Dionysius is the author of three long treatises (The Divine Names, The Celestial Hierarchy, and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy), one short treatise (The Mystical Theology) and ten letters expounding various aspects of Christian Philosophy from a mystical and Neoplatonic perspective. Presenting himself as Dionysius the Areopagite, the disciple of Paul mentioned in Acts 17:34, his writings had the status of apostolic authority until the 19th century when studies had shown the writings denoted a marked influence from the Athenian Neoplatonic school of Proclus and thus were probably written ca. 500. Although the attribution of authorship has proven to be a falsification, the unknown author (hereafter referred to as Ps-Dionysius) has not lost his credibility as an articulate Athenian Neoplatonist expressing an authentic Christian mystical tradition. Indeed with eloquent poetic language and strong exposition of ideas, the Dionysian corpus ranks among the classics of western spirituality.
"... Then Moses abandons the seen things themselves and also those who see [them], and enters into the truly mystical darkness of unknowing. There, belonging entirely to what is above all and to nothing [else], whether himself or another, he shuts out all cognitive apprehensions and emerges in the altogether intangible and invisible. By the inactivity of all knowledge, he is united in his better part with the entirely unknown. And by knowing nothing, he knows superintellectually."
"... the truly mystical darkness of unknowing," that's what Theologia Mystica is all about. Dionysius calls it Agnosia.
Before we enter into these beautiful sutras of Dionysius, a few things have to be understood...
These sutras were
written as letters to one of his disciples, Timothy.
All that is really great, all that is really of the ultimate, of the transcendental, can only be communicated to disciples. It has to be addressed to those who love you, to those who have a deep attunement with your heart. It cannot be addressed to the mass, to the crowd, to the indifferent, to the antagonistic. Great truths are communed only when there is love. It is possible only between a Master and a disciple that a truth can be transferred.
The disciple means one who is open to receive. The disciple means one who trusts so totally that there is no question of arguing, because these profound mysteries cannot be argued about. Either you know or you don't know - you cannot argue. There are no proofs for them, except your trust in the Master. Of course, if you trust the Master, the Master can take you to the window from where you can see the vast sky with all its splendor... millions of stars. But you will have to trust him at least this much: to allow him to hold your hand, to allow him to take you to the window. If you start arguing about the window and its existence, there is no way to convince you.
There are no proofs for God; there have never been, there will never be. Those who have known have known; only because of deep intimacy, because of a love affair with the Master. It is not a question of convincing somebody, it is not conversion to a certain ideology; it is simply a mad love affair. You come across a man like Dionysius and the very presence of the man is enough: the very presence becomes a proof that there are many more things in life than you have ever dreamt of. The presence of the man penetrates your very heart. The presence of the man transpires something in you, triggers something in you of which you were never aware before. You start hearing a song, you start seeing a beauty, you start feeling a new mood of elation, ecstasy - for no visible reason. Then it becomes possible to surrender your ego to such a person.
When you surrender your ego to the Master, the Master is only an excuse. You are really surrendering to God, not to the Master. In fact you are simply surrendering. It is not of any importance to whom: the question is not to whom, the question is that you are surrendering the ego. The moment the ego is surrendered there is a possibility of communion.
The second thing to remember is: Christianity, in
becoming the religion about Jesus, missed something of
tremendous importance. Because it tried to become the
religion about Jesus it could not become the religion of
Jesus. And a religion about Jesus is not a religion of
Jesus. In fact, the religion about Jesus is against the
religion of Jesus, because when a religion becomes about
a person you lose contact with his inner reality; you
become concerned with his outer expressions.
Christianity became too much concerned about following Jesus as an example. Now, that is getting into a wrong direction. Nobody can follow Jesus as an example, his life cannot be an example to anybody else, because a certain life exists in a certain context. To be exactly like Jesus you will need the whole situation, the whole context in which Jesus existed. Where can you find the same context again? Life goes on changing; it is never the same even for two consecutive moments. You cannot be Jesus of Nazareth, impossible; there is no Nazareth anymore. You cannot be Jesus because that Jewish mind which crucified Jesus exists no more.
Amongst my sannyasins there are thousands of Jews. Jesus could not have believed his eyes if he had seen this! He was a Jew - he was born a Jew, he spoke the language of the Jews, he believed in all the fundamentals of the Judaic religion - still he could not find many followers. I am not a Jew - I don't speak the language of the Jews, I don't believe in the Judaic fundamentals - still I have been able to find thousands of Jews. The context has changed; it is a totally different world. Twenty centuries have passed.
Also, whenever you start trying to follow a certain person as an example you become imitative, you become false, you lose authenticity, you are no more yourself. And to make the point very emphatic, Christianity has insisted for two thousand years on a very absurd thing. The absurdity is that on the one hand Christianity says, "Follow Jesus, imitate Jesus! Let Jesus be your example!" and on the other hand the same Christianity goes on telling you that "Jesus is God, God's only begotten Son, and you cannot be related to God in the same way." Can you see the absurdity? On the one hand you say, "Follow Jesus, be like Jesus!" and on the other hand you make it absolutely impossible for yourself to be like Jesus, because Jesus has a special relationship with God and you cannot have that relationship; that is not possible.
