Edith Stein

“Hierarchy is not only an order of being but also an order of knowing.” – Edith Stein

Here is the pivot in Knowledge and Faith that caught me by surprise, but delightfully so. I first thought that the book’s sections were more or less a random collection of sundry topics. I now see the book is written “step by step” (one of Stein’s favorite metaphors) leading to an end. The pivot herein is from natural philosophy to mystical theology. The fireworks are in the last statement below. “Hierarchy is also an order of knowing.” Thus, egalitarian leveling not only closes the gate to true spirituality but to knowledge itself. Hierarchy is essential to the divine order of things.

This is what inspired my new term Platonic Mysticism as the line between natural philosophy and supernatural revelation. The saints are drawn to Heaven only to incline back to those of us below, in order to raise us back up with them. Thus we are both Platonic and Dionysian in the divine order of things.

A thread runs through all of Dionysius’s writings that have come down to us. In the prologue of his commentary on Dionysius, Albert the Great summed it up in a quotation from Ecclesiastes: Ad locum unde exeunt flumina revertuntur ut iterum fluant [the streams return to the place whence they have issued to again flow forth].Iterum fluere [flowing forth again] after reuniting implies not a separation but an inclining to what lies below in order to raise it up.

Like the law of issue and return of which it forms part, hierarchy is not only an order of being but also an order of knowing.”

~ Stein, Edith. Knowledge and Faith (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 8) . ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

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