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Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback)) Paperback – January 1, 1988

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press (January 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809128381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809128389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Until the publication of this book, Pseudo-Dionysius, a major influence on Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross, among others, was like a tantalizing mirage, frequently referred to but generally not seen in full. Finally, here he is. The book contains "The Divine Names", "The Mystical Theology", "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy", "The Celestial Hierarchy", and letters. In addition, there are three (!) introductions, to tell us about Pseudo-Dionysius in later antiquity, the middle ages, and the reformation. The translations are modern, well-annotated, and clear inasmuch as this is possible. One of the introductory writers comments that many readers are surprized at how short these works are, because they may seem long due to the dense writing style. As for content, Pseudo-Dionysius attempted to wed the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus with the Bible and Christian practice. The reader will have to judge how successful this effort actually is, but it probably helps account for the survival of these works through many heresy purges. The result translated here is interesting in a historical sense and useful in a spiritual sense. The discussion of evil in "The Divine Names" is particularly fascinating, if difficult. And for those who wonder about angel theory, well, "The Celestial Hierarchy" has it all. It is very good to finally be able to read these works in their entirety.
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Format: Paperback
The Classics of Western Spirituality Series (Paulist Press) is an amazing undertaking, and every volume becomes the standard for primary sources for the religious thinkers covered. This certainly holds true for this complete volume of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius (anonymous writer of the fifth or sixth-century C.E.). Beautiful translations from the Greek of "The Divine Names," "The Mystical Theology," "The Celestial Hierarchy," "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy," and all ten extant letters, three essay-introductions by Jaroslav Pelikan, Jean Leclercq, and Karlfried Froehlich, an exhaustive bibliography, and complete biblical and textual indices make this a volume that will last more than one lifetime and serve as the finest authority on Pseudo-Dionysian theology available. No understanding of twelfth and thirteenth-century theology is complete without an acquaintance with Dionysius's work--this includes Aquinas. Covering prayer, religious epistemology, and biblical interpretation, Pseudo-Dionysius always makes for enlightening reading and deeper appreciation of the often overlooked aspects of Christian theology: its mystical or "immediate" side. For the price, this book cannot be beaten. Buy it and read it, you might be suprised at what you'll learn.
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Format: Paperback
"It would be a challenging project, but a fascinating one, to write the history of Western Christian spirituality in the late patristic and medieval periods primarily or even exclusively on the basis of those neglected writings that are identified in successive volumes of J. P. Migne's Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca as 'spurious' or as 'dubious,' together with the purportedly authentic writings that in fact belong in the same categories." So Jaroslav Pelikan begins his introduction - it is the first of three introductions - to the complete works of Pseudo-Dionysius. That there should be three introductory essays detailing the history and reception of the Dionysian corpus simply goes to show how utterly important these writings are, despite the fact that we do not know (or perhaps we simply do not believe?) who wrote them. It is perfectly accurate to write that above any other writings of the Patristic period, these writings are the most influential mystical writings of not only the early Church, but of all Christian history.

It is currently believed that the writer who called himself Dionysius the Aeropagite (St. Paul's first convert) was a monk from Syria in the fifth or sixth century. Most of his writings have been lost (or, if one wishes to be suspicious about it, were never really written in the first place), but those that remain - The Divine Names, The Mystical Theology, The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and ten Letters - have all been translated and copiously annotated in the present volume.

Dionysius is best known for his understanding that theological language exists to be surpassed by "a mystical silence" that is at the height of all theological contemplation: union with God.
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Sometime at around the 5th or 6th century A.D., a Christian monk sat down and penned several works on 'mystical' theology. Passing himself off as the famous Athenian convert to Christianity who heard St Paul in Athens, the works of this monk became the foundations upon which later great Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart, the author of the Cloud of Unknowning, St John of Cross, Nicholas of Cusa, St Bonaventure, Richard of St Victor, and many others would base their 'ascents' to God.

The two most important works on the Corpus are the 'Mystical Theology' and 'The Divine Names.' Probably using the language and concepts of Neo-Platonism and in particular of Proclus along with ideas he got from reading Gregory of Nyssa, Denys expounds the 'via negativa' apprach to God.

In the mystical theology Denys outlines how Moses ascended to God through a dark 'cloud of unknowing' and reached the ineffable Godhead who is beyond all concepts, ideas and words. In the view of Denys, even in a 'clear' vision of God we do not get a clear vision of God but rather only see a 'dazzling darkness' which is above and beyond every possible concept and idea we could have of God, or any name we can apply to God. Denys seems very keen to protect the mystery of God's transcendant being, which even when 'naked' and exposed by stripping it of all concepts and ideas and names, is still completely hidden by virtue of its transcendance.

Denys explores these ideas further in 'The Divine Names', a very important work both in mysticism and theology. Denys talks of what names can be said to apply to God and he also discusses how God's goodness 'flows out' of itself to create the universe and all beings (which he calls theophanies) and which return back to God in a circular procession.
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