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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:43 am

Concur (though not on the epic-era religion doesn't contain any religious teaching part!).  Even the epic-era religion-- and the religion of the epics in particular-- does provide us with ideas of considerable religious value.  The tragic nature of Achilles is impossible to understand outside of religion.  What differentiates him from a figure like Hamlet is his rootedness in a traditional society in which the Gods have real existential weight as to decision-making and practical virtue.  The oscillations of Hamlet are grandiose; even after visitation by his father's ghost he is not reinserted back into the order of proper action.  But it only takes Thetis to tell Achilles to accede to the will of Zeus and give Hector's corpse back to Priam for the hero to empathize with the old man; viz. that the Gods are angry with him, and he must adjust his action.  Which is enough for one straying too far from the social order (obeying the funeral customs), etc.  This is not an elaborate metaphysical system of course, but I think it is of real religious value.  As is what we find in Hesiod as well, I'd say...
Of course the epic sources are not totally devoid of religious value — however, they require a much greater level of pre-existent familiarity with the relevant symbolism, context, and hermeneutics than more overtly metaphysical works if one is expected to make any meaningful sense of them at all. And, as both Socrates and Proclus warned, they can be seriously misinterpreted and have the potential to foster gravely impious and absurd ideas to the 'uncoached', so to speak. It was Proclus who quasi-jokingly suggested that the only religious texts that should be available to the impressionable public are the Timaeus and the Chaldaean Oracles — all others having potential for grave misuse.

Yes-- Evola and Pound would also agree with this notion, insofar as Orphism is concerned.  I would, too, though I think the word "blame" would be a bit too harsh here.  
I wish I recalled exactly which article/passage it was I read (it was some time ago, and was rather old, I think it may have been a quotation in Guthrie), but its writer seemed to have quite a grudge against the Mystery cults, and the Orphics in particular. The gist of the argument was that we were essentially the ones responsible for the collapse of the Classical world, by being the first 'evangelists', the first ones to preach a religion 'of the next world, rather than this one', based around a mystical rather than tactile reality, and focused on Mysteries, wherein a thing's reality is seen as quite different from its visible appearance. And that, although we never succeeded in converting the world, we diffused our ideas enough through the Hellenistic world to make the religious environment far less hostile to Christianity when its time came. Essentially, he was making the assertion that A. Christianity brought down Classical civilization and started the 'Dark Ages', and B. Christianity could not have succeeded without the spiritual roadbuilding efforts of the Orphics. I.e., if Orphism had never come along and begun the process of transforming public understanding of Classical religion, the archaic, theology-light, and practicalistic religion of Homer and Hesiod would not have provided a habitable setting for Christianity to grow. And, although rather anti-religious and bitter in tone, I cannot say I totally disagree that he has a valid point.

Yes, they just want the heroic goods so that they can dispense with the Gods and feast on the intellectual acumen of their own reflection in the garb of antiquity.  Why bother with the spiritual realities behind the myths when you can look down on the myths from the pseudo-Olympus of critical theory?
I just do not believe, myself, that it is possible to have a really genuine understanding of *any* mytho-religious story if you divorce the story from its religious context. As one of my favorite religious studies professors repeatedly made us recite in his class as we studied the development and evolution of the New Testament "Any text, without its context, is a pretext!"

The vast majority of so-called 'critical theory' is, as far as I see it, usually 100% pure, unadulterated pretext. Worth less than the paper it's printed on.

_________________
"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: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:27 pm

Erodius wrote:Of course the epic sources are not totally devoid of religious value — however, they require a much greater level of pre-existent familiarity with the relevant symbolism, context, and hermeneutics than more overtly metaphysical works if one is expected to make any meaningful sense of them at all.
I quite agree.

Erodius wrote:And, as both Socrates and Proclus warned, they can be seriously misinterpreted and have the potential to foster gravely impious and absurd ideas to the 'uncoached', so to speak. It was Proclus who quasi-jokingly suggested that the only religious texts that should be available to the impressionable public are the Timaeus and the Chaldaean Oracles — all others having potential for grave misuse.
But isn't pointing to Socrates just to point to Plato having Socrates say things?  And isn't gesturing to Proclus and Plato basically to gesture to Platonism as a metaphysical system with an "Orphic" rejection of the world as a copy, as a lower phase of ontological existence?  In which case one might question, as I do, the suspicion of some of the Platonists towards earthly life.  I am willing to regard its nature as illusory and even fundamentally marked by suffering as a result of a Fall...  And I have a great deal of intellectual respect for Plato and Proclus, though I am not a Platonist in any meaningful sense.  However, I am disinclined to take too seriously the ideas of what is outside of (their conception of) piety by those who believe in Plato's theory of Forms.

