Phanes: Illuminating Compassion and the Awakening of Empathy

Phanes, an intriguing and multifaceted symbol, holds deep significance in mythology and psychological interpretations. Let us delve into the rich tapestry of its symbolism and unravel its profound meaning for awakening compassion.

Exploring the Imagery of Phanes

In the depicted image, we encounter the symbolic representation of Phanes, revealing a rich tapestry of imagery. Phanes manifests with eagle’s wings, cloven feet, and embodies both masculine and feminine qualities. Serpents gracefully coil around Phanes’ body, forming a crown upon the head and encircling an egg that is engulfed in flames, denoting the transformative power of creation. Standing upon fire, Phanes emanates a fiery aura, while holding fire in one hand and grasping a staff in the other. This divine figure is encompassed by the Zodiac, symbolizing the interconnectedness of cosmic forces.

The imagery of Phanes encapsulates profound symbolic meaning. The eagle’s wings represent a soaring spirit and the ability to transcend earthly limitations, while the cloven feet suggest a connection to both the material and spiritual realms. Phanes embodies the union of opposites, merging the masculine and feminine aspects into a harmonious whole.

The serpent, a potent symbol of wisdom and transformation, encircles Phanes, symbolizing the continuous cycle of creation, destruction, and rebirth. The serpent’s crown upon the head signifies the divine authority and enlightenment that arise from embracing the transformative journey.

The engulfed egg signifies the potential for new life and the birth of creation. It is engulfed in flames, symbolizing the transformative power of fire, which purifies and brings forth new possibilities. This imagery points to the inherent creative energy and the divine spark within all things.

Phanes stands upon fire, representing passion, vitality, and the intense energy of creation. The fiery hair further emphasizes this connection to the creative force, while the held fire and staff signify the wielding of power and the ability to bring forth and shape existence.

Surrounded by the Zodiac, Phanes signifies the integration of cosmic forces and the interconnectedness of all things. This celestial alignment emphasizes the divine harmony and order that underlies the creative process.

In summary, the imagery of Phanes presents a visual tapestry rich in symbolism. It conveys the merging of opposites, the transformative power of creation, and the interconnectedness of cosmic energies. It invites contemplation on the profound mysteries of life, creativity, and the inherent potential within each individual.

Symbolism of Phanes

The Creative Force and Birth of Eros

Phanes represents the creative force that transcends subjective experience. As Carl Jung emphasizes, Phanes is the “Father of Eros,” an embodiment of the cosmogonic power behind creation. In the Orphic tradition, Phanes is closely associated with Priapos, a god of love and androgyny, akin to Dionysus Lysios. This highlights Phanes’ role as a catalyst for love and the generative impulse that gives rise to life.

Protogonos, the First-Born Bringer of Light

The etymology of Phanes, rooted in the Greek word “phainō,” meaning “I bring to light,” emphasizes its role as a revealer and illuminator. Phanes is referred to as Protogonos, the first-born, closely associated with Eriepaios, Metis, Ge, Eros, and Dionysus. This emphasizes its primal and foundational nature in the cosmic order.

Phanes as a Catalyst for Transformation

Phanes serves as a catalyst for profound transformation and self-discovery. Its presence stimulates the awakening of inner potential and the realization of one’s true nature. In Carl Jung’s exploration of ancient fragments, Phanes is described as emerging from conceiving and conceived elements, symbolizing the birth and creative process. This highlights Phanes’ pivotal role in the journey of individuation and the integration of the self.

Compassionate Awakening and Divine Light

While not explicitly associated with compassion, Phanes’ symbolism can inspire an awakening of compassion within individuals. The radiant nature of Phanes represents the divine light that exists within all beings, fostering empathy, understanding, and love. Embracing the essence of Phanes can lead to the recognition of interconnectedness and the cultivation of compassionate consciousness.

Phanes in the Writings of Carl Jung

In the work of Carl Jung, Phanes is a symbol of the creative force. Carl Jung says,

“Numerous mythological and philosophical attempts have been made to formulate and visualize the creative force which man knows only by subjective experience…. the Orphic figure of Phanes, the ‘Shining One,’ the first-born, the ‘Father of Eros.’ 

When Carl Jung refers to Phanes as an image of the creative force, he is highlighting the concept of an underlying energy or power that is responsible for the process of creation (see Carl Jung CW 5, para. 198). This creative force is something that humans can only grasp through their subjective experiences, as it transcends rational understanding and exists at a deeper level of consciousness.

Jung acknowledges that throughout history, various mythological and philosophical endeavors have attempted to conceptualize and visualize this creative force. He mentions the cosmogonic significance of Eros in Hesiod’s writings, which represents the primal love and generative power that sets creation in motion. Additionally, he refers to Phanes, the Orphic figure known as the “Shining One” and the “Father of Eros,” who symbolizes the emergence of divine love and the creative impulse.

