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Dionysius The Areopagite by Clarence Edwin Rolt

CHAPTER II Concerning the Undifferencing and the Differentiation in Divinity, and the Nature of Divine Unification and Differentiation.

I. 'Tis the whole Being of the Supernal Godhead (saith the Scripture) that the Absolute Goodness hath defined and revealed. For in what other sense may we take the words of Holy Writ when it tells us how the Godhead spake concerning Itself, and said: |Why asketh thou me concerning the good? None is good save one, that is, God.| Now this matter we have discussed elsewhere, and have shown that all the Names proper to God are always applied in Scripture not partially but to the whole, entire, full, complete Godhead, and that they all refer indivisibly, absolutely, unreservedly, and wholly to all the wholeness of the whole and entire Godhead. Indeed (as we made mention in the Outlines of Divinity), if any one deny that such utterance refers to the whole Godhead, he blasphemeth and profanely dares to divide the Absolute and Supreme Unity. We must, then, take them as referring unto the entire Godhead. For not only did the goodly Word Himself say: |I am Good,| but also one of the inspired prophets speaks of the Spirit as Good. So, too, of the words |I Am that I Am.| If, instead of applying these to the whole Godhead, they wrest them to include only one part Thereof, how will they explain such passages as: |Thus saith He that is and was and is to come, the Almighty,| or: |Thou art the same,| or |The Spirit of Truth that is, and that proceedeth from the Father|? And if they deny that the whole Godhead is Life, how can that Sacred Word be true Which declared |As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will,| and also, |It is the Spirit that quickeneth|? And as to the Dominion over the whole world belonging to the whole Godhead, it is impossible, methinks, to say (as far as concerns the Paternal and the Filial Godhead) how often in the Scriptures the Name of |Lord| is repeated as belonging both to the Father and to the Son: moreover the Spirit, too, is Lord. And the Names |Fair| and |Wise| are given to the whole Godhead; and all the Names that belong to the whole Godhead (e.g. |Deifying Virtue| and |Cause|) Scripture introduces into all its praises of the Supreme Godhead comprehensively, as when it saith that |all things are from God,| and more in detail, as when it saith that |through Him are and to Him are all things created,| that |all things subsist in Him,| and that |Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.| And, to sum it all in brief, the Divine Word Himself declared: |I and the Father are one,| and |All things that the Father hath are mine,| and |All mine are thine, and thine are mine.| And again, all that belongeth to the Father and to Himself He also ascribes in the Common Unity to the Divine Spirit, viz. the Divine operations, the worship, the originating and inexhaustible creativeness and the ministration of the bountiful gifts. And, methinks, that none of those nurtured in the Divine Scriptures will, except through perversity, gainsay it, that the Divine Attributes in their true and Divine signification all belong to the entire Deity. And, therefore, having here briefly and partially (and more at large elsewhere) given from the Scriptures the proof and definition of this matter, we intend that whatever title of God's Entire Nature we endeavour to explain be understood as referring to the Godhead in Its entirety.

2. And if any one say that we herein are introducing a confusion of all distinctions in the Deity, we for our part opine that such his argument is not sufficient even to persuade himself. For if he is one utterly at enmity with the Scriptures, he will also be altogether far from our Philosophy; and if he recks not of the Holy Wisdom drawn from the Scriptures, how can he reckon aught of that method by which we would conduct him to an understanding of things Divine? But if he taketh Scriptural Truth as his Standard, this is the very Rule and Light by which we will (so far as in us lies) proceed straight to our defence, and will declare that the Sacred Science sometimes employs a method of Undifference and sometimes one of Differentiation; and that we must neither disjoin those things which are Undifferenced nor confuse those which are Differentiated; but following the Sacred Science to the best of our powers, we must lift up our eyes towards the Divine Rays; for, receiving thence the Divine Revelations as a noble Standard of Truth, we strive to preserve its treasure in ourselves without addition, diminution, or distortion, and in thus preserving the Scriptures, we also are preserved, and are moreover enabled by the same to the end that we may still preserve them and be by them preserved.

3. Now Undifferenced Names belong to the entire Godhead (as we showed more fully from the Scriptures in the Outlines of Divinity). To this class belong the following: |Super-Excellent,| |Super-Divine,| |Super-Essential,| |Super-Vital,| |Supra-Sapient,| and thereto all those titles wherein the negative expresses excess; moreover, all those titles which have a causal sense, such as |Good,| |Fair,| |Existent,| |Lifegiving,| |Wise,| and whatever titles are ascribed to the Cause of all good things from Its bountiful gifts. The differentiated Names, on the other hand, are the Super-Essential names and connotations of |Father,| |Son,| and |Spirit.| In these cases the titles cannot be interchanged, nor are they held in common. Again, besides this, the perfect and unchangeable subsistence of Jesus in our nature is differentiated, and so are all the mysteries of Love and Being therein displayed.

