Epimenides of Knossos: The Origins of Western Esotericism

Epimenides of Knossos: The Origins of Western Esotericism

In the annals of Ancient History, as it relates to the origins of Western Philosophy, Esotericism, and Secret Societies, one man stands at the forefront as being one of the founders. That man was Epimenides of Knossos from the island of Crete who lived in approximately the 7th or 6th century BCE.

For hundreds of years, Epimenides was one of the most famous ancient philosophers predating the great giants of Western philosophy such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, all of whom drew inspiration from his writings. (1) Throughout history, his stories and teachings have been passed down to us by some of the greatest philosophers who have ever lived, leaving an indelible mark on the culture and philosophy of ancient Greece and the whole Western world.

Over the course of many generations, Epimenides was immortalized within Greek history with his extraordinary intellectual and mythical god-like status, thereby elevating him to a divine-like status. As a result, his life and works have captivated the imagination of scholars and storytellers for thousands of years.

In this essay, I aim to shed light on the origins of our Western esoteric traditions, drawing from the perspectives of ancient philosophers and historians. According to some of these most esteemed thinkers, the roots of this tradition can be traced back to Epimenides and the enigmatic Orphic mysteries, originating in the land of Crete and Greece.

Both the Orphic and teachings of Epimenides can be found in the philosophies of some of the world’s greatest philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and their intellectual successors such as the Pythagoreans and Neoplatonists who followed this tradition forming a direct lineage from Orpheus. (2) In examining their own sources for their philosophies, they all claim that both Orpheus and Epemenides had equally influenced their own ideas.

According to these accounts, both Orpheus and Epemenides lived at approximately the same time and in the same places with very similar accomplishments. For example, as Orpheus and Epemenides had accomplished, we find that they are similarly immortalized in myth and history for their efforts to revolutionize the secret mysteries in order to create a new state religion and also cleanse the land from a devastating plague.

According to Plato, Epimenides undertook the work assigned to him by the Delphic Oracle, which held a significant influence on the advancement of Hellenic society. (3) Aristotle said that he gave his oracles not about the future, but about things in the past that were obscure.

In myth and history, their influence on both ancient political and religious doctrines has served as the very foundation for shaping the course of Western philosophy and esotericism. Initial concepts that we find deeply intertwined within the philosophical and religious ideas of the collective imagination of many of the early Cretan and Greek philosophers, which became the very cornerstone of Western Esotericism, Philosophy, Gnosticism, and the later Abrahamic religions.

At the center of these ideas was the home of Epimenides and his ancestors, the island of Crete.

Two books Epimenides was said to have  written that were mentioned by several eminent ancient authors were The History of Crete and Kretika or Cretika. The “History of Crete” is a comprehensive account of the origins, development, and notable events of the island of Crete.

Epimenides traces the history of the island from its mythical beginnings to the time of his own writing. The work is said to provide valuable insights into Cretan civilization, its social structures, religious practices, and the interplay of various cultural influences. Although the original text of the “History of Crete” has been lost, and our knowledge of its contents comes primarily from references and quotations found in later works by other authors.

“Kretika or Cretika,” on the other hand, is a collection of religious and moral teaching in the form of poems and hymns celebrating the glory and virtues of Crete. These poems praised the island’s natural beauty, its people’s achievements, and the valor of Cretan warriors.

Epimenides wrote;

“There is a land called Crete in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair land and a rich, begirt with water, and therein are many men innumerable, and ninety cities. And all have not the same speech, but there is confusion of tongues; there dwell Achaeans and there too Cretans of Crete, high of heart, and Cydonians there and Dorians of waving plumes and goodly Pelasgians.”

The “Kretika” served as a means to promote a deep understanding of religious beliefs and practices prevalent in ancient Crete. However, like the “History of Crete,” the original text of “Kretika” has not survived, and our knowledge of its contents is based on fragments and references in other ancient texts.

Diodorus Siculus, the first-century-BC historian of ancient Greece said that he relied upon Epimenides’ work for his Bibliotheca historica claiming that, “I have followed the most trustworthy authorities on Cretan affairs, Epimenides the Theologian, Dosiades, Sosicrates and Laosthenes.” (4)

Both Aristotle and Plutarch included Epimenides in the esteemed group known as the Seven Wise Men according to ancient tradition. The Seven Wise Men hold a significant position in the early stages of Hellenic history, as they played a pivotal role in shaping and consolidating Hellenism.

Plutarch wrote;

“Under these circumstances, they summoned to their aid from Crete Epimenides of Phaestus, who is reckoned as the seventh Wise Man by some of those who refuse Periander a place in the list. He was reputed to be a man beloved of the gods, and endowed with a mystical and heaven-sent wisdom in religious matters.

Therefore the men of his time said that he was the son of a nymph named Balte, and called him a new Cures. On coming to Athens he made Solon his friend, assisted him in many ways, and paved the way for his legislation.”(5)

What is certain, is that many esteemed authorities, from Plato and Aristotle onward, emphasized the religious, political, and social ramifications resulting from the life and work of Epimenides. Other philosophers, such as Parmenides and Heraclitus, drew upon his ideas to shape their own philosophies.

Parmenides, as discussed in “Metaphysics and Ethics in Epimenides’ Teachings” by A. Turner, adopted Epimenides’ emphasis on the existence of a singular reality, in his case, the concept of Being. Heraclitus, known for his philosophy of change and flux, incorporated Epimenides’ insights into the nature of reality and the paradoxes of existence. (6)

Being counted as a main authority for Siculus and among the Seven Wise Men in the early tradition not only attests to Epimenides’ authority among ancient philosophers of Greece, but also signifies his contribution to the fame and collective memory of the Phoenician and Hellenic people.

Now, let us examine these esoteric connections.


Perhaps Epimenides is most often remembered for his famous quote known as the “Liar Paradox,” which challenges the very foundations of truth and logic. The quote is from his book called Cretica (Κρητικά) when Minos addresses the god, Zeus.

We find this verse initially appearing in Callimachus'(270 B.C.) Hymn to Jupiter/Zeus (verses 8-11):

“They say that thou, O Zeus, wast born in [Cretan] Ida’s mountains, and that thou wast born in Arcadia. Which, O Father, spoke falsely? The Cretans are always liars: and this we know, for thy tomb, O King, the Cretans fashioned; but thou didst not die, for thou existest always.”

Epimenides’ paradox is mentioned by Epimenides himself, as recorded by Diogenes Laertius in “Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers” (3rd century CE). However, it is important to note that the attribution of the paradox to Epimenides is not certain, and it could have been later attributed to him. (7)

And later, during the Christian era, the apostle Paul references Epimenides’ paradox in the New Testament, specifically in the “Epistle to Titus” (Titus 1:12). Paul says about the Cretans’ reputation;

“One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies” (kata thêria, gasteres argai),” which is an allusion to the paradox.

This connection to Paul, Crete, and the Bible shows Epimenides actively influenced and possibly participated in these Gnostic movements. As I explained, he also influenced many of the early Greek philosophers and historians such as Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, and Diodorus Siclus, to name a few.

We also find the Epimenides’ Paradox in a discussion on liars in “Sophist” by Plato (4th century BCE). In Section 231, Plato mentions Epimenides as an example of a liar who paradoxically claims that all Cretans are liars. Although this particular quote doesn’t directly reference Epimenides’ statement, it engages with the idea of the paradox.

Plato wrote; “The Cretans, according to our account, have not only invented the story of the birth of Zeus, but they have also, as Epimenides says, declared all men to be liars.” (8)

Plato’s student and predecessor, Aristotle also mentions the same quote in his “Metaphysics;”

“But a man may ask whether what is said should be regarded as universally false or only as not universally true; for if what Epimenides says is true, it is false, and if false, it is true.” (9)

Moreover, the island of Crete held a significant place in the hearts of Cretans and Greeks alike, for it was venerated as the very cradle of Greek myths and religion. In particular, it was considered the sacred birthplace of Zeus, the revered father of gods and men.


Pythagoras, the renowned mathematician and philosopher, is said to have encountered Epimenides during his travels to Crete. We are told that he was a student of Epimmenides. It is also well known that Pythagoras has played a pivotal role in the history of Western esotericism expanding upon the philosophical and mathematical doctrine with his followers, the Pythagoreans.

Pythagoras was spoken of and written about much more often. His great fame had the twin effects of making his name the focus of legends, which multiplied over the centuries, and of preserving the memory of the historical events of his time.

Although Epimenides was not directly associated with the Pythagorean school, several Pythagorean fragments and testimonies mention a connection between Pythagoras and Epimenides. These fragments, collected by various ancient authors, provide indirect evidence of Epimenides’ influence on Pythagoras and his followers.

The primary sources on Pythagoras, such as the works of Diogenes Laërtius, Iamblichus, and Porphyry, mention Pythagoras’ journey to Crete. Additionally, Plato’s dialogue “Phaedrus” depicts Socrates discussing the potential influence of Pythagorean thought, suggesting a connection between Pythagoras and Cretan philosophy. (10)

It is important to note that the primary source for this account is Diogenes Laertius’ book on Pythagoras. Laërtius, a doxographer who lived around 200 to 250 C.E., played a crucial role in preserving the biographies of ancient Greek philosophers through his notable work, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. The book consists of ten books that provide a wealth of information from the lives of nearly one hundred philosophers, including Pythagoras and 45 significant figures spanning from the seventh century C.C to the late second century C.E. (11)

A majority of Laërtius’ biographies name the teacher and student of each philosopher, and the people with whom they had personal encounters. To construct this comprehensive account,  Laërtius drew information from numerous earlier works, many of which have been lost over time.

According to Laertius, Pythagoras embarked on extensive travels throughout the known world during his quest for knowledge with the intention of acquiring important initiations from various sources. As part of his journey, Pythagoras made a significant stop in Crete to meet Epimenides, a renowned figure of esoteric knowledge.

Epimenides possessed such valuable esoteric wisdom that Pythagoras himself sought initiation from him. Their meeting in Crete was a pivotal moment, as Pythagoras aspired to complete his initiation under Epimenides’ guidance. Together, they ventured into the renowned “Idaeon andron,” a cave of great significance. This cave was believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, the highest deity in Greek mythology.

Many biographical traditions recount Pythagoras’initiation into the mysteries in the Idean Cave on Mount Ida on Crete along with his journeys to culturally advanced eastern countries like Egypt and Babylon, as well as to Italy. This variation in narratives adds an intriguing layer to the understanding of Epimenides’ role and the sacred caves associated with Zeus.

Laertius wrote:

“When he was in Crete with Epimenides, he came down to Idaeon andron

Then (Pythagoras) visited Crete and descended to Idaion Andron accompanied by Epimenides, but also in Egypt to the depths;

but he also visited the shelters of the temples of Egypt. And learned about the gods in secret.”

Porphyry of Tyre , a Neoplatonic philosopher born in Tyre (Roman Phoenicia), mentioned the initiation of Pythagoras on the island of Crete at the cave located at Mount Ida, which was the original home to the Biblical Tribe of Judah (Idumeans, Judeans).

Porphyry wrote in the “Life of Pythagoras;”

“Going to Crete, Pythagoras besought initiation from the priests of Morgos, one of the Idaean Dactyli, by whom he was purified with the meteoritic thunder-stone. In the morning he lay stretched upon his face by the seaside; at night, he lay beside a river, crowned with a black lamb’s woolen wreath.

Descending into the Idaean cave, wrapped in black wool, he stayed there twenty-seven days, according to custom; he sacrificed to Zeus, and saw the throne which there is yearly made for him. On Zeus’s tomb, Pythagoras inscribed an epigram, “Pythagoras to Zeus,” which begins: “Zeus deceased here lies, whom men call Jove.” (11)

The name “Idaean Dactyli” is a reference to Mount Ida. Strabo, a Greek geographer and historian, provides geographical and historical information about Crete in his work “Geography.” Strabo had written, that the priests from Crete called the Curetes (Kuretes), were also known as the Corybantes, Idean Dactyls, Cabiri, and Telchines; which are all names that were used interchangeably with one another.

There are more mythological connections between Zeus, Mount Ida and the island of Crete. When the infant Zeus was born to his mother Rhea, his vengeful father Cronus had learned from Gaia and Uranus that his own son was destined to overcome him and become King. Rhea knowing what his father would do to him, had devised a plan to hide the real Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete, and in which she entrusted his care to the priesthood of the Curetes, who were also known as the “Ministers of Cybele.”

Although his writing does not explicitly discuss Epimenides’ influence on other philosophers, it offers contextual information about the time and place in which Epimenides and Pythagoras lived, helping to understand the cultural and intellectual milieu that facilitated philosophical exchanges.(12)

Epimenides’ ideas about paradoxes and the nature of truth deeply influenced Pythagoras’ philosophical pursuits. Pythagoras, known for his fascination with numbers and their mystical properties, was intrigued by Epimenides’ paradox and its implications for understanding the foundations of knowledge and logic.

According to “The Influence of Epimenides on Pythagorean Philosophy” by M. Williams, Pythagoras recognized the value of Epimenides’ teachings on religious devotion and the concept of the soul. Epimenides’ belief in the interconnection between the divine and mortal realms resonated deeply with Pythagoras’ own exploration of the harmony and order underlying the universe. (13)

The influence of Epimenides is especially evident in Pythagoras’ theory of the transmigration of souls, where he posited that the soul is immortal and can undergo successive reincarnations.

One notable concept that Pythagoras adopted from Epimenides was the notion of purification of the soul. Epimenides taught that the soul could be cleansed through spiritual practices and rituals, leading to a harmonious existence. Pythagoras embraced this idea, incorporating it into his theory of the transmigration of souls and the pursuit of moral and intellectual virtues leading to reason.

This concept can be found in the Abrahamic religions like in Christianity with saving your soul or being born again. Not everyone who emarks on the wrong path or lives ignorantly, immorally, and unethical is damned to a life of misery.

It is believed that Pythagoras incorporated elements of Epimenides’ paradoxes into his own teachings, which emphasized the pursuit of truth and the interconnectedness of all things. Pythagorean philosophy, with its emphasis on harmony, the eternal nature of the soul, and the mathematical underpinnings of the universe, owes a debt to Epimenides’ thought.


Plato, the renowned philosopher and student of Socrates, was also influenced by Epimenides. Although there is limited direct evidence of their interaction, Plato’s works reflect Epimenides’ influence through shared philosophical themes and ideas. Epimenides’ belief in the existence of divine forces, the significance of myth and symbolism, and the pursuit of higher truths resonated strongly with Plato’s philosophical inquiries.

In Book 10 of “Laws, Plato’s portrayal of Epimenides in “Laws” draws heavily from the mythological traditions of ancient Greece to discuss the nature of divine law, prophecy, and the moral foundations of society. He presents Epimenides as a wise and virtuous individual who possesses an understanding of divine order and the significance of rituals and sacrifices. (14)

Plato describes Epimenides as a seer, someone who has a deep connection to the divine and the supernatural. Epimenides’ character serves as an authority on religious rituals and the interpretation of signs from the gods. He argues that these rituals are crucial for maintaining social cohesion and order.

One of Epimenides’ most famous contributions, the paradox of the “Cretan Liar,” had a lasting impact on Plato’s philosophical discourse. The paradox posed the question of whether a statement made by a Cretan asserting that all Cretans were liars could be true. This paradox challenged notions of truth, language, and self-reference, inspiring Plato’s exploration of these concepts in his dialogues.

Epimenides’ ideas on the existence of an ultimate reality beyond the sensory realm deeply influenced Plato’s theory of Forms or Ideas. Plato incorporated the notion of an eternal and unchanging realm of perfect forms, which closely aligned with Epimenides’ emphasis on the transcendental nature of truth. Additionally, Epimenides’ teachings on the significance of morality and the pursuit of virtue influenced Plato’s ethical philosophy, particularly his concept of the philosopher-king and the ideal city-state.

Plato mentions Epimenides in his Laws in the discussion between Megillus and Clinias in which Clinias claims a family connection to the Cretan prophet:

CLINIAS: My story, too, Stranger, when you hear it, will show you that you may boldly say all you wish. You have probably heard how that inspired man Epimenides, who was a family connection of ours, was born in Crete; and how ten years before the Persian War, in obedience to the oracle of the god, he went to Athens and offered certain sacrifices which the god had ordained; and how, moreover, when the Athenians were alarmed at the Persians’ expeditionary force, [642e] he made this prophecy —

“They will not come for ten years, and when they do come, they will return back again with all their hopes frustrated, and after suffering more woes than they inflict.” Then our forefathers became guest-friends of yours, and ever since both my fathers and I myself.


One notable aspect of Epimenides’ reputation among the Cretans was their belief in his divine origins. His mythical lineage can be traced back to the legendary King Minos, famous for his labyrinth and the Minotaur.

From a young age, he was said to have exhibited exceptional intelligence and exhibited a deep connection with nature, spending hours wandering the hills and caves surrounding his home. It was during one of these excursions that he encountered an enigmatic figure, a god-like presence who granted him an extraordinary gift.

