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The triplex via of naming God.

IN A DELIGHTFUL SHORT STORY entitled "The Nine Billion Names of God," Arthur C. Clarke describes the task that the monks of a Tibetan monastery have set themselves, namely, to list all the possible names of God. This, they maintain, is the purpose for which the world was created, and they have been working on the project for three centuries, ever since the lamasery was founded. They believe that all of God's names can be written with not more than nine letters in a special alphabet they have devised. To speed up the job the high lama has hired a computer and engaged two operators to write a program that can complete the task in a hundred days instead of 15,000 years. He explains the importance of the task:
   Call it ritual, if you like, but it's a fundamental part of our
   belief. All the many names of the Supreme Being--God, Jehovah,
   Allah, and so on--they are only man-made labels. There is a
   philosophical problem of some difficulty here, which I do not
   propose to discuss, but somewhere among all the possible
   combinations of letters, which can occur, are what one may call the
   real names of God. By systematic permutation of letters, we have
   been trying to list them all. (1)


Only when the computer is up and running do the programmers learn the consequences of their work. Once the last of the divine names is deciphered, the universe will be extinguished:
   They believe that when they have listed all His names--and they
   reckon that there are about nine billion of them--God's purpose
   will have been achieved. The human race will have finished what it
   was created to do, and there won't be any point in carrying on.
   Indeed, the very idea is something like blasphemy.

   Then what do they expect us to do? Commit suicide?

   There's no need for that. When the list's completed, God steps in
   and simply winds things up ... bingo! (2)


Despite taking what one of them calls the "Wide View," the computer experts are fearful of the outcome and anxious to depart. As they trek down the mountain road, under a sky "ablaze with the familiar, friendly stars," one of them lifts his eyes to heaven: "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out." (3)

The "philosophical problem of some difficulty," to which the lama refers, has been a challenge for Western philosophy since the start: how to speak of the supernatural. When Thales declared that "all things are full of the gods," he expressed an early and confused pantheism. The problem is to discern the divine, distinguish it from the natural, and somehow describe it in the only terms available, namely, those of nature. One of the fundamental tasks of philosophical theology is to explain how it is possible to speak validly of God, whose nature must by definition lie beyond human cognition. The early philosophers and poets recognized the difficulty and ambiguities involved. According to the cryptic utterances of Heraclitus, for whom "the way up and the way down are one and the same," (4) the Logos "is both willing and unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus." (5) Euripides has Hecuba proclaim:
   You who support the earth and have there your sanctuary, whoever
   you are, you are difficult to know. Zeus, whether you are a
   necessity of nature or the mind of mortals, I pray to you. (6)


The Greek philosopher Xenophanes identified the challenge when he observed that humans depict the gods in their own likeness:
   If oxen and horses and lions had hands or could draw with hands and
   create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw
   pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen, and they
   would make the bodies of their gods in accordance with the form
   that each species itself possesses.... Ethiopians have gods with
   snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and
   red hair. (7)


It is no surprise that humans fashion the image of the gods in their own likeness: human nature is not only what we know best, but the best of what we know. Aristotle observes that "as men imagine the gods in human form, so also they suppose their manner of life to be like their own." (8) He refers to an early tradition that identified the heavenly bodies as gods, and notes significantly that in order to persuade the masses, subsequent mythology portrayed these gods in the form of humans or other animals. (9)

The danger of portraying the gods in human form is an anthropomorphism that would take the human likeness for the divine reality. The challenge is therefore to reconcile the similarity of creatures to God with the infinite distance that separates them. This divergence, which must be overcome, points to the grounding and unifying axiom that perfections exemplified in creatures are infinitely and preeminently present in their creator. These elements of similarity, difference, and infinite superiority led to the so-called triplex via or threefold path of divine names, based upon (a) the positive likeness of creatures to God, (b) the deficiency of this likeness, and (c) the preeminent transcendence and perfection of God beyond creation.

The aim of the present essay is to survey the tradition of the triplex via of divine names. The motif of path or via has been commonly used as a metaphor for knowledge, suggesting the advance from ignorance to insight. The use of "way" as symbol for the discovery of truth goes back to the origins of philosophy and was famously employed by Parmenides. The notion was later employed in the medieval conspectus of the quadrivium and trivium. In the so-called triplex via are crystalized the fundamental and central doctrines of Neoplatonist and scholastic teaching concerning the knowledge of transcendent reality.

Alcinous and Celsus. The triplex via of divine names was well established in early Platonism, as evidenced by two second-century works of widely divergent purpose. Alcinous's Handbook of Platonism is the earliest synthesis of Plato's thought, composed as a manual for teachers of Platonism. (10) Celsus's On the True Doctrine was the first systematic philosophical attack on Christianity, in which the author contrasted Christian doctrine negatively to the superior theology of Plato. Because of their particular seminal importance it is worth citing both texts in their entirety. Alcinous writes as follows in his Handbook.
   The first way of conceiving God is by abstraction ([TEXT NOT
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of these attributes, just as we form the
   conception of a point by abstraction from sensible phenomena,
   conceiving first a surface, then a line, and finally a point.

   The second way of conceiving him is that of analogy ([TEXT NOT
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), as follows: the sun is to vision and to
   visible objects (it is not itself sight, but provides vision to
   sight and visibility to its objects) as the primal intellect is to
   the power of intellection in the soul and to its objects; for it is
   not the power of intellection itself, but provides intellection to
   it and intelligibility to its objects, illuminating the truth
   contained in them.

   The third way of conceiving him is the following: one contemplates
   first beauty in bodies, then after that turns to the beauty in
   souls, then to that in customs and laws, and then to the "great sea
   of Beauty", after which one gains an intuition of the Good itself
   and the final object of love and striving, like a light appearing
   and, as it were, shining out to the soul which ascends in this way;
   and along with this one also intuits God, in virtue of his
   pre-eminence in honour ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (11)


In his critique of Christianity, Celsus outlines a comparable tripartite approach which he presents as the Platonist theory of naming the first principle. Although the work is lost, extensive quotations are contained in Origen's repudiation Contra Celsum. Because of its testimonial importance the text is cited fully:
   Then after this he refers us to Plato as a more effective teacher
   of the problems of theology, quoting his words from the Timaeus as
   follows: "Now to find the Maker and Father of this universe is
   difficult, and after finding him it is impossible to declare him to
   all men. " Then he adds to this: You see how the way of truth is
   sought by seers and philosophers, and how Plato knew that it is
   impossible for all men to travel it. Since this is the reason why
   wise men have discovered it, that we might get some conception of
   the nameless First Being which manifests him either by synthesis
   with other things, or by analytical distinction from them, or by
   analogy ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), I would like to teach
   about that which is otherwise indescribable. (12)


Summarizing Celsus's teaching, Origen adds a reference to the Philebus:
   Celsus thinks that God is known either by synthesis with other
   things, similar to the method called synthesis by geometricians, or
   by analytical distinction from other things, or also by analogy,
   like the method of analogy used by the same students, as if one
   were able to come in this way, if at all, 'to the threshold of the
   Good'. (13)


In this text cited by Origen, Celsus combined the negative approach of analysis through successive abstractions with the positive way of composition through synthesis (knowledge of the first cause in its effects), thus obtaining a third way, that of analogy (or eminence). (14)

As John Dillon has pointed out, this sequence of three methods to describe God had obviously long been established in the school tradition. (15) While the triads employed by Alcinous and Celsus differ in terminology, they refer to the same dialectical hierarchy. Alcinous speaks of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Celsus of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Each triplet conveys the graded strategy of removal and attribution. Celsus's term "loosening" corresponds roughly to Alcinous's "removal." His notion of "addition," however, does not convey as richly as Alcinous's "proportion" the manner in which positive names are transferred from creatures to God, that is, analogously, or in proportion to the finite or infinite status of their subject. The term avaAoyia is indeed so central and far-reaching that it can equally convey the transcendent sense of terms applied to God, and it is in this sense that Celsus uses it to express the reality that Alcinous expresses with the more explicit term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] conveys an aspect both of those names that are simply positive, and those that denote absolute and transcendent perfection. The perfections enjoyed by creatures in a limited measure are present in the transcendent first principle in their absolute and unlimited fullness. It is indeed significant that Plato himself declared analogy to be the most beautiful of bonds ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (16)

Plato and Plotinus. The similarities of the threefold paths of Celsus and Alcinous to aspects of Platonic method are unmistakable. The first manner of conceiving God (via negativa or remotionis), which consists in the removal of attributes, is modeled on the first hypothesis of the Parmenides. In this dialogue, Plato speculates on the possibility of speaking intelligibly of the Parmenidean "One"; one option is to remove all positive predicates. The second mode (anticipating the way of causation or via causalitatis) is that of analogy ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], via analogiae), illustrated in the Republic by the simile of the sun: as the sun is the source of growth, nourishment, and light in the natural world, so the transcendent Good is the principle of reality, value, and intelligibility in the world of Ideas. (17) The apex of learning, described in Plato's Republic, is the affirmation of the transcendent Good. It is agreed that "the greatest object of learning is the Idea of the Good." (18) We have a natural but inexplicit awareness of its superiority. "Every soul pursues it and does all that it does for its sake, with an intuition of its reality, yet baffled and unable to apprehend its nature adequately, or to attain to any stable belief about it as about other things." (19) The third manner of approaching God, that of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) ("leading upward," via eminentiae), resembles Plato's ascent, described in the Symposium, from beautiful things to the great sea of beauty, (20) resulting in a sudden illumination in the soul of the Good. (21)

A similar formulation of the three steps is found in Plotinus: "We are taught about it by analogies and negations and knowledge of the things that come from it and certain methods of ascent by degrees." (22) R. E. Witt rightly draws attention to
   the difference between the personal mysticism of Plotinus and the
   scholastic theology of [Alcinous]. According to the latter, God can
   be known only by dialectical processes. For Plotinus, while the
   value of these processes is not denied, the One or the Good can be
   known through an ecstatic experience of unio mystica. (23)


The triplex via was employed to both ends, dialectical and mystical, by the author who most influentially transmitted the doctrine to the Middle Ages. While elements of the Neoplatonic doctrine are found in an unsystematic way throughout early Christian writers, the definitive consolidation of the triplex via in the Western tradition is due to the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius, the enigmatic writer (c. 500) who adopted the literary mantle of Dionysius the Areopagite, convert of St. Paul and first bishop of Athens.

