Metanoia And the Mysteries
Metanoia And the Mysteries
It is like Aristotle’s view that initiates have not a lesson to learn,
but an experience to undergo And a condition into which they must
be brought while they are becoming fit (for revelation).[i]
Todd Swanson, MPA, MA
Abstract: The Eleusinian Mysteries induced an “artificial crisis” in
participants that effected a change in consciousness – metanoia.
This occurred as a result of extensive immersion in ritual behavior.
Ritual conditioned a susceptibility to arousal / quiescent neurological
states that occur during extraordinary phases of consciousness. A
brief description And overview of the nine days of the Mysteries And
cosmological beliefs are reviewed. Socrates is described as a
revealer of these Mysteries in Phaedrus. This may have been the
basis of the indictment of “impiety” that led to his execution.
This paper reflects upon on the phenomenology of religious
experience. It is bracketed by two assertions: Walter Burkert’s
thesis that Mysteries were initiation rituals of a voluntary, personal
And secret nature that aimed at a change of mind through
experience of the sacred[ii] And Synesius’ preservation of a comment
by Aristotle on “the condition” to which initiates are brought And
katharsis as preparation for an experience of the sacred.
The Eleusinian Mysteries spanned a time from two to four thousand
years ago in a world both alien And familiar to those who live in the
twenty-first century. It is a world permeated with anxiety And dread,
perhaps not unlike that of America after 9/11 or during the multi-
decade Cold War. Famine is a persistent threat. A single crop
failure can spell the difference between life And death. The risk of
war, whether from marauding bands or organized armies, is
constant. Death or slavery awaits the losers of a conflict. The family
provides the only social safety net for most. The common person
lives at the precipice of disaster. Gods dwell as close (And as
distant And unattainable) as snow-covered Mt. Olympus. The fears
And anxieties of those who participated in the Mysteries were
distilled And focused through an induced crisis of panic. As a result,
the “invisible world” commingled And became visible.
An Overview of the Ritual
Imagine a multitude gathering twenty-five hundred years ago. After
days of preparation And fasting, a mass of processions snake
between Athens And Eleusis, buoyed by an increasing sense of
expectation And excitement. Dusk falls. Thousands of torches are lit
And blaze under darkening skies. The Milky Way gleams overhead
And just a sliver of the moon gives light. The initiates sip the
kykeon. First singularly, then in groups, And subsequently in
hundreds And thousands the initiates are thrust into a frenetic
dance. The crowd pushes on all sides And one can only move as
the multitude moves. In the dark, the crowd surges And runs about
in circles over uncertain roads in mindless, hyperkinetic activity. The
sense of being pressed upon, the fear of being trampled, And a
sense of heightening claustrophobia grows in many. Uncertainty
reigns. Figures jump from the darkness to frighten And direct the
massive crowd. No one knows what will happen next. So much dust
rises from this human stampede that from miles away an army
mistakes the dust cloud for an opposing army on the march.
Each individual knows that s/he must enter the great hall of initiation.
Independent movement is impossible. The darkness removes all
sense of direction. Breathing becomes difficult because of the
pressing of the crowd. All are on the edge of panic.
Then, somewhere, a door appears. Everyone rushes toward it
directed by shadowy figures. Exhausted from lack of sleep, fasting,
And terror, initiates finally enter a darkened great hall panting And
short of breath. The hall fills to capacity. Above, the hierophant –
the leader of the Mysteries - appears. Eyes focus upon him, silence
falls. He speaks, And then strikes an enormous gong. The room
reverberates with thunderous noise. Suddenly, in the cupola above,
an enormous burst of flame fills the initiation hall with light, fire
escapes through the ceiling And is seen for miles.
Within the hall, a goddess And other apparitions appear.
There is great joy And celebration. As the night concludes, the
initiates come out of the mystery hall feeling dissociated - like
strangers to themselves. In the next days And weeks, they perceive
the world differently – this metanoia, a change of perception or
consciousness, results in changes of behavior.
Ritual Behavior During the Nine Days of the Mysteries[iii]
Although it was not viewed in this way at the time of the Mysteries, a
conditioning process –through the initiates’ immersion into dromena
– religious ritual - prepared the initiates for an intense mystical
experience. Ritual is structured, rhythmic And repetitive behavior
that has two psychological results: the first is that it acts to
synchronize the affective, perceptual-cognitive And motor processes
within the central nervous systems of individual participants; the
second is that it synchronizes these processes among all participants
[iv] leading to a common experience. The full nine days of the ritual
correspond to the period of time cited in the Homeric Hymns that the
Goddess Demeter sought her daughter, Persephone.
On the first day, participants gathered within Athen’s Stoa. Those
who have made the initial necessary preparations through the
Lesser Mysteries held in the spring are welcomed. Warnings are
given to those who are excluded: persons with unexpiated bloodguilt
And those who do not speak Greek. Whatever the exact call,
initiates knew intellectually through their indoctrination in the Lesser
Mysteries, emotionally through their expectations raised from former
participants, And behaviorally from the long fifteen-mile trek from
Athens to Eleusis, that they were entering into a sacred space And a
Initiates walk or ride from Athens to Eleusis along the Sacred Way
under the darkness of new moon – a moon that although was
unseen above, was believed to be full in the underworld. Over the
next several days, the initiates would walk that route several times,
presaging the wanderings of the god Demeter.
During the second day, in the early morning, shouts of “To the Sea,
Oh Mystai!” ring throughout Eleusis. The initiates purify themselves
in the sea And offer sacrifice.
The third day consists of fasting And official sacrifices in Athens; the
initiates mourn Demeter’s loss of her daughter, Persephone.
On the fourth night, the initiates meditated on Askleipios, the god of
healing, whose sleep incubation temples were famed throughout the
classical world. Perhaps falling asleep, watching the Milky Way swirl
above them, the initiates awaited a dream oracle that would bring
healing, the first movement into an altered state. Since persons
came from the entire Greek-speaking world – from as far west as
modern Italy And far east as Turkey, initiates who traveled from a
great distance And arrived late were able begin their preparations.
For those who took part in the activities of the opening days, this
was a day of rest. A second sacrifice was held for the benefit of
The fifth day, immediately before the initiation, was one of high
expectations. All are gathered And excitement builds. In the early
morning, a carriage transports the hiera (holy objects) from the
Eleusion in Athens to Eleusis. A wooden statue of Iacchos leads the
procession to raucous cries. It was an exciting journey where they
called out “Iacchos!!! Iacchos!!!” the name of a god who symbolized
ecstatic transport. On the road to Eleusis, the ecstatic procession of
the god Iacchos would precipitate the first dramatic experience of
altered consciousness. The initiate would have been conditioned
And reinforced into suggestive absorption of a complex of beliefs that
constituted the sole, exclusive or totally dominating object of
consciousness resulting in ecstasy. It was a day that was physically
demanding And emotionally inspiring, left initiates feeling filled with a
god. Physical hyperarousal begins. Along the Sacred Way, initiates
pass by several cemeteries that reinforce the theme of death And
dying in their minds. When they reach the Kephisos Bridge outside
the sacred precinct, the procession slows. At this narrow bridge men
in masks insult And pillory the rich And famous to the amusement of
Participants were removed from their daily life And routine And
placed in a new environment. The secrecy surrounding the
Mysteries would have heightened the expectation, exacerbated a
sense of uncertainty And ultimately lift the participants from an
emotional frenzy to a spiritual deliverance. The emotional frenzy was
tied to its Dionysian base where under the influence of torches, wine,
heady music And dancing, the worshipers felt exalted. That
evening, during the Kernophoria, women carry the kernos And lights
or small hearths on their heads. At the conclusion, initiates sleep
overnight in Eleusis.
The next night is the night of Initiation. The moon does not appear
until several hours after sunset. The day is spent in fasting And
purification. The initiates carry handfuls of agricultural produce that
were the badges of a civilized life. The fast is broken when the stars
came out. Initiates drink a wine called kykeon. The initiation proper
begins. Ancient sources record initiates running, increasingly
desperately, throughout the night. They are terrified; shiver, tremble,
sweat[v] And run as if possessed. After perhaps hours of these
exertions, initiates enter the hall of initiation filled with horror And
astonishment, loneliness And perplexity. The crowd is crushing And
initiates are unable to move a step forward.[vi]
Soon the procession would arrive at the outer court of the
sanctuary. The Telesterion (initiation hall) was expanded in the
second century b.c.e. large enough to accommodate several
thousand initiates who during the rites stood on steps along the four
inner walls. Because of the size of the building, the entire
procession that led to the Telesterion probably did not enter. Only
those who had received the Lesser Mysteries, had fasted And
sacrificed, penetrated. In each stage of the initiation, fewer would
participate. This was largely because of space consideration, but
There may also have been a symbolic meaning as well. The orator
Maximos of Tyre said: Until thou hast reached the Anaktoron, (the
inner sanctuary) thou has not been initiated. The Anaktoron stood in
the center of the Telesterion. The information of what occurred
during the following "nights of the Mysteries" is lost in the mists of
history. However, we may feel certain that the rites included three
different elements: the dromena - that which was enacted; the
deiknymena - the sacred objects that were shown; And the legomena
- the words that were spoken- that was the communication of the
myth And its attendant formulas.
