The 4th c. book attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite is a classic when it comes to the heavenly beings, divided them in three hierarchies, each with three orders of choirs.
All in sequence starting with the ones closest to God
First hierarchy – Angels of Pure Contemplation
“Rule over and govern all creation, have the greatest knowledge (daath) and are closest to God”
They belong to the world of fire, the perpetual outgoing creative “word” or rather “verb” from God.
They are the direct expression of creation.
1st Order ~ Seraphim
Hebrew means “flaming” or “The Burning Ones”
“Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Ps. 103:4);
Associated with love, light and fire; Give off intense light.
Have four faces and six wings: two covering face, two covering feet and two used for flying.
Hebrew Kabbalah: Hayot Ha Kodesh (The holy living beings / Holy Living Ones)
Biblical greek: Seraphime
R. Steiner: Spirits of Love
Having four faces and six wings is like manifestin in space-time with a face in each and connecting the dynamic action with wings of the 6 other dimentions. Connecting everything with love. They represent the final unity, the instant combustion of standing face to face with the source of creation. Pure fire of love.
Said about Seraphim:
Stand closer than all before their Creator and Maker
• Isaiah : “And the seraphim stood around Him, each having six wings” (Isaiah 6:2).
Standing around the throne singing aflamed with love
• “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh” – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His Glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
Beings of fire:
• “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29)
• “His throne was a flame of fire” (Dan 7:9)
• “the appearance of the Lord was like a blazing fire” (Ex 24:17).
• “Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Ps 103:4).
They are of fire and aflame with love for God. The love for God is there work. Seraphim meaning flaming in hebrew.
They receive the idea of creation from God with flaming fire, pure light resonating with love.
• According to Enoch, there were only 4 Seraphim, corresponding to the four winds or directions. Later commentators interpreted this as there were 4 major princes who ruled over the Seraphim. They include either Metatron or Satan, Kemuel, Nathanael, and Gabriel.
• Certain passages also refer to a saraph or Seraphim as “fiery serpents” (saraph means fiery)
– see Numbers 21:6 and 21:8, Deuteronomy 8:15,
and several passages in Isaiah.
Isaiah 30:6 talkes of a “fiery flying serpent” which lives in the southern desert between Palestine and Egypt. Isaiah 6 is the only reference in the Bible to the Seraphim which does not identify them as serpents. Here they are described as standing “in attendance on Him. Each of them had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.” (Isaiah 6:2)
Hinduism – analogy
Shesha (Sanskrit: Śeṣa), or Sheshanaga (Śeṣanāga) or Adishesha (Ādi Śeṣa), is the King (nagaraja) of all Nagas and one of the PRIMAL BEINGS OF CREATION. Holds all the planets of the universe on his hoods and to CONSTANTLY SING THE GLORIES of the GOD Vishnu from all his mouths (Puranas). Also called Ananta Shesha (endless-Shesha) or Adishesha (first Shesha). When Adishesa uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place; when he coils back, the universe ceases to exist.
“Shesha” in sanskrit mathematics is “the remainder” – when all else ceases to exist.
Vishnu is often depicted as resting on Shesha. Shesha is considered a servant and a manifestation of Vishnu. He is said to have descended to Earth in two human forms or avatars: Laksmana, brother of Vishnu´s avatar Rama, and as Balarama, brother of Vishnu’s avatar Krishna.
Could we compare Krishna to Metatron and Rama to Sandalphon?
EGYPT – analogy
Wadjet, wadjat, wedjat, Uadjet, and Udjo – also know as Uraeus
The Goddess Wadjet comes to you in the form of the living uraeus to anoint your head with her flames. She rises up on the left side of your head,and she shines from the right side of your temples without speech; she rises up on your head during each hour of the day, even as she does for her father Ra, and through her, the terror which you inspire in the spirits is increased. She will never leave you, and of you, she strikes into the souls, which are made perfect. ~ From The Egyptian Book of the Dead
Appellations: The August One, The Celestial Serpent, Creatrix of the World, Devouring Flame, Eye of Divine Vengeance, Eye of the Moon, Eye of Ra, The Fiery One, Fiery Serpent, Giver of the Food of Immortality, Great of Magic, Lady of the Devouring Flame, Lady of Flame, The Mighty One, Nesert (“Searing One”), The One Who Travels in Lightning, The Red Crown, one of the Two Ladies, Wepset (“She Who Spits Flame”)
She is a protector dweeling in the highest regions of the Delta, at the top of the temple or canoptic box.
