THE CELESTIAL HIERARCHIES
Four of his writings survived to this day, namely, CONCERNING THE HEAVENLY HIERARCHY; CONCERNING THE DIVINE NAMES; CONCERNING THE ECCLESIASTICAL HIERARCHY; and CONCERNING MYSTICAL THEOLOGY. His most esoteric work, THE CELESTIAL HIERARCHY forms the backbone of the Western Esoteric tradition. In it he names the Celestial Hierarchy as follows:
|2. Cherubim||First Triad/Hierarchy|
|4. Dominations (Kyriotetes)|
|5. Virtues (Dynamis)||Second Triad/Hierarchy|
|6. Powers (Exusiai)|
|8. Archangels||Third Triad/Hierarchy|
(an ancient source comments as follows:)
"The angels are divided into nine choirs and form three hierarchies, hence the "angelic world is presented to our view as a magnificent army ranged in the most admirable order."
"The first hierarchy is composed of the Seraphim, the Cherubim and the Thrones; the second comprises the Dominations, the Virtues and the Powers; the third is formed of the Principalities, the Archangels and the Angels. Each choir has a different office as will be shown in the following outline, necessarily brief, since the scope of this little work does not permit more. But let us fervently beg each one to share with us the particular grace with which it is endowed.
"The Seraphim come first. Their very name means ardor, and they are consumed with the fire of Divine Love of "which they are the created representations." This burning love keeps them ever close to God's Throne and they bear love and light to the lesser choirs of angels. O ardent Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts, by the virtue of the Divine Blood, the sacred flame of the love of God with which you are consumed.
"The Cherubim are next. Their name signifies "fullness of knowledge." They are characterized by a deep insight into God's secrets and they truly possess the fullness of the divine science of heaven. They enlighten the lesser choirs of angels and are to them the Voice of Divine Wisdom. O bright Cherubim, instruct us more to appreciate the power of the Precious Blood, in the excellent science of the saints, that we may also praise and glorify God with you.
"The Thrones form the last choir of the first' hierarchy which is the closest to the Divine Majesty. They are so styled because their main characteristics are submission and peace. God rests upon the Thrones and in a certain manner conveys His Spirit by these angels, who in turn communicate it to the inferior angels and to men. We should pray to the Thrones especially for peace. O Blessed Thrones, obtain for us peace through the Divine Blood, that peace which the world cannot give, which comes from submission to God's will in our regard.
"The second hierarchy of angels is more specifically devoted to the management of human affairs. It opens with the Dominations, so called because "they rule over all the angelic orders charged with the execution of the commands of the Great Monarch." Therefore, these bright spirits make known to us the commands of God and their main virtue is zeal for the maintenance of the King's authority. let vs remember them when seeking God's will and invoke them in our perplexities. O holy angels, pray to God for vs, that we may ever be faithful to His holy will in all the circumstances of our earthly pilgrimage.
"To the choir of Virtues has been confided the duty of carrying out the orders issued by the Dominations. To them is attributed strength and we should seek their assistance in combatting the enemies of our salvation. "it is through them also," says Bovdon, "that God governs the seasons, the visible heavens and the elements in general, although angels of the lower hierarchy have charge of them." Let us therefore have recourse to the Virtues in all extraordinary necessities of mind and body, as well as in times of public afflictions. O mighty Intelligences, help vs always, in virtue of the Divine Blood, to accomplish with perseverance whatever duty has been entrusted to vs by God's will.
"The Powers," someone has said, "are the favorites among mortals." They are appointed in a special way to fight against the evil spirits and to defeat their wicke~d plans. "When we see storms gathering either in the Church or in the State, machinations to resist those who are working for the glory of God, extraordinary conspiracies to defeat some great good which is being planned for some diocese, city or country, then it is that we ought to perform frequent devotions in honor of these Powers of heaven, that they may overturn and destroy all the might and miserable plotting of hell." (Boudon). O invincible Pourers, in virtue of the Divine Blood, defend us against the attacks of the devil, the world and the flesh and make vs victorious against that triple power.
"The Principalities preside over the third hierarchy. Their duties are executive in regard to the visible world of men. They also guard the nations of the earth and St. Thomas says of them: "The execution of the angelic ministrations consists in announcing divine things. Now, in the execution of any action there are beginners and leaders; this-the leadership-belongs to the Principalities." We should then invoke them for the protection of our country that it may realize the designs of God upon it. Those who have to exercise any authority should honor these blessed spirits in a special way; they would receive from them graces of light and strength in the discharge of their duties. Sovereign Principalities, in virtue of the Divine Blood, govern also our souls and our bodies, and assist vs in the attainment of our eternal destinies.
"The Archangels are entrusted with the more important missions to men. They are also given as guardians to great personages, such as the Holy Father, Cardinals, Bishops, Rulers of States, and others who have special work to do for the glory of God upon earth. They protect the Church under the leadership of St. Michael and defend it against its enemies. Let us not forget them when praying for the triumph of the Church, that these celestial spirits may safeguard its interests and watch over our Supreme Pontiff. Noble Archangels, we beg you to aid us always, that profiting by the Divine Blood, we may ever live in faith, hope and charity, and die as true children of our Holy Mother the Church.