The dromena - that which was enacted- is perhaps the easiest to
guess. Classical Greek tragedy still lives with force within our
western cultures. The dramatic arts were highly developed And it is
not wild speculation that an initial drama based on the myth of
Demeter was presented. This would have the added effect of
opening the participants to the world of religious symbolism, remind
the initiates of the essence of their beliefs, And prepare their hearts
And spirits for catharsis that would come. Aristotle described one
aspect of the change of awareness caused by the initiates’
experience as a katharsis of relief And joy.[vii] This katharsis may
have offered a relief from an almost existential dread of fear And
nothingness. In his Poetics, Aristotle investigated both what
happened in the minds of the audience at a tragedy And the
experience offered by the annually recurring venture of Eleusis.
Spectators at public plays had no need to build up a state of
concentration by ritual preparations; they neither fasted, drank the
kykeon, nor marched in a procession. Consequently, they did not
attain a state of epopteia, of "having seen" by their inner resources.
The poet, the chorus, And the actors created a vision at the theater.
Without effort, the spectators were transported into what they saw.
In the Mysteries, catharsis had to take effect long before the
epopteia. "Through pity And terror", wrote Aristotle, "tragedy brought
purification from all of these passions."[viii]
The seventh day, following the night of initiation, would have the
initiates gather And gaze up to the heavens And cry aloud “rain”;
they gaze upon the earth And cry, “conceive.” The initiation
celebration is brought to a close And the statue of Iacchos returns to
Much of the final full eighth day is spent singing And dancing. The
hierophant fills two plemochoai (wine jars), And inverts them
(standing up And facing the east in the one, the west in the other),
reciting a mystical formula over them.[ix]
The following morning, during the ninth day, participants return home
in time for fall plowing of the fields.[x] They have experienced a
revelation that has changed their lives.
What initiates experienced was so powerful that it set into motion
behavior change both on an individual And societal level. Several
authors described this change. For Socrates arête (excellence or
virtue) was something that proceeded from within outward; an
attitude springing from an insight of the nature And meaning of
human life.[xi] Eleusis provided this inspiration. Specific areas of
change are described by Pausanias to include living piously,
honoring parents, glorifying gods And not harming animals.[xii]
Diodorus Siculus commented on the acquisition of virtues including
courage, success, And justice.[xiii] Cicero viewed this change to be
both long-lasting And beneficial to Greek society as a whole. It
caused a social shift from barbarity to civilization And offered the
possibility of dying with hope[xiv] - an immense benefit in a society
where hope was brief And fleeting.
Seneca asserts (then as now) “the majority of persons do what they
do without knowing why.”[xv] The nine days of ritual behavior of the
Eleusinian Mysteries is choreographed to induce what Proclus
described as sympathy of the soul resulting in panic, awe,
assimilation And possession. [xvi] A lack of sleep, a mounting sense
of expectation an frenetic physical activity all lead to physical,
emotional, And neural hyperarousal. The experience of great chaos
breaks down other standard behavior And allows for a new
restructuring of belief, awareness And reality. One is taken out of
one’s day-to-day life And placed within an environment carefully
choreographed to prepare the initiate for the psychic And social
reorientation that will soon occur. This new environment is so
interwoven with fear And expectation that Plutarch describes
initiation as similar to dying with shivering, trembling, sweating, And
utter amazement as a prelude.[xvii]
The predisposition an initiate to experience an altered state of
consciousness that would lead to lasting changes of behavior would
be dramatically influenced by the set And setting of the ceremonies.