Dionysius the Areopagite. Because of his quasi-apostolic authority Dionysius's influence was unparalleled. His formula for the three-tiered path of naming God became a commonplace for subsequent theologians. In a celebrated passage of the treatise On Divine Names he brings together the three paths toward knowledge of God: causality, negation, and eminence. Since God cannot be known in his nature, we can rise to the transcendent, insofar as possible, only through the order of creatures, "by denying all things of him, surpassing all, to contemplate him as their cause." (24) He offers more detailed variations on the triplex via in Mystical Theology. Early in the treatise he writes:
   Since it is the Cause of all beings, we should posit and ascribe to
   it all the affirmations we make in regard to beings ([TEXT NOT
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and, more appropriately, we should negate
   all these affirmations since it surpasses all being ([TEXT NOT
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Now we should not conclude that the
   negations are simply the opposites of the affirmations, but rather
   that the cause of all is considerably prior to this, beyond
   privations, beyond every denial, beyond every assertion. (25)


Dionysius ends his treatise as follows:
   Of it there is neither affirmation nor negation whatsoever. We make
   affirmations and denials of what is next to it, but neither affirm
   nor deny anything of it since as the perfect and unique cause of
   all it is beyond all affirmation, and by its preeminently simple
   and absolute nature it is free from all limitation and beyond every
   negation. (26)


Dionysius's primary distinction is between affirmative (cataphatic) and negative (apophatic) theology. By the affirmative method, reason progr essively applies to God as their cause and supereminent exemplar the intelligible attributes of creatures; by the negative method these attributes inversely are removed, not because God lacks these perfections, but because he possesses them superabundantly in a manner transcending the mode of creatures and the manner of human cognition. Negation (negatio/remotio) indicates not deficiency but supraplenitude: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is accompanied by [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The removal of creaturely perfections is superseded by the affirmation of their transcendent presence: negation is of value only because it is interior to the affirmation of transcendence. God is thus beyond both affirmation and negation. (27) Through negation, names are purified of all finite connotation and, in a union of affirmation and negation, their content is intensified toward infinity. Dionysius further distinguished between the negative method and transcendent intention or purpose of apophatic theology, thus articulating the third step of the threefold path of naming God.

Johannes Scottus Eriugena. Because of his perceived authority as disciple of St. Paul and first bishop of Athens who taught that the true deity was the "Unknown God," Pseudo-Dionysius enjoyed extraordinary authority for well over a thousand years. Johannes Eriugena, whose translation greatly helped the diffusion of the Corpus Dionysiacum, incorporated the Dionysian theory of divine names into his own very original system. (28) Affirmation and negation, he suggests, are "the two most sublime parts of theology" (sublimissimas theologiae partes). (29) Although they appear contrary to one another, they are in no way mutually opposed but fully in harmony when applied to divine nature. (30) God embraces all opposing parts of the universe
   by a beautiful and ineffable harmony into a single concord: for
   those things which in the parts of the universe seem to be opposed
   and contrary to one another and to be discordant with one another
   are in accord and in tune when they are viewed in the most general
   harmony of the universe itself. (31)


Names predicated of God by the addition of super or plus quam to denote transcendence and eminence (for example, superessentialis, plus quam veritas, plus quam sapientia) comprehend both positive and negative theology in their fullest sense; they are harmonized in superlative predication. "In outward expression they possess the form of affirmation, but in meaning the force of negation." (32) Thus the assertion "It is essence" is an affirmation; "It is not an essence" a negation; "It is superessential" is both affirmation and negation together. While the latter superficially lacks negation, it is fully negative in meaning. However Eriugena explains that by saying "It is superessential," one is not stating what it is but what it is not, that it is not essence but more than essence, without revealing what that is which is more than essence. (33) Eriugena refers to God as the "supraessential" or "transcendent" nothing (nihil per superessentialitatem, nihil per excellentiam). (34) He states that "according to the rules of theology the power of negation is stronger than that of affirmation for investigating the sublimity and incomprehensibility of the divine nature." (35) He suggests indeed that "negation of the Word in the sense of transcendence of nature, though not in the sense of privation, is found in Scripture." (36)

Eriugena even expresses the triplex via in verse. In a poem praising the cross of Christian salvation he affirms: "All that is being, non-being, beyond-being worships you." (37) In lines addressed to Charles the Bald--at whose request he translated the Corpus Dionysiacum--Eriugena instructs the king on the role of Christ as first principle of the universe:
   He is being, non-being, supra-being, he excels all things in
   respect of being, Who rules and encompasses the whole which he
   established, Himself being whole in wholeness, adhering to no
   divisions, Whose deepest nature is remote from all things, Although
   he is their simple and substantial essence: He is the end and
   beginning of all that has being; He is good and beautiful, beauty
   itself and the seal set upon the forms.


In the last two lines of this passage Eriugena reverts to the Greek of Dionysius Areopagite, the author whom he revered. (38)

Alexander of Hales. The twofold distinction of affirmative and negative theology was widely advocated by theologians of the twelfth century, without mention of the threefold path. (39) Thierry of Chartres (1100-1150/5) declared: "Theologia vero duplex est: alia affirmationis alia negationis." (40) The guiding principle is Dionysius's rule: "Negationes enim in divinis verae, affirmationes vero incompactae." (41) Historically the most influential theological writings of the twelfth century were the Sentences (Libri Quattuor Sententiarum) of Peter of Lombard (c. 1095-1160), master of the University of Paris and archbishop of Paris. (42) A compilation with commentary of theological texts from the bible and Church Fathers, it became, possibly at the instigation of the English Franciscan theologian Alexander of Hales (c. 1185-1245), the standard textbook of theological instruction for the next three centuries, when it was replaced by the Summa Theologiae of Aquinas; trainee doctores were required to write expositions on the Sentences. Although Peter referred to Augustine rather than Dionysius in explaining the names of God, it became standard practice in the commentaries to refer to the triplex via. In succeeding centuries these provided a varied range of interpretations. In his commentary Alexander of Hales cited the classic text of De Divinis Nominibus 7 and in his exposition followed the same order as Dionysius:
   And thus through these three, removal, eminence and causality, he
   notes the triple way of knowledge; by removal, i.e. negatively: he
   is not this, he is not that etc; through eminence, the best of
   everything is attributed to him; as cause, inasmuch as we retrace
   things that move to the immobile, and essences to supreme
   existence. (43)


In his Summa Theologica Alexander succinctly recalls Dionysius's doctrine: "Et tangit triplicem modum intelligendi sive nominandi Deum: ablatione, eminentia et causa." The triplex via, he explains, focuses variously on the comparison of God and creation. The via negationis stresses the difference; the via eminentiae expresses the agreement which allows all that is perfect to be attributed to God (superexistens, optimus); the via causalitatis names God from his activity (potens, sapiens) through a comparison with creation, as cause with effect. (44) Alexander interestingly explains positive and negative knowledge of God between cognitio per modum positionis and cognitio per modum privationis. (45) Very importantly he distinguishes between the significatum and the modus significandi of names: (46) the former alone properly belongs to God. (47)

St. Bonaventure, Albertus Magnus. St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) likewise follows the order of Pseudo-Dionysius, noting that each mode of nomination provides a rich variety of names:
   God is known to us in a threefold manner: through causality, by
   removal, and because of his excellence (per causalitatem, per
   ablationem et per excellentiam). There is thus a multitude of
   names: if named through causality there are many names because he
   has many effects; if named through removal there are many names
   because many things are removed, namely all created things; if he
   is named by virtue of excellence there are margr names because he
   exceeds creatures in every manner of nobility. (48)


He similarly distinguishes between the modus significandi/ratio innotescendi of divine names and their significatum/significatio/res significata. (49)

Albertus Magnus elaborates upon the distinction between res significata and modus significandi to justify the triplex via, which he regards as essential (necesse est ire triplici via). (50) Because of the structure of language, there are only three ways of knowing God from creatures. We attribute names according to the mode whereby the thing signified (res significata,) is known by intellect. There is thus a difference between the mode of signification of a name and the reality signified in things beyond intellect. The thing signified by the name (res significata per nomen) may thus be considered (a) as exceeding the signification of the name (modus per excessum), (b) as present in the effect (modus per causam), or (c) in the cause which transcends the mode of human intellection (modus per omnium ablationem). (51)

St. Thomas Aquinas. The most complete application of Dionysius's triplex via was elaborated by Albert's illustrious pupil Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who referred to it on twenty-two occasions, presenting five diverse orderings of affirmation, negation, and preeminence. (52) The reversal of the Dionysian sequence (remotio, ablatio, causa) in his early commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard is indicative of Aquinas's preferred metaphysical and linguistic method of progressing from causal affirmation, through the refinement of negation to the affirmation of God's preeminent transcendence: "Dicit enim quod ex creaturis tribus modis devenimus in Deum: scilicet per causalitatem, per remotionem, per eminentiam." (53) Aquinas's variations upon the sequence of stages are occasioned by the context of his argument, yet common to all is the underlying affirmation of causality and the imperfect (yet genuine) similitude between creatures and God. The preeminent transcendence of God is affirmed but never adequately revealed. The affirmative way attributes to God through analogy the names of pure, metaphysical perfections which are intrinsically free from limit (for example, life, wisdom, being, goodness): these belong primarily and properly to God as their cause and derivatively to creatures, in which they are manifest in limited measure. Names denoting the natures of particular creatures (for example, lion, stone, sun), and which therefore impose a limit upon being, may be applied to God only symbolically or metaphorically. (54)

Having been attributed affirmatively to God, however, all names must subsequently be removed: sensible attributes absolutely, and metaphysical perfections in respect of their creaturely character. Negations are absolutely true because both that which is signified (res significata') and the manner of signification (modus significandi) are removed; affirmations are inadequate, that is, relatively true, since only the modus significandi is denied: the pure perfection (res significata) is attributed to God in a manner beyond understanding. (55) All things may be affirmed and denied of God, since he is beyond human intellect by which affirmations and negations are composed. (56) Aquinas accords methodological primacy to causality, but grants ultimate significance to negation as indicating the transcendent preeminence of God beyond all human knowledge. Such "agnosticism," however, is grounded in the affirmation of God's existence and of his essence as ipsum esse subsistens. In light of his universal and transcendent notion of existence, Aquinas affirms absolute being as eminently intelligible, yet supremely mysterious and unknown. All likeness of creatures to God is deficient: that which God himself is remains hidden and unknown (hoc ipsum quod Deus est remanet occultum et ignotum, (57) "not by virtue of his obscurity, but through an abundance of clarity." (58)

According to Aquinas the supreme achievement of reason is to affirm with certainty the existence of an absolute divine being whose nature is utterly unknowable. Of God we know more what he is not than what he is. (59) Aquinas's agnosticism, however, comes after the causal affirmation of God's existence. Xenophanes' remark that man depicts God in his own image is interpreted in light of a profound metaphysics of being as well as a nuanced and differentiated semiotics, grounded upon causality and the similarity of cause and effect.