Erodius wrote:
I wish I recalled exactly which article/passage it was I read (it was some time ago, and was rather old, I think it may have been a quotation in Guthrie), but its writer seemed to have quite a grudge against the Mystery cults, and the Orphics in particular. The gist of the argument was that we were essentially the ones responsible for the collapse of the Classical world, by being the first 'evangelists', the first ones to preach a religion 'of the next world, rather than this one', based around a mystical rather than tactile reality, and focused on Mysteries, wherein a thing's reality is seen as quite different from its visible appearance. And that, although we never succeeded in converting the world, we diffused our ideas enough through the Hellenistic world to make the religious environment far less hostile to Christianity when its time came. Essentially, he was making the assertion that A. Christianity brought down Classical civilization and started the 'Dark Ages', and B. Christianity could not have succeeded without the spiritual roadbuilding efforts of the Orphics. I.e., if Orphism had never come along and begun the process of transforming public understanding of Classical religion, the archaic, theology-light, and practicalistic religion of Homer and Hesiod would not have provided a habitable setting for Christianity to grow. And, although rather anti-religious and bitter in tone, I cannot say I totally disagree that he has a valid point.
I am not sure who the author is you found in Guthrie, but the idea sounds rather Nietzschean.  Nietzsche was a huge influence on Evola, but even Evola saw his limits (and Evola was not one to read atheistic philosophers with any seriousness at all).  Nietzsche claims that the Forms make the world less perfect, and rails against life-denying asceticism.  I think his judgments are inflated and rather over the top.  But to a certain extent I would belong to this attitude towards antiquity, to the extent that I follow the metaphysics of Parmenides in the notion that what exists for thinking, and Being, are one and the same (there is nothing you can conceive of that is not Being); what exists for thinking is the same as the cause of thought (our thoughts are not ours, but merely Being perceiving itself through us), the whole set of ontological principles that indicate the unified nature of Being prior to any qualitative diminution that we see in Plato's Forms, or emanationist theories built out of Platonism.  And in this sense I would even say that the Nietzsche-flavored commentary you read would perhaps only apply to aspects of Platonism, not necessarily the Mystery religions (or even Orphism, whatever its specific metaphysical articulation) in general.

What this Nietzschean coterie fails to understand is that to the "practical/tactile" Greeks before Orphism or Platonism or whatever, this world and the next was already deeply-interlinked.  It was already grounded in a comportment to traditional conceptions of the proper ordering of society based on ultimately religious notions of where we stand in relation to the gods.

Nor is this attitude really fair in regard to Christianity.  I am not one that oozes in sympathy with Christianity, but I'll be the first to agree that some of the anti-Christianity you see floating around are often deeply unfair and frankly quite misleading.  For instance, I believe that the Truth that Parmenides brought back to us was hidden away by Plato behind the Forms.  But (as I was discussing with a friend the other day) Plotinus rescued art from Plato, just as Iamblichus rescued matter, and indeed also, the early Christians, particularly the Cappadocians of the Orthodox Church, rescued Greek philosophy (insofar as their theology continued it) from emanationism (to the extent that the ontology of the hypostases of the Trinity interact without any loss in being).  This would go against the Nietzschean idea of Platonism (and the Forms, later emanationism) leading up to the even "worse" (and more "life-denying") spiritualities of Christianity.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:45 pm