The dream like quality of the experience was enhanced by the fact
that most of the group activities of the Mysteries took place at dusk
And during night. Three general hypotheses may explain the
dynamic underlying religious experience such as that provided by the
1. Initiates truly come into contact with a divine being. There
was a sacred experience that was objectively real. This argument
cannot be proven.
2. The kykeon that initiates drank had hallucinogenic
properties. The is the hypothesis of Wasson et al.[xviii] Eleusinian
iconography often feature poppies. A wine product (kykeon) was
drunk, And apparitions reported. During my research, I am unaware
of any of the secondary hallucinogenic symbology that one often
finds when a potent drug is part of a ceremony. An even more
pressing question might revolve around “bad trips” – negative
experiences persons may undergo while under the effects of
hallucinogens. Participants reported engaging in an experience that
was terrifying And chaotic. Should a large majority of persons been
under the influence of hallucinogens, their experiences may have
been so negative that it is unlikely that the Mysteries would have
continued to grow.
3. Religious experience has a physiological component
connected with the physical evolution of neural circuitry within the
brain And the effects of ritualized behavior that lead to alterations of
consciousness. The brain’s arousal, quiescent, And limbic system
reacted to the external stimuli of the nine days of mysteries that
included fasting, frantic dancing And running, repetitive rhythms, And
choreographed information that resulted in an altered state of
perception that transformed persons’ lives. This argument follows
Newberg’s hypothesis[xix]And incorporates Aristotle’s conjecture that
initiates have an experience to undergo And a condition into which
they must be brought, while they are becoming fit (for revelation.)
The evidence in this claim is as follows:
• When contemporary researchers study the brain waves
through Single Positron Emission Computed Topography (SPECT)
And other brain image scanning techniques, a physiological
hyperquiescent state - an extraordinary state of relaxation that
happens during meditative phases- can be observed. This state is
associated with “slow” ritualistic behavior such as changing or
prayer. In contrast, when persons engage in frenzied ritual behavior
such as dancing or running the hyperarousal state occurs. A person
can enter into the same state when the continuous processing of
information becomes so voluminous that interjection of thought And
ego-centered decision-making would prove disadvantageous.
Searching in mad pursuit for the initiation hall during the Eleusinian
Mysteries would put a person in this condition. This state is
associated with keen alertness And concentration. The
hyperarousal state with eruption of the quiescent system occurs
when arousal activity is so extreme that the quiescent system
becomes activated. When this occurs, people may experience an
orgasmic, rapturous, or ecstatic rush resulting in trance-like states.
• From a societal viewpoint, the first consideration is the cultural
milieu. Theocratic attitudes permeated Greece And most of the
ancient Mediterranean states. Impiety is punished by death.
Religious oracles are consulted And responses offered in prophetic
frenzy. Decisions of city, state, And individuals are discerned from
careful examination of the flight of birds, the examination of entrails
of sacrificial animals, the whispering of wind through the leaves of
trees, And the random chattering of children. Philosophy And the
law build upon religious beliefs to develop codes of conduct. These
new behaviors are reinforced by ritual And societal conventions.
Therefore, within a person’s cognitive world-view the possibility of
interaction with gods is ever-present.
• Altered states of consciousness are part of the awareness of
the average citizen in the Greek polis. During festivals, s/he would
often have witnessed ecstasy (often associated with alcohol in
Dionysic religious festivals; enthusiasm (en-theos) a state where a
god enters a person And the person acts out in ways other than
his/her normal behavior; And mystic orgia – a group dynamic where
whole groupings of persons are in ecstatic And enthusiastic states.
