Is the issue the American people or capitalism?


John Pilger, ‘The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us’ counterpunch, 17.01.17

On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation.  “In order for us to heal and move forward …,” say Writers Resist, “we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favour of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy.”

And:  “We urge local organizers and speakers to avoid using the names of politicians or adopting ‘anti’ language as the focus for their Writers Resist event. It’s important to ensure that nonprofit organizations, which are prohibited from political campaigning, will feel confident participating in and sponsoring these events.”

Thus, real protest is to be avoided, for it is not tax exempt.

Compare such drivel with the declarations of the Congress of American Writers, held at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1935, and again two years later. They were electric events, with writers discussing how they could confront ominous events in Abyssinia, China and Spain. Telegrams from Thomas Mann, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out, reflecting the fear that great power was now rampant and that it had become impossible to discuss art and literature without politics or, indeed, direct political action.

“A writer,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, “must be a man of action now . . . A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last.”

Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.

That the menace of rapacious power — rampant long before the rise of Trump —  has been accepted by writers, many of them privileged and celebrated, and by those who guard the gates of literary criticism, and culture, including popular culture, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out, regardless of who occupies the White House.

Today, false symbolism is all. “Identity” is all. In 2016, Hillary Clinton stigmatised millions of voters as “a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it”. Her abuse was handed out at an LGBT rally as part of her cynical campaign to win over minorities by abusing a white mostly working-class majority. Divide and rule, this is called; or identity politics in which race and gender conceal class, and allow the waging of class war.  Trump understood this.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident poet Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

This is not an American phenomenon. A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”.

No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among today’s insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people… of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.

There is something both venal and profoundly stupid about famous writers as they venture outside their cosseted world and embrace an “issue”. Across the Review section of the Guardian on 10 December was a dreamy picture of Barack Obama looking up to the heavens and the words, “Amazing Grace” and “Farewell the Chief”.

The sycophancy ran like a polluted babbling brook through page after page. “He was a vulnerable figure in many ways …. But the grace. The all-encompassing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool ….[He] is a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again … He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side … … The grace … the almost surreal levels of grace …”

I have conflated these quotes. There are others even more hagiographic and bereft of mitigation. The Guardian’s chief apologist for Obama, Gary Younge, has always been careful to mitigate, to say that his hero “could have done more”: oh, but there were the “calm, measured and consensual solutions …”

None of them, however, could surpass the American writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the recipient of a “genius” grant worth $625,000 from a liberal foundation. In an interminable essay for The Atlantic entitled, “My President Was Black”, Coates brought new meaning to prostration. The final “chapter”, entitled “When You Left, You Took All of Me With You”, a line from a Marvin Gaye song, describes seeing the Obamas “rising out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity”.  The Ascension, no less.

One of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and  reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, who expanded America’s favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads (“special operations”) as no other president has done since the Cold War.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day.  He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday — reported the New York Times — he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the “terrorist target”. A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama’s drones killed 4,700 people. “Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that,” he said, but we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda.”

Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor: “Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically … In the propaganda system … it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.

Take the catastrophe in Libya. In 2011, Obama said Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew… that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

This was the known lie of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. It became the media story; and Nato – led by Obama and Hillary Clinton – launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten”.

Under Obama, the US has extended secret “special forces” operations to 138 countries, or 70 per cent of the world’s population. The first African-American president launched what amounted to a full-scale invasion of Africa. Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments.  Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

It was Obama who, in 2011, announced what became known as the “pivot to Asia”, in which almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to the Asia-Pacific to “confront China”, in the words of his Defence Secretary. There was no threat from China; the entire enterprise was unnecessary. It was an extreme provocation to keep the Pentagon and its demented brass happy.

In 2014, the Obama’s administration oversaw and paid for a fascist-led coup in Ukraine against the democratically-elected government, threatening Russia in the western borderland through Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, with a loss of 27 million lives. It was Obama who placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia, and it was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a level higher than that of any administration since the cold war — having promised, in an emotional speech in Prague, to “help rid the world of nuclear weapons”.

Obama, the constitutional lawyer, prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in history, even though the US constitution protects them. He declared Chelsea Manning guilty before the end of a trial that was a travesty. He has refused to pardon Manning who has suffered years of inhumane treatment which the UN says amounts to torture. He has pursued an entirely bogus case against Julian Assange. He promised to close the Guantanamo concentration camp and didn’t.

Following the public relations disaster of George W. Bush, Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision was part of this: the kind of cloying reverse racism that beatified the man for no reason other than he was attractive to liberal sensibilities and, of course, American power, if not to the children he kills in impoverished, mostly Muslim countries.

This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded, especially “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne put it. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.”

William I. Robinson, professor at the University of California, and one of an uncontaminated group of American strategic thinkers who have retained their independence during the years of intellectual dog-whistling since 9/11, wrote this last week:

“President Barack Obama … may have done more than anyone to assure [Donald] Trump’s victory. While Trump’s election has triggered a rapid expansion of fascist currents in US civil society, a fascist outcome for the political system is far from inevitable …. But that fight back requires clarity as to how we got to such a dangerous precipice. The seeds of 21st century fascism were planted, fertilized and watered by the Obama administration and the politically bankrupt liberal elite.”

Robinson points out that “whether in its 20th or its emerging 21st century variants, fascism is, above all, a response to deep structural crises of capitalism, such as that of the 1930s and the one that began with the financial meltdown in 2008 …. There is a near-straight line here from Obama to Trump … The liberal elite’s refusal to challenge the rapaciousness of transnational capital and its brand of identity politics served to eclipse the language of the working and popular classes … pushing white workers into an ‘identity’ of white nationalism and helping the neo-fascists to organise them”..

The seedbed is Obama’s Weimar Republic, a landscape of endemic poverty, militarised police and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under his presidency, prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street.

Perhaps his greatest “legacy” is the co-option and disorientation of any real opposition. Bernie Sanders’ specious “revolution” does not apply. Propaganda is his triumph.