4. But needs must we, methinks, go deeper into the matter and thoroughly explain the difference between Undifference and Differentiation as concerning God, in order that our whole Discourse may be made clear, and, being free from all doubtfulness and obscurity, may (to the best of our powers) give a distinct, plain, and orderly statement of the matter. For, as I said elsewhere, the Initiates of our Divine Tradition designate the Undifferenced Attributes of the Transcendently Ineffable and Unknowable Permanence as hidden, incommunicable Ultimates, but the beneficent Differentiations of the Supreme Godhead, they call Emanations and Manifestations; and following the Holy Scripture they declare that some Attributes belong especially to Undifference, and some, on the other hand, to Differentiation. For instance, they say concerning the Divine Unity, or Super-Essence, that the undivided Trinity holds in a common Unity without distinction Its Subsistence beyond Being, Its Godhead beyond Deity, Its Goodness beyond Excellence; the Identity, surpassing all things, of Its transcendently Individual Nature; Its Oneness above Unity; Its Namelessness and Multiplicity of Names; Its Unknowableness and perfect Intelligibility; Its universal Affirmation and universal Negation in a state above all Affirmation and Negation, and that It possesses the mutual Abiding and Indwelling (as it were) of Its indivisibly supreme Persons in an utterly Undifferentiated and Transcendent Unity, and yet without any confusion even as the lights of lamps (to use visible and homely similes) being in one house and wholly interpenetrating one another, severally possess a clear and absolute distinction each from each, and are by their distinctions united into one, and in their unity are kept distinct. Even so do we see, when there are many lamps in a house, how that the lights of them all are unified into one undifferentiated light, so that there shineth forth from them one indivisible brightness; and no one, methinks, could separate the light of one particular lamp from the others, in isolation from the air which embraces them all, nor could he see one light without another, inasmuch as, without confusion, they yet are wholly commingled.

Yea, if any one takes out of the dwelling one of the burning lamps, all its own particular light will therewith depart from the place without either carrying off in itself aught of the other lights or bequeathing any of its own brightness to the rest. For, as I said, the entire and complete union of the lights one with another brought no confusion or commixture in any parts -- and that though the light is literally embodied in the air and streams from the material substance of fire. The Super-Essential Unity of God, however, exceedeth (so we declare) not only the unions of material bodies, but even those of Souls and of Intelligences, which these Godlike and celestial Luminaries in perfect mutual interpenetration supernaturally and without confusion possess, through a participation corresponding to their individual powers of participating in the All-Transcendent Unity.

5. There is, on the other hand, a Differentiation made in the Super-Essential Doctrine of God -- not merely such as I have just mentioned (viz. that in the very Unity, Each of the Divine Persons possesses without confusion Its own distinct existence), but also that the Attributes of the Super-Essential Divine Generation are not interchangeable. The Father alone is the Source of the Super-Essential Godhead, and the Father is not a Son, nor is the Son a Father; for the Divine Persons all preserve, Each without alloy, His own particular Attributes of praise. Such, then, are the instances of Undifference and of Differentiation in the Ineffable Unity and Subsistence of God. And if the term |Differentiation| be also applied to the bounteous act of Emanation whereby the Divine Unity, brimming Itself with goodness in the excess of Its Undifferenced Unity thus enters into Multiplicity, yet an undifferenced unity worketh even in those differentiated acts whereby, in ceaseless communications, It bestows Being, Life, and Wisdom, and those other gifts of the all-creative Goodness in respect of which (as we behold the communications and the participants thereof) we celebrate those things wherein the creatures supernaturally participate. Yea, tis a common and undifferenced activity of the whole Godhead that It is wholly and entirely communicated unto each of them that share It and unto none merely in part; even as the centre of a circle is shared by all the radii which surround it in a circle; and as there are many impressions of a seal all sharing in the seal which is their archetype while yet this is entire, nor is it only a part thereof that belongeth unto any of them. But the Incommunicable All-creative Godhead transcends all such symbols in that It is beyond Apprehension nor hath It any other mode of communion such as to join It unto the participants.