Epimenides’ reputation as a sage grew exponentially when he ventured into the famed Labyrinth of Knossos, seeking answers to the mysteries of existence. Legend has it that he spent days wandering through its winding corridors, encountering mythical creatures and unraveling the secrets hidden within. Some accounts even suggest that he communed with the Minotaur, transforming it from a fearsome monster into a docile creature.

There is a famous legend surrounding the origination of the prophetic talents of Epimenides which the Greeks had usually embellished in mythology. The legend is, that while Epimenides was tending his father’s sheep, he is said to have fallen asleep for 40 or 57 years (on Mount Ida on the island of Crete) in a cave sacred to the King of Gods and Men, Zeus, and after which he reportedly awoke with the gift of prophecy.

The story appears to be an allegory, showing us that Epimenides was asleep “figuratively” until he reached his older years when he became enlightened.

At this moment, he finally awoke from his metaphorical slumber within the cave and attained inner enlightenment or Gnosis, becoming exceptionally wise in various disciplines and attaining a godlike status. This very cave gained worldwide renown as it appears to have served as an exclusive venue for initiation into the Orphic ceremonies and secret mysteries.

According to the accounts of the ancient historian, Theopompus, Epimeminides was said to have been divinely inspired to construct a sacred shrine dedicated to Zeus. He refers to the Creatn Prophets as the new Kouros or Koures, who had a significant connection to Zeus Cretagenes, possibly serving as his attendant or priest.

Though the precise nature of their association remains somewhat speculative, it is plausible that Epimenides served as an attendant or priest, carrying out sacred rites and rituals on behalf of the god. His actions and well-documented history exemplify his role as a defender and follower of Zeus, and also as one of the founders of the mystery schools, which left an immortal mark on the religious landscape of ancient Crete and the Ancient philosophers of Greece.

In Greek mythology, Jupiter was equated with Zeus, the king of the gods. The planet Jupiter has been associated with various names in different mythologies throughout history. The Romans also identified the planet with their supreme deity, giving him the same name. These associations can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who observed the planet and attributed its characteristics to their respective gods.

Plutarch refers to him as the “New Kouretes,” and the Cretans regarded his mother as the nymph Balte (Βάλτη) [2]. The divine connection attributed to Epimenides reflects the high regard in which he was held by his fellow Cretans.

Plutarch mentions both Epimenides and Solon were in Athens at the same time, and on friendly terms. The purification of Athens by Epimenides is generally assigned to B.c. 596 — 595, shortly before the archonship of Solon in 594. (15)

Epimenides assisted with the proper methods for the regulation of the Athenian Commonwealth to restore law and order. His expertise in sacrifices and the reform of funeral practices greatly assisted Solon in his efforts to reform the Athenian state.

Plutarch also said that Epimenides was almost like a messiah to the Greeks at the time because he had purified Athens and that the only reward he would accept was a branch of the sacred olive, and a promise of perpetual friendship between Athens and Knossos.

Plutarch wrote;

“Epimenides purified Athens after the pollution brought by the Alcmeonidae, and that the seer’s expertise in sacrifices and reform of funeral practices were of great help to Solon in his reform of the Athenian state. The only reward he would accept was a branch of the sacred olive, and a promise of perpetual friendship between Athens and Knossos.”

Maximus of Tyre confirms this event in the 2nd century CE;

“There came to Athens also another Cretan named Epimenides. He was marvelously skilled in the things of God, so that he saved the city of the Athenians when it was perishing through pestilence and sedition; and he was skillful in these matters, not because he had learned them, but, as he related, long sleep and a dream had been his inspiration … he had come into relations with the gods and the oracles of the gods and Truth and Justice.

For Solon had proclaimed at the time;

“In the day of vengeance, dark Earth, mightiest mother of the gods of Olympus, will be my surest witness of this, Solon’s account from whom I removed pillars planted in many places, and whom I freed from her bonds. Many citizens, who had been sold into slavery under the law or against it, I brought back to Athens their home; some of them spoke Attic no longer, their speech being changed in their many wanderings. Others who had learnt the habits of slaves at home, and trembled before a master, I made to be free men.

All this I accomplished by authority, uniting force with justice, and I fulfilled my promise.” (16)

Epimenides was said to have founded numerous religious organizations and installed statues of the gods throughout the streets of Athens. His intention was to instill in the minds of Athenians the constant presence of divine nature in various forms, where no indecency is allowed and everything must be regarded as sacred and untainted.

The ultimate goal and outcome were the thorough purification of the city and the establishment of virtuous guidelines for communal existence. It was imperative for the citizens to dwell in the ever-present aura of the divine.

Pausanias reports, that when Epimenides died, his skin was found to be covered with tattoo writing. Some modern scholars have seen this as evidence, that Epimenides was heir to the shamanic religions of Central Asia, because tattooing is often associated with shamanic initiation.”

He also places Epimenides at Knossos and claims he was killed and buried near the statue of Athena. Pausinias wrote:

“By the Canopy is a circular building [in Sparta], and in it images of Zeus and Aphrodite surnamed Olympioi. This, they say, was set up by Epimenides, but their account of him does not agree with that of the Argives, for the Lakedaimonians deny that they ever fought with the Knossians.”

[2.21.3] A sanctuary of Athena Trumpet they say was founded by Hegeleos. This Hegeleos, according to the story, was the son of Tyrsenus, and Tyrsenus was the son of Heracles and the Lydian woman; Tyrsenus invented the trumpet, and Hegeleos, the son of Tyrsenus, taught the Dorians with Temenus how to play the instrument, and for this reason gave Athena the surname Trumpet.

Before the temple of Athena is, they say, the grave of Epimenides. The Argive story is that the Lacedaemonians made war upon the Cnossians and took Epimenides alive; they then put him to death for not prophesying good luck to them, and the Argives taking his body buried it here.”


Epimenides of Crete, with his paradoxes and philosophical ideas, left an enduring legacy on the development of Western philosophy. Through his influence on Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, and other great philosophers, Epimenides’ exploration of truth, language, and metaphysics contributed to both the foundation and evolution of philosophical thought.

As an intermediary between the earthly and divine realms, Epimenides’ influence reached far beyond the confines of his immediate surroundings. His reputation as a philosopher, religious leader, and visionary extended throughout Greece and into Italy, capturing the attention and admiration of people from various parts of the world.

As we delve into the works of these philosophers and examine their ideas, we can trace the threads of Epimenides’ influence, highlighting the lasting impact of his contributions on philosophical discourse throughout the ages. Although direct references to Epimenides may be scarce, the parallels between their ideas, as found in primary sources such as Diogenes Laertius, Plato’s dialogues, and Aristotle’s works, suggest a deep and lasting influence.

Additionally, Pythagorean fragments, testimonies, and anecdotes collected by authors like Aelian offer indirect evidence of the connection between Epimenides and Pythagoras. While the exact extent of Epimenides’ influence may remain a matter of speculation, the interplay of their philosophical ideas demonstrates the rich and interconnected philosophical themes and concepts in their works highlighting the lasting influence on Western Esotericism.

Epimenides’ role in shaping the metaphysical and spiritual landscape of the time was widely acknowledged and respected. His presence and influence epitomized the deep connection between the mortal and divine realms, leaving an indelible mark on the religious consciousness of the ancient world that lasts until this very day.

I believe that the immortal story of Epimenides enshrined as the mythical Orpheus proves the origins of our Western religious and esoteric traditions. An ancient custom that is also connected to the sacred history of the island of Crete, solidifying its status as a spiritual epicenter for the various Gnostic and philosophical schools that came after throughout history.


1. Guthrie, W.K.C. “A History of Greek Philosophy, Volume 1: The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans.” Cambridge University Press, 1962.

2. Forsyth, Neil. “Epimenides of Knossos.” In “The Oxford Classical Dictionary,” edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, 4th ed., 525-526. Oxford University Press, 2012

3. PLATO LAWS – § 642

4. Diodorus Siculus, “Library of History,” Book 5.77-78.

5. Plutarch, “Life of Solon,” in Plutarch’s Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914

6. Metaphysics and Ethics in Epimenides’ Teachings” by A. Turner

6. Guthrie, W. K. C. (1980). “A History of Greek Philosophy: Volume 1, The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans.