The lies about Russia — in whose elections the US has openly intervened — have made the world’s most self-important journalists laughing stocks. In the country with constitutionally the freest press in the world, free journalism now exists only in its honourable exceptions.

The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves “left/liberal”, as if to claim political decency. They are not “left”, neither are they especially “liberal”.  Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations — such as Obama’s. America’s political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right. The “left” are homeless renegades Martha Gellhorn described as “a rare and wholly admirable fraternity”. She excluded those who confuse politics with a fixation on their navels.

While they “heal” and “move forward”, will the Writers Resist campaigners and other anti-Trumpists reflect upon this? More to the point: when will a genuine movement of opposition arise? Angry, eloquent, all-for-one-and-one-for all. Until real politics return to people’s lives, the enemy is not Trump, it is ourselves.


Trump is the embodiment of capitalism in crisis


Aaron Blake ‘Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway introduces the world to “alternative facts”’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 23.01.17

‘Trumpism’, though most obviously in the US, is emblematic of the crisis in all capitalist nations. With a shameless shedding of ethics, free-wheeling dishonesty, the projection of ‘us’ under siege by ‘them’ and a concomitant aggressive nationalism, it is clear evidence of capitalism going deeper into crisis and of an increasingly dangerous capitalist class.

Trump didn’t become President simply as a result of the hallowed US ‘democratic’ process. He has been ‘in the eye’ of the dominant class for decades and has been repeatedly asked in the media over those decades if he would run for President.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND, March Hare, Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter, 1951, ©Walt Disney Pictures/courte

As it states in a photomontage from 1932 by John Heartfield showing Hitler having money (and power) put into his hand by a much bigger, suited and faceless figure standing behind him (it could have been that of Henry Ford who funded him) as he gives the Nazi salute – ‘Millions stand behind me!’

John Heartfield, ‘The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little man asks for big gifts. Motto: Millions Stand Behind Me!’ Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeitung, 16.10.32

John Heartfield, ‘The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little man asks for big gifts. Motto: Millions Stand Behind Me!’ Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeitung, 16.10.32

Particularly, it is neither a matter of “the peoples’ will” nor even chance that the person who has the antipathetic, hypocritical views on China Trump does is now the President.

He has been chosen by the most powerful sections of the class that controls the US ‘democracy’ and protected by them through the long process of the election for President to eventually occupy that position and represent their interests above all.

German diplomats award Henry Ford, centre, their nation’s highest decoration for foreigners, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, July 1938

German diplomats award Henry Ford, centre, their nation’s highest decoration for foreigners, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, July 1938

In so doing, he is already beginning to put before the American people the question they will have to answer – barbarism or socialism?


Images: top/second/third/fourth

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13i

13.6.3 Their philosophies are the world-valuing, intellectual mysticism of Neoplatonism

For Cusanus and Hegel, the ascent to God is above all an intellectual process. Moffitt Watts wrote

It is the intellect, the seat of learned ignorance, which enables man to transcend the limitations of discursive reasoning and to speculate more accurately concerning the nature of God…Cusanus argues…that man is able, through his intellect, to go beyond the oppositions that govern his senses and reason – at length in the De docta ignorantia.1

For both, this ‘way of the intellect’ is a necessary condition for approaching God mystically.

Both denied the centrality of feeling and asserted the centrality of knowledge. Cassirer wrote that in this denying, Cusanus went beyond the traditional conception of mysticism. In fact both the denying and the assertion are Neoplatonic. What both presupposed is a

self-movement of the mind as well as an original force in the mind itself that unfolds in a continuous process of thought.2

Just as Hopkins wrote that Cusanus is not reporting on mystical experiences but

is reflecting dialectically upon the relationship between God’s vision of man and man’s vision of God3

so Hegel philosophised likewise on that same relationship between man and God, finite and infinite, seer and seen, knower and known, subject and object, quoting in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion4 Eckhart’s use of the same Neoplatonic trope that Cusanus used in De visione Dei.

The philosophies of both Hegel and Cusanus are fundamentally neither apophatic nor kataphatic, and where Cusanus’ philosophy explores profound subtleties of coincidence5, Hegel’s, a great development on this, brings out fully though still in idealist form the subtleties and the driving dynamism and power of the dialectical and creative negation of Plotinus’ system.

As I have stated, both embodied the wonder of the Neoplatonist towards the world – Cusanus describing it as ‘a noble star’6, Hegel describing its aspects in detail

vast tracts of sea break out into phosphorescent light…the whole surface of the sea, too, is partly an infinite shining, partly an immeasurable, immense sea of light which consists purely of points of life lacking any further organisation. …each drop of water is a living globe of infusoria…Earth, like water, displays infinite, universal fecundity7

For them, from their Neoplatonic perspective, the world is not only a worthy but a necessary object of study, because God is its centre and all creation is the emanation from oneness to otherness.8 Their mysticism is not reflective but of the world. Plotinus, not Hegel objectified the inner mystical world.

Cusanus and Hegel believed that for theology to be authentic, it must be based in experience. When Marx stood their epistemology on its feet by incorporating it into materialism, he made experience as praxis the basis of his epistemology.



1. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op, cit., 45
2. Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, op. cit., 14
3. Hopkins in Nicholas of Cusa’s Dialectical Mysticism, Text, Translation and Interpretive Study of De Visione Dei, op. cit., v
4. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. I, 347-348. See 8.5, Notes
5. ‘Cusa also later characterises the theological position that he first worked out in On Learned Ignorance as an alternative to both negative and affirmative methods….Negative and affirmative theology (Cusa believed) are limited in what they can say; neither attains the divine obscurity directly. …A theology that penetrates the divine obscurity must press beyond even the via negativa. We find in (Dionysius’) The Mystical Theology, especially, the kind of theological method that Cusa sees himself as pursuing – not disjunctive, neither affirmative nor negative, but coincident.’ Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas of Cusa, Selected Spiritual Writings, trans., H. Lawrence Bond, Paulist Press, New York, 1997, 32-33; ’Cusa…employs coincidence of opposites in On the Vision of God to generate an iconic and a mystical theology. He proposes this as his alternative to the apophasis and silence of the via negativa, as well as to the less worthy descriptions of predication and analogy. …Cusa offers the coincidence of opposites as the central and unifying logical model in order to depict an appropriate likeness between metaphors and the divine reality. …coincident models…cause the mind the leap across to divine mystery.’, Ibid., 55
6. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., II,12,166
7. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 297-298
8. Beck wrote of Cusanus ‘Nicholas teaches a hypostatic union of nature itself with God. The near-deification of the world brings with it a deification of the soul.’ Beck, Early German Philosophy: Kant and his Predecessors, op. cit., 60

