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PTCOLIM

 

Hymns and Initiations

Translated by Thomas Taylor

ISBN 978-1898819-046



Introduction - The life and theology of Orpheus

The Grecian theology, which originated from Orpheus, was not only promulgated by him, but also by Pythagoras and Plato; who, for their transcendent genius, will always be ranked by the intelligent among the prodigies of the human race. By the first of these illustrious men, however, it was promulgated mystically and symbolically; by the second, enigmatically, and through images; and scientifically by the third. That this theology, indeed, was derived from Orpheus is clearly testified by those two great philosophic luminaries Iamblichus and Proclus. For by them we are informed, "that what Orpheus delivered mystically through arcane narrations, this Pythagoras learned when he celebrated orgies in the Thracian Libethra, being initiated by Aglaophemus in the mystic wisdom which Orpheus derived from his mother Calliope, in the mountain Pangaeus."

This sublime theology, though it was scientifically disseminated by Plato, yet conformably to the custom of the most ancient philosophers, was delivered by him synoptically, and in such a way as to be inaccessible to the vulgar; but when, in consequence of the commencement of a degraded and barren period, this theology became corrupted through the negligence and confusion of its votaries, then such of his disciples as happened to live when it was thus degraded and deformed found it necessary to unfold it more fully, in order to prevent its becoming utterly extinct. The men by whom this arduous task was accomplished were the last of the disciples of Plato; men who, though they lived in a base age, possessed a divine genius, and who having happily fathomed the depth of their great master's works, luminously and copiously developed their recondite meaning, and benevolently communicated it in their writings for the general good.

From this golden chain of philosophers, as they have been justly called, my elucidations of the present mystic hymns are principally derived: for I know of no other genuine sources, if it be admitted (and it must by every intelligent reader), that the theology of Orpheus is the same as that of Pythagoras and Plato. Hence I shall not take any notice of the theories of Bryant and Faber and other modern mythological writers; because these theories, however ingenious they may be, are so far from elucidating, that they darken, confound, and pollute the Grecian theology, by mingling with it other systems, to which it is as perfectly foreign and hostile as wisdom is to folly, and intellect to craft.
 
That the philosophic reader therefore may be convinced of the truth of this observation, the following epitome of this theology, derived from the above-mentioned sources, is subjoined. In the first place, this theology celebrates the immense principle of things as something superior even to being itself; as exempt from the whole of things, of which it is nevertheless ineffably the source; and does not therefore think fit to connumerate it with any triad, or order of beings. Indeed, it even apologizes for attempting to give an appropriate name to this principle, which is in reality ineffable, and ascribes the attempt to the imbecility of human nature, which striving intently to behold it, gives the appellation of the most simple of its conceptions to that which is beyond all knowledge and all conception. Hence Plato denominates it The One and The Good; by the former of these names indicating its transcendent simplicity, and by the latter its subsistence as the object of desire to all beings. For all things desire good. But Orpheus, as Proclus well observes [in Procl. Crat.], "availing himself of the license of fables, manifests every thing prior to Heaven (or the intelligible and at the same time intellectual order) by names, as far as to the first cause. He also denominates the ineffable, who transcends the intelligible unities, Time." And this according to a wonderful analogy, indicating the generation, i.e. the ineffable evolution into light of all things, from the immense principle of all. For, as Proclus elsewhere observes, "where there is generation there also time has a subsistence." And in this way the celebrated Theogony of Orpheus and other Grecian theologists is to be understood.

As the first cause then is The One, and this is the same with The Good, the universality of things must form a whole, the best and the most profoundly united in all its parts which can possibly be conceived: for The First Good must be the cause of the greatest good, that is, the whole of things; and as goodness is union, the best production must be that which is most united. But as there is a difference in things, and some are more excellent than others, and this in proportion to their proximity to the first cause, a profound union can no otherwise take place than by the extremity of a superior order coalescing through intimate alliance with the summit of one proximately inferior. Hence the first of bodies, though they are essentially corporeal, yet through habitude or alliance, are most vital, or lives. The highest of souls are after this manner intellects, and the first of beings are Gods. For as being is the highest of things after the first cause, its first subsistence must be according to a superessential characteristic.

Now that which is superessential, considered as participated by the highest or true being, constitutes that which is called intelligible. So that every true being depending on the Gods is a divine intelligible. It is divine indeed, as that which is deified; but it is intelligible, as the object of desire to intellect, as perfective and connective of its nature, and as the plenitude of being itself. But in the first being life and intellect subsist according to cause: for every thing subsists either according to cause, or according to hyparxis, or according to participation. That is, every thing may be considered either as subsisting occultly in its cause, or openly in its own order (or according to what it is), or as participated by something else. The first of these is analogous to light when viewed subsisting in its fountain the sun; the second to the light immediately proceeding from the sun; and the third to the splendour communicated to other natures by this light.

The first procession therefore from the first cause will be the intelligible triad, consisting of being, life, and intellect, which are the three highest things after the first God, and of which being is prior to life, and life to intellect. For whatever partakes of life partakes also of being: but the contrary is not true, and therefore being is above life; since it is the characteristic of higher natures to extend their communications beyond such as are subordinate. But life is prior to intellect, because all intellectual natures are vital, but all vital natures are not intellectual. But in this intelligible triad, on account of its superessential characteristic, all things may be considered as subsisting according to cause: and consequently number here has not a proper subsistence, but is involved in unproceeding union, and absorbed in superessential light. Hence, when it is called a triad, we must not suppose that any essential distinction takes place, but must consider this appellation as expressive of its ineffable perfection. For as it is the nearest of all things to The One, its union must be transcendently profound and ineffably occult.

All the Gods indeed, considered according to their unities, are all in all, and are at the same time united with the first God, like rays to light, or the radii of a circle to the centre. And hence they are all established in their ineffable principle (as Proclus in Parmenid. beautifully observes), like the roots of trees in the earth; so that they are all as much as possible superessential, just as trees are eminently of an earthly nature, without at the same time being earth itself. For the nature of the earth, as being a whole, and therefore having a perpetual subsistence, is superior to the partial natures which it produces. The intelligible triad therefore, from existing wholly according to the superessential, possesses an inconceivable profundity of union both with itself and its cause; and hence it appears to the eye of intellect as one simple indivisible splendour, beaming from an unknown and inaccessible fire.
 
