by E. O. James, D.Litt., D.D., F.S.A.
Professor Emeritus of the History of Religion in the University of London Chaplain of All Souls College, Oxford
The English translation of the essays collected in this volume, previously published in various journals, will be widely welcomed by those interested in the subject as they are not readily accessible to readers in this country. Throughout there is a unity of theme expounded and illuminated by a scholar whose great learning is matched by a penetrating and independent judgment, firmly grounded and rooted in Christian humanism. Taking his stand on Christ as the turning-point of civilization he seeks to show how Greek piety was sanctified by the Church, "God having spoken His revelation into the world by the Greek spirit and the Roman imperium, and the Church guarding this truth framed in the Greek speech of her sacred Book and in the inherited doctrine, which she has received from Latin Rome."
Since the lectures printed in the first part of the volume were delivered at Eranos congresses in Ascona under the hospitable roof of Frau Froebe-Kapteyn in her delightful home on Lake Maggiore, stress is laid on the Jungian interpretation of images in Greek mythology and the Hellenic mysteries brought into relation with the Patristic conception of the Christian mystery. The pagan cults representing the most profound expression of Greek piety are shown to have been the starting-point from which the psyche is led upwards to the heights of Christian illumination, the legacy of Greece continuing to live on within the Church.
The "mysticizing" of Hellenistic piety, it is pointed out, was by no means complete at the beginning of the new era. In the "mystery atmosphere" that then prevailed both continual birth and renewal of life were predominant, and it was the emotional rather than the dogmatic and intellectual element that characterized the cults.