But isn't pointing to Socrates just to point to Plato having Socrates say things? And isn't gesturing to Proclus and Plato basically to gesture to Platonism as a metaphysical system with an "Orphic" rejection of the world as a copy, as a lower phase of ontological existence? In which case one might question, as I do, the suspicion of some of the Platonists towards earthly life. I am willing to regard its nature as illusory and even fundamentally marked by suffering as a result of a Fall... And I have a great deal of intellectual respect for Plato and Proclus, though I am not a Platonist in any meaningful sense. However, I am disinclined to take too seriously the ideas of what is outside of (their conception of) piety by those who believe in Plato's theory of Forms.
I'm a bit unclear as to what you mean here. However, it seems to be to be part of a common public misunderstanding of the view of Orphic theology (and, resultantly, the later Platonism it so heavily merges with), that the world is abhorred completely as entirely corrupt and to be rejected in order to save the Soul from further aeons in Hades. It isn't really that simple; and seems, in some cases, somewhat of a paradox. The Orphic cosmos is essentially emanationist, and our world (by which I mean the animate surface of the earth) is a very low level in the cosmic hierarchy. It is also an accidental level, it not only is corrupted by a Fall, but itself exists because of the seed of the Fall — i.e. when Earth first experienced selfishness, and desired her own creation without the consent of her 'colleagues' or superiors. As such, it is our teaching that our world was born from a cosmic accident. However, there is only one creative source (the unseparated cosmic Demiurge), and thus, Earth's 'sub-creation' is built from the same 'instruction manual' (which we would identify with the Platonic Forms) as the rest of existence, and so, being as the Demiurgic power is good, it is likewise erroneous to say that our world is entirely bad either. The material world is ultimately, deep down, good, because it was built from something good. It is merely a 'botched' creation, so to speak, weakened and corrupted by the egoism passed down through the world's Earth-ancestry. A simile I would give is that we see the world as akin to a cake, baked by someone who had no experience in cooking, with a recipe from a stolen cookbook.

The Soul's salvation, as we teach it, cannot come about through the separation of the rational soul from the body and rejection of the irrational soul — not hardly! That would devastate the world and leave it far worse than it is already, leaving it populated by a race of entirely irrational and confused daemones with no hope of lifting themselves up. The Higher Soul (the portion of Zagreus) is imprisoned in the body and must be released, but this release is not simply expelling the rational soul from the body. Instead, this rational soul was planted into our bodies, alongside the irrational soul, in order that the fallen, irrational soul can be reconciled to it. We describe this often as the soul's internal marriage. Mythically, it is already shown, through the Titans'/Gigantes' continued existence and bitterness after their ousting by the Gods, that a simple triumphant reconquest of a land in rebellion does not restore peace and order. This ancient anger and greed cannot be simply destroyed, and the Titanic soul cannot be forced to accede to the Divine soul. She can only be persuaded, and must join with the Divine soul of her own volition. The Self caused the fall, and we say, only the Self can thus fix it.

We do not seek to drive Heaven away from Earth, as sometimes depicted, but rather, to bring Heaven to Earth fully. I.e. rather than condemn Earth's flawed creation, we aspire to, one soul at a time, fix the mistakes, and reconcile it to Heaven.

What this Nietzschean coterie fails to understand is that to the "practical/tactile" Greeks before Orphism or Platonism or whatever, this world and the next was already deeply-interlinked. It was already grounded in a comportment to traditional conceptions of the proper ordering of society based on ultimately religious notions of where we stand in relation to the gods.
That's true, but I think the idea whoever it was was more trying to get at was that, what really separates Mystery religions from exoteric Greek religion is that, speaking generally, the exoteric religion did not really offer much in the way of personal transformation or hope for something better. It was more concerned with maintaining, as you say, the rightful order of things, and keeping societal stability. One's lot in life was not really one's business to question or seek to change. As such, I would argue that the assumption of the exoteric religion is that existence is essentially in its proper order as it is, and it is by trying to go against it that one suffers (which seems to be echoed, in many ways, in the later Stoic movement). Mystery religions likewise agree that it is by transgressing the divine order that we suffer, but differ in that the assumption is often that something has happened already in the distant past that has thrown a monkey wrench into the divine order, and that the way things are now reflects the damaged order. So yes, I would argue that both the esoteric and exoteric forms of religion are grounded in an essentially identical conception of the righteousness of accord with cosmic order, differing in the belief as to whether or not/to what degree our current environment is reflective of that order.

Nor is this attitude really fair in regard to Christianity. I am not one that oozes in sympathy with Christianity, but I'll be the first to agree that some of the anti-Christianity you see floating around are often deeply unfair and frankly quite misleading. For instance, I believe that the Truth that Parmenides brought back to us was hidden away by Plato behind the Forms. But (as I was discussing with a friend the other day) Plotinus rescued art from Plato, just as Iamblichus rescued matter, and indeed also, the early Christians, particularly the Cappadocians of the Orthodox Church, rescued Greek philosophy (insofar as their theology continued it) from emanationism (to the extent that the ontology of the hypostases of the Trinity interact without any loss in being). This would go against the Nietzschean idea of Platonism (and the Forms, later emanationism) leading up to the even "worse" (and more "life-denying") spiritualities of Christianity.
It is also important not to totally equate Plato with the Orphic tradition. There is an influence, to be sure, but Plato himself seems to have been manifestly not an Orphic, and pokes fun at Orphic evangelists. Where I see the divergence between earlier Platonism and Orphism/Orphicized Neoplatonism, is with regard to whether or not the reflections of the Forms within the material world are/can ever be perfect reflections of their respective Forms. Early Platonism seems to have answered no — that all material reflections of a Form are flawed. On the other hand, Orphism, and some Neoplatonic systems, lean with varying degree toward an affirmative — that yes, some, all, or most of the material reflections of the Forms are, essentially, perfect, at least those at the higher, though still physical, ontological levels. These reflections are not necessarily flawed, they are perfect in the paradigm of the material universe, but are simply of a different nature (physical, rather than intellectual) than their Forms.

