Dionysius the Presbyter, to his fellow-Presbyter Timothy.
I. What is the purpose of the discourse, and what the tradition concerning the Divine Names.
1. Now, Blessed Timothy, the Outlines of Divinity being ended, I will proceed, so far as in me lies, to an Exposition of the Divine Names. And here also let us set before our minds the scriptural rule that in speaking about God we should declare the Truth, not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the power which the Spirit stirred up in the Sacred Writers, whereby, in a manner surpassing speech and knowledge, we embrace those truths which, in like manner, surpass them, in that Union which exceeds our faculty, and exercise of discursive, and of intuitive reason. We must not then dare to speak, or indeed to form any conception, of the hidden super-essential Godhead, except those things that are revealed to us from the Holy Scriptures. For a super-essential understanding of It is proper to Unknowing, which lieth in the Super-Essence Thereof surpassing Discourse, Intuition and Being; acknowledging which truth let us lift up our eyes towards the steep height, so far as the effluent light of the Divine Scriptures grants its aid, and, as we strive to ascend unto those Supernal Rays, let us gird ourselves for the task with holiness and the reverent fear of God. For, if we may safely trust the wise and infallible Scriptures, Divine things are revealed unto each created spirit in proportion to its powers, and in this measure is perception granted through the workings of the Divine goodness, the which in just care for our preservation divinely tempereth unto finite measure the infinitude of things which pass man’s understanding. For even as things which are intellectually discerned cannot be comprehended or perceived by means of those things which belong to the senses, nor simple and imageless things by means of types and images, nor the formless and intangible essence of unembodied things by means of those which have bodily form, by the same law of truth the boundless Super-Essence surpasses Essences, the Super-Intellectual Unity surpasses Intelligences, the One which is beyond thought surpasses the apprehension of thought, and the Good which is beyond utterance surpasses the reach of words. Yea, it is an Unity which is the unifying Source of all unity and a Super-Essential Essence, a Mind beyond the reach of mind and a Word beyond utterance, eluding Discourse, Intuition, Name, and every kind of being. It is the Universal Cause of existence while Itself existing not, for It is beyond all Being and such that It alone could give, with proper understanding thereof, a revelation of Itself.
2. Now concerning this hidden Super-Essential Godhead we must not dare, as I have said, to speak, or even to form any conception Thereof, except those things which are divinely revealed to us from the Holy Scriptures. For as It hath lovingly taught us in the Scriptures concerning Itself the understanding and contemplation of Its actual nature is not accessible to any being; for such knowledge is superessentially exalted above them all. And many of the Sacred Writers thou wilt find who have declared that It is not only invisible and incomprehensible, but also unsearchable and past finding out, since there is no trace of any that have penetrated the hidden depths of Its infinitude. Not that the Good is wholly incommunicable to anything; nay, rather, while dwelling alone by Itself, and having there firmly fixed Its super-essential Ray, It lovingly reveals Itself by illuminations corresponding to each separate creature’s powers, and thus draws upwards holy minds into such contemplation, participation and resemblance of Itself as they can attain—even them that holily and duly strive thereafter and do not seek with impotent presumption the Mystery beyond that heavenly revelation which is so granted as to fit their powers, nor yet through their lower propensity slip down the steep descent, but with unwavering constancy press onwards toward the ray that casts its light upon them and, through the love responsive to these gracious illuminations, speed their temperate and holy flight on the wings of a godly reverence.
3. In obedience to these divine behests which guide all the holy dispositions of the heavenly hosts, we worship with reverent silence the unutterable Truths and, with the unfathomable and holy veneration of our mind, approach that Mystery of Godhead which exceeds all Mind and Being. And we press upwards to those beams which in the Holy Scripture shine upon us; wherefrom we gain the light which leads us unto the Divine praises being supernaturally enlightened by them and conformed unto that sacred hymnody, even so as to behold the Divine enlightenments the which through them are given in such wise as fits our powers, and so as to praise the bounteous Origin of all holy illumination in accordance with that Doctrine, as concerning Itself, wherewith It hath instructed us in the Holy Scriptures. Thus do we learn that It is the Cause and Origin and Being and Life of all creation. And It is unto them that fall away from It a Voice that doth recall them and a Power by which they rise; and to them that have stumbled into a corruption of the Divine image within them, It is a Power of Renewal and Reform; and It is a sacred Grounding to them that feel the shock of unholy assault, and a Security to them that stand: an upward Guidance to them that are being drawn unto It, and a Principle of Illumination to them that are being enlightened: a Principle of Perfection to them that are being perfected; a principle of Deity to them that are being deified; and of Simplicity to them that are being brought unto simplicity; and of Unity to them that are being brought unto unity. Yea, in a super-essential manner, above the category of origin, It is the Origin of all origin, and the good and bounteous Communication (so far as such may be) of hidden mysteries; and, in a word, It is the life of all things that live and the Being of all that are, the Origin and Cause of all life and being through Its bounty which both brings them into existence and maintains them.
4. These mysteries we learn from the Divine Scriptures, and thou wilt find that in well-nigh all the utterances of the Sacred Writers the Divine Names refer in a Symbolical Revelation to Its beneficent Emanations Wherefore, in almost all consideration of Divine things we see the Supreme Godhead celebrated with holy praises as One and an Unity, through the simplicity and unity of Its supernatural indivisibility, from whence (as from an unifying power) we attain to unity, and through the supernal conjunction of our diverse and separate qualities are knit together each into a Godlike Oneness, and all together into a mutual Godly union And It is called the Trinity because Its supernatural fecundity is revealed in a Threefold Personality, wherefrom all Fatherhood in heaven and on earth exists and draws Its name. And It is called the Universal Cause since all things came into being through Its bounty, whence all being springs; and It is called Wise and Fair because all things which keep their own nature uncorrupted are full of all Divine harmony and holy Beauty; and especially It is called Benevolent because, in one of Its Persons, It verily and wholly shared in our human lot, calling unto Itself and uplifting the low estate of man, wherefrom, in an ineffable manner, the simple Being of Jesus assumed a compound state, and the Eternal hath taken a temporal existence, and He who supernaturally transcends all the order of all the natural world was born in our Human Nature without any change or confusion of His ultimate properties. And in all the other Divine enlightenments which the occult Tradition of our inspired teachers hath, by mystic Interpretation, accordant with the Scriptures, bestowed upon us, we also have been initiated: apprehending these things in the present life (according to our powers), through the sacred veils of that loving kindness which in the Scriptures and the Hierarchical Traditions, enwrappeth spiritual truths in terms drawn from the world of sense, and super-essential truths in terms drawn from Being, clothing with shapes and forms things which are shapeless and formless, and by a variety of separable symbols, fashioning manifold attributes of the imageless and supernatural Simplicity. But hereafter, when we are corruptible and immortal and attain the blessed lot of being like unto Christ, then (as the Scripture saith), we shall be for ever with the Lord, fulfilled with His visible Theophany in holy contemplations, the which shall shine about us with radiant beams of glory (even as once of old it shone around the Disciples at the Divine Transfiguration); and so shall we, with our mind made passionless and spiritual, participate in a spiritual illumination from Him, and in an union transcending our mental faculties, and there, amidst the blinding blissful impulsions of His dazzling rays, we shall, in a diviner manner than at present, be like unto the heavenly Intelligences. For, as the infallible Scripture saith, we shall be equal to the angels and shall be the Sons of God, being Sons of the Resurrection. But at present we employ (so far as in us lies), appropriate symbols for things Divine; and then from these we press on upwards according to our powers to behold in simple unity the Truth perceived by spiritual contemplations, and leaving behind us all human notions of godlike things, we still the activities of our minds, and reach (so far as this may be) into the Super-Essential Ray, wherein all kinds of knowledge so have their pre-existent limits (in a transcendently inexpressible manner), that we cannot conceive nor utter It, nor in any wise contemplate the same, seeing that It surpasseth all things, and wholly exceeds our knowledge, and super-essentially contains beforehand (all conjoined within Itself) the bounds of all natural sciences and forces (while yet Its force is not circumscribed by any), and so possesses, beyond the celestial Intelligences, Its firmly fixed abode. For if all the branches of knowledge belong to things that have being, and if their limits have reference to the existing world, then that which is beyond all Being must also be transcendent above all knowledge.
5. But if It is greater than all Reason and all knowledge, and hath Its firm abode altogether beyond Mind and Being, and circumscribes, compacts, embraces and anticipates all things while Itself is altogether beyond the grasp of them all, and cannot be reached by any perception, imagination, conjecture, name, discourse, apprehension, or understanding, how then is our Discourse concerning the Divine Names to be accomplished, since we see that the Super-Essential Godhead is unutterable and nameless? Now, as we said when setting forth our Outlines of Divinity, the One, the Unknowable, the Super-Essential, the Absolute Good (I mean the Trinal Unity of Persons possessing the same Deity and Goodness), ‘tis impossible to describe or to conceive in Its ultimate Nature; nay, even the angelical communions of the heavenly Powers Therewith which we describe as either Impulsions or Derivations from the Unknowable and blinding Goodness are themselves beyond utterance and knowledge, and belong to none but those angels who, in a manner beyond angelic knowledge, have been counted worthy thereof. And godlike Minds, angelically entering (according to their powers) unto such states of union and being deified and united, through the ceasing of their natural activities, unto the Light Which surpasseth Deity, can find no more fitting method to celebrate its praises than to deny It every manner of Attribute. For by a true and supernatural illumination from their blessed union Therewith, they learn that It is the Cause of all things and yet Itself is nothing, because It super-essentially transcends them all. Thus, as for the Super-Essence of the Supreme Godhead (if we would define the Transcendence of its Transcendent Goodness) it is not lawful to any lover of that Truth which is above all truth to celebrate It as Reason or Power or Mind or Life or Being, but rather as most utterly surpassing all condition, movement, life, imagination, conjecture, name, discourse, thought, conception, being, rest, dwelling, union, limit, infinity, everything that exists. And yet since, as the Subsistence of goodness, It, by the very fact of Its existence, is the Cause of all things, in celebrating the bountiful Providence of the Supreme Godhead we must draw upon the whole creation. For It is both the central Force of all things, and also their final Purpose, and is Itself before them all, and they all subsist in It; and through the fact of Its existence the world is brought into being and maintained; and It is that which all things desire—those which have intuitive or discursive Reason seeking It through knowledge, the next rank of beings through perception, and the rest through vital movement, or the property of mere existence belonging to their state. Conscious of this, the Sacred Writers celebrate It by every Name while yet they call It Nameless.
6. For instance, they call It Nameless when they say that the Supreme Godhead Itself, in one of the mystical visions whereby It was symbolically manifested, rebuked him who said: “What is thy name?” and, as though bidding him not seek by any means of any Name to acquire a knowledge of God, made the answer: “Why askest thou thus after My Name seeing it is secret?” Now is not the secret Name precisely that which is above all names and nameless, and is fixed beyond every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come? On the other hand, they attribute many names to It when, for instance, they speak of It as declaring: “I am that I am,” or “I am the Life,” or “the Light,” or “God,” or “the Truth,” and when the Inspired Writers themselves celebrate the Universal Cause with many titles drawn from the whole created universe, such as “Good,” and “Fair,” and “Wise,” as “Beloved,” as “God of Gods” and “Lord of Lords”, and “Holy of Holies,” as “Eternal,” as “Existent” and as “Creator of Ages,” as “Giver of Life,” as “Wisdom,” as “Mind,” as “Word,” as “Knower,” as “possessing beforehand all the treasures of knowledge,” as “Power,” as “Ruler,” as “King of kings,” as “Ancient of Days;” and as “Him that is the same and whose years shall not fail,” as “Salvation,” as “Righteousness,” as “Sanctification,” as “Redemption,” as “Surpassing all things in greatness,” and yet as being in “the still small breeze.” Moreover, they say that He dwells within our minds, and in our souls and bodies, and in heaven and in earth, and that, while remaining Himself, He is at one and the same time within the world around it and above it (yea, above the sky and above existence); and they call Him a Sun, a Star, and a Fire, and Water, a Wind or Spirit, a Dew, a Cloud, an Archetypal Stone, and a Rock, and All Creation, Who yet (they declare) is no created thing.
Thus, then, the Universal and Transcendent Cause must both be nameless and also possess the names of all things in order that It may truly be an universal Dominion, the Centre of creation on which all things depend, as on their Cause and Origin and Goal; and that, according to the Scriptures, It may be all in all, and may be truly called the Creator of the world, originating and perfecting and maintaining all things; their Defence and Dwelling, and the Attractive Force that draws them: and all this in one single, ceaseless, and transcendent act. For the Nameless Goodness is not only the cause of cohesion or life or perfection in such wise as to derive Its Name from this or that providential activity alone; nay, rather does It contain all things beforehand within Itself, after a simple and uncircumscribed manner through the perfect excellence of Its one and all-creative Providence, and thus we draw from the whole creation Its appropriate praises and Its Names.
8. Moreover, the sacred writers proclaim not only such titles as these (titles drawn from universal or from particular providences or providential activities), but sometimes they have gained their images from certain heavenly visions (which in the holy precincts or elsewhere have illuminated the Initiates or the Prophets), and, ascribing to the super-luminous nameless Goodness titles drawn from all manner of acts and functions, have clothed It in human (fiery or amber) shapes or forms, and have spoken of Its Eyes, and Ears, and Hair, and Face, and Hands, and Wings, and Feathers, and Arms, and Back Parts, and Feet; and fashioned such mystical conceptions as its Crown,and Throne, and Cup, and Mixing Bowl, etc., concerning which things we will attempt to speak when we treat of Symbolical Divinity. At present, collecting from the Scriptures what concerns the matter in hand, and employing as our canon the rule we have described, and guiding our search thereby, let us proceed to an exposition of God’s Intelligible Names; and as the Hierarchical Law directs us in all study of Divinity, let us approach these godlike contemplations (for such indeed they are) with our hearts predisposed unto the vision of God, and let us bring holy ears to the exposition of God’s holy Names, implanting holy Truths in holy instruments according to the Divine command, and withholding these things from the mockery and laughter of the uninitiate, or, rather, seeking to redeem those wicked men (if any such there be) from their enmity towards God. Thou, therefore, O good Timothy, must guard these truths according to the holy Ordinance, nor must thou utter or divulge the heavenly mysteries unto the uninitiate. And for myself I pray God grant me worthily to declare the beneficent and manifold Names of the Unutterable and Nameless Godhead, and that He do not take away the word of Truth out of my mouth.
II. Concerning the Undifferencing and the Differentiation in Divinity, and the Nature of Divine Unification and Differentiation.
1. ’Tis the whole Being of the Supernal Godhead (saith the Scripture) that the Absolute Goodness hath defined and revealed. For in what other sense may we take the words of Holy Writ when it tells us how the Godhead spake concerning Itself, and said: “Why asketh thou me concerning the good? None is good save one, that is, God.” Now this matter we have discussed elsewhere, and have shown that all the Names proper to God are always applied in Scripture not partially but to the whole, entire, full, complete Godhead, and that they all refer indivisibly, absolutely, unreservedly, and wholly to all the wholeness of the whole and entire Godhead. Indeed (as we made mention in the Outlines of Divinity), if any one deny that such utterance refers to the whole Godhead, he blasphemeth and profanely dares to divide the Absolute and Supreme Unity. We must, then, take them as referring unto the entire Godhead. For not only did the goodly Word Himself say: “I am Good,” but also one of the inspired prophets speaks of the Spirit as Good. So, too, of the words “I Am that I Am.” If, instead of applying these to the whole Godhead, they wrest them to include only one part Thereof, how will they explain such passages as: “Thus saith He that is and was and is to come, the Almighty,” or: “Thou art the same,” or “The Spirit of Truth that is, and that proceedeth from the Father”? And if they deny that the whole Godhead is Life, how can that Sacred Word be true Which declared “As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will,” and also, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth”? And as to the Dominion over the whole world belonging to the whole Godhead, it is impossible, methinks, to say (as far as concerns the Paternal and the Filial Godhead) how often in the Scriptures the Name of “Lord” is repeated as belonging both to the Father and to the Son: moreover the Spirit, too, is Lord. And the Names “Fair” and “Wise” are given to the whole Godhead; and all the Names that belong to the whole Godhead (e.g. “Deifying Virtue” and “Cause”) Scripture introduces into all its praises of the Supreme Godhead comprehensively, as when it saith that “all things are from God,” and more in detail, as when it saith that “through Him are and to Him are all things created,” that “all things subsist in Him,” and that “Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.” And, to sum it all in brief, the Divine Word Himself declared: “I and the Father are one,” and “All things that the Father hath are mine,” and “All mine are thine, and thine are mine.” And again, all that belongeth to the Father and to Himself He also ascribes in the Common Unity to the Divine Spirit, viz. the Divine operations, the worship, the originating and inexhaustible creativeness and the ministration of the bountiful gifts. And, methinks, that none of those nurtured in the Divine Scriptures will, except through perversity, gainsay it, that the Divine Attributes in their true and Divine signification all belong to the entire Deity. And, therefore, having here briefly and partially (and more at large elsewhere) given from the Scriptures the proof and definition of this matter, we intend that whatever title of God’s Entire Nature we endeavour to explain be understood as referring to the Godhead in Its entirety.
2. And if any one say that we herein are introducing a confusion of all distinctions in the Deity, we for our part opine that such his argument is not sufficient even to persuade himself. For if he is one utterly at enmity with the Scriptures, he will also be altogether far from our Philosophy; and if he recks not of the Holy Wisdom drawn from the Scriptures, how can he reckon aught of that method by which we would conduct him to an understanding of things Divine? But if he taketh Scriptural Truth as his Standard, this is the very Rule and Light by which we will (so far as in us lies) proceed straight to our defence, and will declare that the Sacred Science sometimes employs a method of Undifference and sometimes one of Differentiation; and that we must neither disjoin those things which are Undifferenced nor confuse those which are Differentiated; but following the Sacred Science to the best of our powers, we must lift up our eyes towards the Divine Rays; for, receiving thence the Divine Revelations as a noble Standard of Truth, we strive to preserve its treasure in ourselves without addition, diminution, or distortion, and in thus preserving the Scriptures, we also are preserved, and are moreover enabled by the same to the end that we may still preserve them and be by them preserved.