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13h

13.6.2. Hegel followed Cusanus in structuring his Neoplatonism on Proclus’ triad of triads Further discussion of Proclus’ triad

I have discussed Proclus’ triad, particularly in relation to Hegel, from 11.3.3 to 11.3.8 inclusively, but some points warrant restatement. The triad Being, Life and Intelligence, within the second hypostasis Intellect or Intellectual-Principle, is suspended from the (first hypostasis, the) One which forms no part of it – Hegel, as discussed, was importantly and indicatively incorrect when he wrote of ‘One’ in this regard.1 In procession outward, one Being becomes Life which becomes Intelligence (or the ‘mixture’ of one Being and Life) in the developmental reversion to the one Being.

There must be Being to create Life (‘reality’, the multiplicity of what is) and Life for there to be Intelligence (nous). Each element mirrors or implies the other two in its own triadic structure. The principles are not hypostases but aspects of a single reality predominating at a certain stage in the process of emanation and return.

Proclus discussed this triad in Proposition 101 of his Elements of Theology and in Book III of On the Theology of Plato. He called these principles posterior to the One by different names – Being he also called ‘bound’ and ‘father’, life he also called ‘infinite’ and ‘power’ and he denominated Intelligence ‘limit’ or ‘the mixed’. As Dodds wrote, this unity-in-distinction was used by the Christian Neoplatonists, including Cusanus, to explain the doctrine of the Trinity.

Proclus described the first triad bound, infinite and the mixed in Book III, Chapter XII of On the Theology of Plato

Such therefore, is the first triad of intelligibles, according to Socrates in the Philebus, viz. bound, infinite, and that which is mixed from these. And of these, bound indeed is a God proceeding to the intelligible summit, from the imparticipable and first God, measuring and defining all things, and giving subsistence to every paternal, connective, and undefiled genus of Gods. But infinite is the never-failing power of this God, unfolding into light all the generative orders, and all infinity, both that which is prior to essence, and that which is essential, and also that which proceeds as far as to the last matter. And that which is mixed, is the first and highest order of the Gods, comprehending all things occultly, deriving its completion indeed through the intelligible connective triad2

He described the second triad in Chapter XIII

(There is a second triad proceeding from this.) That which is first…in this second triad, may be called bound; that which is second in it, infinity; and that which is the third, life.

(The first triad proceeds) intelligibly and unically, (the second triad proceeds) vitally, and…according to the form of infinity (and the third triad proceeds according to the fact) that it is mixed 3

and the third triad in Chapter XIV

As the first unity therefore, after the exempt cause of all things, unfolds into light intelligible being, and the second unity, intelligible life, thus also the third constitutes about itself, intelligible intellect, and fills it with divine union, constituting power as the medium between itself and being, through which it gives completion to this being, and converts it to itself. In this therefore, every intelligible multitude shines forth to the view. …the first being is most similar to the one; the second, is parturient with multitude, and is the origin of separation; but the third, is now all-perfect, and unfolds into light in itself, intelligible multitude and form.4

These three triads, ‘expressing an intrinsic and essential relation between successive levels of being’5, define the whole of the intelligible order for Proclus, and when dressed as the Christian Trinity, for Cusanus and Hegel. They comprise, for all three ‘the underlying principle of all triadic structures’6.

Proclus’ discussion of the triad of triads in Chapters XXIV-XXVI is also significant with regard to the organisation of the three books in both Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia

Of the first triad

the father is the father of intellect, and that intellect is the intellect of the father…For deity is the father of the triad, and being is the intellect of this deity. …The first triad therefore is called one being…The first triad…is…unfolded to us7

Of the second triad which derives its completion from parts (multiplicity), whereas the first triad is a wholeness prior to parts

the second triad proceeds, being characterised by the first intelligible power…For all things being united and without distinction in the first triad, distinction and separation shine forth in this triad. Being also and power are more divided from each other.8

And of the third triad

all intelligible multitude shines forth…a wholeness consisting of many parts.9

The first triad is a union, the second is a separation and the third is a combination of perspectival parts in unity, power and being. In the third triad, the one and being are multiplied through an infinite multitude of collective power which is the same as the all-perfect. This infinity is both of power and multitude.

I have referred to Hegel’s praise in the superlative for Proclus’ ‘more precise definition of the idea in its three forms,’10 giving a real trinity, which Hegel noted is set out in his Platonic Theology, and his description of it (11.3.6). Proclus and Cusanus

Moffitt Watts summarised the relations between Cusanus, Platonism and earlier Neoplatonism

The dialectics of unity and plurality, of the one and the many, of the not-other and otherness that (Cusanus) comes to use in his metaphysical discussions must have grown out of his reading of the Parmenides itself, as well as out of the works of the great Neoplatonic synthesiser, Proclus, and those of various twelfth century Platonists.11

Cusanus discussed Proclus’ triad in De venatione sapientiae (‘On the Pursuit of Wisdom’), noting the same developmental flow Hegel did – from the Creator-Intellect to diversity and that the first requirement for intelligibility is existence.

Proclus…called the cause of beings a second god, viz., the Creator-Intellect. ([This second god is] subsequent to the first God of gods, whom Proclus affirmed to be the singular Good, as I said.) Proclus believed this Creator-Intellect to be Jove, the king and ruler over all things. Proclus also posited celestial gods and mundane gods and various other likewise eternal gods, according as he expressed these matters extensively in his six-book work The Theology of Plato. Nevertheless, at the head of all [these other gods] he placed the God-of-gods, the universal Cause of all things. And so, those attributes which we ascribe to our good God—attributes which are different [from one another] only in conception and not in reality—Proclus is seen to assert of different gods, because of differing distinctions among the attributes. [For] he was moved by [the consideration that] nothing is intelligible unless it actually exists, since, necessarily, being is participated in by what is intelligible. And so, everything that is understood, he affirmed to [really] exist.12 Cusanus and Hegel overlaid the Christian Trinity on Proclus’ triad, exploring its theological and philosophical potential

As with Hegel’s philosophy, Cusanus’ equates theology and philosophy. Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia entail philosophical reflections on the Neoplatonic process in its application – they consider its working when applied to the world and to the religious beliefs they advocate. Christian faith and its ideal practice is to further anchor in the world a philosophy already oriented to it.

Both are studies in Neoplatonic emanation and return applied to the Trinity. Where the former develops from maximum absolutum (Book I/God) to maximum contractum (Book II/the universe) to maximum simul contractum et absolutum (Book III/Christ, concluding with the church of the Spirit), the latter develops from absolute objectivity (Science of Logic/God) to finite objectivity (Philosophy of Nature/Christ) to absolute objectivity in finite subjectivity (Philosophy of Spirit/God present and active in his community).

Where Cusanus explored the trinity of Oneness, Equality-of-Oneness and their Union in De docta ignorantia, he explored the philosophical potential of these relationships in different ways in his other treatises including God as ‘not-other’ in De li non aliud and God as ‘actualised possibility’ in De possest. 

Hegel, following Cusanus, derived from his overlay of the Trinity across Proclus’ triad his logic (the ‘science’ of the Idea in and for itself), the philosophy of nature (the ‘science’ of the Idea in its otherness) and the philosophy of Spirit (the ‘science’ of the Idea come back to itself out of that otherness), his three Kingdoms (the kingdom of the Father, that of the Son [encompassing differentiation, estrangement and reconciliation whereby the world is created, falls into evil and is redeemed] and the kingdom of the Spirit [concerning the formation of the community of faith and its orientation to the perfection of all things in God]) and his three syllogisms of Universal (the logical Idea is the principle of universality), Particular (nature is the principle of particularity) and Individual (finite Spirit is the principle of singularity) – a triadic structure of further triadic and spiritual essences13. After §567-§570 on universality, particularity and individuality in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit, Hegel wrote ‘These three syllogisms, constituting the one syllogism of the absolute self-mediation of spirit, are the revelation of that spirit whose life is set out as a cycle of concrete shapes in pictorial thought.’14 How successful were both in bringing their treatment of the Trinity into sync with Proclus’ triad?

Just as Hegel had two ‘bites of the cherry’ with the Neoplatonic One, exploiting its philosophical and prose poetic potential both as the first hypostasis and as the one Being in the second, so he used Christ – unconvincingly – in his philosophy – first in his Philosophy of Nature as Nature,15 then in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit as, in death, the means of our reconciliation with (return to) God in the perspectival cultus of Spirit.

Cusanus made Christ the subject of the third book of De docta ignorantia, assigning the first book to God and the second to the created universe – reflecting the primary philosophical elements and flow of Proclus’ triad. While both De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia conclude in a perspectival cultus and the conclusion of Cusanus’ treatise, though fundamentally Neoplatonic, is consistent with Christian belief, Hegel, on the other hand, drops all pretence and steps forward as the philosopher he was.

At the very point where Christ should have served a most important function in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit (as he did in De docta ignorantia), he is nowhere to be seen. Christ has no part in Hegel’s concluding sections. What we see in §§575-577 in the Philosophy of Mind/Spirit is the overt triad of Proclus16 now elevated to Logic, Mind (which Hegel wrote in §576 ‘presupposes Nature and couples it with the Logical principle’17) and Idea.

Prior to his closing quotation from the Metaphysics regarding thought thinking itself and what Aristotle thought God is, Hegel’s closing sentence in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit and to his Encyclopaedia is

The eternal Idea, in full fruition of its essence, eternally sets itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind.18

For Hegel, God is now ‘apprehended as spirit in his community’19 and Idea sets itself to work – in a purely Neoplatonic cultus.



1. Proclus was emphatic on this point and made it numerous times. See 7.2: ‘For the one being does not abide purely in an hyparxis void of multitude and possessing the form of one. But the one itself is exempt from every addition. For by whatever you may add to it, you will diminish its supreme and ineffable union. Hence it is necessary to arrange the one prior to the one being, and to suspend the one being from that which is one alone. For if the one and the one being were the same, and it made no difference to say one and being (since if they differed, the one would again be changed from the one being,) if therefore the one differs in no respect from the one being, all things will be one, and there will not be multitude in beings, nor will it be possible to denominate things, lest there should be two things, the thing and the name. …the one and the one being are not the same.’ Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. III, Ch. XX
2. Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. III, Ch. XII
3. Ibid., Ch. XIII
4. Ibid., Ch. XIV
5. Christoph Helmig, Carlos Steel, ‘Proclus,’ Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., Ch. XXIV
8. Ibid., Ch. XXV
9. Ibid., Ch. XXVI
10. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. II, 342
11. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op, cit., 22
12. Nicholas of Cusa, De venatione sapientiae (‘On the Pursuit of Wisdom’), 1462-3, in Nicholas of Cusa: Metaphysical Speculations, Six Latin Texts Translated into English, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1998, 1278-1354, 8, 21
13. ‘the characteristic feature of the Notion and its determinations (is that they are) spiritual essences.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 685. That Hegel rejected formal. propositional argumentation from the ‘reason’ he advocated – that of Vernunft – can be seen in his position on the dialectical syllogism ‘Everything is a syllogism, a universal that through particularity is united with individuality; but it is certainly not a whole consisting of three propositions.’ Ibid., 669; ‘It is thus the Notion of the syllogism that declares the imperfection of the formal syllogism in which the middle term is fixedly held, not as unity of the extremes but as a formal, abstract determination qualitatively distinct from them.’ Ibid., 683
14. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 299-301
15. Hegel wrote ‘Nature is the son of God, but not as the Son, but as abiding otherness’ (my italics) followed immediately by Neoplatonic vitalism ‘in Nature, Spirit lets itself go, a Bacchic god unrestrained and unmindful of itself; in Nature, the unity of the Notion is concealed.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 14.
16. §575 ‘It is this appearing which originally gives the motive of the further development. The first appearance is formed by the syllogism, which is based on the Logical system as starting-point, with Nature for the middle term which couples the Mind with it. The Logical principle turns to Nature and Nature to Mind.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 314
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid., 315
19. Ibid., 292

