Theophany: The Appearing of God According to the Writings of Johannes Scottus Eriugena by Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney (Beitrage Zur Historischen Theologie, 146: Mohr Siebeck) Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney's study is based on the new critical edition of Eriugena's Periphyseon and analyzes Eriugena as a biblically rooted theologian. The author presents the notion of "theophany", the appearing of God, as the key to understanding Eriugena's system as a whole. The theophanic structure inherent in all Eriugena's accounts of divine revealing possesses an impressive coherence. She focuses on the creative impulses which he draws from Scripture and she investigates the influence of theological and philosophical thinkers of the first six Christian centuries on Eriugena. The author considers those passages of Eriugena's writings in which the precise term `theophany' is used as well as other passages in which the term does not occur but which are nonetheless imbued with the 'notion' of a theophanic appearing of God. In her study the author maintains that a theophanic structure characterized by four recurring facets may be unearthed in Eriugena's theology of the revealing of God.
Excerpt: The later generations of Christians, and in particular those who enjoyed a certain level of education, were influenced by the philosophical currents of the Mediterranean world. Among these were the Hellenic influences of Middle Platonism and, in its turn, the so-called Neoplatonism. It is worthwhile to briefly consider how the question of the manifestation of the absolute is approached in these systems.
The theology of Middle Platonism as it flourished in the second century of the Christian era is characterised by the fact that it posits a supreme principle or God at the head of the hierarchy of being, as the first principle of all subsequent reality!' Middle Platonism with its sources in Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, identified this first principle with Plato's Good. In the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus and Proclus the radical unity of the First Principle was even more strongly heightened". Plotinus and later Proclus increasingly presented the Absolute as unknowable.
According to Proclus the scope of our knowledge of this One, and about this One is radically limited. The One is so unknowable to us that we do not even know whether it is knowable or unknowable in itself:
and it is not the case that it is unknowable to us while being knowable to itself; for if it is absolutely unknowable to us, we do not even know this, that it is knowable to itself, but of even this we are ignorant; ..." Translation from GLENN R. MORROW / JOHN M. DILLON, Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Parmenides, with introduction and notes by John M Dillon, paperback printing, with corrections, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 453
For Plotinus the One is beyond Mind and indeed beyond Being. It cannot be known nor spoken of. He explicitly excludes that it has self-knowledge. The One, he argues, is radically simple, and self-knowledge would involve it in multiplicity. Therefore we must exclude the possibility of it knowing itself. It does not need this self knowledge anyway:
... for what will it learn by thinking itself? For what it is will belong to itself before Intellect thinks. Also, knowledge is a kind of longing for the absent, and like the discovery made by a seeker. But that which is absolutely different remains itself by itself, and seeks nothing about itself; but that which explicates itself must be many." vol. II, Enneades IV—V, 1977, Oxford: University Press, 1977, pp. 221-222. A. H. Armstrong translation, in: Plotinus with an English translation by A. H. ARMSTRONG, vol. V, (Enneads V. 1-9), Cambridge / Harvard University Press / London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1984, (= The Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 444) p. 109:
See CARABINE, The Unknown God, pp. 135-137 and p. 148 when speaking of the novum of negative theology in Plotinus in comparison to earlier writers she writes: "Plotinus's distinctive originality is that he proposed the notion that neither the human intellect nor the One itself, can have any knowledge about the One."
While his emphasis is definitely on the unknowableness of the One, Plotinus does not fully abandon the dialectic of knowing / not knowing the Absolute. He strongly recommends the search for the Absolute. This search takes the form of a turning inward. In Plotinus' system, and the systems of the philosophers and theologians alike who are influenced by him, the human interior life becomes the focus of attention'. Through this inward gaze the presence of intellect in the human soul is understood, and an ascent may be initiated which intends the absolute referred to as the One as its ultimate goal.23 The soul is then said (in especially privileged moments) to suddenly take light; the Absolute suddenly appears24. The One is said to appear suddenly. Aphairesis (taking away or abstraction) is the method or programme by which one prepares for the appearing of the One.
"This could happen also in this way, if you first of all separated the body from man (and, obviously, from yourself), and then the soul which forms it and, very thoroughly, sense-perception and desires and passions and all the rest of such fooleries, since they incline so very much towards the mortal. What remains of soul is this which we said was an image of Intellect preserving something of its light, like the light of the sun which, beyond its spherical mass, shines around it and from it." Enneas V, 3, 9, 2-10, HENRY-SCHWYZER (ed.), p. 248: English translation from A. H. ARMSTRONG, Plotinus with an English translation, Vol. V, p. 1o1.
In this state one may wait for the appearing of the One. Porphyry, Plotinus' biographer claims that his master experienced the appearing of the One only four times when he was with him. One sees how Plotinus' injunction to take or to strip everything away (Enneas, V, 3, 17, 38, HENRY-SCHWYZER (ed.), p. 233. ments not as a method which forces the One to appear. The question of the role of human contribution (be it through effort, or virtue, or asceticism) in facilitating the appearing of the divine is one which must be faced in all attempts to reflect on the manifestation of the divine.) can at best be seen as preparation for these moments.
In the writings of Plotinus we find the consideration of another question which must be raised in an account of the disclosure of the divine: how may the experience of the manifestation of God or the Absolute be conceptualised, or indeed expressed in words? The difficulty of a conceptual appropriation of this vision or indeed its subsequent verbal description is recognised by Plotinus as being extremely difficult!
"The soul runs over all truths, and all the same shuns the truths we know if someone tries to express them in words and discursive thought; for discursive thought, in order to express anything in words, had to consider one thing after another: this is the method of description; but how can one describe the absolutely simple? But it is enough if the intellect comes into contact with it; but when it has done so, while the contact lasts, it is absolutely impossible, nor has it time, to speak; but it is afterwards that it is able to reason about it. One must believe one has seen, when the soul suddenly takes light: ...", Enneas V, 3,17, 21-29, HENRY-SCHWYZER (ed.), pp. 232-233. English translation from A. H. ARMSTRONG, Plotinus with an English translation, pp. 133-135.
Thus in this long quotation we can catch a glimpse of two issues arising in the reflection on the appearing of God as this reflection emerged in history. In the first place: is, or how is the conceptual appropriation of the divine manifestation possible? Secondly: can this appropriation of divine manifestation be subsequently expressed in words?
These are questions which the Christian authors of the early centuries also had to address. While to some extent it may be said that the philosophy of Plotinus provided them with a philosophical apparatus with which to approach these questions, the system could not simply be transferred into a Christian setting. It could not simply be adopted in all respects by Christian thinkers. In particular, the question of the disclosure of God in the concrete human Jesus Christ is difficult to voice from within a purely Plotinian perspective. Further the rationality of a trinitarian God seems to be challenged by the Plotinian insistence on the ultimate unity of the Absolute.
In the fourth century bishop, Gregory of Nyssa, we have a person whose writings were a direct source for Eriugena and who is certainly one of the most important media through whom the issues of the theological and philosophical tradition on the appearing of God and the possibility of knowing God were transmitted toEriugena. Early Christian writers such as Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, while presenting the appearing of God in creation and Jesus Christ, all stressed the ultimate mystery that God is. In the fourth century Gregory of Nyssa and the other Cappadocians had to defend this unknowableness of the divine essence. [The ecclesiastical writers Gregory of Nyssa, Ps. Dionysius, Augustine of Hippo and Maximus Confessor are only briefly mentioned here in order to illustrate the issue which is being investigated in this study. Eriugena's debt to these thinkers will be considered in more detail in chapter six of this study.] The position which Gregory developed represents a negative theology stressing the ultimate unknowableness not only of the divine essence in itself, but also of the human ousia. Nature can tell us that God exists, but what God is [Important for the emergence of this distinction are the writings of Philo of Alexandria]and is not revealed to us either by the natural world in general nor the human as image of God. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is repeatedly presented in terms of the Pauline mystery, the mystery of the salvific plan of God in which Christ is the key to the mystery of the human race and to the whole of creation alike. The writer known to us as Ps. Dionysius Areopagita who wrote at the end of the fifth century and at the beginning of the sixth century was also heir to the Neoplatonic reflection on God. [The Neoplatonic heritage in particular of Proclus is one of the most important factors in the academic attempts to date his writing and has contributed to our dating the Ps. Dionysian Corpus to the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century.] His emphasis on the superessentiality of the divine essence also fed into Eriugena's understanding of an ultimately nameless God. [ For an introduction to the person and works of Ps. Dionysius Areopagite see, ANDREW LOUTH, Denys the Areopagite, London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1989). of human questioning. He was sensitive to the heart of the matter: the self-revealing of the divine essence out of its superessential nothingness into all that is and is not. His answer, I will argue, contains a Christological heart and an anthropological centring that both stem from his understanding of incarnation. However, just as the church fathers used the spoils of Egypt, so too Eriugena thought it fitting to use the methods of dialectic to explain the whole scope of reality in a comprehensive account of the so-called divisions of nature. The thesis which this investigation proposes is the following: whether he is speaking from the perspective of dialectic or from the perspective of a christian theology, the key to interpreting Eriugena's account of the disclosure of God is the notion of theophany.] Ps. Dionysius' theory of hierarchic mediation of knowledge and being is also an important precursor of the Eriugenian account of the encounter with the appearing God as theophany. But the philosophical heritage of Eriugena spans East and West. The theme of the manifestation of God through the likeness of the trinity in the triple motion of the soul in the human mind is bequeathed to Eriugena from another direct source, the great Augustine of Hippo. Further, the seventh century Eastern writer Maximus Confessor bequeathed Eriugena a complementary set of concepts with which to investigate divine manifestation and the answering human assent: the loving descent of God in the incarnation and the `theosis' or deification of the conscious appropriation of this truth.
Johannes Scottus Eriugena was an academic of the Carolingian renaissance and he inherited this issue of the appearing of the divine from earlier authors. As a teacher he was challenged by the task of explaining all that is. His starting point is the universum: all that presents itself for explanation, all that falls within the horizonEriugena's work is thus approached through the canon of questions which can be addressed to all purportedly comprehensive accounts of the appearing of God: In which creatures is God made manifest and what is the relation of the appearing of God in one creature to the appearing of God in another? How is God presented as revealed in nature as a whole (a question inherited not only from Christian thinkers in the Genesis tradition, but also from the tradition of philosophical cosmology)? To what extent is the human subject a medium of divine manifestation? To these more general questions come the specifically Christian questions: How is God revealed in the Word made flesh, in Jesus Christ? How is the divine trinity mirrored in creation as a whole, and in the functions of the human spirit in particular?
The appearing of God has an objective side referring to structures in reality concerning the absolute which is to appear, and a subjective or epistemological side. Belonging to an adequate investigation of the objective side are issues such as whether God appears as one or three and a consideration of the ontological structure which lies behind the unknowableness of God. An investigation of the subjective side of the manifestation of God must include some treatment of themes such as the possibility of union with God in this life in contrast to the situation of the blessed in the next life; and, the mutual relationship of cognitive union and moral discipleship. Eriugena's contribution to this complex of questions is the matter examined in this thesis.
The study claims to detect a structure which recurs in all Eriugena's accounts of encounter with God, that is, whether these accounts focus on the subjective presuppositions on the part of the human or on the objective presuppositions. In both contexts, it will be argued, Theophany is the notion which connotes this recurring pattern.
To the systematic complex of questions, come questions concerning Johannes Scottus Eriugena's own academic method. While the main aim of this investigation lies in the systematic field, the study does nevertheless attempt to make transparent Eriugena's theological method. From a methodological point of view his interpretation of the Bible and his use of the patristic tradition are analysed.
