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Eriugena: East and West
Eriugena: East and West. Papers of the Eighth International Colloquium of the Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies, Chicago and Notre Dame, 18-20 October 1991. Bernard McGinn and Willemien Otten, eds. Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies, Number V. Institute of Medieval Studies, University of Notre Dame, John Van Engen, Director. Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994. xi + 290 pp. $39.95 Reviewed by Sheri Katz -- Spring Hill College
The thought of John Scottus Eriugena is undeniably important for its pivotal and unique position in the history of both Greek and Latin mediaeval philosophy and theology. The contributors to this volume of selected (revised) conference papers are not alone in being convinced of Eriugena's significance. The esteemed scholar Bernard McGinn, one of the book's editors and the author of the introductory essay, "Eriugena: East and West," reminds us that Eriugena is the earliest major western representative of a dialectical Platonic (Greek) Christian theology (9). Readers are told "The purpose of this volume is to investigate why John thought it important to bring East and West together and how he actually went about the task" (4). McGinn credits Eriugena's works with containing "among the most powerful and subtle of the varieties" of this sort of theology (9). He explains key terms in his description of Eriugena's theology, 'Christian', 'Platonic', and 'dialectic'. McGinn is convinced that we will want to think along with Eriugena, even if we do not share his perspective or believe he has solutions for all of the challenges facing Christian theology today (10-11).
Most of the
usual suspects in the field of Eriugenian studies are present and
accounted for. If they are not among the contributors to the
volume, they are cited frequently in the notes. In fact the
references contained in these papers are incredibly useful in that
they reflect three quarters of a century of scholarship on Eriugena.
Unfortunately, owing to the repetition of many of the citations, and
the fact that they so often point the reader in the direction of a
work by another of this volume's contributors (or a self-citation),
they provide a strong sense that the
Some of the
papers in the collection summarize carefully the doctrines they discuss
or even repeat, albeit in stylistically different fashions, work that
is fairly familiar to serious students of philosophical theology.
However, the book is pitched primarily at Eriugena scholars: the conference
participants themselves, those mentioned
A more serious problem with the conception of the volume is its focus on the concepts "eastern" and "western." These terms have slippery or ambiguous meanings. As one might expect, they are not used univocally by all of the contributors to the volume. Moreover, for a book appearing in the mid-1990s, these broad categories are theoretically and stylistically dated. Nonetheless, this collection is another important addition to the field, even if it is a small one, of Eriugenian studies.
Next I provide brief synopses of each of the articles. In the final section of this long review, I give more detailed summaries. (N.B.: Though the editors' practice is to allow the authors to use their preferred spellings and capitalization conventions, outside of quotations, I have adopted a consistent practice.)
The book is divided into four sections. It opens with Bernard McGinn's lucid essay, which is not assigned to a named section of the book. The other three sections are entitled "Historical Background," "Themes of the East-West Encounter," and "Eastern Sources and Influences."
on historical background includes only one article, Michael McCormick's
"Diplomacy and the Carolingian Encounter with Byzantium down to the
Accession of Charles the Bald." McGinn reminds the
part is the book's central section, containing seven papers.
The section opens with "Remarks on Eastern Patristic Thought in John
Scottus Eriugena," by the late John Meyendorff, to whom the volume
"Eriugena's <i>Periphyseon</i>: A Carolingian Contribution to the Theological Tradition," Willemien Otten's essay, sets out to defend the intellectual integrity of Eriugena's position in the <i>Periphyseon</i> in the theological tradition, without taking the work out of its Carolingian context (70, 83), whether or not the ideas are ultimately valuable or its integration of Greek sources is ultimately successful (69). Thus she offers a systematic and historical interpretation and a defense of situating Eriugena's thought primarily within the Western tradition.
Marler's "Dialectical Use of Authority in the <i>Periphyseon</i>"
follows Otten's essay. He opens with a brief outline of the relationship
between authority and truth in pseudo-Dionysius in order to ground
his central point that Eriugena's concept of "authority" is unique.