For Aquinas the validity of all our terms concerning God is grounded primarily in the relation of causality discerned through a reflection upon finite reality. It is necessary, secondly, to distinguish between the perfections in themselves, or that which is signified, and our way of signifying them. (60) The perfections as such are proper to God; our knowledge and manner of signifying them is appropriate to creatures. Concepts and names derive from our experience of finite things; they are transposed and referred to God analogically, signifying that he possesses in an infinitely superior degree the perfections apparent in creation. The perfections enjoyed by man are limited participations in the being of God, who unites all perfection in his unlimited act of subsisting being.

As a child Aquinas pestered his nurse with the question, "What is God?" Years later he cited the words of St. Hilary (c. 310-c. 367): "I am aware that I owe this to God as the chief duty of my life, that my every word and sense may speak of him." (61) By the time of his early death at the age of forty-nine he had expended more than 7 million words in an attempt, at least indirectly, to answer that question. The immensity of the task was clearly stated by Job, whom Aquinas cites at the start of book 4 of Contra Gentiles. Employing the language and imagery of "ways" (viarum eius, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Job proclaimed: "These things are said in part of his ways: and seeing we have heard scarce a little drop of his word, who shall be able to behold the thunder of his greatness?" (62) Aquinas regarded the achievements of theology as "less than one small word, trickling silently, compared to the loudest clap of thunder." (63) Finally he stopped writing, regarding his work as chaff compared to the divine mystery.

The triplex via of naming God through reason--the focus of the present essay--is, according to Aquinas, the first feeble step in an infinitely superior three-tiered scheme, in which every human effort is surpassed by the revelation of the divine word, until finally the human mind is raised to beatific union with God. Aquinas states this succinctly in book 4 of the Contra Gentiles:
   There is in man a threefold knowledge of things divine. Of these,
   the first is that in which man, by the natural light of reason,
   ascends to a knowledge of God through creatures. The second is that
   by which the divine truth--exceeding the human intellect--descends
   on us in the manner of revelation, not, however, as something made
   clear to be seen, but as something spoken in words to be believed.
   The third is that by which the human mind will be elevated to gaze
   perfectly upon the things revealed. (64)


When Job speaks of the thunder of God's greatness he is referring, according to Aquinas, to the "third kind of knowledge, in which the first truth will be known, not as believed, but as seen.... Nor will the truth be set before man hidden under any veils, but will be entirely manifest." (65)

Ulrich of Strasbourg. Another of Albert the Great's Dominican pupils, the German theologian Ulrich of Strasbourg (1225-1277), who studied with Aquinas in Cologne (1248), elaborated five ways in which God is known by natural reason. First, the knowledge of God is implicit by natural instinct (naturalis instinctus) in the habitual light of the agent intellect--a similitude of God--and is actualized through the experience of causality. Ulrich's second, third, and fourth ways of natural reason correspond to the three ways of Dionysius: negation, causality (God is universally perfect), and eminence. (To these correspond in Dionysius the different modes of theology: symbolic, affirmative, and mystical.) Fifth, God is known through the conversion of the intellect to the divine light which is its source. (66)

Hemp of Ghent. Henry of Ghent (c. 1217-1293) relates Dionysius's triplex via to the tripartition of John Damascene (imaginibus, formis, et notis). (67) The existence of God is demonstrated through causality (primarily) and eminence, but not through negation, since affirmation can never follow from pure negations. (68) That which God is, however, is known through remotion and eminence. (69) Henry emphasizes remotion (more than Aquinas) as the essential prerequisite for all investigation into the divine quiddity; negations suggest an affirmation which is supremely true but incomprehensible to us, namely, the higher truth of preeminence. (70)

Duns Scotus. Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308), interprets the via negationis as the ultimate step within Dionysius's triplex via, (71) but rejects negation in the knowledge of God: "Negationes non summe amamus." (72) He demonstrates the infinity of God by efficient causality, intellectuality, final causality, and eminence. (73) His follower, Franciscus Mayronis (d. after 1328), discerns in the words of Dionysius four modes of arriving at knowledge of God: efficient causality, final causality, eminence, and remotion. (74) The via remotionis alone adequately establishes the infinity of divine being. (75) Also worthy of note are Giles of Rome (Aegidius Romanus) (76) and Richard of Middleton, both of whom drew on the triplex via with reference to Dionysius. (77)

Meister Eckhart. Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican theologian, cited Dionysius's triplex via in his sermon "Quasi vas auri solidum" ("Like a vase of solid gold"), preached in Paris on the feast of St. Augustine in 1303. (78) He partially recalled the wider triple perspective proposed by Alexander of Hales on the knowledge of God that is available to humans, namely, in the heavenly homeland (in patria), in prelapsarian innocence, and in our fallen state. (79) Eckhart contrasted our present knowledge (per speculum et in aenigmate) (80) with that bestowed through divine illumination (per speculum et in lumine). Knowledge of God in this life is acquired in three ways, through negation, eminence, and causality (fit tripliciter, scilicet ablatione, eminentia et causa), (81) and here Eckhart follows the order of Dionysius. First, since human knowledge is by sense and intellect, and God is incorporeal and without intelligible form, he can be known only through the removal (ablatio) of form: "distinctively select and selectively distinct from other things (quasi ab aliis eligendo separatur et separando eligitur)." (82) Eckhart quotes Dionysius that affirmations about God are inadequate, negations are true. (83) God is known, second, by eminence (eminentia) when what is more noble and eminent in all things is attributed to him. (84) Third, God is known through causality (causa vero cognoscitur) when changing things are reduced to the changeless, and multiplicity to simple unity: principium et causa est omnium. (85) God is pure unity--a negative notion (absence of division)--and all negation must be removed. The negation proper to him is negatio negationis (versagen des versagennes). (86) Such double negation, however, is the strongest affirmation of God: "The negation of negation is the kernel, purity and doubling of affirmation" (Negatio autem negationis medulla, puritas et geminatio est affirmati esse). (87) The negatio negationis rejoins, in negative form, the double affirmative of Exodus 3:14: "Ego sum qui sum." In both, through a complete selfreturn, the absolute identity of being is affirmed. (88) God is not just named through a double negation, but is himself the very negation of all negation. Through self-affirmation he sublimates all negation positively within himself as the fullness of being. (89)

Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), whose theology was greatly influenced by Meister Eckhart, referred to the triplex via of Dionysius in a sermon delivered in Koblenz on January 1, 1439, the feast of the circumcision of Our Lord. Taking as his theme the words from St. Luke, "Nomen eius Jesus," he reflected, appropriately for the occasion, on the mystery of the names given to God. Nicholas may have had in mind Eckhart's sermon in honor of St. Augustine when he enlisted the latter in support of Dionysius:
   Therefore, according to Dionysius, we ascend unto God in a
   threefold way. [First, we ascend] by way of perceptible things qua
   things caused. According to Augustine, this fact [holds true] for
   several reasons: either (a) because nothing has brought itself into
   existence, or (b) because from what is changeable we must come
   [inferentially] to what is unchangeable, from the imperfect we must
   come to the perfect, from what is good we must come to what is
   best, etc. Secondly, [we ascend] by way of eminence, so that we
   understand to be in the cause that which we find in the caused as
   perfecting the thing caused. Thirdly, [we ascend] by way of removal
   so that we remove from the excellence of the cause the defect which
   we find in what is caused. (90)


Nicholas elsewhere gives primacy to negation, (91) with its intention of eminence, (92) particularly in the sense of negatio negationum of Eckhart, whom he quoted, practically word for word, in a sermon on the feast of the Epiphany, 1456, in Brixen: (93) "No negation or privation is appropriate to God; proper to him and him alone is the negation of negation, which is the marrow and apex of most pure affirmation." (94) Ultimately, however, negation has as little value as affirmation, since all thought is circular. (95) God transcends both affirmation and negation in a coincidence of opposites, (96) beyond rational thinking which rests upon the principle of noncontradiction. Mystical theology (secretissima theologia) surpasses reason and alone is appropriate to divine darkness: (97) "Where not-being is the necessity-to-be, and where the name of all things nameable is ineffable, there ignorance is perfect knowledge." (98)

Denys the Carthusian. Approving the triplex via of Pseudo-Dionysius, (99) Denys the Carthusian (1402-1471) elaborates a fourfold path: affirmative, negative, causal, and eminent, distinguishing between the affirmative way (God is goodness, life, or substance) and the causal way (as their origin, God posseses all perfections revealed in creatures). These four ways, however, are reduced to two, since the causal way may be reduced to affirmation, and eminence to negation. (100)

Pico della Mirandola. The final exponent of the triplex via within the Platonist tradition is the famous Renaissance scholar Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). Pico writes in De Ente et Uno that while many things are affirmed and denied of him, "God is all things, and is all in a most eminent and perfect manner" ([Deus omnia est et eminentissime atque perfectissime est omnia). (101) In the ascent to the cloud of total ignorance--the beginning of true knowledge--there are, he proposes, four steps stressing different degrees of negation and eminence, which conclude that God surpasses the transcendental concepts of one, true, being, and good, as well as all other names which reason can conceive. (102)

Rene Descartes. The doctrine of the triplex via finds occasional expression also in modern thought, beginning with Descartes. (103) Etienne Gilson states that "[his] natural theology of divine attributes is clearly inspired by that of St. Thomas, from whom Descartes borrows the traditional elements (affirmative method, negative method, analogical value of attributes)." Gilson rightly remarks, however, that it is animated by a new spirit, (104) since it unfolds within an entirely different philosophical milieu. Having established the cogito as the ground of certainty, Descartes asks from where he has derived the concept of something more perfect than himself; he concludes that it must be caused "by a nature which was in reality more perfect than mine, and which even possessed within itself all the perfections of which I could form any idea; that is to say, in a single word, which was God." (105) Having established the existence of God as the necessary condition for the concept of perfection, Descartes considers in his Discourse the attributes which must pertain to the divine nature. (106) God, he notes, cannot possess any property that indicates imperfection, but must posssess every perfection. This assertion echoes the traditional theory of participation, here invoked to explain how ideas originate within the mind. "God exists and is a perfect being ... everything real and true within us comes from a perfect and infinite being." (107) God must possess all the perfect properties that I can conceive; these are refined of their imperfection and affirmed of God in their infinite degree.

