Orpheus and Counterculture


Vegetarian, non-violent, a singer and string strummer, a poet, a broken hearted lover, traveller to other worlds, not just on the first tour bus in western history, the Argo, but also beyond death, to the world of gods and ghosts.  Straights snickered that he was not only effeminate but the first guy to go gay in Greece.  So if you do it Greek, you’re doing it Orpheus.  But his fans say all the wisdom in the world is in his songs.  If you know how to listen, if you get the music, if you understand the symbolism of the lyrics, all the secrets of life and death are revealed. This cat, Orpheus, was he the first hipster? As befits the first rock star in history, frenzied groupies ripped him apart, the way you always imagined would happen if those mobs of fans had ever caught up with The Beatles.  The head of Orpheus went on singing, like the hit singles of dead teen idols, and the hologram of Tupac.

It would not be an overstatement to describe the Orphic literature as the grow light for western cultural renaissance.  Wherever the writing and themes of Orphism found their way into the lives of composers, painters, musicians, philosophers, and mystics a flowering of spirituality and the arts followed.

For generations historians believed that western civilization began in ancient Greece.  Today historians have the evidence to support the testimony of the ancient Greeks themselves, that other cultures, especially the ancient Egyptian, gave Greece important inspiration and key ideas about religion.  But thanks to the works of Plato and Aristotle, the comedies of Aristophanes and the tragedies of Aeschylus in many ways we can still view ancient Greece as the flashpoint where the inferno of the western world began.  We can also look to Greece for the earliest known significant counterculture in western history.

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