He demonstrates this uniqueness by means of a thorough
In "The <i>Concordia</i> of Augustine and Dionysius: Toward a Hermeneutic of the Disagreement of Patristic Sources in John the Scot's <i>Periphyseon</i>," Guilio D'Onofrio, in Bernard McGinn's translation, offers an interesting complement and contrast to the preceding article. D'Onofrio also writes about the relationship between truth and authority, faith and reason in <i>Periphyseon</i>, contrasting Eriugena's view primarily with the views of Augustine and Abelard. He characterizes Eriugena's conception as follows: "the incontrovertibility of truth is at the same time the principle and the criterion of the recognition of both the positive results of inquiry and its inevitable incompleteness" (121).
The title of Deirdre Carabine's article, "Eriugena's Use of the Symbolism of Light, Cloud, and Darkness in the <i>Periphyseon</i>, very effectively summarizes the content. Her thesis is that an ambiguity in some aspects of Eriugena's application of these metaphors is significant for the epistemological and eschatological consequences of Eriugena's <i>apophasis</i> (141). In contrast to Otten, for example, who wants to see Eriugena as firmly Carolingian, Carabine places Eriugena more on the side of his Greek sources.
"Biblical and Platonic Measure in John Scottus Eriugena," by James McEvoy is a very useful article for scholars not familiar with the notion of measure in Eriugena's philosophy or elsewhere. Most of McEvoy's time is devoted to explication and excavation of the concept of measure in various sources prior to the ninth century. He thinks the most important sources for Eriugena's thinking about and utilization of the notion of measure are the Bible, Augustine, and Dionysius (175), though of course Eriugena modifies the positions of those he selects as authorities, demonstrating his originality, so that his philosophy "cannot be reduced to his source reading" (176).
Jean Pepin's "Humans and Animals: Aspects of Scriptural Reference in Eriugena's Anthropology," translated by Willemien Otten, closes the second section of the book. This article reads closely the first few pages of <i>Periphyseon</i> 4's discussion of the Genesis account of the creation of animals. The point is to determine who Eriugena's sources are, in order to understand better his anthropology. "Rather than reducing their exegetical discourse to a theoretical construct in order to extract their underlying anthropological framework," Pepin fits the texts into the tradition of biblical commentary (179).
The final section of the book, "Eastern Sources and Influences," begins with "Unity and Trinity in East and West," by Werner Beierwaltes, translated by Douglas Hedley. Most of the article is devoted to careful explanation of earlier versions of the concepts of unity and trinity before turning to how they unfold in Eriugena's mediating (between eastern and western views) philosophy. The "concept of Trinity as absolute causality which constitutes its own being as an inner-relatedness" is seen as Eriugena's particular contribution to the discussion, certainly when compared with his Latin predecessors. The article is difficult, but repays careful study.
In "Isaiah Meets the Seraph: Breaking Ranks in Dionysius and Eriugena?" Donald Duclow fills in some of the gaps in our knowledge of Eriugena's views about angels, by comparing Eriugena's views to Dionysius' position on the human relationship to angels. Duclow summarizes his conclusions lucidly and concisely. For Dionysius, angels are mediators between God and humans. Eriugena has a more exalted view of humans whereby we occupy a position equal to or higher than that of angels so that we and not angels occupy the central position. Eriugena's Christology places humans still higher into the depths of God by making us the vehicles for God's self-disclosure and the return of all in the end (245, 246).
Eric D. Perl summarizes nicely the doctrines of his authors as he compares them in "Metaphysics and Christology in Maximus Confessor and Eriugena." Perl contends that the similarity between Maximus' ontology and that of Eriugena is insufficiently documented. He claims that Maximus has an "integrated christological ontology, in which the mystery of Christ is itself the basis for understanding the metaphysics of the relation between God and the world" (253, 267). This understanding is not found in Eriugena owing to his unfamiliarity with sixth- and seventh-century Byzantine Christology. Still, Eriugena came to a more metaphysical understanding of the incarnation than did the Latin fathers (253, 265-266). Most of the article explains Maximus' ontology.