Immanuel Kant. Most importantly in modern philosophy, Kant in his Lectures on Philosophical Theology (Vorlesung iiber Rationaltheologie) recalls the doctrine of the triplex via to clarify the notion of God as ens realissimum. According to Kant, we may readily apply to God those attributes pertaining to the concept of being in general, so-called ontological or transcendental predicates such as unity, simplicity, and infinity. Such concepts, however, are entirely abstract, whereas "if we are to ascribe predicates to God in concreto, we must take materials for the concept of God from empirical principles and empirical information" (aus empirischen Principien und Kenntnissen). (108) The question is how to "ascribe predicates to God which can be true only of objects of sense." (109) To resolve this problem Kant has recourse to the traditional triplex via. The via negationis and via eminentiae will determine the choice and quality of predicates:
   I must first proceed via negationis; that is, I must carefully
   separate out everything sensible inhering in my representation of
   this or that reality, and leave out everything imperfect and
   negative, and ascribe to God the pure reality which is left over.
   (110)


These are then applied to God "in the highest degree and with infinite significance. This is called proceeding per viam eminentiae. But I cannot proceed in this way unless I have first brought out the pure reality via negationis." (111) Kant explains that unless concepts are freed of their inherent limitation by means of the via negationis, and magnified infinitely by the via eminentiae, they remain anthropomorphisms. Having clarified the choice and quality of predicates, he explains how these predicates are to be ascribed: "This is the noble way of analogy" (Und dieses ist der herrliche Weg der Analogie). (112) He clarifies: "Analogy does not consist in an imperfect similarity of things to one another (in einer unvollkommenen Ahnlichkeit derDinge untereinander), as is commonly taken; for in this case that would be something very uncertain." (113) In other words, the analogy required is not one of similarity between God and empirical objects, but one of "perfect similarity of relations" (die vollkommene Ahnlichkeit der Verhaltnisse):
   We can then form a concept of God and of his predicates which will
   be so sufficient that we will never need anything more. But
   obviously we will not assume any relations of magnitude (for this
   belongs to mathematics); but rather we will assume a relation of
   cause to effect, or even better, of ground to its consequence, so
   as to infer in an entirely philosophical manner. For just as in the
   world one thing is regarded as the cause of another thing when it
   contains the ground for this thing, so in the same way we regard
   the whole world as a consequence of its ground in God, and argue
   from the analogy. (114)


In his introduction Kant drew heavily on Johann August Eberhard's Vorbereitung zur naturlichen Theologie, (115) but his lectures are largely an expansion of the Metaphysica of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, (116) who also employed the triplex via. Kant expressed a preference for Baumgarten's via analogiae (117) over Eberhard's via causalitatis.

The human race owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the sixteenth-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator. By designing a unique projection of the earth's globe that was entirely counterintuitive he provided sailors with a reliable method of navigation. The secret of Mercator's projection was a conscious but controlled distortion, representing the earth's spherical surface as if it were flat. His method was to project, as from the center of the globe, lines of latitude parallel to the equator and lines of longitude running north to south upon a chart tangential to the equator. The earth is thus portrayed as a cylinder rather than a sphere. The projection is a deliberate misrepresentation, but serves its purpose because it is consistent and consequential. Whereas in reality lines of longitude are curved and converge, Mercator depicted them as straight and parallel. Exploiting this distortion, a straight line represents with total exactitude the real course plotted by the mariner. To trace a journey by means of a curved line would be unfeasible. As it extends from the equator to the poles, however, the Mercator projection increasingly distorts size and shape, and distance becomes incommensurable.

Direction is identified on the Mercator map with the aid of a magnetized arrow pointing north. The compass bearing, however, is inconstant since the center of magnetic gravity revolves at a snail's pace around the north pole. But because the rate of inconstancy is consistent, the directional bearing can be modified with accuracy year after year; this is referred to as magnetic declination. If all this were not enough, further deviation is caused in most boats by ferrous metals that interfere with the magnetic pull of the compass; a corrective must be individually calculated for every vessel. Thus to chart his course correctly the navigator must take into account a threefold set of errors: the distortion of the Mercator chart, the declination from true north, and deviation caused by metal interference. Otherwise he could not correctly steer his vessel.

Aristotle remarked that a small action at the beginning of an activity can have great consequences at the finish: a small error may end in catastrophe. The slightest movement of the rudder causes the prow to turn and the boat to change course. (118) If I set sail from Piraeus with an incorrect bearing, I may land on Aegina instead of Salamis. This is not a major inconvenience since the distance is short, but if I set sail from Galway for Newfoundland with a faulty bearing, I might hit land on Tierra del Fuego. I must continually watch my bearing, compensating for distortion, declination, and deviation.

Mariners have for millennia harnessed the power of the wind in order to cross the seas. In early times the sail was tied at the edges, to form a billow that would catch the wind. A boat, however, could be sailed only in one direction, pushed by the wind from behind. The greatest advance in sailing, therefore, was the discovery of how to use the wind in order to sail against the wind. Combining the opposing forces of compression and depression, controlling the difference in windflow between static and dynamic pressure on either side of the sail, sailors could accurately control their course in any direction. It is not possible to sail directly into the wind: the boat must traverse obliquely, tacking back and forth, continually moving upwind in a series of maneuvers that counteract the opposing wind. In a perceptive observation Gottlieb Frege remarked: "Signs have the same importance for thought as for seafaring the discovery of using the wind to sail against the wind." (119) He was referring to the essence of language as symbolic. The analogy with maritime exploration is fitting.

On the Hill of the Muses, (120) on the opposite side of the Acropolis to the Areios Pagos where Dionysius heard St. Paul preach the unknown God, (121) an ancient graffito is carved into the rock: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "voice is word." Aristotle defined voice as "sound with meaning" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (122) Language is a material medium invested with metaphysical meaning; that is its marvel, in language words and wonders intertwine. Words encapsulate the sensible and intellectual unity of human nature; they epitomize man's impulse for self-transcendence. With sensible symbols he seeks to surpass the limits of the material world, to assert what is unlimited and universal, at times even the absolute and transcendent. There is an inner tension between the sensible quality of the symbol and the metaphysical meaning it seeks to convey. Meaning struggles with the physical sign; its tension derives from the dual character of symbol, and the impetus to assert a nonmaterial meaning anchored in a material sign.

Our human language is inadequate to express the reality of the divine; this merely reflects to an infinite degree the intrinsic insufficiency of words to convey, even symbolically, the real nature of anything. Like the art of sailing which utilizes the opposing power of the wind to overcome the wind itself, conscious of the threefold error of its navigational method, the triplex via of divine names is an attempt through the linguistic strategies of affirmation, denial, and hyperbole to overcome the limits of language itself. Correcting its inbuilt errancy and deviance, it extrapolates beyond the given coordinates to assert an unknown reality beyond the realm that can be charted.

Of its nature language is oriented toward its own transcendence. This intentional character lies at the heart of all knowledge and symbol. Paradoxically, the highest achievement of language is to signify a reality that it cannot fully express. Herein lies the dialectic at the heart of language whereby it seeks to overcome its limits and complement its inadequacy in the face of the real which it fails adequately to comprehend. The transcendence of what is to be said, beyond what can be uttered, reaches deeply into the nature both of language and thought in their relationship to reality. The power of self-transcendence that we detect in language is symptomatic of man's capacity to reach beyond himself, to affirm and explore the other as always something more. This occurs across the panorama of human challenge: in humor, historical inquiry, in all promise or commitment of hope to the future. At its most acute it occurs in face of the deepest questions of human existence, or when we struggle to express the highest realities.

With good reason Arthur Koestler chose the term "oceanic sense" (borrowed from Freud, who used it only to belittle the experience as infantile) to describe the overwhelming feeling that one belongs to something ineffable and immeasurably greater than oneself. (123) Understandably the physical experience of finding oneself upon the vast horizonless seascape may provoke such a sensation. Nicholas of Cusa attributed the inspiration for his most famous tract, De Docta Ignorantia, to an overwhelming illumination that occurred during a stormy voyage to Venice during the winter of 1437-38 in the company of the emperor and patriarch of Constantinople en route to the Council of Florence. In his dedication of the treatise to his patron Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini, Cusanus wrote:
   Accept now, Reverend Father, what for so long I desired to attain
   by different paths of learning but previously could not, until
   returning by sea from Greece when by what I believe was a celestial
   gift from the Father of Lights, from whom comes every perfect gift,
   I was led to embrace incomprehensibles incomprehensibly in learned
   ignorance, by transcending those incorruptible truths that can be
   humanly known. (124)


His modern biographer, Erich Meuthen, suggests that Cusanus was profoundly moved by the sense of his own infinitesimal insignificance amidst the immensity of the ocean during that tumultuous voyage. (125) Overawed by the infinity of the ocean, in contrast to his own minuteness, Cusanus emphasized in De Docta Ignorantia the dissimilarity between finite and infinite, between which there is no proportion. In this work, greatly indebted to Pseudo-Dionysius, he strove to articulate the illumination born of an experience that eluded the grasp of normal conceptual expression.

Six centuries before Cusanus set sail from Constantinople on his historic voyage to Venice, Johannes Scottus abandoned caution to the waves as he embarked on a journey from Ireland to Gaul, the open Atlantic being far more treacherous than the sheltered shores of the Mediterranean. This voyage likely suggested the image of seafaring to describe the challenge involved in describing "the return of all things into that nature which neither creates nor is created" (reditum omnium in earn naturam quae nec creat nec creatur). The earlier parts of his treatise by comparison
   seem like a smooth sea upon which, because of the calmness of the
   waves, readers could sail without fear of shipwreck, steering a
   safe course. Now, however, we enter upon a voyage where the course
   has to be picked from a mass of tortuous digressions, where we have
   to climb the steeps of obscure doctrines, encounter the region of
   the Syrtes, that is to say, the dangers of the currents of
   unfamiliar teaching, ever in immediate danger of shipwreck from the
   obscurity of the subtlest intellects, which like concealed rocks
   may suddenly split our vessel. Nevertheless, with the mercy of God
   as our captain and steersman and our sails filled with the
   propitious wind of his divine spirit, we shall pick through all
   these dangers the true and safe course, and reach the harbour which
   we seek, free and unhurt after a smooth voyage.


