TABLE OF CONTENTS
The works of Dionysius the Areopagite
On Divine Names
Concerning Good, Light, Beauty, Love, Ecstasy, Jealousy, and that the Evil is neither existent, nor from existent, nor in things being.
BE it so then. Let us come to the appellation “Good,” already mentioned in our discourse, which the Theologians ascribe pre-eminently and exclusively to the super-Divine Deity, as I conjecture, by calling the supremely Divine Subsistence, Goodness; and because the Good, as essential Good, by Its being, extends Its Goodness to all things that be.
For, even as our sun—not as calculating or choosing, but by its very being, enlightens all things able
to partake of its light in their own degree—so too the Good—as superior to a sun, as the archetypepar excellence, is above an obscure image—by Its very existence sends to all things that be, the rays of Its whole goodness, according to their capacity. By reason of these (rays) subsisted all the intelligible and intelligent essences and powers and energies. By reason of these they are, and have their life, continuous and undiminished, purified from all corruption and death and matter, and generation; and separated from the unstable and fluctuating and vacillating mutability, and are conceived of as incorporeal and immaterial, and as minds they think in a manner supermundane, and are illuminated as to the reasons of things, in a manner peculiar to themselves; and they again convey to their kindred spirits things appropriate to them; and they have their abiding from Goodness; and thence comes to them stability and consistence and protection, and sanctuary of good things; and whilst aspiring to It, they have both being and good being; and being conformed to It, as is attainable, they are both patterns of good, and impart to those after them, as the Divine Law directs, the gifts which have passed through to themselves from the Good.
Thence come to them the supermundane orders, the unions amongst themselves, the mutual penetrations, the unconfused distinctions, the powers elevating the inferior to the superior, the providences
of the more exalted for those below them; the guardings of things pertaining to each power; and unbroken convolutions around themselves; the identities and sublimities around the aspiration after the Good; and whatever is said in our Treatise concerning the angelic properties and orders. Further also, whatever things belong to the heavenly Hierarchy, the purifications befitting angels, the supermundane illuminations, and the things perfecting the whole angelic perfection, are from the all-creative and fontal Goodness; from which was given to them the form of Goodness, and the revealing in themselves the hidden Goodness, and that angels are, as it were, heralds of the Divine silence, and project, as it were, luminous lights revealing Him Who is in secret. Further, after these—the sacred and holy minds—the souls, and whatever is good in souls is by reason of the super-good Goodness—the fact that they are intellectual—that they have essential life—indestructible—the very being itself—and that they are able, whilst elevated themselves to the angelic lives, to be conducted by them as good guides to the good Origin of all good things, and to become partakers of the illuminations, thence bubbling forth, according to the capacity of each, and to participate in the goodlike gift, as they are able, and whatever else we have enumerated in our Treatise concerning the soul. But also, if one may be permitted to speak of the irrational souls, or living creatures, such as cleave the air, and such as walk on earth, and such as creep along earth, and those whose life is in waters,
or amphibious, and such as live concealed under earth, and burrow within it, and in one word, such as have the sensible soul or life, even all these have their soul and life, by reason of the Good. Moreover, all plants have their growing and moving life from the Good; and even soulless and lifeless substance is by reason of the Good, and by reason of It, has inherited its substantial condition.
But, if the Good is above all things being, as indeed it is, and formulates the formless, even in Itself alone, both the non-essential is a pre-eminence of essence, and the non-living is a superior life, and the mindless a superior wisdom, and whatever is in the Good is of a superlative formation of the formless, and if one may venture to say so, even the nonexistent itself aspires to the Good above all things existing, and struggles somehow to be even itself in the Good,—the really Superessential—to the exclusion of all things.
But what slipped from our view in the midst of our discourse, the Good is Cause of the celestial movements in their commencements and terminations, of their not increasing, not diminishing, and completely changeless, course31, and of the noiseless movements, if one may so speak, of the vast celestial transit, and of the astral orders, and the beauties and
lights, and stabilities, and the progressive swift motion of certain stars, and of the periodical return of the two luminaries, which the Oracles call “great,” from the same to the same quarter, after which our days and nights being marked, and months and years being measured, mark and number and arrange and comprehend the circular movements of time and things temporal. But, what would any one say of the very ray of the sun? For the light is from the Good, and an image of the Goodness, wherefore also the Good is celebrated under the name of Light; as in a portrait the original is manifested. For, as the goodness of the Deity, beyond all, permeates from the highest and most honoured substances even to the lowest, and yet is above all, neither the foremost outstripping its superiority, nor the things below eluding its grasp, but it both enlightens all that are capable, and forms and enlivens, and grasps, and perfects, and is measure of things existing, and age, and number, and order, and grasp, and cause, and end; so, too, the brilliant likeness of the Divine Goodness, this our great sun, wholly bright and ever luminous, as a most distant echo of the Good, both enlightens whatever is capable of participating in it, and possesses the light in the highest degree of purity, unfolding to the visible universe, above and beneath, the splendours of its own rays, and if anything does not participate in them, this is not owing to the inertness or deficiency of its distribution of light, but is owing to the inaptitude for light-reception of the things which do not unfold
themselves for the participation of light. No doubt the ray passing over many things in such condition, enlightens the things after them, and there is no visible thing which it does not reach, with the surpassing greatness of its own splendour. Further also, it contributes to the generation of sensible bodies, and moves them to life, and nourishes, and increases, and perfects, and purifies and renews; and the light is both measure and number of hours, days, and all our time. For it is the light itself, even though it was then without form, which the divine Moses declared to have fixed that first Triad32 of our days. And, just as Goodness turns all things to Itself, and is chief collector of things scattered, as One-springing and One-making Deity, and all things aspire to It, as Source and Bond and End, and it is the Good, as the Oracles say, from Which all things subsisted, and are being brought into being by an all-perfect Cause; and in Which all things consisted, as guarded and governed in an all-controlling route; and to Which all things are turned, as to their own proper end; and to Which all aspire —the intellectual and rational indeed, through knowledge, and the sensible through the senses, and those bereft of sensible perception by the innate movement of the aspiration after life, and those without life, and merely being, by their aptitude for mere substantial participation; after the same method of its illustrious original, the light also collects and turns to itself all things existing—things with sight
—things with motion—things enlightened—things heated—things wholly held together by its brilliant splendours—whence also, Helios, because it makes all things altogether (ἀολλῆ), and collects things scattered. And all creatures, endowed with sensible perceptions, aspire to it, as aspiring either to see, or to be moved and enlightened, and heated, and to be wholly held together by the light. By no means do I affirm, after the statement of antiquity, that as being God and Creator of the universe, the sun, by itself, governs the luminous world, but that the invisible things of God are clearly seen from the foundation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Deity.
