At one time Greece was going through a superb enlightenment, becoming the leaders in the development of mathematics, philosophy and logic among other things. One of the more fascinating things to come from all this enlightenment was Mystery Cults, sects whose secrets were of the highest regard. Mystery cults are still prominent in today’s time.
All Greek citizens were born into a state religion, a multi-deistic system of human like gods. Many people are familiar with the Greek mythology, mostly through Homers Iliad and the Odyssey, where these gods and their hero’s are depicted. Mystery Cults were supplementary to this religion. They were groups of people that would focus on one god who in turn would give them wisdom supreme.
The concept of the mystery cult was said to be brought by the Poet, Orpheus. They dealt with the human soul and its refinement, reincarnation, and life after death. Mystery cults were initiatory sects; they would allow entrance to anyone (with a few exceptions, yet not everyone would become more than an initiate. The word “mystery” came from Greek musterion –a secret rite or doctrine. What is said and what happened was supposed to stay a complete mystery. Failure to comply with this secrecy would result in death.
The greatest of the mysteries was the Eleusinian. This focused mainly on the Goddess Demeter, mother of agriculture and vegetation, whose trip to the underworld and the heavens gave us spring and winter. She is symbolic of rebirth. They had two different orders, the lower and the upper. The lower was focused on personal discipline, perhaps rather similar to today’s educational system. The second delved into deeper curiosities, the actual philosophy, and the secrets of the mystery.
Today there are a few mystery cultish organizations, most notably the freemasons. Some may say that all religions begin as mystery cults. Although it seems that all religions somehow start as mystery cults, some would argue that most religions actually start as groups that hide to avoid persecution and don’t count. Regardless, the concept of the mystery cult and the secret initiations are here to stay, all thanks to the Greeks and their enlightenment.