Continued from Cont.7.

NOTE: Brackets [-], {-}, bold and red print are mine. Dwayne

The Celestial Hierarchy:

Dionysius the Areopagite



To my fellow-presbyter Timothy, Dionysius the Presbyter.

That every divine illumination, while going forth with love in

various ways to the objects of its forethought, remains one. Nor is

this all: it also unifies the things illuminated.

'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes

down from the Father of Lights.' [James 1:17]

Moreover, every divine procession of radiance from the Father,

while constantly bounteously flowing to us, fills us anew as though

with a unifying power, by recalling us to things above, and leading

us to the unity of the Shepherding Father and to the Divine One. For

from Him and into Him are all things, as is written in the holy


Calling then upon Jesus [the good Word], the Light of the Father, the Real and True,

'Which lights every man that comes into the world, by whom we

have access to the Father,' the Origin of Light, let us raise our

thought, according to our power, to the illumination of the most

sacred doctrines handed down by the Fathers, and also as far as we

may let us contemplate the Hierarchies of the Celestial Intelligences

revealed to us by them in symbols for our up-liftment: and admitting

through the spiritual and unwavering eyes of the mind the original

and super-original gift of Light of the Father who is the Source of

Divinity, which shows to us images of the all-blessed Hierarchies of

the Angels in figurative symbols, let us through them again strive

upwards toward Its primal ray. For this Light can never be deprived


of Its own intrinsic unity, and although in goodness It becomes

many-ness [by way of allegory, metaphor, parable, symbolism etc..]

and proceeds into manifestation for the uplifting of those

creatures governed by Its providence, yet It abides eternally within

Itself in changeless sameness, firmly established in Its own unity,

and elevates to Itself, according to their capacity, those who turn

towards It, uniting them in accordance with Its own unity. For by

that first divine ray we can be enlightend only insofar as It is hidden

by all-various holy veils [as mentioned in above brackets] for our up-liftment, and fittingly tempered to

our natures by the Providence of the Father.

Wherefore that first institution [image] of the sacred rites, judging it worthy

of a super mundane copy of the Celestial Hierarchies, gave us our

most holy hierarchy, and described that spiritual Hierarchy in

material terms and in various compositions of forms so that we

might be led, each according to his capacity, from the most holy

imagery to formless [carnal to spiritual], unific, elevative principles and assimilations.

For the mind can by no means be directed to the spiritual

presentation and contemplation of the Celestial Hierarchies unless it

use the material guidance suited to it, accounting those beauties

which are seen to be images of the hidden beauty, the sweet incense

a symbol of spiritual dispensations, and the earthly lights a figure of

the immaterial [spiritual] enlightenment. Similarly the details of the sacred

teaching correspond to the feast of contemplation in the soul, while

the ranks of order on earth reflect the Divine Concord and the

disposition of the Heavenly Orders. The receiving of the most holy

Eucharist symbolizes our participation of Jesus; and everything else

delivered in a super mundane manner to Celestial Natures is given to

us in symbols.

To further, then, the attainment of our due measure of deification,

the loving Source of all mysteries, in showing to us the Celestial


Hierarchies, and consecrating our hierarchy as fellow ministers,

according to our capacity, in the likeness of their divine ministry,

depicted those super celestial Intelligences in material images in the

inspired writings of the sacred Word so that we might be guided

through the sensible to the intelligible, and from sacred symbols to

the Primal Source of the Celestial Hierarchies [this reminds me of where "the truth of the Word hath more abounded through the lie].


That Divine and Celestial matters are fittingly revealed even through

unlike symbols

I consider, then, that in the first place we must explain our

conception of the purpose of each Hierarchy and the good conferred

by each upon its followers; secondly we must celebrate the Celestial

Hierarchies as they are revealed in the Scriptures; and finally we

must say under what holy figures the descriptions in the sacred

writings portray those Celestial Orders, and to what kind of purity

we ought to be guided through those forms lest we, like the many,

should impiously suppose that those Celestial and Divine

Intelligences are many-footed or many-faced beings, or formed with

the brutishness of oxen, or the savageness of lions, or the curved

beaks of eagles, or the feathers of birds, or should imagine that they

are some kind of fiery wheels above the heavens, or material thrones

upon which the Supreme Deity may recline, or many-coloured

horses, or commanders of armies, or whatever else of symbolic

description has been given to us in the various sacred images of the



Theology, in its sacred utterances concerning the formless

Intelligences, does indeed use poetic symbolism, having regard to

our intelligence, as has been said, and providing a means of ascent

fitting and natural to it by framing the sacred Scriptures in a manner

designed for our up-liftment.

