Writings of Pseudo-Dionysius/Denys

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DCHindley
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Writings of Pseudo-Dionysius/Denys

Post by DCHindley » Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:03 pm

Have been downloading and reading the four books and a series of letters associated with this figure, Dionysius the Areopagite who Acts says was converted by Paul.

The backstory makes the head spin! The commentary of the English translators adds somersaults!!

John Parker (18971), one of the 1st to translate most of these books/letters into English, felt they were *obviously* genuine, authentic to Paul's time, really real, and as god-breathed as the words of any "apostolic" writer could have been.

C E Rolt (19202), on the other hand, pegs D is a late 4th-5th century CE fictional writer, propagating a neo-Platonic themed cosmos reflected in Divine Order, Theology, Heavenly & Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, are all described using Plotinus' cosmology/theory of emanations as a model. These were written in Greek, although they were later translated into Latin, Syriac and Arabic. Rolt's posthumous editor, W. J. Sparrow-Simpson (the UK elite did have colorful names in them thar days), could not resist the urge to add his own psychological analysis of the mystic processes described.

Then there is the Book of the Holy Hierotheos, which is written in Syriac and sometimes associated with the same mss that contain the Dionysian writings. There is no trace of any non Syriac underlying document, though. Hierotheos was Dionysius' mentor (next to Paul, in the Dionysaic works), and in the Dionysian treatises is likely a pseudonym for Plotinus.

However, the Syriac Book of the Holy Hierotheos appears to have been composed by an Origenist Syrian orthodox monk who had a very vivid way of conducting his disciples through a process of deep mental dissolution, reflection and rebuilding. The closest modern analogue would be New Age mystics using shamanistic practices and Peyote to gain insight into their souls. This was the author who Dan Merkur had suggested used some sort of psychotropic substance to achieve the desired affects. The use of spiritual guides also reminds me of Masonic/Rosicrucian mystery rites. The pseudonymous author likely lived in the 6th century, IIRC.

A L Frothingham Jr (18863) gave a summary account of the contents of this book with his analysis of whether it was written by the Syrian heterodox monk Stephen Bar Sudhaile or someone else, if the name was not a pseudonym for Plotinus, but never was able to publish a critical text. He believed Stehen Bar S. was the known figure of those times that best fits the content of this book, and he's probably right. Later, F M Marsh (19274), made up for the lack.

I hope I have done justice to the actual contents of these works. Please, correct me where I am floundering <ub blub> as I do want to summarize this stuff in order to see if the Book of the Holy Hierotheos could be the the model used by the author of the Letter of Clement of Alexandria to Theodore, which contains "Secret Mark."

DCH

1) The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr by John Parker (Pt 1, 1897, Div Names, Mystic Theol, Letters; Pt 2 1899 Heavenly Hierarchy, Eccl Hierarchy)
2) Dionysius the Areopagite on the Divine Names and the Mystical Theology (tr by C E Rolt, 1920)
3) Frothingham, A L Jr, Stephen Bar Sudaili the Syrian Mystic & The Book of Hierotheos (1886)
4) The Book Which is Called the Book of the Holy Hierotheos (ed F M Marsh, 1927)

The online scans of these books vary considerably in quality. Two were just image files which I had to OCR using ABBY FineReader (well, one of these two was actually available in a OCR version that added blank pages for every scanned page, doubling the size and adding a lot of clutter). Anyhow, I have all of these available in OCRd format (the Greek and Syriac is all gibberish, as usual), which I could make available if anyone is interested.

EDIT: If whoever wrote the Letter to Theodore did use the Dionysian Corpus to get his model, he was not the only one to do so. Fans of the 1954 B&W movie Doctor Strangelove movie will remember US Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden). He had become unhinged, having rigged things so that his B52 bomber group would start a Nuclear War, and kept babbling about his Essence. His subordinate, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), hilariously attempts to decode his commander's obsessive babble to figure out the code that would recall the B52 bomber group. He figured out the code: POE, from Purity of Essence. This is the subject matter and vocabulary of the Dionysian books (in English translation). funny :lol:

andrewcriddle
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Re: Writings of Pseudo-Dionysius/Denys

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:51 pm

The proof that Dionysius is actually pseudo-Dionysius was published independently in 1895 by H Koch and J Stiglmayr (Part of the Divine Names paraphrases Proclus' work on the nature of evil. )

Andrew Criddle

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DCHindley
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Re: Writings of Pseudo-Dionysius/Denys

Post by DCHindley » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:44 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:51 pm
The proof that Dionysius is actually pseudo-Dionysius was published independently in 1895 by H Koch and J Stiglmayr (Part of the Divine Names paraphrases Proclus' work on the nature of evil. )

Andrew Criddle
The thing about the translator Parker was his way of acknowledging that there *are* parallels, but asks whether it was not Proclus who learned from a real 1st century Dionysius:
But the crowning proof that Dionysius was the source from which the Alexandrine School drew much of its wisdom, is Proclus (450—485). Suidas affirmed long ago that Proclus cribbed whole passages from Dionysius. Professor Stiglmayr fills seven pages with parallel passages.

Vacherot describes certain chapters of the Divine Names " as extracts from Proclus, word for word, and says the whole doctrine of Dionysius seems to be a commentary upon the Theology of Alexandria. Barthelemy St. Hilaire says that Dionysius and Scotus Erigena, almost entirely implanted, in the middle age, the doctrine of Neo-Platonism. Matter is more profound; Professor Langen finds in Dionysius the "characteristics of Neo-Platonic speculation." The similarity of doctrine is denied by none. Which writings appeared first ? that is the question.
The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite (Pt 2, 1899, page xvii)
Of course ... hope never fails

Rolt, published posthumously in 1920, on the other hand, gave a more balanced picture:
The Dionysian Documents have been critically investigated by Hipler. His work was followed by J. Dräseke in an Essay entitled “ Dionysiaca,” in the Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1887, pp. 300 -333. Also by Nirsch). and by Styglmayr. in the Historische fahrbuch, 1895. Criticism on the authorship has been continued by Hugo Koch, “Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita,” in the Forschungen zur Christlichen Litteratur-nnd Dogmengeschichte, 1900. Ed. by Ehrhard and Kirsch. Hugo Koch’s work is one of the best on the subject.

Colet, J. (Dean), Two Treatises on The Hierarchies of Dionysius, with introduction and translation, by J. H. Lupton (London, 1869).

Fowler, J., The Works of Dionysius, especially in Reference to Christian Art (London, 1872). J. Parker, English Translation (Oxford, 1897).

Sharpe, A. B., Mysticism: Its True Nature and Value (London, 1910). Contains a translation of the Mystical Theology and of the letters to Caius and Dorotheus.

Inge, W. R., Christian Mysticism (London, 1899), pp. 104-122.

Jones, Rufus M., Studies in Mystical Religion (London, 1909), Chap. IV.

Gardner, Edmund G., Dante and the Mystics (London, 1913), Chap. HI. (Dionysius the Areopagite on the Divine Names and the Mystical Theology, p 48)
DCH

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