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Eriugena, John Scottus

(c. 810—877) theologian

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Also known as John the Scot, Eriugena was born in Ireland, achieved a remarkable degree of learning, and taught at the court of Charles the Bald. He is important as a translator and transmitter of Greek thought, the translator of Dionysius the PseudoAreopagite and other writers, and arguably the most important thinker in the Christian world between Augustine and Anselm. He defended the reality of free will (Pelagianism) against one Gottschalk, a monk, but the reliance on reason that he shows was condemned by two councils, although John himself escaped censure. His greatest work is De Divisione Naturae (‘Of the Division of Nature’). In this he shows a pronounced tendency towards pantheism and Neoplatonism: God becomes the one unchanging, universal reality in which creation participates, himself beyond human categories, and knowable only by what he is not. Created beings are themselves disclosures or manifestations of the divine principle, and their goal is reabsorption in God. Eriugena's distinction was to insist on a reconciliation between reason and Christian theology. The theology that results is of doubtful orthodoxy, although certainly influential on later Neoplatonic Christians such as Dante.

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