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Greek Mystery Religions

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  • Daniel Grolin
    Dear ANE-readers, I have recently been looking into the claims that early Christianity was a Mystery Religion. I started reading Furguson s Backgrounds of
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 3, 2007
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      Dear ANE-readers,

      I have recently been looking into the claims that early Christianity was a Mystery Religion. I started reading Furguson's "Backgrounds of Early Christianity" and came to the conclusion that Mystery Religions:

      1) adopt myths (Greek or foreign) in which the central figure can plausibly deliver that which is sought for in the afterlife or present.
      2) use "mystery" as a badge of power. To have it sets you aside from the rabble. To reveal it cheapens it.
      3) are upper class phenomenons. Which is why the badge provokes little social tension (i.e. those that have power, manifest it).
      4) are not all that concerned with the popular version (Greek or foreign) of the religion that their adapting.

      I was trying to locate books that would approach Mystery Religions from this sort of perspective (sociological/phenomenological) and, if warranted, support the above conclusions. I started reading S. Angus' "The Mystery-Religions" which sounded promising at first. It, however, reads like an Orientalist approach, harping on and on about the greatness of the Greek, human rights for all, racial equality, etc.. I will finish reading it, but I am on the lookout for something that will actually deliver the above and wasn't written before 1st WW.

      I have come across a dissertation by Petra Pakkanen, "Interpreting Early Hellenistic Religion: A study based on the cult of Isis and the Mystery Cult of Demeter", which looks very interesting.

      Can anyone direct me to anything more widely available which matches what I am looking for?

      Regards,

      Daniel Grolin
    • sbudin@camden.rutgers.edu
      Greetings, ... Pretty much so, although in many instances there are different variations of myths (especially as concerns Dionysos, for example) that manifest
      Message 2 of 13 , Sep 4, 2007
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        Greetings,

        Quoting Daniel Grolin <dgrolin@...>:

        > Dear ANE-readers,
        >
        > I have recently been looking into the claims that early Christianity
        > was a Mystery Religion. I started reading Furguson's "Backgrounds
        > of Early Christianity" and came to the conclusion that Mystery
        > Religions:
        >
        > 1) adopt myths (Greek or foreign) in which the central figure can
        > plausibly deliver that which is sought for in the afterlife or
        > present.

        Pretty much so, although in many instances there are different
        variations of myths (especially as concerns Dionysos, for example)
        that manifest in the mystery cults, and there are some myths that are
        only known because of their roles in the cults (such as that of
        Despoina in Lykosoura),


        > 2) use "mystery" as a badge of power. To have it sets you aside from
        > the rabble. To reveal it cheapens it.

        Not at all. Except for the mysteries of Mithras, which were only
        open to men, the mystery cults were open to anyone who fit the
        mysteries' criteria. For example, for the Eleusinian mysteries, one
        had to get to Eleusis, pay for the rites (not cheap), speak Greek, and
        be free from blood guilt. Fulfilling those, one could be male,
        female, rich, slave, king, whore, Macedonian. If anything, the
        mysteries were seen to break down social barriers and to create new
        communities, especially in the breakdown of traditional polis-based
        religions in the Hellenistic age.


        > 3) are upper class phenomenons. Which is why the badge provokes
        > little social tension (i.e. those that have power, manifest it).

        No. See above...

        > 4) are not all that concerned with the popular version (Greek or
        > foreign) of the religion that their adapting.

        Not at all. The Eleusinian Mysteries are based on the standard
        myth (so to speak) of Demeter and Kore/Persephone. The cult of Isis
        was adapted to GReek understanding, but still had many of the Egyptian
        purity rituals in place. The Orphics displayed a version of the
        standard myth of Dionysos.

        >
        > I was trying to locate books that would approach Mystery Religions
        > from this sort of perspective (sociological/phenomenological) and,
        > if warranted, support the above conclusions. I started reading S.
        > Angus' "The Mystery-Religions" which sounded promising at first. It,
        > however, reads like an Orientalist approach, harping on and on
        > about the greatness of the Greek, human rights for all, racial
        > equality, etc.. I will finish reading it, but I am on the lookout
        > for something that will actually deliver the above and wasn't
        > written before 1st WW.

        The standard work out there is W. Burkert's _Ancient Mystery
        Cults_. There is also M. W. Meyer's _Ancient Mystery Cults_, and
        finally _Greek Mysteries_ by M.B. Cosmopoulos. These are general
        introductions, but they should get you going, as they say.

        >
        > I have come across a dissertation by Petra Pakkanen, "Interpreting
        > Early Hellenistic Religion: A study based on the cult of Isis and
        > the Mystery Cult of Demeter", which looks very interesting.

        A good work, but more on Hellenistic syncretisms than mystery cults per se.


        I hope this is helpful,
        Stephanie Budin
      • Daniel Grolin
        Dear Stephanie, Thank you for your quick and thoughtful reply. ...
        Message 3 of 13 , Sep 4, 2007
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          Dear Stephanie,

          Thank you for your quick and thoughtful reply.

          > 2) use "mystery" as a badge of power. To have it sets you aside from
          > the rabble. To reveal it cheapens it.

          <Not at all. Except for the mysteries of Mithras, which were only
          open to men, the mystery cults were open to anyone who fit the
          mysteries' criteria. For example, for the Eleusinian mysteries, one
          had to get to Eleusis, pay for the rites (not cheap), speak Greek, and
          be free from blood guilt. Fulfilling those, one could be male,
          female, rich, slave, king, whore, Macedonian. If anything, the
          mysteries were seen to break down social barriers and to create new
          communities, especially in the breakdown of traditional polis-based
          religions in the Hellenistic age. >

          Interesting. I am not sure entry criteria contradicts what I am suggesting above. I suspect that paying for the rites did, if not formally, at least in practice exclude people. You were not allowed, if I understand correctly, the mysteries to those initiated because it cheapened it.

          Aside from that, traditional polis-based religions were even less exclusive, were they not?

          > 3) are upper class phenomenons. Which is why the badge provokes
          > little social tension (i.e. those that have power, manifest it).

          <No. See above... >

          And Pakkanen says something similar about the Isis cult. I buy that recruitment was open to all classes. I am still trying to figure out how it works as a social phenomenon within Hellenistic society. Somehow, I don't see a hierarchical society standing still for religions that try to recast into, one where all are equal despite class. I am wondering if the expenses of progressing within the Eleusinian mysteries didn't mean that one's level within it reflected the status or class one had outside. (If you look at p. 78, footnote 4 it mentions that despite being open to both sexes women did not reach the highest positions.)

