|« Prev||Chapter 4. Concerning 'Good,' 'Light,'…||Next »|
Concerning ”Good,” ”Light,” ”Beautiful,” “Desire,” ”Ecstasy,” “Jealousy.” Also that Evil is neither existent nor Sprung from anything existent nor inherent in existent things.
1. Now let us consider the name of “Good” which the Sacred Writers apply to the Supra-Divine Godhead in a transcendent manner, calling the Supreme Divine Existence Itself “Goodness” (as it seems to me) in a sense that separates It from the whole creation, and meaning, by this term, to indicate that the Good, under the form of Good-Being,243243ὡς οὐσιῶδις ἀγαθύν. extends Its goodness by the very fact of Its existence unto all 87things.244244God’s activity cannot be distinguished from Himself. Cf. p. 81, n. 4. God acts simply by being what He is—by being Good. This fits in with the doctrine that He creates the world as being the Object of its desire. He attracts it into existence. For as our sun, through no choice or deliberation, but by the very fact of its existence, gives light to all those things which have any inherent power of sharing its illumination, even so the Good (which is above the sun, as the transcendent archetype by the very mode of its existence is above its faded image) sends forth upon all things according to their receptive powers, the rays of Its undivided Goodness. Through these all Spiritual Beings and faculties and activities (whether perceived or percipient245245αἱ νοηταὶ καὶ νοεραὶ πᾶσαι καὶ οὐσίαι καὶ δυνάμεις καὶ ἐνέργειαι. Angels and men are percipient Essences; their powers when quiescent or dormant on the one hand and active on the other are respectively percipient faculties and activities. But angels and men with their faculties and activities can also be perceived. Cf. next sentence.) began; through these they exist and possess a life incapable of failure or diminution, and are untainted by any corruption or death or materiality or birth, being separate above all instability and flux and restlessness of change. And whereas they are bodiless and immaterial they are perceived by our minds, and whereas they are minds themselves, they possess a supernatural perception and receive an illumination (after their own manner) concerning the hidden nature of things,246246This doctrine may be based on some psychic experience enjoyed by D. or recounted to him. George Fox received an experience of this kind in which he had an intuitive knowledge concerning the hidden properties of plants. See his Diary near the beginning. from whence they pass on their own knowledge to other kindred spirits. Their rest is in the Divine Goodness, wherein they are grounded, and This Goodness maintains them and protects them and feasts them with Its good things. Through desiring this they possess their being and their blessedness, and, being conformed thereto (according 88to their powers, they are goodly, and, as the Divine Law commands, pass on to those that are below them, of the gifts which have come unto them from the Good.
2. Hence have they their celestial orders, their self-unities, their mutual indwellings, their distinct Differences, the faculties which raise the lower unto the higher ranks, the providences of the higher for those beneath them; their preservation of the properties belonging to each faculty, their unchanging introversions,247247Lit. “Revolutions.” (αἱ . . . περὶ ἑαυτὰς ἀμετάπτωτοι συνελίξεις.) In Dante’s Paradiso the souls of the Redeemed all move with a circular motion. This symbolizes an activity of spiritual concentration. Cf. iv. 8, 9. their constancy and elevation in their search for the Good, and all the other qualities which we have described in our book concerning the Properties and Orders of the Angels.248248The Celestial Hierarchy is among D’s extant works. It is referred to by Dante and was the chief source of medieval angelology. Moreover all things appertaining to the Celestial Hierarchy, the angelic Purifications, the Illuminations and the attainments which perfect them in all angelic perfection and come from the all-creative and originating Goodness, from whence it was given to them to possess their created goodness, and to manifest the Secret Goodness in themselves, and so to be (as it were) the angelic Evangelists of the Divine Silence and to stand forth as shining lights revealing Him that is within the shrine. And next those sacred and holy Minds, men’s souls and all the excellences that belong to souls derive their being from the Super-Excellent Goodness. So do they possess intelligence; so do they preserve their living being249249τὴν οὐσιώδη ζωήν—i. e. life as such, mere life, the life which they share with animals and plants. immortal; so is it they exist at all, and can, by straining towards the living angelic powers, through 89their good guidance mount towards the Bounteous Origin of all things; so can they (according to their measure) participate in the illuminations which stream from above and share the bounteous gift (as far as their power extends) and attain all the other privileges which we leave recounted in our book, Concerning the Soul. Yea, and the same is true, if it must needs be said, concerning even the irrational souls, or living creatures, which cleave the air, or tread the earth, or crawl upon the ground, and those which live among the waters or possess an amphibious life, and all that live buried and covered in the earth—in a word all that possess a sensitive soul or life. All these are endowed with soul and life because the Good exists. And all plants derive from the Good that life which gives them nourishment and motion, and even whatsoever has no life or soul exists through the Good, and thus came into the estate of being.250250The existence of the whole creation—angels, men, animals, and vegetables, dead matter—is in the Good. It has not, in the ordinary sense, made them, but they are grounded in It and draw their existence from it and would not exist but for it. They exist not through any particular activity It exerts but solely because It Is.
3. Now if the Good is above all things (as indeed It is) Its Formless Nature produces all-form; and in It alone Not-Being is an excess of Being,251251“Being” implies finite relations; for one thing must be distinguished from another. If a thing is itself, it is not something else; this thing is not that. The Good is beyond this distinction, for nothing (on the ultimate plane) is outside It. See Intr., p. 5. and Lifelessness an excess of Life and Its Mindless state is an excess of Wisdom,252252This apparently profitless speculation really suggests profound spiritual mysteries. Love is the one reality and love is self realization through self-sacrifice. We must lose our life to find it. We must, through the excess of spiritual life within us, seek to be (as it were) lifeless, so that this excess of life may still be ours. And such was the Incarnate Life of Christ and such is the Life of God in eternity. So too the wisdom of Christ is, from a worldly point of view, foolishness. For worldly wisdom = self-seeking, but the Wisdom of Christ = self-abandonment. In fact Heavenly Wisdom = Love. Cf. 1 Cor. i. 25; iii. 18, 19. and all the Attributes of 90the Good we express in a transcendent manner by negative images.253253That which Is Not = Evil (vide infra in this chapter). Cf. Intr., p. 20. The Good is Non-Existent as being beyond existence; evil is non-existent as being contrary to it. Thus evil is by its very nature trying as it were to be Good. This also looks like a barren paradox and yet it may contain a spiritual truth. Evil is, in the words of Goethe, “the spirit that denies”: It is destructive, e. g. injustice, cruelty, immorality, etc., undermine or overwhelm civilization and so destroy it. But the Good supersedes civilization and so in a sense destroys it. Cf. the eschatological teaching of Christ. Civilization, art, morality, etc., are good so far as they go, but imperfect. Being halfway, as it were, between Good and evil, and being of necessity neither wholly the one nor wholly the other, they must disappear wherever the one or the other completely triumphs. Christ’s teaching on Marriage illustrates this. Marriage is sacred, and divorce is wrong, because it seeks to abolish Marriage. And yet Marriage is finally abolished in heaven. St. Paul’s antithesis of Law and Spirit is another example. The Law is good and yet is not the Good. Sin is contrary to the Law, but the Spirit is contrary to the Law in another sense and so supersedes it. So too with art. A modern vandal is indifferent to beauty because he is below it, a Mediæval Saint became sometimes indifferent to beauty by rising to a super-sensuous plane above it. Greek idolatry is a higher thing than Calvinism, but the Christianity of the New Testament is a higher thing than Greek idolatry. The Saints sometimes employ negatives in one sense and those who are not saints employ the same negatives in another; whence disaster. Much of Nietzsche’s language (e. g. the phrase “Beyond Good and Evil”) might have been used by a Mediæval Christian Mystic; but Nietzsche did not generally mean what the Christian Mystic would have meant by it. Soo too with pain. All pain is in itself bad, being a negation of our personality. And yet a self-abnegation springing from Love which bravely bears pain is the highest kind of Good. “The devil . . . put it into the heart of Judas to betray” Christ, and yet the Passion was in accordance with “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” And if it is reverent so to say, even that which is not desires the all-transcendent Good and struggles itself, by its denial of all things, to find its rest in the Good which verily transcends all being.
4. Nay, even the foundation and the boundaries of the heavens (as we forgot
to say while
91thinking of other matters) owe their origin to the Good. Such is this
universe, which lessens not nor grows, and such the noiseless movements (if
noiseless they be)254254εἰ οὕτε χρὴ φάναι. D. is alluding to the ancient belief in the Music of
the Spheres. of the vast heavenly revolution, and such the starry orders
whose light is fixed as an ornament of heaven, and such the various wanderings
of certain stars—especially the repeated and returning orbits of those two
luminaries to which the Scripture giveth the name of “Great,”255255Gen. i. 16. whereby we
reckon our days and nights and months and years; which define the round of time
and temporal events and give them measurement, sequence, and cohesion. And what
shall I say concerning the sun’s rays considered in themselves? From the Good
comes the light which is an image of Goodness; wherefore the Good is described
by the name of “Light,” being the archetype thereof which is revealed in that
image. For as the Goodness of the all-transcendent Godhead reaches from the
highest and most perfect forms of being unto the lowest, and still is beyond
them all, remaining superior to those above and retaining those below in its
embrace, and so gives light to all things that can receive It, and creates and
vitalizes and maintains and perfects them, and is the Measure256256μέτρον. All things have their pre-existent limits in the Super-Essence. of the Universe
and its Eternity,257257αἰών—i.e. The Permanent Principle underlying its temporal process. This
and the next phrase explain what is meant by the words “the Measure of the
universe.” The Good sets bounds to the world (1) temporally, because Eternity is
the Fount of Time, (2) spatially, because Transcendent Unity is the Fount of
Number. All temporal things are permanent in God; and all diversities are one in
Him. its Numerical Principle,258258All number has its roots in the Good. Elsewhere D. says that the Good being
beyond Unity, is a Multiplicity as well as an Unity. Cf. Intr., p. 5. its Order, its
92Embracing Power, its Cause and its End:259259Here we get once more the Aristotelian classification of causes. The Good
(i) Formal Cause (1) immanent in the world (Order—τάξις); (2) containing the
world (Embracing Power—περιοχή).