Perhaps, however, some one will say: |The seal is not entire and the same in all the printed copies.| I answer that this is not due to the seal itself (for it gives itself wholly and identically to each), but the difference of the substances which share it makes the impressions of the one, entire, identical archetype to be different. For instance, if they are soft, plastic, and smooth, and have no print already, and are neither hard and resistent, nor yet melting and unstable, the imprint will be clear, plain, and permanent; but if the aforesaid fitness should in aught be lacking, then the material will not take the impression and reproduce it distinctly, and other such results will follow as an unsuitable material must bring about.

6. Again, it is by a Differentiated act of God's benevolence that the Super-Essential Word should wholly and completely take Human Substance of human flesh and do and suffer all those things which, in a special and particular manner, belong to the action of His Divine Humanity. In these acts the Father and the Spirit have no share, except of course that they all share in the loving generosity of the Divine counsels and in all that transcendent Divine working of unutterable mysteries which were performed in Human Nature by Him Who as God and as the Word of God is Immutable. So do we strive to differentiate the Divine Attributes, according as these Attributes are Undifferenced or Differentiated.

7. Now all the grounds of these Unifications, and Differentiations in the Divine Nature which the Scriptures have revealed to us, we have explained in the Outlines of Divinity, to the best of our abilities, treating separately of each. The latter class we have philosophically unravelled and unfolded, and so have sought to guide the holy and unspotted mind to contemplate the shining truths of Scripture, while the former class we have endeavoured (in accordance with Divine Tradition) to apprehend as Mysteries in a manner beyond the activities of our minds. For all Divine things, even those that are revealed to us, are only known by their Communications. Their ultimate nature, which they possess in their own original being, is beyond Mind and beyond all Being and Knowledge. For instance, if we call the Super-Essential Mystery by the Name of |God,'' or |Life,| or |Being,| or |Light,| or |Word,| we conceive of nothing else than the powers that stream Therefrom to us bestowing Godhead, Being, Life or Wisdom; while that Mystery Itself we strive to apprehend by casting aside all the activities of our mind, since we behold no Deification, or Life, or Being, which exactly resembles the altogether and utterly Transcendent Cause of all things. Again, that the Father is Originating Godhead while Jesus and the Spirit are (so to speak) Divine Off-shoots of the Paternal Godhead, and, as it were, Blossoms and Super-Essential Shinings Thereof we learn from Holy Scripture; but how these things are so we cannot say, nor yet conceive.

8. Just so far can the powers of our .minds attain as to see that all spiritual paternity and sonship is a gift bestowed from the all-transcendent Archetypal Fatherhood and Sonship both upon us and also upon the celestial Powers: whereby Godlike Minds receive the states and names of Gods, and Sons of Gods, and Fathers of Gods, such paternity and sonship being perfected in a spiritual manner (i. e. incorporeally, immaterially, and invisibly) because the Divine Spirit setteth above all invisible Immateriality and Deification, and the Father and the Son, supernaturally transcend all spiritual fatherhood and sonship. For there is no exact similitude between the creatures and the Creative Originals; for the creatures possess only such images of the Creative Originals as are possible to them, while the Originals Themselves transcend and exceed the creatures by the very nature of Their own Originality. To employ human examples, we say that pleasant or painful conditions produce in us feelings of pleasure or pain while yet they possess not these feelings themselves; and we do not say that the fire which warms and burns is itself burnt or warmed. Even so if any one says that Very Life lives, or that Very Light is enlightened, he will be wrong (according to my view) unless, perchance, he were to use these terms in a different sense from the ordinary one to mean that the qualities of created things pre-exist, after a superlative manner as touching their true Being in the Creative Originals.

9. Even the plainest article of Divinity, namely the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus in Human Form, cannot be expressed by any Language or known by any Mind -- not even by the first of the most exalted angels. That He took man's substance is a mysterious truth, the which we have received; but we know not how from the Virgin's seed He was formed in another manner than is natural, nor how His dry feet supporting the solid weight of His material body He walked upon the unstable substance of the water, nor understand we any of the other things which belong to the Supernatural Nature of Jesus. Of these things I have spoken enough elsewhere; and our renowned Teacher hath wonderfully declared, in his Elements of Divinity, what he hath either learnt directly from the Sacred Writers, or else hath discovered from his cunning research concerning Scriptural truths through the much toil and labour which he bestowed thereon, or else hath had revealed unto him by some diviner inspiration wherein he received not only true spiritual notions but also true spiritual motions, and by the kinship of his mind with them (if I may so express it) was perfected to attain without any other teacher to a mystical communion with these verities and a belief therein. And to put before them in briefest compass the many blessed speculations of his ingenious mind thus speaketh he concerning Jesus in his compilation of the Elements of Divinity.

