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Dionysius the Areopagite and "Intellectual"

dionysius areopagite nous intellect noetic

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#1 Daniel Smith

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 07:46 PM

Here is a simple and complex question:

 

In the Writings of the Holy Areopagite, he often refers to the Intellect and the Intelligible. Since he was an Athenian philosopher, I understand he is probably using platonic terminology. However, he also writes how the deity is Super and Supra essential and transcendent to every thought; so by speaking of intelligible and intellect, he cannot also simultaneously mean "understandable."

 

Here is an example taken from the first chapter of the ecclesiastical hierarchy:

 

"even Jesus Himself----the most supremely Divine Mind and superessential, the Source and Essence, and
most supremely Divine Power of every Hierarchy and Sanctification and Divine
operation----illuminates the blessed Beings who are superior to us, in a manner
more clear, and at the same time more intellectual, and assimilates them to His
own Light, as far as possible
;"

 

"Let us affirm, then, that the goodness of the Divine Blessedness is always in
the same condition and manner, unfolding the beneficent rays of its own light
upon all the intellectual visions without grudging."

 

So, my question is, in Dionysius, does his use of intellectual equal noetic? Obviously the intelligibility he is speaking of is not mental understanding, or he would contradict himself. Therefore it must be spiritual understanding, and in context, noetic. Right or wrong?

 



#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 11:55 PM

even Jesus Himself----the most supremely Divine Mind and superessential, the Source and Essence, and most supremely Divine Power of every Hierarchy and Sanctification and Divine operation----illuminates the blessed Beings who are superior to us, in a manner more clear, and at the same time more intellectual, and assimilates them to His own Light, as far as possible;

 

From the Greek text the word for "more intellectual" is "νοερώτερον" which can be translated as: "more noetic".
 

 

Let us affirm, then, that the goodness of the Divine Blessedness is always in the same condition and manner, unfolding the beneficent rays of its own light upon all the intellectual visions without grudging.

 

From the Greek text the words for "intellectual visions" is "νοεράς όψεις" which can be translated as: "noetic views".
 
So, you are right the translated term "intellectual" is used to translate the Greek word "noetic". 
 
The word "noetic" originates from the Greek word "nous". Nous is translated in English as "intellect", but there is another word that is used with the same meaning, that is the word "heart". Nous (or heart) is a power of the soul. So, "Nous" does not have the meaning of intellect, as we use the word intellect today in English language. More on the orthodox meaning of "noetic/nous" in:  http://orthodoxinfo....human-nous.aspx


#3 Daniel Smith

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 06:45 AM

Thanks very much for the response Lakis.

 

I suppose that what I am driving at is whether Dionysius' use of the term nous is the same as the patristic use of nous in the context it has come to us to this day? When I read intellect and intelligible in the english I already automatically just substitute nous and noetic. TO me this seems to fit right in. Would you say that the way Dionysius makes use of nous is the same as the other fathers and modern Orthodox use of nous? I am working from the assumption that the writings are authentic, after a lot of study on the issue.



#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 10:13 AM

There is a debate whether the "Dionysian Corpus" was written by St Dionysius that St Paul mentions, or by an unidentified Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century that is called "Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite". I think that most scholars today accept that the writer is not St Dionysius the Areopagite, first bishop of Athens.

 

http://en.wikipedia...._the_Areopagite



#5 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 11:52 AM

The Fathers make the distinction between intelligible reality and sensible reality, i.e. reality that is known to the mind and reality that is available to the senses.  It is not an absolute distinction, as is the distinction between the created and Uncreated.  As Lakis has pointed out, intellect, intellection, et al have become reductionistic and immanentized concepts in contemporary, Western usage, to the point that we are overrun with a type of person known as an "intellectual." 

 

So the short answer is, yes.  The long version is that what you see in the quote is the essence of Orthodox aesthetics.  The intellect/nous functions in terms of spiritual vision.  It only functions in those who have been illumined.  Orthodoxy is not about thinking about God but seeing God in the things He has made.  It is not really about knowing God in terms of understanding, but knowledge in terms of seeing the Light of Christ. 

 

If you Google John Romanides on nous you will see a good, concise explanation.  Also, Spiritual Counsels by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain explicates the role of intellect and the spiritual senses.  This text by Dionysius, btw, is one of the "proofs" that Protestants would typically use to argue that Christianity prior to the Reformation was paganized, and that Catholic Christians are not Christians at all but Greek pagans.



#6 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 04:35 PM

I am of the view that we ought to just use the word nous, get accustomed to using and helping others to get accustomed to using it and avoid using the corrupted term intellect.



#7 Daniel Smith

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 08:01 PM

You know Lakis, I used to think the same, but there are two external historical facts above all that sent me packing to the historical era:

 

1. Jerome writing to Pope Damasus in 381 a.d. Letter 18:9 gives a description of the angelology of the Celestial Hierarchy without naming the author. He calls him a learned Greek versed in scripture:

 

The
 On
the Celestial Hierarchy 13:2
:

"One of the Greeks, a man particularly
learned in the Scriptures, has explained that the Seraphim are certain powers in
the heavens which, standing before the tribunal of God, praise Him and are sent
on various errands and particularly to those who are in need of cleansing and
(by reason of former sins) in some measure need purification."

 

Now Look at the "Celestial Hierarchy 13:2

 

 "Some, then, affirm that, according to
the definition already given of the mutual relation of all the Minds, the Logion
does not name one of the highest around God, as having come for the cleansing of
the Theologian, but that some one of the Angels, placed over us as a sacred
Minister of the Prophet's cleansing, is called by the same name as the Seraphim,
on the ground that the removal of the faults spoken of, and the restoration of
him who was cleansed for the Divine mission, was through fire; and they say that
the Logion speaks simply of one of the Seraphim, not one of those who are
established around God, but one of the Powers set over us for the purpose of
cleansing."

 

The beauty of this is that this is several decades BEFORE the neoplatonist Proclus, who Dionysius is supposed to have plagiarized. This entirely reverses the order, and can only prove that the plagiarism is reversed!



#8 Lakis Papas

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 09:12 PM

http://www.monachos....the-areopagite/






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