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The Dialectic of the Return in Eriugena's Periphyseon*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Willemien Otten
Loyola University Chicago


The Periphyseon, the magnum opus of the Carolingian thinker Johannes Scottus Eriugena (810–877), is widely recognized as the most original work in the history of Christian thought between Augustine and Anselm. Set in the form of a dialogue between a Master and his Student, the Periphyseon presents a daring view of the universe, for which Eriugena coins the term natura. Instead of the traditional Christian dichotomy of God versus creation, Eriugena presents a unified view of reality, the intimidating whole of which he can only conceive by submitting it to a process of division. Hence the name Periphyseon or On the Division of Nature.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1991

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1 The Periphyseon was written in 864-866 CE. In the following I quote from the text and the English translation of Books One to Three in the edition of I. P. Sheldon-Williams and Bieler, Ludwig, Iohannis Scotti Eriugenae Periphyseon (De Divisione Naturae) (Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies) Liber Primus (1968), Liber Secundus (1972), Liber Tertius (1981)Google Scholar; Books Four and Five will be quoted from the edition of H. J. Floss in PL 122. The translations of Books Four and Five are taken from Periphyseon: The Division of Nature (trans. Sheldon-Williams, I. P. and O'Meara, John J.; Montréal/Paris: Bellarmin-Vrin, 1987)Google Scholar.

2 See Eriugena Per. 1.441B-443C. For an interpretation of these two divisions, see Otten, Willemien, The Anthropology of Johannes Scottus Eriugena (Leiden: Brill, 1991) 728.Google Scholar The two divisions are related in that both have their starting point in human reason's perception of reality rather than in objective reality itself. While this is clear for the first division, Eriugena calls the four forms of nature forms of our contemplation rather than of nature itself, see Per. 2.525B-C. See also Otten, , Anthropology, 2839Google Scholar.

3 In Eriugena's Christian-Neoplatonic thought there are echoes of both Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor. From Dionysius Eriugena adopts the universe's movement as Πρόοδος and έΠιστροΦή. The four forms of nature, when we identify the first and the fourth as both referring to God, can be reduced to the Maximian triad of God as Beginning, Middle, and End. See Sheldon-Williams, I. P., “John Scottus Eriugena,” in Armstrong, Arthur H., ed., Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967) 518-33, esp. 523–26.Google Scholar Yet in what follows I shall argue that, although the first and fourth forms both refer to God, this does not warrant their complete identification.

4 See McGinn, Bernard, “Eriugena Mysticus,” in Leonardi, Claudio, ed., Giovanni Scoto nel suo tempo: L'organizzazione del sapere in etá carolingia (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo, 1989) 235–60.Google ScholarSee also Duclow, Donald, “Dialectic and Christology in Eriugena's Periphyseon,” Dionysius 4 (1980) 99118.Google Scholar Duclow's position mediates between that of McGinn and that of Colish (see below n. 5).

5 See Colish, Marcia L., “John the Scot's Christology and Soteriology in Relation to his Greek Sources,” DRev 100 (1982) 138–51.Google Scholar I disagree with Colish's judgment (p. 148) that Eriugena is in fact more Neoplatonic than either Dionysius or Maximus.

6 In this context I like to point out that the issue of “orthodoxy” in ninth-century Francia seems to encompass a much wider spectrum of views than was permissible in Chalcedonian times. To illustrate this we have but to look at the predestination debate, which despite Eriugena's condemnation at various synods and his resulting conflict with his original patron, Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, did not end Charles the Bald's beneficial protection of his court genius. For an account of this chapter in Eriugena's life, see Maleul Cappuyns, Jean Scot Érigène: Sa vie, son oeuvre, sapensée (1933; reprinted, Bruxelles: Culture et Civilisation, 1969) 102-27; O'Meara, John J., Eriugena (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988) 3250;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Moran, Dermot, The Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 2734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar For an assessment of the historical and political setting of the debate, see Ganz, David, “The Debate on Predestination,” in Gibson, Margaret T. and Nelson, Janet L., eds., Charles the Bald: Court and Kingdom (1981; 2d rev. ed.; Aldershot: Variorum, 1990) 283302Google Scholar.

