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Concerning ”Peace“ and what is meant by ”Very Being“ Itself, ”Very Life,” ”Very Power,” and similar phrases.
1. Now let us praise with reverent hymns of peace the Divine Peace which is the Source of all mutual attraction. For this Quality it is that unites all things together and begets and produces the harmonies and agreements of all things. And hence it is that all things long for It, and that It draws their manifold separate parts into the unity of the whole and unites the battling elements of the world into concordant fellowship. So it is that, through participation in the Divine Peace, the higher of the mutually Attractive Powers467467i. e. The Seraphim. are united in themselves and to each other and to the one Supreme Peace of the whole world; and so the ranks beneath them are by them united both in themselves and to one another and unto that one perfect Principle and Cause of Universal Peace,468468The Divine Energy and Light streams through the medium of the higher orders to the lower. This is worked out in the Celestial Hierarchy of the same writer. We get the same thought in Dante’s Paradiso, where the Primum Mobile, deriving its motion from an immediate contact with the Empyrean, passes them on to the next sphere and so to all the rest in turn, the movement being received and conveyed by the succeeding angelic orders presiding severally, in descending scale of dignity, over the concentric spheres.—See Convito, II. 6. which broods in undivided Unity upon the world, and (as it were with bolts which fasten the sundered parts together) giveth to all things their laws, their limits, and their cohesion; nor 174suffers them to be torn apart and dispersed into the boundless chaos without order or foundation, so as to lose God’s Presence and depart from their own unity, and to mingle together in a universal confusion. Now as to that quality of the Divine Peace and Silence, to which the holy Justus469469Vide Acts i. 23; xviii. 7; or Col. iv. 11. gives the name of “Dumbness” and “Immobility” (sc. so far as concerns all emanation which our knowledge can grasp),470470Victorinus calls God the Father Cessatio, Silentium, or Quies, and also Motus, as distinguished from Motio (the name he gives God the Son), the former kind of movement being the quiescent generator of the latter, since Victorinus was an older contemporary of St. Augustine (see Conf. viii. 2–5) his speculations may have been known to D. The peace of God attracts by its mysterious influence. This influence is, in a sense, an emanation or outgoing activity (or it could not affect us), but it is a thing felt and not understood. and as to the manner in which It is still and silent and keeps in Itself and within Itself and is wholly and entirely one transcendent Unity in Itself, and while entering into Itself and multiplying Itself,471471It multiplies Itself by entering into the creatures and seeking to be reproduced in each of them. This whole passage throws light on the problem of Personality. If our personalities are ultimately contained in the Absolute, the Absolute is not a Person but a Society of Persons. D. would reply that the Absolute is Supra-Personal, and that in It our personalities have their ultimate existence, outside of themselves, as an undifferentiated Unity, though that ultimate plane needs also and implies the existence of the relative plane on which our personalities exist as differentiated individuals. The Holy Spirit enters into the various individuals, but still possesses One Supra-Personal Godhead. Plotinus says the Godhead is indivisibly divided. doth not leave Its own Unity, but, even in the act of going forth to all things, remains entirely within Itself through the excess of that all-transcendent Unity: concerning these things ‘tis neither right nor possible for any creature to frame any language or conception. Let us, then, describe that Peace (inasmuch as It transcends all things) as “Unutterable,” yea and “Unknowable”; and, so far as ‘tis possible for men and for ourselves who are inferior to many 175good men, let us examine those cases where It is amenable to our intuitions and language through being manifested in created things.
