Dionysius the Areopagite exercised immense influence on medieval theology. This study considers various ways in which his doctrine of union with God in darkness marked the early Albert the Great and his student Thomas Aquinas. The Mystery of Union with God considers a broad range of themes in the early Albert's corpus and in Thomas that underlie their mystical theologies and may bear traces of Dionysian influence. These themes include the divine missions, anthropology, the virtues of faith and charity, primary and secondary causality, divine naming, and eschatology. The heart of this work offers detailed exegesis of key union passages in Albert's commentaries on Dionysius, Thomas's Commentary on the Divine Names, and the Summa Theologiae questions on Spirit's gifts of understanding and wisdom. The Mystery of Union with God offers the most extensive, systematic analysis to date of how Albert and Thomas interpreted and transformed the Dionysian Moses "who knows God by unknowing." It shows Albert's and Thomas's philosophical and theological motives to place limits on Dionysian apophatism and to reintegrate mediated knowledge into mystical knowing. The author surfaces many similarities in the two Dominicans' mystical doctrines and exegesis of Dionysius. This work prepares the way for a new consideration of Albert the Great as the father of Rhineland Mysticism. The original presentation of Aquinas's theology of the Spirit's seven gifts breaks new ground in theological scholarship. Finally, the entire book lays out a model for the study of mystical theology from a historical, philosophical and doctrinal perspective.
"[Blankenhorn] offers a highly detailed study of how two of the greatest Western theologians of the High Middle Ages, St. Albert the Great and his pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas… appropriated and adapted Dionysian themes in their own accounts of how human beings can enter into union with God in this life.... Ample in scope, richly documented, and equipped with an excellent bibliography and indexes, Blankenhorn's erudite study presupposes a high level of background knowledge in the history of theology and so is most suitable for professional theologians and advanced students of the subject. It will be a worthwhile addition to any academic library that supports an advanced program in theology."~Thomas M. Dousa, Catholic Library World
"For students of Thomas, Albert, or medieval mysticism in general, The Mystery of Union with God is quite simply imperative… In short, Blankenhorn's treatment of mystical union in Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas remains very nearly masterly, not to mention materially unparalleled. Should his efforts here herald what he will teach us in the years to come, we have much to anticipate from Fr. Blankenhorn."~Justin Coyle, Boston College, Nova et vetera
"Blankenhorn has produced an impressive and illuminating study of the mystical theologies of Albert the Great and of his most well-known disciple, Thomas Aquinas…. With an impressive command of his medieval Latin sources, B. provides the most extensive study to date of Albert and Thomas... this outstanding study contributes much to our understanding of the medieval Dominican tradition of mystical theology and will bear rich fruit for years to come."~Franklin T. Harkins, Boston College, Theological Studies