7 The theme of the difference and identity of God and the world is analyzed by Moran, in The Philosophy ofJohn Scottus Eriugena, 241–68.Google Scholar See also the illuminating article by Gersh, Stephen, “Omnipresence in Eriugena: Some Reflections on Augustino-Maximian Elements in the Periphyseon,” in Beierwaltes, Werner, ed., Eriugena: Studien zu seinen Quellen (Heidelberg: Winter, 1980) 5574Google Scholar.

8 Since the publication of the standard Eriugena biography, Cappuyns, Jean Scot Érigène, most studies of the Periphyseon have made an attempt to situate this work in its historical context. Remarkably few, however, have succeeded in integrating their analysis of Eriugena's early medieval background with a systematic evaluation of his approach. Most noteworthy among those is Schrimpf, Gangolf, Das Werk des Johannes Scottus Eriugena im Rahmen des Wissenschaftsverständnisses seiner Zeit: Eine Hinführung zu Periphyseon (Münster: 1982) 132255.Google Scholar A circumspect historical analysis, but with less attention paid to the sys-tematics of Eriugena's thought, is found in Marenbon, John, From the Circle of Alcuin to the School of Auxerre: Logic, Theology and Philosophy in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) 6786CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 See Marenbon, John, Early Medieval Philosophy (480-1150):Google ScholarAn Introduction (rev. ed.; London: Routledge, 1988),Google Scholar who assigns a unique but “somewhat anomalous position” to Eriugena in the development of medieval thought (p. 59). Marenbon should be commended, however, for his persistent efforts to integrate Eriugena into the history of early and medieval Christian thought.

10 The most outspoken remark pertaining to this effect is found in Eriugena Per. 4.809B: “Therefore that praise of the life of man in Paradise must refer rather to the life that would have been his if he had remained obedient than to that which he only began to spend and in which he did not continue.” (Proinde plus, ut arbitror, laus ilia vitae hominis in paradiso referenda est ad futurum ejus vitam, si obediens permaneret, quam ad peractam, quae solummodo inchoaverat, nee unquam steterat.) See also n. 40 below.

11 For a good overview of the meaning and role of natura, see Moran, , Philosophy of John Scottus Eriugena, 241–68.Google Scholar It is unfortunate, however, that Moran separates the fourfold division from the twofold division that he analyzes in a separate chapter (pp. 212–40).

12 To my mind this is the meaning of Eriugena's choice for a division rather than a definition of nature. Since definitions only apply to finite natures, natura that contains God and creation escapes all definition. For the logical consequences of this with regard to the infinity of nature, see Otten, , Anthropology, 1318Google Scholar.

13 For an analysis of άναλνσις, in Eriugena, see Trouillard, Jean, “La notion d'«analyse» chez Érigène,” in Roques, R., ed., Jean Scot Erigene et Vhistoire de la philosophic (Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1977) 349–56Google Scholar.

14 “Nulla enim rationabilis divisio est sive essentiae in genera sive generis in formas et numeros sive totius in panes, quae proprie partitio nominator, sive universitatis in ea quae vera ratio in ipsa contemplatur quae non iterum possit redigi per eosdem gradus per quos divisio prius fuerat multiplicata donee perveniatur ad illud unum inseparabiliter in se ipso manens ex quo ipsa divisio primordium sumpsit.” In the paragraph immediately following Eriugena explains that every division seems to be a kind of descent from some finite unity down into an infinite number of individuals or from the most general to the most specific, whereas the return initiates the opposite movement: going from specific to general again in ascending order.

15 “Processio nanque creaturarum earundemque reditus ita simul rationi occurrunt eas inquirenti ut a se invicem inseparabiles esse videantur, et nemo de una absoluta sine alterius insertione, hoc est de processione sine reditu et collectione et conversim, dignum quid ratumque potest explanare.”

16 See McGinn, , “Eriugena Mysticus,” 239.Google Scholar McGinn argues, “[Eriugena's] great system of thought, from start to finish, was intended to provide an account of how the whole universe through the mediation of the conscious human subject returns to its final union with the hidden God.” Although I agree with the gist of McGinn's article, his statement here plays down the notion of procession.

17 The crucial role of dialectic in this whole process is also discussed in Per. 5.868D-869A, where Eriugena clarifies the innate structure of the art of dialectic by tracing the exact same movement of processio and reditus that was previously seen to characterize the development of nature.