(ii) Efficient Cause (Cause—αἰτία).
(iii) Final Cause (End—τέλος). even so this great, all-bright and ever-shining sun, which is the visible image of the Divine Goodness, faintly reechoing the activity of the Good, illumines all things that can receive its light while retaining the utter simplicity of light, and expands above and below throughout the visible world the beams of its own radiance. And if there is aught that does not share them, this is not due to any weakness or deficiency in its distribution of the light, but is due to the unreceptiveness of those creatures which do not attain sufficient singleness to participate therein. For verily the light passeth over many such substances and enlightens those which are beyond them, and there is no visible thing unto which the light reacheth not in the exceeding greatness of its proper radiance.260260The light permeates water but it does not permeate a stone. It passes over the stone and permeates the water beyond it. Yea, and it contributes to the birth of material bodies and brings them unto life, and nourishes them that they may grow, and perfects and purifies and renews them. And the light is the measure and the numerical principle of seasons and of days and of all our earthly Time; for ‘tis the selfsame light (though then without a form) which, Moses the Divine declares, marked even that first period of three days which was at the beginning of time. And like as Goodness draweth all things to Itself, and is the great Attractive Power which unite things that are sundered261261ἀρχισυνάγωγος ἐστι τῶν ἐσκεδασμένων. (being as It is: the Godhead and the Supreme Fount and Producer of Unity); 93and like as all things desire It as their beginning, their cohesive power and end; and like as ‘tis the Good (as saith the Scripture) from which all things were made and are (having been brought into existence thence as from a Perfect Cause); and like as in the Good all things subsist, being kept and controlled in an almighty Receptacle;262262ὡς ἐν παντοκρατορικῷ πυθμένι. and like as unto the Good all things are turned (as unto the proper End of each) ; and like as after the Good all things do yearn—those that have mind and reason seeking It by knowledge, those that have perception seeking It by perception, those that have no perception seeking It by the natural movement of their vital instinct, and those that are without life and have mere existence seeking It by their aptitude for that bare participation whence this mere existence is theirs 263263(1) Man, (2) Animal, (3) Vegetable, (4) Matter.—even so doth the light (being as it were Its visible image) draw together all things and attract them unto Itself: those that can see, those that have motion, those that receive Its light and warmth, those that are merely held in being by Its rays;264264This seems to imply that matter itself could not exist without the influence of the light. Perhaps this belief rests on Gen. i. 1, 2. whence the sun is so called because it summeth265265ἥλιος ὅτι πάντα ἀολλῆ ποιεῖ. With the naïf etymology cf. iv. 5. all things and uniteth the scattered elements of the world. All material things desire the sun, for they desire either to see or to move and to receive light and warmth and to be maintained in existence by the light. I say not (as was feigned by the ancient myth) that the sun is the God and Creator of this Universe, and therefore takes the visible world under his special care; but I say that the “invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things 94that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”266266Rom. i. 20. The sun is not personal or supra-personal. But its impersonal activity is an emblem, as it were, of God’s supra-personal activity.
5. But these things are dealt with in the “Symbolic Divinity.” Here I desire to declare what is the spiritual meaning of the name “Light” as belonging to the Good.267267Two worlds: (1) Nature, (2) Grace. God is revealed in both; the former was apparently the subject of the Symbolic Divinity; the latter is that of the present treatise. The Good God is called Spiritual Light because He fills every heavenly mind with spiritual light, and drives all ignorance and error from all souls where they have gained a lodgment, and giveth them all a share of holy light and purges their spiritual eyes from the mist of ignorance that surrounds them, and stirs and opens the eyes which are fast shut and weighed down with darkness, and gives them first a moderate illumination, then (when they taste the Light and desire It more) He giveth Himself in greater measure and shineth in more abundance on them “because they have loved much,” and ever He constraineth them according to their powers of looking upwards.
6. And so that Good which is above all light is called a Spiritual Light because It is an Originating Beam and an Overflowing Radiance, illuminating with its fullness every Mind above the world, around it, or within it,268268i.e. Men and different orders of angels. and renewing all their spiritual powers, embracing them all by Its transcendent compass and exceeding them all by Its transcendent elevation. And It contains within Itself, in a simple form, the entire ultimate principle of light;269269Material light is diffused in space and hence is divisible. The Spiritual Light is indivisible, being totally present to each illuminated mind. Hence the Spiritual Light is simple in a way that the material light is not. and is 95the Transcendent Archetype of Light; and, while bearing the light in its womb, It exceeds it in quality and precedes it in time; and so conjoineth together all spiritual and rational beings, uniting them in one.270270All our spiritual and mental powers are due to the same Spiritual Light working in each one of us. Cf. Wordsworth: “Those mysteries of Being which have made and shall continue evermore to make of the whole human race one brotherhood.” For as ignorance leadeth wanderers astray from one another, so doth the presence of Spiritual Light join and unite together those that are being illuminated, and perfects them and converts them toward that which truly Is—yea, converts them from their manifold false opinions and unites their different perceptions, or rather fancies, into one true, pure and coherent knowledge, and filleth them with one unifying light.
7. This Good is described by the Sacred Writers as Beautiful and as Beauty, as Love or Beloved, and by all other Divine titles which befit Its beautifying and gracious fairness. Now there is a distinction between the titles “Beautiful” and “Beauty” applied to the all-embracing Cause. For we universally distinguish these two titles as meaning respectively the qualities shared and the objects which share therein. We give the name of “Beautiful” to that which shares in the quality of beauty, and we give the name of “Beauty” to that common quality by which all beautiful things are beautiful. But the Super-Essential Beautiful is called “Beauty” because of that quality which It imparts to all things severally according to their nature,271271Cf. ii. 8. and because It is the Cause of the harmony and splendour in all things, flashing forth upon them all, like light, the beautifying communications of Its originating ray; and because It summons all things to fare unto Itself (from whence It hath the name of “Fairness”272272ὡς πάντα πρὸς ἑαυτὸ καλοῦν (ὅθεν καὶ κάλλος λέγεται). Cf. iv. 4.), and because It 96draws all things together in a state of mutual inter penetration. And it is called “Beautiful” because It is All-Beautiful and more than Beautiful, and is eternally, unvaryingly, unchangeably Beautiful; in capable of birth or death or growth or decay; and not beautiful in one part and foul in another; nor yet at one time and not at another; nor yet beautiful in relation to one thing but not to another; nor yet beautiful in one place and not in another (as if It were beautiful for some but were not beautiful for others); nay, on the contrary, It is, in Itself and by Itself, uniquely and eternally beautiful, and from beforehand It contains in a transcendent manner the originating beauty of everything that is beautiful. For in the simple and supernatural nature belonging to the world of beautiful things,273273The ultimate nature of all beautiful things is a simple and supernatural Element common to them all and manifested in them all. The law of life is that it has its true and ultimate being outside it. The true beauty of all beautiful things is outside them in God. Hence all great art (even when not directly religious) tends towards the Supernatural or has a kind of supernatural atmosphere. all beauty and all that is beautiful hath its unique and pre-existent Cause. From this Beautiful all things possess their existence, each kind being beautiful in its own manner, and the Beautiful causes the harmonies and sympathies and communities of all things. And by the Beautiful all things are united together and the Beautiful is the beginning of all things, as being the Creative Cause which moves the world and holds all things in existence by their yearning for their own Beauty. And It is the Goal of all things, and their Beloved, as being their Final Cause (for ‘tis the desire of the Beautiful that brings them all into existence), and It is their Exemplar274274παραδειγματικόν—i.e. the ultimate Law of their being, the Idea or Type. from which they derive their definite limits; and hence the Beautiful is the 97same as the Good, inasmuch as all things, in all causation, desire the Beautiful and Good; nor is there anything in the world but hath a share in the Beautiful and Good. Moreover our Discourse will dare to aver that even the Non-Existent275275τὸ μὴ ὄν—i.e. that mere nothingness which is manifested either as (1) formless “matter” or (2) evil. See Intr., p. 20. shares in the Beautiful and Good, for Non-Existence276276Evil is non-existent in one sense. The Good is Non-Existent in another. Cf. p. 90, n. 1. is itself beautiful and good when, by the Negation of all Attributes, it is ascribed Super-Essentially to God. This One Good and Beautiful is in Its oneness the Cause of all the many beautiful and good things. Hence comes the bare existence of all things, and hence their unions,277277ἑνώσεις, διακρίσεις, ταὐτότητες, ἑτερότητες. their differentiations, their identities, their differences,278278Hence parts are united into wholes and wholes articulated into parts, and hence each thing is identical with itself and distinct from everything else. their similarities, their dissimilarities, their communions of opposite things,279279e.g. Moisture interpenetrates the solid earth. the unconfused distinctions of their interpenetrating elements;280280e.g. In a piece of wet ground the water is water and the earth is earth. the providences of the Superiors,281281αἱ πρόνοιαι τῶν ὑπερτέρων. Lit. “the providences,” etc., e.g. the influence of the light without which, D. holds, the material world could not exist. Or this and the following may refer to different ranks of angels, or to angels and men. the interdependence of the Co-ordinates, the responses of the Inferiors,282282αἱ ἐπιστροφαί τῶν καταδεεστέρων. Lit. “the conversions,” etc. e.g. Matter (according to his theory) responds to the influence of the light. And men are influenced by angels, and the lower angels by the higher. the states of permanence wherein all keep their own identity. And hence again the intercommunion of all things according to the power of each; their harmonies and sympathies (which do not merge them) and the co-ordinations of the whole 98universe;283283The point of this section is that besides the particular and partial harmonies already mentioned, there is a universal harmony uniting the whole world in one system. the mixture of elements therein and the indestructible ligaments of things; the ceaseless succession of the recreative process in Minds and Souls and in Bodies; for all have rest and movement in That Which, above all rest and all movement, grounds each one in its own natural laws and moves each one to its own proper movement.284284In the two following sections the difference between angelic and human activity is that the angels confer spiritual enlightenment and men receive it. Angels are in a state of attainment and men are passing through a process of attainment.
8. And the Heavenly Minds are spoken of as moving (1) in a circular manner, when they are united to the beginningless and endless illuminations of the Beautiful and Good;285285Vide supra on Introversion (p. 88, n. 1). (2) straight forward, when they advance to the providential guidance of those beneath them and unerringly accomplish their designs;286286They are united to God in the centre of their being, by ceaselessly entering into themselves. They help us by going forth, as it were, from themselves. and (3) with spiral motion, because, even while providentially guiding their inferiors, they remain immutably in their self-identity,287287Their true self-identity is rooted in God. See Intr., pp. 31 f. turning unceasingly around the Beautiful and Good whence all identity is sprung.
9. And the soul hath (1) a circular movement—viz. an introversion288288ἡ εἰς ἑαυτὴν εἴσοδος. from things without and the unified concentration289289In souls being unified and simplified. See Intr., p. 25. of its spiritual powers—which gives it a kind of fixed revolution, and, turning it from the multiplicity without, draws it together first into itself,290290Cf. St. Aug. ”ascendat per se supra se.“ and then (after it has reached this unified condition) unites it to those powers which are a 99perfect Unity,291291i. e. To the Angels and the perfected Saints. There is a somewhat similar thought in Wordsworth’s Prelude: “To hold fit converse with the spiritual world / and with the generations of mankind / spread over time past, present, and to come / age after age till time shall be no more.” This thought in Wordsworth and in D. is an experience and not a speculation. and thus leads it on unto the Beautiful and Good Which is beyond all things, and is One and is the Same, without beginning or end. (2) And the soul moves with a spiral motion whensoever (according to its capacity) it is enlightened with truths of Divine Knowledge, not in the special unity of its being292292This spiritual unity was by later Mystical writers called the apex of the soul, or the ground, or the spark. Another name is synteresis or synderesis. but by the process of its discursive reason and by mingled and alternative activities.293293There is an element of intuition in all discursive reasoning because all argument is based on certain axioms which are beyond proof (e. g. the law of universal causation). In fact the validity of our laws of thought is an axiom and therefore perceived by intuition. In the present passage D. means something deeper. He means that formal Dogmatic Theology advances round a central core of spiritual experience by which it must constantly be verified, Pectus facit theologum. Whenever theology even attempts to be purely deductive it goes wrong (e. g. Calvinism). If it is not rooted in intuition it will be rooted in fancies. (3) And it moves straight forward when it does not enter into itself to feel the stirrings of its spiritual unity (for this, as I said, is the circular motion), but goes forth unto the things around it and feels an influence coming even from the outward world, as from a rich abundance of cunning tokens, drawing it unto the simple unity of contemplative acts.294294In D.‘s classification Introversion and Sensation are both unmixed movements, for each leads to a kind of perception. Discursive reasoning is a mixed movement because it does not lead to a direct perception and yet it must contain an element of perception.
10. These three motions, and also the similar motions we perceive in this material world and (far anterior to these) the individual permanence, rest and 100grounding of each Kind295295i.e. The types of things existent in the permanent spiritual world before the things were created in this transitory material world; the Platonic Ideas. There was also a Jewish belief in such a pre-existence of things. Cf. Rev. iv. 11 (R. V.).] have their Efficient, Formal, and Final Cause in the Beautiful and Good; Which is above all rest and motion; through Which all rest and motion come; and from Which, and in Which, and unto Which, and for the sake of Which they are. For from It and through It are all Being and life of spirit and of soul; and hence in the realm of nature magnitudes both small, co-equal and great; hence all the measured order and the proportions of things, which, by their different harmonies, commingle into wholes made up of co-existent parts; hence this universe, which is both One and Many; the conjunctions of parts together; the unities underlying all multiplicity, and the perfections of the individual wholes; hence Quality, Quantity, Magnitude and Infinitude; hence fusions296296συγκρίσεις.and differentiations, hence all infinity and all limitation; all boundaries, ranks, transcendences,297297ὑπεροχαί. elements and forms, hence all Being, all Power, all Activity, all Condition,298298ἕξις. all Perception, all Reason, all Intuition, all Apprehension, all Understanding, All Communion299299ἔνωσις. The word is here used in the most comprehensive manner to include physical communion, sense-perception, and spiritual communion of souls with one another and with God.—in a word, all, that is comes from the Beautiful and Good, hath its very existence in the Beautiful and Good, and turns towards the Beautiful and Good. Yea, all that exists and that comes into being, exists and comes into being because of the Beautiful and Good; and unto this Object all things gaze and by It are moved and are conserved, and for the sake of It, because of It and in It, existeth every originating Principle—be 101this Exemplar,300300The exemplar is the formal cause before this is actualized in the object embodying it. The principle in an oak tree constituting it an oak is the formal cause. But before there were any oak trees this principle existed as an exemplar. The final cause is the beneficent purpose the oak tree serves. In the Aristotelian classification exemplar, and final cause would be classed together as final cause. or be it Final or Efficient or Formal or Material Cause—in a word, all Beginning, all Conservation, and all Ending, or (to sum it up) all things that have being are derived from the Beautiful and Good. Yea, and all things that have no substantial being301301This means either (1) that actually non-existent things (e. g. the flowers of next year which have not yet appeared, or those of last year, which are now dead) have an eternal place in God; or else (2) that evil things have their true being, under a different form, in Him. super-essentially exist in the Beautiful and Good: this is the transcendent Beginning and the transcendent Goal of the universe. For, as Holy Scripture saith: “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”302302Rom. xi. 36. And hence all things must desire and yearn for and must love the Beautiful and the Good. Yea, and because of It and for Its sake the inferior things yearn for the superior under the mode of attraction, and those of the same rank have a yearning towards their peers under the mode of mutual communion; and the superior have a yearning towards their inferiors under the mode of providential kindness; and each hath a yearning towards itself under the mode of cohesion,303303In the whole of this passage D. is thinking primarily of Angels and men, or at least of sentient creatures. But he would see analogies of such activity in the inanimate material world. and all things are moved by a longing for the Beautiful and Good, to accomplish every outward work and form every act of will. And true reasoning will also dare to affirm that even the Creator of all things Himself yearneth after all things, createth all things, perfecteth all things, conserveth all things, attracteth all things, through 102nothing but excess of Goodness. Yea, and the Divine Yearning is naught else than a Good Yearning towards the Good for the mere sake of the Good. For the Yearning which createth all the goodness of the world, being pre-existent abundantly in the Good Creator, allowed Him not to remain unfruitful in Himself, but moved Him to exert the abundance of His powers in the production of the universe.304304εἰς τὸ πρακτικεύεσθαι κατὰ τὴν ἁπάντων γεννητικὴν ὑπερβολήν. Desire = want. And want in us = imperfection; but in God it = that excess of perfection, whereby God is “Perfectionless.” Thus the words “super-excellence,” “super-unity,” etc., are not meaningless superlatives. They imply an impulse towards motion within the Divine Stillness, a Thirst in the Divine Fullness. Cf. Julian of Norwich Revelations, ch. xxxi. ” . . . There is a property in God of thirst and longing.” The categories of Greek Philosophy are static. The superlatives of D. imply something dynamic, though the static element remains. In much modern philosophy (the Pragmatists and also Bergson) dynamic conceptions are prominent; but the tendency here is for the static to disappear instead of being subsumed as it is in D. The result, or the cause, is that Grace is lost sight of and only Nature is perceived. Really Absolutism and Pragmatism are not mutually exclusive; for Rest and Motion co-exist as transcended elements in God. This is the paradox of perfect Love which is both at rest and in motion, both satisfied and unsatisfied. Cf. Julian of Norwich: “I had Him and I wanted Him” (Revelations, ch. x.).
