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The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, [1897], at


Concerning Peace, and what is meant by the self-existent Being; what is the self-existent Life, and what the self-existent Power, and such like expressions.


COME, then, let us extol the Peace Divine, and Source of conciliation, by hymns of peace! For this it is which unifies all, and engenders, and effects the agreement and fellowship of all. Wherefore, even all things aspire to it, which turns their divided multiplicity into the thorough Oneness, and unifies the tribal war of the whole into a homogeneous dwelling together, by the participation of the divine Peace. With regard, then, to the more reverend of the conciliating powers, these indeed are united to themselves and to each other, and to the one Source of Peace of the whole; and the things (that are) under them, these they unite also to themselves and p. 113 to each other, and to the One and all-perfect Source and Cause of the Peace of all, which, passing in-divisibly to the whole, limits and terminates and secures everything, as if by a kind of bolts, which bind together things that are separated; and do not permit them, when separated, to rush to infinity and the boundless, and to become without order, and without stability, and destitute of God, and to depart from the union amongst themselves, and to become intermingled m each other, in every sort of confusion. Concerning then, this, the Divine Peace and Repose, which the holy Justus calls unutterableness, and, as compared with every known progression, immobility, how it rests and is at ease, and how it is in itself, and within itself, and entire, and to itself entire is super-united, and when entering into itself, and multiplying itself, neither loses its own Union, but even proceeds to all, whilst remaining entire within, by reason of excess of its Union surpassing all, it is neither permitted, nor attainable to any existing being, either to express or to understand. But, having premised this, as unutterable and unknowable, as being beyond all, let us examine its conceived and uttered participations, and this, as possible to men, and to us, as inferior to many good men.


First then, this must be said, that It is mainstay of the self-existent Peace, both the general and the particular; and that It mingles all things with each other within their unconfused union, as beseems p. 114 which, united indivisibly, and at the same time they severally continuously unmingled stand, as regards their own proper kind, not muddled through their mingling with the opposite, nor blunting any of their unifying distinctness and purity. Let us then contemplate a certain One and simple nature of the peaceful Union, unifying all things to Itself, and to themselves, and to each other; and preserving all things in an unconfused grasp of all, both unmingled and mingled together; by reason of which the divine Minds, being united,, are united to their own conceptions, and to the things conceived; and again they ascend to the unknowable contact of things fixed above mind; by reason of which, souls, by uniting their manifold reasonings, and collecting them together to an One intellectual Purity, advance in a manner proper to themselves, by method and order, through the immaterial and indivisible conception, to the union above conception; by reason of which, the one and indissoluble connection of all is established, within its Divine Harmony, and is harmonized by complete concord and agreement and fellowship, being united without confusion, and held together without division. For the fulness of the perfect Peace passes through to all existing things, as beseems the most simple, and unmingled presence of Its unifying power, making all One. and binding the extremes through the intermediate to the extremes, which are yoked together in an one connatural friendship; and bestowing the enjoyment of Itself, even to the furthest extremities of the whole, p. 115 and making all things of one family, by the unities, the identities, the unions, the conjunctions of the Divine Peace, standing of course indivisibly, and showing all in one, and passing through all, and not stepping out of Its own identity. For It advances to all, and imparts Itself to all, in a manner appropriate to them, and there overflows an abundance of peaceful fertility; and It remains, through excess of union, super-united, entire, to and throughout Its whole self.


But how, some one may say, do all things aspire to peace, for many things rejoice in diversity and division, and would not, at any time, of their own accord, be willingly in repose. Now, if in saying this, he affirms, that the identity of each existing thing is diversity and division, and that there is no existent thing whatever, which at any time is willing to destroy this (identity), neither would we in any way contradict this, but would declare even this an aspiration after peace. For all things love to dwell at peace, and to be united amongst themselves, and to be unmoved and unfallen from themselves, and the things of themselves. And the perfect Peace seeks to guard the idiosyncrasy of each unmoved and unconfused, by its peace-giving forethought, preserving everything unmoved and unconfused, both as regards themselves and each other, and establishes all things by a stable and p. 116 unswerving power, towards their own peace and immobility.


And if all things in motion desire, not repose, but ever to make known their own proper movement, even this is an aspiration after the Divine Peace of the whole, which preserves all things from falling away of their own accord, and guards the idiosyncrasy and moving life of all moving things unmoved and free from falling, so that the things moved, being at peace amongst themselves, and always in the same condition, perform their own proper functions.


But if, in affirming the diversity as a falling from peace, he insists that peace is not beloved by all, verily there is no existing being which has entirely fallen from every kind of union; for, the altogether unstable and infinite, and unestablished, and without limit, is neither an actual thing, nor in things actual. But if he says, that those are inimical to peace, and good things of peace, who rejoice in strife and anger and changes and disturbances, even these are controlled by obscure images of a peaceful aspiration; being vexed by tumultuous passions, and ignorantly aspiring to calm them, they imagine that they will pacify themselves by the gratification of things which ever elude them, and they are disturbed by the non-attainment of the pleasures which overpowered them. What would any one say of the peaceful stream of p. 117 love towards man in Christ, according to which we have learned no longer to wage war, either with ourselves, or each other, or with angels, but that with them, according to our power, we should also be fellow-workers in Divine things, after the purpose of Jesus, Who worketh all in all, and forms a peace unutterable and pre-determined from Eternity, and reconciles us to Himself, in Spirit, and through Himself and in Himself to the Father; concerning which supernatural gifts it is sufficiently spoken in the Theological Outlines, whilst the Oracles of the sacred inspiration furnish us with additional testimony.


But, since you once asked me by letter, what in the world I consider the self-existent Being, the self-existent Life, the self-existent Wisdom, and said that you debated with yourself how, at one time, I call Almighty God, self-existent Life, and at another, Mainstay of the self-existent Life, I thought it necessary, O holy man of God, to also free you from this difficulty, so far as lay in my power. And first then, in order that we may now resume that which I have said a thousand times already, there is no contradiction in saying that Almighty God is self-existent Power, or self-existent Life, and that He is Mainstay of the self-existent Life or Peace or Power. For the latter, He is named from things existing, and specially from the first existing, as Cause of all existing things; and the former, as being above all, even the first existing of beings, being p. 118 above superessentially. But you say, what in the world do we call the self-existent Being, or the self-existent Life, or whatever we lay down to be absolutely and originally and to have stood forth primarily from God? And we reply, this is not crooked but straight, and has a simple explanation. For we do not say that the self-existent Being, as Cause of the being of all things, is a sort of Divine or angelic essence (for the Superessential alone is Source and Essence and Cause of the existence of all things, and of the self-existent Being), nor that another Deity, besides the Super-divine, produces Life for all that live, and is a Life Causative of the self-existent Life; nor to speak summarily, that essences and personalities originate and make existing things, so that superficial people have named them both gods, and creators of existing things,--whom, to speak truly and properly, neither they themselves knew (for they are non-existent), nor their fathers,--but we call self-existent Being, and self-existent Life, and self-existent Deity, as regards at least Source, and Deity, and Cause, the One Superior and Superessential Source and Cause; but as regards Impartation, the providential Powers, that issue forth from God the unparticipating, (these we call) the self-existent essentiation, self-existent living, self-existent deification, by participating in which according to their own capacity, things existing, both are, and are said to be, existing, and living, and full of God--and the rest in the same way. Wherefore also, He is called the good Mainstay of the first of these, then p. 119 of the whole of them, then of the portions of them, then of those who participate in them entirely, then of those who participate in them in part. And why must we speak of these things, since some of our divine instructors in holy things, affirm that the Super-good and Super-divine self-existent Goodness and Deity, is Mainstay even of the self-existent Goodness and Deity; affirming that the good-making and deifying gift issued forth from God; and that the self-existent beautifying stream, is self-existent beauty, and whole beauty, and partial beauty, and things absolutely beautiful, and things partially beautiful, and whatever other things are said and shall be said after the same fashion, which declare that providences and goodnesses issuing forth from God the unparticipating, in an ungrudging stream, are participated by existing things, and bubble over in order that distinctly the Cause of all may be beyond all, and the Superessential and Supernatural may, in every respect, be above things of any sort of essence and nature whatever.

Next: Caput XII.