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Orpheus (Gr.). Lit., the “tawny one”. Mythology makes him the son of Æager and the muse Calliope. Esoteric tradition identifies him with Arjuna, the son of Indra and the disciple of Krishna. He went round the world teaching the nations wisdom and sciences, and establishing mysteries. The very story of his losing his Eurydice and finding her in the underworld or Hades, is another point of resemblance with the story of Arjuna, who goes to Pâtâla (Hades or hell, but in reality the Antipodes or America) and finds there and marries Ulupi, the daughter of the Nâga king. This is as suggestive as the fact that he was considered dark in complexion even by the Greeks, who were never very fair-skinned themselves.

Orphic Mysteries or Orphica (Gr.). These followed, but differed greatly from, the mysteries of Bacchus. The system of Orpheus is one of the purest morality and of severe asceticism. The theology taught by him is again purely Indian. With him the divine Essence is inseparable from whatever is in the infinite universe, all forms being concealed from all eternity in It. At determined periods these forms are manifested from the divine Essence or manifest themselves. Thus through this law of emanation (or evolution) all things participate in this Essence, and are parts and members instinct with divine nature, which is omnipresent. All things having proceeded from, must necessarily return into it; and therefore, innumerable transmigrations or reincarnations and purifications are needed before this final consummation can take place. This is pure Vedânta philosophy. Again, the Orphic Brotherhood ate no animal food and wore white linen garments, and had many ceremonies like those of the Brahmans.

Theosophical Glossary, H. P. Blavatsky


Modern Biographies

A Dissertation on the Life and Theology of Orpheus, by Thomas Taylor

Orpheus, by G.R.S. Mead (original scan pdf | html)


The Hymns of Orpheus (tr. Thomas Taylor)