_________________
"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: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:14 pm

Sorry for the delay in response!  I've been very busy at work and an attempt to wring the last few days of summer weather out of the beach.  

But yeah, maybe I've got a kind of "Gnostic" image built up in my head about the Orphics.  What I meant by the comment you were unclear about was that the conception of piety held by a believer in the Forms regarding non-Platonist piety (with all that means ascetically, dietary-wise, etc) seems like asking what a Marxist thinks about capitalist society, or a Wittgensteinian about the philosophical meaning in poetry.  Aren't the cards stacked from the beginning?

Maybe I can explain the context of my previous post or two a bit better.  I try to be very careful when it comes to Tradition and metaphysics.  I agree with what you are saying regarding the salvific aims of the Mystery religions.  If the Eleusinian Mysteries were still around, I would do my best to be initiated.  But as much respect as I have for attempts to reconstruct say Mithraic rites or Eleusis or even Orphic revivals, I am not able to accept them as legitimate embodiments of initiation into divine Truth, which to me must be unbroken from the first contact with the divine in earlier periods.  Whence the importance of metaphysics and philosophy to me, in a time where my own spirituality has no really authentic manifestations (for me, mind you; not everyone will accept my paradigm/view regarding Tradition!).  I can call Olympianism my "religion" and engage in things such as prayer, but ultimately I can only find myself "at home" in metaphysics.

I suppose I am very close to the Orphic "perspective" in the sense of believing in a Fall, a God beyond the Twelve, and of seeing the world not in its immediacy (its abstract there-ness), but from a contemplative standpoint.  In this sense I am caught up in that "Great Reversal" as Joseph Campbell called the "turning away from the world" (in Buddhism, Hinduism, the Semitic monotheisms, and Orphism), but for me, perhaps as it is for you in your ways of experiencing life as an Orphic, it is even more of an immersion in the world, in life; trees, stars, love, friendship, everything I smell, see and hear, to get drawn into them and not involved in some Cartesian subject-object schema.  I agree with Parmenides (and the Goddess who tells him this), that what we experience say temporally is total illusion, or spatially in the sense of different objects, different people, is total illusion as there is no real distinction fundamentally.  But outside of the metaphysical notions I find in Parmenides, I am very slow to warm to a new metaphysical orientation.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:09 pm

Maybe I can explain the context of my previous post or two a bit better.  I try to be very careful when it comes to Tradition and metaphysics.  I agree with what you are saying regarding the salvific aims of the Mystery religions.  If the Eleusinian Mysteries were still around, I would do my best to be initiated.  But as much respect as I have for attempts to reconstruct say Mithraic rites or Eleusis or even Orphic revivals, I am not able to accept them as legitimate embodiments of initiation into divine Truth, which to me must be unbroken from the first contact with the divine in earlier periods.  Whence the importance of metaphysics and philosophy to me, in a time where my own spirituality has no really authentic manifestations (for me, mind you; not everyone will accept my paradigm/view regarding Tradition!).  I can call Olympianism my "religion" and engage in things such as prayer, but ultimately I can only find myself "at home" in metaphysics.

I agree. As much as I would like to, I cannot in good conscience accept any 'revival' as legitimate if its lineage has been lost. Any system, as far as I am concerned, is illegitimate if its lineage of transmission back to the founder and God is not intact. 'Reconstruction' can be meaningful if one is already instructed in a living 'descendant', but otherwise, it is to me a pointless and empty reenactment game. It makes for a religion with no spirit. 


Which is why I follow the tradition that I do. I'm not sure if I've made this clear, but the teachers of the living, Greek Orphic brotherhood maintain ardently that our lineage of transmission is unbroken, and we make it clear to new postulants that we are *not* reconstructionists. Our transmission survives among a very few families and groups mostly in the rural Pelopponnesus. We are not improvising anything. We never died. 