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

The greatest activity in the greatest stillness

In the Centre of Spiral Galaxy NGC 5033

In the Centre of Spiral Galaxy NGC 5033

BERNARD: It is evident to me that from the aforesaid [teachings I] can, all my life long, draw food for thought and can discourse at length [about them] and can continually make progress [with respect to understanding them]. Nevertheless, we desire to be led by a sensible image—especially [regarding the questions] how Eternal [Being] is all things at once and how the whole of eternity is within the present moment—so that when we leap forth, having left this image behind, we may be elevated above all sensible things.

CARDINAL: I shall try [to show you such an image]. I will take [the example] of boys [playing with] a top—a game known to us all, even in practical terms. A boy pitches out a top; and as he does so, he pulls it back with the string which is wound around it. The greater the strength of his arm, the faster the top is made to rotate—until it seems (while it is moving at the faster speed) to be motionless and at rest. Indeed, boys speak of it as then at rest.

Nicholas of Cusa, De possest (‘On Actualised-Possibility’), 1460, in A Concise Introduction to the Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1986, 914-954, 18



Where’s Cusanus when you need him?

IC 4406: A Seemingly Square Nebula

IC 4406: A Seemingly Square Nebula

How can a round star make a square nebula?



This is how laid-back Aussies and their government operate folks, whenever they see the least opportunity

John Flanagan

John Flanagan

Sue Williams, ‘Man sues television archives after it lent equipment to competitor’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 07.01.17

An Australian TV buff has been squeezed out of the picture after equipment he gave to the government to help preserve historical shows was used to undermine his film archive business.

John Flanagan organised the donation of highly specialised program transfer equipment from Channel Seven to the government’s National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, so that they could back up rare footage of TV shows and films on to DVD.

But he was horrified to find the archive then lent the equipment – at no cost and with its maintenance and spare parts also paid for – to one of their former employees who set up in business against him.

With this back-door subsidy, the rival company was easily able to undercut him on cost, Mr Flanagan said, and as a result, he lost his business, accrued hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts and finally his health suffered as he fought the archive over the matter.

Now he is suing the archive for $250,000 in compensation for losses and damage.

Michael Loebenstein, its departing chief executive, said this happened before he was appointed to head the organisation. “That arrangement around the loan of the machine which is the cause of all of John’s grievances was done before I was on board.

“But, in brief, the more I looked into the issue, the less I liked what I saw. We don’t loan out the machine any more and won’t do so in the future.”

That’s cold comfort for Mr Flanagan, 63, who had set up his own business, Broadcast Transfers, transferring quadruplex videotape programs on to modern digital formats, after buying, transporting and installing the most up-to-date machines. When he started, Broadcast Transfers was the only commercial company in Australia doing such transfers.

But after being assured he’d be given work by the archive, he was then told a former staff member, Joe Kelly, had set up a new company called DAMsmart and been given an indefinite loan of the machines that Mr Flanagan had given to the archive on behalf of Seven, his former employer.

DAMsmart then tendered for work at around half the cost Mr Flanagan was charging.

“Effectively, they created a competitor for me by loaning him a machine so he had few of the costs I had in setting up my machines,” Mr Flanagan said. “So he had a company that was being subsidised financially by the government.

“I was the only person in Australia doing this work, with assurances from the archive that they’d use my services. And then my competitor could do the same work much cheaper by using the machine I’d given the archive. It’s incredible! This has ruined my finances, my health and my life. I don’t know that I’ll ever recover.”

Mr Kelly, the general manager of DAMsmart says he entered into a legal, binding contract with the archive, approved by the Attorney-General and, as far as he is concerned, there was nothing wrong with it.

“We donate equipment to archives, galleries and museums but you can’t then dictate what the recipients do with it,” he said. “The [archive] was trying, I guess, to come up with a flexible new commercial arrangement that enabled them to do more digitalisation work in an era of lower budgets and dwindling funding.

“They should be congratulated on doing something different, and coming up with a creative solution … This is just professional jealousy from John Flanagan.”

Mr Flanagan has already won one battle, forcing the archive to release the contract with DAMsmart which it had previously refused to do, and then only agreed to with key elements redacted and the demand he sign a non-disclosure agreement.

He refused and finally scrutiny of the unedited contract revealed that the rival company and the archive had paid each other $60,000 a year – effectively cancelling out all costs – for the loan of the machine, in return for some much less specialised transfer work.

“It was a very dodgy contract, a sham contract in a way that was used by one person to his own benefit,” Mr Flanagan’s lawyer, Alison Drayton of Drayton Sher Lawyers said. “No one else was doing what [Flanagan] was doing at that time and, if this deal hadn’t been struck, who knows what he would have earned?”

A report by the Ombudsman in 2015 criticised the archive’s contract with DAMsmart, its lack of conflict of interest protocols in dealing with its former employee, and its inadequate handling of Mr Flanagan’s complaint.

The report added that, while the Ombudsman couldn’t order compensation, Mr Flanagan could pursue legal action.

“It’s a terrible look,”  Mr Loebenstein said, who is leaving his post this month. “We would today never have entered into a similar deal because it doesn’t have the level of transparency that we aspire to. We have since improved our processes to ensure that we don’t enter into arrangement of that sort again.”

Although he sympathised with Mr Flanagan’s position, he said he couldn’t pay public money for possible losses.

“I can’t spend taxpayers’ money on what’s a broad claim,” he said. “It’s his right to pursue legal action against us but we are very happy to meet him and work through the issues with him.”

Meanwhile, others in the industry have been appalled at how Mr Flanagan was treated.