Proclus Diadochus in On the Signs of Divine Possession breaks
down the extraordinary variations in consciousness experienced in
the ancient world. “Inanimate objects are often filled with Divine
Light, like the statues which give oracles under the inspiration of one
of the Gods or Good Daemons. So too, There are men who are
possessed And who receive a Divine Spirit. Some receive it
spontaneously, like those who are said to be ‘seized by God’, either
at particular times, or intermittently And on occasion. There are
others who work themselves up into a state of inspiration by
deliberate actions. When divine inspiration comes There are some
cases where the possessed become completely besides themselves
And unconscious of themselves. However, There are others where,
in some remarkable manner, they maintain consciousness. In these
cases it is possible for the subject to work the Theagogy on himself,
And when he receives the inspiration, is aware of what it [i.e. the
Divine Power] does And what it says, And what he has to do release
the mechanism [of possession]. However, when the loss of
consciousness (ekstaseôs) is total, it is essential that someone in full
command of his faculties assists the possessed".[xxi]
These trance states are conditions of dissociated consciousness,
psychologically induced And reversible. They are characterized by
felt emotions of sacredness, transcendence, a sense of unity,
ineffability, And persistent positive changes in attitude. [xxii] These
states would have been viewed as both “normal” And attainable
increasing a person’s predisposition to these states of
As Above, So Below: Cosmology
Among the aspects of the Mysteries that deserve further
investigation is the relation of celestial objects with the mystic
experience. Within the framework of both the Lesser And Greater
Mysteries, initiates receive verbal And visual instructions,
explanations of myths And a deepening religious context. The
glowing stars above may have offered them a canvas upon which to
project these beliefs And instructions, a methodology not unlike stain
glass windows in medieval cathedrals. The first night of the
Mysteries occurred under a new moon when the night was
completely black And the Milky Way spanned the heavens. The
Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis that permeated the Greek
worldview was one that maintained that each soul has its own star
from which it has come And to which it will return.[xxiii] Dodds
discusses how Aristotle, following hints in Plato, had drawn a line
that came to be generally accepted: above the line, beyond the
moon, lay the unvarying heavens where the stars moved “rank on
rank And time And space mmo as well. The army of unalterable
law”, below it lay the sub lunar world, the domain of chance,
mutability And death. In this glittering house of many mansions the
earth appeared as the meanest mansion of all: it was held to be
compact of the mere dregs And sediment of the universe, the cold,
heavy, impure stuff whose weight had caused it to shrink to the
center.[xxiv] In the deepening dark of night, perhaps initiates
wondered which star was theirs. What was needed, And perhaps
provided, was a star map, directions to the celestial realm.
Plutarch relates that at death, the souls of persons were “destined to
wander in the region between earth And moon” as a form of
purification. Similarly to how moths are drawn to the flame, souls are
drawn to the moon. Many are “swept away” from their attachment,
but a few find “a firm footing” And “go about like victors crowned with
wreaths of feathers called wreathes of steadfastness.”[xxv] In the
Phaedrus, Socrates asserts that it takes ten thousand years for a
soul to grow wings And return to where she came. During the
initiation ceremony There is some evidence of initiates being
crowned with feathers, symbolic of the soul. Socrates describes the
reincarnated souls as initiates when he says that “once when amidst
that happy company, we beheld with our eyes that blessed vision,
ourselves in the train of Zeus…then were we all initiated into the
mystery which is rightly accounted blessed above all others…Beauty
shone bright amidst these visions.”[xxvi]
In addition to the moon, the constellation today called Gemini, was
seen as guiding lights for those hoping to break out of the mortal
sphere into the realm of the gods.”[xxvii] The constellation Virgo was
thought to be Demeter “because of the sheaf of grain she holds.”
Initiates would only need to look up to see the benevolent Goddess
gazing upon them.
Conclusion: Revelation in the Phaedrus
Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus is a strange book. It meanders wildly from
topic to topic, balances between jest And seriousness, And finally
targets its main concern, drawing all the previous threads of
reasoning together. It begins with a discourse between Phaedrus –
a handsome young man – And Socrates. The dialogue intimates an
on-going psychological seduction of Phaedrus by his sophist teacher
Lysias.[xxviii] This discussion culminates in the final discussion of
ecstatic love And the issues of ecstasy And trance. Socrates even
jokes with Phaedrus (on offers his perception on the contagion of
manic behavior) that he observed him in an ecstasy, followed his
example, And became inspired with divine frenzy. Socrates then
makes one of his first veiled comments on the inefficacy of oracles.
He tells Phaedrus trees And open country won’t teach me anything
whereas men in the town do.[xxix] This appears to refer to a tradition
in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances.
