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Confused.

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Thu May 30, 2013 10:07 am

Hi,

I have read some snippets of philosophy from Timothy Jay Alexanders books but was left a tad perplexed by some of the theories.

For example, there is this concept of reincarnation and the concept of reunification, where a soul has lived so many lives and finally reaches a stage of no longer possessing the need to be reborn. So how then does on 'purify' ones soul? Are there any books which outline the ancient Greek activities for this as the book didn't really disclose the information to my knowledge. I have a feeling this will tie in with leading a virtuous life and the worship of the Gods. The theory to me almost sounds foreign, as though this could have been introduced at a later date, perhaps when and if the Hellenes came into contact with some sect of Hinduism.

I also would then like to know more about the after life, the purification of the soul, where the soul finally rests, if it ever comes to rest.

I suppose I am looking for more information on the afterlife and the soul, if salvation existed as is hinted in the books I've read and if such a belief need be adopted or if there were other theories which would seem reasonable in the 21st century.

Another area of confusion was when 'spirits of punishment' were mentioned, on the one hand we all derive from a source which is all good and evil cannot exist (it's a state of no mind which I understand and agree with) but then if someone commits an un-virtuous act and distances themselves from the grace of the Gods where do spirits of punishment come into it? Surely the bad experienced isn't due to actual spirits but because you have distanced yourself from the Gods and thus withdrawn their favor, presence and harmony from your life.

Any book recommendations which can set all this straight for me would be welcomed.

Thanks.
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p.s,

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Thu May 30, 2013 10:13 am

I know there is another post on book recommendations but I felt my questions were fairly specific dealing with philosophy and the ancient Hellenes view of the the soul/afterlife and why bad things seem to happen to people rather then the practice of worship.
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Re: Confused.

Post  Erodius on Thu May 30, 2013 1:40 pm

Worshipper of Eros wrote:Hi,

I have read some snippets of philosophy from Timothy Jay Alexanders books but was left a tad perplexed by some of the theories.

Hello, and welcome. Smile

Tim's books are an okay resource for bare newcomers to Olympianism, but they are, overall, very bare-bones, and should not be taken as anything all-encompassing.

Worshipper of Eros wrote:For example, there is this concept of reincarnation and the concept of reunification, where a soul has lived so many lives and finally reaches a stage of no longer possessing the need to be reborn. So how then does on 'purify' ones soul? Are there any books which outline the ancient Greek activities for this as the book didn't really disclose the information to my knowledge. I have a feeling this will tie in with leading a virtuous life and the worship of the Gods. The theory to me almost sounds foreign, as though this could have been introduced at a later date, perhaps when and if the Hellenes came into contact with some sect of Hinduism.

Reincarnation, or palingenesis, was an extant, though not universal, belief in Graeco-Roman religions. It was primarily a characteristic of the Mystery cults and philosophical schools, both of which had a considerably different character than common folk religion. However, as time went by, from the Hellenistic period onward, the Mystery cults became increasingly popular and began superseding folk religion at least in the personal religious lives of many people. Their popularity was so significant that, in order to keep up with the populace, many state and traditional cults that were not originally connected with Mystery religions began adopting aspects and teachings from them.

The teaching of the Soul as trapped in a mortal body, due to an ancient, source-crime it has committed, and continuing through cycles of death and rebirth until she is purified of her guilt to finally achieve the salvation of divine reconciliation, is a teaching that is straight out of the Orphic religion — which is a particular religion that arose out of the context of Greek and Italic Olympianism, and of which I am a devout adherent and student. Smile These particular ideas are quintessentially Orphic, at least in terms of Olympianism, however, Orphic and Orphistic/Orphic-influenced theology came to permeate much of theological and philosophical thought in Late Antiquity. Orphism was a considerable rival of early Christianity, primarily because it answered similar questions, offered similar hopes to its adherents, had an organized and sophisticated theology and cosmology, had a strong moral/ethical emphasis, was universalistic in scope (in that it considers itself meant for all peoples and all the world), had, originally, a considerable evangelical drive, offered clear teachings about death and the afterlife, and promised its devotees at least a hope for salvation.

The body and practice of Orphism are all focused on exactly this purification of the Soul; that's really what our religion is, a divinely-revealed system for the purification and reconciliation of the Soul. As far as how this is actually done, that is within the bounds of the Mysteria, which it is not permitted to discuss or explain in public spheres or to individuals who are not initiates or catechumens. What I can say, is that the first step is Things Heard (the teachings one receives from one's mentor), followed by Things Done (the physical rituals done with an understanding of the Things Heard, which together provide the foundation for Wisdom, which generates Virtue — itself the ambrosia of reconciliation.

Although the Orphic Mysteria are not available to the public in any book, there are a few resources you can explore if you are interested in the concept of the purification and salvation of the Soul in the context of ancient Graeco-Roman religion:

The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library by KS Guthrie: a collection of all the extant philosophical writings from the Pythagorean school. Pythagoreanism was a philosophical tradition that was largely indistinguishable from Orphism, and might be seen as a sort of 'particular Orphic church'. Pythagoras is regarded as a prophet in Orphism.

