Who is the Dîmiourgós?

The concept of a Creator-God within Ællînismόs (Hellênismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, is one of some debate. What is this debate? It involves questions concerning the primordial state of the Kόzmos (Cosmos, Κόσμος). In particular, was the universe created, or did it emerge spontaneously? If the universe was created by a God, did this deity always exist? If not, what came before and how did he or she come to be? If this deity “came to be,” then the idea of a creator has one meaning; if this deity always existed, the idea of a creator has another meaning. These are the questions we will be considering here, but actually there are a great host of questions brewing underneath these ideas. The purpose of this too brief essay is to simply introduce the ideas.

Creator-God in Greek is Piitís-Thæόs (Ποιητής Θεός). The word ποιητής means “maker, author,” or “workman.” More commonly we use the word Dîmiourgόs (Dêmiurge, Δημιουργός), a word which means “worker” or “artisan” but in the context of religion, it is the God who creates everything. The word Dîmiourgόs is often associated with Tímaios (Timaeus, Τίμαιος), the dialogue of Plátôn (Plato, Πλάτων), and the Platonists generally. It has the connotation of a craftsman-deity who creates or puts the Kόzmos in order. The word Dîmiourgόs has been given other meanings by Christian and Gnostic theologians, meanings which are, for the most part, unrelated to this discussion.

Ancient Greek religion talks about creation primarily through the use of theogony, stories of the genesis of the Gods. Although there are others worthy of consideration, we are only going to discuss the three most prominent theogonies, and these only briefly and, for the most part, in their very earliest sections. First we will consider the beginning of the Theogony (Θεογονία) of Isíodos (Hesiod, Ἡσίοδος), after this we will examine more deeply the Orphic view, and finally the Tímaios (Timaeus, Τίμαιος) of Plátôn (Plato, Πλάτων).

The Theogony of Isíodos

Isíodos states that Kháos (Chaos, Χάος) was the first to arise [1], with the implication that it issued from something, but he does not explain what that something is. After Kháos, the emergence of the race of Gods commences. We can make three statements concerning this: 1. According to Isíodos, the universe emerges from something. 2. The universe is self-arising. 3. There is no Dîmiourgόs directing the genesis of the universe, at least not overtly stated. This is all we have to say concerning Isíodos in this essay.

The Theogony of Orphéfs

From the perspective of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς), the universe originates from the Ineffable or Unutterable Beginning (Ἄρρητος Ἀρχή) [2], a primordial undifferentiated state from which its constituent parts are yet to be expressed. From this pregnant circumstance, the Gods, in reality everything, are born. What are they born from? They are born from the interaction of its constituent parts. What are the constituent parts?

Pre-existent within the Unutterable Beginning are the two cosmogonic material substances. Orphéfs calls them Earth and Water. Earth is a divisible or particulate substance. Water is not divisible and is continuous. There are other fundamental elements discussed in ancient philosophy, Aithír and Fire, but these two are also continuous substances like Water. According to Plátôn [3], the cosmogonic Water, Fire, and Aithír can transform into each other. From this perspective, there are only two basic cosmogonic substances: Earth and Water-Fire-Aithír. Earth is receptive to the formative nature of Aithír, which draws the particles of Earth and unites with them, creating, or rather, revealing forms, creating souls, creating the universe. Since these forms derive from pre-existent material, this genitive action, revealed by the light of Phánis, is not a creation from nothing. The Aithír cannot "create" without Earth. A universe comes about of its own accord, by Necessity (Ἀνάγκη) through Time (Χρόνος), and develops through natural processes, natural laws. This is told mythologically in the theogony with the emergence of the Golden Age [4] of Phánis (Φάνης) and Nyx (Νύξ) and then continuing with the birth of Ouranós (Οὐρανός) and Yaia (Γαῖα), and then progressing to the Silver Age of Krónos (Κρόνος) and Rǽa (Ῥέα).

The Titanic Age begins when Zefs takes control with Íra (Ἥρα). This is the age we are now living in. But next the theogony describes something extraordinary. With the ascendancy of Zefs, the God uses the power of Phánis (Φάνης), his own essence. Phánis is a more evolved form of Aithír. The fully evolved form of Aithír is Zefs. Thus, Zefs is the Aithír. He then swallows everything, and creates the Kόzmos anew. Therefore, Zefs is the Dîmiourgόs who puts the universe in order.

"And then Zefs went to the Sacred Cave and asked, ‘Mother, supreme of all the Gods, immortal Nyx, how am I to proceed? How can I inaugurate my rule with the immortal Gods? How can I keep all things as one yet separate?’ And blessed Nyx, gleaming with the blue of dawn, answered him saying, ‘Surround everything in the Aithír …the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the stars… and bind them all with a golden aithirial chain.’