3. Now Undifferenced Names belong to the entire Godhead (as we showed more fully from the Scriptures in the Outlines of Divinity). To this class belong the following: “Super-Excellent,” “Super-Divine,” “Super-Essential,” “Super-Vital,” “Supra-Sapient,” and thereto all those titles wherein the negative expresses excess; moreover, all those titles which have a causal sense, such as “Good,” “Fair,” “Existent,” “Lifegiving,” “Wise,” and whatever titles are ascribed to the Cause of all good things from Its bountiful gifts. The differentiated Names, on the other hand, are the Super-Essential names and connotations of “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit.” In these cases the titles cannot be interchanged, nor are they held in common. Again, besides this, the perfect and unchangeable subsistence of Jesus in our nature is differentiated, and so are all the mysteries of Love and Being therein displayed.
4. But needs must we, methinks, go deeper into the matter and thoroughly explain the difference between Undifference and Differentiation as concerning God, in order that our whole Discourse may be made clear, and, being free from all doubtfulness and obscurity, may (to the best of our powers) give a distinct, plain, and orderly statement of the matter. For, as I said elsewhere, the Initiates of our Divine Tradition designate the Undifferenced Attributes of the Transcendently Ineffable and Unknowable Permanence as hidden, incommunicable Ultimates, but the beneficent Differentiations of the Supreme Godhead, they call Emanations and Manifestations; and following the Holy Scripture they declare that some Attributes belong especially to Undifference, and some, on the other hand, to Differentiation. For instance, they say concerning the Divine Unity, or Super-Essence, that the undivided Trinity holds in a common Unity without distinction Its Subsistence beyond Being, Its Godhead beyond Deity, Its Goodness beyond Excellence; the Identity, surpassing all things, of Its transcendently Individual Nature; Its Oneness above Unity; Its Namelessness and Multiplicity of Names; Its Unknowableness and perfect Intelligibility; Its universal Affirmation and universal Negation in a state above all Affirmation and Negation, and that It possesses the mutual Abiding and Indwelling (as it were) of Its indivisibly supreme Persons in an utterly Undifferentiated and Transcendent Unity, and yet without any confusion even as the lights of lamps (to use visible and homely similes) being in one house and wholly interpenetrating one another, severally possess a clear and absolute distinction each from each, and are by their distinctions united into one, and in their unity are kept distinct. Even so do we see, when there are many lamps in a house, how that the lights of them all are unified into one undifferentiated light, so that there shineth forth from them one indivisible brightness; and no one, methinks, could separate the light of one particular lamp from the others, in isolation from the air which embraces them all, nor could he see one light without another, inasmuch as, without confusion, they yet are wholly commingled.
Yea, if any one takes out of the dwelling one of the burning lamps, all its own particular light will therewith depart from the place without either carrying off in itself aught of the other lights or bequeathing any of its own brightness to the rest. For, as I said, the entire and complete union of the lights one with another brought no confusion or commixture in any parts—and that though the light is literally embodied in the air and streams from the material substance of fire. The Super-Essential Unity of God, however, exceedeth (so we declare) not only the unions of material bodies, but even those of Souls and of Intelligences, which these Godlike and celestial Luminaries in perfect mutual interpenetration supernaturally and without confusion possess, through a participation corresponding to their individual powers of participating in the All-Transcendent Unity.
5. There is, on the other hand, a Differentiation made in the Super-Essential Doctrine of God—not merely such as I have just mentioned (viz. that in the very Unity, Each of the Divine Persons possesses without confusion Its own distinct existence), but also that the Attributes of the Super-Essential Divine Generation are not interchangeable. The Father alone is the Source of the Super-Essential Godhead, and the Father is not a Son, nor is the Son a Father; for the Divine Persons all preserve, Each without alloy, His own particular Attributes of praise. Such, then, are the instances of Undifference and of Differentiation in the Ineffable Unity and Subsistence of God. And if the term “Differentiation” be also applied to the bounteous act of Emanation whereby the Divine Unity, brimming Itself with goodness in the excess of Its Undifferenced Unity thus enters into Multiplicity, yet an undifferenced unity worketh even in those differentiated acts whereby, in ceaseless communications, It bestows Being, Life, and Wisdom, and those other gifts of the all-creative Goodness in respect of which (as we behold the communications and the participants thereof) we celebrate those things wherein the creatures supernaturally participate. Yea, ‘tis a common and undifferenced activity of the whole Godhead that It is wholly and entirely communicated unto each of them that share It and unto none merely in part; even as the centre of a circle is shared by all the radii which surround it in a circle; and as there are many impressions of a seal all sharing in the seal which is their archetype while yet this is entire, nor is it only a part thereof that belongeth unto any of them. But the Incommunicable All-creative Godhead transcends all such symbols in that It is beyond Apprehension nor hath It any other mode of communion such as to join It unto the participants.
Perhaps, however, some one will say: “The seal is not entire and the same in all the printed copies.” I answer that this is not due to the seal itself (for it gives itself wholly and identically to each), but the difference of the substances which share it makes the impressions of the one, entire, identical archetype to be different. For instance, if they are soft, plastic, and smooth, and have no print already, and are neither hard and resistent, nor yet melting and unstable, the imprint will be clear, plain, and permanent; but if the aforesaid fitness should in aught be lacking, then the material will not take the impression and reproduce it distinctly, and other such results will follow as an unsuitable material must bring about.
6. Again, it is by a Differentiated act of God’s benevolence that the Super-Essential Word should wholly and completely take Human Substance of human flesh and do and suffer all those things which, in a special and particular manner, belong to the action of His Divine Humanity. In these acts the Father and the Spirit have no share, except of course that they all share in the loving generosity of the Divine counsels and in all that transcendent Divine working of unutterable mysteries which were performed in Human Nature by Him Who as God and as the Word of God is Immutable. So do we strive to differentiate the Divine Attributes, according as these Attributes are Undifferenced or Differentiated.
7. Now all the grounds of these Unifications, and Differentiations in the Divine Nature which the Scriptures have revealed to us, we have explained in the Outlines of Divinity, to the best of our abilities, treating separately of each. The latter class we have philosophically unravelled and unfolded, and so have sought to guide the holy and unspotted mind to contemplate the shining truths of Scripture, while the former class we have endeavoured (in accordance with Divine Tradition) to apprehend as Mysteries in a manner beyond the activities of our minds. For
all Divine things, even those that are revealed to us, are only known by their Communications. Their ultimate nature, which they possess in their own original being, is beyond Mind and beyond all Being and Knowledge. For instance, if we call the Super-Essential Mystery by the Name of “God,’’ or “Life,” or “Being,” or “Light,” or “Word,” we conceive of nothing else than the powers that stream Therefrom to us bestowing Godhead, Being, Life or Wisdom; while that Mystery Itself we strive to apprehend by casting aside all the activities of our mind, since we behold no Deification, or Life, or Being, which exactly resembles the altogether and utterly Transcendent Cause of all things. Again, that the Father is Originating Godhead while Jesus and the Spirit are (so to speak) Divine Off-shoots of the Paternal Godhead, and, as it were, Blossoms and Super-Essential Shinings Thereof we learn from Holy Scripture; but how these things are so we cannot say, nor yet conceive.
8. Just so far can the powers of our .minds attain as to see that all spiritual paternity and sonship is a gift bestowed from the all-transcendent Archetypal Fatherhood and Sonship both upon us and also upon the celestial Powers: whereby Godlike Minds receive the states and names of Gods, and Sons of Gods, and Fathers of Gods, such paternity and sonship being perfected in a spiritual manner (i. e. incorporeally, immaterially, and invisibly) because the Divine Spirit setteth above all invisible Immateriality and Deification, and the Father and the Son, supernaturally transcend all spiritual fatherhood and sonship. For there is no exact similitude between the creatures and the Creative Originals; for the creatures possess only such images of the Creative Originals as are possible to them, while the Originals Themselves transcend and exceed the creatures by the very nature of Their own Originality. To employ human examples, we say that pleasant or painful conditions produce in us feelings of pleasure or pain while yet they possess not these feelings themselves; and we do not say that the fire which warms and burns is itself burnt or warmed. Even so if any one says that Very Life lives, or that Very Light is enlightened, he will be wrong (according to my view) unless, perchance, he were to use these terms in a different sense from the ordinary one to mean that the qualities of created things pre-exist, after a superlative manner as touching their true Being in the Creative Originals.
9. Even the plainest article of Divinity, namely the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus in Human Form, cannot be expressed by any Language or known by any Mind—not even by the first of the most exalted angels. That He took man’s substance is a mysterious truth, the which we have received; but we know not how from the Virgin’s seed He was formed in another manner than is natural, nor how His dry feet supporting the solid weight of His material body He walked upon the unstable substance of the water, nor understand we any of the other things which belong to the Supernatural Nature of Jesus. Of these things I have spoken enough elsewhere; and our renowned Teacher hath wonderfully declared, in his Elements of Divinity, what he hath either learnt directly from the Sacred Writers, or else hath discovered from his cunning research concerning Scriptural truths through the much toil and labour which he bestowed thereon, or else hath had revealed unto him by some diviner inspiration wherein he received not only true spiritual notions but also true spiritual motions, and by the kinship of his mind with them (if I may so express it) was perfected to attain without any other teacher to a mystical communion with these verities and a belief therein. And to put before them in briefest compass the many blessed speculations of his ingenious mind thus speaketh he concerning Jesus in his compilation of the Elements of Divinity.
10. From the Elements of Divinity, by S. Hierotheus.
The Universal Cause which filleth all things is the Deity of Jesus, whereof the parts are in such wise tempered to the whole that It is neither whole nor part, and yet is at the same time whole and also part, containing in Its all-embracing unity both part and whole, and being transcendent and antecedent to both. This Deity is perfect in those Beings that are imperfect as a Fount of Perfection; It is Perfectionless in those that are perfect as transcending and anticipating their Perfection; It is the Form producing Form in the formless, as a Fount of every form; and it is Formless in the Forms, as being beyond all form; It is the Being that pervades all beings at once though not affected by them; and It is Super-Essential, as transcending every being; It sets all bounds of Authority and Order, and yet It has Its seal beyond all Authority and Order. It is the Measure of the Universe; and it is Eternity, and above Eternity and before Eternity. It is an Abundance in those Beings that lack, and a Super-Abundance in those that abound; unutterable, ineffable; beyond Mind, beyond Life, beyond Being; It supernaturally possesses the supernatural and super-essentially possesses the super-essential. And since that Supra-Divine Being hath in loving kindness come down from thence unto the Natural Estate, and verily took substance and assumed the name of Man (we must speak with reverence of those things which we utter beyond human thought and language), even in this act He possesses His Supernatural and Super-Essential Existence—not only in that He hath without change or confusion of Attributes shared in our human lot while remaining unaffected by that unutterable Self-Emptying as regards the fullness of His Godhead, but also because (most wonderful of all wonders!) He passed in His Supernatural and Super-Essential state through conditions of Nature and Being, and receiving from us all things that are ours, exalted them far above us.
11. So much for these matters. Now let us proceed to the object of our discussion and endeavour to explain the Common and Undifferenced Names belonging to God’s Differentiated Being. And, that the subject of our investigation may be clearly defined beforehand, we give the name of Divine Differentiation (as was said) to the beneficent Emanations of the Supreme Godhead. For bestowing upon all things and supernally infusing Its Communications unto the goodly Universe, It becomes differentiated without loss of Undifference; and multiplied without loss of Unity; from Its Oneness it becomes manifold while yet remaining within Itself. For example, since God is super-essentially Existent and bestows existence upon all things that are, and brings the world into being, that single Existence of His is said to become manifold through bringing forth the many existences from Itself, while yet He remains One in the act of Self-Multiplication; Undifferenced throughout the process of Emanation, and Full in the emptying process of Differentiation; Super-Essentially transcending the Being of all things, and guiding the whole world onwards by an indivisible act, and pouring forth without diminution His indefectible bounties. Yea, being One and communicating of His Unity both unto every part of the world and also unto the whole, both unto that which is one and unto that which is many, He is One in an unchangeable and super-essential manner, being neither an unit in the multiplicity of things nor yet the sum total of such units. Indeed, He is not an unity in this sense, and doth not participate in unity nor possess it; but He is an Unity in a manner far different from this, above all unity which is in the world; yea, He is an Indivisible Plurality, insatiable yet brim-full, producing, perfecting, and maintaining all unity and plurality. Moreover, since many, through Deification from Him, are made Gods (so far as the Godlike capacity of each allows), there thus appears to be what is called a Differentiation and a Reduplication of the One God, yet none the less He is the primal God, the Supra-Divine and Super-Essentially One God, who dwells Indivisibly within the separate and individual things, being an Undifferenced Unity in Himself and without any commixture or multiplication through His contact with the Many. And supernaturally perceiving this, thus speaketh (by inspiration, in his holy writings) that Guide unto Divine illumination by whom both we and our teacher are led, that mighty man in things Divine, that Luminary of the world. For though (saith he) there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many). But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him. For in divine things the undifferenced Unities are of more might than the Differentiations and hold the foremost place and retain their state of Undifference even after the One has, without departing from Its oneness, entered into Differentiation. These Differentiations or beneficent Emanations of the whole Godhead—whereby Its Undifferenced Nature is shared in common—we shall (so far as in us lies) endeavour to describe from the Divine Names which reveal them in the Scriptures, having now made this clear beforehand (as hath been said): that every Name of the Divine beneficent Activity unto whichever of the Divine Persons it is applied, must be taken as belonging, without distinction, to the whole entirety of the Godhead.
III. What is the power of Prayer? Also concerning the Blessed Hierotheus and concerning Reverence and the Writing of Divinity.
1. And first of all, if it like thee, let us consider the highest Name, even “Goodness,” by which all the Emanations of God are conjointly revealed. And let us begin with an invocation of the Trinity, the Which, as It surpasseth Goodness, and is the Source of all goodness, doth reveal all conjoined together Its own good providences. For we must first lift up our minds in prayer unto the Primal Goodness, and by drawing nearer Thereunto, we must thus be initiated into the mystery of those good gifts which are rooted in Its being. For the Trinity is nigh unto all things, and yet not all things are nigh unto It. And when we call upon It with holy prayers and unspotted mind and with our souls prepared for union with God, then are we also nigh Thereto; for It is not in space, so as to be absent from any spot, or to move from one position to another. Nay, to speak of It as omnipresent doth not express Its all-transcendent all-embracing Infinitude. Let us then press on in prayer, looking upwards to the Divine benignant Rays, even as if a resplendent cord were hanging from the height of heaven unto this world below, and we, by seizing it with alternate hands in one advance, appeared to pull it down; but in very truth instead of drawing down the rope (the same being already nigh us above and below), we were ourselves being drawn upwards to the higher Refulgence of the resplendent Rays. Or even as, having embarked on a ship and clinging to the cables, the which being stretched out from some rock unto us, presented themselves (as it were) for us to lay hold upon them, we should not be drawing the rock towards ourselves, but should, in very truth, be drawing ourselves and the vessel towards the rock; as also, conversely, if any one standing upon the vessel pushes away the rock that is on the shore, he will not affect the rock (which stands immovable) but will separate himself therefrom, and the more he pushes it so much the more will he be staving himself away. Hence, before every endeavour, more especially if the subject be Divinity, must we begin with prayer: not as though we would pull down to ourselves that Power which is nigh both everywhere and nowhere, but that, by these remembrances and invocations of God, we may commend and unite ourselves Thereunto.
2. Now perhaps there is need of an explanation why, when our renowned teacher Hierotheus hath compiled his wonderful Elements of Divinity, we have composed other Tractates of Divinity, and now are writing this present as if his work were not sufficient. Now if he had professed to deal in an ordered system with all questions of Divinity, and had gone through the whole sum of Divinity with an exposition of every branch, we should not have gone so far in madness or folly as to suppose that we could touch these problems with a diviner insight than he, nor would we have cared to waste our time in a vain repetition of those same truths; more especially since it would be an injury to a teacher whom we love were we thus to claim for ourselves the famous speculations and expositions of a man who, next to Paul the Divine, hath been our chief preceptor. But since, in his lofty “Instructions on Divinity,” he gave us comprehensive and pregnant definitions fitted to our understanding, and to that of such amongst us as were teachers of the newly initiated souls, and bade us unravel and explain with whatever powers of reason we possessed, the comprehensive and compact skeins of thought spun by his mighty intellect; and since thou hast thyself oftentimes urged us so to do, and hast remitted his treatise to us as too sublime for comprehension, therefore we, while setting him apart (as a teacher of advanced and perfect spirits) for those above the commonalty, and as a kind of second Scriptures worthy to follow the Inspired Writings, will yet teach Divine Truths, according to our capacity, unto those who are our peers. For if solid food is suited only to the perfect, what degree of perfection would it need to give this food to others? Wherefore we are right in saying that the direct study of the spiritual Scriptures and the comprehensive teaching of them need advanced capacities, while the understanding and the learning of the matter which contribute thereto is suited to the inferior Initiators and Initiates. We have, however, carefully observed the principle: Whatsoever things our Divine Preceptor has throughly dealt with and made clearly manifest we have never in any wise ventured thereon, for fear of repetition, nor given the same explanation of the passage whereof he treated. For even among our inspired Hierarchs (when, as thou knowest, we with him and many of our holy brethren met together to behold that mortal body, Source of Life, which received the Incarnate God, and James, the brother of God, was there, and Peter, the chief and highest of the Sacred Writers, and then, having beheld it, all the Hierarchs there present celebrated, according to the power of each, the omnipotent goodness of the Divine weakness): on that occasion, I say, he surpassed all the Initiates next to the Divine Writers, yea, he was wholly transported, was wholly outside of himself, and was so moved by a communion with those Mysteries he was celebrating, that all who heard him and saw him and knew him (or rather knew him not) deemed him to be rapt of God and endued with utterance Divine. But why should I tell thee of the divine things that were uttered in that place? For, unless I have forgotten who I am, I know that I have often heard from thee certain fragments of those enraptured praises; so earnest hast thou been with all thy soul to follow heavenly things.