But we have spoken of these things in our Symbolical Theology. Let us now then celebrate the spiritual Name of Light, under Which we contemplate the Good, and declare that He, the Good, is called spiritual33 Light, on the ground that He fills every supercelestial mind with spiritual light, and expels all ignorance and error from all souls in which they may be, and imparts to them all sacred light, and cleanses their mental vision from the mist which envelops them, from ignorance, and stirs up and unfolds those enclosed by the great weight of darkness, and imparts, at first, a measured radiance; then, whilst they taste, as it were, the light, and
desire it more, more fully gives Itself, and more abundantly enlightens them, because “they have loved much,” and ever elevates them to things in advance, as befits the analogy of each for aspiration.
The Good then above every light is called spiritual Light, as fontal ray, and stream of light welling over, shining upon every mind, above, around34, and in the world, from its fulness, and renewing their whole mental powers, and embracing them all by its over-shadowing; and being above all by its exaltation; and in one word, by embracing and having previously and pre-eminently the whole sovereignty of the light-dispensing faculty, as being source of light and above all light, and by comprehending in itself all things intellectual, and all things rational, and making them one altogether. For as ignorance puts asunder those who have gone astray, so the presence of the spiritual light is collective and unifying of those being enlightened, both perfecting and further turning them towards the true Being, by turning them from the many notions and collecting the various views, or, to speak more correctly, fancies, into one true, pure and uniform knowledge, and by filling them with light, one and unifying.
This Good is celebrated by the sacred theologians, both as beautiful and as Beauty, and as Love, and as
Beloved; and all the other Divine Names which beseem the beautifying and highly-favoured comeliness. But the beautiful and Beauty are not to be divided, as regards the Cause which has embraced the whole in one. For, with regard to all created things, by dividing them into participations and participants, we call beautiful that which participates in Beauty; but beauty, the participation of the beautifying Cause of all the beautiful things. But, the superessential Beautiful is called Beauty, on account of the beauty communicated from Itself to all beautiful things, in a manner appropriate to each, and as Cause of the good harmony and brightness of all things which flashes like light to all the beautifying distributions of its fontal ray, and as calling (καλοῦν) all things to Itself (whence also it is called Beauty) (κάλλος), and as collecting all in all to Itself. (And it is called) Beautiful, as (being) at once beautiful and super-beautiful, and always being under the same conditions and in the same manner beautiful, and neither coming into being nor perishing, neither waxing nor waning; neither in this beautiful, nor in that ugly, nor at one time beautiful, and at another not; nor in relation to one thing beautiful, and in relation to another ugly, nor here, and not there, as being beautiful to some, and not beautiful to others; but as Itself, in Itself, with Itself, uniform, always being beautiful, and as having beforehand in Itself pre-eminently the fontal beauty of everything beautiful. For, by the simplex and supernatural nature of all beautiful things, all beauty, and everything
beautiful, pre-existed uniquely as to Cause. From this Beautiful (comes) being to all existing things,—that each is beautiful in its own proper order; and by reason of the Beautiful are the adaptations of all things, and friendships, and inter-communions, and by the Beautiful all things are made one, and the Beautiful is origin of all things, as a creating Cause, both by moving the whole and holding it together by the love of its own peculiar Beauty; and end of all things, and beloved, as final Cause (for all things exist for the sake of the Beautiful) and exemplary (Cause), because all things are determined according to It. Wherefore, also, the Beautiful is identical with the Good, because all things aspire to the Beautiful and Good, on every account, and there is no existing thing which does not participate in the Beautiful and the Good. Yea, reason will dare to say even this, that even the non-existing participates in the Beautiful and Good. For then even it is beautiful and good, when in God it is celebrated superessentially to the exclusion of all. This, the one Good and Beautiful, is uniquely Cause of all the many things beautiful and good. From this are all the substantial beginnings of things existing, the unions, the distinctions, the identities, the diversities, the similarities, the dissimilarities, the communions of the contraries, the commingling of things unified, the providences of the superior, the mutual cohesions of those of the same rank; the attentions of the more needy, the protecting and immoveable abidings and stabilities of their whole selves and, on the other hand, the
communions of all things among all, in a manner peculiar to each, and adaptations and unmingled friendships and harmonies of the whole, the blendings in the whole, and the undissolved connections of existing things, the never-failing successions of the generations, all rests and movements, of the minds, of the souls, of the bodies. For, that which is established above every rest, and every movement, and moves each thing in the law of its own being to its proper movement, is a rest and movement to all.
Now, the divine minds35 are said to be moved circularly indeed, by being united to the illuminations of the Beautiful and Good, without beginning and without end; but in a direct line, whenever they advance to the succour of a subordinate, by accomplishing all things directly; but spirally, because even in providing for the more indigent, they remain fixedly, in identity, around the good and beautiful Cause of their identity, ceaselessly dancing around.