“Thus mighty Zefs engulfed and swallowed Irikæpaios (Φάνης), employing all of his power, and drew everything that existed into the hollow of his belly. And now all things in Zefs were created anew, the sky, the sea, the earth, and all the blessed and immortal Gods and Goddesses, all that was then and all that will be, all mingled in the belly of Zefs.” [5]

Hence, Zefs is the creator, or as is commonly said, the "Father of Gods and Men" (Πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε Θεῶν τε). Yet something predates Zefs and the forms before him. Zefs is the Father, but he is the natural progression of Aithír, a form of Water or in Greek, Ýdohr (Hydor, Ὕδωρ). Ýdohr "pre-dates" the more complex form who is the God Zefs, so therefore Zefs cannot be a creator that always existed from time immemorial, only in that the Aithír has existed since time immemorial, as well as the Water. But all of creation consists of Earth and Water, not just Zefs. The Orphic Materialism is the view that the Kόzmos consists of material substances. This material is primordial and does not arise out of "nothing." As is said in the Dærvǽni Papyrus (Δερβένι βύβλος), that what is now, comes from existing (ὄντα) things [6]. Thus, the Orphic position is creatio ex materia, i.e. creation from (existing) material. There is no creation from nothing (creatio ex nihilo).

This fundamental viewpoint of the most prominent ancient Hellenic theogonies is in direct contrast to the opinion of the Judeo-Christian monotheistic religions, and the difference was so obvious that the early Church-Fathers brought attention to it in their teachings against Ællînismόs as, for instance, in the following quotation from the Christian apologist Athînagóras (Athênagoras of Athens, Ἀθηναγόρας ὁ Ἀθηναῖος; ca. 133 – 190). Strangely enough, the Christians actually got this right, for the most part:

"The Gods, as they affirm, were not from the beginning, but every one of them has come into existence just like ourselves. And in this opinion they all agree. Homer speaks of:

Old Oceanus,

The sire of Gods, and Tethys;

and Orpheus (who, moreover, was the first to invent their names, and recounted their births, and narrated the exploits of each, and is believed by them to treat with greater truth than others of divine things, whom Homer himself follows in most matters, especially in reference to the Gods)— he, too, has fixed their first origin to be from Water:—

Oceanus, the origin of all.

For, according to him, Water was the beginning of all things, and from Water, Mud (ed. Earth) was formed, and from both was produced an animal (Φάνης), a dragon with the head of a lion growing to it, and between the two heads there was the face of a God, named Heracles and Kronos. This Heracles generated an egg of enormous size, which, on becoming full, was, by the powerful friction of its generator, burst into two, the part at the top receiving the form of Heaven (Οὐρανός), and the lower part that of Earth. The Goddess Gê (Γῆ); moreover, came forth with a body; and Ouranos, by his union with Gê, begot females, ..." [7]

The Tímaios and the Dîmiourgós

In the dialogue Tímaios, Plátôn speaks extensively of a creator. He puts these words, not in the mouth of Sôkrátis (Socrates, Σωκράτης), but in that of the Pythagorean, Tímaios of Lokrós (Timaeus of Locri, Τίμαιος ὁ Λοκρός).

"… I am asking a question which has to be asked at the beginning of an enquiry about anything---was the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning? or created, and had it a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things are apprehended by opinion and sense and are in a process of creation and created. Now that which is created must, as we affirm, of necessity be created by a cause. But the father and maker of all this universe is past finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible. And there is still a question to be asked about him: Which of the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world---the pattern of the unchangeable, or of that which is created? If the world be indeed fair and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have looked to, the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations and he is the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the world has been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended by reason and mind and is unchangeable, and must therefore of necessity, if this is admitted, be a copy of something." [8]

From the above passage, we can assume that Tímaios is speaking of an archetypal form when the text uses the term unchangeable pattern (εἶδος) as primordial. He says that the world must of necessity be a “copy of something.” The universe was created, and that which is created must have a cause, which he calls “father and maker of all this universe,” but that the father is inscrutable. Whether the Tímaios believes this creator to have consciousness is not clear.

According to the Neoplatonist Próklos (Proclus, Πρόκλος), the Dîmiourgόs of the Tímaios is Zefs (Ζεύς):

"Very properly therefore do we say that the Demiurgus in the Timæus is the mighty Jupiter (Ζεύς). For he it is who produces mundane intellects and souls, who adorns all bodies with figures and numbers, and inserts in them one union, and an indissoluble friendship and bond." [9]

But why then did this Creator-God, this kozmic craftsman, create or order the universe? The Tímaios says:

"Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in every way better than the other.” [10]

The Tímaios calls this creator intelligence, but also describes the role of Anángi (Ananke, Ἀνάγκη), the force of Necessity or Need:

"Thus far in what we have been saying, with small exception, the works of intelligence have been set forth; and now we must place by the side of them in our discourse the things which come into being through necessity---for the creation is mixed, being made up of necessity and mind. Mind, the ruling power, persuaded necessity to bring the greater part of created things to perfection and thus and after this manner in the beginning, when the influence of reason got the better of necessity, the universe was created. But if a person will truly tell of the way in which the work was accomplished, he must include the other influence of the variable cause as well." [11]

The Tímaios then goes on to a discussion of the classical elements as factors of creation.