“This is something that was done in a very back-handed way, so the archive was actually helping the rival business to John’s,” said Bruce Josephs, former owner of the video digitisation business DVD Infinity.

“I think he put many tens of thousands of dollars into his equipment and building up knowledge and spare parts, and he ended up losing his business and his health and everything he’d acquired over many years of hard work because of this.”

Robert Angel, the co-owner of Film and Tape Services, probably the largest videotape digitisation business in Australia, was also surprised at the arrangement. “It didn’t seem very fair to me,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said the results have been catastrophic.

“They’ve ruined my life and they have to be held to account for this.”

The national archive was established in 1984 to store and maintain more than 2.3 million items of television, film and radio works, as well as documents, photos, posters, scripts, costumes, props and memorabilia.


Still any doubts? Ask Australia’s indigenous people or the East Timorese (one of the world’s poorest nations) what they think about laid-back, law-abidin’, easy-goin’, egalitarian Aussies.


Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13g

13.6.1 Both Hegel and Cusanus sought to reconstruct the grounds of philosophy and theology and the relationship between them

What Hopkins wrote of the bishop and cardinal Cusanus could equally be applied to Hegel

Cusa was primarily a metaphysician – a theologically oriented metaphysician, to be sure.1

– in his Philosophy of Nature (a text by him that is discreetly downplayed by the academics) Hegel rejected evolution, Newton’s theory of colour, subscribed to the four elements and wrote that the sun is ‘the Notion existing as a particular body’2.

Both believed we are estranged from God – a marker of Neoplatonism. Moffitt Watts maintains her blindness in this regard, too

Cusanus, striving to overcome the disjunctions that estrange man from God and creation, comes to see that the new problems of knowledge and faith are better expressed in less formal and systematic ways. Knowledge and faith evolve through the unique movement of each individual’s interior mental and spiritual life.3

Hegel and Cusanus located the divine in human rationality and both were committed to creating what they thought of as a healing bond between Christian faith, theology, philosophy (metaphysics, ontology and epistemology) and community.

For both, as Jaspers wrote of Cusanus, ‘speculative (my italics) philosophical thinking and the Christian faith merge into one’4 and, again what he wrote of Cusanus applies equally to Hegel

It never occurs to Cusanus that his philosophical ideas and his theological ideas might conflict. To him philosophy was not a rational substructure supporting the higher, the mystery. Reflection on the mystery of revelation was itself philosophy.5

Further, the theological is not separated from the physical – knowledge of the world leads to knowledge of God. Hegel illustrated this Neoplatonic precept throughout his Philosophy of Nature

Nature is the bride which Spirit weds.6

Nature is Spirit estranged from itself; in Nature, Spirit lets itself go, a Bacchic god unrestrained and unmindful of itself7

God is subjectivity, activity, infinite actuosity, in which otherness has only a transient being8

The two forms under which the serial progression of nature is conceived are evolution and emanation. …though (evolution) is of all theories the easiest to understand, it does not really explain anything at all.9

Each of these forms (emanation and evolution) taken separately is one-sided, but they exist together; the eternal divine process is a flowing in two opposite directions which meet and permeate each other in what is simply and solely one.10

The concluding sentence of the book is

The aim of these lectures has been…to see in Nature a free reflex of spirit; to know God, not in the contemplation of him as spirit, but in this his immediate existence.11

For both, ‘science’ is indistinguishable from the cognition of self and self-knowledge is the core of our religious experience. Both committed themselves to Neoplatonism in reaction, in turn, against scholasticism12 and Enlightenment rationalism – Cusanus, in doing so, overleapt the Enlightenment13.

Both sought, on the basis of Neoplatonism, to develop a new method for doing philosophy and theology. To illustrate the extent of sameness in their identification of the ‘problems’ and their solution, I quote Moffitt Watts

Cusanus is led increasingly to believe that the central problems of theology and philosophy revolve around the dimensions of human nature and its individual and communal capacities and potentialities.14

Cusanus himself indicates in both the De docta ignorantia and the De coniecturis that he is in fact attempting to establish a new framework for philosophising and theologising…His basic critique is levelled against what he considers to be the vanity and the hollowness of the scholastic mode of logical discourse…Cusanus was prepared to take on the scholastics on philosophical grounds and to establish new grounds and forms for speculation.15

As Cusanus attempted ‘to establish a new framework for philosophising and theologising’ in the Proclean triad God/universe/Christ of his De docta ignorantia (to which I will soon return) and in his De coniecturis, Hegel aimed to do the same in his Phenomenology of Spirit and in the Proclean triad of his Encyclopaedia Logic, Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit (see 11.3.7).

Where Cusanus’ ‘basic critique is levelled against what he considers to be the vanity and the hollowness of the scholastic mode of logical discourse’, Hegel’s basic critique was levelled against what he considered to be the vanity of the priests and the hollowness of Enlightenment Deism and ‘subjective feeling’.

That Cusanus opposed scholasticism on the basis of the attainability of its goals – ‘the rational analysis and understanding of the essences of created things and of God’16 where Hegel opposed Enlightenment rationalism which held that God cannot be cognised appears to be a major difference between the two, but it is not – the solution to this apparent dilemma lies in Neoplatonic theory, to which point I will also soon return.

Hodgson wrote that where Lessing and others had critiqued the authority of scripture as the basis for Christianity and Hume had undercut Enlightenment rationalism as a basis for Christianity, either a new philosophical theology had to be developed for the continued justification of Christianity or religion would have to be considered as a purely human expression. He added that Hegel set out to develop a speculative theology for Christianity. I disagree with the last sentence – in my view Hegel set out to develop a speculative theology (Neoplatonism) – using Christianity for its potential – both as metaphor and, in so doing, to further anchor Neoplatonism in the lived world.

