Exo-Vaticana: Nicholas of Cusa’s Learned Ignorance Leads the Way

By Cris D. Putnam (continued from part 3)
Exo-VaticanaIn 1440, Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), a German philosopher, theologian, and astronomer, had a mystical experience while returning from Constantinople by ship. He described his vision thus, “When by what I believe was a celestial gift from the Father of Lights, from whom comes every perfect gift, I was led to embrace imcomprehensibles incomprehensibly in leaned ignorance, by transcending those incorruptible truths that can be humanly known.”[1] What followed was a treatise on mysticism entitled De Docta Ignorantia (“Of Learned Ignorance”). Similar to Buddhist practice, Nicholas called this “negative theology,” implying a sort of mystical knowing by not knowing. As a result, he conjured up hermetic platitudes like God is “a sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.”[2] He believed that the limits of science could be transcended by means of mystic speculation. Some even contend that this preempted Kepler, famous for his laws of planetary motion, by arguing there were no perfect circles in the universe. His learned ignorance inevitably led him to other worlds inhabited by extraterrestrials.

Nicholas homogenized the heavenly bodies by dismissing the Aristotelian doctrine of unity and natural place. Therefore, he concluded that the Earth, planets, sun, and stars were composed of the same elements, and that there was no center of attraction. He envisioned an infinite universe, whose center was everywhere and circumference nowhere, containing countless rotating stars, the Earth merely being one of equal importance. Consequently, it is not too surprising that it is from Nicholas of Cusa that we encounter the first explicit Roman Catholic argumentation for the existence of extraterrestrials. In Of Learned Ignorance, chapter 12, he asserts:

Rather than think that so many stars and parts of the heaven are uninhabited and that this earth of ours alone is peopled—and that with beings, perhaps, of an inferior type—we will suppose that in every region there are inhabitants, differing in nature by rank and all owing their origin to God, who is the center and circumference of all stellar regions.[3]

Rather than the censure one might expect, Nicholas’ work was enthusiastically received. It is important to note that he stated this was revelation from God and it went unchallenged by the Church. Shortly after his shipboard vision, he had become the papal envoy to Pope Eugene IV and assisted in the papal power struggle against the council of Basel, opposing its attempt to reform widespread abuse. He was promoted to the status of cardinal by Pope Nicholas V in 1448. The next person of note was more inclined to science than mystic speculation.

Perhaps one of the greatest contributors to the discussion, Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543), never actually addressed the copernicustopic. Even so, his revolutionary work effectively removed the Earth from the center of the cosmos and seemingly relegated it one among many, perhaps similar, orbs revolving around the sun. He correctly surmised the apparent motion of the stars to be an illusion caused by the rotation of the Earth on its axis and that the Earth orbited the sun once every year. Of course, this meant that the countless stars were potential suns and the observable planets might be other “earths.” Of course, if there are other earths, then one might imagine they are populated with people or something else entirely. It really did change everything. Yet, heliocentricism was not widely accepted in his lifetime. A few astronomers, including Germans Michael Maestlin (1550–1631), Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), the Englishman Thomas Digges (1546–1595), and the Italian Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), accepted it, leading historians like N. R. Hanson to quip that the “Copernican revolution” was a minor skirmish that prompted the Keplerian or Galilerian revolution.[4] All the same, at the dawn of the Reformation, Copernicus had planted the seeds for an atomist revival replete with an alien invasion.

Next week… the infamous Giordano Bruno.

See: http://www.exovaticana.com/

[1] “Letter to Cardinal Guliano Cesarini,” as quoted in Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson, Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2004), 206.

[2] Peter M. J. Hess and Paul L. Allen, Catholicism and Science (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008), 22.

[3] Nicolas of Cusa, Of Learned Ignorance, translated by Germain Heron (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954), 111–118; as cited in Michael J. Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915: A Source Book (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 31.

[4] N. R. Hanson, “The Copernican Disturbance and the Keplerian Revolution,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (1961): 161–184; as cited in Michael J. Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 37.

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.


  1. Vic says:

    Very Interesting…yeah I believe the Copernican Model of Solar System is as intimately connected with evolution
    as Siamese Twins.
    You and Tom should collaborate with a book on that very subject with the Christian ‘owner’ of the exhaustively researched mulilayered and detailed fixedearth.com site.
    Over 60 references to a fixed earth are in Scripture, totally flying in the face of what we have been programmed to believe, this will be tough because the Copernican belief practically has been seared in our subconscious and any attempt to convince otherwise even to most Christians will be met with…well…you know.
    The site is ‘old school’…but don’t judge a book by it’s cover, there’ amazing info here, I know Tom will love it
    and may spend days reading it….yes, it’s almost that exhaustive.
    God Bless.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      I think the evidence for heliocentricism is overwhelming and the scriptural references are phenomenological language. How would you explain the success of our space satellites which orbit mars and Jupiter successfully and are all based on Kepler’s laws of planetary motion based on a heliocentric system?

  2. Vic says:

    Yeah I know, it’s tough, I understand because it took me awhile to accept Geocentrism, but I believe the Earth is fixed and everything else moves around it, because Earth is IT…Essentially the Center of the Universe.
    That programming many got in public School was convincing…we “accepted” Darwin’s Monkey to Man poster in Science Class…we “accepted” without questioning for moment the Copernican Model Poster in Science class as well….I understand.
    Anyway, just a piece here from that site I mentioned earlier regarding Kepler himself. There’s much, much more, but don’t want to take up
    too much space.

