Bibliotherapy

Charles François Dupuis – About The Orphic Egg

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Engraving by James Basire Sr. (1730–1802)-From Bryant’s ‘Mythology’, 1775.

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Another sharing for the day from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, an excerpt from Charles François Dupuis’s ‘Origin of all the Cults’. Paris 1794. vol 4, page 561 to 565. English translation from the original French by Via-HYGEIA.

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‘Everybody knows the famous Orphic egg, which was consecrated to Bacchus in the orgies and the mysteries of this god. Plutarch said it was an image of the Universe that generates and encompasses everything in its midst. Macrob said that we may confer with the Initiates of the mysteries of Bacchus who honor with a very particular veneration the sacred egg. The round shape and almost spherical of its envelop, that seals it in every manner, and that contains the principle of life, is a symbolical image of the world. Moreover the world, according to the general opinion, adds Macrobius, is the universal principle of everything. This emblem of the world, depicted in the Greek mysteries of Bacchus, was borrowed from the Egyptians that had also consecrated the egg to their god Osiris, who was the model for the Greek Bacchus. Osiris, seed of light, was supposed being born from this famous egg, as reported by Diodorus. The inhabitants of Thebes, in the upper Egypt, were representing this Demiourgos vomiting from his mouth the famous symbolic egg, image of the world, and they were making it hatch from it the first principle of heat and light, Vulcain, the god of fire. They were consecrating to this god the animal representing the first of the zodiacal signs by the distribution of the elements in the twelve signs, assigned to fire, that is Aries, the ram. Eusebius said that the Egyptians depicted the god that organizes the Universe in a human shape, of blue color that was close to black, that was holding in his hand a scepter. From the mouth of this god was coming out an egg, in which we could see hatching another god, that they were calling Phta, and the Greeks Vulcain. They consecrated the lamb to this god.

We found again this very same egg in Japan, were we can see it placed between the horns of the famous Mithraic Bull, from which Osiris, Apis, Bacchus, etc…, borrowed their attributes. The Bonzes (monks) also see it as an emblem of the world, that the Bull helped hatch. The symbol seems earlier than the Theban Egyptian one that was uniting not the Bull but Aries to the symbolic egg, and to the god Demiourgos. Moreover Aries, came after the Bull to occupy the first position in the order of the world, and placing itself as head of the celestial signs. Here we can find spiritual traces in the Theban emblem; which shows again that it comes later than the emblems originated from the Bull. It is certain that the metaphysical ideas and the opinion of the spiritual people, must always come after Materialism. Man start with matter and ends with spirituality.

This egg is called the Orphic Egg because Orpheus, the originator of the Greek mysteries, and who brought back from Egypt to Greece the ceremonies and the initiations, consecrated this symbol into the mysteries of Bacchus, and based on this emblem the very foundation of his Cosmogony. He taught that exists, from (for?) all eternity, an immense matter, uncreated, from which everything was formed; that matter before being organized was called Chaos. It contained in its midst the principles of all beings mixed all together, forming a shapeless mass; that the darknesses dwelled there being mixed with light, the humid state to the dry, hot to cold, that is, there was an absolute confusion of all the elementary parts of the bodies and of their qualities. But, after a long succession of centuries, this matter became more round and finally took the shape of a gigantic egg, from which an Androgynous substance came out, composed of the mix of the contrary qualities of the primal substance; It was there the first principle of all things, originated from the most pure matter. Then the separation of the other parts happened into four elements; With the first two the heaven was made, and with the latter two, the earth. From this dual production came out all the others which participated more or less to the nature of the heaven or the earth. This is the great cosmological idea that Orpheus was teaching to the initiates of his mysteries, in which the Hierophant was most certainly explaining the mysterious meaning of the sacred egg, displayed in the sanctuaries. Therefore, the entire nature, in its primitive organization, was presented to the man who was to be instructed of its secrets and initiated in its mysteries. It is in this meaning that we can say with Clement of Alexandria that initiation was a true Physiology.’

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Original French

Frontispiece – Charles François Dupuis’s ‘Origin of all the Cults’. Paris 1794.

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