What was religious experience
 prior to organized religion?
   “religious experience” means:
     Encounter something “numinous” (Lat: numen)
     A moment when time “stops” (eter...
 Immersion versus hearing about
 Participant versus spectator
 Disneyland versus watching cartoons
 Avatar DVD versus ...
   “organized religion” means:
     Having a defined dogma (Greek: fixed belief)
     Having a system of communication
...
   We are looking at a historical process
   The process seems to have phases
   The process touches the foundations of...
   Mystery religions: post-Olympic Greek-
    Mediterranean religion prior to consolidation
    of Christian teachings [p...
   Mediterranean with main focus on Greece
    (Athens and Greek colonies), 300 BC, but
    including Turkey (Anatolia) a...
   Ancient mysteries: Burkert, Turcan, Meyer
   Gnostic gospels: Freke, Pagels
   Unifying Greek philosophy: Plotinus, ...
   Ancient mysteries: development of
    experiential, immersive theater experience
   Gnosis: Personal experience (insi...
 The ancient mysteries created a shared space for
  an intense private experience (epiphany, gnosis)
  of life’s big trut...
   The ancient (pagan) mysteries provided the
    component myths for Christianity.
   The life of Christ was written as...
   Realization through stories, pictures, and
    theater is radically different from asserting a
    general truth.
   ...
   We are looking at a historical process
   The process seems to have phases
   The process touches the foundations of...
   Use timelines where possible (locate which
    phase: primal, emerging, consolidated)
   Understanding through images...
   Scholars of ancient mysteries: Walter Burkert,
    Robert Turcan, Marvin Meyer, Angus
   Clement of Alexandria (Apost...
   1945 discovery of “Gnostic Gospels”
   Most complete find in 2,000 years
   Buried in Egypt
   Proto-orthodox docum...
This stash of papyrus documents – hidden in
 the desert – opened many questions about
 the formation of early Christian ex...
   Gnostic gospels and Gnostic ideas in St. Paul
   Religious experience poured into Greek
    concepts of unity (the On...
   Teleste, initation, (initium = beginning)
   Telesterion, chamber or theater
   Myestes, initiate, “person with clos...
   Men’s movement: (Franciscan retreat master)
    Richard Rohr’s Quest for the Grail: non-clerical
    myth, story over ...
   Find a key concept
   Trace it in our texts
   Research it for images and web ideas
   Write it up on a single page...
   Burkert’s Ancient Mystery Cults
   Pp. 4-10
Mystery religions   lecture 1
Mystery religions   lecture 1
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Mystery religions lecture 1

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Lecture 1 from Mystery Religions

