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Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Paperback – 1 Jan 1987

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press International, U.S.; New edition edition (1 Jan. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809128381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809128389
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.2 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 383,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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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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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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars 25 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hierarchy as Mediation 20 May 2016
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
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In terms of the developing Christian-Platonic tradition, this book is Plato at his near-finest. It marks a watershed in Christian reflection and will dominate Christian metaphysics for the next thousand years. In terms of authorship, it is certainly not Paul’s traveling companion, given that he quotes Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote after the turn of the century. Further, his discussion of monasticism reflects a reality that wouldn’t have been established until much later.

Argument of book: whatever transcends being must transcend knowledge (593A).

The whole is reflected in the part: “Within its total unity it contains part and whole, and it transcends these too and is antecedent to them” (648C). Every part of the universe reflects God’s oneness. He is replicated and differentiated in the energies (is this the same as saying the Logos is replicated in the logoi?).

The Good shows forth the processions of God (680B). If we say the processions “go out” from God, we are speaking analogically, for the Trinity isn’t in a place, per se. The Good isn’t a being but excess of being. The Good returns (reditus) all things to itself (700A). All things desire it.

The source of every duality is a monad (721D). Every number preexists in the monad (821A). Every number is differentiated as it goes forth from the Monad. Every being derives from the Pre-existent. Being precedes the entities which participate in it. God is not a facet of being, but being is a facet of him (824A). The exemplars of everything pre-exist as a transcendent unity within God.

Mystical Theology

A negation is not simply the opposite of an affirmation, but that which is prior to affirmation (1000B).

Hierarchy = sacred order, activity or understanding (164D). Because the divine realities are invisible, they must be communicated and mediated through symbols.

Conclusion:

As is usually the case with Platonic and Neo-Platonic literature, it is often soaring in terms of beauty. Ps. Dionysius’s discussion of the priest-as-hierarch needs to be seen as hyperbole. Few people are at that level of Being.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical approach to mysticism 15 May 2014
By Bob F, measurement guy - Published on Amazon.com
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This is a deep philosophical discussion by a mystic. Not at all like "The Cloud of Unknowing" or "Showings" of Julian of Norwich. The first chapter is called "The Divine Names." It is an ontology of the words we use to talk about God. It is an interesting structure for his thinking. He begins by saying we cannot fully know God. We can know The Beautiful and The Good. Anything that is Beautiful or Good must come from God.

In order to comprehend this kind of writing we ourselves must invest something in the reading. I think of examples that I might know. How is The Beautiful revealed to me? Being an amateur musician I would claim many musical examples: The Mozart and Brahms' Requiems, the Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky, the Stabat Mater by Poulenc. Others would see The Beautiful in nature or dance or paintings. "The Good" is seen of course in good works. We all have the experience of being deeply moved by one person's care for another. It is most touching when we receive that remarkable level of care from another or when we have provided some care to another who recognizes our care as a gift from God.

When Evil is discussed, I found his discussion very difficult to grasp. This is not unusual in this sort of reading. Some concepts will come more slowly than others.

This is truly an early work on Christian mysticism. It could be read as a purely philosophical exercise. It is less an instructive manual on how to be a mystic but probably a good supplement.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I find the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius refreshing and elevate the ... 22 Mar. 2015
By R.E. Pence - Published on Amazon.com
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I find the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius refreshing and elevate the mind and heart and soul. However, those who would find it difficult and non-essential would represent the division of minds--those who need the temporal more, and to have more concrete thoughts and explanations in the spiritual life, as opposed to those who are more contemplative and those who may be mystics, as well. For the mystics, the writing is heavenly and clear as the skies, day or night. For the more temporal or feet-on-the-ground Christians, writings more specific and rule-oriented would be meaningful. Or, so it all seems to me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 14 May 2014
By Elimian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am almost finished with the reading of this volume as I am also reading the Kindle edition of the Complete Works of Dionysius the Areopagite. This volume presents the reader with a modern translation of the works, a critical apparatus of introductions and notes, and a fairly easy approach to the writings of a great early Christian writer. Often underestimated, this ancient author has a great place in the mystical aspect of Christianity. I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes not only to know more about early Christianity, but wishes also to deepen his or her spirituality.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Classic 11 Feb. 2012
By Lucidity111 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have known of Pseudo-Dionysius for some time & have always loved his work. First let me say its a very well made addition, the pages are of high quality thick paper, which is great if your like me & like to highlight certain parts & the whole book is just in general well put together. But about Pseudo-Dionysius, in my view he is one of the best Christian/Neo-platonic writters who have ever lived. He speaks so clearly about the most profound things, he points us in the direction of the source of all things 'the One' explaining what must be done to be lifted up "beyond unknowing & light" & the Bliss of resting in our divine source. This book isnt just for 'Christians' but for any one interested in philosophy, theology, Mysticism, & in particulare platonism. This book is a light in my life, a source of inspiration on my personal spiritual journey & will continue to be for the rest of my life.
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