But someone may prefer to regard the Divine Orders as pure and

ineffable in their own natures, and beyond our power of vision, and

may consider that the imagery of the Celestial Intelligences in the

Scriptures does not really represent them, and is like a crude

dramatization of the celestial names: and he may say that the

theologians, in depicting wholly incorporeal natures under bodily

forms should, as far as possible, make use of fitting and related

images, and represent them by the most exalted, incorporeal and

spiritual substances amongst ourselves, and should not endue the

Celestial and Godlike Principles with a multitude of low and earthly

forms. For the one would contribute in a higher degree to our ascent

by dissociating incongruous images from the descriptions of

Super mundane Natures, while the other impiously outrages the

Divine Powers, and leads our minds into error [sin- imagery] when -we dwell

upon such unholy compositions [ie., the literal interpretations]. For we might even think that the

super celestial regions are filled with herds of lions and horses, and

re-echo with roaring songs of praise, and contain flocks of birds and

other creatures, and the lower forms of matter, and whatever other

absurd, spurious, passion-arousing and unlike forms the Scriptures

use in describing their resemblances.

Nevertheless, I think that the investigation of the truth shows the

most holy wisdom of the Scriptures in the representations of the

Celestial Intelligences which makes the most perfect provision in

each case, so that neither is dishonour done to the Divine Powers (as

they may be called), nor are we bound more passionately to earth by

the meanness and baseness of the images [images - there again; "the lie", the dead letter, the law - the devil or the deceiver, etc.].


For it might be said that the reason for attributing shapes to that which is above

shape, and forms to that which is beyond form, is not only the

feebleness of our intellectual power which is unable to rise at once to

spiritual contemplation, and which needs to be encouraged by the

natural and suitable support and up-liftment which offers us forms [images]

perceptible to us of formless and supernatural contemplations, but it

is also because it is most fitting that the secret doctrines, through

ineffable and holy enigmas, should veil and render difficult of

access for the multitude the sublime and profound truth of the

supernatural Intelligences. For, as the Scripture declares, not

everyone is holy, nor have all men [minds] knowledge.

Again, if anyone condemns these representations as incongruous,

suggesting that it is disgraceful to fashion such base images [1 Corinthians 1:24-31 and Daniel, 4:17] of the

divine and most holy Orders, it is sufficient to answer that the most

holy Mysteries are set forth in two modes: one, by means of similar

and sacred representations akin to their nature, and the other through

unlike forms designed with every possible discordance and

difference. For example, the mystical traditions of the enlightening

Word sometimes celebrate the Sublime Blessedness of the

Superessential ONE as Word, and Wisdom, and Essence;

proclaiming the Intellect and Wisdom of God both essentially, as the

Source of being, and also as the true Cause of existence; and they

make It equivalent to Light, and call It Life.

Now although such sacred forms are more venerable, and seem in

one sense to surpass the material presentation, even so they fail to

express truly the Divine Likeness which verily transcends all

essence and life, and which no light can fully represent; for an other

word and wisdom is incomparably below It. But at other times It is

extolled in a super mundane manner in the same writings, where It is

named Invisible, Infinite and Unbounded, in such terms as


indicate not what It is, but what It is not: for this, in my judgment, is

more in accord with Its nature, since, as the Mysteries and the

priestly tradition suggested, we are right in saying that It is not in the

likeness of any created thing, and we cannot comprehend Its

superessential, invisible and ineffable Infinity. If, therefore, the

negations in the descriptions of the Divine are true, and the

affirmations are inconsistent with It, the exposition of the hidden

Mysteries by the use of unlike symbols accords more closely with

That which is ineffable.

Accordingly this mode of description in the holy writings honours,

rather than dishonours, the Holy and Celestial Orders by revealing

them in unlike images, manifesting through these their supernal

excellence, far beyond all mundane things. Nor, I suppose, will any

reasonable man deny that discordant figures uplift the mind more

than do the harmonious, for in dwelling upon the nobler images, it

is probable that we might fall into the error of supposing that the

Celestial Intelligences are some kind of golden beings, or shining

men flashing like lightning, fair to behold, or clad in glittering

apparel, raying forth harmless fire, or with such other similar forms

as are assigned by theology to the Celestial Intelligences [reminds me of Romans chapter eight where in essence he states; "The very thing I thought would save me slew me".] But lest this thing befall those whose mind has conceived nothing higher

than the wonders of visible [outer] beauty, the wisdom of the venerable

theologists, which has power to lead us to the heights, reverently

descends to the level of the inharmonious dissimilitudes, not

allowing our irrational nature to remain attached to those unseemly

images, but arousing the upward-turning part of the soul, and

stimulating it through the ugliness of the images; since it would

seem neither right nor true, even to those who cling to earthly

things, that such low forms could resemble those super celestial and

divine contemplations. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that no

single existing thing is entirely deprived of participation in the

Beautiful, for, as the true Word says, all things are very beautiful ["The darkness and the light are both alike to thee". Psalm 139].


