Kyparissiotes: Decade 2.1

January 29, 2011

From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 759C – 761B.

Decade Two: On Demonstrative Theology

Chapter One. That there are also two kinds of demonstrative theology.

The great Dionysius in chapter 2 of his Celestial Hierarchy says:

Sacred revelation [ἱερᾶς ἐκφαντορίας] occurs in a twofold manner. One kind, not surprisingly, proceeds through likenesses that are similar [to the divine] and describe something sacred; but the other kind uses forms that are dissimilar, which are fashioned into utter unlikeness and incongruity. For example, the mystical traditions of the revelatory texts sometimes extol the superessential Godhead’s august blessedness as “Word,” and “Mind,” and “Essence,” indicating its God-befitting rationality and wisdom — since it really is the existence and the true cause of the existence of things that are; and they describe it as “Light,” and call it “Life.” While such sacred descriptions are more reverent, and seem in a certain way to be superior to the material [προσύλων] images, all the same, they in reality fall short of similarity to that which is primordially divine. For it is above every essence and life. No light expresses its character; every word and mind falls incomparably short of likeness to it. But at other times the sacred texts themselves supermundanely hymn its praises through dissimilar revelations, when they affirm that it is “invisible,” and “infinite,” and “incomprehensible,” and such things as signify, not what it is, but what it is not.

[2.1.1] Ps.-Dionysius, Caelestis hierarchia 2.2-3; PG 3, 140 B-D.

From these things it comes about that demonstrative theology is twofold, one kind being expressed affirmatively and from effects, the other kind, negatively and by way of privation; and the former of these presents forms that are similar [to the divine], the latter, forms that are dissimilar. But this, nevertheless, is to be noted about affirmative theology, that it, too, proceeds by way of forms portrayed in sacred Scripture; but it does so more straightforwardly than in the case of those things which are said according to symbolic theology, in either of its two forms of representation (which things the fathers have called προσύλους [material], whereas we call them earthly). For, even if the other sort of theology, the symbolic kind, proceeds by way of words that are reinterpreted and sketched, nevertheless, many absurdities and incongruities remain in them. For what should one think, when one hears of drunkenness in God, and repentance, and swearings, and imprecations, and other things of this kind?

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