The pupil responds:
   Let us spread sail, then, and set out to sea. For reason, not
   inexperienced in these waters, fearing neither the threats of the
   waves nor divagations nor the Syrtes nor rocks, shall speed our
   course: indeed she finds it sweeter to exercise her skill in the
   hidden straits of the ocean of divinity (in abditis divini oceani)
   than idly to bask in smooth and open waters, where she cannot
   display her power. (126)


Plato's motif of the great sea of beauty, (127) in which the soul loses itself in ecstatic union, no doubt inspired the Irish thinker to contemplate the ocean of divinity and the perils of navigating its profound mysteries. (128) Notwithstanding the panoply of linguistic ploys and the merits of a three-tiered strategy to name the divinity, Eriugena saw that reason's ultimate achievement is to recognize its own inadequacy for the task: "Nothing can properly be said about God, since he surpasses every intellect and all sensible and intelligible meanings; he is better known through unknowing, of him ignorance is the true wisdom." (129) For Scottus and those thinkers whom we have considered, the supreme accomplishment of language is to express its own inability to articulate the ultimate mystery. They would doubtless agree with Plutarch that speech we learn from men, but silence from the gods. (130)

University College Dublin

Correspondence to: orourke@ucd.ie.

(1) Arthur C. Clarke, Collected Stories (New York: Tom Doherty, 2001), 418.

(2) Clarke, Stories, 420.

(3) Ibid., 422.

(4) Heraclitus, frag. 60: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." All translations are the author's, unless otherwise indicated.

(5) Heraclitus, frag. 32: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(6) Euripides, The Trojan Women, 11. 884-88: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(7) Xenophanes, frags. 15, 16. Translation from Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 22.

(8) Politics 1.2.1252b26-7: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Translation from Harris Rackham (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 9.

(9) Metaphysics 12.8.1074b3-7: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(10) According to John Dillon, "Alcinous may not be a very distinguished philosophical mind, but his book does read like the work of a committed and well-informed Platonist." John Dillon, Alcinous: The Handbook of Platonism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), xii.

(11) Alcinous, Didaskalikos 10.165.16-34. Translation is Dillon's, ibid., 18-19. See also John Whittaker, Alcinoos. Enseignement des doctrines de Platon (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1990), 106. Still maintaining the earlier--since revised--attribution of the work to Albinus, Hampus Lyttkens has written: "Undoubtedly, [Alcinous's] three ways of learning to know God are the beginnings of the doctrine of the 'three ways'--via negationis, via causalitatis, and via eminentiae--later propounded by Dionysius Areopagita and the medieval theologians. Even if [Alcinous's] three ways cannot be directly identified with these, there are important agreements. [Alcinous] does not examine the relation of negative to positive knowledge of God. His second and third ways are moreover later merged into one, thereby giving to analogy a richer content. Notwithstanding these and other differences, however, [Alcinous] must be said to have introduced the material used by subsequent Christian theologians in their attempt to describe what characterizes our knowledge of God." Hampus Lyttkens, The Analogy between God and the World: An Investigation of Its Background and Interpretation of Its Use by Thomas of Aquino (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1953), 104-05. See also 103.

(12) Origen, Contra Celsum, ed. Marcel Borret, Origene contre Celse (Paris: Cerf, 1969), 7.42, pp. 110-12: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Italics in original. Origen, Contra Celsum, trans. Henry Chadwick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 429-30. Italics in original.

(13) Origen, Contra Celsum, trans. Borret, 7.44, p. 116: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. See Plato, Philebus 64c: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Trans. Chadwick, 431-32.

(14) Origen, Contra Celsum, ed. Borret, 7.42, p. 112. See trans. Chadwick, 429-30; Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 19; Andre-Jean Festugiere, La revelation d'Hermes Tmsmegiste, IV, Le dieu inconnu et la gnose (Paris: Lecoffre, 1954), 115-23. For references to elements of the threefold approach in Maximus of Tyre, Diss. 11.6-12 H, see Festugiere, 109-15; also Hans Joachim Kramer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik (Amsterdam: Griiner, 1967), 105-8. On Clement of Alexandria see Raoul Mortley, Connaissance religieuse et hermeneutique chez Clement d'Alexandrie (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 86-102. For parallels in Origen, see Hal Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis: Studien uber Ongenes und sein Verhaltnis zum Platonismus (Berlin & Leipzig: de Gruyter, 1932), 256-58; Giuseppe Invemizzi, Il Didaskalikos di Albino (Rome: Abete, 1976), vol. 1, chap. 5; vol. 2, pp. 131-33.

(15) John Dillon, The Middle Platonists (London: Duckworth, 1977), 284. In this work Dillon attributes the Didaskalikos to the second-century Middle-Platonist philosopher Albinus, pupil of Gaius and teacher of Galen; compare Dillon, Alcinous, 268. In the introduction to his translation of the Handbook, he accepts the arguments of John Whittaker for reassigning it to Alcinous; see ibid., ix-xiii.

(16) Timaeus 31c.

(17) Republic 508b-509b.

(18) Republic 505a2: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(19) Republic 505d11-e3: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(20) Symposium 210a-d.

(21) Seventh Letter. See Reginald Eldred Witt, Albinus and the History of Middle Platonism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 132; here Witt refers to Republic 508b, Symposium 208e, and Seventh Letter 341c-d. See Werner Beierwaltes, Platonismus im Christentum (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1998), 135-37. Deirdre Carabine remarks: "There is no transcendent, unknowable God in Plato, but there is a hint of the idea of a transcendent, unknowable good.... On the basis of the texts where Plato uses negative terms to describe the highest reality, I think it is possible to say that the good and beauty are, each in some way, transcendent and indescribable. The final condition necessary for a fully-developed negative theology, that of the unknowability of the highest cause, is not explicit in Plato's philosophy." Deirdre Carabine, The Unknown God, Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition: Plato to Eriugena (Leuven: Peeters, 1995), 33-34.

(22) Enneads 6.7.36.6-8: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Translation, slightly modified, from Arthur H. Armstrong (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006).

(23) Witt, Albinus and the History of Middle Platonism, 133.

(24) Divine Names 7, 3. PG 3, 869D-872A. Corpus Dionysiacum I, ed. Beata R. Suchla (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990), 197-98: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(25) Mystical Theology 1.2. PG 3, IOOOB. Corpus Dionysiacum II, ed. Beata R. Suchla (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990), 143: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Translation from Colm Luibheid, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1987), 136.

(26) Mystical Theology 1048B; Corpus Dionysiacum II, 150: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. My translation, after Rolt and Luibheid.

(27) See Rene Roques, Denys L'Areopagite: La Hierarchie Celeste (Paris: Cerf, 1970), xxvi-xxvii: "Il faut que la negation ait penetre au coeur meme de l'affirmation pour que l'affirmation vaille. Et c'est dans cette affirmation transcendante et purifiee que la negation elle-meme se justifie. Par la, la theologie negative se presente comme une theologie eminente ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), comme la vraie theologie de la Transcendance."

(28) See Carabine, The Unknown God, 301-22.

(29) Periphyseon I, 461 A.

(30) Periphyseon I, 461BC: "Nam cum ad perfectae ratiocinationis contuitum perveneris, satis clarum considerabis haec duo quae videntur inter se esse contraria millo modo sibimet opponi dum circa divinam naturam versantur, sed per omnia in omnibus sibi invicem consentiunt."

(31) Periphyseon I, 517C: "Haec enim omnia pulchra ineffabilique armonia in unam concordiam colligit atque componit. Nam quae in partibus universitatis opposita sibimet videntur atque contraria et a se invicem dissona, dum in generalissima ipsius universitatis armonia considerantur convenientia consonaque stmt." Translation from I. P. Sheldon-Williams, lohannis Scotti Eriugenae Periphyseon I (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1968), 207.

(32) Penphyseon I, 462C: "Haec nomina quae adiectione 'super' vel 'plus quam' particularum de deo praedicantur, ut est superessentialis plus quam veritas plus quam sapientia et similia, duarum praedictarum theologiae partium in se plenissime sint comprehensiva, ita ut in pronuntiatione formam affirmativae, intellectu vero virtutem abdicativae obtineat."

(33) Periphyseon I, 14, 462 C-D; see III, 663C, 684D-685A.

(34) Periphyseon III, 681A: "Dum ergo incomprehensibilis intelligitur per excellentiam nihilum non immerito vocitatur"; V, 897D: "qui propter superessentialitatem suae naturae nihil dicitur."

(35) Periphyseon III, 684D-685A. Translation from I. P. Sheldon-Williams, Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae Periphyseon III (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1981), 175-77. See Super Ierarchiam Caelestem S. Dionusii, 154B-156C.

(36) Periphyseon III, 663C: "Negatio enim verbi per excellentiam naturae, non autem per privationem substantiae in theologia reperitur." Translation from Sheldon-Williams, Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae Periphyseon III, 129.

(37) Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae Carmina, ed. Michael W. Herren (Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies, 1993), 64: "Est <quod>, quod non est, te colit omne super."

(38) Eriugenae Carmina, 86: "Est, non est, super est, qui praestitit omnibus esse, / Qui regit atque tenet totum, quod condidit ipse, / Totus per totum qui nullis partibus haeret, / Cuius summa procul cunctis natura remota, / Cum sit cunctorum substans essentia simplex. / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(39) See Nikolaus M. Haring, "Die Theologische Sprachlogik der Schule von Chartres im zwolften Jahrhundert," in Miscellanea Mediaevalia 13.2 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1981), 930-36.

(40) Tractatus de trinitate, 26. See Contra Euthychen 59-62: "Est autem theologia de summo deo duplex: est per affirmationem quando scilicet aliqua deo attribuantur per similitudinem: et est per negationem quando a deo aliqua removentur per privationem." See Commentarius Victorinus, De Trinitate, in Commentaries on Boethius by Thierry of Chartres and his School, ed. Nikolaus M. Haring (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1971).

