Human chains transmit knowledge acquired beyond the ages. From one to the other, you always go up higher, as far as possible, like the salmon in the stream.
Thanks to Clement of Alexandria, in the 2nd century, twenty-two fragments of Heraclitus (fragments 14 to 36 according to the numbering of Diels-Kranz) were saved from oblivion, out of a total of one hundred and thirty-eight.
« Rangers in the night, the Magi, the priests of Bakkhos, the priestesses of the presses, the traffickers of mysteries practiced among men. » (Fragment 14)
A few words, and a world appears.
At night, magic, bacchae, lenes, mysts, and of course the god Bakkhos.
The Fragment 15 describes one of these mysterious and nocturnal ceremonies: « For if it were not in honour of Dionysus that they processioned and sang the shameful phallic anthem, they would act in the most blatant way. But it’s the same one, Hades or Dionysus, for whom we’re crazy or delirious.»
Heraclitus seems reserved about bacchic delusions and orgiastic tributes to the phallus.
He sees a link between madness, delirium, Hades and Dionysus.
Bacchus is associated with drunkenness. We remember the rubicond Bacchus, bombing under the vine.
Bacchus, the Latin name of the Greek god Bakkhos, is also Dionysus, whom Heraclitus likens to Hades, God of the Infernos, God of the Dead.
Dionysus was also closely associated with Osiris, according to Herodotus in the 5th century BC. Plutarch went to study the question on the spot, 600 years later, and reported that the Egyptian priests gave the Nile the name of Osiris, and the sea the name of Typhon. Osiris is the principle of the wet, of generation, which is compatible with the phallic cult. Typhoon is the principle of dry and hot, and by metonymy of the desert and the sea. And Typhon is also the other name of Seth, Osiris’ murdering brother, whom he cut into pieces.
We see here that the names of the gods circulate between distant spheres of meaning.
This implies that they can also be interpreted as the denominations of abstract concepts.
Plutarch, who cites in his book Isis and Osiris references from an even more oriental horizon, such as Zoroaster, Ormuzd, Ariman or Mitra, testifies to this mechanism of anagogical abstraction, which the ancient Avestic and Vedic religions practiced abundantly.
Zoroaster had been the initiator. In Zoroastrianism, the names of the gods embody ideas, abstractions. The Greeks were the students of the Chaldeans and the ancient Persians. Plutarch condenses several centuries of Greek thought, in a way that evokes Zoroastrian pairs of principles: « Anaxagoras calls Intelligence the principle of good, and that of evil, Infinite. Aristotle names the first the form, and the other the deprivationi. Plato, who often expresses himself as if in an enveloped and veiled manner, gives to these two contrary principles, to one the name of « always the same » and to the other, that of « sometimes one, sometimes the other ». »ii
Plutarch is not fooled by Greek, Egyptian or Persian myths. He knows that they cover abstract, and perhaps more universal, truths. But he had to be content with allusions of this kind: « In their sacred hymns in honour of Osiris, the Egyptians mentioned « He who hides in the arms of the Sun ». »
As for Typhon, a deicide and fratricide, Hermes emasculated him, and took his nerves to make them the strings of his lyre. Myth or abstraction?
Plutarch uses the etymology (real or imagined) as an ancient method to convey his ideas: « As for the name Osiris, it comes from the association of two words: ὄσιοϛ, holy and ἱερός, sacred. There is indeed a common relationship between the things in Heaven and those in Hades. The elders called them saints first, and sacred the second. »iii
Osiris, in his very name, osios-hieros, unites Heaven and Hell, he combines the holy and the sacred.
The sacred is what is separated.
The saint is what unites us.
Osiris joint separated him to what is united.
Osiris, victor of death, unites the most separated worlds there are. It represents the figure of the Savior, – in Hebrew the « Messiah ».
Taking into account the anteriority, the Hebrew Messiah and the Christian Christ are late figures of Osiris.
Osiris, a Christic metaphor, by anticipation? Or Christ, a distant Osirian reminiscence?
Or a joint participation in a common fund, an immemorial one?
This is a Mystery.
iAristotle, Metaph. 1,5 ; 1,7-8
iiPlato Timaeus 35a
iiiPlutarch, Isis and Osiris.