11. And let no man think we are contradicting the Scripture when we solemnly proclaim the title of “Yearning.” For ‘tis, methinks, unreasonable and foolish to consider the phrases rather than the meaning; and such is not the way of them that wish for insight into things Divine, but rather of them that receive the empty sounds without letting them pass beyond their ears, and shut them out, not wishing to know what such and such a phrase intends, nor how they ought to explain it in other terms expressing the same sense more clearly. Such men are under the dominion of senseless elements and lines, and of uncomprehended syllables and phrases which penetrate not into the perception of their souls, but make a dumb noise outside about their lips and hearing 103holding it unlawful to explain the number “four” by calling it “twice two,” or a straight line by calling it a “direct line ” or the “Motherland” by calling it the “Fatherland,” or so to interchange any other of those terms which under varieties of language possess all the same signification. Need is there to understand that in proper truth we do but use the elements and syllables and phrases and written terms and words as an aid to our senses; inasmuch as when our soul is moved by spiritual energies unto spiritual things, our senses, together with the thing which they perceive, are all superfluous; even as the spiritual faculties are also such when the soul, becoming Godlike,305305θεοειδής.. meets in the blind embraces of an incomprehensible union the Rays of the unapproachable Light.306306This clause can only have been written by one for whom Unknowing was a personal experience. The previous clause shows how there is a negative element even in the Method of Affirmation. Sense-perception must first give way to spiritual intuition, just as this must finally give way to Unknowing. (Cf. St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night, on three kinds of night.) All progress is a transcendence and so, in a sense, a Via Negativa. Cf. St. Aug., Transcende mundum et sape animum, transcende animum et sape Deum. Now when the mind, through the things of sense, feels an eager stirring to mount towards spiritual contemplations,307307This shows that the Via Negativa starts from something positive. It is a transcendence, not a mere negation. it values most of all those aids from its perceptions which have the plainest form, the clearest words, the things most distinctly seen, because, when the objects of sense are in confusion, then the senses themselves cannot present their message truly to the mind. But that we may not seem, in saying this, to be setting aside Holy Scripture, let those who blame the title of “Yearning” hear what the Scripture saith: “Yearn for her and she shall keep thee; exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her.”308308Prov. iv. 6, 8. And there are many 104other such Scriptural passages which speak of this yearning.
12. Nay, some of our writers about holy things have thought the title of “Yearning” diviner than that of “Love.” Ignatius the Divine writes: “He whom I yearn for is crucified.”309309ὁ ἐμὸς Ἔρως ἐσταύρωται>. Ignatius Ep. ad Rom. § 6. But possibly St. Ignatius means: “My earthly affections are crucified.” St. Ignatius wrote just before being martyred, at the beginning of the second century. This reference would alone be sufficient to make the authenticity of the Dionysian writings improbable. [It is perhaps impossible to determine whether Ignatius meant by the words “my Love is crucified” to refer to Jesus or to himself. The latter is supported by Zahn and by Lightfoot, the former by Origen, Prologue to Commentary on Canticles. ”Nec pato quod culpari possit, si quis Deum, sicut Joannis, charitatur, ita ipse amorem nominit. Denejire memini, aliquem sanctorum dixisse Ignatium nomine de Christo: Mens autem amor crucifixus est: nec reprehendi eum per hoc dignum judico.“ Much further evidence is given in Jacobson’s Apostolic Fathers (p. 377). Jacobson himself supports it, observing that the Greek commemoration of Ignatius takes the words in this sense. Whether Dionysius followed Origen or not, his exposition is very interesting and is quite possibly the true. See also the translator’s note on ἔρως. Ed.] And in the “Introductions’ of Scripture310310ἐν ταῖς προεισαγωγαῖς τῶν λογίων. Apparently this was a title of the books ascribed to Solomon. The present reference is Wisdom viii. 2. thou wilt find some one saying concerning the Divine Wisdom: “I yearned for her beauty.” Let us not, therefore, shrink from this title of “Yearning,” nor be perturbed and affrighted by aught that any man may say about it. For methinks the Sacred Writers regard the titles “Love” and “Yearning” as of one meaning; but preferred, when speaking of Yearning in a heavenly sense, to qualify it with the world “real”311311τοῖς θείοις μᾶλλον ἀναθεῖναι τὸν ὄντως ἔρωτα. because of the inconvenient pre-notion of such men. For whereas the title of “Real Yearning” is employed not merely by ourselves but even by the Scriptures, mankind (not grasping the unity intended when Yearning is ascribed to God) fell by their own propensity into, the notion 105of a partial, physical and divided quality, which is not true Yearning but a vain image of Real Yearning, or rather a lapse therefrom.312312Earthly desire is below static conditions, the Divine Desire is above them. For mankind at large cannot grasp the simplicity of the one Divine Yearning, and hence, because of the offence it gives to most men, it is used concerning the Divine Wisdom to lead and raise them up to the knowledge of the Real Yearning until they are set free froth all offence thereat; and often on the other hand when it was possible that base minds should suppose that which is not convenient, the word that is held in greater reverence is used concerning ourselves.313313i. e. The word ἔρως is sometimes used concerning God to stimulate our minds by its unexpectedness and so to make us penetrate beyond the word to the mystery hinted at by it. On the other hand ἀγάπη or ἀνάπησις is sometimes used concerning human relationships to prevent any degrading associations from entering in. “Thy love,” says some one, “came upon me like as the love of women.”3143142 Sam. i. 26. To those who listen aright to Holy Scripture, the word “Love” is used by the Sacred Writers in Divine Revelation with the same meaning as the word “Yearning.” It means a faculty of unifying and conjoining and of producing a special commingling together315315καὶ ἐστι τοῦτο δυνάμεως ἑνοποίου καὶ συνδετικῆς καὶ διαφερόντως συγκρατικῆς. in the Beautiful and Good: a faculty which pre-exists for the sake of the Beautiful and Good, and is diffused from this Origin and to this End, and holds together things of the same order by a mutual connection, and moves the highest to take thought for those below and fixes the inferior in a state which seeks the higher.
13. And the Divine Yearning brings ecstasy, not allowing them that are touched thereby to belong unto themselves but only to the objects of their affection. This principle is shown by superior things 106through their providential care for their inferiors, and by those which are co-ordinate through the mutual bond uniting them, and by the inferior through their diviner tendency towards the highest. And hence the great Paul, constrained by the Divine Yearning, and having received a share in its ecstatic power, says, with inspired utterance, “I live, and yet not I but Christ liveth in me”: true Sweetheart that he was and (as he says himself) being beside himself unto God, and not possessing his own life but possessing and loving the life of Him for Whom he yearned. And we must dare to affirm (for ‘tis the truth) that the Creator of the Universe Himself, in His Beautiful and Good Yearning towards the Universe, is through the excessive yearning of His Goodness, transported outside of Himself in His providential activities towards all things that have being, and is touched by the sweet spell of Goodness, Love and Yearning, and so is drawn from His transcendent throne above all things, to dwell within the heart of all things, through a super-essential and ecstatic power whereby He yet stays within Himself316316This finely suggests that the “Selfhood” of God is selfless. Vide Intr., p. 9. Note also the combination of rest and motion alluded to here. Hence Doctors call Him “jealous,” because He is vehement in His Good Yearning towards the world, and because He stirs men up to a zealous search of yearning desire for Him, and thus shows Himself zealous inasmuch as zeal is always felt concerning things which are desired, and inasmuch as He hath a zeal concerning the creatures for which He careth. In short, both the Yearning and its Object belong to the Beautiful and the Good, and have therein their pre-existent roots and because of it exist and come into being.
14. But why speak the Sacred Writers of God sometimes as Yearning and Love, sometimes as the 107Object of these emotions? In the one case He is the Cause and Producer and Begetter of the thing signified, in the other He is the Thing signified Itself. Now the reason why He is Himself on the one hand moved by the quality signified, and on the other causes motion by it,317317Yearning is a movement in the soul; the Object of Yearning causes such movement in the soul. is that He moves and leads onward Himself unto Himself.318318Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas: Deus movet sicut desideratum a Se Ipso. Cf. Spenser: “He loved Himself because Himself was fair.” CE Plato’s Doctrine of ἔρως. This Yearning is eternally fulfilled in the Trinity. Cf. Dante: ”O somma luce che sofa in Te sidi / sola T’ intendi e da Te intelletta / ed intendente Te ami ed arridi.“ It is struggling towards actualization in this world. Therefore on the one hand they call Him the Object of Love and Yearning as being Beautiful and Good, and on the other they call Him Yearning and Love as being a Motive-Power leading all things to Himself, Who is the only ultimate Beautiful and Good—yea, as being His own Self-Revelation and the Bounteous Emanation of His own Transcendent Unity, a Motion of Yearning simple, self-moved, self-acting, pre-existent in the Good, and overflowing from the Good into creation, and once again returning to the Good. And herein the Divine Yearning showeth especially its beginningless and endless nature, revolving in a perpetual circle for the Good, from the Good, in the Good, and to the Good, with unerring revolution, never varying its centre or direction, perpetually advancing and remaining and returning to Itself. This by Divine inspiration our renowned Initiator hath declared in his Hymns of Yearning, which it will not be amiss to quote and thus to bring unto a holy consummation our Discourse concerning this matter.