          Another thing that makes me somewhat sceptical is that it is my strong impression that there was no real middle class to speak of in the ancient world (at least not as we have it in the West today). The gap between the top and the bottom was far.

          I am wondering whether such movements as Free Masons are comparable contemporary versions of Mystery Religions. Was the lack of social tension due to secrecy?

          Hopefully, these things will become clearer to me when I get to read some more social/phenomenologically oriented material.

          > 4) are not all that concerned with the popular version (Greek or
          > foreign) of the religion that their adapting.

          <Not at all. The Eleusinian Mysteries are based on the standard
          myth (so to speak) of Demeter and Kore/Persephone. The cult of Isis
          was adapted to GReek understanding, but still had many of the Egyptian
          purity rituals in place. The Orphics displayed a version of the
          standard myth of Dionysos.>

          That was not what I meant. What I meant was that they become detached entities with respect to their "originators". Someone who had practiced the traditional worship of Demeter would not be considered a member of the mystery religion, and the fortunes of traditional temples were not the concern of practitioners of the Mystery Religion. This is my impression, anyway.

          >
          > I was trying to locate books that would approach Mystery Religions
          > from this sort of perspective (sociological/ phenomenological ) and,
          > if warranted, support the above conclusions. I started reading S.
          > Angus' "The Mystery-Religions" which sounded promising at first. It,
          > however, reads like an Orientalist approach, harping on and on
          > about the greatness of the Greek, human rights for all, racial
          > equality, etc.. I will finish reading it, but I am on the lookout
          > for something that will actually deliver the above and wasn't
          > written before 1st WW.

          <The standard work out there is W. Burkert's _Ancient Mystery
          Cults_. There is also M. W. Meyer's _Ancient Mystery Cults_, and
          finally _Greek Mysteries_ by M.B. Cosmopoulos. These are general
          introductions, but they should get you going, as they say.>

          I have the two first on order. I will just have to see if they deliver.

          >
          > I have come across a dissertation by Petra Pakkanen, "Interpreting
          > Early Hellenistic Religion: A study based on the cult of Isis and
          > the Mystery Cult of Demeter", which looks very interesting.

          <A good work, but more on Hellenistic syncretisms than mystery cults per se.>

          I have put aside Angus to read Pakkanen all the same.

          Regards.

          Daniel Grolin


          ___________________________________________________________
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        • Michael F. Lane
          Dear Daniel, Might Paganism and Christianity, 100-425 C.E.: A Sourcebook, edited by Ramsay MacMullen and Eugene N. Lane (my late father, in the interest of
          Message 4 of 13 , Sep 4, 2007
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            Dear Daniel,

            Might Paganism and Christianity, 100-425 C.E.: A Sourcebook, edited by Ramsay
            MacMullen and Eugene N. Lane (my late father, in the interest of "full
            disclosure"), Fortress Press, Minneapolis (1992), be of use?

            It contains quotations from various sources on Isis, Mithras, Sabazios
            (et al.),
            as well as on "entrance fees," etc.

            All best,

            Michael Lane

            Quoting Daniel Grolin <dgrolin@...>:

            >
            >
            > Dear Stephanie,
            >
            > Thank you for your quick and thoughtful reply.
            >
            >> 2) use "mystery" as a badge of power. To have it sets you aside
            > from
            >> the rabble. To reveal it cheapens it.
            >
            > Interesting. I am not sure entry criteria contradicts what I am
            > suggesting above. I suspect that paying for the rites did, if not
            > formally, at least in practice exclude people. You were not allowed,
            > if I understand correctly, the mysteries to those initiated because
            > it cheapened it.
            >
            > Aside from that, traditional polis-based religions were even less
            > exclusive, were they not?
            >
            >> 3) are upper class phenomenons. Which is why the badge provokes
            >> little social tension (i.e. those that have power, manifest it).
            >
            > And Pakkanen says something similar about the Isis cult. I buy that
            > recruitment was open to all classes. I am still trying to figure out
            > how it works as a social phenomenon within Hellenistic society.
            > Somehow, I don't see a hierarchical society standing still for
            > religions that try to recast into, one where all are equal despite
            > class. I am wondering if the expenses of progressing within the
            > Eleusinian mysteries didn't mean that one's level within it reflected
            > the status or class one had outside. (If you look at p. 78, footnote 4
            > it mentions that despite being open to both sexes women did not reach
            > the highest positions.)
            >
            > Another thing that makes me somewhat sceptical is that it is my
            > strong impression that there was no real middle class to speak of in
            > the ancient world (at least not as we have it in the West today). The
            > gap between the top and the bottom was far.
            >
            > I am wondering whether such movements as Free Masons are comparable
            > contemporary versions of Mystery Religions. Was the lack of social
            > tension due to secrecy?
            >
            > Hopefully, these things will become clearer to me when I get to read
            > some more social/phenomenologically oriented material.
            >
            >> 4) are not all that concerned with the popular version (Greek or
            >> foreign) of the religion that their adapting.
            >
            > That was not what I meant. What I meant was that they become detached
            > entities with respect to their "originators". Someone who had
            > practiced the traditional worship of Demeter would not be considered
            > a member of the mystery religion, and the fortunes of traditional
            > temples were not the concern of practitioners of the Mystery
            > Religion. This is my impression, anyway.
            >
            >>
            >> I was trying to locate books that would approach Mystery Religions
            >> from this sort of perspective (sociological/ phenomenological )
            > and,
            >> if warranted, support the above conclusions. I started reading S.
            >> Angus' "The Mystery-Religions" which sounded promising at first.
            > It,
            >> however, reads like an Orientalist approach, harping on and on
            >> about the greatness of the Greek, human rights for all, racial
            >> equality, etc.. I will finish reading it, but I am on the lookout
            >> for something that will actually deliver the above and wasn't
            >> written before 1st WW.
            >
            > I have the two first on order. I will just have to see if they
            > deliver.
            >
            >>
            >> I have come across a dissertation by Petra Pakkanen, "Interpreting
            >> Early Hellenistic Religion: A study based on the cult of Isis and
            >> the Mystery Cult of Demeter", which looks very interesting.
            >
            > I have put aside Angus to read Pakkanen all the same.
            >
            > Regards.
            >
            > Daniel Grolin
            >
            > __________________________________________________________
            > Want ideas for reducing your carbon footprint? Visit Yahoo! For Good
            > http://uk.promotions.yahoo.com/forgood/environment.html
            >



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          • Lisbeth S. Fried
            Dear All, Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?
            Message 5 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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              Dear All,

              Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates
              in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?