"The Angels, specially so called, close the last choir of the spirits of light. They are the ordinary messengers sent to men and from their ranks our own guardian angels are usually chosen. They mirror in a very particular way the goodness of God toward vs. They are ever ready to go wherever the will of God sends them, and they minister to all, just and sinner alike. They have a true sense of values and they know that to serve God in any capacity is a very great honor. Let vs frequently invoke their help as they are most happy to be of service to us. As they are our lifelong companions, we shall speak of them more at length later. Most holy Angels be ever for vs the guardians of our safety and salvation, and since we were redeemed by the Divine Blood, obtain for vs the grace of final perseverance."
THE ADAM APOCALYPSE
It would be easy to assume that the angelology of Dionysius derived from St. Paul and thus from the teachings of Christ himself. Of course, we know that St. Paul's conversion at Damascus occurred after the death and resurrection, so Paul had no physical contact with Christ. St. Paul also appears to be the only disciple to specifically mention the names of certain orders of the angels in his writings. So it would seem that the other apostles were not his source. The key to his sources may come from the Essene Community at Qumran.
A recently rediscovered manuscript, one copy in Ethiopian and one in Arabic, entitled THE HEXAMERON containing the ADAM APOCALYPSE, bears the signature of our great Church Father, Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus. We know that he was closely connected with early Esoteric Christianity from his church writings which so confuse the scholarly commentators. They are confusing because, like Plato, he carefully weaves the occult truths with exoteric facts, bewildering the historian buy leaving between the line occult keys to the inquiring mind. In the ADAM APOCALYPSE, he writes,
"In the beginning, on the first day, God created heaven and the earth, water, air, and fire, the invisible spirits, that is, the angels: the Thrones, the Dominations, the Principalities and Powers, the Cherubim and Seraphim, all castes and orders of spirits."
In addition, the ADAM APOCALYPSE described three orders of angels called heavens comprising ten hosts. The first heaven contains the "beautiful", the Cherubim and the Seraphim, who carry the "throne" of God. In the second heaven, three more orders dwell, called the dominions (masters) led by Gabriel, the thrones led by Raphael and the sultans, led by Syrial, who blows a trumpet. Between the first and second heaven is a fourth host called the powers and led by St. Michael. In the third heaven three more hosts of angels are described, being the Judges, the archangels and the angels. Above the throne of God floats the Trinity.
This angelology of Epiphanius exactly parallels the celestial hierarchy of Dionysius except for the names of certain angelic hosts. Scholars recognize the ADAM APOCALYPSE as the oldest known source to date of the elaborate ordering of angels, the Arabic version being the oldest text. We know that it was written after the life of St. Paul because it refers to angels blowing trumpets "as described in the vision of John, that is, the Apocalypse"(New Testament). However, to ascribe its authorship to Epiphanius (375 A.D.) is unlikely because he was not an apocalyptic writer. His task was to preserve occult traditions from the censorship and liturgical dogma evolving from the triumph of Nicene Christianity in 325 A.D. As G.R. S. Mead so intuitively observes "Epiphanius knew of an ancient tradition which declared that the Christians originally derived from the Essenes, that Jesus himself had been an Essene and that this Church Father wished to safeguard the doctrinal tradition now stereotyped by the ecumenical decisions at Nicaea."
During early Christianity, the writings of Dionysius were hidden from the profane until the 6th Century and for this reason, modern scholars say that he never wrote the manuscripts that bear his name. (It distresses me to read in a recent book on Angelology that the author says that Dionysius, "pretended to be Dionysius the Areopagite, the first century Greek who was converted by St. Paul at Athens...until around 1450 A.D. he was discovered to be a fraud ...therefore he is now called the pseudo-Areopagite".)The only difference between the ADAM APOCALYPSE and the CELESTIAL HIERARCHY is in the names of certain angelic hosts known as the "beautiful, masters, judges and the sultans". Jewish angelology as reflected in their Quabbalah derived from Chaldean traditions during the Babylonian captivity, adding only Hebrew names to a pre-existing angelic order. About 100 B.C., the Essene Teacher of Righteousness (Jeschu Ben Pandira) merged the Chaldean mystery stream of Zarathustra with the Jewish mystery stream of Melchizedek and Abraham to prepare for the birth event of the two Jesus children. It seems likely that Epiphanius, while using the Chaldean names of his orders of angelic hosts was trying to preserve an esoteric tradition extent in the Essene Community that survived until the destruction of Qumran by the Romans in 68 A.D. Saul the Pharisee, after his conversion and in preparation for his many years of teaching, was instructed by the Essenes to Hellenize the names of the hosts in the celestial hierarchy because the Greek and Roman world were not familiar with the Arabic names of the autocratic state dignitaries. Only after the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls will scholars connect the Pauline Community with the Essene Community at Qumran. Several authors such as Alan F. Segal, J.A. Fitzmyer, and N.A. Dahl now suspect that St. Paul , especially in the CORINTHIANS, either is directly quoting or otherwise relying on scrolls received from Qumran.