 Just as Magee wrote that Hegel’s system

is an attempt to ‘re-enchant’ the world, to re-invest nature with the experience of the numinous lost with the death of the mythical consciousness17

so Nietzsche’s Übermensch and Weber’s Berufsmensch were equally Neoplatonically inspired ‘heroic’ individuals of their time, shapers of their spiritual selves in the face of the dissolution of spiritual unity by the rising tide of late nineteenth century capitalist consumerism. Two readings of the individual as God that all-conquering capitalism has thoroughly made one – ‘You are thoughtful, creative and beautiful – buy this!’



1. Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa: Metaphysical Speculations: volume two, op. cit., 3
2. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 223
3. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op. cit., 229
4. Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, op. cit., 145
5. Ibid., 148-149
6. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 13
7. Ibid., 14
8. Ibid., 15
9. Ibid., 21
10. Ibid., 26
11. Ibid., 445
12. Hegel and Cusanus criticised scholasticism from the same perspective: Buhle wrote of Cusanus ‘he attacked in particular the craze of the scholastics for debating any subject even if it utterly transcended the bounds of human reason.’ Johann Gottlieb Buhle, Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, vol. 2, Johann Georg Rosenbusch, Göttingen, 1800, 80-81; Brown wrote in Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy “Hegel contrasts the increase in dialectical hairsplitting on the part of the Scholastics by the use of Aristotelian logic, with ‘the properly speculative element in Aristotle’ that the Scholastics had forgotten.” In Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. II, Note 162, 232
13.Cusanus was not a precursor of the Enlightenment. He was interested…in speculative thinking’, Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, op. cit., 248; ‘Shallow rationalism loses sight of the intellect by raising discursive reason to the level of an absolute and by exalting sensory experience. It believes in progress, rejects speculative philosophy along with theology…Cusanus was the very opposite of all this.’ Ibid., 249
14. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op. cit., 30
15. Ibid., 225
16. Ibid., 43
17. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 97

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13f

13.5 What the academics refuse to acknowledge in Hegel they incorrectly attribute in Cusanus

Nicholas of Cusa is almost unanimously recognised by academics as a Neoplatonist – a ‘Christian Neoplatonist’ – yet the errors they make when discussing his philosophy reveal both their ignorance of and hostility to Neoplatonism. Beck rejected that Cusanus was a mystic, writing

If he were, one would not expect learned ignorance to be man’s final stance before God; and one would expect something more ecstatic than the somewhat modest language of the devotio moderna.1

Beck’s error is fundamental. Neoplatonism is a complex and subtle philosophy not a prescription for self-abandonment. Rather than advocating a mystical relinquishment of self, Cusanus argued for and developed on a philosophy of self-knowledge and self-realisation as the method for attaining God. This is the method of the Enneads – and of the more philosophically developed system of Hegel.

Man’s creative (introspective) activity is an image of God’s. Neoplatonism enabled its proponents to argue for the contradictoriness, dynamism, complexity and poetry of the world – for them, that of religious consciousness. The academics’ refusal to countenance Hegel as a Neoplatonic mystic is premised on the same grounds Beck used with regard to Cusanus – he was a philosopher, his philosophy is not ecstatic.

Moffitt Watts wrote

Cusanus was one of the earliest thinkers to understand deeply and develop comprehensively the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural implications of the idea that the human mind is its own world…Cusanus’ conception of mind represents an important step on the road to Cartesianism.2

Again, fundamental errors. More than a millennium before Cusanus lived, Plotinus founded the school of philosophy to which he subscribed and which Plotinus ‘developed comprehensively’ in his Enneads. The ‘conception of mind (representing) an important step on the road to Cartesianism’ was the achievement of Plotinus, not Cusanus, who revitalised it.

When it comes to the recognition of the influence of Plato and Aristotle on subsequent philosophers, academics (those who repeatedly emphasise the importance of correct attribution to their students) don’t have a problem, but when the name of Plotinus is put forward, who was at least the equal of Plato and Aristotle and who drew on both, the problems arise and persist in abundance.

Hopkins identified a number of themes in Cusanus that he thinks have a ‘peculiarly Modern ring’3 to them including:

• a part is not known unless the whole is known (De mente)

• when the part is wholly known, then the whole is known and vice versa (De mente)

• man is the measure of all things (De Beryllo)

• Cusanus’ distinction between ratio (reason) and intellectus (understanding) – the principle of non-contradiction applies only at the level of ratio – that which distinguishes/analyses

• ‘Nicholas, under the influence of Leon Batista Alberti, emphasises that human knowledge is perspectival’

• the infinite is manifest through the finite

• since the divine mind is reflected in and through the human mind, all knowledge of God is metaphorical

• human minds are like living mirrors that mirror each other – Leibniz adopted this comparison

• Mind ‘performs all (its operations) in order to know itself’ (De mente 9)

• the earth moves (break with Ptolemaic theory)

• the earth for those on it appears to be at the centre of the universe as would another body for those standing on it

• the universe is as perfect as it can be

Having identified these points, Hopkins then refuses Cusanus recognition as the ‘father’ of modern philosophy, granting that accolade to a non-Neoplatonist who had ‘mentioned’ him4. More importantly, every one of these points are Neoplatonic staples – they are all addressed in the Enneads.

Plotinus set out the mystical relationship between part and whole and the knowledge of both. While he didn’t write that ‘man is the measure of all things’, God, the measure of all that is, is within5. To attain God is to rise from the sensory world to reach our true self. Plotinus distinguished between the ‘two’ reasons – contemplative and discursive. His philosophy is perspectival. For him the infinite is manifest through the finite, the human ‘mind’ is the product of divine ‘mind’ (the second hypostasis Intellectual-Principle) and knowledge of God is metaphorical – the primary metaphor, resonant through Western history, being that of the sculptor chiselling his soul.

Plotinus employed the metaphor of mirroring, equivalent with that of ‘seeing’6. For him, ‘mind’ performs its operations in order to know itself (true knowledge progresses from the second to the first hypostasis). For Plotinus, all that is moves, driven by degrees of desire, most weak in the material realm, around the Good which, in its infinite power, is stationary – the divine light of Copernicus was at the centre long before Cusanus7. The appearance of centrality depending on position can be traced, again, to the second hypostasis where there is no centre and all the Forms comprise a totality of unity-in-diversity.

