On Learned Ignorance
Nicholas of Cusa


Translator's Introduction


  1. How it is that knowing is not-knowing.
  2. Preliminary clarification of what will follow.
  3. The precise truth is incomprehensible.
  4. The Absolute Maximum,with which the Minimum coincides, is un-derstood incomprehensibly.
  5. The Maximum is one.
  6. The Maximum is Absolute Necessity.
  7. The trine and one Eternity.
  8. Eternal generation.
  9. The eternal procession of union.
  10. An understanding of trinity in oneness transcends all things.
  11. Mathematics assists us very greatly in apprehending various di-vine [truths].
  12. The way in which mathematical signs ought to be used in our un-dertaking.
  13. The characteristics of a maximum, infinite line.
  14. An infinite line is a triangle.
  15. The maximum triangle is a circle and a sphere.
  16. In a symbolic way the Maximum is to all things as a maximum line is to [all] lines.
  17. Very deep doctrines from the same [symbolism of an infinite line].
  18. From the same [symbolism] we are led to an understanding of the participation in being.
  19. The likening of an infinite triangle to maximum trinity.
  20. Still more regarding the Trinity. There cannot be fourness, [five-ness], etc., in God.
  21. The likening of an infinite circle to oneness.
  22. How God's foresight unites contradictories.
  23. The likening of an infinite sphere to the actual existence of God.
  24. The name of God; affirmative theology.
  25. The pagans named God in various ways in relation to created things.
  26. Negative theology.


  1. Corollaries preliminary to inferring one infinite universe.
  2. Created being derives from the being of the First in a way that is not understandable.
  3. In a way that cannot be understood the Maximum enfolds and un-folds all things.
  4. The universe, which is only a contracted maximum, is a likeness of the Absolute [Maximum].
  5. Each thing in each thing.
  6. The enfolding, and the degrees of contraction, of the universe.
  7. The trinity of the universe.
  8. The possibility, or matter, of the universe.
  9. The soul, or form, of the universe.
  10. The spirit of all things.
  11. Corollaries regarding motion.
  12. The conditions of the earth.
  13. The admirable divine art in the creation of the world and of the elements.
  1. 1. The maximum which is contracted to this or that, and than which
  2. there cannot be a greater, cannot exist without the Absolute [Max-imum].
  3. 2. The maximum contracted [to a species] is also the Absolute [Max-imum;
  4. it is both] Creator and creature.
  5. 3. Only in the case of the nature of humanity can there be such a max-imum
  6. [individual].
  7. 4. Blessed Jesus, who is God and man, is the [contracted maximum in-dividual].
  8. 5. Christ, conceived through the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin
  9. Mary.
  10. 6. The mystery of the death of Jesus Christ.
  11. 7. The mystery of the Resurrection.
  12. 8. Christ, the Firstfruits of those who sleep, ascended to Heaven.
  13. 9. Christ is judge of the living and the dead.
  14. 10. The Judge's sentence.
  15. 11. The mysteries of faith.
  16. 12. The church.

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