Conflict And Reconciliation: Perspective On Nicolas Of Cusa (Brills Studies in Intellectual History)
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Dum enim humana mens, alta dei similitudo, fecunditatem creatricis naturae, ut potest, participat, ex se ipsa, ut imagine omnipotentis formae, in realium entium similitudine rationalia exserit. Contracted being is finite being. God alone is Infinite. And this power vis , which I hold from you and in which I possess a living image of your omnipotent power virtus omnipotens , is free will.
By it I can increase or restrict my capacity for your grace. For in this respect the image, as best it can, imitates infinity. Hence, unless I am my own, you are not mine, for you would constrain my freedom since you cannot be mine unless I also am mine. And since you have placed this in my freedom, you do not constrain me, but you wait for me to choose to be my own. Et haec vis, quam a te habeo, in qua virtutis omnipotentiae tuae vivam imaginem teneo, est libera voluntas, per quam possum aut ampliare aut restringere capacitatem gratiae tuae [. Hinc nisi sim mei ipsius, tu non es meus.
Necessitares enim libertatem, cum tu non possis esse meus, nisi et ego sim mei ipsius. Et quia hoc posuisti in libertate mea, non me necessitas, sed exspectas, ut ego eligam mei ipsius esse. Building on these premises which I shall at this point assume have been suffi- ciently established , my suggestion now is that relationality is at the heart of the very self-transformational process which, in DvD, signifies the face of absolute posse. The most obvious example of this is in chapter fifteen. But since I am a living shadow and you are the truth, I conclude from the changing of the shadow that the truth is changed.
Therefore, my God, you are shadow in such as way that you are truth. You are the image of me and everyone else in such a way that you are the exemplar. Es igitur, deus meus, sic umbra, quod Veritas. Sic es imago mea et cuiuslibet, quod exemplar. The face- to-face gazing between the contemplator and God as symbolized by the icon embodies the coincidence or conexio between ability-to-form posse facere and ability-to-be-formed posse fieri , which Cusa had men- tioned just before this passage DvD XV, Cusa later juxtaposes posse fieri and posse facere in DP, 27 and 29 h XI, , Firstly, the profound generativity of relationality is wrapped up in the doctrine of the coincidentia oppositorum.
For Cusa, the collocation of contraries, the juxtaposi- tion of distinct perspectives, reveals the mysterious creative ground in which the universe subsists. Charles Johnson, Since your seeing is your causing, you who cause everything see everything. In that you see all you are seen by all. For other- wise creatures cannot exist since they exist by your vision. If they did not see you who see, they would not receive being from you. The being of a creature is equally your seeing and being seen. Aliter enim esse non pos- sunt creaturae, quia visione tua sunt; quod si te non viderent videntem, a te.
Esse creaturae est videre tuum pariter et videri. The human does not thereby have the option of withdrawing. Thus Cusanus, by understanding every human act toward God as an answering grasp of divine attentive care, creates for himself a positive maneuvering room and with it the basis for an ethic: since God is the Good, the Mercy, the Righteousness, I can—by answering to his good- ness, mercy, and righteousness—become good, merciful, righteous in my own right.
And this power, which I hold from you and in which I possess a living image of your almighty power, is free will. And what, Lord, is my life, except that embrace in which the sweetness of your love so lovingly holds me! Et haec vis, quam a te habeo, in qua virtutis omnipotentiae tuae vivam imaginem teneo, est libera voluntas, per quam possum aut ampliare aut restringere capacitatem gratiae tuae; ampliare quidem per conformitatem, quando nitor esse bonus, quia tu bonus, quando nitor esse iustus, quia tu iustus, quando nitor esse misericors, quia tu misericors, quando non nisi omnis conatus meus est ad te conversus, quia omnis conatus tuus est ad me conversus, quando solum ad te attentissime respicio et numquam oculos mentis averto, quia tu me continua visione amplecteris, quando amorem meum ad te solum converto, quia tu, qui caritas es, ad me solum es conversus.
Et quid est, domine, vita mea nisi amplexus ille, quo tua dulcedo dilectionis me adeo amorose amplecti- tur? Diligo supreme vitam meam, quia tu es dulcedo vitae meae. Eventually, he would come to understand the Trinity along the lines of possest, where Spi- rit is the eternal, loving, life-generative union of what can be the Father , and what comes to be the Son. Moreover if they were not innumerable, you, O infinite God, could not be known in the best possible way.