We may conclude that there already exist studies, compiled in the past and more recently, which shed some light on the chosen topic, the appearing of God according to Eriugena. Still I suggest, that however helpful the research to date is, it has not yet given an adequate account of all the carriers of the divine manifestation as they appear in the writings of Eriugena, in their individual functions and in their mutual relations. Thus the aim of the study as outlined above, not only retains its legitimacy in the face of the research to date, but indeed is inspired by the work of other scholars (and, indeed, their shortcomings) to pursue further the theme of the appearing of God.
Nor is an additional assessment of the method of Eriugena as a biblically oriented theologian redundant. Precisely when we consider those studies which have treated the manifestation of God in Eriugena we notice that they are very often carried through by scholars who have a philosophical background. It is often experts on the philosophy of Neoplatonism who take up Eriugena's writings and bring the questions of a philosopher to them. And yet the thematic of the divine manifestation itself, precisely as it is handled by Eriugena, demands to be considered from a theological perspective. The following are two brief exemplary reasons for insisting on a theological interpretation of his writings on this matter:
In the first place, Eriugena's presentation of the manifestation of God in creation follows the biblical account of the creation of the world and culminates in a theological anthropology which centres on the biblically rooted understanding of the human person as created in the image of God. The`dynamic of Eriugena's system and the movement of the biblical account concur. The appearing of God in the human is a very important facet of Eriugena's system as a whole. An adequate reflection on Eriugena's presentation of the appearing of God in the human person must explicitly consider his exegesis and interpretation of scripture.
Secondly, in his presentation of the perception of the manifestation of the divine, Eriugena draws not only on the ascensio mentis in diving mysteria of the Pseudo-Dionysius but also on the divine descensus as emphasised in the writings of Maximus Confessor as categories to describe the encounter. Maximus' account of the encounter with God in theophany is radically Christological and stresses the initiative and condescension of God to us in Christ. Eriugena's thought, heir to the writings of Maximus on the preconditions of the divine appearing, must also be approached from a theological perspective sensitive to the Christological context of this divine condescension.
Following on the preliminary clarifications (issue and aim of the study, report on research to date, outline of the ductus of the investigation, indication of the methods adopted in the investigation) the first chapter deals with the development which Eriugena's own thought experienced in the course of his writing career. Then follow chapters two to five which present Eriugena's understanding of the chosen thematic, the appearing of God. Chapter six is a three-fold reflection on Eriugena's system. There is a so-called historical reflection in which the author's appropriation of material from his sources is assessed. A reflection on his academic methods follows. Here the central question of the theological character of his writings will be raised. Finally, the systematic reflection reviews the various facets of Eriugena's understanding of the appearing of God.
Systematic reflection: The appearing of God according to Eriugena
This thesis has reviewed Eriugena's writings on the appearing of God in all created reality, in the human creature and in Jesus Christ. How may we then characterise Eriugena's theology of the appearing of God? Is there a recurring pattern in the way in which he speaks of this phenomenon which may be noted in each of these three major contexts? It is the thesis of this investigation that in each context Eriugena's account of the appearing of God includes four key characteristics. Often these four key characteristics accrue to his use of the notion of theophany56. They are however also to be witnessed in his account of the appearing of God in the human created in the image of God where the term theophany is seldom explicitly mentioned.
The appearing of God in all reality
The distinction between knowing that God exists and not knowing what God is had established itself within certain Eastern theologies as an instrument for describing the possible extent, and the intrinsic limitation of human knowledge of God. Eriugena too, steeped in the tradition of negative theology, uses this distinction but he inserts the insight within a new context. Eriugena gives an account of the appearing of the infinite. Creation is the work of the infinite and incomprehensible God and the divine works, although in themselves finite, let their maker appear. In his system creation is described as "theophanic": in creation the infinite Godappears. In the third book of Periphyseon we read that every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany, that is, a divine apparition.
I intend to draw attention to the key characteristics of the appearing of God as it emerges in Eriugena's account of creation. Later the question whether these characteristics appear in the creational context alone, or whether they may be also observed in other contexts, may be addressed.
First key characteristic: 'because of the divine goodness'
The first aspect which emerges is the divine goodness which is the source of creation by the infinite and the revealing of the infinite alike. Asked why things were created out of nothing the speaker known as the Nutritor holds up a picture of the generosity of the subsisting good, which without any trace of envy, causes other beings to exist and which most abundantly distributes the individual goods and further, exercises its providence over all things.
The reason for creation may be expressed in more explicitly manifestational terms too: In a biblically oriented passage we read that God created out of nothing so that the extent and liberality of the divine goodness might be revealed and glorified through God's works: "Propterea siquidem, inquis, omnia de nihilo facta sunt, ut diuinae bonitatis amplitudo et largitas per ea quae fecit et ostenderetur et laudaretur." Eriugena's interpretation immediately includes the perception of this revelation and the ensuing praise which it inspires: "The divine goodness ... created all things to this very end that there should be no creaturethat does not either in itself and through itself, or through another, praise the Supreme Good." PP V, 4135-4144, p. 128, (= PL 122 952A—B).
The selfless diffusion of the divine goodness is the source of creation and manifestation alike. Creation is the manifestation of the divine goodness, "for the divine goodness both will be active and will appear in all things"65. Eriugena expresses this as the becoming (in a particularly radical sense of becoming apparent) of God. The themes of the divine goodness which issues forth in creation, and self-manifestation through theophany are presented in a much cited passage from Periphyseon book III here reproduced in an abbreviated form:
"For the motion of the supreme and threefold and only true Goodness, which in Itself is immutable, and the multiplication of its simplicity, and Its unexhausted diffusion from Itself in Itself back to Itself, is the cause of all things, indeed is all things. ... It encircles all things and there is nothing within It but what, in so far as it truly is, is not Itself, for It alone truly is; for the other things that are said to be are Its theophanies, which likewise have their true subsistence in It. ... everything that is understood and sensed is nothing else but the apparition of what is not apparent, the manifestation of the hidden, the affirmation of the negated, the comprehension of the incomprehensible, ... the definition of the infinite, the circumscription of the uncircumscribed ..." PP III, 577-597, p. 22, (= PL 122 632D-633B) English translation from I. P. SHELDON-WILLIAMS, SLH XI, p. 59.
Second key characteristic: 'with aesthetic mediation'
The second point is the radical aesthetic which inheres in this theophanic presentation of reality. It is good that the infinite appears, moreover it is good that God appears even in material beings. In a presentation of the difference between God, the cause of all things, and matter which Eriugena calls the unformed cause, Eriugena describes the end to which matter is created. Matter is said to be created to the end that those things which in themselves cannot be grasped by the senses, might by some means obtain a sensible appearance in it "quae ad hoc creata est ut ea quae per se sensibus attingi non possent quodam modo in ea sensibiliter apparerent" . This is a very interesting presentation of the function of matter in apparitional, manifestational terms. The appearing to the senses is presented as a further good. This is presented as an absolute observation: there is no reference to the fall. It represents a thoroughly aesthetical position!
No creature is excluded from this radical aesthetic. We already considered the text which states that there should be no creature that would not, either in itself and through itself, or through another, praise the Supreme Good. The material realities, even those who are not possessed of senses or intellect offer God praise through their being the occasion of a perception of God for thinking creatures. In this sense they too praise God.
Eriugena's aesthetic is a radical theory of the appearing of God in creation. It includes the appearing of divine traces both in the intellectual and in the sensual orders. However, it is perhaps important to point out that Eriugena's aesthetic is not identical with a theory of the beautiful, where beauty is presented as an attribute of a particular selective category of beings. All reality lets the Infinite appear; this is Eriugena's aesthetic. When he does speak explicitly of beauty (pulchritudo, pulchrum) it is nearly always in connection with the harmony of several or indeed of all beings.
Third key characteristic: 'from above'
A third point is the condescension of God which facilitates the theophanic appearing of the infinite. The appearing of the divine goodness is not an automatic "natural" diffusion. Eriugena presents it as a free condescension which aims at accommodating the intellectual limitations of the creature. Within his account of creation out of nothing in Periphyseon book three, he presents the theophanies as the appearing of the superessential nothing which God is. He here speaks of a certain ineffable condescension (per condescensionem quandam ineffabilem) by which the ineffable, incomprehensible and inaccessible brilliance of the Divine Goodness is beheld by the mind:
"I should believe that by that name is signified the ineffable and incomprehensible and inaccessible brilliance of the Divine Goodness which is unknown to all intellects whether human or angelic — for it is superessential and supernatural —, which while it is contemplated in itself neither is nor was nor shall be, for it is understood to be in none of the things that exist because it surpasses all things, but when, by a certain ineffable descent (condescensionem) into the things that are, it is beheld by the mind's eye, it alone is found to be in all things, and it is and was and shall be", PP III, 2541-2549, p. 88, (= PL 122 680D-681A), English from I. P. SHELDON-WILLIAMS, SLH XI, p. 167.
The idea of condescension has roots in the writings of Maximus Confessor, as has been already mentioned.
Fourth key characteristic: 'towards the infinite'
The fourth key aspect of the appearing of God to which I would like to draw attention is the earthly dialectic of finding God / and not finding God. Here Eriugena's own words in Periphyseon book five on the limited way that the infinite which is the end of human longing may be found, summarise the situation most aptly. Speaking of the end of the human search Eriugena states:
It finds It through theophanies, but through the contemplation of the Divine Nature Itself it does not find it. Now by Theophanies I mean the species of all things visible and invisible, by the beauty and order of which it is made known that God exists, and it is found not what God is, but only that God is: for God's very nature is unknowable and unutterable, since the Inaccessible Light transcends every intellect," PP V, 268c-2686, p. 84, PL 122 919 C—D).
I have outlined how the appearing of the infinite Divinity is presented by Eriugena within the context of theophanic creation. Drawing the threads of what has been said together, I summarise: The ontological infinity of the unlimited divine nature finds expression in the all embracing divine superessence. The corresponding cognitional infinity, the incomprehensibility is defended by the affirmation that even through theophany God is not known as to what God is. God shines forth in the non-appearing depths of all beings. The revealing of the infinite God is good and God does not hesitate to appear even in material and animal beings. The infinite God who appears is free and good as expressed in the moral infinity of the infinitely good benefactor (in nullo deficiens largitor) and the divine accommodating of the self-revelation, condescending to meet the needs of the observers.
The appearing of God in Jesus Christ
In another passage in this commentary on John's Gospel, Eriugena describes how the faithful knowledge of Christ is constantly purified. They leave behind a carnal and imperfect understanding of him. Progressing to ever higher forms of knowledge they approach the true knowledge of Christ.76 Here we can observe how the encounter of the human with God is presented as an encounter in Christ. Eriugena here presents a vision of an ever increasing accommodation to Christ as model. It is a position which holds that moral progress is a prerequisite for the encounter with God in Christ. The infinite God is infinitely formed in the minds of those who have been purified.
He also writes that it is in the theophanies that God reveals himself to those who seek and love him. In the theophanies they are swept up to meet Christ. Theophany is presented as encounter with Christ (rapiuntur obuiam christo). It is an encounter granted to those who not only seek, (a possibility open to an intellectual irrespective of the virtue of their life,) but to those who love.
In the trinitarian and Christological texts, irrespective of whether they stress encounter with God in Christ, or encounter with Christ, the key aspects of Eriugena's theology of the appearing of God are preserved.