Holy contemplations can therefore be derived from all things, and

the above-named incongruous similitude's can be fashioned from

material things to symbolize that which is intelligible and intellectual,

since the intellectual has in another manner what has been attributed

differently to the perceptible. For instance, passion in irrational

creatures arises from the impulse of appetency, and their passion is

full of all irrationality; but it is [otsing..?] unlike images, we speak of

desire in connection with Intellectual Beings we must understand by

this a divine love of the Immaterial [non-image], above reason and mind, and an

enduring and unshakable superessential longing for pure and

passionless contemplation, and true, sempiternal [?], intelligible

participation in the most sublime and purest Light, and in the eternal

and most perfect Beauty. And incontinence we must understand as

that which is intense and unswerving and irresistible because of its

pure and steadfast love of the Divine Beauty, and the undeviating

urge towards That which most truly is to be desired [meaning that "spiritual" understanding of scripture that reveals no contradiction - in any way].

In the case of the irrational or the insensitive things, such as brutes

among living creatures, or inanimate objects, we rightly say that

these are deprived of reason, or of sense-perception. But we

fittingly proclaim the sovereignty, as Supermundane Beings, of the

immaterial and intellectual Natures over our discursive and corporeal

reasoning and sense-perceptions, which are remote from those

Divine Intelligences.

It is therefore lawful to portray Celestial Beings in forms drawn

from even the lowest of material things which are not discordant

since they, too, having originated from That which is truly beautiful,

have throughout the whole of their bodily constitution some vestiges

of Intellectual Beauty, and through these we may be led to


immaterial Archetypes; the similitude's being taken, as has been said,

dissimilarly, and the same things being defined, not in the same

way, but harmoniously and fittingly, in the case both of intellectual

and sensible natures [Hosea 12:10].

We shall see that the theologians mystically employ symbolical

explanations not only in the case of the Celestial Orders, but even

for the presentation of the Deific Principles themselves. And

sometimes they celebrate Deity Itself with lofty symbolism as the

Sun of justice, as the Morning Star rising mystically in the mind, or

as Light shining forth unclouded and intelligibly; and sometimes

they use images of things on earth, such as fire flashing forth with

harmless flame, or water affording abundance of life symbolically

flowing into a belly and gushing out in perpetually overflowing

rivers and streams.

The lowest images are also used, such as fragrant ointment, or the

corner-stone, and they even give It the forms of wild animals and

liken It to the lion and panther, or name It a leopard, or a raging bear

bereaved of its young. I will add, furthermore, that which appears

most base and unseemly of all, namely that some renowned

theologians have represented It as assuming the form of a worm .

Thus all those who are wise in divine matters, and are interpreters of

the mystical revelations, set apart in purity the Holy of Holies from

the uninitiated and unpurified, and prefer incongruous symbols for

holy things, so that divine things may not be easily accessible to the

unworthy, nor may those who earnestly contemplate the divine

symbols dwell upon the forms themselves as the final truth [i.e.., hiding it from the wise to reveal it to babes etc.].

Therefore we may celebrate the Divine Natures through the truest

negations and also by the images of the lowest things in contrast

with their own Likeness. [This reminds me of where the writer of Romans 3:7 says; " For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie............." etc.]


Hence there is no absurdity in portraying the Celestial Natures, for

the reasons mentioned, by discordant and diverse symbols: for

possibly we ourselves might not have begun to search into the

Mysteries which lead us to the Heights through the careful

examinations of the holy Word, had not the ugliness of the imagery

of the Angels startled us, not suffering our mind to dwell upon the

discordant figures, but stimulating it ["grace" again] to leave behind all material

attachments, and training it by means of that which is apparent to

aspire devoutly to the super mundane ascent.

Let these things suffice touching the corporeal and inharmonious

forms used for the delineation of Angels in the sacred Scriptures.

We must proceed to the definition of our conception of the

Hierarchy itself, and of the blessings which are enjoyed by those

who participate in it. But let our leader in the discourse be my Christ

(if thus I dare name Him) who inspires [grace] all hierarchical revelation.

And do thou, my son, listen, according to the law of our hierarchical

tradition, with meet reverence to that which is reverently set forth,

becoming through instruction inspired by the revelations; and,

treasuring deep in the soul the holy Mysteries, preserve them in their

unity from the unpurified multitude [of imagery]: for, as the Scriptures declare, it

is not fitting to cast before swine that pure and beautifying and

clear-shining glory of the intelligible pearls.


What is Hierarchy, and what the use of Hierarchy?

Hierarchy is, in my opinion, a holy order and knowledge and

activity which, so far as is attainable, participates in the Divine


Likeness, and is lifted up to the illuminations given it from God, and

correspondingly towards the imitation of God [a cosmic consciousness or unified field].

Now the Beauty of God, being unific, good, and the Source of all

perfection, is wholly free from dissimilarity, and bestows its own

Light upon each according to his merit;* and in the most divine

Mysteries perfects them in accordance with the unchangeable

fashioning of those who are being perfected harmoniously to Itself.

