The myth of Orpheus is a mockery of the religions related to the reincarnation of souls. The soul is a persistence of the Psyche after death. We are referring here to the soul, not to the Spirit. This distinction, having great logical significance, was very familiar to Antiquity, since Homer, in his time, already attributed the human being with the possession of two intelligences, the “thymos”, and the “psyche”. For him, as well as for Plato, the soul is fundamentally opposed to the Spirit, and the soul does not participate to divinity. A sort of “fallen angel for all time”, the soul is a perpetual confession of man’s inconsistency, of the frailty of his mortal nature, of his sin before God. Even more than this, it is a direct emanation of the body, a prisoner from Hades, a persistent shadow encrusted into the fabric of time and space. Not immortal, but enduring, it survives the corpse by constantly expressing its desire to regain roots into materiality (into the physical world), to be reincarnated in a new body. The soul is incestuous by its very nature. It relates to the intention of carrying on through time (it does not participate to Eternity). For this purpose, consanguineous unions under all their forms (intellectual or physical) were used as part of these religions, the finality of which was to transmit from one generation to another, within a dynasty or a family, one and the same soul. The worship of the ancestors is an adaptation of this. The basic idea here, being that the soul is the only form of life after death which is able to materialise in an ever-moving world, one dragged down into a perpetual fall. Yet, as the myth of Orpheus shows, it is nothing other than an endless fall, an interminable maze, a perpetual death, an illusion which lures the soul into an infinite game of mirrors, or mirror effect. Some souls only live and die once. Others live and die multiple times, such is the case with Eurydice. Indeed, if Orpheus turns around, worrying over the silence of his beloved, and thereby sends her back to Hell, it is first and foremost because of a lack of Faith. The image he has of Eurydice is deceptive. To him, she is the prospect of Salvation indeed, but of an illusory, unreal salvation, one infected by the serpent’s venom. In other words, Orpheus does not yearn for resurrection, his Faith is flawed, and he is incapable of catching sight of the new Eurydice in the light of day (i.e. of redemption and Faith). He turns back towards the darkness of Hell (of the sepulchre), in order to stare at the mutilated and tainted image of Salvation: at the Soul. In doing this, he kills himself, and becomes his own serpent, infected by his own venom.
Besides its theoretical value, the myth of Orpheus also had a practical one in Antiquity. It existed under the form of an initiation ritual, which is still being practised to this day in certain Russian monasteries, of a method for psychiatric conditioning. The objective was to trigger artificially in the initiated person a dissociative personality disorder, that is to say a collapse of the soul. The trial has no other goal than to reveal to whomever experienced it, the nature of Hades, the imminence of death, and the imperfection of one’s own soul. Concretely, this ritual definitely persuaded the initiated of the necessity of the doctrine of reincarnation, the latter having no hope left, nor any other prospect of Salvation to turn to.
As we have said, the myth of Orpheus echoes the book of Genesis, and the original fall. Orpheus and Eurydice are the transposition of Eve and Adam respectively, i.e. of the authors of sin, incarnation and death. But conversely, in Biblical thought, the consequences of the original sin are reversible. The fall is an occasion for reparation; that which has been lowered down will be lifted up. The Serpent which was lying in the dust in the garden of Eden, will be lifted up in the desert by Moses, just like Christ will be lifted up on the cross. The Bible adds a second part to the myth of Orpheus, in transparence of which it conceives of a necessary prelude to Salvation. Any redemption presupposes a fall. And although Adam and Eve bear within themselves the seeds of death and sin, the Gospels on the contrary, present us Jesus and Mary Magdalene as the authors of the redemption of humankind. Whilst they too are infected by the Serpent’s venom, they triumph over Hades, as it is written in the Creed: “Jesus Christ descended into Hell, he arose from the dead on the third day.” In the continuity of the Biblical account, the Holy Scriptures introduce us to Mary Magdalene, waiting for Jesus Christ at the entrance of the tomb. Where Orpheus and Eurydice had failed, where Adam and Eve had only sown sorrow and desolation, the Christ and Mary Magdalene triumph over death, and manifest in the entire universe the Victory of Faith (i.e. of the Supreme Being, of the Spirit): Gospel of John (20:1) “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. […] (20:14) she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing. (…] (20:15) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener (we have here an explicit reference to the “garden” of Eden, the idea of a reparation of the original sin), saith unto him: Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. (20:16) Jesus saith unto her: Mary! She turned herself, and saith unto him: Rabboni! which is to say, my Master!”
Whilst Life and Salvation have been offered to us by the Christ and Mary Magdalene, Moses made us know the Sign of Salvation many centuries before. The New Testament irresistibly tends towards the Spirit, Faith, and presupposes that the knowledge attained to from the Old Testament is preserved intact. Is it not written: (Matthew, 5:17) “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”? Therefore, let us remember that if the Christ is a figure less of an avenger than of a friend in the New Testament, it is because his specific task is to give testimony of the Spirit, and not of the Law. But the unity of the Scriptures cannot accept a discontinuity in the Biblical message. Thus it is written: (John, 3:14) “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” God is Invariable; his message has remained the same across the centuries. Admittedly, “the Letter (the Law) killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (Paul, 2 Corinthians, ch. 3, v. 6). Yet, since the Spirit is the feeling of the divine nature, it cannot evade the mechanical manifestation of Salvation (within the relative proportions assigned to it). Are not the Faith and the Spirit an “anticipation” of the Divine things? Thus Moses was the sublime forerunner of Christ, and the expression of the Divine Justice within our world. There is no Justice, nor constraining Law in the Kingdom of God, since “I Am”, i.e. God, replies and converses with “that I Am”, i.e. with the assembly of the Elect. Where there is only perfection, any form of Justice is useless, since there is no time. Every condemnation has already been implemented, and the arbitration has already taken place. On the opposite, the Law is a necessity in our world; it manifests Faith within time, as a beacon guides ships in the middle of the storm. It is the expression of perfection within imperfection, the standard of Victory over death, the proclamation of the supremacy of the Spirit over the void. It is a candle which brings light into a dark place, a devouring fire which all of the waters from rivers and oceans would not manage to extinguish. Finally, it is a rebellion against chaos, a manifestation of the Divine order into the world.
So it is with the Brazen Serpent, which is also called the Staff of Moses.
The “Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum” (“Book of Biblical Antiquities”) of Pseudo-Philo, a midrash from the 1st century CE, sees in this object a representation of the Covenant. In chapter 19, verse 11, one can read: “And now, thy rod (the Staff of Moses) wherewith the signs were wrought, shall be for a witness between me and my people. […] thy rod shall be in my sight for a remembrance all the days, and shall be like unto the bow wherein I made a covenant with Noah when he came out of the ark”. Other midrashim maintain that “the Staff” was created by God “in the twilight” (or “between the two suns”), that it was already present in the garden of Eden, and that it bears the Holy Name engraved upon it.
Whatever the case may be, it is certain, as the Midrashim explain, that this Staff is, all by itself, a synthesis of Salvation and of the teachings of Moses. This object was destined to deliver Israel from Egypt, i.e. from the despotism of Pharaoh. In this regard, it is the powerful manifestation of Faith into the world, of this very Faith which Orpheus so sorely lacked.
What are the components of the Staff of Moses, its meaning and its workings? The Staff is composed of a central trunk, which is said to be approximately the size of Moses. It represents the mortal body of flesh, which is the legacy we hold from the Serpent. It is the image of incarnation. This trunk is the body of the Brazen Serpent, as it is written: (Exodus 7:9) “Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.” On the top of the Staff, one can distinguish the head of the Brazen Serpent, ornamented with two crests of fire, which represent respectively the Spirit (Faith) and the Soul (the Psyche, of which Eurydice is a figure). In this way, we realise that this Staff is the concrete manifestation, in an object, of the Supreme Being. This object is also a projection of Moses, both as a Prophet (he speaks and acts in the name of God), and as God himself, Spirit born of the Spirit, light born of light, as the book of Exodus lets us know (7:1): “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” This Staff, called in Hebrew “Nahash Nahoshet”, i.e. Brazen Serpent (brass is a “covenant”, i.e. an alliance, between Red copper – Fire-coloured metal – and tin), is therefore inseparable from the representation which Moses has of himself. It is declaration of Faith, a concept of Theology and of quantum physics. The Staff is at the same time body (Serpent), (fallen) soul, and Spirit (Faith, the Supreme Being); it is Moses who is projecting himself whole, in all of his aspects, in this Staff. This Staff is thus named “Brazen Serpent”, in reference to the crests of Red Fire (we have here also the image of the Burning Bush) arising from the Serpent’s head, that is to say from the head of Moses. The painter Marc Chagall had not expressed it otherwise, by endowing Moses with “Horns of Fire” similar to light rays (Michelangelo also makes reference to them). Let us add that Biblical exegesis attributes to Moses the uninterrupted possession of these crests of Fire, from the time of the Exodus onwards (34:29-30): “when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, [...] Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with God. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.” Moses had become the manifestation of Faith into the world, the blazing Serpent endowed with the two crests of Fire, a projection of the Burning Bush, of God himself. It is thereby given to us to understand this verse of John the Evangelist: (John 3:14) “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The Serpent which was lying in the dust has been lifted up, that which was twisted has been straightened up. Moses, from the head of whom two beams of light, the Spirit and the soul, are now soaring up, brings the evident proof that death is not an end goal, but a beginning.