18 Eriugena Per. 4.748D-749A: “Ac per hoc intelligitur, quod ars ilia, quae dividit genera in species, et species in genera resolvit, quae διαλεκτική) dicitur, non ab humanis machinat-ionibus sit facta, sed in natura rerum, ab auctore omnium artium, quae vere artes sunt, con-dita, et a sapientibus inventa, et ad utilitatem solerti rerum indagine usitata.”

19 To stress the Carolingian character of Eriugena's views on dialectic, one can point to Alcuin, who in a letter to Charlemagne also described the arts as created by God (see Epistula 83, PL 100. 271D-272A): “For the philosophers were not the creators of these arts but the discoverers. For the Creator of all things has made the arts in the natures according to his will. But the wisest men in the world discovered these arts in the natures of things, as you can easily understand in the case of the sun and the moon and the stars.” (Nam philosophi non fuerunt conditores harum artium, sed inventores. Nam Creator omnium rerum condidit eas in naturas sicut voluit. Illi vero, qui sapientiores erant in mundo, inventores erant harum artium in naturis rerum, sicut de sole et luna et stellis facile potes intelligere.) For Alcuin's contribution to the development of Carolingian logic, see Schrimpf, , Werk des Johannes Scottus Eriugena, 2335Google Scholar.

20 Sheldon-Williams (“Eriugena,” 526) also notes that human and divine dialectics run parallel: “The universal proodos and epistrophè are the divisio and reversio of the divine dialectics which is the exemplar of the intelligible dialectics practised by the human mind.” The second conclusion, however—that any simple separation between them is artificial—is my own.

21 What I mean by this can perhaps be clarified by referring to Collingwood's scale of forms. See Robin G. Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method (1933; reprinted Oxford: Clarendon, 1962) 54-92. It seems that in Eriugena the dialectic of nature and his own dialectical investigation are separate, for they are different in kind. Yet the two processes are found intermingled. Thus they are not separate, but merely different in degree. Thus we have a philosophical scale of forms. It appears that the dialectic of nature, once set in motion, carries out what Eriugena's dialectic wants to achieve.

22 Eriugena Per. 2.529A: “Et ne mireris si quaedam in hoc libro de reditu creaturarum ad principium sui finemque dicta videris.”

23 In the context of this same discussion about division and unification, we find Eriugena's famous statement that “man is better than sex,” See Eriugena Per. 2.534A: “Man is better than sex, for male and female are not names of his nature, but of its partition through disobedience, whereas ‘man’ is the special name of his nature.” (Homo melior est quam sexus, masculus siquidem et femina non sunt nomina naturae sed partitionis eius per praevari-cationem, homo vero specialis ipsius naturae appellatio est.) This is important, since the risen Christ will also display an undivided human nature. See n. 46 below.

24 Eriugena says as much in Per. 2.529C: “But before we pass on to the contemplation of the primordial causes, I thought we should introduce into this discussion of ours, if you agree, the opinion of the venerable Maximus concerning the division of all things that have been created.” (Sed priusquam ad primordialium causarum theoriam perveniamus visum est mihi sententiam venerabilis Maximi de divisione omnium quae facta sunt huic disputationi nostrae si tibi placet inserere.)

25 See Eriugena Per. 5.893B-D. On the meaning of this scheme and the human being's position in it, see Jeauneau, Édouard, “La division des sexes chez Grégoire de Nysse et chez Jean Scot Érigène,” in Beierwalters, Eriugena. Studien zu seinen Quellen, 3354,Google Scholar reprinted in Édouard Jeauneau, Études érigéniennes (Paris: Études augustiniennes, 1987) 341-64.

26 Eriugena Per. 4.743C: “Now we come to the Fourth Book which starts with the works of the Sixth Prophetic Meditation of the creation of the Universe, goes on to consider the Return of all things into that Nature which neither creates nor is created, and so brings our work to its conclusion.” (Quartus hie, ab operibus sextae propheticae contemplationis de conditione universitatis inchoans, reditum omnium in earn naturam, quae nee creat nee creatur, consideraturus, finem constituat.) The “sixth day” Eriugena refers to is the sixth day of Genesis 1, the day of the creation of human beings. His exegesis of the creation of humans starts at Per. 4.744B, chap. 3.

