Fertility cults have always existed in agricultural cultures but the cult of Bacchus (later Orphism) had a little extra help in their celebrations; these guys symbolized intoxication into a literal experience of a divine union with the god of revelries (left). The Orphics, who were preoccupied with the afterlife (Egyptian influence) knew of this and nearly went in the completely opposite direction (enantiodromia), asserting that a pure (ascetic) life in Earth would bring one’s soul closer to Bacchus in death. This is arguably the source of the the Greek tension between passion and intellect. Pre-Socratic intellect raised the geometry of the Babylonians into form of scientism and tried to explain the material existence of being (right: irreducible elements); natural science had its roots in the concept of cosmic justice (Anaxmander) which explained how the elements were always kept in check.

flux and stasis

Abstracting from observed motion gave way to two schools of thought. Things were always in a state of flux and were always in a process of becoming something else (left). The harmony of opposites (e.g. point and line) produces say a circle. On the other hand, the things we state always refer to a pre-existing thing that have constant meaning and thus eternal (linguistic fallacy). Thus, our conceptions have always “existed” and nothing changes at all (right). Surely these propositions can’t later be synthesized (hint. Plato).


In the meantime, guys like Pythagoras lifted Orphic mysticism to new heights by fusing it with intellect. True knowledge, as spurned by revelation/intuition & deduction (see the elegant proof drawn above), divorced itself from the pragmatics and was embodied in the field that we now call Geometry. This form of “knowledge from without” will have large repercussions on Philosophy, ethics, and mathematics for the next two millennia.