Part 4


Concerning the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, and concerning their
last Hierarchy.

Section I.

There remains for our reverent contemplation a Division which completes the
Angelic Hierarchies, that divided into the Godlike Principalities,
Archangels, and Angels. And I think it necessary, to declare first the
meaning of their sacred appellations to the best of my ability. For that of
the Heavenly Principalities manifests their princely and leading function,
after the Divine example, with order religious and most befitting the
Princely, and their being wholly turned to the super-princely Prince, and
leading others in princely fashion, and being moulded, as far as possible,
to that prince-making Princedom Itself, and to manifest its superessential
princely order, by the regularity of the princely powers.

Section II.

The (Order) of the Holy Archangels is of the same rank with the heavenly
Principalities. For there is one Hierarchy and Division, as I said, of them
and the Angels. But since there is not a Hierarchy which does not possess
first and middle and last powers, the holy order of Archangels occupies the
middle position in the Hierarchy between the extremes, for it belongs alike
to the most holy Principalities and to the holy Angels; to the
Principalities because it is turned in a princely fashion to the
superessential Princedom, and is moulded to It as far as attainable, and
unites the Angels after the fashion of its own well-regulated and marshalled
and invisible leadings; and it belongs to the Angels, because it is of the
messenger Order, receiving hierarchically the Divine illuminations from the
first powers, and announcing the same to the Angels in a godly manner, and,
through Angels, manifesting to us, in proportion to the religious aptitude
of each of the godly persons illuminated. For the Angels, as we have already
said, complete the whole series of Heavenly Minds, as being the last Order
of the Heavenly Beings who possess the Angelic characteristic; yea, rather,
they are more properly named Angels by us than those of higher degree,
because their Hierarchy is occupied with the more manifest, and is more
particularly concerned with the things of the world. For the very highest
Order, as being placed in the first rank near the Hidden One, we must
consider as directing in spiritual things the second, hiddenly; and that the
second, which is composed of the holy Lordships and Powers and Authorities,
leads the Hierarchy of the Principalities and Archangels and Angels, more
clearly indeed than the first Hierarchy, but more hiddenly than the Order
after it, and the revealing order of the Principalities, Archangels, and
Angels, presides, through each other, over the Hierarchies amongst men, in
order that the elevation, and conversion, and communion, and union with God
may be in due order; and, further, also that the procession from God
vouchsafed benignly to all the Hierarchies, and passing to all in common,
may be also with most sacred regularity. Hence, the Word of God has assigned
our Hierarchy to Angels, by naming Michael as Ruler of the Jewish people,
and others over other nations. For the Most High established borders of
nations according to number of Angels of God.

Section III.

But if any one should say, “How then were the people of the Hebrews alone
conducted to the supremely Divine illuminations?” we must answer, that we
ought not to throw the blame of the other nations wandering after those
which are no gods upon the direct guidance of the Angels, but that they
themselves, by their own declension, fell away from the direct leading
towards the Divine Being, through self-conceit and self-will, and through
their irrational veneration for things which appeared to them worthy of God.
Even the Hebrew people are said to have suffered the same thing; for He
says, “Thou I hast cast away knowledge of God, and hast gone after thine own
heart.” For neither have we a life governed by necessity, nor on account of
the free will of those who are objects of providential care, are the Divine
rays of the providential illumination blunted; but the inaptitude of the
mental visions makes the overflowing light-gift of the paternal goodness,
either altogether unparticipated or inpenetrable to their resistance, or
makes the participations of the one fontal ray, diverse, small, or great,
obscure, or brilliant, although that ray is one and simple, and always the
same and ever overflowing; for even if, over the other nations (from whom we
also have emerged to that boundless and bounteous sea of Divine Light, which
is readily-expanded for the ready reception of all), certain not alien gods
were wont to preside; yet there is one Head of all, and to this, the Angels,
who religiously direct each nation, conduct those who follow them. Let us
consider Melchizedek as being a Hierarch, most dear to God; (not of gods
which are not, but of the truly most high God); for the godly-wise did not
call Melchizedek simply dear to God, but also Priest, in order that they may
clearly shew to the wise, that not only was he himself turned to the true
God, but further that he was guide to others, as Hierarch of the elevation
to the true and only Godhead.

Section IV.

Let me also recall this to your Hierarchical judgment—that both to Pharaoh,
from the Angel who presided over the Egyptians, and to the Babylonian
Prince, from his own Angel, the watchful and ruling care of the Providence
and Lordship over all, was interpreted in visions; and for those nations,
the worshippers of the true God were appointed leaders, for the
interpretation of things shaped by Angelic visions revealed from God through
Angels to holy men akin to the Angels, Daniel and Joseph. For there is one
Prince and Providence over all. And never must we think that the Godhead is
leader of Jews by lot, and that Angels, independently, or as of equal rank,
or in opposition, or that certain other gods, preside over the other
nations. But that particular phrase of the Divine Word must be accepted
according to the following sacred intention; not as though God had divided
government amongst men, with other gods, or Angels, and had been elected by
lot to the government and leadership of Israel, but in this sense—whilst the
one Providence of Highest over all, assigned all mankind, savingly, to the
directing conduct of their own Angels, yet Israel, almost alone in
comparison with all, turned himself to the Light-gift, and recognition of
the true Lord-Hence the Word of God, as shewing that Israel elected himself
for the worship of the true God, says this, “He became Lord’s portion;” and
as indicating that he was assigned equally with the other nations, to one of
the holy Angels, for the recognition, through him, of the Head of all, said
“That Michael became leader of the (Jewish) people,” demonstrating
distinctly that there is one Providence of the whole, superessentially
established above all the powers, unseen and seen, and that all the Angels
who preside over each nation, elevate, as far as possible, those who follow
them with a willing mind, to It as their proper Head.


A Repetition and Summary of the Angelic discipline.

Section I.

We have concluded, then, that the most reverend Order of the Minds around
God, ministered by the perfecting illumination through its immediate
elevation to it, is purified, and illuminated, and perfected by a gift of
light from the Godhead, more hidden and more manifest—more hidden, indeed,
as being more intelligible, and more simplifying, and more unifying; more
manifest, as being a first gift and a first manifestation, and more
complete, and more affused to it as transparent. And from this (Order)
again, in due degree, the second, and from the second, the third, and from
the third, our Hierarchy, is reverently conducted to the super-original
Origin and End of all good order, according to the self-same law of
well-ordered regularity, in Divine harmony and proportion.

Section II.

Now all Angels are interpreters of those above them, the most reverend,
indeed, of God, Who moves them, and the rest, in due degree, of those who
have been moved by God. For, to such an extent has the superessential
harmony of all things provided for the religious order and the regulated
conduct of each of the rational and intellectual beings, that each rank of
the Hierarchies, has been placed in sacred order, and we observe every
Hierarchy distributed into first, and middle, and last Powers. But to speak
accurately, He distinguished each Division itself, by the same Divine
harmonies; wherefore the theologians say that the most Divine Seraphim cry
one to another, indicating distinctly, as I think by this, that the first
impart their knowledge of divine things to the second.

Section III.

I might add this not inappropriately, that each heavenly and human mind has
within itself its own special first, and middle, and last ranks, and powers,
manifested severally in due degree, for the aforesaid particular mystical
meanings of the Hierarchical illuminations, according to which, each one
participates-, so far as is lawful and attainable to him, in the most
spotless purification, the most copious light, the pre-eminent perfection.
For there is nothing that is self-perfect, or absolutely without need of
perfecting, except the really Self-perfect and preeminently Perfect.


For what reason all the Heavenly Beings, in common, are called Heavenly

Section I.

Now that we have defined these things, it is worthy of consideration for
what reason we are accustomed to call all the Angelic Beings together,
Heavenly Powers. For it is not possible to say, as we may of the Angels,
that the Order of the holy Powers is last of all. The Orders of the superior
Beings share in the saintly illumination. of the last; but the last in no
wise of the first; and on this account all the Divine Minds are called
Heavenly Powers, but never Seraphim and Thrones and Lordships. For the last
do not enjoy the whole characteristics of the highest. For the Angels, and
those above the Angels—Archangels, and Principalities, and
Authorities,—placed by the Word of God after the Powers, are often in common
called by us, in conjunction with the other holy Beings, Heavenly Powers.

Section II.

But we affirm that, whilst often using the appellation, Heavenly Powers, for
all in common, we do not introduce a sort of. confusion of the
characteristics of each Order. But, inasmuch as all the Divine Minds, by the
supermundane description given of them, are distributed into three,—into
essence, and power, and energy,—when we speak of them all, or some of them,
indiscriminately, as Heavenly Beings or Heavenly Powers, we must consider
that we manifest those about whom we speak in a general way, from their
essence or power severally. For we must not apply the superior
characteristic of those holy Powers, whom we have already sufficiently
distinguished, to the Beings which are entirely inferior to them, so as to
overthrow the unconfused order of the Angelic ranks. For according to the
correct account which we have already frequently given, the superior Orders
possess abundantly the sacred characteristics of the inferior, but the
lowest do not possess the superior completeness of the more reverend, since
the first-manifested illuminations are revealed to them, through the first
Order, in proportion to their capacity.


Why the Hierarchs amongst men are called Angels.

Section I.

But this is sometimes also asked by diligent contemplators of the
intelligible Oracles; Inasmuch as the lowest Orders do not possess the
completeness of the superior, for what reason is our Hierarch named by the
Oracles, “Angel of the Sovereign Lord?”

