyed a luminous career in Paris, and he was setting the groundwork for a second. His earlier career had been defined by the University of Paris, where he earned the MA probably in 1476.5 Instead of advancing to more lucrative posts in France’s nascent noblesse du robe, or to prestigious degrees in the higher faculties of law, medicine, or theology, Lefèvre made the unusual choice to devote himself solely to teaching the arts course, the point of entry into university learning.6 During the 1490s and early 1500s, he and many of his closest students such as Josse Clichtove and Charles de Bovelles published experimental textbooks for the complete arts cursus at Paris, writing new introductions to the whole range of Aristotle’s works, on the one hand, and the mathematical arts of the medieval quadrivium, on the other. This programme drew partly on Italian humanism, beginning with Lefèvre’s first visit to Rome and Florence in 1491, when he met Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and others. But on that trip he also found works by Ramon Lull, the Catalan pilgrim philosopher who had presented his own idiosyncratic philosophy as a critique of the Paris schools. Already in the early 1490s, Lefèvre later recalled, he found an appealing vision in fifteenth-​century university reformers such as Jan Standonck and Jean Raulin, whose genealogy reached back to Jean Gerson and the Devotio Moderna.7

4 The genealogy of Lefèvre’s interest in this three-​fold philosophy is sketched by Reinhold Weier, Das Thema vom verborgenen Gott von Nikolaus von Kues zu Martin Luther: Dissertation (Mainz: R. Weier, 1965), 12–​60, and Kent Emery, “Mysticism and the Coincidence of Opposites in Sixteenth-​and Seventeenth-​Century France,” Journal for the History of Ideas 45:1 (1984): 3–​23. 5 Victor Carrière, “Lefèvre d’Étaples à l’Université de Paris (1475–​1520),” in Études historiques dediées à la mémoire de M. Roger Rodière (Arras, 1947), 109–​120. 6 The usual pattern can be seen in entries in James K. Farge (ed.), Students and Teachers at the University of Paris: The Generation of 1500. A Critical Edition of Bibliothèque de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne), Archives, Registres 89 and 90 (Leiden: Brill, 2006). 7 Standard accounts include Augustin Renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d’Italie, 1494–​1517 ([1916] Paris:  Édouard Champion, 1953; 2nd ed.); Rice, Prefatory Epistles; Guy Bedouelle, Lefèvre d’Étaples et l’intelligence des Écritures (Geneva:  Droz, 1976); and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Lefèvre:  Pioneer of Ecclesiastical Renewal in France (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984).

Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform

341

As a university master, therefore, Lefèvre already inhabited a view of intellectual work deeply influenced by monastic sources, and he continued to promote such sources after 1508, when he retired to the Parisian abbey of Saint-​ Germain-​des-​Prés. There Lefèvre contributed to the monastic reform efforts of the abbey’s prior, his patron Guillaume Briçonnet.8 In the preface to the Quincuplex Psalterium (1509) he mourned that he had often visited monasteries where devotion had flagged and ignorance of the scriptures (sacra eloquia) had set in.9 The Quincuplex proposed an answer. Most commentators have found in Lefèvre’s combination of textual criticism and theological commentary a statement of humanist exegesis; but his choice of the Psalms, the lifeblood of the Benedictine Rule, says more of his concern for cenobitic reform. Similar themes informed his scholarship on the letters of Paul (1512) and the Gospels (1522), earning him the favor of Luther and the polemics of Erasmus. When Briçonnet called Lefèvre and several students to spearhead diocesian reform at Meaux in 1521, Lefèvre had long worked to harmonize the competing pressures of university, humanist, and monastic reform.10 Thus the 1514 edition of Cusanus marked Lefèvre’s central place in the imagined literary republic that spanned university, monastery, and print shop. Lefèvre recalled he had taken eight years to prepare the book, which means he had begun to gather Cusanus’ works around 1505, while still teaching at Cardinal Lemoine. The list of coadiutores whom he thanked for supplying and critically correcting manuscripts included several students, such as Beatus Rhenanus and Michael Hummelberg; other old students, whom he dubbed “most devoted in the teachings of Cusanus,” had corrected the volume.11 A wider circle of contacts had found other Cusan manuscripts, including inter alios the hebraist Johannes Reuchlin, the Carthusian prior Gregor Reisch, a headmaster at Deventer named Jacobus Faber, and an Augustinian canon of Livry named Omnisanctus Vassarius. Lefèvre’s diverse intellectual and social commitments converged in Cusanus. Indeed, in this heady period of unsettled reformist fervour, Cusanus validated Lefèvre’s close association of university and monastery, of mathematics and 8 9 10 11