3. But, to say nothing of those mystical experiences (since they cannot be told unto the world, and since thou knowest them well), when it behoved us to communicate these things unto the world and to bring all whom we might unto that holy knowledge we possessed, how he surpassed nearly all the holy teachers in the time he devoted to the task, in pureness of mind, in exactness of exposition, and in all other holy qualities, to such a degree that we could not attempt to gaze upon such spiritual radiance. For we are conscious in ourselves and well aware that we cannot sufficiently perceive those Divine Truths which are granted to man’s perception, nor can we declare and utter those elements of Divine Knowledge which are given unto man to speak. We fall very short of that understanding which the Divine men possessed concerning heavenly truths, and verily, from excess of reverence, we should not have ventured to listen, or give utterance to any truths of Divine philosophy, were it not that we are convinced in our mind that such knowledge of Divine Truth as is possible must not be disregarded. This conviction was wrought within us, not only by the natural impulse of our minds, which yearn and strive for such vision of supernatural things as may be attained, but also by the holy ordinance of Divine Law itself, which, while it bids us not to busy ourselves in things beyond us because such things are both beyond our merits and also unattainable, yet earnestly exhorts us to learn all things within our reach, which are granted and allowed us, and also generously to impart these treasures unto others. In obedience to these behests we, ceasing not through weariness or want of courage in such search for Divine Truth as is possible, yea, and not daring to leave without assistance those who possess not a greater power of contemplation than ourselves, have set ourselves to the task of composition, in no vain attempt to introduce fresh teaching, but only seeking by more minute and detailed investigations to make more clear and plain that which the true Hierotheus hath said in brief.
III. Concerning ”Good,” ”Light,” ”Beautiful,” “Desire,” ”Ecstasy,” “Jealousy.” Also that Evil is neither existent nor Sprung from anything existent nor inherent in existent things.
1. Now let us consider the name of “Good” which the Sacred Writers apply to the Supra-Divine Godhead in a transcendent manner, calling the Supreme Divine Existence Itself “Goodness” (as it seems to me) in a sense that separates It from the whole creation, and meaning, by this term, to indicate that the Good, under the form of Good-Being, extends Its goodness by the very fact of Its existence unto all things. For as our sun, through no choice or deliberation, but by the very fact of its existence, gives light to all those things which have any inherent power of sharing its illumination, even so the Good (which is above the sun, as the transcendent archetype by the very mode of its existence is above its faded image) sends forth upon all things according to their receptive powers, the rays of Its undivided Goodness. Through these all Spiritual Beings and faculties and activities (whether perceived or percipient) began; through these they exist and possess a life incapable of failure or diminution, and are untainted by any corruption or death or materiality or birth, being separate above all instability and flux and restlessness of change. And whereas they are bodiless and immaterial they are perceived by our minds, and whereas they are minds themselves, they possess a supernatural perception and receive an illumination (after their own manner) concerning the hidden nature of things, from whence they pass on their own knowledge to other kindred spirits. Their rest is in the Divine Goodness, wherein they are grounded, and This Goodness maintains them and protects them and feasts them with Its good things. Through desiring this they possess their being and their blessedness, and, being conformed thereto (according to their powers, they are goodly, and, as the Divine Law commands, pass on to those that are below them, of the gifts which have come unto them from the Good.
2. Hence have they their celestial orders, their self-unities, their mutual indwellings, their distinct Differences, the faculties which raise the lower unto the higher ranks, the providences of the higher for those beneath them; their preservation of the properties belonging to each faculty, their unchanging introversions, their constancy and elevation in their search for the Good, and all the other qualities which we have described in our book concerning the Properties and Orders of the Angels. Moreover all things appertaining to the Celestial Hierarchy, the angelic Purifications, the Illuminations and the attainments which perfect them in all angelic perfection and come from the all-creative and originating Goodness, from whence it was given to them to possess their created goodness, and to manifest the Secret Goodness in themselves, and so to be (as it were) the angelic Evangelists of the Divine Silence and to stand forth as shining lights revealing Him that is within the shrine. And next those sacred and holy Minds, men’s souls and all the excellences that belong to souls derive their being from the Super-Excellent Goodness. So do they possess intelligence; so do they preserve their living being immortal; so is it they exist at all, and can, by straining towards the living angelic powers, through their good guidance mount towards the Bounteous Origin of all things; so can they (according to their measure) participate in the illuminations which stream from above and share the bounteous gift (as far as their power extends) and attain all the other privileges which we leave recounted in our book, Concerning the Soul. Yea, and the same is true, if it must needs be said, concerning even the irrational souls, or living creatures, which cleave the air, or tread the earth, or crawl upon the ground, and those which live among the waters or possess an amphibious life, and all that live buried and covered in the earth—in a word all that possess a sensitive soul or life. All these are endowed with soul and life because the Good exists. And all plants derive from the Good that life which gives them nourishment and motion, and even whatsoever has no life or soul exists through the Good, and thus came into the estate of being.
3. Now if the Good is above all things (as indeed It is) Its Formless Nature produces all-form; and in It alone Not-Being is an excess of Being, and Lifelessness an excess of Life and Its Mindless state is an excess of Wisdom, and all the Attributes of the Good we express in a transcendent manner by negative images. And if it is reverent so to say, even that which is not desires the all-transcendent Good and struggles itself, by its denial of all things, to find its rest in the Good which verily transcends all being.
4. Nay, even the foundation and the boundaries of the heavens (as we forgot to say while thinking of other matters) owe their origin to the Good. Such is this universe, which lessens not nor grows, and such the noiseless movements (if noiseless they be) of the vast heavenly revolution, and such the starry orders whose light is fixed as an ornament of heaven, and such the various wanderings of certain stars—especially the repeated and returning orbits of those two luminaries to which the Scripture giveth the name of “Great,” whereby we reckon our days and nights and months and years; which define the round of time and temporal events and give them measurement, sequence, and cohesion. And what shall I say concerning the sun’s rays considered in themselves? From the Good comes the light which is an image of Goodness; wherefore the Good is described by the name of “Light,” being the archetype thereof which is revealed in that image. For as the Goodness of the all-transcendent Godhead reaches from the highest and most perfect forms of being unto the lowest, and still is beyond them all, remaining superior to those above and retaining those below in its embrace, and so gives light to all things that can receive It, and creates and vitalizes and maintains and perfects them, and is the Measure of the Universe and its Eternity, its Numerical Principle, its Order, its Embracing Power, its Cause and its End: even so this great, all-bright and ever-shining sun, which is the visible image of the Divine Goodness, faintly reechoing the activity of the Good, illumines all things that can receive its light while retaining the utter simplicity of light, and expands above and below throughout the visible world the beams of its own radiance. And if there is aught that does not share them, this is not due to any weakness or deficiency in its distribution of the light, but is due to the unreceptiveness of those creatures which do not attain sufficient singleness to participate therein. For verily the light passeth over many such substances and enlightens those which are beyond them, and there is no visible thing unto which the light reacheth not in the exceeding greatness of its proper radiance. Yea, and it contributes to the birth of material bodies and brings them unto life, and nourishes them that they may grow, and perfects and purifies and renews them. And the light is the measure and the numerical principle of seasons and of days and of all our earthly Time; for ‘tis the selfsame light (though then without a form) which, Moses the Divine declares, marked even that first period of three days which was at the beginning of time. And like as Goodness draweth all things to Itself, and is the great Attractive Power which unite things that are sundered (being as It is: the Godhead and the Supreme Fount and Producer of Unity); and like as all things desire It as their beginning, their cohesive power and end; and like as ‘tis the Good (as saith the Scripture) from which all things were made and are (having been brought into existence thence as from a Perfect Cause); and like as in the Good all things subsist, being kept and controlled in an almighty Receptacle; and like as unto the Good all things are turned (as unto the proper End of each) ; and like as after the Good all things do yearn—those that have mind and reason seeking It by knowledge, those that have perception seeking It by perception, those that have no perception seeking It by the natural movement of their vital instinct, and those that are without life and have mere existence seeking It by their aptitude for that bare participation whence this mere existence is theirs —even so doth the light (being as it were Its visible image) draw together all things and attract them unto Itself: those that can see, those that have motion, those that receive Its light and warmth, those that are merely held in being by Its rays; whence the sun is so called because it summeth all things and uniteth the scattered elements of the world. All material things desire the sun, for they desire either to see or to move and to receive light and warmth and to be maintained in existence by the light. I say not (as was feigned by the ancient myth) that the sun is the God and Creator of this Universe, and therefore takes the visible world under his special care; but I say that the “invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”
5. But these things are dealt with in the “Symbolic Divinity.” Here I desire to declare what is the spiritual meaning of the name “Light” as belonging to the Good. The Good God is called Spiritual Light because He fills every heavenly mind with spiritual light, and drives all ignorance and error from all souls where they have gained a lodgment, and giveth them all a share of holy light and purges their spiritual eyes from the mist of ignorance that surrounds them, and stirs and opens the eyes which are fast shut and weighed down with darkness, and gives them first a moderate illumination, then (when they taste the Light and desire It more) He giveth Himself in greater measure and shineth in more abundance on them “because they have loved much,” and ever He constraineth them according to their powers of looking upwards.
6. And so that Good which is above all light is called a Spiritual Light because It is an Originating Beam and an Overflowing Radiance, illuminating with its fullness every Mind above the world, around it, or within it, and renewing all their spiritual powers, embracing them all by Its transcendent compass and exceeding them all by Its transcendent elevation. And It contains within Itself, in a simple form, the entire ultimate principle of light; and is the Transcendent Archetype of Light; and, while bearing the light in its womb, It exceeds it in quality and precedes it in time; and so conjoineth together all spiritual and rational beings, uniting them in one. For as ignorance leadeth wanderers astray from one another, so doth the presence of Spiritual Light join and unite together those that are being illuminated, and perfects them and converts them toward that which truly Is—yea, converts them from their manifold false opinions and unites their different perceptions, or rather fancies, into one true, pure and coherent knowledge, and filleth them with one unifying light.
7. This Good is described by the Sacred Writers as Beautiful and as Beauty, as Love or Beloved, and by all other Divine titles which befit Its beautifying and gracious fairness. Now there is a distinction between the titles “Beautiful” and “Beauty” applied to the all-embracing Cause. For we universally distinguish these two titles as meaning respectively the qualities shared and the objects which share therein. We give the name of “Beautiful” to that which shares in the quality of beauty, and we give the name of “Beauty” to that common quality by which all beautiful things are beautiful. But the Super-Essential Beautiful is called “Beauty” because of that quality which It imparts to all things severally according to their nature, and because It is the Cause of the harmony and splendour in all things, flashing forth upon them all, like light, the beautifying communications of Its originating ray; and because It summons all things to fare unto Itself (from whence It hath the name of “Fairness”), and because It draws all things together in a state of mutual inter penetration. And it is called “Beautiful” because It is All-Beautiful and more than Beautiful, and is eternally, unvaryingly, unchangeably Beautiful; in capable of birth or death or growth or decay; and not beautiful in one part and foul in another; nor yet at one time and not at another; nor yet beautiful in relation to one thing but not to another; nor yet beautiful in one place and not in another (as if It were beautiful for some but were not beautiful for others); nay, on the contrary, It is, in Itself and by Itself, uniquely and eternally beautiful, and from beforehand It contains in a transcendent manner the originating beauty of everything that is beautiful. For in the simple and supernatural nature belonging to the world of beautiful things, all beauty and all that is beautiful hath its unique and pre-existent Cause. From this Beautiful all things possess their existence, each kind being beautiful in its own manner, and the Beautiful causes the harmonies and sympathies and communities of all things. And by the Beautiful all things are united together and the Beautiful is the beginning of all things, as being the Creative Cause which moves the world and holds all things in existence by their yearning for their own Beauty. And It is the Goal of all things, and their Beloved, as being their Final Cause (for ‘tis the desire of the Beautiful that brings them all into existence), and It is their Exemplar from which they derive their definite limits; and hence the Beautiful is the same as the Good, inasmuch as all things, in all causation, desire the Beautiful and Good; nor is there anything in the world but hath a share in the Beautiful and Good. Moreover our Discourse will dare to aver that even the Non-Existent shares in the Beautiful and Good, for Non-Existence is itself beautiful and good when, by the Negation of all Attributes, it is ascribed Super-Essentially to God. This One Good and Beautiful is in Its oneness the Cause of all the many beautiful and good things. Hence comes the bare existence of all things, and hence their unions, their differentiations, their identities, their differences, their similarities, their dissimilarities, their communions of opposite things, the unconfused distinctions of their interpenetrating elements; the providences of the Superiors, the interdependence of the Co-ordinates, the responses of the Inferiors, the states of permanence wherein all keep their own identity. And hence again the intercommunion of all things according to the power of each; their harmonies and sympathies (which do not merge them) and the co-ordinations of the whole universe; the mixture of elements therein and the indestructible ligaments of things; the ceaseless succession of the recreative process in Minds and Souls and in Bodies; for all have rest and movement in That Which, above all rest and all movement, grounds each one in its own natural laws and moves each one to its own proper movement.
8. And the Heavenly Minds are spoken of as moving () in a circular manner, when they are united to the beginningless and endless illuminations of the Beautiful and Good; () straight forward, when they advance to the providential guidance of those beneath them and unerringly accomplish their designs; and () with spiral motion, because, even while providentially guiding their inferiors, they remain immutably in their self-identity, turning unceasingly around the Beautiful and Good whence all identity is sprung.
9. And the soul hath () a circular movement—viz. an introversion from things without and the unified concentration of its spiritual powers—which gives it a kind of fixed revolution, and, turning it from the multiplicity without, draws it together first into itself, and then (after it has reached this unified condition) unites it to those powers which are a perfect Unity, and thus leads it on unto the Beautiful and Good Which is beyond all things, and is One and is the Same, without beginning or end. () And the soul moves with a spiral motion whensoever (according to its capacity) it is enlightened with truths of Divine Knowledge, not in the special unity of its being but by the process of its discursive reason and by mingled and alternative activities. () And it moves straight forward when it does not enter into itself to feel the stirrings of its spiritual unity (for this, as I said, is the circular motion), but goes forth unto the things around it and feels an influence coming even from the outward world, as from a rich abundance of cunning tokens, drawing it unto the simple unity of contemplative acts.
10. These three motions, and also the similar motions we perceive in this material world and (far anterior to these) the individual permanence, rest and grounding of each Kind have their Efficient, Formal, and Final Cause in the Beautiful and Good; Which is above all rest and motion; through Which all rest and motion come; and from Which, and in Which, and unto Which, and for the sake of Which they are. For from It and through It are all Being and life of spirit and of soul; and hence in the realm of nature magnitudes both small, co-equal and great; hence all the measured order and the proportions of things, which, by their different harmonies, commingle into wholes made up of co-existent parts; hence this universe, which is both One and Many; the conjunctions of parts together; the unities underlying all multiplicity, and the perfections of the individual wholes; hence Quality, Quantity, Magnitude and Infinitude; hence fusionsand differentiations, hence all infinity and all limitation; all boundaries, ranks, transcendences, elements and forms, hence all Being, all Power, all Activity, all Condition, all Perception, all Reason, all Intuition, all Apprehension, all Understanding, All Communion—in a word, all, that is comes from the Beautiful and Good, hath its very existence in the Beautiful and Good, and turns towards the Beautiful and Good. Yea, all that exists and that comes into being, exists and comes into being because of the Beautiful and Good; and unto this Object all things gaze and by It are moved and are conserved, and for the sake of It, because of It and in It, existeth every originating Principle—be this Exemplar, or be it Final or Efficient or Formal or Material Cause—in a word, all Beginning, all Conservation, and all Ending, or (to sum it up) all things that have being are derived from the Beautiful and Good. Yea, and all things that have no substantial being super-essentially exist in the Beautiful and Good: this is the transcendent Beginning and the transcendent Goal of the universe. For, as Holy Scripture saith: “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” And hence all things must desire and yearn for and must love the Beautiful and the Good. Yea, and because of It and for Its sake the inferior things yearn for the superior under the mode of attraction, and those of the same rank have a yearning towards their peers under the mode of mutual communion; and the superior have a yearning towards their inferiors under the mode of providential kindness; and each hath a yearning towards itself under the mode of cohesion, and all things are moved by a longing for the Beautiful and Good, to accomplish every outward work and form every act of will. And true reasoning will also dare to affirm that even the Creator of all things Himself yearneth after all things, createth all things, perfecteth all things, conserveth all things, attracteth all things, through nothing but excess of Goodness. Yea, and the Divine Yearning is naught else than a Good Yearning towards the Good for the mere sake of the Good. For the Yearning which createth all the goodness of the world, being pre-existent abundantly in the Good Creator, allowed Him not to remain unfruitful in Himself, but moved Him to exert the abundance of His powers in the production of the universe.
11. And let no man think we are contradicting the Scripture when we solemnly proclaim the title of “Yearning.” For ‘tis, methinks, unreasonable and foolish to consider the phrases rather than the meaning; and such is not the way of them that wish for insight into things Divine, but rather of them that receive the empty sounds without letting them pass beyond their ears, and shut them out, not wishing to know what such and such a phrase intends, nor how they ought to explain it in other terms expressing the same sense more clearly. Such men are under the dominion of senseless elements and lines, and of uncomprehended syllables and phrases which penetrate not into the perception of their souls, but make a dumb noise outside about their lips and hearing holding it unlawful to explain the number “four” by calling it “twice two,” or a straight line by calling it a “direct line ” or the “Motherland” by calling it the “Fatherland,” or so to interchange any other of those terms which under varieties of language possess all the same signification. Need is there to understand that in proper truth we do but use the elements and syllables and phrases and written terms and words as an aid to our senses; inasmuch as when our soul is moved by spiritual energies unto spiritual things, our senses, together with the thing which they perceive, are all superfluous; even as the spiritual faculties are also such when the soul, becoming Godlike, meets in the blind embraces of an incomprehensible union the Rays of the unapproachable Light. Now when the mind, through the things of sense, feels an eager stirring to mount towards spiritual contemplations, it values most of all those aids from its perceptions which have the plainest form, the clearest words, the things most distinctly seen, because, when the objects of sense are in confusion, then the senses themselves cannot present their message truly to the mind. But that we may not seem, in saying this, to be setting aside Holy Scripture, let those who blame the title of “Yearning” hear what the Scripture saith: “Yearn for her and she shall keep thee; exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her.” And there are many other such Scriptural passages which speak of this yearning.