              Thanks for your help.

              Liz Fried

              Ann Arbor



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • sbudin@camden.rutgers.edu
              The two best places to look for this kind of rite are the Eleusinian mysteries and Orphic cult of Dionysos. Regarding the Eleusinian cult, it appears (although
              Message 6 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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                The two best places to look for this kind of rite are the
                Eleusinian mysteries and Orphic cult of Dionysos.

                Regarding the Eleusinian cult, it appears (although it is often
                difficult to say because of all the secrecy that accompanied the
                mystery cults) that the rites were predicated on Persephone's/Kore's
                descent to the underworld (as bride of Hades) and her return to the
                "land of the living." Technically, Kore does not die (the Greek
                deities generally don't, although see below), but she does cross the
                boundry of Hades into death, which was uncommon for deities (the only
                other god to do so was Hermes Psychopompos). Mortals did it all the
                time, of course, but they seldom got to go back...

                Perhaps more interesting in this account is the Orphic tale of
                Dionysos, which is somewhat different from the standard, Homeric
                versions. According to the Orphic tradition, Dionysos was the son of
                Zeus and Zeus' daughter Persephone. Hera, Zeus' wife, was not
                thrilled about Zeus' fondness for the boy, so she induced the Titans
                to lure him away from his nurse, to kill, and to eat him. Which they
                did. (So, yes, he was pretty much dead). Athena, however, saved his
                heart, which Zeus used to recreate/reincarnate Dionysos. Zeus also
                killed the Titans with a thunderbolt, and used their ashes to create
                humans (memories of Enuma Elish/Atrahasis should be ringing now).
                Humans, then, are the product of evil, dead Titans who had the
                spiritual element of Dionysos running through their guts and veins
                just as they were killed. Thus, Dionysos forms the spiritual aspect
                of humanity. The rites of Dionysos are intended to help humans shed
                their evil material aspect (Titans) and to purify their Dionysian
                spiritual side.

                So, in both cases there is a deity who goes to the underworld or
                who actually dies, and the cult is heavily involved with that deity's
                transition from world of death to world of life. There is some
                evidence that the Eleusinian rites may go back into the Bronze Age, to
                judge from the remains at Eleusis, but the rites are mentiond in the
                "Hymn to Demeter" which can be dated back to the 6th century BCE (thus
                reasonably Pre-Pauline). While the Orphic texts that survive are
                later (3rd or 2nd century BCE, I believe), there are references to the
                rites in Euripides' "Bakkhai", dating back to the 5th century BCE.

                On the Eleusinian mysteries (other than the books I mentioned
                before, although note that Cosmopoulos's book has the Bronze Age
                evidence for Eleusis) you may want to look at H. Foley's book on _The
                Homeric Hymn to Demeter_ and the works of Kevin Clinton. For
                Dionysos, the standard work is W.K.C. Guthrie's _Orpheus and Greek
                Religion_, plus the previous bibliography. Another interesting
                consideration is the Derveni Papyrus, on which there are several
                recent publications.

                All Best, -Stephanie Budin


                Quoting "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried@...>:

                > Dear All,
                >
                > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates
                > in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?
                >
                > Thanks for your help.
                >
                > Liz Fried
                >
                > Ann Arbor
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • Jeffrey B. Gibson
                ... The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were thought by the ancients to have died and to have been resurrected . The short answer,
                Message 7 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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                  "Lisbeth S. Fried" wrote:

                  > Dear All,
                  >
                  > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates
                  > in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?
                  >

                  The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were thought by the
                  ancients to have died and to have been "resurrected".

                  The short answer, relying on the article on "Dying and Rising Gods" by J.Z.
                  Smith in Eliade's _Encyclopedia of Religion_ , is that there were no such
                  beasties Indeed, the whole category of "dying and rising gods" and the assertion
                  that there were such entities in the ancient world is a modern scholarly
                  construct.

                  Further evidence in support of Smith's claims can be found in PAULINE BAPTISM
                  AND THE PAGAN MYSTERIES by Gunter Wagner.

                  You might also want to have a look at the EoR's article on "Mystery Religions"

                  Jeffrey
                  --
                  Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                  1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                  Chicago, Illinois
                  e-mail jgibson000@...
                • sbudin@camden.rutgers.edu
                  A more up-to-date work on that topic is T.N.D. Mettinger s _The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East_. I do believe that
                  Message 8 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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                    A more up-to-date work on that topic is T.N.D. Mettinger's _The
                    Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near
                    East_.

                    I do believe that there were some deities who did not merely
                    travel to and from the underworld (such as Inana/Ishtar, although she
                    did seem pretty dead there for a bit), but some who were in fact
                    understood to have died and "gotten better" (in Monty Pythonesque
                    fashion). One example that springs to mind is Ugaritic Baal in his
                    confrontation with Mot (and, one could argue, Mot in his confrontation
                    with Anat). Several other examples are provided by Mettinger.

                    -Stephanie Budin


                    Quoting "Jeffrey B. Gibson" <jgibson000@...>:

                    >
                    > The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were
                    > thought by the
                    > ancients to have died and to have been "resurrected".
                    >
                    > The short answer, relying on the article on "Dying and Rising Gods" by J.Z.
                    > Smith in Eliade's _Encyclopedia of Religion_ , is that there were no such
                    > beasties Indeed, the whole category of "dying and rising gods" and
                    > the assertion
                    > that there were such entities in the ancient world is a modern scholarly
                    > construct.
                    >
                    > Further evidence in support of Smith's claims can be found in PAULINE BAPTISM
                    > AND THE PAGAN MYSTERIES by Gunter Wagner.
                    >
                    > You might also want to have a look at the EoR's article on "Mystery
                    > Religions"
                    >
                    > Jeffrey
                    > --
                    > Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                    > 1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                    > Chicago, Illinois
                    > e-mail jgibson000@...
                    >
                  • George F Somsel
                    That doesn t stand scrutiny. In the Ba(lu Myth we read We have done the rounds of [(some part) of the earth], unto (its) well–watered portions. We
                    Message 9 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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                      That doesn't stand scrutiny. In the Ba(lu Myth we read


