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Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) [Paperback]

Dionysius the Areopagite , Colm Luibheid
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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press International, U.S.; New edition edition (Dec 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809128381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809128389
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.3 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Dionysius the Elder to Timothy the Fellow-Elder: What the goal of this discourse is, and the tradition regarding the divine names. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The surviving works of St. Dionysius the Areopagite (let's forget the modern academic'pseudo'prefix)are wholly saturated with salvific light, transcendent wisdom and profundity. The shortest text here, St Dionysius' 'Mystical Theology' is perhaps the most startling, paradoxical and rationality-confounding in its incredible mystical depth, a perfect encapsulation of the Apophatic theology of the Via Negativa in a few pages, a text which had a tremendous influence, for example in the anonymous English medieval work 'The Cloud of Unknowing'. The 'Celestial Hierarchy is the seminal work on Angelology and exerted a huge influence in the Middle Ages; 'The Divine Names' is a kind of symbolic meditation on various scriptural attributes of God and its vision of the Divinity as comprising All Names whilst nonetheless remaining the Nameless One strikes to the luminous heart of Dionysian mysticism and heavily informed the Christian Cabala of the Renaissance philosopher-magicians. 'The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy' unfolds the Dionysian view of the various Holy Orders and Mysteries of the Church as a continuum in the Chain of Being, receiving pure light from the heavenly hierarchies and the Blessed Trinity. It is remarkable in that it uses a distinctly mysteriosophic language, describing the Mass and other sacraments as operations of 'Theurgy' and relating the perfection of the intiates through the sacramental mysteries of the Ecclesia. Dionysius was a a true Gnostic (in the sense that St Clement of Alexandria defined the perfect Christian as the true Gnostic), a genius who unfolds this astonishing spiritual vision in which Jesus is invoked as 'utterly pure and transcendent Mind' and the study of his work thus opens up apprehension of the dazzling darkness of Divinity, the interior pathway of Christic initiation within the Oriental ecclesiastic tradition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pseudo-Dionysius 30 Mar 2013
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Great book! Explains things quite well. Can be a bit difficult at times but well worth the read. Good theory on the lack of evil.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TIMELESS AND INFLUENTIAL 10 Feb 2013
By Michael
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This is a beautiful edition and translation of a major contribution to Neoplatonism in late antiquity.
Every theologian/philosopher should own a copy..and read it.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The holy marriage of Christ and Neo-Platonism 19 Dec 2010
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This is a challenging book. I admit that I only read parts of it, and skimmed through the rest.

The unknown writer known to modern scholars as Pseudo-Dionysius probably lived during the fifth or sixth century AD. He may have been a "heretical" Christian monk or even a Neo-Platonist, attempting to cast his message in a Christian mould. To achieve the maximum impact, this unknown writer claimed to be Dionysius the Aeropagite, a person mentioned in the New Testament. This pious fraud is no longer taken seriously by scholars or theologians, hence the designation "Pseudo-Dionysius". Despite this, the writings are still held in high esteem by many in the Eastern churches, where Pseudo-Dionysius is regarded as an unknown Church Father.

This collection contains translations of all writings attributed to Dionysius: "The Divine Names", "The Mystical Theology", "The Celestial Hierarchy", "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" and ten letters. The book also contains introductory chapters and footnotes. However, it's not really a scholarly treatise on Pseudo-Dionysius. The introductions and notes are quite short. The main point of this volume is to present the works of the man himself. More extensive scholarly analyses can be found elsewhere.

