Nicolas of Cusa, like Thomas Aquinas and Pseudo-Denys before him, was wrestling for years with names of God.  Scholar John Patrick Dolan comments that, like

“Reflection of the Cosmic Moment” window by Doyle Chappell, inspired by The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, at aChurch4Me, Metropolitan Community Church, Chicago. Published with permission of the artist.

…Eckhart before him, the question that Cusa proposes to answer is not whether God exists.  In his writings he rather attempts to enrich the concept of God by placing it in a mathematical rather than an analogical setting.  He wants to avoid the danger of circumscribing the divine with the finite.* 

Yet he also very much personalizes and renders intimate the presence of the Divine, a presence he calls both “pervading and personal.”  His “view of Christ that comprehends the great wealth and beauty of the visible world here below as well as the beatitude to come” is a Cosmic Christ.

Tetragrammaton (YHWH) on the top at the church of St. Merri at Paris, near the Centre Pompidou. Photo by manuela ideacrea on Flickr.

Among the cataphatic names Cusa came up with were these:  The Absolute Maximum; Wisdom–a Terrible Beauty; Oneness; Tetragrammaton; Absolute Sameness [that] shines forth brightly in the diversity of all creatures; the Invisibility of visible things; the Face of faces; Infinity itself; the Living Mirror of Eternity; the End of my desire; Unity; the Posee itself, the Possibility the ‘can’ before, behind and present in all that ‘is’;  Can Itself; the Light of all that can emit light.

Cusa was especially committed to an apophatic divinity and a “humble admittance of the inscrutability of the divine” since “the grasp of human reason is limited.” 

He called for “learned ignorance” and even “sacred ignorance.”  Indeed, “precise truth shines within the darkness of our ignorance,” he claims.  Cusa said, “God is greater than everything conceived and knowable.” Therefore God is “the Not-other.”

*See John Patrick Dolan, ed., “Introduction,” in Unity and Reform: Selected Writings of Nicholas De Cusa (Chicago: University of Notre Dame Press, 1962), pp. 44f.

See also Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God

See also Matthew Fox,  The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Infinity” Image by BenjGibbs on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Be with Cusa’s names for God.  Focus on just one or two.  How do they speak to you today?  How do they speak to us today?

Recommended Reading

Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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2 thoughts on “Cusa on Multiple Names for God”

  1. Avatar

    A type-two agnostic does not know what the atheist,theist and type-one agnostic are arguing about
    Panentheism with it’s compassion consequence appeals

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