Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Synopsis

Written by an international team of acknowledged experts, this excellent book studies a wide range of contributions and showcases new research on the archaeology, ritual and history of Greek mystery cults.With a lack of written evidence that exists for the mysteries, archaeology has proved central to explaining their significance and this volume is key to understanding a phenomenon central to Greek religion and society.

Excerpt

Since the beginning of our existence, humans have pondered the mysteries of life and death and have strived to find meaning in a constantly changing world. Above and beyond the world of the senses and the triviality of our existence there has always been a belief in another kind of reality, one of eternal powers, powers that affect and impact human lives. To comprehend that supreme reality and to be in harmony with it, humanity has relied on religion.

Religion in ancient Greece had a strong public character and was, in many respects, a way of integrating the individual into the community. Within this public religion, which often was sponsored and even imposed by the polis, there were special cults that addressed people on an individual basis and were voluntarily selected by each person. The ancient Greeks called them Mysteries (“Mysteria”) and they represented a special opportunity for dealing with the gods of the polis on an individual basis. As these cults had to do with the individual's inner self, privacy was necessary and was secured by an initiation ceremony, a personal ritual that brought the individual to a new spiritual level, a higher degree of awareness in relation to the gods. Once initiated, the individual was entitled to share the eternal truth, to catch a glimpse of the eternal reality.

Mystery cults are the spiritual attempts of the ancient Greeks to deal with their mortality. The phenomenon is by no means restricted to Greece, but it is in Greece that it found its philosophical explanation and justification. Exactly because Mysteria deal with the spiritual aspects of our existence, they have fascinated both scholars and the public. Looking back in order to understand those cults is especially timely today. We live in an age of rapid technological progress, an age of virtual realities and an abundance of material goods that are redefining our society. And yet our age experiences a surge of private cults and religious sects, of drugs and abuse, of violence and materialism, forcefully proving how desperately we need to regain our spirituality. It is one of the greatest paradoxes of our time, that those of us who are fortunate to live in the developed countries seem to have all the material objects we could possibly desire, but our lives appear to be emptier

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