12. Nay, some of our writers about holy things have thought the title of “Yearning” diviner than that of “Love.” Ignatius the Divine writes: “He whom I yearn for is crucified.” And in the “Introductions’ of Scripture thou wilt find some one saying concerning the Divine Wisdom: “I yearned for her beauty.” Let us not, therefore, shrink from this title of “Yearning,” nor be perturbed and affrighted by aught that any man may say about it. For methinks the Sacred Writers regard the titles “Love” and “Yearning” as of one meaning; but preferred, when speaking of Yearning in a heavenly sense, to qualify it with the world “real” because of the inconvenient pre-notion of such men. For whereas the title of “Real Yearning” is employed not merely by ourselves but even by the Scriptures, mankind (not grasping the unity intended when Yearning is ascribed to God) fell by their own propensity into, the notion of a partial, physical and divided quality, which is not true Yearning but a vain image of Real Yearning, or rather a lapse therefrom. For mankind at large cannot grasp the simplicity of the one Divine Yearning, and hence, because of the offence it gives to most men, it is used concerning the Divine Wisdom to lead and raise them up to the knowledge of the Real Yearning until they are set free froth all offence thereat; and often on the other hand when it was possible that base minds should suppose that which is not convenient, the word that is held in greater reverence is used concerning ourselves. “Thy love,” says some one, “came upon me like as the love of women.” To those who listen aright to Holy Scripture, the word “Love” is used by the Sacred Writers in Divine Revelation with the same meaning as the word “Yearning.” It means a faculty of unifying and conjoining and of producing a special commingling together in the Beautiful and Good: a faculty which pre-exists for the sake of the Beautiful and Good, and is diffused from this Origin and to this End, and holds together things of the same order by a mutual connection, and moves the highest to take thought for those below and fixes the inferior in a state which seeks the higher.
13. And the Divine Yearning brings ecstasy, not allowing them that are touched thereby to belong unto themselves but only to the objects of their affection. This principle is shown by superior things through their providential care for their inferiors, and by those which are co-ordinate through the mutual bond uniting them, and by the inferior through their diviner tendency towards the highest. And hence the great Paul, constrained by the Divine Yearning, and having received a share in its ecstatic power, says, with inspired utterance, “I live, and yet not I but Christ liveth in me”: true Sweetheart that he was and (as he says himself) being beside himself unto God, and not possessing his own life but possessing and loving the life of Him for Whom he yearned. And we must dare to affirm (for ‘tis the truth) that the Creator of the Universe Himself, in His Beautiful and Good Yearning towards the Universe, is through the excessive yearning of His Goodness, transported outside of Himself in His providential activities towards all things that have being, and is touched by the sweet spell of Goodness, Love and Yearning, and so is drawn from His transcendent throne above all things, to dwell within the heart of all things, through a super-essential and ecstatic power whereby He yet stays within Himself Hence Doctors call Him “jealous,” because He is vehement in His Good Yearning towards the world, and because He stirs men up to a zealous search of yearning desire for Him, and thus shows Himself zealous inasmuch as zeal is always felt concerning things which are desired, and inasmuch as He hath a zeal concerning the creatures for which He careth. In short, both the Yearning and its Object belong to the Beautiful and the Good, and have therein their pre-existent roots and because of it exist and come into being.
14. But why speak the Sacred Writers of God sometimes as Yearning and Love, sometimes as the Object of these emotions? In the one case He is the Cause and Producer and Begetter of the thing signified, in the other He is the Thing signified Itself. Now the reason why He is Himself on the one hand moved by the quality signified, and on the other causes motion by it, is that He moves and leads onward Himself unto Himself. Therefore on the one hand they call Him the Object of Love and Yearning as being Beautiful and Good, and on the other they call Him Yearning and Love as being a Motive-Power leading all things to Himself, Who is the only ultimate Beautiful and Good—yea, as being His own Self-Revelation and the Bounteous Emanation of His own Transcendent Unity, a Motion of Yearning simple, self-moved, self-acting, pre-existent in the Good, and overflowing from the Good into creation, and once again returning to the Good. And herein the Divine Yearning showeth especially its beginningless and endless nature, revolving in a perpetual circle for the Good, from the Good, in the Good, and to the Good, with unerring revolution, never varying its centre or direction, perpetually advancing and remaining and returning to Itself. This by Divine inspiration our renowned Initiator hath declared in his Hymns of Yearning, which it will not be amiss to quote and thus to bring unto a holy consummation our Discourse concerning this matter.
15. Words of the most holy Hierotheus from the Hymns of Yearning. “Yearning (be it in God or Angel, or Spirit, or Animal Life, or Nature) must be conceived of as an uniting and commingling power which moveth the higher things to a care for those below them, moveth co-equals to a mutual communion, and finally moveth the inferiors to turn towards their superiors in virtue and position.”
16. Words of the same, from the same Hymns of Yearning. “Forasmuch as we have set down in order the manifold yearnings springing from the One, and have duly explained what are the powers of knowledge and of action belonging to the yearnings springing from the One, and have duly explained what are the powers of knowledge and of action proper to the Yearnings within the world and above it (wherein, as hath been already explained, the higher place belongeth unto those ranks and orders of Yearning which are spiritually felt and perceived, and highest amongst these are the Divine Yearnings in the very core of the Spirit towards those Beauties which have their veritable Being Yonder), let us now yet further resume and compact them all together into the one and concentrated Yearning which is the Father of them all, and let us collect together into two kinds their general desiderative powers, over which the entire mastery and primacy is in that Incomprehensible Causation of all yearning which cometh from Beyond them all, and whereunto the universal yearning of all creatures presseth upwards according to the nature of each.”
17. Words of the same, from the same Hymns of Yearning “Let us once more collect these powers into one and declare that there is but One Simple Power Which of Itself moveth all things to be mingled in an unity, starting from the Good and going unto the lowest of the creatures and thence again returning through all stages in due order unto the Good, and thus revolving from Itself, and through Itself and upon Itself and towards Itself, in an unceasing orbit.”
18. Now some one, perhaps, will say: “If the Beautiful and Good is an Object of Yearning and desire and love to all (for even that which is not longs for It, as was said, and strives to find its rest therein, and thus It creates a form even in formless things and thus is said super-essentially to contain, and does so contain, the non-existent)—if this is so, how is it that the company of the devils desires not the Beautiful and Good, but, being inclined towards matter and fallen far from the fixed angelic state of desire for the Good, becomes a cause of all evils to itself and to all other beings which we describe as becoming evil? How is it that the devils, having been produced wholly out of the Good, are not good in disposition? Or how is it that, if produced good from out of the Good, they became changed? What made them evil, and indeed what is the nature of evil? From what origin did it arise and in what thing doth it lie? Why did He that is Good will to produce it? And how, having so willed, was He able so to do? And if evil comes from some other cause, what other cause can anything have excepting the Good? How, if there is a Providence, doth evil exist, or arise at all, or escape destruction? And why doth anything in the world desire it instead of Good?”
19. Thus perhaps will such bewildered discourse speak. Now we will bid the questioner look towards the truth of things, and in the first place we will venture thus to answer: “Evil cometh not of the Good; and if it cometh therefrom it is not evil. For even as fire cannot cool us, so Good cannot produce the things which are not good. And if all things that have being come from the Good (for it is natural to the Good to produce and preserve the creatures, and natural to evil to corrupt and to destroy them) then nothing in the world cometh of evil. Then evil cannot even in any wise exist, if it act as evil upon itself. And unless it do so act, evil is not wholly evil, but hath some portion of the Good whereby it can exist at all. And if the things that have being desire the Beautiful and Good and accomplish all their acts for the sake of that which seemeth good, and if all that they intend hath the Good as its Motive and its Aim (for nothing looks unto the nature of evil to guide it in its actions), what place is left for evil among things that have being, or how can it have any being at all bereft of such good purpose? And if all things that have being come of the Good and the Good is Beyond things that have being, then, whereas that which exists not yet hath being in the Good; evil contrariwise hath none (otherwise it were not wholly evil or Non-Ens; for that which is wholly Non-Ens can be but naught except this be spoken Super-Essentially of the Good). So the Good must have Its seat far above and before that which hath mere being and that which hath not; but evil hath no place either amongst things that have being or things that have not, yea it is farther removed than the Non-Existent from the Good and hath less being than it. ‘Then’ (saith one perchance) ‘whence cometh evil? For if’ (saith he) ‘evil is not, virtue and vice must needs be the same both in their whole entirety and in their corresponding particulars,’–i. e. even that which fighteth against virtue cannot be evil. And yet temperance is the opposite of debauchery, and righteousness of wickedness. And I mean not only the righteous and the unrighteous man, or the temperate and intemperate man; I mean that, even before the external distinction appeared between the virtuous man and his opposite, the ultimate distinction between the virtues and the vices hath existed long beforehand in the soul itself, and the passions war against the reason, and hence we must assume something evil which is contrary to goodness. For goodness is not contrary to itself, but, being come from One Beginning and being the offspring of One Cause, it rejoices in fellowship, unity, and concord. Even the lesser Good is not contrary to the greater, for that which is less hot or cold is not contrary to that which is more so. Wherefore evil lieth in the things that have being and possesseth being and is opposed and contrary to goodness. And if evil is the destruction of things which have being, that depriveth it not of its own being. It itself still hath being and giveth being to its offspring. Yea, is not the destruction of one thing often the birth of another? And thus it will be found that evil maketh contribution unto the fullness of the world, and through its presence, saveth the universe from imperfection.”
20. The true answer whereunto will be that evil (qua evil) causes no existence or birth, but only debases and corrupts, so far as its power extends, the substance of things that have being. And if any one says that it is productive, and that by the destruction of one thing it giveth birth to somewhat else, the true answer is that it doth not so qua destructive. Qua destructive and evil it only destroys and debases; but it taketh upon it the form of birth and essence through the action of the Good. Thus evil will be found to be a destructive force in itself, but a productive force through the action of the Good. Qua evil it neither hath being nor confers it; through the action of the Good, it hath being (yea, a good being) and confers being on good things. Or rather (since we cannot call the same thing both good and bad in the same relations, nor are the destruction and birth of the same thing the same function or faculty, whether productive or destructive, working in the same relations), Evil in itself hath neither being, goodness, productiveness, nor power of creating things which have being and goodness; the Good, on the other hand, wherever It becomes perfectly present, creates perfect, universal and untainted manifestations of goodness; while the things which have a lesser share therein are imperfect manifestations of goodness and mixed with other elements through lack of the Good. In fine, evil is not in any wise good, nor the maker of good; but every thing must be good only in proportion as it approacheth more or less unto the Good, since the perfect Goodness penetrating all things reacheth not only to the wholly good beings around It, but extendeth even unto the lowest things, being entirely present unto some, and in a lower measure to others, and unto others in lowest measure, according as each one is capable of participating therein. Some creatures participate wholly in the Good, others are lacking in It less or more, and others possess a still fainter participation therein, while to others the Good is present as but the faintest echo. For if the Good were not present only in a manner proportioned unto each, then the divinest and most honourable things would be no higher than the lowest! And how, pray, could all things have a uniform share in the Good, since not all are equally fit to share entirely therein? But in truth the exceeding greatness of the power of the Good is shown by this—that It giveth power even to the things which lack It, yea even unto that very lack itself, inasmuch as even here is to be found some kind of participation in It. And, if we must needs boldly speak the truth, even the things that fight against It possess through Its power their being and their capability to fight. Or rather, to speak shortly, all creatures in so far as they have being are good and come from the Good, and in so far as they are deprived of the Good, neither are good nor have they being. For in the case of other qualities, such as heat or cold, the things which have been warmed have their being even when they lose their warmth, and many of the creatures there are which have no life or mind; and in like manner God transcendeth all being and so is Super-Essential; and generally, in all other cases, though the quality be gone or hath never been present, the creatures yet have being and can subsist; but that which is utterly bereft of the Good never had, nor hath, nor ever shall have, no nor can have any sort of being whatever. For instance, the depraved sinner, though bereft of the Good by his brutish desire, is in this respect unreal and desires unrealities; but still he hath a share in the Good in so far as there is in him a distorted reflection of true Love and Communion. And anger hath a share in the Good, in so far as it is a movement which seeks to remedy apparent evils, converting them to that which appears to be fair. And even he that desires the basest life, yet in so far as he feels desire at all and feels desire for life, and intends what he thinks the best kind of life, so far participates in the Good. And if you wholly destroy the Good, there drill be neither being, life, desire, nor motion, or any other thing. Hence the birth of fresh life out of destruction is not the function of evil but is the presence of Good in a lesser form, even as disease is a disorder, yet not the destruction of all order, for if this happen the disease itself will not exist. But the disease remains and exists. Its essence is order reduced to a minimum; and in this it consists. For that which is utterly without the Good hath neither being nor place amongst the things that are in being; but that which is of mixed nature owes to the Good its place among things in being, and hath this place amongst them and hath being just so far as it participates in the Good. Or rather all things in being will have their being more or less in proportion as they participate in the Good. For so far as mere Being is concerned, that which hath not being in any respect will not exist at all; that which hath being in one respect but not in another doth not exist in so far as it hath fallen away from the everlasting Being; while in so far as it hath a share of being, to that extent it exists; and thus both an element of existence and an element of non-existence in it are kept and preserved. So too with evil. That which is utterly fallen from Good can have no place either in the things which are more good or in the things which are less so. That which is good in one respect but not in another is at war with some particular good but not with the whole of the Good. It also is preserved by the admixture of the Good, and thus the Good giveth existence to the lack of Itself through some element of Itself being present there. For if the Good be entirely removed, there will not remain aught at all, either good or mixed or absolutely bad. For if evil is imperfect Goodness, the perfect absence of the Good will remove both the perfect and the imperfect Good, and evil will only exist and appear because, while it is evil in relation to one kind of good (being the contrary thereof), yet it depends for its existence on another kind of good and, to that extent, is good itself. For things of the same kind cannot be wholly contradictory to one another in the same respects. Hence evil is Non-Existent.
21. Neither inhereth evil in existent creatures. For if all creatures are from the Good, and the Good is in them all and embraces them all, either evil can have no place amongst the creatures, or else it must have a place in the Good. Now it cannot inhere in the Good, any more than cold can inhere in fire; just so the quality of becoming evil cannot inhere in that which turns even evil into good. And if evil doth inhere in the Good, what will the mode of its inherence be? If you say: It cometh of the Good, I answer: That is absurd and impossible. For (as the infallible Scriptures say), a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor yet is the converse possible. But if it cometh not of the Good, it is plainly from another origin and cause. Either evil must come from the Good, or the Good from evil, or else (if this is impossible} both the Good and evil must be from another origin or cause. For no duality can be an origin: same unity must be the origin of all duality. And yet it is absurd to suppose that two entirely opposite things can owe their birth and their being to the same thing. This would make the origin itself not a simple unity but divided, double, self-contradictory and discordant. Nor again is it possible that the world should have two contradictory origins, existing in each other and in the whole and mutually at strife. For, were this assumed, God cannot be free from pain, nor without a feeling of ill, since there would be something causing Him trouble, yea, all things must in that case be in a state of disorder and perpetual strife; whereas the Good imparts a principle of harmony to all things and is called by the Sacred Writers Peace and the Bestower of Peace. And hence it is that all good things display a mutual attraction and harmony, and are the offspring of one Life and are disposed in fellowship towards one Good, and are kindly, of like nature, and benignant to one another. And so evil is not in God, and is not divine. Nor cometh it of God. For either He is not good, or else He worketh goodness and bringeth good things unto existence. Nor acts He thus only at some times and not at others, or only in the case of some things but not of all. For were He to act thus, He must suffer a change and alteration, and that in respect of the divinest quality of all—causality. And if the Good is in God as His very substance, God must, in changing from the Good, sometimes exist and sometimes not exist. Doubtless if you feign that He hath the Good by mere participation therein, and derives It from another, in that case He will, forsooth, sometimes possess It and sometimes not possess It. Evil, therefore, doth not come from God, nor is it in God either absolutely or temporally.
22. Neither inhereth evil in the angels. For if the good angel declares the Divine Goodness, he is in a secondary manner and by participation that which the Subject of his message is in a primary and causal manner. And thus the angel is an image of God, a manifestation of the invisible light, a burnished mirror, bright, untarnished, without spot or blemish, receiving (if it is reverent to say so) all the beauty of the Absolute Divine Goodness, and (so far as may be) kindling in itself, with unallowed radiance, the Goodness of the Secret Silence. Hence evil inhereth not in the angels; they are evil only in so far as they must punish sinners. But in this respect even those who chastise wrong-doers are evil, and so are the priests who exclude the profane man from the Divine Mysteries. But, indeed, ‘tis not the suffering of the punishment that is evil but the being worthy thereof; nor yet is a just exclusion from the sacrifices evil, but to be guilty and unholy and unfit for those pure mysteries is evil.
23. Nor are the devils naturally evil. For, were they such, they would not have sprung from the Good, nor have a place amongst existent creatures, nor have fallen from Goodness (being by their very nature always evil). Moreover, are they evil with respect to themselves or to others? If the former they must also be self-destructive; if the latter, how do they destroy, and what do they destroy? Do they destroy Essence, or Faculty, or Activity? If Essence, then, first, they cannot destroy it contrary to its own nature; for they cannot destroy things which by their nature are indestructible, but only the things which are capable of destruction. And, secondly, destruction itself is not evil in every case and under all circumstances. Nor can any existent thing be destroyed so far as its being and nature act; for its destruction is due to a failure of its natural order, whereby the principle of harmony and symmetry grows weak and so cannot remain unchanged. But the weakness is not complete; for, were it complete, it would have annihilated both the process of destruction and the object which suffers it: and such a destruction as this must be self-destructive. Hence such a quality is not evil but imperfect good; for that which is wholly destitute of the Good can have no place among things that have being. And the same is true of destruction when it works upon a faculty or activity. Moreover, how can the devils be evil since they are sprung from God? For the Good produceth and createth good things. But it may be said that they are called evil not in so far as they exist (for they are from the Good and had a good existence given them), but in so far as they do not exist, haying been unable (as the Scripture saith) to keep their original state. For in what, pray, do we consider the wickedness of the devils to consist except their ceasing from the quality and activity of divine virtues? Otherwise, if the devils are naturally evil, they must be always evil. But evil is unstable. Hence if they are always in the same condition, they are not evil; for to remain always the same is a property of the Good. But if they are not always evil, then they are not evil by their natural constitution, but only through a lack of angelic virtues. Hence they are not utterly without the Good, seeing that they exist and live and form intuitions and have within them any movement of desire at all; but they are called evil because they fail in the exercise of their natural activity. The evil in them is therefore a warping, a declension from their right condition; a failure, an imperfection, an. impotence, and a weakness, loss and lapse of that power which would preserve their perfection in them. Moreover what is the evil in the devils? Brutish wrath, blind desire, headstrong fancy. But these qualities, even though they exist in the devils, are not wholly, invariably, and essentially evil. For in other living creatures, not the possession of these qualities but their loss is destructive of the creature and hence is evil; while their possession preserves the creature and enables the creature possessing them to exist. Hence the devils are not evil in so far as they fulfil their nature, but in so far as they do not. Nor hath the Good bestowed complete upon them been changed; rather have they fallen from the completeness of that gift. And we maintain that the angelic gifts bestowed upon their have never themselves suffered change, but are unblemished in their perfect brightness, even if the devils themselves do not perceive it through blinding their faculties of spiritual perception. Thus, so far as their existence is concerned, they possess it from the Good, and are naturally good, and desire the Beautiful and Good in desiring existence, life, and intuition, which are existent things. And they are called evil through the deprivation and the loss whereby they have lapsed from their proper virtues. And hence they are evil in so far as they do not exist; and in desiring evil they desire that which is non-existent.
