Bonaventure

Both the Augustinian/Anselmian and the Dionysian/Boethian logics have crucial places in the Itinerarium of Bonaventure. But the Dionysian or Boethian contains the Augustinian. Within a threefold ascent up the wings of a Dionysian Seraph, who finally draws us to a union described in terms taken from The Mystical Theology (Bonaventure 1956, 7.5), the first step is, in large measure, derived from the De Anima of Aristotle modified by Augustinian Illuminationism. The middle step depends upon a purely Augustinian imaging of God through the mind's remembering, knowing and loving of itself.30 The last stage before mystical union involves another Dionysian image, the contemplative Cherubim. For our purposes the Cherubic vision is most important. It makes clear that the Augustinian knowledge of God through self-reflexive reason is only an intermediate stage for Bonaventure and that Bonaventure's understanding of intellect is Plotinian at the point where Augustine and Anselm divide from Plotinus and his successors.31

Mind directed above itself so as to describe God is imaged in two Cherubim gazing towards each other across the Mercy Seat. When they look upward across it, the one who follows Augustine names God as being and sees the unity of essence. The other follows Dionysius, names God as goodness and sees the trinity of persons. When they gaze down at the Mercy Seat, they see a paradoxical union of opposites, for which the incomprehensible union of the one and the triad in God has prepared them, namely, the union of the two natures in the one Person of the Son.

Together, the two Cherubim and the irreducible duality of their visions manifest the inescapable duality which Plotinus and his successors found to be necessary to NOUS, before the self passes over into the union with the One accessible only to "Intellect in love," nous eron.32 Thefinal Sabbath rest requires that the duality of intellect be surpassed. There mind will transcend its very self; it participates in the Crucifixion and "dies."33 The itinerarium returns from Cherubic intellect to Seraphic love, and passes by means of a unitiative or loving power34 to a "most mystical and most secret" state (Bonaventure 1956, 7.4-5), described in a quotation from Dionysius, where teaching is silence, light is darkness, manifestation is hiddenness.

Linking this simplicity above intellect to the Boethian principle from which we began requires a further consideration of the Cherubic visions. The opposed Cherubic visions of the divine essence lead to the unification of an even greater opposition, that of the two natures in the incarnate Divine Word (Bonaventure 1956, 6.4-7). This consideration is from each of the Cherubic visions taken separately but our interest is with the vision of the Cherub who contemplates the unity of the divine being.

This Cherub looks first at the deductive interconnection of the attributes of the essence, e.g., primary being, simplicity, eternity, perfection (Bonaventure 1956, 5.6). He passes to what is yet more admirable, the fact that in each of these attributes there is a unity of opposites: the first being is also the last, the eternal is also the present, the actual is also the immutable. Vision is carried beyond this to something worthy of even higher admiration. The thought of either of these pairs leads to the knowledge of the other. Thus, since the first does all propter se ipsum, it is end to itself and also last (Bonaventure 1956, 5.7). Moreover, beyond this, there are yet further considerations.

A higher contemplation looks at the unity of the two opposed sides as held together within each of the essential attributes. So, for example, Bonaventure, like Anselm, understands God's esse as what is both eternal and as also most present through the notion of what both encompasses everything and enters everything. But Bonaventure goes further than Anselm, he holds the two sides together in an image of what is at the same time center and circumference (Bonaventure 1956, 5.8, p. 86: ambit et intrat, quasi simul existens earum centrum et circumferentia). Considering how the most simple is also the greatest, another image comes to mind: What is wholly inside and also wholly outside all things "is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere" (Bonaventure 1956, 5.8, p.86: totum intra omnia et totum extra acper hoc "est sphaera intelligiblis, cuius centrum est ubique et circumferentia nusquam."). Again, gazing at the most actual which is also the most immutable, Bonaventure invokes an image through the words of the Consolation: what "remaining unmoved itself, gives movement to all things" (Bonaventure 1956, 5.8, p. 86: "Stabile manens moveri dat universa" see Boethius 1973, 3.9, p. 270, line 3). These coincidences of opposites within the attributes of the divine essence lead the vision of the first Cherub to contemplate the greater coincidence of opposites in the incarnate Son.

