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purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways


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The analysis of Christian development into these three ‘ways’ or phases derives from Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, who ascribed a rhythm of purification, illumination, and union (or perfection) both to the hierarchies of angels and to the Church on earth. Medieval W. interpreters of Dionysius turned his scheme into an account of spiritual progress in terms of the three ways, beginning with the eradication of bad habits and the cultivation of the virtues, moving on to the illumination of the mind by meditation and contemplation, and culminating in unitive love. These three ways were adopted by later writers such as St John of the Cross and so became classic in systematic theories of Christian spirituality.

Subjects: Christianity.


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