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Dionysius The Areopagite by Clarence Edwin Rolt

CHAPTER VIII Concerning |Power,| |Righteousness,| |Salvation,| |Redemption|; and also concerning |Inequality.|

1. Now since the Sacred Writers speak of the Divine Truthfulness and Supra-Sapient Wisdom as Power, and as Righteousness, and call It Salvation and Redemption, let us endeavour to unravel these Divine Names also. Now I do not think that any one nurtured in Holy Scripture can fail to know that the Godhead transcends and exceeds every mode of Power however conceived. For often Scripture attributes the Dominion to the Godhead and thus distinguishes It even from the Celestial Powers. In what sense, then, do the Sacred Writers speak of It also as Power when It transcends all Power? Or in what sense can we take the title Power when applied to the Godhead?

2. We answer thus: God is Power because in His own Self He contains all power beforehand and exceeds it, and because He is the Cause of all power and produces all things by a power which may not be thwarted nor circumscribed, and because He is the Cause wherefrom Power exists whether in the whole system of the world or in any particular part. Yea, He is Infinitely Powerful not only in that all Power comes from Him, but also because He is above all power and is Very Power, and possesses that excess of Power which produces in infinite ways an infinite number of other existent powers; and because the infinitude of powers which is continually being multiplied to infinity can never blunt that transcendently infinite activity of His Power whence all power comes; and because of the unutterable, unknowable, inconceivable greatness of His all-transcendent Power which, through its excess of potency, gives strength to that which is weak and maintains and governs the lowest of its created copies, even as, in those things whose power strikes our senses, very brilliant illuminations can reach to eyes that are dim and as loud sounds can enter ears dull of hearing. (Of course that which is utterly incapable of hearing is not an ear, and that which cannot see at all is not an eye. )

3. Thus this distribution of God's Infinite Power permeates all things, and there is nothing in the world utterly bereft of all power. Some power it must have, be it in the form of Intuition, Reason, Perception, Life, or Being. And indeed, if one may so express it, the very fact that power exists is derived from the Super-Essential Power.

4. From this Source come the Godlike Powers of the Angelic Orders; from this Source they immutably possess their being and all the ceaseless and immortal motions of their spiritual life; and their very stability and unfailing desire for the Good they have received from that infinitely good Power which Itself infuses into them this power and this existence, and makes them ceaselessly to desire existence, and gives them the very power to desire that ceaseless power which they possess.

5. The effects of this Inexhaustible Power enter into men and animals and plants and the entire Nature of the Universe, and fill all the unified organizations with a force attracting them to mutual harmony and concord, and drawing separate individuals into being, according to the natural laws and qualities of each, without confusion or merging of their properties. And the laws by which this Universe is ordered It preserves to fulfil their proper functions, .and keeps the immortal lives of the individual angels inviolate; and the luminous stars of heaven It keeps in all their ranks unchanged, and gives unto Eternity the power to be; and the temporal orbits It differentiates when they begin their circuits and brings together again when they return once more; and It makes the power of fire unquenchable, and the liquid nature of water It makes perpetual; and gives the atmosphere its fluidity, and founds the earth upon the Void and keeps its pregnant travail without ceasing. And It preserves the mutual harmony of the interpenetrating elements distinct and yet inseparable, and knits together the bond uniting soul and body, and stirs the powers by which the plants have nourishment and growth, and governs the faculties whereby each kind of creature maintains its being and makes firm the indissoluble permanence of the world, and bestows Deification itself by giving a faculty for it unto those that are deified. And, in short, there is nothing in the world which is without the Almighty Power of God to support and to surround it. For that which hath no power at all hath no existence, no individuality, and no place whatever in the world.

6. But Elymas the sorcerer raises this objection: |If God is Omnipotent| (quoth he) |what meaneth your Sacred Writer by saying that there are some things He cannot do?| And so he blames Paul the Divine for saying that God cannot deny Himself. Now, having stated his objection, I greatly fear that I shall be laughed at for my folly, in gong about to pull down tottering houses built upon the sand by idle children, and in striving to aim my arrow at an inaccessible target when I endeavour to deal with this question of Divinity. But thus I answer him: The denial of the true Self is a declension from Truth. And Truth hath Being; and therefore a declension from the Truth is a declension from Being. Now whereas Truth hath Being and denial of Truth is a declension from Being, God cannot fall from Being. We might say that He is not lacking in Being, that He cannot lack Power, that He knows not how to lack Knowledge. The wise Elymas, forsooth, did not perceive this; and so is like an unskilled athlete, who (as often happens), thinking his adversary to be weak, through judging by his own estimation, misses him each time and manfully strikes at his shadow, and bravely beating the air with vain blows, fancies he hath gotten him a victory and boasts of his prowess through ignorance of the other's power. But we striving to shoot our guard home to our teacher's mark celebrate the Supra-Potent God as Omnipotent, as Blessed and the only Potentate, as ruling by His might over Eternity, as indwelling every part of the universe, or rather as transcending and anticipating all things in His Super-Essential Power, as the One Who hath bestowed upon all things their capacity to exist, and their existence through the rich outpouring of His transcendent and abundant Power.