For each intellectual spirit sees in you, my God, something which must be revealed to the others if they would attain to you, their God, in the best possible way. The spirits, full of love, therefore reveal their secrets to one another, and thereby the knowledge of the beloved is increased as well as the desire for the beloved, and the sweetness of joy grows ardent. And the trinity [which is predicated of God] is not a mathematical trin- ity but a trinity of vitally reciprocal relations. For life, without which there is no eternal joy and no supreme perfection, is triune.
Hence, it is of the essence of the most perfect Life that it be most perfectly triune, so that the Possibility-to live is so omnipotent that from itself it begets a Life of its own. From these [two] proceeds Eternal Joy, the Spirit of Love. Nec trinitas est mathematica, sed vivaciter correlativa. Unitrina enim vita est, sine qua non est laetitia sempiterna et perfectio suprema. Unde de essentia perfectissimae vitae est, quod sit per- fectissime unitrina, ut posse vivere sit adeo omnipotens, quod de se sui ipsius generet vitam.
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- Cusanus, Nicolaus [Nicolas of Cusa] (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
A quibus procedit spi- ritus amoris et laetitia sempiterna. Nam nisi forent innumerabiles, non posses tu, deus infinitus, meliori modo cognosci. Quisque enim intellectualis spiritus videt in te deo meo aliquid, quod nisi aliis revelaretur, non attingerent te deum suum meliori quo fieri posset modo. Revelant sibi mutuo secreta sua amo- ris pleni spiritus et augetur ex hoc cognitio amati et desiderium ad ipsum et gaudii dulcedo inardescit. This is a trinitarian dynamic inasmuch as it embodies loving relationality out of which springs understanding, ardor, and delight, as well as true selfhood.
Such becoming also involves a personal subsistence within a perpetually unfolding life- flow, the emergence of which one is both radically responsible for and radically sub- ject to. Missus est a deo in terram non ad aliud, nisi ut ardeat et crescat in flammam. In the guise of myth he was therefore able to address numerous problems that might ordinarily be deemed metaphysical: the nature of reality  , —08 , the problem of evil , —66 , the origin of consciousness , —85 , the meaning of life , —72; cf.
Jung even seemed to entertain the possibility of knowing things beyond the empirically given through a form of mystical or gnostic cognition involving participative identification between knower and known. If Jung was not in the end constrained by the metaphysical skepticism of the disenchanted perspective, neither was he constrained by its axiological skepticism.
This was prefigured in Jung's thinking about typology and became integral to his concept of synchronicity. Part of Jung's typological model is its recognition of four basic functions of consciousness, which can be variously pronounced in different individuals. Briefly, sensation perceives that a thing exists, thinking judges what it is, intuition perceives what its possibilities are, and feeling judges its value , para. A whole judgment of a thing or situation thus involves not just thinking and sensation, which establish the thing or situation as a fact, but also feeling and intuition, which assess its value and wider meaning.
That these facts, values, and meanings were for Jung not just subjective constructions became clearer when he formulated his concept of synchronicity. According to synchronicity, physical events and psychic events can be connected acausally through archetypally based patterns of meaning that they jointly express Jung [b] For Jung, psychic properties of meaning and value can thus be as inherent in a thing or situation as the physical properties that establish it as an empirical fact.
Facts and values here are complementary, ultimately inseparable aspects of the same unitary reality. Finally, as an implication of the undoing of epistemological optimism and metaphysical and axiological skepticism, panentheism also undoes the need, according to the disenchanted view, for intellectual sacrifice in order to possess religion. In general terms this means that the empirical world of science is not in principle sealed off from the metaphysical world of religion: religious insights can have implications for science, and scientific insights for religion; and exploring such implications does not necessarily involve any diminution of intellectual integrity.
Clearly this is a situation conducive to dialogue and fuller reconciliation between science and religion. In the case of Jungian psychology, such dialogue and reconciliation are exactly what we find. Insights that Jung obtained through visionary experiences, as related throughout his Red Book , later provided concepts and frameworks for his scientific works Jung , ; Shamdasani As has been demonstrated in detail elsewhere in relation to particular concepts, such as synchronicity, the overall tenor of Jung's work was towards increasing possibilities of dialogue and reconciliation between science and religion Main , 91— While the metaphysics of panentheism may be more conducive than the metaphysics of theism to dialogue and reconciliation between science and religion, it is important to note that panentheism achieves this greater dialogue and reconciliation largely by operating with heterodox understandings of science and religion.