"Russian Scholarship on the Interrelation of Eastern and Western Thought in John Scottus Eriugena," by Oleg Bychkov, closes the book. The article's interest lies not so much in its philosophical, theological, hermeneutical, or exegetical analysis, as in its historiographical value. This article, quite different from others in the book, summarizes the work, little known in the West (as well as in the Soviet Union), of a prerevolutionary Russian scholar, Alexander Brilliantov.
Bychkov thinks the case of Brilliantov is a perfect example of east-west
relations, it is particularly fitting that this essay close the book,
bringing McGinn's allusions, in his introduction, to the persistent
divergence between the two traditions back into the picture. The publisher's
flyer for the book promises that it will "open a fruitful discussion
about the contemporary challenges that continue to divide Christian
theology, East and West." Only McGinn and Bychkov, and perhaps Meyendorff
acknowledge explicitly a connection with analogous contemporary
problems and discussion, it would take a reader at least another book
of this length to draw out these connections on her own.
Understanding Eriugena's writings as intentional attempts to close
the gaps that had formed between east and west, McGinn, in his introduction,
aims to explain how the essays in the book illustrate aspects of Eriugena's
attempts to reconcile Latins and Greeks. Another goal of his
essay is to depict the historical developments, from the ninth century
onward, which create problems for those attempting to reconcile
Those who wrote in Greek, and those who wrote in Latin, prior to Eriugena's time.
One might want a few more sentences about the overlap between the concepts of "the East" and "those who wrote in Greek," especially since this is the book's introduction.
Given that historians have typically found that contact between Constantinople
and the Franks was diminishing by his time, McCormick finds the concept
of "influence" particularly troublesome (19-20). He concludes:
the ongoing analysis of early medieval cultural borrowing and diffusion
in its authentic social dimension promises to show how, in concrete
historical terms, ideas, books, information, in a word, how culture
disseminated" (33). This historian takes issue with the entrenched
position of Pirenne, that contact between east and west during
This case and others like it begin to suggest that not only objects, like organs or books, but information too is trackable. . . . because material on Byzantium is proportionally uncommon in the abundant literary production of the Carolingian renaissance, it is identifiable and manageable (33).
Personal links were important, but not necessarily those of merchants, the economy was far too agrarian for that to be the case. Rather, border provinces, and Italy in particular, were loci of multiculturalism (21). Such first hand experience would have impressed Frankish aristocrats sufficiently to transfer books, artworks, and people from Italy back to France (22). The books were in Greek as well as Latin. One example that documents the interaction is a translation from Latin into Greek at Rome from 824 (23). Jerusalem as another point of contact is attested to by the liturgy (24, 32-33). Probably the most important point of interchange, however, was direct diplomacy between the Frankish court and Constantinople. McCormick says:
Whatever further research may reveal about the state of trans-Mediterranean commerce in the three generations preceding Eriugena's appearance at the court of Charles the Bald, person-to-person relations, precisely the kind of contacts that counted in Frankish society, were not infrequent and they were of significant duration (31).
McCormick provides evidence for the character and size of the various diplomatic missions on both sides of the exchange (24-33).
Meyendorff: Citing Maximus' and Gregory I's ignorance of one another's language as evidence, Meyendorff says:
The gradual estrangement did not, therefore, exclude much good will on both sides, but the good will of a few ndividuals was insufficient to fill the cultural and intellectual gap which history was creating between the sophisticated and conservative tradition of Orthodox Byzantium and the fresh dynamism of 'barbarian' Europe in the Carolingian age. The political antagonism of Charlemagne himself against Byzantium added a new dimension to mutual ignorance on on the intellectual level (52).
