Docta Ignorantia

Chaitanya Jyothi Museum Opening, 2000

In the Name of The Father, and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, Amen.



During the decade between the late 1980s and the late 1990s, I produced eighty six meditations titled Docta Ignorantia.  The phrase and concept belong to Nicholas of Cusa, the German Cardinal and Mystic.  He observed that truth expressed (doctrine) by virtue of being expressed is a distortion of truth, but a necessary one.  For, one cannot not express the truth.  One simply must be aware that expressing the truth distorts it.  It does that by making a distinction, unavoidably, between the expression of truth and the truth meant to be expressed.

Any communication presumes separation/distinction between said communication and its subject.  Ergo, every communication distorts its subject more or less.  Wise ones express the truth with the least amount of distortion caused by the expression.

While distinctions are useful and indeed necessary this side of emergence in Godhead — Heaven in Christian terminology — they have no ultimate validity.  When their usefulness is accomplished, distinctions must be left along the wayside like dust swirling around the feet, waste excreted and old skin cells that fall off because no longer needed.

Vedic philosophy has a neat way of describing the phenomenology.  There are two types of statement or expression, one that moves one towards the truth and one that moves one away from it.  Vidyamaya is the former and Avidyamaya is the latter.  Both are maya, delusion, but one is helpful and the other is harmful.

In the phrase and concept Docta Ignorantia Cusanus means what Vedic philosophy describes as Vidyamaya: ignorance (maya) that moves one (docta) toward reality/God rather than away from it/Him.  Docta (English, Doctrine) is a Greco-Latin word for a statement or expression which distills truth as confirmed by long years of direct experience.  A doctrine conveys an existential discovery of deepest importance to man’s spiritual yearning.

The opposite of Docta Ignorantia is Indocilis Ignorantia (indocile, unteachable, immovable ignorance).  Indocilis Ignorantia sorely afflicts man today.

My meditations gathered under the marquee of Docta Ignorantia address matters of exegesis, Anglican ecclesiology, systematic theology, church history and the array of inquiries later I came to call theological geography.  They are here.


St. Thomas. Episcopal Church, Medina, WA
St. Thomas. Episcopal Church, Medina, WA

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