The Orphic theology, however, concerning the intelligible Gods, or the highest order of divinities, is, as we are informed by Damascius, as follows: "Time [as we have already observed] is symbolically said to be the one principle of the universe; but ether and chaos [called by Plato, in the Philebus, bound and infinity] are celebrated as the two principles immediately posterior to this one. And being, simply considered, is represented under the symbol of an egg. [This Orphic egg is the same with the mixture from bound and infinity, mentioned by Plato in the Philebus. See the third book of my translation of Proclus on the Theology of Plato.] And this is the first triad of the intelligible Gods. But for the perfection of the second triad they establish either a conceiving and a conceived egg as a God, or a white garment, or a cloud: because from these Phanes leaps forth into light. For indeed they philosophise variously concerning the middle triad. But Phanes here represents intellect. To conceive him however besides this, as father and power, contributes nothing to Orpheus. But they call the third triad Metis as intellect, Ericapaeus as power, and Phanes as father. But sometimes the middle triad is considered according to the three-shaped God, while conceived in the egg: for the middle always represents each of the extremes; as in this instance, where the egg and the three-shaped God subsist together. And here you may perceive that the egg is that which is united; but that the three-shaped and really multiform God is the separating and discriminating cause of that which is intelligible. Likewise the middle triad subsists according to the egg, as yet united; but the third according to the God who separates and distributes the whole intelligible order. And this is the common and familiar Orphic theology. But that 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 shoulders, and that he is called undecaying Time, and Hercules; that Necessity resides 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, 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 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 aether and chaos, was the principle: but in this Time is neglected, and the principle becomes a dragon. It likewise calls triple aether, 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 aether, 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: but the third God of this third triad, this theology celebrates as Protogonus, and calls him Jupiter, the disposer of all things and of the whole world; and on this account denominates him Pan. And such is the information which this theology affords us, concerning the genealogy of the intelligible principles of things.

But in the writings of the Peripatetic Eudemus, containing the theology of Orpheus, the whole intelligible order is passed over in silence, as being every way ineffable and unknown, and incapable of verbal enunciation. Eudemus therefore commences his genealogy from Night, from which also Homer begins: though Eudemus is far from making the Homeric genealogy consistent and connected, for he asserts that Homer begins from Ocean and Tethys. It is however apparent, that Night is according to Homer the greatest divinity, since she is reverenced even by Jupiter himself. For the poet says of Jupiter, "that he feared lest he should act in a manner displeasing to swift Night." So that Homer begins his genealogy of the Gods from Night. But it appears to me that Hesiod, when he asserts that Chaos was first generated, signifies by Chaos the incomprehensible and perfectly united nature of that which is intelligible: but that he produces Earth the first from thence, as a certain principle of the whole procession of the Gods. Unless perhaps Chaos is the second of the two principles: but Earth [++ see note at the end of this dissertation], Tartarus, and Love form the triple intelligible. So that Love is to be placed for the third monad of the intelligible order, considered according to its convertive nature; for it is thus denominated by Orpheus in his rhapsodies. But Earth for the first, as being first established in a certain firm and essential station. But Tartarus for the middle, as in a certain respect exciting and moving forms into distribution. But Acusilaus appears to me to establish Chaos for the first principle, as entirely unknown; and after this, two principles, Erebus as male, and Night as female; placing the latter for infinity, but the former for bound. But from the mixture of these, he says that Aether, Love, and Counsel are generated, forming three intelligible hypostases. And he places Aether as the summit; but Love in the middle, according to its naturally middle subsistence; but Metis or Counsel as the third, and the same as highly reverenced intellect. And, according to the history of Eudemus, from these he produces a great number of other Gods.

Thus far Damascius, with whose very interesting narration the doctrine of the Chaldeans concerning the intelligible order accords, as delivered by Johannes Picus in his Conclusions according to the Opinion of the Chaldean Theologists. "The intelligible coordination (says he) is not in the intellectual coordination, as Amasis the Egyptian asserts, but is above every intellectual hierarchy, imparticipably concealed in the abyss of the first unity, and under the obscurity of the first darkness." Coordinatio intelligibilis non est in intellectuali coordinatione, ut dixit Amasis Aegyptius, sed est super omnem intellectualem hierarchium, in abysso primae unitatis, et sub caligine primarum tenebrarum imparticipaliter abscondita.

But from this triad it may be demonstrated, that all the processions of the Gods may be comprehended in six orders, viz. the intelligible order, the intelligible and at the same time intellectual, the intellectual, the supermundane, the liberated, and the mundane. For the intelligible, as we have already observed, must hold the first rank, and must consist of being, life, and intellect; i.e. must abide, proceed, and return; at the same time that it is characterized, or subsists principally according to causally permanent being. But in the next place, that which is both intelligible and intellectual succeeds, which must likewise be triple, but must principally subsist according to life, or intelligence. And in the third place the intellectual order must succeed, which is triply convertive. But as in consequence of the existence of the sensible world, it is necessary that there should be some demiurgic cause of its existence, this cause can only be found in intellect, and in the last hypostasis of the intellectual triad. For all forms in this hypostasis subsist according to all-various and perfect divisions; and forms can only fabricate when they have a perfect intellectual separation from each other. But since fabrication is nothing more than procession, the Demiurgus will be to the posterior orders of Gods what The One is to the orders prior to the Demiurgus; and consequently he will be that secondarily which the first cause of all is primarily. Hence his first production will be an order of Gods analogous to the intelligible order, and which is denominated supermundane. After this he must produce an order of Gods similar to the intelligible and intellectual order, and which are denominated liberated Gods. And in the last place, a procession correspondent to the intellectual order, and which can be no other than the mundane Gods. For the Demiurgus is chiefly characterized according to diversity, and is allotted the boundary of all universal hypostases.

All these orders are unfolded by Plato in the conclusions which the second hypothesis of his Parmenides contains; and this in a manner so perfectly agreeable to the Orphic and Chaldaic theology, that he who can read and understand the incomparable work of Proclus on Plato's theology will discover how ignorantly the latter Platonists have been abused by the moderns, as fanatics and corrupters of the doctrine of Plato.

According to the theology of Orpheus therefore, all things originate from an immense principle, to which through the imbecility and poverty of human conception we give a name, though it is perfectly ineffable, and in the reverential language of the Egyptians, is a thrice unknown darkness, in the contemplation of which all knowledge is refunded into ignorance. Hence, as Plato says, in the conclusion of his first hypothesis in the Parmenides, "it can neither be named, nor spoken of, nor conceived by opinion, nor be known or perceived by any being." The peculiarity also of this theology, and in which its transcendency consists is this, that it does not consider the highest God to be simply the principle of beings, but the principle of principles, i.e. of deiform processions from itself, all which are eternally rooted in the unfathomable depths of the immensely great source of their existence, and of which they may be called superessential ramifications, and super-luminous blossoms.

