ORPHIC FRAGMENT 54 - OTTO KERN

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For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.

54. (36) ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν Δαμασκίου (First Princ.) 123 bis (I 317, 15 Rue.):

Ἡ δὲ κατὰ τὸν Ἱερώνυμον φερομένη καὶ ῾Ελλάνικον (sc Ὀρφικὴ θεολογία), εἴπερ μὴ καὶ ὁ αὐτός ἐστιν, οὕτως ἔχει· ὕδωρ ἦν, φησίν, ἐξ ἀρχῆς καὶ ὕλη, ἐξ ἧς ἐπάγη ἡ γῆ, δύο ταύτας ἀρχὰς ὑποτιθέμενος πρῶτον, ὕδωρ καὶ γῆν, ταύτην μὲν ὡς φύσει σκεδαστήν, ἐκεῖνο δὲ ὡς ταύτης κολλητικόν τε καὶ συνεκτικόν, τὴν δὲ μίαν πρὸ τῶν δυεῖν ἄρρητον ἀφίησιν· αὐτὸ γὰρ τὸ μηδὲ φάναι περὶ αὐτῆς ἐδείκνυται αὐτῆς τὴν ἀπόρρητον φύσιν. τὴν δὲ τρίτην ἀρχὴν μετὰ τὰς δύο γεννηθῆναι μὲν ἐκ τούτων, ὕδατός φημι καὶ γῆς, δράκοντα δὲ εἶναι κεφαλὰς ἔχοντα προσπεφυκυίας ταύρου καὶ λέοντος, ἐν μέσῳ δὲ θεοῦ πρόσωπον, ἔχειν δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ὤμων πτερά, ὠνομάσθαι δὲ Χρόνον ἀγήραον καὶ Ἡραλῆα τὸν αὐτόν·συνεῖναι δὲ αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀνάγκην, φύσιν οὖσαν τὴν αὐτὴν καὶ Ἀδράστειαν, δισώματον διωργυιωμένην ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ, τῶν περάτων αὐτοῦ ἐφαπτομένην. ταύτην οἶμαι λέγεσθαι τὴν τρίτην ἀρχὴν κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν ἑστῶσαν, πλὴν ὅτι ἀρσενόθηλυν αὐτὴν ὑπεστήσατο πρὸς ἔνδειξιν τῆς πάντων γεννητικῆς αἰτίας. καὶ ὑπολαμβάνω τὴν ἐν ταῖς ῥαψῳδίαις θεολογίαν ἀφεῖσαν τὰς δύο πρώτας ἀρχὰς μετὰ τῆς μιᾶς πρὸ τῶν δυεῖν τῆς σιγῇ παραδοθείσης ἀπὸ τῆς τρίτης μετὰ τὰς δύο ταύτης ἐνστήσασθαι τὴν ἀρχὴν, ὡς πρώτης ῥητόν τι ἐχούσης καὶ σύμμετρον πρὸς ἀνθρώπων ἀκοάς. οὗτος γὰρ ἦν ὁ πολυτίμητος ἐν ἐκείνῃ Χρόνος ἀγήραος καὶ Αἰθέρος καὶ Χάους πατήρ· ἀμέλει καὶ κατὰ ταύτην ὁ Χρόνος οὗτος ὁ δράκων γεννᾶται τριπλῆν γονήν, Αἰθέρα φησὶ νοτερὸν καὶ Χάος ἄπειρον, καὶ τρίτον ἐπὶ τούτοις Ἔρεβος ὀμιχλῶδες. τὴν δευτέραν ταύτην τριάδα ἀνάλογον τῇ πρώτῃ παραδίδωσι, δυναμικὴν οὖσαν, ὡς ἐκείνην πατρικήν· διὸ καὶ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς Ἔρεβος ἐστιν ὀμιχλῶδες, καὶ τὸ πατρικόν τε καὶ ἄκρον Αἰθήρ, οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλὰ νοτερός, τὸ δὲ μέσν αὐτόθεν Χάος ἄπειρον. ἀλλὰ μὴν ἐν τούτοις, ὡς λέγει, ὁ Χρόνος ᾠὸν ἐγέννησεν, τοῦ Χρόνου ποιοῦσα γέννημα καὶ αὕτη ἡ παράδοσις, καὶ ἐν τούτοις τικτόμενον, ὅτι καὶ ἀπὸ τούτων ἡ τρίτη πρόεισι νοητὴ τριάς. τίς οὖν αὕτη ἐστί ; τὸ ᾠόν· ἡ δυὰς τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ φύσεων, ἄρρενος καὶ θηλείας, καὶ τῶν ἐν μέσῳ παντοίων σπερμάτων τὸ πλῆθος· καὶ τρίτον ἐπὶ τούτοις θεὸν δισώματον, πτέρυγας ἐπὶ τῶν ὤμων ἔχοντα χρυσᾶς, ὃς ἐν μὲν ταῖς λαγόσι προσπεφυκυίας εἶχε ταύρων κεφαλάς, ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς κεφαλῆς δράκοντα πελώριον παντοδαπαῖς μορφαῖς θηρίων ἰνδαλλόμενον. τοῦτον μὲν οὖν ὡς νοῦν τῆς τριάδος ὑποληπτέον, τὰ δὲ μέσα γένη τά τε πολλὰ καὶ τὰ δύο τὴν δύναμιν, αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ ᾠὸν ἀρχὴν πατρικὴν τῆς τρίτης τριάδος. ταύτης δὲ τῆς τρίτης τριάδος τὸν τρίτον θεὸν καὶ ἥδε ἡ θεολογία πρωτόγονον ἀνυμνεῖ καὶ Δία καλεῖ πάντων διατάκτορα καὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου, διὸ καὶ Πᾶνα καλεῖσθαι. τοσαῦτα καὶ αὕτη περὶ τῶν νοητῶν ἀρχῶν ἡ γενεαλογία παρίστησιν.

