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THE RIVER OF SEMEN

PYTHAGOREAN SEED
DAVID N S BENNETT

That which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below (Hermes Trismegistus) 1

Central to this creation myth is the metaphor of the Nile as a river of semen which by flooding its banks regularly fertilizes the fields. That which, like a field, was to receive the divine seed, he made round every way, and called that portion of the marrow, brain, intending that, when an animal was perfected, the vessel containing this substance should be the head; but that which was intended to contain the remaining and mortal part of the soul he called them all by the name marrow. (Plato) 2

The marrow encased in its container formed of bone and running as a channel through the centre of the body corresponds to this image of the Nile. The spinal column connects at one end with the brain and at the other is in the vicinity of the sexual organs. From the passage of egress for the drink, where it receives and joins in discharging the fluid which has come through the lungs beneath the kidneys into the bladder and has been compressed by the air, they bored a hole into the condensed marrow which comes from the head down by the neck and along the spine which marrow, in our previous account, we termed seed. And the marrow, inasmuch as it is animate and has been granted an outlet, has endowed the part where its outlet lies with a love for generating by implementing therein a lively desire for emission. (Plato) 3 Semen was described as a substance like brain matter that contained hot vapour. From the hot aether in the semen the process of creation began. But the wiser of the priests call not only the Nile Osiris and the sea Typhon, but they simply give the name of Osiris to the whole source and faculty creative of moisture, believing this to be the cause of generation and the substance of life-producing seed; and the name of Typhon they give to all that is dry, fiery and arid, in general, and antagonistic to moisture. (Plutarch) 4

The foaming froth of the flooding Nile thus has a direct correlation with the warm foamy substance of semen. Both are the originators of life. From this foaming substance the human body would be created. From the foaming flood waters of the Nile the seeds would germinate. In fact, the tale that is annexed to the legend to the effect that Typhon cast the male member of Osiris into the river, and Isis could not find it, but constructed and shaped a replica of it, and ordained that it should be honoured and borne in processions, plainly comes round to this doctrine, that the creative and germinal power of the god, at the very first, acquired moisture as its substance, and through moisture combined with whatever was by nature capable of participating in generation. (Plutarch) 5

Thus semen contained the life-giving moisture as its substance infused with a hot aether to provide the spark of creation. The Nile could be seen as containing the semen of Osiris which was deposited over the soil. The body of Osiris had been slashed into pieces, with his genital parts hacked off and thrown into the Nile. The other parts of the body of Osiris were located and reassembled by Isis but the genital parts remained lost in the river. The Nile thus embodied the genital parts of Osiris and contained the divine semen. As they regard the Nile as the effusion of Osiris, so they hold and believe the earth to be

the body of Isis, not all of it, but so much of it as the Nile covers, fertilizing it and uniting with it. (Plutarch) 6 There is here the direct linkage of religion symbolized by Osiris, lord of the underworld and the deity representing resurrection, and the life-giving secretion of moisture and semen by the Nile. This was a divine water that contained the code for all generation. The vital water was celebrated as containing the divine essence involved in creation. They think that Homer, like Thales, had gained his knowledge from the Egyptians, when he postulated water as the source and origin of all things (Plutarch) 7 In this way the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis was transferred to the Greeks and became the basis of the Pythagorean construct. The Nile became symbolic of all rivers which all eventually flowed into Oceanus, the ocean stream that encircled the earth. The moisture of semen and the moisture of water were the source for all creation. Not only the Nile, but every form of moisture they call simply the effusion of Osiris; and in their holy rites the water jar in honour of the god heads the procession. (Plutarch) 8

Rain itself could be linked to a shower of semen fertilizing the earth. The duality of the heavens and the earth was likened to the copulation of humans. The central element was

the moisture without which life could not exist. The moisture was in the rain, fructifying the earth, and part of the substance of semen. In fact, the Greeks call emission apousia and coition synousia, and the son (hyios) from water (hydor) and rain (hysai); Dionysus also they call Hyes since he is lord of the nature of moisture; and he is no other than Osiris (Plutarch) 9 Moisture from the heavens was equivalent to a divine emission that fertilized the earth. The sun or sky was considered the male, or active part; the earth was represented as female and as the passive part. The bright sky, Aeschylus says, loves to penetrate the earth; the earth on her part, aspires to the heavenly marriage. Rain falling from the watery sky impregnates the earth, and she produces for mortals pastures of the flocks, and the gifts of Ceres. The sky, Plutarch says, appeared to perform the functions of a father, as the earth those of a mother. The sky was the father, for it cast seed into the bosom of the earth, which on receiving them became fruitful and brought forth, and was the mother. In the creation myth of Hephaestus and Athena the semen from the gods in the heavens impregnates the earth (Gaia) below. Hephaestus ejaculates his fiery semen over Athena who casts it down upon earth, so impregnating it. Human life is therefore formed by the

Demiurge, Hephaestus or Vulcan, moulding his creations from the fiery heat. She (Athena) founded your city a thousand years before ours, receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race (Plato) 10 Semen then is the moisture containing the hot aether from the fire of creation. The primordial fire contains the hot breath, the pneuma of the semen, forged by the Demiurge, Hephaestus. He (Hephaestus) began by making a large and heavy shield, which h e decorated all over and round which he placed a bright triple rim of gleaming metal and fitted with a silver shoulder-strap. The shield consisted of five layers, and he made all sorts of decorations for it, executed with consummate skill. He made earth, sky and sea, the tireless sun, the full moon and all the constellations with which the skies are crowned, the Pleiades, the Hyades, great Orion and the Bear, also called the waggon. This is the only constellation never to bathe in Ocean Stream, but always wheels round in the same place and looks across at Orion the Hunter with a wary eye. (Homer - The Iliad)

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Hermes Trismegistus - The Emerald Tablet - Isaac Newton Plato - Timaeus - 73 Plato - Timaeus - 91 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 33 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 36 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 38 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 34 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 36 Plutarch - Moralia - Isis and Osiris - 34 Plato - Timaeus - 23