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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 79, Issue 4, Fall 2005

John Scottus Eriugena

Valery V. Petroff
Pages 597-610

Eriugena on the Spiritual Body

This article discusses the development of John Scottus Eriugena’s teaching on the spiritual body. In his early treatise De praedestinatione, as well as in the Periphyseon, John Scottus understands the spiritual body as ethereal or aerial. This conception tacitly assumes that men and angels are connatural. Moreover, Eriugena’s angelology and demonology compel him to localize Hades in the air—a teaching in which he follows a well-established ancient and Christian tradition. John Scottus is influenced by ideas of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa in maintaining that there are two different kinds of human bodies; the interpretation of the biblical “coats of skin” as the earthly human body plays an important part in this. According to Eriugena, the soul in a sense creates an earthly body for itself. In later passages from the Periphyseon, he abandons the idea of individual subtle bodies, accepting a complete transformation of body into spirit at the resurrection. However, he remains ambiguous on this point as his position would contradict Christian doctrine. The Periphyseon culminates in a paraphrase of a section from Ambigua ad Iohannem XXXVII. In the light of the latter text, the nature of the eight gradual unifications from the epilogue of the Periphyseon becomes clear.