It was Plotinus who, in arguing for the beauty and worth of the earth and everything on it8, set the basis for the Neoplatonists’ interest in the world, which Cusanus exemplified brilliantly in Book II of De docta ignorantia and which, later, Hegel exemplified in the second book of his Encyclopaedia.

On the universe being as perfect as it can be, Armstrong wrote

The material universe for Plotinus is a living, organic whole, the best possible image of the living unity-in-diversity of the World of Forms in Intellect. It is held together in every part by a universal sympathy and harmony, in which external evil and suffering take their place as necessary elements in the great pattern, the great dance of the universe…Matter then is responsible for the evil and imperfection of the material world; but that world is good and necessary, the best possible image of the world of spirit on the material level, where it is necessary that it should express itself for the completion of the whole. It has not the goodness of its archetype, but it has the goodness of the best possible image.9

Cassirer made the same basic errors as Beck, Moffitt Watts and Hopkins

Cusanus arrives at the essential principles of a new cosmology…the earth may no longer be considered something base…the new orientation in astronomy…a totally new intellectual orientation…10

Cusanus explored and brought out through clarification and metaphysical application what was already in Neoplatonic theory. In doing so he made very important contributions to its development and to later science.

These contributions were crucial to Hegel’s furthest development of Neoplatonism but they were, more than anything else, clarifications and metaphysical applications of what Plotinus had set out in his unsystematic presentation of his vast system in his Enneads and had been passed on by his successors.

The profound failure in social and intellectual responsibility by academics in refusing to recognise and to acknowledge the immense impact of Plotinus on Western culture is not accidental. It is driven by the requirements, as I have argued, of ideology and Western supremacism.

13.6 Parallels between Hegel and Cusanus

Below in point form and in no particular order are some of the parallels between Hegel and Cusanus I have identified, some of which I will address in this thesis:

• both were Neoplatonists who philosophised within a Proclean triadic framework

• both their enquiries tie philosophy to Christian faith

• both made the triune Trinity central

• both addressed the two ‘reasons’ (what Hegel referred to as Verstand and Vernunft)

• the philosophies of both are very complex

• God is the beginning and end of all things/God as a creative force

• God is not transcendent but immanent

• God is a logical concept

• how God can be known

• the mysticism of both is intellectual

• the systems of both were an attempt to address a perceived challenge to unity

• both used devices: metaphor, etc.

• subject/object: the unity of knower/knowing/known, seer/seeing/seen

• Christ become man is the link between God and world

• what knowledge is/all knowledge is ‘speculative’

• for both, Being (God) is primary to being and non-being

• both sought to reconstruct the grounds of philosophy and theology and the relationship between them

• both thought their philosophies represented a break from previous philosophy

• for both, philosophy is theology

• both believed we are estranged from God

• self-knowledge is at the core of our experience

• God cannot be predicated

• the world originates in (divine) Mind

• our ‘minds’ are models of ‘the mind’ of God – what his ‘mind’ does is replicated by ours conceptually

• God is the greatest activity in the greatest stillness

• same concepts

– absolute (as a noun)

– being and nothing

– coincidence (coincidentia oppositorum)

– contraction

– contradiction

– emanation and return (from the One to the many and return)

– enfolding/unfolding

– finite/infinite

– modes of apprehending

– magnitude (maximum/minimum)

– rational ground

– posse

• Plotinus’ sculptor

• truth/Absolute truth

• their humanism

• Cusanus was far more philosophical than either Eckhart or Böhme

• ‘science’ for both

• their metaphysical understanding of the world

• the eye that sees its other etc.

• the importance of ‘community’ in their philosophies

• their views on language

• on sense experience

• the world is change

• Catholicism as a ground for mysticism



1. Beck, Early German Philosophy: Kant and his Predecessors, op. cit., 58
2. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op, cit., 225
3. Hopkins, ‘Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464): First Modern Philosopher?’, op. cit., 14-17. In the entire article, ‘Plotinus’ and ‘Neoplatonism’ occur once each.
4. See 13.4
5. ‘Protagoras, then, rightly stated that man is the measure of things. Because man knows—by reference to the nature of his perceptual [cognition]—that perceptible objects exist for the sake of that cognition, he measures perceptible objects in order to be able to apprehend, perceptually, the glory of the Divine Intellect. Similarly, with regard to things intelligible when we refer them to intellective cognition: at length, from that same consideration, man reflects upon the fact that the intellective nature is immortal—[doing so] in order that the Divine Intellect, in its immortality, can manifest itself to him.’ Nicholas of Cusa, De beryllo (‘On [Intellectual] Eyeglasses’), op. cit., 69, 825. ‘Nicholas’s appropriation of Protagoras’s doctrine of homo mensura differs widely from Protagoras’s own understanding of it; for, ultimately, according to Nicholas, God is the Measure of all things’ Hopkins’ note 18, Ibid., 831
6. See 8.5
7. ‘Time in its ceaseless onward sliding produces parted interval; Eternity stands in identity, pre-eminent, vaster by unending power than Time with all the vastness of its seeming progress; Time is like a radial line running out apparently to infinity but dependent upon that, its centre, which is the pivot of all its movement; as it goes it tells of that centre, but the centre itself is the unmoving principle of all the movement (my italics).’ Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.5.11
8. See 11.3.7
9. Armstrong in Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., vol. I, xxiv
10. ‘From these methodological premises Cusanus arrives at the essential principles of a new cosmology. …the earth may no longer be considered something base or detestable within nature. Rather, it is as noble star…we can see clearly why, from Cusanus’ viewpoint, the new orientation in astronomy that led to the supersession of the geocentric vision of the world was only the result and the expression of a totally new intellectual orientation. This intimate connection between the two was already visible in the formulation of his basic cosmological ideas in De docta ignorantia. It is useless to seek a physical central point for the world. Just as it has no sharply delineated geometric form but rather extends spatially into the indeterminate, so it also has no locally determined centre. Thus, if the question of its central point can be asked at all, it can no longer be answered by physics but by metaphysics.’ Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, Trans., Mario Domandi, Barnes & Noble, New York, 1963, 27

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