icholas of Cusa (1401-64) was a harbinger of a new era. Named after his native town Cues on the Moselle [Germany], he attended the school of the Brethren of Common Life in Deventer in the Netherlands, whose so-called modern way of piety influenced him deeply. He then studied law at Heidelberg Padua, and Cologne, and became a great expert in canon law. After practicing law for several years, he studied theology and became a priest.
Made a cardinal in 1448, he was engaged in reforming the monasteries in Germany and the Netherlands. When he was appointed as Bishop of Brixen, he became involved in a political conflict with Sigismund, Duke of Tyrol, who finally forced Nicholas to resign.
In his own time, Nicholas played an important role as an actor in church policies as an inspiring natural scientist, theologian and philosopher. He is not only a great thinker at the boundary of the Middle Ages and modern times who overthrew scholasticism, but also a man who greatly influenced the course of theology and philosophy.
His central issue, as discussed in his main work, On Learned Ignorance, was the problem of the knowledge of God, or of the Absolute Infinite. How is it possible for finite beings to approach the infinite God?
According to Nicholas, 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.
Paul Tillich admitted that this medieval thinker had greatly occupied his thought. He asserted that Nicholasís thesis of the coincidence of opposites is essential to all metaphysics. It differs from the usual opinion that God is in heaven and only acts in the world by means of his deeds. The Divine is present in all that is natural and human. It is not a realm transcending life, but a dimension of life itself, claims Tillich.
I want to figure out whether the concept of unity, as formulated by Nicholas of Cusa, may explain or even clarify the teachings of Rev. Moon. I recall that the Divine Principle uses Asian models to illustrate the relationship between God, the world and human beings, namely the polarity of yang and yin or, to put it in Korean, of yang and eum, and the corresponding structure of sung-sang [internal character] and hyung-sang [external form].
Heart is the inner kernel of Godís nature. It is not only beyond the original hyung-sang, Godís external attributes, which include the Universal Prime Energy and matter, but also the original sung-sang, which embraces emotion, intellect and will and as well law and concepts. The Outline of the Principle explains:
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. And it is the most vital part of His nature.
A central theme of Unification Thought is the understanding that God may suffer because of the suffering of his creation. In the second edition of Unification Theology of 1987, Unificationist scholar Young Oon Kim writes on the heart of God. However, Kim only centers on Godís feeling and asserts that all theological deliberation must start with this. She does not feel at ease with the traditional attribute of Godís 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.
This expression comes very close to the divine quality of "ability-itself" proposed by Nicholas, which imparts the power of existence, life and love to all creation. Nicholas avoided the use of the term omnipotence and even the concept potency. 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)
Nicholas of Cusa and Sun Myung Moon have in common the passion for unity in many aspects of life. Their concern is far from being a mere theoretical enterprise. I would like to call to mind the fact that Nicholas conceived his idea of the "coincidence of opposites" when he sailed back from a mission in Constantinople. It was not only the majestic experience of the Mediterranean Sea that stimulated Nicholas to think of God as the Absolute Infinite embracing all things. He was also animated by his wish to unite mankind in a common belief. He felt pain that humanity was divided and passionately tried to find a common base for belief in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Nicholas of Cusa was also very busy to preserve or restore ecclesiastical unity. All this proves that the idea of the coincidence of opposites not only results from scholarly reasoning, but arose out of practical affairs. In a similar way, Sun Myung Moon is concerned with the unity of religions, with the unity of the sciences, of science and religion, of economy and religion, and of the unity of all mankind in peace.
There is another striking similarity between Nicholas of Cusa and Moon which perhaps appears odd to a modern western mind: both have a decided liking for the symbolism of numbers.
According to Divine Principle, the numbers 2, 3 and 4 are of importance. There is a polarity within God. Man, created in the image of God, and all things, which resemble God symbolically, are in a similar polar position, in a reciprocal relationship of giving and taking. The origin of both subject partner and object partner and their resulting union set up four beings. Each takes a subject relationship to the other three. Thus, the "three-objects standard" is formed. When God as the origin of all, the divided subject partner and object partner, and their union accomplish their three-objects standard, they build a "four-position foundation" [husband, wife and children, centered on God]. This foundation ultimately involves six different give-and-take relationships.
Nicholas of Cusa was deeply interested in mathematics and attached great value and certainty to mathematical knowledge. Since he so intensively contemplated the issue of infinity, it is not surprising that he is considered to be an important primogenitor of infinitesimal calculus.
Evidence shows that among all numbers with symbolic meaning, two of them have a particular significance: 1 and 3. One is indivisible, it contains no root, is the basis of all other numbers, and the fundamental unity in all. And, as we have seen, there are only 3 operations to bring every process of unfolding to a certain completion (i.e., the processes from 1 to 10, from 10 to 100, and from 100 to 1,000). According to Nicholas, both 1 and 3 are the most important tools to explain the world and disclose the relationship between God and creation. His most significant categories are unity and trinity.
If God endures all in Himself, where all is enveloped, and if there is no "otherness" in God, because it would contradict His infinity, then God senses and suffers all sufferings within Himself, who is the "non-other." Grief and pain, then, are not only feelings of other beings but also the emotions of the one who is called the non-other. Thus, God in His inner core comes as close to His creatures, to their mightiness and powerlessness, as thinkable. Nicholas thus pushes the possibility of human thinking so far that it must end up as adoration.
In my opinion, no Christian theologian comes so close to the Unification doctrine of God and creation as Nicholas of Cusa does. So I would recommend that theologians and philosophers of the Unification movement read and study the work of this scholar, perhaps starting with Vision of God, the essay I personally like most. It is especially advisable to turn to Nicholas of Cusa, since he is 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 insofar as he was greatly interested in the natural sciences and in mathematics, and Unificationists are themselves concerned with the unity of religion and science.
Note: Excerpted from Dr. Rohmannís full-length essay, "Nicholas of Cusa: His Idea of the Coincidence of Opposites, and the Concept of Unity in Unification Thought," Journal of Unification Studies, Vol. III: 1999-2000.