The aim of Hierarchy is the greatest possible assimilation to and

union with God, and by taking Him as leader in all holy wisdom, to

become like Him, so far as is permitted, by contemplating intently

His most Divine Beauty. Also it moulds and perfects its participants

in the holy image of God like bright and spotless mirrors which

receive the Ray of the Supreme Deity -which is the Source of Light;

and being mystically filled with the Gift of Light, it pours it forth

again abundantly, according to the Divine Law, upon those below

itself . For it is not lawful for those who impart or participate in the

holy Mysteries to overpass the bounds of its sacred laws; nor must

they deviate from them if they seek to behold, as far as is allowed,

that Deific Splendour and to be transformed into the likeness of

those Divine Intelligences.

Therefore he who speaks of Hierarchy implies a certain perfectly

holy Order in the likeness of the First Divine Beauty, ministering the

sacred mystery of its own illuminations in hierarchical order and

wisdom, being in due measure conformed to its own Principle. (1)

For each of those who is allotted a place in the Divine Order finds

his perfection in being uplifted, according to his capacity , towards

the Divine Likeness; and what is still more divine, he becomes, as


the Scriptures say, a fellow-worker with God, and shows forth the

Divine Activity revealed as far as possible 'in himself. For the holy

constitution of the Hierarchy ordains that some are purified, others

purify; some are enlightened, others enlighten; some are perfected,

others make perfect; for in this way the divine imitation will fit each


Inasmuch as the Divine Bliss (to speak in human terms) is exempt

from all dissimilarity, and is full of Eternal Light, perfect, in need of

no perfection, purifying, illuminating, perfecting being rather

Himself the holy Purification, Illumination and Perfection, above

purification, above light. supremely perfect, Himself the origin of

perfection and the cause of every Hierarchy, He transcends in

excellence all holiness.(2)

I hold, therefore, that those who are being purified ought to be

wholly perfected and free from all taint of unlikeness; those who are

illuminated should be filled full with Divine Light, ascending, to the

contemplative state and power with the most pure eyes of the mind;

those who are being initiated, holding themselves apart from all

imperfection, should become participators in the Divine Wisdom

which they have contemplated.

Further it is meet that those who purify should bestow upon others

from their abundance of purity their own holiness: those who

illuminate, as possessing more luminous intelligence, duly receiving

and again shedding forth the light, and joyously filled with holy

brightness, should impart their own overflowing light to those

worthy of it; finally, those who make perfect, being skilled in the

mystical participations, should lead to that consummation those who

are perfected by the most holy initiation of the knowledge of holy

things which they have contemplated.


Thus each order in the hierarchical succession is guided to the divine

co-operation, and brings into manifestation, through the Grace and

Power of God, that which is naturally and supernaturally in the

Godhead, and which is consummated by Him superessentially, but

is hierarchically manifested for man's imitation as far as is

attainable, of the God-loving Celestial Intelligences.


The meaning of the name 'Angels'.

Since, in my opinion, the nature of a hierarchy has been adequately

defined, we must proceed to render honour to the Angelic

Hierarchy, intently gazing with super mundane sight upon the holy

imagery of it in the Scriptures, that we may be uplifted in the highest

degree to their divine purity through that mystical representation,

and may praise the Origin of all hierarchical knowledge with a

veneration worthy of the things of God, and with devout


In the first place this truth must be declared, that the superessential

Deity, having through His Goodness established the essential

subsistence of all, brought all things into being. For it is the very

nature of that God which is the Supreme Cause of all to call all

things to participation in Itself in proportion to the capacity and

nature of each.

Wherefore all things share in that Providence which streams forth

from the superessential Deific Source of all; for they would not be

unless they had come into existence through participation in the

Essential Principle of all things.


All inanimate things participate in It through their being; for the 'to

be' of all things is the Divinity above Being Itself, the true Life.

Living things participate in Its life-giving Power above all life;

rational things participate in Its self-perfect and pre-eminently perfect

Wisdom above all reason and intellect.

It is manifest, therefore, that those Natures which are around the

Godhead have participated of It in manifold ways. On this account

the holy ranks of the Celestial Beings are present with and

participate in the Divine Principle in a degree far surpassing all those

things which merely exist, and irrational living creatures, and

rational human beings. For molding themselves intelligibly to the

imitation of God, and looking in a super mundane way to the

Likeness of the Supreme Deity, and longing to form the intellectual

appearance of It, they naturally have more abundant communion

with Him, and with unremitting activity they tend eternally up the

steep, as far as is permitted, through the ardour of their un-wearying

divine love, and they receive the Primal Radiance in a pure and

immaterial manner, adapting themselves to this in a life wholly


Such, therefore, are they who participate first, and in an all-various

manner, in Deity, and reveal first, and in many ways, the Divine

Mysteries. Wherefore they, above all, are pre-eminently worthy of

the name Angel because they first receive the Divine Light, and

through them are traneries, or certain divine prophecies.

