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The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, [1897], at


Concerning great, small, same, different, similar, dissimilar, standing, movement, equality.


BUT since even the great and the small are attributed to the Cause of all, arid the same, and the different, and the similar, and the dissimilar, and the standing, and the movement. Come! and let us gaze upon these images of the Divine Names, such as have been manifested to us. Almighty God, then, is celebrated in the Oracles as great, both in greatness and in a gentle breeze, which manifests the Divine littleness; and as the same, when the Oracles declare "thou art the same"; and as different, when He is depicted, by the same Oracles, as of many shapes and many forms; and as similar, as mainstay of things similar and similitude; and as dissimilar to all, as the like of whom there is not; and as standing, and unmoved, and seated for ever; and as moving, as going forth to all; and whatever other Divine Names, of the same force with these, are celebrated by the Oracles.


Almighty God, then, is named great in reference to His own peculiar greatness, which imparts itself to all things great; and overflows, and extends itself outside of all greatness; embracing every place, surpassing every number, going through every infinitude, both in reference to its super-fulness, and p. 103 mighty operation, and its fontal gifts, in so far as these, being participated by all in a stream of boundless gifts, are altogether undiminished, and have the same super-fulness, and are not lessened by the impartations, but are even still more bubbling over. This Greatness then is infinite, and without measure and without number. And this is the preeminence as regards the absolute and surpassing flood of the incomprehensible greatness.


But little, i.e. fine, is affirmed respecting Him,--that which leaves behind every mass and distance, and penetrates through all, without hindrance. Yet the little is Elemental 52 Cause of all, for nowhere will you find the idea of the little unparticipated. Thus then the little must be received as regards God as penetrating to all, and through all, without impediment; and operating, and piercing through, to "a dividing of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow"; and "discerning thoughts and intents of heart," yea rather--all things that be. For there is not a creature unmanifest in His sight. This littleness is without quality and without quantity, without restraint, without limit, without bound, comprehending all things, but itself incomprehensible.


But the same is superessentially everlasting, inconvertible, abiding in itself, always being in the same p. 104 condition and manner; present to all in the same manner, and itself by itself, upon itself, firmly and purely fixed in the most beautiful limits of the superessential sameness, without changing, without falling, without swerving, unalterable, unmingled, immaterial, most simplex, self-sufficient, without increase, without diminution, unoriginated, not as not yet come into being, or unperfected, or not having become from this, or that, nor as being in no manner of way whatever, but as all unoriginated, and absolutely unoriginated, and ever being; and being self-complete, and being the same by itself, and differentiated by itself in one sole and same form; and shedding sameness from itself to all things adapted to participate in It; and assigning things different to those different; abundance and cause of identity, preholding identically in itself even things contrary, as beseems the One and unique Cause, surpassing the whole identity.


But the different, since Almighty God is present to all providentially, and becomes all in all, for the sake of the preservation of all, resting upon Himself, and His own identity within Himself, standing, as beseems an energy, one and ceaseless, and imparting Himself with an unbending power, for deification of those turned to Him. And we must suppose that the difference of the manifold shapes of Almighty God, during the multiform visions, signifies that certain things are different from the phenomena p. 105 under which they appear. For, as when language depicts the soul itself, under a bodily form, and fashions bodily members around the memberless, we think differently of the members attributed to it, as befits the soul’s memberless condition; and we call the mind head, and opinion neck,--as intermediate between rational and irrational--and anger, breast; and lust, belly; and the constitution, legs and feet; using the names of the members as symbols of the powers. Much more then, as respects Him, Who is beyond all, is it necessary to make clear the difference of forms and shapes by reverent and God-becoming, and mystic explanations. And if you wish to apply the threefold shapes of bodies to the impalpable and shapeless God, you must say, that the Progression of Almighty God, which spreads out to all things, is a Divine extension; and length, the power extending itself over the whole; and depth, the hiddenness and imperception incomprehensible to all creatures. But, that we may not forget ourselves, in our explanation, of the different shapes and forms, by confounding the incorporeal Divine Names with those given through symbols of objects of sense, we have for this reason spoken concerning these things in the Symbolic Theology. But now, let us suppose the Divine difference, as really not a sort of change from the super-immovable identity, but as the single multiplication of itself, and the uniform progressions of its fecundity to all. p. 106