Exactly how far back our transmission goes is not certain, and probably never will be. According to my own teacher, the orpheum of our particular lineage in Greece has kept a photographic record of lineage holders going back into the mid-1800s. Before that, we likely can never know much, because members of our congregation in Greece have historically had both a religious name and a name they used in public, and it is likely that, in our private records, these individuals are recorded under their religious names, so identifying their public identities might be near impossible — especially given that this is coming from a rural area of Greece, where most people at the time probably never had a birth certificate or any such documentation. Further complicating this is the fact that our teaching, even today, we insist on doing orally. Almost nothing is written down.


However, privately, my own studies have yielded some compelling evidence for our lineage existing in the 1400s, and being extant at the time. I say this for the following reason. Much of our teaching and even cosmology/theology is radically divergent from Homer and Hesiod. However, it is highly consistent with the theology apparent in the works of Plethon, a 15th century Byzantine philosopher who campaigned for the restoration of Olympianism as the state religion of the Eastern Empire. His theology, and ours, is manifestly not a revival based on Homeric, Hesiodic or mainstream mythic models. Further, Plethon codified the form of Olympianism he advocated while studying in the mid-eastern Pelopponnesus – precisely where I am taught that our lineage originates. 

_________________
"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: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:37 pm

It wouldn't be the strangest thing on earth if such a lineage survived. There were Scots doing animal sacrifices well into the 18th century... But I am ultimately skeptical about the likeliness of such a survival-- But then again I am not familiar with the same evidence you are, and am sure there are good arguments for it if you are convinced.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:31 pm

There are still occasional animal sacrifices in Greece – often done officially in the name of local saints, and called κουρβανία. However, we have forbidden blood sacrifices for millennia, and these are unconnected, as far as I'm aware, with any segment of our tradition. 

It is good to be skeptical, I was too at first. However, the connections to documented events and figures are too clear, I think, to overlook. Gemistus Plethon's system coincides with ours strikingly, and, as I mentioned, clearly does not derive from the 'scholastic' myth preserved by the literarily educated Christian public. Being a university scholar in Byzantium, Plethon would have certainly been familiar with Homer and Hesiod, but his theology largely disregards them completely in terms of divine genealogies and role/function allotments. While we know only little of his personal life, we know that the Olympianism which he later preached semi-clandestinely to the students of the New Platonic Academy in Florence after his flight from Byzantium due to the approaching Turks he had codified while staying at Mystra in the Despotate of Morea, prior to going to Florence. This, as I said, is right in the area where our lineage is centered. 

We also know, from Byzantine accounts of evangelization attempts, that various rural areas in remote reaches of Laconia remained openly 'pagan' until the 1000's. I don't think it's much of a stretch to imagine some still refusing Christianity only a few centuries later at the time of Plethon's stay in the area. An issue that can be accounted for by the existence of some form of our present tradition there is why Plethon, a highly erudite scholar, would have ignored the esteemed and ancient works of Homer and Hesiod in favor of a system he simply fabricated (even as consistent and thorough a one as his). 

Further, something that weighs highly in my judgment is the question of how some groups of rural Greeks, many perhaps uneducated or even illiterate, in the impoverished Ottoman Pelopponnesus of the early-mid 19th century, could possibly have fabricated a system considerably different from common Greek myth, and almost entirely paralleling that of Plethon, certainly without access to Plethon, whose works remain obscure today, and which were stored at Florence. Such are my thoughts. 

If you're interested in Plethon's theology, I have posted a translation of his Hymns in the Hymns subforum. In reading them, you can see how *totally* different they are from Homeric/Hesiodic theology, instead following closely our own (if you aren't intimately familiar with it, it may be less obvious, but I hope to get around to writing out some of the background for what Plethon says in terms of our teaching — to clarify why he seems, if one is only familiar with the popular mythic corpus — to be quite poorly versed in mythology).

_________________
"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: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:48 pm

I have always been fascinated by Pletho.  The idea of him being authentically instructed in a lineage uninterrupted from antiquity would undermine my perception of the Renaissance.  It would mean that an Orphic (or a Renaissance Neoplatonist coming from an Orphic background) influenced Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Sigismondo Malatesta!  My main problem with this is that it would delight me too much, and I am skeptical not only in the ontological (for lack of a better word) sense that Parmenides is; I am skeptical of anything intellectually that strikes me as being too good to be true.  I am more of a pessimist in the line Shestov or Cioran; outside of Truth, I am convinced only of the existence of potentially infinite disappointments.  I hope to God that you are able to prove this one day, if you maintain the interest and back it up with research, because it would be quite a project (and quite a delight to see proven; enough of a delight to legitimate hedonism).
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:10 am

