Tri-Kinesis: The Three Movement Theological Anthropology of Dionysius the Areopagite


Theological anthropology has often revolved around questions of parts, like how many (e.g.: monism, dichotomism, trichotomism) and which (e.g.: soul, body, spirit). While these questions are essential, they tend to evince a metaphysical prioritization of space over time. However, as creaturely beings, we know no such thing as space without time, substance sans event. This reality, I argue, is apt for theological anthropology, and invites an approach to the problem of human persons by way of space and time. I therefore propose the category of movement—along with the classical categories of soul, body, and spirit—as germane to the work of defining humans’ basic composition. Dionysius the Areopagite enumerates three soul-movements which I will demonstrate as aptly organizing the human person’s event, so to speak: inner, lateral, and vertical. According to Dionysius, these soul-movements are caused by the Good and Beautiful, “the source, the origin, the preserver, the goal, and the objective of rest and motion,” (705B) and are akin to that of divine intelligences, which are like that of God. In this way, the soul-movements are part and parcel of the imago Dei. Locating human identity not only in her parts but also in these movements—which are spheres of relation—we rightly elevate the telos of the imago Dei to its proper place: not only in her likeness with God but by way of and for the sake of communion with God.


Noah Karger
Student, PhD, University of Notre Dame, Illinois, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement


Mystical theology, Theological anthropology, Dionysius, Soul

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