Further, there is a movement of soul, circular indeed,—the entrance into itself from things without, and the unified convolution of its intellectual powers, bequeathing to it inerrancy, as it were, in a sort of circle, and turning and collecting itself, from the many things without, first to itself, then, as having become single, uniting with the uniquely unified powers, and thus conducting to the Beautiful and
Good, which is above all things being, and One and the Same, and without beginning and without end. But a soul is moved spirally, in so far as it is illuminated, as to the divine kinds of knowledge, in a manner proper to itself, not intuitively and at once, but logically and discursively; and, as it were, by mingled and relative operations; but in a straight line, when, not entering into itself, and being moved by unique intuition (for this, as I said, is the circular), but advancing to things around itself, and from things without, it is, as it were, conducted from certain symbols, varied and multiplied, to the simple and unified contemplations.
Of these three motions then in everything perceptible here below, and much more of the abidings and repose and fixity of each, the Beautiful and Good, which is above all repose and movement, is Cause and Bond and End; by reason of which, and from which, and in which, and towards which, and for sake of which, is every repose and movement. For, both from It and through It is both Essence and every life, and both of mind and soul and every nature, the minutiae, the equalities, the magnitudes, all the standards and the analogies of beings, and harmonies and compositions; the entireties, the parts, every one thing, and multitude, the connections of parts, the unions of every multitude, the perfections of the entireties, the quality, the weight, the size, the infinitude, the compounds,
the distinctions, every infinitude, every term, all the bounds, the orders, the pre-eminences, the elements, the forms, every essence, every power, every energy, every condition, every sensible perception, every reason, every conception, every contact, every science, every union, and in one word, all things existing are from the Beautiful and Good, and in the Beautiful and Good, and turn themselves to the Beautiful and Good.
Moreover, all things whatever, which are and come to being, are and come to being by reason of the Beautiful and Good; and to It all things look, and by It are moved and held together, and for the sake of It, and by reason of It, and in It, is every source exemplary, final, creative, formative, elemental, and in one word, every beginning, every bond, every term, or to speak summarily, all things existing are from the Beautiful and Good; and all things non-existing are superessentially in the Beautiful and Good; and it is of all, beginning and term, above beginning and above term, because from It, and through It, and in It, and to It, are all things, as says the Sacred Word.
By all things, then, the Beautiful and Good is desired and beloved and cherished; and, by reason of It, and for the sake of It, the less love the greater suppliantly; and those of the same rank, their fellows brotherly; and the greater, the less considerately; and these severally love the things of themselves continuously; and all things by aspiring to the Beautiful and Good, do and wish all things whatever
they do and wish. Further, it may be boldly said with truth, that even the very Author of all things, by reason of overflowing Goodness, loves all, makes all, perfects all, sustains all, attracts all; and even the Divine Love is Good of Good, by reason of the Good. For Love itself, the benefactor of things that be, pre-existing overflowingly in the Good, did not permit itself to remain unproductive in itself, but moved itself to creation36, as befits the overflow which is generative of all.
And let no one fancy that we honour the Name of Love beyond the Oracles, for it is, in my opinion, irrational and stupid not to cling to the force of the meaning, but to the mere words; and this is not the characteristic of those who have wished to comprehend things Divine, but of those who receive empty sounds and keep the same just at the ears from passing through from outside, and are not willing to know what such a word signifies, and in what way one ought to distinctly represent it, through other words of the same force and more explanatory, but who specially affect sounds and signs without meaning, and syllables, and words unknown, which do not pass through to the mental part of their soul, but buzz without, around their lips and ears, as though it were not permitted to signify the number four, by twice two, or straight lines by direct lines, or motherland by fatherland, or any other, which signify the self-same thing, by many parts of speech.
We ought to know, according to the correct account, that we use sounds, and syllables, and phrases, and descriptions, and words, on account of the sensible perceptions; since when our soul is moved by the intellectual energies to the things contemplated, the sensible perceptions by aid of sensible objects are superfluous; just as also the intellectual powers, when the soul, having become godlike, throws itself, through a union beyond knowledge, against the rays of the unapproachable light, by sightless efforts. But, when the mind strives to be moved upwards, through objects of sense, to contemplative conceptions, the clearer interpretations are altogether preferable to the sensible perceptions, and the more definite descriptions are things more distinct than things seen; since when objects near are not made clear to the sensible perceptions, neither will these perceptions be well able to present the things perceived to the mind. But that we may not seem, in speaking thus, to be pushing aside the Divine Oracles, let those who libel the Name of Love (Ἔρωτος) hear them. “Be in love with It,” they say, “and It will keep thee—Rejoice over It, and It will exalt thee—Honour It, in order that It may encompass thee,”—and whatever else is sung respecting Love, in the Word of God.