When the ineffable transcendency of the first God, which was considered (as I have elsewhere observed) to be the grand principle in the Heathen theology, by its most ancient promulgators, Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato, was forgotten, this oblivion was doubtless the cause of dead men being deified by the Pagans. Had they properly disposed their attention to this transcendency, they would have perceived it to be so immense as to surpass eternity, infinity, self-subsistence, and even essence itself, and that these in reality belong to those venerable natures which are as it were first unfolded into light from the arcane recesses of the truly mystic unknown cause of all. For, as Simplicius beautifully observes, "It is requisite that he who ascends to the principle of things should investigate whether it is possible there can be any thing better than the supposed principle; and if something more excellent is found, the same inquiry should again be made respecting that, till we arrive at the highest conceptions, than which we have no longer any more venerable. Nor should we stop in our ascent till we find this to be the case. For there is no occasion to fear that our progression will be through an unsubstantial void, by conceiving something about the first principles which is greater than and surpasses their nature. For it is not possible for our conceptions to take such a mighty leap as to equal, and much less to pass beyond the dignity of the first principles of things." He adds, "This therefore is one and the best extension [of the soul] to [the highest] God, and is as much as possible irreprehensible; viz. to know firmly, that by ascribing to him the most venerable excellencies we can conceive, and the most holy and primary names and things, we ascribe nothing to him which is suitable to his dignity. It is sufficient, however, to procure our pardon [for the attempt] that we can attribute to him nothing superior." If it is not possible, therefore, to form any ideas equal to the dignity of the immediate progeny of the ineffable, i.e. of the first principles of things, how much less can our conceptions reach the principle of these principles, who is concealed in the super-luminous darkness of occultly initiating silence? Had the Heathens therefore considered as they ought this transcendency of the supreme God and his immediate offspring, they never would have presumed to equalize the human with the divine nature, and consequently would never have worshipped men as Gods. Their theology, however, is not to he accused as the cause of this impiety, but their forgetfulness of the sublimest of its dogmas, and the confusion with which this oblivion was necessarily attended.

The following additional information also respecting the Orphic theology will greatly contribute to an elucidation of these Mystic Hymns: According to this theology, each of the Gods is in all, and all are in each, being ineffably united to each other and the highest God, because each being a superessential unity, their conjunction with each other is a union of unities. And hence it is by no means wonderful that each is celebrated as all. But another and a still more appropriate cause may be assigned of each of the celestial Gods being called by the appellations of so many other deities, which is this, that, according to the Orphic theology, each of the planets is fixed in a luminous etherial sphere called a wholeness, because it is a part with a total subsistence, and is analogous to the sphere of the fixed stars. In consequence of this analogy, each of these planetary spheres contains a multitude of Gods, who are the satellites of the leading divinity of the sphere, and subsist conformably to his characteristics. This doctrine, which, as I have elsewhere observed, is one of the grand keys to the mythology and theology of the ancients, is not clearly delivered by any other ancient writer than Proclus, and has not, I believe, been noticed by any other modern author than myself. But the following are the passages in which this theory is unfolded by Proclus, in his admirable commentaries on the Timaeus of Plato. "In each of the celestial spheres, the whole sphere has the relation of a monad, but the cosmocrators [or planets] are the leaders of the multitude in each. For in each a number analogous to the choir of the fixed stars subsists with appropriate circulations." (See vol. ii. book iv. p. 270, of my translation of this work.) And in another part of the same book (p. 280), "There are other divine animals following the circulations of the planets, the leaders of which are the seven planets; all which Plato comprehends in what is here said. For these also revolve and have a wandering of such a kind as that which he a little before mentioned of the seven planets. For they revolve in conjunction with and make their apocatastases together with their principals, just as the fixed stars are governed by the whole circulation [of the inerratic sphere]." And still more fully in p. 281, "Each of the planets is a whole world, comprehending in itself many divine genera invisible to us. Of all these, however, the visible star has the government. And in this the fixed stars differ from those in the planetary spheres, that the former have one monad [viz. the inerratic sphere], which is the wholeness of them; but that in each of the latter there are invisible stars, which revolve together with their spheres; so that in each there is both the wholeness and a leader, which is allotted an exempt transcendency. For the planets, being secondary to the fixed stars, require a twofold prefecture, the one more total, but the other more partial. But that in each of these there is a multitude coordinate with each, you may infer from the extremes. For if the inerratic sphere has a multitude coordinate with itself, and earth is the wholeness of terrestrial, in the same manner as the inerratic sphere is of celestial animals, it is necessary that each intermediate wholeness should entirely possess certain partial animals coordinate with itself; through which, also, they are said to be wholenesses. The intermediate natures, however, are concealed from our sense, the extremes being manifest; one of them through its transcendently luminous essence, and the other through its alliance to us. If, likewise, partial souls [such as ours] are disseminated about them, some about the sun, others about the moon, and others about each of the rest, and prior to souls, daemons give completion to the herds of which they are the leaders, it is evidently well said, that each of the spheres is a world; theologists also teaching us these things when they say that there are Gods in each prior to daemons, some of which are under the government of others. Thus for instance, they assert concerning our mistress the Moon, that the Goddess Hecate is contained in her, and also Diana. Thus, too, in speaking of the sovereign Sun, and the Gods that are there, they celebrate Bacchus as being there,

The Sun's assessor, who with watchful eye surveys
The sacred pole.

They likewise celebrate the Jupiter who is there, Osiris, the solar Pan, and others of which the books of theologists and theurgists are full; from all which it is evident, that each of the planets is truly said to be the leader of many Gods, who give completion to its peculiar circulation."

From this extraordinary passage (as I have observed in a note on it in my Proclus, p. 282) we may perceive at one view why the Sun in the Orphic Hymns is called Jupiter, why Apollo is called Pan, and Bacchus the Sun; why the Moon seems to be the same with Rhea, Ceres, Proserpine, Juno, Venus, &c. and, in short, why any one divinity is celebrated with the names and epithets of so many of the rest. For from this sublime theory it follows that every sphere contains a Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan, Vesta, Minerva, Mars, Ceres, Juno, Diana, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, and in short every deity, each sphere at the same time conferring on these Gods the peculiar characteristic of its nature; so that, for instance, in the Sun they all possess a solar property, in the Moon a lunar one, and so of the rest. From this theory, too, we may perceive the truth of that divine saying of the ancients, that all things are full of Gods; for more particular orders proceed from such as are more general, the mundane from the supermundane, and the sublunary from the celestial; while earth becomes the general receptacle of the illuminations of all the Gods. "Hence," as Proclus shortly after observes, "there is a terrestrial Ceres, Vesta, and Isis, as likewise a terrestrial Jupiter and a terrestrial Hermes, established about the one divinity of the earth, just as a multitude of celestial Gods proceeds about the one divinity of the heavens. For there are progressions of all the celestial Gods into the Earth: and Earth contains all things, in an earthly manner, which Heaven comprehends celestially. Hence we speak of a terrestrial Bacchus and a terrestrial Apollo, who bestows the all-various streams of water with which the earth abounds, and openings prophetic of futurity." And if to all this we only add, that all the other mundane Gods subsist in the twelve above-mentioned, and in short, all the mundane in the supermundane Gods, and that the first triad of these is demiurgic or fabricative, viz. Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan; the second, Vesta, Minerva, Mars, defensive; the third, Ceres, Juno, Diana, vivific; and the fourth, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, elevating and harmonic; I say, if we unite this with the preceding theory, there is nothing in the ancient theology that will not appear admirably sublime and beautifully connected, accurate in all its parts, scientific and divine.