24. But perhaps some one will say that human souls are the seat of evil. Now if the reason alleged is that they have contact with evil temptations when they take forethought to preserve themselves therefrom, this is not evil but good and cometh from the Good that turns even evil into good. But if we mean the depravation which souls undergo, in what do they undergo depravation except in the deficiency of good qualities and activities and in the failure and fall therefrom due to their own weakness? Even so we say that the air is darkened around us by a deficiency and absence of the light; while yet the light itself is always light and illuminates the darkness. Hence the evil inhereth not in the devils or in us, as evil, but only as a deficiency and lack of the perfection of our proper virtues.
25. Neither inhereth evil in the brute beasts. For if you take away the passions of anger, desire, etc. (which are not in their essential nature evil, although alleged to be so), the lion, having lost its savage wildness, will be a lion no longer; and the dog, if it become gentle to all, will cease to be a dog, since the virtue of a dog is to watch and to allow its own masters to approach while driving strangers away. Wherefore ‘tis not evil for a creature so to act as preserveth its nature undestroyed; evil is the destruction of its nature, the weakness and deficiency of its natural qualities, activities, and powers. And if all things which the process of generation produces have their goal of perfection in time, then even that which seemeth to be their imperfection is not wholly and entirely contrary to nature.
26. Neither inhereth evil in nature as a whole. For if all natural laws together come from the universal system of Nature, there is nothing contrary to Nature. ’Tis but when we consider the nature of particular thins, that we find one part of Nature to be natural and another part to be unnatural. For one thing may be unnatural in one case, and another thing in another case; and that which is natural in one is unnatural in another. Now the evil taint of a natural force is something unnatural. It is a lack of the thing’s natural virtues. Hence, no natural force is evil: the evil of nature lies in a thing’s inability to fulfil its natural functions.
27. Neither inhereth evil in our bodies. For ugliness and disease are a deficiency in form and a want of order. But this is not wholly evil, being rather a lesser good. For were there a complete destruction of beauty, form, and order, the very body must disappear. And that the body is not the cause of evil in the soul is plain in that evil can be nigh at hand even without a body, as it is in the devils. Evil in spirits’ souls and bodies is a weakness and lapse in the condition of their natural virtues.
28. Nor is the familiar notion true that “Evil inheres in matter qua matter.” For matter, too, hath a share in order, beauty, and form. And if matter is without these things, and in itself hath no quality or form, how can it produce anything, since in that case it hath not of itself even the power of suffering any affection? Nay, how can matter be evil? For if it hath no being whatever, it is neither good nor evil; but if it hath a kind of being, then (since all things that have being come from the Good) matter must come from the Good. And thus either the Good produces evil (i. e. evil, since it comes from the Good, is good), or else the Good Itself is produced by evil (i. e. the Good, as coming thus from evil, is evil). Or else we are driven back again to two principles. But if so, these must be derived from some further single source beyond them. And if they say that matter is necessary for the whole world to fulfil its development, how can that be evil which depends for its existence upon the Good? For evil abhors the very nature of the Good. And how can matter, if it is evil, produce and nourish Nature? For evil, qua evil, cannot produce or nourish anything, nor create or preserve it at all. And if they reply that matter causes not the evil in our souls, but that it yet draws them down towards evil, can that be true? For many of them have their gaze turned towards the Good. And how can that be, if matter doth nothing except drag them down towards evil? Hence evil in our souls is not derived from matter but from a disordered and discordant motion. And if they say that this motion is always the consequence of matter; and if the unstable medium of matter is necessary for things that are incapable of firm self-subsistence, then why is it that evil is thus necessary or that this necessary thing is evil?
29. Nor is the common saying true that Deprivation or Lack fights by its natural power against the Good. For a complete lack is utterly impotent; and that which is partial hath its power, not in so far as it is a lack, but in so far as it is not a perfect lack. For when the lack of the Good is partial, evil is not as yet; and when it becomes perfect, evil itself utterly vanishes.
30. In fine, Good cometh from the One universal Cause; and evil from many partial deficiencies. God knows evil under the form of good, and with Him the causes of evil things are faculties productive of good. And if evil is eternal, creative, and powerful, and if it hath being and activity, whence hath it these attributes? Come they from the Good? Or from the evil by the action of the Good? Or from some other cause by the action of them both? All natural results arise from a definite cause; and if evil hath no cause or definite being, it is unnatural. For that which is contrary to Nature hath no place in Nature, even as unskilfulness hath no place in skilfulness. Is the soul, then, the cause of evils, even as fire is the cause of warmth? And doth the soul, then, fill with evil whatsoever things are near it? Or is the nature of the soul in itself good, while yet in its activities the soul is sometimes in one state, and sometimes in another? Now, if the very existence of the soul is naturally evil, whence is that existence derived? From the Good Creative Cause of the whole world? If from this Origin, how can it be, in its essential nature, evil? For all things sprung from out this Origin are good. But if it is evil merely in its activities, even so this condition is not fixed. Otherwise (i. e. if it doth not itself also assume a good quality) what is the origin of the virtues? There remains but one alternative: Evil is a weakness and deficiency of Good.
31. Good things have all one cause. If evil is opposed to the Good, then hath evil many causes. The efficient causes of evil results, however, are not any laws and faculties, but an impotence and weakness and an inharmonious mingling of discordant elements. Evil things are not immutable and unchanging but indeterminate and indefinite: the sport of alien influences which have no definite aim. The Good must be the beginning and the end even of all evil things. For the Good is the final Purpose of all things, good and bad alike. For even when we act amiss we do so from a longing for the Good; for no one makes evil his definite object when performing any action. Hence evil hath no substantial being, but only a shadow thereof; since the Good, and not itself, is the ultimate object for which it comes into existence.
32. Unto evil we can attribute but an accidental kind of existence. It exists for the sake of something else, and is not self-originating. And hence our action appears to be right (for it hath Good as its object) while yet it is not really right (because we mistake for good that which is not good). ‘Tis proven, then, that our purpose is different from our action. Thus evil is contrary to progress, purpose, nature, cause, principle, end, law, will, and being. Evil is, then, a lack, a deficiency, a weakness, a disproportion, an error, purposeless, unlovely, lifeless, unwise, unreasonable, imperfect, unreal, causeless, indeterminate, sterile, inert, powerless, disordered, incongruous, indefinite, dark, unsubstantial, and never in itself possessed of any existence whatever. How, then, is it that an admixture of the Good bestows any power upon evil? For that which is altogether destitute of Good is nothing and hath no power. And if the Good is Existent and is the Source of will, power, and action, how can Its opposite (being destitute of existence, will, power, and activity), have any power against It? Only because evil things are not all entirely the same in all cases and in all relations. In the case of a devil evil lieth in the being contrary to spiritual goodness; in the soul it lieth in the being contrary to reason; in the body it lieth in the being contrary to nature.
33. How can evil things have any existence at all if there is a Providence? Only because evil (as such) hath no being, neither inhereth it in things that have being. And naught that hath being is independent of Providence; for evil hath no being at all, except when mingled with the Good. And if no thing in the world is without a share in the Good, and evil is the deficiency of Good and no thing in the world is utterly destitute of Good, then the Divine Providence is in all things, and nothing that exists can be without It. Yea, even the evil effects that arise are turned by Providence to a kindly purpose, for the succour of themselves or others (either individually or in common), and thus it is that Providence cares individually for each particular thing in all the world. Therefore we shall pay no heed to the fond argument so often heard that “Providence shall lead us unto virtue even against our will.” ‘Tis not worthy of Providence to violate nature. Wherefore Its Providential character is shown herein: that It preserves the nature of each individual, and, in making provision for the free and independent, it hath respect unto their state, providing, both in general and in particular, according as the nature of those It cares for can receive Its providential benefactions, which are bestowed suitably on each by Its multiform and universal activity.
34. Thus evil hath no being, nor any inherence in things that have being. Evil is nowhere qua evil; and it arises not through any power but through weakness. Even the devils derive their existence from the Good, and their mere existence is good. Their evil is the result of a fall from their proper virtues, and is a change with regard to their individual state, a weakness of their true angelical perfections. And they desire the Good in so far as they desire existence, life, and understanding; and in so far as they do not desire the Good, they desire that which bath no being. And this is not desire, but an error of real desire.
35. By “men who sin knowingly” Scripture means them that are weak in the exercised knowledge and performance of Good; and by “them that know the Divine Will and do it not,” it means them that have heard the truth and yet are weak in faith to trust the Good or in action to fulfil it. And some desire not to have understanding in order that they may do good, so great is the warping or the weakness of their will. And, in a word, evil (as we have often said) is weakness, impotence, and deficiency of knowledge (or, at least, of exercised knowledge), or of faith, desire, or activity as touching the Good. Now, it may be urged that weakness should not be punished, but on the contrary should be pardoned. This would be just were the power not within man’s grasp; but if the power is offered by the Good that giveth without stint (as saith the Scripture) that which is needful to each, we must not condone the wandering or defection, desertion, and fall from the proper virtues offered by the Good. But hereon let that suffice which we have already spoken (to the best of our abilities) in the treatise Concerning Justice and Divine Judgment: a sacred exercise wherein the Truth of Scripture disallowed as lunatic babbling such nice arguments as despitefully and slanderously blaspheme God. In this present treatise we have, to the best of our abilities, celebrated the Good as truly Admirable, as the Beginning and the End of all things, as the Power that embraces them, as That Which gives form to non-existent things, as That which causes all good things and yet causes no evil things, as perfect Providence and Goodness surpassing all things that are and all that are not, and turning base things and the lack of Itself unto good, as That Which all must desire, yearn for, and love; and as possessed of many other qualities the which a true argument hath, methinks, in this chapter expounded.
V. Concerning ”Existence“ and also concerning ”Exemplars.”
1. Now must we proceed to the Name of “Being” which is truly applied by the Divine Science to Him that truly Is. But this much we must say, that it is not the purpose of our discourse to reveal the Super-Essential Being in its Super-Essential Nature (for this is unutterable, nor can we know It, or in anywise express It, and It is beyond even the Unity), but only to celebrate the Emanation of the Absolute Divine Essence into the universe of things. For the Name of “Good” revealing all the emanations of the universal Cause, extends both to the things which are, and to the things which are not, and is beyond both categories. And the title of “Existent” extends to all existent things and is beyond them. And the title “Life” extends to all living things and is beyond them. And the title of “Wisdom” extends to the whole realm of Intuition, Reason, and Sense-Perception, and is beyond them all.
2. These Names which reveal the Providence of God our Discourse would now consider. For we make no promise to express the Absolute Super-Essential Goodness and Being and Life and Wisdom of the Absolute Super-Essential Godhead which (as saith the Scripture) hath Its foundation in a secret place beyond all Goodness, Godhead, Being, Wisdom, and Life; but we are considering the benignant Providence which is revealed to us and are celebrating It as Transcendent Goodness and Cause of all good things, and as Existent as Life and as Wisdom, and as productive Cause of. Existence and of Life and the Giver of Wisdom, in those creatures which partake of Existence, Life, Intelligence, and Perception. We do not regard the Good as one thing, the Existent as another, and Life or Wisdom as another; nor do we hold that there are many causes and different Godheads producing different effects and subordinate one to another; but we hold that one God is the universal Source of the emanations, and the Possessor of all the Divine Names we declare; and that the first Name expresses the perfect Providence of the one God, and the other names express certain more general or more particular modes of His Providence.
3. Now, some one may say: “How is it, since Existence transcends Life, and Life transcends Wisdom, that living things are higher than things which merely exist, and sentient things than those which merely live, and reasoning things than those which merely feel, and intelligences than those which have only reason? Why do the creatures rise in this order to the Presence of God and to a closer relationship with Him? You would have expected those which participate in God’s greater gifts to be the higher, and to surpass the rest.” Now if intelligent beings were defined as having no Existence or Life, the argument would be sound; but since the divine Intelligences do exist in a manner surpassing other existences, and live in a manner surpassing other living things, and understand and know in a manner beyond perception and reason, and in a manner beyond all existent things participate in the Beautiful and Good, they have a nearer place to the Good in that they especially participate therein, and have from It received both more and greater gifts, even as creatures possessed of Reason are exalted, by the superiority of Reason, above those which have but Perception, and these are exalted through having Perception and others through having Life. And the truth, I think, is that the more anything participates in the One infinitely-bountiful God the more is it brought near to Him and made diviner than the rest.
4. Having now dealt with this matter, let us consider the Good as that which really Is and gives their being to all things that exist. The Existent God is, by the nature of His power, super-essentially above all existence; He is the substantial Cause and Creator of Being, Existence, Substance and Nature, the Beginning and the Measuring Principle of ages; the Reality underlying time and the Eternity underlying existences; the time in which created things pass, the Existence of those that have any kind of existence, the Life-Process of those which in any way pass through that process. From Him that Is come Eternity, Essence, Being, Time, Life-Process; and that which passes through such Process, the things which inhere in existent things and those which under any power whatever possess an independent subsistence. For God is not Existent in any ordinary sense, but in a simple and undefinable manner embracing and anticipating all existence in Himself. Hence He is called “King of the Ages,” because in Him and around Him all Being is and subsists, and He neither was, nor will be, nor hath entered the life-process, nor is doing so, nor ever will, or rather He doth not even exist, but is the Essence of existence in things that exist; and not only the things that exist but also their very existence comes from Him that Is before the ages. For He Himself is the Eternity of the ages and subsists before the ages.
5. Let us, then, repeat that all things and all ages derive their existence from the Pre-Existent. All Eternity and Time are from Him, and He who is Pre-Existent is the Beginning and the Cause of all Eternity and Time and of anything that hath any kind of being. All things participate in Him, nor doth He depart from anything that exists; He is before all things, and all things have their maintenance in Him; and, in short, if anything exists under any form whatever, ‘tis in the Pre-Existent that it exists and is perceived and preserves its being. Antecedent to all Its other participated gifts is that of Being. Very Being is above Very Life, Very Wisdom, Very Divine Similarity and all the other universal Qualities, wherein all creatures that participate must participate first of all in Being Itself; or rather, all those mere Universals wherein the creatures participate do themselves participate in very Being Itself. And there is no existent thing whose essence and eternal nature is not very Being. Hence God receives His Name from the most primary of His gifts when, as is meet, He is called in a special manner above all things, “He which Is.” For, possessing in a transcendent manner Pre-Existence and Pre-Eminence, He caused beforehand all Existence (I mean Very Being) and in that Very Being caused all the particular modes of existence. For all the principles of existent things derive from their participation in Being the fact that they are existent and that they are principles and that the former quality precedes the latter. And if it like thee to say that Very Life is the Universal Principle of living things as such, and Very Similarity of similar things as such, and Very Unity of unified things as such, and Very Order of orderly things as such, and if it like thee to give the name of Universals to the Principles of all other things which (by participating in this quality or in that or in both or in many) are this, that, both or many thou wilt find that the first Quality in which they participate is Existence, and that their existence is the basis, () of their permanence, and () of their being the principles of this or that; and also that only through their participation in Existence do they exist and enable things to participate in them. And if these Universals exist by participating in Existence, far more is this true of the things which participate in them.
6. Thus the first gift which the Absolute and Transcendent Goodness bestows is that of mere Existence, and so It derives its first title from the chiefest of the participations in Its Being. From It and in It are very Being and the Principles of the world, and the world which springs from them and all things that in any way continue in existence. This attribute belongs to It in an incomprehensible and concentrated oneness. For all number pre-exists indivisibly in the number One, and this number contains all things in itself under the form of unity. All number exists as unity in number One, and only when it goes forth from this number is it differenced and multiplied. All the radii of a circle are concentrated into a single unity in the centre, and this point contains all the straight lines brought together within itself and unified to one another, and to the one starting-point from which they began. Even so are they a perfect unity in the centre itself, and, departing a little therefrom they are differenced a little, and departing further are differenced further, and, in fact, the nearer they are to the centre, so much the more are they united to it and to one another, and the more they are separated from it the more they are separated from one another.
7. Moreover, in the Universal Nature of the world all the individual Laws of Nature are united in one Unity without confusion; and in the soul the individual faculties which govern different parts of the body are united in one. And hence it is not strange that, when we mount from obscure images to the Universal Cause, we should with supernatural eyes behold all things (even those things which are mutually contrary) existing as a single Unity in the Universal Cause. For It is the beginning of all things, whence are derived Very Being, and all things that have any being, all Beginning and End, all Life, Immortality, Wisdom, Order, Harmony, Power, Preservation, Grounding, Distribution, Intelligence, Reason, Perception, Quality, Rest, Motion, Unity, Fusion, Attraction, Cohesion, Differentiation, Definition, and all other Attributes which, by their mere existence, qualify all existent things.
