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St Dionysius the Areopagite The Divine Names

Translated by John Parker

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In the Mystic Theology, Dionysius exhorts Timothy thus,----"But, thou, O dear Timothy, leave behind both sensible perception, and intellectual efforts, and all objects of sense and intelligence; and all things being and not being, and be raised aloft as far as attainable, a)gnw&stwj----unknowingly[4],----to the union with Him above every essence and knowledge. For by the resistless and absolute ecstacy from thyself, in all purity, thou wilt be carried high to the super-essential ray of the Divine darkness, when thou hast cast away all, and become liberated from all." Thus, we must pass beyond all things known, and all things being, and lie passive under the illuminating ray of God, if we would attain the highest conception of Him, "Who passeth all understanding."God "unknown" is still the God of Dionysius, and He is still to be worshipped unknowingly. There is a tradition that Dionysius erected the altar in Athens "to God unknown," as author of the inexplicable darkness, which he observed in Egypt, and found afterwards from St. Paul to have been contemporaneous with the Crucifixion. Did St. Paul adapt his discourse at Athens to the conversion of Dionysius?

The only heresiarch, whom Dionysius mentions by name, is Elymas, the Sorcerer, Simon Magus, a man of great intellectual attainments and a considerable author. Flavius Clemens and Eugenius, Bishop of Toledo, were disciples of Simon before their conversion to Christ. The tenets of Elymas are described by Hippolytus. He formed an eclectic system from the Old Testament and the Christian Faith, and with Cerinthus and Carpocrates originated many heresies to which the apostolic epistles allude, and which in later times became prominent in the Church. In refuting these heresies, by manifestation of the truth, Dionysius anticipated many errors----ancient and modern.

Jerome informs us (Scr. Ecc. 46) that Pantaenus [5], one of the most celebrated Christian philosophers of Alexandria, was sent, A.D. 193, by Demetrius, Bishop of that city, to India, at the request of a delegation from India for that purpose. Pantaenus discovered, on his arrival, that St. Bartholomew (one of the twelve) had preached the coming of Jesus Christ, in that country. Pantaenus found a copy of the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew in India. Now, by the extract, contained in the Scholia of Maximus, from the Scholia of Dionysius of Alexandria (250) upon the Divine Names, and also by the extract from a letter of the same Dionysius, recently discovered in the British Museum [6] (Nos. 12151-2), we know that the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite were known and treasured in Alexandria a few years after the death of Pantaenus. Can we reasonably doubt that Pantaenus took the writings of Dionysius, and the more abstract works of Hierotheus, to India? Have we not here an explanation of the remarkable similarity between the Hindu philosophy, as expressed by Sankara [7] in the eighth, and Râmânuja in the thirteenth century, and the "Divine Names?" Sankara treats of the Supreme as "absolutely One;" Râmânuja as "non-dual, with qualification."Both these truths are combined and expressed in Dionysius.

4.  [d] As beyond knowledge.

5.  [e] Conversion of India, p. 12. Pressensé, The Earlier Years of Christianity, Vol. II. p. 271. The History of Mathurâ (Muttra), by F. S. Growse, on the glorification of the Divine Name.

6.  [f] Vidieu, p. 73.

7.  [g] Sankara's doctrine, Sir Monier Williams, "Brahmanism,"p. 55. Râmânuja's explained, "Brahmanism,"p. 119, &c. J. Murray.

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