In the next place, that the following Hymns were written by Orpheus and that they were used in the Eleusinian Mysteries, will, I think, be evident, from the following arguments, to the intelligent reader. For that hymns were written by Orpheus is testified by Plato in the eighth book of his Laws, and by Pausanias in his Boeotics, who also says that they were few and short; from whence, as Fabricius justly observes, it appears that they were no other than those which are now extant. But that they were used in the Eleusinian Mysteries is evident from the testimony of Lycomedes, who says that they were sung in the sacred rites pertaining to Ceres, which honour was not paid to the Homeric hymns, though they were more elegant than those of Orpheus; and the Eleusinian were the mysteries of Ceres. And that Lycomedes alludes, in what he here says, to these hymns is manifest, first from Pausanias, who in his Attics (cap. 37) observes, "that it is not lawful to ascribe the invention of beans to Ceres." He adds, "and he who has been initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, or has read the poems called Orphic, will know what I mean." Now Porphyry De Abstinentia, lib. iv [TTS vol. II] informs us, that beans were forbidden in the Eleusinian mysteries; and in the Orphic Hymn to Earth the sacrificer is ordered to fumigate from every kind of seed, except beans and aromatics. But Earth is Vesta, and Vesta, as we are informed by Proclus, is comprehended together with Juno in Ceres. Again, Suidas informs us, that telete signifies a mystic sacrifice, the greatest and most venerable of all others. And Proclus, whenever he speaks of the Eleusinian mysteries, calls them the most holy teletai. Agreeably to this, the Orphic Hymns are called in the Thryllitian manuscript `telestai'; and Scaliger justly observes, that they contain nothing but such invocations as were used in the mysteries. Besides, many of the hymns are expressly thus called by the author of them. Thus the conclusion of the hymn to Protogonus invokes that deity to be present at the holy telete: of the hymn to the Stars, to be present at the very learned labours of the most holy telete: And in the conclusion of the Hymn to Latona the sacrifice is called an all-divine telete, as likewise in that of the Hymn to Amphietus Bacchus. And in short, the greater part of the hymns will be found to have either the word `telestai' in them, or to invoke the respective divinities to bless the mystics or initiated persons. Thus the conclusion of the Hymn to Heaven entreats that divinity to confer a blessed life on a recent mystic: the conclusion of the Hymn to the Sun, to impart by illumination a pleasant life to the mystics: And in a similar manner most of the other hymns.
 
Farther still, Demosthenes, in his first Oration against Aristogiton, has the following remarkable passage: "Let us reverence inexorable and venerable Justice, who is said by Orpheus, our instructor in the most holy teletai, to be seated by the throne of Jupiter, and to inspect all the actions of men." Here Demosthenes calls the mysteries most holy, as well as Proclus: and I think it may be concluded with the greatest confidence from all that has been said, that he alluded to the Hymn to Justice, which is one of the Orphic hymns, and to the following lines in that hymn: "I sing the all-seeing eye of splendid Justice, who sits by the throne of king Jupiter, and from her celestial abode beholds the life of multiform mortals."
 
The Eleusinian mysteries also, as is well known, were celebrated at night; the principal reason of which appears to be this, that the greater mysteries pertained to Ceres, and the less to Proserpine, and the latter preceded the former. But the rape of Proserpine, which was exhibited in these mysteries, signifies, as we are informed by Sallust, the descent of souls. And the descent of souls into the realms of generation is said, by Plato in the tenth book of his Republic, to take place at midnight, indicating by this the union of the soul with the darkness of a corporeal nature. This too, I suppose, is what Clemens Alexandrinus means when he says, "that the mysteries were especially performed by night, thus signifying that the compression [i.e. confinement] of the soul by the body was effected at night." And that the sacrifices enjoined in the Orphic Hymns were performed by night, is evident from the hymn to Silenus, Satyrus, &c. in which Silenus, together with the Naiads, Bacchic Nymphs, and Satyrs, are implored to be present at the nocturnal orgies: From all which I think it may be safely concluded, that these Hymns not only pertain to mysteries, but that they were used in the celebration of the Eleusinian, which by way of eminence were called the mysteries, without any other note of distinction.

In the last place, it is requisite to speak of the author of these Hymns, and in addition to the evidence already adduced of their genuine antiquity, to vindicate them against those who contend that they are spurious, and were not written by Orpheus, but either by Onomacritus, or some poet who lived in the decline and fall of the Roman empire. And first, with respect to the dialect of these Hymns, Gesner observes, "that it ought to be no objection to their antiquity. For though according to Iamblichus, the Thracian Orpheus, who is more ancient than those noble poets Homer and Hesiod, used the Doric dialect; yet the Athenian Onomacritus, who according to the general opinion of antiquity is the author of all the works now extant ascribed to Orpheus, might either, preserving the sentences and a great part of the words, only change the dialect, and teach the ancient Orpheus to speak Homerically, or as I may say Solonically; or might arbitrarily add or take away what he thought proper, which, as we are informed by Herodotus, was his practice with respect to the Oracles." Gesner adds, "that it does not appear probable to him, that Onomacritus would dare to invent all that he wrote, since Orpheus must necessarily, at that time, have been much celebrated, and a great variety of his verses must have been in circulation." And he concludes with observing, "that the objection of the Doric dialect ought to be of no more weight against the antiquity of the present works than the Pelasgic letters, which Orpheus, according to Diodorous Siculus, used.
 
In this extract, Gesner is certainly right in asserting that Onomacritus would not dare to invent all that he wrote, and afterwards publish it as Orphic; but I add, that it is unreasonable in the extreme to suppose that he in the least interpolated or altered the genuine works of Orpheus, though he might change the dialect in which they were originally written. For is it to be supposed that the Orphic Hymns would have been used in the Eleusinian mysteries, as we have demonstrated they were, if they had been spurious productions; or that the fraud would not have been long ago discovered by some of the many learned and wise men that flourished after Onomacritus; and that the detection of this fraud would not have been transmitted so as to reach even the present times? Or indeed, is it probable that such a forgery could have existed at all, at a period when other learned men, as well as Onomacritus, had access to the genuine writings of Orpheus, and were equally capable with himself of changing them from one dialect into another? Even at a late period of antiquity, will any man who is at all familiar with the writings of Proclus, Hermias, and Olympiodorus, for a moment believe that men of such learning, profundity, and sagacity, would have transmitted to us so many verses as Orphic, though not in the Doric dialect, when at the same time they were the productions of Onomacritus? We may therefore, I think, confidently conclude, that though Onomacritus altered the dialect, he did not either add to or diminish, or in any respect adulterate the works of Orpheus; for it is impossible he should have committed such a fraud without being ultimately, if not immediately, detected.
 
With respect to those who contend that the works which are at present extant under the name of Orpheus were written during the decline and fall of the Roman empire, I trust every intelligent reader will deem it almost needless to say, in confutation of such an opinion, that it is an insult to the understanding of all the celebrated men of that period, by whom these writings have been quoted as genuine productions, and particularly to such among them as rank among the most learned, the most sagacious, and wisest of mankind. So infatuated, however, by this stupid opinion was Tyrwhitt, that in his edition of the Orphic poem `On Stones', he says in a note (p. 22) "there is nothing in the hymns peculiarly adapted to the person of Orpheus, except his speech to Musaeus." This speech or address to Musaeus is the exordium to the Hymns. But so far is this from being true, that the author of this work expressly calls himself in two of the hymns the son of Calliope. Thus in the conclusion of the Hymn to the Nereids, the poet says,
 
"For you at first disclos'd the rites divine,
Of holy Bacchus, and of Proserpine,
Of fair Calliope, from whom I spring,
And of Apollo bright, the Muses' king."