(41) Celestial Hierarchy II, 3, 141A: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. See Hugh of Saint Victor, PL 175,974B; Alanus de Insulis, PG 210,630AB; Simon of Tournai, Exposuio Symboli VI, 17, ed. Nikolaus M. Haring, Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 43 (1976): 178-89.

(42) Sententiae in TV libris distinctae, 2 vols., ed. Ignatius Brady (Grottarerrata: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1971-1981). Peter Lombard, The Sentences, 4 vols., trans. Giulio Silano (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2007-2010).

(43) Glossa in Quatuor Libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi I (Quarrachi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1951), 39: "Et sic per haec tria: ablationem, eminentiam et causam, notat triplicem modum cognoscendi; per ablationem, sicut negative: non est hoc, non est illud etc.; per eminentiam, optimum in unoquoque sibi attribuendum; causa, in quantum resolvimus mobilia ad immobile, essentias ad summum esse."

(44) Summa Theologica I-II (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1924), inq. 1, tract, un., q. 1, cap. 2, art. 1, vol. 1, no. 334, p. 495a: "Et tangit triplicem modum intelligendi sive nominandi Deum: ablatione, eminentia et causa. Unus enim modus est per ablationem sive abnegationem, sicut cum dicitur aetemus, immensus: et hic modus est a comparatione divini esse ad creaturam secundum differentiam; alius modus per eminentiam, sicut cum dicitur superexistens, optimus et huiusmodi: et hic modus est a comparatione divini esse ad creaturam secundum convenientiam quae est per proportionem, secundum communem animi conceptionem 'optimum in unoquoque est Deo tribuendum'; tertius modus est per causam, sicut cum dicitur 'Deus', quod imponitur ab operatione, sicut elicit Damascenus, potens, sapiens et huiusmodi: et hoc sumitur ex comparatione divini esse ad creaturam secundum comparationem quae est effectus ad causam." Compare Glossa Sent. I. d. 3. 3. f., 39. In Summa Theologica II Alexander offers another threefold perspective on human knowledge of God: "Triplex enim est cognitio, scilicet per speciem et lumen, per speculum et in lumine, per speculum in aenigmate: prima est patriae, secunda erat in statu innocentiae, tertia in statu natura lapsae." Summa Theologica II-I (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1928), inq. 4, tract. 3, q. 3, tit. 2, cap. 1, art. 1, vol. 2, no. 512, p. 753a. See 752b: "Unde videre per speculum est videre per creaturas aliquas, in quibus similitudo Dei relucet." It is now accepted that Alexander's Summa is a later compilation by a number of editors based on the writings of Alexander. See Kenan Osborne, "Alexander of Hales," in The History of Franciscan Theology, ed. Kenan B. Osborne (St. Bonaventure, N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute, 1994), 1-38.

(45) Summa Theologica I, q. 2, membrum 1, cap. 2, n. 9, vol. 1, p. 17: "Dicendum quod est cognitio de Deo per modum positionis et per modum privationis. Per modum privationis cognoscimus de Deo quid non est; per modum positionis cognoscimus quid est. Divina ergo substantia in sua immensitate non est cognoscibilis ab anima rationali cognitione positiva, sed est cognoscibilis cognitione privativa."

(46) Summa Theologica I-II, inq. 2, tract. 1, q. 4, cap. 1, resp., vol. 1, no. 369, p. 547: "Est considerare dupliciter nomen Dei: aut quantum ad significatum aut quantum ad modum significandi. Considerando significatum, omnia huiusmodi nomina, sive operationis sive privationis sive consequentia naturam sive habitudinis, ostendunt naturam. Considerando vero modum significandi qui est sicut in creatura, dicit Damascenus quod non significant naturam, sed consequentia naturam, quia ad similitudinem dicuntur eorum quae sequuntur naturam in creaturis et non significant substantiam, sed proprietatem substantiae: significant enim divinam naturam ut qualitatem sive ut habitum." Also I Sent., d. 22, q. 2. See Simon of Tournai (c. 1130-1216), Expositio Symboli, 6, 20: "Deus ergo proprie est bonus sed improprie dicitur bonus ut sit proprietas essendi, non dicendi." Ed. Nikolaus M. Haring, Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 43 (1976): 178.

(47) Summa Theologica I-II, n. 369, p. 547b: "Quia ergo nomen positivum in divinis acceptum est ab effectu, ideo dicitur quantum ad modum significandi non significare naturam."

(48) I Sent., d. 22, q. 2 (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1882), 393: "Nam Deus innotescit nobis tripliciter, scilicet per causalitatem, per ablationem et per excellentiam; et secundum hoc est multitudo nominum. Si enim nominentur per causalitatem, multa sunt nomina, quia multos habet effectus; si per ablationem, multa sunt nomina, quia multa removentur, scilicet omnia creata; si per excellentiam, multa, quia in multis, in onmibus scilicet conditionibus nobilitatis, excedit creaturas. See I Sent., d. 22, q. 3, 396: "Cum enim nos cognoscamus Deum tripliciter, scilicet per effectum, per excellentiam et per ablationem, constat quod omnibus his modis contingit Deum nominare. Si per effectum, nulla est ibi translatio; similiter, si per ablationem, quoniam translatio attenditur secundum aliquam similitudinem; omnes enim transferentes secundum aliquam similitudinem transferant." In De triplici via, Bonaventure deals with a distinct triplex via (purgatio, illuminatio, perfectio), also of Neoplatonic--especially Dionysian--inspiration.

(49) I Sent., d. 22, q. 2, 393: "Dicendum, quod in nomine tria sunt, scilicet vox et significado et ratio innotescendi.... Aliquando nomen accipitur pro re significata, ut cum dicitur: bonum et honestum sunt idem nomine; et sic in divinis quodam modo est dicere nomen unum, quodam modo plura. Si enim res significata dicatur essentialiter, sic omnia unum; si personaliter, sic plures et plura nomina correspondentia. Aliquando nomen accipitur pro ipso notamine sive ratione innotescendi; et sic dicendum, quod quodam modo nomen unum, quodam modo plura. Si enim accipitur ratio innotescendi ex parte Dei, sic innotescit per virtutem, quae una et magna est; et sic unum nomen Dei est et magnum sive maximum.... Si autem accipiatur ratio innotescendi ratione effectuum sive creaturaram, sic diversa sunt nomina." I Sent., d. 22, q. 3, 397: "Quaedam sunt nomina, quae significant rem, cuius veritas est in Deo et oppositum in creatura, ut immensus et aetemus; et taha millo modo transferantur, nec secundum rem, nec secundum impositionem. Quaedam significat rem, cuius veritas est in Deo et similitudo eius in creatura, ut potentia, sapientia et voluntas; et taha nomina transferantur a creaturis ad Deum, non secundum rem, sed secundum impositionem; quia prius imposita sunt creaturis quam Deo, licet prius sunt in Deo. Quaedam sunt nomina, quae significant rem, cuius veritas est in creatura et consimilis proprietas in Deo, ut lapis et leo--res enim significata est in creatura, sed similitudo proprietatis, ut stabilitas et fortitudo in Deo est."

(50) Summa Theologica, tract. 14, q. 59, Opera Omnia 31 (Paris: Vives, 1895), 595.

(51) Super Dionysium De Divinis Nominibus 7, Opera Omnia 37/1 (Munster: Aschendorff, 1972), 358. See Summa Theologica, tract. 3, q. 16, vol. 31, 112; Summa Theologica, tract. 14, q. 59, vol. 31, 595. See Francis J. Catania, "'Knowable' and 'Namable' in Albert the Great's Commentary on the Divine Names," in Albert the Great: Commemorative Essays, ed. Francis J. Kovach and Robert J. Sheehan (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980); Edouard Weber, "Negativite et Causalite: leur articulation dans l'apophatisme de l'ecole d'Albert le Grand," in Albertus Magnus und der Albertismus: Deutsche philosophische Kultur des Mittelalters, ed. Maarten J. F. M. Hoenen and Alain de Libera (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 51-90.

(52) See Michael B. Ewbank, "Diverse Orderings of Dionysius's Triplex Via by St. Thomas Aquinas," Mediaeval Studies 52 (1990): 82-109; Fran O'Rourke, Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 31-41.

(53) Scriptum Super Libros Sententiorum I, ed. Mandonnet (Paris: Lethielleux, 1929), 88.

(54) Prooemium, In Librum De Divinis Nominibus, ed. Ceslai Pera (Turin: Marietti, 1950), 1.

(55) In de Causis, I, 6; De potentia, 7, 5, ad 2; In I Sent. 22, 1, 2, ad 1. See Jean Durantel, St. Thomas et le Pseudo-Denys (Paris: Alcan, 1919), 73-74; O'Rourke, Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas, 50-51.

(56) In Librum De Divinis Nominibus 2, lect. 2, n. 143, p. 46.

(57) Prooemium, In Librum De Divinis Nominibus, 1.

(58) In Librum De Divinis Nominibus 1, lect. 3, n. 82, pp. 27-28: "Non enim est ignota propter obscuritatem, sed propter abundantiam claritatis."

(59) In I Sent., 34, 3, 1. De veritate 8, 1, ad 8.

(60) ST I, q. 13, a. 3.

(61) Summa contra gentiles, bk. 1, c. 2: "Ego hoc vel praecipuum vitae meae officium debere me Deo conscius sum, ut eum omnis sermo meus et sensus loquatur." The text is from De Trinitate, 1, 37.

(62) Job 26:14: "Ecce, haec ex parte dicta sunt viarum eius, et cum vix parvam stillam sermonum eius audiverimus, quis poterit tonitruum magnitudinis eius intueri." Greek: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(63) Super Iob, cap. 26: "Quasi dicat: omnium quae nunc dicta sunt de effectibus divinae potentiae, minor est comparatio ad divinam potentiam quam unius parvi sermonis quasi silenter stillantis ad maximum tonitrui sonum."

(64) Summa contra gentiles, bk. 4, c. 1: "Est igitur triplex cognitio hominis de divinis. Quarum prima est secundum quod homo naturali lumine rationis, per creaturas in Dei cognitionem ascendit. Secunda est prout divina veritas, intellectum humanum excedens, per modum revelationis in nos descendit, non tamen quasi demonstrata ad videndum, sed quasi sermone prolata ad credendum. Tertia est secundum quod mens humana elevabitur ad ea quae sunt revelata perfecte intuenda."

