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The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman EmpireMysteries of the Unconquered Sun$
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Roger Beck

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199216130

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216130.001.0001

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Introduction to Interpreting the Mysteries: Old Ways, New Ways

Introduction to Interpreting the Mysteries: Old Ways, New Ways

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Introduction to Interpreting the Mysteries: Old Ways, New Ways
Source:
The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire
Author(s):

ROGER BECK

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216130.003.0001

This introductory chapter provides an introduction to interpreting Mithraism as a mystery cult. The sense in which ‘religion’ is used is defined. Old methods are contrasted with a new method that focuses on cognition, on how the initiate gets to know his religion through apprehending ‘images, suppositions, and representations’. A summary description of the cult's religion is given in terms of ‘axioms’, instantiated in ‘motifs’ (e.g. descent and ascent), operating in ‘domains’ (e.g. the sublunary world), on ‘structured sites’ (e.g. the mithraeum), in ‘symbolic modes’ (e.g. ritual action), by means of a ‘symbolic idiom’ (i.e. ‘star-talk’). The axioms postulated for Mithraism are (1) deus sol invictus Mithras (the cult title of the god), and (2) ‘harmony of tension in opposition’.

Keywords:   religion, cognition, axioms, motifs, domains, structured sites, symbolic modes, symbolic idiom

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