And in the Hymn to the Muses, he celebrates Calliope as his mother, in the very same words as in the Hymn to the Nereids. This blunder of Tyrwhitt is certainly a most egregious specimen of the folly of pervicacious adherence to an opinion which had ignorance and prejudice only for its source, and which calumniated writings far beyond the little sphere of its knowledge to comprehend.
 
As to Orpheus himself, the original author of these Hymns, scarcely a vestige of his life is to be found amongst the immense ruins of time. For who has ever been able to affirm any thing with certainty of his origin, his age, his country, and condition? This alone may be depended on, from general assent, that there formerly lived a person named Orpheus, who was the founder of theology among the Greeks; the institutor of their life and morals; the first of prophets, and the prince of poets; himself the offspring of a Muse; who taught the Greeks their sacred rites and mysteries, and from whose wisdom, as from a perennial and abundant fountain, the divine muse of Homer and the sublime theology of Pythagoras and Plato flowed.

The following, however, is a summary of what has been transmitted to us by the ancients concerning the original Orpheus, and the great men who have at different periods flourished under this venerable name. The first and genuine Orpheus is said to have been a Thracian, and according to the opinion of many was a disciple of Linus, who flourished at the time when the kingdom of the Athenians was dissolved. Some assert that he was prior to the Trojan war, and that he lived eleven, or as others say nine, generations. But the Greek word for generation, signifies, according to Gyraldus, the space of seven years: for unless this is admitted, how is it possible that the period of his life can have any foundation in the nature of things? If this signification therefore of the word is adopted, Orpheus lived either seventy-seven or sixty-three years, the latter of which, if we may believe astrologers, is a fatal period, and especially to great men, as it proved to be to Aristotle and Cicero.


Our poet, according to fabulous tradition, was torn in pieces by Ciconian women; on which account Plutarch affirms the Thracians were accustomed to beat their wives, in order that they might revenge the death of Orpheus. Hence in the vision of Herus Pamphilius, in the tenth book of Plato's Republic, the soul of Orpheus, being destined to descend into another body, is said to have chosen that of a swan, rather than to be born again of a woman; having conceived such a hatred of the sex, on account of his violent death. The cause of his destruction is variously related by authors. Some report that it arose from his being engaged in puerile loves, after the death of Eurydice. Others, that he was destroyed by women intoxicated with wine, because he was the cause of men relinquishing an association with them. Others again assert, according to Pausanias, that on the death of Eurydice, wandering to Aornus, a place in Thesprotia, where it was customary to evocate the souls of the dead, having recalled Eurydice to life, and not being able to detain her, he destroyed himself; nightingales bringing forth their young on his tomb, whose melody exceeded every other of this species. Others again, ascribe his laceration to his having celebrated every divinity except Bacchus, which is very improbable, as among the following hymns there are nine to that deity, under different appellations. Others report that he was delivered by Venus herself into the hands of the Ciconian women, because his mother Calliope had not determined justly between Venus and Proserpine concerning the young Adonis. Many affirm, according to Pausanias, that he was struck by lightning; and Diogenes confirms this by the following verses, composed, as he asserts, by the Muses on his death:
 
Here by the Muses plac'd, with golden lyre,
Great Orpheus rests, destroy'd by heavenly fire.
 
Again, the sacred mysteries called Threscian derived their appellation from the Thracian bard, because he first introduced sacred rites and religion into Greece; and hence the authors of initiation into these mysteries were called Orpheotelestae. Besides, according to Lucian, Orpheus brought astrology and the magical arts into Greece; and as to his drawing to him trees and wild beasts by the melody of his lyre, Palaephatus accounts for it as follows: "The mad Bacchanalian Nymphs, says he, having violently taken away cattle and other necessaries of life, retired for some days into the mountains. But the citizens, having expected their return for a long time, and fearing the worst for their wives and daughters, called Orpheus, and entreated him to invent some method of drawing them from the mountains. Orpheus, in consequence of this, tuning his lyre conformably to the orgies of Bacchus, drew the mad nymphs from their retreats; who descended from the mountains, bearing at first ferulae, and branches of every kind of trees. But to the men who were eyewitnesses of these wonders, they appeared to bring down the very woods, and from hence gave rise to the fable.
 
So great indeed was the renown of Orpheus, that he was deified by the Greeks; and Philostratus relates, that his head gave oracles in Lesbos, which when separated from his body by the Thracian women, was, together with his lyre, carried down the river Hebrus into the sea. In this manner, says Lucian, singing as it were his funeral oration, to which the chords of his lyre, impelled by the winds, gave a responsive harmony, it was brought to Lesbos and buried. But his lyre was suspended in the temple of Apollo; where it remained for a considerable space of time. Afterwards, when Neanthus, the son of Pittacus the tyrant, found that the lyre drew trees and wild beasts by its harmony, he earnestly desired to possess it; and having corrupted the priest privately with money, he took the Orphic lyre, and fixed another similar to it in the temple. But Neanthus, considering that he was not safe in the city in the day, departed from it by night; having concealed the lyre in his bosom, on which he began to play. As however he was a rude and unlearned youth, he confounded the chords; yet pleasing himself with the sound, and fancying he produced a divine harmony, he thought himself to be the blessed successor of Orpheus. But in the midst of his transports, the neighbouring dogs, roused by the sound, fell on the unhappy harper and tore him in pieces.

The former part of this fable is thus admirably explained by Proclus, in his Commentaries (or rather fragments of Commentaries) on the Republic of Plato, "Orpheus (says he), on account of his perfect erudition, is reported to have been destroyed in various ways; because, as it appears to me, men of that age participated partially of the Orphic harmony: for they were incapable of receiving a universal and perfect science. But the principal part of his melody [i.e. of his mystic doctrine] was received by the Lesbians; and on this account, perhaps, the head of Orpheus, when separated from his body, is said to have been carried to Lesbos. Fables of this kind, therefore, are related of Orpheus no otherwise than of Bacchus, of whose mysteries he was the priest." The second Orpheus was an Arcadian, or, according to others, a Ciconian, from the Thracian Bisaltia, and is said to be more ancient than Homer and the Trojan war. He composed fabulous figments and epigrams. The third Orpheus was of Odrysius, a city of Thrace, near the river Hebrus; but Dionysius in Suidas denies his existence. The fourth Orpheus was of Crotonia; flourished in the time of Pisistratus, about the fiftieth Olympiad, and is, I have no doubt, the same with Onomacritus, who changed the dialect of these hymns. He wrote Decennalia, and in the opinion of Gyraldus the Argonautics, which are now extant under the name of Orpheus, with other writings called Orphical, but which according to Cicero some ascribe to Cecrops the Pythagorean. But the last Orpheus was Camarinaeus, a most excellent versifier; and the same, according to Gyraldus, whose descent into Hades is so universally known.