But similar, if any one might speak of Almighty God as the same, as being wholly throughout, similar to Himself--abidingly and indivisibly; we must not despise the Divine Name of the Similar; but the Theologians affirm that the God above all, in His essential nature, is similar to none; but that He bequeaths a Divine similarity to those who turn to Him, Who is above every limit and expression, by imitation according to their capacity. And there is the power of the Divine similitude, which turns all created things to the Cause. These things, then, must be said to be similar to Almighty God, both after a Divine likeness and similitude. For, neither must we say that Almighty God is similar to them, because neither is a man like his own image. For, with regard to those of the same rank, it is possible that these should be similar to each other, and that the similarity corresponds to each, and that both are similar to each other, after a preceding appearance of like. But, with respect to the Cause and the things caused, we do not accept the correspondence. For, the being similar is bequeathed, not to these, or those, alone, but to all those who participate in similarity. Almighty God becomes Cause of their being similar, and is mainstay of the self-existing Similarity itself; and the similar in all is similar to a soft of footprint of the Divine Similarity and completes their Oneness. p. 107


And what must we say concerning this? For the Word of God Itself extols the fact that He is dissimilar, and of the same rank with none; as "different" even from everything, and, what is more paradoxical, says there is nothing that is similar to Him. Yet the expression is not contrary to the similarity towards Him, for the same things are both similar to God, and dissimilar--the former as regards the received imitation 53 of the inimitable, the latter as regards the dependence of the things caused upon the cause, and their being inferior in degrees, endless and incalculable.


But what also do we say concerning the Divine standing, i.e. seat? What other than that Almighty God remains Himself, in Himself, and is abidingly fixed in unmoved identity, and is firmly established on high; and that He acts according to the same conditions, and in reference to the same object, and in the same way; and that He exists altogether, as beseems the immutability from Himself; and as beseems the immovability Itself, entirely immovable, and that superessentially. For He is Cause of the standing and sitting of all, Who is above all sitting and standing, and in Him all things consist, being kept from falling out of the state of their own proper goods. p. 108


But what again, when the Theologians say, that the unmoved goes forth to all, and is moved? Must we not understand this in a sense befitting God? For we must reverently suppose that He is moved, not as beseems carriage, or change, or alteration, or turning, or local movement, or the straight, or the circular, or that from both (curvative), or the intellectual, or the spiritual, or the physical, but that Almighty God brings into being and sustains everything, and provides in every way for everything; and is present, to all, by the irresistible embrace of all, and by His providential progressions and operations to all existing things. But we must concede to our discourse, to celebrate in a sense becoming God, even movements of God, the immovable. And the straight must be considered (to be) the unswerving and the undeviating progression of the operation, and the production from Himself of the whole; and the curvative--the steady progression and the productive condition; and the circular the same, and the holding together the middle and extremities, which encompass and are encompassed,--and the turning to Him of the things which proceeded from Him.


But, if any one should take the Divine Name in the Oracles, of "the same," or that of "justice," in the sense of "the equal," we must say, that Almighty God is equal, not only as indivisible and unswerving, but also as going forth to all, and through all, p. 109 equally; and as foundation of the self-existent Equality, in conformity with which, He equally effects the same passage, through all things mutually, and the participation of those who receive equally, according to the aptitude of each; and the equal gift distributed to all, according to due; and according as He has anticipated pre-eminently and uniquely in Himself, every equality, intelligible, intelligent, rational, sensible, essential, physical, voluntary, as beseems the Power over all, which is productive of every equality.


103:52 Atomic theory.

107:53 Letter 2.

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