II. Khorismos - Separation of the Cosmic Egg

0. Preparation

You may begin with the
Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, or some similar protective operation. Stand facing toward the South with your arms relaxed at your sides. Close your eyes and relax.


Separation of Cosmic Egg:
The first part of the exercise (Khorismos: Separation of the Cosmic Egg) is based primarily on the Orphic Theogonies (see, e.g. KRS 21-33; WOP 70, 103-5, 111-2, 178-80, 198-203). It is, of course, a common theme in many ancient cosmogonies.
Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual:
See Opsopaus, "Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram."
In Middle Pillar Exercises one usually faces East or West. In the Holodêmiurgia you face South, since then the celestial sphere turns from left to right around you; that is, it aligns you with the Cosmic Axis.

1. Aiôn - Eternity

Visualize a glowing cloud gathering and spinning clockwise round you. As it swirls around, intone:
Aiôn {Ai)w/n} = Eternity
Aiôn is Khronos: Time, Unlimited Time and Indeterminate Time, Unfathomable Time and Sleepless Time. He says,
"I am the Ruler of Eternity and oldest of Primeval Gods. And my Soul is the Soul of the Eternal Gods. And my Embodiment is called Eternity. My Form is Everlasting. For I am the Lord of Years, the Ruler of Eternity."

Other chants:

Khronos {Xro/nos} = Time

phôgalôa {fwgalwa} (v.m.): Aiôn as "the entire system of the Aerial Spirit"

ieouêôê iaêaiêôêuoei {ieouhwh iahaihwhuoei} (v.m.): Aion


Aiôn, which may be masculine or feminine in gender, means Eternity (out of Time, as opposed to unlimited duration) in philosophical contexts (Peters s.v.). Although this seems quite abstract, the original meaning of Aiôn is "life-span," and the association of Time and Life is always in the background of Aiôn (Cornford 103; Peters s.v.).
Khronos (Time) is the primordial God in Pherecydes' theogony. Plato (e.g. Tim. 37d) contrasts Khronos as determinate Time with Aiôn (see next), but Aiôn may be identified with Khronos when identified as Unaging (Agêraos), Unfathomable (Abussos) and Unlimited (Apeirôn).
Unaging Time, Unlimited Time etc.:
That Aion or Khronos is Indeterminate distinguishes it from the ordinary Determinate Time that emanates from it; Cornford (98, 102-5) has a good discussion of the difference. Indeterminate Time is given in the Orphic Cosmogonies (KRS 70; WOP 192-3) as well as in Pherecydes' Theogony (WEGP 28-36) and Plato's Timaeus (37C-38C).
"I am the Ruler of Eternity ...":
This text is adapted from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Ani Papyrus 85.9-11), which West (WEGP 35) quotes to demonstrate the similarities between Pherecydes' Unaging Time and Re` as "Lord of Eternity."
PGM IV.1115. Many of the voces magicae are drawn from two prayers to Aion in the Great Magical Papyrus of Paris (PGM IV). This vox magica is from the first prayer, which is called the Secret Stêlê (Apokruphos Stêlê).
This is from the second prayer to Aion in the Paris Papyrus (PGM IV.1205-10); an almost identical incantation appears in the first prayer (1130).

2. Ôion - The Egg

Behold the glowing Cloud condensing round you like a Shining Robe, solidifying then into a Shining Silver Egg. Cross your arms upon your chest and then intone:
Ôion {)W|o/n} = Egg

Other chants:

enrôkhesuêl {enrwxesuhl} (v.m.): "great, greatest, round, incomprehensible figure of the Universe, heavenly"


In some Orphic Theogonies the Egg is identified with a Cloud (Nephelê) (KRS 23-4).
Shining Robe:
In other Orphic Theogonies the Egg is identified with a Shining Robe (Argês Khitôn) (KRS 23-4), and the Robe (Peplos) was the name of an important (but lost) Orphic text. It is connected with the Robes (Khitones) - the "vessels" - acquired by the Soul in its descent. The Robe similarly symbolizes the living garment of the Earth ("Kosmos" in its primary sense of adornment, one might say); this is certainly its meaning in Pherecydes' Theogony, where the Variegated Robe (Pepoikilmenon Pharos) is the Marriage Robe of Heaven and Earth (WEGP 17-18; Pher. fr. 68). Further, the Orphic Poems say that the Earth is the Robe of Persephone (WEGP 216), who is called Khthoniê (She Under the Earth); see below on Khthoniê. This also connects it with the Marriage Robe (Pharos) of the Goddess, residing at the Center, which has an important role in ritual and mythology (see citations in Opsopaus, "The Ritual of the Labyrinth").
Shining Egg:
In the Orphic "Rhapsodic Theogony" the Shining Egg (which splits to yield Heaven and Earth with Phanês between) results from Aithêr and Khaos (see below), which are created from Unaging Time. Here, the Egg condenses directly from Aion.
The Silvery Egg (ôeon arguphion) appears in the Orphic Rhapsodies (fr. 70; KRS 24n1).
PGM IV.1135-40 (Secret Stêlê).