Section II.

Now the statement, as I think, is not contrary to what has been before
defined; for we say that the last lack the complete and pre-eminent Power of
the more reverend Divisions; for they participate in the partial and
analogous, according to the one harmonious and binding fellowship of all
things. For example, the rank of the holy Cherubim participates in higher
wisdom and knowledge, but the Divisions of the Beings beneath them,
participate, they also, in wisdom and knowledge, but nevertheless partially,
as compared with them, and in a lower degree. For the participation of
wisdom and knowledge throughout is common to all the minds which bear the
image of God; but the being near and first, or second and inferior, is not
common, but, as has been determined for each in its own degree. This also
one might safely define respecting all the Divine Minds; for, as the first
possess abundantly the saintly characteristics of the inferior, so the last
possess those of the superior, not indeed in the same degree, but
subordinately. There is, then, as I think, nothing absurd, if the Word of
God calls our Hierarch, Angel, since he participates, according to his own
capacity, in the messenger characteristic of the Angels, and elevates
himself, as far as attainable to men, to the likeness of their revealing

Section III.

But you will find that the Word of God calls gods, both the Heavenly Beings
above us, and the most beloved of God, and holy men amongst us, although the
Divine Hiddenness is transcendently elevated and established above all, and
no created Being can. properly and wholly be said to be like unto It, except
those intellectual and rational Beings who are entirely and wholly turned to
Its Oneness as far as possible, and who elevate themselves incessantly to
Its Divine illuminations, as far as attainable, by their imitation of God,
if I may so speak, according to their power, and are deemed worthy of the
same divine name.


For what reason the Prophet Isaiah is said to have been purified by the

Section I.

Come, then, let us examine this as best we can, why the Seraphim is said to
be sent to one of the Theologians; for some one may object, that not one of
the inferior Angels, but he, the enrolled amongst the most reverend Beings,
cleanses the Prophet.

Section II.

Some, then, affirm that, according to the definition already given of the
mutual relation of all the Minds, the Logion does not name one of the
highest around God, as having come for the cleansing of the Theologian, but
that some one of the Angels, placed over us as a sacred Minister of the
Prophet’s cleansing, is called by the same name. as the Seraphim, on the
ground that the removal of the faults spoken of, and the restoration of him
who was cleansed for the Divine mission, was through fire; and they say that
the Logion speaks simply of one of the Seraphim, not one of those who are
established around God, but one of the Powers set over us for the purpose of

Section III.

Now another man brought forward to me a by no means foolish defence of the
present position. For he said that that great one, whoever he was,—the Angel
who formed this vision for the purpose of teaching the theologian Divine
things,—referred his own cleansing function to God, and after God, to the
first working Hierarchy. And was not this statement certainly true? For he
who said this, affirmed that the supremely Divine Power in visiting all,
advances and penetrates all irresistibly, and yet is invisible to all, not
only as being superessentially elevated above all, but as secretly
transmitting its providential energies to all; yea, rather, it is manifested
to all the intellectual Beings in due degree, and by conducting Its own gift
of Light to the most reverend Beings, through them, as first, It distributes
in due order to the subordinate, according to the power of each Division to
bear the vision of God; or to speak more strictly, and through familiar
illustrations (for if they fall short of the Glory of God, Who is exalted
above all, yet they are more illustrating for us), the distribution of the
sun’s ray passes with easy distribution to first matter, as being more
transparent than all, and, through it with greater clearness, lights up its
own splendours; but when it strikes more dense materials, its distributed
brilliancy becomes more obscure, from the inaptitude of the materials
illuminated for transmission of the gift of Light, and from this it is
naturally contracted, so as to almost entirely exclude the passage of Light.
Again, the heat of fire transmits itself chiefly to things that are more
receptive, and yielding, and conductive to assimilation to itself; but, as
regards repellent opposing substances, either it leaves none, or a very
light, trace of its fiery energy; and further, when through substances
favourable to its proper action, it comes in contact with things not
congenial,—first, it perchance makes things easily changed to heating hot,
and through them heats proportionately either water or something else which
is not easily heated. After the same rule, then, of Nature’s well-ordered
method, the regulation of all good order, both visible and invisible,
manifests supernaturally the brightness of its own gift of Light, in first
manifestation to the most exalted Beings, in abundant streams, and through
these, the Beings after them partake of the Divine ray. For these, as
knowing God first, and striving preeminently after Divine virtue, and to
become first-workers, are deemed worthy of the power and energy for the
imitation of God, as attainable, and these benevolently elevate the beings
after them to an equality, as far as possible, by imparting ungrudgingly to
them the splendour which rests upon themselves, and these again to the
subordinate, and throughout each Order, the first rank imparts its gift to
that after it, and the Divine Light thus rests upon all, in due proportion,
with providential forethought. There is, then, for all those who are
illuminated, a Source of illumination, viz., God, by nature, and really, and
properly, as Essence of Light, and Cause of Being, and Vision itself; but,
by ordinance, and for Divine imitation, the relatively superior (is source)
for each after it, by the fact, that the Divine rays are poured through it
to that. All the remaining Angelic Beings, then, naturally regard the
highest Order of the Heavenly Minds as source, after God, of every
God-knowledge and God-imitation, since, through them, the supremely Divine
illumination is distributed to all, and to us. Wherefore, they refer every
holy energy of Divine imitation to God indeed as Cause, but to the first
Godlike Minds, as first agents and teachers of things Divine.

The first Order, then, of the holy Angels possesses, more than all, the
characteristic of fire, and the streaming distribution of supremely Divine
wisdom, and the faculty of knowing the highest science of the Divine
illuminations, and the characteristic of Thrones, exhibiting their expansion
for the reception of God; and the ranks of the subordinate Beings possess
indeed the empyrean, the wise, the knowing, the God-receptive, faculty, but
subordinately, and by looking to the first, and through them, as being
deemed worthy of the Divine imitation in first operation, are conducted to
the attainable likeness of God. The aforesaid holy characteristics, then,
which the Beings after them possess, through the first, they attribute to
those Beings themselves, after God, as Hierarchs.

Section IV.

He who said this, used to affirm, that this vision was shewn to the
Theologian, through one of the holy and blessed Angels set over us, and that
from his illuminating direction, he was elevated to that intellectual
contemplation in which he saw the most exalted Beings seated (to speak
symbolically) under God, and with God, and around [215] God, and the
super-princely [216] Eminence elevated unspeakably above them and all,
seated on high in the midst of the superior Powers. The Theologian then
learned, from the things seen, that, as compared with every super-essential
pre-eminence, the Divine Being was seated incomparably above every visible
and invisible power, yea, even that It is exalted above all, as the Reality
of all things, as Absolute—not even like to the first of created
Beings;—further also, that It is source and essentiating Cause, and
unalterable Fixity of the undissolved continuance of all things, from, Which
is both the being and the well-being of the most exalted Powers themselves.
Then he revealed that the Godlike powers of the most holy Seraphim,
themselves, whose sacred appellation signifies the Fiery, concerning which
we shall shortly speak as best we can, conducted the elevations of the
empyrean power to the Divine likeness. And, the holy Theologian, by viewing
the description of free and most exalted elevation of the sixfold wings to
the Divine Being in first, middle, and last conceptions, and further, their
endless feet and many faces, and their extended wings—one under their feet,
and the other over their faces, as seen in vision, and the perpetual
movement of their middle wings—was brought to the intelligible knowledge of
the things seen, since there was manifested to him the power of the most
exalted minds for deep penetration and contemplation, and the sacred
reverence which they have, supermundanely, for the bold and courageous and
unattainable scrutiny into higher and deeper mysteries; and of the incessant
and high-flying perpetual movement of their Godlike energies in due
proportion. But he was also taught the hidden mysteries of that supremely
Divine and much esteemed Hymn of Praise—whilst the Angel who formed the
vision imparts, as far as possible, his own sacred knowledge to the
Theologian. He also taught him this, that the participation, as far as
attainable, in the supremely Divine and radiant purity, is a purification to
the pure however pure; and it being accomplished from the very Godhead by
most exalted causes, for all the sacred Minds by a superessential
hiddenness, is in a manner more clear, and exhibits and distributes itself,
in a higher degree, to the highest powers around It; but with regard to the
second, or us, the lowest mental powers, as each is distant from, as regards
the Divine likeness, so It contracts its brilliant illumination to the
single unknowable of its own hiddenness. And it illuminates the second,
severally, through the first; and, if one must speak briefly, it is firstly
brought from hiddenness to manifestation through the first powers. This,
then, the Theologian was taught by the Angel who was leading him to
Light—that purification, and all the supremely Divine operations,
illuminating through the first Beings, are distributed to all the rest,
according to the relation of each for the deifying participations. Wherefore
he reasonably attributed to the Seraphim, after God, the characteristic of
purification by fire. There is nothing, then, absurd, if the Seraphim is
said to purify the Prophet. For, as God purifies all, by being cause of
every purification, yea, rather (for I use a familiar illustration) just as
our Hierarch, when purifying or enlightening through his Leitourgoi or
Priests, is said himself to purify and enlighten, since the Orders
consecrated through him attribute to him their own proper sacred operations;
so also the Angel who effected the purification of the Theologian attributes
his own purifying science and power to God, indeed, as Cause, but to the
Seraphim as first-operating Hierarch; as any one might say with Angelic
reverence, whilst teaching one who was being purified by him, “There is a
preeminent Source, and Essence, and Worker, and Cause of the cleansing
wrought upon you from me, He Who brings both the first Beings into Being,
and holds them together by their fixity around Himself, and keeps them
without change and without fall, moving them to the first participations of
His own Providential energies (for this, He Who taught me these things used
to say, shews the mission of the Seraphim), but as Hierarch and Leader after
God, the Marshal of the most exalted Beings, from whom I was taught to
purify after the example of God — this is he, who cleanses thee through me,
through whom the Cause and Creator of all cleansing brought forth His own
provident energies from the Hidden even to us.” These things, then, he
taught me, and I impart them to thee. Let it be a part of thy intellectual
and discriminating skill, either, to acquit each of the causes assigned from
objection, and to honour this before the other as having likelihood and good
reason, and perhaps, the truth; or, to find out from yourself something more
allied to the real truth, or to learn from another; (God, of course, giving
expression, and Angels supplying it;) and to reveal to us, the friends of
Angels, a view more luminous if it should be so, and to me specially

[215] John 1. 1.