I shall only add to this historical detail respecting Orpheus, what Hermias excellently remarks in his Scholia on the Phaedrus of Plato. "You may see, says he, how Orpheus appears to have applied himself to all these [i.e. to the four kinds of mania or divine inspiration], as being in want of, and adhering to, each other. For we learn that he was most telestic, and most prophetic, and was excited by Apollo; and besides this, that he was most poetic, on which account he is said to have been the son of Calliope. He was likewise most amatory, as he himself acknowledges to Musaeus, extending to him divine benefits, and rendering him perfect. Hence he appears to have been possessed by all the manias, and this by a necessary consequence. For there is an abundant union, conspiration, and alliance with each other of the Gods who preside over these manias, viz. of the Muses, Bacchus, Apollo, and Love."

With respect to the following translation, it is requisite to observe, that I have adopted rhyme, not because most agreeable to the general taste, but because I conceive it to be necessary to the poetry of the English language; which requires something as a substitute for the energetic cadence of the Greek and Latin hexameters. Could this be obtained by any other means, I should immediately relinquish my partiality for rhyme, which is certainly, when well executed, far more difficult than blank verse, as these Orphic Hymns must evince in an eminent degree. Indeed, where languages differ so much as the ancient and modern, the most perfect method perhaps of transferring the poetry of the former tongue into that of the latter is by a faithful and animated paraphrase; faithful, with regard to retaining the meaning of the author; and animated, with respect to preserving the fire of the original; calling it forth when latent, and expanding it when condensed. He who is anxious to effect this will every where endeavour to diffuse the light and fathom the depth of his author; to elucidate what is obscure, and to amplify what in modern language would be unintelligibly concise.

Thus, most of the compound epithets of which the following hymns chiefly consist, though extremely beautiful in the Greek language, yet when literally translated into ours lose much of their propriety and force. In their native tongue, as in a prolific soil, they diffuse their sweets with full blown elegance; and he who would preserve their theological beauties, and exhibit them to others in a different language, must expand their elegance by the supervening and enlivening rays of a light derived from mystic lore; and, by the powerful breath of genius, scatter abroad their latent but copious sweets.

If it shall appear that the translator has possessed some portion of this light, and has diffused it in the following work, he will consider himself to be well rewarded for his laborious undertaking. The philosophy of Plato, and the theology of the Greeks, have been for the greater part of his life the only study of his retired leisure; in which he has found an inexhaustible treasure of intellectual wealth, and a perpetual fountain of wisdom and delight. Presuming, therefore, that such a pursuit must be a great advantage to the present undertaking, and feeling the most sovereign contempt for the sordid drudgery of venal composition, he desires no other reward, if he has succeeded, than the praise of the liberal; and no other defence, if he has failed, than the decision of the candid and discerning few.
 
* * * * * *


++ Note: As the whole of the Grecian theology is the progeny of the mystic traditions of Orpheus, it is evident that the Gods which Hesiod celebrates by the epithets of Earth, Heaven, &c.;cannot be the visible Heaven and Earth: for Plato in the Cratylus, following the Orphic doctrine concerning the Gods, as we have evinced in our notes on that dialogue, plainly shows, in explaining the name of Jupiter, that this divinity is the artificer of the sensible universe; and consequently Saturn, Heaven, Earth, &c. are much superior to the mundane deities. Indeed if this be not admitted, the Theogony of Hesiod must be perfectly absurd and inexplicable. For why does he call Jupiter, agreeably to Homer, "father of gods and men?" Shall we say that he means literally that Jupiter is the father of all the Gods? But this is impossible; for he delivers the generation of Gods who are the parents of Jupiter. He can therefore only mean that Jupiter is the parent of all the mundane Gods: and his Theogony, when considered according to this exposition, will be found to be beautifully consistent and sublime; whereas, according to modern interpretations, the whole is a mere chaos, more wild than the delirious visions of Swedenborg, and more unconnected than any of the impious effusions of methodistical rant.
 

The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus

TO MUSAEUS1

Learn, O Musaeus, from my sacred song
What rites most fit to sacrifice2 belong.
Jove I invoke, the earth, and solar light,
The moon's pure splendour, and the stars of night.
Thee, Neptune, ruler of the sea profound,
Dark-hair'd, whose power can shake the solid ground;
Ceres abundant, and of lovely mien,
And thee, chaste Proserpine, great Pluto's queen;
The huntress Dian, and bright Phoebus' rays,
Far darting God, the theme of Delphic praise;
And Bacchus, honour'd by the heav'nly choir,
Impetuous Mars, and Vulcan, God of fire.
Th'illustrious power who sprung from foam to light,
And Pluto, potent in the realms of night;
With Hebe young, and Hercules the strong,
And you to whom the cares of births belong.
Justice and Piety august I call,
And much fam'd Nymphs, and Pan the God of all.
To Juno sacred, and to Mem'ry fair,
And the chaste Muses I address my pray'r;
The various Year, the Graces, and the Hours,
Fair-hair'd Latona, and Dione's pow'rs.
The Corybantes and Curetes armed I call,3
And the great Saviours, sons of Jove, the king of all:
Th'Idaean Gods, the angel of the skies,
Prophetic Themis with sagacious eyes,
With ancient Night, and Daylight I implore,
And Faith and Dice source of blameless laws adore;
Saturn and Rhea, and great Thetis too,
Hid in a veil of dark celestial blue.
I call great Ocean, and the beauteous train,
Of Ocean's daughters in the boundless main:
The strength of Atlas ever in its prime,
Vig'rous Eternity, and endless Time.
The splendid Stygian pool, and placid Gods beside,
And daemons good and bad that o'er mankind preside;
Illustrious Providence, the noble train
Of daemon forms, who fill th'etherial plain;
Or live in air, in water, earth, or fire,
Or deep beneath the solid ground retire.
The white Leucothea of the sea I call,
And Semele, and Bacchus's associates all;
Palaemon bounteous, and Adrastia4 great,
And sweet-tongu'd Victory, with success elate;
Great Esculapius, skill'd to cure disease,
And dread Minerva, whom fierce battles please;
Thunders, and Winds in mighty columns pent,
With dreadful roaring struggling hard for vent;
Attis, the mother of the pow'rs on high,
Mensis, and pure Adonis, never doom'd to die,
End and Beginning (greatest this to all),
These with propitious aid I suppliant call,
To this libation, and these sacred rites;
For these t'accede with joyful mind, my verse invites.

1 The Greek Scholiast on Aristophanes (in Ranis) observes, that Musaeus was the offspring of the Moon and Eumolpus; that according to Sophocles he uttered oracles; and that he composed works, unfortunately lost, which taught both individuals and cities how by religious ceremonies they might be liberated from the punishment attendant on the crimes which they had committed. His Mysteries, are mentioned by Plato, Lucian, and others. And his works contained the means of expiating and becoming purified from guilt.