Her festival of “The Going Forth of Wadjet” was celebrated on December 25th with singing and chanting; Her other main feast day is the Summer Solstice. Her lunar observations take place on the fifth hour of the fifth day of the moon and She is also honored on the fifth hour of the fifth day of each month.
Seraphim are working through the lightening. Also confirmed in the saying about Wadjet: The One Who Travels in Lightning.
Wadjet rising on a papyrus is believed to be the first symbol of the Caduceus. One interpretation is that the word Seraphim comes from rapha meaning healer and ser meaning higher being. Healing is to make whole or one. There no higher healing from a spiritual perspective than combusting with the fire of love for God into nothing and everything.
2nd Order ~ Cherubim
CHERUBIM in ineffable radiance, always radiant with the light of the knowledge of God, with the knowledge of the mysteries of God and the depths of His Wisdom; being themselves enlightened, they enlighten others.
Their name “cherubim” in translation from the Hebrew language, means: “great understanding” or “effusion of wisdom“, because throught the cherubim wisdom is sent down to others and enlightenment of the spiritual eyes is given for the seeing of God and knowledge of God.
Genesis 3:24 says of that God placed “on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
The Hebrew word Kerub is translated by some scholars as “one who intercedes” and by others as “knowledge.” The original Karibu were the terrible and monstrous guardians of the temples and palaces in Sumer and Babylon. There were also similar guardians in the Near East, and there were winged, eagle-headed deities that guarded an Assyrian Tree of Everlasting Life.
They are said to have 4 wings and 4 faces.
Exodus 25 talks of how the Ark was to be decorated with Cherubim, while 1 Samuel 4:4 says that the Lord is “enthroned between the cherubim” on the Ark. Psalms 18:10 speaks of the Lord, who “mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.”
Ezekiel describes them as such: “They had the figures of human beings. However, each had four faces, and each of them had four wings; the legs of each were [fused into] a single rigid leg, and the feet of each were like a single calf’s hoof; and their sparkle was like the luster of burnished bronze. They had human hands below their wings. The four of them had their faces and their wings on their four sides. Each one’s wings touched those of the other. They did not turn when they moved; each could only move in the direction of any of its faces. Each of them had a human face [at the front]; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left; and each of the four had the face of an eagle [at the back]. Such were their faces. As for their wings, they were separated: above, each had two touching those of the others, while the other two covered its body.” – Ezekiel 1:5-11
3rd Order ~ Thrones
Thereafter stand the God-bearing THRONES (as St Dionysius the Areopagite calls them) before Him Who sits on the high and exulted throne, being named “thrones” since on them, as on intellectual thrones (as writes St Maximus the Confessor) God intellectually resides. They are not called “God bearing” according to essence but according to grace and according to their office, as the flesh of Jesus Christ (as St Basil the Great writes) is called “God-bearing” according to essence since it was indivisibly united with God the Word Himself. The thrones are then called “God-bearing” not according to essence but according o grace, given for their service, which is mystically and incomprehensibly to bear God in themselves. Residing on them in an incomprehensible manner, God makes His righteous judgment, according to the word of David: “Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness.” (Ps 9:4).
Therefore through them the justice of God is pre-eminently manifested; they serve His justice, glorifying it and pour out the power of justice onto the thrones of earthly judges, helping kings and masters to bring forth right judgment.
The Ophanim seem to be God’s actual chariots. The Hebrew Galgal has the double meaning of wheels and of “pupil of the eye.”
