John Scotus Eriugena

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No one enters heaven except through philosophy.

Johannes Scotus (c. 815 – c. 877) was an Irish theologian and Neoplatonist philosopher who settled at the court of Charles the Bald. His tendency towards pantheism led to his work being posthumously condemned as heretical. The usual modern form of his name, Johannes Scotus Eriugena or Erigena, is unrecorded before the 17th century.


  • Cum ergo audimus, Deum omnia facere, nil aliud debemus intelligere, quam Deum in omnibus esse, hoc est, essentiam omnium subsistere.
    • When we are told that God is the maker of all things, we are simply to understand that God is in all things – that He is the substantial essence of all things.
    • De Divisione Naturae, Bk. 1, ch. 72; translation from Hugh Fraser Stewart Boethius: An Essay (London: William Blackwood, 1891) p. 255.
  • Auctoritas siquidem ex vera ratione processit, ratio vero nequaquam ex auctoritate. Omnis enim auctoritas, quae vera ratione non approbatur, infirma videtur esse. Vera autem ratio, quum virtutibus suis rata atque immutabilis munitur, nullius auctoritatis adstipulatione roborari indigent.
    • For authority proceeds from true reason, but reason certainly does not proceed from authority. For every authority which is not upheld by true reason is seen to be weak, whereas true reason is kept firm and immutable by her own powers and does not require to be confirmed by the assent of any authority.
    • De Divisione Naturae, Bk. 1, ch. 69; translation by I. P. Sheldon-Williams, cited from Peter Dronke (ed.) A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP, 1988) p. 2.
  • Sed fortasse quis dixerit: Quomodo omnia, quae sunt, lumina sunt?
    • Yet someone may ask: how is it that all things which are, are lights?
    • Expositiones super Ierarchiam Caelestem S. Dionysii, vol. 122, col. 128 in Jacques Paul Migne Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Latina ; translation from Walter Baumann "In Principio Verbum" : Seminar on Canto 74, Lines 76-145, p. 250 [1]
  • Quid est aliud de philosophia tractare, nisi verae religionis, qua summa et principalis omnium rerum causa, Deus, et humiliter colitur, et rationabiliter investigatur, regulas exponere? Conficitur inde, veram esse philosophiam veram religionem, conversimque veram religionem esse veram philosophiam.
    • What, then, is it to treat of philosophy, unless to lay down the rules of the true religion by which we seek rationally and adore humbly God, who is the first and sovereign cause of all things? Hence it follows that the true philosophy is the true religion, and reciprocally that the true religion is the true philosophy.
    • De Divina Praedestinatione, ch. 1; translation from Kenelm Henry Digby Mores Catholici, vol. 8 (London: Booker & Dolman, 1837) p. 198.
  • Nemo intrat in caelum nisi per philosophiam.
    • No one enters heaven except through philosophy.
    • Annotationes in Marciam, no. 64; translation from John Joseph O’Meara Eriugena (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988) p. 30.
  • Tabula tantum.
    • The breadth of the table.
    • William of Malmesbury Gesta Pontificum, Bk. 5; translation from Helen Waddell The Wandering Scholars (Harmondsworth: Penguin, [1927] 1954) p. 78.
    • His reply to Charles the Bald's taunt, as they sat at the same table, "Quid distat inter sottum et Scottum?", (How far is an Irishman from a drunkard?).


  • One man stands head and shoulders above his contemporary scholars: head and shoulders, some hold, above the Middle Ages: John Scotus Erigena.
    • Helen Waddell The Wandering Scholars (Harmondsworth: Penguin, [1927] 1954) pp. 77-78.
  • Synthesizing as it does the philosophical accomplishments of fifteen centuries, this book appears as the final achievement of ancient philosophy.
    • George Bosworth Burch Early Medieval Philosophy (New York: King’s Crown Press, 1951) p. 5.
    • Of De Divisione Naturae.
  • Pultes Scotorum.
    • Irish porridge.
    • Verdict of the Fourth Council of Valence, 855, on his De Divina Praedestinatione, cited from Ferdinand Christian Baur Die christliche Kirche des Mittelalters in den Haupmomenten ihrer Entwicklung (Tübingen: Fues, 1861) p. 56; translation from Andrew Gibson James Joyce (London: Reaktion, 2006) p. 62.
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