27 For a literary analysis of the complete text of Book Four, see Otten, , Anthropology, 118–90Google Scholar.

28 For an excellent philosophical analysis of Book Five, see Gersh, Stephen, “The Structure of the Return in Eriugena's Periphyseon,” in Beierwalters, Werner, ed., Begriffund Metapher. Sprachform des Denkens bei Eriugena (Heidelberg: Winter, 1990) 108–25Google Scholar.

29 Eriugena's reading of the verses of the Genesis text here causes some confusion. He reads God's verdict as being uttered after Adam is expelled, whereas in the Vulgate it precedes the expulsion. Compare Per. 5.860D with Gen 3:21-24 (Vg).

30 Eriugena, Per. 5.589D = Gen 3:22b (Vg). Eriugena's crucial exegetical twist is found in Per. 5.861A: “For I do not regard as careful readers those who think that in this passage the particle ne has a negative rather than an interrogative meaning, expressing as it were a doubt.” (Non enim mihi videntur diligenter inspicere, qui illam particulam, quae est ne, negandi intellectum, non autem interrogandi, ac veluti dubitandi in hoc loco arbitrantur obtinere.)

31 See Eriugena Per. 4.815C: “Paradise is nothing else than the man himself.” (Nihil aliud esse paradisum nisi ipsum hominum.) For a good overview of Eriugena's exegesis of paradise, see Grimm, Reinhold R., Paradisus coelestis. Paradisus terrestris: Zur Auslegungs-geschichte des Paradieses im Abendland bis urn 1200 (Milnchen: Fink, 1977) 111–20Google Scholar.

32 See Eriugena Per. 4.823B-826A. Eriugena adopts Gregory's exegesis according to which there were only two trees in paradise, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In 4.823B-C Eriugena identifies Christ with the tree of life in the middle of paradise (i.e., human nature), whereby Eriugena underlines Christ's humanity as well as his divinity. n I 4.826A he states that this tree is located in a person's interior sense: “For in the interior of man abide truth and every good, which is the Word of God.” (In interiori enim homine habitat veritas et omne bonum, quod est Verbum Dei.)

33 Although Eriugena has derived this interpretation of both trees from Gregory of Nyssa's De hominis opificio, his consistent allegory of human nature situated within the development of natura as a whole is entirely his own. It is against the backdrop of nature's return that it takes on such daring proportions.

34 See Eriugena Per. 4.826B: “Therefore it is in this place of falsehood and vain phantasies, namely in the corporeal sense, … that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and of Evil is established.” (In loco itaque falsitatis et vanarum phantasiarum, hoc est in sensu corporeo, … lignum scientiae boni et mali constituitur.) In Per. 4.824C Eriugena had made it clear that indeed both trees are planted in the middle of paradise.

35 See Per. 5.861A: “But I think no attentive reader could doubt that however the words are taken they contain the promise of the Return of human nature to its pristine state.” (Nemini tamen vim verborum clare intuenti in dubio, ut arbitror, erit, quin reditum naturae humanae in suam antiquitatem haec verba, quoquo modo sint ordinata, repromittant.) Thus Eriugena's comment on the expulsion of man in Gen 3:22b. See also 5.862D: “We must not mourn unduly the death of man, nor weep so profusely for his fall from paradise; for hope of the Return is not entirely taken away from him.” (Non adeo de interitu hominis dolendum lapsuque ipsius de paradiso lugendum; non enim spes redeundi ab illo penitus ablata est.)

36 This tree plays no further role of importance in Book Five.

37 See Eriugena Per. 5.863A-B: “Whence it follows that the sending or driving forth of man is nothing else but the lose of that natural felicity for the possession of which he was created. For it was not his nature that was lost (that, being made in the image and likeness of God, is necessarily incorruptible), but the felicity which would have been his if he had been obedient to God instead of treating Him with contempt.” (Ac per hoc conficitur, nihil aliud esse hominis emissionem vel ejectionem, nisi naturalis felicitatis, ad quam possidendam factus est, perditionem. Non enim homo naturam suam perdit, quae, quoniam ad imaginem et similitudinem Dei facta est, necessario incorruptibilis est: perdidit autem felicitatem, quam adepturus esset, si obediens Deo esse non contemneret.)