15. Words of the most holy Hierotheus from the Hymns of Yearning. “Yearning (be it in God or Angel, or Spirit, or Animal Life, or Nature) must be 108conceived of as an uniting and commingling power which moveth the higher things to a care for those below them, moveth co-equals to a mutual communion, and finally moveth the inferiors to turn towards their superiors in virtue and position.”
16. Words of the same, from the same Hymns of Yearning. “Forasmuch
as we have set down in order the manifold yearnings springing from the One, and
have duly explained what are the powers of knowledge and of action belonging to
the yearnings springing from the One, and have duly explained what are the
powers of knowledge and of action proper to the Yearnings within319319i. e. The social instinct in men and animals, and the impulse of mutual
attraction in the inanimate world. the world and
above320320The manifold yearnings of the spirit for Truth, Beauty, Spiritual Love, etc. it (wherein, as hath been already explained, the higher place belongeth
unto those ranks and orders of Yearning which are spiritually felt and
perceived, and highest amongst these are the Divine Yearnings in the very core
of the Spirit towards those Beauties which have their veritable Being Yonder),321321i.e. Of the two classes just alluded to the second is the higher;
and of those yearnings which belong to this class the most transcendent are the
highest. Religion is higher than secular life, and the highest element in
Religion is other-worldly.
The received text reads—
“The Divine Yearnings in the very core,” etc., οἱ αὐτονόητοι καὶ θεῖοι τῶν ὄντως ἐκεῖ καλῶς ἐρώτων. I have ventured to amend ἐρώτων to ἔρωτες. If the MS. from which the received text is derived belonged to a family having seventeen or eighteen letters to a line then this word would probably come at the end of a line (since there are 260 letters to the end of it, from the beginning of the section), and would have the ὀν- of ὄντως just above it and the -ον- of αὐτονόητοι just above that, and ἐρώτων at the end of the line next but one above that. This would make the corruption of ἔρωτες into ἐρώτων very natural. let us now yet further resume and compact them all together into the one and concentrated Yearning which is the Father of them all, and let us collect together into two kinds their general desiderative 109powers, over which the entire mastery and primacy is in that Incomprehensible Causation of all yearning which cometh from Beyond them all, and whereunto the universal yearning of all creatures presseth upwards according to the nature of each.”
17. Words of the same, from the same Hymns of Yearning “Let us once
more collect these powers into one and declare that there is but One Simple
Power Which of Itself moveth all things to be mingled in an unity, starting from
the Good and going unto the lowest of the creatures and thence again returning
through all stages in due order unto the Good, and thus revolving from Itself,
and through Itself and upon Itself322322“That which is not” = formless matter. Plotinus (Enn. i. 8. 3)
defines the Non-Existent as the world of sense-perception. It is, as it were,
the stuff of which all things perceived by the senses are made. This stuff
cannot exist without some kind of “form,” and therefore, if entirely bereft
of all “form,” would simply disappear into nothingness. Thus, apart from that
element of “form” which it derives from the Good, it is sheer Non-Entity.
Each individual thing consists of “matter” and “form”—i. e. of this
indeterminate “stuff” and of the particular qualities belonging to that thing.
Remove those qualities and the thing is destroyed: e.g. remove the colours,
shape, etc., of a tree, and the tree becomes nonexistent. It crumbles into dust,
and thus the “stuff” takes on a new form. If, as M. Le Bon maintains, material
particles sometimes lose their material qualities and are changed into energy,
in such a case the “stuff” takes on yet another kind of form. The individual
thing, in every case, becomes non-existent when it loses its “form,” or the sum
total of its individual qualities, but the “stuff” persists because it at once
assumes another “form.”
Hence this “stuff,” being non-existent per se, draws its existence from the Good Which is the Source of all “form.” And thus the existence of this non-existent stuff is ultimately contained in the Good.
D. tries to prove that evil is non-existent by showing that there is nothing that can have produced it. Good cannot have produced it because a thing cannot produce its own opposite; evil cannot have produced itself because evil is always destructive and never productive. All things that exist are produced by the Good or the desire for the Good-which comes to the same thing. and towards Itself, in an unceasing orbit.”
18. Now some one, perhaps, will say: “If the
110Beautiful and Good is an Object of Yearning and desire and love to all (for
even that which is not longs for It, as was said,323323The “matter” or stuff of which the universe is made, exists ultimately in
the Good, but evil does not. All force exists ultimately in the Good, but the
warping of it, or the lawlessness of it (which is the evil of it), does not
exist in the Good. Force, or energy, as such is a relative embodiment of the
Absolute: evil as such is a contradiction of the Absolute. and strives to find
its rest therein, and thus It creates a form even in formless things and thus is
said super-essentially to contain, and does so contain, the
non-existent)324324i. e. There is an element of good in evil things enabling them to cohere and
so to exist. In this passage “Non-Existent” is used in three senses: (1) “Matter,” or
force, cannot exist without some form (which is its complement) and
therefore is technically called non-existent. (2) Evil cannot exist at all on the
ultimate plane of Being, nor in this world without an admixture of good (which
is its contrary) and therefore is in an absolute sense non-existent. (3) The
Good is beyond all existence and therefore is by transcendence Non-Existent.—if this is so, how is it that the company of the devils desires
not the Beautiful and Good, but, being inclined towards matter and fallen far
from the fixed angelic state of desire for the Good, becomes a cause of all
evils to itself and to all other beings which we describe as becoming evil? How
is it that the devils, having been produced wholly out of the Good, are not good
in disposition? Or how is it that, if produced good from out of the Good, they became
changed?325325The Good is beyond this world and beyond the stuff, or force, of which this
world is made.
Evil, on the other hand, is below this world and the stuff composing it. Get
rid of the limitations in this world (sc. the difference between one quality and
another) and you have an energy or force possessing all the particular qualities
of things fused in one. Get rid of the limitations inherent in this (i. e.
intensify it to infinity) and you have the Good. On the other hand, destroy some
particular object (e.g. a tree), and that object, being now actually
non-existent, has still a potential existence in the world-stuff. Destroy that
potential existence and you have absolute non-existence, which is Evil.
Thus the three grates may be tabulated as follows:
(i) Transcendent Non-Existence (= the Good).
(ii) Actual Non-Existence (=the world stuff, force or energy, of which material particles are a form. Modern science teaches that atoms have no actual existence. Thus the atomic theory has worked round to something very much like D’s theory of the non-existent world stuff).
(iii) Absolute Non-Existence (= Evil).
The three grades might be expressed by a numerical symbol as follows: If finite numbers represent the various forms of existence, the Infinity (which contradicts the laws of finite numbers) = the Good: Unity (which is a mere abstraction and cannot exist apart from multiplicity since every finite unit is divisible into parts) = the world stuff: Zero (which annihilates all finite numbers that are multiplied by it) = Evil. What made them 111evil, and indeed what is the nature of evil? From what origin did it arise and in what thing doth it lie? Why did He that is Good will to produce it? And how, having so willed, was He able so to do?326326The argument in the rest of the section is as follows: Evil exists, for there is a radical difference between virtue and vice. Evil is, in fact, not merely negative, but positive: not merely destructive, but also productive. And hence it is necessary to the perfection of the world. To which D. replies in the next section that evil does not exist qua evil, nor is it positive or productive qua evil. It exists and is positive and productive solely through an admixture of the Good. (We might illustrate this by the fact that Zero, multiplied by Infinity, produces finite number.) And if evil comes from some other cause, what other cause can anything have excepting the Good? How, if there is a Providence, doth evil exist, or arise at all, or escape destruction? And why doth anything in the world desire it instead of Good?”
19. Thus perhaps will such bewildered discourse speak. Now we will bid the questioner look towards the truth of things, and in the first place we will venture thus to answer: “Evil cometh not of the Good; and if it cometh therefrom it is not evil. For even as fire cannot cool us, so Good cannot produce the things which are not good. And if all things that have being come from the Good (for it is natural to the Good to produce and preserve the creatures, and natural to evil to corrupt and to destroy them) then nothing in the world cometh of evil. Then evil can- 112not even in any wise exist, if it act as evil upon itself. And unless it do so act, evil is not wholly evil, but hath some portion of the Good whereby it can exist at all. And if the things that have being desire the Beautiful and Good and accomplish all their acts for the sake of that which seemeth good, and if all that they intend hath the Good as its Motive and its Aim (for nothing looks unto the nature of evil to guide it in its actions), what place is left for evil among things that have being, or how can it have any being at all bereft of such good purpose? And if all things that have being come of the Good and the Good is Beyond things that have being, then, whereas that which exists not yet hath being in the Good; evil contrariwise hath none (otherwise it were not wholly evil or Non-Ens; for that which is wholly Non-Ens can be but naught except this be spoken Super-Essentially of the Good). So the Good must have Its seat far above and before that which hath mere being and that which hath not; but evil hath no place either amongst things that have being or things that have not, yea it is farther removed than the Non-Existent from the Good and hath less being than it. ‘Then’ (saith one perchance) ‘whence cometh evil? For if’ (saith he) ‘evil is not, virtue and vice must needs be the same both in their whole entirety and in their corresponding particulars,’–i. e. even that which fighteth against virtue cannot be evil. And yet temperance is the opposite of debauchery, and righteousness of wickedness. And I mean not only the righteous and the unrighteous man, or the temperate and intemperate man; I mean that, even before the external distinction appeared between the virtuous man and his opposite, the ultimate distinction between the virtues and the vices hath existed long beforehand in the soul itself, and the passions war against the reason, and hence we must assume something evil 113which is contrary to goodness. For goodness is not contrary to itself, but, being come from One Beginning and being the offspring of One Cause, it rejoices in fellowship, unity, and concord. Even the lesser Good is not contrary to the greater, for that which is less hot or cold is not contrary to that which is more so. Wherefore evil lieth in the things that have being and possesseth being and is opposed and contrary to goodness. And if evil is the destruction of things which have being, that depriveth it not of its own being. It itself still hath being and giveth being to its offspring. Yea, is not the destruction of one thing often the birth of another? And thus it will be found that evil maketh contribution unto the fullness of the world, and through its presence, saveth the universe from imperfection.”