[216] Or super-original.


What the traditional number of the Angels signifies.

This also is worthy, in my opinion, of intellectual attention, that the
tradition of the Oracles concerning the Angels affirms that they are
thousand thousands, and myriad myriads, accumulating and multiplying, to
themselves, the supreme limits of our numbers, and, through these, shewing
clearly, that the ranks of the Heavenly Beings cannot be numbered by us. For
many are the blessed hosts of the supermundane minds, surpassing the weak
and contracted measurement of our material number, and being definitely
known by their own supermundane and heavenly intelligence and science alone,
which is given to them in profusion by the supremely Divine and Omniscient
Framer of Wisdom, and essentiating Cause and connecting Force, and
encompassing Term of all created things together.


What are the morphic likenesses of the Angelic Powers? what the fiery? what
the anthromorphic? what are the eyes? what the nostrils? what the ears? what
the mouths? what the touch? what the eyelids? what the eyebrows? what the
prime? what the teeth? what the shoulders? what the elbows and the hands?
what the heart? what the breasts? what the back? what the feet? what the
wings? what the nakedness? what the robe? what the shining raiment? what the
sacerdotal? what the girdles? what the rods? what the spears? what the
battle-axes? what the measuring lines? what the winds? what the clouds? what
the brass? what the electron? what the choirs? what the clapping of hands?
what the colours of different stones? what the appearance of the lion? what
the appearance of the ox? what the appearance of the eagle? what the horses?
what the varieties of coloured horses? what the rivers? what the chariots?
what the wheels? what the so-called joy of the Angels?

Section I.

Come, then, let us at last, if you please, rest our mental vision from the
strain of lofty contemplation, befitting Angels, and descend to the divided
and manifold breadth of the many-shaped variety of the Angelic forms, and
then return analytically from the same, as from images, to the simplicity of
the Heavenly Minds. But let this first be made plain to you, that the
explanations of the sacredly depicted likenesses represent the same ranks of
the Heavenly Beings as sometimes ruling, and, at other times, as being
ruled; and the last, ruling, and the first, being ruled; and the same, as
has been said, having first, and middle, and last powers —without
introducing anything absurd into the description, according to the following
method of explanation. For if indeed we were to say that some are ruled by
those above them, and then that they rule the same, and that those above,
whilst ruling those below, are ruled by those same who are being ruled, the
thing would manifestly be absurd, and mixed with all sorts of confusion. But
if we say that the same rule and are ruled, but no longer the self-same, or
from the self-same, but that each same is ruled by those before, and rules
those below, one might say appropriately that the Divinely pictured
presentations in the Oracles may sometimes attribute, properly and truly,
the very same, both to first, and middle, and last powers. Now the straining
elevation to things above, and their being drawn unswervingly around each
other, as being guardians of their own proper powers, and that they
participate in the providential faculty to provide for those below them by
mutual communication, befit truly all the Heavenly Beings, although some,
pre-eminently and wholly, as we have often said, and others partially and

Section II.

But we must keep our discourse within bounds, and must search, in our first
explanation of the types, for what reason the Word of God prefers the sacred
description of fire, in preference to almost every other. You will find it,
then, representing not only wheels of fire, but also living creatures of
fire, and men, flashing, as it were, like lightning, and placing around the
Heavenly Beings themselves heaps of coals of fire, and rivers of flame
flowing with irresistible force; and also it says that the thrones are of
fire; and that the most exalted Seraphim glow with fire, it shews from their
appellation, and it attributes the characteristic and energy of fire to
them, and throughout, above and below, it prefers pre-eminently the
representation by the image of fire. I think, then, the similitude of fire
[217] denotes the likeness of the Heavenly Minds to God in the highest
degree; for the holy theologians frequently describe the superessential and
formless essence by fire, as having many likenesses, if I may be permitted
to say so, of the supremely Divine property, as in things visible. For the
sensible fire is, so to speak, in everything, and passes through everything
unmingled, and springs from all, and whilst all-luminous, is, as it were,
hidden, unknown, in its essential nature, when there is no material lying
near it upon which it may shew its proper energy. It is both uncontrollable
and invisible, self-subduing all things, and bringing under its own energy
anything in which it may happen to be; varying, imparting itself to all
things near it, whatever they may be; renewing by its rousing heat, and
giving light by its uncovered illuminations; invincible, unmingled,
separating, unchangeable, elevating, penetrating, lofty; subject to no
grovelling inferiority, ever moving, self-moving, moving other things,
comprehending, incomprehended, needing no other, imperceptibly increasing
itself, displaying its own majesty to the materials receiving it; energetic,
powerful, present to all invisibly, unobserved, seeming not to be, and
manifesting itself suddenly according to its own proper nature by friction,
as it were by a sort of seeking, and again flying away impalpably,
undiminished in all the joyful distributions of itself. And one might find
many characteristics of fire, appropriate to display the supremely Divine
Energy, as in sensible images. The Godly-wise, then, knowing this, depict
the celestial Beings from fire, shewing their Godlikeness, and imitation of
God, as far as attainable.

Section III.

But they also depict them under the likeness of men [218] , on account of
the intellectual faculty, and their having powers of looking upwards, and
their straight and erect form, and their innate faculty of ruling and
guiding, and whilst being least, in physical strength as compared with the
other powers of irrational creatures, yet ruling over all by their superior
power of mind, and by their dominion in consequence of rational science, and
their innate unslavishness and indomitableness of soul. It is possible,
then, I think, to find within each of the many parts of our body harmonious
images of the Heavenly Powers, by affirming that the powers of vision denote
the most transparent elevation towards the Divine lights, and again, the
tender, and liquid, and not repellent, but sensitive, and pure, and
unfolded, reception, free from all passion, of the supremely Divine

Now the discriminating powers of the nostrils denote the being able to
receive, as far as attainable, the sweet-smelling largess beyond conception,
and to distinguish accurately things which are not such, and to entirely

The powers of the ears denote the participation and conscious reception of
the supremely Divine inspiration.

The powers of taste denote the fulness of the intelligible nourishments, and
the reception of the Divine and nourishing streams.

The powers of touch denote the skilful discrimination of that which is
suitable or injurious.

The eyelids and eyebrows denote the guarding of the conceptions which see

The figures of manhood and youth denote the perpetual bloom and vigour of

The teeth denote the dividing of the nourishing perfection given to us; for
each intellectual Being divides and multiplies, by a provident faculty, the
unified conception given to it by the more Divine for the proportionate
elevation of the inferior.

The shoulders and elbows, and further, the hands, denote the power of
making, and operating, and accomplishing.

The heart again is a symbol of the Godlike life, dispersing its own
life-giving power to the objects of its forethought, as beseems the good.

The chest again denotes the invincible and protective faculty of the
life-giving distribution, as being placed above the heart.

The back, the holding together the whole productive powers of life.

The feet denote the moving and quickness, and skilfulness of the perpetual
movement advancing towards Divine things. Wherefore also the Word of God
arranged the feet of the holy Minds under their wings; for the wing displays
the elevating quickness and the heavenly progress towards higher things, and
the superiority to every grovelling thing by reason of the ascending, and
the lightness of the wings denotes their being in no respect earthly, but
undefiledly and lightly raised to the sublime; and the naked and unshod
denotes the unfettered, agile, and unrestrained, and free from all external
superfluity, and assimilation to the Divine simplicity, as far as

Section IV.

But since again the simple and variegated wisdom both clothes the naked, and
distributes certain implements to them to carry, come, let us unfold,
according to our power, the sacred garments and implements of the celestial
Minds. The shining and glowing raiment, I think, signifies the Divine
likeness after the image of fire, and their enlightening, in consequence of
their repose in Heaven, where is the Light, and their complete illuminating
intelligibly, and their being illuminated intellectually [219] ; and the
sacerdotal robe denotes their conducting to Divine and mystical visions, and
the consecration of their whole life. And the girdles signify the guard over
their productive powers, and the collected habit of being turned uniformly
to It, and being drawn around Itself by an unbroken identity, in a
well-ordered circle.

Section V.

The rods signify the kingly and directing faculty, making all things
straight. The spears and the battle-axes denote the dividing of things
unlike, and the sharp and energetic and drastic operation of the
discriminating powers. The geometrical and technical articles denote the
founding, and building, and completing, and whatever else belongs to the
elevating and guiding forethought for the subordinate Orders. But sometimes
the implements assigned to the holy Angels are the symbols of God’s
judgments to ourselves; some, representing His correcting instruction or
avenging righteousness, others, freedom from peril, or end of education, or
resumption of former well-being, or addition of other gifts, small or great,
sensible or intelligible. Nor would a discriminating mind, in any case
whatever, have any difficulty in properly adapting things visible to things

Section VI.