Now, if anyone should say that God has shown Himself without

intermediary to certain holy men, let him know beyond doubt,


from the most holy Scriptures, that no man has ever seen, nor shall

see, the hidden Being of God; but God has shown Himself,

according to revelations which are fitting to God, to His faithful

servants in holy visions adapted to the nature of the seer.

The divine theology, in the fullness of its wisdom, very rightly

applies the name theophany to that beholding of God which shows

the Divine Likeness, figured in Itself as a likeness in form of That

which is formless, through the uplifting of those who contemplate to

the Divine; inasmuch as a Divine Light is shed upon the seers

through it, and they are initiated into some participation of divine


By such divine visions our venerable forefathers were instructed

through the mediation of the Celestial Powers. Is it not told in the

holy Scriptures that the sacred Law was given to Moses by God

Himself in order to teach us that in it is mirrored the divine and holy

Law? Furthermore, theology wisely teaches that it was

communicated to us by Angels [Angels are the peripheral messages recieved from the corner of the mental eye,

the "indirect" or spiritual {esoteric} message of the dialog or word. There are many types of angels],

as though the authority of the Divine

Law decreed that the second should be guided to the Divine Majesty

by the first. For not solely in the case of higher and lower natures,

but also for co-ordinate natures, this Law has been established by its

superessential original Author: that within each Hierarchy there are

first, middle and last ranks and powers, and that the higher are

initiators and guides of the lower to the divine approach and

illumination and union.(3)

I see that the Angels, too, were first initiated into the divine

Mystery, of Jesus in His love for man, and through them the gift of

that knowledge was bestowed upon us: for the divine Gabriel

announced to Zachariah the high-priest that the son who should to

born to him through Divine Grace, when he was bereft of hope,


would be a prophet of that Jesus who would manifest the union of

the human and divine natures through the ordinance of the Good

Law for the salvation of the world; and he revealed to Mary how of

her should be born the Divine Mystery of the ineffable Incarnation

of God [the word "Mary" represents; bitterness; obstinacy and rebellion.

Only in this frame of mind, against unrighteousness, can the mental immaculate

conception take place. Thus, the birth of enlightenment or awakening.

The Truth {Christ} of the Word {Father} is born].

Another Angel taught Joseph that the divine promise made to his

forefather David should be perfectly fulfilled. Another brought to the

shepherds the glad tidings, as to those purified by quiet withdrawal

from the many, and with him a multitude of the heavenly host gave

forth to all the dwellers upon earth our often-sung hymn of adoring


Let us now mount upward to that most sublime of all Lights

celebrated in the Scriptures: for I perceive that Jesus Himself who is

the superessential Head of the super celestial Beings above Nature,

when taking our nature while still keeping His own immutable

Divinity, did not turn away from the human order which He

arranged and chose, but rather submitted Himself obediently to the

commands given by God the Father through Angels, by whose

ministrations the Father's decree touching the flight of His Son into

Egypt and the return from Egypt into Judea. was announced to

Joseph. Moreover, through Angels we see Him subjecting Himself

to the Father's will; for I will not recall to one who knows our

sacred tradition the Angel who fortified Jesus, or even that Jesus

Himself, because He came for the good work of our salvation to

fulfill the law in its spiritual application, was called Angel of Good

Counsel. For He Himself says, in the manner of a herald, that

whatsoever He heard from the Father He announced unto us.

[I also perceive this as metaphor]



Why all the Celestial Beings in common are called Angels.

This, so far as we understand it, is the reason for the name Angel in

the Scriptures. Now I think we should investigate the reason why

theologians give the general name Angels to all the Celestial Beings,

but when explaining the characteristics of the super mundane Orders

they specifically give the name Angel to those who complete and

conclude the Divine Celestial Hierarchies. Above these they place

the choirs of Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, and those

other beings who are acknowledged by the traditional scriptural

teachings to be of higher rank.

Now we maintain that in these Hierarchies the higher Orders

possess the illuminations and powers of the lower ranks, but the

lower do not participate equally with those above them. Hence the

theologians call the higher of these spiritual Orders Angels because

they, too, show forth the Divine Radiance; but we can find no

reason for calling the lowest choirs of the Celestial Intelligences

Principalities or Thrones or Seraphim, for they do not manifest in

the same degree that supremely excellent power; but just as they

guide our inspired hierarchs to the Divine Brightness known to

them, so do those most holy Powers which are above them lead to

the Divine Majesty those ranks which complete the Angelic


And this also may be added, that all can rightly be called Angels in

respect of their participation in the Divine Likeness and Illumination

both in the higher and lower ranks.

