Orpheus, Eurydice and the Orphic Mysteries

“Orpheus, the Thracian bard, the great initiator of the Greeks, ceased to be known as a man and was celebrated as a divinity several centuries before the Christian era. ‘As to Orpheus himself,’ writes Thomas Taylor, ‘scarcely a vestige of his life is to be found amongst the immense ruin of time. …

“Orpheus was founder of the Grecian mythological system which he used as the medium for the promulgation of his philosophical doctrines. The origin of his philosophy is uncertain. He may have got it from the Brahmans, there being legends to the effect that he got it from a Hindu. … Orpheus was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries, from which he secured extensive knowledge of magic, astrology, sorcery, and medicine. The Mysteries of the Cabiri at Samothrace were also conferred upon him, and these undoubtedly contributed to his knowledge of medicine and music.

“The romance of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the tragic episodes of Greek mythology and apparently constitutes the outstanding feature of the Orphic rites.” ~Manly P. Hall

The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

According to the tale, Eurydice, while trying to escape from a would-be rapist, was bitten by a poisonous snake on the heel of her foot, and died. Orpheus went to the underworld and convinced Pluto (Hades) to release her. But Hades put a condition on it. Orpheus had to return to the realm of the living without once looking back. If he did, Eurydice could follow. But Orpheus became fearful that she wasn’t behind him and turned around to see. With a cry of dismay, she was pulled back to the underworld.

The Symbology of The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

There is much spiritual symbology in this tale, and that is the point. Such tales are rarely if ever, intended to be taken literally. It is the symbology of it that matters.

First, we have a very obvious one. Orpheus let his fear get control of him. As a result, he failed in his quest. Someone needs to explain this to the followers of Trumpery. If you let your fear take control of you, you make bad choices and fail in your quests. Wise people have known this for many centuries. Fools refuse to listen.

The heel is often a symbol of moving forward. Being bitten by a poisonous snake probably represents that Eurydice took some false advice, perhaps from a being of darkness, and went to her death while thinking she was moving forward. We can see this as a warning to be careful who we take advice from.

While many would assume the land of the living to be the material world, it is more likely to mean the spiritual world where every being lives forever. So Eurydice became materialistic (another interpretation of the snake) and therefore was trapped in the realm of matter.

The whole story is a warning to not let our fears of the unknown—the spiritual realm—prevent us from developing our spiritual self. Also, to not cling to the temporary things of matter. Those who cling to matter become trapped in it. Those who seek higher realms can reach them if they know what they are doing and are not following a false teacher.

Man to God

We should take careful note of what Mr. Hall says about Orpheus being a man who ceased to be a man and became a god in the eyes of the Greeks. This is not something limited to the ancient Greeks. It is the same thing that was done with Jesus and Buddha. Too often people can’t understand the greatness of truly awakened masters so think they must be gods.

Orphic Mysteries

There is more to the Orphic mysteries than just the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Details of the group are scarce. It is believed that they influenced the Pythagoreans and Platonists, so we can get some idea from those philosophies. What is known is that the Orphic views included the idea that the soul was divine and immortal. They also practiced methods that were supposed to release them from being trapped in materialism and aid them in communicating with God. Since Orpheus was known as a musician and is depicted with a lyre, we can assume that music was used in their methods of awakening the spirit and soul. This was also true of the Pythagoreans as I’ve previously covered in this blog.

Hero of myth

The Hero of Myth and the Soul

The Hero of Myth

To have no heroes is to have no aspiration, to live on the momentum of the past, to be thrown back upon routine, sensuality, and the narrow self.” ~Charles Horton Cooley

I like the TV show Henry Danger. I know it’s supposed to be a show for teens, but I also know many adults watch it. If you have never watched it, I suggest you view a few episodes. It may have weak plots with huge holes, but it’s usually very funny. It’s also good as an illustration of The Hero at an early age.

Henry Hart, AKA Kid Danger, has the ability to move very fast. He can jump out of the way of bullets or grab a knife thrown at him out of the air. A recent three-part episode ends with Henry permanently losing his super power. I know the show is fiction. Yet, when Henry sat dejected after losing his power, I felt very sad. This shouldn’t happen with a character I know is fictional. It does for a good reason. Henry is a personification of The Hero of Myth as a youth. This hero represents a very important part of each of us. As such, it isn’t fiction at all. So we are affected at a deep level when we see The Hero hurt in any way.

About The Hero

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars was another personification of this Hero of Myth. George Lucas was a student of Joseph Campbell who wrote about myth and its importance to us. Hercules, Jason, and David (as in David & Goliath) are other examples of this hero.

The general rule is that the hero has to face a powerful enemy and defeat them. It may be an individual, an army, or a government. The hero may get injured, but still has to come out the winner. In the Henry Danger episode, Henry is Dejected after losing his power, but decides to continue fighting bad guys as a superhero’s sidekick. He doesn’t give up. A true personification of The hero.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~Joseph Campbell

The Meaning

Our culture has filled our heads but emptied our hearts, stuffed our wallets but starved our wonder. It has fed our thirst for facts but not for meaning or mystery. It produces “nice” people, not heroes.” ~Peter Kreeft

Now if you think this is all just a lot of hero-worship, you are wrong. The hero of myth is a symbol. It is a representation of the human soul and spirit. Like The Hero, our soul finds itself trapped in a situation is doesn’t like. The world of matter and materialism is not a pleasant place for the spirit and soul. It isn’t always pleasant for the body and mind either, but it’s worse for the spirit and soul.