“But that (Orphic theology) delivered by Hieronymus and Hellanicus is as follows. According to them water and matter were the first productions, from which earth was secretly drawn forth: so that water and earth are established as the two first principles; the latter of these having a dispersed subsistence; but the former conglutinating and connecting the latter. They are silent however concerning the principle prior to these two, as being ineffable: for as there are no illuminations about him, his arcane and ineffable nature is from hence sufficiently evinced. But the third principle posterior to these two, water and earth, and which is generated from them, is a dragon, naturally endued with the heads of a bull and a lion, but in the middle having the countenance of the God himself. They add likewise that he has wings on his shoulder, and that he is called undecaying Time (Χρόνος), and Hercules (Ἡρακλῆς); that Necessity (Ἀνάγκη) resides (is united, συνεῖναι) with him, which is the same as Nature, and incorporeal Adrastia, which is extended throughout the universe, whose limits she binds in amicable conjunction. But as it appears to me (Δαμάσκιος), they denominate this third principle as established according to essence; and assert, besides this, that it subsists as male and female, for the purpose of exhibiting the generative causes of all things.

“I (Δαμάσκιος) likewise find in the Orphic Rhapsodies, that neglecting the two first principles, together with the one principle who is delivered in silence, the third principle, posterior to the two, is established by the theology as the original; because this first of all possesses something effable and commensurate to human discourse. For in the former hypothesis, the highly reverenced and undecaying Time, the father of æther and chaos, was the principle: but in this (the Orphic Rhapsodies) Time (as a name) is neglected, and the principle (Time) becomes a dragon. It likewise calls triple æther, moist; and chaos, infinite; and Erebus, cloudy and dark; delivering this second triad analogous to the first: this being potential, as that was paternal. Hence the third procession of this triad is dark Erebus: its paternal and summit æther, not according to a simple but intellectual subsistence: but its middle infinite chaos, considered as a progeny or procession, and among these parturient, because from these the third intelligible triad proceeds. What then is the third intelligible triad? I answer, the egg; the duad of the natures of male and female which it contains, and the multitude of all-various seeds, residing in the middle of this triad: and the third among these is an incorporeal God, bearing golden wings on his shoulders; but in his inward parts naturally possessing the heads of bulls, upon which heads a mighty dragon appears, invested with the all-various forms of wild beasts. This last then must be considered as the intellect of the triad; but the middle progeny, which are many as well as two, correspond to power, and the egg itself is the paternal principle of the third triad: the third God of this third triad, this theology celebrates as Protogonus, and calls him Jupiter (Ζεὺς), the disposer of all things and of the whole world; and on this account denominates him Pan." (trans. Thomas Taylor, 1824.)


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).


PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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