Where the soul submitted to sin had instilled the Serpent’s Venom into humankind, the Spirit gives life to this mortal body fated for Hades, and gives it an echo into Eternity. This is what enabled the Holy Scripture to say: (Numbers 21:6) “And the Eternal God sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. (21:7) Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. (21:8) And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. (21:9) And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
The Staff of Moses is both the gaping mouth of Hades, and the gate of the Heavens. It concentrates within itself two initiations: that of Orpheus, which is an echo of the Original Sin. In this perspective, we see the fiery serpents infect the Israelites with their bites, and thus condemning them to the Hell of the Ancients. But as a second step, it is also the manifestation of Salvation, the source of life at which the Elect will quench their thirst in Eternity. We have there the striking depiction of the Standard of God, of the sign of Victory, for whomever understands its profound meaning. A link between God and Men, a victory of the Spirit over the void, the Staff of Moses is the certainty of Salvation and Redemption for the person whose sight is already gazing into Eternity. Such as it is written: (Ezekiel 37:11) “Then he said unto me, Son of Man, these bones (these souls) are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say: Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts! (37:12) Therefore prophesy, and say unto them: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. (37:13) […] (37:14) And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” Death has become the prelude to Resurrection, and where there was only soul and body, dust born of dust, the Divine Spirit opens up the doors of Salvation, and causes the people, captive from the Valley of the shadow of death, to come up out of the bowels of Hades.
It is thereby given to us to grasp in its fullness this passage from Exodus pertaining to the Staff of Moses, and to the victory won by him over the serpents with which Pharaoh’s magicians confront him: (Exodus 7:1) “And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. (7:2) Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. (7:3) And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. [...] (7:8) And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, (7:9) When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. (7:10) And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod (here it is referred to the Staff which Moses orders Aaron to throw) before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. (7:11) Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. (7:12) For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.”
To the sham Salvation through reincarnation that the enchanters and magicians of Egypt teach (which is a consequence of the Original Sin), Moses objects with, and proclaims, Salvation by Faith. He places within one and the same body, within one and the same Serpent, a soul and a Spirit. Consequently the Staff of Moses does swallow the other serpents, which, overflowing with venom against themselves, are incapable of straightening themselves up, of recovering from the original sin, from sin and death. We are here in presence of the distinction between the ancient Caduceus and the Staff of Moses.
'Orpheus and Eurydice' Violet Brunton c1910
'The Garden of Eden' Thomas Cole 1828
'The Delivery of Israel out of Egypt' Samuel Coleman c1830
Finally, the Sign of Moses is also the Standard of Victory, the powerful breath of God, which liberates humanity from the captivity of the World and from the tyranny of Pharaoh. Like the Hebrews, we are all Pharaoh’s slaves in our own way. The Kingdom of Egypt is, through its pyramids, and the multitude of its sepulchres, the embodiment of this valley of the shadow of death, so articulately described by Ezekiel. Let us reflect upon this: We are all prisoners of Pharaoh’s tomb and of his “incestuous soul”, which, more than anything else, strives to extend itself over time from one generation to another, in a world made out of dust (doctrine of reincarnation). Pharaoh is the perfect image of the Ouroboros; he elevates incest and perversion as a mode of government. It is by enslaving and mutilating all of the highest and noblest things about the human Spirit, that he ensures for himself in the world, the continuation necessary to his odious tyranny.
On the contrary, the Staff of Moses is the Gate of the Heavens, the unshakeable certainty that a Divine Plan does preside over human destiny. God created the world, as the book of Genesis lets us know, by separating the waters below from the waters above, meaning the oceans from the heavens, and the knowledge of Evil from the knowledge of Good. By making use of the Staff of Moses, the breath of the Creator split the waters at the crossing of the Red Sea. Like an echo to the creation of the World, he is ordering in a way: “Let there be light!”; let chaos bow down under the weight of my Spirit, let order and justice arise from the void. Thus it is written: (Exodus 14:15) “(14:15) And the Lord said unto Moses, [...] (14:16) But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. [...] (14:21) And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. (14:22) And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.”
There is no renouncement, no desertion for the just, and he does not beg for the Lord’s mercy whilst sitting on his knees, but whilst he is biting the dust. In a world made out of void, where there are only ruins, and where the ruins themselves are nothing but dust, God makes light work of Pharaoh, and thus manifests his glory through the Staff of Moses.
Warning concerning the mention of Mary Magdalene:
There is here no mention or reference to the idea of a secret marriage between Christ and Mary Magdalene. The thesis developed here is very far from this theory. We underline here that the Biblical text draws a parallel between Adam and Eve and Christ and Mary Magdalene, in order to insert an inversion between the beginnings of humanity and the redemption Christ. Where Adam and Eve were married in the flesh, and in life, Christ and Mary Madeleine separated by death, communed in spirit in Heaven.