                      We have done the rounds of [(some part) of the
                      earth],
                      unto (its) well–watered portions.
                      We arrived at the best part of the earth, the pasture
                      land,
                      at the most beautiful field on the edge of death’s realm. 
                      We arrived at where Baʿlu was fallen to the earth:
                      Dead was Mighty Baʿlu,
                      perished the Prince, master of the earth.
                      Thereupon the Gracious One, the kindly god,
                      descends from the throne, sits on the footstool,
                      (descends) from the footstool, sits on the earth.
                      He pours dirt of mourning on his head,
                      dust of humiliation on his cranium,
                      for clothing, he is covered with a girded garment.
                      With a stone he scratches incisions on (his) skin,
                      with a razor he cuts cheeks and chin.
                      He harrows his upper arms,
                      plows (his) chest like a garden
                      harrows (his) back like a (garden in a) valley.
                      He raises his voice and cries aloud:
                      Baʿlu is dead, what (is to become of) the people,
                      the Son of Dagan (is dead), what (is to become of) the hordes (of the earth)?
                      After Baʿlu, I also shall descend into the earth.

                      Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (1997). The context of Scripture (267). Leiden; New York: Brill.

                      and later

                      And if Mighty [Baʿlu] is alive,
                      if the Prince, lord of [the earth], exists (again),
                      In a dream of the Gracious One, the kindly god,
                      in a vision of the Creator of creatures,
                      The heavens will rain down oil,
                      the wadis will run with honey.
                      Then I’ll know that Mighty Baʿlu is alive,
                      that the Prince, master of the earth, exists (again).

                      Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (1997). The context of Scripture (271). Leiden; New York: Brill.

                      and finally,

                      Baʿlu seizes the sons of ʾAṯiratu,
                      numerous (as they are) he smites them with the sword,
                      crushers (as they are) he smites them with the mace;
                      Môtu’s scorching heat he tramples to the ground.
                      Baʿlu [takes his place] on his royal throne,
                      [on (his) resting–place], on the seat of his dominion.

                      Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (1997). The context of Scripture (271). Leiden; New York: Brill.


                      george
                      gfsomsel

                      Therefore, O faithful Christian, search for truth, hear truth,
                      learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
                      defend the truth till death.

                      - Jan Hus
                      _________



                      ----- Original Message ----
                      From: Jeffrey B. Gibson <jgibson000@...>
                      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 1:33:17 PM
                      Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Re: Greek Mystery Religions



                      "Lisbeth S. Fried" wrote:

                      > Dear All,
                      >
                      > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates
                      > in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?
                      >

                      The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were thought by the
                      ancients to have died and to have been "resurrected" .

                      The short answer, relying on the article on "Dying and Rising Gods" by J.Z.
                      Smith in Eliade's _Encyclopedia of Religion_ , is that there were no such
                      beasties Indeed, the whole category of "dying and rising gods" and the assertion
                      that there were such entities in the ancient world is a modern scholarly
                      construct.

                      Further evidence in support of Smith's claims can be found in PAULINE BAPTISM
                      AND THE PAGAN MYSTERIES by Gunter Wagner.

                      You might also want to have a look at the EoR's article on "Mystery Religions"

                      Jeffrey
                      --
                      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                      Chicago, Illinois
                      e-mail jgibson000@comcast. net






                      ____________________________________________________________________________________
                      Be a better Globetrotter. Get better travel answers from someone who knows. Yahoo! Answers - Check it out.
                      http://answers.yahoo.com/dir/?link=list&sid=396545469

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Caroline Tully
                      Hello Daniel, and Stephanie ... But there were only 2 grades to get to. There were two stages of initiation into the Greater Mysteries: the first and main
                      Message 10 of 13 , Sep 5, 2007
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                        Hello Daniel, and Stephanie

                        >>I am wondering if the expenses of progressing within the Eleusinian mysteries didn't mean that one's level within it reflected the status or class one had outside. (If you look at p. 78, footnote 4 it mentions that despite being open to both sexes women did not reach the highest positions.)<<

                        But there were only 2 "grades" to get to. There were two stages of initiation into the Greater Mysteries: the first and main one was the telete or myesis, and the second which was optional was the epopteia. I do believe that women did both. I don't recall reading anything that said they did not. Although the most important Eleusinian *officiant* was male - the Hierophant - I believe the priestesses involved in the Eleusinian rites were also important. However intiates did not *become* cult officials through their initiation(s). While I believe one could attend the mysteries more than once, and help out there, initiation didn't turn the initiate into a priest or priestess - if that is what you mean by "reaching the highest positions". The cult officials belonged to two families who ran the rites, initiates just went through the initations, the purpose of which was to improve their lot in the afterlife.

                        ~Caroline Tully.




                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Daniel Grolin
                        Dear participants of the Mystery Religion thread, I would like to thank everyone for their input. Stephanie. I would like to bring out a few quotes from
                        Message 11 of 13 , Sep 6, 2007
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                          Dear participants of the Mystery Religion thread,

                          I would like to thank everyone for their input.

                          Stephanie. I would like to bring out a few quotes from Pakkanen's thesis to explain my view about mystery and status.

                          "It was a kind of blessed status for those who had seen the Mysteries and who could share in the secret. All the other great celebrations created an opportunity to escape temporarily from daily life, its duties and troubles, but the Mysteries offered somewhat more. This may be interpretated as purifying, getting temporarily free from anxieties by solving questions concerning life and death and their paradox. It is hard to say whether individual distinction prevailed over group identity, because the central part of the Mysteries, the shared secrecy, was also socially determined. The individualistic appeal, however, was one of the most important factors that made the Mysteries so long-lived in antiquity and guaranteed its continuity." (p. 34)

                          Now Pekkanen is here proposing what might have been the religious motives for internal cohesion, but what I proposed was that it not only created an "us" (that have the secret) and a "them" (that don't), but also that the "secret" translated into status and social capital.

                          Immediately, below this quote commences Pekkanen's discussion of participants in the cult. As you noted all sorts of people could become initiates as long as the fulfilled certain criteria, which you cited and I will not repeat. You noted that even prostitutes could become members and the story of one such is mentioned in footnote 4.

                          "There are, even though, only rare literal mentions of the women who took part in the rites; for example, the famous courtesan Phryne is mentioned by Athenaeus, 13.590e-f as having gone to take a bath naked in the river Cephissus, in front of the eyes of all participating in the procession from Athens to Eleusis."

