This concise and fascinating treatise on mysticism stands as probably the finest synthesis of Neoplatonist philosophy and Christian thought, either before or since. It’s generally dated to the sixth century; the queer appellation given to the author is the result of some historical confusion. An early legend attributed the text to the same Dionysus of Acts 17:34 who was baptized by St. Paul in Athens, although much of the writer’s theology is heavily indebted to Plotinus and especially Proclus (d. 485)—thus dating the piece most likely to the sixth century or thereabouts. The author was supposedly a Syrian monk. The most striking aspect of the work is its negative theology, which resides somewhat uncomfortably in the Christian tradition, where attributing predicates to God is the sine qua non of the religion itself. So in the Western Church, negative theology has not always been an easy sell. Although the corpus of Pseudo-Dionysius (who, after all, wrote a litany of the names of God and a commentary on Christian ritual) has seen some influence in the West, the ideas in The Mystical Theology have usually been handed down in a declawed form (as in Aquinas et al.), and probably only Eckhart alone among Latin theologians was bold enough to take it up in its full flowering. In the East it found more fertile ground, where it informed St. Gregory Palamas, the hesychast movement, and many Byzantine monastics. I wonder, though, if The Mystical Theology is compatible with the Anglican spiritual life?—or whether the essential character of Anglicanism is so uncompromisingly Reformed as to insist upon an intransigent doctrinal program that brooks no negative theology whatsoever? Some of Dionysius’ themes overlap with what I’ve learned is called in Protestantism (perhaps pejoratively) “Neo-orthodoxy,” insofar as Dionysius stresses an ineffable and experiential conception of God over a purely rational comprehension. He freely admits that his approach will be lost on “those attached to the objects of human thought,” and that the whole point of contemplation is to “leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and nonbeing, that you may arise by unknowing towards the union, as far as is attainable, with it that transcends all being and all knowledge.” Dionysius was untroubled and sanguine in his approach to doctrine; unlike Kierkegaard, he wasn’t overly concerned with whether doctrinal formulations were rational or not: he accepted them in his stride. His point was that God is “beyond all positive and negative distinctions”—God “possesses all the positive attributes of the universe (being the Universal Cause) yet, in a more strict sense, does not possess them, since God transcends them all; wherefore there is no contradiction between the affirmations and the negations, inasmuch as God infinitely precedes all conceptions of deprivation.” In any event, The Mystical Theology is readable online in a nice format at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and it’s not even that long. Discuss.