But now let us proceed further into detail, and with singleness of


mind examine the particular sacred characteristics of each of the

Celestial Orders which are set forth for us in the Scriptures.


Which is the first Order of the Celestial Beings, which the middle,

and which the last?

I hold that none but the Divine Creator by whom they were ordained

is able to know fully the number and the nature of the super mundane

Beings and the regulation of their sacred Hierarchies; and

furthermore, that they know their own powers and illuminations and

their own holy super mundane ordination. For we could not have

known the mystery of these super celestial Intelligences and all the

holiness of their perfection had it not been taught to us by God

through His Ministers who truly know their own natures.

Therefore we will say nothing as from ourselves, but being

instructed will set forth, according to our ability, those angelic

visions which the venerable theologians have beheld.

Theology has given to the Celestial Beings nine interpretative

names, and among these our divine initiator distinguishes three

threefold Orders.(5) In the first rank of all he places those who, as

we are told, dwell eternally in the constant presence of God, and

cleave to Him, and above all others are immediately united to Him.

And he says that the teachings of the holy Word testify that the most

holy Thrones and many-eyed and many-winged ones, named in the

Hebrew tongue Cherubim and Seraphim, are established


immediately about God and nearest to Him above all others. Our

venerable hierarch describes this threefold Order as a co-equal unity,

and truly the most exalted of the Hierarchies, the most fully

Godlike, and the most closely and immediately united to the First

Light of the Godhead.

The second, he says, contains the Powers, Virtues and Dominions,

and the last and lowest choirs of the Celestial Intelligences are called

Angels, Archangels and Principalities.


Of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, and their first Hierarchy.

In accepting this order of the holy Hierarchies we affirm that the

names of each of the Celestial Choirs expresses its own Godlike

characteristic. We are told by Hebrew scholars that the holy name

Seraphim means 'those who kindle or make hot', and Cherubim

denotes abundance of knowledge or an out-flowing of wisdom.*

Reasonably, therefore, is this first Celestial Hierarchy administered

by the most transcendent Natures, since it occupies a more exalted

place than all the others, being immediately present with God; and

because of its nearness, to it are brought the first revelations and

perfections of God before the rest. Therefore they are named 'The

Glowing Ones', 'Streams of Wisdom', 'Thrones', in illustration of

their Divine Nature.

The name Seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal

revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the


exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their

elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them

and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a

burning and all- consuming flame [Jeremiah, 23:29 and Hebrews, 12:29];

and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power,

dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness.

The name Cherubim denotes their power of knowing and beholding

God, their receptivity to the highest Gift of Light, their

contemplation of the Beauty of the Godhead in Its First

Manifestation, and that they are filled by participation in Divine

Wisdom, and bounteously outpour to those below them from their

own fount of wisdom.

The name of the most glorious and exalted Thrones denotes that

which is exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly thing,

and the super mundane ascent up the steep. For these have no part in

that which is lowest, but dwell in fullest power, immovably and

perfectly established in the Most High, and receive the Divine

Immanence above all passion and matter, and manifest God, being

attentively open to divine participations.

This, then, is the meaning of their names, so far as we understand it:

but now we must set forth our conception of the nature of this

Hierarchy, for the object of every Hierarchy, as I think we have

already sufficiently shown, is a steadfast devotion to the divine

assimilation in the Likeness of God; and the whole work of a

Hierarchy is in the participation and the imparting of a most holy

Purification, Divine Light and perfecting Knowledge.

And now I pray that I may speak worthily of those most exalted

Intelligences, and as their Hierarchy is revealed in the Scriptures.


It is clear that the Hierarchy is similar in its nature and has close

affinity with those First Beings who are established after the

Godhead, which is the Source of their Being, as though within Its

Portals, transcending all - created powers, both visible and invisible.

Therefore we must recognize that they are pure, not as having been

cleansed from stains and defilements, nor as not admitting material

images, but as far higher than all baseness, and surpassing all that is

holy. As befits the highest purity, they are established above the

most Godlike Powers and eternally keep their own self-motive and

self-same order through the Eternal Love of God, never weakening

in power, abiding most purely in their own Godlike identity, ever

unshaken and unchanging. Again, they are contemplative, not as

beholding intellectual or sensible symbols, nor as being uplifted to

the Divine by the all-various contemplations set forth in the

Scriptures, but as filled with Light higher than all immaterial

knowledge, and rapt, as is meet, in the contemplation of that Beauty

which is the superessential triune Origin and Creator of all beauty.

In like manner they are thought worthy of fellowship with Jesus,

not through sacred images which shadow forth the Divine Likeness,

but as truly being close to Him in that first participation of the

knowledge of His Deifying Illuminations. Moreover, the imitation

of God is granted to them in a preeminent degree, and as far as their

nature permits they share the divine and human virtues in primary


In the same manner they are perfect, not as though enlightened by an

analytical knowledge of holy variety, but because they are wholly

perfected through the highest and most perfect deification,

possessing the highest knowledge that Angels can have of the works

of God; being Hierarchs not through other holy beings, but from

God Himself, and since they are uplifted to God directly by


their pre-eminent power and rank, they are both established

immovably beside the All-Holy, and are borne up, as far as is

allowable, to the contemplation of His Intelligible and Spiritual

Beauty. Being placed nearest to God, they are instructed in the true

understanding of the divine works, and receive their hierarchical

order in the highest degree from Deity Itself, the First Principle of


The theologians therefore clearly show that the lower ranks of the

Celestial Beings receive the understanding of the divine works from

those above them in a fitting manner, and that the highest are

correspondingly enlightened in the Divine Mysteries by the Most

High God Himself. (6) For some of them are shown to us as

enlightened in holy matters by those above them, and we learn that

He who in human form [when studying the scriptures literally,

the human form "image" presents itself from the readings. After seeing

the scriptures "spiritually, the image disappears or turns into divine understanding

and the image no longer exists. See 2 Corinthians 5:16] ascended to heaven is Lord of the Celestial

Powers and King of Glory. And Angels are represented as

questioning Him and desiring knowledge of His divine redemptive

work for us, and Jesus Himself is depicted as teaching them and

revealing directly to them His great goodness towards mankind.

'For I, He says, 'speak righteousness and the judgment of

salvation.' Moreover, I am astonished that even the first rank of

Celestial Beings, so far surpassing all the others, should reverently

desire to receive the divine enlightenment in an intermediate manner.

For they do not ask directly, 'Wherefore are Thy garments red?' but

first eagerly question one another, showing that they seek and long

for the knowledge of His divine words, without expectation of the

enlightenment divinely granted them.

The first Hierarchy of the Celestial Intelligences, therefore, is

purified and enlightened; being ordained by that First Perfecting

Cause, uplifted directly to Himself, and filled, analogously, with the

most holy purification of the boundless Light of the Supreme


Perfection, untouched by any inferiority, full of Primal Light, and

perfected by its union with the first-given Understanding and

Knowledge. But to sum up, I may say, not unreasonably, that the participation in

Divine Knowledge is a purification, an illumination and a perfection.

For it purifies from ignorance by the knowledge of the perfect

Mysteries granted in due measure; it illuminates through the Divine

Knowledge Itself by which it purifies the mind which formerly did

not behold that which is now shown to it by the higher illumination;

and it perfects by the self-same light through the abiding knowledge

of the most luminous initiations.

This, so far as I know, is the first Order of Celestial Beings which

are established about God, immediately encircling Him: and in

perpetual purity they encompass His eternal Knowledge in that most

high and eternal angelic dance, rapt in the bliss of manifold blessed

contemplations, and irradiated with pure and primal splendours.

They are filled with divine food which is manifold, through the

first-given outpouring, yet one through the unvaried and unific

oneness of the divine banquet; and they are deemed worthy of

communion and co-operation with God by reason of their

assimilation to Him, as far as is possible for them, in the excellence

of their natures and energies. For they know pre-eminently many

divine matters, and they participate as far as they may in Divine

Understanding and Knowledge.

Wherefore theology has given those on earth its hymns orpraise in

which is divinely shown forth the great excellence of its sublime

illumination. For some of that choir (to use material terms) cry out


as with a voice like the sound of many waters, 'Blessed is the Glory

of the Lord from His Place'; others cry aloud that most renowned

and sacred hymn of highest praise to God, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord

God of Sabaoth, the whole earth [another word for the "literal story" of scripture] is full of Thy Glory !'

Now we have already expounded to the best of our ability in the

treatise on Divine Hymns these most sublime hymns of the

super celestial Intelligences, and have sufficiently dealt with them

there. For the present purpose it is enough to recall that this first

Order, having been duly enlightened by the Divine Goodness in the

knowledge of theology, gave to those below it, as befits angelic

goodness, this teaching (to state it briefly-) that it is meet that the

most august Deity, above praise, and all-praised, worthy of the

highest praise, should be known and proclaimed, as far as is

attainable, by the God-filled Intelligences (for, as the Scriptures say,

being in the Likeness of God, the\are divine habitations of the

Divine Stillness); and again, the teaching that He is a monad and

tri-subsistent unity, providentially pervading all things through His

Goodness, from the super celestial Natures down to the lowest

things of the earth; for He is the super-original Principle and Cause

of every essence, and holds the whole universe superessentially in

His irresistible embrace.


Of the Dominions, Virtues and Powers, and their middle Hierarchy.

Now we must pass on to the middle Order of the Celestial

Intelligences, contemplating with super mundane sight, as far as we


may, the Dominions and the truly majestic splendour of the Divine

Virtues and Powers. For the names of these supernal Beings denote

the divine characteristics of their likeness to God.

