|This article is reprinted from the Winter 1993 issue of FIDELIO Magazine.
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Nicolaus of Cusas On the Vision of God
by William F. Wertz, Jr.
In a recent paper entitled The Challenge for the Human Race: A Mission Task Orientation to Develop Science Beyond Its Current Limits, Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. wrote:
The notion that the universe is characterized by the principle of maximization of entropy based on the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, and that any apparent exception to this principle referred to as negative entropy ultimately results in an increase in entropy, is a pseudo-scientific conception, which if it becomes dominant in the thinking of any society, as it has become in large part today, results necessarily in the death of that society due to its inability to increase its potential relative population density.
The increase in potential relative population density which the human species has experienced as a result of the Council of Florence in 1439-40, is directly attributable to the opposing, actually scientific view that the universe is characterized by a principle of negentropy, and that man as the highest expression of the negentropic development of the universe is capable of continuing the creative development of the universe insofar as he is in the living image of God.
The neo-Malthusians view this increase in potential relative population density as negative entropy, that is, as a violation of the principle of entropy. According to their view the worlds population must be reduced and industrial development curbed not in order to prevent the entropic exhaustion and death of the universe, which they regard as inevitable, but merely to postpone it. Theirs is not a culture of life, but rather a culture of death based on non-living processes.
If this cultural paradigm is to be reversed, we must ground ourselves in the opposing negentropic conception of life, which was expressed by Nicolaus of Cusa in On the Vision of God, written in 1453, and in a number of his other works.
Today the very concept of evolution gives rise to a false debate between the Darwinian, materialist conception of evolution and so-called Creationism, as based upon a literal interpretation of the Bible. However, in his writings, Nicolaus of Cusa presented a third concept, which can only be described as a Christian concept of evolution. The idea that Gods creation of the universe does not contradict the concept of evolution is not original to Cusanus. St. Augustine put forward such a conception in his commentary On Genesis, in which he argued that all things that are generated take their origin and development, each in its proper time, from the original principles or seminal reasons of things which God placed in them. (A, p. 103)
In On the Vision of God, Cusanus uses the example of a nut tree to demonstrate that if we want to know the essence of a created thing, we must ascend in our minds eye from the visible domain to its First Cause in the invisible domain. He takes this approach based upon the Apostle Pauls statement in Romans 1:20, that Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.
Cusanus argues: If I seek the power and beginning of a nut tree which I see with the sensible eye, I must look with my minds eye to see that the tree existed potentially in its seed. However, since the seed has power only with respect to this species of nuts, I must reflect upon the entire seminal power of all the trees of various species. If, then, I wish to see the Absolute Power of all the powers of such seeds, I must pass beyond all seminal power to the Beginning, which gives being to every power, whether seminal or non-seminal. He continues:
In this discussion of the nut tree, Cusanus puts forward the idea that all creation is enfolded eternally in God as Cause and unfolded in time as effect. God, therefore, both transcends the universe and is present in it. Since all things were made through the Word, the Word is present in all things. Or as Cusanus writes in On the Vision of God, since God is the Absolute Form of all formable forms, He enfolds in Himself the forms of all things. (DM, p. 123) Since God is the Absolute Being of all things, He is present to each and every thing. God is not the universe, as a pantheist would argue, because He precedes the universe, which He has created. He is all in all, therefore, in such a way that He is nothing of everything. Thus although God is not a creature and therefore cannot be seen by the sensible eye, He is nonetheless the invisible Cause and Essence of each and every creature, a concept which Cusanus locates as expressed by the Apostle Paul, who wrote that God is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17), that God is all in all (1 Cor 15:28), and that God is not far from us, for we are in Him and we are moved (Acts 17:27-28).
The creature does not exist through itself, but rather derives its specific form from the Form which exists through itself. Therefore, if we wish to know the Nature of the creature we must see the invisible in the visible, the cause in the effect, the truth and exemplar in the image.
Those who argue that the universe is entropic, do so because, like Aristotle, they deny that man is capable of elevating his mind above inductive and deductive forms of discursive rationality to the level of creative intellect. Because Aristotelian logic defines as its first principle the law of contradiction, it rejects as impossible the coincidence of opposites, such as the idea expressed by Cusanus in On Learned Ignorance that every created thing is, as it were, a finite infinity or a created god, in contradistinction to God, who is Absolute infinity and uncreated. (LI, p. 93) But to arrive at a true understanding of the laws of the universe, and to enter Paradise, as Cusanus writes in On the Vision of God, one must vanquish the lofty rational spirit (DM, p. 161) of Aristotelian logic, which guards the gate of the wall of Paradise.
