Spirit of Love: The Pneumatology of Nicholas of Cusa
Continuing an established tradition of theological research on Cusanus, my project aims to map and critically analyse the specifically pneumatological element in his thought, in order to retrieve an original pneumatology that does not fit neatly within current paradigms of scholarship on the Trinity.
The triadic structure of Cusa’s thought is well documented. For example, he uses the triplet names unitas – aequalitas – conexio for the persons of the Trinity. By these names he also identifies vestiges of the Trinity in creation and the history of thought, both of which are epitomised by a Trinitarian imago Dei in human beings. In this triplet, Cusanus often supplements the third term with the words concordia and unio, which can be understood as acts of God or relations between created things or persons. This example reveals the ambiguous yet central role of the Holy Spirit in Cusa’s works. What does the Holy Spirit “do” according to his ambitious exposition? What is the place and role of the Holy Spirit in the intra-Trinitarian life of God, and, respectively, what is the Spirit’s activity in creation and its creatures?
In these questions are enfolded several further problems concerning Cusa’s original specifications of God as Not-Other (non aliud) and Actualised-Possibility (possest). These concepts convey a God beyond alterity as well as beyond actuality. While such apophatic topics are not original to Cusa, but rather stem from the Dionysian tradition, he extrapolates them more rigorously than most predecessors. This raises several questions about God as “wholly other” and actus purus. The Trinitarian hypostases are here conceptually separated and account for different moments in the Divine acts of subsisting, creating and perfecting. Who is the person of the Holy Spirit in light of these concepts? Should Cusa’s invention of original names and concepts be understood as “simply” an exercise in “appropriation,” whereby different acts or properties of God are attributed especially to one of the three persons of the Trinity? Or is he in fact dispensing with the maxim that “the external works of the Trinity are undivided?” In any case, how does Cusa relate to contemporary debates about social vs Augustinian Trinitarianism? Finally, what does Cusa’s pneumatological discourse add to current theological discourse about God as Creator-Liberator Spirit?
In this project, I will study Cusanus placing of the Holy Spirit as a distinct “middle” or nexus in the relations of both Father-Son and creator-creature. Inheriting and reinventing the scholastic idea of an analogical relationship between God and creation, Cusanus brings a renewed vision to both Trinitarian theology as well as theological metaphysics. On this account, the Spirit can be elaborated in a novel yet identifiable manner: as a divine hypostasis in relation to the other divine persons, as well as a mediating agent of, in, and beyond creation. My project seeks to issue in an original contribution to contemporary pneumatology, with concomitant insights for closely and broadly related theological loci.
Professor Werner Jeanrond. (main supervisor)
Professor Marius Timmann Mjaaland. (co-supervisor)
Doctoral fellow at the Faculty of Theology.