Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Coughlin on Dionysian Theurgy
157bot the term theurgia and its cognates appear some 48 times in the Dionysian corpus, including 31 times in the EH.
158 Dionysius predominantly reserves the word theurgy itself for his descriptions of the work of God in human salvation. Thus Dionysius apparently does not use the word theurgy to refer directly to ritual actions performed by the members of the ecclesiastical, or "our," hierarchy as he calls it, has led some to rigidly limit Dionysius' understanding of theurgy to a description of "the divine acts"...However, this account does not take into consideration the larger range of meanings that theurgy denotes both in the Dionysian corpus and in the Neoplatonic tradition more generally. For example, Dionysius frequently refers to divine illumination as "theurgic lights" "theurgic knowledge" or "theurgic understanding;" he also uses the phrases "theurgic communion" "theurgic participation" "theurgic likeness" "theurgic virtues" and he refers to the sacred oil used for consecrating as "the most theurgic myron."
159 as each level of the hierarchy takes on the roles of purified and purifying, illuminated and illuminating, and perfected and perfecting, within the hierarchy "each will actually imitate God according to its role." (CH III.2 165BC) Dionysius reiterates this at the beginning of the EH: he says that having imitated our angelic superiors as much as possible and "illuminated by the understanding of visions, we shall be able to become consecrated and consecrators of this mystical knowledge, images of light; theurgic: perfected and ones who perfect." (EH I.1 372B) In this way theosis, the goal of all hierarchy and of theurgy, is each member's proportionately full participation in the divine activity.