Some concluding remarks

The view of Isíodos seems to imply that the universe emerges spontaneously from something which, for whatever reason, he does not explain, with Kháos the first to arise.

The Orphic view presents a universe emerging spontaneously, due to natural forces, emerging from something which cannot be described (Ἄρρητος Ἀρχή), but which consists of material substances. Gods and worlds come forth which are later put in order by Zefs, who, at that point, plays the role of creator, not creatio ex nihilo, but, rather, he re-creates the universe from pre-existent things.

The Platonic view is that the universe is created, or that it has an origin, and that this creation is a copy of something. So we have here an expression which the later so-called Neoplatonists developed and refer to as “the One” (Τὸ Ἕν). What is unclear is the relationship of the Dîmiourgόs to that which the universe is a copy of. Is he himself a copy of this? In any case, the Dîmiourgόs is part of the Tímaios, whether he be a sentient being or whether the dialogue is using such a figure as a teaching tool. From this perspective, the universe originates as a copy of a form which is unchangeable (while the universe is changeable). This concept is, in a way, similar to monotheistic ideas about God, that the Creator has always existed and is perfect and unchangeable. Also, this idea which is perfect and unchangeable, of which the universe is a copy of, predates the creation. The dialogue represents the Dîmiourgόs as ordering this process, so, if the dialogue is to be taken literally on this point, creation, or the emergence of the universe, is not entirely spontaneous, yet the dialogue acknowledges the role of necessity or spontaneity.

This author is inclined to the Orphic view. The idea of a creator-God who has existed eternally and never changes is rejected. Something which does not change must be a concept or an abstraction. The universe, it would seem, arises spontaneously, created by necessity through time, from the interaction of pre-existent material. The tradition, the mythology, gives us a creator-God, the Dîmiourgόs, who plays a role in the emergence of this universe, for he is the Aithír which causes its characteristics to be revealed, interact, and progress. And that once this universe has arisen, the Aithír has evolved into a sentient divine being who plays a role in putting the universe in order as a creative act.


[1] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 116 says that Kháos comes to be (γένετ'), not that it pre-exists everything else. It is clear in his choice of the word:

Ἦ τοι μὲν πρώτιστα Χάος γένετ'

"Verily first of all chaos came to be...."

(trans. by the author)

[2] ὁ λόγος σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Κρατύλου Πλάτωνος (trans. Thomas Taylor):

"That Orpheus greatly availed himself of the licence of fables, and manifests every thing prior to Heaven (Οὐρανός) by names, as far as to the first cause. He also denominates the ineffable, who transcends the intelligible unities, Time; whether because Time pre-subsists as the cause of all generation, or because, as delivering the generation of true beings, he thus denominates the ineffable, that he may indicate the order of true beings, and the transcendency of the more total to the more partial; that a subsistence according to Time may be the same with a subsistence according to cause; in the same manner as generation with an arranged progression. But Hesiod venerates many of the divine natures in silence, and does not in short name the first. For that what is posterior to the first proceeds from something else, is evident from the verse,

'Chaos of all things was the first produced.'

For it is perfectly impossible that it could be produced without a cause; but he does not say what that is which gave subsistence to Chaos. He is silent indeed with respect to both the fathers of intelligibles, the exempt, and the co-ordinate; for they are perfectly ineffable. And with respect to the two co-ordinations, the natures which are co-ordinate with the one, he passes by in silence, but those alone which are co-ordinate with the indefinite duad, he unfolds through genealogy. And of this account Plato now thinks Hesiod deserves to be mentioned, for passing by the natures prior to Heaven, as being ineffable. For this also is indicated concerning them by the (Chaldean) Oracles, which likewise add "they possess mystic silence," σῖγ᾽ ἔχε μύστα. And Socrates himself in the Phædrus, calls the intellectual perception of them μύησις (initiation) and ἐποπτεία (highest grade of initiation), in which nearly the whole business is ineffable and unknown."

[3] Τίμαιος Πλάτωνος 56d-57a, in the section following triangles.

[4] Unlike the five ages of Isíodos, the Orphic material talks of three: the Golden Age under Phánis, the Silver Age under Krónos, and the Titanic Age under Zefs. (Orphic frag. 140. σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί ΠολιτείαςΠλάτωνος II 74, 26 Kr.)