Like The Hero, the soul faces powerful opposition. The forces of darkness and materialism are strong. Not only the material ones such as governments and businesses, but also the spiritual ones. The fallen angels and demons don’t want the soul to awaken. They also don’t want awakened souls saving the world. So the soul/Hero faces an uphill battle. That is why any good spiritual school teaches students to work hard and deal with adversity. They are training heroes, not couch potatoes.

myth magic

Myth Magic and Mystery of All Ages

“It is true that, at least apparently, the modern world is not rich in myths. … We are thinking of the myth as a type of human behavior and, at the same time, as an element of civilization—that is, of the myth as one finds it in traditional societies. For at the level of individual experience it has never completely disappeared: it makes itself felt in the dreams, the fantasies and the longings of the modern man. …

“But what now interests us above all is to find out what it is, in the modern world, that fills the central position occupied by the myth in traditional societies. In other words,while recognizing that the great mythical themes continue to repeat themselves in the obscure depths of the psyche, we still wonder whether the myth, as an exemplary pattern of human behavior, may not also survive among our contemporaries in more or less degraded forms. It seems that a myth itself, as well as the symbols it brings into play, never quite disappears.” ~Mircea Eliade

Myth Magic

There was a time when the telling of myths was an important job in any society. Whether it was a bard, a priest, or a philosopher, they taught the people using myth.

We all know that when a teacher tries to fill the students head with dry facts, he generally fails. The student probably retains no more that ten or twenty percent of those facts. But when the same facts are embedded in an interesting story, the student will remember the tale and the facts hiding in it.

There is also the case of the students who are not yet ready to learn certain things and will reject them if they are given to her as simple facts. Such truths can also be hidden in myths and the students will remember the myths, even when they don’t believe. Later, when they start to awaken, they may remember some of those mythical tales and recognize the facts they held.

Myth Magic of Today

While there has been a great effort by materialistic powers to kill the myth, even going so far as to change the meaning of the word to fantasies and tall tales, they have failed. Myth magic is all around us in books, movies, songs, and other forms of entertainment. I’m sure it can even be found in many popular video games. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Star Wars movies of George Lucas are pure myth. It is no secret that he was a student of myth-master Joseph Campbell. He based the stories on the standard myth of the hero versus the great evil found in many ancient traditional myths. Both Luke Skywalker and Hans solo represent the hero side, though it is primarily Luke who is the traditional hero of mythology. The emperor and Darth Vader represent the great evil. It is David and Goliath as space opera.

The Harry potter books similarly represent modern myth telling. Harry and his friends represent the good, the hero. Lord Valdemort and his Death Eaters are clearly the evil. Like Star Wars, the heroes are young while the bad guys are generally somewhat older. This isn’t age prejudice, but a way of saying that new thinking is needed to overcome the evil around us. Old ways and old thinking leads to death. Continue reading “Myth Magic and Mystery of All Ages”

spiritual purity, personal redemption, spiritual quest, spiritual nature, spiritual character

Personal Redemption, Myths and Allegory

“Long periods of probation were imposed, so that he knowledge of how to become as the gods might remain the sole possession of the worthy. Lest that knowledge be lost, however, it was concealed in allegories and myths which were meaningless to the profane but self-evident to those acquainted with that theory of personal redemption. … Christianity itself may be cited as an example. The entire New Testament is in fact an ingeniously concealed exposition of the secret processes of human regeneration. The characters … are really the personification of certain processes which take place n the human body when an begins the task of consciously liberating himself. …

“The garments and ornamentation supposedly worn by the gods are also keys, for in the Mysteries clothing was considered as synonymous with form. The degree of spirituality or materialism of the organism was signified by the quality, beauty,and value of the garments worn.” ~Manly P. Hall

Myths and Allegory

Some Christians don’t like the idea that many of the stories found in the Bible, especially the New Testament are allegorical. They think that they cannot be true, historical events, and also allegorical. That is not the case.

Jesus carefully chose his twelve Apostles so that they would have an allegorical meaning. They were still real people. Jesus may have actually turned water to wine at a wedding. But He chose to do that because it has great spiritual significance if one understands the allegory of the tale. And the disciples of Jesus didn’t write down everything He did. For the most part, what was written was that which had an important spiritual lesson hid within the allegory of the story.

Personal Redemption

Mr. Hall says the allegory found in Christian scripture (as well as Hindu, Egyptian, etc.) was primarily about personal redemption. That is true. They are not intended to be fun stories to read. Nor are they intended to be allegorical puzzles to be solved just for the fun of solving them. They are intended to help seekers learn and awaken.

When Hall says personal redemption, he means what most of us today call spiritual awakening. It is a redemption because we are redeeming ourselves from the lost world of matter and moving back toward the eternal world of spirit. Continue reading “Personal Redemption, Myths and Allegory”