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Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500 C.E.)


M.Alan Kazlev and David Hildner

Dionysius "the Areopagite" was thought for many centuries to be one of those converted to Christianity on the Areopagos hill in Athens after the apostle Paul's speech there (see Book of Acts 17.34).   With the rise of modern scholarship it was realised that he was actually a 5th/6th century Syrian monk.  His profound mystical books contained large sections lifted without crediting from the works of Proclus (412-85), the last of the great Neoplatonists.

Dionysius can be considered the founder of Christian mysticism. Indeed, the term "mysticism" itself in its present usage derives from him.

His "De Celestia Hierarchia" translated the Neoplatonic hierarchy of intermediate beings between man and the Godhead into the Christian paradigm and established the idea of Angelic hierarchies in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

His treatise "On the Divine Names", which was just as important (or sometimes even more important) in the history of religious thought than the "De Celestia Hierarchia".  It was fundamental in the current of "apophantic" theology, that is, the doctrine that we can say more about what God is NOT than about what He is.

In the early 20th century Dionysius's angelogy was revived and given new interpretations by the esoteric philosopher and occultist, Rudolph Steiner.

links  - Dionysius the Areopagite -  links

infoplease entryDionysius the Areopagite, Saint - very short but still useful entry - mirror - mirror - mirror

on-line essayPlatonic Elements in Pseudo-Dionysius Anti-Manichaean Ontology - Professor Constantine Scouteris - University of Athens Dept. of Theology - on-line essay - rather difficult going but contains a lot of useful information

Web Site Pseudo-Dionysius home page - not much here last time I checked

web pageThe Angelic Hierarchy - based on the nine choirs of angels as described in "De Celestia Hierarchia", but employs other material as well

Christian Mysticism
Rudolph Steiner

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 May 1998, revised 12 October 1999