Erich Przywara: Analogia Entis

erichReading through an introduction to Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis: Metaphysics (1932), I had to post a couple of paragraphs. Przywara (of German-Polish decent) was a Jesuit priest and scholar who exerted profound influence upon his contemporaries, an influence that looks to grow through a recent English translation of his Analogia Entis.

The quote is part of John Betz’s introduction to Przywara’s book, and I’d like to include Betz’s opening paragraph:

“As he [Przywara] puts it, recalling the theme of divine infinity in Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine, ‘Even if we were to have the most sublime experience of mystical union, would we then have any right to come to a stopping point and dream of having finally attained a state of ‘immediacy’ or a state of ‘maximal knowledge’ or a state of ‘ultimate proximity’?’ He answers with a single paradoxical phrase from Augustine: Invenitur quaerendus! [‘He is found in order to be sought!’] In other words, with respect to God, ‘Even the greatest finding is but the beginning of a new searching’. Przywara beautifully makes the same point a few years later in a lecture from 1926:

Thus all our wandering in Him and to Him is itself a tension between an ineffable proximity and an ineffable distance. Every living thing…everything that happens, is full of His presence. ‘He is not far from us; for in Him we live and move and have our being’. But we grow in our sense of His fullness only in the measure that we do not equate Him with any created thing or circumstance, that is, in the measure that we stand at an ultimate distance from every particular shining of His face. He is the one who lights up before us when we stand at a distance, and who lights up before us to urge us on. He is the infinite light that becomes ever more distant the closer we come to Him. Every finding is the beginning of a new searching. His blessed intimacy is the experience of His infinite transcendence. No morning of mystical marriage is a definitive embrace of His fullness; no mystical night of despair a detachment from His presence….He compels us into all the riches and changes of world and life in order that we might experience Him anew and more richly as beyond this world and life. And, ultimately, this indissoluble tension of proximity and distance to Him is but the innermost revelation of His own primal mystery, by which He is in us and beyond us, closer to us than we are to ourselves, such that we love him as proximity itself, and, yet again, farther away from us than any other distance, such that we revere Him with trembling as distance itself. God in us and God beyond us.

Here again we see the basic point of the analogia entis, which Przywara reiterates throughout his early work: there is no genuine natural or supernatural experience of God that does not give way to reverent distance and silent adoration…As he puts it in 1927, What is meant by analogia entis is precisely this: that in the very same act in which the human being comes to intimate God in the likeness of the creature, he also comes to intimate Him as the one who is beyond all likeness.”

7 comments on “Erich Przywara: Analogia Entis

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    The citation that you quote is remarkable. Why did Barth make him the target of his polemic?


    • tgbelt says:

      Betz’s introduction is great. He devotes pages of detailed reflection upon the friendship between Przywara and Barth, Barth’s original/brief admiration for Przywara’s articulation of the analogia entis, Barth’s momentary openness to the idea and then his final rejection of it. Betz writes:

      And to this extent, it bears an analogy to the kind of natural theology that Barth rejected. Again, however, anticipating our response to Barth in the final section, the ultimate point of the analogia entis is precisely to humble all natural (and even all supernatural) knowledge of God, to deconstruct every closed system (whether philosophical or theological), in short, to break to pieces every conceptual idol, and to insist that all our knowledge of God, no matter how exalted by grace, is ‘patchwork’ (cf. 1Cor 13:12)—a knowledge in ‘images and likenesses’ that break and fail and thereby point to a God who is beyond comparison, indeed, ‘beyond all analogy’. Not surprisingly, therefore, von Balthasar contends that Barth fundamentally misunderstood Przywara’s pathos:

      “The term [analogia entis] passed over into the common vocabulary without an understanding and concomitant appropriation of its true pathos. How could a pathos be systematized? In this etiolated, academic, and no longer identifiable form Karl Barth could brand the analogia entis the invention of Antichrist, when in fact it was at the time what most resembled his own pathos…”[von Balthasar]

      Can’t wait to get to his extended treatment of Barth.


    • whitefrozen says:

      I’ve always thought that Barth’s rejection of the AE was a bit odd, but I suspect, as noted, he may have misunderstood it, or thought of it in crude terms – in a way such that God is simply a being among beings.


  2. Richard Worden Wilson says:

    This is why I love blogs like yours: they provide serious and significant info about and reflection on theologically weighty matters, and powerfully productive comments following on the implications (not referring to my own of course) with hints of theological substance to come in the near future.


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