Today we hear a lot about a concept of self-realization, according to which man divorced from God reduces himself to a bestial state. However, Cusanus argues that for man to truly realize his potential, he must rise to the level of being an adopted son of God. Since man is created in the image of God, he can only be his true self to the extent he conforms to his own Cause and Exemplar. When God says to him: Be your own and I will be yours, (DM, p. 147) Cusanus understands that to mean that we are our own, i.e. our own true selves, when the senses serve reason and we are in harmony with the Word.
When we rise to the level of creative intellect, then we are capable of seeing that the universe is not entropic, but rather unfolds negentropically, precisely because it is enfolded in God, Who is eternal.
One of the major obstacles to conceptualizing how God could have created the universe out of nothing in eternity which precedes time and how at the same time it can be said that the universe evolves in time, is the tendency to view eternity from the standpoint of succession. But as Cusanus points out:
In 1715, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz derided the entropic concept of the universe advocated by Sir Isaac Newton and his follower Samuel Clarke by pointing out that [a]ccording to them God has to wind up his watch from time to time. Otherwise it would cease to go. He lacked sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. (L, p. 205)
In On the Vision of God, Cusanus points out that in Gods Clock, succession is present without there being succession in the Word, or Concept, that in this most simple Concept are enfolded all movements we experience as in succession, that whatever occurs successively is the unfolding of the Concept, so that the Concept gives being to each successive thing and that the reason each event was nothing before it occurred is that it was not conceived before it existed. Cusanus then concludes: So let the concept of a clock be, as it were, eternity itself. Then, in the clock, movement is succession. Therefore, eternity enfolds and unfolds succession, for the Concept of a clocka Concept which is eternityboth enfolds and unfolds all things. (DM, pp. 169-171)
In On Actual-Potential, Cusanus uses the example of a boy playing with a top to show how Eternal Being is all things at once and how the whole of eternity is within the present moment (See Figure 1):
Having developed the above concepts I would now like to quote from a number of Cusanus other writings, in which he is more explicit in regard to his conception of creation as the unfolding of that which is enfolded in the Word.
In On Learned Ignorance, Cusanus writes:
In On Conjectures, Cusanus writes:
In On Genesis:
In On the Game of Spheres:
As is clear from the above, Cusanus conceives of the unfolding of species enfolded in Gods Word as a transfinite number series. Since God is both the center and the circumference of the universe, this number series can be visualized as both a descent and an ascent. In On the Vision of God, Cusanus points out by comparison that he who counts unfolds and enfolds, alike: he unfolds the power of oneness, and he enfolds number in oneness. (p. 171)
In On Beryllus, Cusanus gives the following figurative representation of this process (See Figure 2:
For Cusanus, this evolutionary process in the universe which proceeds from the elemental to the vegetative to living beings culminates in Man, who is both imago Dei (the image of God) and a microcosm, who both mirrors and acts upon the macrocosm.
In order to understand in what way man is the image of God, we must first consider Cusanus conception of the Triune God. Although Cusanus develops the concept of the Triune God in many ways in his writings, perhaps the most illustrative for our purposes is the concept of the Trinity as an expression of the concept of God as self-moving, which we find in Platos dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Timaeus. In the Phaedrus, Plato states:
In On the Vision of God, Cusanus develops this concept of self-movement in respect to the Triune God as follows:
And the Union of You and your Concept is an activity and a working that arises, wherein is present the activity and unfolding of all things. Therefore, just as from You who are God who loves there is begotten God who is lovable (this begottenness is a conceiving), so from You who are God who loves and from the lovable Concept begotten from You there proceeds the Activity of You and of Your Concept. And this Activity is a uniting Unionis God who unites You and your Concept (just as the act of loving unites in love the one who loves and that which is lovable. And this Union is called spirit. For spirit is as motion, which proceeds from a mover and the movable. Hence, motion is the unfolding of the movers concept. Therefore, all things are unfolded in You who are God the Holy Spirit, even as they are conceived in You who are God the Son. (DM, p. 221)
In On the Game of Spheres, Cusanus emphasizes that man is in the image of God, not in respect to his bodily form, but in respect to his creative intellect, which in the image of God is self-moving. In examining how the soul operates when it invents something new such as a game, Cusanus writes:
Cusanus further argues that that which is self-moving does not cease. God who is self-moving is eternal. That which he has created, which is self-moving is perpetual. Thus Cusanus writes:
Therefore, what dies is not the substance of man, but rather only that which is accidental to his substance.