[5] Orphic Fragments (Kern) 164, 165, and 167, as told in the author’s own words, but below in translation:

Orphic frag. 164. (117) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος B prooem (I 206, 26 Diehl):

μαῖα, θεῶν ὑπάτη, Νὺξ ἄμβροτε, πῶς, τάδε φράζε, πῶς χρή μ' ἀθανάτων ἀρχὴν κρατερόφρονα θέσθαι; καὶ ἀκούει παρ' αὐτῆς

“(Zeus speaks to Nyx) Good mother, highest of the Gods, immortal Nyx, show me this, how am I to set up my stout-hearted rule among the Deathless Ones? and she hears him”

(trans. by the author)

Orphic frag. 165. (122) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος I 28c (I 313, 31 Diehl):

τὰ τοίνυν ὅλα περιέχων ὁ Ζεὺς καὶ πάντα μοναδικῶς καὶ | νοερῶς κατὰ τούτους τους χρησμοὺς τῆς Νυκτὸς ὑφίστησι πάντα τὰ ἐγκόσμια, θεούς τε καὶ τὰς μοίρας τοῦ παντός. λέγει γοῦν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ Νὺξ ἐρωτήσαντα·

πῶς δέ μοι ἕν τε τὰ πάντ' ἔσται καὶ χωρίς ἕκαστον; αἰθέρι πάντα πέριξ ἀφάτωι λάβε, τῶι δ' ἐνὶ μέσσωι οὐρανόν, ἐν δέ τε γαῖαν ἀπείριτον, ἐν δὲ θάλασσαν, ἐν δὲ τὰ τείρεα πάντα τά τ' οὐρανὸς ἐστεφάνωται.

(Zeus speaks to Night):

" 'How can I have all things one yet each one apart?'

(Nyx answers):

" 'Take hold round about all things with the unutterable Aithír, and in its midst place the vault of heaven, the immense earth, the sea, and all the constellations crowning heaven.' ”

(trans. by the author)

Orphic frag. 167. (120. 121) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος I 29a (I 324, 14 Diehl):

ὣς τότε πρωτογόνειο χαδὼν μένος Ἠρικεπαίου

τῶν πάντων δέμας εἶχεν ἑῆι ἐνὶ γαστέρι κοίλῃ,

μεῖξε δ' ἑοῖς μελέεσσι θεοῦ δύναμίν τε καὶ ἀλκήν,

τοὔνεκα σὺν τῶι πάντα Διὸς πάλιν ἐντὸς ἐτύχθη.

“Thus then taking hold of the power of first-born Irikæpaios (Ἠρικεπαῖος)

he carried the form of all things in the hollow of his own belly,

he mingled his own limbs with the power and strength of the God,

for that reason with him all things within Zefs were made new."

(trans. by the author)

σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος 28c (I 312, 26 Diehl):

αἰθέρος εὐρείης ἠδ' οὐρανοῦ άγλαὸν ὕψος,

πόντου τ' ἀτρυγέτου γαίης τ' ἐρικυδέος ἕδρη,

Ὠκεανός τε μέγας καὶ νείατα Τάρταρα γαίης

καὶ ποταμοὶ καὶ πόντος ἀπείριτος ἄλλα τε πάντα

πάντες τ' ἀθάνατοι μάκαρες θεοί ἠδὲ θέαιναι,

ὅσσα τ' ἔην γεγαῶτα καὶ ὕστερον ὁππός' ἔμελλεν,

(v. fr. 169)

ἐνγένετο, Ζηνὸς δ' ἐνὶ γαστέρι σύρρα πεφύκει.

"the luminous summit of immense aithír and heaven,

the seat of the barren sea and illustrious earth,

great Ocean and deep Tártaros (Τάρταρος) beneath the earth,

and rivers and the limitless sea and all other,

all the deathless happy Gods and Goddesses,

all that existed and all that will to come to be,

all come about and bestrewn in the belly of Zefs (Ζεὺς).”

(trans. by the author)

[6] Δερβένι βύβλος, Col. 16.

[7] Kern Orphic Fragment 57. (39) Πρεσβεία περί των Χριστιανών Ἀθηναγόρου 18 p. 20, 12 Schw., trans. B. P. Pratten, 1885.

[8] Τίμαιος Πλάτωνος 28b-29b; trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

[9] ὁ λόγος σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Κρατύλου Πλάτωνος, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816.

[10] Τίμαιος Πλάτωνος 29d-30a; trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

[11] Τίμαιος Πλάτωνος 47e-48a; trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic 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.

This logo 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, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) 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, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, 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.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic 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.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website.

Please visit the following pages to familiarize yourself with the Greek pronunciation of the ancient letters and words as well as the unique transliteration system we have developed:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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