38 Though it is true that human beings did not lose their divine-like rational nature on account of sin, it should also not be thought that they gain an animal-like nature only on account of sin. Eriugena holds that the human being's rightful place as an earthly creature is among the animals. See Eriugena Per. 4.763A: “for it was not sin but nature which made an animal of man.” (Non enim peccatum de homine fecit animal, sed natura.)

39 In retrospect, this statement explains why Eriugena describes a person's outer body in terms of a corpus superadditum. This superadded body can be conveniently stripped off without damaging the underlying spiritual body. The outer body, with its sexual differentiation, is merely the vestimentum of the undivided spiritual one; see Eriugena Per. 4.803A, 846B.

40 This lesson could also be inferred from Eriugena's famous statement (Per. 4.809B) in which paradise is deferred to the future. For the full quotation, see n. 10 above.

41 Eriugena gathers proof for the return first from the sensible things (see Per. 5.865D-868C, chap. 3) and then from the intelligible things (see Per. 5.868C-870C, chap. 4).

42 In chaps. 5 to 7 the discussion then moves from the issue that the end of things will be the same as their beginning (Per. 5.870C) to the issue that apart from the sensible and intelligible things, this will also be the case for human nature created in God's image (5. 871C). Because human nature will have to be purified before it is fit to return, Eriugena gives an allegorical exegesis of the stories of Naaman (2 Kings 5) and of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19).

43 This discussion extends until the end of chap. 19, Per. 5.892C: “We have now been talking long enough about the end of the world, or rather, about its Return into the eternal Causes from which it issued forth.” (De interitu mundi, imo etiam ipsius reditu in aeternas causas, ex quibus defluxerat, satis est disputatum.)

44 Eriugena's christology begins in Per. 5.892C, chap. 20. For an overview of Eriugena's christology in Book Five, see McGinn, “Eriugena Mysticus”; and Colish, “Christology and Soteriology.” See also Duclow, “Dialectic and Christology in Eriugena's Periphyseon”; and James McEvoy, “‘Reditus omnium in superessentialem unitatem’: Christ as Universal Saviour in Periphyseon V,” in Leonardi, , Giovanni Scow nel suo tempo, 366–81Google Scholar.

45 See Eriugena Per. 5.893C: “For in the Resurrection sexual differentiation will be done away, and human nature will be made one, and there will be only man as it would have been if man had not sinned.” (In resurrectione enim sexus auferetur, et natura adunabitur, et erit solummodo homo, sicut fieret, si non peccaret.) A few lines further down Eriugena reminds us of his earlier statement in Book Two (see n. 23): “The sexually differentiated mankind is transformed into man, for sexuality is inferior to humanity.” (Sexus quippe in hominem movetur, quoniam inferior est sexus homine.)

46 Most interpretations of Eriugena's christology focus on its cosmological scope as most significant. I differ with this current analysis. In my view, it is not the cosmological aspect of Christ that is striking here (given that man embodies the universe, Christ will on a larger scale also, see n. 48 below), but the anthropological aspect. This is illustrated by the fact that Eriugena dwells at length (5.894A-896B) on Christ's nonsexual nature, which proves above all his resemblance to the first man (homo) in paradise. This discussion leads quite naturally t o what follows: humans will not have a sexual body after the resurrection (5.896B-898D).

47 From Per. 5.898D on the discussion focuses on whether the resurrection takes place according to nature or grace. Although Eriugena sharply distinguishes between nature and grace, he sees in the general resurrection of the dead a sign of their effective cooperation. See 5.904C: “Therefore, if we are to be true to our faith we must attribute the power to effect the resurrection both to the gift of the Divine Goodness which is given to us in accordance with our natural capacity, and also to the bestowal upon us by the same Goodness of his Grace which exceeds all natural powers.” (Sana itaque fide possumus attribuere resurrectionis virtutem et dato divinae bonitatis secundum naturalem effectivam potentiam, et dono ejusdem bonitatis secundum superexcellentem omnes naturas gratiam.) The state of pure grace, however, will only be attainable in the theosis/deification of the elect.