Cusanus further maintains that the macrocosm, i.e., the universe as a whole, is self-moving and therefore perpetual. In On the Hunt for Wisdom, he argues that God, Who is eternal, creates the potential-to-become of all actual creatures out of nothing and that this potential-to-become of the universe is perpetual. Thus he says: The whole world can never cease. (TNCF, p. 479) In On the Game of Spheres, he further argues that also perhaps that substance which is called the sensitive or vegetative soul does not perish through the death of an animal or the withering of a tree although it does not operate as before. (GS, p. 73) The reason that he believes that this is the case is because the world soul is the sensitive soul in sensitive things, the vegetative soul in vegetative things, and the elemental soul in elemental things. (GS, p. 75) Similarly, in On the Vision of God, Cusanus writes: O Lord, I see that Your Spirit cannot be lacking to any spirit, because it is the Spirit of spirits and the Motion of motions; and it fills the whole world. But whatever things do not have an intellectual spirit Your Spirit governs by means of the intellectual nature that moves the heavens.... (DM, p. 263)
Thus, according to Cusanus, not only does the individual human soul not cease, but also neither does the world as a whole nor the substance of sensitive, vegetative, or elemental souls perish.
What distinguishes man from an animal, is that the latter lack the free power that is in us. In On the Game of Spheres Cusanus writes: Nature can never impose necessity upon our spirit, but the spirit can impose necessity upon nature. (GS, p. 73) As a result of his free spirit, man can invent new modes of social reproductive behavior, whereas a beast must follow the impetus of nature. According to Cusanus: Therefore they are impelled to do those things that they do by their nature, so that all the members of each species hunt and make nests in the same way. (GS, p. 71)
It is in connection with Cusanus conception of man as having the free will necessary to invent something new that we see most clearly a reflection of LaRouches concept of negentropy as characterized by an increase of the energy of the system and at the same time an increase in the ratio of free energy to energy of the system. Although the unfolding of the universe occurs negentropically in that all things, as Cusanus says, desire to exist in the best manner in which the condition of each things nature permits this, man, since he has free will, can increase his dominion over nature by choosing to increase his conformity to God.
As Cusanus writes in On the Vision of God:
Man, therefore, is not only imago Dei, but capax Dei. He has the capacity to become increasingly Godlike or Deiform. In On the Vision of God, Cusanus argues that man can attain union with God. In imitation of Christ, man can become an adopted son of God. To explicate this capacity in man Cusanus compares it to the capacity for successive increase in both mineral and sensible life. He writes that there is a single spirit of the source of gold. As a result of the influence of the sun or the heavens this spirit is more and more purified until at last it is fashioned into gold.... (DM, p. 257) Similarly in man the sensible spirit ... under the influence of the heavens ... becomes successively increasedto the point where it is posited in perfect actuality. (DM, p. 257) Cusanus then writes that the intellect, which is not constrained by the influence of the heavens but is altogether free, if it subjects itself by faith to the influence of the Word of God, is perfected and grows and is made progessively more capable of receiving the Word and progressively more conformed, and similar to the Word. And this perfection, which comes in this way from the Word, from which the intellect has being, is not a corruptible perfection but is Godlike. (DM, p. 259)
From this standpoint, it should be clear that entropy exists in the same way that evil exists. It has no positive being, and therefore only exists to the extent that man through the misuse of his free will departs from the good. Therefore, rather than being a law of the universe, entropy is merely the evil consequence of mans own decision to decrease his capability of receiving the grace and goodness of God by refusing to bring his intellect into conformity with Gods Word.
In On the Vision of God, Cusanus concludes that Christ has taught only two thingsfaith and love:
These are the ideas which gave rise to a Golden Renaissance in the arts and sciences in the fifteenth century and which resulted in the most significant rate of increase in mans power over nature in human history. These are the ideas of God, man, and nature which the prevailing culture of death in our society today is determined to expunge. And these are the ideas which we must master once again if we are to achieve the reverse paradigm shift necessary to prevent the continued rapid disintegration of civilization.
The task before each and every one of us, as LaRouche writes in History as Science, is to become wittingly imago Dei. or as Cusanus writes in On the Vision of God, to find the Word of God within our own intellects, to become self-moving in the image of God and thus to increase our capax Dei, so as to become more intelligent and loving instruments of the continued unfolding of Gods negentropic purpose. As Cusanus writes in On Learned Ignorance, since God as the life of all rational spirits is their center, it is not the case that, with respect to location, He is seated on the circumference rather than at the center. And, therefore, He who is the Fount of life for souls, as well as their goal, affirms that the Kingdom of Heaven is also within men. [Luke 17:21]. (LI, p. 145)F
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