Kyparissiotes: Decade 1.10

January 21, 2011

From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 758 C – 760 B.

Chapter Ten. That, from both types of symbolic theology, whether the kind expressed in an outward form by angels or the kind expressed by words which, at first glance, seem incongruous, it is by all means necessary to have recourse to higher notions.

The great Dionysius says in his Letter to Titus:

For we should not suppose that such composite appearances have been formed for their own sake; but they shield the unutterable, invisible knowledge from the multitude, since things all-holy are inaccessible to the profane, but are made manifest only to those who are genuine lovers of piety, who reject all childish fancy respecting the holy symbols, and are capable of passing with simplicity of mind and aptitude of contemplative faculty to the simple and supernatural and elevated truth of the symbols.

[1.10.1] Dionysius, Ep. ad Titum; PG 3, 1105 C.

And, again, in chapter 2 of his Celestial Hierarchy the same author states:

Thus do all who are wise in God and interpreters of the secret inspiration separate, in an undefiled way, the holy of holies from the uninitiated and the unholy and prefer to represent holy things by way of things dissimilar, so that neither should the profane easily lay hands upon things divine, nor should those who diligently contemplate the divine imagery rest in the types as though they were the realities.

[1.10.2] Dionysius, Caelestis hierarchia, 2; PG 3, 145 A.

So likewise also Basil the Great says:

As for someone who does not ascend from the words to higher notions, but remains stuck at the level of those corporeal sketches that are made by compositions of words, such a person shall hear from Moses that God is a fire (Deut 4:24), and shall, by the wise Daniel, be turned aside to other opinions, so that as a result he will infer from these things, not only false thoughts, but thoughts that are mutually contradictory.

[1.10.3] Basil (passage not yet identified).

From the foregoing it is clear that one should not cling to forms symbolically expressed, by whatsoever means they are expressed, whether by an image falling under sense perception or by words which appear to possess much incongruity and absurdity; rather, one should, with all diligence, have recourse to higher thoughts.

To summarize, then, in a simple and clear recapitulation those matters of which I have treated: in chapter one it was shown, as it were in a general way, that theology may be basically divided into two kinds; concerning the one kind, that is, symbolic theology, it is further necessary to explain what and how many are the things which it makes known and declares (ch. 2); following this, there is a clarification of the nature of these things, namely, that they are bodily and fall under the senses (ch. 3); then, [a clarification] of what property they exhibit (ch. 4); following this, that not only are things concerning God represented in forms and images of this kind, but even things pertaining to angels (ch. 5); next, in how many modes these symbolic things appear and are perceived (ch. 6); next, by what word, when they are named, they are covered and clothed (ch. 7); furthermore, by what intermediaries they are effected (ch. 8); next it was shown that it is not possible for these things to be produced otherwise than through intermediaries, namely, through angels (ch. 9); finally, that one ought not to cling to types of this kind, whether they are effected by words alone or in forms and images (ch. 10). Thus, nothing more remains to be said on this subject, but this part of our discussion is finished. And, indeed, it is in keeping with this kind of theology that we should hear it called “arcane” and “mystical,” since it does not allow us to abide in visible things, but it forces people to go further, as many as have received from nature wings upon which to be carried up to the heights.

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