Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500)

  • Knowing and experiencing God

    The unknown author of a number of treatises and letters probably lived as a Syrian monk at the turn of the 5th to the 6th century. His theology, which was marked by neo-platonism, had a profound influence on medieval mysticism.

    How can one get close to God despite his fundamental unreachability? How can one try to comprehend him despite his essential unknowability?

    For Dionysius this is neither possible through a positive discourse about God - God is like this, like that - nor through a negative discourse about God - God is not this or that.

    Nevertheless, the approach via negation is the correct path. It leads to an experience which in the end transcends human reason and cognition. As a non-communicable union with the divine, it is not only a process of knowing but of experiencing God. Where every rational thinking activity regarding the undefinability of God has ceased, there lies a higher form of knowledge: the recognition of the perfect ignorance of God.