2. Now, the first thing to say is this: that God is the Fount of Very Peace and of all Peace, both in general and in particular, and that He joins all things together in an unity without confusion whereby they are inseparably united without any interval between them, and at the same time stand unmixed each in its own form, not losing their purity through being mingled with their opposites nor in any way blunting the edge of their clear and distinct individuality. Let us, then, consider that one and simple nature of the Peaceful Unity which unites all things to Itself to themselves and to each other, and preserves all things, distinct and yet interpenetrating in an universal cohesion without confusion. Thus it is that the Divine Intelligences derive that Unity whereby they are united to the activities and the objects of their intuition;472472Contemplation, Act of Contemplation, and Object Contemplated are all united together, and so imply a fundamental Unity which exists ultimately in God. and rise up still further to a contact, beyond knowledge, with truths which transcend the mind. Thus it is that souls, unifying their manifold reasoning powers and concentrating them in one pure spiritual act, advance by their own ordered path through an immaterial and indivisible act of spiritual intuition. Thus it is that the one and indissoluble connection of all things exists by reason of its Divine harmony, and is fitted together with perfect concord, agreement and congruity, being drawn into one without confusion and inseparably held together. For the entirety of that perfect Peace penetrates to all things through the simple, unalloyed presence of Its unifying power, uniting all things and binding the extremities together through the intermediate parts, 176all things being thus conjoined by one homogenous attraction. And It bestows even upon the utmost limits of the universe the enjoyment of Its Presence, and makes all things akin to one another by the unities, the identities, the communions and the mutual attractions which It gives them; for the Divine Peace remains indivisible and shows forth all Its power in a single act, and permeates the whole world without departing from Its own Identity. For It goes forth to all things and gives to all things of Itself (according to their kinds), and overflows with the abundance of Its peaceful fecundity, and yet through the transcendence of Its unification It remains wholly and entirely in a state of Absolute Self-Unity.473473Cf. p. 174, n. 3.
3. “But,” some one perchance will say, “in what sense do all things desire peace? Many things rejoice in opposition and difference and distinction, and would never choose willingly to be at rest.” Now if the opposition and difference here intended is the individuality of each thing, and the fact that naught (while it remains itself) wishes to lose this quality, then neither can we deny this statement; but, however, we shall show that this itself is due to a desire for Peace. For all things love to have peace and unity in themselves and to remain without moving or falling from their own existence or properties. And the perfect Peace guards each several individuality unalloyed by Its providential gift of peace, keeping all things without internal or mutual discord or confusion, and establishing all things, in the power of unswerving stability, so as to possess their own peace and rest.474474D.‘s paradox is the paradox of sanity. We must hold at the same time two apparent contradictions. On one side all things are, in a sense, merged, in the other side they are not. Their Super-Essence is identical and is one and the same Super-Essence for all. Yet each one severally and individually possesses it. The paradox is due to the fact that the question is one of ultimate Reality. All life and individuality start in the individual’s opposition to the rest of the world, for by distinguishing myself from the world I, in a sense, oppose myself to it. This is the basis of selfishness and so of moral evil. But being transmuted by Love, it becomes the basis of all harmony and moral good, and so leads to Peace: And the same principles of opposition and harmony are at work in the whole creation, animate and inanimate alike. (Cf. Dante, Paradiso, I. 103 to end.)177
4. And if all things which move be found desiring not to be at rest but always to perform their proper movements, this also is a desire for that Divine Peace of the Universe which keeps all things in their proper places so that they fall not, and preserves the individual and the motive life of all moving things from removal or declension. And this it doth by reason that the things which move perform their proper functions through being in a constant state of inward peace.475475Vide supra [Movet Deus sicut Desideratum]: True peace is restful energy, both elements of which are incomplete in the present world but complete in the Godhead.
5. But if, in affirming that Peace is not desired by all, the objector is thinking of the opposition caused by a falling away from Peace, in the first place there is nothing in the world which hath utterly fallen away from all Unity; for that which is utterly unstable, boundless, baseless, and indefinite hath neither Being nor any inherence in the things that have Being. And if he says that hatred towards Peace and the blessings of Peace is shown by them that rejoice in strife and anger and in conditions of variations and instability, I answer that these also are governed by dim shadows of the desire for Peace; for, being oppressed by the various movements of their passions, they desire (without understanding) to set these at rest, and suppose that the surfeit of fleeting pleasures will give them Peace because they feel themselves 178disturbed by the unsatisfied cravings which have mastered them.476476Cf. Dante, Paradiso. ”E se altra cosa vostra amor seduce Non è se non di quella alcun vestigio,” etc. There is no need to tell how the loving-kindness of Christ cometh bathed in Peace, wherefrom we must learn to cease from strife, whether against ourselves or against one another, or against the angels, and instead to labour together even with the angels for the accomplishment of God’s Will, in accordance with the Providential Purpose of Jesus Who worketh all things in all and maketh Peace, unutterable and foreordained from Eternity, and reconcileth us to Himself, and, in Himself, to the Father. Concerning these supernatural gifts enough hath been said in the Outlines of Divinity with confirmation drawn from the holy testimony of the Scriptures.
