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Caves and the Ancient Greek MindDescending Underground in the Search for Ultimate Truth$
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Yulia Ustinova

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548569

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199548569.001.0001

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Near‐Death Experiences, Real and Make‐Believe

Near‐Death Experiences, Real and Make‐Believe

(p.218) 5 Near‐Death Experiences, Real and Make‐Believe
Caves and the Ancient Greek Mind

Yulia Ustinova (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The Greeks knew of at least two ways of ‘brushing with death’: near-death experiences and mystery initiations. The chapter surveys literary descriptions of passages through darkness in the visions of people who had been pronounced dead and eventually returned to life. These testimonies allude to tunnel experiences. This chapter also presents an overview of complex and richly documented cave experiences during mystery initiations (Eleusinian, Dionysiac, Orphic, Isiac, and Mithraic mysteries, some cases of male initiations). Mystery initiations as a way to overcome fear of death could be patterned to some extent by near-death experiences. Given the popularity of mystery cults, multifaceted cave experiences of numerous initiates were perhaps one of the most profound noetic sensations known to common people of the Classical world.

Keywords:   near-death experience, mystery initiations, Eleusinian, Dionysiac, Orphic, Isiac, Mithraic mysteries

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