Kyparissiotes: Decade 1.1
August 23, 2010
From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 745 C – 747 B.
Decade One: On Symbolic Theology
Chapter I: That there are two kinds of theology
Dionysius, in his Letter to Bishop Titus, speaks as follows:
Besides, we must also consider this, that the teaching handed down by the Theologians is two-fold — one, secret and mystical — the other, open and better known — one, symbolical and initiative — the other, philosophic and demonstrative; — and the unspoken is intertwined with the spoken. The one persuades, and necessitates the truth of the things expressed, the other acts and implants one in God by instructions in mysteries not learnt by teaching.
[1.1.1] Dionysius, Ep. 9.1, PG 3, 1105 D; tr. John Parker (London 1897); revised.
St. Maximus and Dionysius of Alexandria comment upon this passage; Maximus calls that theology “symbolic” and “initiative”
which is accomplished through symbols, like those of the ritual service pertaining to the Law, and the mysteries of our own mystical, sacred rites, even if our own things are the higher and more spiritual of the two. But the philosophic, demonstrative kind of theology is that which comes about through observation of the creatures and of various divine dispensations, and through the contemplative interpretation of the things said about God in the Scriptures.
[1.1.2] Maximus the Confessor (or, perhaps, John of Scythopolis), Scholia in Epp. S. Dionysii, PG 4, 564 B.
As for Dionysius of Alexandria, he says that
the philosophical, demonstrative kind of theology produces certainty and necessitates the truth: that is, it stamps, as though with a seal, the truth of those things which are spoken, and binds them as though with a chain, and it causes those who hear to believe. Whereas the other kind of theology, that which is symbolic, joins one to God by things which take place, as it were by the very influence and inward shaping of the thing itself; such things Dionysius calls “untaught mysteries.”
[1.1.3] Not found.
Here, therefore, it is clear that theology, speaking generally and as a whole, is comprised of these two parts: one part is secret and mystical; it is not taught by arguments; its power is in its uniting [things] together, and it instills firmness in souls concerning those things which are perceived or heard; as for the other part, by rational inferences, and by the renowned authority of those who had earlier spoken such things, it produces certainty and compels those who hear to give their assent.