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Dionysius The Areopagite by Clarence Edwin Rolt

CHAPTER XI Concerning |Peace| and what is meant by |Very Being| Itself, |Very Life,| |Very Power,| and similar phrases.

1. Now let us praise with reverent hymns of peace the Divine Peace which is the Source of all mutual attraction. For this Quality it is that unites all things together and begets and produces the harmonies and agreements of all things. And hence it is that all things long for It, and that It draws their manifold separate parts into the unity of the whole and unites the battling elements of the world into concordant fellowship. So it is that, through participation in the Divine Peace, the higher of the mutually Attractive Powers are united in themselves and to each other and to the one Supreme Peace of the whole world; and so the ranks beneath them are by them united both in themselves and to one another and unto that one perfect Principle and Cause of Universal Peace, which broods in undivided Unity upon the world, and (as it were with bolts which fasten the sundered parts together) giveth to all things their laws, their limits, and their cohesion; nor suffers them to be torn apart and dispersed into the boundless chaos without order or foundation, so as to lose God's Presence and depart from their own unity, and to mingle together in a universal confusion. Now as to that quality of the Divine Peace and Silence, to which the holy Justus gives the name of |Dumbness| and |Immobility| (sc. so far as concerns all emanation which our knowledge can grasp), and as to the manner in which It is still and silent and keeps in Itself and within Itself and is wholly and entirely one transcendent Unity in Itself, and while entering into Itself and multiplying Itself, doth not leave Its own Unity, but, even in the act of going forth to all things, remains entirely within Itself through the excess of that all-transcendent Unity: concerning these things tis neither right nor possible for any creature to frame any language or conception. Let us, then, describe that Peace (inasmuch as It transcends all things) as |Unutterable,| yea and |Unknowable|; and, so far as tis possible for men and for ourselves who are inferior to many good men, let us examine those cases where It is amenable to our intuitions and language through being manifested in created things.

2. Now, the first thing to say is this: that God is the Fount of Very Peace and of all Peace, both in general and in particular, and that He joins all things together in an unity without confusion whereby they are inseparably united without any interval between them, and at the same time stand unmixed each in its own form, not losing their purity through being mingled with their opposites nor in any way blunting the edge of their clear and distinct individuality. Let us, then, consider that one and simple nature of the Peaceful Unity which unites all things to Itself to themselves and to each other, and preserves all things, distinct and yet interpenetrating in an universal cohesion without confusion. Thus it is that the Divine Intelligences derive that Unity whereby they are united to the activities and the objects of their intuition; and rise up still further to a contact, beyond knowledge, with truths which transcend the mind. Thus it is that souls, unifying their manifold reasoning powers and concentrating them in one pure spiritual act, advance by their own ordered path through an immaterial and indivisible act of spiritual intuition. Thus it is that the one and indissoluble connection of all things exists by reason of its Divine harmony, and is fitted together with perfect concord, agreement and congruity, being drawn into one without confusion and inseparably held together. For the entirety of that perfect Peace penetrates to all things through the simple, unalloyed presence of Its unifying power, uniting all things and binding the extremities together through the intermediate parts, all things being thus conjoined by one homogenous attraction. And It bestows even upon the utmost limits of the universe the enjoyment of Its Presence, and makes all things akin to one another by the unities, the identities, the communions and the mutual attractions which It gives them; for the Divine Peace remains indivisible and shows forth all Its power in a single act, and permeates the whole world without departing from Its own Identity. For It goes forth to all things and gives to all things of Itself (according to their kinds), and overflows with the abundance of Its peaceful fecundity, and yet through the transcendence of Its unification It remains wholly and entirely in a state of Absolute Self-Unity.

3. |But,| some one perchance will say, |in what sense do all things desire peace? Many things rejoice in opposition and difference and distinction, and would never choose willingly to be at rest.| Now if the opposition and difference here intended is the individuality of each thing, and the fact that naught (while it remains itself) wishes to lose this quality, then neither can we deny this statement; but, however, we shall show that this itself is due to a desire for Peace. For all things love to have peace and unity in themselves and to remain without moving or falling from their own existence or properties. And the perfect Peace guards each several individuality unalloyed by Its providential gift of peace, keeping all things without internal or mutual discord or confusion, and establishing all things, in the power of unswerving stability, so as to possess their own peace and rest.

