Meister Eckhart Versus Nicolas of Cusa: Anti-Cusanian Argumentation in «De Ignota Litteratura» by John Wenck

Cover Page

Cite item


In his polemical work «De ignota litteratura», which was composed against «De docta ignorantia», John Wenck of Herrenberg, a professor of theology at the university of Heidelberg, cites three excerpts from three German works of Meister Eckhart: «Liber benedictus» German sermons 2 and 6 (numeration according to the critical edition of J. Quint). Comparing the cited passages from these Eckhart's texts used in the treatise by John Wenck with a Latin version of the German sermon «Intravit Iesus in quoddam castellum» in the Ms. Koblenz, Landeshauptarchiv, Abt. 701, Nr. 149, ff. 10v-13v, the author of this paper comes to conclusion that the main object of the critics in «De ignota litteratura» was not only Cusanus and his theories of docta ignorantia and coincidentia oppositorum, but also an attempt to rehabilitate some teachings of Meister Eckhart in the Latin translations of his German sermons made during the Late Middle Ages. It seems to be very possible that a collection of Latin translations of the vernacular sermons and other works by Meister Eckhart was made and circulated among mystical circles on the Upper and Middle Rhine in 14th and 15th centuries.
There is no doubt that John Wenck touched in his polemical treatise the core issue in the late mediaeval debates on the Eckhart heritage and its compatibility to the dogmatically uncontroversial Christian theology and philosophy. His main point is obvious: Had Cusanus not read the German works by Meister Eckhart, he would not have constructed the bold and unconventional ideas of docta ignorantia and coincidentia oppositorum at all, and without intoxication by Eckhart's heterodoxy he would not make an attempt to write a treatise like «De docta ignorantia».
To conclude, the whole point of John Wenck's polemics with Nicolas of Cusa lies ultimately in dealing with formulations and ideas from the German texts of Meister Eckhart. Cusanus, who surely knew German Eckhartian and pseudo-Eckhartian tradition, would not surprisingly like remember and analyse them in «De docta ignorantia» and «Apologia doctae ignorantiae». Unfortunately, Wenck doesn't hesitate not to forget these controversial texts condemned in the bulla «In agro dominico» (promulgated by Pope John XXII in March 27, 1329) and by the theologians at the university of Heidelberg in 1430. In his critics on Nicolas of Cusa he can find no better parallel to the doctrines of docta ignorantia and coincidentia oppositorum of Cusanus than the teachings on the detachment, the birth of God in the intimate depths of the human soul, and the unity of the soul with Godhead advocated by the German Dominican friar Meister Eckhart.

About the authors

M L Khorkov

Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

Кафедра истории философииФакультет гуманитарных и социальных наук; Российский университет дружбы народов; Peoples' Friendship University of Russia


Copyright (c) 2016 Philosophy

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies