Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
|1Introduction: the appearance of Orphism in Greek culture|
|2Orphic cosmogony as an allegory of cosmic alienation|
|3The Orphic body and the doctrine of cathartic reflexivity|
|4The tropes of Dionysus|
|5The Orphic background of the logos|
In the previous chapter we came across recurrent Orphic themes in the poetry of Pindar (particularly with regard to Fragment 131 which thematizes the spiritual imago of the soul as a gift of the Gods and the Orphic speculations about the postmortem soul in Olympian II). Pindaric texts like Fragments 129 and 131 are frequently cited as evidence of the influence of Orphism and the cult of Dionysus in Greek culture in the sixth century. But on first appearances Orphism is in many respects antithetical to Pindar’s conservative aesthetic. The religion of Orpheus (after the mythical Orpheus—the singer of enchanting songs who journeyed to Hades to rescue his wife Eurydice only to lose her by turning back to gaze at her before leaving the Underworld) originated in popular religious cults and folk-customs, yet by the sixth century its influence was so pervasive that its concerns can be felt in even the most austere writers and poets. Like a popular mirror image of Hermes (the messenger of Zeus and God of thieves who led the souls of the dead down to the realm of Hades), Orpheus symbolized the return of life by conducting souls back from the dead. In Greek folk-culture, of course, Orpheus was primarily the patron of song and, in the generalized Greek sense of the word, music.
In this chapter I will deliberately focus on only one aspect of the complex