My wild guess concerning Pseudo-Dionysius is that he was a lonely pagan philosopher who attempted to salvage the Neo-Platonist legacy by adding some Christian touches to it. But perhaps I'm being unfair. After all, the writings of "Dionysius the Aeropagite" were held in high esteem by many Christians during the Middle Ages. Clearly, our author must have said *something* that struck a chord. Christianity was already influenced by Platonist philosophy. The experiences of mystics are often remarkably similar across cultural and religious divides.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal On Western Mysticism 22 April 2001
By Timothy Dougal - Published on Amazon.com
Until the publication of this book, Pseudo-Dionysius, a major influence on Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross, among others, was like a tantalizing mirage, frequently referred to but generally not seen in full. Finally, here he is. The book contains "The Divine Names", "The Mystical Theology", "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy", "The Celestial Hierarchy", and letters. In addition, there are three (!) introductions, to tell us about Pseudo-Dionysius in later antiquity, the middle ages, and the reformation. The translations are modern, well-annotated, and clear inasmuch as this is possible. One of the introductory writers comments that many readers are surprized at how short these works are, because they may seem long due to the dense writing style. As for content, Pseudo-Dionysius attempted to wed the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus with the Bible and Christian practice. The reader will have to judge how successful this effort actually is, but it probably helps account for the survival of these works through many heresy purges. The result translated here is interesting in a historical sense and useful in a spiritual sense. The discussion of evil in "The Divine Names" is particularly fascinating, if difficult. And for those who wonder about angel theory, well, "The Celestial Hierarchy" has it all. It is very good to finally be able to read these works in their entirety.
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational work for much Christian spirituality 6 Mar 2001
By E. M. Dale - Published on Amazon.com
The Classics of Western Spirituality Series (Paulist Press) is an amazing undertaking, and every volume becomes the standard for primary sources for the religious thinkers covered. This certainly holds true for this complete volume of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius (anonymous writer of the fifth or sixth-century C.E.). Beautiful translations from the Greek of "The Divine Names," "The Mystical Theology," "The Celestial Hierarchy," "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy," and all ten extant letters, three essay-introductions by Jaroslav Pelikan, Jean Leclercq, and Karlfried Froehlich, an exhaustive bibliography, and complete biblical and textual indices make this a volume that will last more than one lifetime and serve as the finest authority on Pseudo-Dionysian theology available. No understanding of twelfth and thirteenth-century theology is complete without an acquaintance with Dionysius's work--this includes Aquinas. Covering prayer, religious epistemology, and biblical interpretation, Pseudo-Dionysius always makes for enlightening reading and deeper appreciation of the often overlooked aspects of Christian theology: its mystical or "immediate" side. For the price, this book cannot be beaten. Buy it and read it, you might be suprised at what you'll learn.
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dionysius the Great 1 Jan 2006
By benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
"It would be a challenging project, but a fascinating one, to write the history of Western Christian spirituality in the late patristic and medieval periods primarily or even exclusively on the basis of those neglected writings that are identified in successive volumes of J. P. Migne's Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca as 'spurious' or as 'dubious,' together with the purportedly authentic writings that in fact belong in the same categories." So Jaroslav Pelikan begins his introduction - it is the first of three introductions - to the complete works of Pseudo-Dionysius. That there should be three introductory essays detailing the history and reception of the Dionysian corpus simply goes to show how utterly important these writings are, despite the fact that we do not know (or perhaps we simply do not believe?) who wrote them. It is perfectly accurate to write that above any other writings of the Patristic period, these writings are the most influential mystical writings of not only the early Church, but of all Christian history.

It is currently believed that the writer who called himself Dionysius the Aeropagite (St. Paul's first convert) was a monk from Syria in the fifth or sixth century. Most of his writings have been lost (or, if one wishes to be suspicious about it, were never really written in the first place), but those that remain - The Divine Names, The Mystical Theology, The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and ten Letters - have all been translated and copiously annotated in the present volume.

Dionysius is best known for his understanding that theological language exists to be surpassed by "a mystical silence" that is at the height of all theological contemplation: union with God. The belief that doxology is overflown by the God that our language points and reaches out to is central to Dionysius' worldview. However, there is are two essential connections that one must make here. First, because our language - which is "cataphatic" (that is, it affirms something) - is surpassed by God, apophaticism (language that denies something) is truer of God than cataphaticism. Second - and this is the more important point - God is also beyond apophaticism. Thus, cataphatically I say "God is good", apophatically I follow with "God is not good", and find myself pushed to affirm that "God is beyond goodness as I understand goodness to be". Dionysius refuses to allow us to drown in apophatic quietism and pushes us to let God "overflow" our theological language (and he uses the image of overflowing frequently).

