Friday, November 24, 2017

The Orphic Pan

I am one of those Satanists who insists on the full identification of the Devil, Satan, of Judaeo-Christian mythology with the Pan of pagan mythology. An all too common objection to this identification is based on a very deep misunderstanding. The objection tends to rest on the fact that the traditional mythologies for both Pan on the one hand, and the Devil on the other, do not in any way resemble each other. After all, Satan is not a son of Hermes, is not a god of shepherds, and Pan, of course, is not a rebel angel from the court of JHVH. The thing is, I don't treat such myths as literal histories, neither the Christian OR the pagan myth cycles. Rather, I hold to the view that myths are man-made constructs that seek to understand the Divine. And yes, even the myths of the Hebrews and Christians.

All men are spiritual beings in mortal bodies. All religions and spiritual paths are searches for the Truth. It's just that when Abrahamic people found the Truth, it scared the shit out of them and they called it "the Devil." This, sadly, is what happens when a path builds its foundation on hating themselves and hating nature. Where the rest of the world would see joy, the Abrahamics would only see damnation.

As the late Rev. John Allee observed:

To tell people that Pan isn’t the Devil. . . . That’s not the way to approach it. This is what many pagans do, and I feel very strongly that they’re wrong. Because it is the Christians who . . . took away his flute and gave him a pitchfork, and they said ‘Look! This is the Devil!’ And they pointed him out! They picked THAT pagan god!

And the thing is, the pagans will go running, and scurrying, and hiding and say ‘oh no no no no, we don’t worship the Devil, that’s not the Devil.’ . . . It IS the Devil . . . to the Christians! To the Christian Fathers, to the ones who founded what we know today as the modern Christian theism, it IS the Devil.

And you have to tell them that their CONCEPT of the Devil is wrong. Rather than say He’s NOT the Devil and deny it and go running, confront the Christians! Say to the Christian ‘Ya know, you bring out a very good point, but I think your CONCEPT of the Devil is wrong, what you consider to be the Devil, and what you consider to be Good and Evil. You should re-evaluate your values. You should look inside of your Self.’”

To this I think it would be worthwhile to add some quotes from Anton LaVey (whether you love him or hate him) on the subject:

Before Christianity gave him the names of Satan, Lucifer, etc., the carnal side of man's nature was governed by the god which was then called Dionysus, or Pan, depicted as a satyr or faun, by the Greeks. Pan was originally the ‘good guy’, and symbolized fertility and fecundity. Whenever a nation comes under a new form of government, the heroes of the past become villains of the present. So it is with religion. The earliest Christians believed that the Pagan deities were devils, and to employ them was to use ‘black magic’. Miraculous heavenly events they termed ‘white magic’; this was the sole distinction between the two. The old gods did not die, they fell into Hell and became devils.” - LaVey, The Satanic Bible

Even if one recognizes the character inversion employed in changing Pan (the good guy) into Satan (the bad guy), why reject an old friend just because he bears a new name and unjustified stigma?” - LaVey, The Satanic Rituals

The following excerpts on the Orphic view of Pan are presented here for the enjoyment of those who only know the Greek Pan as a "second order" deity. In Orphism, as will be seen in the brief material below, Pan became MUCH MORE than the simple fellow encountered in the popular folk-religion of the Greeks.
-Frater V.I.M.

Pan, as we are informed by Damascius, first subsists at the extremity of the intelligible order, being there no other than the celebrated Protogonus or Phanes; but, according to his mundane subsistence, he is the monad or summit of all the local Gods and daemons. In the statues of him his upper parts resemble those of a man, but his lower parts those of a brute [viz. of a goat] indicating by this, that in the universe rationality has dominion over irrationality. As, therefore, according to his first subsistence, he is the primary exemplar of the universe; the reason is obvious why in [the Orphic Hymns] he is celebrated as all things.”
- Thomas Taylor, The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus, 1824


Homeric theology, as we know it in our canonical Homer, was wholly untouched by Orphism. The human figures of the Olympians, clear-cut and departmental as they are, have no kinship with the shifting mystical Protogonos. The Olympians lay no claim to be All in All, nor are they in any sense Creators, sources of life. Homer has no cosmogony, only a splendid ready-made human society. His gods are immortal because death would shadow and mar their splendour, not because they are the perennial sources of things. It is noticeable that Zeus himself, the supreme god of Homeric theology, can only be worked into the Orphic system by making him become Eros, and absorb Phanes; only so can he become demiourgos, a feat which, to do him justice, he never on his own account attempted. Proklos says ‘Orpheus in inspired utterance declares that Zeus swallowed Phanes his progenitor, and took into his bosom all his powers.’ This mysticism was of course made easy by savage cosmogonies of Kronos and the swallowing of the children.