And yet it seemed to some of our sacred expounders that the Name of Love is more Divine than that of loving-kindness (ἀγάπης). But even the
Divine Ignatius37 writes, “my own Love (ἔρως) is crucified;” and in the introductions to the Oracles you will find a certain One saying of the Divine Wisdom, “1 became enamoured of her Beauty.” So that we, certainly, need not be afraid of this Name of Love, nor let any alarming statement about it terrify us. For the theologians seem to me to treat as equivalent the name of Loving-kindness, and that of Love; and on this ground, to attribute, by preference, the veritable Love, to things Divine, because of the misplaced prejudice of such men as these. For, since the veritable Love is sung of in a sense befitting God, not by us only, but also by the Oracles themselves, the multitude, not having comprehended the Oneness of the Divine Name of Love, fell away, as might be expected of them, to the divided and corporeal and sundered, seeing it is not a real love, but a shadow, or rather a falling from the veritable Love. For the Oneness of the Divine and one Love is incomprehensible to the multitude, wherefore also, as seeming a very hard name to the multitude, it is assigned to the Divine Wisdom, for the purpose of leading back and restoring them to the knowledge of the veritable Love; and for their liberation from the difficulty respecting it. And again, as regards ourselves, where it happened often that men of an earthly character imagined something out of place, (there is used) what appears more euphonius. A certain one says, “Thy
affection fell upon me, as the affection of the women.” For those who have rightly listened to things Divine, the name of Loving-kindness and of Love is placed by the holy theologians in the same category throughout the Divine revelations, and this is of a power unifying, and binding together, and mingling pre-eminently in the Beautiful and Good; pre-existing by reason of the beautiful and good, and imparted from the beautiful and good, by reason of the Beautiful and Good; and sustaining things of the same rank, within their mutual coherence, but moving the first to forethought for the inferior, and attaching the inferior to the superior by respect.
But Divine Love is extatic, not permitting (any) to be lovers of themselves, but of those beloved. They shew this too, the superior by becoming mindful of the inferior; and the equals by their mutual coherence; and the inferior, by a more divine respect towards things superior. Wherefore also, Paul the Great, when possessed by the Divine Love, and participating in its extatic power, says with inspired lips, “I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.” As a true lover, and beside himself, as he says, to Almighty God, and not living the life of himself, but the life of the Beloved, as a life excessively esteemed. One might make bold to say even this, on behalf of truth, that the very Author of all things, by the beautiful and good love of everything, through an overflow of His loving goodness, becomes out of Himself, by His providences for all existing things,
and is, as it were, cozened by goodness and affection and love, and is led down from the Eminence above all, and surpassing all, to being in all, as befits an extatic superessential power centred in Himself. Wherefore, those skilled in Divine things call Him even Jealous, as (being) that vast good Love towards all beings, and as rousing His loving inclination to jealousy,—and as proclaiming Himself Jealous—to Whom the things desired are objects of jealousy, and as though the objects of His providential care were objects of jealousy for Him. And, in short, the lovable is of the Beautiful and Good, and Love preexisted both in the Beautiful and Good, and on account of the Beautiful and Good, is and takes Being.
But what do the theologians mean when at one time they call Him Love, and Loving-kindness, and at another, Loved and Esteemed? For, of the one, He is Author and, as it were, Producer and Father; but the other, He Himself is; and by one He is moved, but by the other He moves; or (when they say), that He Himself is Procurer and Mover of Himself and by Himself. In this sense, they call Him esteemed and loved, as Beautiful and Good: but again Love and Loving-kindness, as being at once moving and conducting Power to Himself;—the alone—self Beautiful and Good, by reason of Itself, and, being, as it were, a manifestation of Itself through Itself, and a good Progression of the
surpassing union, and a loving Movement, simplex, self-moved, self-operating, pre-existing in the Good, and from the Good bubbling forth to things existing, and again returning to the Good, in which also the Divine Love indicates distinctly Its own unending and unbeginning, as it were a sort of everlasting circle whirling round in unerring combination, by reason of the Good, from the Good, and in the Good, and to the Good, and ever advancing and remaining and returning in the same and throughout the same. And these things our illustrious initiator divinely set forth throughout His Hymns of Love, of which we may appropriately make mention, and, as it were, place as a certain sacred chapter to our treatise concerning Love.
Extract from the “Hymns of Love” by the most holy Hierotheus:—
Love, whether we speak of Divine, or Angelic, or intelligent, or psychical, or physical, let us regard as a certain unifying and combining power, moving the superior to forethought for the inferior, and the equals to a mutual fellowship, and lastly, the inferior to respect towards the higher and superior.
Of the same, from the same Erotic Hymns.
Since we have arranged the many loves from the one, by telling, in due order, what are the
kinds of knowledge and powers of the mundane and supermundane loves; over which, according to the defined purpose of the discourse, the orders and ranks of the mental and intelligible loves preside; next after38 which are placed the self-existent intelligible and divine, over the really beautiful loves there which have been appropriately celebrated by us; now, on the other hand, by restoring all back to the One and enfolded Love, and Father of them all, let us collect and gather them together from the many, by contracting It into two Powers entirely lovable, over which rules and precedes altogether the Cause, resistless from Its universal Love beyond all, and to which is elevated, according to the nature of each severally, the whole love from all existing things.
Of the same, from the same Hymns of Love.
Come then, whilst collecting these again into one, let us say, that it is a certain simplex power, which of itself moves to a sort of unifying combination from the Good, to the lowest of things existing, and from that again in due order, circling round again, through all to the Good from Itself, and through Itself and by Itself, and rolling back to Itself always in the same way.
And yet, any one might say, “if the Beautiful and Good is beloved and desired, and esteemed
by all (for even that which is non-existing desires It, as we have said, and struggles how to be in It; and Itself is the form-giving, even of things without form, and by It alone, even the non-existing is said to be, and is superessentially)—“How is it that the host of demons do not desire the Beautiful and Good, but, through their earthly proclivities, having fallen away from the angelic identity, as regards the desire of the Good, have become cause of all evils both to themselves and to all the others who are said to be corrupted? and why, in short, when the tribes of demons have been brought into being from the Good, are they not like the Good? or how, after being a good production from the Good, were they changed? and what is that which depraved them, and in short, what is evil? and from what source did it spring? and in which of things existing is it? and how did He, Who is Good, will to bring it into being? and how, when He willed it, was He able? And if evil is from another cause, what other cause is there for things existing, beside the Good? Further, how, when there is a Providence, is there evil, either coming into existence at all, or not destroyed? And how does any existing thing desire it, in comparison with the Good?
