By Valentina Izmirlieva
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Extra resources for All the Names of the Lord: Lists, Mysticism, and Magic
1. St. Dionysius the Areopagite, ca. 1200, fresco from the Refectory in the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Patmos. Courtesy of Avery Library, Columbia University. by misrepresenting himself as Dionysius the Areopagite, who was the first Athenian converted by St. 3 Whoever the man behind this pseudonym really was, he could not have chosen a better guise. While effectively concealing from posterity his true identity, the pen name granted his work a near-apostolic authority and placed it at the head of the patristic tradition.
16 This separative power of logos makes it particularly unsuited for handling unity and unitive experiences—a major problem in the Neoplatonic scheme of things, since the premise of the entire cosmological program of Neoplatonism was the hypothesis of the One understood as both an ontological source and an epistemological goal. Neoplatonists worked hard to find a way out of this predicament, trying to subvert the ground rules of language and to make it transcend its own limits. 17 This speculative technique is known as the negative method, or apophasis (“negation”).
For he is, in his essence, absolutely transcendent to creatures and can only reveal himself to them as hidden and mysterious. Characteristically, Dionysius uses the hierarchy trope to thematize this biblical dialectic of revelation and concealment by introducing yet another dialectical pair, that of similar dissimilarities. 9 Proper knowledge of the divine should sort out the similarities from the dissimilarities, affirming the first and negating the second. Both procedures are necessary for theology, albeit in different measure, as they are—in different measure—both adequate and inadequate to the theological goal.