Ezekiel 1:13-19 “with them was something that looked like burning coals of fire. This fire, suggestive of torches, kept moving about among the creatures; the fire had a radiance, and lightning issued from the fire. Dashing to and fro [among] the creatures was somethig that looked like flares. As I gazed on the creatures, I saw one wheel on the ground next to each of the four-faced creatures. As for the appearance and structure of the wheels, they gleamed like beryl. All four had the same form; the appearance and structure of each was as of two wheels cutting through each other. And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer when they moved. Their rims were tall and frightening, for the rims of all four were covered all over with eyes. And when the creatures moved forward, the wheels moved at their sides’ and when the creatures were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne too.”
The thrones are said to reside either in the third or the fourth heaven. They are said to inhabit a region in which Heaven meets Earth. Raphael is thought to be the ruling Prince.
Second hierarchy – Angels of the Cosmos
4th Order ~ Dominions:
Order of guardian angels; Rule over nations and lesser angels; Regulate duties to lesser angels;
Concerned with the details of existence; Maintain order in the cosmos
The DOMINIONS are so named because, being themselves free, they dominate over the rest of the angels which follow behind them. Having abandoned servile fear, as St Dionysius the Aeropagite says, they voluntarily and with joy serve God unceasingly. Also they send down power for prudent governing and wise management to authorities on the earth set up by God. Further they teach how to control the senses, how to subdue in oneself dissolute desires and passions, how to enslave the flesh to the spirit, and how to rule over one’s will and be above all temptations.
These angels are said to “regulate angels’ duties” according to Dionysius. They are described as Dominions, Lords, Kuriotetes, or Hashmallim. They have been said to reside in the second heaven, where the celestial letters of the Holy Name reside. The ruling Princes are said to be Zadkiel, Hashmal (aka Chasmal or the “fire speaking angel”), Yahriel, and Muriel.
5th Order ~ Virtues:
“The brilliant or shining ones”
Angels of miracles; Bestow blessings;
Govern nature and celestial bodies; Maintain order in the natural world
The VIRTUES, [the usual translation of the name of this order of angels as “virtues” is readily misleading if the old meaning of the word “virtue” as “power” or “force”, especially as regards to divine beings (cf Oxford English Dictionary), is not remembered. Note of translator.] filled with divine strength, quickly fulfill the will of the All-High and Omnipotent Lord, strong and powerful. They both work very great miracles and send down the grace of miracle-working to God’s saints, who are worthy of such grace, in order that these may work miracles, such as heal every sickness and foretell the future. The holy virtues also help people laboring and those overburdened by the bearing of an obedience placed on them by someone – by which their names “virtues” is explained – and they bear the infirmities of the weak. They also strengthen every man in patience, so that he does not faint away in affliction but rather bears all misfortune with a strong spirit, courageously, and with humility, giving thanks for everything to God, arranging all for our benefit.
These angels bestow blessings, usually in the form of miracles. They are also known as Malakim, Dynamis, and Tarshishim. They are associated with heroes and instill courage, and are known as “The Brilliant or Shining Ones.”
The Virtues escorted Christ to Heaven during the Ascension and according to the Book of Adam and Eve, were present at the birth of Cain.
The leaders are said to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Bariel, Tarshish, and Satanel (before his fall).
6th Order ~ Powers:
Ministers of God guard the ladder to heaven;
Escort souls to Heaven; Elite guard
The POWERS are so called because they have power over the devil, in order to restrain the power of the demons, to repulse the temptations brought upon people by them, and to prevent the demons from harming anyone to the degree that they would wish. The powers strengthen the good ascetics in spiritual struggles and labors, protecting them so that they may not be deprived of the spiritual kingdom. They help thos wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts and slanders of the enemy and to conquer the devil.
The Powers are also known as the Dynamis, the Potentiates, and the Authorities. They are said to be the first angels created by God, and are said to reside along the border between the first and second heavens. Their job is to guard against demons.