8. And from the same Universal Cause come those godlike and angelical Beings, which possess Intelligence and are apprehended by Intelligence; and from It come our souls and the natural laws of the whole universe, and all the qualities which we speak of as existing in other objects or as existing merely in our thoughts. Yea, from It come the all-holy and most reverent Powers, which possess a real existence and are grounded, as it were, in the fore-court of the Super-Essential Trinity, possessing from It and in It their existence and the godlike nature thereof; and, after them, those which are inferior to them, possessing their inferior existence from the same Source; and the lowest, possessing from It their lowest existence (i. e. lowest compared with the other angels, though compared with us it is above our world). And human souls and all other creatures possess by the same tenure their existence, and their blessedness, and exist and are blessed only because they possess their existence and their blessedness from the Pre-existent, and exist and are blessed in Him, and begin from Him and are maintained in Him and attain in Him their Final Goal. And the highest measure of existence He bestows upon the more exalted Beings, which the Scripture calls eternal; but also the mere existence of the world as a whole is perpetual; and its very existence comes from the Pre-existent. He is not an Attribute of Being, but Being is an Attribute of Him; He is not contained in Being, but Being is contained in Him; He doth not possess Being, but Being possesses Him; He is the Eternity, the Beginning, and the Measure of Existence, being anterior to Essence and essential Existence and Eternity, because He is the Creative Beginning, Middle, and End of all things. And hence the truly Pre-existent receives from the Holy Scripture manifold attributions drawn from every kind of existence; and states of being and processes (whether past, present, or future) are properly attributed to Him; for all these attributions, if their divine meaning be perceived, signify that He hath a Super-Essential Existence fulfilling all our categories, and is the Cause producing every mode of existence. For He is not This without being That; nor doth He possess this mode of being without that. On the contrary He is all things as being the Cause of them all, and as holding together and anticipating in Himself all the beginnings and all the fulfilments of all things; and He is above them all in that He, anterior to their existence, super-essentially transcends them all. Hence all attributes may be affirmed at once of Him, and yet He is No Thing. He possesses all shape and form, and yet is formless and shapeless, containing beforehand incomprehensibly and transcendently the beginning, middle, and end of all thins, and shedding upon them a pure radiance of that one and undifferenced causality whence all their fairness comes. For if our sun, while still remaining one luminary and shedding one unbroken light, acts on the essences and qualities of the things which we perceive, many and various though they be, renewing, nourishing, guarding, and perfecting them; differencing them, unifying them, warming them and making them fruitful, causing them to grow, to change, to take root and to burst forth; quickening them and giving them life, so that each one possesses in its own way a share in the same single sun—if the single sun contains beforehand in itself under the form of an unity the causes of all the things that participate in it; much more doth this truth hold good with the Cause which produced the sun and all things; and all the Exemplars of existent things must pre-exist in It under the form of one Super-Essential Unity. For It produces Essences only by an outgoing from Essence. And we give the name of “Exemplars” to those laces which, preexistent in God as an Unity, produce the essences of things: laws which are called in Divine Science “Preordinations” or Divine and beneficent Volitions, laws which ordain things and create them, laws whereby the Super-Essential preordained and brought into being the whole universe.
9. And whereas the philosopher Clement maintains that the title “Exemplar” may, in a sense, be applied to the more important types in the visible world, he employs not the terms of his discourse in their proper, perfect and simple meaning. But even if we grant the truth of his contention, we must remember the Scripture which saith: “I did not show these things unto thee that thou mightest follow after them,” but that through such knowledge of these as is suited to our faculties we may be led up (so far as is possible) to the Universal Cause. We must then attribute unto It all things in one All-Transcendent Unity, inasmuch as, starting from Being, and setting in motion the creative Emanation and Goodness, and penetrating all things, and filling all things with Being from Itself, and rejoicing in all things, It anticipates all things in Itself, in one exceeding simplicity rejecting all reduplication; and It embraces all things alike in the Transcendent Unity of Its infinitude, and is indivisibly shared by all (even as a sound, while remaining one and the same, is shared as one by several pairs of ears).
10. Thus the Pre-existent is the Beginning and the End of all things: the Beginning as their Cause, the End as their Final Purpose. He bounds all things. and yet is their boundless Infinitude, in a manner that transcends all the opposition between the Finite and the Infinite. For, as hath been often said, He contains beforehand and did create all things in One Act, being present unto all and everywhere, both in the particular individual and in the Universal Whole, and going out unto all things while yet remaining in Himself. He is both at rest and in motion, and yet is in neither state, nor hath He beginning, middle, or end; He neither inheres in any individual thing, nor is He any individual thing. We cannot apply to Him any attribute of eternal things nor of temporal things. He transcends both Time and Eternity, and all things that are in either of them; inasmuch as Very Eternity and the world with its standard of measurement and the things which are measured by those standards have their being through Him and from Him. But concerning these matters let that suffice which hath been spoken more properly elsewhere.
VI. Concerning ”Life.”
1. Now must we celebrate Eternal Life as that whence cometh very Life and all life, which also endues every kind of living creature with its appropriate meed of Life. Now the Life of the immortal Angels and their immortality, and the very indestructibility of their perpetual motion, exists and is derived from It and for Its sake. Hence they are called Ever-living and Immortal, and yet again are denied to be immortal, because they are not the source of their own immortality and eternal life, but derive it from the creative Cause which produces and maintains all life. And, as, in thinking of the title “Existent,” we said that It is an Eternity of very Being, so do we now say that the Supra-Vital or Divine Life is the Vitalizer and Creator of Life. And all life and vital movement comes from the Life which is beyond all Life and beyond every Principle of all Life. Thence have souls their indestructible quality, and all animals and plants possess their life as a far-off reflection of that Life. When this is taken away, as saith the Scripture, all life fades; and those which have faded, through being unable to participate therein, when they turn to It again revive once more.
2. In the first place It gives to Very Life its vital quality, and to all life and every form thereof It gives the Existence appropriate to each. To the celestial forms of life it gives their immaterial, godlike, and unchangeable immortality and their unswerving and unerring perpetuity of motion; and, in the abundance of its bounty, It overflows even into the life of the devils, for not even diabolic life derives its existence from any other source, but derives from This both its vital nature and its permanence. And, bestowing upon men such angelic life as their composite nature can receive, in an overflowing wealth of love It turns and calls us from our errors to Itself, and (still Diviner act) It hath promised to change our whole being (I mean our souls and the bodies linked therewith) to perfect Life and Immortality, which seemed to the ancients unnatural, but seems to me and thee and to the Truth a Divine and Supernatural thing: Supernatural, I say, as being above the visible order of nature around us, not as being above the Nature of Divine Life. For unto this Life (since it is the Nature of all forms of life, and especially of those which are more Divine) no form of life is unnatural or supernatural. And therefore fond Simon’s captious arguments on this subject must find no entry into the company of God’s servants or into thy blessed soul. For, in spite of his reputed wisdom, he forgot that no one of sound mind should set the superficial order of sense-perception against the Invisible Cause of all things. We must tell him that if there is aught “against Nature” ‘tis his language. For naught can be contrary to the Ultimate Cause.
3. From this Source all animals and plants receive their life and warmth. And wherever (under the form of intelligence, reason, sensation, nutrition, growth, or any mode whatsoever) you find life or the Principle of life or the Essence of life, there you find that which lives and imparts life from the Life transcending all life, and indivisibly pre-exists therein as in its Cause. For the Supra-Vital and Primal Life is the Cause of all Life, and produces and fulfils it and individualizes it. And we must draw from all life the attributes we apply to It when we consider how It teems with all living things, and how under manifold forms It is beheld and praised in all Life and lacketh not Life or rather abounds therein, and indeed hath Very Life, and how it produces life in a Supra-Vital manner and is above all life and therefore is described by whatsoever human terms may express that Life which is ineffable.
VII. Concerning “Wisdom,” “Mind,” “Reason,” “Truth,” “Faith.”
1. Now, if it like thee, let us consider the Good and Eternal Life as Wise and as Very Wisdom, or rather as the Fount of all wisdom and as Transcending all wisdom and understanding. Not only is God so overflowing with wisdom that there is no limit to His understanding, but He even transcends all Reason, Intelligence, and Wisdom. And this is supernaturally perceived by the truly divine man (who hath been as a luminary both to us and to our teacher) when he says: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” And these words are true not only because all human thought is a kind of error when compared with the immovable permanence of the perfect thoughts which belong to God, but also because it is customary for writers on Divinity to apply negative terms to God in a sense contrary to the usual one. For instance, the Scripture calls the Light that shines on all things “Terrible,” and Him that hath many Titles and many Names “Ineffable” and “Nameless,” and Him that is present to all things and to be discovered from them all “Incomprehensible” and “Unsearchable.” In the same manner, it is thought, the divine Apostle, on the present occasion, when he speaks of God’s “foolishness,” is using in a higher sense the apparent strangeness and absurdity implied in the word, so as to hint at the ineffable Truth which is before all Reason. But, as I have said elsewhere, we misinterpret things above us by our own conceits and cling to the familiar notions of our senses, and, measuring Divine things by our human standards, we are led astray by the superficial meaning of the Divine and Ineffable Truth. Rather should we then consider that while the human Intellect hath a faculty of Intelligence, whereby it perceives intellectual truths, yet the act whereby the Intellect communes with the things that are beyond it transcends its intellectual nature. This transcendent sense, therefore, must be given to our language about God, and not our human sense. We must be transported wholly out of ourselves and given unto God. For ‘tis better to belong unto God and not unto ourselves, since thus will the Divine Bounties be bestowed, if we are united to God. Speaking, then, in a transcendent manner of this “Foolish Wisdom,” which hath neither Reason nor Intelligence, let us say that It is the Cause of all Intelligence and Reason, and of all Wisdom and Understanding, and that all counsel belongs unto It, and from It comes all Knowledge and Understanding, and in It “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For it naturally follows from what hath already been said that the All-wise (and more than Wise) Cause is the Fount of Very Wisdom and of created wisdom both as a whole and in each individual instance.
2. From It the intelligible and intelligent powers of the Angelic Minds derive their blessed simple perceptions, not collecting their knowledge of God in partial fragments or from partial activities of Sensation or of discursive Reason, nor yet being circumscribed by aught that is akin to these, but rather, being free from all taint of matter and multiplicity, they perceive the spiritual truths of Divine things in a single immaterial and spiritual intuition. And their intuitive faculty and activity shines in its unalloyed and undefiled purity and possesses its Divine intuitions all together in an indivisible and immaterial manner, being by that Godlike unification made similar (as far as may be) to the Supra-Sapient Mind and Reason of God through the working of the Divine Wisdom. And human souls possess Reason, whereby they turn with a discursive motion round about the Truth of things, and, through the partial and manifold activities of their complex nature, are inferior to the Unified Intelligences: yet they too, through the concentration of their many faculties, are vouchsafed (so far as their nature allows) intuitions like unto those of the Angels. Nay, even our sense-perceptions themselves may be rightly described as an echo of that Wisdom; even diabolic intelligence, qua intelligence, belongs thereto, though in so far as it is a distraught intelligence, not knowing how to obtain its true desire, nor wishing to obtain it, we must call it rather a declension from Wisdom. Now we have already said that the Divine Wisdom is the Beginning, the Cause, the Fount, the Perfecting Power, the Protector and the Goal of Very Wisdom and all created Wisdom, and of all Mind, Reason, and Sense-Perception. We must now ask in what sense God, Who is Supra-Sapient, can be spoken of as Wisdom, Mind, Reason, and Knowledge? How can He have an intellectual intuition of intelligible things when He possesses no intellectual activities? Or how can He know the things perceived by sense when His existence transcends all sense-perception? And yet the Scripture says that He knoweth all things and that nothing escapes the Divine Knowledge. But, as I have often said, we must interpret Divine Things in a manner suitable to their nature. For the lack of Mind and Sensation must be predicated of God by excess and not by defect. And in the same way we attribute lack of Reason to Him that is above Reason, and Imperfectibility to Him that is above and before Perfection; and Intangible and Invisible Darkness we attribute to that Light which is Unapproachable because It so far exceeds the visible light. And thus the Mind of God embraces all things in an utterly transcendent knowledge and, in Its causal relation to all things, anticipates within Itself the knowledge of them all—knowing and creating angels before the angels were, and knowing all other things inwardly and (if I may so put it) from the very beginning, and thus bringing them into existence. And methinks this is taught by the Scripture when it saith “Who knoweth all things before their birth.” For the Mind of God gains not Its knowledge of things from those things; but of Itself and in Itself It possesses, and hath conceived beforehand in a causal manner, the cognizance and the knowledge and the being of them all. And It doth not perceive each class speciically, but in one embracing casuality It knows and maintains all things—even as Light possesses beforehand in itself a causal knowledge of the darkness, not knowing the darkness in any other way than from the Light. Thus the Divine Wisdom in knowing Itself will know all things: will in that very Oneness know and produce material things immaterially, divisible things indivisibly, manifold things under the form of Unity. For if God, in the act of causation, imparts Existence to all things, in the same single act of causation He will support all these His creatures the which are derived from Him and have in Him their forebeing, and He will not gain His knowledge of things from the things themselves, but He will bestow upon each kind the knowledge of itself and the knowledge of the others. And hence God doth not possess a private knowledge of Himself and as distinct therefrom a knowledge embracing all the creatures in common; for the Universal Cause, in knowing Itself, can scarcely help knowing the things that proceed from it and whereof It is the Cause. With this knowledge, then, God knoweth all things, not through a mere understanding of the things but through an understanding of Himself. For the angels, too, are said by the Scripture to know the things upon earth not through a sense-perception of them (though they are such as may be perceived this way), but through a faculty and nature inherent in a Godlike Intelligence.
3. Furthermore, we must ask how it is that we know God when He cannot be perceived by the mind or the senses and is not a particular Being. Perhaps ‘tis true to say that we know not God by His Nature (for this is unknowable and beyond the reach of all Reason. and Intuition), yet by means of that ordering of all things which (being as it were projected out of Him) possesses certain images and semblances of His Divine Exemplars, we mount upwards (so far as our feet can tread that ordered path), advancing through the Negation and Transcendence of all things and through a conception of an Universal Cause, towards That Which is beyond all things. Hence God is known in all things and apart from all things; and God is known through Knowledge and through Unknowing, and on the one hand He is reached by Intuition, Reason, Understanding, Apprehension, Perception, Conjecture, Appearance, Name, etc; and yet, on the other hand, He cannot be grasped by Intuition, Language, or Name, and He is not anything in the world nor is He known in anything. He is All Things in all things and Nothing in any, and is known from all things unto all men, and is not known from any unto any man. ‘Tis meet that we employ such terms concerning God, and we get from all things (in proportion to their quality) notions of Him Who is their Creator. And yet on the other hand, the Divinest Knowledge of God, the which is received through Unknowing, is obtained in that communion which transcends the mind, when the mind, turning away from all things and then leaving even itself behind, is united to the Dazzling Rays, being from them and in them, illumined by the unsearchable depth of Wisdom. Nevertheless, as I said, we must draw this knowledge of Wisdom from all things; for wisdom it is (as saith the Scripture) that hath made all things and ever ordereth them all, and is the Cause of the indissoluble harmony and order of all things, perpetually fitting the end of one part unto the beginning of the second, and thus producing the one fair agreement and concord of the whole.
4. And God is called “Word” or “Reason” by the Holy Scriptures, not only because He is the Bestower of Reason and Mind and Wisdom, but also because He contains beforehand in His own Unity the causes of all things, and because He penetrates all things, “reaching” (as the Scripture saith) “unto the end of all things,” and more especially because the Divine Reason is more simple than all simplicity, and, in the transcendence of Its Super-Essential Being, is independent of all things. This Reason is the simple and verily existent Truth: that pure and infallible Omniscience round which divinely inspired Faith revolves. It is the permanent Ground of the faithful, which builds them in the Truth and builds the Truth in them by an unwavering firmness, through which they possess a simple knowledge of the Truth of those things which they believe For if Knowledge unites the knower and the objects of knowledge, and if ignorance is always a cause of change and of self-discrepancy in the ignorant, naught (as saith Holy Scripture) shall separate him that believeth in the Truth from the Foundation of true faith on which he shall possess the permanence of immovable and unchanging firmness. For surely knoweth he who is united to the Truth that it is well with him, even though the multitude reprove him as one out of his mind. Naturally they perceive not that he is but come out of an erring mind unto the Truth through right faith. But he verily knows that instead of being, as they say, distraught, he hath been relieved from the unstable ever-changing movements which tossed him hither and thither in the mazes of error, and hath been set at liberty through the simple immutable and unchanging Truth. Thus is it that the Teachers from whom we have learnt our knowledge of Divine Wisdom die daily for the Truth, bearing their natural witness in every word and deed to the single Knowledge of the Truth which Christians possess: yea, showing that It is more simple and divine than all other kinds of knowledge, or rather that it is the only true, one, simple Knowledge of God.
VIII. Concerning ”Power,” ”Righteousness,” ”Salvation,” ”Redemption“; and also concerning ”Inequality.”
1. Now since the Sacred Writers speak of the Divine Truthfulness and Supra-Sapient Wisdom as Power, and as Righteousness, and call It Salvation and Redemption, let us endeavour to unravel these Divine Names also. Now I do not think that any one nurtured in Holy Scripture can fail to know that the Godhead transcends and exceeds every mode of Power however conceived. For often Scripture attributes the Dominion to the Godhead and thus distinguishes It even from the Celestial Powers. In what sense, then, do the Sacred Writers speak of It also as Power when It transcends all Power? Or in what sense can we take the title Power when applied to the Godhead?
2. We answer thus: God is Power because in His own Self He contains all power beforehand and exceeds it, and because He is the Cause of all power and produces all things by a power which may not be thwarted nor circumscribed, and because He is the Cause wherefrom Power exists whether in the whole system of the world or in any particular part. Yea, He is Infinitely Powerful not only in that all Power comes from Him, but also because He is above all power and is Very Power, and possesses that excess of Power which produces in infinite ways an infinite number of other existent powers; and because the infinitude of powers which is continually being multiplied to infinity can never blunt that transcendently infinite activity of His Power whence all power comes; and because of the unutterable, unknowable, inconceivable greatness of His all-transcendent Power which, through its excess of potency, gives strength to that which is weak and maintains and governs the lowest of its created copies, even as, in those things whose power strikes our senses, very brilliant illuminations can reach to eyes that are dim and as loud sounds can enter ears dull of hearing. (Of course that which is utterly incapable of hearing is not an ear, and that which cannot see at all is not an eye.)