(65) Summa contra gentiles, bk. 4, c. 1: "Ad tertiam cognitionem pertinet, qua prima veritas cognoscetur, non sicut credita, sed sicut visa: videbimus enim eum sicuti est, ut dicitur I loan. 3: 2.... Non autem proponetur veritas homini aliquibus velaminibus occultata, sed omnino manifesta."

(66) De Summo Bono I, ed. Burkhard Mojsisch (Hamburg: Meiner, 1989), cap. 3-7, 10-20. See Alain de Libera, Introduction a la mystique rhenane d'Albert le Grand a Maitre Eckhart (Paris: OEIL, 1984), 104-12.

(67) Summa, art. 20, q. 1, ed. Parisiis 1520, 1, fol. 120vT.

(68) Summa, art. 22, q. 1, fol. 130rO; art. 22, q. 4, fol. 132vL;

(69) Summa, art. 24, q. 4, fol. 140rE; art. 24, q. 6, fol. 142vS; art. 24, q. 6, fol. 143rV-Y; art. 24, q. 7, fol. 144rF.

(70) Summa (Quaestiones ordinariae), art. 32, q. 4, Opera Omnia 27, ed. Raymond Macken (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1991), 61, 68-9.

(71) Ordinatio I, d. 8, p. 1, q. 3 (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1956) 172, n. 49.

(72) Ordinatio I, d. 3, p. 1, q. 1 (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1954) 5, n. 10.

(73) Ordinatio I, d. 2, p. 1, q. 2 (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950) 189, n. 111.

(74) Sent. I, d. 2, q. 8, 19K. In Libros Sententiarum (Venice, 1520; Frankfurt am Main, 1966).

(75) Sent. I, d. 2, q. 8, 20AB.

(76) In Librum Sententiarum (Venice, 1591; Frankfurt am Main, 1968), dist. 22, 4, fol. 121.

(77) Super Quatuor Libros Sententiarum (Brixiae, 1591; Frankfurt am Main, 1963), lib. 1, dist. 22, art. 1, q. 2, 203.

(78) See Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher, ed. Bernard McGinn (New York: Paulist Press, 1986).

(79) See n. 44 above.

(80) See 1 Corinthians 13:12: "Videmus nunc per speculum et in aenigmate ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), tunc autem facie ad faciem."

(81) Sermo die Beati Augustini Parisius habitus, Lateinische Werke 5, ed. Bernhard Geyer (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1936), p. 92, 11. 3-5.

(82) Sermo die Beati Augustini, p. 92, 11. 6-11: "Ablatione in hunc modum procedendo: nullum corpus est deus; nullum intelligibile creatum est deus. Et cum demonstrado de re cognoscibile fiat ad sensum vel ad intellectum, de deo autem cognoscendo non potest fieri demonstrado ad sensum, quia est incorporeus, nec ad intellectum, quia forma nobis cognita caret, sed per solam alterius formae remotionem: quasi ab aliis eligendo separatur et separando eligitur."

(83) Sermo die Beati Augustini, p. 92, 11. 13-15: "Unde Dionysius dicit quod affirmationes de deo factae vel dictae incompactae sunt, negationes vero verae."

(84) Sermo die Beati Augustini, p. 93, 11. 1-2: "Eminentia cognoscitur, quando in unoquoque, quod nobilius est et eminentius, deo attribuitur."

(85) Sermo die Beati Augustini, p. 93, 11. 6-9.

(86) Deutsche Werke 1, ed. Josef Quint (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1936), p. 361, 1. 10. Deutsche Werke 1, p. 364, 11. 1-4: "In dem daz ich gote versage etwaz--versage ich gote guete, ich enmac gote niht versagen--in dem daz ich gote versage, da begrife ich etwaz von im, daz emiht enist; daz selbe muoz abe. Got ist ein, er ist ein versagen des versagennes." See Werner Beierwaltes, Proklos (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1979), 395-98; also Beierwaltes, Platonismus im Christentum, 112-13.

(87) Exp. in Io., c., f. 121. See Exp. in Ex., c., f. 46; Exp. in Io., Lateinische Werke 3, ed. Albert Zimmermann (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1994), p. 175, n. 207, 11. 5-9: "Et propter hoc ipsi [Deo] nulla privatio aut negatio convenit, sed propria est sibi, et sibi soli, negatio negationis, quae est medulla et apex purissimae affirmationis, secundum illud: 'ego sum qui sum', Exodi 3." See Armand Maurer, Master Eckhart, Parisian Questions and Prologues (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1974), 32-33. In Exodum, Lateinische Werke 2, ed. Konrad Weiss (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer), p. 77, n. 74,11. 9-12: "Nulla ergo negatio, nihil negativum deo competit, nisi negatio negationis, quam significat unum negative dictum: 'deus unus est'. Negatio vero negationis purissima et plenissima est affirmatio: ego sum qui sum."

(88) Lateinische Werke 2, pp. 77-78; Lateinische Werke 3, p. 175.

(89) Beierwaltes, Platonismus im Christentum, 114. See Werner Beierwaltes, Platonismus und Idealismus (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1972), 12-67.

(90) Nomen eius Jesus, Sermo XX, ed. Heidelberg, XVI/3, 303: "Quare triplici via secundum Dionysium ad Deum ascendimus, scilicet ab istis visibilibus ut a causatis, et hoc multiplici argumento secundum Augustinum: aut quia nihil se ipsum produxit, aut quia de mobili ad immobile pervenire necesse est, de imperfecto ad perfectum, de bono ad optimum, etc.; secundo per eminentiam, ut in causa id eminenter comprehendamus, quod in causato reperitur ipsum causatum perficiens; tertio per remotionem, ut defectum, quem reperimus in causato, ab eminentia causae removeamus." Translation from Jasper Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa's Early Sermons: 1430-1441 (Loveland, Col.: Arthur J. Banning, 2003), 330. On affirmative theology see De Docta Ignorantia, I, c. 24; for negative theology, De Docta Ignorantia, I, c. 26.

(91) Sermo 'Dies sanctificatus', bd. XVI/4, 338, De Beryllo, XI/1, cap. xi, 12.

(92) De Venatione Sapientiae, XXII, 62.

(93) See Nikolaus von Cues, Vom Nichtanderen, ed. and trans. Paul Wilpert (Hamburg: Meiner, 1952), 171.

(94) Sermo 216: "Unde Deo nulla convenit negatio seu privatio, sed propria est sibi et sibi soli negationis negatio, quae est medulla et apex purissimae affirmationis, secundum illud: "Ego sum qui sum", Exodi 3." Cited from Cusanus portal of University of Trier, http://urts99.uni-trier.de/cusanus/ content/werke.php. Accessed 12 June 2015. Listed as Sermo 213 by J. Koch, Sitzb. Ak. Heid. 1936/7. Numbers revised by Rudolf Haubst in vol. 16 of Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia (Hamburg: Meiner, 1991), xlvii-lv. See n. 87 above for Eckhart's text.

(95) De Docta Ignorantia, I, c. 21; II, c. 3

(96) De li Non Aliud, ed. Heidelberg, XIII, c. 4, 9.

(97) Brief an Caspar Aindorffer, ed. E. Vansteenberghe, "Autour de la docte ignorance," Beitrage zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalte?'s 14 (1915): 114. See Non Aliud, c. 8,17. Trialogus De Possest, XI/2, n. 53. See Beierwaltes, Platonismus im Christentum, 130-71.

(98) Trialogus De Possest, XI/2, n. 53: "Ibi ignorantia est perfecta scientia, ubi non-esse est essendi necessitas, ubi ineffabile est nomen omnium nominabilium."

(99) In I Sent., d. 22, q. 2, Opera Omnia 20 (Tournai: Typis Cartusiae S. M. de Pratis, 1902), 140B. Commentaria in Librum De Divinis Nominibus, cap. 7, art. 77, Opera Omnia 16, 258A'; Difficultatum Praecipuarum Absolutiones, art. 2, Opera Omnia, 488B.

(100) De Natura Aetemi et Veri Dei, art. 13, Opera Omnia 34 (1907), 26C'-27C'. See also art. 30-31, 51D-55B; Elem. Theol., Opera Omnia 33 (1907), 119A-C; De Contemplatione, Liber 3, art. 4, Opera Omnia 41 (1912), 258B'-259C. See also Commentaria in Librum De Mystica Theologia, Opera Omnia 16, 450A'-C'.

(101) De Ente et Uno, ed. Andre-Jean Festugiere, Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 7 (1932): 214.

(102) De Ente et Uno, 214-16.

(103) Given his predilection for triadic models of thinking, it is not surprising that scholars have sought echoes (at least) in Hegel of the triplex via. Transposed modes of negation and eminence certainly operate within his system, but there are no real correspondences with the traditional triplex via. As Chapelle has remarked, "les perspectives de Hegel et de Thomas d'Aquin demeurent irreductibles". See Albert Chapelle, Hegel et la religion II. La dialectique (Paris: Ed. universitaires, 1967), 43 n. 63. See Emilio Brito: Dieu et l'etre d'apres Thomas d'Aquin et Hegel (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1991), 57-83.

(104) Rene Descartes, Discours de la Methode, with commentary by Etienne Gilson (Paris: Vrin, 1930), 336-37: "Cette theologie naturelle des attributs de Dieu est manifestement inspiree de celle de saint Thomas, dont Descartes conserve les elements traditionnels (methode affirmative, methode negative, valeur analogique des attributs). Mais elle est animee d'un esprit nouveau." For an exhaustive list of Descartes's treatment of divine attributes and possible sources in Aquinas see Gilson, Index Scolastico-Cartesien (Paris: Alcan, 1913), 79-81.

(105) Discours de la Methode, AT 6:34: "il restait qu'elle eut ete mise en moi par une nature qui fut veritablement plus parfaite que je n'etais, et meme qui eut en soi toutes les perfections dont je pouvais avoir quelque idee, c'est a dire, pour m'expliquer en un mot, qui fut Dieu."

(106) See Discours de la Methode, AT 6:35. See also AT 7:137.

(107) Discours de la Methode, AT 6:38-39: "Dieu est ou existe, et qu'il est un etre parfait, et que tout ce qui est en nous vient de lui.... tout ce qui est en nous de reel et de vrai vient d'un etre parfait et infini."

(108) Ak XXVIII: 1020. Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion, in Immanuel Kant, Religion and Rational Theology, trans. Allen W. Wood and George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 364.

(109) Lectures on Philosophical Doctrine of Religion, 365.