Camael is the leader of the order. His name means “he who sees God” and the Magus suggests that he is one of the seven angels who stands in the Presence of God. Camael is also identified as a Duke of Hell. He is said to have the body of a leopard.
Others believe him to be associated with Mars, the god of war. He also is commander of Destruction, Punishment, Vengeance, and Death. As Kemuel, he acts as a mediator between Israel and the Hierarchs of the seventh heaven.
Third Hierarchy – Angels of the World
~ Rule over and govern all the world ~
7th Order ~ Principalities: “Spirit of Personality or Time”; Watch over mortal world;
Guardians of nations and leaders; Perform divine acts;
Aided David in overcoming Goliath.
The Principalities are those angels who are in charge of nations and great cities on Earth. Later they became the protectors of religion. Several possible leaders are Nisrock, who is originally an Assyrian deity who sometimes is considered the chief chef to the Demon Princes of Hell. Another possible chief is Anael, who is one of the seven angels of creation. He is associated with human sexuality, and is also governor of the second heaven. Other Principalities include Hamiel, who transported Enoch to Heaven (although he is also known as the Chaldean deity Ishtar) and Cervill, the Prince of Strength, who is said to have aided David when he slew Goliath
8th Order ~ Archangels: responsible for ministering to humans;
Only angels mentioned in Bible by name: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael;
Carry God’s messages to humans; Rule over the army of angels continually warring with evil;
Considered to be the seven angels who stand before God in Revelation (8:2)
The ARCHANGELS are called the great heralds of good news, announcing the great and most glorious. Their service (as the great Dionysius the Aeropagite says) consists in revealing prophecies, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will which they receive from the higher orders of angels and announce to the lower order, ie. the angels, and through them, to men. St Gregory the Dialogist says that the archangels strengthen people in the holy faith, enlightening their mind with the light of knowledge of the holy Gospel and revealing the mysteries of devout faith.
In Jewish and Christian sources, there are seven Archangels, while in the Koran, there are said to be only four – only two are named: Jibril (Gabriel) and Michael. The Jewish and Christian sources differ in who they name as their seven. All agree on Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. The other three are either Metatron, Remiel, Sariel, Anael, Raguel, and Raziel. These angels are the most important intercessionaries between God and humans, and they are in constant battle with the Sons of Darkness.
9th Order ~ Angels: Closest to humans Watch over and guide individuals, Messengers and couriers for God
The ANGELS are the lowest of all the orders in the heavenly hierarchy and the closest to man. They aannounce the lesser mysteries and intentions of God and teach people to live virtuously and righteously before God. They are appointed to guard each of us who believe: they sustain virtuous people from fallen, and never leave us though we have sinned, but are always ready to help us, if only we ourselves want it.
All of the heavenly orders are also called by the common name “angels”. Although they have different names according to their situation and grace given by God (as seraphim, cherubim, thrones and the rest of the orders), yet all in general are called angels, because the word “angel” is not a denomination of essence, but of service, as it is written: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister” (Heb 1:14). But their service is different and not identical: each order has its own service; for the All-Wise Creator does not reveal the mystery of His design to all to the same degree, but from the one to the others, through the higher He enlightens the lower, revealing to them His will and commanding it to be as in the book of the Prophet Zachariah. There it is said that one angel, after conversing with the prophet, met another angel who ordered him to go again to the prophet and reveal the future fate of Jerusalem: “And behold, the angel that talked with me went forth and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to thes young man (that is, the prophet Zachariah), saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of mena and cattle therein: For I, saith the Lord will be unto her a wall of fire round about” (Zach 2:3-5).
Deliberating about this, St Gregory the Dialogist says, “When one angel says to the other: ‘Run speak to this young man’ there is no doubt that certain angels send others, that the lower ones are sent, that the higher send” (St Gegory the Dialogist, Interpretation of the Gospels, #4).
We find exactly the same thing in the prophecy of Daniel, that one angel orders another to interpret the vision to the prophet. From this it is evident that angels of higher orders reveal the divine will and intention of their Creator to angels of the lower orders, that they enlighten them and send them to people.