But the fact that they are named winds denotes their rapid action, passing
almost instantaneously to all things, and their transporting movement in
passing from above to below, and again from below to above, their elevating
the second to the height above, and moving the first to a common and
provident advance of the inferior Orders. But perhaps some one would say
that the appellation of wind, to the aerial spirit, also denotes the Divine
likeness of the Heavenly Minds; for this also bears a likeness and type of
the supremely Divine energy (as we have demonstrated more fully in the
symbolic theology, in our explanation of the four elements) in accordance
with the moving and life-producing, and the rapid and resistless development
of Nature, and the Hiddenness of the moving sources and terminations to us
unknown and invisible. For He says, “Thou knowest not whence it cometh nor
whither it goeth.” But also the Word of God attributes to them the
appearance of a cloud, signifying, through this, that the holy minds are
filled super-mundanely with the hidden Light, receiving the first
manifestation without boasting over it as such, which they distribute
ungrudgingly to the second, as a secondary manifestation, and in proportion
to capacity; yea, further, that the productive, and life-producing, and
increasing, and perfecting power is enshrined in them, after the fashion of
the intelligible production of showers, which summons the receptive womb of
the earth, by fruitful rains, to the life-giving pangs of birth.

Section VII.

Also, the Word of God attributes to the Heavenly Beings a likeness to Brass,
Electron, and many-coloured stones. Electron, as being partly like gold,
partly like silver, denotes the incorruptible, as in gold, and unexpended,
and undiminished, and spotless brilliancy, and the brightness, as in silver,
and a luminous and heavenly radiance. But to the Brass, according to the
reasons assigned, must be attributed either the likeness of fire or that of

We must consider that the many-coloured appearances of stones denote either
as white, the luminous; or as red, the fiery; or as yellow, the golden; or
as green, the youthful and the full grown; and within each likeness you will
find an explanation which teaches the inner meaning of the typical images.

But since, I think, according to our power, this has been sufficiently said,
let us pass to the sacred explanation of the Divine representations of the
Heavenly Minds through wild beasts [220] . We must consider that the shape
of a Lion [221] signifies the leading, and robust, and indomitable, and the
assimilation, as far as possible, to the unutterable Godhead, by the
concealment of the intellectual footprints [222] , and by the mystically
modest covering of the path, leading to It, during Divine illumination.

Section VIII.

The Image of the Ox [223] denotes the strong and the mature, turning up the
intellectual furrows for the reception of the heavenly and productive
showers; and the Horns, the guarding and indomitable.

The representation of the Eagle [224] denotes the kingly, and soaring, and
swift in flight, and quickness in search of the nourishment which makes
strong, and wanness, and agility, and cleverness; and the unimpeded,
straight, and unflinching gaze towards the bounteous and brilliant splendour
of the Divine rays of the sun, with the robust extension of the visual

That of Horses represents obedience and docility, and of those who are
white, brilliancy, and as especially congenial to the Divine Light; but of
those who are dark blue, the Hidden; and of those red, the fiery and
vigorous; and of the piebald, the uniting of the extremes by the power
passing through them, and joining the first to the second, and the second to
the first, reciprocally and considerately.

Now if we did not consult the proportion of our discourse, we might, not
inappropriately, adapt the particular characteristics of the aforesaid
living creatures, and all their bodily representations to the Heavenly
Powers, upon the principle of dissimilar similitudes; for instance, their
appearance of anger, to intellectual manliness, of which anger is the
remotest echo, and their desire, to the Divine love; and to speak summarily,
referring all the sensible perceptions, and many parts of irrational beings,
to the immaterial conceptions and unified Powers of the Heavenly Beings. Now
not only is this sufficient for the wise, but even an explanation of one of
the dissimilar representations would be sufficient for the accurate
description of similar things, after the same fashion.

Section IX.

But we must examine the fact that rivers are spoken of, and Wheels and
Chariots attached to the Heavenly Beings. The rivers of fire signify the
supremely Divine streams furnishing to them an ungrudging and incessant
flow, and nourishing the productive powers of life; the chariots, the
conjoined communion of those of the same rank; the wheels being winged, and
advancing without turning and without deviation, the power of their
advancing energy within a straight and direct path, towards the same
unflinching and straight swoop of their every intellectual track,
supermundanely straight and direct way. Also it is possible to explain,
after another mystical meaning, the sacred description of the intellectual
wheels; for the name Gel, Gel, is given to them, as the theologian says.
This shews, according to the Hebrew tongue, revolutions and revelations. For
the Empyrean and Godlike wheels have revolutions, indeed, by their perpetual
movement around the Good Itself; but revelations, by the manifestation of
things hidden, and by the elevation of things at our feet, and by the
descending procession of the sublime illuminations to things below. There
remains for accurate explanation, the statement respecting the rejoicing of
the Heavenly Orders; for they are utterly incapable of our impassioned
pleasure. Now they are said to rejoice with God over the discovery of what
was lost, as befits their Divine good nature, and that Godlike and
ungrudging rejoicing over the care and salvation of those who are turned to
God; and that joy, beyond description, of which also holy men often partake,
whilst the deifying illuminations of the Deity rest upon them. Let it
suffice, then, to have said this much concerning the Divine representations,
which, no doubt, falls short of their accurate explanation, but which will
prevent us, I think, from being servilely entangled in the resemblance of
the types. But if you should say that we have not mentioned in order the
whole Angelic Powers, or operations, or likenesses, depicted in the Oracles,
we answer in truth, that we do not possess the supermundane science of some;
and further, in regard to them, we have need of another to conduct to light
and to reveal. Other things, however, as being parallel to the things said,
we have omitted, out of regard to the symmetry of the discourse; and the
hiddenness, beyond our capacity, we have honoured by silence.

St. Michael and All Angels, 1898.

[217] Le Cratyle de Platon, i. 302.

[218] Gen. xxxii. 24.

[219] See Maximus D.N. c. 4. s. 1.

[220] Ezek. i. 10.

[221] Ibid.

[222] The Lion was said to erase his footsteps by his tail.

[223] Ezek. i. 10.

[224] Ibid.



To my Fellow Presbyter Timothy. Dionysius the Presbyter.

What is the traditional view of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and what is its

Section I.

We must, then, most pious of pious sons, demonstrate from the supermundane
and most sacred Oracles and traditions, that ours is a Hierarchy of the
inspired and Divine and Deifying science, and of operation, and of
consecration, for those who have been initiated with the initiation of the
sacred revelation derived from the hierarchical mysteries. See, however,
that you do not put to scorn things most holy (Holy of Holies); but rather
treat them reverently, and you will honour the things of the hidden God by
intellectual and obscure researches, carefully guarding them from the
participation and defilement of the uninitiated, and reverently sharing holy
things with the holy alone, by a holy enlightenment. For thus, as the Word
of God has taught us who feast at His Banquet, even Jesus Himself—the most
supremely Divine Mind and superessential, the Source and Essence, and most
supremely Divine Power of every Hierarchy and Sanctification and Divine
operation—illuminates the blessed Beings who are superior to us, in a manner
more clear, and at the same time more intellectual, and assimilates them to
His own Light, as far as possible; and by our love of things beautiful
elevated to Him, and which elevates us, folds together our many diversities,
and after perfecting into a uniform and Divine life and habit and operation,
holily bequeaths the power of the Divine Priesthood; from which by
approaching to the holy exercise of the priestly office, we ourselves become
nearer to the Beings above us, by assimilation, according to our power, to
their abiding and: unchangeable holy steadfastness; and thus by looking
upwards to the blessed and supremely Divine self of Jesus, and reverently
gazing upon whatever. we are permitted to see, and illuminated with the
knowledge of the visions, we shall be able to become, as regards the science
of Divine mysteries, purified and purifiers; images of Light, and workers,
with God, perfected and perfecting.

Section II.

Then what is the Hierarchy of the Angels [225] and Archangels, and of
supermundane Principalities and Authorities, Powers and Lordships, and
Divine Thrones, or of the Beings of the same ranks as the Thrones—which the
Word of God declares to be near, and always about God, and with [226] God,
naming them in the Hebrew tongue Cherubim and Seraphim—by pondering the
sacred ranks and divisions of their Orders and Hierarchies, you will find in
the books we have written—not as befits their dignity but to the best of our
ability—and as the Theology of the most holy Scriptures guided, when they
extolled their Hierarchy. Nevertheless, it is necessary to say this, that
both that, and every Hierarchy extolled now by us, has one and the same
power, throughout the whole Hierarchical transaction; and that the Hierarch
himself, according to his essence, and analogy, and rank, is initiated in
Divine things, and is deified and imparts to the subordinates, according to
the meetness of each for the sacred deification which comes to him from God;
also that the subordinates follow the superior, and elevate the inferior
towards things in advance; and that some go before, and, as far as possible,
give the lead to others; and that each, as far as may be, participates in
the truly Beautiful, and Wise, and Good, through this the inspired and
sacerdotal harmony.

But the Beings and ranks above us, of whom we have already made a reverent
mention, are both incorporeal, and their Hierarchy is both intelligible and
supermundane; but let us view our Hierarchy, comformably to ourselves,
abounding in the variety of the sensible symbols, by which, in proportion to
our capacity, we are conducted, hierarchically according to our measure, to
the uniform deification —God and Divine virtue. They indeed, as minds,
think, according to laws laid down for themselves; but we are led by
sensible figures to the Divine contemplations, as is possible to us. And, to
speak truly, there is One, to Whom all the Godlike aspire, but they do not
partake uniformly of this One and the Same, but as the Divine balance
distributes to each the meet inheritance. Now these things have been treated
more systematically in the Treatise concerning “Intelligible and Sensible
[227] .” But now I will attempt to describe our Hierarchy, both its source
and essence, as best I can; invoking Jesus, the source and Perfecting of all

Section III.

Every Hierarchy, then, is, according to our august tradition, the whole
account of the sacred things falling under it, a most complete summary of
the sacred rites of this or that Hierarchy, as the case may be. Our
Hierarchy, then, is called, and is, the comprehensive system of the whole
sacred rites included within it, according to which the divine Hierarch,
being initiated, will have the communication of all the most sacred things
within himself, as chief of Hierarchy. For as he who speaks of Hierarchy
speaks of the order of the whole sacred rites collectively, so he, who
mentions Hierarch, denotes the inspired and godly man—the skilled in all
sacred knowledge—in whom the whole Hierarchy is clearly completed and
recognized within himself.

Head of this Hierarchy is the Fountain of Life, the Essence of Goodness, the
one Triad, Cause of things that be, from Which both being and well-being
come to things that be, by reason of goodness [228] . Of this most supremely
Divine blessedness —exalted beyond all, the threefold Monad, the really
Being,—the Will, inscrutable to us, but known to Itself, is the rational
preservation of beings amongst us and above us; but that (preservation)
cannot otherwise take place, except those who are, being saved are being
deified. Now the assimilation to, and union with, God, as far as attainable,
is deification. And this is the common goal of every Hierarchy,—the clinging
love towards God and Divine things divinely and uniformly ministered; and
previous to this, the complete and unswerving removal of things contrary,
the knowledge of things as they are in themselves; the vision and science of
sacred truth; the inspired communication of the uniform perfection of the
One Itself, as far as attainable; the banquet of contemplation, nourishing
intelligibly, and deifying every man elevated towards it.

Section IV.

Let us affirm, then, that the supremely Divine Blessedness, the essential
Deity, the Source of deification, from Which comes the deification of those
deified, bequeathed, by Divine Goodness, the Hierarchy, for preservation,
and deification of all rational and intellectual Beings. And to the
supermundane and blessed inheritances there is bequeathed something more
immaterial and intellectual (for Almighty God does not move them to things
divine, from without, but intelligibly, since they are illuminated as to the
most Divine will from within, with brilliancy pure and immaterial), but to
us—that which has been bequeathed to them, uniformly, and enveloped, is
bequeathed from the Divinely transmitted Oracles, in a variety and multitude
of divisible symbols, as we are able to receive it. For the Divinely
transmitted Oracles are essence of our Hierarchy. And we affirm that these
Oracles—all such as were given from our godly initiators in inspired Letters
of the Word of God —are most august; and further, whatever our leaders have
revealed to us from the same holy men, by a less material initiation, and
already akin, as it were, to the Heavenly Hierarchy, from mind to mind,
through the medium of speech, corporeal, indeed, but nevertheless more
immaterial, without writing. Nor did the inspired Hierarchs transmit these
things, in conceptions clear to the commonalty of worshippers, but in sacred
symbols. For it is not every one that is hallowed; nor, as the Oracles
affirm, does knowledge belong to all.

Section V.

Necessarily, then, the first leaders of our Hierarchy, after having been
filled themselves with the sacred gift, from the superessential Godhead, and
sent, by the supremely Divine Goodness, to extend the same gift
successively, and, as godly, earnestly desiring themselves the elevation and
deification of those after them, presented to us—by their written and
unwritten revelations—in accordance with their sacred injunctions, things
supercelestial, by sensible images, the enfolded, by variety and multitude,
and things Divine, by things human, and things immaterial, by things
material, and the superessential, by things belonging to us. Nor did they do
this merely on account of the unhallowed, to whom it is not permitted even
to touch the symbols, but because our Hierarchy is, as I said, a kind of
symbol adapted to our condition, which needs things sensible, for our more
Divine elevation from these to things intelligible. Nevertheless the reasons
of the symbols have been revealed to the Divine initiators, which it is not
permitted to explain to those who are yet being initiated, knowing that the
Lawgivers of things divinely transmitted deliberately arranged the Hierarchy
in well-established and unconfused ranks, and in proportionate and sacred
distributions of that which was convenient to each, according to fitness.
Wherefore trusting in thy sacred promises (for it is a pious duty to recall
them to thy recollection) — that, since every Hierarchical sacred word is of
binding force, thou wilt not communicate to any other but those Godlike
initiators of the same rank with thyself, and wilt persuade them to promise,
according to hierarchical regulation, to touch pure things purely, and to
communicate the mysteries of God to the godly alone, and things perfect to
those capable of perfection, and things altogether most holy to the holy, I
have entrusted this Divine gift to thee, in addition to many other
Hierarchical gifts.

[225] See Epistle to Trallians.

[226] John i. 1.

[227] Ap. C. viii. 16.

[228] Creation through goodness—not necessity.


I. Concerning things done in Illumination.

We have, then, reverently affirmed that this is the purpose of our
Hierarchy, viz., our assimilation and union with God, as far as attainable.
And, as the Divine Oracles teach, we shall attain this only by the love and
the religious performance of the most worshipful Commandments. For He says:
“He [229] that loveth Me will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and
we will come unto him, and will make Our abode with him.” What, then, is
source of the religious performance of the most august commandments? Our
preparation for the restitution of the supercelestial rest, which forms the
habits of our souls into an aptitude for the reception of the other sacred
sayings and doings [230] , the transmission of our holy and most divine
regeneration [231] . For, as our illustrious Leader used to say, the very
first movement of the mind towards Divine things is the willing reception of
Almighty God, but the very earliest step of the religious reception towards
the religious performance of the Divine commandments is the unutterable
operation of our being from God. For if our [232] being from God is the
Divine engendering, never would he know, and certainly never perform, any of
the Divine instructions, who had not had his beginning to be in God. To
speak after the manner of men, must we not first begin to be, and then to
do, our affairs? Since he, who does not exist at all, has neither movement
nor even beginning; since he, who in some way exists, alone does, or
suffers, those things suitable to his own nature. This, then, as I think, is
clear. Let us next contemplate the Divine symbols of the birth in God. And I
pray, let no uninitiated person approach the sight [233] ; for neither is it
without danger to gaze upon the glorious rays of the sun with weak eyes, nor
is it without peril to put our hand to things above us. For right was the
priesthood of the Law, when rejecting Osias, because he put his hand to
sacred things; and Korah, because to things sacred above his capacity; and
Nadab and Abihu, because they treated things, within their own province,

II. Mysterion of Illumination.

Section I.

The Hierarch, then, wishing that all men whatsoever should be saved by their
assimilation towards God, and come to recognition of truth, proclaims to all
the veritable Good News, that God being compassionate towards those upon
earth, out of His own proper and innate goodness, deigned Himself to come to
us with outstretched arms, by reason of loving-kindness towards men; and, by
the union with Him, to assimilate, like as by fire, things that have been
made one, in proportion to their aptitude for deification. “For as many as
received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God—to those who
believe on His Name, who were begotten, not of bloods, nor of will of flesh,
but of God [234] .”

Section II.

He, who has felt a religious longing to participate in these truly
supermundane gifts, comes to some one of the initiated, and persuades him to
act as his conductor to the Hierarch. He then professes wholly to follow the
teaching that shall be given to him, and prays him to undertake the
superintendence of his introduction, and of all his after life. Now he,
though religiously longing for his salvation, when he measures human
infirmity against the loftiness of the undertaking, is suddenly seized with
a shivering and sense of incapacity, nevertheless, at last, he agrees, with
a good grace, to do what is requested, and takes and leads him to the chief

Section III.

He, then, when with joy he has received, as the sheep upon his shoulders,
the two men, and has first worshipped, glorifies with a mental thanksgiving
and bodily prostration the One beneficent Source, from Which, those who are
being called, are called, and those who are being saved, are saved.

Section IV.

Then collecting a full religious assembly into the sacred place, for
co-operation, and common rejoicing over the man’s salvation, and for
thanksgiving for the Divine Goodness, he first chants a certain hymn, found
in the Oracles, accompanied by the whole body of the Church; and after this,
when he has kissed the holy table, he advances to the man before him, and
demands of him, what has brought him here?

Section V.

When the man, out of love to God, has confessed, according to the
instruction of his sponsor, his ungodliness, his ignorance of the really
beautiful, his insufficiency for the life in God, and prays, through his
holy mediation, to attain to God and Divine things, he (the Hierarch)
testifies to him, that his approach ought to be entire, as to God Who is All
Perfect, and without blemish; and when he has expounded to him fully the
godly course of life, and has demanded of him, if he would thus live,—after
his promise he places his right hand upon his head, and when he has sealed
him, commands the priests to register the man and his sponsor.

Section VI.

When these have enrolled the names, he makes a holy prayer, and when the
whole Church have completed this with him, he looses his sandals, and
removes his clothing, through the Leitourgoi. Then, when he has placed him
facing the west and beating his hands, averted towards the same quarter, he
commands him thrice to breathe scorn upon Satan, and further, to profess the
words of the renunciation. When he has witnessed his threefold renunciation,
he turns him back to the east, after he has professed this thrice; and when
he has looked up to heaven, and extended his hands thitherward, he commands
him to be enrolled under Christ, and all the Divinely transmitted Oracles of
God. When the man has done this, he attests again for him his threefold
profession, and again, when he has thrice professed, after prayer, he gives
thanks, and lays his hand upon him.

Section VII.

When the Deacons have entirely unclothed him, the Priests bring the holy oil
of the anointing. Then he begins the anointing, through the threefold
sealing, and for the rest assigns the man to the Priests, for the anointing
of his whole body, while himself advances to the mother of filial adoption,
and when he has purified the water within it by the holy invocations, and
perfected it by three cruciform effusions of the altogether most pure Muron
[235] , and by the same number of injections of the all holy Muron, and has
invoked the sacred melody of the inspiration of the God-rapt Prophets, he
orders the man to be brought forward; and when one of the Priests, from the
register, has announced him [236] and his surety, he is conducted by the
Priests near the water to the hand of the Hierarch, being led by the hand to
him. Then the Hierarch, standing above, when the Priests have again called
aloud near the Hierarch within the water the name of the initiated, the
Hierarch dips him three times, invoking the threefold Subsistence of the
Divine Blessedness, at the three immersions and emersions of the initiated.
The Priests then take him, and entrust him to the Sponsor and guide of his
introduction; and when they, in conjunction with him, have cast over the
initiated appropriate clothing, they lead him again to the Hierarch, who,
when he has sealed the man with the most Divinely operating Muron,
pronounces him to be henceforward partaker of the most Divinely initiating

Section VIII.

When he has finished these things, he elevates himself from his progression
to things secondary, to the contemplation of things [237] first, as one,
who, at no time or manner, turns himself to any other thing whatever than
those which are peculiarly his own, but from things Divine to Divine,—is
persistently and always ranging himself under the banner of the supremely
Divine Spirit.

III. Contemplation.

Section I.

This initiation, then, of the holy birth in God, as in symbols, has nothing
unbecoming or irreverent, nor anything of the sensible images, but
(contains) enigmas of a contemplation worthy of God, likened to physical and
human images. For how should it appear misleading? Even when the very divine
meaning of the things done is passed over in silence, [238] the divine
Instruction might convince, religiously pursuing as it does the good life of
the candidate, enjoining upon him the purification from every kind of evil,
through a virtuous and Divine life, by the physical cleansing through the
agency of water in a bodily form. This symbolic teaching then of the things
done, even if it had nothing more divine, would not be without religious
value, as I think, introducing a discipline of a well-regulated life, and.
suggesting mysteriously, through the total bodily purification by water, the
complete purification from the evil life.

Section II.

Let this, then, be, for the uninitiated, a conducting guidance of the soul,
which separates, as is meet things sacred and uniform from multiplicity, and
apportions the harmonious elevation to the Orders severally in turn. But we,
who have ascended by sacred gradations to the sources of the things
performed, and have been religiously taught these (sources), shall recognize
of what moulds they are the reliefs, and of what invisible things they are
the likenesses. For, as is distinctly shewn in the Treatise concerning
“Intelligible and Sensible,” sacred things in sensible forms are copies of
things intelligible, to which they lead and shew the way; and things
intelligible are source and science of things hierarchical cognizable by the

Section III.

Let us affirm, then, that the goodness of the Divine Blessedness is always
in the same condition and manner, unfolding the beneficent rays of its own
light upon all the intellectual visions without grudging. Should, then, the
self-choosing self-sufficiency of the contemplators either turn away from
the light contemplated, by closing, through love of evil, the faculties for
enlightenment naturally implanted within it, it would be separated from the
light present to it, not turned away, but shining upon it when shortsighted
and turning its face from light generously running to it; or should it
overstep the bounds of the visible given to it in due proportion, and rashly
undertake to gaze upon the rays superior to its vision, the light indeed
will do nothing beyond its proper functions, but it, by imperfectly
approaching thing’s perfect, would not attain to things unsuitable, and, by
stupidly disregarding the due proportion, would fail through its own fault.

But, as I said, the Divine Light is always unfolded beneficently to the
intellectual visions, and it is possible for them to seize it when present,
and always being most ready for the distribution of things appropriate, in a
manner becoming God. To this imitation the divine Hierarch is fashioned,
unfolding to all, without grudging, the luminous rays of his inspired
teaching, and, after the Divine example, being most ready to enlighten the
proselyte, neither using a grudging nor an unholy wrath for former
back-slidings or excess, but, after the example of God, always enlightening
by his conducting light those who approach him, as becomes a Hierarch, in
fitness, and order, and in proportion to the aptitude of each for holy

Section IV.

But, inasmuch as the Divine Being is source of sacred order, within which
the holy Minds regulate themselves, he, who recurs to the proper view of
Nature, will see his proper self in what he was originally, and will acquire
this, as the first holy gift, from his recovery to the light. Now he, who
has well looked upon his own proper condition with unbiassed eyes, will
depart from the gloomy recesses of ignorance, but being imperfect he will
not, of his own accord, at once desire the most perfect union and
participation of God, but little by little will be carried orderly and
reverently through things present to things more forward, and through these
to things foremost, and when perfected, to the supremely Divine summit. An
illustration of this decorous and sacred order is the modesty of the
proselyte, and his prudence in his own affairs in having the sponsor as
leader of the way to the Hierarch. The Divine Blessedness receives the man,
thus conducted, into communion with Itself, and imparts to him the proper
light as a kind of sign, making him godly and sharer of the inheritance of
the godly, and sacred ordering; of which things the Hierarch’s seal, given
to the proselyte, and the saving enrolment of the priests are a sacred
symbol, registering him amongst those who are being saved, and placing in
the sacred memorials, beside himself also his sponsor,—the one indeed, as a
true lover of the life-giving way to truth and a companion of a godly guide,
and the other, as an unerring conductor of his follower by the
Divinely-taught directions.

Section V.

Yet it is not possible to hold, conjointly, qualities thoroughly opposed,
nor that a man who has had a certain fellowship with the One should have
divided lives, if he clings to the firm participation in the One; but he
must be resistless and resolute, as regards all separations from the
uniform. This it is which the teaching of the symbols reverently and
enigmatically intimates, by stripping the proselyte, as it were, of his
former life, and discarding to the very utmost the habits within that life,
makes him stand naked and barefoot, looking away towards the west, whilst he
spurns, by the aversion of his hands, the participations in the gloomy
baseness, and breathes out, as it were, the habit of dissimilarity which he
had acquired, and professes the entire renunciation of everything contrary
to the Divine likeness. When the man has thus become invincible and separate
from evil, it turns him towards the east, declaring clearly that his
position and recovery will be purely in the Divine Light, in the complete
separation from baseness; and receiving his sacred promises of entire
consort with the One, since he has become uniform through love of the truth.
Yet it is pretty evident, as I think, to those versed in Hierarchical
matters, that things intellectual acquire the unchangeableness of the
Godlike habit, by continuous and persistent struggles towards one, and by
the entire destruction and annihilation of things contrary. For it is
necessary that a man should not only depart from every kind of baseness, but
he must be also bravely obdurate and ever fearless against the baneful
submission to it. Nor must he, at any time, become remiss in his sacred love
of the truth, but with all his power persistently and perpetually be
elevated towards it, always religiously pursuing his upward course, to the
more perfect mysteries of the Godhead.

Section VI.

Now you may see the distinct illustrations of these things in the religious
rites performed by the Hierarch. For the Godlike Hierarch starts with the
holy anointing, and the Priests under him complete the Divine service of the
Chrism, summoning in type the man initiated to the holy contests, within
which he is placed under Christ as Umpire: since, as God, He is Institutor
of the awards of contest, and as wise, He placed its laws, and as generous,
the prizes suitable to the victors. And this is yet more Divine, since as
good, He devotedly entered the lists with them, contending, on behalf of
their freedom and victory, for their power over death and destruction, he
who is being initiated will enter the contests, as those of God, rejoicing,
and abides by the regulations of the Wise, and contends according to them,
without transgression holding fast the hope of the beautiful rewards, as
being enrolled under a good Lord and Leader of the awards: and when after
following in the Divine footsteps of the first of athletes, through
goodness, he has overthrown, in his struggles after the Divine example, the
energies and impulses opposed to his deification, he dies with Christ—to
speak mystically —to sin, in Baptism.

Section VII.

And consider attentively, I pray, with what appropriateness the holy symbols
are presented. For since death is with us not an annihilation of being, as
others surmise, but the separating of things united, leading to that which
is invisible to us, the soul indeed becoming invisible through deprivation
of the body, and the body, through being buried in earth in consequence of
one of its bodily changes, becoming invisible to human ken, appropriately,
the whole covering by water would be taken as an image of death, and the
invisible tomb. The symbolical teaching, then, reveals in mystery that the
man baptized according to religious rites, imitates, so far as Divine
imitation is attainable to men, by the three immersions in the water, the
supremely Divine death of the Life-giving Jesus, Who spent three days and
three nights in the tomb, in Whom, according to the mystical and secret
teaching of the sacred text, the Prince of the world found nothing.

Section VIII.

Next, they throw garments, white as light, over the man initiated. For by
his manly and Godlike insensibility to contrary passions, and by his
persistent inclination towards the One, the unadorned is adorned, and the
shapeless takes shape, being made brilliant by his luminous life.

But the perfecting unction of the Muron makes the man initiated of good
odour, for the holy perfecting of the Divine birth unites those who have
been perfected to the supremely Divine Spirit. Now the overshadowing which
makes intelligibly of a good savour, and perfect, as being most unutterable,
I leave to the mental consciousness of those who are deemed worthy of the
sacred and deifying participation of the Holy Spirit within their mind.

At the conclusion of all, the Hierarch calls the man initiated to the most
Holy Eucharist, and imparts to him the communion of the perfecting

[229] John xiv. 23.

[230] Ibid. i. 13.

[231] Ibid. iii. 5.

[232] See Baptismal Offices.

[233] C. 2. s. 62.

[234] Coptic Con. II. 40; Ap. C. lib. viii. c. 38.

[235] mupos is the unguent prepared from myrrh, mupothengēs is shining with
such unguent, and murostagēs (mupos and stazō) dripping with ditto. Ap. Con.
lib. ii. c. 14.

[236] Syr. Doc. p. 60. Clark.

[237] From outward signs to inward grace.

[238] Catechism.


I. Concerning things accomplished in the Synaxis.

Courage, then, since we have made mention of this (Eucharist) which we may
not pass over to celebrate any other Hierarchical function in preference to
it. For according to our illustrious Leader, it is “initiation of
initiations,” and one must first lay down the Divine description of it,
before the rest, from the inspired and hierarchical science of the Oracles,
and then be borne by the supremely Divine Spirit to its sacred
contemplation. First, let us reverently consider this; for what reason that,
which is common also to the other Hierarchical initiations, is pre-eminently
attributed to it, beyond the rest; and it is uniquely called, “Communion and
Synaxis,” when each consecrating function both collects our divided lives
into uniform deification, and gives communion and union with the One, by the
Godlike folding together of our diversities. Now we affirm that the
Perfecting by the communications of the other Hierarchical symbols springs
from the supremely Divine and perfecting gifts of it. For it scarcely ever
happens, that any Hierarchical initiation is completed without the most
Divine Eucharist, as head of the things done in each, ministering the
collecting of the person initiated to the One, and completing his communion
with God, by the Divinely transmitted gift of the perfecting mysteries. If,
then, each of the Hierarchical initiations, being indeed incomplete, will
not make perfect our communion and our gathering to the One, even its being
initiation is precluded on account of the lack of completeness. Now since
the imparting of the supremely Divine mysteries to the man initiated is the
head and tail of every initiation, naturally then the Hierarchical judgment
hit upon an appellation propel to it, from the truth of the facts. Thus, for
instance, with regard to the holy initiation of the Divine birth; since it
imparts first-Light, and is head of all the Divine illuminations, we
celebrate the true appellation from the enlightening effected. For, though
it be common to all Hierarchical functions to impart the gift of sacred
light to those initiated, yet it [239] gave to me the power to see first,
and through its first light I am enlightened to gaze upon the other
religious rites. Having said this, let us minutely investigate and examine
hierarchically the accurate administration and contemplation of the most
pure initiation, in every particular.

II. Mysterion [240] of Synaxis, that is, Communion.

The Hierarch, having completed a reverent prayer, near the Divine Altar,
starts with the incensing, and proceeds to every part of the enclosure of
the sacred place; he then returns to the Divine Altar, and begins the sacred
chanting of the Psalms, the whole ecclesiastical assembly chanting, with
him, the sacred language of the Psalter. Next follows the reading of the
Holy Scriptures by the Leitourgoi. After these readings the catechumens quit
the sacred enclosure, as well as the “possessed,” and the penitents. But
those who are deemed worthy of the sight and participation of the Divine
Mysteries remain. Of the Leitourgoi, some stand near the closed gates of the
sanctuary, whilst others perform some other duty of their own rank. But
chosen members of the ministering Order with the Priests lay the holy Bread
and the Cup of Blessing upon the Divine Altar, whilst the universal Song
[241] of Praise is being professed beforehand by the whole body of the
Church. Added to these, the Divine Hierarch makes a sacred prayer, and
proclaims the holy Peace to all. When all have kissed each other, the
mystical proclamation of the holy tablets is performed. When the Hierarch
and the Priests have washed their hands in water, the Hierarch stands in the
midst of the Divine Altar, and the chosen Deacons alone, with the Priests,
stand around. The Hierarch, when he has sung the sacred works of God,
ministers things most divine, and brings to view the things sung, through
the symbols reverently exposed [242] , and when he has shewn the gifts of
the works of God [243] , he first proceeds to the sacred participation of
the same, and turns and exhorts the others. When he has received and
distributed the supremely Divine Communion, he terminates with a holy
thanksgiving; whilst the multitude have merely glanced at the Divine symbols
alone, he is ever conducted by the Divine Spirit, as becomes a Hierarch, in
the purity of a Godlike condition, to the holy sources of the things
performed, in blessed and intelligible visions.

III. Contemplation.

Section I.

Here then, too, O excellent son, after the images, I come in due order and
reverence to the Godlike reality of the archetypes, saying here to those yet
being initiated, for the harmonious guidance of their souls, that the varied
and sacred composition of the symbols is not without spiritual contemplation
for them, as merely presented superficially. For the most sacred chants and
readings of the Oracles teach them a discipline of a virtuous life, and
previous to this, the, complete purification from destructive evil; and the
most Divine, and common, and peaceful distribution of one and the same, both
Bread and Cup, enjoins upon them a godly fellowship in character, as having
a fellowship in food, and recalls to their memory the most Divine Supper,
and arch-symbol of the rites performed, agreeably with which the Founder of
the symbols Himself excludes, most justly, him who had supped with Him on
the holy things, not piously [244] and in a manner suitable to his
character; teaching at once, clearly and Divinely, that the approach to
Divine mysteries with a sincere mind confers, on those who draw nigh, the
participation in a gift according to their own character.

Section II.

Let us, then, as I said, leave behind these things, beautifully depicted
upon the entrance of the. innermost shrine, as being sufficient for those,
who are yet incomplete for contemplation, and let us proceed from the
effects to the causes; and then, Jesus lighting the way, we shall view our
holy Synaxis, and the comely contemplation of things intelligible, which
makes radiantly manifest the blessed beauty of the archetypes. But, oh, most
Divine and holy initiation, uncovering the folds of the dark mysteries
enveloping thee in symbols, be manifest to us in thy bright glory, and fill
our intellectual visions with single and unconcealed light.

Section III.

We must, then, in my opinion, pass within the All Holy Mysteries, after we
have laid bare the intelligible of the first of the votive gifts, to gaze
upon its Godlike beauty, and view the Hierarch, divinely going with sweet
fragrance from the Divine Altar to the furthermost bounds of the holy place,
and again returning to it to complete the function. For the Blessedness,
supremely Divine above all, even if, through Divine goodness, It goes forth
to the communion of the holy who participate in It, yet It never goes
outside its essential unmoved position and steadfastness; and illuminates
all the Godlike in due degree, being always self-centred, and in nowise
moved from its own proper identity; so, too, the Divine initiation
(sacrament) of the Synaxis, although it has a unique, and simple, and
enfolded Source, is multiplied, out of love towards man, into the holy
variety of the symbols, and travels through the whole range of the supremely
Divine description; yet uniformly it is again collected from these, into its
own proper Monady, and unifies those who are being reverently conducted
towards it. In the same Godlike manner, the Divine Hierarch, if he benignly
lowers to his subordinates his own unique Hierarchical science, by using the
multiplicities of the holy enigmas, yet again, as absolute, and not to be
held in check by smaller things, he is restored to his proper headship
without diminution, and, when he has made the intellectual entry of himself
to the One, he sees clearly the uniform raisons d’être of the things done,
as he makes the goal of his philanthropic progress to things secondary the
more Divine [245] return to things primary.

Section IV.

The chanting of the Psalms, being co-essential with almost all the
Hierarchical mysteries, was not likely to be separated from the most
Hierarchical of all. For every holy and inspired Scripture sets forth for
those meet for deification, either the originated beginning and ordering of
things from God; or the Hierarchy and polity of the Law; or the
distributions and possessions of the inheritances of the people of God; or
the understanding of sacred judges, or of wise kings, or of inspired
Priests: or philosophy of men of old time, unshaken in endurances of the
things let loose in variety and multitude; or the treasures of wisdom for
the conduct of life; or songs and inspired pictures of Divine Loves; or the
declaratory predictions of things to come; or the Theandric works of Jesus;
or the God-transmitted and God-imitating polities and holy teachings of His
Disciples, or the hidden and mystic gaze of the beloved and divinely sweet
of the disciples, or the supermundane theology of Jesus; and implanted them
in the holy and Godlike instructions of the mystic rites. Now the sacred
description of the Divine Odes, whose purpose is to sing the words and works
of God throughout, and to praise the holy words and works of godly men,
forms an universal Ode and narrative of things Divine, and makes, in those
who inspiredly recite it, a habit suitable for the reception and
distribution of every Hierarchical mystery.

Section V.

When, then, the comprehensive melody of the holy Hymns has harmonized the
habits of our souls to the things which are presently to be ministered, and,
by the unison of the Divine Odes, as one and concordant chorus of holy men,
has established an accord with things Divine, and themselves [246] , and one
another, the things, more strained and obscure in the intellectual language
of the mystic Psalms, are expanded by the most holy lections of the inspired
writings, through more full and distinct images and narratives. He, who
devoutly contemplates these, will perceive the uniform and one conspiration,
as being moved by One, the supremely Divine Spirit. Hence, naturally, in the
history of the world, after the more ancient [247] tradition, the new
Covenant is proclaimed; the inspired and Hierarchical order teaching this,
as I think, that the one affirmed the Divine works of Jesus, as to come; but
the other accomplished; and as that described the truth in figures, this
shewed it present. For the accomplishment, within this, of the predictions
of that, established the truth, and the work of God is a consummation of the
Word of God.

Section VI.

Those who absolutely have no ear for these sacred initiations do not even
recognize the images,— unblushingly rejecting the saving revelation of the
Divine Birth, and in opposition to the Oracles reply to their destruction,
“Thy ways I do not wish to know.”

Now the regulation of the holy Hierarchy permits the catechumens, and the
possessed, and the penitents, to hear the sacred chanting of the Psalms, and
the inspired reading of the all-Holy Scriptures; but it does not invite them
to the next religious services and contemplations, but only the eyes of the
initiated. For the Godlike Hierarchy is full of reverent justice, and
distributes savingly to each, according to their due, bequeathing savingly
the harmonious communication of each of the things Divine, in measure, and
proportion, and due time. The lowest rank, then, is assigned to the
catechumens, for they are without participation and instruction in every
Hierarchical initiation, not even having the being in God by Divine Birth,
but are yet being brought to [248] Birth by the Paternal Oracles, and
moulded, by life-giving formations, towards the blessed introduction to
their first life and first light from Birth in God. As, then, children after
the flesh, if, whilst immature and unformed, they should anticipate their
proper delivery, as untimely born and abortions, will fall to earth without
life and without light; and no one, in his senses, would say from what he
saw, that they, released from the darkness of the womb, were brought to the
light (for the medical authority, which is learned in the functions of the
body, would say that light operates on things receptive of light); so also
the all-wise science of religious rites brings these first to delivery, by
the preparatory nourishment of the formative and life-giving Oracles; and
when it has made their person ripe for Divine Birth, gives to them savingly,
in due order, the participation in things luminous and perfecting; but, at
present, it separates things perfect from them as imperfect, consulting the
good order of sacred things, and the delivery and life of the catechumens,
in a Godlike order of the Hierarchical rites.

Section VII.

Now the multitude of the possessed indeed is unholy, but it is next above
the catechumens, which is lowest. Nor is that which has received a certain
participation in the most holy offices, but is yet entangled by contrary
qualities, whether enchantments or terrors, on a par, as I think, with the
altogether uninitiated and entirely uncommunicated in the Divine
initiations; but, even for them, the view and participation in the holy
mysteries is contracted, and very properly. For, if it be true that the
altogether godly man, the worthy partaker of the Divine mysteries, the one
carried to the very summit of the Divine likeness, to the best of his
powers, in complete and most perfect deifications, does not even perform the
things of the flesh, beyond the most necessary requirements of nature, and
then as a parergon, but will be, at the same time, a temple, and a follower,
according to his ability, of the supremely Divine Spirit, in the highest
deification, implanting like in like;—such an one as this would never be
possessed by opposing phantoms or fears, but will laugh them to scorn, and
when they approach, will cast them down and put them to flight, and will act
rather than comply, and in addition to the passionless and indomitableness
of his own character, will be seen also a physician to others, for such
“possessions” as these; (and I think further, yea, rather, I know certainly
that the most impartial discrimination of Hierarchical persons knows more
than they [249] , that such as are possessed with a most detestable
possession, by departing from the Godlike life, become of one mind and one
condition with destructive demons, by turning themselves from things that
really are, and undying possessions, and everlasting pleasures, for the sake
of the most base and impassioned folly destructive to themselves; and by
desiring and pursuing the earthly variableness, and the perishable and
corrupting pleasures, and the unstable comfort in things foreign to their
nature, not real but seeming;) these then, first, and more properly than
those, were shut out by the discriminating authority of the Deacon; for it
is not permitted to them to have part in any other holy function than the
teaching of the Oracles, which is likely to turn them to better things. For,
if the supermundane Service of the Divine Mysteries excludes those under
penitence, and those who have already attained it, not permitting anything
to come near which is not completely perfect, and proclaims, and this in all
sincerity, that “I am unseen and uncommunicated by those who are in any
respect imperfectly weak as regards the summit of the Divine Likeness” (for
that altogether most pure voice scares away even those who cannot be
associated with the worthy partakers of the most Divine mysteries).; how
much more, then, will the multitude of those who are under the sway of their
passions be unhallowed and alien from every sight and participation in the
holy mysteries. When, then, the uninitiated in the mysteries, and the
imperfect, and with them the apostates from the religious life, and after
them, those who through unmanliness are prone to the fears and fancies of
contrary influences, as not reaching through the persistent and indomitable
inclination towards godliness, the stability and activity of a Godlike
condition; then, in addition to these, those who have separated indeed from
the contrary life, but have not yet been cleansed from its imaginations by a
godly and pure habit and love, and next, those who are not altogether
uniform, and to use an expression of the Law, “entirely without spot and
blemish,” when these have been excluded from the divine temple and the
service which is too high for them, the all-holy ministers and loving
contemplators of things all-holy, gazing reverently upon the most pure rite,
sing in an universal Hymn of Praise [250] the Author and Giver of all good,
from Whom the saving mystic Rites were exhibited to us, which divinely work
the sacred deification of those being initiated. Now this Hymn some indeed
call a Hymn of Praise, others, the symbol of worship, but others, as I
think, more divinely, a Hierarchical thanksgiving, as giving a summary of
the holy gifts which come to us from God. For, it seems to me the record
[251] of all the works of God related to have been done for us in song,
which, after it had benevolently fixed our being and life, and moulded the
Divine likeness in ourselves to beautiful archetypes, and placed us in
participation of a more Divine condition and elevation; but when it beheld
the dearth of Divine gifts, which came upon us by our heedlessness, is
declared to have called us back to our first condition, by goods restored,
and by the complete assumption [252] of what was ours, to have made good the
most perfect impartation of His own, and thus tp have given to us a
participation in God and Divine things.

Section VIII.

When the supremely Divine love towards Man has thus been religiously
celebrated, the Divine Bread is presented, veiled, and likewise the Cup of
Blessing, and the most Divine greeting is devoutly performed, and the mystic
and supermundane recital of the holy-written tablets. For it is not possible
to be collected to the One, and to partake of the peaceful union with the
One, when people are divided amongst themselves. For if, being illuminated
by the contemplation and knowledge of the One, we would be united to an
uniform and Divine agreement, we must not permit ourselves to descend to
divided lusts, from which are formed earthly enmities, envious and
passionate, against that which is according to nature. This unified and
undivided life is, in my opinion, established by the holy service of the
“peace,” which establishes like in like, and separates the Divine and
unified visions from things divided. The recital of the holy tablets after
the “peace” proclaims those who have passed through life holily, and have
reached the term of a virtuous life without faltering, urging and conducting
us to their blessed condition and Divine repose, through similarity to them,
and, announcing them as living, and, as the Word of God says, “not dead, but
as having passed from death to a most divine life [253] .”

Section IX.

But observe that they are enrolled in the holy memorials, not as though the
Divine memory were represented under the figure of a memorial, after the
manner of men; but as one might say, with reverence towards God, as beseems
the august and unfailing knowledge in God of those who have been perfected
in the likeness of God. For “He knoweth,” say the Oracles, “them that are
His,” and “precious, in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints,
“death of saints,” being said, instead of the perfection in holiness. And
bear this religiously in mind, that when the worshipful symbols have been
placed on the Divine Altar, through which (symbols) the Christ is signified
and partaken, there is inseparably present the reading of the register of
the holy persons, signifying the indivisible conjunction of their
supermundane and sacred union with Him. When these things have been
ministered, according to the regulations described, the Hierarch, standing
before the most holy symbols, washes his hands with water, together with the
reverend order of the Priests. Because, as the Oracles testify, when a man
has been washed, he needs no other washing, except that of his extremities,
i.e his lowest; through which extreme cleansing he will be resistless and
free, as altogether uniform, in a sanctified habit of the Divine Likeness,
and advancing in a goodly manner to things secondary, and being turned again
uniquely to the One, he will make his return, without spot and blemish, as
preserving the fulness and completeness of the Divine Likeness.

Section X.

There was indeed the sacred laver, as we have said, in the Hierarchy of the
Law [254] ; and the present cleansing of the hands of the Hierarch and the
Priests suggests it. For it behoves those who approach the most hallowed
service to be purified even to the remotest imaginations of the soul,
through likeness to it, and, as far as possible, to draw nigh; for thus they
will shed around more visibly the Divine manifestations, since the
supermundane flashes permit their own splendour to pass more thoroughly and
brilliantly into the brightness of mirrors like themselves. Further, the
cleansing of the Hierarch and the Priests to their extremities, i.e. lowest,
takes place before the most holy symbols, as in the presence of Christ, Who
surveys all our most secret thoughts, and since the utmost purification is
established under His all-surveying scrutiny, and most just and unflinching
judgment, the Hierarch thus becomes one with the things Divine, and, when he
has extolled the holy works of God, he ministers things most Divine, and
brings to view the things being sung [255] .