Learned ignorance

Finally I have reached the last tale I wish to tell about our Mosel weekend of 14 – 17 May 2015.

(Which is good, because my trip to Geneva yesterday…

So much to tell!)

Our (my wife and I) last stop on our Mosel mini-adventure was the town of Bernkastel-Kues.

The twin town of Bernkastel-Kues is located at the head of a wide bend in the Mosel, been united since 1905 and joined by a bridge.

This area has been settled for a very long time: a village from the Early Stone Age (4000 – 3000 BCE) was discovered in Kues, the oldest known settlement on the Mosel, in 1962.

B-K possesses a very beautiful market square with half-timbered buildings of old German town architecture, solid middle class houses, a massive Renaissance town hall which still has a pillory (a stone post with chains) bearing the inscription “Hochgerichtliche Straff und Bürgerliche Züchtigung“(criminal punishment and civil chastisement)(Sounds like marriage! LOL), the Michaelisbrunnen fountain, narrow paved lanes with romantic nooks and crannies, the last remaining town gate (the Graacher Tor), a museum of local history and culture, the “Doctor” vineyards hanging above from the overshadowing hillsides, the mighty tower of the St. Michael´s Parish Church, the cellar and office building where Emperor Maximilian stayed the night in 1512, and Landshut Castle high above the town and the Mosel.

(The vineyards are called “Doctor” because in 1356 the Trier Archbishop Boemund II fell dangerously ill immediately after his appointment as Elector and his doctors feared for his life.

In a last desperate attempt to revive the new ruler, they gave him a drink of the wine from Bernkastel.

Boemund recovered, which his people regarded as a miracle that has continued in legend up to this present day.)

The reason for our visit to this town was unconnected with any of the aforementioned sites.

We wanted to learn about Cusanus (1401 – 1464), a man said to be ahead of his time and beloved by Bernkastel-Kues for his contributions.

Nicholas of Kues (aka Nicolaus Cusanus, aka Nicholas of Cusa) was a German philosopher, theologian, jurist and astronomer.

He was one of the first persons to suggest that government should be founded on the consent of the governed.

He used mathematics to support philosophy.

He suggested that there may be parallel worlds similiar to our own.

He introduced the measurement of pulse when examining a patient.

He advocated reforms on the calendar and tried to find a more accurate way for the Catholic Church to determine when Easter should be celebrated each year.

He tried to encourage dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

He travelled over 3,000 miles preaching and teaching reform.

He was a wise councillor on matters of where church law and civil law conflicted.

His heart, both literally and figuratively, rests within the chapel altar at the Cusanus church in Kues.

He gave his entire fortune to Kues for the building of a home for the aged, which still stands and is still used for this purpose.

His books were widely read as late as the 16th century.  Even as late as the beginning of the 20th century, he was hailed as the “first modern thinker“.

Societies and centres dedicated to Cusanus can be found in Argentina, Japan, Germany, Italy and the US.

I never knew of his existence until the day we visited the town.

He is most famous for his deeply mystical writings about knowing the divine with the human mind using “learned ignorance”.

Cusanus suggested that we can never understand the divine by pure reasoning or rationale but instead we should trust our instincts, our inner voice, our guesses if you will, to gain better understanding of the truth.

This suggests that even an illiterate peasant can find God on his own, that even a barista has instincts he can trust.

Food for thought, eh?

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