While we find
McCormick citing evidence for Photius having participated in a diplomatic
mission to the Frankish court (29-30), Meyendorff, working with
texts, emphasizes that Photius "shows ignorance of the Latin tradition
as a whole, except for some fragmented information which reached him
by hearsay" (53). Thus while McCormick sees Eriugena's thought
as arising quite naturally from his cultural context, Meyendorff can
remark that "Against this background of mutual ignorance, the appearance
of a person like Eriugena is truly extraordinary" (53). Meyendorff
sees Eriugena's interest in and commitment to the Greek Christian
tradition as singular (65). On the other hand, Meyendorff acknowledges
the possibility that Eriugena had direct contact with living easterners
though during his lifetime "times were different and direct communications
more difficult" (64) than in the time of Jerome or Cassian.
Eriugena's position on the <i>filioque</i> is said to demonstrate
his deliberate dedication to "the cause" of finding Christian truth
in Greek sources" (54). One wonders why Meyendorff would think
anyone would think finding Christian truth in Greek [Christian!] sources
was surprising. Unlike scholars who think Eriugena
Otten's attempt to situate Eriugena is based on observations concerning
compositional structure (69). She works with a cross section of the
line of argument and by sampling contents (74). Interestingly, Otten's
attempt at making a coherent whole out of the <i>Periphyseon</i>
proceeds by utilizing Umberto Eco's notion of an "open work" as a
basis for analysis of the <i>Periphyseon's</i> positions. Despite
the work's apparent eclecticism and anomaly, despite "conflicting
tendencies underlying the literary composition of this work" (70),
Marler: According to Marler, Eriugena is remarkable in probing beneath any division between Greek and Latin authority to find their shared underlying principles, while remaining sensitive to their differences (101). Like Meyendorff, he takes pains to stress Eriugena's originality, claiming that although Hilduin's recovery of pseudo-Dionysian works "was an opening of sorts to Christendom in the east, the Eriugenian synthesis of Greek and Latin traditions stands by itself as an ecumenical theology" (98). Marler cites the <i>Libri Carolini</i>, hough Eriugena does not, as providing the best evidence of Carolingian hostility to theological learning among Greeks just prior to Eriugena's time. Striking is the LC's claim that Latinity is the criterion of faith, so that ignorance of Greek Christian doctrine is a virtue (96-97). He writes:
Like Pseudo-Dionysius, Eriugena intends to remove the grounds for dispute among factions, especially between Greek and Latin Christendom, and also between the masters of profane letters and the expositors of Christian scripture. To the extent that Eriugena aims at inquiry, his own citation of authorities cannot be for the sake of choosing sides (104).
On the one hand, for Eriugena there is Biblical, apostolic, and patristic authority, validated by divine revelation, and on the other hand, there is the philosophical tradition, which is established by <i>recta ratio</i> or <i>vera ratio</i>. Yet the division is not rigid, since although authority should not be contradicted, reason also has a divine source (99). Moreover, although the traditions of reason and authority differ in principle as well as historically, "it is in the agreement of reason and authority that the whole power of discovering truth remains permanently established" (99). Literal scripture is not always authoritative, since it is better understood allegorically, especially when it concerns the nature of God (102). Since authority proceeds from reason "Eriugena conforms to what Aristotle required in dialectical treatment of philosophical issues" (104). Eriugena's concept of authority and its relation to reason suggests that Eriugena connected authority with repression (105). Much more needs to be said to make a case for this interesting claim. Marler concludes that Eriugena's original critique of human authority is based on the authority of Pseudo-Dionysius as the greatest theologian, and in so doing, he subsumes authority to reason, renewing the influence of Plato in Latin Christianity (107-108).
