Images and Theory
Christians accepted figured, material signs for contemplation and worship. This acceptance represents a mode of approach completely separate from the literalist and intellectual conception. The most influential theologian for the defense of symbolic images is Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. Despite the fact that these writings deal with verbal images and the comprehension of divine things through these images, all subsequent discussion of symbolic images, both verbal and visual, relied on his seminal theology. According to Pseudo-Dionysius, symbols offer the primary access to God, as they are condescendences which render God accessible to incarnate intelligences. The angels then take on forms, figures, and schemata that can fall to our senses and be more readily grasped and interpreted. The symbols provided by the celestial intelligences have an educative role for those seeking greater knowledge of God. This process of contemplation is a simultaneous act of resistance to a complacency attached to matter rather than a literal interpretation of the symbol.
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