In relation to understandings of religion, the heterodoxy is implied by the very exercise of shifting from a theistic to a panentheistic theological perspective. Jung's proposal, with his concept of synchronicity, that philosophy of science needs to be broadened to include a principle of acausal connection through meaning runs directly counter to the emphasis on causality and the avoidance of questions of meaning within modern science.
His notion was not well received even by scientists and philosophers sympathetic to the study of anomalous phenomena Price ; Beloff It seems that, while the tension between science and religion can be considerably eased within a panentheistic framework, this may come at the cost of introducing an alternative tension: between panentheistically informed science and religion, on the one hand, and mainstream forms of science and religion informed by the perspective of disenchantment on the other.
This is not to say that attempts to promote dialogue between science and religion based on panentheistic metaphysics necessarily always involve models of science and religion that are as radically innovative as Jung's. The concept of disenchantment was introduced by Weber and has been particularly influential within sociology, the discipline that Weber helped to establish. As an indication of the wider significance of the preceding argument, I should therefore like to conclude by briefly noting two indicative areas where the kind of undoing of disenchantment by panentheism and the exposure of the tension between panentheistic and disenchanted perspectives that have been discussed in this article may have implications within contemporary sociology.
First, within sociological theory itself there are areas of ongoing debate in which the tension between panentheistic and disenchanted perspectives figures directly. This refers to a development initiated by the originative critical realist philosopher Roy Bhaskar. From the mid s, Bhaskar expanded his critique to address also the absence of spirituality and religion Hartwig and Morgan , 3.
These radical developments in Bhaskar's thought alienated not only many of the more staunchly disenchanted thinkers who had previously been sympathetic to critical realism McLennan but also, ultimately, some who were generally enthusiastic about the spiritual turn. Fuller awareness of the relationship between panentheism, disenchantment, and theism, as elaborated in this article, could be helpful for understanding positions within this continuing debate Hartwig and Morgan ; Job Second, the tension between disenchanted and panentheistic perspectives may help to explain the relationship, or conspicuous lack of relationship, between sociology and Jungian psychology.
The lack of attention to Jung's thought among sociologists, in contrast to the extensive attention sociologists have given to the thought of other depth psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, has struck even sociological commentators as curious Scott and Marshall , In light of the preceding discussion it is now possible to be more specific and to identify the prime cause of Jung's disregard by sociologists as his implicitly panentheistic metaphysics, with its assumptions that so fundamentally contradict those of the disenchanted worldview that paradigmatically informs sociology.
Any attempts to improve engagements between sociology and Jungian psychology or to develop a distinctive form of Jungian psychosocial studies could benefit from awareness of the deep metaphysical tension to which this article has drawn attention. More widely, the same may apply to possible engagements between sociology and other forms of explicitly or implicitly panentheistic thought.
I should like to thank Dr. Harald Atmanspacher and Dr. Hartmut von Sass for the invitation to present at that event. Volume 52 , Issue 4.
PANENTHEISM AND THE UNDOING OF DISENCHANTMENT
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Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract In this article, I draw on historical and conceptual arguments to show, first, that disenchantment and the influential view of the relationship between science and religion to which disenchantment gives rise are rooted in the metaphysics of theism.
Transcendence: Critical Realism and God. London, UK : Routledge. Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. Citing Literature. Volume 52 , Issue 4 December Pages References Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Intellectus , by contrast, is a direct intellectual vision.
The title, On Conjectures , is also intriguing because here Cusanus makes explicit the limits of human knowing only hinted at in On Learned Ignorance and in his later The Layman: On Mind. The consequence is that every positive human assertion of the truth is a conjecture….
And so the unattainable Oneness of truth is known in conjectural otherness and the conjecture of otherness is itself known in the most simple Oneness of truth. And such knowing is conjecturing. Nicholas composed On Conjectures as a letter treatise addressed to Cardinal Cesarini. In chapter 11 of Book One he proposes a scenario where the cardinal views the pope. This scenario leads into his sole explicit description of coniectura. This example of visual perception lets us recognize that we readily make perceptual assertions about what we see or hear. And when we reflect on these perceptual judgments we realize that we go beyond what sensation alone delivers, for we use reason to interpret and make sense of what we see.