4. And if all things which move be found desiring not to be at rest but always to perform their proper movements, this also is a desire for that Divine Peace of the Universe which keeps all things in their proper places so that they fall not, and preserves the individual and the motive life of all moving things from removal or declension. And this it doth by reason that the things which move perform their proper functions through being in a constant state of inward peace.

5. But if, in affirming that Peace is not desired by all, the objector is thinking of the opposition caused by a falling away from Peace, in the first place there is nothing in the world which hath utterly fallen away from all Unity; for that which is utterly unstable, boundless, baseless, and indefinite hath neither Being nor any inherence in the things that have Being. And if he says that hatred towards Peace and the blessings of Peace is shown by them that rejoice in strife and anger and in conditions of variations and instability, I answer that these also are governed by dim shadows of the desire for Peace; for, being oppressed by the various movements of their passions, they desire (without understanding) to set these at rest, and suppose that the surfeit of fleeting pleasures will give them Peace because they feel themselves disturbed by the unsatisfied cravings which have mastered them. There is no need to tell how the loving-kindness of Christ cometh bathed in Peace, wherefrom we must learn to cease from strife, whether against ourselves or against one another, or against the angels, and instead to labour together even with the angels for the accomplishment of God's Will, in accordance with the Providential Purpose of Jesus Who worketh all things in all and maketh Peace, unutterable and foreordained from Eternity, and reconcileth us to Himself, and, in Himself, to the Father. Concerning these supernatural gifts enough hath been said in the Outlines of Divinity with confirmation drawn from the holy testimony of the Scriptures.

6. Now, since thou hast, on a previous occasion, sent me an epistle asking what I mean by Very Being Itself, Very Life Itself, Very Wisdom Itself: and since thou saidst thou couldst not understand why sometimes I call God |Life| and sometimes the |Fount of Life|: I have thought it necessary, holy man of God, to solve for thee this question also which hath arisen between us. In the first place, to repeat again what hath often been said before, there is no contradiction between calling God |Life| or |Power| and |Fount of Life, Peace, or Power.| The former titles are derived from forms of existence, and especially from the primary forms, and are applied to Him because all existences come forth from Him; the latter titles are given Him because in a superessential manner He transcends all things, even the primary existences. |But,| thou wilt say, |what mean we at all by Very Being and Very Life and those things to which we ascribe an Ultimate Existence derived primarily from God?| We reply as follows: |This matter is not crooked, but straightforward, and the explanation thereof is easy. The Very Existence underlying the existence of all things is not some Divine or Angelic Being (for only That Which is Super-Essential can be the Principle, the Being and the Cause of all Existences and of Very Existence Itself) nor is It any life-producing Deity other than the Supra-Divine Life which is the Cause of all living things and of Very Life, nor, in short, is It identical with any such originative and creative Essences and Substances of things as men in their rash folly call |gods| and |creators| of the world, though neither had these men themselves any true and proper knowledge of such beings nor had their fathers. In fact, such beings did not exist. Our meaning is different: |Very Being,| |Very Life,| |Very Godhead| are titles which in an Originating Divine and Causal sense we apply to the One Transcendent Origin and Cause of all things, but we also apply the terms in a derivative sense to the Providential Manifestations of Power derived from the Unparticipated God, i. e. to the Infusion of Very Being, Very Life, and Very Godhead, which so transmutes the creatures where each, according to its nature, participates therein, that these obtain the qualities and names: |Existent,| |Living,| |Divinely Possessed,| etc. Hence the Good God is called the Fount, first, of the Very Primaries: then, of those creatures which share completely therein; then, of those which share partially therein. But it needs not to say more concerning this matter, since some of our Divine Teachers have already treated thereof. They give the title |Fount of Very Goodness and Deity| to Him that exceeds both Goodness and Deity; and they give the name of |Very Goodness and Deity| to the Gift which, coming forth from God, bestows both Goodness and Deity upon the creatures; and they give the name of |Very Beauty| to the outpouring of Very Beauty; and in the same manner they speak of |complete Beauty| and |partial Beauty,| and of things completely beautiful and things beautiful in part. And they deal in the same way with all other qualities which are, or can be, similarly employed to signify Providential Manifestations and Virtues derived from the Transcendent God through that abundant outpouring, where such qualities proceed and overflow from Him. So is the Creator of all things literally beyond them all, and His Super-Essential and Supernatural Being altogether transcends the creatures, whatever their essence and nature.

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