The Ancient Mysteries: a Sourcebook of Sacred Texts by Marvin W. Meyer: a general introduction to all of the major Mystery religions of Antiquity

Orpheus and Greek Religion by WKC Guthrie: a broad survey of Orphic religion


Worshipper of Eros wrote:I also would then like to know more about the after life, the purification of the soul, where the soul finally rests, if it ever comes to rest.

I suppose I am looking for more information on the afterlife and the soul, if salvation existed as is hinted in the books I've read and if such a belief need be adopted or if there were other theories which would seem reasonable in the 21st century.


Such broad questions! Laughing But I'll try to give a very succinct answer. Orphism teaches palingenesis, so at least as long as one is caught in palingenesis, the general afterlife is the world in which we currently reside. Purification of the Soul/salvation is achieved by means of the Mysteria, and the 'active ingredient' is Virtue — a concept which, for us, is much broader than how we usually use the word 'virtue'. In Orphism, the Soul never 'rests', it is immortal. However, once purified and accepted by the Gods, the Soul is liberated from palingenesis and reconciled to the Gods, becoming fully immortal and fully divine. As a Divine Soul, a Soul works toward ever increasing Virtue through the governance of the cosmos, with the ultimate, final result of reunification with the Unspeakable Source.

Worshipper of Eros wrote:Another area of confusion was when 'spirits of punishment' were mentioned, on the one hand we all derive from a source which is all good and evil cannot exist (it's a state of no mind which I understand and agree with) but then if someone commits an un-virtuous act and distances themselves from the grace of the Gods where do spirits of punishment come into it? Surely the bad experienced isn't due to actual spirits but because you have distanced yourself from the Gods and thus withdrawn their favor, presence and harmony from your life.

Evil does exist, just not independently of Good. Evil does not have a Source. It is like darkness. You cannot add darkness to a room, and if you are sitting near a fire and walk away from it into the dark, you are not approaching the source of the darkness, you are only getting further away from the source of light.

There are also many sorts of daemones. Some daemones exist to serve the Good by making sure that the Soul experiences the consequences and penalties that are a necessary part of mortal life. These daemones are not evil, but we obviously experience their action as bothersome and unpleasant. There are also cacodaemones, 'bad-spirits', some of whom arise naturally because of the gradual degeneration of existence, others are created by good Souls rejecting bad, and others may be deceased Souls themselves who have committed some great crime in life and malevolently wander the world — essentially, what you might call 'ghosts' or 'lemures/larvae'.

I hope I have adequately answered all of your questions — please forgive me/let me know if I've forgotten something. I tend to get sidetracked in explaining complicated things. :-S

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Confused.

Post  Callisto on Thu May 30, 2013 2:00 pm

An example of the belief in reincarnation can be found in the Myth of Er from Plato's Republic. You should be able to find various downloadable copies online.

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Re: Confused.

Post  J_Agathokles on Fri May 31, 2013 4:55 am

I also have a quote for the Argonautica of Apollōnios Rhodios that might be a sign of belief in reïncarnation of one kind or another:

"Meantime from the ship the chiefs had sent Aethalides the swift herald, to whose care they entrusted their messages and the wand of Hermes, his sire, who had granted him a memory of all things, that never grew dim; and not even now, though he has entered the unspeakable whirlpools of Acheron, has forgetfulness swept over his soul, but its fixed doom is to be ever changing its abode; at one time to be numbered among the dwellers beneath the earth, at another to be in the light of the sun among living men."
- Loeb, Vol. 1: Apollonius Rhodius, "Argonautica". Book I, lines 640-648.

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Re: Confused.

Post  Erodius on Fri May 31, 2013 12:02 pm

From the Orphic Rhapsodiae:

224. "Fathers and sons in the halls are the same, and neat housewives and mothers and daughters — all come out of each other in the succeeding generations.
…since the soul of men in the circles of time goes in turn among animals, now this one and now that. At one time a horse, then it becomes again a sheep, then a bird, a sight of fear, again the form of a dog with deep-toned bark, and the race of cold snakes that creeps upon the bright earth."

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Confused.

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Fri May 31, 2013 1:25 pm

Thank you all for your answers, very much appreciated.

I'm not sure if I want a specific look into any particular school of thought but a general overview so I can get a broad scope on the different beliefs. Is there not a book written which manages such a thing?

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Re: Confused.

Post  Erodius on Fri May 31, 2013 2:06 pm

In this case, not really. There are numerous surveys of classical philosophy available — I'm sure of varied quality and depth, and there is that anthology that I mentioned of texts from various Mystery cults. I should have also mentioned Martin's Hellenistic Religions, which is an excellent introduction to religions of the Hellenistic and succeeding eras; it's very concise, very readable, and affordable.

Actually, Martin's work is one of the very few I've ever run across that deals extensively with belief and theology in Classical religion. The author is the chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Vermont. I used it extensively on a term paper I wrote this semester on Hellenistic Mystery cults.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Confused.

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Fri May 31, 2013 4:06 pm

I suppose I just feel so overwhelmed with the many philosophers and their ideas, as well as the mystery traditions. I just need to choose a book and delve in at any end and hopefully I'll make my way out on the other side.

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