Dodds relates a saying that “the men of that day…deemed that if
they heard the truth, even from “oak or rock” that was enough for
Then Phaedrus And Socrates pass by the spot of the rape of the
nymph Oreithyia by Boreas. Phaedrus asked Socrates if he believed
that story to be true And Socrates answers that he would not be at a
loss if he did disbelieve it.[xxx] A number of story lines begin being
tied together at this point. The psychological rape of Phaedrus by
Lysias, the seizure, abduction, And rape of Persephone by Hades
that formed the core myth of the Mysteries, And the beginning of
“veiled” references to the Mysteries. The dialogue moves toward a
dangerous ground of both discussing the mysteries And impiety –
acts that could result in a person’s execution. A dizzying verbal
labyrinth of twists And turns, stops And starts, And dangers And
escapes follows. Socrates continues his almost reckless dash And -
in the midst of joking he veils his face in imitation of an initiate.[xxxi]
Phaedrus observes that Socrates appears to be inspired. Socrates
warns him to listen in silence for the place is holy. In abrupt change,
Socrates then moves perilously close to blasphemy by stating: “I
have enough religion for my own needs.” Once again, Socrates
draws away from the precipice of impiety by acknowledging that his
daimon is “forbidding me to leave the spot until I had made
atonement for some offense to heaven…I understand well enough
what my offense was”[xxxii] And concludes his previous comments
were “foolish And somewhat blasphemous” And necessitating
At this point that the dialogue turns serious And Socrates examines
the nature of ecstasy. He states that “the greatest blessing comes
by way of mania, as long as mania is heaven-sent,”[xxxiv]
differentiating between mental illness And the entry of a god into the
soul. The behavior of one divinely inspired is odd: “the multitude
regard him as being out of his wits, for they know not he is full of a
god.” [xxxv] Socrates further divides the mania that is god-inspired
into four kinds[xxxvi]: divination, katharsis, poetic mania, And erotic
love. Those divinely inspired account for oracles. Katharsis is the
purge of emotion that frees persons And was interwoven into the
Eleusinian Mysteries. Muses reveal poetic mania to someone such
as Homer. Erotic love ties the first part of the dialogue to its current
state. Then Socrates opines that the soul traverses the universe as if
provided with wings.[xxxvii] Here he may touched upon the reason
for Porphyry’s description of a taboo: “whoever is acquainted with
the nature of divinely-luminous appearances knows also on what
account it is requisite to abstain from all birds, And especially for him
who hastens to be liberated from terrestrial concerns, And to be
established with the celestial Gods.”[xxxviii] Then, according to
Socrates, after approximately ten thousand years, depending on how
much truth the soul has seen in its sojourn, comes to birth in
descending order of importance as: a philosopher, artist, musician,
or lover; a righteous king, or warrior, or lord; a politician, economist,
or trader; a gymnast or physician; a prophet or hierophant; a poet or
imitator; an artisan or husbandman; a sophist or demagogue; or
finally as a tyrant. The benefits of philosophy come, Socrates
concludes when those initiated into the mysteries of philosophy “saw
a vision…beholding apparitions innocent, And simple, And calm And
happy as in a mystery, shining in pure light, pure ourselves.”
In the years immediately prior to his execution, Socrates was already
under suspicion by Athenian citizens. Not only had he made it his
livelihood (in some citizens’ views) to pillory the rich And famous by
demonstrating they did not truly know anything, but he was
associated in the common mind with the Thirty Tyrants who – in
what could be described as a right-wing coup - had overthrown the
Athenian democracy. When the democracy was restored, Socrates’
relationship with Critias, Alcibiades And the like made him vulnerable
to charges of corrupting the young And impiety. Within the
Phaedrus, Socrates is shown revealing in philosophical And mystical
language how persons may enter into the celestial realm. This may
have been sufficient excuse for Athenian citizens to force Socrates
into drinking the hemlock.
[i] Synesius: Dio 1133
[ii] Walter Burkert. Ancient Mystery Cults. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 11.
[iii] I am indebted to George E. Mylonas in his excellent Eleusis
And the Eleusinian Mysteries,
[iv] Eugene d'Aquili And Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1999, p. 89.
[v] (The passage from Plutarch's essay On the Soul survives
today only because Stobaeus (Florigelium 120) quoted it. Grant, F.
C. Hellenistic Religions p. 148)
[vi] Themistius. Orat. in Patrem. 50
[vii] “All who use these rites experience relief mixed with joy.”
Aristotle. Poetics 1342a.
[viii] Aristotle. Poetics 1342a.
[ix] Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists XI, 496a.
[x] Proclus, Fragment XXIII
[xi] Plato. Protagorus 329d
[xii] “The Eleusinian Mystai assert that they, as initiates, lead
their life piously in relation to foreigners And to ordinary people.