Significantly, all three of the examples in which the unity of two opposites is seen through an image require that God be understood through the Boethian picture of a center and its circles. Even if the image is transmuted according to the opposites it unites, a cosmos of moving circles with a common center is required as basic. Further, knowing these attributes is never a consideration of God apart from the created universe but rather in relation to it. Finally, beyond the endless and multiform opposing dualities, dualities both in the perspective of the knower and in what is contemplated, there remains a repose which transcends intellect. As with Nicholas of Cusa, there must be something beyond and prior to the coincidence of opposites.35 Bonaventure is a long way from being satisfied with Anselm's knowledge of a divine simplicity including unity and the triad of subsistences, essence and the multiple attributes. Boethius and the pseudo-Dionysius lie between them. So, in Bonaventure, different modes of seeing one and the same transcendent deity produce different objects.

The Itinerarium is a progressus through three states of mind. That progressus ends in our passage into the final union—the rest of the Sabbath Day. We arrive at rest and enjoyment in virtue of what we become both by taking these steps and by union with God in each of them. God is loved both in each of them and also by the movement upwards through the steps. They are compared to the six days of the work of creation. In contrast to the final Sabbath rest, the stages of knowledge and love require human and divine work (Bonaventure 1956, 7.1, p. 96: exercitum mentis nostrae). Bonaventure's doctrine of grace here is the one general to pre-Reformation Augustinianism. In this movement and in each step, God's grace and human exertion operate together. Indeed, grace and work are also graduatim. For each of the three stages in which the knower knows God through a different kind of object, there is also a different kind of co-operation between divine grace and human knowledge and will.36

The three states are, first, the relation of mind to external bodies below it. Its power for this is animalitas or sensualitas which knows the vestigia (traces) of God. The second state is mind at its own level: intra se et in se. This is spiritus which knows the image of God. The third state is mind's relation to what is supra se. Mind considered as this power is called mens which knows the likeness of God (Bonaventure 1956, 1.4). The three kinds of reality: traces, images and likenesses are hierarchically graded manifestations of the one and the same divine Trinity, ultimately beyond intellect, as the Trinity is reflected, represented and written (relucet, repraesentatur et legitur) by mind (Bonventure 18821902d, 2.12.1, p. 230: creatura mundi est quasi quidam liber, in quo relucet, repraesentatur et legitur Trinitas fabricatrix secundum triplicem gradum expressions, scilicet per modum vestigii, imaginis et similitudinis...).

The Trinity is "reflected" when known sensually as trace.37 When mind uses its spiritual power to regard itself, the Trinity is "represented", because this power more adequately approximates the divine self-sufficiency. The Trinity is "written" when mind is reformed by what is above it to look above itself and by participation in the dual vision of Cherubic intellect actually become a likeness of the Trinity.

The cosmic structure here and its subjective constitution is best understood through the Boethian principle from which we began. The Augustinian and Anselmian intellectual objectivity has become a stage in a larger Neoplatonic logic developed by lamblichus, Proclus and their successors, Christian and pagan, which contains and modifies it. This absorption is characteristic of the systems of what we call the High Middle Ages. The assimilation is compelled by the nature and limits of the two logics (See Hankey 1987, 47-54; Hankey 1992:133-42; Hankey 1995:236-39; Hankey 1997a, 74-93; Hankey 1997b, 435-38; Hankey 1997d, 252-53; Hankey 1998a, 164-72; Hankey 1998d, 15960). If the analysis of Bonaventure (and later of Cusanus) be accepted, we may say that Augustinian intellectus, or Plotinian NOUS, is a duality which needs and seeks a higher stability. Western Christian subjectivity needs a more complete priority to difference than Augustine provides.

Paradoxically, the larger Neoplatonic framework which founds human subjectivity in the Li Non Aliud of Cusanus permits and requires a recognition of the poiesis which human knowledge of its principle involves. Finally, thinking within that Neoplatonic framework also permits and requires a knowledge of human subjectivity and its principle in a complete and systematic relation to the whole cosmos whose coming into being is involved in human subjectivity. If modernity involves a Cartesian return to the Augustinian and Anselmian primacy of self-reflexive reason and ontology, the self of Bonaventure and Cusanus founded beyond these may reappear in Kant. We have at present what claim to be post-modern reassertions of Augustine and of the pseudoDionysius. They may or may not be genuine retrievals, but in any case, both the Latin and the Greek Patristic and Neoplatonic traditions are required for Western Christian subjectivity to understand its structure adequately.

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