20. The true answer whereunto will be that evil (qua evil) causes no existence or birth, but only debases and corrupts, so far as its power extends, the substance of things that have being. And if any one says that it is productive, and that by the destruction of one thing it giveth birth to somewhat else, the true answer is that it doth not so qua destructive. Qua destructive and evil it only destroys and debases; but it taketh upon it the form of birth and essence through the action of the Good. Thus evil will be found to be a destructive force in itself, but a productive force through the action of the Good. Qua evil it neither hath being nor confers it; through the action of the Good, it hath being (yea, a good being) and confers being on good things. Or rather (since we cannot call the same thing both good and bad in the same relations, nor are the destruction and birth of the same thing the same function or faculty, whether productive or destructive, working in the same relations), Evil in itself hath neither being, goodness, productiveness, nor power of creating things which have being 114and goodness; the Good, on the other hand, wherever It becomes perfectly present, creates perfect, universal and untainted manifestations of goodness; while the things which have a lesser share therein are imperfect manifestations of goodness and mixed with other elements through lack of the Good. In fine, evil is not in any wise good, nor the maker of good; but every thing must be good only in proportion as it approacheth more or less unto the Good, since the perfect Goodness penetrating all things reacheth not only to the wholly good beings around It, but extendeth even unto the lowest things, being entirely present unto some, and in a lower measure to others, and unto others in lowest measure, according as each one is capable of participating therein.327327D. is no pantheist. According to Pantheism God is equally present in all things. Thus Pantheism is a debased form of the Immanence doctrine, as Calvinism is a debased form of the Transcendence doctrine. In the one case we get Immanence without Transcendence: in the other Transcendence without Immanence. D. holds a Transcendent Immanence (cf. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, rebutting charge of Pantheism). Some creatures participate wholly in the Good, others are lacking in It less or more, and others possess a still fainter participation therein, while to others the Good is present as but the faintest echo. For if the Good were not present only in a manner proportioned unto each, then the divinest and most honourable things would be no higher than the lowest! And how, pray, could all things have a uniform share in the Good, since not all are equally fit to share entirely therein? But in truth the exceeding greatness of the power of the Good is shown by this—that It giveth power even to the things which lack It, yea even unto that very lack itself, inasmuch as even here is to be found some kind of participation in It.328328e. g. The cruelty of Nature seems to show Intelligence; and Intelligence per se is a good thing. And, if we must needs 115boldly speak the truth, even the things that fight against It possess through Its power their being and their capability to fight. Or rather, to speak shortly, all creatures in so far as they have being are good and come from the Good, and in so far as they are deprived of the Good, neither are good nor have they being.329329All evil things contain the seed of their own decay, and so tend to non-existence. The arrogance and cruelty of the Germans has been their weakness, as discipline and self-sacrifice has been their strength. For in the case of other qualities, such as heat or cold, the things which have been warmed have their being even when they lose their warmth, and many of the creatures there are which have no life or mind; and in like manner God transcendeth all being and so is Super-Essential;330330God exists without Essence, as an object can exist without this particular quality or that. and generally, in all other cases, though the quality be gone or hath never been present, the creatures yet have being and can subsist; but that which is utterly bereft of the Good never had, nor hath, nor ever shall have, no nor can have any sort of being whatever. For instance, the depraved sinner, though bereft of the Good by his brutish desire, is in this respect unreal and desires unrealities; but still he hath a share in the Good in so far as there is in him a distorted reflection of true Love and Communion.331331D. is thinking especially of carnal sin. Such sin is a depraved form of that which, in its true purity, is a mystery, symbolizing the Unitive Life. And anger hath a share in the Good, in so far as it is a movement which seeks to remedy apparent evils, converting them to that which appears to be fair. And even he that desires the basest life, yet in so far as he feels desire at all and feels desire for life, and intends what he thinks the best kind of life, so far participates in the Good. And if you wholly destroy the Good, there drill be neither being, life, desire, nor motion, or any other thing. Hence the birth of fresh 116life out of destruction is not the function of evil but is the presence of Good in a lesser form, even as disease is a disorder, yet not the destruction of all order, for if this happen the disease itself will not exist.332332A diseased body still lives. Death ends the disease. But the disease remains and exists. Its essence is order reduced to a minimum; and in this it consists. For that which is utterly without the Good hath neither being nor place amongst the things that are in being; but that which is of mixed nature owes to the Good its place among things in being, and hath this place amongst them and hath being just so far as it participates in the Good. Or rather all things in being will have their being more or less in proportion as they participate in the Good. For so far as mere Being is concerned, that which hath not being in any respect will not exist at all; that which hath being in one respect but not in another doth not exist in so far as it hath fallen away from the everlasting Being; while in so far as it hath a share of being, to that extent it exists; and thus both an element of existence and an element of non-existence in it are kept and preserved. So too with evil. That which is utterly fallen from Good can have no place either in the things which are more good or in the things which are less so. That which is good in one respect but not in another is at war with some particular good but not with the whole of the Good. It also is preserved by the admixture of the Good, and thus the Good giveth existence to the lack of Itself through some element of Itself being present there. For if the Good be entirely removed, there will not remain aught at all, either good or mixed or absolutely bad. For if evil is imperfect Goodness, the perfect absence of the Good will remove both the perfect and the imperfect Good, and evil will only exist and appear because, while it is evil in relation to one kind of good (being the contrary 117thereof), yet it depends for its existence on another kind of good and, to that extent, is good itself. For things of the same kind cannot333333Exuberant vitality is per se a good thing and the more exuberant the better, though, like all good things, it is dangerous, and unless properly directed is disastrous. be wholly contradictory to one another in the same respects.334334If good and evil are both existent, they are, to that extent, both of the same kind; which is impossible. Hence evil is Non-Existent.
21. Neither inhereth evil in existent creatures.335335So far D. has been showing that evil is not an ultimate principle, being
neither (1) identical with the Good, nor (2j self-subsistent. Now he argues
that it is not a necessary element in any created thing: neither in their existence as such, nor in any particular kind of
creature. For if all creatures are
from the Good, and the Good is in them all and embraces them all, either evil
can have no place amongst the creatures, or else it must have a place in the
Good.336336D. rambles characteristically, but the general argument is plain. All
existence is from the Good. Hence, if evil is inherent in the nature of
existence, evil is from the Good. Thus D. meets again and proceeds to lay the
ghost of a theory which he has already elaborately slain in the previous
section. Now it cannot inhere in the Good, any more than cold can inhere in fire;
just so the quality of becoming evil cannot inhere in that which turns even evil
into good. And if evil doth inhere in the Good, what will the mode of its
inherence be? If you say: It cometh of the Good, I answer: That is absurd and
impossible. For (as the infallible Scriptures say), a good tree cannot bring
forth evil fruit, nor yet is the converse possible. But if it cometh not of the
Good, it is plainly from another origin and cause. Either evil must come from
the Good, or the
Good from evil, or else (if this is impossible} both the Good and evil must be from another origin or cause. For
no duality can be an origin: same unity must be the origin of all duality. And
yet it is absurd to suppose that two entirely
118opposite things can owe their birth and their being to the same thing. This
would make the origin itself not a simple unity but divided, double,
self-contradictory and discordant. Nor again is it possible that the world
should have two contradictory origins, existing in each other and in the whole
and mutually at strife. For,337337Having just given a metaphysical argument for the non-existence of evil, D.
now gives an argument drawn from the actual nature of the universe and of God’s
This argument is not so satisfactory as the metaphysical
one, for, under all the harmony of the world, there is perpetual strife, and the
Cross of Christ reveals God as suffering pain. “Christ is in an agony and
will be till the end of the world” (Pascal).
