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Tag: Orphic Mysteries

The Fall and the Mysteries

“Socrates, in the Phaedo, speaks of “the ancient doctrine that souls pass out of this world to the other, and there exist, and then come back hither from the dead, and are born again.”

In Hesiod’s Works and Days there is the image of the Wheel of Life. In the mystical tradition there was prominent the wide-spread notion of a fall of higher forms of life into the human sphere of limitation and misery. The Orphics definitely taught that the soul of man fell from the stars into the prison of this earthly body, sinking from the upper regions of fire and light into the misty darkness of this dismal vale. The fall is ascribed to some original sin, which entailed expulsion from the purity and perfection of divine existence and had to be expiated by life on earth and by purgation in the nether world.”

Both Plato and Empedocles were expelled from a Pythagorean society or school, for revealing the secret teachings to the profane.

(R.D. Hicks: “The Platonic myths afford ample evidence that Plato was perfectly familiar with all the leading features of this strange creed. The divine origin of the soul, its fall from bliss and the society of the gods, its long pilgrimage of penance through hundreds of generations, its task of purification from earthly pollution, its reincarnation in successive bodies, its upward and downward progress, and the law of retribution for all offenses.”)

“There is evidence pointing to the fact that Plato was quite familiar with the Mystery teachings, if not actually an initiate. In the Phaedrus he says:

“….being initiated into those Mysteries which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all Mysteries….we were free from the molestation of evils which otherwise await us in a future period of time. Likewise in consequence of this divine initiation, we become spectators of entire, simple, immovable and blessed visions resident in the pure light.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 8.

Pythagoras, an initiate of the Orphic Mysteries, and the Transmigration of Souls.

“…Pythagoras was a Pelasgian from Samos who developed his doctrine of the Transmigration of Souls as the result of foreign travel. According to his biographer Porphyrius he went to Crete, the seat of the purest Orphic doctrine, for initiation by the Idaean Dactyls.

They ritually purified him with a thunderbolt, that is to say they made a pretense of killing him with either a meteoric stone or a neolithic axe popularly mistaken for a thunderbolt; after which he lay face-downwards on the sea shore all night covered with black lamb’s wool; then spent ‘three times nine hallowed days and nights in the Idaean Cave’; finally emerged for his initiation.

Presumably he then drank the customary Orphic cup of goat’s milk and honey at dawn (the drink of Cretan Zeus who had been born in that very cave) and was garlanded with white flowers. Porphyrius does not record exactly when all this took place…Pythagorus was reborn at the winter solstice festival as an incarnation of Zeus….and went through the usual mimetic transformation: bull, hawk, woman, lion, fish, serpent, etc.” 

–Robert Graves, The White Goddess, pp. 282-3.

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