2 For a copious development of sacrifices, and of the utility or power they possess in the universe, and also on what account they were anciently performed, see Book the Second of my translation of Porphyry's excellent Treatise on Abstinence from Animal Food; and Sect. V of my translation of Iamblichus On the Mysteries. Likewise, for an account of Theurgy, or the art pertaining to divine operations, see the latter of the above- mentioned works, and the accompanying notes.

3 In the translation of many of these hymns, I have been obliged to employ an Alexandrine line, as well as in this and the following line, in order to preserve the meaning of the author.
 
4 This divinity is one among others in this Exordium to whom there is no hymn in these Orphic Teletae. But the following particulars respecting this Goddess, extracted from the Scholia of Hermeas on the Phaedrus of Plato, are given on account of their great importance, and because they illustrate a part of the Orphic theology. "Adrastia is a divinity seated in the vestibules of Night, and is the offspring of Melissus and Amalthea. Melissus, therefore, is to be assumed as a power providentially attending to secondary natures; but Amalthea must be considered according to the unchanging and the uneffeminate. Hence Adrastia was generated from unchangeable Providence, and she is the sister of Ida.

The beauteous Ida and Adrastia sprung
From the same sire.

This Goddess, therefore, comprehends in transcendent union, and contains in herself at once the centres of all laws, viz. of the mundane and the supermundane, of those of Fate, and those of Jupiter: for there are Jovian and Saturnian, divine, supermundane, and mundane laws. On this account she is called Adrastia, because her legislative decrees are inevitable. Hence she is said to be seated with brazen drumsticks in her hands, before the cave of Night, and through the sound produced by her cymbals to render all things obedient to her laws. For Phanes indeed is seated within the cave, in the Adytum of Night; but Night sits in the middle of the cave, prophesying to the Gods; and Adrastia sits in the vestibules, legislatively promulgating the divine laws. She differs, however, from the justice which is there, after the same manner as the legislative differs from the judicial characteristic. And the justice which is there is said to be the daughter of the Law and Piety which are there. But Adrastia herself, who is the offspring of Melissus and Amalthea, is likewise com-prehensive of Law. These, therefore, are said to have nurtured Jupiter in the cavern of Night; the theologist [Orpheus] directly asserting that which Plato says about Jupiter. For Plato represents him fabricating and promulgating laws. But divine law is imparted by Adrastia to the Gods also: for the order which is in them is derived from this Goddess. It is, however, likewise imparted to the attendants of the Gods, and in common to all, and peculiarly to each."

 

TO HECATE

Einodian Hecate,1 Trivia, lovely dame,
Of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame,
Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd,
Pleas'd with dark ghosts that wander thro' the shade;
Persaea,2 solitary goddess, hail!
The world's key-bearer, never doom'd to fail;
In stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen,
And drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen;
Leader, nymph, nurse, on mountains wand'ring, hear
The suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere,
And to the herdsman3 with a fav'ring mind draw near.4


1 Io. Diac. Allegor. ad Hesiodi Theog. p. 268, cites this line, on which, and Hymn 71. 3, he observes: "I find that Orpheus calls Fortune Artemis or Diana, and also the Moon Hecate."

2 Diodorus informs us, that Diana, who is to be understood by this epithet, was very much worshipped by the Persians, and that this Goddess was called Persaea in his time. See more concerning this epithet in Gyrald. Syntag. ii. p. 361.

3 As Orpheus by his sacred doctrines tamed men of a rustic and savage disposition; which, as we have before observed, appears to be the true meaning of the fable of his drawing to him trees and wild beasts by the melody of his lyre; hence, alluding to this circumstance, he calls himself here, and in the hymn to the Curetes, the herdsman, indicating the benefit which he conferred on the vulgar part or herd of mankind.

4 In all the editions of these hymns, prior to that of Hermann, this hymn forms a part of the exordium to Musaeus; but it is certainly better to separate it from that exordium, though I did not perceive the propriety of doing so in the former edition of this translation.


TO THE GODDESS PROTHYRAEA1
(the fumigation from storax
 
O venerable Goddess, hear my pray'r,
For labour pains are thy peculiar care.
In thee, when stretch'd upon the bed of grief,
The sex, as in a mirror, view relief.
Guard of the race, endued with gentle mind,
To helpless youth benevolent and kind;
Benignant nourisher; great Nature's key
Belongs to no divinity but thee.
Thou dwell'st with all immanifest to sight,
And solemn festivals are thy delight.
Thine is the task to loose the virgin's zone,
And thou in ev'ry work art seen and known.
With births you sympathise, tho' pleas'd to see
The numerous offspring of fertility.
When rack'd with labour pangs, and sore distress'd,
The sex invoke thee, as the soul's sure rest;
For thou alone canst give relief to pain,
Which art attempts to ease, but tries in vain.
Assisting Goddess, venerable pow'r,
Who bring'st relief in labour's dreadful hour;
Hear, blessed Dian, and accept my pray'r,
And make the infant race thy constant care.

1 This is an epithet of Diana, alluding to her presiding over gates, and being as it were the gate-keeper of life. In a hymn which was first discovered by me among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, and which, from the manner of it, was, I have no doubt, written by Proclus, Hecate is called Prothyraea.


TO NIGHT
(the fumigation with torches)
 
Night, parent Goddess, source of sweet repose,
From whom at first both Gods and men arose.1
Hear, blessed Venus2, deck'd with starry light,
In Sleep's deep silence dwelling Ebon night!
Dreams and soft ease attend thy dusky train,
Pleas'd with the length'ned gloom and feastful strain,
Dissolving anxious care, the friend of mirth,
With darkling coursers riding round the earth.
Goddess of phantoms and of shadowy play,
Whose drowsy pow'r divides the nat'ral day;
By Fate's decree you constant send the light
To deepest hell, remote from mortal sight;
For dire Necessity, which nought withstands,
Invests the world with adamantine bands.
Be present, Goddess, to thy suppliant's pray'r,
Desir'd by all, whom all alike revere,
Blessed, benevolent, with friendly aid
Dispel the fears of twilight's dreadful shade.

1 The first subsistence of the Goddess Night is at the summit of that divine order which is denominated by Chaldean theologist `intelligible and at the same time intellectual'. This order is denominated by Plato, in the Phaedrus, the supercelestial place, and in which he says the plain of Truth is situated, which, as we are informed by Hermeas (in Phaedr.) obscurely indicates the whole order of the series of Night. What Hermeas afterwards adds on this subject is too important to be omitted, and is as follows:- "Theologists likewise peculiarly establish Truth in the supercelestial place." For Orpheus, speaking about Night, says, that "she possesses the truth of the Gods" and

To her, prediction wholly true was giv'n.

She is also said to prophesy to the Gods. Homer, too, indicates concerning this Goddess. For, speaking about Jupiter, Sleep says,

Night, the great tamer both of Gods and men,
To whom I fled, preserv'd me from his wrath;
For he swift Night was fearful to offend.
 
