Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer

Author Quotes

For all the [body?s] members seek nothing except inseparable union with the intellect, as with their beginning, ultimate good, and everlasting life.

Paul indeed wanted to reveal the unknown God to the philosophers and then affirms of Him, that no human intellect can conceive Him. Therefore, God is revealed therein, that one knows that every intellect is too small to make itself a figuration or concept of Him. However, he names him God, or in Greek, theos.

For when we say that what is different is different, we affirm that what is different is the same as itself. For what is different can be different only through the Absolute Same, through which all that is is both the same as itself and other than another.

Since beings desire to exist, because to exist is a good thing: they desire the One without which they cannot exist.

Furthermore the very center of the world is no more inside the earth than outside it; for neither this earth, nor any other sphere, has a center; indeed, the center is a point equidistant from the circumference; but it is not possible that there be a true sphere or circumference such that a truer, and more precise one, could not be possible; a precise equidistance of divers [objects] cannot be found outside of God, for He alone is the infinite equality. Thus it is the blessed God who is the center of the world; He is the center of the earth and of all the spheres, and of all [the things] that are in the world, as He is at the same time the infinite circumference of all. Furthermore, there are in the sky no immovable, fixed poles, though the sky of the fixed stars appears by its motion to describe circles graduated in magnitude, lesser than the colures or than the equinoctials and also circles of an intermediate [magnitude]; yet, as a matter of fact, all the parts of the sky must move, though unequally in comparison with the circles described by the motion of the fixed stars. Thus, as certain stars appear to describe the maximal circle, so certain [others], the minimal, but there is no star that does not describe any. Therefore, as there is no fixed pole in the sphere, it is obvious that neither can there be found an exact mean, that is, a point equidistant from the poles. There is therefore no star in the eighth sphere which by [its] revolution would describe a maximal circle, because it would have to be equidistant from the poles which do not exist, and accordingly [the star] that would describe the minimal circle does not exist either. Thus the poles of the spheres coincide with the center and there is no other center than the pole, that is, the blessed God Himself.

Since it always appears to every observer, whether on the earth, the sun, or another star, that one is, as if, at an immovable center of things and that all else is being moved, one will always select different poles in relation to oneself, whether one is on the sun, the earth, the moon, Mars, and so forth. Therefore, the world machine will have, one might say, its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, for its circumference and center is God, who is everywhere and nowhere.

God is not something... God is beyond nothing and beyond something... God cannot be called this rather than that.

The ancients did not arrive at the things that we have brought forth, because they were deficient in learned ignorance. But for us it is clear that this earth really moves, though it does not appear to us to do so, because we do not apprehend motion except by a certain comparison with something fixed. Thus if a man in a boat, in the middle of a stream, did not know that the water was flowing and did not see the bank, how would he apprehend that the boat was moving?18 Accordingly, as it will always seem to the observer, whether he be on the earth, or on the sun or on another star, that he is in the quasi-motionless center and that all the other [things] are in motion, he will certainly determine the poles [of this motion] in relation to himself; and these poles will be different for the observer on the sun and for the one on the earth, and still different for those on the moon and Mars, and so on for the rest. Thus, the fabric of the world (machina mundi) will quasi have its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, because the circumference and the center are God; Who is everywhere and nowhere.

If full knowledge about the very base of our existence could be described as a circle, the best we can do is to arrive at a polygon.

The earth, which cannot be the center, cannot lack all motion. In fact, it is even necessary that it be moved in such a way that it could be moved infinitely less.

In God we must not conceive of distinction and indistinction, for example, as two contradictories, but we must conceive of them as antecedently existing in their own most simple beginning, where distinction is not other than indistinction.

The fact is that man has no longing for any other nature but desires only to be perfect in his own.

It has been asserted that there is a separate species on the earth to correspond with each one of the stars. Now if the earth provides in each species a focus for the action of each star, why may not a similar provision be made among other heavenly bodies that are subject to the action of their fellows?

The great Dionysius says that our understanding of God draws near to nothing rather than to something. But sacred ignorance teaches me that that which seems to the intellect to be nothing is the incomprehensible Maximum.

It is impossible for the world machine to have this sensible earth, air, fire, or anything else for a fixed and immovable center. For in motion there is no simply minimum, such as a fixed center.... And although the world is not Infinite, it cannot be conceived of as finite, since it lacks boundaries within which it is enclosed... Therefore, just as the earth is not the center of the world, so the sphere of fixed stars is not its circumference.

The intellect alone has an eye for viewing an essence, which it cannot see except in the true Cause, which is the Fount of all desire. Moreover, since all things seek to exist, then in all things there is desire from the Fount-of-desire, wherein being and desire coincide in the Same.

It is possible that those who will read things previously unheard of, and now established by Learned Ignorance, will be astonished.

The machine of the world will have its centre everywhere, so to speak, and its circumference nowhere, because its circumference and its centre are God, who is everywhere and nowhere.

A given circle cannot be so true that a truer one cannot be found; and the movement of a sphere at one moment is never precisely equal to its movement at another, nor does it ever describe two circles similar and equal, even if from appearances the opposite may seem true.

It is self-evident that there is no comparative relation of the infinite to the finite. ... Therefore, it is not the case that by means of likeness a finite intellect can precisely attain the truth about things. ... For truth is not something more or something less but is something indivisible. Whatever is not truth cannot measure truth precisely. ... For the intellect is to truth as an inscribed polygon is to the inscribing circle.

The posse {i.e. potential} of the mind to see, therefore, surpasses the posse to comprehend.

A human is above all the creatures of God, and only a bit lower than the angels.

It must be added that this earth is not spherical, as some have said, though it tends towards sphericity; indeed, the shape of the world is contrasted in its parts, as well as its motion; but when the infinite line is considered as contracted in such a way that, as contracted, it could not be more perfect or more spacious, then it is circular, and the corresponding corporeal figure [is the] spherical one. For all motion of the parts is towards the perfection of the whole; thus heavy bodies [move] towards the earth, and light ones [move] upward, earth towards earth, water towards water, fire towards fire; accordingly, the motion of the whole tends as far as it can towards the circular, and all shapes towards the spherical one, as we see in the parts of animals, in trees, and in the sky. But one motion is more circular and more perfect than another, and it is the same with shapes.

The rational is apprehended through the intellect, however, the intellect is not found in the region of the rational; the intellect is as the eye and the rational as the colors.

According to the movement of reason, plurality or multitude is opposed to unity. Hence, it is not a unity of this sort which properly applies to God, but the unity to which neither otherness nor plurality nor multiplicity is opposed. This unity is the maximum name enfolding all things in its simplicity of unity, and this is the name which is ineffable and above all understanding.

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Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus
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German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer