Dionysius The Areopagite And The Neoplatonist Tradition by John Dillon and Sarah Klitenic

7357be0f6f4dac6.jpg Author John Dillon and Sarah Klitenic
Isbn 9780754603856
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Year 2015
Pages 240
Language English
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Category philosophy


DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE AND THE NEOPLATONIST TRADITION ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’ is arguably one of the most mysterious and intriguing figures to emerge from the late antique world. Writing probably around 500 CE, and possibly connected with the circle of Severus of Antioch, Dionysius manipulates a Platonic metaphysics to describe a hierarchical universe: as with the Hellenic Platonists, he arranges the celestial and material cosmos into a series of triadic strata. These strata emanate from one unified being and contain beings that range from superior to inferior, depending on their proximity to God. Not only do all things in the hierarchy participate in God, but also all things are inter-connected, so that the lower hierarchies fully participate in the higher ones. This metaphysics lends itself to a sacramental system similar to that of the Hellenic ritual, theurgy. Theurgy allows humans to reach the divine by examining the divine as it exists in creation. Although Dionysius’ metaphysics and religion are similar to that of Iamblichus and Proclus in many ways, Pseudo-Dionysius differs fundamentally in his use of an ecclesiastical cosmos, rather than that of the Platonic Timaean cosmos of the Hellenes. This book discusses the Christian Platonist’s adaptation of Hellenic metaphysics, language, and religious ritual. While Dionysius clearly works within the Hellenic tradition, he innovates to integrate Hellenic and Christian thought. ASHGATE STUDIES IN PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY IN LATE ANTIQUITY Series Editors Dr Mark Edwards, Oxford University, UK Professor Patricia Cox Miller, Syracuse University, USA Professor Christoph Riedweg, Zurich University, Switzerland The Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late Antiquity series focuses on major theologians, not as representatives of a ‘tradition’, whether Christian or classical, but as individuals immersed in the intellectual culture of their day. Each book concentrates on the arguments, not merely the opinions, of a single Christian writer or group of writers from the period AD 100–600 and compares and contrasts these arguments with those of pagan contemporaries who addressed similar questions. By study of the political, cultural and social milieu, contributors to the series show what external factors led to the convergence or divergence of Christianity and pagan thought in particular localities or periods. Pagan and Christian teachings are set out in a clear and systematic form making it possible to bring to light the true originality of the author’s thought and to estimate the value of his work for modern times. This high profile research series offers an important contribution to areas of contemporary research in the patristic period, as well as providing new links into later periods, particularly the medieval and reformation. Other titles published in this series: Origen Against Plato Mark Julian Edwards Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition Despoiling the Hellenes SARAH KLITENIC WEAR Franciscan University of Steubenville, USA and JOHN DILLON Trinity College Dublin, Ireland © Sarah Klitenic Wear and John Dillon 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Sarah Klitenic Wear and John Dillon have asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the authors of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Gower House Croft Road Aldershot Hampshire GU11 3HR England Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA Ashgate website: http://www.ashgate.com British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Dillon, John M. Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist tradition : despoiling the Hellenes. – (Ashgate studies in philosophy & theology in late antiquity) 1. Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite 2. Neoplatonism I. Title II. Klitenic Wear, Sarah 270.2’092 ISBN-13: 9780754603856 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dillon, John M. Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist tradition : despoiling the Hellenes / John Dillon and Sarah Klitenic Wear. p. cm. – (Ashgate studies in philosophy & theology in late antiquity) Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and indexes. ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-0385-6 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. 2. Neoplatonism. I. Klitenic Wear, Sarah. II. Title. BR65.D66D55 2007 230’.14092–dc22 2006029283 ISBN 978-0-7546-0385-6 Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall. Contents Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations vii ix 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 15 33 51 75 85 99 9 Introduction God as Monad in the Divine Names God as Trinity in the Divine Names On Hierarchy The Problem of Evil Scriptural Interpretation [Theoria] as Onomastic Theurgy Hierourgia and Theourgia in Sacramental Activity Union and Return to God: The Mystical Theology and the First Hypothesis of the Parmenides Conclusion Bibliography Index 117 131 135 141 This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgements The original idea for this book was conceived by Sarah Lloyd of Ashgate, who some years ago invited JMD to contribute a volume to the series Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late Antiquity on the relationship between Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonic School of Athens. Not being in a position to take up this challenge at the time, JMD passed the task on to SKW, who was at that time completing a doctoral thesis with him on the Neoplatonist Syrianus, a major figure of the Athenian School, and who had previously herself worked on Dionysius. SKW bravely took up the challenge, selected the topics to be dealt with, and composed the great bulk of the text, with JMD merely exercising a supervisory and advisory role, and contributing some sections. In view of the topic that it was asked to address, this book has a somewhat restricted focus, and it is one that cannot be expected to please all lovers of the Areopagite. The authors are, after all, approaching him from a predominantly Neoplatonic, rather than a Patristic perspective, and will thus tend to view patterns of influence somewhat differently from someone with the latter background. We would be the first to admit that, in most cases (the topic of Evil being a notable exception), Dionysius contrives to make it less than perspicuous just where he is getting his ideas and formulations from, but we feel that we have at least located the broad ambience from which he is drawing his inspiration. His actual identity must always remain a mystery, as he would have wished, but we feel that he can be located with reasonable probability in a certain time and space, and we have expressed our views on that subject in Chapter 1. The authors are most grateful for the support of their respective spouses, Kenneth Wear and Jean Dillon. Because of the distance between Lincoln, Nebraska and Dublin, Ireland, much of the collaborative work was accomplished during ten very intensive days in January 2006 in Dublin. This ‘Dionysius boot camp’ would not have been possible without Kenneth Wear, who took a week off work to watch two baby girls, and Jean Dillon, a most hospitable host and wife. We wish also to record our thanks to the Press’s anonymous reader, who made many useful suggestions, and to our ever-patient editor, Sarah Lloyd. For translations of the works of Dionysius, we have generally made use of the translation of Colm Luibhéid and Paul Rorem, in their Classics of Western Spirituality edition (see Bibliography), with minor alterations. This page intentionally left blank List of Abbreviations Pseudo-Dionysius CH DN EH Ep. MT Celestial Hierarchy Divine Names Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Epistulae (Letters) Mystical Theology Other Authors ARISTOTLE Met. Metaphysics BASIL OF CAESAREA Adv. Mac. C. Eunom. De Spir. Adversus Macarium Contra Eunomium De Spiritu Chald. Or. Chaldaean Oracles CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA C. Julian. Contra Julianum CYRIL OF JERUSALEM Com. in Joh. Commentarius in Johannem DAMASCIUS De Princ. De Principiis (On First Principles) GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS Or. Orationes GREGORY OF NYSSA De diff. ess. et hyp. De s. Trin. Ex comm. not. Or. cat. m. De differentia essentiae et hypostaseos De sancta Trinitate Ad Graecos (ex communibus notionibus) Oratio catechetica magna IAMBLICHUS DM De An. In Phaedr. De Mysteriis De Anima (On the Soul) In Phaedrum Commentarius x Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition In Tim. In Timaeum Commentarius NEMESIUS De nat. hom. De natura hominis (On the Nature of Man) ORIGEN C. Cels. De Princ. Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) De Principiis (On First Principles) PLATO Parm. Soph. Tim. Parmenides Sophistes Timaeus PLOTINUS Enn. Enneads PLUTARCH De Is. De Iside et Osiride (On Isis and Osiris) PORPHYRIUS Sent. Sententiae ad intelligibilia ducentes PROCLUS DMS ET PT In Alc. In Crat. In Eucl. In Parm. In Remp. In Tim. De Malorum Substantia (On the Real Existence of Evil) Elements of Theology Platonic Theology In Alcibiadem Commentarius In Cratylum Commentarius In Euclidem Commentarius In Parmenidem Commentarius In Rempublicam Commentarius In Timaeum Commentarius PS. JUSTIN Ad orth. resp. Exp. rect. fid. Quaestiones et responsiones ad orthodoxes Expositio rectae fidei SIMPLICIUS In Cat. In Phys. In Categorias Commentarius In Physica Commentarius [SIMPLICIUS] (= PRISCIANUS) In de An. In de Anima SYRIANUS In Met. In Tim. In Metaphysica Commentarius In Timaeum Commentarius Chapter 1 Introduction Identity of the Author; History of Scholarship ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’1 is arguably one of the most mysterious and intriguing figures to emerge from the late antique world. Ever since the mid-sixth century AD, speculation has swirled around the identity of this portentous figure. Was he, as he presents himself, the first Athenian convert of St Paul, living and writing some time in the later first century AD, or was he rather a sophisticated late-fifth-century pseudepigrapher, despoiling the contemporary Athenian school of Neoplatonism in order to forge a new Christian Platonist theology? Fortunately for the purposes of the present work, we can now regard the controversy as having been definitively settled in favour of the latter alternative, but it is still worth surveying, even briefly, the course of the argument over the past centuries, as it constitutes an interesting chapter in the history of ideas. From the earliest Christian centuries, speculation had centred on the figure of Dionysius, precisely because so little was known about him. All we hear in the NT (Acts 17:34) is that, after Paul addressed the Areopagus, ‘some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite’. Already in the first Christian centuries efforts were made to fill out some details. Eusebius reports (EH 3, 4, 11) that a certain Dionysius of Corinth identified the Areopagite as the first bishop of Athens. There is, however, no suggestion in earlier times that he was the author of any writings. Nonetheless, he plainly constituted a figure on which intellectual baggage could be laid. It was not, however, until some time in the very late fifth century or the first decade of the sixth that anything was made of this. Suddenly, however, in this period, there burst upon the intellectual world of late antiquity a remarkable series of works purporting to emanate from his pen. These works reveal a figure thoroughly acquainted with the latest doctrines and formulations of the contemporary Neoplatonic school of Athens, along with a burning concern to impose an intellectual structure on the doctrines of Christianity. To comprehend why anyone should want to embark on such an enterprise, we have to consider briefly the intellectual environment in the Greek east of the empire in this period. The Christian Church at this time was racked by controversy, in particular as regards the nature (or natures) of Christ. Already back in 451, the Council of Chalcedon had declared it a dogma that Christ had two natures, a human and a divine, but this did not silence dissatisfaction among the more acute 1 To be referred to in the following pages as ‘Dionysius’, rather than ‘Pseudo-Dionysius’, not by any means to deny his pseudonymity, but simply for reasons of economy. 2 Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition minds of the Christian intelligentsia. Particularly in Antioch,2 various forms and modifications of ‘monophysitism’ (the doctrine that Christ had but a single nature) prevailed, including ‘monotheletism’ (maintaining that Christ had a single will) and ‘monenergism’ (declaring that he had a single source of activity). Into this cauldron of controversy there plunged the highly-intelligent, but ceaselessly combative, figure of Severus of Antioch. Severus was a native of Sozopolis in Pisidia, born in 465 of a wealthy pagan family and sent to study in Alexandria and then Beirut, where he was destined for the law. While at Alexandria in the late 480s he would have had the opportunity to become acquainted with the doctrines of the Neoplatonism of Proclus, who had just died in 484, since connections between the two Neoplatonic schools were at this stage quite close, with much coming and going.3 Severus, however, when he went to Beirut, fell under the influence of Christian fellow-students and, as a consequence of the study of the Cappadocian Fathers, was baptized into Christianity. No sooner did he become a Christian, however, than he became involved in controversy, gravitating to the extreme wing of the Monophysite persuasion. He abandoned his career as a lawyer and went to become a monk in Jerusalem. Subsequently he moved to a monastery near the town of Maiuma, where he became acquainted with the interesting figure of Peter the Iberian, who was at this time bishop of Maiuma. To detail the totality of Severus’ adventures, physical and intellectual, is beyond the scope of this work. Suffice it to say that, as a monophysite, he was appointed patriarch of Antioch in 512 through the favour of the Emperor Anastasius, but was deposed from this position in 519 on the succession of Justin I. Severus’ importance in this narrative stems from the fact that he is the first known figure to have made reference to works of Dionysius the Areopagite. We know this from the record of a conference held in 532 between a group of orthodox followers of the Council of Chalcedon, led by Hypatius of Ephesus, and a group of partisans of Severus,4 where the Severians, in support of their position, make reference to a number of authorities, including the Alexandrian patriarchs Athanasius and Cyril, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and finally, ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’, all of whom assert that there is one nature of God the Logos after the union. It is noteworthy that Hypatius himself, in this connection, expresses some scepticism as to the authenticity of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. It was the ingenious suggestion of Josef Stiglmayr, whose contribution to Dionysian studies will be mentioned further below, that the true author of the Dionysian corpus was none other than Severus himself. This attractive proposal, however, has been forcefully countered by the great authority on Severus, Joseph Lebon, and it seems 2 Though not by any means exclusively – Alexandria had its partisans of Monophysitism as well, and monotheletism was actually at one point adopted by a pope of Rome (Honorius, in the early 7th cent.). 3 Specifically, Isidore the pupil of Proclus was teaching in Alexandria at this time in the Platonic school of Horapollo, where the young Damascius was also a pupil. It would have been natural for Severus too as a young Hellenic intellectual to have attended such a school. 4 This report is given in a document bearing the title ‘Epistle of Innocent the Maronite concerning a Conference held with the Severians’ (Innocentii Maronitae epistula de collatione cum Severianis habita), reprinted in Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum 4–II: 172. Introduction 3 5 best to yield to him in this, but the fact remains that the author of these remarkable works cannot be far removed from the circle of Severus, experienced a course of education similar to that of Severus, and Severus probably knew who he was. Our next evidence of the existence of the Dionysian corpus comes from the annotations composed upon it no later than 532 by John of Scythopolis. John is much concerned to indicate the orthodoxy of Dionysius,6 and equally concerned to distance him from any affinity to Neoplatonism, indicating that he was conscious of the dangers of such a connection. He also lets slip, in a number of details, that some doubts had been raised as to the authenticity of the corpus.7 Specifically, he is at pains to defuse a suggestion that a reference to a formulation by Ignatius of Antioch at DN 709B constitutes a serious anachronism – as indeed it does. John makes a valiant effort to argue that Dionysius could have known Ignatius, but what is significant is that the objection had been raised. John’s efforts were successful, and the works of Dionysius escaped the condemnation incurred by Severus in respect of all of his works which resulted from the synod called by the anti-Monophysite Patriarch Menas in Constantinople in 536, ratified reluctantly by Justinian. By the latter part of the century, when Maximus the Confessor composed a commentary on the Dionysian corpus, his authenticity and his orthodoxy were assured. His translation into Latin, first in 838 by Hilduin of the monastery of St Denys near Paris (who also ventured to make an identification between the Areopagite and the Dionysius who was first bishop of Paris), and then by John Scottus Eriugena in 862, established Dionysius likewise in the Western Church as the archetypal Christian theologian. Thereafter, the authenticity and orthodoxy of Dionysius remained substantially unchallenged until the Renaissance, when Lorenzo Valla directed the first shaft of doubt against the authenticity of the corpus in 1457. These doubts were picked up by the great Dutch scholar Erasmus in the next generation (1505), but the full force of their challenge was not widely appreciated until the early nineteenth century, when modern scholarship on the subject of Dionysius may be said to begin with the monograph of Johann G. Engelhardt in his Dissertatio de Dionysio platonizante of 1820 and a number of subsequent works. Engelhardt actually asserted that the corpus exhibited clear and numerous traces of Proclus’ philosophy, but he failed to produce detailed instances of dependence. At the end of the century, however, a decisive breakthrough was made by Josef Stiglmayr in his essay ‘Der Neuplatoniker Proclus als Vorlage des 5 However, the claims of Peter of Iberia have also been put forward by Honigmann (1952), with rather less plausibility, in view of Peter’s known career. He seems to have gone from life as a hostage in Constantinople for the good behaviour of his father, who was king of Georgia, directly to Jerusalem to become a monk. Furthermore his chronology (c. 411–491) makes him less likely to have been a student of Proclus. As Honigmann admits, Peter, in his surviving writings, shows no sign of the characteristic formulations or metaphysical system of Dionysius. 6 On John, cf. the useful study of Rorem and Lamoreaux (1993). A notable example of his procedure is his scholion on EH 313, where he is concerned to emphasize (somewhat optimistically) the orthodoxy of Dionysius on the nature of Christ, a topic to which we will return below. 7 John of Scythopolis, Prologue to the Works of Saint Dionysius, PG, 4, 20. Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition 4 sogen. Dionysius Areopagita in der Lehre vom Uebel’,8 in which he demonstrated that Dionysius’ excursus on the nature of evil in Chapter 4 of the Divine Names is fairly closely dependent on the treatise of Proclus De Malorum Subsistentia on the same subject. Once this point had been agreed, there was no further need to search for suitable niches for Dionysius in previous centuries. Stiglmayr’s further proposal, alluded to above, in an article of 1928, ‘Der sogenannte Dionysius Areopagita und Severus von Antiochien’,9 proved less persuasive, but does serve to emphasize the close relationship between the works of Dionysius and the circle of Severus. Further important contributions to our understanding of the dependence of Dionysius on the Neoplatonic school of Athens have been made by the eminent scholars Salvatore Lilla10 and Henri-Dominique Saffrey.11 Among other leading scholars of Dionysius to whom the present work is indebted on various points are Hugo Koch,12 René Roques,13 Victor Lossky,14 Walther Völker,15 Jean Vanneste,16 Eugenio Corsini,17 Endre von Ivanka,18 Maurice de Gandillac,19 Bernard Brons,20 Andrew Louth,21 Paul Rorem,22 Stephen Gersh,23 Ronald Hathaway24 and Ysabel De Andia.25 Dionysius and the Monophysite Controversy The main features of Dionysius’ philosophy will be discussed in the chapters that follow. It seems appropriate here, however, to say something about his Christology, since this feature of his thought is crucial for his relationship to the circle of Severus of Antioch, and may indeed have been one of the stimuli to the creation of the corpus in the first place – the other, of course, being a desire to ‘reclaim’ the whole edifice of Neoplatonic philosophy for the Christian faith. Whatever may have appeared the case to later Byzantine and Western commentators, it is fairly clear, particularly from a study of such a document as Dionysius’ Letter 4, that his position, although couched in high-flown and convoluted terms, calculated to confuse the dull-witted, is in accordance with the Monophysite 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Stiglmayr (1895). Stiglmayr (1928). Lilla (1997). Saffrey (1982). Koch (1900). Roques (1954). Lossky (1930). Völker (1958). Vanneste (1959). Corsini (1962). Ivanka (1956a, 1956b). Gandillac (1958). Brons (1975, 1976). Louth (1989). Rorem (1984, 1993). Gersh (1978). Hathaway (1969). De Andia (1996). Introduction 5 position – or, more particularly, advances a position which may be described as Monenergism, that is to say, the doctrine that within Christ there is just one source of activity (energeia), and that is the activity of the god-man who is Jesus Christ. What may have led more orthodox pro-Chalcedonian thinkers to suppose that Dionysius was on their side is his emphasis on the unmixed and pure Christ in his mortal body. A quotation from Letter 4 may illustrate this: You ask how it could be that Jesus, who transcends all, is placed in the same order of being with all men. He is not called a man here in the context of being the cause of man but rather as being himself quite truly a man in all essential respects. But we do not define Jesus in human terms (ouk anthropikôs). For he is not simply a man, nor would he be supra-essential (hyperousios) if he were only a man. Out of his very great love for humanity, he became quite truly a human, both superhuman and among humans; and, though himself beyond being, he took upon himself the being of humans. Yet he is not less overflowing with supra-essentiality (hyperousiotês), always supra-essential as he is, and supra-abundantly so. While truly entering into essence, he was essentialized in a supraessential way and superior to man though he was, he performed (enêrgei) the activities of men. (Ep. 4, 1072AB) This jaw-breaking series of formulations amounts to a statement that God the Son, as a transcendent, supra-essential divinity, entered and manipulated a human body, without himself compromising his full divinity. There is no question here of two natures, since the human body is simply an instrument with which he unites in order to do his work as Jesus Christ. Dionysius goes on to adduce two aspects of his human existence as proof of his special status, the first his virgin birth, the second, remarkably, his walking on the water; in this latter case, he speaks of the water remaining unparted and bearing up his feet because of his supernatural power (hyperphyês dynamis).26 Lilla, with reference to this doctrine,27 most acutely draws attention to a possible source for Dionysius’ position in Porphyry’s theory, in his Symmikta Zêtêmata,28 of the mode of union between soul and body in general as being a union without contamination on the part of the soul. Here, there is no question of the body having a conscious ‘nature’ of its own. It is merely an instrument which the soul vivifies and controls. This doctrine, carefully crafted as it is, seems to have been sufficiently obscure to avoid condemnation with the rest of the Monophysite movement, mainly, we must presume, because of its emphasis on the maintenance of Christ’s supra-essential status. Dionysius ends his letter with a flourish of remarkable complexity: Furthermore, it was not by virtue of being God that he did divine things, not by virtue of being a man that he did what was human, but rather, by the fact of being God-made-man 26 Ep. 4, 1072B. 27 Lilla (1996). 28 Porphyry, fr. 261 Smith, quoted by Nemesius, De nat. hom. 3, 137–41 (p. 42, 9–43, 11 Morani). 