D'Onofrio: D'Onofrio opens by pointing out that <i>Periphyseon</i> Book 1's definition of true authority "relates only to the doctrinal tradition of human origin . . . and not to the credibility of Sacred Scripture," thereby distinguishing Eriugena's concept from Augustine's in <i>De ordine</i> (115). Authority for Eriugena is one of the effective principles necessary for demonstration of the truth, so that it should be universally recognized and accepted as part of the interior source of knowledge (117). He seconds many of the points made by Marler, for instance, that reason determines that patristic sources are genuine" (115), or that patristic authority and true reason are to be identified (116). Though contrast between Greek and Latin authorities is apparent when viewed with regard to certain theological points, especially those surrounding Genesis' creation story, the two traditions also "display impressive solidity from the thematic viewpoint" (118). It is not open to Eriugena, he comments, to make reason autonomous after the manner of Abelard. D'Onofrio spells out the differences between Abelard's and Eriugena's conceptions of the relationship between reason and authority (120-124, 126-127). He cites several examples of the contrasts, noting that they result from original sin, that they multiply as a result of their differing origins, and that they do not always line up neatly into Latin and Greek camps (118-119). D'Onofrio finds four rules for dealing with divergences among authorities based on approaches taken in the <i>Periphyseon</i>. 1. Do not express a judgment on the validity of the different testimonies; nonetheless it is acceptable to express preferences. 2. The expression of preference involves an evaluation of different degrees of manifestation of truth in various sources. 3. The diversity of expression and comprehension of the same truth enables one to devise an agreement among sources. 4. The theologian is also engaged in the same investigation as the Fathers, utilizing the same means of rationality illuminated by faith (123-126). When the object of knowledge is the most comprehensive truth, the nearer we get to it, the more rational debate ends up in the region of verisimilitude and not truth, owing to the ungraspable mystery of the faith, for Eriugena as well as for Augustine (121-122). D'Onofrio characterizes this conception of Christian knowledge as probabilistic, admitting nonetheless, that everything human reason can figure out on its own about he divine is probable at best (122). The project of figuring out the ultimate truth will lose the cloud of original sin, though, and eventually be successful. In this context, patristics are a completely reliable source (130).
Carabine: Carabine's intent is to complement earlier work done on Eriugena's use of metaphors of light and dark, re-emphasizing how his work is a case again of east meeting west (145-149). Eriugena uses metaphors which can not be conceptualized literally, or fully cashed out. But the nonliteral meaning one is forced to accept is not one that can be completely affirmed (141). Her ultimate question, as she places Eriugena within the context of his traditional sources (143-145), is the extent to which Eriugena's use of the principles of <i>apophasis</i> remains firmly within the tradition of its eastern source and the extent to which it incorporates Augustinian elements (142). She concludes that he is pretty rigidly and radically apophatic. There are nuanced differences between his view and that of Dionysius and Gregory of Nyssa, in his use of light metaphors (142, 149-150). Her argument centers on Eriugena's utilization of darkness language to symbolize sin, evil, privation, ignorance. She contends that the same language could not effectively be used to symbolize God, acknowledging that Dionysius would say that no language effectively symbolizes God (146). Thus Eriugena does use the word darkness' to describe the purity of the primordial causes in their unmanifested state (147). Carabine enumerates and explains Eriugena's use of metaphors of light, darkness and shadow by singling out three ways the light metaphor is used. 1. Light symbolizes the procession of light of the Father in Christ for humans who are in darkness and ignorance and in need of redemption. 2. Epistemologically, light is the <i>lux mentium</i>, bringing knowledge to ignorant minds. 3. Light language captures the procession of all things from their causes into their created effects (146). She carefully adds that cloud language also can be used to discuss the saints' visions of God, thus they seem "symbolize the means of experiencing theophany; because God is invisible in himself, he can be seen only in cloud" (148). She notes that despite the use of cloud language, Eriugena does not adopt the Dionysian notion of blindness. She claims that even theophany "carries with it something of the sense of vision" thus "Eriugena's understanding differs lightly from that of his Greek predecessors" (149).