Central to Dionysius' paradigm is the liturgy as a participation with the heavenly choirs of angels; in short, liturgy as mystical. Such liturgy is inspired by God - the theologian is the one who is given inspired visions of God - and the purpose of worship is ascent to Christ. Some have claimed that Dionysius is fundamentally deficient in his trinitarian theology, but if one understands his understanding of Jesus as the divine mediatory and the Holy Spirit as the one who inspire (as in St. Paul), then what emerges is not an underveloped theology, but a theology that sees that activity of the whole Trinity as foundational to our experience of God in worship, lifting us to see God's own face in a "dazzling darkness" - not because of absence, but because of the overflowing light of the Godhead which blinds our natural eyes just as it inspires desire within us.

These writings are theologically dense, to put it simply. Yet, they are profound. For those that are well-versed in the doctrines of the Incarnation and Trinity, they will find these writings to be a helpful next step in understanding better the functions of theological language, especially within the liturgical context.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cornerstone of Western Mysticism 6 Mar 2006
By Greg - Published on Amazon.com
Sometime at around the 5th or 6th century A.D., a Christian monk sat down and penned several works on 'mystical' theology. Passing himself off as the famous Athenian convert to Christianity who heard St Paul in Athens, the works of this monk became the foundations upon which later great Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart, the author of the Cloud of Unknowning, St John of Cross, Nicholas of Cusa, St Bonaventure, Richard of St Victor, and many others would base their 'ascents' to God.

The two most important works on the Corpus are the 'Mystical Theology' and 'The Divine Names.' Probably using the language and concepts of Neo-Platonism and in particular of Proclus along with ideas he got from reading Gregory of Nyssa, Denys expounds the 'via negativa' apprach to God.

In the mystical theology Denys outlines how Moses ascended to God through a dark 'cloud of unknowing' and reached the ineffable Godhead who is beyond all concepts, ideas and words. In the view of Denys, even in a 'clear' vision of God we do not get a clear vision of God but rather only see a 'dazzling darkness' which is above and beyond every possible concept and idea we could have of God, or any name we can apply to God. Denys seems very keen to protect the mystery of God's transcendant being, which even when 'naked' and exposed by stripping it of all concepts and ideas and names, is still completely hidden by virtue of its transcendance.

Denys explores these ideas further in 'The Divine Names', a very important work both in mysticism and theology. Denys talks of what names can be said to apply to God and he also discusses how God's goodness 'flows out' of itself to create the universe and all beings (which he calls theophanies) and which return back to God in a circular procession. This little work would have a profound effect on many of Christendom's most creative and innovative thinkers, from Scotus Eriugena, Maximus Confessor, Thomas Aquinas, St John of Cross, St Bonaventure, Robert Grosseteste and Nicholas of Cusa. Its influence still continues to this day and seems to be undergoing a kind of renaissance amoung theologians such as Von Balthasar, Karl Rahner and Valdimir Lossky.

The works which follow are somewhat weaker in both literary and theological merit. The Celestial heirarchy and the Ecclesiastical Heirarchy are attempts to fuse Neo-Platonic symbolism and angelology with Christian angelology and liturgical symbolism. His letters are somewhat edifying and refer a lot to lost works, however they were probably not written to the people he addresses them to since modern scholarship has shown Denys lived long after the New Testament was formulated canonically, and all the Apostles were long dead.

However, these weaknesses do not detract from the theological brilliance of Denys, who manages to fuse the better aspects of Neo-Platonic Philosophy with the deepest and most profound Christian theology and mysticism, without leaping to the frenzied visions of the Gnostics, nor reducing God to anthropomorphism. His spirituality is very ethereal at times and while his excesses can mislead the contemplative into over-valuing the spiritual world over the material, it should be remembered Denys also stresses God's infinite and ineffable beauty which is radiated in his glory and goodness, which makes the created universe and all beings (human and angelic) beautiful as well. He has a positive view of the incarnation and of the world, and in my view still represents one of the best mystical theologies in the Christian tradition, and in terms of world religious philosophy, offers one of the most inspiring visions of the Absolute.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mystical Immersion! 30 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is a great book! In its pages are found some of the most significant early mystical writings for the Christian tradition. The introduction and preface lay out just how influential this work has been and help the reader to understand why. The breadth of vision to be found within Dionysius's treatises though will impress a person's approach to prayer forever after!
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