The Words of the Rohmann Family

Nicholas Of Cusa - His Idea Of The Coincidence Of Opposites And The Concept Of Unity In Unification Thought

Klaus Rohmann
Journal of Unification Studies Volume III, 1999-2000

Nicholas of Cusa was a harbinger of a new era. His family name was Cryftz, which means 'Krebs' in contemporary German or 'crab' in English; but he was called after his native town Cues on the Moselle, where he was born in 1401. He attended school in Deventer in the Netherlands run by the Brethren of the Common Life, whose so-called modern way of piety (devotio moderna) influenced him deeply. He then studied law at Heidelberg, Padua, and Cologne, becoming an expert in canon law. Having practiced law for several years, he studied theology and became a priest. He attended the Council of Basel in 1432 in the name of his bishop. Originally a supporter of Conciliarism, he entered the service of Pope Eugenius IV in 1437 because he considered that only this Pope could guarantee the unity of the church at that time. He was sent as a papal envoy on missions to Constantinople and later to ecclesiastical diets in Germany. Made a cardinal in 1448, he engaged in reforming the monasteries in Germany and the Netherlands. When he was appointed Bishop of Brixen he became involved in a political conflict with Sigismund, Duke of Tyrol, who finally forced Nicholas to resign. Nicholas of Cusa died in 1464 in Umbria and was buried in Rome.

The rich library that he bequeathed to the hospital of his hometown, Cues, testifies to the scholarship of Nicholas of Cusa. He actively took part in the classical studies of his humanist contemporaries. Besides many sermons and a rich theological literature, he composed philosophical treatises, which reveal him as one of the most potent and inspiring thinkers of his time. His central issue, as discussed in his main work, De Docta Ignorantia (On Learned Ignorance), was the problem of the knowledge of God or of the Absolute Infinite.

Nicholas held that the Absolute Infinite cannot be conceived by finite thought. Hence, in theology, only negations can be assumed as true. Although positive theological statements are inevitable in order to think about God, they are inadequate. Paradoxically, one can reach the incomprehensible God only by knowing his incomprehensibility. This is the meaning of the term "learned ignorance." In the end, both negative and positive theology must be dissolved into inexpressibility; God is ineffable beyond all affirmations and negations. This is the extreme climax of a philosophical theology where the infinite distance between God and the finite has come to a head. More exactly, human beings cannot touch God through knowledge at all, but at the very most only by our yearning for Him.

In the second, 1987 edition of her Unification Theology, Young Oon Kim added a chapter on the Heart of God. This chapter is certainly a fine piece. But Kim only centers on God's feeling and asserts that all theological deliberation must start with this. She does not feel at ease with the traditional attribute of God's omnipotence. She obviously associates this term with apathy or impassibility. Therefore, she pleads for the conception of a God who is concerned and shares the feeling of our loneliness and intense grief, and who can be hurt by afflictions.

Kim certainly knows that the biblical term 'heart' (lev in Hebrew) means the core of a person and embraces all inner forces such as emotion, intelligence and will as well. In contrast to Dr. Kim, the short footnote mentioned above refers to the Heart of God in this broader context: "Heart is the most vital part of His nature, such that all other attributes in Him are what they are and act solely because of this attribute." All other attributes whatsoever are conditioned and sustained by this force. The expression "the most vital part of His nature" comes very close to the "ability-itself" of Nicholas of Cusa, which imparts the power of existence, life and love to creation. Nicholas also avoids the use of the term "omnipotence" and even the concept "potency." He deliberately chooses the verb form instead of the substantive, posse instead of potentia. Nicholas not only aims to name the maximum power to do something and all, but also to name the ability to be affected and even to suffer. "For with God nothing is impossible." (Luke 1:37)

But how can absolute and infinite ability be affected by finite creatures? Ability-itself suffers and sees all in the ground and source of all abilities, that is, in itself. In other words: If God endures all in Himself, where all is enveloped, and if there is no otherness in God, because it would contradict His infinity, as mentioned above, then God senses and suffers all sufferings within Himself, who is the Non-other (non-aliud). Grief and pain, then, are not only feelings of other beings, but also the emotions of the one who is called the Non-other. Though ability-itself transcends all concrete abilities, it is not separated from them; on the contrary it is within them. Thus, God in His inner core comes as close to His creatures, to their power and weakness, as is thinkable. Nicholas thus pushes the possibility of human thinking so far that it must end up as and turn into adoration.

In my opinion, no Christian theologian comes as close to the Unification doctrine of God and creation as does Nicholas of Cusa. So I would recommend that theologians and philosophers of the Unification Church read and study the work of this scholar, perhaps starting with De Visione Dei, the essay I personally like the most. It is, especially, advisable to turn to Nicholas of Cusa, who was a harbinger of a new era in the history of Christian theology and philosophy. Considering that critics of Unification Thought have objected that this religion is but a syncretism between Asian and Protestant thinking and, therefore, a heretical Christian sect, it would seem advisable to demonstrate links to one of the greatest philosophers and theologians in the tradition of mainstream Christianity. Furthermore, he may stimulate Unification philosophers in so far as he was greatly interested in the natural sciences and in mathematics; and Unificationists are themselves concerned with the unity of religion and science.

[1] Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1973), p. 25.

[2] All translations by the author.

[3] Outline of the Principle, Level 4 (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980), pp. 21-22.

[4] Young Oon Kim, Unification Theology (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980), p. 205.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Outline of the Principle, Level 4, p. 11.

[7] Ibid., p. 13.

[8] Loc. cit.

Klaus Rohmann is a Professor at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences North Germany in Osnabrück and Vechta, where he has taught theology and philosophy since 1981. Born in 1939, his education includes a Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.) from the Department of Catholic Theology of the University of Bonn. Divine Principle as, "Before creating the universe, God existed as the internal masculine subject, and He created the universe as his external feminine object;" and, "We have learned so far that each and every creation is God's substantial object, which is the manifested form of the invisible essentialities of God." [1] They assert, on the other hand, that there is a break between an impersonal Asian creation principle and the biblical personal Creator, one that cannot be bridged. I think that the best way to confront this accusation is to delineate the nature of Heart, which, as I understand it, transcends the Original Sungsang and the consequent process of origin-division-union action. It is the personal source of all.

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