6 Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition (andrôthentos theou), he accomplished something new in our midst, the activity of the God-man (theandrikê energeia).29 This final formulation of theandrikê energeia seems to encapsulate very well Dionysius’ remarkable position, and it plainly was sufficiently devious to satisfy later generations of orthodox theologians, beginning with his first commentator, John of Scythopolis, and continuing with Maximus the Confessor. The Dionysian Corpus The full tally of the works which comprise the Dionysian corpus is as follows. The chief and longest treatise is the Divine Names, which contains thirteen chapters, discussing the nature of God as both transcendent and creative. Aspects of the divine are discussed in terms of God’s many names, the sources for which are both scriptural and Platonic: Chapter 1 introduces the transcendent God; Chapter 2, procession, including Christ as procession; Chapter 3, prayer. In Chapters 4 through 13, Dionysius offers names for God which speak to particular aspects of God, beginning with, in Chapter 4, ‘Good’, ‘Light’, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Love’, ‘Ecstasy’, ‘Zeal’, particularly with respect to God as the source of all things which incites in them a desire to return to God, as well as a long excursus on the nature of evil (ss. 18–35); Chapter 5 discusses the name ‘Being’ as a procession of God which extends to all existent things; Chapter 6, the name ‘Life’ as the procession encompassing all living things; Chapter 7, ‘Wisdom’, ‘Mind’, ‘Word’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Faith’ as the aspect of God processing downward to rational beings, including angels and human minds; Chapter 8, ‘Power’, ‘Righteousness’, ‘Salvation’, Redemption’ and ‘Inequality’, names which point to God as the power for cosmic harmony, delimitation and arrangement, by which all things are preserved; Chapter 9 treats the following names, the ultimate source of which seems to be Plato’s Sophist: ‘greatness and smallness’, ‘sameness and difference’, ‘similarity and dissimilarity’, ‘rest’, ‘motion’, ‘equality’ – names applied to God as the cause of everything. Chapter 10, which calls God ‘Omnipotent’ and ‘Ancient of Days’, is a discourse on time and eternity. Chapter 11 calls God ‘Peace’, ‘Being Itself’, ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Power Itself’, all of which present God as monadic cause. In Chapter 12, Dionysius calls God ‘Holy of Holies’, ‘King of Kings’, ‘Lord of Lords’ and ‘God of Gods’, names which point to God as the source of cosmic harmony and law. Lastly, Chapter 13 offers the most significant names, ‘Perfect’ and ‘The One’, which address God as the unified cause of multiplicity. The work can thus be seen – and indeed has been, first by Thomas Aquinas30 but more 29 On this phrase John of Scythopolis has an interesting scholion, adverted to by Saffrey (1966), to the effect that, one should on no account confuse this term theandrike with the god Theandrites – as if Dionysius were suggesting a connection between such a god and Jesus Christ. As Saffrey ingeniously suggests, John would hardly have made this bizarre remark had he not had in mind, or heard it suggested, that Dionysius might have been influenced by the fact that Proclus had written a hymn to just such a god, worshipped in Arabia under the name of Theandrios. 30 Aquinas, In de divinis nominibus, IV, 1, 261–5. Introduction 7 31 recently by Hans Urs von Balthasar – as exhibiting a pattern of ‘procession and return’, entirely suitable to its subject-matter. The Mystical Theology is Dionysius’ shortest work, consisting of five chapters which address God as ineffable, transcendent, and reachable only by the absolute abandonment of everything. It presents negative theology as the only path for the soul’s return to God. Chapter 1 begins with a prayer to divine darkness, a hymn to God which has been attributed to Gregory of Nazianzus and to Proclus,32 but which is doubtless Dionysius’ own. Chapter 2 addresses the problem that God, while being cause of all, yet transcends his creation. Chapter 3 places negative theology above positive theology as addressing the true nature of God.33 Chapters 4 and 5 describe God as imperceptible and non-conceptual, denying of him both positive and negative characteristics. It may be that here Dionysius is influenced by Damascius’ characterisation of his absolutely first principle, the Ineffable, in his treatise On First Principles, but that is not a necessary supposition. The Celestial Hierarchy and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy treat the angelic and human realms respectively, the latter of which mirrors the former, both of them being divided into a series of triadic ranks. The Celestial Hierarchy discusses the angelic realm in fifteen chapters. The first two chapters discuss the nature of symbol. Chapter 3 addresses the meaning of the word ‘hierarchy’, which is in fact a coinage of Dionysius. Chapters 4–5 concern the function of angels as intermediaries between the divine and human realm. Chapter 6 outlines the celestial hierarchy itself, which is divided triadically, each rank containing a triad: the first contains the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones; the second, the Dominions, Virtues and Powers; and the third, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. Chapters 7–9 address each rank, respectively, with Chapter 10 stating the function of the triadic arrangement. Chapter 11 presents the (Neoplatonic) triad of Being, Power and