The first key characteristic: 'because of the divine goodness'
The divine goodness is now presented in terms of the persons of trinity who condescend to reveal themselves. In a treatment of the procession of the son from the Father in Periphyseon book II, Eriugena quotes and comments on Mt. 11:27 ("No one knows the father except the son and those to whom the son is willing to reveal him"). He situates this revelation within the context of a communal decision of the members of the blessed trinity to allow creatures to share in the knowledge of thefather and the son and the spirit.
The second key characteristic: 'with aesthetic mediation'
The encounter is with and in a risen human (and divine) person. Eriugena writes that the Word incarnate is our epiphania. Eriugena seems to understand this objectively: Jesus is our epiphany in the sense that in him the triune God appears to us and addresses our senses: "... uerbo uidelicet incarnato nobis apparuit sensibusque corporeis comprehensibilem se fecit."
The third key characteristic: 'from above'
The event of theophany involves the descent, indeed the condescension of the trinity to the needs of the human.
The fourth key characteristic: 'towards the infinite'
The ascent to Christ (or in Christ) in the theophanies in this life is never ending and in this way attended by the dialectic of finding and not finding God in Christ.
The structural isomorphism already witnessed between theophany in the context of creation, is thus preserved when theophany is used in a trinitarian and Christological context, be this in the sense of encounter with God in Christ, or encounter with Christ too. Moreover, the content of the concept of theophany appears increasingly in terms of discipleship and of seeking God with intellect and heart, and the Infinite whom one encounters becomes the beloved Christ in and to whom one undertakes the return.
The appearing of God to the human creature: the subjective pole of the appearing of God
Among the creatures presented by Eriugena within the lexaemerar account in Periphyseon is the human. The special role of the human comes to the fore: the human is the pinnacle of creation, all creatures are created in the human. Eriugena approaches the uniqueness of the I human in terms of cognition too. Not only is God revealed uniquely in the human created as imago dei, but the human creature itself consciously seeks to understand reality as a whole, and ultimately, God. The description of this conscious attending to God marks a turning point in the Periphyseon, marking the switch from exitus to reditus, from creation to return, ultimately to his`account of God as the end of all things.8I It is in terms of a cognitive return to God that Eriugena offers an etymology of the Greek term anthropia:
The human is a creature which not only proceeds from the infinite God but turns back to this infinite God above it. This orientation to that above it takes place not only unconsciously, but consciously: the human turns towards that above in all ways open to it, including through its knowing, questioning, contemplating. Its destiny is to hold its gaze up to this infinite. This return is in fact an ongoing intellectual search for this infinite.
In this anthropologically oriented context one might expect Eriugena to provide us with details of the subjective experience of appropriating the appearing of God in general and of theophanic encounter in particular. In fact he offers us relatively little description of this83. I suggest that the purpose of most of Eriugena's subjectively oriented accounts of the appearing of God, even when used to indicate the conscious encounter with the infinite is not that of giving a psychological account of religious experience. He is rather concerned to communicate the theological structure of the appearing of God. I listed four key aspects of the appearing of God which recurred when this concept was used within the context of the appearing of God in creation and in and through Christ. These four aspects recur when texts from Eriugena's hand approach the conscious phenomenon of encounter with God.
Near the end of book V, at the close of Periphyseon, the Alumnus bursts into direct speech, addressing Jesus in a sincere prayer. He desires to understand the scriptures in order to find Jesus in them. This is described as the only blessedness which he asks for. Let us look at some of the key terms in the second half of this prayer. Speaking of the passing over which Jesus has prepared for His own, the Alumnus exclaims:
"And what is your passing over, 0 Lord, but an ascent through the infinite steps of Your contemplation? And ever do You open that way in the understandings of those who seek and find You. Ever are You sought by them and ever are You found, — and yet You are not found. You are ever found in Your theophanies in which You appear in the minds of those who understand You after a manifold mode, as in a number of mirrors, in the way in which You permit to be known not what You are, but what You are not; not what You are, but that You are; You are not found in Your superessential nature in which You pass beyond and exceed every understanding that desires to comprehend You and to ascend unto You. You grant unto Your own (Ministras igitur tuis) Your Presence by a mysterious manifestation of Yourself: You elude them by the infinite and incomprehensible transcendence of Your essence." PP V, 6828-6841, pp. 210-211, (= PL 122 1010C—D). Here the English translation of I. P. Sheldon-Williams / J. O'Meara, p. 7oo-7o1 has been modified by Hilary Mooney taking acount of Jeauneau's new critical edition of book five in CCCM CLXV.
We find echoes of the four key aspects of the appearing of God already identified in Eriugena's object oriented account of this appearing in the contexts of creation and of revelation in Christ. It is the good God who initiates the encounter and ministers to the searchers. In the picture of ministering we recognise the divine accommodation which informed the divine condescension in creational theophany.
The context is once again seeking God, where the success and limitation of this search is expressed in the dialectic of both finding and not finding God. God is said to be found in the theophanies and yet the prayer reaffirms the infinite and incomprehensible transcendence of God. The search is an unending process of ever seeking and finding (the repetition of semper). Finally, the finding is mediated through the words of scripture, the assimilation of which involves sensual activity. The God who does not shy away from appearing in material creatures, does not shy away from appearing in particular words.
So much on the similarity between the encounter with God represented by this prayer and the key characteristics of creational and Christological apparition. We may observe that in addition to the common ground, certain traits are noticeably in the ascendant: The interpersonal context is becoming even more evident. The search itself is a search for a Thou, who reveals "himself" to "his" own. Thus it is presented in terms of an interpersonal encounter. The fruit of the encounter is not abstract knowledge but the experience of the divine presence (praesentiam tuam).
The appearing of God in the human created in the image of God
Eriugena strongly affirms the appearing of God not just to but in the human creature. I argue that his theology of the human created in the image of God is embraced within his theophanic scheme of the appearing of God. Granted he rarely uses the term theophany in those passages where he is describing the human as created in the image of God. However, his tenet that every creature visible and invisible can be called a theophany must be so understood that it extends to the human creature too. The human creature certainly is not presented as less translucent of the divine than other creatures85. Furthermore, the inclusive interpretation is supported by the observation that each of the four characteristics of theophanic appearing recur in Eriugena's accounts of the particular case of theophany which (as I argue) the human is.
The first key characteristic: 'because of the divine goodness'
In the section on the 'imago dei' theology of Eriugena we observed that God lets the human share in the divine perfection for no other reason than that God is good. God wishes to make participation in this goodness possible; the divine goodness freely initiates a generous giving. The divine generosity calls all beings out of nothing into existence, however the human creature, the creature which receives the greatest likeness to God, is particularly formed by this generosity. Only the human is created in the image of its creator. Thus the disclosure of God to the human in its imaging of the divine is rooted in this divine goodness. This has been treated in detail already. Here the role of the divine generosity in lavishly allowing the human to share in its perfection, and to thus image God for itself and for others, marks the first key characteristic which, as I argue, belongs to a theophanic account of the appearing of God.
The second key characteristic: 'with aesthetic mediation'
When the question arises why God created the human, whom God proposed to make in God's own image, in the genus of animal, the answer which Nutritor gives is that God wished so to fashion the human so that there might be one among the animals in whom God's image is expressly manifested'. God freely decides to appear not only in an intellectual other but in an other who includes a sensual aspect. This shows us that the imaging of the divine may be interpreted within an aesthetic of an appearing God, in this respect too, within a theophanic theology.
The third key characteristic: 'from above'
In the Alumnus' question why an animal images God, we sense the divine condescension behind this appearing. God is not only generous in creating the human in the divine image, this generous sharing may be understood as a condescension of God. The aspect of condescension is also to be witnessed in what I have called Eriugena's fifth approach to the mirroring of the divine where freedom as a mirroring feature is expounded. God condescends to call other free creatures into existence. God abandons the monopoly on freedom.
The fourth key characteristic: 'towards the I infinite'
The fourth key aspect of theophanic appearing is the dialectic of finding and not finding God. At first sight, the phenomenon of imaging seems not to fit into this dialectic. 'Imaging' seems to name the positive alone, to name a perfect correspondence between image and imaged. Eriugena was, however, careful to point out that the prototype and its image differ in one thing only, that is, in the subject in which the perfection inheres. Thus in the human created in the image of God we have a signpost referring to another, referring to the Other who God is. The human encounters God as Other. The human can make progress in its perception of God as imaged in the human creature. Furthermore, the fact that many approaches can be taken to the human which is created in the image of God, implies that one approach can complement the other. In this way too, by considering different facets of the imaging of God, we can grow in our perception of God. Finally, when we consider the imaging of God within the economy of creation, we grasp Eriugena's point that through an increase in virtue the basis for the mirroring of God in the human creature expands.
Thus in the context of the human created as 'imago dei' too, a context where the term theophania' is not evident, the four-fold theophanic structure seems nevertheless to be the key to Eriugena's theology of the appearing of God.
3.5 Theophanic encounter with God
The theophanic structure of the cognitive encounter between God and the human, is the quintessence of Eriugena's theology of the appearing of God.
The contexts within which the term theophany itself is used are many. I argue that the use of the notion of theophany signifies an encounter-event characterised by four key characteristics listed above. So understood, we may speak of a consistent usage of the term theophania. The plurality of contexts within which it is used does not affect the coherence of the function of the term: it signals in creational as in Christological context a recurring pattern in the encounter of God and human.
I characterise Eriugena's theology of the appearing of God as theophanic, even those sections of his theology in which the word theophany does not occur. Had
this study narrowly focussed on the verbal occurrence of the word `theophan-' in all its forms then the study would be unable to account for the appearing of God in the human created in the image of God. Eriugena is a consistent thinker but he was certainly not a 'tidy' thinker. There is no one term which offers a key to his theology. However, by first reviewing how he actually speaks of the disclosure of God; then, in a second step, asking which term has the function of communicating the repetitive pattern found (in the case at hand the notion of theophany); and, finally, in a third step testing whether this pattern also occurs, (albeit anonymously) in those passages which speak of the appearing of God in the human person, one may indeed arrive at an adequate hermeneutic of the issue at hand.87 The step in which we considered whether the notion of theophanic encounter can embrace the appearing of God in the human considered as created in the image of God is an important one. Through our affirmative response to the question we could avoid reading a breach into Periphyseon. Otten, for example, sees not just a turning point in book four of Periphyseon but the overthrowing of the theory of theophanic disclosure. By showing how the revealing of God in the human is embraced within the pattern of theophanic encounter, such a breach was not identified by our interpretation of Eriugena's writings.
