The myth of Orion describes a searcher who “draws” excessively the divine ecstasy in his nature which is not yet ready to receive it.
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In keeping with Pherecydes’ text, it would have been logical to study this myth at the end of the chapter about the Minotaur, for this author writes that the parents of Orion were Poseidon and Euryale, a daughter of Minos. By this he had probably meant that in the lineage of Europa, ‘the extension of consciousness’, spiritual falls can occur till very advanced stages of the quest.
It seemed preferable for this study to discuss it at this point however along with Ixion and the Aloades, who represent all of the symbols of spiritual errors which can plague the most advanced seekers. The Molionids, who also represent major errors, will be discussed along with Heracles’ later labours.
Orion was a great and powerful hunter, gifted with prodigious strength. According to Homer, ‘the wheaten earth had never yet nourished men as large as the Aloades Otos and Ephialtes, and they were exceeded in beauty only by Orion’.
Pherecydes wrote that he was the son of Poseidon and Euryale, herself the daughter of Minos.
But a later version exists: Hyrieus, son of Poseidon and of the Pleiad Alcyone, welcomed into his home the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes, who asked him to make a wish for them to fulfill in gratitude for his hospitality. Hyrieus answered that although he did not have a wife, he desired a son. The gods then lay out the skin of an animal and covered it with their semen, instructing Hyrieus to bury it in the earth for nine months. From this was born Orion.
From his father Poseidon he held the ability to walk upon water, or to pass through it as if he was walking upon the earth.
Later on Orion left for Chios, where he became intoxicated and raped Merope, the daughter of Oenopion. When the latter discovered the deed, he blinded Orion and turned him out of the country.
In a little-supported version of the myth he first wed Side, a woman of Boeotia who claimed to be Hera’s rival in beauty, and who was consequently cast into Tartarus by the goddess.
In another version of the myth, Orion had fallen in love with Merope and had asked for her hand in marriage. But her father Oenopion opposed this marriage and repeatedly postponed its date, although Orion had put great effort into freeing the island of wild beasts. Oenopion was the son of Dionysus and Ariadne, and had been born after the latter had been abandoned on the island of Dia by Theseus after his victory over the Minotaur. More and more impatient, Orion finally raped the young girl while he was intoxicated. Furious, her father blinded Orion and abandoned him on the shore.
Some sources say that Orion erred for long on the Aegean Sea, for he was able to walk on water.
Guided by the sound of the Cyclops’ hammer, he one day arrived on the island of Lemnos, on which Hephaestus had his forge. This god took pity on him, and offered his assistant Kedalion’s help in guiding Orion. Sitting on Orion’s shoulders, Kedalion guided him towards the rising sun, the light of which allowed Orion to regain his sight.
Orion then set off for Crete, where he spent his time hunting wild animals in the company of Leto and Artemis.
According to Homer, the goddess of dawn Eos fell in love with him and transported him to the island of Ortygia, later identified as Delos. But the gods did not approve of ties between goddesses and mortals, and Artemis slew Orion with one of her arrows.
In another version, Artemis herself fell in love with him, and Apollo conceived of a way in which he would be killed by one of her arrows; he challenged his sister to hit a distant dark point on the sea, which was nothing other than Orion’s head.
(According to Ovid, Orion’s boast that he was capable of slaying any animal on earth had angered Gaia, who sent a scorpion which stung Orion and brought about his death.)
According to Homer, Orion continued pursuing the very wild beasts which he had hunted down in his life in the kingdom of shadows.
Just as that of the Aloades Otos and Ephialtes and that of the Molionids Eurytus and Cteatus, the myth of Orion must be classified along with those which regard very advanced stages of the path. Numerous details confirm this: Orion was the son of Euryale, herself the daughter of Minos; he hunted in the company of Artemis and Leto; either Artemis or Leto fell in love with him; he made his way to Hephaestus’ forge, and so forth. In other words, he is associated with the gods in one way or the other, even if we do not consider the later source which claims that he hosted the gods in his home.
Finally, Homer claims that Orion was the most beautiful of mortals, which is to say the one who is most advanced on the path of truth (this would exclude Ulysses, who is the one recounting his passage into the kingdom of Hades).
According to the first genealogical account, he is like Theseus of divine ascendency through Poseidon, which indicates a manifestation of the subconscient.