3. Thus this distribution of God’s Infinite Power permeates all things, and there is nothing in the world utterly bereft of all power. Some power it must have, be it in the form of Intuition, Reason, Perception, Life, or Being. And indeed, if one may so express it, the very fact that power exists is derived from the Super-Essential Power.
4. From this Source come the Godlike Powers of the Angelic Orders; from this Source they immutably possess their being and all the ceaseless and immortal motions of their spiritual life; and their very stability and unfailing desire for the Good they have received from that infinitely good Power which Itself infuses into them this power and this existence, and makes them ceaselessly to desire existence, and gives them the very power to desire that ceaseless power which they possess.
5. The effects of this Inexhaustible Power enter into men and animals and plants and the entire Nature of the Universe, and fill all the unified organizations with a force attracting them to mutual harmony and concord, and drawing separate individuals into being, according to the natural laws and qualities of each, without confusion or merging of their properties. And the laws by which this Universe is ordered It preserves to fulfil their proper functions, .and keeps the immortal lives of the individual angels inviolate; and the luminous stars of heaven It keeps in all their ranks unchanged, and gives unto Eternity the power to be; and the temporal orbits It differentiates when they begin their circuits and brings together again when they return once more; and It makes the power of fire unquenchable, and the liquid nature of water It makes perpetual; and gives the atmosphere its fluidity, and founds the earth upon the Void and keeps its pregnant travail without ceasing. And It preserves the mutual harmony of the interpenetrating elements distinct and yet inseparable, and knits together the bond uniting soul and body, and stirs the powers by which the plants have nourishment and growth, and governs the faculties whereby each kind of creature maintains its being and makes firm the indissoluble permanence of the world, and bestows Deification itself by giving a faculty for it unto those that are deified. And, in short, there is nothing in the world which is without the Almighty Power of God to support and to surround it. For that which hath no power at all hath no existence, no individuality, and no place whatever in the world.
6. But Elymas the sorcerer raises this objection: “If God is Omnipotent” (quoth he) “what meaneth your Sacred Writer by saying that there are some things He cannot do?” And so he blames Paul the Divine for saying that God cannot deny Himself. Now, having stated his objection, I greatly fear that I shall be laughed at for my folly, in gong about to pull down tottering houses built upon the sand by idle children, and in striving to aim my arrow at an inaccessible target when I endeavour to deal with this question of Divinity. But thus I answer him: The denial of the true Self is a declension from Truth. And Truth hath Being; and therefore a declension from the Truth is a declension from Being. Now whereas Truth hath Being and denial of Truth is a declension from Being, God cannot fall from Being. We might say that He is not lacking in Being, that He cannot lack Power, that He knows not how to lack Knowledge. The wise Elymas, forsooth, did not perceive this; and so is like an unskilled athlete, who (as often happens), thinking his adversary to be weak, through judging by his own estimation, misses him each time and manfully strikes at his shadow, and bravely beating the air with vain blows, fancies he hath gotten him a victory and boasts of his prowess through ignorance of the other’s power. But we striving to shoot our guard home to our teacher’s mark celebrate the Supra-Potent God as Omnipotent, as Blessed and the only Potentate, as ruling by His might over Eternity, as indwelling every part of the universe, or rather as transcending and anticipating all things in His Super-Essential Power, as the One Who hath bestowed upon all things their capacity to exist, and their existence through the rich outpouring of His transcendent and abundant Power.
7. Again, God is called “Righteousness” because He gives to all things what is right, defining Proportion, Beauty, Order, Arrangement, and all Dispositions of Place and Rank for each, in accordance with that place which is most truly right; and because He causeth each to possess its independent activity. For the Divine Righteousness ordains all things, and sets their bounds and keeps all things unconfused and distinct from one another, and gives to all things that which is suited to each according to the worth which each possesses. And if this is true, then all those who blame the Divine Righteousness stand (unwittingly) self-condemned of flagrant unrighteousness; for they say that immortality should belong to mortal things and perfection to the imperfect, and necessary or mechanical motion to those which possess free spiritual motion, and immutability to those which change, and the power of accomplishment to the weak, and that temporal things should be eternal, and that things which naturally move should be unchangeable, and that pleasures which are but for a season should last for ever; and, in short, they would interchange the properties of all things. But they should know that the Divine Righteousness is found in this to be true Righteousness, that it gives to all the qualities which befit them, according to the worth of each, and that it preserves the nature of each in its proper order and power.
8. But some one may say: “It is not right to leave holy men unaided to be oppressed by the wicked.” We must reply, that if those whom you call holy love the earthly things which are the objects of material ambition, they have utterly fallen from the Desire for God. And I know not how they can be called holy where they do this wrong to the things which are truly Lovely and Divine, wickedly rejecting them for things unworthy of their ambition and their love. But if they long for the things that are real, then they who desire aught should rejoice when the object of their desire is obtained. Now are they not nearer to the angelic virtues when they strive, in their desire for Divine Things, to abandon their affection towards material things, and manfully to train themselves unto this object in their struggles for the Beautiful? Thus, ‘tis true to say that it is more in accordance with Divine Righteousness not to lull into its destruction the manliness of the noblest characters through bestowing material goods upon them, nor to leave them without the aid of Divine corrections if any one attempt so to corrupt them. It is true justice to strengthen them in their noble and loyal stability, and to bestow on them the things which befit their high condition.
9. This Divine Righteousness is also called the Salvation or Preservation of the world, because It preserves and keeps the particular being and place of each thing inviolate from the rest, and is the inviolate Cause of all the particular activity in the world. And if any one speaks of Salvation as the saving Power which plucks the world out of the influence of evil, we will also certainly accept this account of Salvation since Salvation hath so many forms. We shall only ask him to add, that the primary Salvation of the world is that which preserves all things in their proper places without change, conflict, or deterioration, and keeps them all severally without strife or struggle obeying their proper laws, and banishes all inequality and interference from the world, and establishes the due capacities of each so that they fall not into their opposites nor suffer any transferences. Indeed, it would be quite in keeping with the teaching of the Divine Science to say that this Salvation, working in that beneficence which preserves the world, redeems all things (according as each can receive this saving power) so that they fall not from their natural virtues. Hence the Sacred Writers call It Redemption, both because It allows not the things which truly exist “to fall away into nothingness,” and also because, should anything stumble into error or disorder and suffer a diminution of the perfection of its proper virtues, It redeems even this thing from the weakness and the loss it suffers: filling up that which it lacks and supporting its feebleness with Fatherly Love; raising it from its evil state, or rather setting it firmly in its right state; completing once more the virtue it had lost, and ordering and arraying its disorder and disarray; making it perfect and releasing it from all its defects. So much for this matter and for the Righteousness whereby the equality or proportion of all things is measured and given its bounds, and all inequality or disproportion (which arises from the loss of proportion in the individual things) is kept far away. For if one considers the inequality shown in the mutual differences of all things in the world, this also is preserved by Righteousness which will not permit a complete mutual confusion and disturbance of all things, but keeps all things within the several forms naturally belonging to each.
IX. Concerning ”Great,” ”Small,” ”Same,” ”Different,” ”Like,” “Unlike,” ”Standing,” ”Motion,” ”Equality.”
1. Now, since Greatness and Smallness are ascribed to the Universal Cause, and Sameness and Difference, and Similarity and Dissimilarity, and Rest and Motion, let us also consider these Titles of the Divine Glory so far as our minds can grasp them. Now Greatness is attributed in the Scriptures unto God, both in the great firmament and also in the thin air whose subtlety reveals the Divine Smallness. And Sameness is ascribed to Him when the Scripture saith, “Thou art the same,” and Difference when He is depicted by the same Scriptures as having many forms and qualities. And He is spoken of as Similar to the creatures, in so far as He is the Creator of things similar to Himself and of their similarity; and as Dissimilar from them in so far as there is not His like. And He is spoken of as Standing and Immovable and as Seated for ever, and yet as Moving and going forth into all things. These and many similar Titles are given by the Scriptures unto God.
2. Now God is called Great in His peculiar Greatness which giveth of Itself to all things that are great and is poured upon all Magnitude from outside and stretches far beyond it; embracing all Space, exceeding all Number, penetrating beyond all Infinity both in Its exceeding fullness and creative magnificence, and also in the bounties that well forth from It, inasmuch as these, being shared by all in that lavish outpouring, yet are totally undiminished and possess the same exceeding Fullness, nor are they lessened through their distribution, but rather overflow the more. This Greatness is Infinite, without Quantity and without Number. And the excess of Greatness reaches to this pitch through the Absolute Transcendent outpouring of the Incomprehensible Grandeur.
3. And Smallness, or Rarity, is ascribed to God’s Nature because He is outside all solidity and distance and penetrates all things without let or hindrance. Indeed, Smallness is the elementary Cause of all things; for you will never find any part of the world but participates in that quality of Smallness. This, then, is the sense in which we must apply this quality to God. It is that which penetrates unhindered unto all things and through all things, energizing in them and reaching to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow; and being a Discerner of the desires and the thoughts of the heart, or rather of all things, for there is no creature hid before God. This Smallness is without Quantity or Quality; It is Irrepressible, Infinite, Unlimited, and, while comprehending all things, is Itself Incomprehensible.
4. And Sameness is attributed to God as a super-essentially Eternal and Unchangeable Quality, resting in Itself, always existing in the same condition, present to all things alike, firmly and inviolably fixed on Its own basis in the fair limits of the Super-Essential Sameness; not subject to change, declension, deterioration or variation, but remaining Unalloyed, Immaterial, utterly Simple, Self-Sufficing, Incapable of growth or diminition, and without Birth, not in the sense of being as yet unborn or imperfect, nor in the sense of not having received birth from this source or that, nor yet in the sense of utter nonexistence; but in the sense of being wholly or utterly Birthless and Eternal and Perfect in Itself and always the Same, being self-defined in Its Singleness and Sameness, and causing a similar quality of Identity to shine forth from Itself upon all things that are capable of participating therein and yoking different things in harmony together. For It is the boundless Richness and Cause of Identity, and contains beforehand in Itself all opposites under the form of Identity in that one unique Causation which transcends all identity.
5. And Difference is ascribed to God because He is, in His providence, present to all things and becomes all things in all for the preservation of them all, while yet remaining in Himself nor ever going forth from His own proper Identity in that one ceaseless act wherein His life consists; and thus with undeviating power He gives Himself for the Deification of those that turn to Him. And the difference of God’s various appearances from each other in the manifold visions of Him must be held to signify something other than that which was outwardly shown. For just as, supposing we were in thought to represent the soul itself in bodily shape, and represent this indivisible substance as surrounded by bodily parts, we should, in such a case, give the surrounding parts a different meaning suited to the indivisible nature of the soul, and should interpret the head to mean the Intellect, the neck Opinion (as being betwixt reason and irrationality), the breast to mean Passion, the belly Animal Desire, and the legs and feet to mean the Vital Nature: thus using the names of bodily parts as symbols of immaterial faculties; even so (and with much greater reason) must we, when speaking of Him that is beyond all things, purge from false elements by sacred heavenly and mystical explanations the Difference of the Forms and Shapes ascribed to God. And, if thou wilt attribute unto the intangible and unimaged God, the imagery of our threefold bodily dimensions, the Divine Breadth is God’s exceeding wide Emanation over all things, His Length is His Power exceeding the Universe, His Depth the Unknown Mystery which no creature can comprehend. Only we must have a care lest, in expounding these different forms and figures we unwittingly confound the incorporeal meaning of the Divine Names with the terms of the sensible symbols. This matter I have dealt with in my Symbolical Divinity: the point I now wish to make clear is this: we must not suppose that Difference in God means any variation of His utterly unchanging Sameness. It means, instead, a multiplicity of acts wherein His unity is undisturbed, and His all-creative fertility while passing into Emanations retains its uniformity in them.
6. And if God be called Similar (even as He is called “Same,” to signify that He is wholly and altogether like unto Himself in an indivisible Permanence) this appellation of “Similar” we must not repudiate. But the Sacred Writers tell us that the All-Transcendent God is in Himself unlike any being, but that He nevertheless bestows a Divine Similitude upon those that turn to Him and strive to imitate those qualities which are beyond all definition and understanding. And ‘tis the power of the Divine Similitude that turneth all created things towards their Cause. These things, then, must be considered similar to God by virtue of the Divine Image and Process of Similitude working in them; and yet we must not say that God resembles them any more than we should say a man resembles his own portrait. For things which are co-ordinate may resemble one another, and the term “similarity” may be applied indifferently to either member of the pair; they can both be similar to one another through a superior principle of Similarity which is common to them both. But in the case of the Cause and Its effects we cannot admit this interchange. For It doth not bestow the state of similarity only on these objects and on those; but God is the Cause of this condition unto all that have the quality of Similarity, and is the Fount of Very Similarity; and all the Similarity in the world possesses its quality through having a trace of the Divine Similarity and thus accomplishes the Unification of the creatures.
7. But what need is there to labour this point? Scripture itself declares that God is Dissimilar to the world, and not to be compared therewith. It says that He is different from all things, and (what is yet more strange) that there is nothing even similar to Him. And yet such language contradicts not the Similitude of things to Him. For the same things are both like unto God and unlike Him: like Him in so far as they can imitate Him that is beyond imitation, unlike Him in so far as the effects fall short of the Cause and are infinitely and incomparably inferior.
8. Now what say we concerning the Divine attributes of “Standing” and “Sitting”? Merely this—that God remains What He is in Himself and is firmly fixed in an immovable Sameness wherein His transcendent Being is fast rooted, and that He acts under the same modes and around the same Centre without changing; and that He is wholly Self-Subsistent in His Stability, possessing Very Immutability and an entire Immobility, and that He is all this in a Super-Essential manner. For He is the Cause of the stability and rest of all things: He who is beyond all Rest and Standing. And in Him all things have their consistency and are preserved, so as not to be shaken from the stability of their proper virtues.
9. And what is meant, on the other hand, when the Sacred Writers say that the Immovable God moves and goes forth unto all things? Must we not understand this also in a manner befitting God? Reverence bids us regard His motion to imply no change of place, variation, alteration, turning or locomotion, whether straightforward, circular, or compounded of both; or whether belonging to mind, soul, or natural powers; but to mean that God brings all things into being and sustains them, and exerts all manner of Providence over them, and is present to them all, holding them in His incomprehensible embrace, and exercising over them all His providential Emanations and Activities. Nevertheless our reason must agree to attribute movements to the Immutable God in such a sense as befits Him. Straightness we must understand to mean Directness of aim and the unswerving Emanation of His energies, and the outbirth of all things from Him. His Spiral Movement must be taken to mean the combination of a persistent Emanation and a productive Stillness. And His Circular Movement must be taken to mean His Sameness, wherein He holds together the intermediate orders and those at either extremity, so as to embrace each other, and the act whereby the things that have gone forth from Him return to Him again.
10. And if any one takes the Scriptural Title of “Same,” or that of “Righteousness,” as implying Equality, we must call God “Equal,” not only because He is without parts and doth not swerve from His purpose, but also because He penetrates equally to all things and through all, and is the Fount of Very Equality, whereby He worketh equally the uniform interpenetration of all things and the participation thereof possessed by things which (each according to its capacity) have an equal share therein, and the equal power bestowed upon all according to their worth; and because all Equality (perceived or exercised by the intellect, or possessed in the sphere of reason, sensation, essence, nature, or will) is transcendently contained beforehand as an Unity in Him through that Power, exceeding all things, which brings all Equality into existence.
X. Concerning ”Omnipotent,” ”Ancient of Days“; and also concerning ”Eternity“ and ”Time.”
1. Now ‘tis time that our Discourse should celebrate God (Whose Names are many) as “Omnipotent” and “Ancient of Days.” The former title is given Him because He is that All-Powerful Foundation of all things which maintains and embraces the Universe, founding and establishing and compacting it; knitting the whole together in Himself without a rift, producing the Universe out of Himself as out of an all-powerful Root, and attracting all things back into Himself as unto an all-powerful Receptacle, holding them all together as their Omnipotent Foundation, and securing them all in this condition with an all-transcendent bond suffering them not to fail away from Himself, nor (by being removed from out of that perfect Resting Place) to come utterly to destruction. Moreover, the Supreme Godhead is called “Omnipotent” because It is potent over all things, and rules with unalloyed sovranty over the world It governs; and because It is the Object of desire and yearning for all, and casts on all Its voluntary yoke and sweet travail of Divine all-powerful and indestructible Desire for Its Goodness.
2. And “Ancient of Days” is a title given to God because He is the Eternity of all things and their Time, and is anterior to Days and anterior to Eternity and Time. And the titles “Time,” “Day,” “Season,” and “Eternity” must be applied to Him in a Divine sense, to mean One Who is utterly incapable of all change and movement and, in His eternal motion, remains at rest; and Who is the Cause whence Eternity, Time, and Days are derived. Wherefore in the Sacred Theophanies revealed in mystic Visions He is described as Ancient and yet as Young: the former title signifying that He is the Primal Being, existent from the beginning, and the latter that He grows not old. Or both titles together teach that He goes forth from the Beginning through the entire process of the world unto the End. Or, as the Divine Initiator tells us, either term implies the Primal Being of God: the term “Ancient” signifying that He is First in point of Time, and the term “Young” that He possesses the Primacy in point of Number, since Unity and the properties of Unity have a primacy over the more advanced numbers.
3. Need is there, methinks, that we understand the sense in which Scripture speaketh of Time and Eternity. For where Scripture speaks of things as “eternal” it doth not always mean things that are absolutely Uncreated or verily Everlasting, Incorruptible, Immortal, Invariable, and Immutable (e.g. “Be ye lift up, ye eternal doors,” and suchlike passages). Often it gives the name of “Eternal” to anything very ancient; and sometimes, again, it applies the term “Eternity” to the whole course of earthly Time, inasmuch as it is the property of Eternity to be ancient and invariable and to measure the whole of Being. The name “Time” it Gives to that changing process which is shown in birth, death, and variation. And hence we who are here circumscribed by Time are, saith the Scripture, destined to share in Eternity when we reach that incorruptible Eternity which changes not. And sometimes the Scripture declares the glories of a Temporal Eternity and an Eternal Time, although we understand that in stricter exactness it describes and reveals Eternity as the home of things that are in Being; and Time as the home of things that are in Birth. We must not, therefore, think of the things which are called Eternal as being simply co-ordinate with the Everlasting God Who exists before Eternity; but, strictly following the venerable Scriptures, we had better interpret the words “Eternal” and “Temporal” in their proper senses, and regard those things which to some extent participate in Eternity and to some extent in Time as standing midway between things in Being and things in Birth. And God we must celebrate as both Eternity and Time, as the Cause of all Time and Eternity and as the Ancient of Days; as before Time and above Time and producing all the variety of times and seasons; and again, as existing before Eternal Ages, in that He is before Eternity and above Eternity and His Kingdom is the Kingdom of all the Eternal Ages. Amen.
