Divine and Angelic Lights – Pseudo-Dionysius

Originally from here.

Edit: Pseudo-Dionysius‘ (I reject the claim he was a Neoplatonist) writing style is very hard to follow. Its a stream-of-consciousness, flow of thought, that uses weird words. But its clear that he interpreted James 1:17 as implying that not only do Jesus and God the Father appear in visions of light (through the Holy Spirit)–for example, on the Mount of Transfiguration, or what the hesychasts call the Tabor Light…but also the “heavenly hierarchies” and “heavenly beings” (angels) appear in visions of light to men, which light symbolizes enlightenment of the mind, or revelation.

To my Fellow Presbyter Timothy.1 Dionysius the Presbyter.

That every divine illumination, whilst going forth lovingly to the objects of its forethought under various forms, remains simplex. Nor is this all. It also unifies the things illuminated.

Section I.

Every good gift2 and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17).

Further also, every procession of illuminating light, proceeding from the Father, whilst visiting us as a gift of goodness, restores us again gradually as an unifying power, and turns us to the oneness of our conducting Father, and to a deifying simplicity. For 3 all things are from Him, and to Him, as said the Sacred Word.

Section II.

Invoking then Jesus, the Paternal Light, the Real, the True, “which lighteth4 every man coming into |2 the world,” “through 5 Whom we have access to the Father,” Source of Light, let us aspire, as far as is attainable, to the illuminations handed down by our fathers in the most sacred Oracles, and let us gaze, as we may, upon the Hierarchies of the Heavenly Minds manifested by them symbolically for our instruction. And when we have received, with immaterial and unflinching mental 6 eyes, the gift of Light, primal and super-primal, of the supremely Divine Father, which manifests to us the most blessed Hierarchies of the Angels in types and symbols, let us then, from it, be elevated to its simple splendour 7. For it never loses its own unique inwardness, but multiplied and going forth, as becomes its goodness, for an elevating and unifying blending of the objects of its care, remains firmly and solitarily centred within itself in its unmoved sameness; and raises, according to their capacity, those who lawfully aspire to it, and makes them one, after the example of its own unifying oneness. For it is not possible that the supremely Divine Ray should otherwise illuminate us, except so far as it is enveloped, for the purpose of instruction, in variegated sacred veils, and arranged naturally and appropriately, for such as we are, by paternal forethought.

Section III.

Wherefore, the Divine Institution of sacred Rites, having deemed it worthy of the supermundane |3 imitation of the Heavenly Hierarchies, and having depicted the aforesaid immaterial Hierarchies in material figures and bodily compositions, in order that we might be borne, as far as our capacity permits, from the most sacred pictures to the instructions and similitudes without symbol and without type, transmitted to us our most Holy Hierarchy. For it is not possible for our mind to be raised to that immaterial representation and contemplation of the Heavenly Hierarchies (angels), without using the material guidance suitable to itself, accounting the visible 8 beauties as reflections of the invisible comeliness; and the sweet 9 odours of the senses as emblems of the spiritual distribution; and the material 10 lights as a likeness of the gift of the immaterial enlightenment; and the detailed sacred instructions 11, of the feast of contemplation within the mind; and the ranks 12 of the orders here, of the harmonious and regulated habit, with regard to Divine things; and the reception of the most Divine Eucharist, of the partaking 13 of Jesus, and whatever other things were transmitted to Heavenly Beings supermundanely, but to us symbolically.

For the sake, then, of this our proportioned deification (growth in godliness), the philanthropic Source of sacred mysteries, by manifesting the Heavenly Hierarchies to us, and constituting our Hierarchy as fellow-ministers with them, through our imitation of their Godlike |4 priestliness 14, so far as in us lies, described under sensible likeness the supercelestial Minds, in the inspired compositions of the Oracles, in order that It might lead us through the sensible to the intelligible 15, and from inspired symbols to the simple sublimities of the Heavenly Hierarchies.

1. a I Pet. v. 1.         

2. b James i. 17.           

3. c Rom. xi. 36.

4. d John i. 9

5. e Rom. v. 2.               

6. f Syr. Doc. p. 61, Clark.

7. g Plato Rep. 6, 7-11, 121-126. Read Allegory of Cave.

8. h Ps. xix.                 

9. i Num. xv. 3.             

10. k Luke 11. 9.

11. l John vii. 14.         

12. m Rom. xiii. 1, 2.         

13. n 1 Cor. x. 16.

14. o I Pet ii. 9.         

15. p no&hta.

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is a Philosophy and Religion graduate from UNC Pembroke. In his free time, he blogs about the Christian life; and has special interests in evangelism and spiritual gifts. He identifies himself as a Reformed Arminian Pentecostal. He’s also a husband and dad. John loves street preaching. His influences are Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, John Wesley, Charles Finney, etc. John is always in the process of writing; and is posting free e-books on this site for cultivating a deeper Christian life. Among them are his 'How to Experience God' and 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ.' He is currently working on the lives of great prophets in church history—from Catholic saints to Protestant reformers and revivalists. He is also working on a Biblical theology of poverty alleviation.
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One Response to Divine and Angelic Lights – Pseudo-Dionysius

  1. Tonya says:

    Yes! Thank you for this research. What a blessing!

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