Such a statement as this might be alleged by way of objection. We, however, on our part, will
pray the objector to look to the truth of the facts, and will make bold to say this first. The Evil is not from the Good, and if it is from the Good, it is not the Evil. For, it is not the nature of fire to make cold, nor of good to bring into being things not good; and if all things that be are from the Good (for to produce and to preserve is natural to the Good, but to destroy and to dissolve, to the Evil), there is no existing thing from the Evil, nor will the Evil itself be, if it should be evil even to itself. And, if it be not so, the Evil is not altogether evil, but has some portion of the Good, in consequence of which it wholly is. Now, if the things existing desire the Beautiful and Good, and whatever they do, they do for the sake of that which seems good, and every purpose of things existing has the Good for its beginning and end (for nothing looking to the Evil qua evil, does what it does), how shall the Evil be in things existing; or, wholly being, how has it been seduced from such a good yearning? Also if all the things existing are from the Good, and the Good is above all things existing, then there is existing in the Good even the non-existing; but the Evil is not existing; and, if this be not the case, it is not altogether evil, nor non-existing, for the absolutely non-existing will be nothing, unless it should be spoken of as in the Good superessentially. The Good, then, will be fixed far above both the absolutely existing and the non-existing; but the Evil is neither in things existing, nor in things non-existing, but, being further distant from the Good than
the non-existing itself, it is alien and more unsubstantial. Where then is the Evil? some one may perchance say. For if the Evil is not,—virtue and vice are the same, both universally and particularly. Or, not even that which opposes itself to virtue will be evil, and yet sobriety and license, and righteousness and unrighteousness, are contraries. And I, by no means, speak in reference to the just and unjust man, and the temperate and intemperate man; but also, long before the difference between the just man and his opposite is made manifest externally, in the very soul itself the vices stand altogether apart from the virtues, and the passions rebel against the reason; and from this we must grant some evil contrary to the Good. For the Good is not contrary to Itself, but as the product from one Source and one Cause, It rejoices in fellowship and unity and friendship. Nor yet is the lesser good opposed to the greater, for neither is the less heat or cold opposed to the greater. The Evil40 then is in things existing, and is existing, and is opposed, and is in opposition to, the Good; and if it is the destruction of things existing, this does not expel the Evil from existence; but it will be, both itself existing, and generator of things existing. Does not frequently the destruction of one become birth of another? and the Evil will be contributing to the completion of the whole, and supplying through itself non-imperfection to the whole.
Now to all this true reason will answer, that the Evil qua evil makes no single essence or birth, but only, as far as it can, pollutes and destroys the subsistence of things existing. But, if any one says, that it is productive of being, and that by destruction of one it gives birth to another, we must truly answer, that not qua destruction it gives birth, but qua destruction and evil, it destroys and pollutes only, but it becomes birth and essence, by reason of the Good; and the Evil will be destruction indeed, by reason of itself; but producer of birth by reason of the Good; and qua evil, it is neither existing, nor productive of things existing; but, by reason of the Good, it is both existing and good-existing, and productive of things good. Yea, rather (for neither will the same by itself be both good and evil, nor the self-same power be of itself destruction and birth—neither as self-acting power, nor as self-acting destruction), the absolutely Evil is neither existing nor good, nor generative, nor productive of things being and good; but the Good in whatever things it may be perfectly engendered, makes them perfect and pure, and thoroughly good,—but the things which partake of it in a less degree are both imperfectly good, and impure, by reason of the lack of the Good. And (thus) the Evil altogether, is not, nor is good, nor good producing; but that which approaches more or less near the Good will be proportionately good; since the All-perfect Goodness, in passing through all, not only passes to the
All-good beings around Itself, but extends Itself to the most remote, by being present to some thoroughly, to others subordinately, but to the rest, in the most remote degree, as each existing thing is able to participate in It. And some things, indeed, participate in the Good entirely, whilst others are deprived of It, in a more or less degree, but others possess a more obscure participation in the Good; and to the rest, the Good is present as a most distant echo. For if the Good were not present according to the capacity of each, the most Divine and honoured would occupy the rank of the lowest. And how were it possible that all should participate in the Good uniformly, when not all are in the same way adapted to its whole participation?
Now, this is the exceeding greatness of the power of the Good, that It empowers, both things deprived, and the deprivation of Itself, with a view to the entire participation of itself. And, if one must make bold to speak the truth, even the things fighting against It, both are, and are able to fight, by Its power. Yea rather, in order that I may speak summarily, all things which are, in so far as they are, both are good, and from the Good; but, in so far as they are deprived of the Good, are neither good, nor do they exist. For, even with regard to the other conditions, such as heat or cold, there are things which have been heated, and when the heat has departed from them, many of them are deprived both of life and intelligence (now Almighty God is outside essence, and is, superessentially), and, in
one word, with regard to the rest, even when the condition has departed, or has not become completely developed, things exist, and are able to subsist; but that which is every way deprived of the Good, in no way or manner ever was, or is, or will be, nor is able to be. For example, the licentious man, even if he have been deprived of the Good, as regards his irrational lust, in this respect he neither is, nor desires realities, but nevertheless he participates in the Good, in his very obscure echo of union and friendship. And, even Anger participates in the Good, by the very movement and desire to direct and turn the seeming evils to the seeming good. And the very man, who desires the very worst life, as wholly desirous of life and that which seems best to him, by the very fact of desiring, and desiring life, and looking to a best life, participates in the Good. And, if you should entirely take away the Good, there will be neither essence, nor life, nor yearning, nor movement, nor anything else. So that the fact, that birth is born from destruction, is not a power of evil, but a presence of a lesser good, even as disease is a defect of order, not total—for, if this should be, not even the disease itself will continue to exist, but the disease remains and is, by having the lowest possible order of essence, and in this continues to exist as a parasite. For that which is altogether deprived of the Good, is neither existing, nor in things existing; but the compound, by reason of the Good in things existing, and in consequence of this in things
existing, is also existing in so far as it participates in the Good. Yea rather, all things existing will so far be, more or less, as they participate in the Good; for, even as respects the self-existing Being, that which in no ways is at all, will not be at all; but that which partially is, but partially is not, in so far as it has fallen from the ever Being, is not; but so far as it has participated in the Being, so far it is, and its whole being, and its non-being, is sustained and preserved. And the Evil,—that which has altogether fallen from the Good—will be good, neither in the more nor in the less; but the partially good, and partially not good, fight no doubt against a certain good, but not against the whole Good, and, even it is sustained by the participation of the Good, and the Good gives essence even to the privation of Itself, wholly by the participation of Itself; for, when the Good has entirely departed, there will be neither anything altogether good, nor compound, nor absolute evil. For, if the Evil is an imperfect good, (then) by the entire absence of the Good, both the imperfect and the perfect Good will be absent; and then only will be, and be seen, the Evil, when on the one hand, it is an evil to those things to which it was opposed, and, on the other, is expelled from other things on account of their goodness. For, it is impossible that the same things, under the same conditions in every respect, should fight against each other. The Evil then is not an actual thing.
But neither is the Evil in things existing. For, if all things existing are from the Good, and the Good is in all things existing, and embraces all, either the Evil will not be in things existing, or it will be in the Good; and certainly it will not be in the Good, for neither is cold in fire, nor to do evil in Him, Who turns even the evil to good. But, if it shall be, how will the Evil be in the Good? If forsooth, from Itself, it is absurd and impossible. For it is not possible, as the infallibility of the Oracles affirms, that a “good tree should bring forth evil fruits,” nor certainly, vice versa. But, if not from Itself, it is evident that it will be from another source and cause. For, either the Evil will be from the Good, or the Good from the Evil; or, if this be not possible, both the Good and the Evil will be from another source and cause, for no dual is source, but a Unit will be source of every dual. Further, it is absurd that two entirely contraries should proceed and be from one and the same, and that the self-same source should be, not simplex and unique, but divided and double, and contrary to itself, and be changed; and certainly it is not possible that there should be two contrary sources of things existing, and that these should be contending in each other, and in the whole. For, if this were granted, even Almighty God will not be in repose, nor free from disquietude, if there were indeed something bringing disturbance even to Him. Then,
everything will be in disorder, and always fighting; and yet the Good distributes friendship to all existing things, and is celebrated by the holy theologians, both as very Peace, and Giver of Peace. Wherefore, things good are both friendly and harmonious, every one, and products of one life, and marshalled to one good; and kind, and similar, and affable to each other. So that the Evil is not in God, and the Evil is not inspired by God. But neither is the Evil from God, for, either He is not good, or He does good, and produces good things; and, not once in a way, and some; and at another time not, and not all; for this would argue transition and change, even as regards the very Divinest thing of all, the Cause. But, if in God, the Good is sustaining essence, God, when changing from the Good, will be sometimes Being, and sometimes not Being. But, if He has the Good by participation, He will then have it from another; and sometimes He will have it, and sometimes not. The Evil, then, is not from God, nor in God, neither absolutely nor occasionally.
But neither is the Evil in Angels; for if the good-like angel proclaims the goodness of God, being by participation in a secondary degree that which the Announced is in the first degree as Cause, the Angel is a likeness of Almighty God—a manifestation of the unmanifested light—a mirror untarnished—most transparent—without flaw—pure—without spot—
receiving, if I may so speak, the full beauty of the Good-stamped likeness of God—and without stain, shedding forth undefiledly in itself, so far as is possible, the goodness of the Silence, which dwells in innermost shrines. The Evil, then, is not even in Angels. But by punishing sinners are they evil? By this rule, then, the punishers of transgressors are evil, and those of the priests who shut out the profane from the Divine Mysteries. And yet, the being punished is not an evil, but the becoming worthy of punishment; nor the being deservedly expelled from Holy things, but the becoming accursed of God, and unholy and unfit for things un-defiled.
But, neither are the demons evil by nature; for, if they are evil by nature, neither are they from the Good, nor amongst things existing; nor, in fact, did they change from good, being by nature, and always, evil. Then, are they evil to themselves or to others? If to themselves, they also destroy themselves; but if to others, how destroying, or what destroying?—Essence, or power, or energy? If indeed Essence, in the first place, it is not contrary to nature; for they do not destroy things indestructible by nature, but things receptive of destruction. Then, neither is this an evil for every one, and in every case; but, not even any existing thing is destroyed, in so far as it is essence and nature, but by the defect of nature’s order, the
principle of harmony and proportion lacks the power to remain as it was. But the lack of strength is not complete, for the complete lack of power takes away even the disease and the subject; and such a disease will be even a destruction of itself; so that, such a thing is not an evil, but a defective good, for that which has no part of the Good will not be amongst things which exist. And with regard to the destruction of power and energy the principle is the same. Then, how are the demons, seeing they come into being from God, evil? For the Good brings forth and sustains good things. Yet they are called evil, some one may say. But not as they are (for they are from the Good, and obtained a good being), but, as they are not, by not having had strength, as the Oracles affirm, “to keep their first estate.” For in what, tell me, do we affirm that the demons become evil, except in the ceasing in the habit and energy for good things Divine? Otherwise, if the demons are evil by nature, they are always evil; yet evil is unstable. Therefore, if they are always in the same condition, they are not evil; for to be ever the same is a characteristic of the Good. But, if they are not always evil, they are not evil by nature, but by wavering from the angelic good qualities. And they are not altogether without part in the good, in so far as they both are, and live and think, and in one word—as there is a sort of movement of aspiration in them. But they are said to be evil, by reason of their weakness as regards their action according to nature. The evil then, in them, is
a turning aside and a stepping out of things befitting themselves, and a missing of aim, and imperfection and impotence, and a weakness and departure, and falling away from the power which preserves their integrity in them. Otherwise, what is evil in demons? An irrational anger—a senseless desire—a headlong fancy.—But these, even if they are in demons, are not altogether, nor in every respect, nor in themselves alone, evils. For even with regard to other living creatures, not the possession of these, but the loss, is both destruction to the creature, and an evil. But the possession saves, and makes to be, the nature of the living creature which possesses them. The tribe of demons then is not evil, so far as it is according to nature, but so far as it is not; and the whole good which was given to them was not changed, but themselves fell from the whole good given. And the angelic gifts which were given to them, we by no means affirm that they were changed, but they exist, and are complete, and all luminous, although the demons themselves do not see, through having blunted their powers of seeing good. So far as they are, they are both from the Good, and are good, and aspire to the Beautiful and the Good, by aspiring to the realities, Being, and Life, and Thought; and by the privation and departure and declension from the good things befitting them, they are called evil, and are evil as regards what they are not: and by aspiring to the non-existent, they aspire to the Evil.
But does some one say that souls are evil? If it be that they meet with evil things providentially, and with a view to their preservation, this is not an evil, but a good, and from the Good, Who makes even the evil good. But, if we say that souls become evil, in what respect do they become evil, except in the failure of their good habits and energies; and, by reason of their own lack of strength, missing their aim and tripping? For we also say, that the air around us becomes dark by failure and absence of light, and yet the light itself is always light, that which enlightens even the darkness. The Evil, then, is neither in demons nor in us, as an existent evil, but as a failure and dearth of the perfection of our own proper goods.
But neither is the Evil in irrational creatures, for if you should take away anger and lust, and the other things which we speak of, and which are not absolutely evil in their own nature, the lion having lost his boldness and fierceness will not be a lion; and the dog, when he has become gentle to every body, will not be a dog, since to keep guard is a dog’s duty, and to admit those of the household, but to drive away the stranger. So the fact that nature is not destroyed is not an evil, but a destruction of nature, weakness, and failure of the natural habitudes and energies and powers. And, if all
things through generation in time have their perfection, the imperfect is not altogether contrary to universal nature.
But neither is the Evil in nature throughout, for if all the methods of nature are from universal nature, there is nothing contrary to it. But in each individual (nature) one thing will be according to nature, and another not according to nature. For one thing is contrary to nature in one, and another in another, and that which is according to nature to one, is to the other, contrary to nature. But malady of nature, that which is the contrary to nature, is the deprivation of things of nature. So that there is not an evil nature; but this is evil to nature, the inability to accomplish the things of one’s proper nature.
But, neither is the Evil in bodies. For deformity and disease are a defect of form, and a deprivation of order. And this is not altogether an evil, but a less good; for if a dissolution of beauty and form and order become complete, the body itself will be gone. But that the body is not cause of baseness to the soul is evident, from the fact that baseness continues to coexist even without a body, as in demons. For this is evil to minds and souls and bodies, (viz.) the weakness and declension from the habitude of their own proper goods.
But neither (a thing which they say over and over again) is the evil in matter, so far as it is matter. For even it participates in ornament and beauty and form. But if matter, being without these, by itself is without quality and without form, how does matter produce anything—matter, which, by itself, is impassive? Besides how is matter an evil? for, if it does not exist in any way whatever, it is neither good nor evil but if it is any how existing, and all things existing are from the Good, even it would be from the Good; and either the Good is productive of the Evil, or the Evil, as being from the Good, is good; or the Evil is capable of producing the Good; or even the Good, as from the Evil, is evil; or further, there are two first principles, and these suspended from another one head. And, if they say that matter is necessary, for a completion of the whole Cosmos, how is matter an evil? For the Evil is one thing, and the necessary41 is another. But, how does He, Who is Good, bring anything to birth from the Evil? or, how is that, which needs the Good, evil? For the Evil shuns the nature of the Good. And how does matter, being evil, generate and nourish nature? For the Evil, quâ evil, neither generates, nor nourishes, nor solely produces, nor preserves anything.
But, if they should say, that it does not make baseness in souls, but that they are dragged to it, how will this be true? for many of them look towards the
good; and yet how did this take place, when matter was dragging them entirely to the Evil? So that the Evil in souls is not from matter, but from a disordered and discordant movement. But, if they say this further, that they invariably follow matter, and unstable matter is necessary for those who are unable to stand firmly by themselves, how is the Evil necessary, or the necessary an evil?
But neither is it this which we affirm—the “privation fights against the Good by its own power42”; for the complete privation is altogether powerless, and the partial has the power, not in respect of privation, but in so far as it is not a complete privation. For, whilst privation of good is partial, it is not, as yet, an evil, and when, it has become an accomplished fact, the nature of the evil has departed also.
But, to speak briefly, the Good is from the one and the whole Cause, but the Evil is from many and partial defects. Almighty God knows the Evil qua good; and, with Him, the causes of the evils are powers producing good43. But, if the Evil is eternal, and creates, and has power, and is, and does, whence do these come to it? Is it either from the Good, or by the Good from the Evil, or by both from another cause? Everything that is according to nature comes into being from a
defined cause. And if the Evil is without cause, and undefined, it is not according to nature. For there is not in nature what is contrary to nature; nor is there any raison d’ etre for want of art in art. Is then the soul cause of things evil, as fire of burning, and does it fill everything that it happens to touch with baseness? Or, is the nature of the soul then good, but, by its energies, exists sometimes in one condition, and sometimes in another? If indeed by nature, even its existence is an evil, and whence then does it derive its existence? Or, is it from the good Cause creative of the whole universe? But, if from this, how is it essentially evil? For good are all things born of this. But if by energies, neither is this invariable, and if not, whence are the virtues? Since it (the soul) comes into being without even seeming good. It remains then that the Evil is a weakness and a falling short of the Good.