                          Now this to me is an example of social power granted by mystery. Phryne is parading power in a twofold way. First of all Phryne's personal power in terms of her ability to attract men. Social convention requires that Phryne to cover herself and not display her power, just like a warrior cannot go through the streets with weapon bared. Phryne can flaunt social convention because she has another power to back her, the mystery. She knows the secret and must be motivated by it and no one stops her. It is the power of the idea of mystery, and the authority it gives to those who know it, but it is also the mystery as social grouping.

                          After her brief remark about membership she goes to discuss the cult's position in Athens:

                          "From this we learn that the cult was an expedient for expressing the position of Athens, and during period of political and economical difficulties it might have been one way to symbolically show to the outer world that Athens had not lost its power. Thus the public aspect of this religious celebration was important for the city, because it gave an opportunity for the organization of a spectacle, a procession that made the position and power of Athens visible and concrete. The procession was the most important one given by the city-state, because it bound the relation of Athens and Eleusis together at a practical level and gave an opportunity for Athenian power to make a public appearance before all the Greeks. There is epigraphical evidence concerning the ordering of the procession, forming its participants into a line.1 It is quite evident that the role of the epheboi held a remarkable significance; the epheboi were those who represented the cities
                          which took part in the festival, and thus their presence had symbolic meaning. Their appearance is most emphasized in the regulations for forming the pompe. One inscription from the middle of the fourth century BC (SEG XVII 21) relates how a so-called sacred peace was proclaimed for the period of the Great Mysteries in Athens and states that the initiants had to be ready to accept the regulations of the city. It was necessary for one to prove to the magistrate, who acted for the benefit of the Athenian state, that one had brought a contribution to the sacrificies. It was one way for Athens to make them submit to her, and acknowledge her power. The city itself even had the power of proclaiming an internal peace which demonstrates the remarkable political influence of the festival. No doubt Athens was well aware of this." (p. 35)

                          If Athens could use the mystery cult as political capital, then surely it follows that members that gave such prestige to Athens in Greek society, must have had it in Athens' societal scheme as well.

                          Pekkanen goes on to explain at great length about the administration of the cult, which I will not even try to summarize or quote here. A number of things, however, are worth noticing. For example, while there are a limited number of high officials, Pekkanen presents an impressive number of "minor sacred officials", right from advisors to cleaners (and those are only the ones that we know of). It seems to me that there were plenty of room for hierarchy within the mystery.

                          Within this hierarchy the secret of the mystery also played a role. The hierophantes, the top official, was the one who showed the "hiera and revealed the spoken secrets" (p. 36) Thus to reveal the secrets to outsiders was a twofold betrayal. It was the betrayal of the hierarchy and the prerogatives of the top, and it was a betrayal of the boundaries between "us" and "them". Furthermore revealing the secrets of the mystery devalues it.

                          Cara L. Sailor in her thesis "The Function of Mythology and Religion in Greek Society" notes:

                          Like all Mystery Cults, the Eleusian Mysteries were to be kept secret from any person not initiated into the cult. However, there were at least a few people who violated this. One, a man named Diagoras of Melos, was said to have told the entirety of the mystery in the streets of Athens in such a way as to make it seem 'vile and unimportant.'" (p. 44)

                          Finally, one of the things that originally suggested to me that we were dealing with what I (perhaps unadvisedly) called an "upper class phenomenon" was reading Zoilos of Aspendos' letter to Apollonios (Grant, F. C. "Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism" pp. 144-5). Where popular movements like Pauline Christianity created communities from the grassroots mystery religions were created from the top. While the latter's ideology tried to overturn social status quo and therefore came into conflict with Rome, mystery religions both accommodated and supported the status quo and happily co-existed with secular leaders (an anachronism, I know). The exception, the Dionysic cult, only proves the point. The solution was to have a Roman official be overseer.

                          Michael. Thanks for the tip. It's a bit later than the period I am looking at, but might still be worth my while.

                          With respect to the possible recurrence of themes from mystery religions (such as resurrection) in Christianity, I think that while this is interesting it does not really solve the question of relationship. First of all we cannot (as far as I can tell) construct the general features of the content of mystery religions, because in terms of content they are diverse. So one is not really comparing Pauline Christianity with a generic set of features, but looking at features in Pauline Christianity that may or may not be similar to those of a number of diverse religions.

                          What unifies them, what can be regarded as generic, I think, is the phenomenon. It is also here that I find that they are quite different.

                          I do think though that they both could be viewed as "voluntary associations".

                          Regards,

                          Daniel Grolin


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                        • richfaussette
                          ... participates in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these? The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were
                          Message 12 of 13 , Sep 8, 2007
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                            --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "Jeffrey B. Gibson" <jgibson000@...>
                            wrote:
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > "Lisbeth S. Fried" wrote:
                            >
                            > > Dear All,
                            > >
                            > > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate
                            participates in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone
                            direct me to these?


                            The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were
                            thought by the ancients to have died and to have been "resurrected".

                            The short answer, relying on the article on "Dying and Rising Gods"
                            by J.Z. Smith in Eliade's _Encyclopedia of Religion_ , is that there
                            were no such beasties Indeed, the whole category of "dying and rising
                            gods" and the assertion that there were such entities in the ancient
                            world is a modern scholarly construct.

                            Further evidence in support of Smith's claims can be found in PAULINE
                            BAPTISM AND THE PAGAN MYSTERIES by Gunter Wagner.

                            You might also want to have a look at the EoR's article on "Mystery
                            Religions"

                            Jeffrey
                            Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)



                            May I suggest that an even more encompassing question is which type
                            of dying and resurrection are you all talking about? Are you talking
                            about what Crossan calls the life tradition or the death tradition.
                            If you are talking about the life tradition, - resurrection while
                            alive - it appears in the Rg Veda as Agni, the priest who dons robes
                            of fire and makes the self sacrifice. The formula for the ontology of
                            the life tradition appears in the Rig Veda in the form of Agni and
                            also appears in Buddhism and Genesis and the Nag Hammadi texts.

                            The formula for the ordinary human condition is
                            "Being + self consciousness = (+ontological anxiety)"

                            The formula for the self sacrifice is
                            "Being - self consciousness = (-ontological anxiety)


                            This formula underlies the religious experience in all the major
                            religions and I speculate on its development in Race and Religion: A
                            Catholic View in Sam Francis's Race and the American Prospect.


