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Dionysius the Areopagite: On the Divine Names and the Mystical Theology.
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CHAPTER VI

ConcerningLife.”

1. Now must we celebrate Eternal Life as that whence cometh very Life and all life,392392The Godhead, though called Eternal Life, is really supra-vital, because life implies differentiations, and the Godhead as such is undifferentiated. This Supra-Vitality passes out through the Differentiated persons of the Trinity into Very Life, whence life is derived to all the creatures. which also endues every kind of living creature with its appropriate meed of Life. Now the Life of the immortal Angels and their immortality, and the very indestructibility of their perpetual motion, exists and is derived from It and for Its sake. Hence they are called Ever-living and Immortal, and yet again are denied to be immortal, because they are not the source of their own immortality and eternal life, but derive it from the creative Cause which produces and maintains all life. And, as, in thinking of the title “Existent,” we said that It is an Eternity of very Being, so do we now say that the Supra-Vital or Divine Life is the Vitalizer and Creator of Life. And all life and vital movement comes from the Life which is beyond all Life and beyond every Principle of all Life. Thence have souls their indestructible quality, and all animals and plants possess their life as a far-off reflection of that Life. When this is taken away, as saith the Scripture, all life fades;393393Ps. civ. 29, 30. and those which have faded, through being unable to participate therein, when they turn to It again revive once more.

2. In the first place It gives to Very Life its vital quality, and to all life and every form thereof It gives the Existence appropriate to each. To the celestial forms of life it gives their immaterial, godlike, and unchangeable immortality and their unswerving and unerring perpetuity of motion; and, in the abundance of its bounty, It overflows even into the life of the devils, for not even diabolic life derives its existence from any other source, but derives from This both its vital nature and its permanence. And, bestowing upon men such angelic life as their composite nature can receive, in an overflowing wealth of love It turns and calls us from our errors to Itself, and (still Diviner act) It hath promised to change our whole being (I mean our souls and the bodies linked therewith) to perfect Life and Immortality, which seemed to the ancients unnatural, but seems to me and thee and to the Truth a Divine and Supernatural thing: Supernatural, I say, as being above the visible order of nature around us, not as being above the Nature of Divine Life. For unto this Life (since it is the Nature of all forms of life,394394i. e. The ultimate Principle. and especially of those which are more Divine) no form of life is unnatural or supernatural. And therefore fond Simon’s captious arguments395395Simon denied the Resurrection of the Body. Vide Irenæus, Origen, Hippolytus, Epiphanius. on this subject must find no entry into the company of God’s servants or into thy blessed soul. For, in spite of his reputed wisdom, he forgot that no one of sound mind should set the superficial order of sense-perception against the Invisible Cause of all things.396396Physical life has behind it Eternal Life, by which it is in the true sense natural for it to be renewed and transformed. We must tell him that if there is aught “against Nature” ‘tis his language. For naught can be contrary to the Ultimate Cause.

3. From this Source all animals and plants receive their life and warmth. And wherever (under the form of intelligence, reason, sensation, nutrition, growth, or any mode whatsoever) you find life or the Principle of life or the Essence of life, there you find that which lives and imparts life from the Life transcending all life, and indivisibly397397Since Eternal Life is undifferentiated, all things have in It a common or identical life, as all plants and animals have a common life in the air they breathe. pre-exists therein as in its Cause. For the Supra-Vital and Primal Life is the Cause of all Life, and produces and fulfils it and individualizes it. And we must draw from all life the attributes we apply to It when we consider how It teems with all living things, and how under manifold forms It is beheld and praised in all Life and lacketh not Life or rather abounds therein, and indeed hath Very Life, and how it produces life in a Supra-Vital manner and is above all life 398398See p. 144, n. i. and therefore is described by whatsoever human terms may express that Life which is ineffable.


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