The metaphysical argument is sound because metaphysics deal with ultimate ideals, and evil is ultimately or ideally non-existent. The argument from actual facts is unsound because evil is actually existent. Much wrong thinking on the subject of evil is due to a confusion of ideal with actual non-existence. D. here seems to fall into this mistake. were this assumed, God338338D. here uses the name “God” because he is thinking of the Absolute or the Good, not in Its ultimate Nature, but in Its emanating or creative activity, in which the Personal Differentiations of the Trinity appear. See II. 7. cannot be free from pain, nor without a feeling of ill, since there would be something causing Him trouble, yea, all things must in that case be in a state of disorder and perpetual strife; whereas the Good imparts a principle of harmony to all things and is called by the Sacred Writers Peace and the Bestower of Peace. And hence it is that all good things display a mutual attraction and harmony, and are the offspring of one Life and are disposed in fellowship towards one Good, and are kindly, of like nature, and benignant to one another. And so evil is not in God,339339i. e. Evil does not arise through the passage of the Good from Super-Essence into Essence. It is not in the Good through the Good submitting to the conditions of existence (D. has already shown that evil has no place in the ultimate Super-Essential Nature of the Good). and is not divine. Nor cometh it of God. For either He is not good, or else He worketh goodness and bringeth good things unto 119existence. Nor acts He thus only at some times and not at others, or only in the case of some things but not of all. For were He to act thus, He must suffer a change and alteration, and that in respect of the divinest quality of all—causality. And if the Good is in God as His very substance, God must, in changing from the Good, sometimes exist and sometimes not exist. Doubtless if you feign that He hath the Good by mere participation therein, and derives It from another, in that case He will, forsooth, sometimes possess It and sometimes not possess It.340340This is a reductio ad absurdum. D. considers it obvious that God possesses the Good as His Substance and not by participation. The Persons of the Trinity are not products of the Absolute but Emanations or Differentiations of It. Evil, therefore, doth not come from God, nor is it in God either absolutely or temporally.341341The argument is as follows: No evil is from God. All existence is from God. Therefore no existence is evil.
22. Neither inhereth evil in the angels.342342Having shown that existence as such is not inherently evil, D. now takes various forms of existence and shows that none of them is, as such, inherently evil. For if the good angel declares the Divine Goodness, he is in a secondary manner and by participation that which the Subject of his message is in a primary and causal manner.343343Cf. Old Testament title, “Sons of God,” and D. on Deification. Cf. also “I have said, Ye are Gods.” And thus the angel is an image of God, a manifestation of the invisible light, a burnished mirror, bright, untarnished, without spot or blemish, receiving (if it is reverent to say so) all the beauty of the Absolute Divine Goodness, and (so far as may be) kindling in itself, with unallowed radiance, the Goodness of the Secret Silence. Hence evil inhereth not in the angels; they are evil only in so far as they must punish sinners. But in this respect even those who chastise wrong-doers are evil, and so are the priests who exclude the profane man from the Divine 120Mysteries. But, indeed, ‘tis not the suffering of the punishment that is evil but the being worthy thereof; nor yet is a just exclusion from the sacrifices evil, but to be guilty and unholy and unfit for those pure mysteries is evil.
23. Nor are the devils naturally evil. For, were they such, they would not have sprung from the Good, nor have a place amongst existent creatures, nor have fallen from Goodness (being by their very nature always evil). Moreover, are they evil with respect to themselves or to others? If the former344344i. e. If totally and essentially by very nature evil with respect to themselves. In so far as they continue to exist they are good with respect to themselves. they must also be self-destructive; if the latter, how do they destroy, and what do they destroy?345345Evil is the contrary of the Good. Hence since the Good is by Its very nature productive, evil must be destructive. Hence the devils, if essentially evil, must be essentially destructive. Now they are not essentially self-destructive, for, were they such, they could not exist. Therefore, if essentially evil, they must under all circumstances be destructive of other things. Do they destroy Essence, or Faculty, or Activity?346346The essence of (e. g.) an apple-tree is self-identity; its faculty is its latent power of producing leaves, apples, etc.; its activity is the actual production of the leaves, apples, etc. If Essence, then, first, they cannot destroy it contrary to its own nature; for they cannot destroy things which by their nature are indestructible, but only the things which are capable of destruction. And, secondly, destruction itself is not evil in every case and under all circumstances. Nor can any existent thing be destroyed so far as its being and nature act; for its destruction is due to a failure of its natural order, whereby the principle of harmony and symmetry grows weak and so cannot remain unchanged.347347(1) The devils do not destroy all things (e. g. they do not annihilate the human soul). Therefore they are not essentially evil. Evil passions are good things misdirected. (2) Often the destruction of a thing is beneficial (e. g. the falling of the faded leaf). In fact, nothing could be destroyed if it had not grown feeble and so become worthy to be destroyed. (D. here, in his zeal to explain evil away, countenances the base doctrine that might is right. What is wrong with the whole system of the universe is that its underlying law is the survival of the fittest. The enlightened conscience of humanity rebels against this law.) But 121the weakness is not complete; for, were it complete, it would have annihilated both the process of destruction and the object which suffers it: and such a destruction as this must be self-destructive. Hence such a quality is not evil but imperfect good; for that which is wholly destitute of the Good can have no place among things that have being.348348The weakness is an imperfect good, and therefore the process of destruction which co-operates with the weakness is an imperfect good. And the same is true of destruction when it works upon a faculty or activity. Moreover, how can the devils be evil since they are sprung from God? For the Good produceth and createth good things. But it may be said that they are called evil not in so far as they exist (for they are from the Good and had a good existence given them), but in so far as they do not exist, haying been unable (as the Scripture saith) to keep their original state. For in what, pray, do we consider the wickedness of the devils to consist except their ceasing from the quality and activity of divine virtues? Otherwise, if the devils are naturally evil, they must be always evil. But evil is unstable.349349The Good is permanent. Hence its contrary must be unstable. Hence if they are always in the same condition, they are not evil; for to remain always the same is a property of the Good. But if they are not always evil, then they are not evil by their natural constitution, but only through a lack of angelic virtues.350350Evil is essentially a negative and self-contradictory thing. Its very permanence would be opposed to its own nature and would be due to an element of the Good within it. Hence they are not utterly without the Good, seeing that they exist and live and form intuitions and have 122within them any movement of desire at all; but they are called evil because they fail in the exercise of their natural activity. The evil in them is therefore a warping, a declension from their right condition; a failure, an imperfection, an. impotence, and a weakness, loss and lapse of that power which would preserve their perfection in them. Moreover what is the evil in the devils? Brutish wrath, blind desire, headstrong fancy. But these qualities, even though they exist in the devils, are not wholly, invariably, and essentially evil. For in other living creatures, not the possession of these qualities but their loss is destructive of the creature and hence is evil; while their possession preserves the creature and enables the creature possessing them to exist. Hence the devils are not evil in so far as they fulfil their nature, but in so far as they do not. Nor hath the Good bestowed complete upon them been changed; rather have they fallen from the completeness of that gift. And we maintain that the angelic gifts bestowed upon their have never themselves suffered change, but are unblemished in their perfect brightness, even if the devils themselves do not perceive it through blinding their faculties of spiritual perception.351351There is a timeless ground in all personalities, and this ground is good. Eckhart and Tauler say, that even the souls in hell possess eternally the divine root of their true being. Ruysbroeck says, this divine root does not of itself make us blessed, but merely makes us exist. Thus, so far as their existence is concerned, they possess it from the Good, and are naturally good, and desire the Beautiful and Good in desiring existence, life, and intuition, which are existent things. And they are called evil through the deprivation and the loss whereby they have lapsed from their proper virtues. And hence they are evil in so far as they do not exist; and in desiring evil they desire that which is non-existent.
24. But perhaps some one will say that human 123souls are the seat of evil. Now if the reason alleged is that they have contact with evil temptations when they take forethought to preserve themselves therefrom, this is not evil but good and cometh from the Good that turns even evil into good. But if we mean the depravation which souls undergo, in what do they undergo depravation except in the deficiency of good qualities and activities and in the failure and fall therefrom due to their own weakness? Even so we say that the air is darkened around us by a deficiency and absence of the light; while yet the light itself is always light and illuminates the darkness. Hence the evil inhereth not in the devils or in us, as evil, but only as a deficiency and lack of the perfection of our proper virtues.
25. Neither inhereth evil in the brute beasts. For if you take away the passions of anger, desire, etc. (which are not in their essential nature evil, although alleged to be so), the lion, having lost its savage wildness, will be a lion no longer; and the dog, if it become gentle to all, will cease to be a dog, since the virtue of a dog is to watch and to allow its own masters to approach while driving strangers away. Wherefore ‘tis not evil for a creature so to act as preserveth its nature undestroyed; evil is the destruction of its nature, the weakness and deficiency of its natural qualities, activities, and powers. And if all things which the process of generation produces have their goal of perfection in time, then even that which seemeth to be their imperfection is not wholly and entirely contrary to nature.352352i. e. That which is imperfect in them is capable of being made perfect.
26. Neither inhereth evil in nature as a whole. For if all natural laws together come from the universal system of Nature, there is nothing contrary to Nature.353353The sum total of natural laws comes from the ultimate unity of Nature, which comes from the Good. Thus the sum total of natural laws is not, as such, opposed to the ultimate unity of Nature, and therefore is not as such opposed to the Good. It is not essentially evil. 124’Tis but when we consider the nature of particular thins, that we find one part of Nature to be natural and another part to be unnatural. For one thing may be unnatural in one case, and another thing in another case; and that which is natural in one is unnatural in another.354354Cf. Section 30. Now the evil taint of a natural force is something unnatural. It is a lack of the thing’s natural virtues. Hence, no natural force is evil: the evil of nature lies in a thing’s inability to fulfil its natural functions.355355The argument of the whole passage is that evil is not inherent in the essential nature of things as a whole or of any particular thing. It arises in particular things (accidentally, as it were) through their failure to fulfil their true nature. But what of this accident? Is it inherent? Perhaps we might answer, “Not inherent because capable of being eliminated.”