                            "In a competitive engagement with men from another family, tribe,
                            nation, or race, you have the choice between two absolutes at
                            opposite ends of the behavioral range -- you can choose to run or you
                            can choose to fight. Individuals can run some of the time and
                            survive, but coordinated group behaviors could not have developed in
                            human communities if we all ran, every man for himself, from every
                            confrontation. Coordinated group behaviors developed when one proto-
                            human family refused to run, stood its ground in the face of
                            inevitable confrontation, and engaged a common enemy. Since that
                            decision was made, the human communities that have excelled in
                            competitive engagements with other communities have done so by
                            disciplining themselves to face death under the stress of repeated
                            engagement.

                            A discipline becomes religious when it is taken to its
                            logical absolute. When you make the conscious decision to disregard
                            your individual self for an ultimate concern, what you believe to be
                            the greatest good, you are a religious man. The total commitment of
                            what is an ancient and noble warrior's perspective is known by many
                            names but is most often called gnosis in the West and enlightenment
                            in the East. This very core of all personal religion is a
                            recognizable self-sacrifice. Its goal is mastery of the body. Jesus
                            called it -- doing the will of the Father. He made very specific
                            reference to the self-sacrifice when he said:

                            "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life
                            in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me but I lay it
                            down on my own. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up
                            again. This command I have received from my Father." 39

                            Catholics say Jesus is one in being with God, his Father.
                            Whatever he did was the will of his Father, which was his own will.
                            Since he was doing what he chose to do, and was God by definition, we
                            must naturally assume his behavior was flawless and intuitive. To
                            live perfectly and intuitively is, also by definition, to have
                            achieved "gnosis" or to be "enlightened." Regardless of how one may
                            philosophize about the significance of Gnosticism vis-à-vis Christian
                            doctrine, the technical discipline for achieving gnosis and the
                            technical discipline for assuming the self-sacrificial role of a
                            Jesus as Christ are identical. The self-sacrifice is a universal. It
                            is the common thread that runs through all formal religion, and it
                            emerges in the oldest religious texts we have.

                            In the Rig Veda, Agni is chosen by the gods to bring the self-
                            sacrifice to man. The philosopher Antonio de Nicolas tells us that
                            Agni is considered first among the gods and even though Agni is only
                            the representative of the gods, he is the leader of the sacrifice,
                            and no sacrifice can be efficiently performed without him. An obvious
                            analog for the Rig Vedic Agni is in Canon 289 regarding the
                            personhood of Jesus Christ. The canon reads, "… The Son of God is
                            true God, just as the Father is true God, having all power, knowing
                            all things and equal to the Father…" 40

                            According to this canon, Jesus is the living representative
                            of God and he is "one in being with the Father."41 The definitive act
                            of Jesus' life was his sacrifice on the cross. In the earlier Vedic
                            hymns, Agni is also the representative of the gods. At the same time
                            he is the leader of the gods who brings the self-sacrifice to man and
                            he is essential in making a perfect sacrifice.

                            Ontologically, Jesus and Agni are identical.

                            I'd found the self-sacrifice 4,000 years ago in the Indus
                            Valley in the person of Agni and 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem in the
                            person of Jesus, but I didn't fully appreciate the worldwide scope of
                            the self-sacrifice until D.T. Suzuki introduced me to Zen:

                            "The Kamakura era is closely related to Zen, for it was then
                            that as an independent school of Buddhism, Zen was first introduced
                            to Japan. Many great masters of Zen ruled the spiritual world of the
                            time, and in spite of their contempt of learning, learning was
                            preserved in their hands. At the same time the soldiers thronged
                            about them, eager to be taught and disciplined by them. The method of
                            their teaching was simple and direct; not much learning in the
                            abstruse philosophy of Zen was needed. The soldiers were naturally
                            not very scholarly; what they wanted was to be not timid before
                            death, which they had constantly to face."42

                            The Japanese warriors sought the self-sacrifice to discipline
                            themselves to face death under the stress of repeated engagement. The
                            similarities between eastern and western mysticism were due to the
                            universality of this self-sacrifice.

                            Jesus is remembered in the Stations of the Cross, a series of
                            graphic symbols of his self-sacrifice. The Buddha is remembered in
                            the woodcuts of the yoking of the ox, symbols for the steps in the
                            self-sacrificial path to enlightenment. Jesus uses parables to teach
                            religious truths. Zen Buddhists later use koans, literal paradoxes,
                            to convey religious truths. The Buddha's enlightenment is attainable
                            by all and so is Jesus' Kingdom of God attainable universally though
                            faith because the self-sacrifice is a potential within us all.

                            The self-sacrifice had traveled to the West by way of
                            Zoroaster and to the East by way of the Buddha. Spiritually
                            transcending the suppression of the tripartite sacrificial systems
                            from which they had emerged, the modern Buddhist and Christian
                            ontologies were egalitarian. Neither their ontologies nor their ideal
                            societies were dismembered by caste. Priest and warrior were one.
                            Tripartition was dissolved. Buddhism, born of the Buddha's abrupt
                            realization, traveled to China and crystallized in Japan to become
                            what it originally was, the eminently pragmatic discipline of
                            warriors. Buddha had intuited the ontology of the ancient and
                            egalitarian self-sacrifice before its dismemberment into caste. Jesus
                            had made his life an actual demonstration of the warrior's ontology
                            by deliberately confronting the corruption of the tripartite
                            sacrificial system in Jerusalem fully aware that the cost would be
                            his own life. Agni, the Vedic god who brings the self-sacrifice to
                            man, had also sacrificed his own godly self in the Vedic hymns 2,000
                            years before."


                            I delve further into the ontology of the self-sacrifice in The Book
                            of Genesis from a Darwinian Perspective which will be published in
                            the fall where I point out the formula as it is depicted in the fall
                            of Adam and Eve.

