FRAGMENTS AND COMMENTS.
On the borderland between the intelligible and sensible worlds were the
Iynges - mysterious beings whose name may perhaps be translated as Wheels
or Whirls, or even as Shriekers. As, however, I seem to detect in these three
ruling Principles a correspondence with the creators, preservers and destroyers,
or rather regenerators (perfecters or enders) of Indian theosophy, I will call
these Iynges Starters, in the sense of Initiators or Setters-up of the
We will first set down the “wisdom” of the lexicon on this puzzling subject,
warning the reader that he is having his attention turned to the wrong side of
the thing - the littleness and superstition of what in the Oracles was
clearly intended to be a revelation of some greatness.
Iynx is said to be the bird that we call the wryneck; it was called
iynx in Greek from its cry, as it is called wryneck in English from
the movement of its head. Iyge and iygmós are used of howling,
shrieking, yelling, both for shouts of joy and cries of pain, and also of the
hissing of snakes.
The ancient wizards, it is said, used to bind the wryneck to a wheel, which
they made to revolve, in the belief that they thus drew men's hearts along with
it and chained them to obedience; hence this magic wheel was frequently used in
the belief that it was a means of recovering unfaithful lovers. This operation
was called setting the magic bird or magic wheel a-going. The
unfortunate bird seems to have been attached to the wheel with its wings and
legs pegged out crosswise so as to form four spokes, spread-eagle fashion. The
word iynx thus came to mean a charm and a spell, and also a passionate
The root-idea accordingly seems to have been that of a “winged wheel” that
emitted sound, and we are reminded of the winged creatures or wheels in the
famous Vision of Ezekiel, who saw the mystic sight in Babylon, and thus probably
caught some reflection of the symbolism of the Chaldæan mysteries.
How the wryneck was first brought in, and finally assumed the chief place, is
a puzzle. It reminds one of the story of the calf in the Vaidik rite, which so
interfered with the sacred service of the sage that he had to tie it up to a
post before he could continue the rite. This casual incident became finally
stereotyped into the chief feature of the rite!
Certain it is that the Iynges of our Oracles have nothing to do with
wrynecks; we shall, therefore, make bold to translate them as Wheels or
They were presumably thought of as Living Spheres, whirling out in every
direction from the centre, and swirling in again to that same centre, once they
had reached the limit of their periphery or surround. They were also, in all
probability, conceived of as Winged Globes - a familiar figure in
Babylonian and Egyptian art - thus symbolizing that they were powers of
the Air, midway between Heaven, the Great Surround, and Earth, the fixed Centre.
In other words, they were the Children of the Æon.
An anonymous ancient writer tells us (K. 39) that it is the blending
of the intellectual (or gnostic) and intelligible (or ideal) orders -
that is, the union of the prototypes of what we distinguish as subject and
object in the sense-world of diversity, or what we might call the
self-reflective energy of the Mind on the plane of reality - that first
“spirts forth” the One Iynx, and after this the three Iynges that are called
“paternal” and also “unspeakables.” This writer also characterizes the Iynx as
the “One in the three Depths after it” (it is, therefore, of an æonic nature),
and says that it is this three-in-one hierarchy that divides the worlds into
three - namely, empyrean, ætherial, and terrene.
The information of Damascius refines and complicates the idea, when he tells
us that “the Mind of the Father is said to bring forward [on to the stage of
manifestation] the triadic ordering - Iynges, Synoches, Teletarchæ” - which we
may render tentatively as Whirlings, Holdings-together and Perfectings.
The Synoches we have come across before (i. 58). Teletarchía is used
by ecclesiastical writers as a synonym of the Trinity; while Orpheus is called
teletárchēs as the founder of
mysteries or perfectionings.
The root-meanings underlying the names of the members of this triad seem to
suggest, as we have already said, the ideas of creating (or preferably
starting), preserving (or maintaining), and completing (or perfecting or
Damascius thinks that the last words of the following two verses refer to the
triad of the One Iynx:
Many are these who leaping mount upon the shining worlds; among them
are three excellencies [or heights].
