J. P. Williams

in Denying Divinity

Published in print November 2000 | ISBN: 9780198269991
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191683855 | DOI:

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Dionysius argues (in the conclusion to The Divine Names) that apophasis is an ascent towards the divine, involving not merely the intellect but the entire soul; and that the writers of scripture prefer it (to kataphasis) because of its ability to bring the soul entirely beyond the sphere of human life and thought and to unite it as far as possible with the divine. Despite the undeniable involvement of the intellect in the exegesis of scripture, Dionysius' apophasis takes us beyond the intellect. In The Celestial Hierarchy, Dionysius links apophasis with another scriptural technique, ‘unlike likeness’. Here the difference between apophasis and kataphasis is sharpened. A brief analysis of Dionysius' explicit comments about apophasis shows, first, the nature of the ascent embodied in apophasis, and its relation to the various types of negation and symbolism; second, the notion of ecstasy and its relation to the ascent; third, the role in the ascent of the intellect — and the concept of ‘unknowing’ and of the personality as a whole.

Keywords: Dionysius; apophasis; divine; negation; kataphasis; unlike likeness; ascent; symbolism; ecstasy; intellect

Chapter.  11457 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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