10. From the Elements of Divinity, by S. Hierotheus.

The Universal Cause which filleth all things is the Deity of Jesus, whereof the parts are in such wise tempered to the whole that It is neither whole nor part, and yet is at the same time whole and also part, containing in Its all-embracing unity both part and whole, and being transcendent and antecedent to both. This Deity is perfect in those Beings that are imperfect as a Fount of Perfection; It is Perfectionless in those that are perfect as transcending and anticipating their Perfection; It is the Form producing Form in the formless, as a Fount of every form; and it is Formless in the Forms, as being beyond all form; It is the Being that pervades all beings at once though not affected by them; and It is Super-Essential, as transcending every being; It sets all bounds of Authority and Order, and yet It has Its seal beyond all Authority and Order. It is the Measure of the Universe; and it is Eternity, and above Eternity and before Eternity. It is an Abundance in those Beings that lack, and a Super-Abundance in those that abound; unutterable, ineffable; beyond Mind, beyond Life, beyond Being; It supernaturally possesses the supernatural and super-essentially possesses the super-essential. And since that Supra-Divine Being hath in loving kindness come down from thence unto the Natural Estate, and verily took substance and assumed the name of Man (we must speak with reverence of those things which we utter beyond human thought and language), even in this act He possesses His Supernatural and Super-Essential Existence -- not only in that He hath without change or confusion of Attributes shared in our human lot while remaining unaffected by that unutterable Self-Emptying as regards the fullness of His Godhead, but also because (most wonderful of all wonders!) He passed in His Supernatural and Super-Essential state through conditions of Nature and Being, and receiving from us all things that are ours, exalted them far above us.

11. So much for these matters. Now let us proceed to the object of our discussion and endeavour to explain the Common and Undifferenced Names belonging to God's Differentiated Being. And, that the subject of our investigation may be clearly defined beforehand, we give the name of Divine Differentiation (as was said) to the beneficent Emanations of the Supreme Godhead. For bestowing upon all things and supernally infusing Its Communications unto the goodly Universe, It becomes differentiated without loss of Undifference; and multiplied without loss of Unity; from Its Oneness it becomes manifold while yet remaining within Itself. For example, since God is super-essentially Existent and bestows existence upon all things that are, and brings the world into being, that single Existence of His is said to become manifold through bringing forth the many existences from Itself, while yet He remains One in the act of Self-Multiplication; Undifferenced throughout the process of Emanation, and Full in the emptying process of Differentiation; Super-Essentially transcending the Being of all things, and guiding the whole world onwards by an indivisible act, and pouring forth without diminution His indefectible bounties. Yea, being One and communicating of His Unity both unto every part of the world and also unto the whole, both unto that which is one and unto that which is many, He is One in an unchangeable and super-essential manner, being neither an unit in the multiplicity of things nor yet the sum total of such units. Indeed, He is not an unity in this sense, and doth not participate in unity nor possess it; but He is an Unity in a manner far different from this, above all unity which is in the world; yea, He is an Indivisible Plurality, insatiable yet brim-full, producing, perfecting, and maintaining all unity and plurality. Moreover, since many, through Deification from Him, are made Gods (so far as the Godlike capacity of each allows), there thus appears to be what is called a Differentiation and a Reduplication of the One God, yet none the less He is the primal God, the Supra-Divine and Super-Essentially One God, who dwells Indivisibly within the separate and individual things, being an Undifferenced Unity in Himself and without any commixture or multiplication through His contact with the Many. And supernaturally perceiving this, thus speaketh (by inspiration, in his holy writings) that Guide unto Divine illumination by whom both we and our teacher are led, that mighty man in things Divine, that Luminary of the world. For though (saith he) there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many). But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him. For in divine things the undifferenced Unities are of more might than the Differentiations and hold the foremost place and retain their state of Undifference even after the One has, without departing from Its oneness, entered into Differentiation. These Differentiations or beneficent Emanations of the whole Godhead -- whereby Its Undifferenced Nature is shared in common -- we shall (so far as in us lies) endeavour to describe from the Divine Names which reveal them in the Scriptures, having now made this clear beforehand (as hath been said): that every Name of the Divine beneficent Activity unto whichever of the Divine Persons it is applied, must be taken as belonging, without distinction, to the whole entirety of the Godhead.

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