Ophic Egg (Jacob Bryant, 1774)
The Philosophical Egg
“The egg is a germ of life with a lofty symbolical significance. It is not just a cosmogonic symbol — it is also a “philosophical one”. As the former it is the Orphic Egg, the world’s beginning; as the latter, the philosophical egg of the medieval natural philosophers, the vessel from which, at the end of the opus alchymicum, the homunculus emerges… the spiritual, inner, and complete man.”
Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
The Orphic Egg in the Ancient Greek Orphic tradition is the cosmic egg from which hatched the primordial hermaphroditic deity Phanes/Protogonus (variously equated also with Zeus, Pan, Metis, Eros, Erikepaios and Bromius) who in turn created the other gods.The egg is often depicted with a serpent wound about it.
The egg symbolizes the belief in the Greek Orphic religion that the universe originated from within a silver egg. The first emanation from this egg, described in an ancient hymn, was Phanes-Dionysus, the personification of light.
In Greek myth, particularly Orphic thought, Phanes is the golden winged Primordial Being who was hatched from the shining Cosmic Egg that was the source of the universe. Called Protogonos (First-Born) and Eros (Love) — being the seed of gods and men — Phanes means “Manifestor” or “Revealer,” and is related to the Greek words “light” and “to shine forth.”
An ancient Orphic hymn addresses him thus: “Ineffable, hidden, brilliant scion, whose motion is whirring, you scattered the dark mist that lay before your eyes and, flapping your wings, you whirled about, and through this world you brought pure light.”