Eriugena, Berkeley, and the Idealist Tradition edited by Stephen Gersh and Dermot Moran (University of Notre Dame Press) The contributors in this volume take up the question of "idealism" in the history of philosophy from Plato, through late ancient and medieval thought, to Berkeley, Kant, and Hegel. They cover a wide range of philosophical writers and texts to which the label "idealism" has been, or might reasonably, be attached; these include Plato, the Roman Stoics, the Neoplatonism of Plotinus, Augustinian Neoplatonism, Johannes Scottus Eriugena, the Arabic Book of Causes, George Berkeley, Immanuel Kant, and classical German idealism. "This is a rich, subtle, thought-provoking collection on central, though neglected topics in idealism and its history, offering fresh and important insights into both familiar and less familiar major figures, views, and issues. Most important, perhaps, are its presentation and assessment of non-subjective forms of idealism, as well as mind-dependence forms of idealism prior to Descartes. Contemporary philosophers have become sophisticated about various forms of realism, anti-realism and irrealism. Such discussions, among others, will benefit significantly by accepting this volume‚s invitation to become more sophisticated about idealism as well. This very welcome contribution to the literature should find a broad readership." —Kenneth R. Westphal, University of East Anglia
"If it is true—as Hegel and his followers have claimed—that being and truth are indissociable from history, then philosophy cannot be successful if it limits itself exclusively to investigations of individual thinkers and periods. What is at stake, ultimately, is the development of Western thought as a whole. In this volume, a fine international group of scholars investigate the meaning of idealism across the ages. Without sacrificing nuance, their contributions show that a core of shared assumptions characterizes idealist philosophies. The historical dialogue which this volume advances emphasizes the relevance of ancient and medieval thinkers for the current debate, but it also challenges us to place modern representatives of idealism—such as Berkeley, Kant, and Hegel—in historical perspective." —Philipp W. Rosemann, University of Dallas
What do philosophers mean by "idealism"? Of the various definitions which our dictionaries might supply for this term, perhaps one taking account of the notion of immaterialism would be the most serviceable. In its turn, immaterialism might be defined as the doctrine that matter either does not exist or exists strictly in dependence on mind. The concept of "idealism" has many senses, senses that evolved and gathered new meanings in the course of several hundred years.' In Latin, the term appears in 1734 in Christian Wolff's Psychologia Rationalis §36, where it is characterized as the doctrine that nothing exists outside of God and other spirits, clearly a reference to the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, who did not himself use the term. The term also appears in Diderot's Encyclopedic in the 1750s.
Historians of philosophy are accustomed to charting
the course of ideal-
ism from one viewpoint as a derivative of empiricism (cf. Berkeley) and from another viewpoint as a derivative of rationalism (cf. Leibniz), seeing it reformulated in the reaction against both these tendencies of Kant's "transcendental" idealism, in the reaction against Kant of the Hegelian "absolute" idealism, and in the various developments of these viewpoints which continued into the twentieth century. It is worth briefly reviewing these developments here.
Plato was the first author to bring the term "idea" into philosophical
currency. It is probable that this Idea, by simply representing one of the contents of the higher of Plato's two fundamental levels of Being, originally lacked the connotation of subjectivity. However, the latter gained emphasis during a complex evolution in the late ancient period when the Idea was reformulated in terms of Neoplatonic and Christian theism. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), in his essay Reponse aux reflexions contenues dans la seconde Edition du Dictionnaire Critique de M. Bayle, article Rorarius, sur le systeme d'Harmonie preétablie, written some time after 1702, speaks of "the greatest materialists and Idealists" (des plus grands Materialistes et des plus grand Idealistes), among which latter he includes both Plato and the followers of Descartes.2 This is early testimony to the fact that the term "idealism" was specifically applied to Platonism.
George Berkeley's claim, announced in his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) that esse est percipi, that the being of any object (other than a mind) is its being perceived by a mind (either the divine or the human mind), is usually seen as both inaugurating modern idealism and formulating it in a paradigmatic manner.3 This idealism, or more accurately, to use Berkeley's own formulation, "immaterialism," arises from post-Cartesian epistemological considerations and the need to address skeptical worries concerning the mind's access to an "external world" thought of as having an "absolute existence" of its own. On the other hand, the fact that the term "idealism" itself first emerged in modernity does not mean that the notion did not occur earlier, nor indeed that the term itself cannot usefully be applied to diagnose analogous tendencies in earlier philosophies.
In fact, idealisms of quite different kinds have been motivated by other considerations, chiefly, religious or theological motivations. The Kant scholar Norman Kemp Smith, for instance, has argued that idealism may be used in a broad sense to cover "all those philosophies which agree in maintaining that spiritual values have a determining voice in the ordering of the universe."4 To recognize the source of all things in a divine immaterial principle that is also primarily understood as being at least mind, is undoubtedly central to the Western Christian theological tradition. In this sense, every Christian theist ought to be an idealist. No Christian theist can assent to the claim that somehow the source, ground, and cause of the created world is a material principle.
The Neoplatonism of late antiquity, inspired by Philo Judaeus and systematized by Plotinus and Porphyry, followed this line of thought to its logical conclusion by absorbing the Platonic forms into the intellectual principle (nous) which itself emanated from the One.5 In this move, not only is all material and sensible reality subordinate to the intelligible realm, but the intelligible realm is itself located in Intellect or Mind. Thus, a Christian Neoplatonist such as Augustine could later hold that all things depend on the Ideas in the divine mind, while the ninth-century Irish philosopher Johannes Scottus Eriugena maintained that the being of all things is their being in the divine mind. It was undoubtedly because of the historical assimilation between Neoplatonism and Plato's own thought, especially in the version of this synthesis propagated by Marsilio Ficino in the Renaissance, that Leibniz was prepared to characterize Platonism in the manner indicated by the quotation above.
Responding to the challenge of Berkeley, Immanuel Kant proposed a new form of idealism—transcendental idealism—which held that objectivity and subjectivity were correlative terms and that both traditional realism (which thinks of reality as mind-independent) and subjective idealism (which thinks of reality as mind-dependent) were one-sided and ignored the correlation between mind and world. To employ Hilary Putnam's formulation, for transcendental idealists, what is known "is never the thing in itself, but always the thing as represented," or as he also puts it: "The mind and the world jointly make up mind and world."
In seeking to differentiate his idealism from other versions, Kant offers a taxonomy of idealism in the Critique of Pure Reason and subsequently in Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. In the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), in the Fourth Paralogism of the ideality of the "outer relation": that is, that the cause of a perception can only be inferred and not proven, the term "idealist" is introduced precisely in terms of the existence of an external world:
By an idealist, therefore, one must understand not someone who denies the existence of external objects of sense, but rather someone who only does not admit that it is cognized through immediate perception and infers from this that we can never be fully certain of their reality from any possible experience (A368-69).
In the Refutation of Idealism section of the second edition (1787) of the Critique, Kant opposes what he calls "psychological" or "material" idealism:
Idealism (I mean material idealism) is the theory that declares the existence of objects in space outside us to be either merely doubtful and indemonstrable, or else false and impossible (B274).
Kant classifies both Descartes and Berkeley as material idealists, and thus the modern "way of ideas" is judged by Kant to involve a "psychological idealism" which makes the existence of the external world problematic. In the Preface to the second edition, Kant therefore identifies the great "scandal of philosophy" as the assumption that the existence of the external world should be in need of proof (Bxxxix). In contrast with this "dogmatic" or "material" idealism Kant defends transcendental idealism:
I understand by the transcendental idealism of all appearances the doctrine that they are all together to be regarded as mere representations and not as things in themselves, and accordingly that space and time are only sensible forms of our intuition, but not determinations given for themselves or conditions of objects as things in themselves. (A369)
Later Kant proposed the term "critical idealism" as less misleading. But central to this doctrine is the distinction between objects as appearances (to subjects) and as "things in themselves."
Post-Kantian German idealism, in Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, sought to overcome the residual dualism in Kant and especially worries about the notorious unknown thing in itself. The absolute idealism of Hegel regards the infinite realization of the identity of subjectivity and objectivity as the self-realization of absolute spirit. Schelling especially regarded transcendental philosophy, the attempt to explain how knowledge is possible, as a way of identifying and seeking the grounds for the "prejudice" that there are things outside us. Indeed, he regards as one of the great achievements of modern philosophy that it has succeeded in uncoupling the conviction that objects exist outside us from the conviction that I exist.9 According to Schelling, idealism results from thinking of the self as the fundamental principle of all knowledge, whereas realism consists of thinking of the object without the self. His claim is that it is necessary to think the two together, leading to what he calls "ideal-realism" or "transcendental idealism."
Both Schelling and Hegel, reacting to Kant's continuing dualism of subject and thing in itself, understood idealism as involving the resolution of all things into an infinite consciousness which is at the same time self-consciousness. Being that has come to knowledge of itself in self-consciousness and is at one with itself is at the very heart of Hegelian idealism. Thus, for Hegel in the Science of Logic, idealism means that finite reality requires the infinite for its intelligibility and completion.12 Such an idealism maintains that there is an inner relatedness among all things, and that all things emerge through a kind of dynamic unfolding which must be understood as Spirit coming to self-consciousness and self-actualization.
One can, therefore, distinguish several kinds of idealism: first, Platonic or Neoplatonic idealism; second, Berkeleian immaterialism or mind-dependence of physical objects; third, Kantian and neo-Kantian transcendental idealism, with its a priori correlation of objectivity with subjectivity (e.g. in Edmund Husserl) and its claim that space and time are conditions of sensibility rather than intrinsic properties of mind-external objects (Kant); and, finally, Hegelian absolute idealism, with its conception of the cosmos as the self-evolution and coming to self-awareness of absolute spirit (versions of which can also be found in Bradley and the British Idealists generally). It is clear that although there is both continuity and discontinuity among these versions of idealism, the degree of continuity is sufficient to justify a reexamination of the entire question in some kind of unified program.
It was therefore decided to organize an international philosophical conference devoted to the question of idealism, structuring our approach in terms of these four historico-conceptual categories (together with other and perhaps better categories which might emerge in the course of discussion). Since lohannes Scottus Eriugena, the Carolingian philosopher and educationalist and George Berkeley, the eighteenth-century bishop of Cloyne—figures of seminal importance in the ancient-medieval and early modern phases of the idealist tradition respectively—were both Irishmen, there were reasons of both a practical and a symbolic nature for holding the meeting in Ireland. The conference entitled Eriugena, Berkeley, and the Idealist Tradition took place in Dublin, in March 2002. We were fortunate to have obtained financial assistance for the project from the University of Notre Dame—through its Henkels Lecture Series—and from Trinity College, Dublin (of which Berkeley was a Fellow in 1707). We were also grateful for the opportunity of holding our discussions in the University of Notre Dame's Irish Studies Centre at Newman House, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin.
In the resulting volume of conference proceedings here presented, three of the papers deal with Plato and his interpreters either definitely in the idealist domain or on its borders. The first essay, "Non-Subjective Idealism in Plato (Sophist 248e-249d)," by Vasilis Politis, argues that while Plato is not a subjective idealist and rejects this kind of idealism, there is reason to think that he defends non-subjective idealism. This conclusion is based on a close reading of Sophist 248e-249d, where Plato establishes the two most fundamental kinds of being, and in particular of true, real, and perfect being: change (kinesis) and changelessness (stasis). Politis' interpretation of this most central argument in Plato establishes that change stands not for material or physical change but for rational change, and in particular for the change distinctive of the human, rationally cognizing soul; changelessness, on the other hand, stands for the changelessness distinctive of the forms, which are characterized as the objects of cognition. But the striking thing is that both of these most fundamental kinds of being—change and changelessness—are derived by Plato from a single source: namely, reason (nous), while reason is characterized in conspicuously cognitive terms and associated with intelligence (phronesis), rational knowledge (episteme), and knowledge in general (gnosis). Politis submits that this amounts to a defense, on Plato's part, of non-subjective idealism. The fundamental nature of knowledge straddles the distinction between the cognizing subject and the cognized or cognizable object; for the fundamental nature of knowledge is the source of the derivation of the fundamental nature of both the subject—that is, the human, rationally cognizing soul whose distinctive characteristic is change—and the object—that is, the forms which are the objects of cognition and whose distinctive characteristic is changelessness (hence non-subjective idealism).