7.  Laërtius, Diogenes. “Lives of Eminent Philosophers.” Translated by R. D. Hicks, Harvard University Press, 1925

8. Plato, “Phaedrus,” 260d

9. Aristotle, “Metaphysics,” Book 4, Part 7

10. Life of Pythagoras (1920). English translation

9.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1924), 10.4.14

10.  The Influence of Epimenides on Pythagorean Philosophy by M. Williams

11. Laërtius, Diogenes. “Lives of Eminent Philosophers.” Translated by R. D. Hicks, Harvard University Press, 1925

12. Strabo, “Geography,” in The Geography of Strabo, trans. Horace Leonard Jones

13. The Influence of Epimenides on Pythagorean Philosophy” by M. Williams

14. Plato. “Laws.” Translated by Trevor J. Saunders, Penguin Classics, 1970

15. Plutarch, Life of Solon, 12; Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 1

16.  Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation: The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh – Chapter 3 1915-16: Sir Ramsay

The Orphic Mysteries: The Origins of Western Esotericism & Symbolic Freemasonry

The Orphic Mysteries: The Origins of Western Esotericism & Symbolic Freemasonry

The ancient Greek world was a rich tapestry of religious and philosophical ideas, with diverse cults and mystery traditions offering individuals different pathways to a deeper understanding of the divine and the self.

Among these, the Orphic Mysteries emerged in approximately the 6th Century BC as a prominent philosophical movement, characterized by its unique mythology, rituals, and esoteric teachings. (1)

Rooted in the mythological and ritualistic traditions of the Orphic movement, these mysteries offered a path to spiritual enlightenment and liberation. Numerous sources contribute to our understanding of Orpheus and his significance in Greek mythology.

Throughout history, numerous renowned philosophers and historians, spanning several centuries, have asserted that Orpheus existed as an actual human being, elevating him to a god-like status. His life story is recounted in various Greek myths, weaving together elements of music, heroism, and supernatural abilities.

According to these accounts, his accomplishments revolved around his efforts to revolutionize the state religion and cleanse the land from a devastating plague.

The Orphic teachings can be found in the philosophies of renowned thinkers such as Pythagóras, Socrates (Sôkrátîs), Plato (Plátôn), and their intellectual successors such as the Pythagoreans and Neoplatonists who followed in this tradition forming a direct lineage from Orpheus. (2) His political and religious doctrines served as the foundation for shaping the course of Western philosophy as a whole.

As the 19th century historian and expert Thomas Taylor wrote;

“For all the Grecian theology is the progeny of the mystic tradition of Orpheus; Pythagoras first of all learning from Aglaophemus the orgies of the Gods, but Plato in the second place receiving an all-perfect science of the divinities from the Pythagoric and Orphic writings.” (3)

The various cults surrounding the teachings of Orpheus are prominently featured in these ancient texts, solidifying his status as a significant figure in the mythological pantheon. He is credited as being the founder of the theology of the Greeks such as Eleusisian mysteries and the Mysteries of Dionysos.

According to historical accounts, it is believed that the ancient Greek Mystery Cults established by Orpheus at Eleusis were heavily influenced by Egyptian traditions, which were transmitted through Ancient Phoenicia, the island of Crete, and Greece.

Diodorus Siculus, the 2nd century Greek historian, who is best known for his monumental work on universal history of the world, “Bibliotheca Historica” (Library of History), said that he relied on the work of Orpheus as one of his main sources.

Siculus claimed that he was held in such high esteem because he was the most knowledgeable man of the time who was honored by both the Greeks and the Egyptians. He also mentions that the rituals associated with Osiris, an Egyptian god, were remarkably similar to those of Dionysus, who was said to be a priest of Orpheus.

Siculus wrote:

“In After-times, Orpheus, by reason of his excellent Art and Skill in Musick, and his Knowledge in Theology, and Institution of Sacred Rites and Sacrifices to the Gods, was greatly esteemed among the Grecians, and especially was received and entertained by the Thebans, and by them highly honored above all others; who being excellently learned in the Egyptian Theology, brought down the Birth of the ancient Osiris, to a far later time and to gratify the Cadmeans or Thebans, instituted new Rites and Ceremonies, at which he ordered that it should be declared to all that were admitted to those Mysteries, that Dionysus or Osiris was begotten of Semele by Jupiter.

The People therefore partly through Ignorance, and partly by being deceived by the dazzling Luster of Orpheus his Reputation, and with their good Opinion of his Truth and Faithfulness in this matter (especially to have this God reputed a Grecian, being a thing that humored them) began to use these Rites, as is before declared. And with these Stories the Mythologists and Poets have filled all the Theaters, and now it’s generally received as a Truth, not in the least to be questioned.” (4)

The 20th-century historian and author, Otto Kern said in his Orphicorum Fragmenta that this testimony, from Diodorus of Sicily, says that Orpheus took his mystic rites from Egypt and that the Egyptian rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus, the name alone being changed.

The parallels between the Egyptian and Greek mysteries extended beyond Dionysus and Osiris. Diodorus also noted that the Eleusinian mysteries shared similarities with the rites of Isis and Demeter.

“Orpheus, for instance, brought from Egypt most of his mystic ceremonies, the orgiastic rites that accompanied his wanderings, and his fabulous account of his experiences in Hades. For the rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus, and that of Isis very similar to that of Demeter, the names alone having been interchanged; and the punishments in Hades of the unrighteous the Fields of the Righteous, and the fantastic conceptions, current among the many, which are figments of the imagination, all these were introduced by Orpheus in imitation of Egyptian funeral customs.” (5)

This further supports the notion that there was an intermingling of religious practices and beliefs between these ancient cultures of Greece and Egypt.

According to Pausanias, a Greek historian from the second century, individuals seeking knowledge (gnosis) and spiritual enlightenment would become initiates of the Mystery Schools established by Orpheus. These schools were dedicated to teaching ceremonial magic, unraveling the mysteries of the divine realms, and imparting the wisdom of herbal remedies for healing and warding off divine wrath.

Pausanias noted that both men and women flocked to these schools in great numbers, desiring purification and forgiveness for their unholy actions, so that they could lead virtuous lives that pleased the gods and gained their favor. (6)

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), one of the world’s most prominent Swiss psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, acknowledged the significance of Orphism on the world’s religions and cultures. Jung wrote that Ophism “inspired the religious ruminations and philosophic speculation of many centuries” and it offered “initiation into the secrets of the earth,” suggesting a deep connection with the mysteries of the natural world. (7)

For example, one of the central aspects of the Orpheus myth is his descent into the Underworld to retrieve his deceased wife, Eurydice. This journey is laden with symbolism and mirrors the hero’s journey archetype, which Jung believed was a recurring pattern in myths and religious tales worldwide.

Unlike the rites of Osiris and Isis, which primarily involved lamentations for the deaths of the deities associated with agriculture and vegetation, the Orphic Mysteries focused on the spiritual enlightenment of the initiate. (8)

Jung viewed Orphism as an attempt to reconcile the opposites within the individual psyche. He saw it as a profound expression of the human psyche’s desire for transcendence and spiritual liberation. He believed that Orphism represented a collective striving for connection with the divine, reflecting the innate human longing for a deeper understanding of the self and the cosmos.

In his book “Psychology and Alchemy,” he stated, “Orphism was a psychology of religion with a strong Gnostic coloring, representing the sum total of philosophical and religious endeavors to explain life as a meaningful whole.” Jung recognized the Orphic tradition as a quest for unity and wholeness, aiming to bridge the gap between conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche. (9)

In “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” (1934-1954), Jung discussed the hero’s journey as a transformative process of self-discovery, representing the individual’s confrontation with the unconscious and the integration of its contents. Orpheus’ descent into the Underworld signifies a quest for personal growth and spiritual development, echoing the individuation process in Jungian psychology. (10)


This philosophical lineage and connection to the ancient mystery schools of Greece and Crete also continues on to today through the teachings of Gnosticism, religion, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and the Illuminati. Many of our most prominent scholars have acknowledged Orphic influences on our Western Esoteric mystery traditions.

One of the oldest connections is to Pythagoras, who lived in the 6th century BC. He was a Greek philosopher, mathematician and spiritual leader. He founded the philosophical and religious school of Pythagoreanism.  Pythagoras’ teachings were also transmitted to the Western world through prominent medieval alchemists and subsequent practitioners of magic and secret societies, including the fraternities of Freemasonry and the Illuminati, in which Pythagoras played a central role.

This influence can be attributed to the origins of the Western mystery traditions along with their syncretic nature, where ideas, symbols, and religious customs have migrated from Egypt to Crete and Greece to the rest of the Western world, while sharing many of the same customs and rituals between different societies and cultures. These migrations of people which include language, history, religion, and Freemasonry can be traced throughout history to their true origins.

According to the Italian philosopher, scholar, and current Grand Master of the Academy of the Illuminati, Giuliano Di Bernardo;

“Orphism has had a considerable influence on the nascent philosophy not so much over the doctrine of reincarnation as for the dualistic conception of man. For the first time, man is understood as personifying two opposed principles: the immortal soul and the mortal body. This gives rise to a dualism that will cross the entire span of the history of philosophical thought up to our own days. Without Orphism, we would be unable to explain Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and all the philosophers who draw upon them.”

