« Prev The Mystical Theology Next »

THE MYSTICAL THEOLOGY

CHAPTER I

Wheat is the Divine Gloom.

Trinty, which exceedeth all Being, Deity, and Goodness!514514Lit. “Super-Essential, Supra-Divine, Super-Excellent.” Thou that instructeth Christians in Thy heavenly wisdom! Guide us to that topmost height of mystic lore515515Lit. “Oracles” i. e. to the most exalted and mystical teaching of Holy Scripture. which exceedeth light and more than exceedeth knowledge, where the simple, absolute, and unchangeable mysteries of heavenly Truth lie hidden in the dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories which exceed all beauty! Such be my prayer; and thee, dear Timothy, I counsel that, in the earnest exercise of mystic contemplation, thou leave the senses and the activities of the intellect and all things that the senses or the intellect can perceive, and all things in this world of nothingness, or in that world of being, and that, thine understanding being laid to rest,516516Gk. ἀγνώστως refers to a transcendent or spiritual Unknowing (as disinguished from mere ignorance). thou strain (so far as thou mayest) towards an union with Him whom neither being nor understanding can contain. For, by the unceasing and absolute renunciation 192of thyself and all things, thou shalt in pureness cast all things aside, and be released from all, and so shalt be led upwards to the Ray of that divine Darkness which exceedeth all existence.517517“The Super-Essential Ray of Divine Darkness.”

These things thou must not disclose to any of the uninitiated, by whom I mean those who cling to the objects of human thought, and imagine there is no super-essential reality beyond; and fancy that they know by human understanding Him that has made Darkness His secret place.518518i. e. Philosophers and unmystical theologians. And, if the Divine Initiation is beyond such men as these, what can be said of others yet more incapable thereof, who describe the Transcendent Cause of all things by qualities drawn from the lowest order of being, while they deny that it is in any way superior to the various ungodly delusions which they fondly invent in ignorance of this truth?519519i. e. Those who accept “popular theology.” The first stage of theistic Religion is anthropomorphic, and God is thought of (like Jehovah) as a magnified man of changing moods. Popular religion seldom rises above this level, and even gifted theologians often sink to it. But it is, D. tells us, the lowest stage. Then comes a metaphysical stage. God is now thought of as a timeless Being and therefore changeless, but the conception of a magnified man has been refined rather than abolished. The ultimate truth about God and our relation to Him is held to be that He is a “Person” and that He has “made” the world. (This attitude is seen at its worst in Unitarian theology. Bradley’s criticisms on Lotze show how this fails on the intellectual side. The Doctrine of the Trinity, by insisting on an unsolved Mystery in God, prevents Orthodox theology from resting permanently in this morass, though it often has one foot there.) And non-Christian thinkers, in opposition to this conception, regard the ultimate Reality as impersonal, which is a worse error still. We must get beyond our partial conceptions of “personality,” “impersonality,” etc. They are useful and necessary up to a point, but the Truth lies beyond them and is to be apprehended to a supernatural manner by what later writers call “infused” contemplation. The sum of the whole matter is that God is incomprehensible. That while it possesses all the positive attributes of the universe (being the universal Cause), yet in a stricter sense It does not possess them, since 193It transcends them all, wherefore there is no contradiction between affirming and denying that It has them inasmuch as It precedes and surpasses all deprivation, being beyond all positive and negative distinctions?520520On Via Affirmativa and Via Negativa, vide Intr., p. 26 f.

