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 sacred time.
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 Athens.
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 all.
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
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
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 Athens.
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 Mysteries:
1. Initiates truly come into contact with a divine being. There was a
sacred experience that was objectively real. This argument cannot be
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.[xx]
• 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-
• 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
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 consciousness.
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 them.
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 purification.
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
[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
[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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Ernst Arbman. Ecstasy or Religious Trance In the Experience of
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Simon Bennett. Mind And Madness in Ancient Greece: The Classical
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Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine.
New York: W.W. Norton And Company, 1965.
Dean Hammer. The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our
Genes. New York: Doubleday, 2004.
George E. Mylonas. Eleusis And the Eleusinian Mysteries. Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 1961.
Nicholas Spanos And John Chaves. Hypnosis: The Cognitive-
Behavioral Perspective. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989.
Herbert And David Spiegel, M.D. Trance And Treatment: Clinical Uses
of Hypnosis. New York: Basic Books, 1978.
R. Gordon Wasson, Carl Ruck, Albert Hoffman. The Road to Eleusis:
Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries. New York: Harcourt, Brace,
Michael Winkelman. Trance states: A theoretical model And cross
cultural analysis. Ethos, vol 14(2), Summer 1986.
David Wulff. Mystical Experience in Varieties of Anomalous Experience:
Examining the Scientific Evidence. Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn &
Stanley Krippner, (eds.) Washington D.C.: American Psychological
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