McEvoy: The article is divided into seven sections, with only the latter two being devoted to Eriugena himself. This historical survey that takes up over half of the article is very helpful. McEvoy writes: "It was essentially through two authors, Augustine and Dionysius, that John Scottus received the ancient measure teaching in a certain fullness" (166). He was interested in their metaphysical and theological notions of measure, in particular how they work in the concept of creation, rather than in their more purely mathematical concepts (167, 168). Eriugena's Platonic realism is evidenced in his discussion of arithmetic, which yields his conviction that true philosophy and true religion are one. Interpretation of Wisdom 11:21 is critical here (168-174). Nonetheless, in the case of measure, "As between Augustine and the Pseudo-Dionysius, there was a broad coincidence of doctrine" such that "the differences are largely of style rather than substance, and there was in this instance no conflict to be reconciled between Christian East and Christian West" (176). Section I, "The Premodern Senses of Measure'," explains very concisely the evolution of the concepts of measure,' number' and weight'. His argument that "measure and number are inseparable notions from the start" (154) needs additional premises to be really convincing; the congruence McEvoy describes could have been a purely contingent matter of word choice. He outlines three different concepts of measure and hypothesizes that in common they create or establish a relationship between two things: an object for exchange . . . and some objective standard, a rule and a measure (156).
One wonders though how much he is reading in modern appearance reality distinctions when he says:
The act of [metrein] posits a standard of reality and objectivity to overcome the false effects of passion, bad judgment, illusion, relativism, and arbitrariness (156).
concept such as measure need not be conceived of in terms of objectivity
versus subjectivity. Section II outlines concepts of measure found
in biblical sources. He claims that "We must assume that John
Scottus was familiar with the references to measure in the New Testament"
(158), since Book V of <i>Periphyseon</i> explains in particular
Ephesians 4. Section III's focus is measure in Platonic dialogues,
most importantly, <i>Protagoras</i>, <i>Philebus</i>,
<i>Theaetetus</i> and <i>Laws</i>, the latter being the
place where "the opposition of the human and divine measure becomes
fully articulate" (161). McEvoy then moves to the Plotinian
and Procline developments of the Platonic theme of measure. Section
IV very briefly covers Pseudo-Dionysius. Section V turns to
Augustine, who, "seems almost to have aimed at uniting the biblical
motifs with the Platonic" (164). Augustine used the concept
of measure copiously, more so than any patristic author, as it is
central to his
Pepin: This scholar finds many parallels, which I shall not recount, to sources. Though some comparisons are based on only parts of sentences or even on a few words, no comparison should be completely neglected (197). Sections I and II of the article compare <i>Periphyseon</i> 754D-755B and 754A-B with two passages from Gregory, though Eriugena's interpretation of Gregory is influenced by his reading of Augustine (180-182). Section III probes <i>Periphyseon</i> 748C-749D's discussion of genera and species at greater length (182-191). Pepin uses other Eriugenian texts on genera and species in this section, and the result is evidence of internal inconsistency in the text. This inconsistency is resolvable, however (187). Moreover, Eriugena is not alone among his sources in maintaining an ambiguous doctrine of genera and species (189). Pepin writes: "When combining all this half-exegetical and half-speculative information, we get a fairly coherent doctrine of creation" (185). Noteworthy also is the resemblance of Eriugena's discussion to the <i>Isagoge</i> of Porphyry, which Eriugena read in Boethius' translation (188-189). The fourth section of the article covers <i>Periphyseon</i> 751A-752B. Here Origen is especially important, though some of the Origenian influence is no doubt mediated by Augustine (193-195), for "Eriugena's exegetical indebtedness to Augustine goes far beyond this one example" (195). Pepin concludes that "Several of [Eriugena's] exegetical positions still keep their secrets locked, and thus may well have been his own creation"(197), another plug for the originality of John the Scot.