Such at least is the teaching of the blessed Bartholomew.521521No writings of St. Bartholomew are extant. Possibly D. s inventing, though not necessarily. For he says that the subject-matter of the Divine Science is vast and yet minute, and that the Gospel combines in itself both width and straitness. Methinks he has shown by these his words how marvellously he has understood that the Good Cause of all things is eloquent yet speaks few words, or rather none; possessing neither speech nor understanding because it exceedeth all things in a super-essential manner, and is revealed in Its naked truth to those alone who pass right through the opposition of fair and foul,522522Vide Intr., p. 21. “Beyond Good and Evil” (though not in Nietzsche’s sense). When evil disappears Good ceases to be an opposition to it, and so Good attains a new condition. and pass beyond the topmost altitudes of the holy ascent and leave behind them all divine enlightenment and voices and heavenly utterances and plunge into the Darkness where truly dwells, as saith the Scripture, that One Which is beyond all things. For not without reason523523In the following passage we get the three stages tabulated by later Mystical Theology: (1) Purgation, (2) Illumination, (3) Union. is the blessed Moses bidden first to undergo purification himself and then to separate himself from those who have not undergone it; and after all purification hears the many-voiced trumpets and sees many lights flash forth with pure and diverse-streaming rays, and then stands separate from the multitudes and with the chosen priests presses forward to the topmost pinnacle of the Divine Ascent. Nevertheless he meets not with God Himself, 194yet he beholds—not Him indeed (for He is invisible)—but the place wherein He dwells. And this I take to signify that the divinest and the highest of the things perceived by the eyes of the body or the mind are but the symbolic language of things subordinate to Him who Himself transcendeth them all. Through these things His incomprehensible presence is shown walking upon those heights of His holy places which are perceived by the mind; and then It breaks forth, even from the things that are beheld and from those that behold them, and plunges the true initiate unto the Darkness of Unknowing wherein he renounces all the apprehensions of his understanding and is enwrapped in that which is wholly intangible and invisible, belonging wholly to Him that is beyond all things and to none else (whether himself or another), and being through the passive stillness of all his reasoning powers united by his highest faculty to Him that is wholly Unknowable, of whom thus by a rejection of all knowledge he possesses a knowledge that exceeds his understanding.

CHAPTER II

How it is necessary to be united with and render praise to Him Who is the cause of all and above all.

Unto this Darkness which is beyond Light we pray that we may come, and may attain unto vision through the loss of sight and knowledge, and that in ceasing thus to see or to know we may learn to know that which is beyond all perception and understanding (for this emptying of our faculties is true sight and knowledge),524524See Intr., p. 27, on the ecstasy. D.‘s terminology is always exact though exuberant—or rather exuberant because exact. And, since if the mind, in thinking of any particular thing, gives itself to that thing and so belongs to it, in utterly ceasing to belong to itself it ceases to have any self-consciousness and possesses a God-consciousness instead. This would be a mere merging of the personality, but that the Godhead, according to D., is of such a paradoxical nature as to contain all the creatures fused and yet distinct (Intr , p. 28) so the self is merged on one side of its being and distinct on the other. If I lose myself in God, still it will always be “I” that shall lose myself There. and that we may offer Him that transcends 195all things the praises of a transcendent hymnody, which we shall do by denying or removing all things that are—like as men who, carving a statue out of marble, remove all the impediments that hinder the clear perceptive of the latent image and by this mere removal display the hidden statue itself in its hidden beauty.525525This simile shows that the Via Negativa is, in the truest sense, positive. Our “matter-moulded forms” of thought are the really negative things. (Cf. Bergson.) A sculptor would not accept a block of ice in place of a block of marble (for ice will not carve into a statue); and yet the block of marble is not, as such, a statue. So, too, the Christian will not accept an impersonal God instead of a personal God (for an impersonal Being cannot be loved), and yet a “personal” God is not, as such, the Object of the Mystical quest. The conception of Personality enshrines, but is not, the Ultimate Reality. If D. were open to the charge of pure negativity so often brought against him, he would have wanted to destroy his block of marble instead of carving it.; Now we must wholly distinguish this negative method from that of positive statements. For when we were making positive statements526526Namely, in the Divine Names and in the Outlines; see Chap. III. we began with the most universal statements, and then through intermediate terms we came at last to particular titles,527527In the Divine Names D. begins with the notion of Goodness (which he holds to be possessed by all things) and proceeds thence to Existence (which is not possessed by things that are either destroyed or yet unmade), and thence to Wisdom (which is not possessed either by unconscious or irrational forms of Life), and thence to qualities (such as Righteousness, Salvation, Omnipotence) or combinations of opposite qualities (such as Greatness and Smallness) which are not, ‘in the full sense, applicable to any creature as such. Thus by adding quality to quality (“Existence” to “Goodness,” “Life” to “Existence,” “Wisdom” to “Life,” “Salvation,” etc., to “Wisdom”) he reaches the conception of God. But he constantly reminds us in the Divine Names that these qualities apply adequately only to the manifested Godhead which, in Its ultimate Nature, transcends them. but now ascending upwards from 196particular to universal conceptions we strip off all qualities528528The process from the universal to the particular is the process of actual development (existence before life, and life before rationality, etc.); the converse is the natural process of thought, which seeks to refer things to their universal laws of species, etc. (Divine Names, V. 3). But this latter process is not in itself the Via Negativa, but only the ground plan of it, differing from it as a ground plan of a mountain path differs from a journey up the actual path itself. The process of developing life complicates, but enriches, the world; that of thought simplifies, but eviscerates it. Contemplation, being an act of the human spirit, is a process of developing life, and yet follows the direction of thought. Hence it enriches and simplifies at the same time. in order that we may attain a naked knowledge of that Unknowing which in all existent things is enwrapped by all objects of knowledge,529529Cf. p. 194, n. 1. and that we may begin to see that super-essential Darkness which is hidden by all the light that is in existent things.