                            "Then the pivotal event(s) in human evolution corresponding to Adam
                            and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit is the expansion of man's
                            behavioral repertoire accompanied by the rapid evolutionary growth of
                            the brain culminating in man's knowledge of good and evil. What
                            Genesis does not specifically say about either of man's two states of
                            consciousness is easily inferred from the Biblical text. According to
                            Genesis, in man's original state, before:

                            • The rapid expansion of the behavioral repertoire
                            • The enlargement of the brain
                            • And the emergence of self-consciousness

                            He generally knew what to do and had little or no sense of self.
                            Without self-consciousness, he could not continuously ponder his own
                            mortality and from that we can assume his ability to imagine fear was
                            severely limited.
                            In man's current state, again according to Genesis, he often doesn't
                            know what to do, he does the wrong thing, he is self-conscious and he
                            hides from God.
                            Those scientific categories of instinct and acquired behavior are
                            embedded in this religious language. If you behave instinctively you
                            intuit what to do and do not have to make a decision based on what
                            you have learned previously. An organism that behaves instinctively
                            cannot behave otherwise and does not make conscious mistakes. On the
                            other hand, if you rely on acquired behaviors you have learned, you
                            must consciously choose from among many possible behavioral
                            alternatives in any given situation. You are prone to error and your
                            awareness of that fact generates ontological anxiety.
                            Given these few lines from the Bible, literally read, it is clear
                            that if one wanted to attain the original state of consciousness, the
                            one intended by the Biblical text, one would have to abandon one's
                            self-consciousness and learn to intuit appropriate behavior. I
                            believe I am reading Genesis correctly when I say that one could then
                            stand in God's presence without fear. This is consonant with theology
                            for despite countless artistic renderings of a celestial Eden, the
                            Catholic catechism defines heaven very simply as -- being in the
                            presence of God.3
                            The hunger for spirituality, then, is the natural desire of an
                            evolved self-conscious mind to return to a time (the beginning) and a
                            place (paradise) before men made tools and plotted the murder of
                            other men, before the dawn of self-consciousness, when behavior was
                            intuitive and a "man" could stand in the presence of God without
                            fear. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says,
                            "When you disrobe without being ashamed… you will not be
                            afraid."4
                            Jesus' words in this Nag Hammadi text from 1st century Egypt dovetail
                            remarkably with the nature of the fall in Genesis. The fall brought
                            shame and fear (self-consciousness and ontological anxiety).
                            Returning to God (by abandoning the "self") would remove them."

                            There may not be many stories in the mystery religions about dying
                            and bodily resurrection but stories about dying to one's self and
                            seeing God face to face are ubiquitous (East and West) as I've
                            indicated above.

                            rich faussette
                          • sbudin@camden.rutgers.edu
                            Greetings, I think the problem here is that you are taking a far more sinister approach to the idea of secret and mystery in the cults than necessary.
                            Message 13 of 13 , Sep 9, 2007
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                              Greetings,

                              I think the problem here is that you are taking a far more
                              sinister approach to the idea of secret and mystery in the cults than
                              necessary. Aristotle claimed that initiation was experiential, it had
                              to be experienced, felt in a certain way. Keeping the mysteries meant
                              that every new initiate experienced the rites in the same, new way,
                              the correct way to get the proper result. Imagine starting the Harry
                              Potter novels with number seven, or even jumping ahead to the end of
                              seven before reading the whole thing -- you won't have the same
                              experience of the novel(s) as if you read them in proper order
                              (likewise for "The Sixth Sense"). The early Christians (especially
                              Clement of Alexandria) tried to destroy the experiential quality of
                              the mysteries by revealing them, completely out of (aesthetic)
                              context. So I do not think that the secret nature of the mysteries was
                              intended to be exclusionary so much as preserving the psychological
                              impact of the rites.

                              Phryne got away with nothing. She could be a bit of an
                              exhibitionist because she was a popular courtesan, meaning she had no
                              husband or family to manipulate her, and she was not under the same
                              social regulations as a citizen female. Nevertheless, by drawing too
                              much attention to herself, she got herself into a peck of trouble: She
                              was brought to trial for impiety. Rather than being "religiously"
                              priviledged, she was nearly religiously condemned (like Sokrates).
                              Amusingly, as the story goes, she was only acquitted when her
                              lover/advocate exposed her breasts to the jurors, who, very impressed,
                              decided that it would be an act of impiety against Aphrodite to kill
                              Phryne (a very similar story exists concerning Helen and Menelaos, so
                              the story may be more apocryphal than real).
                              The point is, while she could be initiated into the Eleusinian
                              Mysteries, this gave her no special perogatives. To offer a counter
                              example, the mother of Aeschenes was a professional initiator, and
                              this fact was often used to humiliate Aeschenes in court. Her role in
                              the mysteries was a detraction, not a sign of status.

                              As for Athens' control of Eleusis, yes, it could be seen as a
                              sign of political power. But the actions engaged by Athens for the
                              mysteries were not necessarily different from what other cities did
                              during large religious rituals. Universal "peaces" were called for the
                              pan-Hellenic games, like the Olympics, and control of large
                              sanctuaries always gave a certain amount of authority and prestige.

                              Ultimately, class does not need to be brought in as an important
                              factor for understanding the mysteries. You seem to be reading them as
                              if they were ancient country clubs -- exclusive and snobbish, getting
                              away with it because the important people who make policy are in the
                              "in" crowd. They were more like a Rotary Club. There were certain
                              requirements of money, time commitment, etc. to follow, but they were
                              hardly exclusionary beyond that. They gave a sense of community to the
                              members, those who had had the same "experiences" mentioned above, but
                              there is no evidence that they looked down on those who were not
                              members, or that they actively tried to keep anyone out (save those
                              who did not fulfill the criteria, such as speaking Greek for the
                              Eleusinians, or maintaining certain forms of ritual purity for those
                              initiated into the Isianic cult). If anything, they formed a new means
                              of forming communities in the breakdown of the traditional city-state
                              structures in the Hellenistic period, while before that they created
                              new means of connecting to people who were not traditionally in one's
                              class or community. They also dealt with issues of afterlife in a way
                              more hopeful than the traditional "being bored in Hades forever"
                              option. As such, they were appealing for everyone.

                              All Best,
                              Stephanie Budin




                              Quoting Daniel Grolin <dgrolin@...>:

                              > Dear participants of the Mystery Religion thread,
                              >
                              > I would like to thank everyone for their input.
                              >
                              > Stephanie. I would like to bring out a few quotes from Pakkanen's
                              > thesis to explain my view about mystery and status.
                              >
                              > "It was a kind of blessed status for those who had seen the
                              > Mysteries and who could share in the secret. All the other great
                              > celebrations created an opportunity to escape temporarily from daily
                              > life, its duties and troubles, but the Mysteries offered somewhat
                              > more. This may be interpretated as purifying, getting temporarily
                              > free from anxieties by solving questions concerning life and death
                              > and their paradox. It is hard to say whether individual distinction
                              > prevailed over group identity, because the central part of the
                              > Mysteries, the shared secrecy, was also socially determined. The
                              > individualistic appeal, however, was one of the most important
                              > factors that made the Mysteries so long-lived in antiquity and
                              > guaranteed its continuity." (p. 34)
                              >
                              > Now Pekkanen is here proposing what might have been the religious
                              > motives for internal cohesion, but what I proposed was that it not
                              > only created an "us" (that have the secret) and a "them" (that
                              > don't), but also that the "secret" translated into status and social
                              > capital.
                              >
                              > Immediately, below this quote commences Pekkanen's discussion of
                              > participants in the cult. As you noted all sorts of people could
                              > become initiates as long as the fulfilled certain criteria, which
                              > you cited and I will not repeat. You noted that even prostitutes
                              > could become members and the story of one such is mentioned in
                              > footnote 4.
                              >
                              > "There are, even though, only rare literal mentions of the women who
                              > took part in the rites; for example, the famous courtesan Phryne is
                              > mentioned by Athenaeus, 13.590e-f as having gone to take a bath
                              > naked in the river Cephissus, in front of the eyes of all
                              > participating in the procession from Athens to Eleusis."
                              >
                              > Now this to me is an example of social power granted by mystery.
                              > Phryne is parading power in a twofold way. First of all Phryne's
                              > personal power in terms of her ability to attract men. Social
                              > convention requires that Phryne to cover herself and not display her
                              > power, just like a warrior cannot go through the streets with
                              > weapon bared. Phryne can flaunt social convention because she has
                              > another power to back her, the mystery. She knows the secret and
                              > must be motivated by it and no one stops her. It is the power of
                              > the idea of mystery, and the authority it gives to those who know
                              > it, but it is also the mystery as social grouping.
                              >
                              > After her brief remark about membership she goes to discuss the
                              > cult's position in Athens:
                              >
                              > "From this we learn that the cult was an expedient for expressing
                              > the position of Athens, and during period of political and
                              > economical difficulties it might have been one way to symbolically
                              > show to the outer world that Athens had not lost its power. Thus the
                              > public aspect of this religious celebration was important for the
                              > city, because it gave an opportunity for the organization of a
                              > spectacle, a procession that made the position and power of Athens
                              > visible and concrete. The procession was the most important one
                              > given by the city-state, because it bound the relation of Athens and
                              > Eleusis together at a practical level and gave an opportunity for
                              > Athenian power to make a public appearance before all the Greeks.
                              > There is epigraphical evidence concerning the ordering of the
                              > procession, forming its participants into a line.1 It is quite
                              > evident that the role of the epheboi held a remarkable significance;
                              > the epheboi were those who represented the cities
                              > which took part in the festival, and thus their presence had
                              > symbolic meaning. Their appearance is most emphasized in the
                              > regulations for forming the pompe. One inscription from the middle
                              > of the fourth century BC (SEG XVII 21) relates how a so-called
                              > sacred peace was proclaimed for the period of the Great Mysteries in
                              > Athens and states that the initiants had to be ready to accept the
                              > regulations of the city. It was necessary for one to prove to the
                              > magistrate, who acted for the benefit of the Athenian state, that
                              > one had brought a contribution to the sacrificies. It was one way
                              > for Athens to make them submit to her, and acknowledge her power.
                              > The city itself even had the power of proclaiming an internal peace
                              > which demonstrates the remarkable political influence of the
                              > festival. No doubt Athens was well aware of this." (p. 35)
                              >
                              > If Athens could use the mystery cult as political capital, then
                              > surely it follows that members that gave such prestige to Athens in
                              > Greek society, must have had it in Athens' societal scheme as well.
                              >
                              > Pekkanen goes on to explain at great length about the administration
                              > of the cult, which I will not even try to summarize or quote here.
                              > A number of things, however, are worth noticing. For example, while
                              > there are a limited number of high officials, Pekkanen presents an
                              > impressive number of "minor sacred officials", right from advisors
                              > to cleaners (and those are only the ones that we know of). It seems
                              > to me that there were plenty of room for hierarchy within the mystery.
                              >
                              > Within this hierarchy the secret of the mystery also played a role.
                              > The hierophantes, the top official, was the one who showed the
                              > "hiera and revealed the spoken secrets" (p. 36) Thus to reveal the
                              > secrets to outsiders was a twofold betrayal. It was the betrayal of
                              > the hierarchy and the prerogatives of the top, and it was a betrayal
                              > of the boundaries between "us" and "them". Furthermore revealing
                              > the secrets of the mystery devalues it.
                              >
                              > Cara L. Sailor in her thesis "The Function of Mythology and Religion
                              > in Greek Society" notes:
                              >
                              > Like all Mystery Cults, the Eleusian Mysteries were to be kept
                              > secret from any person not initiated into the cult. However, there
                              > were at least a few people who violated this. One, a man named
                              > Diagoras of Melos, was said to have told the entirety of the mystery
                              > in the streets of Athens in such a way as to make it seem 'vile and
                              > unimportant.'" (p. 44)
                              >
                              > Finally, one of the things that originally suggested to me that we
                              > were dealing with what I (perhaps unadvisedly) called an "upper
                              > class phenomenon" was reading Zoilos of Aspendos' letter to
                              > Apollonios (Grant, F. C. "Hellenistic Religions: The Age of
                              > Syncretism" pp. 144-5). Where popular movements like Pauline
                              > Christianity created communities from the grassroots mystery
                              > religions were created from the top. While the latter's ideology
                              > tried to overturn social status quo and therefore came into conflict
                              > with Rome, mystery religions both accommodated and supported the
                              > status quo and happily co-existed with secular leaders (an
                              > anachronism, I know). The exception, the Dionysic cult, only proves
                              > the point. The solution was to have a Roman official be overseer.
                              >
                              > Michael. Thanks for the tip. It's a bit later than the period I am
                              > looking at, but might still be worth my while.
                              >
                              > With respect to the possible recurrence of themes from mystery
                              > religions (such as resurrection) in Christianity, I think that while
                              > this is interesting it does not really solve the question of
                              > relationship. First of all we cannot (as far as I can tell)
                              > construct the general features of the content of mystery religions,
                              > because in terms of content they are diverse. So one is not really
                              > comparing Pauline Christianity with a generic set of features, but
                              > looking at features in Pauline Christianity that may or may not be
                              > similar to those of a number of diverse religions.
                              >
                              > What unifies them, what can be regarded as generic, I think, is the
                              > phenomenon. It is also here that I find that they are quite different.
                              >
                              > I do think though that they both could be viewed as "voluntary associations".
                              >
                              > Regards,
                              >
                              > Daniel Grolin
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