Activity as the three-fold function within each triad. Chapter 12 connects human hierarchs (as the highest rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy) with the lowest levels of the celestial realm. Chapter 13 addresses divine light and power, as mediated through the celestial hierarchy, particularly with respect to how the angelic realm purifies and illuminates what is below it. Chapter 14 deals with the number of angels and what that signifies, while Chapter 15 discusses biblical representations of angels and explains that the relationship between triads is that of superior, intermediate, and subordinate. The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy consists of seven chapters, divided according to liturgical practices (many of which correspond to modern sacraments). It is here, perhaps, that Dionysius allows his persona to slip most manifestly (though this quite failed to bother his readers and commentators for almost a thousand years), in that 31 Von Balthasar would even discern the point of turning from procession to return, not without some plausibility, as occurring in the middle of Ch. 7. See Von Balthasar (1962), 192f. 32 This rather complicated problem is discussed by Sicherl (1988). Sicherl concludes that the hymn does not, in fact, come from Gregory of Nazianzus. 33 We also find in Ch. 3 an interesting review of the author’s previous works, one of which is extant (The Divine Names), two lost – or imaginary, cf. below – The Theological Representations and The Symbolic Theology. 8 Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition he assumes the existence of a fully-fledged panoply of ecclesiastical orders, bishops, priest, deacons, monks, and various grades of laity, such as would have been quite impossible for the first generation of the infant church. The first chapter lays out the function of the ecclesiastical hierarchy as the receptacle for divine power, placed into a series of material symbols designed to lift the worshipper up through the hierarchy, to the realm of angels, and beyond to the divine. In the next three chapters, he deals with the three ‘sacraments’ (teletai) which he recognizes, dividing his treatment, interestingly, into three sections: first, an introduction to the rite; then, a description of the procedure (praxis); and thirdly, and most discursively, a discussion of the theory underpinning the rite (theôria). This seems like an adaptation of the Neoplatonic exegetical distinction between lexis, the discussion of details of the text of a given lemma, and theôria, the discussion of the broader philosophical issues arising from the text – but adapted to a theurgical context, where what is at issue is not the exegesis of a text, but the exposition of a rite. At any rate, Chapter 2 describes the rite of illumination (phôtisma), or baptism, which Dionysius also refers to as ‘birth into divinity’ (theogenesia). Chapter 3 concerns the rite of synaxis, or the eucharist, which constitutes the most important of the three sacraments; and Chapter 4 treats of the rite of anointing, or chrism (teletê myrou). These sacraments are viewed as a triad, conferring respectively purification, illumination and perfection (katharsis, phôtismos, teleiôsis, EH 536D). In the next two chapters he turns to the detailing of the personnel of the church. Chapter 5 sets out the clerical orders, again arranged in a triad: the hierarch (bishop) is the highest of the three and is the perfecting element, in so far as he perfects and consecrates the sacred orders; next come the priests, in charge of illumination, followed by the deacons, responsible for purification. Chapter 6 discusses the three orders of laity: those being initiated (catechumens); an intermediate order of those who are have been purified, and are being illuminated, whom Dionysius refers to on occasion as ‘the sacred people’ (hieros laos, e.g. EH 532C); and the highest order, that of monks, who have been uplifted to the highest order because of their sacred understanding. These chapters also have the same tripartite structure outlined above. Chapter 7, concerning the rite for the dead, with an appendix on infant baptism, seems somewhat anomalous, and may in fact be a spurious addition, as suggested by Bernard Brons (1975), added by someone who found it strange that Dionysius gave no attention to the topic of Christian burial in his treatment of sacraments.34 This author, or another, adds also a section on the question of infant baptism, which no longer makes any pretence of stemming from the first generation of the church, as he refers to ancient Christian authorities (EH 568A)! The Dionysian corpus also includes ten letters. The first four are addressed to the monk Gaius. Letter 1 discusses God as the unknown; Letter 2, the transcendent nature of the divine, while Letters 3 and 4 concern the incarnation, Four being of particular interest in this regard, as we have seen. Letter 5, to Dorotheus, the deacon, addresses the topic of the unknowability of God. Letter 6 concerns the denunciation 34 It is doubtful that Dionysius himself would have had much enthusiasm for the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, on which the author of this chapter is very insistent, and