Saturday, 2 May 2015

Marika Rose: Machines of loving grace: angelic labour in Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy

On Marx’s account, a machine is made up of three components: a motor mechanism, a self-moving power which drives the machine as a whole; a transmitting mechanism, which divides and distributes this power; and the tool or working machine. We might, then, read Dionysius' Celestial Hierarchy as the description of a heavenly machine designed, as Giorgio Agamben suggests, for the government of the world and the generation of surplus value in the form of doxology. The divine eros which generates the Dionysian cosmos originates with God, is passed on by the angelic messengers, who transmit the divine power to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, whose members labour to become fellow workers with God.
As Marx well knew, machines can function as instruments either of domination or of liberation. This paper will explore the nature of angelic labour in Dionysius through the lens of contemporary discussions of the machinic transformation of human labour. First, it will draw on Frédéric Lordon and Maurizio Lazzarato’s account of the entanglement of machines and desire in contemporary labour in order to think through the relationship of the divine eros and the role of angels as ‘fellow workmen for God’. Second, it will read the apocalyptic significance of angels in Dionysius' anthropology in light of Donna Haraway’s exposition of the utopian possibilities of the cyborg to explore the deeply ambiguous role that angels play in theological accounts of the nature and eschatological purpose of human life and labour in the work of Dionysius and his interpreters.

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