3. Khaos - The Separation

See the Wind now spinning quickly round the Egg until it coils around it as the Serpent Time; it squeezes tighter. Spread your arms in front of you, your palms turned downward, and intone:
khaos {xa/os} = yawning gap
See the Egg now splitting into two half-shells, above you and below.

Other chants:

rôdêru ouôa {rwdhru ouwa} (v.m.): "the One who separated Heaven and Earth and covered the Heaven with eternal, golden wings"


The root meaning of Khaos is Yawning Gap, not disorder (as in the English use of "chaos"). In the Rhapsodic Theogony of the Orphics, Unaging Time gives birth to Aithêr and Khaos (or Khasma, the Chasm); the exercise alters this somewhat, as discussed in the Commentary on the next two parts. Further, in the Rhapsodies Aithêr and Khaos unite to form the Shining Egg, which the Serpent Time breaks open to reveal Phanês. So, in effect there are two separations, first of Unaging Time, second of the Egg, which are collapsed into one separation in this exercise.
Serpent Time:
In the Rhapsodic Theogony, the Egg is broken by the Serpent Time wrapping around it (WOP 70); in other versions it is broken by the friction or rubbing of Time (perhaps an allusion to his self-fellatio, as in Pherecydes' Cosmogony: WEGP 36).
Many depictions of Phanês show the split Egg above and below; see for example the well-know Modena relief (e.g., WOP 253-5, pl. 6). This image is central to the Anagôgê (Ascent) part of the exercise (which see).
rôdêru ouôa:
PGM 1150-5 (Secret Stêlê). The associated text, "the One who separated Heaven and Earth and covered the Heaven with eternal, golden wings," suggests Phanês (see below).

4. Anankê - Necessity

Hold your arms in front of you and downward, with your palms turned toward the Earth. See the lower half of the divided Egg Shell as a boiling, fuming Bowl (a Crater) sinking down into the dark, descending infinitely deep. As it sinks down, intone:
Anankê {)Ana/gkh} = Necessity
See swirling within it a living chaotic flux of all the Elements and all the Qualities, a cauldron seething in the misty darkness.

Behold the living Matrix and the Matter. Hear Her names: the Vessel, the Receptacle of Infinite Becoming, Gentle Nurse, Recipient, prolific Mother of our living world, who's called Necessity.

Know that She's the Manifold Dark Mother of All, the ultimate material foundation and the origin of everything, the deepest depth and darkest night, for therein are the roots of Primal Matter.

Other chants:

Khthoniê {Xqoni/h} = She Underlying the Earth

meremôngga {meremwgga} (v.m.): "the spirit extending from Earth to the edge of the Abyss"