(110) Ibid. See Ak XXVIII: 1021: "Daher muss ich zuerst via negationis verfahren, d.h. ich muss alies Sinnliche, was meinen Vorstellungen von dieser oder jener Realitat inhariret, sorgfaltig absondem, alies Unvollkommene, alies Negative weglassen, und das reine Reale, was iibrig bleibt, Gott beilegen."

(111) Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion, 366.

(112) Ibid.

(113) Ibid.

(114) Ibid., 366-67.

(115) Compare Ak XXVIII:1033. Johann August Eberhard (1739-1809) was professor of philosophy at Halle. A rationalist follower of Christian Wolff, he was Kant's most severe critic, disputing the status of synthetic a priori cognition and questioning the originality of the Critique of Pure Reason. Eberhard's theology was typical of the kind Kant wanted to replace with his own moral theology. In the section of his Vorbereitung entitled "Drei Arten der Bestimmungen in Gott" (26), Eberhard writes: "Was wir also Gott beilegen, das legen wir ihm 1) durch Vemeinung (via negationis), 2) durch Erhebung, auf eine vorzugliche Art, oder in unendlich ausnehmender Bedeutung (via eminentiaef 3) durch den Weg der Causalitat (via causalitatis) bei." Kant wrote the following Reflection ([section] 6286) on this passage in Eberhard: "Der Deist legt dem enti summo nur alie Realitat in abstracto bei, aber keine in concreto. Wie soli nun der Theist verfahren, urn sie in concreto Gott beizulegen? Wir verfahren mit der Wahl der Realitaten via tam negationis quam eminentiae, aber in der Art, wie wir dem hochsten Wesen die Realitaten in concreto beilegen, secundum analogia. Per analogiam. Realitaten lassen sich nicht in concreto durch blossen Verstand denken, sondem sie sind immer mit Bedingungen der Sinnlichkeit affiziert; zuerst also werde ich via reductionis die Realitat von dem, was ihr als Phaenomenon zukommt (adhaerentibus sensitivis), nach Moglichkeit befreien, denn sonst kommen Anthropomorphismen heraus. Darauf aber das sie als realitas noumenon (sollten auch alie besondere Bestimmungen in concreto wegfallen) per eminentiam unendlich erhohen. (Vor der Reduktion muia der Weg der eminentia nicht genommen werden; denn auch menschliche Vollkommenheit konnte ins Unendliche wachsen, ohne der Spezies nach verschieden zu sein.) Weil aber die Aufhebung alies Sensitiven auch den Begriff in concreto aufhebt, welches alien Theism in einen bloBen Deism verwandeln wtirde, so bleibt der Weg der Anwendung nach der Analogie iibrig, nach welcher ich gestehe nicht zu wissen, wie die gottlichen Eigenschaften an sich beschaffen sind, sondem nur, daB sie eben so im Verhaltnis zur Welt gedacht werden, wie menschliche Eigenschaften zu ihren Produkten." (AA, XVIII:554-55, with German spelling updated). Translation in Johann August Eberhard, Preparation for Natural Theology with Kant's Notes and the Danzig Rational Theology Transcript, trans. and ed. Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 114-15: "The deist ascribes all reality to the supreme being only abstractly, but none concretely. How should the theist now proceed to ascribe these concretely to God? We proceed with the selection of realities through negation as through eminence, but in the way that we concretely ascribe realities to the supreme being according to analogy, through analogy. Realities cannot be thought concretely through mere understanding, but rather are always affected by the conditions of sensibility; thus whenever possible I will first free the reality through reduction from what belongs to it as phenomenon (i.e. from what adheres sensibly to it), for otherwise anthropomorphisms emerge. But thereafter I will elevate them infinitely as noumenal reality (should all concrete particular determinations be eliminated) through eminence. (The path of eminence must not be taken before reduction; for human perfection could also increase ad infinitum, without being different according to species.) But because the abolishment of everything sensitive also abolishes the concrete concept, which would transform all theism into a mere deism, the way of application according to analogy remains, according to which I confess not to know how the divine properties are constituted in themselves, but only that they are thought in relation to the world in the same way as human properties to their products."

(116) Kant, Religion and Rational Theology, 337.

(117) Alexander Gottllieb Baumgarten, Metaphysica [section]826: "Si quid in ente necessario deprehendimus, quod repraesentatis in ente contingenti partialiter simile, partialiter diversum ab iis est, discrimina tamen non satis intelligimus, nec nomen ipsi peculiare invenimus: illud dicimus eius, quod in ente contingenti simile notavimus, analogon, deoque tribuitur per analogiam, si realitates in eius conceptu regnare videntur, per eminentiam (excellentiam), si negationes, per reductionem (via negationis)."

(118) De motu animalium 7.701b25-28.

(119) Gottlob Frege, Begriffsschrift und andere Aufsatze (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1964), 107: "Die Zeichen sind fur das Denken von derselben Bedeutung wie fuer die Schifffahrt die Erfindung, den Wind zu gebrauchen, uni gegen den Wind zu segeln."

(120) Since the second century A.D. it bears the name of the Roman consul Philopappos, lover and benefactor of Greek culture. A monument was erected in his honor in 119 A.D., of which only the ruins survive.

(121) In light of our present topic it is interesting to contrast Paul's preaching regarding the unknown God with the opening of his letter to the Hebrews: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(122) De anima 2.8.420b.

(123) Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon (London: Penguin, 1946), 225-26. Koestler refers to a state "which the mystics called 'ecstasy' and saints 'contemplation'; the greatest and soberest of modern psychologists had recognized this state as a fact and called it the 'oceanic sense'. And, indeed, one's personality dissolved as a grain of salt in the sea; but at the same time the infinite sea seemed to be contained in the grain of salt. The grain could no longer be localized in time and space. It was a state in which thought lost its direction and started to circle, like the compass needle at the magnetic pole; until finally it cut loose from its axis and travelled freely in space, like a bunch of light in the night; and until it seemed that all thoughts and all sensations, even pain and joy itself, were only the spectrum lines of the same ray of light, disintegrating in the prism of consciousness."

(124) De Docta Ignorantia, ed. E. Hoffmann and R. Klibansky, Opera Omnia I (Leipzig-Hamburg: Meiner, 1932), p. 163, 11. 7-11: "In mari me ex Graecia redeunte ... ad hoc ductus sum, ut incomprehensibilia incomprehensibiliter amplecterer in docta ignorantia, per transcensum veritatum incorruptibilium humaniter scibilium." Translation from Nicholas of Cusa, Selected Spiritual Writings, trans. H. Lawrence Bond (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1997) 205-06. See Beierwaltes, Platonismus im Christentum, 146.

(125) Erich Meuthen, Nikolas von Kues, 1401-1464: Skizze einer Biographie (Munster: Aschendorff, 1964), 52-53. Cusanus in a sense gave the lie to Horace's declaration Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare current.

(126) Periphyseon 4, 743C-744B. Translation from Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae Periphyseon (De Divisione Naturae), trans. John J. O'Meara (Dublin: Institute of Advanced Studies, 1995), 5-7.

(127) Symposium 210d: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."

(128) Centuries earlier Origen employed the marine analogy to convey the immensity of the divine mystery: "The further we progress in reading, the greater grows the accumulation of mysteries for us. And just as if someone should embark on the sea borne by a small boat, as long as he is near land he has little fear. But, when he has advanced little by little into the deep and has begun either to be lifted on high by the swelling waves or brought down to the depths by the same gaping waves then truly great fear and terror permeate his mind because he has entrusted a small craft to such immense waves. So also we seem to have suffered, who, small in merits and slight in ability, dare to enter so vast a sea of mysteries. But if by your prayers the Lord should see fit to give us a favorable breeze of his Holy Spirit we shall enter the port of salvation with a favorable passage of the word." Origen, Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, trans. Ronald E. Heine (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 148. See Origenes Die Homilien zum Buck Genesis, ed. Peter Habermehl (Berlin; de Gruyter, 2011), 182: Quantum legentes progredimur, tantum nobis sacramentorum cumulus augetur. Et ut si quis exiguo vectus navigio ingrediatur mare, donee terrae vicinus est, minus metuit; cum vero paulatim in altum fuerit progressus et undis intumescentibus vel in excelsum attolli coeperit vel eisdem dehiscentibus in ima deduci, ibi vero mentem pavor ingens et formido percurrit, quod exiguam ratem tam inmensis fluctibus credidit: Ita etiam nos pati videmur, qui exigui meritis et ingenio tenues inire tam vastum mysteriorum pelagus audemus. Sed si orantibus vobis Dominus dignetur Spiritus sui sancti auram nobis prosperam dare, secundo verbi cursu portum salutis intrabimus. Elsewhere Origen compared Scripture to a vast forest; cf. PL 25, 720D: latissimam Scripturae silvam. Homelies sur Ezechiel, ed. Marcel Borret (Paris: Cerf, 1989), 156. St. Jerome (347-420) referred to its infinite forest of meanings; compare Epistulae I, ed. Isidor Hilberg (Vienna: Tempsky, 1910), 609, [section]19: "infinitam sensuum silvam." Jerome, mixing his metaphors, combined the images of ocean and labyrinth (oceanum, et mysteriorum Dei, ut sic loquar, labyrinthum) to suggest the immense impenetrability of the divine reality; compare Commentariorum in Hiezechielem libriXIV, ed. Francois Glorie (Tumhout: Brepols, 1964), 677. He cites Virgil: "As once, in ancient days, so it is said, the labyrinth in high Crete had a path built out of blind walls, an ambiguous maze of a thousand ways, a winding course that mocked all signs of finding a way out, a puzzle that was irresolvable and irretraceable." Aeneid 5, 588-91, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 127-28; Latin: "Hie labor ille domus, et inextricabilis error. / De quo et in alio loco idem poeta decantai / Ut quondam Creta fertur labyrinthus in alta: / Parietibus textum caecis iter, ancipitemque / Mille viis habuisse dolum, qua signa sequendi / Falleret indeprensus, et irremeabilis error."

(129) Periphyseon I, 510B: "Qui melius nesciendo scitur, cuius ignorantia vera est sapientia." Translation, slightly modified, from Sheldon-Williams, Periphyseon I, 191. See Augustine, De Ordine, 16, 44: "Deus qui melius scitur nesciendo."

(130) Plutarch, Moralia (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), 6:416: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."
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Author:O'Rourke, Fran
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
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Date:Mar 1, 2016
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