Jean-​Marie Legall, “Les moines au temps de Lefèvre d’Etaples et Guillaume Briçonnet à Saint-​Germain-​des-​Prés,” in Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples (1450?–​1536), ed. Jean-​François Pernot (Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 1995), 125–​140. PE 193. Translated by Heiko A.  Oberman, Forerunners of the Reformation: The Shape of Late Medieval Thought Illustrated by Key Documents (1966; Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress, 1981), 297–​301. On Lefèvre’s part at Meaux, see Jonathan A. Reid, King’s Sister-​Queen of Dissent: Marguerite of Navarre (1492–​1549) and Her Evangelical Network, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2009). Opera, aa3v: “uterque disciplinarum Cusae studiosissimus.”

342 Oosterhoff theology. I will first elaborate the tradition that Lefèvre shared with Cusanus, in which the study of number is often, sometimes imprecisely, presented as a mode of theological inquiry. Boethius emerges as a central authority in this tradition, as a Christian Pythagorean. Then, in the second part of this chapter, I focus on two texts where Lefèvre and one disciple work out a mathematical mode of theological contemplation –​and stop short of a Cusan arithmetical Trinity.

Divus Boethius

Lefèvre presented Cusanus as the most talented interpreter of an ancient theology.12 Already in 1493, we can find glimmers of this ancient theology in some dialogues that Lefèvre wrote to introduce Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The dialogues begin with an intellectualist description of wisdom, in which the wise man possesses the most complete possible grasp of universals. Roughly following the contours of the first books of Aristotle’s work, the dialogue addresses the scale of being and, therefore, the summum ens which exists in itself as the ultimate universal, namely God. It is here that Lefèvre presents a trinitarian account of the divine Unity, drawing on a formulation dear to Cusanus: unitas, aequalitas, and connexio. The Fabrists touched on this formula in later works too, as I will explore in the next section –​but before his commentary on the Areopagite of 1499, there is no indication that Lefèvre had read Cusanus. Instead, I will suggest here, this passage reflects Fabrist interest in the longer tradition that inspired Cusanus, first pioneered by Hermes Trismegistus, expounded in the apostolic tradition of (Pseudo)Dionysius the Areopagite, and finally taught by the Christian senator of ancient Rome, Boethius. There were many sources in which Lefèvre might have found this formulation of the Trinity. It originated as the triad unitas, aequalitas, and concordia, which Augustine had briefly mentioned in De doctrina Christiana, echoing and then dismissing a line from the Pythagorean Moderatus of Gades.13 As David Albertson has shown, this triad remained largely out of view until the mid-​ twelfth century, when it surfaced among the circle of philosophers associated with Chartres, and was championed by Thierry of Chartres in a clutch of commentaries on Boethius’ De Trinitate –​Thierry changed the third term concordia 12 13

One place Lefèvre explicitly identifies Cusanus as such is the preface to Charles de Bovelles, In artem oppositorum introductio (Paris: Wolfgang Hopyl, 1501). On this genealogy, see David Albertson, “Achard of St. Victor (D. 1171) and the Eclipse of the Arithmetic Model of the Trinity,” Traditio 67:1 (2012): 101–​102.

Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform

343

to connexio.14 Lefèvre and his circle were warmly aware of twelfth-​century Parisian thought, and it is tempting to imagine Lefèvre encountered Thierry directly. But he never mentions Thierry. Moreover, the same triad could have been found elsewhere, such as in the main textbook of medieval university theology, Peter Lombard’s Sentences, finalized shortly after Thierry’s death.15 As a result, the triad was easily available in the vast, commentary tradition on the Sentences prominent in any medieval faculty of theology. Though he identifies no authorities on this arithmetical trinity, Lefèvre doe