Reason and sense operate inseparably in our perceptual experience. One is the fact that the objects of perception are themselves limited. These differ from both our mental capacities and what we are looking at or listening to. This means the terms in which perceptual judgments are expressed reflect the broader historical background and interests of the perceiver as well as his or her linguistic community.
Our recognition of the limits in our own knowing and its contents can keep us in touch, at least implicitly, with what is beyond our ken in that ideal oneness of knower and known. The separation of the human mind from the universe of knowable things is at the same time a connection that results in conjectural knowledge. Just so, conjectural knowledge is also an outcome of the separation and connection of the human mind and the divine Mind, of image and Original. As knowers we measure the things we know and we also are assimilated or likened in some way to the objects of knowledge.
What is at issue is the connection and tension between the two metaphors. Supposedly complementary, assimilatio and mensura give no obvious answer to what provides the measure for the content and validity of our knowledge—is it the things known or our knowing minds? But the question here is whether our knowledge is derived from what is independent of mind or is in whole or part the result of the linguistic and conceptual measures we learn, construct and employ in dealing with reality.
The two metaphors may well run counter to each other. Because Nicholas himself does not frame the question in this way, he provides ample evidence for both answers.
Some interpreters, such as J. Hopkins , see his use of medieval scholastic language for the powers and activities of the mind as placing him mainly in the medieval Aristotelian-Thomist tradition of critical realism, while emphasizing anew the active character of knowing at all levels and thus stressing that the mind is an active power.
Those interpreters whose proclivities are more Kantian, for instance, K. Flasch and K. The view of the present author is that both of these interpretations may miss the Neoplatonic context in which Nicholas discusses human knowledge and may underestimate how important philosophical theology is to the Cusan exposition of knowing. What are the clues we need to connect the metaphors of likening and measuring in a complementary way?
Both of these strands can seen to be operative in chapter 7 of The Layman: About Mind. Here, as in his later work entitled Compendium , we find that Nicholas inherited a technical vocabulary and conceptual framework for human knowing that embodies the medieval Aristotelian view that natural things are the causes and measures of perceptual and conceptual human knowledge. On that view, what we understand is to correspond to the intelligible aspects of things that are mind-independent so that an identity in intelligibility between mind and thing results—the mind is measured by things.
While Nicholas insists that the active, self-moving mind directs and integrates the joint operation of our knowing capacities, he also agrees that the mind has no innate ideas and that mental life has to be awakened or stimulated by direct contact with the perceptible world. But [when] functioning with thinking imagination conforms itself to things while discriminating one condition from another. When it is a matter of planning something to do or make, it is easy to see our minds as active. What about perceptual experiences where what we encounter is not up to us? We are not mere passive recipients of colors, sounds, textures and so on, but our minds differentiate and connect perceptions and images in order to form concepts based on the discriminations of reason.
We only encounter the physically located temporal realities that are images of the really real. Consequently our conceptions of them can be precise and certain, for as conceptual entities they escape the sorts of change and bodily limits characteristic of the physical world. But this sketch of our knowing powers as assimilative does not settle what is normative for human knowing or what it means to take the mind as a measure. Nicholas takes up this explicitly a bit later in chapter 9 of The Layman: About Mind. When he is questioned how the mind can be a measure adequate to such a variety of things, the layman responds somewhat cryptically:.
Earlier the layman had described the human mind as a measure that sets limits, conceptual and linguistic boundaries, to all that it knows. What this presupposes are the requirements of any measuring, quantitative or qualitative: 1 something measurable to be ascertained, 2 a measure, that is a criterion or norm embodying standard units, 3 the actual measuring that employs the norm, 4 the results of the process, the measure taken.
All these requirements can be found in the passage above. These knowables span items in the natural world and the cultural sphere and their features, as well as concepts in the realm of thought itself. Here it is transferred to our minds as images of God. Human concepts are measures insofar they involve choice and construction, application and interpretation, whether quantitative or qualitative. The use of a given group of concepts or a particular scheme of ideas or interpretative framework is a matter of human creating. Unless and until we can understand the concepts and language in question, we cannot make sense out of what we perceive and continue to understand in our previous terms.
As a compass can be adjusted to find the quantitative measure of a variety of sizes and shapes, so our minds are able to fashion, adopt, modify and utilize both the literal and the symbolic ideas and concepts available to us for exploring and understanding the natural, social and conceptual worlds we inherit and extend. We become like the knowable features of the things we know and we fashion the conceptual and judgmental measures whereby we take them into ourselves as known. The full determinate intelligibility of mind-independent things and states of affairs provides a kind of ideal limit that we acknowledge in recognizing the inadequacy and shortcomings of what we do know about them.
