13.6.4 The God of Hegel and Cusanus
God is living, eternal reason. He is everywhere, nowhere
We maintain, and it is evident truth, that the Supreme is everywhere and yet nowhere; keeping this constantly in mind let us see how it bears on our present inquiry.1
Every cause which is separate from its effects exists at once everywhere and nowhere.2
Hence, the world-machine will have its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere, so to speak; for God, who is everywhere and nowhere, is its circumference and centre.3
the Cardinal’s solution to the problem of how we can see the invisible God in this life was based on a version of Neoplatonic dialectical thinking not found in Augustine. …From the perspective of the Cardinal’s dialectical Neoplatonism, God’s transcendent otherness is identical with his absolute immanence.4
Hegel’s God is clearly an immanent this-worldly one, dependent on human recognition5
He is Simplicity
God is not the foundation of contradiction but is Simplicity, which is prior to every foundation.6
By descending from its eternal simplicity, the absolute being (the ‘Father’) attains for the first time its ‘highest being’ – which is not the remote and inaccessible deity of rationalism but a…relational being that comes down into history and makes itself manifest (the ‘Son’).7
Both echoed Plotinus’ portrayal of the One as the greatest activity in the greatest stillness
God…is…not only maximal motion but also minimal motion (i.e., motion which is most at rest).8
The Scholastics rightly regarded this as the definition of God, namely, that God is the actus purus. God is pure activity9
Reason in and for itself is eternal and at rest, but it is likewise activity, and its actions are exclusively rational. It produces itself from within itself10
For Cusanus and Hegel, given their conflation of the hypostases as well as their structuring of their philosophies on Proclus’ triad of triads, God creates because he thinks11 and creation, as the by-product of his contemplation is crucial. God, himself, is Infinite Art
Therefore, the power of the Creative Art (this Art is the absolute and infinite Art, i.e., the Blessed God) works all things by His Spirit, or Will.12
Hegel put this most simply
God does not create the world once and for all, but is the eternal creator, the eternal act of self-revelation. This actus is what God is; this is God’s concept, God’s definition.13
1. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.8.16 ↩
2. Proclus, The Elements of Theology, op. cit., Prop. 98 ↩
3. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., II,12,162 ↩
4. Bernard McGinn, ‘Seeing and Not Seeing – Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei in the History of Western Mysticism’ in Casarella, Ed., Cusanus, The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, op. cit., 26-53, 34, 43; ‘(Cusanus did not believe in a transcendent God he) stands in the Neoplatonist tradition of Christian thought which veers toward an immanentist pantheism. The world, rather than being something separate from God and created by him, is the “emanation” or “explication” or “contraction” of God: the world, in a certain sense, is God, or an aspect of God.’ Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, op. cit., 27 ↩
5. Redding, ’Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 14; ‘To achieve the aim of coherence, all transcendence had to be exorcised from the world because Hegel recognised very early on that transcendence was a threat to community’ Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, op. cit., 135; ‘(One of the lessons in the Phenomenology is) the inadequacy of the assumption that the truth of the world is located in some transcendent beyond.’ Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, op. cit., 137 ↩
6. Nicholas of Cusa, De Deo abscondito (‘On the Hidden God’), 1444, in A Miscellany of Nicholas of Cusa, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1994, 300-305, 10, 303 ↩
7. Hodgson in Hodgson, Ed., G.W.F. Hegel, Theologian of the Spirit, op. cit., 20↩
8. Nicholas of Cusa, De Possest (‘On Actualised-Possibility’), op. cit., 10, 919; ‘The same (Pseudo-) Dionysius affirms of the same Beginning that it is finite and infinite, at rest and in motion—and that it is neither at rest nor in motion.’ Nicholas of Cusa, De beryllo (‘On [Intellectual] Eyeglasses’), op. cit., 11, 796; (with regard to Cusanus’ philosophy) ’in God the most tremendous motion is at the same time perfect rest.’ Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, op. cit., 136 ↩
9. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. II, 237 ↩
10. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, op. cit., 209. See 6.2 ↩