6. Now, since thou hast, on a previous occasion, sent me an epistle asking
what I mean by Very Being Itself, Very Life Itself, Very Wisdom Itself: and
since thou saidst thou couldst not understand why sometimes I call God “Life”
and sometimes the “Fount of Life”: I have thought it necessary, holy man of God,
to solve for thee this question also which hath arisen between us. In the first
place, to repeat again what hath often been said before, there is no
contradiction between calling God “Life” or “Power” and “Fount of Life,
Peace, or Power.”477477Absolute Existence or Life, etc., is in God super-essentially, and
timelessly emanates from Him. It is in Him as a Super-Essence and projected from
Him as an Essence. The former titles are derived from forms of existence, and
especially from the primary forms,478478i. e. The angels, who, being the highest creatures, possess Existence,
Life, Peace, Power, etc., in the greatest degree. and are applied to Him because all
existences come forth from Him; the latter titles are given Him because in a
superessential manner He transcends all things, even the
179primary existences.479479The titles “Absolute Life,” etc., correspond to the Via Affirmativa, and the
titles “Cause of Absolute Life,” etc., to the Via Negativa. “But,” thou wilt say, “what mean we at all by Very
Being and Very Life and those things to which we ascribe an Ultimate Existence
derived primarily from God?” We reply as follows: “This matter is not crooked,
but straightforward, and the explanation thereof is easy. The Very Existence
underlying the existence of all things is not some Divine or Angelic Being (for
only That Which is Super-Essential can be the Principle, the Being and the Cause
of all Existences and of Very Existence Itself)480480The Godhead causes: (1) the particular existent thing, (2) the ultimate
fact of Existence, i. e. Absolute Existence. The Exemplars are in the Godhead
and not in the emanating Absolute Existence. nor is It any life-producing
Deity other than the Supra-Divine Life which is the Cause of all living things
and of Very Life,481481See last note. nor, in short, is It identical with any such
originative and creative Essences and Substances of things as men in their rash
folly call “gods” and “creators” of the world, though neither had these men
themselves any true and proper knowledge of such beings nor had their fathers.
In fact, such beings did not exist.482482Perhaps under the pretence of attacking Paganism D. is really aiming his
shafts against Manicheism or some Gnostic heresy current in his day. Our meaning is different: “Very Being,”
“Very Life,” “Very Godhead” are titles which in an Originating Divine and
Causal sense we apply to the One Transcendent Origin and Cause of all things,
but we also apply the terms in a derivative sense to the Providential
Manifestations of Power derived from the Unparticipated God, i. e. to the
Infusion of Very Being, Very Life, and Very Godhead, which so transmutes the
creatures where each, according to its nature, participates therein, that these
180qualities and names: “Existent,” “Living,” “Divinely Possessed,” etc.483483(1) God possesses and is Absolute Being, Absolute Life, etc.
(2) He pours forth Absolute Being that the creatures may share it and so
exist and be ennobled.
Hence the Good God is called the Fount, first, of the Very Primaries: then, of
those creatures which share completely therein; then, of those which share
partially therein.484484Migne’s text here is corrupt, I have emended it.
(1) The First Things = Absolute Existence, etc.
(2) Those that share completely therein = the angels and perfected human souls.
(3) Those that share partially therein = the lower orders of creation which possess existence without life, or life without consciousness, or consciousness without spirituality (stones, plants, animals). But it needs not to say more concerning this matter, since some of our Divine Teachers have already treated thereof. They give the title “Fount of Very Goodness and Deity” to Him that exceeds both Goodness and Deity; and they give the name of “Very Goodness and Deity” to the Gift which, coming forth from God, bestows both Goodness and Deity upon the creatures; and they give the name of “Very Beauty” to the outpouring of Very Beauty; and in the same manner they speak of “complete Beauty” and “partial Beauty,” and of things completely beautiful and things beautiful in part.485485The beauty of a human being is more complete than that of a horse, and spiritual beauty is more complete than mere physical beauty. And they deal in the same way with all other qualities which are, or can be, similarly employed to signify Providential Manifestations and Virtues derived from the Transcendent God through that abundant outpouring, where such qualities proceed and overflow from Him. So is the Creator of all things literally beyond them all, and His Super-Essential and Supernatural Being altogether transcends the creatures, whatever their essence and nature.
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