The Cause of things good is One. If the Evil is contrary to the Good, the many causes of the Evil, certainly those productive of things evil, are not principles and powers, but want of power, and want of strength, and a mixing of things dissimilar without proportion. Neither are things evil unmoved, and always in the same condition, but endless and undefined, and borne along in different things, and those endless. The Good will be beginning and end of all, even things evil, for, for the sake of the Good, are all things, both those that are good, and
those that are contrary. For we do even these as desiring the Good (for no one does what he does with a view to the Evil), wherefore the Evil has not a subsistence, but a parasitical subsistence, coming into being for the sake of the Good, and not of itself.
It is to be laid down that being belongs to the Evil as an accident and by reason of something else, and not from its own origin, and thus that that which comes into being appears to be right, because it comes into being for the sake of the Good, but that in reality it is not right for the reason that we think that which is not good to be good. The desired is shewn to be one thing, and that which comes to pass is another. The Evil, then, is beside the path, and beside the mark, and beside nature, and beside cause, and beside beginning, and beside end, and beside limit, and beside intention, and beside purpose. The Evil then is privation and failure, and want of strength, and want of proportion, and want of attainment, and want of purpose; and without beauty, and without life, and without mind, and without reason, and without completeness, and without stability, and without cause, and without limit, and without production; and inactive, and without result, and disordered, and dissimilar, and limitless, and dark, and unessential, and being itself nothing in any manner of way whatever. How, in short, can evil do anything by its mixture with the Good? For that which is altogether without participation
in the Good, neither is anything, nor is capable of anything. For, if the Good is both an actual thing and an object of desire, and powerful and effective, how will the contrary to the Good,—that which has been deprived of essence, and intention, and power, and energy,—be capable of anything? Not all things are evil to all, nor the same things evil in every respect. To a demon, evil is to be contrary to the good-like mind—to a soul, to be contrary to reason—to a body, to be contrary to nature.
How, in short, are there evils when there is a Providence? The Evil, qua evil, is not, neither as an actual thing nor as in things existing. And no single thing is without a Providence. For neither is the Evil an actual thing existing unmixed with the Good. And, if no single thing is without participation in the Good, but the lack of the Good is an evil, and no existing thing is deprived absolutely of the Good, the Divine Providence is in all existing things, and no single thing is without Providence. But Providence, as befits Its goodness, uses even evils which happen for the benefit, either individual or general, of themselves or others, and suitably provides for each being. Wherefore we will not admit the vain statement of the multitude, who say that Providence ought to lead us to virtue, even against our will. For to destroy nature is not a function of Providence. Hence, as Providence is conservative of the nature of each, it provides for
the free, as free; and for the whole, and individuals, according to the wants of all and each, as far as the nature of those provided for admits the providential benefits of its universal and manifold Providence, distributed proportionably to each.
The Evil, then, is not an actual thing, nor is the Evil in things existing. For the Evil, qua evil, is nowhere, and the fact that evil comes into being is not in consequence of power, but by reason of weakness. And, as for the demons, what they are is both from the Good, and good. But their evil is from the declension from their own proper goods, and a change—the weakness, as regards their identity and condition, of the angelic perfection befitting them. And they aspire to the Good, in so far as they aspire to be and to live and to think. And in so far as they do not aspire to the Good, they aspire to the non-existent; and this is not aspiration, but a missing of the true aspiration.
Now the Oracles call conscious transgressors those who are thoroughly weak as regards the ever memorable knowledge or the practise of the Good, and who, knowing the will, do not perform it,—those who are hearers indeed, but are weak concerning the faith, or the energy of the Good. And for some, it is against their will to understand to do good, by reason of the deviation or weakness of the will.
And in short, the Evil (as we have often said) is want of strength and want of power, and defect, either of the knowledge, or the never to be forgotten knowledge, or of the faith, or of the aspiration, or of the energy of the Good. Yet, some one may say, the weakness is not punishable, but on the contrary is pardonable. Now, if the power were not granted, the statement might hold good; but, if power comes from the Good, Who giveth, according to the Oracles, the things suitable to all absolutely, the failure and deviation, and departure and declension of the possession from the Good of our own proper goods is not praiseworthy. But let these things suffice to have been sufficiently said according to our ability in our writings “Concerning just and Divine chastisement” throughout which sacred treatise the infallibility of the Oracles has cast aside those sophistical statements as senseless words, speaking injustice and falsehood against Almighty God. But now, according to our ability, the Good has been sufficiently praised, as really lovable,—as beginning and end of all—as embracing things existing—as giving form to things not existing—as Cause of all good things—as guiltless of things evil—as Providence and Goodness complete—and soaring above things that are and things that are not—and turning to good things evil, and the privation of Itself—as by all desired, and loved, and esteemed, and whatever else, the true statement, as I deem, has demonstrated in the preceding.
32 See Dulac, Theology anticipates Science.
33 The Greek word is νοητὸν, which in connection with φῶς is rendered here “spiritual light.”
34 See Book of Hierotheus, c. 2.
36 Creation through Goodness not necessity.
37 See note, p. 128.
38 i.e. in ascending order.
39 Plato, Theaet.
40 Theaet., 1763.
41 Jahn, p. 66.
42 Jahn, p, 67.
43 Out of evil forth producing good.
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