CHAPTER III

What are the affirmative expressions respecting God, and what are the negative.

Now I have in my Outlines of Divinity set forth those conceptions which are most proper to the affirmative method, and have shown in what sense God’s holy nature is called single and in what sense trinal, what is the nature of the Fatherhood and Sonship which we attribute unto It; what is meant by the articles of faith concerning the Spirit; how from the immaterial and indivisible Good the interior rays of Its goodness have their being and remain immovably in that state of rest which both within their Origin and within themselves is co-eternal with the act by which they spring from It;530530The Good = (1) the Undifferentiated Godhead, and hence, in Manifestion, (2) God the Father as the Fount of Godhead to the other Persons. The Rays = God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, who, as manifested Differentiations, eternally proceed from the Father.    The separate being of the Three Persons exists on the plane of Manifestation (cf. St. Augustine, who says: “They exist secundum relativum and not secundum essentiam“). [Augustine sacs non secundum substantiam. The translator quotes it correctly in his introduction, p. 10.—Ed.] But this plane is eternal. They wholly interpenetrate, and the state of rest is co-eternal with the Act of Their Procession, because They possess eternal repose and eternal motion. in what manner 197Jesus being above all essence531531This is a case of communicatio idiomatum (cf. the title “Mother of God” applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary). The Godhead of our Lord is Super-Essential, not His Manhood. has stooped to an essential state in which all the truths of human nature meet; and all the other revelations of Scripture whereof my Outlines of Divinity treat. And in the book of the Divine Names I have considered the meaning as concerning God of the titles Good, Existent, Life, Wisdom, Power and of the other titles which the understanding frames, and in my Symbolic Divinity I have considered what are the metaphorical titles drawn from the world of sense and applied to the nature of God; what are the mental or material images we form of God or the functions and instruments of activity we attribute to Him; what are the places where He dwells and the robes He is adorned with; what is meant by God’s anger, grief, and indignation, or the divine inebriation and wrath; what is meant by God’s oath and His malediction, by His slumber and awaking, and all the other inspired imagery of allegoric symbolism. And I doubt not that you have also observed how far more copious are the last terms than the first for the doctrines of God’s Nature and the exposition of His Names could not but be briefer than the Symbolic Divinity.532532The Symbolical Divinity was an attempt to spiritualize “popular” theology, the Divine Names sought to spiritualize philosophical theology, the present treatise is a direct essay to Spiritual Theology. For 198the more that we soar upwards the more our language becomes restricted to the compass of purely intellectual conceptions, even as in the present instance plunging into the Darkness which is above the intellect we shall find ourselves reduced not merely to brevity of speech but even to absolute dumbness both of speech and thought. Now in the former treatises the course of the argument, as it came down from the highest to the lowest categories, embraced an ever-widening number of conceptions which increased at each stage of the descent, but in the present treatise it mounts upwards from below towards the category of transcendence, and in proportion to its ascent it contracts its terminology, and when the whole ascent is passed it will be totally dumb, being at last wholly united with Him Whom words cannot describe.533533At the last stage but one the mind beholds an Object to which all terms of thought are inadequate. Then, at the last stage, even the distinction between Subject and Object disappears, and the mind itself is That Which it contemplates. Thought itself is transcended, and the whole Object-realm vanishes. One Subject now knows itself as the part and knows itself as the Whole. But why is it, you will ask, that after beginning from the highest category when one method was affirmative we begin from the lowest category where it is negative?534534In the Divine Names the order of procedure was: Goodness, Existence, Life, etc. Now it passes from sense-perception to thought. Because, when affirming, the existence of that which transcends all affirmation, we were obliged to start from that which is most akin to It, and then to make the affirmation on which the rest depended; but when pursuing the negative method, to reach that which is beyond all negation, we must start by applying our negations to those qualities which differ most from the ultimate goal. Surely it is truer to affirm that God is life and goodness than that He is air or stone, and truer to deny that drunkenness or fury can be attributed to Him 199than to deny that the may apply to Him the categories of human thought.535535This shows that the Via Negativa is not purely negative.