(K. 40; C. 40)
The meaning of the first clause is doubtful. Who the many (fem. pl.) are is
not clear; it may mean that there are hosts of subordinate Iynges. On the
contrary, it may have nothing to do with these Nature-Iynges on the Path of
Descent, that is the bringing into manifestation, but may refer to souls who in
the Ascent win their way to the “shining worlds” or Worlds of Light, and become
According to both Damascius and Proclus, the Order of Iynges is characterized
as having the power both of proceeding or going-forth and of drawing-together or
contracting - that is, both of expansion and contraction, of out-breathing and
in-breathing. They are, moreover, free Intelligences.
The Whirls [Iynges] created by the Father’s Thought are themselves,
too, intelligent [or gnostic], being moved by Wills ineffable to
(K. 40; C. 54)
They are created by Divine Thought, as Sons of Will and Yoga, and procreate
by thought; they are Mind-born and give birth to minds. Their epithet is the
Ineffables or Unspeakables; they are further called in the Oracles
“swift,” and are said to proceed from and to “rush to” or “desire eagerly” the
Father (C. 52); they are the “Father’s Powers.” Indeed, as Proclus
For not only do these three divinities [or divine natures] of
themselves bring into manifestation and contract them [sci. out of
manifestation], but they are also “Guardians” [or Watchers or Preservers]
of the “works” of the Father, according to the Oracle - yea, of the
One Mind that doth create itself.
(K. 40; C. 41)
Iynx in its root-meaning, according to Proclus, signifies the “power of
transmission,” which is said, in the Oracles, “to sustain the fountains.” The
same idea seems to be latent in the following verse:
For all cosmos has inflexible intelligent sustainers.
(K. 40; C. 64)
The meaning is quite clearly brought out when Proclus, elsewhere, affirms
that the Order of the Iynges “has a transmissive [that is, intermediary or
ferrying] power, as the Theologers call it, of all things from the Intelligible
[or Typal] Order into Matter, and again of all things into it [sci. the
In other words, they are the direct link between the Divine and physical,
and to some extent also suggest the idea of Angels or Messengers; yet are
they like to Wheels and Whirls, or Vortices - on the one hand to vortical
atoms, and on the other to individualities. They are, of course, in essence,
quite unbound by ideas of extension in space, and sequence in time; though they
manifest in space and time.
Porphyry preserves a curious Oracle which reads:
With secret rites drawing the iynx from the æether.
This Oracle, however, may have been taken from some Theurgist or Hellenized
Magian source and not from our poem; and so also may the following quoted by
Be active [or operate] round the Hecatic spinning thing.
(K. 41; C. 194)
It is doubtful what stróphalus means exactly. It may sometimes mean a
top; and in the Mysteries tops were included among the mystic play-things of the
young Bacchus, or Iacchus. They represented, among other things, the “fixed”
stars (humming tops) and planets (whipping tops).
The Iynx was said to be active, or to energize, on the three - empyrean,
ætherial and terrene - planes.
Though the Later Platonic commentators make two other allied hierarchies out
of the Synoches and Teletarchæ, both these, as we have seen, should rather be
taken as modes of this same mysterious Iynx. In manifestation, from one it
passed to three, and so became many. Thus a scrap of our Oracles reads:
Nay, and as many as are subject to the hylic [or terrene] Synoches.
(K. 41; C. 57)
This would seem to mean simply the Powers that hold together, or contract, or
mass, material things; and these Powers are again the Iynges, or simultaneously
creative, preservative, and destructive or perfective Intelligences of the
Father-Mind, which are in the Oracles symbolically called His Lightnings
when thought of as Rays or Intelligences. The word Prēstēres (Lightnings), however, is more
graphically and literally rendered as Fiery Whirlwinds - like
waterspouts. These are again our Iynges or Whirls or Swirls or Wheels, spinning
in and out. Thus two verses read:
But to the Knowing Fire-whirls of the Knowing Fire [i.e., the Father]
all things do yield, subject unto the Father's W ill which makes them to
(K. 42; C. 63)
As we have seen above (p. xx) these Whirls, as Synoches - that is, in
their power of .holding together - were called “Guardians,” and this is
borne out by
He gave to His own Fire-whirls the power to guard the summits,
commingling with the Synoches the proper power of His own Might.