11. As I have discussed previously (see 7ff.), for Plotinus, the One neither creates (it ‘generates’) nor thinks (because thinking requires an object and therefore a division into subject and object. ↩
12. Nicholas of Cusa, Idiota de mente (‘The Layman on Mind’), op. cit., 13, 147, 581; ‘because the Creator-Intellect makes itself the goal of its own works in order for its glory to be manifested, it creates cognising substances that are capable of beholding its reality [veritas]. …all that remains to be said is contained in an enfolded way.’ Nicholas of Cusa, De beryllo (‘On [Intellectual] Eyeglasses’), op. cit., 4, 793; ‘there is one Beginning, from whose Absolute Oneness multitude flows forth, from whose Absolute Equality inequality flows forth, and from whose Absolute Union division flows forth)’, Nicholas of Cusa, De coniecturis (‘On Speculations’), op. cit., 1,1,6, 165 ↩
13. Hegel in Hodgson, Ed., G.W.F. Hegel, Theologian of the Spirit, op. cit., 210 ↩
How is you thesis going Phil ? I sympathise with your difficulties to find people interested in Neoplatonism in Australian academia.. but in fact, there is a flourishing international nettwork of Neoplatonic scholars and the field is becoming one of great interest to many people.. Among many other things there is renewed interest in links between Neoplatonsm and Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and the Qabalah, Neoplatonism and early Christian theology, Neoplatonism and Islamic thought etc. etc. Most of the people working in his field work in theology or religious studies departments in academia, as you are right that various forms of positivism hold sway mostly in western academia. Blame Aristotle if you must.. http://www.isns.us/ Check out my website on http://www.educationaid.net and you may find some things of interest there.. The problem is that most conventional academic institutions are set up like business interests with academics like rival knights in armour defending their own patch of knowledge. Which is ridiculous of course, I coordinate European Philosophers for Peace, among many other things, and take the question of violence and nonviolence very seriously I have spent much time in India talking to Jains, Buddhists, Hindus. Oriental thinkers on the whole are mystified about the Western delight in conflict, and yoga has an altogether different approach to wisdom. More in tune with Plato’s own original thought, which was derived largely from his knowledge of the ancient Greek mystery schools. I am surprised you don’t seem to have discovered theosophy ? Finally, do you know Glen Magee’s work on the esoteric and hermetic influences on Hegel’s thought ? I set up a new University (The Global green University) back in 1999 dedicated to the 9 Muses, a quixotic attempt to revive the Neoplatonic current underlying authentic western philosophy and science – and then apply it to real world problems facing humanity. keep up the good work and do finish that thesis you have been promising the world.
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thank you for your interest and encouragement. I have written about 3/4 of my thesis, which I am serialising on my blog. I have a ‘Contents’ post with links to what I have processed so far. When I have completed my thesis I will make it available as a download.
I am certainly aware of theosophy, Hermeticism and related belief systems – Magee’s writing on Hermeticism in relation to Hegel is excellent and sorely needed but I disagree with his thesis that Hegel was an Hermetic thinker.
In my view, he was the consummate Neoplatonist. I will be discussing Magee’s position later in my thesis.
As you know, to have an interest in one of those belief systems at least usually meant an interest in a range of them (as Magee well illustrated with Hegel), but I consider Neoplatonism to have been the primary mystical current in the West and in my thesis I argue a direct and profound relationship between Hegel, Plotinus and that Neoplatonic current.
The worth and significance of Plotinus is certainly on the same level as Plato and Aristotle and the ‘cold shoulder’ he and his current have received from generations of academics is a disgrace of the first order.
I argue that Hegel, in disguising and failing to acknowledge his orientation and debts to philosophers in that current was one of many complicit in this.
And it is, in my view, ideologically motivated.
As Marx wrote, that current, even in its idealist form, is revolutionary. Having been absorbed into materialism, it foretells the passing of capitalism as it does of every other form of organisation.
Again, with thanks and best wishes,