CHAPTER IV

That He Who is the Pre-eminent Cause of everything sensibly perceived is not Himself any one of the things sensibly perceived.

We therefore maintain536536Being about to explain, in these two last chapters, that no material or mental qualities are present in the Godhead, D. safeguards the position against pure negativity by explaining that they are not absent either. The rest of this chapter deals with the qualities (1) of inanimate matter; (2 ) of material life. that the universal Cause transcending all things is neither impersonal nor lifeless, nor irrational nor without understanding: in short, that It is not a material body, and therefore does not possess outward shape or intelligible form, or quality, or quantity, or solid weight; nor has It any local existence which can be perceived by sight or touch; nor has It the power of perceiving or being perceived; nor does It suffer any vexation or disorder through the disturbance of earthly passions, or any feebleness through the tyranny of material chances, or any want of light; nor any change, or decay, or division, or deprivation, or ebb and flow, or anything else which the senses can perceive. None of these things can be either identified with it or attributed unto It.

200

CHAPTER V

That He Who is the Pre-eminent Cause of everything intelligibly perceived is not Himself any one of the things intelligibly perceived.

Once more, ascending yet higher we maintain537537It is not (1) a Thinking Subject; nor (2) an Act or Faculty of Thought; nor (3) an Object of Thought. that It is not soul, or mind, or endowed with the faculty of imagination, conjecture, reason, or understanding; nor is It any act of reason or understanding; nor can It be described by the reason or perceived by the understanding, since It is not number, or order, or greatness, or littleness, or equality, or inequality, and since It is not immovable nor in motion, or at rest, and has no power, and is not power or light, and does not live, and is not life; nor is It personal essence, or eternity, or time; nor can It be grasped by the understanding since It is not knowledge or truth; nor is It kingship or wisdom; nor is It one, nor is It unity, nor is It Godhead538538Divine Names, II. 7. Godhead is regarded as the property of Deified men, and so belongs to relativity. or Goodness; nor is It a Spirit, as we understand the term, since It is not Sonship or Fatherhood; nor is It any other thing such as we or any other being can have knowledge of; nor does It belong to the category of non-existence or to that of existence; nor do existent beings know It as it actually is, nor does It know them as they actually are;539539It knows only Itself, and there knows all things in their Super-Essence—sub specie aeternitatis. nor can the reason attain to It to name It or to know It; nor is it darkness, nor is It light, or error, or truth;540540Truth is an Object of Thought. Therefore, being beyond objectivity, the ultimate Reality is not Truth. But still less is It Error. 201nor can any affirmation or negation541541Cf. p. 199, n. 2. apply to it; for while applying affirmations or negations to those orders of being that come next to It, we apply not unto It either affirmation or negation, inasmuch as It transcends all affirmation by being the perfect and unique Cause of all things, and transcends all negation by the pre-eminence of Its simple and absolute nature-free from every limitation and beyond them all.542542It is (1) richer than all concrete forms of positive existence; (2) more simple than the barest abstraction. (Cf. p. 196, n. i.)


« Prev The Mystical Theology Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |