Sacred Texts  Christianity  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, [1897], at


Concerning Lordships and Powers and Authorities, and concerning their middle Hierarchy.

Section I.

Let us now pass to the middle Order of the Heavenly Minds, gazing, as far as we may, with supermundane eyes upon those Lordships, and the truly terrible visions of the Divine Authorities and Powers. For each appellation of the Beings above us manifests their God-imitating characteristics of the Divine Likeness. I think, then, that the explanatory name of the Holy Lordships denotes a certain unslavish elevation, free from all grovelling subserviency, as becomes the free, not submitting itself in any way whatever to one of the tyrannical dissimilarities, as a cruel Lordship; superior to every kind of cringing slavery, indomitable to every subserviency, and elevated above every dissimilarity, ever aspiring to p. 32 the true Lordship, and source of Lordship; and moulding, as an image of goodness, itself, and those after it, to its Lordly bearing, as attainable, turning itself wholly to none of the things that vainly seem, but to the Lordly Being, and ever sharing in the Lordly Likeness of God, to its utmost ability; and the appellation of the Holy Powers denotes a certain courageous and unflinching virility, for all those Godlike energies within them--not feebly weak for the reception of any of the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it--vigorously conducted to the Divine imitation, not forsaking the Godlike movement through its own unmanliness, but unflinchingly looking to the superessential and powerful-making power, and becoming a powerlike image of this, as far as is attainable, and powerfully turned to this, as Source of Power, and issuing forth to those next in degree, in gift of Power, and in likeness to God; and that the appellation of the Holy Authorities, of the same rank as the Divine Lordships and Powers, (denotes) the beautiful and unconfused good order, with regard to the Divine receptions, and the discipline of the supermundane and intellectual authority, not using the authoritative powers imperiously for base purposes, but conducted indomitably, with good order, towards Divine things, and conducting those after it benignly, and assimilated, as far as permissible, to the Authoritative Source of authority, and making this visible, as is possible to Angels, in the well-ordered ranks of the authoritative power within it. The middle Order of the Heavenly Minds having these Godlike characteristics, is purified and illuminated p. 33 and perfected in the manner described, by the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it at second hand, through the first Hierarchical Order, and passing through this middle as a secondary manifestation.

Section II.

No doubt, as regards that message, which is said to pass through one angel to another, we may take it as a symbol of a perfecting completed from afar, and obscured by reason of its passage to the second rank. For, as men skilled in our sacred initiations say, the fulness of Divine things manifested directly to ourselves is more perfecting than the Divine contemplations imparted through others. Thus, I think, the immediate participation of the Angelic ranks elevated in first degree to God, is more clear than those perfected through the instrumentality of others. Wherefore by our sacerdotal tradition, the first Minds are named perfecting, and illuminating, and purifying Powers of the subordinate, who are conducted, through them, to the superessential Origin of all things, and participate, as far as is permissible to them, in the consecrating purifications, and illuminations, and perfections. For, this is divinely fixed absolutely by the Divine source of order that, through the first, the second partake of the supremely Divine illuminations. This you will find declared by the theologians in many ways. For, when the Divine and Paternal Love towards man whilst chastening, in a startling manner, His people Israel, for their religious preservation, after delivering them p. 34 to terrible and savage nations for correction, by various leadings of His guided people to better things, both liberated them from their misery, and mildly led them back, through His compassion, to their former state of comfort; one of the theologians, Zechariah, sees one of the first Angels, as I think, and near God, (for the Angelic appellation is common, as I said, to them all), learning from God Himself the comforting words, as they are called, concerning this matter; and another Angel, of inferior rank, advancing to meet the first, as for reception and participation of enlightenment: then, by him instructed in the Divine purpose as from a Hierarch, and charged to reveal to the theologian that Jerusalem should be abundantly occupied by a multitude of people. And another theologian, Ezekiel, says that this was righteously ordained by the glorious Deity Itself, seated above the Cherubim. For Paternal Love towards man, conducting Israel as we have said through chastisement to better things, by a righteousness worthy of God, deemed right to separate the guilty from the guiltless. This is first revealed to one after the Cherubim; him who was bound about the loins with a sapphire, and wore displayed the robe coming down to the feet, as a Hierarchical symbol. But the Divine Government enjoins the other Angels, who bore the battle-axes, to be instructed from the former, as to the Divine judgment in this matter. For, to one, He said that he should p. 35 go through the midst of Jerusalem, and place the sign upon the forehead of the innocent men, but to the others; "Go into the city after him and strike, and draw not back your eyes, but to every one upon whom is the sign draw not near."

What would any one say concerning the Angel, who said to Daniel, "The word has gone forth?" or concerning him the first, who took the fire from the midst of the Cherubim, or what is more remarkable than this for shewing the good order amongst the Angels, that the Cherubim casts the fire into the hands of him who wears the sacred vestment; or concerning Him Who called the most divine Gabriel, and said to him, "Make this man understand the vision," or whatever else is recorded by the holy theologians concerning the Godlike order of the Heavenly Hierarchies; by being assimilated to which, as far as possible, the discipline of our Hierarchy will have the Angelic comeliness, as it were, in reflection, moulded through it, and conducted to the superessential Source of order in every Hierarchy.

Next: Caput IX.