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Reply To: “Love Will Make You Do Crazy Things,” with Mythologist Norland Téllez

Robert Juliano

As you know, Orphic theogony is different from Ovid’s theogony in Metamorphosis and, of course, Hesiod’s Theogony. It is based on the writings of singer, musician, poet, and prophet Orpheus, the legendary founder of the mystery tradition of Orphism [to be accurate, there are a number of Orphic theogonies whose creation spans from the 5th century BC to the 6th century AD, working with which involves us in a great deal of complexity]. In one of these Orphic theogonies, the firstborn god and the primordial god (protogenos) of creation is Phanes whose name means “bring to light” or “make appear” and comes from the Greek verbs phanaô and phainô. In the Orphic texts, Phanes is variously described as a “beautiful, golden-winged, hermaphroditic deity wrapped in the coils of a serpent,” a “beautiful, a figure of shining light, with golden wings on his shoulders, four eyes, and the heads of various animals,” and the Firstborn god who is “the two-​bodied god, is both male and female, has golden wings on his shoulders, heads of bulls on his sides, and on his head is a serpent that changes into the shapes of different beasts.”

The various Orphic theogonies describe Phanes as being hatched from the world-egg. In one theogony, there are described three triads:

The first triad (Intelligible Being) with the water, the mud, and Chronos from whom being first became intelligible; the second triad (Intelligible Life) with Aither, Chaos, and Erebus, described as “nebulous,” the power from which life sprung; and the third triad (Intelligible Intellect) with the egg as both male and female and the hermaphrodite Phanes, through whom life is dispersed into the lower levels of the Neoplatonic metaphysical system.

According to Orphic Fragment #89, Orpheus affirms that Phanes “is the Parent of all the Gods, on whose account He framed the heaven, and provided for His children that they might have a habitation and place of abode in common.” In Orphic Fragment #65, Phanes is part of the trinity which includes Mitis and Irikæpaios which are really one power and the strength of one God whom no one can see. This one power is ineffable, and from it, all came into being, both that which is perceptible and that which is unseen. And in Orphic Fragment #82, Orpheus is said to link the God Phanes to that of the intellect and the intelligible:

Unfolding into light the intelligible unities; and gives to it various forms, as exhibiting in itself the first cause of intelligible animals. He also inserts in it multiform ideas, as primarily comprehending intelligible ideas, and calls it the key of intellect, because it bounds every intelligible essence, and connectedly-contains intellectual life.

Thus, from an Orphic perspective, it is the intellect and the intelligible which comes first, qualities which, in my opinion, need to be the first ones applied to this case of Will Smith.