John Dillon's paper "The Platonic Forms as Gesetze: Could Paul Natorp Have Been Right?" invites us to consider the interpretation of Plato set out by the neo-Kantian philosopher Paul Natorp in his Platons Ideenlehre as possibly reflecting the Greek author's own position. Whereas it is usually maintained by modern scholars that Plato's forms are "things"—purely independent, immutable, and eternal objects of knowledge —Natorp understood the foams as something like "laws"—structuring principles of knowledge, still immutable and eternal, and possessing objective reality, but nonetheless acquiring their full realization through the activity of the human mind. After following Natorp's readings of the Charmides, Meno, and Theaetetus in an open-minded and sympathetic manner, Dillon concludes that there is support for a view of the Natorpian kind in a "demythologized" reading of the Demiurge's productive activity in the Timaeus, and that a similar line of interpretation had already been pursued in antiquity by Xenocrates' pupil Polemon, by Zeno of Citium the founder of Stoicism, and by Antiochus of Ascalon.
Vittorio Hösle's essay "Platonism and Its Interpretations: The Three Paradigms and Their Place in the History of Hermeneutic' analyzes the hermeneutic presuppositions of the three major paradigms in the interpretation of Plato: that of Middle and Neoplatonism, that of Schleiermacher, and that of the Tubingen school. It confutes the legend that the third paradigm returns to the first even if it is somehow a synthesis of the first and second. According to Fibsle, this interpretation holds only for the content of Plato's philosophy and not for the method used in reconstructing Plato. In much of Hösle's paper, the concrete problem of the right interpretation of Plato is developed on the basis of some general reflections on the task of hermeneutics.
With Gretchen Reydams-Schils' contribution, "The Roman Stoics on Divine Thinking and Human Knowledge," we turn to the Hellenistic period and the question of the Stoics' possible relation to what we term "idealism." This paper deals with the Roman Stoics' appropriation—Seneca and Epictetus, specifically—of the notion of the thoughts of God. As a counterpoint to Platonic usages, this notion for the Stoics expresses both the rationale embedded in the order of the universe and the rational thought of the providential and immanent divine principle. Unlike human beings, the divine principle does not need sense-perception, lekta, or concepts in its thinking, which constitutes reality rather than derives from it. There is hence an epistemological limit to the isomorphy between human and divine reason, although in ethics this limit is overcome.
The next two essays deal with idealism of the late ancient period. In "The Object of Perception in Plotinus," Andrew Smith considers idealism in relation to the sensory world and in a pagan writer, taking as his starting point some recent discussions about whether Plotinus is an idealist. More specifically the question relates to Plotinus' theory of intellection on the one hand and to his theory of sense-perception on the other, with a concentration on some very specific issues associated with the latter. Two texts (Enneads 5.5.1 and 1.1.7) are subjected to detailed analysis, and Smith rejects the interpretation of Emilsson according to which the gap between subject and object of sense-perception is overcome not least because Plotinus is concerned with the contrast between sense-perception and intellection, while there is a cleavage between subject and object in the latter case. After reviewing other passages which confirm his interpretation, Smith concludes that Plotinus is more interested in the nature of the process of sense-perception than in the status of the object, and that it is necessary to take account of changing emphases which explain seemingly different conclusions in Plotinus' writing.
In "Saint Augustine and the Indwelling of the Ideas in God," Jean Pepin considers idealism in relation to the intelligible world and in a Christian author, examining Augustine's celebrated "Quaestio de Ideis" as a doxography of Platonism. He notes how the role of Antiochus of Ascalon as inspirer of Latin Platonism had been brought to public notice in the 1930s by W Theiler—who, however, had not paid attention to the importance of the Question 46 of Augustine's De Quaestionibus Diversis LXXXIII—and also studied more recently by J. Mansfeld. Pepin's aim is therefore to study this text as a document of Antiochus' influence exercised through the intermediate channels of Cicero and Varro.
At this point, we turn to three papers on Eriugena: one a general study placing the ninth-century Irish writer in the broad context of European idealism and two dealing with more specific aspects of his idealism in the areas of the categorial and the exegetical.
Dermot Moran in his contribution "Spiritualis Incrassatio: Eriugena's Intellectualist Immaterialism: Is It an Idealism?" begins by recognizing that there is a "family of idealisms" within Western philosophical thought. He distinguishes the ancient Christian Neoplatonic theory of ideas contained in the mind of God, which is theological in motivation; the Berkeleian doctrine that the being of any object consists of its being perceived by the divine or human mind, which was developed as a response to post-Cartesian skepticism; the Kantian transcendental idealism based on the distinction between objects on the one hand as appearances and on the other as "things in themselves"; and absolute idealism (found in Hegel and his followers), which sees everything as some aspect of or participation in "absolute spirit," taken to be a kind of collective mind. Moran's purpose is to refute some recent views which, by looking towards the Berkeleian model exclusively, have attempted to argue that idealism does not exist in the pre-modern period, and to prepare the ground for the assessment of Eriugena's contribution by distinguishing the two primary features of intellectualism and immaterialism. In the latter part of this essay a broad description of the Eriugenian philosophical system and its foundations in Latin and Greek patristic teachings is unfolded along these lines.
Stephen Gersh's essay "Eriugena's Fourfold Contemplation: Idealism and Arithmetic" turns to the famous fourfold division of Nature which constitutes the foundation of Eriugena's philosophical system and of his treatise Periphyseon. According to Gersh, one can distinguish here a logical aspect in which, following the Latin tradition of commentary on Aristotle's Categories, the division is complemented by an analysis to form the double process of organizing concepts utilized by dialecticians: an arithmetical aspect in which, in accordance with the Latin tradition of Pythagorean mathematics, the derivation of the four species from the universal nature parallels the derivation of the number-series from the monad and the character of particular species from the character of particular numbers; and an idealistic aspect indicated by the association of the division with terms like "contemplation" (contemplatio, theoria). Since the connection between the logical and the idealistic elements in Eriugena's thought has been studied in earlier literature, Gersh devotes the main part of his essay to considering the connection between the arithmetical and the idealistic elements. Here, the main issues are Eriugena's understanding of ideas, numbers, and the relations between them, and the tension between what one might call the "cognitive" and "interpretative" aspects respectively of this idealism.
Agnieszka Kijewska's "Eriugena's Idealist Interpretation of Paradise" attempts to understand the precise nature of Eriugena's idealism by looking at his discussion of the biblical account of Paradise in the book of Genesis. After a detailed review of the relevant passages in Periphyseon and some remarks on the general theory of exegesis which these passages reveal, the author summarizes the Eriugenian "idealist" notion of Paradise. According to Kijewska, Paradise corresponds to perfect human nature made in the likeness of God, this state of perfection being not only a description of the human condition in the past but also an account of the future condition to which it can aspire. Given that God has created all corporeal things as ideas in the human mind and that human sin represents a deviation of the cognitive faculty, then the fall of humanity is equivalent to the fall of the corporeal world as such. It is in the reversal of this state of affairs that the author finds "the deepest meaning of John the Scot's Cogito."
With Peter Adamson's study "Immanence and Transcendence: Intellect and Forms in al-Kindi and the Liber de Causis," we turn to the Arabic philosophy of the Middle Ages. The study begins with an introductory section in which the author suggests a reconstruction of the development of idealism in ancient philosophy whereby late ancient thinkers (and especially the Neoplatonists) would combine Aristotle and Plato in order to reconcile their theories of form. The result, he suggests, was a view according to which immaterial mind is the seat of ideas, and via those ideas causes things in the material world. In the focus of the paper, Adamson examines texts produced in the circle of al-Kindi in ninth-century Baghdad. He concentrates especially on the Liber de Causis, first arguing that it espouses the sort of idealism outlined in his introductory section. He then points out three ways in which this idealism is qualified in Kindi circle texts: first, God is the cause of the world and does not seem to cause the world in an idealist fashion; second, matter is not accounted for by the idealist interpretation; third, the texts also accept non-idealist causation between physical things. The author concludes by suggesting that the de Causis can still be called "idealist" if we specify an appropriate meaning for the term "idealism."
We next turn to three papers on Berkeley. The first two deal with Berkeley per se from the contrasting viewpoints of his early work and his late treatise Siris, the third with one of Berkeley's most important areas of influence in Immanuel Kant.
In "The Scientific Background of George Berkeley's Idealism," Bertil Belfrage examines Berkeley's early work An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) in order to show how the young philosopher's approach to certain problems in natural science eventually led him towards the idealist position. In the course of correcting some interpretations of Berkeley's views in this area which, although accepted for many years, are shown to be mistaken, Belfrage emphasizes two points: (1) Berkeley holds that there are three autonomous fields of discourse which should be distinguished in evaluating his statements. These are the descriptive part of science, the theoretical part of science, and metaphysics. (2) Berkeley's theory of optics is more complicated than it is usually taken to be, involving the stimulus of light-rays on the retina, the unconditioned response of the perceiver (awareness of a fuzzy-looking object), the perceiver's background knowledge, and the conditioned response of the perceiver (the object as seeming near to one individual and far to another). The next section of Belfrage's essay lays out the foundations of Berkeley's psychology as a whole by looking at the physiological principles on which perception is based, and by considering what is given to perception in the worlds of tactuals and visuals, respectively. Finally, the author draws our attention to certain details of Berkeley's early theory which can be seen as suggestively pointing to the later idealist hypothesis.
Timo Airaksinen's essay "The Chain and the Animal: Idealism in Berkeley's Siris" analyzes Berkeley's mysterious last work, Siris, trying to present a clear interpretation of its basic argumentative structure. According to Airaksinen, this structure is based on two metaphors: the chain and the animal. The chain connects tar (a panacea) to God, and the animal signifies the organic unity of the created universe. Moreover, Berkeley uses a wide array of ancient sources, as well as contemporary results from botany, chemistry, physics, and medicine in order to reinforce his thesis. In examining Berkeley's argument, Airaksinen pays particular attention to the notion of the purity of tar compared to wine, and to Berkeley's criticism of Newton's theory of aether. Berkeley turns out to be an idealist because he argues that all matter is dependent on the Spirit. The Spirit is represented in the material world by light and by pure, celestial fire.
Karl Ameriks' "Idealism from Kant to Berkeley" reflects on a common tendency, found in both the German and the English-speaking worlds, to interpret Kant's critical idealism in Berkeleian terms. Because of the representative and influential nature of their perspectives, he focuses on interpretations of Kant by the eighteenth-century figure E H. Jacobi and the twentieth-century analytic philosopher James van Cleve. He argues that the Berkeleian interpretation of Kant is rooted in a tempting but improper ascription to Kant of an equation of being with representation. He examines how this tendency results in a common misunderstanding of Kant's argument for his transcendental idealism, a misunderstanding that construes it as a "short argument" for the ideality of representation in general, rather than as an argument based on a series of steps that start essentially with a more limited demonstration of the ideality of space and time.
Finally, we turn to nineteenth-century German idealism. In "Idealism and Realism in Classical German Philosophy," Walter Jaeschke begins by emphasizing the necessity of a hermeneutically sophisticated approach to the term "idealism" and especially to the term "German idealism." If one can avoid the kind of conceptualization driven by the use of simplistic terminology, it becomes clear that the classical period of German philosophy is not an epoch of idealism but rather an epoch in which the confrontation between idealism and realism was raised to unparalleled heights. This era of German thought can be characterized by a debate which is for the first time explicitly headed by the title "idealism and realism," which is liberated from its earlier association with problems of philosophical theology, and which is eventually superseded by a comprehensive system of which "idealism and realism" are moments. Although originating in the Kantian critique, it is really Jacobi who sets the debate in motion, and Jaeschke studies in succession the evolution of Kant's program, Jacobi's attempt to establish realism as superior to idealism, Fichte's (and Schelling's) attempt at a balancing act between idealism and realism, Jacobi's further defense of realism on theological grounds, and finally Hegel's solution to the problem through the "proper thematization of consciousness."