42; C. 56)
The “summits” suggest these self-same Iynges in their creative mode; the
series of which they were the “summits” being creative (or inceptive),
preservative (or guardian), and perfective (consummative or regenerative).
Thus Damascius tells us that the whole Demiurgic Order - that is to
say the order of things in genesis - was surrounded by what the Oracles
call the “Fire-whirling Guard.” In brief it is the power of holding
together (? gravitation on the life-side of things).
This is fundamentally the great power of the Mother-side of things; for, as
we have seen (i. 57), the Great Mother is:
Source of all sources, Womb that holds all things together .
(K. 19; C. 99)
It follows, therefore, that the Iynges, as creative, are on the Father-side;
as preservative (or Synoches) on the Mother-side; and as result or consummating
or perfecting (or Teletarchæ) on the Son-side.
Damascius bears this out when he tells us that the Oracles call the Synoches
the “Whole-makers” (holopoioí) - that is to say, they are
connected with the idea of wholeness or oneness or the root-substance side of
things, and again with the idea of the Æon.
Of course, the symbolic categories of Father, Mother, and Son are really all
aspects of One and the same Mystery - the That which understands itself alone
and yet is beyond understanding. To this Proclus refers when he writes:
Including [containing, preserving] all things in the one excellency [or
summit] of His own subsistence, “Himself subsists wholly beyond,”
according to the Oracle.
(K. 42; C. 7)
So also with the Teletarchæ or perfecting Powers; as Proclus tells us, they
have the same divisions as the Synoches (and Iynges); that is to say, it is
again all the same thing looked at from the Son-side of things. There was thus,
in the elaboration of the Later Platonic commentators, a triple, and even a
sevenfold, division of this order or hierarchy. Considering the Teletarchic
energy, or activity, as triadic, Proclus tells us that
in its first mode it has to do with the finest or ultimate substance, the
Empyrean, and says that it plays the part of Driver or Guide to the “foot [? -
tarsón) of Fire" - which may be simply a poetical phrase for the Fire in its
first contact with substance. Its middle mode, embracing beginnings and ends and
middles, perfects the Æther; while its third mode is concerned with Gross Matter
(Hylē), still confused and
unshaped, which it also perfects.
From these and other elaborations of a like nature, we learn that the
Teletarchs were regarded as three, and were intimately bound up with the
Synoches, and therefore with the Iynges (C. 58). The unifying or
holding-together of the Synochic power is de-fined and delimited by the
perfecting nature of the Teletarchic power:
Into beginning and end and middle things by Order at Necessity.
In this connection it is of interest to cite a sentence from Proclus that is
almost certainly quoted from the Oracles. It relates to the Ascent of the
individual soul and not to cosmogenesis, to perfection in the Mysteries and not
to the Mysteries that perfect the world:
The Soul-lord, he who doth set his feet upon the realms ætherial, is
the Perfectioner [Teletarch].
Finally, Proclus refers the following two verses to the Teletarchs:
Nay, a Name of august majesty, and, with sleepless whirling, leaping
into the worlds, by reason of the Father's swift Announcement.
(K. 43; C. 111)
In another passage Proclus refers to the “Transmissive” Name that leaps into
activity in the “boundless worlds” (K. 44); and in yet another passage (K.
40), which we have already quoted (p. xx), he gives this “Name” to the
Iynges. This plainly refers to the “Intermediaries who stand” between the Father
and Matter, as Damascius says (K. 44), who further affirms that in their
aspect of Teletarchs they are perfecting, and rule over all perfections, or the
perfecting rites of the Mysteries.