The Olympians concern themselves as little with the Before as with the Hereafter; they are not the source of life nor are they its goal. Moreover, another characteristic is that they are, with the strictest limitations, human. They are not one with the life that is in beasts and streams and woods as well as in man. Eros, ‘whose feet are on the flowers,’ who ‘couches in the folds,’ is of all life, he is Dionysus, he is Pan. Under Athenian influence Eros secludes himself into purely human form, but the Phanes of Orpheus was polymorphic, a beast-mystery-god:

Heads had he many,
Head of a ram, a bull, a snake, and a bright-eyed lion.’

He is like Dionysos, to whom his Bacchants cry:

Appear, appear, whatso thy shape or name,
O Mountain Bull, Snake of the Hundred Heads,
Lion of the Burning Flame!
O God, Beast, Mystery, come!’

In theology as in ritual Orphism reverted to the more primitive forms, lending them deeper and intenser significance. These primitive forms, shifting and inchoate, were material more malleable than the articulate accomplished figures of the Olympians.

The conception of Phanes Protogonos remained always some what esoteric, a thing taught in mysteries, but his content is popularized in the figure of the goat-god who passed from being ό Πάων the feeder, the shepherd, to be τό πᾶν Pan the All-God.

Pan came to Athens from Arcadia after the Persian War, came at a time when scepticism was busy with the figures of the Olympians and their old prestige was on the wane. Pan of course had to have his reception into Olympus, and a derivation duly Olympian was found for his name. The Homeric Hymn, even if it be of Alexandrian date, is thoroughly Homeric in religious tone: the poet tells how

Straight to the seats of the gods immortal did Hermes fare
With his child wrapped warmly up in skins of the mountain hare,
And down by the Bide of Zeus and the rest, he made him to sit,
And showed him that boy of his, and they all rejoiced at it.
But most of all Dionysos, the god of the Bacchanal,
And they called the name of him PAN because he delighted them ALL.’

Dionysos the Bull-god and Pan the Goat-god both belong to early pre-anthropomorphic days, before man had cut the ties that bound him to the other animals; one and both they were welcomed as saviours by a tired humanity. Pan had no part in Orphic ritual, but in mythology as the All-god he is the popular reflection of Protogonos. He gave a soul of life and reality to a difficult, monotheistic dogma, and the last word was not said in Greek religion, until over the midnight sea a voice was heard crying ‘Great Pan is dead.’

The Orphic conception of Pan as All-god was no doubt helped out by the fact that as early as the time of Herodotus the analogy was noted between the Greek Pan and the Egyptian Mendes, who was both Goat-god and All-god.


I Call strong Pan, the substance of the whole,
Etherial, marine, earthly, general soul,
Immortal fire; for all the world is thine,
And all are parts of thee, O power divine.
Come, blessed Pan, whom rural haunts delight,
Come, leaping, agile, wandering, starry light;
The Hours and Seasons, wait thy high command,
And round thy throne in graceful order stand.
Goat-footed, horned, Bacchanalian Pan,
Fanatic power, from whom the world began,
Whose various parts by thee inspired, combine
In endless dance and melody divine.
In thee a refuge from our fears we find,
Those fears peculiar to the humankind.
Thee shepherds, streams of water, goats rejoice,
Thou lovest the chase, and Echo’s secret voice:
The sportive nymphs, thy every step attend,
And all thy works fulfill their destined end.
O all-producing power, much-famed, divine,
The world’s great ruler, rich increase is thine.
All-fertile Pæan, heavenly splendor pure,
In fruits rejoicing, and in caves obscure.
True serpent-horned Jove, whose dreadful rage
When roused, ’tis hard for mortals to assuage.
By thee the earth wide-bosomed deep and long,
Stands on a basis permanent and strong.
The unwearied waters of the rolling sea,
Profoundly spreading, yield to thy decree.
Old Ocean too reveres thy high command,
Whose liquid arms begirt the solid land.
The spacious air, whose nutrimental fire,
And vivid blasts, the heat of life inspire;
The lighter frame of fire, whose sparkling eye
Shines on the summit of the azure sky,
Submit alike to thee, whose general sway
All parts of matter, various formed, obey.
All nature’s change through thy protecting care,
And all mankind thy liberal bounties share:
For these wherever dispersed through boundless space,
Still find thy providence support their race.
Come, Bacchanalian, blessed power draw near,
Fanatic Pan, thy humble suppliant hear,
Propitious to these holy rites attend,
And grant my life may meet a prosperous end;
Drive panic Fury too, wherever found,
From humankind, to earth’s remotest bound.