Eriugena: East and West : Papers of the Eighth International Colloquium of the Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies Chicago and Notre Dame edited by Bernard McGinn and Willemien Otten (Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies: University of Notre Dame Press) Excerpt: One of Eriugena's most profound readers of the Middle Ages provides us with an image that may suggest the purpose of the following volume. At some time during his intellectually and personally adventurous life, Nicholas of Cusa found himself "at sea" between East and West, an experience he described in the letter to his patron Giuliano Cardinal Cesarini appended to the De docta ignorantia:
Now, Reverend Father, receive what I long wanted to attain through various doctrinal paths, but never could before I was at sea returning from Greece. I believe that it was by a heavenly gift from the Father of Lights who gives every best gift (see James 1:17) that I was led to embrace incomprehensible things in an incomprehensible way through learned ignorance by surpassing those incorruptible truths that can be known in human fashion.
Whether or not this reflects a real event that took place during Cusay;s return voyage from Constantinople as papal legate during the winter months of 1437-38, or whether it symbolizes in good Neoplatonic fashion the human condition awash in the sea of mutability, is not of ultimate importance here. The issue is rather that Cusa, a western thinker like John Scottus Eriugena, was given—by divine gift, be it noted—incomprehensible comprehension of the incomprehensible while returning from Greece. Poised between East and West, he received the gift of docta ignorantia.
The scholarly papers gathered in this volume investigate Eriugena's role as a bridge between East and West. Though they make no claims for divine insight, nor for incomprehensible comprehension, they do, I think, leave us less at sea about some of the most intriguing aspects of the Irishman's contribution. Both Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa were deeply concerned with the relation of Greek and Latin theology in the history of Christianity. Both, in their own time, sought to heal the fissures that had opened up between the eastern and western communions. These divisions, though shorn of much of their acrimony, are still with us today. John Scottus Eriugena was unique among early medieval Latin thinkers for the magisterial optimism with which he felt that East and West could be integrated into a higher theological synthesis. Even if we cannot share the full measure of his optimism, it is instructive to investigate how so great a thinker pursued so hopeful a solution.
This introduction has two goals: first, to provide a sketch of the historical developments that even in Eriugena's day made the conciliation of East and West a difficult task; and second, to reflect on how the essays in this volume illuminate various aspects of the Irish scholar's attempt to reconcile Latins and Greeks.
Though born among Aramaic-speaking Jews, Christianity was spread by Greek-speaking Jews through the cities of the Mediterranean world in the first century of the common era. It was not until towards the end of the second century that we have evidence of the rise of a distinctively Latin-speaking Christianity in North Africa and Italy. For the next two centuries Greek and Latin Christianity remained in open and familiar dialogue, despite the diverse forms of acculturation that the differing languages expressed. In the late fourth century, a Hilary of Poitiers or an Ambrose of Milan, educated Roman gentlemen and bishops, read and used Greek with ease and fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Athanasians of the East against Arianism. What is surprising is how rapidly this situation changed after the year 400.
Debate still exists about how much Greek Augustine actually knew, but all would agree that he did not have the easy command of Hilary, Ambrose, or Jerome. All during Augustine's long episcopacy (396-430), the inroads of the barbarian invasions, along with many other less visible factors, were taking their toll on the interchange between eastern and western Christianity, especially with regard to knowledge of the Greek language. Let me cite just one telling example. In 430, the year of Augustine's death, Pope Celestine complained that his delay in reacting to the teaching of Nestorius had been caused by the difficulty of finding anyone in Rome who could translate the relevant documents sent him into Latin.
The linguistic and cultural separation that become evident in the fifth century was to have many unfortunate effects. It was towards the end of that century that the first of the doctrinal disputes between Rome and Constantinople, the chapter in the Monophysite controversy known as the Acacian schism, divided East and West for almost forty years. Neither the Acacian schism nor any of its successors can be blamed on language differences alone, but the increasing theological divergences between East and West were inextricably connected with the language issue.
Despite the efforts of many over the next three and a half centuries, from the perspective of the history of Christian thought it is growing separation rather than ongoing collaborative understanding which is the dominant note. Early in the sixth century, Boethius sought to make the riches of Greek philosophy available in translation to the West but died before the project was complete. His contemporary, Dionysius Exiguus, translated some important Greek patristic works, but only a handful.' A century later, the Roman church still maintained some contact with the East. In this era we find the imposing figure of Maximus Confessor, who spent a number of years in Rome, and who can justly be considered the last common Father in the sense of one whose experience and teaching reflected both parts of Christendom. But Maximus never learned Latin and`his Greek writings were not accessible to most of his Latin contemporaries. Indeed, what later became available of Maximus did so through the translating efforts of John the Scot.
It is not so much a lack of continuing contacts as it was a developing difference of viewpoint between two theological worlds that made it difficult for each side to understand the other. The history of this mutual incomprehension has often been told and need not be repeated here. The schisms of the ninth century and the eleventh century, the fateful crusade of the thirteenth century, and the failure of the attempted reunion councils of the thirteenth century and the fifteenth century, altogether form one of the saddest chapters in the history of Christianity.
It is surprising how powerful this incomprehension was to remain, even into the modern era. Adolf Harnack read as much and thought as creatively about the development of Christian doctrine as any scholar of the past century, which makes it all the more puzzling to conceive how just over a hundred years ago Harnack could have claimed that from the seventh century on "independent theology had been extinguished in the churches of the East," and that "the history of dogma came to an end in the Greek Church a thousand years ago."6 More recent histories of doctrine by western theologians, such as that of Jaroslav Pelikan, have tried to redress the balance.
When we look back at the history of so many centuries of misunderstanding, however, we are occasionally confronted by moments of light—events, discussions, personalities on both sides of the divide that form exceptions to the tide of growing separation and lack of comprehension between East and West. John Scottus Eriugena is one of these exceptions. The purpose of this volume is to investigate why John thought it important to bring East and West together and how he actually went about the task. In discussing this important topic, especially in relation to a thinker as difficult as Eriugena, we cannot but expect to find different perspectives, divergent evaluations, and sometimes even direct disagreements among the interpreters. This is as it should be. What unifies this volume is not a set of common answers, but the conviction on the part of all the contributors of the centrality of the issue of East-West dialogue, both for Eriugena and for the history of Christian thought.
The essays in the volume fall into three parts. While the major theme obviously implies a concentration on the history of medieval theology and philosophy, theologians as influential as Ernst Troeltsch and Marie-Dominique Chenu have reminded us that ideas never live in a vacuum. For this reason, the first part of Eriugena: East and West is devoted to a paper by Michael McCormick on the topic "Diplomacy and the Carolingian Encounter with Byzantium down to the Accession of Charles the Bald." McCormick sets the stage for Eriugena's remarkable accomplishment by a careful investigation of the concrete and documented bridges between the Byzantine Empire and the Carolingian West, showing that the Frankish court into which the Irish scholar was received was indeed a center of cultural receptivity and innovation, especially through its Roman and Venetian contacts and its direct diplomatic relations with the East.
The second and longest section of the volume, "Themes of the East-West Encounter," contains seven essays dealing with crucial issues that emerge from Eriugena's attempt to synthesize Greek and Latin thought. The first of these is by our much-lamented friend and colleague, the Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff. Father Meyendorff's contribution to this volume goes far beyond this typically wide-ranging evaluation of Eriugena's agreement with his major Greek sources, especially in the area of theocentric anthropology, and his differences from the Greeks, which Meyendorff argues rests`in his lack of a clear distinction between nature (physis) and will (thelëma) in God. By means of his valuable comments during the course of the colloquium, but especially through his presence as a living embodiment of the kind of open and honest ecumenical discussion to which this volume was dedicated, John Meyendorff's role in our meeting was a central one. When word of his untimely death reached us in the summer of 1992, it was the unanimous decision of the contributors that the volume be dedicated to the memory of this great scholar and ecumenist.
In the second essay in this part, Willemien Otten explores Eriugena's contribution to the theological tradition from a western perspective. Otten, like Meyendorff, finds anthropology a key to Eriugena's thought. Her analysis of the "textual genre" and the "textual method" of Periphyseon in comparison with the earlier On Divine Predestination argues that the Irishman's distinctive thought-pattern was already present in the early work and was not produced by his encounter with Greek patristic authors, as important as this was for him. Among the many key principles used by Eriugena in his attempt at synthesizing the tradition available to him none were more important than those concerning the nature and function of auctoritas and its relation to recta ratio, or vera ratio. Two important essays take up that theme, J. C. Marler's "Dialectical Use of Authority in the Periphyseon," and Giulio d'Onofrio's "The Concordia of Augustine and Dionysius: Toward a Hermeneutic of the Disagreement of Patristic Sources in John the Scot's Periphyseon." Auctoritas in Eriugena is a complex topic that has been investigated before and will doubtless be investigated again, but these two complementary essays constitute the most detailed treatments currently available on this crucial theme.
The three remaining essays of the second section of the volume explore particular aspects of Eriugena's thought that illustrate how he sought to "create a consensus" (consensum machinari) between East and West. Deirdre Carabine studies Eriugena's use of the symbolism of light, cloud, and darkness, showing that while the Irish scholar does not differ much from Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius in his use of light and dark, his adaptation of the cloud symbol in book V of Periphyseon has important Augustinian elements. James McEvoy's`essay on "Biblical and Platonic Measure in John Scottus Eriugena" demonstrates the creative fecundity of Eriugena in relation to both his biblical and Greek heritage, particularly in the way in which he fused Augustinian and Dionysian insights in his use of the famous text of Wisdom 11:2 1—"God created all things in measure, number, and weight"—as a key for understanding creation as a dialectical theophany.9 Finally, Jean Pepin, with his characteristic breadth of learning, explores how Eriugena utilized an impressive range of eastern and western sources in studying the role of humanity in genus animal, especially in book IV of Periphyseon.
The third part of Eriugena: East and West, "Eastern Sources and Influences," deals with specific comparisons between John Scottus Eriugena and thinkers of the eastern Christian tradition. Three of the essays concern John's use of Greek Fathers; the final essay studies his appropriation by a modern Orthodox thinker. Werner Beierwaltes continues his long line of distinguished contributions to Eriugenian studies with "Unity and Trinity in East and West," dealing primarily with Dionysius and Eriugena in the light of the long-lasting "serious game" between philosophy and theology in the development of trinitarian thought. If Dionysius's bringing together of the Relationless One and Related One for the understanding of trinitarian faith was a crucial source for Eriugena, Beierwaltes goes on to show how the Irishman made a contribution of his own through his understanding of the Trinity as causal self-explication. Donald F. Duclow also takes up the relation between Dionysius and Eriugena, specifically on their understanding of the role of the angels. Duclow shows how for all his reverence for the Areopagite, Eriugena broke with the Dionysian view of necessary angelic mediation due to his understanding of humanity as created equal to the angels. Once again, anthropology emerges as a key element in Eriugena's thought.