Orphic version:
In different Orphic Theogonies, the lower result of the separation of Unaging Time is either Khaos/Khasma or Gê (Gaia, Earth), which is a common mythological idea (KRS 21-44). In other cosmogonies it is Hades or Tartaros, which are closely connected (KRS 17-20). In the Rhapsodic Theogony, Unaging Times mates with Anankê, from which (perhaps) Aithêr and Khaos were born (WOP 70). In this exercise, Khaos is the Gap that separates Heaven and the Underworld. Nevertheless, the images associated with Khaos and the Underworld overlap, so that they are not inconsistent with the Orphic separation into Aithêr and Khaos.
Order of Necessity and Being:
The exercise "visits" Necessity below before it "visits" Being above; there are several reasons. First, going from Separation into Necessity supports the association of both with Khaos, which provides continuity between the two. Second, putting Being after Necessity allows it to lead directly into the Descent. Third, in cosmogonies, the dark, chaotic Primal Matter must pre-exist so that the organizing Heavenly Light will have something to act upon (see also below on Dark and Light). Theogonically, the female precedes the male.
Palm toward Earth:
A typical ancient Greek gesture of Chthonic invocation.
Ancient Greek Kratêr refers both to a Bowl, such as that used for mixing wine and water, and to a volcanic Crater. The connection between the two is essential and profound, for the volcanic Crater is the entrance to the Underworld where Fire and Water (like Wine and Water) unite in a Conjunction of the Opposites. See Kingsley (KAP ch. 11) for a detailed discussion. The Crater (Kratêr) was also the name of an important (now lost) Orphic ritual text.
Cornford (162-77) has a detailed discussion of Anankê, which is somewhat misleadingly translated "Necessity," for it refers to the "necessity" of purposeless motion (rather than to the "necessity" of determinate physical law); it is an akosmia (lack of order) (Dillon 207). In contrast, Reason, the opposed power (see Existence below), provides purpose. The primordial polarity between "Reason and Necessity" is fundamental to Plato's Timaeus. This exercise, like alchemical tracts, stresses the positive role of Anankê and Matter more so than do Plato and the Neoplatonists (and certainly more so than the Gnostics!).
Living chaotic flux:
According to Plato, the Receptacle contains all the Qualities (Warm, Cool, Moist, Dry) of the Elements in a continually unbalanced, shifting flux (Cornford 181, 198-9). The flux is living because soul is the only source of self-motion, but Anankê's motion is intellectually incomprehensible (Cornford 208).
Misty darkness:
In traditional Greek philosophy and mythology, the underworld (and Khaos, the Yawning Gap) is dark and misty (WEGP 11-12). The darkness also suggests the Zoroastrian polarity between Dark and Light, which is fundamental to much of the Pythagorean tradition (however, the Dark is not considered evil as in Zoroastrianism).
We find Triads in a number of related cosmogonies, including the Zoroastrian, Orphic and Chaldean (Mead 58, 68-9; Majercik 6-8), typically a Father, Mother and Child. The Father and Mother are created from a pre-existing Unity (Unaging Time, the Egg) and unite to engender a new Unity (Phanês); the process may then repeat at a further stage of emanation (Mead 68-9). Although the Father and Mother are created simultaneously by division, this exercise, as explained above (Order of Necessity and Being) visits the Mother first. The Mother proceeds (as opposed to the Father, who abides) and is associated with Life, Chaos, Power (Dunamis) and the Multiplicity of the World of Becoming (Dillon 45-6; Mead 58, 68-9). Plutarch associates Her with Isis, the Receptacle, Matter, Wisdom (eidêsis, phronêsis), World-Soul, Dikê (Justice) and Rhea, the Mother of the Gods (Dillon 204- 6). (In this scheme, of course, Osiris is the Father and Horus is the Demiurgic Child: Immanent Logos and World Soul unite to engender the sensible Cosmos.) Plato associates the Father with the Model or Form, the Mother with the Recipient (Dekhomenon) or Receptacle, and the Child with Becoming (Cornford 185).
For Khthoniê as the ultimate material foundation (hulikê arkhê) and the origin of everything (arkhê pantôn), see Pherecydes (fr. 77). Plato never calls the Receptacle "Matter" (Cornford 181), but the connection is made in later Platonism.
Receptacle of Infinite Becoming:
Necessity is the Receptacle (Hupodokhê) of Becoming, and without it Reason would be unable to produce the visible world (Cornford 102-3). See also Peters (s.v. genesis 11, hypodochê) and Cornford (177) on the Receptacle as Nurse of Becoming and its connection with Matter. The Receptacle is the Necessary ground of existence for the Qualities, which cannot exist without Matter (Cornford 177).
Khthoniê, which means "She Beneath the Earth," is the Female Pole of the duality that emerges from Unlimited Time in Pherecydes' Theogony. (This is an epithet of Underworld Goddesses, especially Persephone.) After Her marriage, in which She receives the Variegated Robe (see above on the Robe), She becomes Gaia, the Living Earth. (WEGP 15-20)
PGM IV.1120 (Secret Stêlê).

5. Huparxis - Existence

Hold your arms toward the Sky with upward open hands. Behold the upper half of the divided Egg Shell as a dome that's filled with glowing gas and rising up into the light, ascending infinitely high. As it ascends, intone:
to On {to\ )/On} = Being
Behold the Father, who abides, the One, the Source, the origin of Limit and the world of changeless Being.

Understand this First Perfection: Eternity, Necessity and Being; for within the wide embrace of limitless Eternity all action comes about, because the Father of all Being, He who holds the Heavens, acts. No less, the Mother of Necessity, who holds the Earth, is acted on. For each is necessary to the other.

Other chants:

Ouranos {)Ourano/s} = Heaven

erdêneu {erdhneu} (v.m.): "the spirit extending from Heaven to Earth"


In the Orphic Theogonies, the upper result of the separation is Ouranos (Heaven) or Aithêr (originally, the luminescent upper air, later the Element associated with the Heavens); see KRS (21-44).
Palm toward sky:
A typical ancient Greek gesture of Celestial invocation.
As explained above (Mother), the Father and Mother are created simultaneously, but the exercise visits the Mother first. In contrast to the Mother, the Father, who abides, is associated with Unity, Existence (Huparxis), Aithêr (the Celestial Element) and the World of Being (Mead 58, 68-9).
PGM IV.1115-20 (Secret Stêlê).

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Last updated: Tue Aug 18 19:47:32 EDT 1998