[As Night, from her subsistence at the summit of the intelligible and at the same time intellectual order, is absorbed in the intelligible, hence Homer divinely denominates Night swift. For the Chaldean Oracles call the intelligible Gods swift.]

But Plato says he shall dare to speak concerning it, because he is going to assert something affirmatively about it. The dread, however, is lest we should be led to something unappropriate and vile in such like doctrinal concerns. He is also concordant in what he says about the supercelestial place, with what he asserts in [the first hypothesis of] the Parmenides, about the first principle of things. For he there indicates this principle by negations; except that he absolutely denies all things of the first principle: but of the supercelestial place he denies some things, and affirms others. For the Goddess Night is superior to certain orders, but inferior to others; and as the first principle of things is superessential, so Night is supercelestial [i.e. is above that intellectual order which is denominated Heaven]. Why, however, are souls not said to see Heaven, but to become situated in, and be conjoined with it, yet are not conjoined with the natures above Heaven, but perceive them only? In answer to this it may be said, that it is necessary contact should exist, as far as to a certain thing. Why, therefore, as far as to this? Because neither are the Gods under Jupiter said to be united to Phanes; but this is alone asserted of Jupiter, and he is said to be united through Night as a medium.
 
But how does Plato say, that the supercelestial place is without colour? Is it in the same manner as we say, that nature and soul are colourless? But what is there admirable in asserting this? And if we admit this, what will there be transcendent in the supercelestial place, since the same thing is possessed both by nature and soul? May we not say that Plato, in what is here asserted, very much follows the before-mentioned theologists [viz. Homer, Orpheus, Hesiod, and Musaeus], and disposes what he says conformably to them? For after the order of Nights there are three orders of Gods, viz. of Heaven, the Cyclops, and the Centimani [or Gods with a hundred hands], the proper names of whom Plato denies of the supercelestial place. For of the Gods which abide within Phanes, Heaven is the first that becomes visible from him; for Heaven and Earth first proceeded out of Phanes; and Heaven is first illuminated by the divine light of Phanes; since Orpheus says that Night is united to him:

No eye but that of sacred Night alone
Beheld Protogonus; for all the rest
Were lost in wonder at th'unhop'd for light,
Which glitter'd from th'immortal Phanes' skin.

But that which is visible and illuminated is coloured, since colours are certain illuminations. Hence Night and all the supercelestial place, being above Heaven, which is visible, they are very properly said to be without colour. For night also is opposed to day, because the latter is illuminated and coloured. And through the privation of colour, indeed, Plato manifests that the place of the Nights is above the kingdom of the Heaven; but through the privation of figure, that it is above the order of the Cyclops. For theology says, that figure is first unfolded into light in these, and that the divinities, the Cyclops, are the first principles and causes of the figures which subsist every where. Hence theology says, that they are manual artificers. For this triad is perfective of figures, [the triad of the cyclops consists of Brontes, Steropes, and Arges]. And in their forehead one round eye was fix'd. In the Parmenides, likewise, Plato, when he speaks of the straight, the circular, and that which is mixed [from both these], obscurely indicates this order. But these Cyclops, as being the first causes of figures, taught Minerva and Vulcan the various species of figures.

These the first manual artists were, who taught
Pallas and Vulcan all things:

[says Orpheus]. We must not therefore wonder on hearing that Vulcan and Minerva are the causes of figures. For Vulcan is the cause of corporeal figures, and of every mundane figure; but Minerva, of the psychical and intellectual figure; and the Cyclops of divine, and the every where existing figure. Hence it is evident, that the supercelestial place is above the order of the Cyclops.

But by the privation of contact Plato manifests that this place is above the Centimani; for these first come into contact, as it were, with all the fabrication of things. Hence theology denominates them hundred-handed: for through the hands we touch, make, and distinguish all things. Farther still, the touch pervades through the whole body. Theology therefore, symbolically, calls these hundred-handed, as touching all the fabrication of things, and being the causes of it. The triad [which consists of Cottus, Gyges, and Briareus], however, of the Centimani is of a guardian nature. But Plato adduces negatively what he found celebrated affirmatively by the theologist. For what Orpheus calls Night, that Plato denominates without colour. And what the former says negatively is without falsehood,

Prediction without falsehood was to Night
Of all things giv'n.
 
[says Orpheus.] that the latter celebrates, as having about it the genus of true science, and as being truly existing essence. Plato also, having celebrated the supercelestial place by three negations, again adduces three affirmations, introducing three of them from being. For, since this order is a triadic one, Plato very properly preserves the triadic, both in the negative and affirmative conclusions. Or it may be said that, since it is both one and being, and is triadic according to each of these, he indicates the negative conclusions according to the superessential one, but the affirmative according to being. Here likewise the first number is unfolded into light.

In the next place Hermeas enumerates the different kinds of Truth, as follows: "Superior illuminate subordinate natures with the light of Truth. We must extend the eye of intellect therefore to these four; viz. The One, which is the first principle of things; Phanes, who is the boundary of the intelligible, but the exempt principle of the intellectual Gods (for the Nights are principles with which principle is co- ordinate); Jupiter, who is the king of the super-mundane, but the boundary of what are properly called the intellectual Gods; and the Sun, who is the king of sensible natures. But each of these illuminates the beings that are under it with the truth, which it possesses from an order placed above that which it illuminates. Thus the Sun imparts supermundane light to sensibles; and hence the essence of it is said to be from supermundane natures. Again, Jupiter illuminates supermundane essences with intellectual light. Phanes illuminates the intellectual Gods with intelligible light; and the principle of all things fills the intelligible Gods, and all things, with the divine light proceeding from himself."

2 Hermann is of opinion that the line "Night, the source of all things, whom we also call Venus," is an interpolation. But there is no reason whatever for this supposition.
 


TO HEAVEN
(the fumigation from frankincense)

Great Heav'n, whose mighty frame no respite knows,
Father of all, from whom the world arose;
Hear, bounteous parent, source and end of all,
For ever whirling round this earthly ball;
Abode of Gods, whose guardian pow'r surrounds
Th'eternal world with ever during bounds;1
Whose ample bosom, and encircling folds
The dire necessity of nature holds.
Etherial, earthly,2 whose all-various frame,
Azure and full of forms, no power can tame.
All-seeing, source of Saturn and of time,
For ever blessed, deity sublime,
Propitious on a novel mystic shine,
And crown his wishes with a life divine.
 
1 According to Orpheus, as we are informed by Damascius, "Heaven is the boundary and guardian of all things."

2 The dogma that subordinate natures are causally contained in such as are supreme, and such as are supreme in the subordinate by participation, is originally Egyptian, but is also said by Proclus, in Tim. p. 292, to be Orphical. For in enumerating the Orphic traditions concerning Phanes, Night, Heaven, Saturn, Jupiter, and Bacchus, he observes, "For Heaven is in Earth, and Earth in Heaven. And here indeed [i.e. in the Earth] Heaven subsists terrestrially; but there [in the heavens] Earth subsists celestially. For Orpheus also calls the Moon celestial earth."

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