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Aspects of ‘Religious Experience’ among the Hellenistic Mystery Religions

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The claim that religious experience is the basis for religious practices, ideas and institutions seems to be grounded more in theological (Protestant) bias than in historical evidence. From the example of the Graeco-Roman mystery religions, it would seem that it is religious practices, specifically, their rites of initiation that produced experiences that were interpreted by initiates as ‘religious.’ Nor was the production of such experiences considered to be an end in itself. Rather, they accomplished specific goals through an exploitation of tacit cognitive processes: (1) the promotion of group solidarity and transgenerational continuity, and (2) the triggering of a potential for cognitive development among individual members of the group.


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