Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer

Author Quotes

It is possible that those who will read things previously unheard of, and now established by Learned Ignorance, will be astonished.

The machine of the world will have its centre everywhere, so to speak, and its circumference nowhere, because its circumference and its centre are God, who is everywhere and nowhere.

A given circle cannot be so true that a truer one cannot be found; and the movement of a sphere at one moment is never precisely equal to its movement at another, nor does it ever describe two circles similar and equal, even if from appearances the opposite may seem true.

It is self-evident that there is no comparative relation of the infinite to the finite. ... Therefore, it is not the case that by means of likeness a finite intellect can precisely attain the truth about things. ... For truth is not something more or something less but is something indivisible. Whatever is not truth cannot measure truth precisely. ... For the intellect is to truth as an inscribed polygon is to the inscribing circle.

The posse {i.e. potential} of the mind to see, therefore, surpasses the posse to comprehend.

A human is above all the creatures of God, and only a bit lower than the angels.

It must be added that this earth is not spherical, as some have said, though it tends towards sphericity; indeed, the shape of the world is contrasted in its parts, as well as its motion; but when the infinite line is considered as contracted in such a way that, as contracted, it could not be more perfect or more spacious, then it is circular, and the corresponding corporeal figure [is the] spherical one. For all motion of the parts is towards the perfection of the whole; thus heavy bodies [move] towards the earth, and light ones [move] upward, earth towards earth, water towards water, fire towards fire; accordingly, the motion of the whole tends as far as it can towards the circular, and all shapes towards the spherical one, as we see in the parts of animals, in trees, and in the sky. But one motion is more circular and more perfect than another, and it is the same with shapes.

The rational is apprehended through the intellect, however, the intellect is not found in the region of the rational; the intellect is as the eye and the rational as the colors.

According to the movement of reason, plurality or multitude is opposed to unity. Hence, it is not a unity of this sort which properly applies to God, but the unity to which neither otherness nor plurality nor multiplicity is opposed. This unity is the maximum name enfolding all things in its simplicity of unity, and this is the name which is ineffable and above all understanding.

It must not be said either that, because the earth is smaller than the sun, and receives an influence from it, it is also more vile; for the whole region of the earth, which extends to the circumference of the fire, is large. And though the earth is smaller than the sun, as is known to us from its shadow and the eclipses, still we do not know whether the region of the sun is greater or smaller than the region of the earth; however, they cannot be precisely equal, as no star can be equal to another. Nor is the earth the smallest star, for it is larger than the moon, as we are taught by the experience of the eclipses, and even, as some people say, larger than Mercury, and possibly than some other stars. Thus the argument from the dimension to the vileness is not conclusive.

Though the world is not infinite, yet it cannot be conceived as finite, since it has no limits between which it is confined. The earth, therefore, which cannot be the center cannot be lacking in all motion; but it is necessary that it move in such a way that it could be moved infinitely less. Just as the earth is not the center of the world, so the sphere of the fixed stars is not its circumference, though if we compare the earth to the sky, the earth appears to be nearer to the center, and the sky to the circumference. The earth therefore is not the center, neither of the eighth nor of [any] other sphere, nor does the rising of the six signs [of the Zodiac] above the horizon imply that the earth is in the center of the eighth sphere. For even if it were somewhat distant from the center and outside the axis, which traverses the poles, so that in one part it would be elevated towards one pole, and in the other [part] depressed towards the other, nevertheless it is clear that, being at such a great distance from the poles and the horizon being just as vast, men would see only half of the sphere [and therefore believe themselves to be in its center].

All those who make an investigation judge the uncertain proportionally, by means of a comparison with what is taken to be certain. Therefore, every inquiry is comparative and uses the means of comparative relation. ... Hence, the infinite, qua infinite, is unknown; for it escapes all comparative relation.

Nor is the darkness of colour a proof of the earth?s baseness; for the brightness of the sun, which is visible to us, would not be perceived by anyone who might be in the sun.

Thus wise men have been right in taking examples of things which can be investigated with the mind from the field of mathematics, and not one of the Ancients who is considered of real importance approached a difficult problem except by way of the mathematical analogy. That is why Boethius, the greatest scholar among the Romans, said that for a man entirely unversed in mathematics, knowledge of the Divine was unattainable. ?

All visible things would not claim as their king some color of their region, which is actually among the visible things of this region, but rather would say, he is the highest possible beauty of the most lucid and perfect color.

Number, in consequence, includes all things that are capable of comparison. It is not then in quantity only that number produces proportion; it produces it in all things that are capable of agreement and differences in any way at all, whether substantially or accidentally.

Wonder is the reason we seek to know any reality whatsoever.

Consequently, if you want to have a better understanding of the motion of the universe, you must put together the center and the poles, with the aid of your imagination as far as you can; for if somebody were on the earth, under the arctic pole, and somebody else on the arctic pole, then just as to the man on the earth the pole will appear to be in the zenith, to the man on the pole it is the center that would appear to be in the zenith. And as the antipodes have, like ourselves, the sky above them, so to those who are in the poles (in both), the earth will appear to be in the zenith, and wherever the observer be he will believe himself to be in the center. Combine thus these diverse imaginations, making the center into the zenith and vice versa, and then, with the intellect, which alone can practise learned ignorance, you will see that the world and its motion cannot be represented by a figure, because it will appear almost as a wheel within a wheel, and a sphere within a sphere, having nowhere, as we have seen, either a center or a circumference.

Oftentimes our appetite is satisfied quite pleasantly by dishes that are less varied but savory. Accordingly, although you, Nicholas, have already generously served up teachings that show the way to undepletable nourishment of the soul, do not for that reason be annoyed, I ask, if I importunately request nourishment that is even more delicious.

You are therefore able to run on this path, on which God is found above all vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, speech, sense, rationality, and intellect. It is found as none of these, but rather above everything as God of gods and King of all kings. Indeed, the King of the world of the intellect is the King of kings and Lord of lords in the universe.

Even if it might seem otherwise to us, neither the sun nor the earth nor any sphere can describe a perfect circle by its motion...nor is a sphere?s or a star?s motion at one moment ever precisely equal to their motion at another.

Otherness cannot be a form. For to alter is to deform rather than to form. Therefore, that which is seen in different things can also be seen in and of itself without otherness, since otherness did not give being to it.

You have now to consider attentively what follows: just as the stars move around the conjectural poles of the eighth sphere, so also do the earth, the moon and the planets move in various ways and at [different] distances around a pole, which pole we have to conjecture as being [in the place] where you are accustomed to put the center. It follows therefrom that though the earth is, so to speak, the star which is nearer the central pole [than the others] it still moves, and yet does not describe in [its] motion the minimum circle, as has been shown supra. Moreover, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor any sphere?though to us it seems otherwise?can in [its] motion describe a true circle, because they do not move around a fixed base. Nowhere is there a true circle such that a truer one would not be possible, nor is [anything] ever at one time [exactly] as at another, neither does it move in a precisely equal [manner], nor does it describe an equally perfect circle, though we are not aware of it.

For all the [body?s] members seek nothing except inseparable union with the intellect, as with their beginning, ultimate good, and everlasting life.

Paul indeed wanted to reveal the unknown God to the philosophers and then affirms of Him, that no human intellect can conceive Him. Therefore, God is revealed therein, that one knows that every intellect is too small to make itself a figuration or concept of Him. However, he names him God, or in Greek, theos.

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First Name
Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus
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German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer