Bruce J. MacLennan: From ‘The Wisdom of Hypatia’- About The Heavenly Hierarchies
Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Samothrace.
A Via-Hygeia trip, August 2013.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is an excerpt from professor Bruce MacLennan’s seminal and wonderfully didactical exploration of Ancient Philosophy, ‘“The Wisdom of Hypatia”, Llewellin, 2013. Excerpts are from chapter 9, “The Microcosm and the Archetypes”, pages 183-184. Reading this book, you gain, besides knowledge in philosophy, many insights into how the perception of the Hierarchy of Heavens changed (or better ‘was changed’) during the shift from Polytheism to Monotheism. When you read the following excerpts you will smile and think about “the Oneness”, as everything is the same, just a different vocabulary or explanation is used.
[…] “A major problem for a monotheistic interpretation of Neoplatonism would seem to be the multiplicity of gods in the Cosmic Nous. However, these were simply reinterpreted as angels, and the World Mind was renamed the ‘Angelic Mind’. In Christianity this reinterpretation was pioneered by St. Dionysius, who translated Proclus’s levels of reality into ranks of angels. According to the Triadic Principle, there are three ‘choirs’ of angels, and each choir is divided into three ranks, also according to the Triadic Principle. Corresponding to the Abiding aspect are the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; Proceeding are the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; Returning are the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
From a monotheistic perspective, the highest rank of angels are differing aspects of God. Like the Pagan gods, they have various offices or spheres of activity that they govern. And like God, they are impassive, somewhat like laws of Nature. The lower ranks of angels, which correspond to the Pagan daimons and are involved in time and space, are the angels that interact directly with individuals. Since they are not impassive, they can know the particularities of a person’s life and intervene in specific events. These are the beings that can respond to prayers, bring messages from God, execute his will, and enforce his laws. Some of these angels are devoted, in effect, to individuals, and so the monotheist idea of a guardian angel corresponds to the Pagan guardian daimon.
Although saints and heroes are different in many respects and come from different cultural contexts, the Pagan idea of a hero corresponds to the monotheist’s saint. Both have become more godlike than ordinary people and manifested to a remarkable degree in their lives the attributes of divinity. Furthermore, in both the Pagan and non-Pagan traditions extraordinary, godlike accomplishments (‘miracles’) are attributed to these people.
One characteristic of the contemporary monotheistic religions that separates them from the popular polytheism of the ancient world is that God is considered omnipotent and good, whereas the polytheistic gods are not omnipotent and, at least according to the ancient myths, did things that we would not consider good. But even in ancient times the philosophers protested against the myths that depicted the gods as deceitful, adulterous, rapacious, and violent; they said that if the gods were not good, they didn’t deserve to be called ‘gods’. […]”
Professor Bruce MacLennan is also know as ‘John Opsopaus’,
who published, ‘The Secret Texts of Hellenic Polytheism’
and ‘The Oracles of Apollo’,
both also published at Llewellin.