27. Neither inhereth evil in our bodies. For ugliness and disease are a deficiency in form and a want of order. But this is not wholly evil, being rather a lesser good. For were there a complete destruction of beauty, form, and order, the very body must disappear. And that the body is not the cause of evil in the soul is plain in that evil can be nigh at hand even without a body, as it is in the devils. Evil in spirits’ souls and bodies is a weakness and lapse in the condition of their natural virtues.
28. Nor is the familiar notion true that “Evil inheres in matter qua matter.” For matter, too, hath a share in order, beauty, and form. And if matter is without these things, and in itself hath no quality or form, how can it produce anything, since in that case it hath not of itself even the power of suffering any affection? Nay, how can matter be 125evil? For if it hath no being whatever, it is neither good nor evil; but if it hath a kind of being, then (since all things that have being come from the Good) matter must come from the Good. And thus either the Good produces evil (i. e. evil, since it comes from the Good, is good), or else the Good Itself is produced by evil (i. e. the Good, as coming thus from evil, is evil). Or else we are driven back again to two principles. But if so, these must be derived from some further single source beyond them. And if they say that matter is necessary for the whole world to fulfil its development, how can that be evil which depends for its existence upon the Good? For evil abhors the very nature of the Good. And how can matter, if it is evil, produce and nourish Nature? For evil, qua evil, cannot produce or nourish anything, nor create or preserve it at all. And if they reply that matter causes not the evil in our souls, but that it yet draws them down towards evil, can that be true? For many of them have their gaze turned towards the Good. And how can that be, if matter doth nothing except drag them down towards evil? Hence evil in our souls is not derived from matter but from a disordered and discordant motion. And if they say that this motion is always the consequence of matter; and if the unstable medium of matter is necessary for things that are incapable of firm self-subsistence, then why is it that evil is thus necessary or that this necessary thing is evil?356356Matter, it is argued, is evil because the discordant motion of the soul springs from matter. But, replies D., matter is necessary for certain kinds of existence. Hence it follows that evil is necessary. But this is impossible.
29. Nor is the common saying true that Deprivation or Lack fights by its natural power against the Good. For a complete lack is utterly impotent; and that 126which is partial hath its power, not in so far as it is a lack, but in so far as it is not a perfect lack. For when the lack of the Good is partial, evil is not as yet; and when it becomes perfect, evil itself utterly vanishes.
30. In fine, Good cometh from the One universal Cause; and evil from many partial deficiencies. God knows evil under the form of good, and with Him the causes of evil things are faculties productive of good. And if evil is eternal, creative, and powerful, and if it hath being and activity, whence hath it these attributes? Come they from the Good? Or from the evil by the action of the Good? Or from some other cause by the action of them both? All natural results arise from a definite cause; and if evil hath no cause or definite being, it is unnatural. For that which is contrary to Nature hath no place in Nature, even as unskilfulness hath no place in skilfulness. Is the soul, then, the cause of evils, even as fire is the cause of warmth? And doth the soul, then, fill with evil whatsoever things are near it? Or is the nature of the soul in itself good, while yet in its activities the soul is sometimes in one state, and sometimes in another?357357D. is here alluding to the mystical doctrine of the timeless self—the ultimate root of goodness in each individual which remains unchanged by the failures and sins of the temporal self. Now, if the very existence of the soul is naturally evil, whence is that existence derived? From the Good Creative Cause of the whole world? If from this Origin, how can it be, in its essential nature, evil? For all things sprung from out this Origin are good. But if it is evil merely in its activities, even so this condition is not fixed. Otherwise (i. e. if it doth not itself also assume a good quality) what is the origin of the virtues?358358D. is arguing with those who hold that evil is in some sense necessary to the existence of the world, and therefore has a permanent place in it. Sin is, they hold, a necessary self-realization of human souls which are in their ultimate essence sinless. D. replies that, if this is so, we cannot explain how goodness can ever be (as it is) a form of self-realization for human souls. 127There remains but one alternative: Evil is a weakness and deficiency of Good.
31. Good things have all one cause. If evil is opposed to the Good, then hath evil many causes. The efficient causes of evil results, however, are not any laws and faculties, but an impotence and weakness and an inharmonious mingling of discordant elements. Evil things are not immutable and unchanging but indeterminate and indefinite: the sport of alien influences which have no definite aim. The Good must be the beginning and the end even of all evil things. For the Good is the final Purpose of all things, good and bad alike. For even when we act amiss we do so from a longing for the Good; for no one makes evil his definite object when performing any action. Hence evil hath no substantial being, but only a shadow thereof; since the Good, and not itself, is the ultimate object for which it comes into existence.
32. Unto evil we can attribute but an accidental kind of existence. It exists for the sake of something else, and is not self-originating. And hence our action appears to be right (for it hath Good as its object) while yet it is not really right (because we mistake for good that which is not good). ‘Tis proven, then, that our purpose is different from our action. Thus evil is contrary to progress, purpose, nature, cause, principle, end, law, will, and being. Evil is, then, a lack, a deficiency, a weakness, a disproportion, an error, purposeless, unlovely, lifeless, unwise, unreasonable, imperfect, unreal, causeless, indeterminate, sterile, inert, powerless, disordered, incongruous, indefinite, dark, unsubstantial, and never in itself possessed of any existence whatever. How, 128then, is it that an admixture of the Good bestows any power upon evil? For that which is altogether destitute of Good is nothing and hath no power. And if the Good is Existent and is the Source of will, power, and action, how can Its opposite (being destitute of existence, will, power, and activity), have any power against It? Only because evil things are not all entirely the same in all cases and in all relations.359359i. e. Evil things are not entirety bad, but are bad only in some partial aspect. In the case of a devil evil lieth in the being contrary to spiritual goodness; in the soul it lieth in the being contrary to reason; in the body it lieth in the being contrary to nature.
33. How can evil things have any existence at all if there is a Providence? Only because evil (as such) hath no being, neither inhereth it in things that have being. And naught that hath being is independent of Providence; for evil hath no being at all, except when mingled with the Good. And if no thing in the world is without a share in the Good, and evil is the deficiency of Good and no thing in the world is utterly destitute of Good, then the Divine Providence is in all things, and nothing that exists can be without It. Yea, even the evil effects that arise are turned by Providence to a kindly purpose, for the succour of themselves or others (either individually or in common), and thus it is that Providence cares individually for each particular thing in all the world. Therefore we shall pay no heed to the fond argument so often heard that “Providence shall lead us unto virtue even against our will.” ‘Tis not worthy of Providence to violate nature. Wherefore Its Providential character is shown herein: that It preserves the nature of each individual, and, in making provision for the free and independent, it hath respect unto their state, providing, both in general and in 129particular, according as the nature of those It cares for can receive Its providential benefactions, which are bestowed suitably on each by Its multiform and universal activity.
34. Thus evil hath no being, nor any inherence in things that have being. Evil is nowhere qua evil; and it arises not through any power but through weakness. Even the devils derive their existence from the Good, and their mere existence is good. Their evil is the result of a fall from their proper virtues, and is a change with regard to their individual state, a weakness of their true angelical perfections. And they desire the Good in so far as they desire existence, life, and understanding; and in so far as they do not desire the Good, they desire that which bath no being. And this is not desire, but an error of real desire.
35. By “men who sin knowingly” Scripture means them that are weak in the exercised knowledge360360περὶ τὴν ἄληστον του ἀγαθοῦ γνῶσιν. and performance of Good; and by “them that know the Divine Will and do it not,”361361Luke xii. 47. it means them that have heard the truth and yet are weak in faith to trust the Good or in action to fulfil it.362362In the previous section D. has maintained that all people ultimately desire the Good. Hence it follows that all sin is due to ignorance; for could we all recognize that which we desire we would follow it. This raises the question: What, then, does Scripture mean by speaking of men who sin knowingly? To this D. replies that wilful sin is wilful ignorance. It is the failure to exercise the knowledge we possess: as when we know a fact which yet is not actually present to our minds. We know (having been taught it) the desirableness of the Good, but we can shut this desirableness out from our minds and refuse to dwell upon it. In such a case we refuse to exercise our knowledge. And some desire not to have understanding in order that they may do good, so great is the warping or the weakness of their will. And, in a word, evil (as we have often said) is weakness, impotence, and deficiency of 130knowledge (or, at least, of exercised knowledge), or of faith, desire, or activity as touching the Good. Now, it may be urged that weakness should not be punished, but on the contrary should be pardoned. This would be just were the power not within man’s grasp; but if the power is offered by the Good that giveth without stint (as saith the Scripture) that which is needful to each, we must not condone the wandering or defection, desertion, and fall from the proper virtues offered by the Good. But hereon let that suffice which we have already spoken (to the best of our abilities) in the treatise Concerning Justice and Divine Judgment:363363This treatise is lost. a sacred exercise wherein the Truth of Scripture disallowed as lunatic babbling such nice arguments as despitefully and slanderously blaspheme God. In this present treatise we have, to the best of our abilities, celebrated the Good as truly Admirable, as the Beginning and the End of all things, as the Power that embraces them, as That Which gives form to non-existent things, as That which causes all good things and yet causes no evil things, as perfect Providence and Goodness surpassing all things that are and all that are not, and turning base things and the lack of Itself unto good, as That Which all must desire, yearn for, and love; and as possessed of many other qualities the which a true argument hath, methinks, in this chapter expounded.
|« Prev||Chapter 4. Concerning 'Good,' 'Light,'…||Next »|