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Delve into Strange Mystery Religions

Updated on August 27, 2012

Mystery Religion is a collective term for those religions that have central rituals which are secret and only recognized by the initiated.

Myths , beliefs and theology , however, in most cases are freely accessible for outsiders. The term mystery derives from the Greek word μυστήριον mysterion (plural mysteries) which means "dedication" or a transferred "secret".

Mystery religions tend historically to be geographically limited in scope, although it has changed somewhat in the modern era of faster transportation and communication.

Mystery religion is a religion with an arcanum, or secret knowledge. In a mystery practiced an inner core of beliefs that is religion's true nature and will only be revealed to those who have been initiated to find out about these secrets.

Ancient mystery in the eastern Mediterranean region were generally focused on mythical figures who've been to Hades and returned or otherwise exemplified death and rebirth, such as Bacchus , Orpheus , Osiris , and Tammuz .

Mystery refers in most cases, Mystery in ancient Greece and a number of oriental religions had a certain popularity in the Hellenistic - Roman world. Mystery is not a uniform group, but covers many different religions, all more or less emphasis on secrets.

Another common feature was that they were all individual-oriented religions that promised individual salvation through initiation and participation in cult rituals, and that you then never allow for others who are uninitiated.

Eleusinian mysteries

One of the most famous ancient Mystery religions were the Eleusinian mysteries specifically built on the myth of Kore was abducted by Hades to the underworld, but was rescued by his mother, fertility goddess Demeter .

The myth tells that Demeter then instituted the cult of Eleusis , where she had her daughter back. By the second mystery was especially Isis cult , which had originally arisen in Egypt , widespread. Other popular cults were Attis, and Cybele, and Mithra-cults .

Mystery religions had their origin in various traditional religions, but in contrast to those interested Mystery primarily for salvation in the hereafter.

They had their greatest appeal to citizens in cities and soldiers in the Roman Empire. One explanation may be that these could no longer find safety in the traditional family community with religion as a social concern and therefore had to resort to other forms of religion. In the mystery, however, they found a community and a religious sense of security.

Religious practices

The core of the Mystery religions were the secret was only revealed to the people who could dedicate. This inauguration also involved a promise never to reveal the secret, the so-called arkandisiplinen. Many elements of the mystery is unknown at present. In the famous novel Apulejus from Madaura , the golden donkey (asinus aureus) or transformations (Metamophorsis), was part of the initiation rites of Isis-cult, however described. The novel is one of the main sources of this type of religion.

Not all parts of the mystery was still secret, often there was a so-called sytem which was a summary of the topics included in the dedication. Central myths and beliefs were also freely available. Most mystery was missionary and it was therefore necessary that new and potential initiating knew the background of the religion they were going to enter in.

Characteristic of Mystery was a transition ritual, often a baptism and a common meal in which an elderly member was symbolically buried and a new dedicated man arose. Thus, separate this type from ancient traditional religions by being very individualistic oriented while traditional religions emphasized the collective.

The mysteries or secrets were not only limited to the religions that are normally described as mystery, as these were secret infidelity just the central. In many of the other religions that flourished in the Hellenistic-Roman period included secrets as an element of ritual practice.

Mystery Religion Evolves to Ruler Cult


Early Christians

In the language of some of the early Christians , the followers of Gnosticism , it was a mysterious character, and the mysteries of the religious texts were carefully guarded from access to the profane.

An example of this is The Secret Gospel of Mark , which was kept away from others in the Alexandria and these texts are now known only through references in a letter from Clement of Alexandria .

Gospel of Thomas had intended to express the mystery which was entrusted by Jesus to Thomas alone, and the tradition of some early Gnostic Christians was based on the esoteric information that was available only to the initiated.

It has been suggested that Christianity in its origin was a pure Mysteries. According to this view, Christianity began as a Jewish adaptation of Greek Mystery religions, and that Paul later developed Christianity in a different direction, a more public and Hellenistic direction that was acceptable to the general Roman culture.

One objection to this theory is that it does not explain how or why the monotheistic Jews would adopt pagan-religious practice, though, the similarity between the story of Jesus and the Mystery can explain Christianity's rapid growth and proliferation.

Gnostic teaching was condemned as heretical the Christianity that Paul's supporters stood for and who took the authoritative apostles' personal testimonies of the resurrection of Jesus.

The so-called Gnostic gospels presents a very different view of Jesus than the one presented in the canonical (church law) gospels.


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    • Buzzbee profile image

      Buzzbee 5 years ago from The County of the Winkies in Oz

      thanks Bud! It's nice to have positive comments from experts in the field.

    • Bud Gallant profile image

      Bud Gallant 5 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Very interesting and informative. I've been involved with mysticism for a number of years, and have studied gnosticism as well as more recent manifestations such as Thelema. I enjoyed the read.