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The Masonic Enstitution of Orpheus.
ABOUT fourteen centuries before the Christian era, and long before the states of Greece had attained to any high degree of civilization, a personage appeared who possessed that rare combination of qualities which always distinguish a hero, and reveal the creator of a new epoch. He was a Thracian by birth, the son of Æger and Calliope ; but the mythic tinge discoverable in all the traditions regarding him, and the contradictory accounts given by the ancient Grecian writers who have spoken of him, render it exceedingly difficult to tell precisely what he was, or what he did. Some of the old authors assert that there were several persons who successively bore the name of ORPHEUS, and that the poems attributed to the Thracian were the productions of more than one poet ; while others deny that any such person ever existed. But these speculations all fall to the ground and disappear when we apply those tests which the philosophy of history supplies. The very existence of the traditions at a very early period of Grecian history,
contradictory as they are, and, above all, the existence of the institutions of which he was the founder, prove clearly enough that such a personage once lived, although his veritable character may have been somewhat embellished by a mythological drapery. What we do see of him, standing out in bold relief from the surrounding darkness, and detached from the mythological shadows which environ it, lead us to believe him to have been a man of no ordinary character. He was a poet of most exalted genius, of ardent imagination, and profound feeling. In all his poems, philosophy and sentiment are equally blended. He recounted in sublime verse the heroic exploits of the Argonauts (of whom he was one), whose expedition in search of the golden fleece was so celebrated in early Grecian history : he sang the mystic qualities of precious stones, and composed hymns sublimely beautiful in honor of the Eternal Master of the seasons.*
Amiable beyond the common run of men, ever governed by the most positive of sentiments, his heart overflowing with tenderness and sympathy, he seemed to be inspired by the Powers above. Although a prince by birth, the son of a king of that country, he commanded more by the force of his character, and the nobility of his soul, than by the external authority with which he was invested. As yet, however, he did not comprehend his destiny, nor clearly see the mission to which he had obviously been appointed by Providence. Retired among the Thracian valleys, he gave himself up to poetic meditations, and the enjoyment of the caresses of the beautiful and chaste Eurydice—that glorious figure of female loveliness and purity–whom he loved with all the burning ardor of a poet, and whom he was destined so soon to lose. A mortal disease-produced, as some have said, by the bite of a venomous reptile-removed her from his arms, and consigned her to the abodes of death. And how beautifully and touchingly is the memory of his great love—of his persevering and unwearied devotion-of his enduring fidelity and incurable grief-perpetuated by that most poetic myth which represents Orpheus seeking his lost Eurydice in the realm of shades, charming the powers which rule below with the music of his harp, and compelling them by the mysterious force of his songs to release her from the bondage of death, and restore her to his embrace!
* Vide Orph. de Opera; and also Bode, Orpheus Poetarum Græcorum Antiquissimus.
This supreme afiliction awakened the slumbering energies of his soul, and led to that sublime regeneration, in which the love of his Eurydice was expanded to the love of his race. He now addressed himself with earnestness and zeal to the great work of reforming society, taming the rude and semi-barbarous men of his nation, and laying the foundations of that glorious fabric of Grecian civilization which became in after ages the wonder and admira. tion of the world.
To prepare himself for this divine labor, he traveled into all countries in search of wisdom. Egypt, at that period, took the lead in the march of civilization, and was the favored seat of philosophy, science, and religion. There, by the tomb of Osiris, he listened to the instructions of the Egyptian sages. Mingling with all classes of the people, he studied the structure of that ancient civilization; and, initiated into the secret institution of Isis, he became acquainted with the means of social advancement and of individual enlightenment. He saw at once the great value of this institution, and its adaptation as an aid to human progress; and he comprehended also the power of those sublime moral dramas, which were therein represented, to impress strongly the solemn lessons of virtue and religion on the minds of earnest and imaginative men. In these secret sanctuaries of Science he proved himself a most willing and intelligent scholar. Thus become master of all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he returned to his own country, and planted there with an open and generous hand the seeds of a new and higher civilization. He established the Mysteries, and thus associated with him the most enlightened and earnest spirits of his age and nation. His initiatory rite was a
drama, setting forth the progressive development of man, both socially and individually, and illustrating his duties, and the high and glorious destiny to which, by earnest striving, he might attain.
The Secret Order of Orpheus was the fountain of Grecian civilization. By its influence he led those untamed nations up from the rudeness and solitude of the primitive state, and gave them cities and towns, the industrial arts, and a civilization. In its hidden recesses, where the profane eye was never permitted to look, commenced the development of those great social ideas which regenerated Greece, and placed that celebrated country at the head of the civilization of the world, and made it pre-eminent in science, philosophy, and poetry, and in all the arts which enrich society and embellish life.
Orpheus transported his Mysteries into Greece, and they were celebrated there for the first time on a mountain of Baotia. The Greeks received them with avidity, and they soon grew into that vast and powerful institution known afterward under the name of the “ MYSTERIES of ELEUSIS.” Orpheus was what the Germans call a
manysided man”-a man of universal genius and knowledge. He studied life in all its aspects, and labored to find a relief for every sorrow, a gratification for every want, a remedy for every ill. As a physician, skilled almost supernaturally, he healed the physical