The name given to the holy Dominions signifies, I think, a certain

unbounded elevation to that which is above, freedom from all that is

of the earth [super mundane intelligence - literal interpretation], and from all inward inclination to the bondage of

discord, a liberal superiority to harsh tyranny, an exempt-ness from

degrading servility and from all that is low: for they are untouched

by any inconsistency. They are true Lords, perpetually aspiring to

true lordship, and to the Source of lordship, and they providentially

fashion themselves and those below them, as far as possible, into

the likeness of true lordship. They do not turn towards vain

shadows, but wholly give themselves to that true Authority, forever

one with the Godlike Source of lordship.

The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and

unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not

being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations

granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an

assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life

through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the

superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself,

as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of

virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it,

abundantly filling them with virtue.

The name of the holy Powers, co-equal with the Divine Dominions

and Virtues, signifies an orderly and unconfined order in the divine

receptions, and the regulation of intellectual and super mundane

power which never debases its authority by tyrannical force, but is

irresistibly urged onward in due order to the Divine. It beneficently


leads those below it, as far as possible, to the Supreme Power

which is the Source of Power, which it manifests after the manner

of Angels in the well ordered ranks of its own authoritative power.

This middle rank of the Celestial Intelligences, having these Godlike

characteristics, is purified, illuminated and perfected in the manner

already described, by the divine Illuminations bestowed upon it in a

secondary manner through the first hierarchical Order, and shown

forth in a secondary manifestation by the middle choir.

The knowledge which is said to be imparted by one Angel to another

may be interpreted as a symbol of that perfecting which is effected

from afar and made obscure because of its passage to the second

rank. For, as those say who are wise in the sacred Mysteries, the

direct revelations of the Divine Light impart a greater perfection than

those bestowed through an intermediary; and in the same way I

consider that the Order of Angels which is established nearest to the

Godhead participates directly in a more resplendent light than is

imparted to those who are perfected through others [this infers to "personal" inquiry with devotion to the truth for truth's sake only, that is, no ulterior motives benefiting the intellectual human ego. "If you don't work, you don't eat" metaphor].

For this reason the First Intelligences are called in our priestly

tradition perfective, illuminative and purificatory powers in regard to

the lower Orders which are uplifted by them to the superessential

Principle of all, and as far as is right for them are made partakers of

the mystical purifications, illuminations and perfections. For this

universal ordinance is divinely established, that the Divine Light is

imparted to secondary natures through primary natures.

You will find this variously set forth by theologians, for when the

Divine and Fatherly Love for man reproved the Israelites and

chastened them for their salvation by delivering them for their


correction into the hands of cruel and barbaric nations, and with

providential guidance led them back by many paths to a better

condition, and mercifully recalled them from captivity to freedom

and their former happy state, one of the theologians, named

Zachariah, sees one of those Angels which, as I believe are first and

nearest to God (for the name Angel, as I have said, is common to

all), receiving from God Himself the words of comfort, as they are

called, and another Angel of lower rank going to meet the first as if

to receive and partake of the light, and then receiving from him, as

from a hierarch, the divine purpose, being directed to reveal to the

theologian that Jerusalem should be inhabited by a great and fruitful

nation [this Jerusalem is the one in bondage with her children, referred to in Galations 4:22-26].

Another theologian, Ezekiel, says that the most sacred edict came

forth from the supremely glorious Godhead Itself, exalted above the

Cherubim. For after the Father, as has been said, had in His mercy

led the Children of Israel through disciplines to a better condition He

decreed in His divine justice that the guilty should be separated from

the innocent. This is first revealed to one below the Cherubim, who

was girt about the loins with a sapphire, and was robed in a garment

reaching to the feet, the symbol of an hierarch. But the Divine Law

ordained that the other Angels armed with battle-axes should be

instructed by the former respecting the divine judgment in this

matter. For He directed the one to go through the midst of Jerusalem

and to set a mark upon the foreheads of the innocent; but to the other

Angels He said, 'Go into the city, following him, and strike, and

turn not aside your eyes; but draw not near unto those upon whom

is the mark'.

What could be said concerning the Angel who said to Daniel, 'The

Word has gone forth'? or concerning that highest one who took the

fire from the midst of the Cherubim? Or what could establish more


clearly the distinction between the angelic ranks than this, that the

Cherub cast the fire into the hands of him who was clothed with the

sacred vestment? Or that He who called the most divine Gabriel to

Himself said, 'Make this man understand the vision'? And many

other similar things are related by the venerable theologians

regarding the Divine Order of the Celestial Hierarchies.

By molding itself after their likeness our own hierarchy will, as far

as possible, be assimilated to it and will, in very deed, show forth,

as in images, the angelic beauty; receiving its form from them, and

being uplifted by them to the superessential Source of every



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