“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.
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.