    —In January, 1616, officials in Wurttenberg charged Johannes Kepler himself with practicing “forbidden arts”, i.e., witchcraft. 7

    —Kepler studied for the Lutheran Clergy, but was always wrangling with the church authorities and was never allowed to have a pulpit. 8

    —The pastor at Linz wouldn’t allow Kepler to take communion. 9

    —While a university student in the late 1500′s, Kepler wrote a wild story about demons taking people to the moon so they could watch the earth rotating.10

    • hopeful_watcher says:

      I believe you are stretching my friend to defend the bible as truth where it needs no defense. Even a heliocentrist says the sun rises and sets. It simply is how one describes the event relative to one’s position of standing on the ground. Do we say ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill’ or do we say ‘Jack and Jill went parallel to the north most ascending slope’? Likewise, just because biblical authors write the sun rose and travelled across the sky, there are not speaking falsities if the earth is actually rotating.

      I admire your effort to defend the bible as 100% truth in all ways (because it is), but you got to pick your battles. It’s hard enough to get people to believe Jesus is the son of God.
      I won’t impune your motives, but its something you must address for yourself by asking yourself this question to know if your motives are pure. If God himself revealed to you that the Earth rotates would you be humble enough to accept that or has defending this theory become your purpose and therefore you would hold fast?

      • Vic says:

        “It’s hard enough to get people to believe Jesus is the son of God.”

        And doubly hard to get them to believe that Angels procreated with humans and Giant offspring
        as well.
        I know what you’re saying, and like the Angel/Human offspring theory, which I am greatly
        skeptical of because Angels are of a different “kind” than Humans, and Biblically, “kind” can only procreate
        after it’s own “kind”, the Geocentric Earth theory is not nearly as strange and ‘out there’ as Angel/Human
        theory, ET abductions, Alien Implants or evil Black Eyed Kids Putnam’s contemporaries like Tom Horn and L.A. Marzulli are definitely open to believe as well without any material evidence…yes?
        After much study on this through several sources, I’m convinced we’re Geocentric.
        When I go out on a quiet summer night with my lady and sit among the stars, my intuition
        tells me the Earth is fixed, not spinning at around 1000 MPH, and not moving around the Sun
        at 67,000 MPH.
        It’s fine…I’ll stop here on this particular discussion.
        God Bless.

        • Hey don’t get me wrong brother, I won’t hold your view in contempt. I don’t agree, but that’s ok. I look forward to the day where all is revealed and nothing is left a mystery.

          What I hold to the highest esteem however, are those truths that affect salvation. Is a belief in the nephilim essential to salvation? Although I’d say that knowing these other truths gives you a more thorough understanding, ultimately it won’t assure or take away salvation.

  3. Paul says:

    The Pope has just announced his resignation.

  4. Suzanne M. Hamilton says:

    I was hoping the CTC interview last night would address something I noticed a number of years ago, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Before Pope Benedict, around 1994 or 1995, the Pope John Paul was paraded through a large area, surrounded by many other clergy, at the Vatican. All you could see was from a distance; noclose-ups at all. He was on his cart, did not move, raise a hand, made no motion at all. As I was watching him, I said to my friend, “That man is dead; they have him propped up.” He took a second look and agreed that it might just be so. Then for a long time, there were no close ups of the pope, and very little comment. He was ill, they said. Then about a year before Pope Benedict, the previous pope was shown close up, waving, smiling, looking quite hail and hearty. Then he died. I have always thought that the waving, smiling pope was a fill-in, that the legitimate pope had, in fact, died, and that the Vatican was pretending he was still alive in order to keep something at bay or to fulfill a time period. I have always suspected that Pope Benedict is the last pope. Can someone check on this, as I’ve never been able to confirm what it was that was happening. Thanks. p.s. Good interview, Chris – thank you.

  5. Randall says:

    Ecclesiastes 12:13 & 14 we can begin: then 1 PETER 4:17, and ISAIAH 66:16 & (:17 IS “how” MY LORD PLEADS WITH ALL FLESH NOW) He no longer is your Lord because he as written ROMANS 1:19-33, GIVEN YOU OVER TO a “REPROBATE MIND” . . . . . Proverbs 1:19-33 is the what God’s rebuke of you. BUT ISAIAH 66:14-18 AND PSALMS 110 and Hebrews 10:7 and :11——————–you have NOT obeyed my Lord and therefore, as written in REVELATION 18 God tells His people to come out of her, where are God’s people ? And why come out of her, God’s people are to be in the church but BECAUSE, her sins have reached all the way to heaven and that He, shall “remember her iniquity” . . . .MATTHEW 24:15 RULES AND HAS BEEN SINCE 1988, THE eND OF THE cHURCH aGE. BUT ALSO ISAIAH 24 is an ongoing “punishment” and “Behold, I maketh the earth empty and maketh it waste” . . .. why does God tell ALL, this fact now is it (Because they have transgressed the laws and changed the ordinance and BROKEN the everlasting covenant” -ISAIAH 24:5 & 6 and that “the CURSE, hath devoured the earth”) ALL, men are PSALMS 58 “estranged from the womb” . . . . and Jesus spake in MATTHEW 24:1 & 2 there shall NOT be one stone stand upon another that shall not be thrown down” . . . I guess the iniquity of the Disciples themselves to IMPRESS Jesus, wasn’t so . . . . Why shall it be thrown down, and when Jesus turned over the tables in from of the Temple and scolded the merchants selling doves and birds . . . . . The Church is become a realty business, conglomerate of vast corporate businesses all in the name of YOUR GOD ! Are ye’ then the father of a NOT our Lord the God of glory that had they known they would NOT have killed him ? And that their Father is Satan as the Devil . . . . NOW is seated in the holy place as written in MATTHEW 24:15———————————————————-following God is not as easy and pleasureable as thought and made by men whose Lord is no longer the Christ Jesus.

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