Di Bernardo further stated;

“As far as the initiatory foundation is concerned, between the Freemasonry and the Order of the Illuminati there are no differences: they are both heirs of the ancient Orphic and Pythagorean mysteries. The differences when compared to the present practices can pertain to the symbols, the rituals and the ceremonies.” (11)

Therefor, students of Western Esotericism and true symbolic Masonry should have a firm understanding of Orphic history. Famous Freemason and scholar Albert Pike, in his seminal work “Morals and Dogma,” suggests a Masonic connection to the Orphic Mysteries. Pike wrote;

“The distinction between the esoteric and exoteric doctrines (a distinction purely Masonic), was always and from the very earliest times preserved among the Greeks. It remounted to the fabulous times of Orpheus; and the mysteries of Theosophy were found in all their traditions and myths. And after the time of Alexander, they resorted for instruction, dogmas, and mysteries, to all the schools, to those of Egypt and Asia, as well as those of Ancient Thrace, Sicily, Etruria, and Attica.” (12)

The renown 20th century Masonic philosopher and historian, 33rd Degree Freemason, Many. P. Hall said:

“According to Iamblichus and Proclus, the Grecian theology was derived from the teachings of Orpheus. From Orpheus the doctrine descended to Pythagoras, and from Pythagoras to Plato. These three men together were the founders and disseminators of the Secret Doctrine which had been brought from Asia in the second millennium B. C.

In the words of Proclus, “What Orpheus delivered mystically through arcane narrations, this Pythagoras learned when he celebrated orgies in
the Thracian Libethra, being initiated by Aglaophemus in the mystic wisdom which Orpheus derived from his mother Calliope, in the mountain Pangaeus.” (13)

The influence of Orphic ideas within Freemasonry can be seen when examining Freemasonry from both a philosophical and symbolic perspective. One of the key aspects that highlights this symbolic connection between the Orphic Phanes, Plato’s Demiurgic Craftsman, and the Masonic Grand Architect of the Universe becomes readily apparent.

Both the Orphic mysteries and Freemasonry advocate for moral conduct, personal transformation, and the pursuit of divine knowledge. While the specific doctrines and practices may differ, the underlying principles of virtue, integrity, self-improvement, and enlightenment connect these traditions across time.

According to Dr. Nicolas Laos the Grand Master of the Autonomous Order of the Modern and Perfecting Rite of Symbolic Masonry (A∴O∴M∴P∴R∴S∴M∴), the beginning of Western esotericism, along with the Freemasons and the Illuminati originates with the ancient Orphic mysteries:

“Adam Weishaupt founded the Order of the Illuminati on 1 May 1776 in Bavaria.

Its declared purpose was to bring its members to the highest degree of morality and virtue, to free their minds from prejudice and superstition, and to reform the world by defeating the evils that afflict it.

As regards Freemasonry, Weishaupt maintained that his Order should remain distinct from it because the mysteries of Freemasonry were too puerile and too easily accessible to public opinion. The consequence was that the grades and rituals of the Illuminati were different from those of the Freemasons.

Moreover, the Order of the Illuminati, being a specific interpretation of the millenary esoteric tradition that starts with Orphism in the sixth century B.C.E., presents some common characteristics with other initiatory societies, such as the Rosicrucian Movement and Freemasonry.

According to many ancient Greek philosophers and mythologists, Orpheus founded the Orphic Mysteries, a system of mystical religious anthropology. The rites of those secret mysteries were based on the myth of Dionysus Zagreus, the son of Zeus and Persephone.

When Zeus proposed to make Zagreus the ruler of the universe, the Titans disagreed, and they dismembered the boy and devoured him. Athena saved Zagreus’s heart and gave it to Zeus, who swallowed the heart, from which was born the second Dionysus Zagreus.”

Nicolas Laos continues;

“Moreover, Zeus destroyed the Titans with lightning. From the ashes of the Titans sprang the human race, who were part divine (Dionysus) and part evil (Titan). This double aspect of human nature, the Dionysian and the Titanic, plays a key role in Orphism.

The Orphics affirmed the divine origin of the soul, but they believed that the soul could be liberated from its Titanic inheritance and could achieve eternal bliss through initiation into the Orphic Mysteries.

Thus began the history of Western esotericism.” (14)


Though the exact origins of the Orphic Mysteries remain shrouded in myth and speculation, they exerted a profound influence on the religious and cultural fabric of ancient Greece. It is within the mythical and historical narrative of Orpheus that the true foundations of the Orphic Mysteries lie.

The Orphic Mysteries find their roots in Orpheus, a figure who has been the subject of debate on whether he was a mythical or historical character. Regardless, he held great reverence as a poet, musician, and prophet that earned him the status of a divine patron.

What is certain is that Orpheus left an indelible mark on Greek, Cretan, and Freemasonic history, and his influence has persisted throughout the past 2,500 years or even longer in both classical and modern literature.

As you will see, his teachings and mythical biography served as the foundation for several initiatory cults centered around philosophy and esotericism with themes of death, rebirth, and the salvation of the soul. They provided spiritual guidance and enlightenment to their followers, drawing inspiration from the legendary figure of Orpheus.

The Orphic cosmogony presented a unique worldview, diverging from traditional Greek religious beliefs. Central to their philosophy was the concept of the soul’s transmigration, emphasizing the eternal nature of the soul and its journey through various reincarnations.

Rituals often included ceremonies of purification, symbolic sacrifices, and the consumption of ritualistic meals or drinks, such as the famous Orphic eggs and honey. This belief system offered hope for liberation from the cycle of birth and death, with the ultimate goal being the union of the soul with the divine.

His father, in various versions, is said to be Oeagrus, a Thracian king, or Apollo, the Greek god associated with music, poetry, and prophecy. He was believed to be the son of Apollo, the god of music and arts and the son of a Muse, most commonly identified as Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry. It is within the context of this divine lineage that Orpheus’s extraordinary musical abilities are often depicted. (15)

The myth of Orpheus extends beyond his musical prowess, encompassing his remarkable adventures in the underworld, his ill-fated love for Eurydice, and his role as a divine guide. The story of Orpheus and his descent into Hades to retrieve his beloved wife Eurydice serves as a profound metaphor for the power of music and the human longing for connection and redemption.

In one ancient account, it is recounted that Orpheus possessed a magical lyre, an instrument whose melodies had the power to sway the hearts of gods, animals, and even inanimate objects. The mythological aspect here lies in the notion that music, with its enchanting harmony, could transcend the boundaries of mortal existence and touch the realm of the divine


The most well-known text associated with Orpheus are The Orphic Hymns, which holds significant prominence in contemporary Hellenic religious worship. It was called the Orphic Kozmogonía (Cosmogony) and Thæogonía, which exist only in fragments that are scattered among the works of various ancient authors.

The earliest known mention of Orpheus is attributed to Ívykos, a poet from the sixth century BCE. Although only a small fragment remains from Ívykos’ work, it includes the phrase “famous Orphéus.” (16)

This indicates that even during that time, Orpheus had already achieved a considerable level of fame.

One such mention can be found in Plato’s Eighth Book of Laws, where the existence of Orphic hymns is alluded to. Plato, in his dialogue “Laws,” discusses various religious and philosophical matters, including the role of music and hymns in society where he explains the significance of hymns and their potential to shape moral character. (17)

Another source that refers to these hymns is Pausanias, a Greek traveler and geographer from the 2nd century AD.

Pausanias, in his work “Description of Greece” describes Orpheus as a Thracian figure who was depicted on Mount Helicon, accompanied by ΤΕΛΕΤΗ (initiation or religion), while being surrounded by representations of wild beasts, some made of marble and others of bronze. The author of the Letters on Mythology translates Pausanias’ words as follows:

“The Thracian Orpheus (says Pausanias) was represented on mount Helicon, with ΤΕΛΕΤΗ by his side, and the wild beasts of the woods and surrounded by representations of wild beasts made of marble and bronze. Pausanias also mentions that Orpheus’ hymns were known to be relatively short in length and limited in number, which suggests that they were distinctive in their brevity.(18)

According to Pausanías, he exceeded his predecessors by uncovering the divine mysteries, which ultimately led to his demise. He wrote;

“In my view Orpheus outdid his predecessors in beautiful verse, and obtained great power because people believed he discovered divine Mysteries, rites to purify wicked actions, cures for diseases, defenses against the curses of heaven. They say that the Thracian women plotted Orpheus’ death because he attracted their men to follow him in his wanderings, but because of the men they were frightened to do it;

But when they were full of wine they carried the thing through, and, ever since, the men have had the tradition of marching drunk to battle. There are some who say Orpheus died thunderblasted by the God, because of the stories he made public in the Mysteries, which men had never heard before.”

This account by Pausanías draws parallels to the Greek mythological tale of Prometheus, who suffered punishment at the hands of Zeus for divulging secrets to humanity. As punishment, Prometheus was sentenced to endure having his liver perpetually consumed by an eagle.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, a titan, defied the gods by giving fire, a symbol of knowledge and civilization, to humanity. Zeus, angered by Prometheus’ audacity, devised a punishment to match the severity of the offense. Prometheus was bound to a rock, where an eagle would perpetually devour his liver, which regenerated daily. This cycle of torment continued until Hercules eventually freed Prometheus.

Socrates’ teachings and methods of questioning challenged the traditional beliefs and societal norms of his time. He encouraged critical thinking and the pursuit of wisdom, which sometimes involved questioning the authority of the gods and established dogmas. Plato, one of Socrates’ most prominent students, also faced accusations of divulging secret mysteries and was subjected to suspicion and scrutiny.

Socrates’ trial and subsequent death are documented by Plato in works such as “Apology” and “Phaedo.” The charges against Plato himself are mentioned in Aristophanes’ comedy “The Clouds.”

Furthermore, it finds resonance with the factual account of Socrates, who faced capital punishment at the hands of the Athenian government, and his student Plato, who also encountered accusations of revealing concealed mysteries. Then later came the Masonic myth of Hiram Abiff who on “the contrary” was killed by three fellow craftsmen known as ruffians for not revealing the mysteries and instead valuing the sacredness and secrecy of the knowledge.

According to Damáskios (Damascius, Δαμάσκιος), a Neoplatonic philosopher who lived until sometime after 538 CE, there are three significant Orphic theogonies discussed in his book on first principles, called “ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν” (aporiai kai luseis peri ton prōtōn archōn). He was a leading figure in the Neoplatonic school of thought, and his writings have preserved valuable insights into ancient philosophical and religious traditions, including those of Orphismós.

In his work, Damáskios mentions a text called “The Sacred Logos in Twenty-Four Rhapsodies” (Ιερός Λόγος σε 24 Ραψωδίες). The term “rhapsodies” refers to specific sections within the text, organized similarly to the structure of the Iliad (Ἰλιάς) or the Odyssey (Ὀδύσσεια), both of which are divided into twenty-four parts or books referred to as rhapsodies.

This particular text was regarded as the established or “orthodox” theogony of Orphismós (Orphism, Ορφισμός).(19)


Clement of Alexandria wrote extensively on various philosophical and religious topics, and he drew upon a range of sources, including Orphic literature. He said that both Orpheus and Plato derived their knowledge of the one Living and True God from the Mosaic writings, and cites these lines from one of the Orphic hymns: “One is perfect in Himself, and all things are born of One; Him no one of mortals has seen, but He sees all.”(20)

Clement’s works, such as “Exhortation to the Greeks” and “Stromateis,” contain references to the Orphic myth and shed light on its influence within the broader cultural and intellectual milieu of the time.

The 19th century German philologist and historian of Greco-Roman religions, Albrecht Dieterich (1893) argued in his influential work on Greek and Christian apocalyptic religions that Plato reproduced an authentic Orphic eschatology, a viewpoint supported more recently by Peter Kingsley (1996). (21)

Recent archeological discoveries including the Gold Tablets, the Derveni Papyrus, the Gûrob Papyrus, and an Olbian bone tablet, have significantly reshaped our understanding of Orphism and ignited a lively debate among scholars. These artifacts, considered to be among the earliest remnants associated with the Orphic tradition, have provided valuable insights into ancient religious and philosophical practices.

The Gold Tablets, for instance, were unearthed in various locations such as Thessaly and Crete, and they contain inscriptions written in ancient Greek. These tablets are believed to have been buried with the deceased, serving as guides to the afterlife according to Orphic beliefs. They offer detailed instructions and rituals aimed at securing a favorable journey for the soul. (22)

Another notable discovery, the Derveni Papyrus, was found in 1962 in Derveni, near Thessaloniki, Greece. Although not exclusively dedicated to Orphism, this ancient manuscript contains a philosophical treatise with strong connections to Orphic doctrines. It explores topics such as cosmogony, religious rituals, and the nature of the gods, providing valuable insights into the philosophical and religious landscape of the time. (23)

The Gûrob Papyrus, discovered in the late 19th century in Gûrob, Egypt, presents a collection of magical spells and religious hymns associated with Orphic practices. This papyrus has played a crucial role in unraveling the mystical aspects of Orphism, shedding light on the rituals and beliefs related to the Orphic mysteries. (24)

Additionally, the Olbian bone tablet, found in Olbia, a Greek colony on the northern coast of the Black Sea, provides yet another fascinating glimpse into the early expressions of Orphic traditions. This small bone fragment contains an inscription believed to be an invocation to the deity Dionysus, emphasizing the significance of Dionysiac elements within the Orphic cult. (25)


In examining the teachings of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, it is quite evident that Orpheus and the religious and philosophical system known as Ophism had a profound influence on thier own ideas. They were well known just like Orpheus for their contributions to mathematics, music, philosophy, and mysticism.

Like is found in Ophism, Pythagoras embraced the Orphic belief in the soul’s transmigration, asserting that the soul is eternal and undergoes a cyclical process of rebirth. He regarded the body as a temporary vessel for the immortal soul, emphasizing the importance of moral and intellectual development to liberate the soul from the cycle of reincarnation.

According to 19th century British author and neo-Platonist classicist, Thomas Taylor wrote;

“In the former part of this Dissertation, we asserted that we should derive all our information concerning the Orphic theology, from the writings of the Platonists; not indeed without reason. For this sublime theology descended from Orpheus to Pythagoras, and from Pythagoras to Plato; as the following testimonies evince.

“Timæus (says Proclus) being a Pythagorean, follows the Pythagoric principles, and these are the Orphic traditions; for what Orpheus delivered mystically in secret discourses, these Pythagoras learned when he was initiated by Aglaophemus in the Orphic mysteries.” Syrianus too makes the Orphic and Pythagoric principles to be one and the same; and, according to Suidas, the same Syrianus composed a book, entitled the Harmony of Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato.

The  neoplatonic philosopher, Proclus of Athens wrote: “The whole theology of the Greeks is the child of Orphic mystagogy; Pythagoras being first taught the ‘orgies’ of the gods ‘ orgies’ signifying ‘ burstings forth, or’emanations,’ from opyaw] by Aglaophemus, and next Plato receiving the perfect science concerning such things from the Pythagorean and Orphic writings” (26)


The study of the origins of Plato’s ontology and eschatology has intrigued many scholars since the 19th century and even further. However, when one examines Plato’s own words and many of his teachings, we find elements of Orphism throughout his work.

The 19th-century British philosopher and author, Alfred Edward Taylor (A. E. Taylor) believed that Plato, Socrates, and Pythagoras were all voluntary initiates of the Orphic mysteries and that it was an international religion. A. E. Taylor explains:

“The Socrates of the Platonic dialogues frequently refers to the dogmas of the Orphic religion as supporting his own convictions about the immortality of the soul and the importance of the life to come, and the details of the imaginative myths which he relates about Heaven and Hell in the Gorgias, Phaedo, Republic, are notoriously Orphic.

Plato, too, as we see from allusions in the Laws, regarded ancient sayings, which plainly mean the Orphic doctrines, as fables with a kernel of imperishable religious truth; but we see also from the unsparing attack on immoral mythology and religion in the second book of the Republic, which is aimed much more at Orpheus than at Homer,

Plato’s perspective on ancient sayings, particularly the Orphic doctrines, was complex. On one hand, he acknowledged that these sayings contained a core of timeless religious truth, often shrouded in the form of fables. References in his work “Laws” suggest that Plato saw value in these ancient teachings.

However, in his influential work “Republic,” Plato launched a scathing attack on immoral mythology and religious practices, primarily targeting Orpheus more than Homer. This indicates that Plato believed Orphism had undergone a decline by the time of his birth, degenerating into its followers engaging in the vulgar commercial trafficking in ‘pardons’ and ‘indulgences.’

To better understand the context of the conversation described in Plato’s Republic, we must imagine it taking place during Plato’s early childhood or even earlier. This is because his older brother, Adimantus, who appears as a young man in the dialogue, was already old enough to act as a guardian for Plato in 399.

We learn about this from Apology 34a, where Socrates refers to Adimantus as a relative who could provide an authoritative opinion on the impact of Socrates’ own society on Plato. Therefore, it is unlikely that contemporary Orphism at the time that he criticized had influenced either Plato or Socrates negatively in this regard.