48 See Per. 5.912B: “For what He wrought specially in Himself He will perfect generally in all: and not only in all men but in every sensible creature.” (Quod enim specialiter in seipso perfecit, generaliter in omnibus perficiet. Non dico in omnibus hominibus solummodo, sed in omni sensibili creatura.) Once again, the anthropological aspect seems more important than the cosmological, see 5.912C: “Therefore in assuming human nature He assumed every creature. If then He has saved and restored the human nature which He assumed, He has also restored every creature, visible and invisible.” (Accipiens igitur humanam naturam, omnem creaturam accepit. Ac per hoc si humanam naturam, quam accepit, salvavit et restauravit, omnem profecto creaturam visibilem et invisibilem restauravit.)

49 In Per. 5.913Cff. Eriugena explains how all things, by virtue of being contained in human nature, are saved in the incarnate Christ. Even evil will come to an end (5.917A), as it will seek the Supreme Good. In 5.921B, chap. 27 the discussion focuses again on human nature and how it will be freed in Christ. This discussion is followed by a long eschatological digression that deals, among other things, with the rewards and punishments for human nature. The digression ends in 5.978B.

50 The psychological quality of Eriugena's eschatology is seen in his allegory of hell. See Per. 5.954C-955A; 971B-C. For a summary of what punishments and rewards mean, see 5.972C-D: “For the effects of sin are weeping, lamentation, sorrow, tardy repentance, the insatiable fire which never finds rest in anything, the abounding corruption and undying worm of vice, and the thick darkness of invincible ignorance in which there is no knowledge of true things or the truth. … But the effects of good deeds are joy, happiness, peace, bliss, blessedness, glory, equality with the holy angels, and in short theosis or deification.” (Peccatorum quippe effectus sunt luclus. gemitus, tristitia, sera poenitentia, ardor insatiabilis cupiditatis, quae in aliquo nullam inveniet quietem, scatens delictorum putredo ac vermiculatio, profundae ignorantiae densissima obscuritas, in qua nulla verorum vel ipsius veritatis cognitio. … Meritorum vero effectus sunt gaudium, laetitia, pax, beatitudo, felicitas, gloria, beatissimis angelis aequalitas, ac breviter dicendum, theosis, id est deificatio.)

51 By returning to the story of paradise and the tree of life (see Per. 5.979A) Book Five reveals a unified literary structure. The same pattern of literary inclusion can be seen in Book Four. There the theme is that of terra (“earth”), which represents the solidity of the primordial causes from which human nature was created and to which it will return. See 4.744B (Gen 1:24 Producat terra animam viventem) and 4.856B (Gen 3:17 Maledicta terra). See Otten, , Anthropology. 170–71Google Scholar.

52 Jeauneau has identified the source of Eriugena as Maximus's Quaestiones ad Thalassium 54, scholion 18 (22). See Édouard Jeauneau, “Le thème du retour,” in idem, Études érigéniennes, 375 n. 49.

53 Eriugena describes the reditus generalis in Per. 5.1001B-1009D.

54 Eriugena deals with the reditus specialis in Per. 5.1010A-1015C. See Per. 5.1015A: “For all, as we have already said, shall return into Paradise, but not all shall enjoy the Tree of Life—or rather, all shall receive of the tree of life, but not all equally.” (Omnes quippe in paradisum, ut praediximus, sunt reversuri, sed non omnes de ligno vitae sunt fruituri; vel certe omnes de ligno vitae sunt accepturi, sed non aequaliter.) Those who will enjoy the fruit of the tree of life are the deified.

55 Since we have moved beyond the level of reditus generalis, symbolized by the nonsexual body of the risen Christ, we may assume that men and women have equal opportunity to achieve sainthood.

56 After summarizing the general and the special return in Per. 5.1020A-1021B, the Periphyseon states rather mysteriously (5.1021A): “Then shall the night shine as the day, that i s to say, the most secret Mysteries of God shall in a manner which we cannot describe be revealed to the blessed and enlightened intelligences.” (Et tune nox sicut dies illuminabitur, hoc est, secretissima divina mysteria beatis et illuminatis intellectibus ineffabili quodam modo aperientur.) Yet it is clear that this cannot be a clear vision of God himself, but refers to a multitude of individual theophanies. As indicated in 5.926C-D, even the beatific vision of God is still a theophanic one: “… ‘face to face,’ meaning by the word ‘face’ a certain apparition, comprehensible to the human intellect, of the divine Virtue which in itself is perceived by no creature.” (… facie ad faciem [1 Cor 13:12], faciem appellans comprehensi-bilem quandam humano intellectui divinae virtutis, quae a nulla creatura per seipsam perspicitur, apparitionem.)

