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Ascension & Herakles

Post  spokane89 on Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:25 pm

I know we don't generally take all the myths at face value, but I had a curious question enter my mind the other day and a long thought process that followed it. The question is where do we stand on the tales of mortals becoming Gods? There are many myths of this, most notably Asklepios, Dionysos and Herakles. I know this could fall under the Hero Worship cults, but they're also often taken as full-fledged gods. (I also feel like I might have brought this all up before, sorry if that's the case x.x ). This also spawned another question; Is that what Herakles is guarding when he is said to guard the gates of Olympus? Could we extrapolate that he is stopping the ascension of mortals to divinity, that it is no longer allowed? Or that perhaps he is simply keeping watch making sure only those who have truly earned it can be allowed divinity? Correct me if I am wrong, but that's ultimately the end goal of Orphic/Pythagorean beliefs right, to achieve status as a lesser Daimon once one "breaks free" of the transmigration of souls? And where would we say all this falls in the non-Orphic systems?
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Re: Ascension & Herakles

Post  Erodius on Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:14 pm

This is one way in which common religion and various Mystery religions differ from each other. For probably many common people, aspiring to become immortal was at best foolish and pointless and at worst a serious impiety. For these average, only mildly/tangentially religious people, who probably made occasional sacrifices just out of habit and custom, attended major public festival events, and just did what was necessary to appear basically pious, achieving mortality would have been thought of as something only for very lucky and privileged people who did something extraordinary in life in order to merit deification. Part of this likely also would have been tied to a euhemerizing interpretation of common myth, where deified figures like Heracles were thought to have been merely exceedingly famous mortals of a distant past who achieved a symbolic immortality through their fame and reputation. The afterlife does not feature much in public religion; the public cults were largely only concerned with worldly matters — prosperity, health, peace, success, etc. .

Mystery religions differed in being primarily focused on death and the afterlife, and, as far as my knowledge goes of the various mystery religions, all of them have some sort of conception of a kind of immortality for the initiates who have lived as they were supposed to and undertaken the proper ceremonies and practices. In some cases, this is conceived of as the initiates who've achieved deification spending eternity in a sort of heaven-like paradise in the presence of a god or gods, while for other religions it is conceived of as a sort of 'merging' with the deity, or simply becoming a minor deity oneself after death (which is the dominant idea in Orphism, though I have been told of Orphic theologians today in Greece who have even more radical ideas than that).

Correct me if I am wrong, but that's ultimately the end goal of Orphic/Pythagorean beliefs right, to achieve status as a lesser Daimon once one "breaks free" of the transmigration of souls?
Yes it is, that exactly right.

Within Orphic theology specifically, Heracles becomes a symbol of Divinity itself, of Time, the first god, proceeding through the twelve houses, as well as an example for initiates, who know that they also, like Heracles, are faced with twelve 'deeds' to complete, in penance for the crime of the soul's past, before they may achieve absolution and deification. This is why, if you aren't familiar with it, the Orphic Hymn to Heracles addresses him with such lofty language and titles that seem out of place for a mere demigod, like 'Father Time,' 'eternal', 'omnipotent', 'all begetting', 'primordial', and wearing night and day upon his head. The Orphic Heracles is not simply the mythic hero from Tiryns who succeeded in twelve famous tasks in penance for killing his family in unmerited jealousy and rage.

You can see the obvious parallelism, which we interpret accordingly, between the myth of Heracles' life, and the Orphic psychogony and ladder of ascension. Both follow the 'plotline' of 1. commission of a crime of parricide due to unjust jealousy, 2. necessity of completion of a series of twelve 'tasks', 3. fire, 4. a final death, and 6. deification.

_________________
"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: Ascension & Herakles

Post  Apollyon on Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:17 am

spokane89 wrote: Could we extrapolate that he is stopping the ascension of mortals to divinity, that it is no longer allowed? Or that perhaps he is simply keeping watch making sure only those who have truly earned it can be allowed divinity?
I never thought of that.....
I am curious as to how he would test worthiness, though, and I am REALLY hoping it isnt an rm wrestling mactch! Laughing  Any thoughts on his tests?

In the scheme of things, it DOES put a very MACHO spin on the St. Peter at the pearly gates concept.
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Re: Ascension & Herakles

Post  Apollyon on Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:22 am

Erodius wrote:Both follow the 'plotline' of 1. commission of a crime of parricide due to unjust jealousy, 2. necessity of completion of a series of twelve 'tasks', 3. fire, 4. a final death, and 6. deification.
Erodius, is there a step five, or was this a typo? I am just curious. Perhaps if you meant the 6 as a 5, it IS 6 now, and the new step 5 is a test by Herakles?
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Re: Ascension & Herakles

Post  Erodius on Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:17 pm

Apollyon wrote:
Erodius, is there a step five, or was this a typo? I am just curious. Perhaps if you meant the 6 as a 5, it IS 6 now, and the new step 5 is a test by Herakles?
No, not really. I was probably just typing fast.

There is most certainly a Heraclean test prior to the possibility for ectheosis — life itself! — the manner of which, in Orphic theology, mirrors that of the stories of the life of Heracles in many respects.

However, a soul is tested and judged only, obviously, if there is something to be determined about it, as is the case for those who have died whose fate is yet to be decided — i.e. for those who have not yet achieved deliverance. For these, there are customarily two possibilities, determined by the two primary judges of the dead: Rhadamanthys and Aeacus. Rhadamanthys is judge of those who have lived lives of fame and repute, but have not achieved deliverance, who are bound for a span of time (though not eternity) in Elysium, while Aeacus is judge of those bound still to death and another existence in Hades — a third judge, Minos, presides over Rhadamanthys and Aeacus. According to Platonic tradition, there is a fourth judge too, Triptolemus, who judges the souls of those who have been initiated into Mystery religions.

However, in Orphism, it is the deity who enacts a soul's ectheosis — it is a gift from God, not something that is a necessary given. As such, there would not logically be any place for a test right then and there — the Heraclean test, rather, consists in the soul's conduct all the way up to that point.

Have I made some sense?

_________________
"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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The Orphic Way: www.hellenicgods.org
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Re: Ascension & Herakles

Post  Apollyon on Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:33 pm

You made PERFECT sense! Just wanted to make sure I understood everything correctly!
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