Sacred Symbol of Male Creative Power
By Alain Daniélou
Published by Inner Traditions
128 pages, paperback, 85 colour and B&W illustrations
Alain Daniélou was a dancer, musician and distinguished orientalist, who authored more than 30 books on the philosophy, religion and art of India and the Mediterranean.
Daniélou states that only the erect penis, known as the phallus, can emit semen, the source of life. As such, the phallus is the image of the creative principle, symbolising the process by which the Supreme Being procreates the Universe. The phallus is also a symbol of virility, courage and power.
Daniélou traces the beginning of the cult of the phallus to the Neolithic era following the end of the Ice Age about 8000 BCE. The tradition has survived intact in India. Its traces can be found throughout all the civilisations of Mesopotamia, the Middle East, Africa and especially Egypt, the Aegean, Thrace, Italy, the entire pre-Celtic world including Ireland, Sweden, Siberia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Melanesia, Oceania, Polynesia and the Americas. Wherever the phallic cult spread, standing stones, pillars, obelisks and columns were erected.
Ithyphallic shepherd gods were found in virtually all cultures. They were typically portrayed as being surrounded by animals. Perhaps the most notable examples were Min, Amon, Ra, Osiris, Pan, Priapus, Sylvanus and Faunus. Daniélou believes these lords of the animals were descendants of the ancient mistress of the animals in Paleolithic times. The antiquity of this symbol explains its traces in all later civilisations.
Daniélou traces the associations of the phallic cult, and sees them in the bull and the goat. He then extends this association to horns, and the lunar crescent that represents the horns.
Daniélou believes that the phallus, as the source of life, is the form by which the transcendent Creator, being unmanifest, can be evoked.
The primordial divinity is androgynous, with its division into a dualistic system being for the purpose of procreating the world. The primordial state of happiness thus disappeared, to be recreated temporarily through the union of opposites in a state of love. The hermaphrodite, having no division, represents absolute sensual pleasure. Ritual androgyny was linked to divinatory power in shamanic practice. Daniélou believes that the progressive reintegration of the sexes until androgyny is achieved should be the goal of humanity as a whole.
In Eastern and Western traditions, the phallus was not just a reproductive organ. It was an organ of bliss, a source of divine pleasure and even salvation. Daniélou states that man is merely the “phallus-bearer,” the servant of his sexual organ.
The author says that all beings are born from an offering of sperm hurled into the fire of desire. Sperm, being the essence of life, is the ultimate oblation, the purest sacrificial elixir. The womb represents universal energy. It is only when the phallus, the source of semen, is within the womb that God and the Universe can be made manifest.
The phallus serves as protection against the evil eye, danger and misfortune. To this day in Mediterranean countries, men will still touch their phallus to avert the evil eye, and symbolic representations of the phallus are planted in fields.
Daniélou’s arguments are supported by copious quotes from numerous traditions and their texts, effectively demonstrating the universal nature of the phallic cult. He clearly has a keen eye for elements of commonality within traditions that may seem disparate at first glance.
The numerous quotes in the book provide launch points for further research and the opportunity to revisit mythological writings with a renewed understanding of their underlying meanings.
The large number of photographic representations and illustrations of phallic art help to bring the text to life. While the explicit nature of the art may deter prudes from this book, The Phallus: Sacred Symbol of Male Creative Power would not have been as effective without them.
A great introduction to an often shunned aspect of religion.
– Reviewed by Tony
Mierzwicki in New Dawn No. 95