- Mystery cult
Mystery Religions, Sacred Mysteries or simply Mysteries , were "religious cults of the Graeco-Roman world, full admission to which was restricted to those who had gone through certain secret initiation rites." [citation|chapter=Mystery Religions|title=Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language|year=1995
The term "Mystery" derives from Latin "mysterium", from Greek "musterion" (usually as the plural "musteria" "μυστήρια"), in this context meaning "secret rite or doctrine." An individual who followed such a "Mystery" was a "mystes" "one who has been initiated," from "myein" "to close, shut," a reference to secrecy (closure of "the eyes and mouth" [citation|last=Newberg|first=Andrew|year=2001|title=Why God Won't Go Away|location=New York|publisher=Ballantine|page=56] ) or that only initiates were allowed to observe and participate in rituals. [citation|chapter=Mystery|title=Online Etymology Dictionary|year=2001|editor-last=Harper|editor-first=Douglas|location=Lancaster, Pa.|publisher=etymonline.com|chapter-url=http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=mystery] Mysteries were often supplements to
civil religion, rather than competing alternatives of such, and that is the reason these are referred by many scholars as "mystery cults" rather than religions. [citation|last=Iles Johnson|first=Sarah|chapter=Mysteries|editor-last=Iles Johnson|editor-first=Sarah|title=Ancient Religions|page=99|location=Cambridge|publisher=Belknap Press/Harvard UP|year=2007|id=ISBN 978-0-674-02548-6]
The Mysteries were thus cults in which all religious functions were closed to the non-inducted and for which the inner-working of the cult were kept secret from the general public. Although there are no other formal qualifications, mystery cults were also characterized by their lack of an orthodoxy and scripture. Religions that were practiced in secret only in order to avoid religious persecution are not by default Mysteries.
The Mysteries are frequently confused with
Gnosticism, perhaps in part because Greek " gnosis" means "knowledge." The "gnosis" of Gnosticism is however distinct from the "arcanum", the "secret wisdom" of the Mysteries: while the Gnostics hoped to acquire knowledge through divine revelation, the mystery religions presumed to have it, with "mystes" of high rank revealing the possessed wisdom to "acolytes" of lower rank.
Mystery cults classified as such
The term 'mystery cult' applies to a few of the numerous religious rituals of the eastern Mediterranean of late
classical antiquity, including the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Orphic Mysteriesand the Mithraic Mysteries. Some of the many divinities that the Romans nominally adopted from other cultures also came to be worshipped in Mysteries, so for instance Egyptian Isis, Thracian/Phrygian Sabaziusand Phrygian Cybele.citation|last=Hall|first=Manly P.|title=The Secret Teachings of all ages|page=21|year=1928|location=San Francisco|publisher=s.p.|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/sta/]
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