There were Laws of Triptolemos in Eleusis that laid down the duty
‘to honor parents, to glorify the gods with fruits And not to harm
animals.” Walter Burkert. Greek Religion. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1985, p 301.
[xiii] “Now the details of the initiatory rite are guarded among the
matters not to be divulged And are communicated to the initiates
alone; but the fame has traveled wide of how these gods appear to
mankind And bring unexpected aid to those initiates of theirs who call
upon them in the midst of perils. The claim is also made that men
who have taken part in the mysteries become both more pious And
more just And better in every respect than they were before. And this
is the reason, we are told, why the most famous both of the ancient
heroes And of the demi-gods were eagerly desirous of taking part in
the initiatory rite; And in fact Jason And the Dioskouri, And Heracles
And Orpheus as well, after their initiation attained success in all the
campaigns they undertook, because these gods appeared to them.”
(Diodorus Siculus V, 48, 49)
[xiv] “For among the many excellent And indeed divine
institutions which your Athens has brought forth And contributed to
human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For
by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous And
savage mode of life And educated And refined to a state of
civilization; And as the rites are called "initiations," so in very truth we
have learned from them the beginnings of life, And have gained the
power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.
(Cicero Laws II, xiv, 36)
[xv] Walter Burkert. Structure And History in Greek Mythology
And Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979 p. 38.
[xvi] “They cause sympathy of the souls with the ritual in a way
that is unintelligible to us, And divine, so that some of the initiands
are stricken with panic, being filled with divine awe, others assimilate
themselves to the holy symbols, leave their own identity, become at
home with the gods, And experience divine possession.” Walter
Burkert. Ancient Mystery Cults. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1987, p. 114.
[xvii] Thus death And initiation closely correspond; even the
words (teleutan And teleisthai) correspond, And so do the things. At
first There are wanderings, And toilsome running about in circles And
journeys through the dark over uncertain roads And culs de sac;
then, just before the end, There are all kinds of terrors, with
shivering, trembling, sweating, And utter amazement. After this, a
strange And wonderful light meets the wanderer; he is admitted into
clean And verdant meadows, where he discerns gentle voices, And
choric dances, And the majesty of holy sounds And sacred visions.
Here the now fully initiated is free, And walks at liberty like a
crowned And dedicated victim, joining in the revelry; he is the
companion of pure And holy men, And looks down upon the
uninitiated And unpurified crowd here below in the mud And fog,
trampling itself down And crowded together, though of death
remaining still sunk in its evils, unable to believe in the blessings that
lie beyond. That the wedding And close union of the soul with the
body is a thing really contrary to nature may clearly be seen from all
this. (The passage from Plutarch's essay On the Soul survives
today only because Stobaeus (Florigelium 120) quoted it. Grant, F.
C. Hellenistic Religions p. 148)
[xviii] R. Gordon Wasson, Carl Ruck, Albert Hoffman. The Road
to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries. New York:
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978.
[xix] Eugene d'Aquili And Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
Mind' Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1999.
[xx] Eugene d'Aquili And Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1999, p. 25-6.
[xxi] Proclus Diadochus. On the Signs of Divine Possession.
(From: Psellus’ Accusation against Michael Cerularius before the
Synod) Stephen Ronan, translator, www.esotericism.co.uk/proclus-
[xxii] Dean Hammer. The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired
into Our Genes. New York: Doubleday, 2004, p. 83.
[xxiii] Walter Burkert. Greek Religion. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1985, p 328.
[xxiv] E.R. Dodds. Pagan And Christian in an Age of Anxiety:
Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to
Constantine. New York: Norton, 1965, pp 6-7.
[xxv] Plutarch. The Face of the Moon 28
[xxvi] Plato. Phaedrus 250b5.
[xxvii] Walter Burkert. Greek Religion. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1985, p 213.
[xxviii] Plato. Phaedrus (227 c7)
[xxix] Plato. Phaedrus. 230 c6
[xxx] Plato. Phaedrus. 229 c4
[xxxi] Plato. Phaedrus. 237 a4
[xxxii] Plato. Phaedrus. 242 b-d
[xxxiii] Plato. Phaedrus. 243.
[xxxiv] Plato. Phaedrus 244a6
[xxxv] Plato. Phaedrus 249 d2
[xxxvi] Plato. Phaedrus 244
[xxxvii] Plato. Phaedrus 246.
[xxxviii] Porphyry. On Abstinence From Animal Food, IV, 16.
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