From the point of view of the way upward, they have the purpose to create the most possible similarity and union of all beings with God. Here again the old Platonic formula which I already gave you, “being equal to God as much as possible,” is used by the Areopagite – coming nearer and nearer to God and finally uniting with Him. Every hierarchy takes its light from the higher one and brings it down to the lower.
In this way each hierarchy is active and passive at the same time. It receives the Divine power of being and gives it in a restrictive way to those who are lower than it. But this system of degrees is ultimately dualistic. I already said this when I spoke about the title of the book on hierarchies. There are two fundamentally different hierarchies, namely the Heavenly and the earthly. The Heavenly hierarchies are the Platonic essences or ideas, above which is God, but which are the first emanations (and) are from God, but which in Dionysius are interpreted as hierarchies of angels.
This is a development which already occurs in later Judaism; the two concepts, the concept of angels – which is a symbolic personalistic concept– amalgamates with the concepts of hypostatized essences or powers of being: they become one and the same being and they represent the Heavenly hierarchies. If you want to give a meaningful account about the concept of angels to your people, and perhaps even to yourselves, always interpret them as the Platonic essences, as the powers of being, not as special beings. If you interpret in the latter way, it becomes crude mythology; if you interpret them as emanations of the Divine power of being in essences, in powers of being, then it becomes a meaningful concept and perhaps a very important one – but of course not in terms of the sentimental winged babies which you find in pictures of angels. This has nothing to do with the great concept of Divine emanations in terms of powers of being.