Along with providing this ideal limit to what we know, things outside the mind also stand as referents that themselves measure our cognitive assimilating. Recognizing that they exist, we also acknowledge that they are what our knowledge is about. And we constantly return to what we seek to understand to assess the adequacy of our conceptions and to correct any mistakes or misinterpretations in our interpretations.
Deprived of these independent measures, our knowledge has no reference outside the mind and no standard for revising or improving our conceptual measures as more or less adequate to what we are trying to understand. So, too, there are situations and realities that require us to modify our ideas and concepts and symbols so that they will be consistent one with another and with the rest of our beliefs.
Nicholas of Cusa thus combines the metaphors of assimilatio and mensuratio in his account of what provides the cognitive norms or criteria for human knowing. We cannot resolve the tension between the two that we find in what he says, but must hold onto it. We may aspire to full intelligibility but can reach it only in mathematics. The relationship between On Learned Ignorance and On Conjectures sets a pattern for the many shorter theoretical works Nicholas was to write in the two decades that followed.
The basic insights and the framework laid out in On Learned Ignorance is never discarded and never substantively modified. Three examples of these metaphors may give some idea of the power and freshness of his speculative imagining. While Cusanus never surrenders his initial insight that there is no proportion between infinite and finite, thinking through these later symbols and neologisms lets us see how these indirect means enable some movement of mind and heart towards the divine Mystery with whom we are ever connected. Cusanus wrote The Vision of God in the form of a prayer, responding to the request of the Benedictines of Tegernsee for a treatise on mystical theology.
Since it is a painting we see, what we seem to experience as we look into the eyes of Jesus is not really taking place. Yet because of the spatial and temporal simultaneity the apparent gaze of the icon invites the viewer to enter into the world of the painting and tends to privilege what is portrayed, namely Jesus gazing at me.
I move back and forth from my customary reactions when eyes are looking into my eyes to the realization that this eye contact is illusory. But the illusory image in this case is of Christ suffering and looking at me. If this painting is to mediate between my reality and what it portrays, it obviously invites me to look beyond, since this is an image of the One who is the image of the Father. In seeing we are seen—this mutual relatedness is at least what the icon symbolizes.
In this way God seen is identically God seeing. But the icon also reminds us of our distance from seeing God. I can see the depicted eyes of Jesus even though no real eyes are present. The dialectic of divine presence and absence, of human seeing and not seeing that I experience with the icon is thus turned inside out. What the icon thus symbolizes is the experienced simultaneous connection of different levels of reality.
Indeed, I have separate reality as a contracted image of God only through my relation to my divine Source. Yet this vision of God is merely purported. Cusanus leads us through a series of reflections on seeing and on the face of God only to let us realize that, whatever ratio or discursive reason comes to realize, God is located beyond both imaginative exercise and conceptual understanding. God dwells inside this wall, and the wall also symbolizes the coincidence of opposites and thus the defeat of discursive reason and the principle of contradiction.
Reason can understand things enfolded in or identical with God as different from the same things unfolded in the created universe. At this first stage we are outside the wall. The second stage is at the wall itself, where Nicholas places us with Christ at the door or threshold of an entrance in the wall. Here enfolding and unfolding coincide and we encounter the barrier of the coincidence of opposites. At best we acknowledge that creating and being created are one and the same in God.
Cusanus proposes some possible indirect routes that will give us no positive insight or conceptual grasp of the divine Essence. For instance, if we look to the very oppositions and contradictions that plague our normal thinking about God, we may do more justice to the unique relation between God and creatures. Designating God as the Oppositeness of such opposites can take us from the distinctions and oppositions with which we are familiar to the One who is responsible for there being such oppositions. God is distinct from these oppositions and differences but only in a way that establishes their reality.
When we use reason to recognize differences and to make distinctions, we are attempting to do justice to the plurality and variety of the natural and cultural realms with which we are most familiar. Even things of the same kind are different numerically, and speaking and thinking clearly about things and their features requires our differentiating what is determinate about them.
