Philosopher, Astronomer, Physicist, Poet, Theologist, Musician (c.11.800 BC)
Orpheus the Thracian was the leader and founder of Orphism, a religious and philosophical mystery school concerned with the ancient knowledge of the universe and the Divine. He is also the author of the Orphic Hymns, a collection of hymns that only recently have been acknowledged to express a highly advanced philosophic and scientific knowledge on physics and astronomy. A teacher and a mystic, he has been regarded since antiquity as the Theologist of all the Greeks and the first to compile a comprehensive theogony. His teachings exerted tremendous influence to all subsequent philosophers of the ancient world, from Homer to Pythagoras and Plato.
Orpheus’ undisputed historicity is verified by at least 30 different writers of antiquity who have preserved some of his writings. He was born in Pieria and according to some he was an ancestor of Homer. He travelled to Crete, Egypt and Libya where he was initiated into the mystery schools and, according to other writers, introduced his own philosophical teachings to Egyptian worship. He furthermore founded the Dionysian mysteries in Thrace. The introduction of the Eleusinian Mysteries has also been ascribed to him. Orpheus wrote the theogony of the Greek mythology thousands of years before Hesiod, and as such, considered to be the Father of the theogony of the Greeks.
The Orphics’ primary teachings revolved around the worship of God Dionysos, who represented the savior (Διόνυσος Λυσεύς). Initiates of the Orphic Mysteries sought to unite themselves with God by means of ecstatic worship before undergoing katharsis of their souls. This was thought of as a form of lytrosis. The Orphics were the first to include the concept of man’s dual nature in their philosophy, which was later integrated into Platonic philosophy. Man’s body derived from the earth while his soul was of Divine origin and came from the stars (Γῆς παῖς εἰμὶ καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος). The soul derives from eternity and returns to it during death. Orphism, one of the most ancient mystery schools in the world, was a higher level of initiation and its teachings accessible and understood only by the initiates.
Man’s purpose during his time on Earth is to prepare his soul through a series of acts so as to achieve this spiritual union with the Divine. Initiates of the Orphic Mystery Schools were subjected to a process of spiritual cleansing by means of ritualistic rites, worships, divine teachings, most importantly living a life according to virtue and perhaps through Greek Meditation (Ἑλληνικὸς ΔΙΑ-Λογισμός) in order cease the endless cycle of reincarnation and to achieve union with the Divine in the afterlife.
All of Orpheus’ teachings were written in the form of hymns, in a hidden manner as to be understood only by those initiated into the Mystery Schools. These hymns simply known as the “Orphics” are hymns to Gods, deities, heroes and personified forces, representing philosophical concepts or properties of nature and the universe. The Orphic Hymns were written by Orpheus in 11.835 BC as proven mathematically by astronomer C.S. Chassapis in 1967. They revealed to the initiates truths from a higher divine plane of existence concerning the nature of the Divine, the creation of the Universe, the relationship between man’s soul and the Divine as well as the mysteries of life and death. His cosmogony describes the birth of Gods, their succession, their generations and their divine powers, all of which are allegories of properties and situations of the soul and the creation of the world. Hymns and myths were therefore a central part of the teachings of Orphism.
Apart from the philosophical and theological aspect, Orphism possessed an insuperably advanced knowledge on astronomy and physics that only recently has modern science managed to validate its accuracy. In the Orphic Hymns, Orpheus wrote about the flow of time, the photon and its properties (Hymn of Phanes) and the aether, the fifth element that fills space beyond the atmosphere and which modern science has still to acknowledge. He wrote about the creation of the universe from the cosmic egg in the Hymn to Protogonos, the Big Bang and the principle of duality.
Orpheus and the Orphics had conceived the heliocentric idea, knew about the equal time duration of the Earth’s rotation and the celestial spheres and attributed the motion of the world around the Sun to its attraction, something that millennia later Isaac Newton would prove. In addition, the Orphics knew the global shape of the sky as well as the first laws of the apparent motion of the celestial spheres, knew the ecliptic motion of the Earth around the Sun, that the rotation of the Earth around its axis and around the Sun are the result of natural laws, distinguished the stars into “fiery” and “shooting”, knew about the seven planets, which they named after today’s names and hence are of Orphic origin, introduced the zodiac, introduced the names of the zodiac as well as the names of numerous constellations. They developed astrology, introduced several “ancient” astronomical terms, determined the duration of each season, knew that the diffused light, the light of dawn and that of twilight were due to solar light and the presence of the atmosphere, accepted the existence of mountains on the Moon, used the lunar calendar of twelve conjunctive months, knew about the lunar phases as well as the Moon’s influence on the Earth, knew about the physical properties of lenses and accepted that all phenomena were governed by the universal law, which ensures the stability of the existence of the earth.
The following conclusions can be deducted from Orpheus and the Orphics. Orpheus was a spiritual leader of mankind, bringer of divine knowledge from the aetheric planes. A significant part of the Orphic philosophy was integrated into Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy. Every major philosopher of the ancient Greek world, from the Pre-Socratics to the Neoplatonists including Hesiod, Homer, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aeschylus, Pindar, Pletho were all initiates of Orphism. Homer, the immortal poet of all the oecumene deeply inspired by Orphism borrows multiple verses from Orpheus, as well as several concepts of his philosophy and cosmogony as seen in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Plato, righteously regarded as the greatest successor of Orphic philosophy adopted the symbolism of the black and white horses and the henioch representing man’s instincts, emotions and logic respectively. This comes to show that the Greek philosophy and religion is one continuum, constantly picked up by each successive philosopher and further developed, thus remaining unchanged in its core.
Orpheus was the first to speak of one God. The origin, therefore of monotheism is Orphic, not Jewish. The fact that Orpheus wrote the Orphic Hymns in 11.835 BC proves that the Greeks possessed their own writing system thousands of years before what is accepted by modern historians and that their language was highly evolved to the point where it could express all this knowledge in a poetic manner. It further confirms that at that distant time in the past, when history and mythology blend together, Greeks and especially the Orphics possessed an inexplicably advanced knowledge on the universe and astronomy when scientific instruments and technology were unavailable. That the Assyro-Babylonian priority on astronomy against the Greeks is false and completely unsupported by evidence, since they developed astronomy many thousands of years later and never reached the level that the ancient Greeks did. Greeks never inherited astronomical knowledge from the Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy, but on the contrary Greeks influenced the Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian astronomy in the distant past. Astronomy as a science originated from Greece, especially by the Orphic initiates.
Perhaps, however, the greatest conclusion to bear in mind is that Orpheus and his disciples are an undisputable example that proves what the Greek thought was concerned with. In such an ancient epoch, when other nations’ and tribes’ primary concern was survival, Greek thought was involved with the secrets of the universe.
- “Orphics”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Passas, Ioannis. The Orphics, Including English summary of the main remarks on the Orphic Texts by the astronomer K.S.Khassapis. Helios Encyclopaedia Publications. Athens, 1967. Print.
- Αϋφαντῆς, Γεώργιος. Ἄνθρωπος καὶ Ἐπιστήμη: Ἐνημέρωσις. Εκδόσεις Ἑλληνικὸν Σέλας. Ἀθῆναι, 2009. Print.