Eric D. Perl's essay on "Metaphysics and Christology in Maximus Confessor and Eriugena" takes up another key theological encounter between the Carolingian scholar and Byzantine thought. Perl's essay, not unlike John Meyendorff's, shows how Eriugena both adopted and departed from his eastern sources, this time in the area of Christology. Though the Irishman was much influenced by Maximus in working out his notion of the Cosmic Christ, by separating creation and incarnation into two events (the standard western pattern), he did not advance a fully "pan-Christic" ontology in the manner of the Greek monk.
If the first essay in this collection deals with the historical contextualization of Eriugena's meeting of East and West, the final piece by Oleg Bychkov reminds us that the Irish thinker's special contribution to ongoing ecumenism has continued to be a source of inspiration for others. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Russian scholar Alexander Brilliantov wrote one of the first major modern studies of Eriugena, arguing that his combination of eastern and western views of humanity as imago Dei showed him to be an admirable example of the type of "East-West" thinker needed for the future of Christianity. While the contemporary scholars who have contributed to this volume might not agree with all the aspects of Brilliantov's reading, they certainly share his hope for the emergence of such "East-West" views of the Christian tradition.
I would like to close this introduction with a few general comments on the theme of East-West views, comments which in no way either set the agenda for what the reader will find in the individual essays nor decide any of the important issues. They are meant only to express my own perspective on two sets of underlying issues: those that concern how John the Scot actually tried to relate eastern and western traditions; and those that involve what we might learn from this example.
It has been said that John the Scot attempted to fuse the largely Augustinian theology of the early medieval West with the Dionysianism that he learned from his epoch-making translations of that most mysterious of eastern Fathers. This statement is at best a half-truth, and one that probably raises more questions than it answers. For one thing, from the eastern perspective it neglects the important role that so many other Greek patristic sources, such as Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, and especially Maximus, had upon the Irishman's thought. From the Latin side, the difficulty is perhaps even greater, because Augustinianism can scarcely be said to be one thing. The towering genius of the bishop of Hippo left not only a vast corpus to his followers, but also a corpus that reflected a moving viewpoint on almost every aspect of Christian teaching. The history of western Christian thought down through the Reformation could be written as the history of competing understandings and misunderstandings of Augustine.
According to the figures compiled by Goulven Madec, John the Scot refers explicitly to Augustine some 119 times in his Periphyseon, as compared with 82 citations from Gregory of Nyssa, 83 of Dionysius, and 80 for Maximus."' But in order to understand what Augustine meant for the Irishman, we need to engage in careful study of which works of Augustine he prefers and how he uses them. I have no intention of trying here to add to the many valuable studies devoted to Eriugena's use of Augustine, beyond noting that in Periphyseon at least it is largely from certain sections in the City of God (23 citations) and the Literal Commentary on Genesis (33 citations) that Eriugena extracted the Augustinian element in his great synthesis.'' In other words, it is a particular aspect of Augustine, largely cosmological and anthropological, and heavily Neoplatonic, that the Irishman mined for his speculation.
Quellenforschung, or the hunt after sources, is an important beginning, but never the end of attempts to penetrate the mind of a great thinker. An alternative, and perhaps preferable, approach to the investigation of the relation between East and West in Eriugena's thought would be to begin from a broad characterization of his system which could serve as the basis for showing how he utilized different elements in both the Greek and Latin traditions to help in its elucidation. From this perspective, I would argue that John Scottus Eriugena is the first major western representative of a dialectical form of Platonic Christian theology created by some of the Greek Fathers. This form of speculation is a Christian theology, because its primary intention was the elucidation of faith in Jesus Christ as savior. It is also a Platonic theology because its proponents found in the ancient tradition that had developed from Plato a systematic and speculative language which could be adapted and transformed for the deeper penetration and expression of their belief. Finally, it is dialectical theology (as many of the essays contained herein, such as those of d'Onofrio, McEvoy, and Beierwaltes, demonstrate) because at its heart stood a particular form of Platonism ultimately based on the Parmenides that found in the higher unity of mutually opposed predications the most adequate expression of what could be said of God and everything else, the totality Eriugena called natures.
Eriugena's thought is among the most powerful and subtle of the varieties of dialectical Platonic Christian theology. It is difficult to think that he could have worked out his understanding of it without his knowledge of Gregory, Dionysius, and Maximus. But the way in which he actually did develop it shows, I believe, important differences from them precisely because of how he integrated aspects of Augustine and the western tradition into the whole.
Any great system, however, cannot be reduced to its component parts. Insofar as it succeeds, at least as a resource for further reflection, it does so on the basis of the new viewpoint it brings to perennial problems and issues. That Eriugena did so succeed is evident as much from the thought of subsequent dialectical Platonic Christians, like Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, who were inspired by his insights, as by the increasing number of modern scholars who have found in his writings not only monuments of the past but challenges for present reflection.
It is this last point which brings me to the final aspect of these remarks, that is, what we might be able to learn from a thinker separated from us in so many ways and by so many centuries. The term "challenge" is crucial. I doubt if any one of the contributors to Eriugena: East and West would want to argue that Eriugena's solution to a question is necessarily the only one, or even the best one, and some would doubtless think that questions of correctness, adequacy, or truth should have only historical application. But John the Scot did make theological claims and the study of theological systems does not end, at least for all of us, in the historical determination of what a particular thinker did and said. Eriugena is one of those rare speculators who invites us to think along with him, even when we recognize that we may no longer share his views. He does this with regard to issues relating to purely theological and philosophical concerns, but also, I believe, with regard to the question of the catholicity of the Christian tradition.
Eriugena as a translator made available to the new Carolingian world of medieval Europe many of the riches of Greek Orthodox theology, especially the Dionysian corpus. Though later translations superseded his, this was a decisive intervention. Latin theology would have looked different in ways we probably cannot conceive without these writings. But the Irishman also challenged the growing separation and incomprehension between the eastern and western Christian communities by his bold rethinking of both Greek and Latin sources in the construction of his synthesis. The catholicity of his view of Christian truth was to grow increasingly rare as East and West grew more and more estranged, and later as the fabric of western Christianity unraveled in the Reformation disputes. Lady Theology was eventually to be left, much like Lady Philosophy at the opening of Boethius's Consolation, bewailing her dress torn by the marauders who had each carried off whatever piece they could get their hands on.
There are many challenges facing Christian theology today, and it would be foolish to suggest that Eriugena has answers for them all, even implicitly. But among these problems not the least is the presence of the great theological division between East and West that for all our ecumenicity still remains so real. Here, the example of John Scottus Eriugena is of real importance, not as providing us with any immediate and easy solution to this division, but at least as reminding us that no solution will ever be forthcoming unless we begin once again to break out of the narrow confines into which a sad history has bound us and to enter into an honest conversation without prejudging the conclusions. Whatever contribution this volume can make, directly or indirectly, to that endeavor will be continuing proof of Eriugena's special role in the history of Christian thought.
The work is arranged in five books. The form of exposition is that of dialogue; the method of reasoning is the syllogism. Natura is the name for the universal, the totality of all things, containing in itself being and non-being. It is the unity of which all special phenomena are manifestations. But of this nature there are four distinct classes:
The first is God as the ground or origin of all things, the last is God as the final end or goal of all things, that into which the world of created things ultimately returns. The second and third together compose the created universe, which is the manifestation of God, God in process, Theophania; the second being the world of Platonic ideas or forms, and the third being a more pantheistic or pandeistic world, depending on the interference of God.
Thus we distinguish in the divine system beginning, middle and end; but these three are in essence one; the difference is only the consequence of our finite comprehension. We are compelled to envisage this eternal process under the form of time, to apply temporal distinctions to that which is extra- or supra-temporal.
The work was probably carried out beginning in the early 860s AD and completed around 866-867 AD. This is based on a dedication in the book identifying as frater (brother) a person who was elevated to Bishop in 867, making it unlikely that Eriugena would have used so casual a reference after that elevation. The work was not widely circulated in the author's lifetime. Eriugena was assisted by one, possibly two other persons in writing the book, based on the presence of margin notes indicating the penmanship of two separate persons. One of these is believed to have been Eriugena himself, while the other was the script indicates that the second writer was a fellow Irishman.
Periphyseon was condemned by a council at Sens by Honorius III (1225), who described it as "swarming with worms of heretical perversity," and by Pope Gregory XIII in 1585. In 1681, the long-lost work was rediscovered at Oxford University, and was immediately placed on the 'Index of Forbidden Books', a turn of events which likely actually spurred its popularity. Despite this result, the Catholic Encyclopedia noted of Eriugena that "there can be no doubt that he himself abhorred heresy, was disposed to treat the heretic with no small degree of harshness..., and all through his life believed himself an unswervingly loyal son of the Church."
Periphyseon has been called the final achievement of ancient philosophy, a work which "synthesizes the philosophical accomplishments of fifteen centuries." It is presented, like Alcuin's book, as a dialogue between Master and Pupil. Eriugena anticipates Thomas Aquinas, who said that one cannot know and believe a thing at the same time. Eriugena explains that reason is necessary to understand and interpret revelation. "Authority is the source of knowledge", but the reason of mankind is the norm by which all authority is judged
Our century has witnessed a renewal of interest in the work and thought of the mysterious Irishman who contributed to the fame of the Palace School during the reign of Charles the Bald, Johnannes Scottus Eriugena. In 1933, Dom Maïeul Cappuyns published a major study, Jean Scot Érigène, sa vie, son oeuvre, sa pensée; in 1970 John J. O’Meara founded the Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies (SPES), which has organized several conferences around the globe. This renewed interest in Eriugena could not but inspire new editions of his works, many of which have found their natural place in the Corpus Christianorum.
The most urgent task, and the most difficult, remained the edition of the Periphyseon. One of the difficulties derives from the fact that the manuscripts of Eriugena’s master work present differences that cannot be accounted for by accidents of transcription alone. Everywhere the text shows clear signs of revision. But who made these alterations? The author himself? Copyists acting under his orders? Or ‘editors’ perhaps driven more by zeal than scruple?
Hope for an answer to these questions dawned in 1906, when Ludwig Traube announced that he had discovered annotations in Irish script in the margins of manuscripts of Eriugena’s works, and in 1920, Edward K. Rand, one of Traube’s students, was able to show that these alterations were to be attributed to two Irish hands, which he denominated i 1 and i 2.
Rand was convinced that neither of these hands belonged to Eriugena. This conclusion was contested, however, by two eminent palaeographers, Bernard Bischoff and T.A.M. Bishop. Detailed investigation of the two Irish hands led Bishop in 1975 to announce two conclusions: that one of the two hands (i 2), was certainly not that of Eriugena, while the other (i 1) was most likely his. These conclusions were given definitive shape by Édouard Jeauneau and his collaborator Paul Dutton in their comprehensive and intensive study of the two hands in The Autograph of Eriugena (Turnhout: Brepols, 1996).
Between the two protagonists is seated a disciple of John, also an Irishman, who played an important role in the diffusion of the Periphyseon. Until now this disciple remained anonymous and, as we have seen, was referred to only by the siglum of his hand, i 2. Recently, it has been suggested that he be called Nisifortinus, for he introduces some of his corrections by the polite formula Nisi forte quis dixerit — corrections, we might add, that tend generally to make Eriugena’s bolder claims more ‘orthodox.’
