CFP: Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Religion

Graduate students and seasoned scholars are invited to submit abstract proposals for the panel “Nicholas of Cusa and Early Modern Religion” to be hosted at the annual Eastern International Meeting of the AAR, May 1-2, 2015, at McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada.

Since the 1930s a wealth of scholarly material has appeared describing the profound insights of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) and his influence on modern philosophy, science, and other disciplines. Once described as “the first modern thinker” because of his speculations on the independence of the human intellect and his proto-Copernican astronomical conclusions, Cusa’s influence in the early modern period has yet to be completely mapped.

This panel seeks to address Cusa’s impact, whether directly or indirectly, on early modern religion. Cusa was well known in the 16th and 17th centuries as an expounder of “learned ignorance” and as a reformminded cleric, yet little scholarly attention has been given to the appropriation of Cusan thought among theologians, clerics, and lay devotees during this period. Presentations will be considered for publication within a volume on the same theme, which is currently under review with Brill.

Acceptable topics for this panel may include (but are not limited to) the following in relation to the impact of Nicholas of Cusa’s thought in the early modern period (16th – 17th centuries):

  • The interplay between the sacred and the secular
  • The spiritual senses
  • The hermeneutics of religion
  • Philosophical implications of religion
  • Devotional texts, songs, images, practices
  • Cultural repertoires of devotion and desire
  • Languages of mystical experience
  • The psychology of desire and devotion

Proposals should contain the following in a single e-mail attachment in MS Word format:
1. One-page abstract (300 words maximum)
2. Current CV
3. Cover page that includes the submitter’s full name, title, institution, phone number, and primary email.

If you are interested in presenting a paper on this panel, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by Feb. 12, 2015. Also include any audio-visual equipment you may require. Presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length.

Email abstracts or further inquiries to the panel organizer Eric Parker: eric.parker@mail.mcgill.ca

This panel is sponsored by the Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR) at McGill University

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New Research on Nicholas of Cusa and the Cambridge Platonists

Two Sessions on Nicholas of Cusa and Protestant Thought at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference in New Orleans 16-19, 2014

Nicholas of Cusa and Protestant Thought (I)

Friday 8:30-10:00, Studio 6

Sponsor: Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR), McGill University
Organizer: Eric M. Parker, McGill University & Joshua Hollmann, Concordia College Chair: Torrance Kirby, McGill University

Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther on Christ and the Coincidence of Opposites Joshua Hollmann (Concordia College)

Lineages of Papal Reform: Nicholas of Cusa’s Reformatio generalis (1459) and Luther’s View of the Papacy during the Early Indulgence Controversy (1517-19)
Richard Serina (Concordia Seminary)

As the Blind Discern Color: Nicholas of Cusa and John Calvin on the Hiddenness of God
Kirk Essary (Florida State University)

Nicholas of Cusa in Protestant Thought (II)

Friday 10:30-12:00, Studio 6

Sponsor: Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR), McGill University
Organizer: Eric M. Parker, McGill University & Joshua Hollmann, Concordia College Chair: Torrance Kirby, McGill University

The Influence of Nicholas of Cusa in the Philosophical Theology of Thomas Jackson (1579-1640)
Peter James Bryson (McGill University)

‘Squaring the Circle’: Cusan Metaphysics and the Pansophic Vision of Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670)
Simon Burton (University of Warsaw)

‘Reason re-enthroned in her Majestick Seat’: Religion and Reason in Nicholas of Cusa and the Cambridge Platonists (ca. 1644-1688)
Eric Parker (McGill University)

‘Cambridge Platonism Revisited’ at the AAR

On Monday 25th of November at 4.00 pm-6.30pm there was a session of the American Academy of Religion at Baltimore on ‘Cambridge Platonism Revisited’.

Speakers included:

Eric Parker (McGill)

The Chaldean Triad: Erôs, Alêtheia, Pistis, and the Relationship between Faith and Reason in the Works of Peter Sterry

Proclus posits Love (erôs), Truth (alêthia) and Faith (pistis), terms he discovers in the Chaldean Oracles, as the sympathetic (sympatheia) and uplifting powers (anagôgoi) that cause the union of the One and the “one in the soul.” For Proclus, rational faith should be differentiated from the irrational faith in Plato’s “divided line” analogy because it initiates one into union with the Good through an intuitive resting within the common notions (koinai ennoiai) of the intellect. The Cambridge Platonist, Peter Sterry uses the Chaldean Triad, translated as knowledge/understanding, faith, and love in his treatise on free will and in his sermons on Matthew. Sterry’s concept of the unity of the intellect and will in the soul is dependent on Proclus’s idea that “all things are in the soul.” This Unity is the Word who dwells naturally within the soul. For Sterry, however, a supernatural knowledge, faith, and love are necessary in order to reach perfect inward unity. In his sermons on Matthew, Sterry says that faith is the third link of the divine chain by which God draws up human souls to himself. Faith causes Truth to come into sympathetic harmony with truth in the soul. Faith is the human counterpart of divine Love within the Godhead, which ignites the flame of love in the hearts of believers. Though some have labeled Sterry’s opinion concerning the weakness of the post-lapsarian will as “Calvinistic” a more balanced perspective will not fail to mention the influence of Proclean Neoplatonism on Sterry’s concept of rational faith and its philosophical underpinnings.

Heather C. Ohaneson (Columbia)

Ralph Cudworth, Menasseh ben Israel, and the Readmission of Jews to England: The Political Circumstances of a Seventeenth-Century Theological-Philosophical Encounter

This paper concerns the intersection of philosophy, theology, and politics with respect to the question of the readmission of Jews to England in 1655-1656. By examining the theological interests and philosophical commitments of the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth–and, at the same time, by acknowledging the sources and range of his political access–it is possible to see the tensions underlying his recommendation of religious tolerance. Attention to several of the positions espoused by Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel, whom Cudworth met in London on the occasion of the Whitehall Conference, will show a similarly complicated coincidence of political and theological views. As Cudworth sought to read Plato through the lens of Moses, and as Menasseh attempted to approach Kabbalah by way of Neoplatonism, we may look to make sense of Cudworth and Menasseh’s philosophies politically.

Alex Hampton (Cambridge)

Romantic Spinozism and Cambridge Platonism: Herder’s Cudworth-Inspired Revision of Spinoza

This paper explores the hidden role of Cudworth in shaping the Frühromantik reception of Spinoza through the intermediary of Herder. Herder was the most important source of Romantic Spinozism. His influential Gott Einige Gespräche über Spinoza’s System, ostensibly a defence of Spinoza, was in fact a revision of Spinoza along largely Cudworthian lines. After establishing the general relationship between Herder and Cudworth, this examination will outline three areas where Cudworth played a formative role for Herder. Finally, it will place Herder in the context of the Pantheism Controversy, which was so influential upon the Frühromantik.

Douglas Hedley (Cambridge) presided.