The Notion of the Unhappy Conscience and Mystical Theology of Dionysius Areopagita

Ota Gál

The study analyzes the final two chapters of Pseudo-Dionysius’ treatise The Mystical Theology in the context of his overall theological concept. It is shown that he uses sophisticated strategies of negation which refer to the supremely perfect uniqueness of God and function as a stepping stone for the mystic’s soul. Eight basic strategies of applying negation are set up - 1/ a simple removal, 2/ a hierarchic negation, 3/ the negation of a pair of contraries, 4/ a negation of the influence of relative dispositions, 5/ the transition from negating an external relation to an attribute to negating substantial identity with it, 6/ the positing of a transcendence without absence, 7/ the negating of all strategies of negating, 8/ the positing of predicates implying excess against the background of the previous negations - and three combinations of them: I/ the negation of a pair of contrary predicates as well as of their source, II/ the negation of a pair of contrary predicates, their source and its own contrary, and III/ the negation of a pair of contrary predicates without absence. The latter part of the study summarizes Hegel’s analysis of the figure of unhappy consciousness in his Phenomenology of Spirit with special regard to the problem of intersubjectivity, and concludes that Hegel neglects to sufficiently consider previous authors such as Pseudo-Dionysius. In fact, the formal structure of intersubjectivity is effectively present in the analysis of The mystical theology, which disproves Hegel’s own contentions.