Beierwaltes: Beierwaltes' explanations of concepts, relations, doctrines, presuppose much knowledge of his other acclaimed work. The article is not easily summarized. The terminology is difficult to render into non-technical language. He believes that Neoplatonism is characterized and motivated by the discussion of the Platonic questions concerning the relation of the one to the many, or for his purposes the relationship of unity and trinity (209). He explains how these questions develop from Neoplatonic philosophy and its interplay with Christian trinitarianism. Beierwaltes is convinced that Dionysius' views stem from those of Proclus in his <i>Parmenides</i> commentary, so it is important to understand that both Proclus and Plotinus believe absolute unity, which abides within itself, is the origin of reality as a whole (212). Additionally, Beierwaltes believes that Dionysius has a more developed trinitarian philosophy, than is usually ascribed to him (214-219). He writes:
. . .the very fact that Dionysius thinks so emphatically in terms of the One, or Unity, as the highest, most powerful name for God . . . means that his endeavor to see the divine unity as nevertheless trinitarian . . . deserves the utmost attention (215).
Still, there is no development of the notion of procession of the Holy Spirit equally by the Father and the Son, and in fact, a hierarchical difference in the origination out of the source which would contradict Dionysius' conviction concerning the equal interrelatedness of the three. . .. each personal characteristic in the Trinity remains relatively abstract" (218-219).
the Christian God as absolute comes from the pure One, but the relational
God comes from the reflexive One. Of all the theological doctrines
colored by the long-lasting and momentous process of the
Beierwaltes continues: "the Trinity is a self-reflexive circle whose unity constitutes itself timelessly as thinking, as willing--and as loving--itself" (210). This "open, clear" concept and its "hitherto hidden philosophic implications," notions of <i>ousia</i>, <i>physis</i>, <i>hypostasis</i>, and <i>persona</i> are crucial for understanding reflexive trinitarian theology (210). Understanding these issues is critical for one who wishes to get beyond "mere fideism" (211). Beierwaltes does not shy away from characterization in absolutist terms. Sometimes he makes it sound as though certain formulations were inevitable. For example, he says: "On account of the difficulties . . . the struggle to find an orthodox concept of the Trinity inspired energetic refutations of heretical positions and formulations" (211). However he adds, "It is not the concern of philosophy to sit in judgement upon the truth or falsehood of these conceptions" (211).
With regard to Eriugena's trinitarian doctrine, Beierwaltes maintains that the linguistic differences Eriugena finds among the various Greek and Latin formulations do not signify any difference in the content of the concepts (220). So although Eriugena uses Dionysius as his primary source for the development especially of the unity of the Trinity, still, he does not subvert the distinction of persons (220). Whereas Dionysius has the origin or self-explication of the Trinity in a rudimentary way, for Eriugena, this aspect is crucial to the self-constitution of God" (221). Also, well exemplified in Eriugena is the idea of inner relationality as it is caused through self-manifestation. He writes:
. . . the causal self-explication for the extratemporal and extraspatial coming-to-itself of the Trinity is so significant that the trinitarian formula according to Greek and Latin theology is reformulated in the light of the causal aspect (221).
Although there may appear to be some danger of subordination, by preferring the Latin doctrinal position over that of the Greek, Eriugena avoids this conclusion (223). Since most of the Greek views in their entirety were not available to him, Beierwaltes agrees with the other contributors to this volume that Eriugena's originality stands (223). His view expresses a "powerful synthesis" of the position of Augustine with the Dionysian tradition" (224).