on quite unphilosophical grounds. Introduction 9 of cults, but with an interesting note of admonition to the priest Sosipater. Letter 7 advises the hierarch Polycarp on how to deal with the ‘sophist’ Apollophanes, who has been abusing Dionysius, it seems, and accusing him of ‘making unholy use of things Greek to attack the Greeks’ – a most apposite accusation, which Dionysius is concerned to refute! Letter 8, the longest in the collection, urges kind behaviour to the monk Demophilus, who is being intolerant towards a repentant sinner, and the priest who was prepared to pardon him. This is certainly one letter, like that to Sosipater, where some reference to contemporary tensions and controversies seems to intrude itself. Letter 9, to the hierarch Titus, which makes reference to the author’s (probably fictitious) Symbolic Theology (on which see below), constitutes an important statement of Dionysius’ theory of symbolic interpretation of scripture, securely based as it is on Neoplatonic principles; while Letter 10 is a brief consolatio to St John the Evangelist in relation to his exile on Patmos. Even this, however, might be seen as a coded message to one or other contemporary monophysite figure who might have suffered exile after the accession of Justin I; there is mention, not of the Roman authorities as the cause of John’s exile, but simply of ‘unjust men’. A special problem arises with a number of works which Dionysius refers to which have not survived: these include, The Symbolic Theology,35 The Theological Representations,36 The Properties and Ranks of Angels37 and a treatise On the Soul.38 It is difficult to decide whether in fact some works have perished or whether this reference to further works is simply part of the literary game being played, in particular the title ‘Representations’ (Hypotypôseis) is characteristic of a number of authors, Christian and otherwise, while a treatise on the soul addresses a fairly basic philosophical topic.39 A word should also be said about the other characters whom Dionysius introduces in the course of his works. There is, first of all, his revered master, Paul, who he calls ‘my and my teacher’s sun’ (referred to by name seven times), whose works are quoted copiously throughout the corpus. Then there is his revered mentor Hierotheus (author of an Elements of Theology: DN 648B; 681A; and of Hymns of Yearning, DN 713A), mentioned by name five times, and as ‘our master’, twenty-one times, in terms interestingly reminiscent of Proclus’ references to his master, Syrianus, at various 35 DN 597B; MT 1033AB, 14–26; CH 336A, 3–5; it is looked forward to in the DN as to be composed next. Rorem (1987) suggests that it may be summarized in Ep. 9, 1104B, 8f., 1113BC, 22–30. Dionysius suggests that the treatise concerns the perceptible divine symbols, including light. 36 DN 585B; CH 180D; DN 593B, 636C, 640B, 644D, 645A, 953B; MT 1032D, 1033AB. It is presented as being composed prior to the DN. Rorem suggests that DN 589D–592B is a summary of the treatise, which is given a fuller treatment in MT 1032D. The treatise discusses divine unity, Trinity and incarnation. 37 DN 696B. This is also presented as being composed prior to the DN. 38 DN 696C. In this work he claims that he has dealt with all the levels of soul from the angelic down to the vegetative. 39 Both Porphyry and Iamblichus, among Neoplatonists, composed treatises On the Soul.

Author John Dillon and Sarah Klitenic Isbn 9780754603856 File size 1 MB Year 2015 Pages 240 Language English File format PDF Category Philosophy Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’ is arguably one of the most mysterious and intriguing figures to emerge from the late antique world. Writing probably around 500 CE, and possibly connected with the circle of Severus of Antioch, Dionysius manipulates a Platonic metaphysics to describe a hierarchical universe: as with the Hellenic Platonists, he arranges the celestial and material cosmos into a series of triadic strata. These strata emanate from one unified being and contain beings that range from superior to inferior, depending on their proximity to God. Not only do all things in the hierarchy participate in God, but also all things are inter-connected, so that the lower hierarchies fully participate in the higher ones. This metaphysics lends itself to a sacramental system similar to that of the Hellenic ritual, theurgy. Theurgy allows humans to reach the divine by examining the divine as it exists in creation. Although Dionysius’ metaphysics and religion are similar to that of Iamblichus and Proclus in many ways, Pseudo-Dionysius differs fundamentally in his use of an ecclesiastical cosmos, rather than that of the Platonic Timaean cosmos of the Hellenes. This book discusses the Christian Platonist’s adaptation of Hellenic metaphysics, language, and religious ritual. While Dionysius clearly works within the Hellenic tradition, he innovates to integrate Hellenic and Christian thought.       Download (1 MB) Ibn Sina’s Remarks and Admonitions The Philosophy of the Commentators, 200-600 AD From Logos To Trinity Kant And The Meaning Of Religion Divine Powers in Late Antiquity Load more posts

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