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The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

On Divine Names
Caput XIII

translated by Rev. John Parker, M.A.


The works of Dionysius the Areopagite


The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

On Divine Names
Caput XIII

Concerning “Perfect” and “One”.


So much then on these matters; but let us now at last, with your good pleasure, approach the most difficult subject in the whole discourse. For the Word of God predicates everything, singly and collectively, respecting the Cause of all, and extols Him both as Perfect and as One58. He is then perfect not only as self-perfect, and solitarily separated within Himself, by Himself, and throughout most perfect, but also as super-perfect, as beseems His pre-eminence over all, and limiting every infinitude, and surpassing every term, and by none contained or comprehended; but even extending at once to all, and above all, by His unfailing gratuities and endless energies. But, on the other hand, He is called perfect, both as without increase, and always perfect, and as undiminished, as pre-holding all things in Himself, and overflowing as beseems one, inexhaustible, and same, and super-full, and undiminished, abundance, in accordance with which He perfects all perfect things, and fills them with His own perfection.

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But One, because He is uniquely all, as beseems an excess of unique Oneness, and is Cause of all without departing from the One. For there is no single existing being, which does not participate in the one, but as every number participates in an unit, and one dual and one decade is spoken of, and one half, and one third and tenth, so everything, and part of everything participates in the one, and by the fact that the One is, all existing things are. And the Cause of all is not One, as one of many, but before every one and multitude, and determinative of every one and multitude. For there is no multitude which does not partake in some way or other of the one. Yea, that which is many by parts, is one in the whole; and the many by the accidents, is one by the subject; and the many by the number or the powers, is one by the species, and the many by the species, is one by the genus; and the many by the progressions, is one by the source. And there is no single thing which does not participate in some way in the one, which uniformly pre-held in the uniqueness throughout all, all and whole, all, even the things opposed. And indeed, without the one there will not be a multitude, but without the multitude there will be the one, even as the unit previous to every multiplied number; and, if any one should suppose, that all things are united to all, the All will be one in the whole.

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Especially must this be known, that according to the pre-conceived species of each one, things united are said to be made one, and the one is elemental of all; and if you should take away the one, there will be neither totality nor part, nor any other single existing thing. For the one, uniformly, pre-held and comprehended all things in itself. For this reason, then, the Word of God celebrates the whole Godhead, as Cause of all, by the epithet of the One, both one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, and one and the same Spirit, by reason of the surpassing indivisibility of the whole Divine Oneness, in which all things are uniquely collected, and are super-unified, and are with It Superessentially. Wherefore also, all things are justly referred and attributed to It, by Which and from Which, and through Which, and in Which, and to Which, all things are, and are co-ordinated, and abide, and are held together, and are filled, and are turned towards It. And you would not find any existing thing, which is not what it is, and perfected and preserved, by the One, after which the whole Deity is superessentially named. And it is necessary also, that we being turned from the many to the One, by the power of the Divine Oneness, should celebrate as One the whole and one Deity—the one Cause of all—which is before every one and multitude, and part and whole, and limit and illimitability, and term and infinity, which bounds all things that be, even the Being Itself, and is

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uniquely Cause of all, individually and collectively, and at the same time before all, and above all, and above the One existing Itself, and bounding the One existing Itself; since the One existing—that in things being—is numbered, and number participates in essence; but the superessential One bounds both the One existing, and every number, and Itself is, of both one and number, and every being, Source and Cause, and Number and. Order. Wherefore also, whilst celebrated as Unit and Triad, the Deity above all is neither Unit nor Triad, as understood by us or by any other sort of being, but, in order that we may celebrate truly. Its super-oneness, and Divine generation, by the threefold and single name of God, we name the Deity, Which is inexpressible to things that be, the Superessential. But no Unit nor Triad, nor number nor unity, nor productiveness, nor any other existing thing, or thing known to any existing thing, brings forth the hiddenness, above every expression and every mind, of the Super-Deity Which is above all superessentially. Nor has It a Name, or expression, but is elevated above in the inaccessible. And neither do we apply the very Name of Goodness, as making it adequate to It, but through a desire of understanding and saying something concerning that inexpressible nature, we consecrate the most august of Names to It, in the first degree, and although we should be in accord in this matter with the theologians, yet we shall fall short of the truth of the facts. Wherefore, even they have given the preference to the ascent through

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negations, as lifting the soul out of things kindred to itself, and conducting it through all the Divine conceptions, above which towers that which is above every name, and every expression and knowledge, and at the furthest extremity attaching it to Him, as far indeed as is possible for us to be attached to that Being.


We then, having collected these intelligible Divine Names, have unfolded them to the best of our ability, falling short not only of the precision which belongs to them, (for this truly, even Angels might say) nor only of their praises as sung by Angels (and the chief of our Theologians come behind the lowest of them), nor indeed of the Theologians themselves, nor of their followers or companions, but even of those who are of the same rank as ourselves, last and subordinate to them; so that, if the things spoken should be correct, and, if we, as far as in us lies, have really reached the perception of the unfolding of the Divine Names, let the fact be ascribed to the Author of all good things, Who, Himself, bestows first the power to speak, then to speak well. And if any one of the Names of the same force has been passed over, that also you must understand according to the same methods. But, if these things are either incorrect or imperfect, and we have wandered from the truth, either wholly or partially, may it be of thy brotherly kindness to correct him, who unwillingly is ignorant, and to impart a word to him, who wishes to learn,

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and to vouchsafe assistance to him, who has not power in himself; and to heal him, who, not willingly, is sick; and having found out some things from thyself, and others from others, and receiving all from the good to transfer them also to us. By no means grow weary in doing good to a man thy friend, for thou perceivest, that we also have kept to ourselves none of the hierarchical communications transmitted to us, but have transmitted them without flaw, both to you and to other holy men, yea, and will continue to transmit them, as we may be sufficient to speak, and those to whom we speak, to hear, doing injury in no respect to the tradition, if at least we do not fail in the conception and expression thereof. But, let these things be held and spoken in such way, as is well pleasing to Almighty God; and let this indeed be our conclusion to the intelligible Divine Names. But I will now pass to the Symbolic Theology59, with God for my Guide.

27 October, 1896.

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" MY love is crucified."

Upon this passage I differ from all the commentators that I know. I believe the passage to have been written and inserted in the text by Dionysius when writing this letter, which must have been before A.D. 98. I do not think it a quotation from the letter of Ignatius written just previous to his martyrdom. I think Dionysius quoted some previous writing of Ignatius, in which he spoke of our Saviour as "My Love, Which is mine." That is the sense in this passage, to shew the exalted use of Love. In the letter of Ignatius to the Romans, he seems to use "love" in the sense of human passion or fire, and says that that is crucified in him. In any case, there is no chronological difficulty. Ignatius was martyred A.D. 107, Dionysius, A.D. 119.

58    [Greek]. It should be noted that where He, Him and His are used in this Section, the Neuter is used in the Greek.

59    See letter to Titus.


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