We expect them to stay the same as they are and to remain different from other things and we reflect this in our language of identity and difference when we describe and define what we perceive and understand. Nicholas is attempting to capitalize on the way we differentiate created things to signal and symbolize their divine Creator. While each created thing is not other than itself, so to speak, it certainly is other or different from other things. And created things are different from God as well. We may paraphrase this rather cryptic passage as follows. The divine Not-Other is simply not one of the things we are familiar with in the world we inhabit, where all is multiplicity and difference, where each thing or state of affairs is other than or different from every other existent thing or situation that obtains.
Nicholas also proposes that such finite things possess and lack what things different from them possess—to be other or distinct is precisely not to be one or any of the finite others. Our language and thought busy themselves in finding and making further distinctions and divisions between things and parts of things, between one condition and another, between one state of affairs and another.
So we come to know that one thing is other than or separate from another thing or that we find it in another that is related to, yet different from, something else. No matter what it has, it arguably is lacking some of what it should have as a specimen of its type, and it certainly lacks what other things not of its kind possess.
One way to think of the finite things with which we are familiar is to consider that their being limited means that they are just so much and not more. But other is not opposed to God from whom it has that it is other. The opposition in this case is entirely different because, though creatures are dependent functions of God and may be interdependent functions of one another, God is not a dependent function of creatures.
God is precisely not any of the others and so is not other or different in the way creatures are. We thus have two sorts of differentiation or otherness, the opposition between distinct creatures and the opposition between creatures and God. Thinking God as Not-Other requires a characteristic Cusan dialectical thinking, not simply affirming or denying difference. We are to recognize and acknowledge that the divine Not-Other is both not one of the others and at once not other than any or all of them.
Nicholas of Cusa and the Instruction of Ignorance
To put this more formally, the difference or opposition between created things is both symmetrical and transitive. The basis for their distinction is their identity: their symmetrical otherness is the result of their substantial not-otherness, so to speak. True, the divine Not-Other is not one of the creatures, but in a different way than they are different from one another. Cusanus gives expression to this important difference between finite and Infinite when he asserts that the divine Not-Other is not other than any created other.
Just as any creature is not other than itself so it is not other than the divine Not-Other. The divine Not-Other both is and is not every finite other. The reason is that distinct created things possess their very status as beings, and thus their otherness, from and through God. For Nicholas, nothing can have being outside of God. Recent publications, and in particular, D.
Cusanus believes that no knowledge we have is more certain than mathematics, given that it is the construction of our own minds. Number here refers primarily to arithmetic and geometry, to the whole numbers and to plane and solid figures.
Conflict and Reconciliation
The latter are often imagined as in movement or constructing other figures. Geometrical figures are used early in Book 1 of On Learned Ignorance to illustrate how our knowledge of created things is only approximative. A bit later we are led to extrapolate straight and curved lines as an aid to understanding the coincidence of opposites and to moving human thought towards the God who is unknowable by reason.
Book 2 uses number to illustrate enfolding and unfolding—as the number series unfolds what is enfolded in the unit, so God unfolds all created things. Book 2 also opens and closes with reflection on the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Book 3 returns to the image of the infinite sphere for the combination of absolute and contracted reality in the God-man.
Measuring is then used directly in The Layman: Experiments with Weights. Nicholas proposes that the Divine Word in whom all things are created or unfolded in time is to be thought together with human measuring as the closest sign or image of the Divine Oneness. In the background stands the saying from the Book of Wisdom The Vision of God proposes an exercise for the monks based on the center and circumference of circle wherein seeing from the circumference and being seen from the center collapse into a figure of mystical oneness: being seen seeing. In the same year Nicholas composes Complementary Theological Considerations De theologicis complementis.
Platonism at the Origins of Modernity | SpringerLink
There he features God as a mathematician who creates in the Equality of the Divine Word—unfolding as well human beings whose quadrivial mathematics is an image of the divine creativity. One advantage is that Nicholas can take the basic asymmetry between paradigmatic Platonic Forms and the perceptible realm of particular things that are images of the Forms and apply that asymmetry to the way the First Principle, God, is related to all other created realities. That is to say, the Form does not require the particulars but is prior ontologically.
The relation between Form and particulars is not one of reciprocal dependence. Applied to the first ontological principle, or to the Christian God, the result is to let all the multiple, complex creatures participate in their ultimate Source while the divine Creator remains simple, unparticipated and unchanged.
As Christian medieval thinkers even the Aristotelians agreed on this point were accustomed to express it, creatures depend on God while God is not at all dependent on creatures. All the dependence is one-way. And that dependence is interpreted in Platonic and Biblical terms, as the dependence of creaturely images on a divine Original.