Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wear on Dionysius - God and Angel as Henad

Wear/Dillon 73 PD "refers to God, among a string of other epithets, as a "henad unifying every henad." With this one phrase he seems to betray a knowledge of the whole later Neoplatonic system, according to which the One contains within itself, and gives unity to, a multiplicity of entities which have not yet properly proceeded forth from it. What Dionysius has in mind here is not clear, since he has no use for a system of henads as such. However, later in the work, at DN 892D, we find the most interesting phrase "the immortal lives of the angelic henads," which the power of God preserves "unharmed."

How can it be that Dionysius refers to the angels as "henads," since by definition they have proceeded forth from God? ...Dionysius has adopted Porphyry's view of the relation between the subjects of the first two hypotheses of the Parmenides, which makes the subject of the second hypothesis also God in his creative and procreative aspect, enabling Dionysius to introduce the Trinity within the realm of the One. The divine classes of entity depicted there will therefore still count as "henads," as being intimately connected with God, despite their various degrees of plurality.
On the other hand, however, the three triads of angelic beings in the celestial hierarchy can be assimilated also to the three levels of beings distinguished within the realm of Intellect, first by Iamblichus, and then after him, more elaborately, by Syrianus and Proclus. Dionysius is not, of course, concerned to reproduce as such the distinction between the intelligible, intelligible-intellective and intellective levels of being, but he does make it clear that his three levels of angelic being differ in degrees of purity and illumination, thus differentiating them in an analogous manner to the Neoplatonic entities. So we may conclude, after all, that these inhabitants of the Dionysian universe are enjoying the best of both levels of being.
n.86 J.P. Sheldon-Williams (1972) has postulated a relationship between PD's use of variations of the term "henad" and the NP concept of henad, drawing a relationship between henad and Form for PD

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