ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

156. Metaphysics. -- Here is the fundamental principle: There exists one only being, God, Who, by a series of substantial emanations, gives birth to all things. In this processus of the Divine Being (natura, phusis, pan) Scotus distinguishes four successive stages

(1) Nature uncreated and creating, or, the Deity in His primordial and impenetrable reality. As such, this Being is unknowable even to Himself (cf. Plotinus, Philo and the negative theology of Pseudo-Denis); for otherwise, says Scotus, mindful of certain texts of Boëthius and other logicians, God should conceive Himself in the categories; He should apprehend His diversity from other beings with whom He would constitute one and the same genus, and should thereby judge Himself to be wanting in infinity.{1} If God knew Himself He would cease to be God!

(2) Nature created and creating, or, God as containing in Himself the primordial causes of all things. In virtue of an unavoidable, fatalistic progressio, the Being, in this second stage, apprehends the perfections contained in the abyss (abyssus) of His entity. He sees in Himself the primordial causes of all things that are to appear as phenomenal or visible existences. God becomes or evolves (fieri), or forms Himself in and through this knowledge{2} (cf. Plotinus). Here we are far indeed from the exemplarism of the scholastics.

Connecting these theories with Catholic doctrine, Scotus holds that the Divine Being in the first stage described is God the Father; that God the Son is the Divine Being knowing Himself as the Primordial Cause of the World; and we have the appearance of the Holy Ghost in the philosophy of Eriugena when the primordial causes that lie in the bosom of the Divine Unity in the second stage commence to externate themselves in genera, species and individuals. This is

(3) Nature created but not creating, or, being as realized and existing in time. All contingent beings, whether material or spiritual, are mere blossomings of the Divine Substance, or, in the energetic language of Scotus, Theophanies: the Divinity careering through the spaces of the phenomenal universe (theos being derived by him from theô, to run). The world is thus one vast, continuous undulation of the Divine Evolution-Process. Everywhere, at bottom, is the one, single, all-pervading ousia; the individual beings of the visible world differ from one another only in accidents, not in substance; all nature is but one colossal mass of being, spreading its monster branches throughout all space. True to the conception of a descending or downward emanation, and in order to emphasize the gradations in the outflowing of the Divinity into all life and existence, Scotus teaches that the genus exists prior to the species, and the species prior to the individual: in other words, he is the most extreme of realists in regard to the Universals problem.

Can this expansion of the one Divine Substance throughout all Nature be called creation? Not, certainly, in the strict sense of the word (96, 2). To conform to the Catholic teaching, Scotus interprets Scripture in a symbolic sense, explaining that "God creates Himself in the world".

(4) Nature neither creating nor created, or, God as the Ultimate Term of the Universe. Whatever proceeds from a principle tends to return thereto; the end of motion is its return to its source. Finis enim totius motus est principium sui; non enim alio fine terminatur nisi suo principio a quo incipit moveri. Of fatal necessity God eventually withdraws again into Himself: this is the final cosmic absorption in the bosom of the Great All (cf. Plotinus and Pseudo-Denis).

{1} "Nam si in aliquo (genere) seipsum cognosceret, non omnino infinitum seipsum judicaret" (De Divis. Nat., i., 2).

{2} " Creator enim a seipsa in primordialibus causis, ac per hoc seipsum creat" (ibid., iii., 23).

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