Pindar’s greatest Orphic odes, however, belong to the years just before Socrates’ birth, and this suggests the probability that Socrates really had been initiated in the Orphic religion in childhood and was permanently impressed by it. It must be remembered that the Orphic religion was not that of any political community.

It was recruited, like a modern church, by voluntary initiation in its sacraments, and was ‘international.’

The original Pythagoreans merged a religion centered around the belief in an immortal soul with their scientific pursuits. This aspect, if it is indeed true, helps explain the enduring connection between Socrates and the Pythagoreans from Thebes and Phlius.

It also sheds light on Plato’s evident concern in the Euthyphro dialogue to highlight the contrast between Socrates’ piety and the peculiar beliefs of the sect follower Euthyphro. Additionally, it accounts for the existence of Aeschines’ dialogue Telauges, in which Socrates engages with an eccentric devotee who possesses dirty habits, and seemingly criticizes his way of life. (27)

According to the 20th century historian and author, W.K.C. Guthrie, he suggested that Plato simply “supplemented” Orphic religion.

Guthrie believed that Orpheus was the source of the Orphic Mysteries, a system of personal progress or evolution leading to the deification of the soul. Orpheus is known as the originator of all the Mysteries, teachings which are held with a certain degree of secrecy.

He wrote;

“As founder of Mystery-Religions, Orpheus was the first to reveal to men the meaning of rites of initiation (teletai). We read of this in both Plato and Aristophanes.”

…the existence of a sacred literature ascribed to Orpheus, evidence is not lacking to show that this was in being in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, and moreover that it was believed in those centuries to be of great antiquity.” (28)

Auguste Diès, a renowned scholar of Plato’s life and works, acknowledged the influence of Orphic thought on Plato’s philosophy while also recognizing the originality of Plato’s ideas. Diès argued that Plato transposed the religious and initiatory doctrines of Orphism into the pursuit of philosophical perfection. (29)

This perspective has been inherited by scholar, Alberto Bernabé, who further developed the theory of “transposition,” suggesting that Plato replaced the Orphic life with the philosophic life, emphasizing moral obligations and philosophical perfection instead of initiatory rights and purifications. (30)

Giovanni Reale, a historian of philosophy, emphasized the importance of Orphism in understanding not only Plato but also other influential philosophers such as Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Empedocles. According to Reale, Orphism played a crucial role in shaping their philosophical ideas. (31)

Plato’s Orphica plays a significant role in the collection known as the Orphicorum Fragmenta, which is a compilation of ancient texts that provide insights into Orphism, an esoteric religious tradition attributed to the mythical figure Orpheus.

In Plato’s dialogue “Phaedrus,” he presents a myth inspired by the Orphic tradition, where the soul is depicted as a divine charioteer seeking to ascend to the realm of eternal truths. In the dialogue, Plato discusses the concept of the soul’s journey through cycles of incarnation and judgment. (32)

This idea bears a resemblance to both Egyptian and Orphic teachings regarding the transmigration of souls and his belief in the soul’s immortality and its longing for union with the transcendental realm. (33)

Plato also alludes to the teachings that resonate with Gnosticism with the Orphic belief that the soul is a prisoner to the sōma “body/tomb”. By exploring the etymology of the word “sōma,” Plato suggests that the physical body serves as both a vessel for the soul and a confining tomb.

This dialogue provides insights into the notion of the soul’s entrapment within the material realm, which underscores the influence of Orphic or Gnostic thought on later philosophical and religious movements, as well as the broader dialogue between ancient wisdom traditions, including Christianity.

The concept of “soma-sema,” meaning “body-prison,” is one of the well-known phrases associated with the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato in ancient Greece.  This phrase reveals the ancient belief and Gnostic concept that the soul is trapped within the body and acts as a sort of metaphysical prison for our true spirit.

Plato’s dialogue Cratylus (400c) is one of the primary sources where Socrates mentions the Orphics as probable inventors of this idea.

However, when examining the Orphic mystery cults in ancient Greece may provide some insights, but the fundamental teachings of “soma-sema” can be found in the mysticism of Pharaonic Egypt, predating both Pythagoras and Plato.(34)

The phrase “soma-sema” serves as a reminder of the intricate interplay between different civilizations and the evolution of ideas over time. By understanding the historical context and sources, we can appreciate the cross-cultural exchange between the East and West and the complex origins of philosophical concepts.

The dialogue also explores the nature of language, names, and their connection to reality. Socrates speculates that the Orphics, with their theogonic myth, played a significant role in shaping the understanding of language and its relationship to divine entities.

Moreover, Socrates makes references to Orphic beliefs in other dialogues as well. In Phaedrus (250c), Socrates discusses the immortality of the soul and draws upon Orphic teachings to support his arguments. Similarly, in Gorgias (493a), Socrates refers to the Orphics when discussing the nature of rhetoric and its moral implications.

While it is commonly associated with Greek philosophy and Gnosticism, its origins can be traced back to the Egyptian mysteries in which Pythagoras and Plato were initiated.

One of the most well-known stories involving Orpheus is his descent into the realm of Hades, the underworld, in a desperate attempt to bring his deceased wife, Eurydice, back to the realm of the living. This tale of love and devotion can also be found in Plato’s Symposium (179d) where we find Orpheus’s journey to Hades, showcasing his determination and willingness to confront death itself.

However, it is important to note that Plato’s portrayal of Orpheus in his writings is marked by a mixture of admiration and criticism. Plato also expresses reservations about certain aspects of Orphic beliefs and practices.

In Plato’s famous work, “The Republic,” he presents a dialogue where he criticizes the priests associated with the Orphic tradition. These priests engaged in the commercialization of knowledge, tempting people with the promise of enlightenment through the sale of numerous Orphic books.

In this section, Plato engages in a discussion on poetry, a form of art often associated with the Orphic tradition. He raises concerns about the influence of poets and their potential to mislead and corrupt the minds of citizens.

Plato argues that poets, including these traveling priests of Orpheus, often rely on emotional appeal and rhetoric to manipulate and sway their audience without providing genuine knowledge or understanding.

By targeting the Orphic priests specifically, Plato addresses a broader issue of charlatans who exploit people’s thirst for wisdom, undermining the pursuit of genuine knowledge. His skepticism towards these priests and their supposed authority over esoteric teachings reflects his philosophical commitment to seeking truth through reason rather than relying on external authorities.

This ancient phenomenon of both mental and spiritual exploitation for monetary gain is nothing new and can be found throughout the history of all religions, secret societies and even atheist organizations.


Heraclitus, a prominent pre-Socratic philosopher, also exhibited traces of Orphic influence in his philosophical musings. His concept of the “Logos” as the universal principle of order and change bears similarities to Orphic notions of a divine organizing force. Heraclitus’ emphasis on the ephemeral nature of reality and the cyclical nature of existence resonates with the Orphic belief in the soul’s journey through multiple reincarnations.

Philostratus presents the idea that when we examine the conflicts among the Gods depicted in the Iliad, we should bear in mind that the poet engaged in a philosophical approach influenced by Orphism. (35)

This perspective is supported by Plutarch, who explains that the earliest philosophers concealed their teachings through the use of fables and symbols, specifically citing the Orphic writings and Phrygian myths. He further argues that ancient natural science, both among the Greeks and foreigners, was largely veiled within these myths—a cryptic and mysterious theology that held a hidden and enigmatic meaning. Plutarch says evidence for this notion can be found in the Orphic poems as well as the treatises of the Egyptians and Phrygians. (36)


The Orphic tradition and the mythical figure of Orpheus have left an indelible mark on Greek philosophy, permeating the works of renowned thinkers throughout history. Pythagoras, Plato, Empedocles, and Heraclitus are just a few examples of philosophers who integrated Orphic teachings into their philosophies.

These examples demonstrate the profound intertwining of myth and allegory in the tales surrounding Orpheus. They depict him as a figure who transcends the boundaries of mere mortal existence, embodying divine qualities and serving as a catalyst for societal and spiritual transformation.

The enduring fascination with Orpheus throughout history is a testament to the enduring power of these narratives and their impact on our understanding of this legendary figure.

Undoubtedly, Orpheus still holds a position of great significance among the prominent figures of ancient Greece and Crete. His influence and legacy have endured through the centuries, capturing the imagination and reverence of both ancient and more recent civilizations.

The Orphic teachings served as the foundation for many ancient initiatory cults centered around themes of death, rebirth, and the salvation of the soul, which provided spiritual guidance and enlightenment to its followers.

