Thanks, Ross. I looked at Allie, but all I saw there, regarding the text of "Celestial Hiearchy", was confirmation of what I had already said, that it was known through Traversari's translation of 1437. The article doesn't even say where his Greek text came from; but I presume it was part of the cache from 1424 deposited in San Marco. What I hadn't known, and which was valuable, was how important Pseudo-Dionysius was to the Medici and to the Western side of the debate at the debate in 1439, that his work supported their papal supremacy position, that Cosimo had funded the completion of the translations and the dissemination of the texts, and also that his likeness was part of the Fra Angelico fresco at San Marco. That was very interesting.
"Increasing light" certainly determines the order of the three celestials, and the two before and after. But it still seems to me that it would have been natural to attach some meaning to "increasing light"; "increasing enlightenment" seems to me the most straightforward and inclusive. Light is the means of vision, for both the physical and intellectual eye. Wind (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance
has given numerous examples, e.g. Boroaldo in his Commentary on Apuleius
(Wind p. 58f):
For Plato writes in the Symposium that the eyes of the mind begin to see clearly when the eyes of the body begin to fail.
And of course the Republic
likened the Good to the Sun. I realize these examples make no difference to you, Ross, but perhaps they will to someone. Here are two more, the allegorization of Sun, Moon, and Stars in Genesis, both from Pico's Heptaplus
of 1489. I do not cite these as sources, but rather as a typical humanist method of interpretation. First, in the Fourth Exposition, Fourth Chapter (pp. 66-67, McGaw translation):
This is when Moses writes that the sun, the moon, and the stars were placed in the firmament. Perhaps the more recent philosophers would, indeed interpret the sun as being intellect in actuality and the moon in potentiality. Whereas I am engaged in a great controversy with them, let me explain, meanwhile, that wherever the the soul turns toward the waters above, to the Spirit of the Lord, because it glows all over, let it be named sun; wherever it looks back upon the lower waters, that is toward the sensual potentiality, from which it contracts some stain of corruption, let it have the name of moon. In this sense the Greek Platonists might call, according to the docmas of their doctrines, the sun "dianoia" and the moon "doxa." However, while we wander far from our fatherland and live in this night and gloom of our present life, we especially use that part of ourselves which leans toward the senses, hence we conjecture more than we know. When the day of future life has dawned, alienated from our senses and directed toward divine things, we shall understand with our superior other part. Correctly it has been said that this sun of ours presides over the day and this moon of ours over the night.
Because after casting off this mortal coil, we shall contemplate solely by the light of the sun what, in this present very miserable night of the body, we try to see with all our strength and powers more than we seem to; for this reason the day shines with the sun alone. The night, in turn, assembles and gathers for the moon, somewhat weak in power, a great many stars, as auxiliaries, that is, the power of combining and dividing, and whatever remaining powers exist.
And then in the Sixth Exposition, Fourth Chapter (p. 98, McGaw translation)
And to the fullness of time! For if the number four is the fullness of numbers, in the world of numbers, will the fourth day not be the fullness of days?
See then what the fourth day brings us. On the second day the heavens were created, namely, the law, without sun and moon and stars, certainly capable of future light, but for the moment still dark and not illuminated by any remarkable light.
Then came the fourth day on which the sun, lord of the firmament, namely, Christ--Lord of the laws, and the lunar Church, Christ's consort and wife, similar to the moon, and the apostolic doctors, who would educate many to justice, as stars in the firmament--began to shine for eternity, calling the world to eternal life. The sun did not destroy the firmament, but fulfilled it, and Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
Here Pico is using the reference to the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis to interpret the coming of Christ (in 3508 counting from the Creation, actually) and his ascension, later including his wife, to the heights, along with the "apostolic doctors" who are the stars. Given that the Woman Clothed with the Sun was taken as the Virgin (e.g. at Guadalupe, Mexico), a similar interpretation would apply to the End Times. But there is no restriction of the celestials to those times.
Added later: But why one big star surrounded by small ones? Why just these luminaries and not others? And why Fire, of all things, before them? Ps.-Dionysius has the answer in one sentence, bringing together a diversity of references (39. q Mal. iv. 2. 40. r. Num. xxiv. 17; 2 Pet. i. 19. 41. s John i. 5. 42. t Exod.iii. 2. 43. u John vii. 38; the numbers 39-43 correspond to the numbers in the quote I gave previously, its footnotes.)