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Mystery religions lecture 1

  1. 1. What was religious experience prior to organized religion?
  2. 2.  “religious experience” means:  Encounter something “numinous” (Lat: numen)  A moment when time “stops” (eternal Now)  The “all at once” awareness of birth-death-life  “awesome” – literally “full of awe”  “sacred” or separate from everyday routine  Non-ego awareness of connecting to others
  3. 3.  Immersion versus hearing about  Participant versus spectator  Disneyland versus watching cartoons  Avatar DVD versus 3D Imax  Opinion versus evidence  Belief versus gnosis (“getting it”)
  4. 4.  “organized religion” means:  Having a defined dogma (Greek: fixed belief)  Having a system of communication  Having internal political arrangements (hierarchy)  Allied with powers of enforcement (state police)  Building its own places of worship, running schools, promoting itself (proselytizing)
  5. 5.  We are looking at a historical process  The process seems to have phases  The process touches the foundations of evolutionary psychology (our own culture)  The process may also reflect personal psychology (individual as a fractal of whole)  Timelines may be useful, but don’t assume the process had to go the way it went
  6. 6.  Mystery religions: post-Olympic Greek- Mediterranean religion prior to consolidation of Christian teachings [primal phase]  Consolidation phase when world scriptures were edited and selected (Library at Alexandria) [emergent phase]  The launching of official (organized) Christianity, Pauline mission [consolidated]
  7. 7.  Mediterranean with main focus on Greece (Athens and Greek colonies), 300 BC, but including Turkey (Anatolia) and Egypt  Alexandria (northern Africa), Egypt, 10 CE, founded by Alexander in 332 BC, Great Library  Remains of Roman Empire, 300 CE, Rome and Constantinople
  8. 8.  Ancient mysteries: Burkert, Turcan, Meyer  Gnostic gospels: Freke, Pagels  Unifying Greek philosophy: Plotinus, Pseudo- Dionysius (into the Middle Ages)  Contemporary questions: Pope Benedict, Bart Ehrman
  9. 9.  Ancient mysteries: development of experiential, immersive theater experience  Gnosis: Personal experience (insight) about big truths (“Life is an incredible miracle!” “All is one!” “It’s great to be alive!”)  Unifying philosophy: The experience of oneness is the highest value in art, religion, and politics. Constantine unifies Empire in 330 CE under one religion (325 CE bishops at Council of Nicaea)
  10. 10.  The ancient mysteries created a shared space for an intense private experience (epiphany, gnosis) of life’s big truths.  Gnosis (English: “know,” realize, taste); Personal realization was the point of parables, stories, and descriptions of the life of Christ.  Philosophy: truth can be stated in words and organized in a set of principles. Stories, pictures, and drama are merely myth, less reliable than concepts.
  11. 11.  The ancient (pagan) mysteries provided the component myths for Christianity.  The life of Christ was written as a parable for personal realization, not as a literal history of facts. Biblical statements are not an accurate historical chronicle or even logically consistent.  The achievement of political and social unity in the revived Roman Empire required religious experience to be formulated in a universal way so that it could become equivalent to affirming or denying of a set of propositions (“X is true” – “Y is false”). Faith became a system of beliefs.
  12. 12.  Realization through stories, pictures, and theater is radically different from asserting a general truth.  Spreading a realization through government and its policies presents major challenges for religious belief.  Thoughts may change as they are realized through institutions.
  13. 13.  We are looking at a historical process  The process seems to have phases  The process touches the foundations of evolutionary psychology (our own culture)  The process may also reflect personal psychology (individual as fractal microcosm)  Timelines may be useful, but don’t assume the process had to go the way it went
  14. 14.  Use timelines where possible (locate which phase: primal, emerging, consolidated)  Understanding through images & stories is more basic than conceptual understanding and explanations  In consolidated phase, the images and stories generate symbols or become symbols [a symbol suggests a larger social-cultural accretion of meaning and understanding]
  15. 15.  Scholars of ancient mysteries: Walter Burkert, Robert Turcan, Marvin Meyer, Angus  Clement of Alexandria (Apostolic Father of Church), Tertullian (first theologian) – in Loeb Library  Plotinus, founder of Neo-Platonism (O’Neill and Loeb Library)  Scholars of Gnostic Gospels: Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman  Scholars of early Church formation (behind the official myth): Tim Freke and Peter Gandi, Doherty
  16. 16.  1945 discovery of “Gnostic Gospels”  Most complete find in 2,000 years  Buried in Egypt  Proto-orthodox documents  Orthodoxy was stabilized circa 325 CE  Formation of canon (“measure”)  Q: What was canonized and why?  Forgeries and “apostolic succession”
  17. 17. This stash of papyrus documents – hidden in the desert – opened many questions about the formation of early Christian experience and the organization of the early Church. There is much, much controversy about the meaning of the documents and there has been serious political scholarly wrangling about the translation and publication of these texts, including the “Gnostic Gospels.”
  18. 18.  Gnostic gospels and Gnostic ideas in St. Paul  Religious experience poured into Greek concepts of unity (the One)  Plotinus and Neo-Platonism (Greek Philos.)  Dionysius the Areopagite (Greek pseudo- disciple of St. Paul) but 8th century CE  Pope Benedict XVI reflects on Dionysius and the need for ecclesiastical humility
  19. 19.  Teleste, initation, (initium = beginning)  Telesterion, chamber or theater  Myestes, initiate, “person with closed mouth”  Mysterion, mysteria, secret things  Incubation, dream chamber, visitations  Hades, unseen world, invisible, under earth  Dios, theios, daylight, splendor  Demeter, Persephone, Orpheus
  20. 20.  Men’s movement: (Franciscan retreat master) Richard Rohr’s Quest for the Grail: non-clerical myth, story over fixed dogma, initiation ritual, prescription for silence (don’t talk about it)  Women’s movement: (Jungian psychiatrist) Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World
  21. 21.  Find a key concept  Trace it in our texts  Research it for images and web ideas  Write it up on a single page  End it with a thesis statement  Short declarative sentence  Provocative, non-trivial (arguable) sentence  Share your page in class or via email (Thursday noon prior to next meeting)
  22. 22.  Burkert’s Ancient Mystery Cults  Pp. 4-10

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