Duclow: This writer's comparison of the anthropology and the Christology of Dionysius and Eriugena shows their important differences (233, 241-245). To make his case, Duclow begins by summarizing Dionysius' organization of ranks of angels (233-236). The highest angelic rank deals with humans only through the mediation of lower levels on the hierarchy; the chain of command is strict. Recalcitrant biblical texts are explained away: for example, sometimes higher angels take credit for the work of their subordinates (234). When commenting on Dionysius' <i>Celestial Hierarchy</i>, Eriugena is far more respectful of the views contained therein than he is in his own <i>Periphyseon</i>. Though he remains close to the Dionysian scheme, "The result is a richer, more dialectical reading of Isaiah's text than Dionysius presents. For John accents the basic paradox of God's utter transcendence and hierarchical self-disclosure" (236). Still, "the interpretation [in the commentary] mainly serves his master's reading of the prophet's call and the hierarchical scheme that underlies it" (238). There Eriugena expands on the Areopagite's texts by fusing themes of being, illumination, and vision so that God, the angels, and humans are "united in a reciprocal lighting and seeing" (237). In <i>Periphyseon</i>, on the question of whether paradise is spiritual, Eriugena redefines the problem discussed by Dionysius. Instead of a distinction between seraphs and prophets, Eriugena puts a separation between angels' spiritual nature and earthly paradise (239). Further "In Eriugena's hands, Dionysius's semantics of upward attribution moves beyond the angelic ranks to the Word itself" (240). The upshot is a more direct relation between God and human nature (242, 246). Duclow writes:
In this light, the mediating function of the celestial hierarchy is appropriate to humanity's current, fallen state, where even Isaiah needs angelic purification and guidance (243).
Still, Duclow maintains that owing to reliance on the models for contemplation of Paul, Dionysius, and John the Evangelist, "tensions remain in Eriugena's account of humanity's relation to the angels" (247).
Perl: This author claims:
What is missing in Eriugena is not the doctrine itself, but the precise Christology which enables Maximus to explain how it is true, and to understand the Neoplatonic metaphysics of participation in christological terms. All the elements of Maximus's doctrine are present in Eriugena, but they are not fully integrated in a single coherent christological ontology (265).
Yet in that his conceptualization of the incarnation is less cosmic than Maximus', he remains more like the Latins (267). The upshot is that Eriugena's doctrine retains a tension between all creation facing the same union, and Christ's humanity's being set apart from the rest of creation (265). Sixth-century neo-Chalcedonian theologians, through their Christology, enabled Maximus to integrate Neoplatonic ontology with the incarnation (257). The neo-Chalcedonians' contribution was the doctrine of enhypostasizations, which holds that every nature is a hypostasis; only hypostases are real (258). Thus Maximus can identify metaphysical participation with incarnation. Christological enhypostasization is the same phenomenon as the creature's being identical with God in all but nature (259). Hence, it is one and the same phenomenon for the creature to be God by participation and for it to be the body or human nature of Christ (260). Perl utilizes paradoxical phrases in characterizing this relationship similar to those of Beierwaltes: "identity of difference in identity" (255). Eriugena expands this lack of distinction only slightly when he says the God creates God in the creature (254, 255). Maximus' ontology is most importantly depicted by its notion of deification as the reverse side of incarnation and the incarnation as the fulfillment of creation (256).
ontology is different from Maximus' in that he fully works out the
metaphysical implications of the principle of creation as participation
to formulate concept of creation as divine self-creation. But self-creation
is a distinct act from the incarnation of God, as deification is also
separate from incarnation (262, 264). Eriugena thereby eliminates
Maximus' reciprocal notions, and keeps his metaphysics of creation
and deification independent of Christology (263). Still, like
Maximus, he treats deification as union with God and not just as union
Brilliantov's 1898 book <i>The Influence of Eastern Theology on
Western Theology</i>, among other things corrected a misreading
of Eriugena's Latin translation of Maximus' <i>Ambigua</i>.
In 1903, Brilliantov wrote to Johnanes Draseke outlining his discovery.
With the publication of that letter in 1904, Russian Eriugenian
studies made its way to the west. Bychkov informs us that this
is "perhaps chiefly remarkable in that this letter from a Russian
addressed as it is to a German concerning the work of the medieval
western thinker interested in
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