In the second version, the insistence on his divine ascendency is even more marked by the mention of the three gods. He then represents the fruit of the association of the supraconscient, the subconscient and the overmind, an association which allows a work on the deepest layers of consciousness, the physical mind (according to Hyrieus, the son of the Pleiad Alcyone, he was conceived from the combined semen of Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes).
At this stage, the seeker does not know how to direct his progress (Hyrieus is unmarried), but despite this his work will continue under the impulse of the highest forces of consciousness.
The name Orion Ωριων (ΡΙ+Ν) suggests ‘the right movement of consciousness in incarnation’. His mother is Euryale, (Ευρυ +Λ) ‘a vast freedom’ originating from an enlargement of consciousness by discernment, and his father is Poseidon, indicating an opening of the highest subconscious.
The name Hyrieus evokes the meaning ‘a right movement of consciousness in a state of receptivity’.
Orion is a great hunter and the most noble of mortals; he is an ‘adventurer of consciousness’ reaching towards his single aim with all the qualities of the hunter which we have previously described, including endurance, consecration, discernment and will.
He is able to walk on water, symbolising an accomplished mastery over the vital.
Through his little-known association with Side, whose name signifies ‘pomegranate’, a fruit of the crimson colour of the purified vital, the seeker sets as his aim the purification of the vital. According to the Mother, the pomegranate is a symbol of Divine Love which spreads across the earth.
Once this is realised, it must be followed by a work in all of the most unconscious layers, at the level of the fundamental refusal of change of corporeal matter (Side’s life was ended by Hera, who banished her to Tartarus).
The seeker comes into an organisation of ‘concentration of consciousness’ within himself, which then comes to be governed by joy in incarnation (for this name includes the character omega). This is illustrated by Orion’s journey to Chios under the direction of Oenopion. Those authors who describe Oenopion as a son of Dionysus and Ariadne most probably wished to indicate that this joy is a specific manifestation of true Tantricism, which considers all obstacles as stepping stones to a higher level of yoga, and embraces the totality of life to discover within it Lila, the Divine game.
Through ‘the right movement of consciousness in incarnation’, the seeker seeks to make this joy penetrate into the realm of duality (Orion desires to be joined in marriage to the daughter of Oenopion, Merope, whose name, also shared by the wife of Sisyphus, signifies ‘mortal’). But although the seeker has made great efforts to purify his nature of major perturbations, he is not yet prepared for this kind of joy; Oenopion constantly postpones the wedding, although Orion has slain numerous wild beasts for him). In addition, in his impatience the seeker strives to make this principle his by force – intoxicated, Orion rapes the young girl.
This yogic error keeps him from the possibility of using this structure of consciousness to acquire joy, and he is obliged to turn back towards his inner being (Oenopion blinds Orion when he learns of his daughter’s rape). Indirectly led by his highest ‘vision of the whole’, he thus reaches the source of the creation of new forms, where he obtains the guidance of a force which ‘cares for the individuation of consciousness’ (guided by the sound of the Cyclopes’ hammers, he came upon Hephaestus’ forge, and Kedalion, an assistant of the god, led him towards the East).
The ‘inner contemplation’ of supramental consciousness leads him back onto his path; he regains his sight whilst contemplating the sun, Helius.
Orion then sets off for Crete, where he hunts down wild beasts in the company of Leto and Artemis. This indicates that the seeker has attained the level of the gods, the overmind, and works with his psychic being and the power of purification emanating from it, this unified state then allowing him to address the archaic memories of evolution.
What is New then ‘seizes’ the seeker, but this union cannot last, for while the purification is important, it has not been carried out in all the parts of the being. This lack of purity and transparency causes indignation in the gods when a goddess unites herself to a mortal (Eos, the goddess of what is New, falls in love with Orion, but the gods do not approve of such associations between goddesses and mortals, and Artemis consequently slays Orion with one of her arrows).
It is Artemis, the power in charge of the purification of the being, which puts an end to this ‘right movement of consciousness’, either with a direct breakthrough of consciousness, or illuminated by a compelling psychic light (Artemis is tricked by her brother Apollo).
This myth therefore suggests that it is not from the heights of the Spirit that the seeker can bring divine Joy into incarnation. Rather, a ‘descent’ into the deep layers of consciousness is required to render them transparent to the action of the Absolute.
This is why Orion, ‘the right movement of consciousness in incarnation’, continues his work in the kingdom of Hades, the corporeal inconscient, even when the work has been completed within the conscient and the subconscient.