Although cartoons are meant to amuse and delight, and not to reproduce historical fact with singleminded zeal, Randall has nevertheless created an instructive picture that draws its inspiration from several medieval details. The twelfth-century monastic habit worn by Charles’ two interlocutors, for example, shows the origins of the anecdote in a Benedictine abbey more than two hundred years after the death of Eriugena. The lamp hanging over John the Scot, the throne on which the king is seated, and the king himself are all based on an illustration from the First Bible of Charles the Bald (Paris, BNF lat. 1, fol. 423v). Moreover, the words pronounced by the king’s two guests are written, appropriately enough, in Irish script: Eriugena’s reply in the hand of i 1, Nisifortinus’ remark in the hand of i 2. And on the floor, lies a wax tablet bearing the first draft of a drinking song attributed to the author of the Periphyseon: “Bacchus is absent; the throats of the Irish are dry.”
The results of the paleographical research sketched above demanded a new style of edition. The Periphyseon appears to us as a work in flux, constantly revised, corrected, and amplified. Since it is impossible to offer, as it were, a complete ‘reel’ of the text, the editor has chosen to provide several ‘frames’ that correspond to the various versions through which it has come down to us. These versions are presented synoptically, so that the reader may easily follow the evolution of the text, if not in all of its details, at least in its significant stages.
Yet in the case of a literary masterpiece such as the Periphyseon, synoptic tables may seem to fall short of what is expected from a standard critical edition. Readers require, and rightfully so, a single, authentic, authoritative text, that can be quoted and cited by all without confusion. The new edition has sought to take into account both these demands. It consists of two parts: the first contains a text embodying, as closely as possible, the ideal defined above; the second offers the various versions in four separate columns (synopsis uersionum).
The new edition also attempts to take into account other features of the text and its transmission. Among the alterations the author of the Periphyseon introduced into his own text are marginalia designed to clarify, complement or comment on passages deemed especially difficult or important. These notes are certainly authentic, no less authentic than the footnotes and endnotes with which a scholar nowadays enriches his or her own books and articles. As early as the end of the ninth century, these marginal notes were integrated into the text of the Periphyseon. The result is that a subject was sometimes separated from its verb, or a verb from its complement, by ten, fifteen or twenty lines of commentary. The intrusion of the margin into the middle of the page no longer allows modern readers to appreciate fully the literary quality of the Eriugenian dialogue, and even, in some instances, prevents them from grasping clearly the logical steps of philosophical arguments, as they are interspersed with commentaries. In the new edition of the Periphyseon, the intruders, namely the marginal notes, have been returned to their proper place: they have made their way back to their natural element, the margin.
This feature of the new edition is bold and may surprise, even Ishock some readers. The editor justifies his decision as follows: “I have attempted to make a reality perceptible which up until now was obvious only to those with access to the manuscripts. The dialogue has not reached us as a finished product, but rather as a work in progress, like molten metal, which, today still, after more than eleven centuries, we have the privilege to see as it takes shape between the fingers of an expert goldsmith, Johnannes Scottus Eriugena.”
The new edition of the Periphyseon has been prepared by Édouard Jeauneau and an équipe drawn from students of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and of the Centre for Medieval Studies in Toronto over several years. The project has received generous support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada since 1986.(S.T.L, Pontifical Gregorian University; D. ès Lett., Paris) is Directeur de recherche honoraire at the CNRS, Paris, and Institute Professor at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. His many essays on Eriugena and his work, collected in Études érigéniennes (Collection des Études Augustiniennes: Moyen-Age et Temps Moderne 18 ), won the Prix Victor Cousin for 1990.
The edition of the Periphyseon for the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis has appeared at a relatively swift pace: Book 1 appeared in 1996; the concluding volume, containing Book 5, in 2003. For information on ordering, please contact .
Iohannes Scottus Eriugena. Periphyseon. Ed. Édouard Jeauneau.
Liber primus. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 161. xc, 462 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1996. ISBN 2–503–04281–3 (hardbound); ISBN 2–503–04282–1 (paperback).
Periphyseon. Liber primus by Iohannes Scotus Eriugena, edited by E. Jeauneau (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, CCCM 161: Brepols) (paper) XC+462p., + 2 pl., 155 x 245 mm, 1996, Hardback
ISBN 978-2-503-04281-7, EUR 210.00
French Text: Le Periphyseon se présente à nous, non comme un produit fini, mais comme une matière en fusion; non comme un document 'ne varietur', mais comme la copie incessament corrigée, amplifiée, remaniée d'une oeuvre en perpétuel devenir. L'édition était à refaire et la nouvelle édition ne pourrait plus se contenter de suivre les méthodes traditionnellement en usage pur l'édition d'oeuvres philosophiques ou théologiques. Le présent volume contient le livre 1. Le Periphyseon, monument de la littérature universelle, méritait cette édition monumentale.
Review: "C'est un témoignage remarquable de la pensée philosophique du IXe siècle." (Joëlle Ducos, Revue des Etudes Latines, 1998, p. 447-448)
Liber secundus. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 162. xiv, 520 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1997. ISBN 2–503–04621–5 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–04622–3 (paperback).
Periphyseon. Liber secondus by Iohannes Scotus Eriugena, edited by E. Jeauneau (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, CCCM 162: Brepols) (paper) XIV+519 p., + 2 pl., 155 x 245 mm, 1997, Hardback ISBN 978-2-503-04621-1, EUR 210.00French Text: Remarquable en lui-même par la richesse doctrinale de son contenu, ce long dialogue philosophique ne l'est pas moins par la qualité des manuscrits qui nous en ont transmis le texte. Or ces différents manuscrits nous transmettent des versions différentes. Le Periphyseon se présente donc à nous, non comme un produit fini, mais comme une matière en fusion. L'édition était à refaire et la nouvelle édition ne pourrait plus se contenter de suivre les méthodes traditionnellement en usage pour l'édition d'oeuvres philosophiques ou théologiques. Elle devait satisfaire à une double exigence: d'une part fournir au lecteur un texte sûr et, d'autre part, lui permettre de suivre la genèse de ce texte. L'éditeur, soucieux de permettre au lecteur d'accéder aux différents "états" du Periphyseon, sans le priver pour autant d'un texte agréable à lire et facile à consulter, a décidé de diviser la difficulté, c'est-à-dire de présenter le même texte sous un double registre. Le volume se compose donc de deux parties: dans la première, on trouvera une édition critique avec un apparat des sources; dans la seconde, un tableau synoptique des différentes versions. Le présent volume contient le livre II. Le Periphyseon, monument de la littérature universelle, méritait cette édition monumentale.
Review: "L'importance de ce travial d'édition, aussi bien pour l'établissement du texte, la présence de quatre versions que our les sources indiquées, en fait une somme dont l'utilité est évidente." (Joëlle Ducos, Revue des Etudes Latines, 1999, p. 408-409)
Liber tertius. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 163. xl, 695 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1999. ISBN 2–503–04631–2 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–04632–0 (paperback).
Periphyseon. Liber tertius by Iohannes Scotus Eriugena, edited by E. Jeauneau (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, CCCM 163: Brepols) (paper) LXX+665 p., + 1 pl., 155 x 245 mm, 1999, Hardback
ISBN 978-2-503-04631-0, EUR 300.00
Review: "L'importance de ce travial d'édition, aussi bien pour l'établissement du texte, la présence de quatre versions que our les sources indiquées, en fait une somme dont l'utilité est évidente." (Joëlle Ducos, Revue des Etudes Latines, 1999, p. 408-409)
Liber quartus. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 164. lxx, 666 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 2000. ISBN 2–503–04641–X (hardback); ISBN 2–503–04642–8 (paperback).
Periphyseon. Liber quartus by Iohannes Scotus Eriugena, edited by E. Jeauneau (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, CCCM 164: Brepols)LXX+665 p., + 1 pl., 155 x 245 mm, 2000, Hardback ISBN 978-2-503-04641-9, EUR 300.00
Liber qintus. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 165. xxxiv, 958 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003. ISBN 2–503–046541–7 (hardback).
Periphyseon. Liber quintus by Iohannes Scotus Eriugena E. Jeauneau (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, CCCM 165: Brepols) XXXIV+958 p., 1 b/w ill., 155 x 245 mm, 2003, Hardback ISBN 978-2-503-04651-8, EUR 395.00
Édouard Jeauneau and Paul Edward Dutton. The Autograph of Eriugena. Autographa Medii Aeui 3. 224 pages, 99 plates. Turnhout: Brepols, 1996. ISBN 2–503–50542–2 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–50543–0 (paperback).The Autograph of Eriugena edited by >E. Jeauneau, P. Dutton
(Corpus Christianorum CCAMA 3: Brepols) 123 p., + 99 pl., 155 x 245 mm, 1996, Hardback ISBN 978-2-503-50542-8, EUR 90.00
The great paleographer Ludwig Traube was the first to suggest that the actual handwriting of John Scottus Eriugena could be identified. In this new study, the first full examination of the problem of Eriugena's handwriting, the authors not only systematically review the evidence, but suggest a solution. Their identification of the autograph is based upon a detailed palaeographical and philological examination of the surviving examples of the scripts of the two Irishmen who wrote in the twelve ninth-century manuscripts associated directly with Eriugena and his school.
Other works by Eriugena, as already mentioned, have also been published in the series. In 1975, Eriugena’s commentary on the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dionysius was published in the Continuatio Mediaevalis; in 1978, his De praedestinatione was edited in the same series. His translations of Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua ad Iohannem and the Quaestiones ad Thalassium, appeared in the Greek series of the Corpus in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Critical editions of the Carmina, the Vox spiritualis and the Commentary on the Gospel of John are also due to appear in the Continuatio Mediaevalis. Again, copies of these works are available from .
Iohannes Scottus Eriugena. Expositiones in hierarchiam caelestem. Ed. Jeanne Barbet. Corpus hristianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 31. liv, 368 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1975. ISBN 2–503–03311–3 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–03312–1 (paperback). op
Iohannes Scottus Eriugena. De diuina praedestinatione. Ed. Goulven Madec. xix, 278 pages. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 50. Turnhout: Brepols, 1978. ISBN 2–503–03501–9 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–03502–7 (paperback). op
Maximus Confessor. Quaestiones ad Thalassium I. Quaestiones I–LV una cum latina interpretatione Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae. Ed. Carl Laga & Carlos Steel. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 7. cxvii, 555 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1980. ISBN 2–503–40071–X (hardback); ISBN 2–503–40072–8 (paperback). op
Maximus Confessor. Quaestiones ad Thalassium II. Quaestiones LVI–LXV una cum latina interpretatione Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae. Ed. Carl Laga & Carlos Steel. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 22. lx, 362 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1990. ISBN 2–503–40221–6 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–40222–4 (paperback). op
Maximus Confessor. Ambigua ad Iohannem. Latina interpretatio Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae. Ed. Édouard Jeauneau. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 18. lxxxiii, 324 pages. Turnhout: Brepols, 1988. ISBN 2–503–40181–3 (hardback); ISBN 2–503–40182–1 (paperback). op
The edition of the Periphyseon for the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis has appeared at a relatively swift pace: Book 1 appeared in 1996; the concluding volume, containing Book 5, in 2003.
Theophany: The Appearing of God According to the Writings of Johannes Scottus Eriugena by Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney (Beitrage Zur Historischen Theologie, 146: Mohr Siebeck) Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney's study is based on the new critical edition of Eriugena's Periphyseon and analyzes Eriugena as a biblically rooted theologian. The author presents the notion of "theophany", the appearing of God, as the key to understanding Eriugena's system as a whole.
Eriugena: East and West : Papers of the Eighth International Colloquium of the Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies Chicago and Notre Dam (Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies) by Bernard McGinn and Willemien Otten (University of Notre Dame Press)