Hence Christianity has created an impossible religion on the earth, telling people such nonsense. Such an absurd approach is bound to create guilt. People try to follow Jesus, but they cannot be Jesus-like; hence guilt arises, they feel guilty. No other religion has created so much guilt on the earth as Christianity. Christianity has proved the greatest calamity for the simple reason that religion is not supposed to create guilt. If religion creates guilt then it makes you depressed, then it makes you frustrated with yourself, then it creates a subtle suicidal instinct in you.
A true religion elates you, enhances, enriches your being, makes your life more festive, creates more possibilities for you to celebrate and rejoice. And Jesus goes on saying to his disciples, "Rejoice! Rejoice! I say unto you rejoice!" And what has Christianity done? It has done just the opposite. Dionysius was aware of this fact.
The third thing: the experience of truth is like music -
yes, more like music than like anything else, because
you cannot describe music to anybody else. You can say
it was beautiful, but that is an evaluation, your
judgment. You are not describing music, you are
describing your mood that happened through the music.
There is no way to describe the beauty of music.
The same is true about religious experience. That's why authentic religion is always mystic. By "mystic" I mean something that can be felt, experienced, but can never be described. Even though you know it, you are incapable of making it known to others; you are almost dumb. The more you know, the more dumb you are. When you have known it absolutely you become almost an absolutely ignorant man.
Dionysius has a special word for it; he calls it
Agnosia. You must have heard the word "agnostic";
Bertrand Russell used the word for himself. The atheist
says there is no God, but he says it as if he knows -
that "as if" is always there - as if he has explored the
whole reality and has come to know that there is no God.
In declaring there is no God he is declaring his
knowledge. He is a gnostic: he knows. Gnosis means
knowledge. The theist says there is a God - as if he
knows, as if he has attained, arrived. He is also a
gnostic; he has gnosis, knowledge.
An agnostic means one who says, "I don't know, neither this way nor that. I don't know whether God is or God is not. I am utterly ignorant. " Hence Bertrand Russell says, "I am agnostic." He must have discovered the word in Dionysius: Agnosia. But Dionysius' use of the word is far more potential, far more pregnant than Bertrand Russell's; Bertrand Russell's cannot be more than a logical statement. He is a logician, a mathematician; he has never meditated, he has never gone within himself. He says he is an agnostic, but he has never tried to go beyond it, as if agnosticism is the ultimate and there is nothing more to do about it.
My feeling is that he is not a true agnostic. The atheist says, "I know there is no God," the theist says, "I know that there is a God," and the Bertrand Russellian agnosticism says, "I know there is no way of knowing" - but that knowledge, that tacit knowledge is there.
Dionysius says that one can know God only when one comes to the moment when one knows nothing: the state of not-knowing is the opening of the door. By Agnosia he means exactly the same as the Upanishads mean.
One of the most famous Upanishads, the Kenopanishad, says:
Or it reminds one of the Zen Master Yung-chia. In his Song Of Enlightenment he says:
Or it reminds one of the great Socratic statement:
Agnosia means the state of not-knowing. That's what
Samadhi is, that's what meditation is all about: the
state of not-knowing.
Meditation creates that state, Agnosia. When meditation has helped you to burn all your knowledge, to unburden you of mountainous loads of conditioning; when it has left you utterly silent, like a small child full of wonder and awe, that state is called in India Samadhi. Samadhi means all is solved: there is no longer any question and there is no longer any answer; one is utterly silent. There is no longer any belief and no longer any doubt. Dionysius calls it Agnosia. It is through Agnosia that one comes to know.
This is the ultimate paradox of mysticism: that by not-knowing one comes to know it and by knowing one misses it. Not-knowing is far higher than all knowledge. The universities give you knowledge, but when you enter into the Buddhafield of a Master you are entering into an anti-university. In the university you learn more and more knowledge, information; you accumulate. In the anti-university of a Master you unlearn more and more... a moment comes when you know nothing.
It is a very strange moment, hence it has been described by Dionysius with tremendous beauty: he calls it "translucent darkness." Many mystics have called it different names, but Dionysius seems to surpass them all. Translucent darkness... darkness which is pure light. He also calls it "Docta Ignorantia", the doctrine of ignorance. He also calls it "knowing ignorance." You can compare it with the knowledge of the knowledgeable people. The knowledgeable people are called by Dionysius people who have "ignorant knowledge." So he divides people in two categories: those who belong to the world of ignorant knowledge - they know much, knowing nothing - and the second category, the people who belong to the world of knowing ignorance - they know nothing, hence they know all.