Out of Phlegethon wrote:I have always been fascinated by Pletho.  The idea of him being authentically instructed in a lineage uninterrupted from antiquity would undermine my perception of the Renaissance.  It would mean that an Orphic (or a Renaissance Neoplatonist coming from an Orphic background) influenced Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Sigismondo Malatesta!  My main problem with this is that it would delight me too much, and I am skeptical not only in the ontological (for lack of a better word) sense that Parmenides is; I am skeptical of anything intellectually that strikes me as being too good to be true.  I am more of a pessimist in the line Shestov or Cioran; outside of Truth, I am convinced only of the existence of potentially infinite disappointments.  I hope to God that you are able to prove this one day, if you maintain the interest and back it up with research, because it would be quite a project (and quite a delight to see proven; enough of a delight to legitimate hedonism).
That would, I imagine, be what my highers-up would answer if I asked them about Plethon's background. I have been taught that we maintain that the western Neoplatonic revival was sparked by lineage-holders of various lines fleeing the collapsing Eastern Empire. I am tangentially familiar with Ficino, but I admit to being unfamiliar with either della Mirandola or Malatesta, so I cannot say one way or another if there is measurable consistency between their doctrines and ours.

Actually, despite the almost complete harmony between Plethon's theology and ours, I do not recall his having come up more than in passing (with reference only to his having been a philosopher who left Greece in lieu of the imment fall of Constantinople) in any instruction I have been given, and I am not even certain if the lineage holders of our tradition back in Greece are even aware of him in anything but name. Truly, this is one of the pieces of evidence that solidify my belief in our continuity long prior to the advent of common photography. Initially, I was quite skeptical of our claims to continuity, especially given the fact that a large measure of what we teach, while it is in general harmony with much of Late-Antique mystical Hellenism, does not seem to be clearly derived from any of the major Classical sources, and directly conflicts with the writings of Homer and Hesiod which many newcomers to Classical religion hold in such high esteem. As such, it was only after reading the short hymns of Plethon that I had a 'wow' moment — because, in these hymns, there are references to a variety of our doctrines that, insofar as I have ever seen, are not found anywhere else but there — in writings that I think it probably exceedingly unlikely that rural Laconians in the mid 1800s had access to, but which came from a man who evidently formulated them, at most, only a few miles from where we still have our presence.

And, as I also said, I am further convinced, not only by the mutual consistency, but by the fact that it strikes me as exceedingly strange that an erudite Platonist Byzantine scholar (who certainly would've been familiar with the traditional classics), in campaigning for an empire-wide restoration of the Classical religion, would have simply dispensed with the usual Classics of mythology in favor of a likewise elaborate theology that he just pulled out of thin air — that'd be totally uncharacteristic of any Platonist. I don't think he would have ignored the traditional Classics unless he had reason to. Then, I find it equally unlikely that a system so strikingly similar (from theology, to even terminology) to that evident in Plethon's hymns, would have independently arisen in essentially podunk nowhere Ottoman Morea.

Ultimately, our story before the advent of photographic records and familial memory of our lineage holders will probably forever remain a mystery — I just don't imagine such records would have even existed in the first place. Regardless, I am, I think justly, quite convinced that there is a relationship between us and the theology seen in Plethon's hymns. Perhaps we are a relict branch of his disciples from his sojourn in the Mystra area, but I think it more likely that the philosopher's departure from established ideas of mythology likely comes from there having been some extant, but divergent tradition to which he (for reasons that are perhaps rather understandable) took a greater liking as a potential replacement for Christianity.

Of course, before the 15th century, it's all pure speculation. Until the discovery of the Gurob Papyri, and then the Derveni papyri in the 1960s, historians seem to have thought of Orphism largely as a movement arising in the 4th-5th centuries AD toward the very end of the pre-Christian era. But the dating of both of these works, and their clear correspondence with deity nomenclature and theology of the Orphism of nearly 700 years later, confirms that 'Orphism' existed in some form as early as the 300s BCE. If we do date from Antiquity, perhaps our particular 'church' only dates to Late Antiquity, or perhaps, however unlikely, to the 300s BCE — or perhaps, as our lore would have it, back to the prophet musician himself "two generations before the Trojan War"

Perhaps we are 150 years old (per attestation), perhaps 600 (per the Plethon hypothesis), perhaps 2,600 (to Pherecydes of Syros), perhaps 3,800 (to Orpheus himself).

_________________
"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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