The Goodness of Light and the Light of Good. Symbolism of Light in Ancient Gnoseology and in Eastern Christianity

Seweryn Blandzi

Light and darkness were central motives in the Bible and in the Platonic tradition (Plato, Plotinus, Proclos). First and foremost light was the essential element and the basic principle of existence and cognition in the philosophy of Pseudo-Dionysius Aeropagite. His metaphysics of light contained imagery that inspired builders of French cathedrals and provided Christian thought with rich presuppositions and themes. Th e main purpose of the article is to highlight the Gnostic aspect of the refl ection on light in the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius. Th e author of the Divine names speaks of light in a fi gurative sense and compares its physical properties to the process of transmission of knowledge. He uses the term “light” to describe the actualizing powers of God or God’s sovereignty over the world that he identifi es with goodness. Th is goodness is also described as “supersubstantial light” which as a transcendent Unity permits divine intellects to partake of the supreme knowledge about themselves. Th us light is shown as essential to the transmission of knowledge. It constitutes the process of enlightenment and supports the hierarchical process of transmissionof knowledge. Assuming that this is a correct reading of Pseudo-Dionysius Aeropagite theauthors conclude that contrary to the predominant interpretation his philosophy Pseudo-Dionysius did not describe emanations of beings but transmission of knowledge. Which in turn indicates that he developed his theory as a part of Christian philosophy rather than neoplatonic thought.


Keywords: Platon · Pseudo-Dionysius · gnoseology · metaphysics of light · Christian philosophy

Seweryn Blandzi – editor-in-chief of the  “Archive”. Head of a Research Group for Ancient Philosophy and History of Ontology at IFiS PAN. Chairman of the Polish Society of Systematical  Philosophy, editor of the book series: “Hermeneutics of the problems of philosophy” and “Studies in Systematical Philosophy”. Research interests: history of philosophy (mainly ancient philosophy), history of metaphysics and its transformation into ontology, German philosophy and hermeneutics. He published (inter alia): Platonic Search for Ontology of Ideas. Platonic Project of First Philosophy (Warsaw 2002) (Warsaw 1992), Between Parmenides' aletejology, and Filon's ontotheology (Warsaw 2013).

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