XI. Concerning ”Peace“ and what is meant by ”Very Being“ Itself, ”Very Life,” ”Very Power,” and similar phrases.
1. Now let us praise with reverent hymns of peace the Divine Peace which is the Source of all mutual attraction. For this Quality it is that unites all things together and begets and produces the harmonies and agreements of all things. And hence it is that all things long for It, and that It draws their manifold separate parts into the unity of the whole and unites the battling elements of the world into concordant fellowship. So it is that, through participation in the Divine Peace, the higher of the mutually Attractive Powers are united in themselves and to each other and to the one Supreme Peace of the whole world; and so the ranks beneath them are by them united both in themselves and to one another and unto that one perfect Principle and Cause of Universal Peace, which broods in undivided Unity upon the world, and (as it were with bolts which fasten the sundered parts together) giveth to all things their laws, their limits, and their cohesion; nor suffers them to be torn apart and dispersed into the boundless chaos without order or foundation, so as to lose God’s Presence and depart from their own unity, and to mingle together in a universal confusion. Now as to that quality of the Divine Peace and Silence, to which the holy Justus gives the name of “Dumbness” and “Immobility” (sc. so far as concerns all emanation which our knowledge can grasp), and as to the manner in which It is still and silent and keeps in Itself and within Itself and is wholly and entirely one transcendent Unity in Itself, and while entering into Itself and multiplying Itself, doth not leave Its own Unity, but, even in the act of going forth to all things, remains entirely within Itself through the excess of that all-transcendent Unity: concerning these things ‘tis neither right nor possible for any creature to frame any language or conception. Let us, then, describe that Peace (inasmuch as It transcends all things) as “Unutterable,” yea and “Unknowable”; and, so far as ‘tis possible for men and for ourselves who are inferior to many good men, let us examine those cases where It is amenable to our intuitions and language through being manifested in created things.
2. Now, the first thing to say is this: that God is the Fount of Very Peace and of all Peace, both in general and in particular, and that He joins all things together in an unity without confusion whereby they are inseparably united without any interval between them, and at the same time stand unmixed each in its own form, not losing their purity through being mingled with their opposites nor in any way blunting the edge of their clear and distinct individuality. Let us, then, consider that one and simple nature of the Peaceful Unity which unites all things to Itself to themselves and to each other, and preserves all things, distinct and yet interpenetrating in an universal cohesion without confusion. Thus it is that the Divine Intelligences derive that Unity whereby they are united to the activities and the objects of their intuition; and rise up still further to a contact, beyond knowledge, with truths which transcend the mind. Thus it is that souls, unifying their manifold reasoning powers and concentrating them in one pure spiritual act, advance by their own ordered path through an immaterial and indivisible act of spiritual intuition. Thus it is that the one and indissoluble connection of all things exists by reason of its Divine harmony, and is fitted together with perfect concord, agreement and congruity, being drawn into one without confusion and inseparably held together. For the entirety of that perfect Peace penetrates to all things through the simple, unalloyed presence of Its unifying power, uniting all things and binding the extremities together through the intermediate parts, all things being thus conjoined by one homogenous attraction. And It bestows even upon the utmost limits of the universe the enjoyment of Its Presence, and makes all things akin to one another by the unities, the identities, the communions and the mutual attractions which It gives them; for the Divine Peace remains indivisible and shows forth all Its power in a single act, and permeates the whole world without departing from Its own Identity. For It goes forth to all things and gives to all things of Itself (according to their kinds), and overflows with the abundance of Its peaceful fecundity, and yet through the transcendence of Its unification It remains wholly and entirely in a state of Absolute Self-Unity.
3. “But,” some one perchance will say, “in what sense do all things desire peace? Many things rejoice in opposition and difference and distinction, and would never choose willingly to be at rest.” Now if the opposition and difference here intended is the individuality of each thing, and the fact that naught (while it remains itself) wishes to lose this quality, then neither can we deny this statement; but, however, we shall show that this itself is due to a desire for Peace. For all things love to have peace and unity in themselves and to remain without moving or falling from their own existence or properties. And the perfect Peace guards each several individuality unalloyed by Its providential gift of peace, keeping all things without internal or mutual discord or confusion, and establishing all things, in the power of unswerving stability, so as to possess their own peace and rest.
4. And if all things which move be found desiring not to be at rest but always to perform their proper movements, this also is a desire for that Divine Peace of the Universe which keeps all things in their proper places so that they fall not, and preserves the individual and the motive life of all moving things from removal or declension. And this it doth by reason that the things which move perform their proper functions through being in a constant state of inward peace.
5. But if, in affirming that Peace is not desired by all, the objector is thinking of the opposition caused by a falling away from Peace, in the first place there is nothing in the world which hath utterly fallen away from all Unity; for that which is utterly unstable, boundless, baseless, and indefinite hath neither Being nor any inherence in the things that have Being. And if he says that hatred towards Peace and the blessings of Peace is shown by them that rejoice in strife and anger and in conditions of variations and instability, I answer that these also are governed by dim shadows of the desire for Peace; for, being oppressed by the various movements of their passions, they desire (without understanding) to set these at rest, and suppose that the surfeit of fleeting pleasures will give them Peace because they feel themselves disturbed by the unsatisfied cravings which have mastered them. There is no need to tell how the loving-kindness of Christ cometh bathed in Peace, wherefrom we must learn to cease from strife, whether against ourselves or against one another, or against the angels, and instead to labour together even with the angels for the accomplishment of God’s Will, in accordance with the Providential Purpose of Jesus Who worketh all things in all and maketh Peace, unutterable and foreordained from Eternity, and reconcileth us to Himself, and, in Himself, to the Father. Concerning these supernatural gifts enough hath been said in the Outlines of Divinity with confirmation drawn from the holy testimony of the Scriptures.
6. Now, since thou hast, on a previous occasion, sent me an epistle asking what I mean by Very Being Itself, Very Life Itself, Very Wisdom Itself: and since thou saidst thou couldst not understand why sometimes I call God “Life” and sometimes the “Fount of Life”: I have thought it necessary, holy man of God, to solve for thee this question also which hath arisen between us. In the first place, to repeat again what hath often been said before, there is no contradiction between calling God “Life” or “Power” and “Fount of Life, Peace, or Power.” The former titles are derived from forms of existence, and especially from the primary forms, and are applied to Him because all existences come forth from Him; the latter titles are given Him because in a superessential manner He transcends all things, even the primary existences. “But,” thou wilt say, “what mean we at all by Very Being and Very Life and those things to which we ascribe an Ultimate Existence derived primarily from God?” We reply as follows: “This matter is not crooked, but straightforward, and the explanation thereof is easy. The Very Existence underlying the existence of all things is not some Divine or Angelic Being (for only That Which is Super-Essential can be the Principle, the Being and the Cause of all Existences and of Very Existence Itself) nor is It any life-producing Deity other than the Supra-Divine Life which is the Cause of all living things and of Very Life, nor, in short, is It identical with any such originative and creative Essences and Substances of things as men in their rash folly call “gods” and “creators” of the world, though neither had these men themselves any true and proper knowledge of such beings nor had their fathers. In fact, such beings did not exist. Our meaning is different: “Very Being,” “Very Life,” “Very Godhead” are titles which in an Originating Divine and Causal sense we apply to the One Transcendent Origin and Cause of all things, but we also apply the terms in a derivative sense to the Providential Manifestations of Power derived from the Unparticipated God, i. e. to the Infusion of Very Being, Very Life, and Very Godhead, which so transmutes the creatures where each, according to its nature, participates therein, that these obtain the qualities and names: “Existent,” “Living,” “Divinely Possessed,” etc. Hence the Good God is called the Fount, first, of the Very Primaries: then, of those creatures which share completely therein; then, of those which share partially therein. But it needs not to say more concerning this matter, since some of our Divine Teachers have already treated thereof. They give the title “Fount of Very Goodness and Deity” to Him that exceeds both Goodness and Deity; and they give the name of “Very Goodness and Deity” to the Gift which, coming forth from God, bestows both Goodness and Deity upon the creatures; and they give the name of “Very Beauty” to the outpouring of Very Beauty; and in the same manner they speak of “complete Beauty” and “partial Beauty,” and of things completely beautiful and things beautiful in part. And they deal in the same way with all other qualities which are, or can be, similarly employed to signify Providential Manifestations and Virtues derived from the Transcendent God through that abundant outpouring, where such qualities proceed and overflow from Him. So is the Creator of all things literally beyond them all, and His Super-Essential and Supernatural Being altogether transcends the creatures, whatever their essence and nature.
XII. Concerning ”Holy of holies,” ”King of kings,” ”Lord of lords,” ”God of gods.”
1. Forasmuch as the things which needed to be said concerning this matter have been brought, I think, to a proper ending, we must praise God (whose Names are infinite) as “Holy of holies” and “King of kings,” reigning through Eternity and unto the end of Eternity and beyond it, and as “Lord of lords” and “God of gods.” And we must begin by saying what we understand by “Very Holiness,” what by “Royalty,” “Dominion,” and “Deity,” and what the Scripture means by the reduplication of the titles.
2. Now Holiness is that which we conceive as a freedom from all defilement and a complete and utterly untainted purity. And Royalty is the power to assign all limit, order, law, and rank. And Dominion is not only the superiority to inferiors, but is also the entirely complete and universal possession of fair and good things and is a true and steadfast firmness; wherefore the name is derived from a word meaning “validity” and words meaning severally “that which possesseth validity” and “which exerciseth” it. And Deity is the Providence which contemplates all things and which, in perfect Goodness, goes round about all things and holds them together and fills them with Itself and transcends all things that enjoy the blessings of Its providential care.
3. These titles, then, must be given in an absolute sense to the All-Transcendent Cause, and we must add that It is a Transcendent Holiness and Dominion, that It is a Supreme Royalty and an altogether Simple Deity. For out of It there hath, in one single act, come forth collectively and been distributed throughout the world all the unmixed Perfection of all untainted Purity; all that Law and Order of the world, which expels all disharmony, inequality and disproportion, and breaks forth into a smiling aspect of ordered Consistency and Rightness, bringing into their proper place all things which are held worthy to participate in It; all the perfect Possession of all fair qualities; and all that good Providence which contemplates and maintains in being the objects of Its own activity, bounteously bestowing Itself for the Deification of those creatures which are converted unto It.
4. And since the Creator of all things is brim-full with them all in one transcendent excess thereof. He is called “Holy of Holies,” etc., by virtue of His overflowing Causality and excess of Transcendence. Which meaneth that just as things that have no substantial Being are transcended by things that have such Being, together with Sanctity, Divinity, Dominion, or Royalty; and just as the things that participate in these Qualities are transcended by the Very Qualities themselves—even so all things that have Being are surpassed by Him that is beyond them all, and all the Participants and all the Very Qualities are surpassed by the Unparticipated Creator. And Holy Ones and Kings and Lords and Gods, in the language of Scripture, are the higher Ranks in each Kind through which the secondary Ranks receiving of their gifts from God, show forth the abundance of that Unity thus distributed among them in their own manifold qualities—which various qualities the First Ranks in their providential, godlike activity draw together into the Unity of their own being.
XIII. Concerning ”Perfect“ and ”One.”
1. So much for these titles. Now let us, if thou art willing, proceed to the most important Title of all. For the Divine Science attributes all qualities to the Creator of all things and attributes them all together, and speaks of Him as One. how such a Being is Perfect: not only in the sense that It is Absolute Perfection and possesseth in Itself and from Itself distinctive Uniformity of Its existence, and that It is wholly perfect in Its whole Essence, but also in the sense that, in Its transcendence It is beyond Perfection; and that, while giving definite form or limit to all that is indefinite, It is yet in Its simple Unity raised above all limitation, and is not contained or comprehended by anything, but penetrates to all things at once and beyond them in Its unfailing bounties and never-ending activities. Moreover, the Title “Perfect” means that It cannot be increased (being always Perfect) and cannot be diminished, and that It contains all things beforehand in Itself and overflows in one ceaseless, identical, abundant and inexhaustible supple, whereby It perfects all perfect things and fills them with Its own Perfection.
2. And the title “One” implies that It is all things under the form of Unity through the Transcendence of Its single Oneness, and is the Cause of all things without departing from that Unity. For there is nothing in the world without a share in the One; and, just as all number participates in unity (and we speak of one couple, one dozen, one half, one third, or one tenth) even so everything and each part of everything participates in the One, and on the existence of the One all other existences are based, and the One Cause of all things is not one of the many things in the world, but is before all Unity and Multiplicity and gives to all Unity and Multiplicity their definite bounds. For no multiplicity can exist except by some participation in the One: that which is many in its parts is one in its entirety; that which is many in its accidental qualities is one in its substance; that which is many in number or faculties is one in species; that which is many in its emanating activities is one in its originating essence. There is naught in the world without some participation in the One, the Which in Its all-embracing Unity contains beforehand all things, and all things conjointly, combining even opposites under the form of oneness. And without the One there can be no Multiplicity; yet contrariwise the One can exist without the Multiplicity just as the Unit exists before all multiplied Number. And if all things be conceived as being ultimately unified with each other, then all things taken as a whole are One.
3. Moreover, we must bear this in mind: that when we attribute a common unity to things we do so in accordance with the preconceived law of their kind belonging to each one, and that the One is thus the elementary basis of all things. And if you take away the One there will remain neither whole nor part nor anything else in the world; for all things are contained beforehand and embraced by the One as an Unity in Itself. Thus Scripture speaks of the whole Supreme Godhead as the Cause of all things by employing the title of “One”; and there is One God Who is the Father and One Lord Jesus Christ and One unchanging Spirit, through the transcendent indivisibility of the entire Divine Unity, wherein all things are knit together in one and possess a supernal Unity and super-essentially pre-exist. Hence all things are rightly referred and attributed unto It, since by It and in It and unto It all things possess their existence, co-ordination, permanence, cohesion, fulfilment, and innate tendency. And you will not find anything in .the world but derives from the One (which, in a super-essential sense, is the name of the whole Godhead) both its individual existence and the process that perfects and preserves it. And we also must, in the power of the Divine Unity, turn from the Many to the One and declare the Unity of the whole single Godhead, which is the One Cause of all things; before all distinctions of One and Many, Part and Whole, Definiteness and Indefiniteness, Finitude and Infinitude; giving definite shape to all things that have Being, and to Being itself; the Cause of everything and of all together—a Cause both co-existent and pre-existent and transcendent, and all these things at once; yea, beyond existent Unity itself, and giving definite shape to existent Unity itself. For Unity, as found in the creatures, is numerical; and number participates in Essence: but the Super-Essential Unity gives definite shape to existent unity and to every number, and is Itself the Beginning, the Cause, the Numerical Principle and the Law of Unity, number and every creature. And hence, when we speak of the All-Transcendent Godhead as an Unity and a Trinity, It is not an Unity or a Trinity such as can be known by us or any other creature, though to express the truth of Its utter Self-Union and Its Divine Fecundity we apply the titles of “Trinity” and “Unity” to That Which is beyond all titles, expressing under the form of Being That Which is beyond Being. But no Unity or Trinity or Number or Oneness or Fecundity or any other thing that either is a creature or can be known to any creature, is able to utter the mystery, beyond all mind and reason, of that Transcendent Godhead which super-essentially surpasses all things. It hath no name, nor can It be grasped by the reason; It dwells in a region beyond us, where our feet cannot tread. Even the title of “Goodness” we do not ascribe to It because we think such a name suitable; but desiring to frame some conception and language about this Its ineffable Nature, we consecrate as primarily belonging to It the Name we most revere. And in this too we shall be in agreement with the Sacred Writers; nevertheless the actual truth must still be far beyond us. Hence we have given our preference to the Negative method, because this lifts the soul above all things cognate with its finite nature, and, guiding it onward through all the conceptions of God’s Being which are transcended by that Being exceeding all Name, Reason, and Knowledge, reaches beyond the farthest limits of the world and there joins us unto God Himself, in so far as the power of union with Him is possessed even by us men.
4. These Intelligible Names we have collected and endeavoured to expound, though falling short not only of the actual meaning thereof (for such a failure even angels would be forced to confess), nor yet merely of such utterance as angels would have given concerning them (for the greatest of those among us who touch these themes are far inferior to the lowest of the angels); nor yet do we merely fall behind the teaching of the Sacred Writers thereon or of the Ascetics, their fellow-labourers, but we fall utterly and miserably behind our own compeers. And hence if our words are true and we have really, so far as in us lies, attained some intellectual grasp of the right way to explain the Names of God, the thanks are due to Him Who is the Creator of all things; granting first the faculty of speech and then the power to use it well. And if any Synonym hath been passed over we must supply and interpret that also by the same methods. And if this treatment is wrong or imperfect, and we have erred from the Truth either wholly or in part, I beg thy loving-kindness to correct my unwilling ignorance, to satisfy with argument my desire for knowledge, to help my insufficient strength and heal my involuntary feebleness; and that, obtaining thy stores partly from thyself and partly from others and wholly from the Good, thou wilt also pass them on to us. And I pray thee be not weary in this kindness to a friend, for thou seest that we have not kept to ourselves any of the Hierarchic Utterances which have been handed down to us, but have imparted them without adulteration both to yourselves and to other holy men, and will continue so to do as long as we have the power to speak and you to hear. So will we do no despite unto the tradition, unless strength fail us for the perception or the utterance of these Truths. But be these matters as God wills that we should do or speak.
And be this now the end of our treatise concerning the Intelligible Names of God. Now will I proceed, God helping me, to the Symbolical Divinity.