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the Areopagite Dionysius

writings, theology, mystical and church

DIONY'SIUS, THE AREOPAGITE, is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (chap. xvii., verse 34) as one of the few persons in Athens converted to Christianity by Paul. A history has been Invented for him by the church. It is said that he was in Egypt when the crucifixion happened, and observing the eclipse that accompanied it, exclaimed : " Either God himself is suffering, or he sympathizes with some one who is suffering." At the time when Paul visited the metropolis of Greece, D. was a member of the coun cil of the Areopagus, whence his name. Tradition alto declares that the apostle installed him as the first bishop of Athens, and that he suffered the fate of a martyr. The writings which are falsely current under his name treat of such topics as the heavenly hierarchy, the names of God, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, etc. Their theology is of the mystical kind. The style, contents, and historic allusions clearly indicate that the author of these writings could not have flourished before the close of the 5th c., and, in fact, the writings first made their appearance in the 6th century. Dazzling neoplatonic phan tasies concerning tine divine essence, angels, and holy spirits, splendid descriptions of the ceremonies of the Catholic worship, glorifications of the priestly hierarchy, pane gyrics on monastic life, and mystical interpretations of church doctrine, made the works immensely attractive, especially to the Greek monks, whose manner of life was pre eminently contemplative. According to a recent hypothesis, the so-called writings of

D. are the composition of some Christian Platonist, who, in opposition to the not yet wholly extinguished Gnosticism, sought to incorporate with Christianity the forms, ideas, and ceremonies of the Dionysian (Bacchic) mysteries. The translation of the work into Latin by Scotus Erigena, in the dawn of the middle ages, gave a new impulse to monasticism in the western church, and may be almost said to have created its mystic theology. The Areopagitie theology was, in fact, the name given during the middle ages, and even as late as the 18th c., to that mystical method of apprehending religious truth made current by the writings ascribed to D., and afterwards formally introduced into Latin Christianity by Hugo St. Victor in the 12th century. This theology proceeds upon the principle, that the divine spirit is indispensable even to the understanding of man.