In Orphic terms, Phanes is associated with Priapos, a god of love who is both androgynous and equal to Dionysus Lysios. This further emphasizes the connection between love, creativity, and the cosmogonic principle. Jung draws parallels between Phanes and the Indian deity Kama, the God of love, highlighting their shared significance as cosmogonic principles, or principles related to the creation and organization of the universe.

In summary, Jung’s statement underscores Phanes as a symbol representing the enigmatic creative force that underlies creation itself. Phanes embodies the generative power of love and serves as a bridge between the subjective human experience and the profound mystery of creation.

Phanes in the Red Book by Carl Jung

In the Redbook by Carl Jung we read:

“Phanes is the resplendent day. He is the immortal present. He is the gushing streams. He is the soughing wind. He is hunger and satiation. He is love and lust. He is mourning and consolation. He is promise and fulfillment. He is the light that illuminates every darkness. He is the eternal day. He is the silver light of the moon. He is the flickering stars. He is the shooting star that flashes and falls and lapses. He is the stream of shooting stars that returns every year. He is the returning sun and moon. He is the trailing star that brings wars and noble wine. He is the good and fullness of the year. He fulfills the hours with life-filled enchantment. He is love’s embrace and whisper. He is the warmth of friendship. He is the hope that enlivens the void. He is the magnificence of all renewed suns. He is the joy at every birth. He is the blooming flowers. He is the velvety butterfly’s wing. He is the scent of blooming gardens that fills the nights. He is the song of joy. He is the tree of light. He is perfection, everything done better. He is everything euphonious. He is the well-measured. He is the sacred number. He is the promise of life… (Black Book 7, pp. 16-9).

Meaning of Phanes for Awakening Compassion

The passage reflects a rich symbolism that can be associated with compassion and the awakening of compassion. Phanes, as described in the text, embodies various elements and experiences, each representing facets of compassion.

Phanes being the resplendent day signifies the radiant and illuminating nature of compassion. It is a source of light and warmth that brings understanding, empathy, and healing to others. The mention of gushing streams and soughing wind evokes a sense of flow and movement, indicating the fluid and transformative nature of compassion.

The inclusion of hunger and satiation suggests compassion’s ability to address the fundamental needs of others, both physically and emotionally. It encompasses nourishment and fulfillment, offering solace and support. Love and lust represent the passionate and intense aspects of compassion, signifying a deep connection and desire to alleviate suffering.

Mourning and consolation reflect the compassionate response to pain and loss. Phanes embraces the process of grieving and extends comfort and solace to those in need. Promise and fulfillment embody the potential of compassion to bring hope and deliver on its commitments, fostering trust and renewal.

The references to light, stars, and the eternal day highlight compassion’s timeless and transcendent nature. It persists and shines even in the darkest moments, offering guidance, compassion, and hope. The trailing star, associated with wars and noble wine, signifies compassion’s ability to navigate conflict and bring forth harmony and reconciliation.

Phanes encompasses the fullness of life and the enchantment of every moment. It embraces love’s embrace, friendship’s warmth, and the hope that breathes life into emptiness. It rejoices in the beauty of nature, symbolized by blooming flowers, the butterfly’s wing, and the fragrant gardens that fill the nights.

The song of joy, the tree of light, and the pursuit of perfection allude to compassion’s transformative power in creating a harmonious and compassionate world. It embodies everything that is harmonious, well-measured, and sacred.

Overall, this symbolic portrayal of Phanes emphasizes compassion as a universal force that encompasses understanding, empathy, solace, renewal, and the pursuit of a better world. It invites individuals to awaken their compassionate nature, recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings and embracing the power to alleviate suffering and promote genuine care for others.


  1. Image: Phanes, Francesco de Rossi, Il Salviati–16th century. US public domain via wikimediaLiz Greene, The Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption- 2000
  2. William Keith Chambers Guthrie, Orpheus and Greek Religion: A Study of the Orphic Movement- 1935, p. 80 cited in the Red Book (cited in the notes in the Red Book)
  3. Carl Jung, Cw 5, Symbols of Transformation (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)
  4. Liz Locke, Orpheus and Orphism: Cosmology and Sacrifice at the Boundary.
  5. Sonu Shamdasani, The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition  by C. G. Jung,
  6. Isaac Cory, Ancient Fragments of the Phoenician, Chaldean, Egyptian, Tryian, Carthaginian, Indian, Persian, and Other Writers- 1832
Francesco Salviati , Phanes.16th century. US public domain via wikimedia


I invite you to share your comments and insights on the possibility of compassionate awakening. Your feedback is valuable and helps me gain a deeper understanding of your perspective. Together, we are embarking on a journey towards compassion. Please keep in mind that although I read and appreciate all comments, I am unable to respond individually. Nevertheless, your input plays a vital role in shaping the conversation and fostering a meaningful dialogue. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Let’s awaken into compassion together!

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