He is even beyond the highest names theology has given to Him. He is beyond spirit, He is beyond the good. He is, as he says, super-essential, i. e., beyond the Platonic ideas, beyond essences; super-exalted, i. e. , beyond all superlatives; He is not the highest being but beyond any possible highest being; and He is super-Divinity, i. e., He is beyond God, if we speak of God as a Divine being. Therefore He is “unspeakable Darkness”, In both cases he denies the possibility, by His very nature, that He can be seen , that He can be spoken Therefore all names disappear, after they have been attributed to Him, even the holy name “God.” Perhaps this is the source, unconsciously, for what I say at the end of my “Courage to Be,” about .”the God above God,” namely the God above God which is the real ground of everything that is, which is above any special name we can give, even to a highest being. It is important that the positive and the negative way lead to the same end. In both cases the forms of the world (are) negated. If about God you say everything, you can equally say you don’t say anything about Him, namely, anything special. That is, of course,the first thing which must be said about God, because that is what makes Him God, namely, that which transcends everything finite. In this sense Dionysius says that even the problem of unity and trinity disappears in the abyss of God. Since that which super- essential, beyond the Platonic “ideas,” is also beyond all numbers, it is even beyond the number one – so that there is no difference between three or one or many, in this respect. When you hear that God is “one,” don’t think of numbers; always translate this by the sentence that God is beyond numbers, not only against two and three and four and five, but beyond all numbers. Only on this basis can we then speak of “trinity, ” and of the infinite Self-expression in the world. First of all, “one” means beyond one and two and three and four; it does not mean one against two and three and four – this is a complete misunderstanding.
From this abysmal “one,” which is the source and substance of all being, the light emanates, and the light is the good in all things. The word “light” is a symbol not only for knowing but also fore being. “Hierarchy” for Dionysius is a system of degrees not only for our knowledge but also for being itself. It is the same as the earliest Greek philosopher Parmenides said, that where there is being there is also the Logos of being. This light, which is the power of being and knowing, is identical with itself; it is unshaken, it is everlasting. What the first Greek philosopher Parmenides said, the.1ast, Dionysius, said. In this the East was consistent in its whole development.
There is a way downwards and a way upwards – we have this already in Heraclitus who says that in everything there is a trend from earth over water over fire to air, and an opposite trend from the air to earth, i.e., every living being is a tense reality, in which there is a fundamental tension, a tension of the creative power of being going down, and the saving power of being going up. The three stages of the way upward are purgation, or purification (this is the ethical-ascetic realm); illumination (this is the realm of mystical understanding); and union or perfection (this is the return into the unity with God. In this last stage something takes place which became the foundation of the modern world through Nicholas Cusanos, namely what Dionysius calls the mystical ignorance; what Cusanos called the learned ignorance (docta ignorantia). Of this the two men say that it is the only ultimate true knowledge. And again this word “ignorance” says we don’t know anything special any more when we have penetrated into the Ground of everything that is. And since everything special is changing, it is not ultimate reality and truth.