57 For Eriugena's exegetical procedure in Book Five, see Jeauneau, , “Le thdme du retour,” 367–94.Google Scholar See also Duclow, Donald and Dietrich, Paul, “Virgins in Paradise: Deification and Exegesis in Periphyseon V,” in Allard, Guy-H, ed., Jean Scot ecrivain (Montréal/Paris: Bellarmin-Vrin, 1987) 29-49, esp. 3746.Google Scholar In what follows I shall concentrate on the parables of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) and the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-12). They are found in Eriugena Per. 5.1004C-1005C, 1008C-1010A (the prodigal son) and 1011C-1018D (the ten virgins).

58 In Book Four Eriugena allegorized the story of paradise. In Book Five notable examples of allegory are the story of Naaman and that of the ten lepers; see Per. 5.872B-874B. These examples from scripture demonstrating the return are once again derived from Gregory of Nyssa's De hominis opificio.

59 See Eriugena Per. 5.1008C, where the idea of transitus is first introduced: “The question is difficult to solve, but I think there is one way of doing so, namely on the principle of parabolic transition.” (Nodum hujus questionis ad solvendum difficilem uno modo arbitror enodari posse, qui parabolarum transitus vocari potest.) Eriugena distinguishes between two classes of parables: one with a straightforward narrative and one in which the elements of the story shift from one significance to another. The parables of the prodigal son (5.1008D) and the ten virgins (5.1014D) fall into this latter genre.

60 For the meaning of the term “performative exegesis” an analogy may be found in John L. Austin's notion of performative utterances. See Austin, J. L., Philosophical Papers (ed. Urmson, James O. and Warnock, Geoffrey J.; 2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1970) 233–52Google Scholar.

61 The connection of genus and species via a transitus is precisely the topic of the fourth Rule of Tyconius, see Tyconius: The Book of Rules (trans. Babcock, William S.; SBLT 31; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989) 5458.Google Scholar Although Tyconius has not been identified as one of Eriugena's sources, it is known that Hincmar of Reims possessed a copy of the Rule in his library. See Bright, Pamela, The Book of Rules of Tyconius: Its Purpose and Inner Logic (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) 16.Google Scholar According to Bright's interpretation, genus prophecy refers to a general ecclesiological interpretation, whereas species prophecy refers to precise individuals or places. Yet Tyconius draws special attention to the transitions between them.

62 Applied to the parable of the prodigal son, the general versus the special return means that there will be a general return of humankind but a special return only of the gentiles. In the parable of the ten virgins, Eriugena distinguishes between the general return of humankind and the special return of the saints.

63 In Per. 5.10IOC Eriugena links the concepts of theophany and transitus in a prayer: “And what is the path along which Thou leadest them, O Lord, but an ascent through the innumerable steps of Thy contemplation? And ever dost Thou open that way in the understandings of those who seek to find Thee. Ever art Thou sought by them and ever art Thou found—and yet ever art Thou not found: Thou art found in Thy Theophanies.” (Et quis est iste, Domine, transitus tuus, nisi per infinitos contemplationis tuae gradus ascensus? Semper enim in intellectibus quaerentium et invenientium te transitum facis. Quaereris enim ab eis semper, et semper inveniris, et non inveniris semper; inveniris quidem in tuis theophaniis.)

64 See above n. 50.

65 See Eriugena Per. 5.1003C.

66 Eriugena first brings up the concept of theophany in Per. 1.446C. In an attempt not to contradict Paul, who said that God himself cannot be known (Rom 11:34, “quis intellectum domini cognovit?”), but to steer a middle course (“rectam mediamque viam”), Eriugena explains Augustine's statement that the angels see the primordial causes (or divine ideas) as referring to theophanies: “There are certain theophanies, that is to say, certain divine manifestations which are comprehensible to the intellectual nature.” (Theophanias quasdam esse, hoc est comprehensibiles intellectual! naturae quasdam divinas apparitiones.)