The influence of the Orphic Mysteries extended beyond the boundaries of Greece. The spread of Hellenistic culture and the subsequent rise of the Roman Empire facilitated the dissemination of Orphic ideas throughout the Mediterranean world.


1. Orphism – The Oxford Classical Dictionary & Encyclopædia Britannica

2. Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935

3. Taylor, Thomas. “The Fragments That Remain of the Lost Writings of Origen: Orphica.” (1825)

4. Diodorus Siculus – The Library of History Page 10

5. Otto Kern – Orphicorum Fragmenta

6. Pausanias. – Description of Greece, Book IX, Translated by W.H.S. Jones (1918)

7. Jung, Man and His Symbols, p. 142

8. Jung – Psychology and Religion: West and East Princeton University Press, 2014

9. Jung – Psychology and Alchemy

10. Jung – The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

11. Giuliano Di Bernardo – The Esoteric Foundation of Humanity

12. Albert Pike Morals and Dogma Chapter of Rose Croix: XVII. Knight of the East and West

13. Manly P. Hall – Newsletter March 15, 1937

14. Dr. Nicolas Laos –

15. Pindar, Pythian 4.176-177; Euripides, Alcestis 357-362

16. Pausanias’s Description of Greece: Translation – Page 481

17. Plato, “Laws,” Book VIII:

18. Pausanias’s Description of Greece – Volume 1 – Page 481b, ‎James George Frazer · 1898

19. Damáskios (Damascius; Gr. Δαμάσκιος) I.317.15 Ruelle; summarized from THE DERVENI PAPYRUS – Cosmology, Theology and Interpretation by Gábor Betegh, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 143-144. (I.317.15 Ruelle)

20. Clement of Rome – https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.v.xii.html

21. Dieterich, A. (1893). Eine Mithrasliturgie (Vol. 1). Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung

22. Gold Tablets: Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, “Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato, Aristophanes, and the ‘Orphic’ Gold Tablets” (2004)

23. Derveni Papyrus: Richard Janko, “The Derveni Papyrus: Cosmology, Theology, and Interpretation” (2005)

24. Gûrob Papyrus: Alberto Bernabé, “Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity” (2010)

25. Olbian bone tablet: Fritz Graf, “Greek Mythology: An Introduction” (1993)

26. Taylor, Thomas. “The Fragments That Remain of the Lost Writings of Origen: Orphica.” (1825)

27. Socrates: The Man and His Thought by A. E. Taylor, 1933 (Chapter 2 pp. 50-52.)

28. Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie, 1935. We are using the 1993 reprint by Princeton Univ. Press (Princeton, NJ USA), p 17

29. Diès, A. Leçons sur la philosophie de Platon. Paris: Société d’Edition “Les Belles Lettres. (1927)

30. Bernabé, A. Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (2011)

31. Reale, G. (1987). Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans

32. Plato Phaedrus 249

33. Plato Cratylus 400

34. Burkert, Walter. Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press (1987)

35. Philostratus’s Heroikos: Religion and Cultural Identity in the Third Century C.E.” Translated by Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean. Society of Biblical Literature (2004)

36. Plutarch, “Plutarch’s Morals: Ethical Essays.” Translated by William W. Goodwin. Little, Brown, and Company (1871)

Chaos Magickians in Satan’s Kingdom w/ David Livingstone

Chaos Magickians in Satan’s Kingdom w/ David Livingstone

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In this episode of the Gnostic WarriorRadio Show and Podcast, I interview author and expert on occult history and secret societies, David Livingstone @ https://ordoabchao.ca/ David gives us a special presentation on the history of Babylonian and chaos magick.

The Illuminati’s Secret Podcast of Wisdom – Josef Wages

The Illuminati’s Secret Podcast of Wisdom – Josef Wages

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The Illuminati's Secret Podcast of Wisdom

Joe Wages

Josef Wages

Hello, and welcome to the Gnostic Warrior Podcast broadcasting from Gnosticwarrior.com in San Diego, California, to around the world. I’m your host Moe, and today on the show, I have the honor of interviewing author, 32nd-degree FreeMason, and an expert on the Bavarian Illuminati, Josef Wages.

Joe is the author of The Secret School Of Wisdom – The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati. He is also one of the 1st people in the world to travel to Germany to peer into The Secret archives of Adam Weishaupt’s Bavarian Illuminati, And what he found is genuinely fascinating and a tale of Great Masonic work. It was great learning about Joe’s journey into the mysterious secrets of this German sect of the Illuminati, and you’ll enjoy this illuminating Podcast. But before we get into the show, I have a word from our sponsors.

Get Josef Wages Book on Amazon

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Gnostic Warrior On YouTube

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The Hidden Meaning of New Year and January 1st

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There are many holidays we celebrate across the world, and especially here in America that very few people truly understand. Today, January 1st is one of those holidays many people think is just about partying and bringing in the New Year with some new resolutions...

Phillip K. Dick: The Black Iron Prison of the Empire that Never Ended

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“So long as the root of wickedness is hidden, it is strong. But when it is recognized, it is dissolved. When it is revealed, it perishes…. It is powerful because we have not recognized it.” - The Gospel of Phillip (Gnostic Text) One of Phillip K. Dick's most famous...

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"The most primitive and fundamental of all symbols is the dot." — Manly P. Hall; Lectures on Ancient Philosophy The ancient symbol known as the dot in the circle, circled dot, circle with a point, or a circumpunct, is one of the oldest symbols known to humans....

The Meaning of Being Illuminati – Dr. Nicolas Laos

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The Meaning of Being Illuminati

Dr. Nicolas Laos

Dr. Nicolas Laos

My special guest today is philosopher, Freemason (regularly installed Heirophant-of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis Misraim), author, and the founder and World Grand Master of the Scholalary and Political Order Ur Illuminati (SPOUI).

An International Illuminati movement based on the ancient traditions of the Bavarian Illuminati that is in league with other Illuminati sects such as one of Italy’s most respected Freemasons, Dr. Guiliano Di Bernardo who is the Grand Master of the Dignity Order.

The Ur-Illuminati is an exclusive global Fraternity based on the Third-Way Esotericism and Noopolitics: Beyond the White and Black Brotherhoods. This is NOT an Order which an initiate can add to their other ones; it is an end to esotericism and noopolitics.

Dr. Nicolas Laos is a native of Athens, Greece and is an internationally published and respected author of numerous books on philosophy, ontology, metaphysics, Freemasonry,  Noopolitics, and his latest book, The Meaning of Being Illuminati which is the world’s first scholarly research on the true history and inner-workings of the Real Illuminati.

Dr. Nicolas Laos’ website: NicolasLaos.com

Would you like to know the truth about the Illuminati without the conspiratorial nonsense and how you can possibly become a member of this exclusive global Fraternity based on the Third-Way Esotericism and Noopolitics known officially as the “Scholarly and Political Order of the Illuminati (SPOUI)”?

Please order and read the Dr. Laos’ book, The Meaning of Being Illuminati from Amazon at the link below. After you read the book and if you are still interested in joining this international Illuminati order, please contact Moe at this link and explain who you are and why you would be a good candidate to serve the SPOUI



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“So long as the root of wickedness is hidden, it is strong. But when it is recognized, it is dissolved. When it is revealed, it perishes…. It is powerful because we have not recognized it.” - The Gospel of Phillip (Gnostic Text) One of Phillip K. Dick's most famous...

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Illuminati Plan to Overturn All Government and All Religion, Even Natural

G. W. Snyder was a Lutheran minister who wrote a letter to President George Washington in 1978 expressing his concern about the George Washington hidden handIlluminati in the United States. He included a copy of John Robinson’s Proofs of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, published in Philadelphia in 1798 which was in GW’s library at his death. This correspondence was one of many between Snyder and George Washington on the Illuminati.

To George Washington from G. W. Snyder, 22 August 1798 Frederick-Town (Maryland) Augt 22. 1798.


You will, I hope, not think it a Presumption in a Stranger, whose Name, perhaps never reached your Ears, to address himself to you the Commanding General of a great Nation. I am a German, born and liberally educated in the City of Heydelberg in the Palatinate of the Rhine. I came to this Country in 1776, and felt soon after my Arrival a close Attachment to the Liberty for which these confederated States then struggled. The same Attachment still remains not glowing, but burning in my Breast.

At the same Time that I am exulting in the Measures adopted by our Government, I feel myself elevated in the Idea of my adopted Country. I am attached both from the Bent of Education and mature Enquiry and Search to the simple Doctrines of Christianity, which I have the Honor to teach in Public; and I do heartily despise all the Cavils of Infidelity. Our present Time, pregnant with the most shocking Evils and Calamities, threatens Ruin to our Liberty and Government. (more…)

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