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This article is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Animal Spirits IV Iain Bamforth
A hatching

The progenitor god, Protogonos or Protogenus, mentioned in the Orphic Fragments, can be conflated with the Hindu protector of life and supreme deity, Prajāpati, who has no definitive title, according to Roberto Calasso, in his singular contributions to Vedic philosophy, unless we consider it the interrogative pronoun Ka (Who). Both primal deities were four-headed, and Robert Graves identifies Protogonos with Phanes, who hatched double-sexed and golden-winged like Eros from the mundane egg of time and necessity. They were self­existing beings, svayambhū.

Who is the god worshipped by humans. The patron’s name is a simple interrogation, but it loops back to the worshipper, an odd amalgam of articulated body parts and words, just like God’s declaration to Moses ‘I am that I am’. God’s only name is his self-identity, and it is this unity that provides reason with its fundament.

A bird’s life

How do birds learn to circle on the thermals of their freedom? The Persian poet Rumi knows: ‘They fall, and falling, they’re given wings.’

In terms of animal locomotion the unfettered flying of birds is an intensification of walking, not to speak of running, which is itself a continually averted falling.

The Russian existential philosopher Lev Shestov knew this too. ‘The abyss is our element,’ he wrote in his usual dramatic manner. ‘Flung into it… we sprout wings.’

An alternation of flights and perchings: that was William James’s definition of consciousness.


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