7. Again, God is called |Righteousness| because He gives to all things what is right, defining Proportion, Beauty, Order, Arrangement, and all Dispositions of Place and Rank for each, in accordance with that place which is most truly right; and because He causeth each to possess its independent activity. For the Divine Righteousness ordains all things, and sets their bounds and keeps all things unconfused and distinct from one another, and gives to all things that which is suited to each according to the worth which each possesses. And if this is true, then all those who blame the Divine Righteousness stand (unwittingly) self-condemned of flagrant unrighteousness; for they say that immortality should belong to mortal things and perfection to the imperfect, and necessary or mechanical motion to those which possess free spiritual motion, and immutability to those which change, and the power of accomplishment to the weak, and that temporal things should be eternal, and that things which naturally move should be unchangeable, and that pleasures which are but for a season should last for ever; and, in short, they would interchange the properties of all things. But they should know that the Divine Righteousness is found in this to be true Righteousness, that it gives to all the qualities which befit them, according to the worth of each, and that it preserves the nature of each in its proper order and power.

8. But some one may say: |It is not right to leave holy men unaided to be oppressed by the wicked.| We must reply, that if those whom you call holy love the earthly things which are the objects of material ambition, they have utterly fallen from the Desire for God. And I know not how they can be called holy where they do this wrong to the things which are truly Lovely and Divine, wickedly rejecting them for things unworthy of their ambition and their love. But if they long for the things that are real, then they who desire aught should rejoice when the object of their desire is obtained. Now are they not nearer to the angelic virtues when they strive, in their desire for Divine Things, to abandon their affection towards material things, and manfully to train themselves unto this object in their struggles for the Beautiful? Thus, tis true to say that it is more in accordance with Divine Righteousness not to lull into its destruction the manliness of the noblest characters through bestowing material goods upon them, nor to leave them without the aid of Divine corrections if any one attempt so to corrupt them. It is true justice to strengthen them in their noble and loyal stability, and to bestow on them the things which befit their high condition.

9. This Divine Righteousness is also called the Salvation or Preservation of the world, because It preserves and keeps the particular being and place of each thing inviolate from the rest, and is the inviolate Cause of all the particular activity in the world. And if any one speaks of Salvation as the saving Power which plucks the world out of the influence of evil, we will also certainly accept this account of Salvation since Salvation hath so many forms. We shall only ask him to add, that the primary Salvation of the world is that which preserves all things in their proper places without change, conflict, or deterioration, and keeps them all severally without strife or struggle obeying their proper laws, and banishes all inequality and interference from the world, and establishes the due capacities of each so that they fall not into their opposites nor suffer any transferences. Indeed, it would be quite in keeping with the teaching of the Divine Science to say that this Salvation, working in that beneficence which preserves the world, redeems all things (according as each can receive this saving power) so that they fall not from their natural virtues. Hence the Sacred Writers call It Redemption, both because It allows not the things which truly exist |to fall away into nothingness,| and also because, should anything stumble into error or disorder and suffer a diminution of the perfection of its proper virtues, It redeems even this thing from the weakness and the loss it suffers: filling up that which it lacks and supporting its feebleness with Fatherly Love; raising it from its evil state, or rather setting it firmly in its right state; completing once more the virtue it had lost, and ordering and arraying its disorder and disarray; making it perfect and releasing it from all its defects. So much for this matter and for the Righteousness whereby the equality or proportion of all things is measured and given its bounds, and all inequality or disproportion (which arises from the loss of proportion in the individual things) is kept far away. For if one considers the inequality shown in the mutual differences of all things in the world, this also is preserved by Righteousness which will not permit a complete mutual confusion and disturbance of all things, but keeps all things within the several forms naturally belonging to each.

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