So much, then, for the highest Principles or Ruling Powers of the Sensible
World. The commentators further speak of a division among the Gods into Gods
within the Zones and Gods beyond the Zones; but no verse from the Oracles is
extant by which we can control this statement. It seems to mean simply that they
were classified according as to whether their operations were concerned with the
Seven Spheres, or were beyond them.
The lesser powers were, according to Olympiodorus, divided into Angels,
Daimones and Heroes. Concerning the Heroes, however, we have no fragment
remaining; while Angels and Daimones are at times somewhat confused. On the
Daimones we have the following two verses:
Nature persuades us that the Daimones are pure, and things that grow
from evil matter useful and good.
(K. 44; C. 191)
Kroll thinks that this means that Nature deceives us into thinking that the
evil Daimones are good; it may, however, mean that whereas from Man's standpoint
Daimones are good or evil, according to Nature they are pure, or indifferent, or
non-moral. Their operations are conditioned by man's nature. They are in
themselves non-human entities, and there is a scale of them from lowest to
Certain classes of them the Oracles call “Dogs”; and here we may quote an
interesting passage from Lydus:
Whence the tradition of the Mystic Discourse [? the Oracles] that
Hecatē [the World-Mother] is four-headed because of the four elements. And
the fire-breathing head of the Horse evidently refers as it were to the
sphere of fire; the bellowing head of the Bull has reference to a certain
bellowing power connected with the sphere of air; the bitter and unstable
nature of the Hydra [or Water-serpent] is connected with the sphere of
water; and the chastening and avenging nature of the Dog with that of
The last clause throws some light on the allied figure of Anubis in Egyptian
psychopompy, and also on the following fragment of the Oracles:
Out of the Womb of Earth leap Dogs terrestrial that unto mortal never
show true sign.
(K. 45; C. 97)
It is impossible to say what this means precisely without the context.
are the intelligent guardians of the secrets of various mystery-traditions;
they are ever watchful. The Outer Guards of the Adyta in which the mystic rites
were celebrated, were sometimes called Dogs. Much could be written on this
symbolism, beginning with Anubis and the Dog-ape of Thoth (see “Dog” in the
Index of H.). Dog was a name of honour in the Mysteries. The
Pythagoræans called the Planets the “Dogs of Persephone”; sparks were poetically
called the “Dogs of Hephæstus.” The Eumenides, were called “Dogs,” and the
Harpies “Dogs of Great Zeus.” Perhaps this may throw some light on our
particular Oracle; in the Oracles generally, however, they seem to have been a
generic name of apparently wider meaning than in the symbolism which Lydus uses;
unless we assume that for him the earth-sphere extended to the moon, when it
would have three “planes” - terrene, watery and aëry - each of which had its
Thus Olympiodorus writes: “From the aëry spaces begin to come into existence
the irrational Daimones. Wherefore also the Oracle says:
She [? Hecatē ] is the Driver of the aëry and the earthy and the watery
(K. 45; C. 75)
Kroll refers to the last of these Dogs the epithet “Water-walkers,” which
Proclus quotes from the Oracles in the following passage:
“Watery” as applied to divine natures signifies the undivided domain
over water; for which cause, too, the Oracle calls these Gods
(K. 45; C. 76).
It is clear, however, that this refers to a far higher “dominion” than that
of the Dogs. These inferior Daimones had their existence as far as the Moon
only, in what was regarded as the realm of the impure nature or gross matter.
Beyond the Moon the Daimones were held to be of a higher and purer order; these
were also called Angels - a term that in all probability came into our
Hellenized Oracles along the line of the Mago-Chaldæan tradition.
Psellus speaks of “the manifoldly flowing tribes” (the group-soul idea) of
the Daimones, and this phrase was in all probability taken from the Oracles (K.
46). It would seem to indicate that the nature of the Daimones was unstable
and Protean, or rather that they could assume any form at will.
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